Friday, September 25, 2009


The No Energy Economy

In a hopeful sign, some in the Democratic party seem to be waking up to the fact that natural gas, although a fossil fuel, is much cleaner burning than coal, and is plentiful here; and, right now, it's pretty darn cheap. That's good news amid the bad about Iran and a new Mid East Embargo. The best fuel for an oil deprived future is uranium, but because of some social psychosis (and our government's inexplicable policy against reprocessing spent fuel) that's not in our near future. Big dams are definitely out of favor (and few sites exist for them anyway). So, if we're to save the planet from the wholly imaginary CO2 thermageddon, all the arrows we have in our quiver are wind and solar.

I'm sorry to slight the algae growers and the drillers for planetary heat, but to do more than just mention them here would be like discussing The Godfather and spending all the time on the guy who played the toll booth collector where Sonny got whacked (played by Merril E. Joels, by the way), they are that inconsequential (as are the other brewers of bio-diesel, the generators of methane, and the exploiters of the tides).

As you can see in the pie chart to the left, the World renewables, excluding hydroelectric generation, is a mere 3%. That's not a lot. If you were to equate that to the 98 yards of The Drive against Cleveland, it would be less than 3 yards, sort of like a minor gain.

But how much of the 3% is solar and how much is wind. The figures are a little different for the United States versus the World, but the federal government keeps track of those figures as well, as the pie chart below shows.

Solar energy is 1% of 7% or .07%. That's really tiny, less than 2.5 inches of The Drive. Wind is more with 7% of 7% or .49%, just over 17 and a quarter inches.

The President and the Governor of Colorado are all excited about getting rid of the non renewables, that is, oil, natural gas, coal and nukes, and going on with just renewables alone. They call this The New Energy Economy. Do you really think that, nearly alone, windmills and solar panels are going to provide us with the energy we need?

Let's say a miracle happened and solar and wind were overnight increased by 100 times. That's not possible--it won't be possible to increase them by a factor of 10 by the year 2020--but let's play the same sort of pretend game they do. Solar would then provide (if my math is right, which is suspect) 7% of what we need and wind would supply 49%. Except at night and when the wind didn't blow or blew too hard. 56% is obviously not 100%; the main sources of the New Energy Economy would not provide much more than half of what we use today. And our power needs are expanding. By 2020 we will need to produce 32% more electricity, for example, to avoid brown and black outs (sorry for the unavoidable, unconscious racism in those terms). If solar and wind can't catch up to our current needs with a miracle, there's just no chance when the target is steadily moving away.

Our governor and a former Senator, now Secretary of the Interior, have individually taken steps to lock up the oil, gas and kerogen in this state so we can't use it. They offer us windmills and solar arrays instead.

Welcome to the No Energy Economy.


Go back a couple of hundred years, when most of our energy came in the form of coal, wood, and oats (for horses). Petroleum was just goopy black stuff.

Did anyone really think back then that it would be the power of the future?

Have a little foresight. And check out GE's recent investment portfolio. You might be surprised.
I am very optimistic about our collective ability to react to problems of the present with technology of the future. We will get the technology, but it won't be cheap. You could build enough photovoltaic arrays and wind generators if money were no object.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?