I recently had the opportunity to watch “Michael Moore Presents Planet of the Humans” and while I expected it was going to be about how the math of some forms of “green” energy just doesn’t add up environmentally, it turned out to be something completely different.
Where is the Energy Fairy?
It turns out that there is no energy fairy.
The green Illuminati does seem to have convinced the green masses that they have to wait for a magical energy source with no environmental impacts. This leads most people to the conclusion that we should be paralyzed (i.e. continue burning coal and oil) instead of IMPROVING existing energy sources. For instance, natural gas is far from perfect but is it awesome if you are replacing coal.
We bought solar panels for our house nearly a decade ago knowing full well that when they were produced they were likely about as bad (or as good for that matter) as our regionally produced energy which then came primarily from coal.
So why did we buy them then? Well because like all things, manufacturing processes and materials dramatically improve with time and scale. It’s called the manufacturing curve. In other words we can’t get to very clean high-efficiency solar panels at version one. We likely bought version 10 solar panels knowing that humans need to get to version 15 before solar panels will be much better than regionally produced energy. Today we are very close to that standard but two important things have happened since we bought our panels:
- Calgary’s regional energy now comes from 18% wind, 82% natural gas and 0% coal, so the environmental bar for energy to be considered green has been raised substantially
- New solar panels are almost twice as efficient as the ones we purchased
The story Mr. Moore presents clearly tells you that you should do nothing because solar is not perfect and never will be. Is that a good idea?
The Best of Times
Without question, we are living the very best times in human history largely because cheap energy equates to both human health and increased standards of living. We have the lowest conflict rate in history, combined with the greatest health and lowest poverty rates. Our environment certainly needs a lot very serious, very expensive work, but it is drastically better than it was in the 1870’s or 1970’s.
Without cheap energy, mortality rates especially in children, go through the roof. Humans are survivors and without clean-ish natural gas or solar or wind or nuclear electricity we will burn cow dung and trees. That is a bad thing.
Just because en-masse we are in good shape, does not mean we do not have truly exceptional challenges, including CO2, water pollution, whats left of severe poverty and pandemics to overcome. These are serious problems that can not be diminished by wishing them away. We need to take serious action on many fronts and we need to do it now.
Everyone is Out To Get You!
The film goes on to poke green organizations as being fully co-opted by their corporate overlords. It’s the height of hypocrisy to demand change from that oil and forestry companies in one breath and then criticize them for developing or supporting green technologies in the next breath. It’s classic Michael Moore; all companies just are evil.
The droll monotone presentation of the film is riddled with conspiracy theories and that sadly degrades the entire experience. He has a valid points to make about the problems of overpopulation and green energy but instead of arguing those points, he rambles into dozens of misleading half-truths.
Lets Not Try To Improve
In the end I was extremely disappointed with “Michael Moore Presents Planet of the Humans” because I thought he was finally going to do some math on TOTAL cost of green energy and try to shed light on a practical path forward, but he just doesn’t make coherent arguments.
For example, he shows solar panels that have taken over large swaths of the California desert and equates that with the destruction caused by the oil/tar/black sands and with clear cutting forests. It’s the desert! Yes, I understand that there are truly wonderful and valuable things in the desert so we should not just plow it under without consideration, but we ARE going to produce energy, where better to do it than the desert?
Not to decide, is making a decision… in this case bad decision. By presenting misleading or seriously outdated information, the film implies that there is no point in green energy and that implies we should just keep burning coal and oil.
The Sin of Omission
While mildly entertaining, there are just so many half baked people presented as experts or are speaking in such narrow focuses as to miss the larger point, that the video becomes little more then another promotional piece for Mr. Moore’s anti-corporate philosophy.
It had such great potential. Why they would not show CURRENT (i.e. 2020-ish) calculations and products rather than presenting extraordinarily dated facts is very frustrating. For instance, the film spends considerable time on the Chevy Volt release and solar panel efficiencies FROM 2007:
- The Volt is a 15 year old version TWO product that stopped production in 2018. Let’s get to version four before throwing our hands up and saying, “I’ll just keep driving on gasoline!”
- The film presents solar panels from the same time and explains they are a lowly 8% efficient. Solar panels in 2020 are 17%-19% efficient and before you scream, “Oh my, that is terrible”, remember that gasoline is only a 20% to 30% efficient fuel.
There are many examples of new revisions on existing so-called Green Technology that can and will drive our world forward which Planet of Humans did not even mention:
Have you heard of Proton Technologies in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that has figured out an incredibly simple way to produce hydrogen:
- using primarily existing infrastructure
- about 90% less expensive than the way hydrogen is produced today (above ground with with natural gas)
- leaves 100% of the carbon and unwanted gases in the ground, only extracting 100% clean hydrogen
Planet of the Humans makes many claims that will get by you if you’re not thinking critically as you watch it. Probably the most misleading segment relates to energy storage. The insinuation is that you need to have chemical batteries to store energy, like the ones in your cell phone or flashlight. There is no way that the author and presenter of this film is not aware of the many different types of energy storage that are in large-scale production today. Three quick examples of energy storage not using chemical batteries are:
- using energy to fill large balloons underwater during times of high energy production (like during the day) and then having those balloons push air (or fluid back) out at low energy production times which causes electric generators and produce electricity.
- cranes that move cement blocks up in the sky during the day and then use gravity at night to lower the the blocks and produce electricity.
- using electricity produced during the day to produce hydrogen which then be used in the future at a hydrogen powered electric plant. (aka. green hydrogen).
That effectively makes cement blocks balloons and hydrogen all “batteries”. It’s disingenuous to ignore such common storage methods and that shows you just how Michael Moore has twisted the facts to fit his own narrative.
Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet is Suicide
The most interesting line in the show related to infinite growth on a finite planet being suicide. It is an observation many have made over the last hundred years but few have taken to heart. It does seem clear that at some point in the not so very distant future we need to get the global population under control. If not Mr. Anderson from The Matrix was right, humans are virus that will expand an kill our host, Earth.
However, many economists think that the world population will stop growing without much regulation in a few decades because the unpleasant and counterintuitive fact is that only poor societies have large families.
One only need to look at Canada’s, Japan and other developed countries birth rates to see that fact. As energy brings stability, health and wealth to Africa and South America, those societies will stop having large families. The details of this odd human fact are beyond the scope of this article, but if you want to delve into it read THIS article.
The Path Forward
The film has an overarching cynicism that the free market is somehow evil when in fact it’s the only way to get things done on a large scale. The so called “green left” would have you believe that the only solution is to has the government mandate change but history has shown repeatedly that regulation always fails if it overrides the will of the people. Governments have a terrible record of picking winners and losers, but there is a way government can help.
Government can make the products society doesn’t like (like pollution causing coal today and natural gas in 25 years) more expensive and let the market figure out what to replace them with. The answer is to not support solar or wind or hydrogen but rather to punish coal and oil.
The only really green energy we have is nuclear. “New nuclear” that is physically impossible to melt down and reuses old fuel rods is amazing which is why people like Bill Gates are backing it.
Don’t take my word for it. Go look up the facts yourself and you will find an incredibly small number of people have actually died or had problems from nuclear energy. If you have another 90 minutes you should watch Pandora’s Promise. I promise you will find it quite illuminating (pun intended):
In the end, the right thing to do is to change to cleaner energy sources TODAY… like right now… rather than holding out hope the magical energy fairy will drop a brand new ultra clean, zero cost technology from the sky.
It should only be a shock to the least educated that everything we have comes from the Earth and the sun. They are our only true resources so anything we do is somehow using either one or both of them.
What Can You Do To Improve the Environment?
My electric car lives in Calgary, Canada and gets 18% of its electricity from wind power with the 82% balance coming from natural gas fired plant. Is that perfect? Heck no. But it’s a gigantic step in the right direction.
Will solar panels and electric cars save the planet? Not a chance; but will it buy us more time to develop even better Technologies? You bet!
If you just want to be upset, this is the film for you.
If you want to improve the world, plant a tree, don’t have more than 2 kids and tell your politicians to get your regional energy from natural gas or better yet, nuclear!