28 de agosto de 2014

Alternative Energy Fetishes and Temples to Technology

Another point of view to think about....

"I’ve become rather jaded at the stream of ever-worsening environmental reports these days. Surely if we had some sort of techno-fix to halt the cascade of biospheric tipping points we have breached, we would have deployed them by now. Nevertheless, the carrot of a civilization-saving technological breakthrough is forever dangled before our eyes. By all accounts, we appear hellbent on doing everything humanly possible to maintain and perpetuate industrial civilization by deploying “earth-friendly” renewable energy technologies which, in the end, turn out to be nothing more than “reconstituted fossil fuels”.

The role that fossil fuels play in the creation, maintenance and support of alternative energy technologies is not discussed or analyzed at all by those peddling it to the masses who live with the hope of a “green” economy and carbon-neutral civilization. From the massive mining operations and manufacturing processes necessary to extract the rare earth metals essential in constructing wind turbines, solar panels, and electric car batteries to their daily maintenance, de-activation, and final discardment, the amount of fossil fuel energy embedded in the entire life cycle of such alternative energy technologies renders moot their benefits when compared to what is actually more effective in solving our energy and climate conundrum —reducing our consumption through energy efficiency improvements and waste reduction programs. Alternative energy technologies cannot replace our dependence on fossil fuels and are, in the final analysis, diverting us from coming to grips with a way-of-life that cannot go on for much longer. We have a consumption crisis.

Here is an excerpt from a must-see talk by engineer and energy analyst Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions:

“Common knowledge presumes that we have a choice between fossil fuels and green energy, but alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels through every stage of their life cycle. Most importantly, alternative energy financing relies ultimately on the kind of economic growth that fossil fuels provide. Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels for raw material extraction, for fabrication, for installation and maintenance, for back-up, as well as decommissioning and disposal. And at this point, there’s even a larger question: where will we get the energy to build the next generation of wind power and solar cells? Wind is renewable, but turbines are not. Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels and are, in essence, a product of fossil fuels. They thrive within economic systems that are themselves reliant on fossil fuels.

Now, I’m no fan of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are finite and dirty, but we use them for five principal reasons. Fossil fuels are dense. Their energy is storable, portable, fungible (which means they can be easily traded), and they are transformable into other products like pesticides, fertilizers, and plastics.

Now, these qualities cannot be measured in kilowatts, so what happens when we spend our precious fossil fuels on building alternative energy. Well then we get energy that is not dense, but diffuse. It’s not easily storable. It’s not portable. It’s not fungible. And it is non-tranformable.

Now to increase the quality of the energy, we then have to spend more fossil fuels to build batteries, to build back-up power plants, and other infrastructure. And of course this is incredibly expensive. Ultimately that expense represents the hidden fossil fuels behind the scene.

There’s an impression that clean energy can supply a growing population of high consumers. There’s an impression that alternative energy can displace fossil fuel use, but the evidence doesn’t show that."

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