Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s he eeevil Bjorn Lomborg again, popping the balloons of those who think wind will be our energy future:
A new report by University of Edinburgh professor Gordon Hughes for the Global Warming Policy Foundation estimates that 36 GW of new wind power [in the UK] would cost $190 billion for just 23 megatons of CO2 reduction per year. In other words, temperature rises would be postponed by a mere 66 hours by the end of the century.
Contrary to what many think, the cost of both onshore and offshore wind power has not been coming down. On the contrary, it has been going up over the past decade. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged this in its most recent renewable-energy report. Likewise, the U.K. Energy Research Center laments that wind-power costs have “risen significantly since the mid-2000’s.”
Wind is already close to reaching its zenith in bang per buck. Much of the low-hanging fruit — places where it is windy and sparsely inhabited — has been picked. Every new site gets more expensive, less productive and more burdensome on the locals. That’s true of oil too, of course. But oil has a much longer productivity cycle and produces a lot more energy.
Lomborg suggests we’d be better off using the newest natural gas plants, which would reduce emissions by 20% but could provide most of our energy cheaply. Don’t discount the value of “cheap” in that equation: every dollar we spend on a wind farm is a dollar we can’t spend on research and development of technologies that really will make a difference.
The fact is that alternative energy is still not and maybe never will be ready to power our civilization. It can contribute around the edges. But unless there is a major technological change, it remains a sideshow.