Over the past month and a half, I’ve been speaking at numerous universities, including Stanford, Berkeley, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Toronto. One point I like to stress is that we should think of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear, as clean energy. Why? After all, don’t these each have byproducts and risks that are undesirable? Sure, as do all forms of energy–read this article about wind power.
But to stigmatize a form of energy as “dirty energy” on the basis of its byproducts is to ignore the incredible environmental improvements brought about by its essential product: cheap, plentiful, reliable energy. Cheap, plentiful, reliable energy, which gives us the ability to improve our surroundings on a massive scale, is the fundamental difference between the hazardous human environment in undeveloped countries, and the unprecedented air quality, water quality, sanitation, and ability to deal with climate that we enjoy in the developed world.
For example, without the use of coal, the world’s leading source of electricity, the human environment would be a far worse place to live for billions of people. Of course, many countries (e.g., China) have pollution laws that need to be drastically improved, but improving the use of coal is a far cry from what critics of “dirty energy” want to do: ban it in favor of government-mandated “green energy” schemes. Nothing could be worse for our economy or our environment.