As a small child in the 1940s, my wife, Patricia, lived on the family farm in rural Louisiana in a house without running water or electricity. They would go to the well outside to draw water with a bucket and rope. For light in the house after dark, they had kerosene lanterns. She and I lived on that farm in the 1970s and we knew people there who still lived in homes without electricity or running water.
Later, she and I lived in rural Alabama and owned a sawmill, which was partially steam driven, fueled by wood from the surrounding countryside. During the lunch break, some of the workers and I would gather on the office porch. I loved to hear the men tell of the circumstances of their lives. Most raised pigs for food, as well as fed their families from a good-sized garden. When the mill had no work, their lives went on; they had food and no house payments because they all helped one another build houses from lumber cut from their property.
In England, the wind stopped blowing and electricity stopped flowing.
I am telling you this because I see us possibly going back to that way of life and want to be sure that we are prepared to do so. Why? Because the world is concerned that our carbon emissions are harming the Earth; we are making fundamental changes to the structure on which our advanced economy is based.
Of course, life brings change, and if CO2 is a problem, we must contend with it. The question is, is the world dealing with the challenge the best way possible or are we not? Evidence out of England these last couple of months suggest that we need to do a whole lot better than we are.
England and Europe are years ahead of us in their pursuit of carbonless energy. In that pursuit, England has built extensive wind farms to convert wind into electrical energy. The problem of late is that the wind has all but stopped blowing and electricity has stopped flowing, causing the price of energy for homeowners and factories to skyrocket. Fortunately, England is able to draw their older generating plants back into service, at least to a limited degree. The problem will soon be that these plants will be dismantled. When the wind stops blowing in the future, this fallback won’t be available.
At our monthly Cape Issues meeting, we discussed this matter. One of our members, who is a retired engineer from the electrical generation industry, told the group that their foremost priority was always reliability. Now, the responsibility for ensuring that our nation has electricity has moved from the engineers to the politicians. Politicians are not trained like engineers, and they function on a very short time horizon. Engineers are methodical, and plan things out from start to finish over a period of decades. It is unwise for the people to allow short-sighted decision making to compromise our energy production capacity.
Ultimately, too, the consequences of the shift taking place will fall upon the people. Are we prepared to go back to the rural country life without reliable electrical power? Indeed, is it even possible – most of us don’t have large gardens for food, nor wood-burning fireplaces for heat.
Is it being alarmist to think that we could be forced to give up our comfortable way of life? Maybe, but maybe not. I have read a letter my grandmother received from her sister in Germany, saying they had nothing to eat but potatoes because their economy had been destroyed by Hitler. The Germans elected the man and suffered the consequences. Other high-performing economies, like Venezuela, have similarly been undermined.
The monumental decisions being made right now may well have massive consequences. Let us not fail to learn what we can from England’s pain. Let us have open dialogue, with all voices heard. There is no doubt a place for wind energy in New Jersey’s future, but it’s critical to take the time to consider all forms of energy, and what would constitute a proper mix, in order to deliver reliable and affordable power.
This is a doomsday scenario, and not all their problems are attributable to the drop-off of the wind. Nonetheless, let’s prepare for the worst, and work for the best.
From the Bible: Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, Luke 14:28-29