Renewables to Replace Nat Gas as World’s Second Largest Electricity Source by 2016, Generate 25% by 2018


(Image of rocketing wind power capacity growth since 1996. Source: Futurist)

A new report from the International Energy Agency reveals that total renewable energy sourced electricity generation is set to surge another 40% between now and 2018. This means that by 2016, renewables will have supplanted natural gas as the world’s second largest source of electrical power and that by 2018, renewables will generate fully one quarter of the world’s electricity.

Power generation from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2016, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today in its second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR).

According to the MTRMR, despite a difficult economic context, renewable power is expected to increase by 40% in the next five years. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power generation sector and will make up almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20% in 2011. The share of non-hydro sources such as wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal in total power generation will double, reaching 8% by 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and just 2% in 2006.

(Emphasis added to clarify the usual confusion between capacity and generation)

Et tu Brute?

Raging development of renewables has come on strong despite the fact that they receive just 1/6th the subsidy support (523 billion vs 80 billion in 2011) of fossil fuels and have been the whipping boy of carbon energy cheer leaders in blogs, the media, and in chat rooms for years.

Misinformation, a clear funding disadvantage, and a constant wave of negative press from vested interests, has been unsuccessful in keeping the pace of renewable energy growth from running rapidly ahead of any other set of fuels. Doubts about renewables’ energy return on energy invested (EROEI), intermittency, and the ever-arcane ‘lack of thermal capacity’ has been rendered moot by a vast and growing volume of electricity generated from these sources. Instead, IEA has found renewables to stand on their own merits:

“As their costs continue to fall, renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in New York. “This is good news for a global energy system that needs to become cleaner and more diversified, but it should not be an excuse for government complacency, especially among OECD countries.”

Further to this point, IEA noted:

in addition to the well-established competitiveness of hydropower, geothermal and bioenergy, renewables are becoming cost-competitive in a wider set of circumstances. For example, wind competes well with new fossil-fuel power plants in several markets, including Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand. Solar is attractive in markets with high peak prices for electricity, for instance, those resulting from oil-fired generation. Decentralised solar photovoltaic generation costs can be lower than retail electricity prices in a number of countries.

Impetus for this massive growth comes primarily from wind and solar power sources, which, as noted above, are set to double their capacity over the next five years.

It’s enough to make the fossil fuels, who still remained the funding babies of the world’s governments in 2011, feel a bit of betrayed consternation.

Et tu Brute?

Coal Funding to be Cut

Adding further insult to injury, funding of the most polluting fossil fuel source — coal — appears to be on the chopping block. In his recent Climate Action Plan announcement, Obama laid down a policy in which the United States would no longer support loan funding for coal-fired power plants overseas and where his administration would begin to strictly regulate carbon emissions from coal plants in the United States. Meanwhile, the World Bank has stated that it would drastically cut its funding for new coal plants, providing support for them only in the ‘most dire of economic circumstances.’

But it’s Not all Roses for Renewables Yet

Surging worldwide investment in renewables has, sadly, come at time of lagging renewables investment in Europe. Wide-ranging ‘austerity’ measures imposed by central banks and conservative governments in Europe have forced some countries in the Eurozone to cut funding for new renewable energy projects.

That said, despite government cut-backs, the pace of adoption in many countries remains high due to both public purchases and due to the fact that prices for new generation keep falling rapidly. So even though funding fell, these lower outlays were still able to purchase more renewable watts for each dollar (or in this case, Euro), spent.

Direct Replacement Necessary to Have any Hope of Mitigating Human Caused Climate Change

Policy measures to cut coal plant funding and regulate carbon emissions raise the possibility of a growing direct replacement of fossil fuel energy sources with renewable energy sources over the coming decade. A rapid pace of this kind of replacement will be necessary to deal with a growing set of difficulties imposed by human-caused climate change. What appears hopeful is that renewables seem poised to encompass ever-larger portions of the world’s energy mix. Let’s hope the pace at which this replacement occurs is fast enough and strong enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

To wit, it is important to note that global carbon emissions are still rising. As of 2012, the world had emitted 31.6 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And though the rate of increase slowed substantially from 2011 to 2012, this massive volume of CO2 was enough to set a new record high. So the sense of urgency and impetus for change could not be higher.

From this point forward, we’re in a race between the rate of fossil fuel burning and the rate of renewables adoption. Allowing too much more to be burned before the last coal plant, oil well, and natural gas plant are shuttered (or, more dubiously, have their carbon sequestered) puts in place a situation where we were ‘too late’ to prevent a climate nightmare.

And this is one situation where we really, really don’t want to be too late.

To this thought, I’ll leave you with a recent interview of climate activist and, in my opinion, hero of social and environmental justice, Tim DeChristopher by late night entertainer David Letterman:


International Energy Agency

Renewable Energy Closing in On Natural Gas

Leave a comment


  1. Sourabh

     /  June 28, 2013

    Hey Robert,

    Just a little clarification. Sometimes, interpretation of these projections can be misleading.

    There is a difference between power capacity and actual energy generation due to capacity factor. So, for example, we need 4GW of wind or 5GW of PV installation to produce as much electricity as produced from 1GW of coal/natural gas/nuclear. These number vary depending upon the actual capacity factor. Also, a wind turbine or PV panel has typical life span of 20-25 years. Coal/gas/nuclear plants have life span of 40 years.
    Worldwide so many coal plants are scheduled to be built in coming decades.

    Also, natural gas plants aren’t any better either if you include ‘methane leakage through fracking’. Some studies have shown that natural gas from fracking is worse than coal as far as GHG emissions are concerned.

    We are indeed adding more renewable energy, however we are also adding far more coal and natural gas facilities if we compare based on actual electricity generation rather than installed capacity. Our absolute emissions will continue to increase. Therefore, in addition to building more renewable energy plants, we will have to ensure that we don’t build new fossil based plant and phase out existing fossil based plants as soon as we can.


    • Actual generation is what IEA measures for end use. The capacity graph was just to illustrate new construction.


      • I believe I linked to this info(from 2 months ago) on my blog, but here it is as food for thought…

        “Despite remarkable growth, solar and wind power aren’t making a dent in carbon emissions, says a new report from the International Energy Agency. Coal consumption is growing too fast to offset any gains from renewables.

        According to the report, solar power capacity increased by 42 percent, and wind increased 19 percent during 2012. In comparison, coal only grew by 6 percent over the last two years. But because the total installed capacity of coal power was already huge, the amount of coal capacity added was much larger than that of solar and wind power. Even the increase in natural gas consumption hasn’t decreased the use of coal worldwide (see “Coal Demand Falls in the U.S., Rises Everywhere Else”).

        Renewable energy can’t keep up with coal, let alone decrease its use. From 2001 to 2010, the amount of electricity generated with coal increased by 2,700 terawatt hours. Over the same period, electricity from non-fossil sources—including wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and nuclear—increased by less than half that amount: or 1,300 terawatt hours…

        …“In 2011, the last year data has been published, China built as many coal plants as there are in Texas and Ohio combined, even as it led the world in wind deployment,” says Stepp. “Even China, with its seemingly endless government budgets is still implementing fossil fuels because it’s cheap and high-performing.”

        “The situation is actually worse than the IEA portrays,” adds David Victor, co-director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California at San Diego. Data from the agency shows that the world actually emits more carbon per unit of energy than it did a decade ago because of the growth in coal, he says….”


        • True, hence the ‘replacement’ caution at the end of this post. Also, as nat gas prices rise, we inevitably end up switching back to coal (the gas-coal backlash).


      • I just don’t think a corporate capitalist economy and its sock-puppet political structure can do what is really needed to fix this problem. Money can’t be the primary arbiter for why anything gets done. Thus we have “green-washing” and the façade of corporations “going green”.


        • IEA is an international energy think-tank. Increasingly, they have been very desperate to support renewables. I don’t think this is greenwash in the least.

          By definition, greenwash is providing only token effort. These movements are substantial.


      • The implication wasn’t that this report was green-washing, just that it’s pervasive in the economy and society with corporations touting “sustainable development”, “green products”, and other such nonsense.
        You mentioned in a past comment about a reduction in the human population. If we’re serious about being sustainable, then the human population needs to be reigned in.


        • True.

          Progress in one area still begs more in others. But breaking fossil fuel dominance, supported by some of the most powerful and abusive (in my view) corporations in the world is an achievement in my view. So this is good news.


      • What I’m trying to say is that any positive movements in the right direction are not enough to move the needle of preventing the collapse of modern society. Radical changes, which are what is realistically needed, are politically and socially untenable. Stating this fact does not take away from the good work that people like yourself are doing because such activities are morally just and serve to spread the truth, despite the inevitable end.


      • @xraymike79,

        Well said.

        I appreciate the work of everyone who is trying to spread the truth. However, what we need is radical change in our social, economical, and political thinking. However, many people prefer comfortable lies over “inconvenient truth”. Deniers cannot prevent us from implementing the solutions. Its purposefully ignorant people who are the main culprit. I cannot expect FOX news to cover climate change. But, liberal media also started to ignore the climate change, which is even worse. I didn’t expect Bush/Republicans to do anything about CC, that is why I trusted Obama. But, he hasn’t done enough either. I have no problem with deniers. I am sad because scientists haven’t been loud enough. You might want to read an article by James Hansen: Scientific Reticence.

        Robert wants us to believe in a quote ” No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little”. However, I prefer to spread a different quote: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.


        • Which is why we should never be silent and why we should never stop doing all we can until, at the last, we are able to do nothing at all.


  2. T.O.O.

     /  June 30, 2013

    I, myself, am an optimist. There is a convergence of activities in the renewable energy sector that will finally break the stranglehold of fossil fuels.
    (1) Renewables such as solar PV, solar thermal, tidal and wind will be easier and cheaper to power the remote communities of Africa, Central Asia and South America within 5 years which will bring another 2 billion people into the modern age.
    (2) Significant savings per kW achieved through improvements in solar PV will make it as cheap as the cheapest coal in less than 2 decades (pv becomes cheaper and more efficient as coal generation and production prices increase) thus making a majority of “wealth westerners” switch to rooftop generation. This will also mean that their power will be more immediately controlled by their own actions and thus behaviour changes will naturally take effect which will then also improve “energy budgeting”.
    (3) Many newly built towns and communities around the world will be planned around energy efficiency and renewable energy).
    (4) Motor vehicles and other transport will either switch to electricity power or will increase efficiency to such an extent that 20% or more of the demand for oil will be removed from that sector.

    A combination of those actions will reduce fossil fuel consumption by 50% over what otherwise would have occurred by 2030.


    • All potentials worthy of cautious optimism. One should not count out human ingenuity. Some of us can do very well when pressed. I’d like to submit this as an example:

      A fellow blogger whom I’m quite proud of is making great strides in his own back yard.

      I admire your optimism in the face of adversity, T.O.O. And I hope these and more do come to pass.


      • Sourabh

         /  July 2, 2013

        Hey Robert,

        this link has some realistic numbers about renewable energy. Let me know what you think.


        • The article is simple misinformation in that it moves the goal posts, misrepresents statements by renewable energy supporters, and cherry picks single-year data in an apparent effort to cloud the view of massive long-term gains made by wind and solar in Germany over the past two decades.

          It fails to note that Germany’s long-term stated goal was for 35 percent renewable energy generation by 2020 and that the 25% generated by renewables during 2012 (not 21% as the article indicates) was ahead of schedule.

          Further, the article seems to misrepresent most optimistic reporting on the issue by raising the same old tired ‘capacity factor’ argument and then by puffing up and misrepresenting the claims made by renewable energy supporters.

          First, it is important to note that Germany generated around 25% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2012 and that this is a major milestone for Germany. Second, we know that an over-build in capacity is needed and, even with the over-build, the cost of new renewables, at this point, is cheaper than new nuclear. Third, the article’s statements RE wind and solar vs other renewables are highly dubious and severely slanted as Germany’s adoption rate for these second sources are much, much lower than for wind and solar. The reason it is slanted is it cherry picks single year data rather than looking at the overall trend.

          Now there is a threat that traditional energy sources will re-gain ground over the next few years vs renewables in Germany. But the reasons for this is that a back-lash is coming from fossil-fuel interests who are losing energy market share to small generators through a democratization of energy in Germany. This democratization is a direct shift of power and resources from centralized generators and fuel suppliers back to the populace and, as such, is both a social innovation and an energy innovation. This shift is very threatening to certain vested interests and so they fight tooth and nail to avoid the erosion and loss of their power base.

          The above, therefore, isn’t a ‘realistic’ take at all. But one that appears tailored specifically tailored to sand-bag renewables development by posting their major gains in the most pessimistic way possible. As such, it is rank misrepresentation and misinformation.

          Fair warning:

          I’m not going to let the comments section in this blog be a platform for misinformation that erodes the acceptance of the need to rapidly transition to renewables. I’ve had a number of long discussions with both you and Mike on this issue. So if you wish to continue to cast doubt on the need for a transition to renewable energy you can do it elsewhere.


  3. Sourabh

     /  July 2, 2013

    Hey Robert,

    Thanks for the warming. I appreciate that. I will be more careful next time.

    First, I am NOT at all casting any doubt on NEED to transition to renewable energy. I TOTALLY support PV/Wind, WHATEVER may be the cost. However, what I am skeptical about is feasibility of relying just on renewable. For example, biomass. If Germany is burning wood for energy by importing some of the wood from other countries, then its not sustainable. Forests take decades to grow, but we are burning them now. Considering biomass carbon neutral is also misconception. Bio fuel is another waste if you are using fertilizers/pesticides to grow it and fossil fuel to transport it. More wind turbines you add, each additional wind turbine site will offer less wind resources. Therefore, it may not be as profitable to install new wind turbines without subsidies.

    I am not sure about 25 percent. It was in the first half of 2012. The figure 21.9 % I found on wikipedia, which sourced (source number 13) it from following link.

    I cannot read German, so I am not sure how accurate 21.9 percent is. Difference could be due to ‘energy-mix’ vs ‘electricity mix’. Btw, i don’t really care about these numbers as long as direction is right.

    My main contention is that that we are not focusing enough on changing the behavior pattern of the people. We need to spend as much efforts on reducing our consumption as we spend on supporting renewable energy.

    I would like to know your views on Nuclear energy. I think that without nuclear, we cannot run heavy industries on renewable. You cannot run steel/cement factories on PV/wind turbine.


    • Hey this is Xraymike79 (unable to log into my regular account due to a malfunction with “google authenticator”).

      Sourabh said:
      “My main contention is that that we are not focusing enough on changing the behavior pattern of the people. We need to spend as much efforts on reducing our consumption as we spend on supporting renewable energy.”

      It’s much worse than that. Out entire debt-dased economic system and capitalism’s inherent need for constant growth require a systemic change of the economy in order to save mankind. A “green economy” under the dictates of capitalism is not possible for the following reasons:

      1.) Grow or die” is a law of survival in the marketplace:
      In capitalism most producers… have no choice but to live by the capitalist maxim “grow or die.” First, as Adam Smith noted, the ever-increasing division of labor raises productivity and output, compelling producers to find more markets for this growing output. Secondly, competition compels producers to seek to expand their market share, to better defend their position against competitors. Bigger is safer because, ceteris paribus, bigger producers can take advantage of economies of scale and can use their greater resources to invest in technological development, so can more effectively dominate markets. Marginal competitors tend to be crushed or bought out by larger firms. Thirdly, the modern corporate form of ownership, which separates ownership from operation, adds further irresistible and unrelenting pressures to grow from owner-shareholders. And shareholders are not looking for “stasis”; they are looking to maximize portfolio gains, so they drive their CEOs forward.

      2.) Maximizing profit and saving the environment are inherently in conflict:
      “…Corporations can embrace pro-environmental policies but only so long as these boost profits. Saving the world, however, would require that profit-making be systematically subordinated to ecological concerns…”
      “…relentless and irresistible pressures for growth are functions of the day-to-day requirements of capitalist reproduction in a competitive market, incumbent upon all but a few businesses, and that such pressures would prevail in any conceivable capitalism. Further, I contend that, given capitalism, the first result of any serious reduction in economic output (GDP) to get production back down to some reasonably sustainable level, would be to provoke mass unemployment. So here again, there will never be mass public support for de-growth unless it’s coupled with explicit guarantees of employment for redundant workers, which are unacceptable to capital and would require a socialist economy…”
      “Most of the economy is comprised of large corporations owned by investor-shareholders. And shareholders, even those who are environmentally-minded professors investing via their TIAA-CREF accounts, are constantly seeking to maximize returns on investment. So they sensibly look to invest where they can make the highest return. This means that corporate CEOs do not have the freedom to choose to produce as much or little as they like, to make the same profits this year as last year. Instead, they face relentless pressure to maximize profits, to make more profits this year than last year (or even last quarter), therefore to maximize sales, therefore to grow quantitatively…
      In the real world, therefore, few corporations can resist the relentless pressure to “grow sales,” “grow the company,” “expand market share”– to grow quantitatively. The corporation that fails to outdo its past performance risks falling share value, stockholder flight, or worse…And if economic pressures weren’t sufficient to shape CEO behavior, CEOs are, moreover, legally obligated to maximize profits — and nothing else…”

      3.) The masses are dependent on the market:
      “Capitalism is a mode of production in which specialized producers (corporations, companies, manufacturers, individual producers) produce some commodity for market but do not possess their own means of subsistence. So in a capitalist economy, everyone is first and foremost, dependent upon the market, compelled to sell in order to buy, to buy in order to sell, to re-enter production and carry on.”

      “Ecologically suicidal growth is built into the nature of any conceivable capitalism.”
      ~ Richard Smith

      Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism:


      • Again, the idea is not to sustain the old growth model of achieving growth via a concentration of wealth and power for the elites by exploiting the environment and endlessly reducing benefit to workers.

        The paradigm is a direct challenge to neo-liberal capitalism in that it decentralizes wealth and power and in that it builds prosperity from the bottom up rather than the top down.

        Renewable energy, by its nature, is decentralized and will require different economic models. Models that are less old growth oriented and more cooperative by nature. This isn’t to say that corporations won’t try. And some are even likely to be quite profitable. It is just that the nature of these energy sources will beg more generosity from the corporations involved. So these corporations will be, first and foremost, geared toward progress. And profit will come more from popular buy-in and less from the cannibalistic scale of diminishing returns.

        This is not the old model at all. It’s the new model infecting the old system.


      • Robert and Sourabh,
        Another comment on “consumerism” from Robert Kline’s “Green Capitalism: the God that Failed”. (

        “…consumerism and overconsumption are not “dispensable” and cannot be exorcised because they’re not just “cultural” or “habitual.” They are built into capitalism and indispensable for the day-to-day reproduction of corporate producers in a competitive market system in which capitalists, workers, consumers and governments alike are all locked into an endless cycle of perpetually increasing consumption to maintain profits, jobs, and tax revenues. We can’t shop our way to sustainability because the problems we face cannot be solved by individual choices in the marketplace. The global ecological crisis we face cannot be solved by even the largest individual companies. Problems like global warming, deforestation, overfishing, species extinction, the changing ocean chemistry are even beyond the scope of nation states. They require national and international cooperation and global economic planning. This requires collective bottom-up democratic control over the entire world economy. And since a global economic democracy could only thrive in the context of a rough economic equality, this presupposes a global redistribution of wealth as well.”

        On the limits to “greening” a capitalist economy…

        Saint Ray Anderson and the limits of the possible:
        “The seeming exception to the dismal trends reviewed above proves the rule: CEO Ray Anderson has probably pushed the limits of industrial environmentalism as far as it’s humanly possible to go in an actual factory operating within the framework of capitalism. Ray Anderson is everybody’s favorite eco-capitalist and he and his company Interface Inc. have been applauded by virtually every eco-futurist book written since the 1990s as the eco-capitalist example to emulate. But what Ray Anderson’s case really shows us is the limits of the possible, especially under capitalism. For after almost two decades of sustained effort, the goal of “zero pollutants” is still as unreachable as ever at Interface Inc. It is not in the least to diminish Ray Anderson’s sincerity, his passionate dedication, his efforts or his impressive achievements. But the fact is, according to The Interface Sustainability Report of 2009, Interface has “cut waste sent to landfills by more than half while continuing to increase production,” “reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30%,” “reduced energy intensity by 45%,” while “over 25% of raw materials used in interface carpet are recycled and biobased materials in 2007,” and non-sustainable materials consumed per unit of product have declined from 10.2 lbs/yd2 in 1996 to 8.6 lb/yd2 in 2008. Read that last sentence again. Make no mistake: These are impressive, even heroic industrial-environmental achievements. But if after more than fifteen years of sustained effort, the most environmentally dedicated large company in the United States, if not the entire world, can only manage to cut non-sustainable inputs from 10.2 to 8.6 pounds per square yard of finished product, to inject a mere 25% recycled and biobased feedstock into its production process, so still requiring 75% of new, mostly petroleum-based nonsustainable feedstock in every unit of production, then the inescapable conclusion must be that even the greenest businesses are also on course to “destroy the world.” So if the reality is that, when all is said and done, there is “only so much you can do” in most industries, then the only way to bend the economy in an ecological direction is to sharply limit production, especially of toxic products, which means completely redesigning production and consumption – all of which is certainly doable, but impossible under capitalism.”

        As I have intimated, sustainability and capitalism are not compatible, no matter how herculean the effort to “green the economy”, whether through energy or other areas, under the dictates of capitalism.


        • To confront shock, we will need a combination of sustainable systems and kind systems. These systems will, by necessity, be less competitive and less consumption oriented than traditional capitalist systems. In and of itself, the movement more toward a pure capitalist system since the late 1970s onward has resulted in a great lack of resiliency. The reason why I harp on renewables so much in this blog and not on these other, needed, innovations is that carbon pollution, rather than ‘all waste’ is an immediate, emergency concern.

          But, yes, capitalism, as it works currently, and pure capitalism especially will either collapse spectacularly or transition to something else that allows current civilizations to survive via more cooperative systems and less exploitative ones.


      • Correction:
        Richard Smith’s (NOT Robert Kline) “Green Capitalism: the God that Failed”


        • Finally, just want to say I’m not promoting capitalism or any other kind of ideology. If I come from any ideological bent it’s that of a kind systems stand-point — ones more based on fairness and wealth compression than on exploitation via consumerism.


      • This is the craziest weather I have ever seen here in Flagstaff, AZ. Right now torrential rain along with large marble-sized hail. Unbelievable…. while the Southwest is in a heat wave.


        • That is odd. I’m watching the large clockwise rotation of the blocking high right now. It appears it’s picking up instability and colder air from the higher mountain tops then flinging it down into the tropical flow currently being pushed over Mexico via a Pacific tropical storm.

          The sinking air mass of the high would usually prevent widespread rainfall. But it appears a semi monsoonal moisture has set up over the region. In addition, the high temperatures do provide more lifting in the atmosphere than is normal.

          In fact, that extra heat might cause some ridiculously high cloud tops once circulation is established. Looks like some of these monsters are 50,000 feet +. Ouch.

          Stu Ostro talks about adding thickness to the atmophere. Under these heat domes, the troposphere becomes taller. And with such a high troposphere you can end up with rather severe weather.


        • Mike, I want to thank you for the head’s up.

          There may be big trouble. I’m looking at the water vapor imagery now and it appears the massive blocking high over your area has linked up water vapor flows all the way from the Arctic to the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.

          Could be a huge flooding problem for the US Midwest and East Coast over the next week. Similar thing happened in India last month. Large blocking high set off 120 degree temps in Pakistan, some weeks later, India got hit by record floods as the high tapped a massive river of moisture over india and flung it into the mountains.

          This time, it might be a convergent river of moisture from three sources.

          Again, thanks for the heads up. Have to work on this a little more before making any crazy conclusions. But it doesn’t look too great for the moment.


    • Just a few final notes:

      1. You can run heavy industry on electricity, as I noted before.
      2. The notion that adding wind turbines materially reduces wind flow is as bunk as bunk can be.

      As for Germany cutting their nuclear fleet now…

      It was a very, very bad idea if they wanted to keep cutting carbon emissions. Fukushima scared them. Perhaps rightly so. But saving themselves from potential nuclear emergencies won’t help their added contribution to a certain climate crisis.

      The choice between nuclear and fossil fuels has always seemed a bad one to Greens…


    • First, I’d like to apologize to being a bit on edge. I get a lot of bozos directed to this blog from what appears to be the Anthony Watts site. These I usually disallow in the comments section because their intent is clearly to detract, disrupt and misinform. They confuse the conversation more than providing a basis for honest discussion.

      Second, I’d like to add that there is a huge degree of misinformation out there about renewables. Most of this misinformation directly or indirectly comes from fossil fuel industry sources. The arguments they use range the gambit but have most lately hinged on ‘capacity factor.’ So I am very unsympathetic toward these arguments as they’re usually based on a false pretext.

      The best standard to use, because it includes all systems costs and benefits are cost per btu produced. Wind is less expensive than nat gas. Solar is less expensive than nuclear. Costs for both systems are currently falling and will surpass coal by 2020.

      To industry, what matters is the cost per unit of energy. Energy density in this case, is a red herring and not material to the discussion. Since electricity can be used to operate everything from smelters to grinders to mixers, the coinage of wind and solar are thus transferable to industry.

      Now this may sound like sacrilege to those who point out the obvious and numerous flaws of a pure capitalist system. Again, this is based on the false assumption that capitalism cannot exist without heavy industry and that, therefore, the loss of such industry is desirable. Unfortunately, expliotative systems existed long before industry and does not require it to continue. In fact, the creation of scarcity due to the loss of industry is likely to increase exploitation and inequality rather than reduce it.

      We should therefore try to marry industrial systems with both sustainable systems and kind systems to ever greater degrees. We should also seek to blunt capitalism’s edge by holding it in check, regulating it, making it less and less exploitative, redistributing concentrations of wealth and, in essence, defanging it.

      Such systems would be both far more fair, equal, inclusive and prosperous.

      But we should also build efficiency, kindness and sustainability into our lives and livelihoods. Kindness involves how we treat all life on this Earth. And veganism is a behavioral innovation that includes all three. Vegans take 1/50th the end calories to support when compared to meat eaters. Vegans greatly reduce their carbon footprint just by changing the foods they eat. And vegans, by choosing not to consume animals, exercise kindness as a daily activity.

      This is just one example of reducing consumption, increasing efficiency and acting compassionately that can help ensure a human future. I include it because Mike raised the issue of behavior and this is just one example of a positive behavior.

      As for nuclear….

      I’ll sum up by using this little jingle: nuclear energy is scary, inflexible, and expensive.

      Scary. Simply put, nuclear energy terrifies people. And for good reason. The waste lasts practically forever, the materials can be converted to apocalyptic weaponry, and accidents can result in large regions being laid waste for decades or centuries.

      For these reasons, nuclear generates strong opposition and this slows down plant construction which adds to costs.

      I’ll deal with monolithic and expensive later. For now, it’s off to sleep…


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