I was really not laughing when I saw, a few days ago, on Fox News (but it was the same story everywhere) that “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) told the Austin American Statesman that roughly 12,000 megawatts of Texas’ wind generation capacity had been hampered as of Sunday due to frozen wind turbines.” I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas. I like the place. I like the people. I have some very good friends, you now, the kinds of friends who are almost ‘family,’ there.
I have said before that if there is any place in North American where wind and solar power will work it is in the open plains of the American South West (West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona) where both sunshine and steady winds are plentiful and the land is not well suited for agriculture. “Will work,” that is, until you really, really need them but they are not there because the weather turned against you and you had, previously, decided to close down other power sources. I know, I know, this polar vortex is bigger and worse than most ~ just ask our friends in Saskatchewan ~ and Catherine McKenna, Saint Greta Thunberg, Justin Trudeau and Jonathan Wilkinson …
… will likely say that weather anomalies, like worse then usual cold snaps, are just a sign that global climate change is real and will destroy human life as we know it within a generation.
I agree with them … up to a point. Global climate change is real; it is happening and the effects are going to be difficult for us to manage. You’ll get no argument from me on those points. But, I do not believe that global climate change can be stopped by making all of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona into one giant solar farm or by building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm in British Columbia’s or Nova Scotia’s coastal waters.
That doesn’t mean that either is a bad idea … or wouldn’t be bad ideas if:
- The cost per kilowatt hour of the energy produced is reasonable ~ but, currently it is not;
- The problems, seen in Texas, of reliability are solved ~ but, currently they are not; and
- The solar panels and windmill blades are recyclable ~ but, again, currently they are not.
Let’s all accept, even if it is just for the sake of argument for some readers, that:
- Global climate change is real ☑
- We, all of us, Americans, Canadians and Chinese, too, should be trying to slow it ☑ and
- That means, inter alia, burning less coal and oil ☑ but
- Wind and solar power are not, yet, the answer ☑.
So, how do we go green, or at least greener?
The answer, as I have said before, especially for Canada, is nuclear energy. It is clean, green and safe. Yes, indeed, there is an engineering challenge in storing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel, but we’ve been solving engineering challenges for thousands of years …
… and safely disposing of spent nuclear fuel doesn’t strike me as being much more difficult than some of the other engineering challenges we have met, but, I hasten to point out that it’s not my field.
Are there alternatives to nuclear? Well, we can keep building hugely expensive solar and wind farms that do not produce reliable power at affordable rates and hope that something will change … magically, I guess. We can build more hydro dams. Hydro power in clean. But what about the environmental damage ~ to wildlife habitat and biodiversity, for example ~ that we cause when we dam up a river? Oops, maybe hydro is not so clean after all.
Nuclear energy has been proven to be safe and reliable, when handled properly ~ and I acknowledge that Chernobyl was real ~ for over 60 years. Canada is a world leader in safe nuclear energy and Canadians are, today, working on small modular reactors which may change the way communities and whole countries can exploit nuclear energy. It is time, now, in 2021, for the Government of Canada to get behind a sensible plan to combat global climate change and to make Canada green and prosperous: nuclear energy.