Friday, October 05, 2012


This blog entry is dedicated or at least directed to Greenpeace.  It is unbelievable that such an important global organization can be so naive.  It seems that for them all the solutions to the main energy problems of humanity start with a) attacking large corporations and b) converting everything to "renewable" energy.

For example, this Arctic drilling thing.  Why are oil companies trying to do business in one of the most expensive and risky places on Earth? Because of the hunger for oil WE the people have.  If we tamed drastically our craving for oil, then no Arctic oil production would be needed.  As long as humanity doesn't curtail it´s oil use, the Arctic will get more and more attractive.  Why? Because the more difficult it gets to supply the demand, the more the price of oil will increase and the more interesting it will get to drill in the Arctic despite its inherently higher costs (and risks).

So Greenpeace may win this round with the oil industry BUT if we the people don't reduce our oil use, next time drilling in the Arctic will be unavoidable.

Now, with respect to "renewable" energy, it is and it will continue to be a niche energy source.  Why? Because it is not reliable (aaand it is more expensive than conventional energy).

Let's start with solar: sometimes there is sun, and sometimes there is no sun.  By definition at night there is no sun, and in winter the days are shorter than in summer, but at any moment of the year we may have cloudy skies and then the output of the solar panels can drop by as much as 90%.  Bottom line: we need to backup all solar energy with conventional energy, so solar does NOT replace conventional generating capacity.

With wind it is exactly the same thing but the variations are even more dramatic in the sense that significant variations can happen in the span of a few minutes.  And again, all wind capacity needs to be backed up with conventional generating plants.

Sure, renewable supporters are going to say that sun and wind, specially if interconnected to a very large grid will pretty much even out and thus somehow provide base power.  Well, this is just not true and for example in the UK, the coldest days of winter (when the demand for electricity is the highest) have almost no sun and might have no wind either.

Now, for the conventional generating plants, renewable energy is a head ache.  THEY are the ones that have to continually adjust their power generation to adapt to the renewables.  And they cannot shut down and tell their employees to go home because in the next 10 minutes they may need to be back in the generating business.  They need to continue paying the salaries of their people and end up producing less than the capacity of their plants.  Yes, their fuel costs go down, but their costs per kWh go up.  Will they absorb the loss or pass the extra costs to the consumers?  Try to guess the right answer.

Renewables (solar panels and wind turbines) are mature technologies but even today need subsidies to survive and this is one of the reasons electricity rates in Germany are close to TWICE those in France.  Why the subsidies?  Well, first because in most first world countries very little new generating capacity is needed and thus renewables are almost completely surplus (in other words unneeded) capacity.  Spain is the perfect example, at peak hour they need 44 GW but they have a total of 100 GW of installed capacity.  In other words all their renewable capacity was nothing more than an expensive luxury.  Spain has already stopped the madness and thus have pretty much eliminated subsidies for renewable energy.  Germany is still going full steam ahead in this orgy of subsidies but sooner or later they will be forced by reality to change their ways.

So, if we really want to make a dent in humanity's carbon emissions what should we do?

1. REDUCE our energy consumption by a very substantial amount, say 40%.
2. Convert coal electricity generating plants to natural gas (where feasible).  This would reduce emissions by 50%!
3. Long term, the only solution for very low carbon electricity generation is nuclear (sorry, Greenpeace, but these are the facts and no amount of feeling will change them).
4. Buy only hybrid cars, or even better, buy no cars.  (Electric cars are NOT ready for prime time).
5. Commute and travel less (much less).
6. Buy less things (much less).
7. Go vegan.
8. Have less children (why not follow the Chinese in having only one per family?)

Greenpeace, IMHO, should focus its marketing muscle, which is considerable, on the true culprits of global climatic disruption and the destruction of the Earth: we the people.

Only if billions of people change their behavior would we be able to improve the road ahead for the planet and all of us that live on it.

Thank you.

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