Having recently toured Europe, I found that roof and backyard solar panels were now so common in many countries that in some places these were the rule, not the exception. Solar farms and wind turbines were commonly seen from our high speed train windows. USAns are prisoners of Big Fossil and General Motors.
Can you run a warship, fire a missile and do the “shock and awe” using renewable energy?
“Renewable energy and improved energy efficiency are key to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius and avoiding dangerous climate change,” said REN21 chair Arthouros Zervos, who released the new report at the Vienna Energy Forum.
Renewable energy, and energy efficiency, are two legs of the three-legged stool. The third leg, without which the stool does not work and we fall on our ass if we try to use it for support, is REDUCED ENERGY USE.
If we do not put REDUCED ENERGY USE on the table - when we discuss the path to reversing the carbon bomb that is throwing the climate into chaos and dis-integrating the ecology - then we can skip past any focus on stupid, frivolous, wasteful, privileged, extravagant, outrageous and criminal uses of energy.
If we talk of “more renewables” and “improved efficiency” and do not talk about “less USE of energy” then we avoid calling out hyper-consumers, military outrage, airplane flights, automobile trips, and the immense political and economic power of the hyper-consumer class and the corporations, militaries, and propagandistic media that are their primary tools of exercising dominance.
If we speak solely of “more renewables” and “improved efficiency,” we dream that the present economy and political system can develop away from carbon fuels toward more directly solar sources like PV, wind and water, without addressing the gross income, wealth and power imbalances that are INTRICATELY INTERWOVEN with the corporatist extractivist fossil-fueled energy systems at the heart of the economy.
If we do not simultaneously address wealth, power, access to land and other common resources, when we address the energy systems that power the economy, then we cede our greatest capacity to effectively address atmospheric carbon, since we will not confront the central political and economic powers that cling to the source of their power, and that drive resistance to ending the carbon energy economy.
If we do not insist on and fight for a holistic program that simultaneously addresses the power structure of the political economy as we address the energy systems that power the economy, we remain likely to fail to implement systems that are truly ecologically holistic. We may continue shifting away from fossil carbon-based energy, but continue to dis-integrate the ecology, as the existing power structure increases sourcing of renewable energy and improves the energy efficiency of our tools and systems, but does not change the fundamental paradigm of exploitation, extraction, and accumulation of profit and power.
We need to shift from a linear culture of arrogance and looting, to a holistic culture of humility and solidarity. This is deep work that requires personal, cultural, and political struggle. More investment in wind and solar, and more efficient tools and systems, while certainly positive, alone will not heal the ecology, or humanity.
Be aware of the full picture: All the human-made things in our world have an industrial history. Behind the computer, the T-shirt, the vacuum cleaner is an industrial infrastructure fired by energy (fossil fuels mainly). Each component of our car or refrigerator has an industrial history. Mainly unseen and out of mind, this global industrial infrastructure touches every aspect of our lives. It pervades our daily living from the articles it produces, to its effect on the economy and employment, as well as its effects on the environment.
Solar energy collecting devices also have an industrial history. It is important to understand the industrial infrastructure and the environmental results for the components of the solar energy collecting devices so we don’t designate them with false labels such as green, renewable or sustainable.
This is an essay challenging ‘business as usual’. If we teach people that these solar devices are the future of energy without teaching the whole system, we mislead, misinform and create false hopes and beliefs.
I have provided both charts and videos for the solar cells, modules, aluminum from ore, aluminum from recycling, aluminum extrusion, inverters, batteries and copper.
I have an essay that has videos from all the industries. I am not allowed as a new comer to post it. What is important is the industrial infrastructure behind each an every device.
Renewables could also really take off if energy utilities like Duke Energy (who are supposed to serve the public) would remove the roadblocks it has put up against them.
I whole heartedly agree…
Yes, well, there are those scientists, who do believe we are already there, that runaway climate change has already been triggered…I think that we are … on a razor’s edge… because, even if we have not fallen over that cliff of runaway climate change, just yet… we are way too far behind in doing anything effective, TOO FAR BEHIND TO “GET UP TO SCALE”… to stop ourselves soon enough… from going on over…I will think differently… at the time we see emissions, drop by a significant percentage… 5%… maybe two or three years in a row… BELOW 1990 LEVELS… that is the recommendation by climate scientists…yes, we should be working toward that… hard as hell… and as fast as hell…
But I will say that we will never get there … if we keep the system going with superfluous activities… we all know what they are… we can’t keep “playing” and think we are going to fix anything… professional sports, casinos… NASCAR… these are jus EXAMPLES. … of many other things we do that are ridiculous, in the face of our situation… THE FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES… have to go… EXCEPT… to use some ff’s for shutting down nuclear power plants… ALL OF THEM… I WONDER WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN, the earth hits a glitch and has to burp really bad… like California has the “big one”… or Yellow Stone blows… or there is just some big hiccup by the earth… it would be really bad… without the nuclear power plants… but, we could still thrive … and live… but with all the NUCLEAR SHIT… that exists… WE WON’T HAVE A CHANCE IN HELL…WHY WE WOULD ALLOW SUCH A DEATH WISH TYPE OF TECHNOLOGY TO EXIST … well, that says something right there… We all have allowed this… .by not really paying attention … back a few decades ago… including me… we let TPTB… loll us to sleep… for FAR TOO LONG… WE ARE WAKING UP… BUT IS IT TOO LATE?.. WELL, I’LL GO DOWN FIGHTING… ANY WAY I CAN… TO HELP OUR WORLD BE SAFER BETTER AND HEALTHIER… AND KEEP IT BEAUTIFUL FOR ALL.
Stop. We need to reduce energy use and demand. We need to reduce consumption and growth. Finding a new and clean or green way to keep gobbling up the earth is just beyond ignorant. Stop.
Thanks, hang in there!
Global One-Child Policy
Outlaw the private auto
End all War and put a bounty on all war profiteers
Emergency crash down all coal plants and just let the grid go dark.
Or we don’t have a fighting chance of negating the last 30 years of emissions.
The technology with IMO most potential to reduce fuel/energy consumption and travel/transport overall is Plug-in hybrid EVs matched to rooftop solar arrays tied into regional utility grids. Their limited driving range on electricity alone, 10-20 miles, is an economic incentive to drive less, walk, bike and use transit more, whereby local economies may grow and today’s global economy shrink to sustainably minimal levels. It may prove true that the only way to reduce fossil fuel consumption overall is for every consumer to have the means to reduce travel by dedicating energy consumption for household uses.
“The impact of wind and solar could be even greater if the billions in annual subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear energy were removed, study shows”
Or rather, that’s what the study authors assert. And over in the nuclear sector, many believe nuclear advances could be greater if the subsidies for renewables were raided for that purpose. But taking away from one low carbon source to give to another is not an effective way to deal with the problem of fossil fuels.
““Spectacular” growth in the global renewable energy sector helped stave off increased greenhouse gas emissions in 2014,”
Growth in the nuclear sector will do the same thing. But here’s the problem:
Even with current-tech nuclear and renewables combined, gas and coal are projected to continue their annual growth, setting new records every year, well through 2030.
“the rise of solar, wind, and other renewable technologies has helped effect a “landmark decoupling” of economic growth and carbon emissions”
The bulk of that decoupling is due to the large share of the economic decoupling which can be attributed to financial bubbles and gimmicks. When banks can magic hundreds of trillions in derivative assets into existence, it’s not that hard to manufacture economic “growth” without using a lot of fossil fuels. The amount of decoupling seen far exceeds the very modest gains in the overall contribution of wind and solar power.
“leaps in renewable energy capacity and investment—renewables now account for close to 60 percent of net additions to the world’s power capacity”
And then you can shrink the solar/wind additions by 2/3 to better reflect actual output after adjusting for capacity factor.
“However, the renewable sector’s growth “could be even greater if the more than $550 billion in annual subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear energy were removed,””
I smell baloney. First, a bunch of those fossil fuel subsidies went to oil, and even if that slightly depressed the price of oil (more likely it went straight into the profits column) letting the price of oil rise would not increase the growth of wind and solar, because they don’t compete with oil. And a lot of the fossil subsidies were in the form of tax breaks and pollution allowances, virtually none of which would have been convertible into available cash for solar/wind subsidies. Nuclear subsidies in the U.S. mostly consist of a few tens of millions for R & D, several billion in loan guarantees, and reduced cost of insurance due to liability limitations and backstopping. Nuclear R & D is a bargain considering the energy potentials involved, and looks like a far better investment than putting that small amount into wind and solar, and eliminating loan guarantees and insurance support would also not be convertible into cash for renewables.
Globally, one of the largest providers of state subsidies for nuclear is China, both in direct purchases and in research. That investment reflects China’s assessment of nuclear’s potential, and this report isn’t likely to alter their view.
“Elimination of fossil fuel subsidies would “create a level playing field,””
Highly doubtful. Fossil fuels deliver reliable energy on demand with fast payback. That makes them more valuable for energy suppliers even if the aggregate cost per kWh amortizes out to be the same.
“This week’s REN21 report comes on the heels of a study from Stanford University researchers”
Funded largely by oil and gas alums from Stanford’s petroleum engineering department, like Jay Precourt–principal funder for the Precourt Institute for Energy. Not so surprising, then, that the plan uses natural gas as the bridge fuel while disparaging any role for nuclear.
"According to Phys.org, “The 50 individual state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy”
Aggressive is putting it mildly.
“but indicate that the conversion is technically and economically possible”
Yes it is. It is also culturally, economically, and politically dead in the water. It’s going to take new technology to get the job done. And there’s no inherent reason that new tech can’t be nuclear.
This is a discussion of the decisions people make and can make to affect the operation of industrial economies and the effect these operations have on the operation of the ecology. It contains many sound comments on what people can decide to do. However, it does not take into account the commitment that exists to continue to irreversibly use up natural resources to operate and maintain the infrastructure (cities, roads, cars, ports, ships, power stations, sewerage systems, etc.). Decreasing the ecological cost of this commitment cannot possibly be done quickly even if the masses begin to understand that this operation of industrial economy is an unsustainable process.
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