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cynthia marvel

do you think any of these ideas could help?


You wrote about Kurzweil a while back. He predicts we'll have 100% solar by 2030, too:

But he lives in his head, and life is a lot rosier (crazier) there. He's taking recent exponential growth in solar production and assuming it will follow Moore's law, then does the doubling calculation to 2030. Problem solved!

But I tend to think of renewables right now as enablers. First, they don't solve the full problem, only a part of it, as electricity production results in roughly a third the carbon emissions we produce (the rest is transport, agriculture, and industry emissions). Study the total emissions of places like Ontario, France, and Norway (all close to 100% 'clean' energy) and one will see that they aren't that much better than the rest of the developed world.

Secondly, the great wish for the green techno-utopia is that we can change energy production seamlessly and keep virtually everything in place - we'll just add things on like better mass transport. And really, that's likely the only way it could happen, as changing out an entire energy infrastructure would require a healthy and stable economy. That alone pretty much guarantees we'll have to keep the current infrastructure in place to support building the new one. It will be a constant conflict, in effect. The old won't yield to the new, and most people will cling to the old, even if it's just to support the promise of the new. The virtually certain result is many decades of a mix - slightly lower fossil fuels (as a percentage but not as a total) with increased renewables and nuclear. But it won't be the 100% 'green' future these guys imagine.

In the meantime, a stable economy will continue deforestation practices and other contributors to climate change. Also, no one has calculated how much pollution and ecosystem destruction would result from a 100% conversion to renewables - that's likely a pretty scary figure.

Assuming a stable world, the market mechanism is the only probable factor for real change. Political change, at least here in the States, is a joke. And what the techno-optimists are believing in is a lowering in renewables price and a rise in fossil fuel price. These things are currently happening, so they assume they'll continue to happen in the future. But they're not really looking at the main factor for why solar cells have gone down in price (which is largely a result of Chinese subsidization and overproduction, which in term has been made possible by increased fossil fuel use). Fossil fuels will continue to rise in price, but as they do renewables will also start to rise in price.

But the market mechanism is also the main reason why I see renewables as enablers for continued fossil fuel use. As renewables increase their share of energy production, fossil fuel demand will dip (how much the dip would be is anyone's guess, I'd say it won't be much, but it would lower). This will result in lower prices for fossil fuels than what they would have been, and so they will be used somewhere. If the U.S. goes 100% renewable, the fossil fuels would just get snapped up by the developing world. In addition, new infrastructure would create a market for old infrastructure, as we're seeing with used cars from the West being sent to developing countries.

The only tangible way total global emissions have truly dropped is by economic turmoil. It's cruel to say it like that, and no one wants to hear it, but emissions only drop if we stop using fossil fuels. In the green techno-utopia vision, I just see many decades of continued fossil fuel use. I see it as further destroying an actually green world to create a synthetic 'green' world.

I agree 100% on what humans will actually do. We won't willingly 'go back', and the end results will be the same. But my concern is that the promise of a 'green' future is just a happy bedtime story to keep us going on the same path.

Dave Cohen


I myself didn't want to get into the kind of stuff you said, where you provide some of the many reasons why the quick-shift to renewables story is an elaborate fantasy.

So thanks for filling in some of the missing info, but, really, I think the paragraph accompanied by the flying pig tells the story.


His mix: 40 percent offshore wind (12,700 turbines), 10 percent onshore wind (4,020 turbines), 10 percent concentrated solar panels (387 power plants), 10 percent photovoltaic cells (828 facilities), 6 percent residential solar (five million rooftops), 12 percent government and commercial solar (500,000 rooftops), 5 percent geothermal (36 plants), 5.5 percent hydroelectric (6.6 large facilities), 1 percent tidal energy (2,600 turbines) and 0.5 percent wave energy (1,910 devices).

Same info with yearly requirements added for 2030/2050...

His mix:
- 40 percent offshore wind (12,700 turbines[794/353 turbines/year])
- 10 percent onshore wind (4,020 turbines[252/112 turbines/year])
- 10 percent concentrated solar panels (387 power plants[24/11 plants/year])
- 10 percent photovoltaic cells (828 facilities[52/23 facilities/year])
- 6 percent residential solar (five million rooftops[312,500/138,889 rooftops/year])
- 12 percent government and commercial solar (500,000 rooftops[31,250/13,889 rooftops/year])
- 5 percent geothermal (36 plants[2/1 plants/year])
- 5.5 percent hydroelectric (6.6 large facilities[1 every 2.5 years/1 every 5 years])
- 1 percent tidal energy (2,600 turbines[163/72 turbines/year])
- 0.5 percent wave energy (1,910 devices[119/53 devices/year])

plus the replacement of all vehicles which (in 2009, and not counting off-road vehicles] came to 19,971,000 vehicles. To replace them in 36 years we'll assume an optimistic replacement rate of 5%, replacing the whole fleet in 20 years. After that, we'll generously assume that these cars are so well made that they run for 20 years, meaning that the same rate continues. That would mean replacing just under 1M cars each year. For the 16 year scenario, we have to replace 4.6M cars each year, and then about 1M each year going forward.

uhuh.... could happen....

when pigs fly.


Myself, I'll just ride one of those flying pigs to work then!

Kitchen scraps ought to get me there and back, right?

Robert Arrington

Try as I might to help the case of Messrs. Jacobsen & Delucci, et al by providing "proof of concept", my diligent searching through the latest state-of-the-art genetic research being done in the creation of self-propelled airborne swine has, as yet, provided no positive information on the likelihood or feasibility of same. In fact, the apparent lack of interest among scientists in even considering investgating the possibility is a serious setback in trying to instantiate the "flying pig" metaphor as a conclusive demonstration of the "see, it can happen" retort to those who remain stubbornly attached to observable reality.

Bud Wood

Indeed, the road from here to there (0% fossil fuel) is much longer than many people comprehend. For example, I am planning to move to a smaller, much more energy efficient house. Sounds good, but what is going to happen to the place in which I live now? It will be sold and the new occupant will, of course, live in a low energy efficient house. It is too costly to tear down down, so we're talking about several decades to get from here to there. It is just fantasy to think that there is any shortcut because it is simply too costly in the USA, not to mention in other countries, to expect any energy turn around in less than (probably) three generations.


Wow, just wow. Where does this guy think all this capital is going to come from to build all that stuff? And what businesses will make it that actually can produce a profit?

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