Via the indispensable Watts Up With That? come two of the most interesting articles I have read in a very long time. The first is by two Google engineers who were charged with thinking creatively about how to replace fossil fuels with renewables. After four years, Google shut down the project. The engineers concluded that it simply couldn’t be done:
At the start of RE
Note that these engineers are not climate skeptics; they assume that the global warming theory is true. On that assumption, renewable energy simply can’t make a significant difference.
The second article is a comment on the Google engineers’ analysis by Lewis Page in The Register. Page elaborates on the impossibility of renewable energy making a significant dent in carbon dioxide emissions:
Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible. Merely generating the relatively small proportion of our energy that we consume today in the form of electricity is already an insuperably difficult task for renewables: generating huge amounts more on top to carry out the tasks we do today using fossil-fuelled heat isn’t even vaguely plausible.
Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.
In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably).
That’s the bad news. The good news, Page argues, is that we already have the disruptive technology that is needed to replace fossil fuels–energy that is cheap, readily available and can be both distributed and dispatchable: nuclear power. Nuclear energy, he argues, is made expensive only by a ridiculous degree of over-regulation in the name of safety.
Both of the linked articles are brief and should be read in their entirety. Is Page right about nuclear power? I am not sure how low the true cost of electricity produced through nuclear energy could go, but I will say this: if climate alarmists really believed the claims they make about global warming–I don’t think they do–they would be agitating tirelessly for lightly-regulated nuclear energy.
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