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Getting Real About Green Energy: An honest analysis of what it CAN’T promise

Getting Real About Green Energy: An honest analysis of what it CAN’T promise

I want to be optimistic about the future. I really do.

But there’s virtually no chance of the world transitioning gently to an alternative energy-powered future.

These Are The ‘Good Old Days’

I’m often asked where I stand on wind, solar and other alternative energy sources.

My answer is: I love them. But they’re incapable of enabling our society to smoothly slip over to powering itself by other means.

They’re not going to “save us”.

Some people are convinced otherwise. If we can just fight off the evil oil companies, get our act together, and install a national alternative energy system infrastructure, we’ll be just fine.  Meaning that we”ll be able to continue to live as we do today, but powered fully by clean renewable energy.

That’s just not going to happen. At least, not without a lot of painful disruption and sacrifice.

The top three reasons why are:

  1. Math
  2. Human behavior
  3. Time, scale, & cost

I walk through the detail below. I’m doing so to debunk the magical thinking behind the current “Green Revolution” because I fear it offers a false promise.

Look, I’m a huge fan of renewable energy. And I’m 1,000% in favor of weaning the world off of its toxic addiction to fossil fuels.

But we have to be eyes wide open about our future prospects. Deluding ourselves with “feel good” but unrealistic expectations about green energy will result in the same sort of poor decisions, malinvestment, and crushed dreams as fossil-based system has.

As we constantly repeat here at Peak Prosperity: Energy is everything.  

Without as much available, the future is going to be exceptionally difficult compared to the present. Which is why I call the time we’re living in now The Good Old Days.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

March 28, 2019 Book review of Bryce’s “Power hungry: the myths of green energy and the real fuels of the future”

March 28, 2019 Book review of Bryce’s “Power hungry: the myths of green energy and the real fuels of the future”

Preface.  This is a book review of: Robert Bryce. 2009. Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.

This is a brilliant book, very funny at times, a great way to sharpen your critical thinking skills, and complex ideas and principles expressed so enough anyone can understand them.

I have two main quibbles with his book.  I’ve written quite a bit about energy and resources in “When trucks stop running” and this website about why nuclear power and natural gas cannot get us out of the peak oil crisis (after all, natural gas and uranium are finite also).

This book came out in 2009. As far as his liking for nuclear power, perhaps Bryce would have been less enthusiastic if he’d read the 2013 “Too Hot to Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste” by W. A. Alley et al., Cambridge University Press.  And also the 2016 National Research Council “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants: Phase 2”.  As a result of this study, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Science Magazine concluded that a nuclear spent fuel fire at Peach Bottom in Pennsylvania could force up to 18 million people to evacuate. This is because the spent fuel is not stored under the containment vessel where the reactor is, which would keep the radioactivity from escaping, so if electric power were out for 12 to 31 days (depending on how hot the stored fuel was), the fuel from the reactor core cooling down in a nearby nuclear spent fuel pool could catch on fire and cause millions of flee from thousands of square miles of contaminated land.

Bryce on why the green economy won’t work:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Megadams Not Clean or Green, Says Expert

Megadams Not Clean or Green, Says Expert

Forty years of research show hydro dams create environmental damage, says David Schindler.

Politicians who describe dams as “clean energy projects” are talking “nonsense” and rejecting decades of science, says David Schindler, a leading water ecologist.

Former premier Christy Clark often touted the Site C dam as a “clean energy project” and Premier John Horgan has adopted the same term.

But that’s not the story told by science, Schindler told The Tyee in a wide-ranging interview.

In fact studies done by federal scientists identified dams as technological giants with lasting ecological footprints almost 40 years ago, he said.

Dam construction and the resulting flooding produces significant volumes of greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian dams have strangled river systems, flooded forests, blocked fish movement, increased methylmercury pollution, unsettled entire communities and repeatedly violated treaty rights.

Schindler, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and an internationally honoured expert on lakes and rivers, pointed to the increased mercury levels as a health and environmental risk. “All reservoirs that have been studied have had mercury in fish increase several-fold after a river is dammed,” he said.

“How can any of those impacts be regarded as green or clean?”

The Site C dam is no exception. A report by the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance found the Site C project, which faced a federal-provincial Joint Review Panel in 2014, “has more significant negative environmental effects than any other project ever reviewed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (including oilsands projects).”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BP solar chief forecasts global clean energy renaissance

BP solar chief forecasts global clean energy renaissance

A new paradigm of ‘planetary ecology’ might emerge after 2050

Published as part of the launch of the new beta platform for INSURGE intelligence, a crowdfunded journalism platform for people and planet

A new book put together by the Chairman of the philanthropic arm of Europe’s largest solar company, Lightsource BP, throws light on how the world will be permanently transformed by an energy revolution in coming decades.

The study’s key finding is that the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies could usher in a new electricity paradigm associated with a more advanced clean, industrial economy. The core ingredients for this paradigm will take off rapidly after 2050, it says.

On the other hand, the study warns that renewable energy, if implemented within the same ‘old’ geopolitical paradigm of the fossil fuel era, might not avoid a further deterioration of environmental stability and international security.

The new book is edited by Vicente Lopez Ibor Mayor, former Chairman of Lightsource Renewable Energy, which merged with the leading British oil firm, BP, at the end of last year.

BP invested $200m in the merger, equivalent to a 43 percent stake in what is now Lightsource BP. Under the deal, Mayor became Chairman of the Lightsource Foundation, Lightsource BP’s charitable division.

Ibor Mayor’s book, Clean Energy Law and Regulation: Climate Change, Energy Union and International Governance, also published at the end of last year, brings together expert contributions from senior EU officials, energy analysts, diplomats, legal scholars and technology experts. Their contributions scope how energy regulation is rapidly changing to keep up with the emergence of a new electricity and energy paradigm driven by the rise of renewables.

This new renewables-driven paradigm, Mayor concludes, will emerge inevitably in the latter half of the twenty-first century — but its nature, positive or negative, is not set in stone.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The UK’s Clean Energy Strategy – and the greens are back

The UK’s Clean Energy Strategy – and the greens are back

The UK government’s just-published Clean Energy Strategysupposedly leads the way to the low-carbon future that the 2008 Climate Change Act calls for. But all it actually does is dust off all the old, shop-worn green remedies (smart meters, smart grids, EVs, hydrogen, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage etc.) and present them as new solutions. The plan is to bring these solutions to reality by throwing money at them – by my reckoning at least £20 billion over the next few years – in the expectation that “investment” and “innovation” will deliver the desired outcomes, although the odds are strongly against it. In short, the greens are back in the saddle, and as a result the UK still lacks a workable energy plan.

The Clean Energy Strategy document (hereafter the CES) runs to 163 pages and often goes into considerable detail, which makes it difficult to synthesize in a single post. A simple way of gauging where the emphasis is placed, however, is to do word counts using key words and phrases. The results of my word/phrase counts are shown in the Table below:

Efficiency gets the most mentions, and improved energy efficiency is indeed worth pursuing, particularly when at least some of the recent reductions in UK emissions have come from more fuel-efficient vehicles, better-insulated buildings and the replacement of incandescent lights with LEDs (and also from people turning their thermostats down to lower their skyrocketing energy bills – an outcome of the same energy policies that the government now advocates more of. But I don’t propose to get into that here).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

100 Percent Wishful Thinking: the Green-Energy Cornucopia

100 Percent Wishful Thinking: the Green-Energy Cornucopia

At the People’s Climate March back last spring, all along that vast river of people, the atmosphere was electric. But electricity was also the focus of too many of the signs and banners. Yes, here and there were solid “System Change, Not Climate Change” – themed signs and banners. But the bulk of slogans on display asserted or implied that ending the climate emergency and avoiding climatic catastrophes like those that would occur a few months later—hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the mega-wildfires in the U.S. West—will be a simple matter of getting Donald Trump out of office and converting to 100-percent renewable energy.

The sunshiny placards and cheery banners promising an energy cornucopia were inspired by academic studies published in the past few years purporting to show how America and the world could meet 100 percent of future energy demand with solar, wind, and other “green” generation. The biggest attention-getters have been a pair of reports published in 2015 by a team led by Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, but there have been many others.

A growing body of research has debunked overblown claims of a green-energy bonanza. Nevertheless,  Al Gore, Bill McKibben (who recently expressed hope that Harvey’s attack on the petroleum industry in Texas will send a “wakeup call” for a 100-percent renewable energy surge), and other luminaries in the mainstream climate movement have been invigorated by reports like Jacobson’s and have embraced the 100-percent dream.

And that vision is merging with a broader, even more spurious claim that has become especially popular in the Trump era: the private sector, we are told, has now taken the lead on climate, and market forces will inevitably achieve the 100-percent renewable dream and solve the climate crisis on their own. In this dream, anything’s possible; Jacobson even believes that tens of thousands of wind turbines installed offshore could tame hurricanes like Katrina, Harvey, and Irma.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Magical mathematics

Magical mathematics

I know that some readers of this blog get bored by my engagements with the ecomodernists, whereas others find them interesting. So I’m going to try to keep everyone happy. I feel the need to recoup the wasted weekend I spent reading Phillips’ book by writing a few things about it, but I’m mostly going to do that elsewhere. The interesting task that Phillips sets himself, but makes a dreadful fist of tackling, is a socialist critique of left-green ‘small-is-beautiful’ relocalisation thinking. So I’m hoping to have an article about that on resilience.org soon. He also makes quite a mess of trying to critique the local food movement, a subject dear to this blog’s heart, and to be honest he’s not the only one to get in a tangle over this so I plan to write a little post about that on here soon. I’ve written a wider critique of some of the magical mathematics associated with ecomodernist thinking, including Phillips’s, which has just been published on the Statistics Views website. This post is essentially a brief summary of parts of that article, plus a foray into Mr Phillips’ enchanted world of geophagy, which I hope might be of wider interest even to people who don’t much care to follow all the twists and turns of ecomodernist tomfoolery. It falls into three parts.

Part 1: The future’s orange

…or at least it is if you believe this graph:

Energy capacity graph

 

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Difficult to invest in green energy in Canada without Big Oil

Difficult to invest in green energy in Canada without Big Oil

Divestiture movement continues as organizations clean carbon holdings from portfolios

If you thought the divestiture movement was losing steam, Norway’s recent announcement shows there still is momentum around the world to stop investing in fossil fuels.

The country has confirmed that its hefty $900-billion government pension fund, considered the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, will purge some of its fossil fuel stocks.

Many other organizations have made similar moves in past years.

Concordia University in Montreal launched a $5-million fund dedicated to divestment, social and ethical investing. Stanford University in California pledged not to make direct investments in companies whose principal business is coal for energy. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund pledged to reduce investments in coal and the oilsands projects to less than one per cent of its portfolio.

But in Canada, divestiture may not be the best method of promoting renewable energy development.

Syncrude oil sands site near Fort McMurray

Traditional oil, gas and coal companies are creating the majority of renewable energy in Alberta. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The reason is that, outside of government, it is the traditional oil and gas companies that are constructing much of the green energy projects in the country, such as wind, hydro and solar.

For instance, the largest wind and hydro projects in Alberta are owned in whole or in part by traditional oil, gas and coal companies.

Capital Power is an example of a private sector company with a mixed bag of energy projects. It’s a leader in renewable energy development and uses fossil fuels too. The Edmonton-based company has more than 20 wind and solar power plants in North America. It also operates a coal mine as well as several coal- and natural gas-fired plants.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

“Green” Policies Don’t Make Economic Sense Even on Their Own Terms

“Green” Policies Don’t Make Economic Sense Even on Their Own Terms

When confronting the typical proponents of “green” government policies, the free-market economist must make a turbinestrategic decision: Since most of these recommended (and often, actually implemented) State measures make no sense even on their own terms, one course of action is to stipulate the alleged goals and simply point out that the policies do not achieve them.

However, the danger with such concessions “for the sake of argument” is that the interventionists can then say, “So you agree with us that the free market, left to its own devices, will drive humanity over a cliff, and now we’re all just quibbling over the details.” That’s why it’s also important to stress that the underlying fearmongering is baseless, too.

In the present blog post, I’ll move through the spectrum of possible responses. First, Ross McKitrick–who wrote a graduate-level textbook on the economic analysis of environmental policy–has a new study for the Canadian Fraser Institute, critiquing Canadian “green” regulations that make no sense on their own terms.

Specifically, McKitrick shows that if we stipulate for the sake of argument that (say) Canadians are emitting too much carbon dioxide, then the proper policy response would directly target CO2 emissions. So even if you thought this were a worthy objective, it would still be ludicrous (McKitrick argues) to ban 100W incandescent light bulbs–especially in Canada, where most of the electricity is generated through hydro and nuclear.

Similarly, direct mandates on “energy efficiency” in household appliances are also absurd. The government is playing “central planner,” telling Canadians how to achieve reductions in CO2 emissions which any textbook will say is a very costly way to achieve targeted emission reductions. (Naturally, the U.S. federal and state governments have similarly absurd regulations.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Inconvenient Truth About A Green Revolution

The Inconvenient Truth About A Green Revolution

“Green energy is the future!” “Green energy will create tens of thousands of new jobs!” Statements like these have become the new mantra for green energy advocates even as fossil fuel emissions have fallen dramatically thanks at least in part to the rise of natural gas. Fossil fuel emissions today are roughly 10% lower than they were a decade ago in the United States according to the EPA. Combined with the precipitous decline in oil prices, green energy generation has become less economically appealing and less environmentally necessary. This has led to increased emphasis on the employment aspects of green energy.

Related: Could The World Cope With Almost Limitless Energy?

A recent panel of climate scientists concluded that by 2020 around 1 million new green energy jobs would be created if the US, European Union, and China all adhere to their climate goals. This statistic is predicated on these countries managing to switch from producing conventional fossil fuel energy to green energy sources. By 2050 around 3 million new green energy jobs would be created if all conventional fossil fuels are phased out by that point and replaced with renewable energy sources.

These figures sound great initially, but there is a catch. For those jobs to materialize, fossil fuels have to be phased out. And once those fossil fuels are phased out, a lot of existing jobs will disappear.

How many jobs will disappear as the “green revolution” picks up steam?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Wood Pellets: Green Energy or New Source of CO2 Emissions?

Wood Pellets: Green Energy or New Source of CO2 Emissions?

Burning wood pellets to produce electricity is on the rise in Europe, where the pellets are classified as a form of renewable energy. But in the U.S., where pellet facilities are rapidly being built, concerns are growing about logging and the carbon released by the combustion of wood biomass.

In 2011, Enviva — the United States’ largest exporter of wood pellets — opened its flagship pellet-manufacturing mill in Ahoskie, North Carolina. The plant annually converts 850,000 tons of trees and waste wood into tiny pellets that are shipped to Europe and burned in power plants for what is being touted as a renewable form of electricity.

Two years later, Enviva opened another mill 50 miles away in Northampton County, North Carolina, and by 2016 the company is expected to operate eight wood pellet mills from Virginia to Mississippi. Elsewhere in the southeastern United States, other companies are planning or rapidly building facilities to produce wood pellets. A mill planned by Biomass Power Louisiana in Natchitoches, La., will produce up to 2 million tons of the pellets annually. Drax, a British utility that’s taking steps to transform itself into a predominately biomass energy generator, has said it will open four of its own large mills to produce pellets in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana.

Demand for this purportedly green form of energy is so robust that wood pellet exports from the United States nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013 and are expected to nearly double again to 5.7 million tons in 2015. This soaring production is driven by growing demand in the U.K. and Europe, which are using wood pellets to replace coal for electricity generation and heating. The European Union’s 2020 climate and energy program classifies wood pellets as a carbon-neutral form of renewable energy, and European companies have invested billions to convert coal plants to plants that can burn wood pellets. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ontario’s Sustainable Development Plan Is Beginning To Fall Apart | Canadian Awareness Network

Ontario’s Sustainable Development Plan Is Beginning To Fall Apart | Canadian Awareness Network.

In recent weeks reports about green energy jobs surpassing oil sand job creation, of Ontario taking big steps into the growing green bonds market, and many more stories that would lead people to believe that sustainable development is excelling in the province. Have been splashed all over the news.

Is this true? Or just stories that do not paint the whole picture?

Green energy programs have created around 1,000 more jobs than the oil sands. That part is correct, but there is several points that have been left out.

1. Clean energy programs have created 23,700 jobs compaired to 22,340 by the oil sands projects. This leaves out that overall oil production in Alberta alone, employs more than 120,000 people. If we are going to compare job creation between the two industries, would it not make sense to include all stats and figures? This is leaving out the comparision of how many of these jobs are temperary and how many are permanent as well.

2. Green energy programs would have been halted a long time ago without government subsidies. Below is a breakdown of how much is being spent to keep the programs afloat and how much it is costing the people of the province.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can Green Bonds Bankroll A Clean Energy Revolution? by Marc Gunther: Yale Environment 360

Can Green Bonds Bankroll A Clean Energy Revolution? by Marc Gunther: Yale Environment 360.

To slow global warming, tens of trillions of dollars will need to be spent in the coming decades on renewable energy projects. Some banks and governments are issuing green bonds to fund this transformation, but major questions remain as to whether this financing tool will play a game-changing role.

by marc gunther

Looked at from one angle, climate change is an infrastructure problem. To limit global warming to 2 degrees C and avoid the worst effects of climate change, about $44 trillion will need to be invested in low-carbon projects like wind farms, solar panels, nuclear power, carbon capture, and smart buildings by 2050, the International Energy Agency estimates. That’s more than $1 trillion a year — roughly a four-fold jump from current investment levels.

Where’s the money going to come from? Maybe from green bonds, say bankers and environmentalists alike. Green bonds, which are also known 

green crab

Leaflet/Wikimedia Commons
Green bonds can finance large-scale renewable energy projects like wind farms.

as climate bonds, are fixed-income investments that are designed to finance environmentally friendly projects. Pioneered by international development banks — the European Investment Bank issued the first climate bond in 2007, followed a year later by the World Bank — they are today issued by state and local governments (Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and the cities of Stockholm and Spokane, Washington, among others) and by big companies (Bank of America, Unilever, and the French utility GDF Suez). 

…click on the above article to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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