Wrestling with Bernie

Cu lassa u vecchiu cu u novu, sa chi lassa ma nun sa chi trova. “Whoever decides to change is aware of not knowing what the change may bring.”  – Sicilian saying

Only a disconnected hermit would still hold onto a notion that the natural world, perhaps never so welcoming to humans as we like to think, is not under special stresses these days. 

Icebergs and beaches are disappearing. The Arctic tundra and the Amazon are too frequently ablaze. And the composition of the atmosphere above our heads is shifting about in troubling directions.

Things are changing. So we need to change. And deciding to change can always be a game of chance.

Bernie’s boldness

I’m no Democratic Socialist, I tilt more Right than Left, but I can respect Bernie Sanders for pushing back and saying what he thinks. Bernie’s not inclined to political dog whistles to beckon the forces of political darkness to his side just to eke out a few more votes.  

And Bernie’s head-on, face-up evangelism on the Left often makes it easy to wrestle with him and his ideas – out in the open – and refine our own beliefs in the match.

Last month, Bernie issued his boldest plan to take over the hostile forces of the Earth and tussle them into submission. 

Bernie’s bill: $16.3 trillion

Oh, the bill for his grand Green scheme to decarbonize the nation? For a mere $16.3 trillion, Bernie is prepared to turn this nation into something very like the world of the Hunger Games

I don’t mean the tyrannical dictatorship, reviled in both the book and movie versions of that tale. 

I mean the sleek and silent electric trains, electric trucks and electric cars zipping silently across a carbon-free North American continent between sealed cities, traveling at breakneck speed and using pretty much existing solar and wind power. 

Nuke the nukes too?

Bernie Sanders doesn’t do easy: The price tag is so high because he’s for shutting down all the plants that burn hydrocarbons – coal, oil, gas. He’s for banning nuclear power too, which is the leading present-day source of carbon-free electricity. The existing nuclear plants that provide 20 percent of the nation’s power? He would shut those down and dismantle them in a heartbeat. 

Bernie favors, actually he would mandate, wind and solar power replacing conventional carbon-based power plants. 

It’s true those newer technologies are coming into their own. 

But we are now realizing that both wind and solar are creeping out for miles across once pristine landscapes – and wind generation systems seem to cycle to  peak just about when most users are reducing their daily needs, while solar generation peaks before demand peaks.

Natural gas has been a cleaner stopgap when coal-burning and diesel-burning plants are suddenly decommissioned. The attractiveness of gas is dependent upon the unexpected boom in the new and revived oil and gas fields that stretch across the Southwest where I live and other areas of the country like the Northeast. 

It’s a “boom” because the technology of “fracking” – breaking the rocks deep down within a field to release huge new feeds once locked in stone – have come online in recent years. The resulting surge in gas and oil abundance has turned us from a desperate importer nation into a prolific exporter of energy assets to Japan and other hungry ports across the Pacific. 

But gas has its problems and wins no popularity with Bernie’s boys and girls.  Sloppy controls on escaping fumes at the wellhead, huge burn-off flares visible from space, and questionable maintenance on the vast and leaky pipelines headed from the fields to our cities and ports put carbon into the skies and higher atmosphere.

But there is another resource that is mostly neglected, that is completely renewable: The renewable “pipeline” of “convertible” garbage that spews outward from every city on earth. Perhaps we should say “convoy” since it moves from and throughout cities mostly on the highway.

Follow the smell

Just follow your nose and the early-morning garbage truck departing your neighborhood to the stinky artificial mountains that rise and ring around most large American cities. It’s principally plastic, paper and discarded organics. 

But find a way to safely convert this endless convoy of trash into clean renewable biofuel and you can have all the power you need to build the quiet, clean cities of the future.

This is what we do: Our process chemically transforms garbage or waste and reinforces the concept of recycling. I’ll have more on turning our trash into renewable energy in later postings!