Powerless: Environmentalists Look to Algae, Reject 'Fracking' and Nuclear

December 4th, 2015 10:51 AM

Biofuels should serve as an instructive lesson for negotiators in Paris, because they are proof that not all energy sources work as well as anticipated. But journalists are unlikely to remind them or the public.

The early 2000s were the heyday of good press for biofuels. Major newspapers like The New York Times ran stories about Willie Nelson’s biodiesel startup and individuals converting their vehicles into “veggie” cars to run on french fry grease and other forms of biodiesel. The Washington Post even editorialized about people “dreaming big” plans like replacing hydrocarbon fuels (gasoline) with biodiesels.

Later, ethanol proponents turned against it when the costs to the environment and people were far higher than imagined.

Filmmaker and green activist Josh Tickell made the movie Fields of Fuel in 2008 attacking gasoline and petroleum products as evil and about his campaign to get people to run their cars on biodiesel from used french fry oil. Tickell became a media sensation when he drove his “Veggie Van” around the country. He publicized high profile supporters like Nelson and actor Woody Harrelson and lamented the biodiesel bust.

Although Tickell criticized corn ethanol, he still promoted biodiesel from soybeans, power from algae, and other sources like wind and solar. He claimed those, along with increased efficiency, public transit and plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles could eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

Ethanol from corn or sugar, wood, and fuels from palm oil or other vegetable oils all fall into the biomass/biofuels category. In 2005, the U.S. implemented a renewable fuels standard (RFS) to begin reach a target of 36 billion gallons of “renewable” fuels by 2020. That prompted ethanol gasoline blends like E10, and the EPA would like to require E15 but so far have only allowed that blend. They have not mandated it.

As it turned out ethanol blends are extremely corrosive and hard on engines and vehicles, according to Equipment World. “Ethanol attracts water. When the two get together, they create the perfect environment to grow a type of bacteria called acetobacter. After getting drunk on their EPA-sponsored kegger in your gas tank, the acetobacter excrete acetic acid. And acetic acid is very corrosive,” Equipment World said. E15 would be even harder on machines.

Back in 2006, Bloomberg Business (then Businessweek) reported that pipelines cannot be used for ethanol “because it picks up excess water and impurities.” It must be trucked, hauled by trains or on barges.

Conservatives have also criticized the cost burden of the mandate. According to the Manhattan Institute, the RFS “saddled American motorists with more than $10 billion per year in extra fuel costs” since 2007.

On the whole, “bioenergy — that is, wood, ethanol made from corn or sugarcane, or diesel made from palm oil — is proving an ecological disaster: It encourages deforestation and food-price hikes that cause devastation among the world’s poor, and per unit of energy produced, it creates even more carbon dioxide than coal,” according to Matt Ridley’s Wall Street Journal essay. Ridley is an author and member of the British House of Lords.

Over time, the consequences shook even biofuel proponents’ faith in ethanol. Environmental damage, and food riots around the globe caused biofuel proponents like Tickell and the liberal news media to admit corn ethanol was an environmental disaster. Former Vice President Al Gore did a public about face saying his support for it was a “mistake.”

Tree Hugger even admitted the fuel turned out to be inefficient and came with many “unintended consequences.”

Environmentalists haven’t given up on biofuels entirely. More recently they’ve touted algae as the “biofuel” of the future, but whether it can succeed where ethanol failed remains to be seen.

Celebs Say ‘Fracking Kills,’ While Their Activism Kills Jobs in ‘Depressed’ Regions

Natural gas has become a popular and abundant form of energy. It even helped reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. It’s still a fossil fuel and that’s enough reason for the liberal media and environmentalists to attack it.

Journalists have allowed celebrities to denounce fracking, a slang term for a process of reaching natural gas deposits, claiming “fracking kills.” They’ve also turned to Josh Fox, a crusading and misleading filmmaker who is trying to stop fracking across the U.S., while rarely discussing any of the benefits of natural gas. Fox celebrated in July 2013, as landowners learned their leases with Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. were no longer in effect. A property-owner coalition said the released properties would mean $187 million in lost income for Wayne County, Pa., residents.

Natural gas provided 28 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2014. It was turned into electricity, used to heat homes, as well as compressed and turned into a fuel for certain vehicles. It was used in propane, paint, fertilizer, plastics and more, according to the Institute for Energy Research (IER).

Improved technology has also made it abundant domestically and Consumer Reports has said it burns cleaner than gasoline.

“Compared with gasoline, it has much cleaner emissions while providing similar fuel economy, performance, and drivability. Its relative energy cost can be about half that of gasoline, and it’s mostly a domestically produced energy source, thus contributing to reducing the reliance on foreign oil,” Consumer Reports said in April 2014.

Author and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School Bjorn Lomborg even credited the rise of natural gas use with the U.S. decline in carbon dioxide emissions to the lowest level in 20 years -- all while 57 million energy consumers were added to the population. Certainly, the recession played some part in that as well, but increased natural gas did too.

In spite of all that, many environmentalists oppose drilling for natural gas. The networks in particular boosted that view by turning to anti-fracking filmmakers and celebrities or their movies in half its coverage of fracking between Jan. 1, 2010, and April 30, 2013.

Fracking is the nickname for hydraulic fracturing which, combined with horizontal drilling, spurred the huge increase in the use of natural gas and oil. National Geographic reported that output from fracking for oil tripled from 2010 to 2013. Proved reserves for oil and natural gas grew by nearly 10 percent between the end of 2012 and the end of 2013 setting “a new record at 354 trillion cubic feet,” IER said.

However, left-wing news outlets often attacked such progress or gave airtime only to its opponents. The broadcast networks in particular did a terrible job of covering fracking from Jan. 1, 2010, through April 30, 2013. During that time, half of the news stories about hydraulic fracturing relied on Hollywood attacks from misleading documentaries like Josh Fox’s Gasland, and even fictional dramas like Promised Land. One CBS program gave non-scientists Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon more than five whole minutes to attack the practice without challenge.

The media could take their pick of environmental lefties crying foul. Food and Water Watch, left-wing “social change organization” CREDO action, filmmaker Josh Fox, celebrities like Ono and Lennon and Mark Ruffalo were just a few of the liberals who want fracking banned. Bans they called for in the name of the environment.

“Fracking kills. And it doesn’t just kill us, it kills the land, nature and eventually the whole world,” Ono claimed at one press conference. Where was Ono’s evidence that people have been killed because of fracking? Suspiciously lacking.

Actor Robert Redford voiced a radio ad about fracking saying it was a “bad deal for local communities. It’s been linked to drinking water contamination all across the country. It threatens the clean air we breathe,” AP reported. Even AP admitted that statements like that could “contain a kernel of truth,” but are “at best subjective and at worst misleading or even hypocritical.”

But in June 2015, The Environmental Protection Agency announced they had found no evidence of “widespread pollution of drinking water” caused by fracking for natural gas. That didn’t sit well with anti-fracking activists who’ve told the news media for years that drinking water is in danger.

According to the recent EPA draft assessment requested by Congress, there were few identified cases of drinking water contamination linked to fracking activity. Tom Burke, of the EPA told NPR, “the number of documented impacts to drinking water resources is relatively low when compared to the number of fractured wells.”

Another popular myth about fracking, reinforced by dramatic video footage from Fox’s films, was the idea that fracking makes water flammable. The most common video footage came from GasLand and showed a Colorado man lighting his tap water on fire. Popular Mechanics reported that was misleading. The flammable water was not the result of fracking. An investigation determined the water well had been drilled into a pocket of methane.

Flammable water isn’t new. In fact, Fox knew, but refused to admit in GasLand that there have been places with enough methane in water that it could be lit on fire documented as far back as the 1800s.

Of course, Ono and Lennon got positive press from left-wing outlets including Rolling Stone, Huffington Post and CBS News when they formed “Artists Against Fracking.” They even performed their song, “Don’t Frack My Mother” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

The music video called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to not allow fracking his state, included many other celebrities including Liv Tyler, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adrian Grenier and Susan Sarandon. But since the group wasn’t registered as lobbyists, The Washington Times reported the group could get into legal trouble.

None of those celebrities were hurting economically or struggling with energy poverty. But for upstate New Yorkers it was a different story. When Cuomo granted the celebrities’ wishes by extending a moratorium on fracking in the state, “billions of dollars of natural gas” was left “trapped underneath the most economically depressed areas of upstate” Capital magazine New York reported.

It meant “no new fracking-related economic development in the economically troubled Southern Tier,” where the state estimated 25,000 fracking jobs would have been created.

As with wind power, the entire green movement wasn’t always on the same page about natural gas. Several green behemoths initially promoted natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” touting it as a way to move away from coal. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope was traveling the country “promoting natural gas’s environmental benefits.” And Sierra Club wasn’t alone.

“National groups such as the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council have backed natural gas as a so-called bridge fuel that can help the country move away from coal and oil without waiting for renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power, to catch up,” the Journal said.

In 2012, news broke that Sierra Club had secretly accepted $26 million from people associated with a gas company, primarily to boost the group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, The New York Times said. Shortly after that, Michael Brune the Sierra Club’s new executive director, announced that he had cut the company off in 2010. The Times said Brune wrote a blog post saying “the group no longer viewed natural gas as a ‘kinder, gentler’ energy source because of the environmental risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, a controversial gas-drilling process.”

NO NUKES! Environmentalist, Media Treatment of Nuclear Power as Stagnant as the ’70s Economy

Nuclear power is another power source that’s carbon-free. So naturally, global warming alarmists oppose it.

In 2014, Common Dreams cried “No Nukes! Go Renewable!” Similarly, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Critical Mass all continued to oppose nuclear power, which supplied 8.47 percent of the energy mix in 2014.

People in Illinois and New York state are fighting over shutting down nuclear power plants at the same time other states are trying to clear a path for nuclear power, The Hill reported on June 22, 2015.

On the federal level, nuclear power stalled for decades thanks to the media’s distorted coverage of nuclear disasters like Three Mile Island in 1979 and major environmentalist and celebrity opposition. Protesting “atomic poison power” was all the rage in the 1970s, but even with technological improvements many green groups are still stuck in a time warp opposing nuclear for “safety” reasons, rather than embracing it as a carbon-free energy source.

These days nuclear opposition doesn’t sound all that different from 1979, when rock stars Jackson Browne, Carly Simon and John Hall fought nuclear power through song at the No Nukes concerts while Hollywood scared the public about nuclear power with The China Syndrome. Rock stars and actresses like Jane Fonda drew attention to the cause united with environmental groups’ opposition to nuclear power.

The fictional movie, The China Syndrome, directly impacted news coverage of the accident with at least one major New York publication choosing to send reporters who’d seen the film to Harrisburg, Pa., to cover it. The movie’s star, Fonda, was already “firmly anti-nuke” when she made the movie and became a “full-fledged crusader” afterwards, New York Times Magazine said in 2007.

In 1979, a partial meltdown occurred at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Three Mile Island killed no one, injured no one and caused no long-term health impacts that could be proven. then-CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite warned, days after the TMI accident that “the specter was raised” about a “massive release of radioactivity.”

As is too often the case, the entertainment media's concept of a nuclear disaster had a huge impact on the news coverage of Three Mile Island (TMI). Just two minutes and 12 seconds into PBS's 1999 documentary about the disaster, the filmmakers quoted Mike Gray, a journalist and one of the writers of The China Syndrome. As recently as 2011, National Public Radio was still mentioning the film while discussing nuclear radiation and energy.

Such fears perpetuated by the media and celebrities rooted deeply and stalled the use of nuclear power as a stable, long-term energy for decades. It wasn’t until 2012, that a new reactor was licensed in the U.S., according to CNN Money. According to Reuters, the new reactors would be added to an existing nuclear power plant in Georgia.

The TMI accident “permanently changed” the nuclear industry and not just public opinion about it. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said, "NRC's regulations and oversight became broader and more robust, and the management of the plants was scrutinized more carefully." Plant designs were changed, operator training was improved, emergency preparedness was updated and many other changes were made to improve the safety of nuclear facilities.

In 2008, presidential candidate Sen. John McCain suggested building more nuclear power plants. His opponent, Barack Obama actually suggested he would be open to it if “safety, waste storage” and vulnerability to terrorism could be solved. But even support from candidates vying for the White House wasn’t enough to spawn network interest on the subject. ABC, NBC and CBS were practically silent with only rare, shallow mentions.

In 2010, NBC Nightly News turned to an environmentalist group that opposed nuclear power to criticize Obama’s announcement of plans to build a new nuclear power plant. To its credit ABC actually included co-founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore, a former opponent of nuclear power, who argued in favor of the plant. Moore’s former group still opposes nuclear power.

Political attitudes toward nuclear softened in recent years until the Japanese suffered from a double natural disaster, an earthquake followed by a tsunami in 2011, causing a meltdown at a Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The tsunami caused a station blackout at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and nuclear power plants require power “to provide a steady flow of cooling water” to prevent meltdown, according to International Business Times. Time said three of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant’s reactors overheated “sending plumes of radiation.”

As of 2013, environmentalists remained divided over nuclear power, NPR said.


Environmental activists know that energy, and especially fossil fuels like oil, is the “lifeblood of our society.” They admit it. Yet, they continue to call for radical or impossible changes with blatant disregard for the consequences.

The Obama administration has used the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to wage war on coal throughout his presidency, but when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against one of those rules (Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule of 2011) in June of 2015, the broadcast networks barely acknowledged it. Nightly News ignored it entirely that night, while Evening News and World News devoted just 29 seconds to the court decision.

Turning renewables into reliable and affordable energy sources and shifting away from the fuels that provided 90 percent of 2014 energy consumption (petroleum/natural gas/coal/nuclear) is a far more than tall order. And it is one that the media need to scrutinize and haven’t.

Rather than expose the eco-war against the majority of energy sources, the liberal news media have embraced activists and environmentalists, uncritically repeating their calls for “renewable” energy and failed to recognize how that even the greens are divided about on what sources should be used.

But if the greens’ dream was implemented it could easily become a nightmare. According to Watts Up with That, University of Oklahoma geologist Dr. David Deming wrote an essay answering two questions: “What would happen to the US today if the fossil fuel industry went on a strike of indefinite duration?” and “What would happen if we gave the environmentalists what they want?”

The future he envisioned was far from utopian.

“By the third day, all the gasoline would be gone. With no diesel fuel, the trucking industry would grind to a halt. Almost all retail goods in the US are delivered by trucks. Grocery shelves would begin to empty,” Deming wrote. And that would just be the beginning.

Watts added some of his own predictions too: no municipal water after a few days, disease as a result of tainted water, useless toilets, no garbage collection, no Internet, TV or radio.

Given the possibility of such a nightmare, the news media need to be scrutinizing the Paris climate summit and any proposals made there rather than promoting the climate alarmists’ agenda without regard for the consequences.

Note: This is part four of a four-part series. Read part one, part two, and part three.