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Merlin Nichols: Going green?

Do we want cleaner air, cleaner water, more productive soil for all of earth’s denizens? Always! Then let’s make energy available around the world to the same degree that it is available in North America.
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Merlin Nichols: "My wife and I went vegetarian about 45 years ago, so we put no pressure on the system that supplies the steak and burgers, even for those who protest the pipelines."

I can’t imagine anyone greener than Mirja and I are green. We live as close to nature as we can get in this technological age. On the land, we appreciate and utilize much of what the Creator has supplied so generously.

Our garden, which we have planted, watered, weeded, and harvested faithfully each year for more than 40 years supplies, not the touted 100-mile diet, but the 100-metre diet, much of our yearly food needs. Today is March, (time waits for no one, especially not for an old man), now it’s April as I peck away on the keyboard, and we are still relishing the produce from last summer’s garden: potatoes, carrots, squash, beans, peas, tomatoes, and a few spicy herbs that add flavour to the savour. Confession: since early December the tomatoes are in the form of spaghetti sauce.

My wife and I went vegetarian about 45 years ago, so we put no pressure on the system that supplies the steak and burgers, even for those who protest the pipelines.

We don’t have solar panels, or a windmill, and we burn gasoline in our car. Depending on the grid, we utilize falling water for our power source. Good, clean, fresh water from God’s snow and rain stored behind a couple of dams and funnelled through the penstocks into the turbines lights our nights, cooks our meals, and powers our shop tools. How much greener can we get while remaining on the top side of the soil?

Not much at this stage in life!

I know there are many who will hiss that it is blatant hypocrisy to call myself green while energized from the grid and driving a car powered by ancient fossils.

Convince me! But follow the science!

Convince me that gasoline is more contaminating to the environment than, say, the coal that fires most of the turbines that will energize most of the EVs on the roads of the future – for at least as long as generation next will be around.

Or than the manufacture of a limited-lifetime EV battery weighing in at about 1000 pounds of toxic elements and plastic (times the number of EVs on the road).

Surely you know of the hundreds of thousands of tons of this earth’s crust that must be mined, pulverized, sifted, and further processed to produce one short-lifetime EV battery that, at this stage in our hysteria to go green, has no proper recycle process to deal with the carcase when its life is over.

Surely you know of the inhumane conditions workers in out-of-sight mines in far-away places (not in my back yard, no way!) must endure to earn a pittance and provide the toxic minerals essential in the manufacture and operation of the EV batteries that energize your green car and affirm your conscience as you quietly bypass the gasoline pump. Surely you know that many of these workers, if not more, are children who, because of the toxic conditions in which they must work, will not have long, or prosperous, lives.

Convince me! But follow the science!

How do we get our electricity in British Columbia?

Eighty-five percent of the electricity used in British Columbia is derived from snow and rain collected behind dams large, small, and tiny all over the province and carried to the population centres on massive cables hung between wooden poles and metal pylons. The remainder of our electricity needs is supplied by biomass, diesel, natural gas, run of river, and wind.

But that is British Columbia.

If you drive almost anywhere else in Canada or the USA the energy you store in your EV battery will be not so clean.

Is hydro power absolutely clean?

Of course not. But it is cleaner than either wind or sun.

How clean is the energy captured from the sun and the wind? Not so clean when you factor in, as we must, the embedded costs. That means the costs you don’t see, the costs hidden the manufacture of the windmill or the solar panel. You might smile smugly as you charge your EV (some day in the distant future) from a solar generator.

But do you have any idea of the havoc wreaked on our planet in the manufacture of the components and the construction of a solar generator capable of powering a city the size of Vancouver? Maybe not if you are still smiling.

Or a wind farm?

Look, I understand that gasoline and oil are not the stuff in which I want to bathe. But since the introduction of the internal combustion engine our cities have become immeasurably healthier and more liveable. Our health has improved; our life spans have increased. In the areas of the world blessed by ready access to energy in the form of gas, oil, and electricity whether produced by coal-fired generators or by hydro, the prosperity of the blessed citizens has increased beyond the wildest dreams of even my grandparents.

Do we want cleaner air, cleaner water, more productive soil for all of earth’s denizens? Always! Then let’s make energy available around the world to the same degree that it is available in North America.

By the way, the Ancients have this wisdom for us moderns: “If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each [one] according to [her or] his deeds?”


Merlin Nichols lives and writes in Chetwynd.

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