If you have read more than, oh, say 5 consecutive posts on this blog, you know that technology in place today for solar and wind power ranks poorly on any scale of value I can think of. Whether I look at the cost of energy, level of environmental damage, devastation to wildlife in general, loss of protected species in particular, general disruption, exorbitant costs, visual pollution, noise pollution, corruption caused by crony capitalism, or damage to cultural artifacts, it is obvious to me that slice-and-dicers and wing-toasters are lousy sources of energy.
What is a better way forward? For the near term, abundant oil and natural gas.
Longer term? I don’t know.
And that is the point.
Nobody knows what technology breakthrough that hasn’t even been invented yet will be better, cheaper, more abundant, with a fraction of the environmental and ecological footprint that any source of power we know about today.
The really sad thought is what will we do with those horrid wind and solar farms now in place when some new tech comes along and makes them all obsolete in a few years or decades?
Matt Ridley makes the point far more eloquently than me in his article, Junk Science Week: IPCC commissioned models to see if global warning would reach dangerous levels this century. Consensus is ‘no’.
He points out three of the IPCC models show only a minor rise in temperatures a century from now. One model assumes we use ten times more coal 100 years from now than we do today. Even including that silly assumption and a long string of other equally implausible and inconceivable assumptions, the worst scenario sees an increase in temperature barely over the threshold of causing some damage. None of the models see ecological disaster.
The way forward to a better energy future?
He says encourage innovation. Don’t encourage the now-old technologies that aren’t even as good as oil or natural gas.
He would have us put a small (notice small) tax on carbon and offer prizes for innovation.
He would discourage us from pushing:
- bio-energy, which produces more carbon than coal,
- existing solar technologies, which are expensive, and
- wind, which has low energy density and takes up huge amounts of land
Nobody knows what better idea hasn’t been thought up yet.
The answer could even be wind or solar.
What breakthrough in wind or solar technologies might be just a few years away that will provide more energy at lower prices with a fraction of environmental damage than in use now? Today’s technology can only give us expensive slicer-and-dicers and wing-toasters that have serious side effects.
There could be some revolution in the wind and solar fields just around the corner that will do for wind and solar what hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has done for natural gas and oil.