Contrary to the recent opinion column by nuclear engineer, Nolan Hertel, an array of reputable U.S. energy experts say that renewables have great promise for completely replacing other sources of electrical power generation in America within two decades.

In fact, two of these well-qualified energy engineers co-authored a cover article in Scientific American way back in 2010 that set forth a well-reasoned, detailed strategy to attain fully renewable power in the U.S. by 2035.

Mother Nature from ChiffonTwo factors have impeded the promising potential to attain a more successful conversion to clean power: (1) misleading opinion that favors conventional sources (primarily fossil-fuels) and those who profit from them, and (2) policies that, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, overwhelmingly benefit major donors who have “skin in the game” of energy production.

Expenditures on political campaigns by the Koch Brothers and other fossil-fuel capitalists such as Exxon Mobile dwarf donations made by clean energy entrepreneurs and investors. “Oil Change International” reports that, for many years, oil and gas producers have sunk hundreds of millions annually into U.S. Congressional and Presidential Campaigns, for which they’ve been abundantly rewarded.

According to their analysis, the fossil fuel industry has received about $119 in benefits for every dollar they’ve spent on political persuasion through campaign donations – a lavish return on their self-serving corruption of public policy that reinforces protection of industry interests at the public’s expense.

“Clean Technica” and other energy-industry analysts report that fossil fuels receive a MINIMUM of some $20 billion annually in U.S. subsidies, and have received huge government support for most of the past century. Despite assertions of those who disparage clean power (solar and wind) as impractical and overly dependent on government support, actually nuclear power and fossil fuels continue receiving far more tax dollars and write-offs, as they have throughout the many decades of their existence.

In fact, without American taxpayers carrying the burden of liability costs in the event of nuclear disasters, the nuke power industry wouldn’t exist. Moreover, even with such monumental subsidies, nuclear power projects are notoriously over budget and behind schedule. Georgia Power’s expansion of Plant Vogtle – if ever completed – will cost at least twice the original estimate, while ensuring an 11% return for investors regardless of performance, under Georgia’s outdated and unfair utilities law.

Not only are U.S. energy subsidies the opposite of what is often claimed, but a convincing argument has been made that transferring fossil-fuel subsidies to clean energy could yield huge savings for citizens and consumers. In May 2017, a study released by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) found that redirecting public funds from fossil fuels to clean energy would help cut the costs of adverse impacts caused by using dirty energy.  Those impacts include hundreds of thousands of respiratory illnesses induced by polluted air as well as increasing damage to property and other valuable resources caused by wildfire, major storms, and loss of food supplies – from both land and sea.

Beware of those who discredit new technology when they are deeply vested in conventional sources of profit. And be equally skeptical of arguments asserting the impracticality of innovation when history clearly demonstrates otherwise.

Rigorous support of clean energy is especially important as the nation faces unprecedented damages brought by an overheating climate. Trillions of dollars in future costs avoided are unquestionably worth billions of investment now. U.S. policies must be reformed to serve the public, not fossil-fuel investors.

Image: a composite image created by from a screen shot of an ad for Chiffon margarine and an image from NASA.
David Kyler

David Kyler

David Kyler is the co-director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, a non-profit membership organization he co-founded in 1997. The Center works to protect, preserve, and sustain the vital natural, cultural, and economic resources of coastal Georgia.

One of David’s deepest convictions, and a founding principle of the Center, is that environmental research, scientific information, and public involvement are urgently needed to improve decisions affecting the sustainability of natural systems. Accordingly, the Center’s slogan is “Advocating responsible decisions to sustain coastal Georgia’s environment and quality of life.”

To pursue the Center’s mission, Kyler gives priority to raising public awareness about issues affecting coastal Georgia at all levels – from local to state and national, to global. He frequently publishes letters and opinion columns in Georgia newspapers, often commenting on controversial issues that require improving the analysis and coordination of both economic and environmental considerations.

In the past three years alone, on behalf of the Center David has published close to one-hundred commentaries on a range of issues, including offshore drilling, protecting Cumberland Island National Seashore, risks of contamination by coal ash and other toxic materials, coastal development controls, and conflicts between environmental protection and economic development practices.

In the past decade, under Kyler’s influence, the Center has been one of the few Georgia non-profit organizations persistently voicing alarm about the global climate crisis and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. In 2018 and 2019 the Center hosted several public forums on climate issues in the Savannah area and collaborated with the Climate Reality Project in organizing a rally in Savannah, scheduled to be coordinated with the international Climate Strike.

Through his work with the Center, David is helping to redefine economic self-interest by incorporating the principles of sustainability in public policies governing both economic development and environmental protection. He is convinced that systemic analysis and life-cycle assessment, including thorough evaluation of economic and societal externalities, are essential to responsible environmental stewardship.

He holds degrees from Lehigh University (BS, Industrial Engineering) and Southern Illinois University (MS, Design Science), and has completed advanced studies in Resource Management and Policy at the State University of New York at Syracuse. Mr. Kyler has worked in environmental policy analysis, regional planning, and public-interest advocacy for over 40 years. He’s been a resident of Saint Simons Island since 1977 and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.