Feed Your Head Archive: 1/3/2010

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The Emperor's New Clothes

Proponents of solar and wind power as a replacement for fossil fuel generated electricity conviently, or ignorantly, omit important considerations. And the intellectual vacuity of the electric/hybrid car proponents literally sucks. The lack of vigorous analysis and consideration by these citizens is a sad evaluation of the failure of our educational system. Although their arguments against their critics are similar to the "I know you are but what am I?" games we played as children, the outcome of their ill informed political power is enough to split our nation and put us on the brink of financial and social disaster. Let us consider their recommendations.

It would take approximately 10,000 contiguous acres of land to generate 1GW of energy with the most efficient, state of the art solar electrical plant. Using 20 year old technology, nuclear power could generate 200GW on 200 independent 50 acre plots (or 10,000 acres for those who were social science majors). The 200 different nuclear power plants could be located where the power is actually needed. Of necessity, solar electricity must be located in areas conducive to sunshine, like deserts located between the temperate zones. That means South Western US, North Western Mexico, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Pakistan; sorry ROW (rest of world). Nuclear power provides service rain or shine. Additionally, unless you live near the solar plant, electricity transmission losses would also reduce the 1GW of power produced substantially. Solar power would require some type of back-up when the sun don't shine. The back-up would have to provide the same amount of power as the solar plant was supplying. Thus, whatever the choice, another non-solar plant would be necessary to produce electricity when the sun is down and the sky is cloudy; why bother? And the environmental impact of a 5,000 acre solar plant? No one really knows, but even the guess of an amateur biologist and botonist cannot remotely assess the negative impact on species that will occur. 

It would take 40,000 acres to generate 1GW of electrical energy using wind turbines. Nuclear power could generate 800GW in the same space using 20 year old technology. The good news with wind is that each turbine has a 3 acre footprint. That means that wind turbines can be dispersed. Unfortunately, that would not be economically feasible, since wind requires a high level of maintenance (all that pesky mechanical stuff required to convert wind to electricity). So wind is most likely going to be installed in "farms." Again, when the wind don't blow, the loss of capacity from the wind farm will need to be backed up by a conventional plant. Again, the back-up will need to have the same capacity as the missing wind power; why bother? As far as the environmental impact, we know that 4,700 birds including 1,300 raptors (70 of them golden eagles) are killed every year just at the Altamont, CA windfarm; at least the ground squirrels are happy.

As far as electric/hybrid autos; well, the only thing they are good at doing is ensuring that everyone knows that their owners failed science in school. Only a complete idiot would not recognize that a new car has a huge carbon and fossil fuel imprint. Estimates range from 25% to 33% of new car costs can be traced directly back to petroleum and other fossil fuels. Then there's those pesky batteries: each one full of heavy metals and each one with a fixed lifetime and massive replacement costs. Any analysis of cost and source results in the realization that owners have been scammed. Financial costs are comparable to operating a gasoline vehicle today, but will escalate rapidly as rare metals like lithium, cadmium, nickle and others are sucked up to produce the batteries and the development of conventional electrical facilities are stymied. The environmental costs are enormous. Electric cars charge off a grid dominated by coal with energy conversion efficiencies of under 20% by the time the energy is used to move the car. Gasoline cars, on the other hand, have a slightly better conversion efficiency rate and burn cleaner than coal fired power plants.

The emperor, my friends, has no clothes. The clean energy movement is nothing more than a pipe dream. A small group of "entrepreneurs" have preyed on the ignorance of the masses to foist an inefficient and costly technology on a public that its educational system has failed. And its emperor is a man who claimed to have invented the Internet.


GHG Effect by %

  • Water Vapor: 95%
  • CO2: 3.6%
  • N2O: 0.95%
  • CH4: 0.36%
  • CFCs: 0.072%

Debt as %GDP

  • Japan: 200%
  • Greece: 110%
  • Italy: 106%
  • UK: 60%
  • France: 76%
  • US: 100%
All numbers rounded to simplify comparison


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