Quantcast
Energy

Why Hydropower Is Not 'Cheap' or 'Clean'

The California think-tank Pacific Institute released a report—Impacts of California's Drought: Hydroelectric Generation 2015 Updateearlier this month that contains significant false and misleading information that could negatively impact California rivers and delay the transition away from dirty energy.

First, the report and the news stories surrounding it repeatedly say that hydroelectric power is “less expensive" in California than competing sources. This statement gives credence to the anti-environmental mindset of discounting the negative impacts that dams and reservoirs have on free-flowing rivers, and disregards the externalized costs to the environment. In fact, the report omits the devastating impacts hydropower has on fish, wildlife, wetlands and countless other species that depend on healthy flowing rivers for survival. If the report would have included an “environmental full-cost accounting," the cost of hydropower for California consumers would have been shown to be huge.

O'Shaghnessy Hydroelectric Dam in Yosemite National Park, California.

Second, the report pushes the anti-science myth that hydropower is “clean energy," when nothing is further from the truth. Hydropower dams and reservoirs emit methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. These emissions are caused by the decomposition of organic vegetation flowing into the water as the reservoir levels fluctuate, and as rivers and floodplains are flooded each year. Methane bubbles up from the surface of the reservoirs and methane is jetted out the turbines below the dam. In fact, in tropical environments, hydropower can emit as much or even more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants. Unfortunately, the state of California does not measure the methane emissions from hydropower dams and reservoirs even though the science proving its impact is 25 years old.

Third, the report ignores positive impacts on water and electric use in California due to the drought. For example, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California spent $450 million “buying lawns" in its service area and replacing them with drought tolerant landscapes. This transformation of the landscape from water guzzling to water conserving has significant impacts that lowers water and energy bills for consumers. Similarly, because of the ongoing drought, in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, stormwater and wastewater recycling programs have been launched, which could save large amounts of water, energy and money as compared to other types of new water supplies.

Finally, the report says hydropower is “less polluting" and the media surrounding the report has been saying that hydropower is "clean as a whistle"—all of which greenwashes the industry's reckless history of environmental and cultural destruction in the U.S. and across the rest of the globe. Hydropower causes massive impacts to indigenous peoples, forests and biological diversity, and increases the spread of disease (even the Zika virus), all of which is escalating exponentially worldwide.

Thousands of new hydroelectric dams are being proposed in South America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Hundreds of dams are under construction, most of which are extremely controversial, surrounded by large-scale protests and supported by government subsidies.

The rivers of the world are facing major threats from hydroelectric dams that displaces people, destroys forests and increases climate change emissions. In Latin America, Indonesia, China, Vietnam and across the developing world, people and activists who are fighting to stop these dams are being assaulted, imprisoned and sometimes murdered.

Rivers are the living, breathing blood veins of the planet. Hydroelectric dams kill rivers. Nothing about that is clean and cheap.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Warren Buffett Wages Quiet War on Solar in the West

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to Keynote SXSW Eco

Koch Brothers Plotting Multimillion Dollar War on Electric Vehicles

Why Would the New York Post Plug Climate Denier Profiteers?

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Business
velkr0 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Texas Supreme Court Rules Cities Cannot Ban Plastic Bags

The Texas Supreme Court struck down the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban—a decision that will likely overturn similar bans in about a dozen other cities, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Icebergs calving from an ice shelf in West Antarctica. NASA / GSFC / Jefferson Beck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good News From Antarctica: Rising Bedrock Could Save Vulnerable Ice Sheet

After last week's disturbing news that ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, another study published Thursday offers some surprising good news for the South Pole and its vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

The study, published in Science by an international research team, found that the bedrock below the WAIS is rising, a process known as "uplift," at record rates as melting ice removes weight, potentially stabilizing the ice sheet that scientists feared would be lost to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Soybeans with cupped leaves, a symptom of dicamba injury. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Dicamba Damage Roars Back for Third Season in a Row

University weed scientists have reported roughly 383,000 acres of soybean injured by a weedkiller called dicamba so far in 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.

Dicamba destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to resist it. The drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Memphis Meats

FDA Takes First Steps to Regulating Lab-Grown Meat

By Dan Nosowitz

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—has long been enticing for its potential environmental, social and economic benefits.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Scott Pruitt speaking at meeting at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 17. Lance Cheung / USDA

Breaking: Sierra Club Demands Pruitt’s Emails After Only 1 Disclosed by EPA

As part of ongoing litigation, the Sierra Club has demanded that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) search Scott Pruitt's personal email accounts for work-related emails, or certify clearly and definitively that the administrator has never used personal email for work purposes. The demand comes on the heels of a successfully litigated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's email and other communications with all persons and parties outside the executive branch. These facts were first reported in Politico early this morning.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

Iceland Flouts Global Ban to Slaughter First Protected Fin Whale of New Hunting Season

Iceland's multi-millionaire rogue whaler Kristján Loftsson and his company Hvalur hf have resumed their slaughter of endangered fin whales in blunt defiance of the international ban on commercial whaling.

The hunt is Iceland's first in three years and marks the start of a whaling season that could see as many as 239 of these majestic creatures killed.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Life- Trac / CC BY-SA 3.0

Farm Bill With Huge Giveaways to Pesticide Industry Passes House

A farm bill that opponents say would harm endangered species, land conservation efforts, small-scale farmers and food-stamp recipients passed the U.S. House of Representatives 213 to 211, with every House Democrat and 20 Republicans voting against it, The Center for Biological Diversity reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!