Jim Crow Energy Policies

Roy Innis, National Chairman of Congress of Racial EqualityBy Roy Innis 

The U.S. civil rights revolution of the 1950s and ’60s was one of the greatest social and political liberations in history. It gave African-Americans and other minorities new opportunities and new levels of success in virtually every walk of life.

But today we face unprecedented new challenges to indispensable but often neglected rights enunciated in our Declaration of Independence: “That all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These fundamental rights are under assault in subtle, often insidious ways. Sometimes it is with the best of intentions, by good people who don’t realize they are impairing other people’s rights, hopes and dreams. At other times, it is by people who are willing, even determined, to sacrifice individual rights in the name of a proclaimed threat or greater common good.

One critical challenge involves restrictions on access to energy and economic opportunity – and thus on liberties and rights – in the name of protecting the environment.

Energy is the master resource of modern society. It transforms constitutionally protected civil rights into rights we actually enjoy: jobs, homes, transportation, health care and other earmarks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With abundant, reliable, affordable energy, much is possible. Without it, hope, opportunity, progress, job creation and civil rights are hobbled.

Laws and policies that restrict access to America’s abundant energy drive up the price of fuel and electricity. They cause widespread layoffs and leave workers and families struggling to survive, as the cost of everything they eat, drive, wear and do spirals higher. They roll back the progress for which civil rights revolutionaries like the Rev. Martin Luther King struggled and died.

They create unnecessary obstacles to the natural, justifiable desire of minority Americans to share in the American Dream. They prevent us from resolving conflicts through compromise and impose needless and unfair burdens on our poorest families. These regressive, energy-killing laws and policies deny minority and other poor families a seat at the energy lunch counter and send us to the back of the economic bus.

The Congress of Racial Equality and I care deeply about our environment. But we also care about having jobs, and affordable food, heat and transportation. We care about impoverished Third World families achieving their dreams.

We want to know that the environmental values we cherish really are threatened the way environmental activists say they are. And we want to know that the solutions they advocate really will safeguard those values, at reasonable cost, without creating enormous new problems, like global grain shortages.

Today, unfortunately, these common-sense requests are under assault by activists who want to eliminate fossil fuels, base public policies on unfounded ecological scare stories, and stifle debate by attacking anyone who challenges their assertions.

Energy reality must no longer be denied. Fully 85 percent of all the energy Americans use comes from fossil fuels. Add in nuclear and hydroelectric power, and we’ve reached 96 percent. Biomass (3 percent) is mostly waste from paper mills and sawmills.

A mere 0.8 percent is wind and solar power. These renewable sources are not alternatives to fossil fuel use. They are supplements. Just to provide electricity to meet New York City’s needs would require blanketing Connecticut with 300-foot-tall wind turbines that generate power only eight hours a day, on average. That is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable.

Read the rest of this piece at The Washington Times.

  • Rob N. Hood

    It’s disingenous to continually cite the low figures for the current efficacy of alternative energies. They receive only a fraction of the subsidies that fossil fuel and nuclear do for research and development. There has been little incentive provided to develop them, and when they have had some increase in public interest they get negated in myriad ways. Our military industrial complex is loathe to change business as usual, mostly to continue the flow of money from us to them. For example:

    According to the CIA’s annually-published World Factbook, “the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels,” yet the Environmental Protection Agency’s “National Center for Environmental Innovation” is a far cry from a DARPA-like entity. It doled out a mere $737,500 in seven state-innovation grants in 2003. DARPA, by comparison, spent about $3 billion on some 200 projects that ranged from space weapons to unmanned aerial vehicles. But just because the government isn’t pouring money into the projects of scientists eager to attack environmental problems doesn’t mean environmental research is of no interest to it. Quite the opposite. DARPA has taken up the torch and is funding a rigorous research program aimed at finding novel ways to weaponize the natural world, not to mention outer-space.

  • How many wind turbines would have to be built to equal the consistent energy output of a single nuclear plant? How much land would they occupy? What would the cost be?

    Mr. Innis asserts that the entire state of Connecticut (5,554 square miles) would have to be blanketed in 300-foot-tall wind turbines just to power New York City. This doesn’t sound like a feasible option to power the nation. It sounds like a boondoggle on a colossal scale. Why should we invest in something like that?

    As far as DARPA’s budget, you are aware that the world is a dangerous place, filled with deadly weapons, and with no shortage of leaders with ambitions of conquest, are you not? I think spending money to stay ahead of the curve and defend our nation is probably a good idea. I’m in no mood to learn Russian or Arabic at this point in my life.

    Nuclear weapons are unfortunately becomming more common throughout the world. Figuring out a way to prevent one detonating in our backyard is kind of important. A bit more important than trying to develop a fanciful scheme to control global climate patterns, I’d say.

  • Rob N. Hood

    Sorry, but I don’t believe Mr. Innis’ number crunching. And you are just another of the status quos “best friends” circle. If we don’t evolve and stay flexible as a nation, we will disappear anyway, with or without all of your imagined weapons of mass destruction.

  • Well, what’s the answer then? How many? How much acreage do we need to set up wind farms generating sufficient kilowatts to power our nation?

  • Rob N. Hood

    I don’t know, and apparently you don’t either. It’s sad that we can’t trust what people put out there as “fact” and “scientific” data. All I know is wind is one part of the answer to our expensive and destructive addiction to OIL.

  • Here’s some info from the US Department of Energy to put a finer point on it:

    “From a physical standpoint, efficiency can be defined in terms of the amount of energy contained per unit. The energy density of nuclear power exceeds that of most of the other leading electricity sources. Just one uranium fuel pellet – roughly the size of the tip of an adult’s little finger – contains the same amount of energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil. There is an exceptional amount of energy contained in the small components of nuclear fuel. As a result, the waste from an individual’s lifetime use of nuclear-generated electricity can fit in the space of a common 12-ounce beverage can.

    From a facility “footprint” standpoint, less space is required for a nuclear electric generating facility than for a comparable-capacity wind or solar plant. In fact, to equal the electrical output of a single 3,000 megawatt-electric nuclear generating station, it would take roughly 2,000 wind turbines on somewhere between 150,000 and 180,000 acres or 35,000 acres of solar panels.”

    http://www.gnep.energy.gov/pdfs/FS_NuclearFuelEfficiency.pdf

    For easy comparison, 35,000 acres of solar panels is equal to 54 square miles (an area the size of Minneapolis). 180,000 acres is equal to 281 square miles.

    New York City consumes 5 gigawatts of electricity, or 5,000 megawatts.

    Therefore, for wind turbines to generate sufficient energy to power New York City, they would occupy 306,000 acres or 478 square miles. New York City itself occupies less land than this, having a total land area of only 304 square miles. Include the water, and it’s total area is still smaller than it’s theoretical power plant at 468 square miles. Talk about sprawl. Powering NYC by wind turbines would double the city’s land usage overnight.

    Would Connecticut have to literally be blanketed from border to border with nothing at all but wind turbines? No, but it would require 10% of that state’s total area (they’d be everywhere – conservatively, I’d say one on every block or it’s equivalent area across the entire volume of the state), or about a third of Rhode Island’s total area to power one city. Imagine implementing this for every city in the US. I think satellite photos of our once green land would resemble the galaxy’s largest bird processing plant. This is supposed to be environmentally friendly?

  • Rikki G.

    Just because wind, solar, and hydro-power seem like our only alternatives doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. It only means that currently we don’t have anything better. Just because the Roman’s introduced plumbing to their society doesn’t mean it hasn’t been improved upon greatly in years following. And without scientific research into the subject of alternative energy sources, we can’t improve upon what we have, and we certainly won’t just “stumble” upon a wonder cure. Global climate change aside, renewable fuel sources should be encouraged. Why? Because they are RENEWABLE. No worries about running out of wind, or sun light, or water flowing through the Mississippi. This is certainly a better alternative to relying on something that will eventually be harder and harder to find until it’s stock is completely gone. As a society and as a global species, the reality of fossil fuels “going extinct” is very real. It may not be an impending threat today, but there is always a tomorrow. People have come into a life style where electricity will only become more and more needed, and there isn’t a day too soon for us to start looking for something that won’t run out. Aesthetically speaking, wind turbines may be ugly, but so are oil rigs. And the hydro turbines of St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota are actually an attraction of the birthplace of the city. In all honesty, there isn’t just one energy source that should be relied upon. The key is to find a balance, and to continually improve upon it.

    This is one thing I am confused upon, however. Hopefully someone can clearly and without bias answer my question. How is the encouragement of alternative fuel/energy sources hindering the lives and civil rights of people? We, in America, are not regulated on how often we can drive our cars (provided we can afford it). We are not rationing the amount of driver’s licenses given out per year due to global climate change. Industry has increased its need for chemists, scientists, researchers, and engineers all searching for better ways of attacking our problems from designing more fuel efficient engines, to balancing the weight of a Boeing 747 more effectively to studying the effects of wind turbines on boundary layer fluid flow dynamics. Ecologists, geologists, biologists, etc are also flourishing. So just exactly what is the problem that minorities are facing?

  • It isn’t a matter of “encouragement of alternative fuel.” It’s mandates. In Minnesota and nationally, there are laws now on the books mandating the use of certain ineffecient “renewable energy” production modes. These mandates artificially and dramatically increase the cost of energy, when cheaper alternatives would otherwise be available were it not for government meddling.

    This doesn’t just affect minorities (that’s comming from Innis’ perspective) – it affects everyone but the very rich. It’s going to get much worse in the coming years as more legislated mandates are phased in.

    Our energy policy is suicidal. We don’t currently have the technology to sustain the demands of legal mandates without radically reducing the average family’s energy usage.

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