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We cannot continue old values with energy

In “Green energy has environmental toll” (May 15), the writer states that “giant wind turbines and vast fields of solar panels are not made of fairy dust brought by unicorns.” But she evidently thinks that nuclear, coal and hydro-electric power plants are built that way, as they win her support. The main thrust of her anti-factual essay is to generate fear.

There are many misconceptions in her letter. The writer worries about the idea of corrupt individuals creating destructive, unreliable, “industrial” projects in our community, but who are these shadowy persons, and what would their motives be? Clearly, profit and demand are the forces driving all energy production.

She identifies carbon dioxide merely as plant food, not acknowledging the reality of chemistry: that in the amounts emitted by burning fossil fuels, those additional parts per million of CO2 are warming the Earth by trapping too much heat in the atmosphere.

In a puzzling contradiction, she points out the cost of renewable energy equipment in terms of the amount of fossil fuel used in initial production and delivery, ignoring the much higher costs of power produced by continually burning fossil fuels. She suggests renewable power somehow disrupts the electric grid, which is untrue. And she follows all these fallacious assertions with a picture of environmental degradation laid at the feet of renewable energy projects. These are not fact-based statements.

There are lots of wind and solar power projects in New York, and none of them fits the picture she paints. They produce clean energy along with local benefits, like lease revenue to farmers, PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) to local communities, and new jobs. Do they require raw materials and construction? Yes, as do all human technologies, but only a miniscule amount compared to the vast fossil fuel infrastructure.

The fossil fuel system of drilling, extraction, flaring of methane that cannot be captured for sale, transportation and finally combustion in our power plants, buildings and vehicles, has heated our planet measurably into the danger zone of climate disruption. Exactly as scientists predicted, we have more floods, more fires, more droughts, even worse snowstorms. Just as one example, farmers in the West are being advised not to plant this year because of the severe drought caused by the changing climate. Upstate New York is not and will not be immune.

I’m guessing the writer got the idea that renewables crash the electric grid from this winter’s experience in Texas, where a tiny number of wind farms were blamed erroneously for a crisis caused by the failure to require weatherization of the entire electric system, regardless of how the electricity is generated.

And to highlight the absurdity of one of the arguments in the essay, more birds are killed by cats or by crashing into windows than are killed by wind turbines. Is this an argument to ban cats and windows? Far more billions of birds will die and species go extinct from the loss of habitat due to climate change than will ever lose their lives to wind turbines.

Don’t we all want a clean future for our descendants?

We will never find common ground if we call each other names and allow fear to override reason. What we need to do is continue to seek and support improvements in technology, materials, and production, as the brightest minds in science work to develop new ideas.

But if you don’t accept the reality of human-caused climate change, you can go down endless rabbit holes objecting to renewable energy. The overwhelming scientific consensus, increasingly supported by public opinion, is that we need to shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy as fast as possible. All of New York should welcome these clean energy projects, as many counties already do. We need our legislature to step up to pass the Clean Futures Act that will ban new gas plants from being built, and much other pending legislation that will speed the transition to electric cars, buses and trucks.

I’m calling on Assembly Leader Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to prioritize these bills for a vote. Political courage is required, as unicorns and fairy dust aren’t available to solve the climate crisis.

Mary Jane Wagner is a Fredonia resident.

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