Saturday, February 23, 2013

Are Renewables The Answer?

Energy Supply

Solar Power: View of the PS10 concentrating solar thermal power plant in Spain. This is the way of the future, say many energy critics, including Amory Lovins; in addressing President Obama, Lovins says: "Your National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed just last June how to produce 80 to 90 percent of America’s electricity from proven, reliable and increasingly competitive renewable sources like the sun and wind."
Photo Credit: Greens MPs, 2013

An article, by David Bergman, in National Geographic reports that such renewable-energy technologies such as wind power and solar technology—called renewables—ought to be the primary way to secure America's energy requirements.
In my recent post, “The Limited Vision of the Pro-Nuclear Energy Argument,” one of the commenters wrote: “it is a fact that only carbon-based energy and nuclear have a high enough energy density to meet our world’s demands. None of the renewables come close.”
I responded, “It is far from ‘fact’ that only carbon-based and nuclear energy sources can meet the world’s needs. There are many studies showing that a combination of renewable sources can indeed meet that need. And that will be easier still with a rethinking of what we employ energy for and how it actually improves our lives.”
I was referring, in part, to several sources, including a 2009 article in Scientific American titled “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables,” as well as this study, this report and other promising work suggesting that renewables do, in fact, have the potential to meet our energy demand. (See related story: “Going ‘All the Way’ With Renewable Energy?)
A recent Climate Progress post offered an indicator that we might even be headed in the right direction, noting that, according to government numbers, wind and solar made up 100 percent of new U.S. electricity capacity in September. And earlier reports in 2011 (see here and here) showed renewables outpacing conventional energy sources in both investment dollars and capacity growth.
Of course, the oil and gas industry will disputes this finding, if it has not already done so, as will the nuclear and coal industries and their PR organs, chiefly I suspect because they have a lot to lose if it's proven true, or scientifically factual. The rational and scientific approach is to, with dispassion and disinterest, look at the scientific facts of renewables and ascertain whether it as a energy source can indeed supply all our needs. Then the public gets the facts.

But that's not the way it currently is. The public is left to read various accounts, whose use of facts differ. This makes it currently difficult to get the scientific facts, it requiring much effort, digging and sifting through the various reports put out by both public agencies and private interests; not all are factual, or as it were completely factual.

The reason is politics. There is a lot of politics surrounding energy supply in Canada and the U.S., whose result if not purpose to some degree is to confuse the public as to what are the important facts. Even as this is taking place, the public is becoming increasingly more aware of alternatives; energy is too important an issue for all of us to rely only on the usual channels of information.

Truly, it would be wonderful if renewables could supply all of our energy needs, not only for today but also for many decades to come. It would also be wonderful if, later on, scientists conclude that there are no ill effects to humanity in the use of renewables.

You can read the rest of the article at [National Geographic]

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