When even the science fs up your agenda…

I just recently had several discussions in the last week or so, with different people at different times, about energy and economic impacts of that energy’s availability and cost. I pointed out that people have spent the last 5 decades telling us we would be running out of fossil fuels in the next 3 or 4 decades, only to end up with scientific advances and human ingenuity raising the time we have at a curved use of the stuff from decades to centuries. Of course they all turned up their noses to what they consider to be Satan’s shit and wanted it replaced, but when asked by what, it was all pie-in-the-sky answers. For me, based purely and simply on the numbers and the science, the one viable technology that can produce energy in the amount we would need to replace fossil fuels, is nuclear. Nothing else can, but the people that want to get us green all seem to have bought into Hollywood’s depiction of how dangerous and nasty nuclear energy is. So instead they seem to propose we use the equivalent of unicorn farts as the alternative to oil, gas, and coal.

When we discussed these various alternatives the greens have a boner for and went through the list, one after the other fell off. Solar and wind have been terribly disappointing. We are not about to build giant space based solar arrays and beaming down the energy as microwaves any time soon, because the same green people would have heart attack at the potential use as a weapon. And we could cover the planet with windmills and it would still not produce enough power. So they always go to the renewables, of which far less is known, but far less is pretended can come, to justify the campaign to stop us from using fossil fuels. Of course, renewables have not really shown much other than promise at this time, but the greens have no doubt that this stuff will save their faltering agenda. And then there are the facts:

Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists. Whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company. The duo were employed at Google on the RE<C project, which sought to enhance renewable technology to the point where it could produce energy more cheaply than coal.

REclosed it down after four years. Now, Koningstein and Fork have explained the conclusions they came to after a lengthy period of applying their considerable technological expertise to renewables, in an article posted at IEEE Spectrum.

The two men write:

At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …

Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.

One should note that RE<C didn’t restrict itself to conventional renewable ideas like solar PV, windfarms, tidal, hydro etc. It also looked extensively into more radical notions such as solar-thermal, geothermal, “self-assembling” wind towers and so on and so forth. There’s no get-out clause for renewables believers here.

Koningstein and Fork aren’t alone. Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible. Merely generating the relatively small proportion of our energy that we consume today in the form of electricity is already an insuperably difficult task for renewables: generating huge amounts more on top to carry out the tasks we do today using fossil-fuelled heat isn’t even vaguely plausible.

Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

The funny thing is that you don’t need a PhD to figure this stuff out. And note they point out this stuff won’t work as marginal energy just to reduce emissions. The logical conclusion is that it hence will also never be a replacement. But the greens seem to be immune to the simple facts and science and far more interested in science fiction and fantasy because they are driven by something other than either. The watermelons pretend to be scientific, but the fact is there is very little of that and a lot of feelings and the overarching collectivist agenda, and very little of the former. So for now we are stuck with oil, gas, and coal. Maybe someone will find a way to make fusion work and that can fill in the gap, but the other stuff the greens pine for simply is not gonna happen. That won’t stop them from taking advantage of the plethora of fools that will allow a few of them to get stinking rich at tax payer’s expense.

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  1. Hal_10000

    Holy shit, I’m going to agree with Alex on a global warming post! I agree that renewables just aren’t going to do it. The land use alone would be massive. Google has now switched to a 70-20-10 rule (70% in current tech, 20% in cutting edge, 10% in crazy ideas). This is as opposed to the US government, which invests 90% of their money in existing tech (assuming there are politically connected people behind it).

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  2. AlexInCT *

    Since you bring it up Hal, I would also like to point out that I am absolutely in support of any research of alternative technologies. I may never agree with government funding for this however, purely because there is zero way to prevent abuse and the money from being directed to the well connected, as is the practice today, and hence the money being wasted, but I am for any and all other kinds of funding, and would encourage that. We discover through research. But we waste, and lose, whenever government of today does it.

    In the past these politicians and government agencies might have had more scruples and actually given money to those that showed most promise instead of their buddies, but we can look at practically all investment in the age of the unicorn fart sniffers, and what we find is known or unknown cases like Solyndra. BTW, I also would be all cool with government pulling all subsidies for fossil fuels as long as they do the same for ALL other such tech, which is where I usually lose the hard core watermelons that only want funding pulled from fossil fuels so they can increase funding for their pet scam.

    The best indicator of viability will be how much private industry invests, just like the best indicator of the need for this alternate technology will be how much private industry invests. So yeah, if your argument is that we need government funding because private industry is not investing, well, that is a dead give away that they know this tech is not worth the time, effort, or actually needed. But the unicorn fart smellers don’t like that answer, which is why we have the EPA acting as the crime enforcement arm of the Obama administration and politicians on the left pissing away billions of tax payer dollars lining the pockets of a few connected people that then pay them handsomely back for ripping off the tax payers for them.

    For now, the only technology that’s viable is nuclear. And until I see these morons admitting it is and acting accordingly – today’s 5th gen reactors are both safe, efficient, and produce none of the nasty waste that lasts forever – I will keep fighting this movement and its big government, enrich the connected, agenda.

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  3. CM

    Almost sounds like you’re suggesting that “scientific advances and human ingenuity” can only happen in the field of non-renewables Alex. The one argument continually being relied upon (“we’ll come up with something” is only permitted to apply selectively. Sounds like religion to me.

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