Foreign Policy Blogs

The Big Lie (Again)

In an op-ed last week at the NY Times, Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute, reiterated the same old tired and tiresome nonsense about renewable energy:  It’s not good enough to get the job done.  As I’ve noted here a number of times, that particular Big Lie is easily refuted.  See 80% Renewable – The Revolution in Energy for example.

One absurdity that Bryce puts out there is that wind power uses too much space.  Tell that to the thousands of farm families from Wisconsin to Germany to China who are doing very nicely, thank you, getting revenue from turbines and working their land.  One of my students last Fall said that saying that turbines use too much space is like saying that light poles in a parking lot use too much space.  Think about it, Mr. Bryce!  (Amory Lovins destroys the “footprint” myth in his magisterial paper, Four Nuclear Myths: A Commentary on Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline and on Similar Writings.)

The Manhattan Institute, fyi, is a reactionary think tank substantially funded by some of the usual suspects of the right, including the now-infamous Koch Brothers.  These two are the good folks who have been making their name well derided by environmentalists and progressives for their support of everything from the campaign against Cape Wind to the Alberta Tar Sands to the Tea Party.  So, in any event, you can get a sense of where Bryce’s bread is buttered.

The response to his op-ed included letters in today’s paper.  They are articulate.  (If you don’t read letters in the paper, you’re missing some great thinking.)  The Sierra Club says:  “Presenting false choices about renewable energy will only distract us from the important task that lies ahead.”  Another writer notes:  “Mr. Bryce also compares the steel demands of wind- and gas-based power. He does not mention gas-based electricity’s share of the 800,000-plus miles of steel pipes used for gas drilling and transporting gas to market.”  The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote:  “Unlike natural gas, coal or nuclear plants, wind and solar plants don’t produce air or water pollution, global warming emissions or waste products, and use much less water.”  Yet another letter states that Bryce “…overlooks one of the central benefits of renewable energy sources: they are renewable.  Mr. Bryce’s cost-benefit analysis does not take into account the cost of nonrenewable fuels themselves.”

Climate Progress has a comprehensive refutation of this “…error-riddled op-ed by Manhattan Institute disinformer Robert Bryce.”  See the comment section in their piece as well.

The only way to confront a big lie is to smack it right in the face with the truth.

(Not incidentally, isn’t that a wonderful graphic from Cosimo Galluzzi and the NY Times?)



Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change