As we endeavour to clean our atmosphere, the industries responsible for contaminating it resist because they don’t want to surrender profit. The struggle between these two groups is at least 40 years old. Reagan’s removal of the solar panels Carter had installed on the White House in the late 70’s was more than a symbolic gesture, it was a call to arms. There would be political resistance to clean energy development from that point forward.
Hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, and wind are under constant attack. Proposed and existing facilities in each of these sectors have been shut down by campaigns that highlight and often exaggerate local impact. The fossil fuels industry always invests in these campaigns, though they do their best to hide the fact, because it’s in their financial interest to do so. The campaign against the Clean Energy Corridor is no different. Sure, you may well believe it’s raised some valid points, but that might just be because the money the fossil fuels industry has invested here ensured those points would be repeatedly put before you while others were not.
So we don’t get lost in that let’s take a moment and consider why the Clean Energy Corridor was proposed. It’s a response to pollutants that have so contaminated the Earth’s atmosphere that drastic measures are required to clean it. This understanding led to legislation which led to the proposal of projects like the one before us now. Projects like it are being proposed around the world because that’s the scale of the problem they hope to address.
The science is clear on this, though the propaganda is not. Nearly 11,000 measurements of emissions taken from Hydro Quebec facilities have proven that it is emitting greenhouse gases equivalent to just 34.5 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt hour of energy produced. We know that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly because the energy developed there will replace what is currently produced by burning coal/oil and natural gas, processes which emit 30 and 10 times more carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour respectively. I might add they also expell ash and another of other harmful items into the environment that Hydro Quebec does not.
This understanding is the result of research led by Annie Levasseur, an expert who has chaired the United Nations working group on Global Warming and served on a panel of experts with the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to develop research agenda aimed at negating carbon emissions and identifying viable carbon sequestration methods. The researchers who have presented higher estimates don’t have her expertise and relied on research done in settings that are not comparable to those found in Quebec. In fact, the MIT professor often cited has no expertise in climate science and merely plugged values for area into an equation produced by one of these researchers. We call that a “back of the envelope” calculation because it’s not meant to be taken too seriously.
You have to be careful with climate science. While I was at Brown University, conducting research similar to the research that the aforementioned MIT professor is known for in mantle flow, an attempt was made to delegitimise climate science altogether. After hackers stole and concocted a conspiracy suggesting climate change itself was a conspiracy, several physicists who worked for the fossil fuels industry in the past stepped forward to add their weight, suggesting it was physically impossible for anthropogenic emissions to do this. Interestingly, the fossil fuels industry was then defending itself for not releasing the results of research it had financed decades earlier in which their own researchers warned this was a real possibility.
Knowing what to do about this problem is about knowing who to trust. And you can’t do that by merely considering what is being said. I had to dig into the research in question to see what was being applied appropriately and what was not. When I see someone applying research that isn’t applicable to this situation I don’t assume their intentions are bad. I assume most are doing their best to understand this complicated problem and that mistakes will be made. Will there be a few who intentionally mislead? Yes, but they will be few and far between, and if they cover their tracks difficult to spot. So you’re best off identifying error and pointing out oversight, or blindspots like that which causes some to dismiss the reporting that has revealed how much money the fossil fuels industry has invested in the attempt to stop the Clean Energy Corridor.