Thoughts On Planet of the Humans by Michael Moore

Kit Webster

May 9, 2020

 

You have to be intrigued when an uber-liberal like Michael Moore says that “green energy is a scam.” When he has a modern-day, Road-to-Damascus conversion while creating a documentary on green energy.

And then says it out loud, inviting attacks from his brethren.

A great deal of my research on global warming, and subsequently on sustainability, has been devoted to the role of energy in our lives and in our future. (Not to spoil it for you, but energy is THE foundation for all of our material progress. Abundant, cheap energy has enabled the incredibly complex cornucopia of modern Western civilization.) Since green energy was a part of this research, I have a reasonable foundation from which to review and assess Moore’s work.

Moore is an interesting guy. He has made many documentaries, basically rummaging around the underbelly of American culture, politics and industrial civilization. He brings many truths to the table, at times sacrificing balance and context.

I was pleasantly surprised by Planet of the Humans. At a high level, he makes many good points and tells a story of the limitations of green energy. It is not necessarily the story I would have told, and it has limitations, but it is far more balanced than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

It is the best popular presentation about green energy that I have seen, although the bar in this case is very low. Essentially all popular discussions about green energy are politically correct and misleading to the point of being worse than useless.

While being favorably impressed, I am concerned about several aspects of the movie.

I do not think that green energy is a scam. In general, it is an attempt by well-meaning people to address a real problem. Because humans are involved, there will be aspects of scams. People will inevitably attempt to game the system. Because it is an important subject, the government and “big corporations” will get involved, for better and for worse.  Corn-based ethanol, for example, is the poster child for a green energy bad idea. Green energy is overhyped and the subject of unrealistic expectations, but that does not mean it is centrally or principally a scam.

He gets some details wrong and inevitably leaves things out. Some of this is the result of time and scope limitations and an attempt to get things generally right without going into what could be mind-numbing detail.

A key omission is that of nuclear power. I will not belabor the point here, but the bottom line is that wind and solar cannot replace fossil fuels. The only hope in any reasonable timeframe is nuclear fission. However, paradoxically, nuclear Is unacceptable to much of the environmental movement.

Bottom line: for a popular documentary it is ok. In particular, the documentary discusses many of the awkward aspects of green energy. However, it is only one input to one aspect of an incredibly complex subject. Since our future depends on getting this right, it will be important to add to this documentary both in scope and in detail. There are no simple answers here and it is past time to begin dealing with difficult trade-offs.