Many of us here at CleanTechnica are big fans of the site Skeptical Science. Skeptical Science has a great system for debunking common myths put forward by global warming deniers, and then getting those articles and key points out to more people. Bob Wallace had the excellent idea of doing something similar with regard to anti-cleantech myths.
On this page, for each myth that we’re tackling, you will find a key, one-sentence response (with a link on it to a thorough article on the topic). Furthermore, following that key sentence, there will be a short summary of the linked article. The idea is that, whether you are communicating with someone on Twitter, on Facebook, on reddit, in the comments under articles, on email, or elsewhere, you will have a response of the appropriate length needed to debunk some anti-cleantech mumbo jumbo.
We’re big fans of crowdsourcing, and we know that there are many thoroughly informed, intelligent readers here on CleanTechnica. So, we’d love to have you suggest topics and write or help write articles for this project. This page will be updated continuously as we write more articles debunking such myths, and as we gather feedback from you.
Below are initial articles we’ve published as well as more ideas for topics to tackle. If you’re wondering why they are positive, realistic statements rather than the myths we are debunking, it’s because we are trying to avoid “the backfire effect.”
1. Wind and solar electricity have become some of our least expensive ways to generate electricity (in several markets around the world).
Wind is now the cheapest way to bring new electricity generation to the grid in the US as well as many other countries. Solar PV costs are rapidly dropping and solar is expected to join wind over the next few years. Furthermore, low-cost utility-scale solar is already beating out all other sources of electricity in some bidding processes, and home solar power beats the price of retail electricity (on average) in many markets.
2. Electric cars produce zero emissions themselves, but even if you don’t have solar panels and you get your electricity from the grid, driving an electric car results in fewer emissions than driving a gasmobile or conventional hybrid in almost every case.
Electric cars themselves produce zero emissions when driven, but even if you factor in the emissions from electricity produced in your region that is utilized to power your electric car, it’s extremely likely your electric car is cleaner than a Toyota Prius. Furthermore, these emissions are not “local” — they’re are likely not occurring in your neighborhood, in your town, or in your city. Of course, if you have solar panels on your roof that produce as much electricity as you use, you are essentially driving on sunshine and producing no emissions from any source when you drive. It’s also important to remember that the grid is getting cleaner every day, so electric cars charged from the grid will just keep getting cleaner and cleaner.
3. While wind turbines can’t produce electricity if the wind isn’t blowing, the electricity they produce is worth exactly as much as the electricity produced by any other type of power plant.
When a wind turbine produces a kilowatt-hour of electricity, it’s fundamentally worth as much as a kilowatt-hour of electricity from nuclear power, coal power, solar power, or anything else. There is a slight externality from the variability of wind energy and its “integration costs,” but those are determined to be just 4 tenths of a cent per kWh (not even half a cent per kWh). For sure, this extra cost isn’t even worth mentioning compared to the health and environmental externalities that come from coal and natural gas power plants, or the economic risk that comes with nuclear power plants. Even at very high percentages of wind power (such as seen in Denmark, northern Germany, Scotland, Portugal, and Iowa), wind energy can be integrated into the grid without extra backup energy or costly investments.
4. Integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid is not a problem, and it’s cheaper than sticking with dirty energy sources.
We can build a 24/365 reliable grid using either coal, gas, and nuclear; or with wind, solar, and other renewables. The techniques differ somewhat, but the real issue is cost. Renewables win in terms of both direct (generation) costs and external costs. This is an article on how a 100% renewable grid would operate and give us cheaper electricity.
5. Climate action is trillions of dollars cheaper than climate inaction.
Investing in a clean energy economy is not cheap. It is actually projected to cost trillions of dollars. However, sticking with a dirty energy economy will cost society much more, many trillions of dollars more.
6. The question should not be about how much solar panels cost, but about how much solar power will save you.
Many people think solar power is “expensive,” but that’s often only true if you look at half of the equation. In reality, solar power often saves homeowners tens of thousands of dollars. If you go solar with a straight purchase (no loan), you’re going to save the most money… but it will also be a longer period of time before you get your money back and start putting extra cash in your pocket. On the other hand, if you get a good (perhaps $0-down) solar loan, solar lease, or solar PPA, you can start saving money immediately or almost immediately. You just won’t save as much money down the road. Nonetheless, you can often still save tens of thousands of dollars (compared to buying all of your electricity from the grid and not producing any electricity yourself).
7. There are many ways to achieve high renewable penetration levels.
According to an NREL study examining high renewable energy integration in the US, 80% of US electricity could be coming from renewables by 2050.
If you have more ideas for anti-cleantech myths you want to see debunked, drop us a note in the comments below. If you’d like to help with such an article or help update an article linked above, also drop us a note.
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