Michael Moore Misfires

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On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Michael Moore released Planet of the Humans on YouTube, a film for which he was executive producer. Unfortunately this film does not celebrate the history of the environmental movement. Instead it claims that renewable energy is a sham and the environmental movement is just a tool of corporations trying to make money off green technology.

Energy and climate experts disagree with the film’s claims and conclusions:
Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix: “An essentially false attack on both the solutions and the credibility of the messengers.”
Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News: “A mess of deceptive and outdated anecdotes, and a succession of ridiculous arguments.”

Here are a few examples of false claims the film makes about renewable energy:
Claim: Environmental concerns about the impacts of biomass energy mean that all renewable energy is suspect. Actually, biomass energy has negative impacts on land use and emissions, solar and wind do not.
Claim: Solar panels only last 10 years. Actually, after 20 years most solar panels still produce 90 percent of their rated output.
Claim: Solar and wind energy plants have a carbon footprint as large as fossil-fuel plants. Actually, there is a huge difference between life-cycle emissions of fossil-fuel plants compared to wind and solar. For example, a coal-fired power plant’s life-cycle emissions are about 100 times the life-cycle emissions of a utility-scale wind farm.
Claim: Electric vehicles are just as polluting as gasoline vehicles. Actually, EV’s have lower emissions — including emissions from generating the electricity they use — than typical gasoline models, even in the parts of the U.S. that still rely heavily on fossil fuels for electric power.

Environmental leaders are concerned about the impact of the film:
Bill McKibben, author: “If you tell a bunch of lies about groups and leaders and as a result people don’t trust them, who benefits?”
Neil Young, musician: “A very damaging film to the human struggle for a better way of living, Moore’s film completely destroys whatever reputation he has earned so far.”

However, McKibben hopes that, despite the controversy caused by Moore’s film, most people still understand that we need to “conserve energy; replace coal and gas and oil with wind and sun; break the political power of the fossil fuel industry; demand just transitions for workers; build a world that reduces ruinous inequality; and protect natural systems both because they’re glorious and so they can continue to soak up carbon.”

John D. Kelley is group leader of the Citizens Climate Lobby, Santa Barbara Chapter.

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