One of the thoroughly ridiculed aspects of the Green New Deal is the notion of transitioning entirely to renewable energy by 2030. However, most people do not understand how ridiculously unrealistic it is. Renewable energy is far less viable than most understand.
Google Admitted Failure
A hint that something is amiss came from Google engineers in 2014, who admitted that there was no reality in their investment program: “We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope[.] Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.”
Google, poster child of progressivism, cannot be dismissed as promoting “far right” propaganda. Its engineers desperately wanted renewable energy technologies to work but reluctantly concluded that they didn’t.
The reason for the solemn pessimism comes from a total energy analysis. The dramatic fall in the price of solar panels and windmills over the past decades gives a false impression of progress, because cheap fossil fuels were used in constructing them.
Silicon and rare earth metals must be mined; tons of rock need to be removed to extract the minerals necessary to produce a solar panel. The mining machines and tools are made from steel, which is smelted using a lot of energy in big factories made from concrete, steel, and other energy-intensive materials.
In addition, all those materials were transported in ships and trains from every corner of the globe, and when the solar panels were produced, they were similarly carried to the end user.
That entire chain of events is based on fossil fuels. The reason it works so well is not only because oil and natural gas are cheap but also because the Energy Return on Energy Investment (ERoEI) in fossil fuels is so high. Today, if you spend one barrel of oil on oil extraction, you will get around eight barrels back.
According to a study by Ferruccio Ferroni and Robert Hopkirk, the net ERoEI for solar panels in areas with moderate amounts of sunshine such as Germany and Switzerland is -0.17. You get less energy back than you put in. That’s awful.
Other scientific papers get far more optimistic results, but as the authors above note: “The current methodology recommended by the International Energy Agency is not strictly applicable for comparing photovoltaic (PV) power generation with other systems.”
One smart person with the right progressive credentials who has understood these challenges is Bill Gates. In a recent blog, he wrote how improved farming techniques with reduced area requirement is a far more efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. In a tweet, he endorsed nuclear energy and vowed to invest a billion dollars in it.
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of leaders in the U.S. Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. I can’t overstate how important this is. https://t.co/tRovGTm2sg
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) March 28, 2019
Gates has understood the calculation. Solar panels and wind power are not serious alternatives to fossil fuels, but nuclear energy is. It is clean, safe, environmentally friendly, surprisingly cheap, and has a great ERoEI. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the only viable alternative to fossil fuels is demonized by environmentalists.
The beautiful thing about nuclear energy is that it doesn’t require subsidies. All it needs is to be adequately legalized and not regulated to death.