It is to laugh

Strangely, I rather like George Monbiot. He\’s clearly a great deal more interested in "smashing capitalism" than anything else, is severely misguided, but he does wear his heart on his sleeve.

Then he goes and does something like this.

Several recent studies have shown how, through maximising the diversity of renewable generators and by spreading them as far apart as possible, by using new techniques for balancing demand with supply and clever schemes for storing energy, between 80% and 100% of our electricity could be produced by renewables, without any loss in the reliability of power supplies. Unlike CCS, wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydro and geothermal power are proven technologies.

That\’s simply barking. If we actually thought that we could do that, at a cost lower than the damage fossil fuel use has, then we\’d all be doing it already.

Further, even disregarding the cost qualification, we simply do not have the ability to provide all of our power needs from the technologies he mentions. Not yet, at least. I\’ve been a long term booster of the thought that technology will indeed save us, that we\’ll abandon fossil fuels long before they either run out or boil us all…..but that happy day just isn\’t here yet.

I wonder what strange assumptions have been made in those studies to reach such a conclusion? The elimination of industry perhaps? The complete rebuilding of the entire country to passivhaus standards? Won\’t be anything cheap, that I\’m sure of.

10 thoughts on “It is to laugh”

  1. I also wonder what assumptions are made about future electricity demand. If we are all going to be driving around in plug-in cars, and perhaps heating our homes with electricity based tech (even if solar or whatever assisted) then we’ll need much more electricity than we do now.

    (btw did you see this? )

  2. I’m guessing one of his main sources is the Greenpeace Energy Revolution paper. This looks at energy usage rather than just electricity generation, so doesn’t run into Luis’s problems.

    But even on the basis of the Greenpeace paper, in their ‘ideal’ scenario where we adopt Passivhaus and massive renewable power investment, we’re still getting 45% of our energy from oil and natural gas by 2050, so George’s claims are tending towards the silly end of the spectrum.

    [it’s only 25% oil and gas if you get rid of their assumption that nuclear is phased out entirely. Hooray for silly green infighting that means they end up preferring carbon emissions to OH NOES, SCARY EVIL RADIATION LIKE WHAT THEY HAD AT HIROSHIMA?!?!?!

  3. Tim

    I’m a rwdb economic rationalist. But I, too, have a sneaky admiration for mad George. I disagree with just about everything he says but what you see is what you get, so that’s something to be admired.

  4. I suspect that he’s just assuming that our population falls to about 5 million. Which it probably would.

  5. This bit scares me:

    “using new techniques for balancing demand with supply…”

    Don’t we normally attempt to balance supply with demand? What does the reverse entail – a rota system for central-heating?

  6. Further,

    “Several recent studies have shown how, through … balancing demand with supply … between 80% and 100% of our electricity could be produced by renewables, without any loss in the reliability of power supplies.”

    This is self-evident isn’t it? Doesn’t it just say, “If we reduce demand to meet supply, we’ll be able to supply all our needs.”

  7. Mr Potarto

    I think he means intelligent grids, and variable cosumption appliances. The idea being that certain appliances will draw more energy at peak production (and low price) times and less at peak consumption times. Such an approach is necessary if wind power, to take one example, is to provide a decent amount of our electricity.

    This being George I am sure he also means applying electrodes to sensitive parts of the body, for those who use too much power.

  8. Luis:

    Yes–it’s alll so simple that it’s hard to understand why all the millions in NSF (and private foundation) grants are necessary.

    I remember discussions of measures of the general type going back to the late ’40s and, particularly (1952-3) to excitement about a “wonder” catalyst–cesium–in such process.

    I have to admit it sounds intriguing and I’m far less suspicious of saomething coming out of MIT than from some lesser institution (like the “cold fusion” announcement of some years
    ago (from Utah, I seem to remember).

  9. Potarto:

    I failed to pick up the word-repositioning. I think you’ve got it nailed.

    Now, if we can just convince the Chinese to decrease their consumption from present levels (let alone the inevitable increases necessary for the maintained improvement of their general living standard.

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