My Turn: Inspiration and technology

  • AGNORMARK  AGNORMARK

Published: 5/11/2021 6:25:16 PM

I am writing in response to Jim Bate’s letter of May 10 “Points about solar.” I do not wish to dispute Mr. Bates’ observations, but rather to address some omissions and misconceptions.

Mr. Bates points out that the U.S. accounts for 15% of the global CO2 emissions, suggesting that even if we were to bring this amount down to 0%, the change would be negligible. There is not a statistician alive who would consider 15% to be a negligible amount. What Mr. Bates does not mention is that the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the global population. Not only does this mean that per capita our emissions are three times the global average, but also, using his reasoning, eliminating the entire population of the U.S. would have a negligible effect on the world population. Does he truly mean to suggest this?

Mr. Bates correctly identifies problems that surround the use of solar panels. They do require mining that is not environmentally friendly. But I believe some clarification is warranted here. By omission, Mr. Bates seems to imply that extraction of fossil fuels does not carry an environmental price. Is he forgetting or overlooking the Exxon Valdez, the explosion of a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the numerous pipeline leaks that have contaminated ground water, including drinking water, the hazards caused by fracking, or the mountain tops destroyed by coal mining?

It is a reality that any extraction of materials from the earth does environmental damage.

Also mentioned in Mr. Bates’ letter is a comparison between the efficiency of solar panels and that of modern oil burners. While oil burners effectively use 80% of their fuel, it still remains a fact that 100% of the fuel burned contributes to CO2 emissions, while 0% of the fuel used by solar panels contributes.

I can speak from experience that solar panels are productive even in New England’s less than inviting weather. We have had rooftop panels for nearly 10 years and soon will have produced 50 megawatts of power. This modest-sized array of panels easily provides us with all the electricity we need.

In the past the U.S. prided itself on being a global leader in innovation and causes for the common good. Where is that pride now? Where is the attitude that if we took the lead we could provide inspiration and technology for other countries?

Elizabeth Whitcomb

Northfield


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