4 Responses

  1. PhilW January 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm |

    I’m afraid I don’t think this article advances the debate about renewables very far. I think that if you advocate an entirely RE energy system, you do need to show that it is feasible, especially if you do not suggest ANY measures at all that would reduce or limit current energy consumption. This means, for example, that your advocacy of electric motor vehicles would mean an electricity generating system at least 50% larger than it is at present, with untold numbers of Li-ion batteries (the Tesla car originally used 6831 laptop batteries: multiply that by 800 million).

    The first task for any socialist addressing this issue has to be to make a distinction between exchange value and use value and thereby to understand that what is needed, along with energy conservation, is a whole new system of production distribution and exchange, that caters for human needs, not capitalist profit. To give an example: we don’t “need” cars: we need to be able to move around, but even then, our need to move around is determined in part by the design of our cities and landscapes, how our time is organised etc. etc. All such questions need addressing and dealing with, if we are not to have our ecosystems utterly destroyed by more mines, wind farms, solar farms, electricity storage systems and so forth.

    I’m also not sure about the capitalists’ alleged vulnerability to distributed electricity generating systems. What happened to the power that resides in working people, concentrated in large, strategic industrial complexes? I’m not suggesting that more should be built, but while they are there we should at least acknowledge that they could be a poisoned chalice for the ruling class.

  2. Timothy Baldwin December 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm |

    Some comments on your sources:

    [1] Renewable power is currently not being accompanied with large amounts of storage, with fossil fuels providing backup. Since renewable (and nuclear) costs are primary independent of output, the cost will increase relative fossil fuels and their is a risk that renewable energy will grind to halt. The oil&gas industry is currently benefiting from a switch from coal to renewable+gas, they will oppose a switch from fossil oil+gas to renewable.

    [2] This document does not support the claim it is cited for.

    [3] These proposals for 100% renewable energy rely heavily on agrofuels

    [4] which you reject. Can your provide a breakdown on the claim on nuclear CO2 emissions? Your inclusion of tidal power as renewable dispute it’s a limited resource and excessive use (current world energy use over several million years) will result in severe climate change.

    [6] [7] [8] These are all claims on the market price of electricity, some of which are blatant cherry picking or hypothetical (without evidence that the electricity price covers the cost of building the wind farm). This is wind industry propaganda.

    [15] David Walters comment was about installed capacity, your evidence is relating to generated electricity, and therefore CO2 emissions.

    [18] Whilst it may not be covertly opposing nuclear power, the CATO Institute is doing so openly. There are other anti-nuclear climate change deniers.

    1. David Walters January 22, 2014 at 5:12 pm |

      I run into anti-nuclear climate change deniers all the time. Trying to line up the climate debate “on your side” is silly”. it doesn’t speak to science and is at best a rather lame appeal to authority in the negative. The debate, obviously, is full on. Most on the left oppose nuclear energy. But a growing minority for nuclear energy is, well, growing. I think that is a good thing.

      David Walters

  3. Edward Butterworth December 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm |

    I don’t think Richard Heinberg (and his ilk) can be so easily dismissed. The oil peak is here but looks a little different from what was originally predicted. How can Ongerth write an article such as above without mentioning EROI (energy return on investment)?

    EROI measures the energy required to extract/produce/bring to market the oil/coal/solar power etc. In the early days EROI for oil was 100:1. For new sources of oil, deep water or tar sands EROI is less than 10:1. As more energy is siphoned off to extract/produce energy less energy is available for luxuries/non-essentials. Since energy is the fundamental support of the industrial economy the global economy is coming to the end of growth. The end of growth is the end of capitalism.

    The EROI of renewables is also low. They are viable now only because the EROI of oil has fallen so much but they will not prevent overall economic decline. Energy available per capita will decline and as has been the case for a long time the most sensible investment is in conservation. Only with effective conservation will we be able to avoid catastrophic economic slumps.

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