Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Renewable energy is a thing of the past

Michael Lind (Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation)
has written an article about the U.S. and world energy future that everyone - particularly our political decisions makers - should read. He makes a convincing case for the assumption that conventional wisdom about our energy future is completely wrong.

The arguments for converting the U.S. economy to wind, solar and biomass energy have collapsed. The date of depletion of fossil fuels has been pushed back into the future by centuries -- or millennia. The abundance and geographic diversity of fossil fuels made possible by technology in time will reduce the dependence of the U.S. on particular foreign energy exporters, eliminating the national security argument for renewable energy. And if the worst-case scenarios for climate change were plausible (which they are not), then the most effective way to avert catastrophic global warming would be the rapid expansion of nuclear power, not over-complicated schemes worthy of Rube Goldberg or Wile E. Coyote to carpet the world’s deserts and prairies with solar panels and wind farms that would provide only intermittent energy from weak and diffuse sources.

The mainstream environmental lobby has yet to acknowledge the challenge that the new energy realities pose to their assumptions about the future. Some environmentalists have welcomed natural gas because it is cleaner than coal and can supplement intermittent solar power and wind power, at times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. But if natural gas is permanently cheaper than solar and wind, then there is no reason, other than ideology, to combine it with renewables, instead of simply using natural gas to replace coal in electricity generation.

Without massive, permanent government subsidies or equally massive penalty taxes imposed on inexpensive fossil fuels like shale gas, wind power and solar power may never be able to compete. For that reason, some Greens hope to shut down shale gas and gas hydrate production in advance. In their haste, however, many Greens have hyped studies that turned out to be erroneous.
In 2010 a Cornell University ecology professor and anti-fracking activist named Robert Howarth published a paper making the sensational claim that natural gas is a greater threat to the climate than coal. Howarth admitted, "A lot of the data we use are really low quality..."

Howarth’s error-ridden study was debunked by Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations and criticized even by the Worldwatch Institute, a leading environmentalist organization, which wrote: "While we share Dr. Howarth’s urgency about the need to transition to a renewable-based economy, we believe based on our research that natural gas, not coal, affords the cleanest pathway to such a future."

All energy sources have potentially harmful side effects. The genuine problems caused by fracking and possible large-scale future drilling of methane hydrates should be carefully monitored and dealt with by government regulation. But the Green lobby’s alarm about the environmental side-effects of energy sources is highly selective. The environmental movement since the 1970s has been fixated religiously on a few "soft energy" panaceas -- wind, solar, and biofuels -- and can be counted on to exaggerate or invent problems caused by alternatives. Many of the same Greens who oppose fracking because it might contaminate some underground aquifers favor wind turbines and high-voltage power lines that slaughter eagles and other birds and support blanketing huge desert areas with solar panels, at the cost of exterminating much of the local wildlife and vegetation. Wilderness preservation, the original goal of environmentalism, has been sacrificed to the giant metallic idols of the sun and the wind

Read the entire Slate article here


Someone should give this article to the German chancellor Angela Merkel and her colleagues in the government, who recently have agreed a "Road Map for the Energy Future" which in reality is a roadmap to energy failure.


Rainer B said...

Pay attention whose videos you embed. The owner of the youtube account who posted that video is not anti-wind power because he wants a return to oil. We might wish that arguments of badness of renewables appear for the goal to show the claims of environmentalists are false. The environmentalists claimed renewables are better than oil (and nuclear) therefore we should switch away from oil. The shown badness of renewables ought to lead us back to oil &co.
But the message of evil renewables was invented by enviros for the purpose to take us every energy source away, not just oil but also renewables like wind. And they pay attention their arguments are not used to pave the way back to oil and coal.
The above mentioned youtube account owner wrote in the youtube comment section answering comments of other youtube users:
- "I am not "pro oil." There just has to be something better than industrializing vast swaths of land, ... . Wind turbines shouldn't get a free ride as an aquired taste."
and continues in another answer
- "Much of the infrastructure we've built on fossil fuels has gotten too large to be sustainable with renewable energy, and serious downsizing is the one thing that I want."
(I changed the last five words slightly to make it appear more blunt. Original is: "the only thing that may salvage society.")

So I wouldn't agree with him.

NNoN said...

To Rainer B:
The video as such illustrates in my opinion quite well what I - and I presume Michael Lind - want to say. There is no need to go to the original YouTube page with the rather strange comments by the owner of the account.

Notyard said...

You are wrong sir. Unfortunately, only time will tell. In the mean time, I will hedge my position in BIOMASS fuels.

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NNoN said...

I have reconsiderd what Rainer B said and removed the video.

goldofu said...

thanks for your sharing :P