Peculiar Thinking on Renewable Energy

December 15, 2017 0 Comments

I am a big proponent of renewable energy and lowering my environmental impact. I haven’t saved up enough money to buy an electric car as of yet but I do have enough to purchase some solar panels for my home.

I am a little disappointed that more people are not investigating new options for cleaner living, instead investing their energy in some hoped-for political solution.

What is more disappointing is some commentators who “poo-poo” clean energy or come up with poor arguments against such advances. There are a lot of technological hurdles to overcome before the economy can become substantially cleaner and/or more electrified, but that is no reason to denigrate people with ideas about how it could be done.

EV charging stations in California

One such blog appeared back in October. It is from David Booth at Driving.ca. He makes a lot of good points about how difficult it would be to “ban” the internal combustion engine (ICE) right now or in the near future (let us say, in the next decade). True. We could not replace all of the highway gas stations due to the enormous costs and current technical limitations. However, this should discourage people from driving EVs (electric vehicles). As a society we could replace half of the ICE vehicles on the road right now with not much problem because most people have multiple vehicles and most daily driving is NOT long distance on the highway. For the vast majority of daily driving, most people could use EVs and charge at home – no need to replace every gas station right now. For the longer trips across the U.S. people could use their ICE vehicle. In Europe it will be much easier to phase out ICE vehicles because there are a lot more trains and subways to take people long distance.

In a different blog post from a famous environmentalist, I spotted some interesting statistics that were spun in a way to make clean energy seem very difficult. It was a guest post at WattsUpWithThat by Bjorn Lomborg. Bjorn has been cast as anti-environmentalist, but that is not correct. He is a realist and recognizes the balance to be considered between advancing an environmentalist agenda and basic human needs.

Take a look at the graph in the blog post and you will see that a couple hundred years ago the vast majority of the world lived off of renewable energy – a little over 90%! Wow. Today that number is only 13.8%. Yikes. What happened? Well…fossil fuels happened. When people discovered new means of extracting and using fossil fuels, they became the obvious choice for progress and development. They were, and still are, cheap and ubiquitous. I don’t blame my ancestors for using and exploiting fossil fuels. They wanted a better life. Almost all of the comforts of modern living are due to fossil fuels. If humans continued to use the renewables of 1800 (wood-fired stoves, hydro, wind power), we would not be where we are today. Not even close.

Electricity generation in the U.S. by renewables continues to climb.

Even though such a smaller percentage of people use renewables in today’s world, that does not mean the renewables of today are a lost cause, even though the graph from the blog post makes it look that way. It makes it looks like we have lost ground in the pursuit of “renewables”. We haven’t. If you consider the world population and do the math, more people are using renewable energy in the present day than back in 1800. If 90% of world’s population used renewables in 1800, that would be about 900 million people (because the world’s population was only 1 billion). The population of the world today is about 7.5 billion. That means over a billion people subsist on renewables (13.8%). About a 100,000,000 more than back in 1800. That’s progress.

Considering the rapid pace of scientific advances, it is not out of the question that renewable energy could far outpace the projections that Mr. Lomborg has published. I am sure he would be happy to see such advances.

Meteorologist Justin Loew

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