Thursday, May 14, 2020

Abandoning the concept of renewable energy


* Renewable energy (RE) is a widely shared concept that influences energy policy worldwide.

* The concept of RE is problematic in many ways, yet these problems are often ignored.

* The umbrella of RE seems to enable questionable bait-and-switch tactics.

* Alternative conceptualization of energy could support more effective climate policy.


Renewable energy is a widely used term that describes certain types of energy production. In politics, business and academia, renewable energy is often framed as the key solution to the global climate challenge. We, however, argue that the concept of renewable energy is problematic and should be abandoned in favor of more unambiguous conceptualization.

Building on the theoretical literature on framing and based on document analysis, case examples and statistical data, we discuss how renewable energy is framed and has come to be a central energy policy concept and analyze how its use has affected the way energy policy is debated and conducted. We demonstrate the key problems the concept of renewable energy has in terms of sustainability, incoherence, policy impacts, bait-and-switch tactics and generally misleading nature. After analyzing these issues, we discuss alternative conceptualizations and present our model of categorizing energy production according to carbon content and combustion.

The paper does not intend to criticize or promote any specific form of energy production, but instead discusses the role of institutional conceptualization in energy policy.


UK: World's largest solar farm could cause explosion on scale of small nuclear bomb, residents complain

Developers want to erect up to one million solar panels the height of a double-decker bus on 900 acres of farmland, the equivalent of 600 football pitches, at Cleve Hill near Faversham at a cost of £450m.

They would have the capacity to power more than 90,000 homes using energy from what would be the biggest battery storage facility in the world - and three times bigger than the lithium-ion battery built by Elon Musk, the Tesla tycoon, in South Australia.

But thousands of campaigners say the battery facility, which would cover 25 acres, is unsafe and their idyllic village would be decimated if there was a battery fire which could not be controlled....


The dark side of environmentalism

The response of eco-activists to the coronavirus pandemic has exposed their deep misanthropy.

There are some who believe that the Covid-19 pandemic represents humanity’s comeuppance. They will tweet comments like ‘humanity is the real virus’, or that this is Mother Nature’s way of defending herself against humanity. And the principal source of such statements lies in a part of the environmentalist movement, and its anti-human, sometimes openly misanthropic worldview.

Just look at the enthusiasm with which some greens have greeted the stopping of so much human activity, despite the economic damage it will wreak. And then there is the language environmentalists use to describe humanity. At the very least, they portray humans as feckless exploiters of nature. Others are less coy, and overtly cast humanity as a plague on the planet, or a cancer that needs to be eradicated. The more fervent the eco-warrior, the more dehumanising the rhetoric.

Even more morbid is greens’ suggestion that mass pandemics serve the useful function of culling people. This ties to another favourite subject of radical conservationists: population control.

Population control has been advocated by several prominent politicians and public figures in recent years. They claim that population growth will result in the use of more resources and therefore will put more strain on the environment. This argument draws on the thoroughly debunked work of 18th-century reactionary Thomas Malthus, who claimed that since the earth’s resources are finite, it could only support a finite number of people. Too many people would mean famine, disease and war.

Malthus’s error was to underestimate the extent to which humanity, through technological advances, could increase productivity and unlock hitherto inaccessible resources. So despite the massive population growth since the 1790s, not only is there currently more food available than ever before, it is more efficiently produced and distributed, too.

You would have thought this would have been cause for celebration. But no – despite the persistent historical refutation of the overpopulation thesis, it has continually found doom-laden advocates, especially in the environmentalist movement.

So, in the 1960s and 70s, many scientists and experts, citing Malthus, predicted that global mass starvation and civilisational collapse would occur within two or three decades if immediate action was not taken. One of the most vocal prophets of ecological doom at this time was Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor and author of The Population Bomb (1968). He warned that between 1970 and 1990, billions would starve to death due to population growth exceeding levels of food production. Additionally, he argued that the earth’s natural resources would be depleted, leading to an energy crisis and major world conflicts. Like Malthus, his predictions were apocalyptically bleak. And like Malthus he was completely, undeniably wrong.

The problem with the overpopulation thesis is not simply that it is wrong – it is that it has resulted in the proposal of sinister, draconian solutions. Ehrlich and others, for instance, recommended spiking food and water supplies with sterilising drugs; keeping blacklists of organisations and individuals who were seen to hinder population-control efforts; and gradually changing the culture to vilify couples with more than two children.

Ehrlich also said that governments should resort to ‘compulsion’ if people failed to change their procreative habits voluntarily. And what does such compulsion look like? Well, it looks a lot like communist China’s one-child policy, complete with mandatory sterilisations and forced abortions. Even less authoritarian regimes imposed similarly brutal policies in the name of tackling overpopulation. The Indian government, for instance, carried out millions of often coerced sterilisations during the 1970s.

What’s even more troubling about the deeply misanthropic worldview of a significant part of the green movement is its proximity to what is known as eco-fascism. That may sound like an oxymoron, given the misperception of environmentalism as left-wing, but there are indeed fanatical environmentalists within the far right, obsessed as it is with eugenics, racial purity and the alleged ‘natural order’. Indeed, the manifestos of several recent mass shooters, who identified themselves as far-right white nationalists, have lamented the destruction of the environment and criticised the corporate plunder of the earth’s resources.

The proximity of environmentalism to the far right is actually long-standing. Eugenics and scientific racism had a significant influence on the environmentalist movement in the early 20th century. Take Madison Grant. He was an American writer and lawyer, best known for The Passing of the Great Race, a work admired by Adolf Hitler. It detailed how the supposed supremacy of the Nordic people was being undermined by ‘lesser’ races. Grant was not just a white supremacist. He was also recognised as one of America’s most prolific conservationists and he was the architect of the American National Park service. As Grant saw it, the preservation of the American natural landscape preserved a ‘master race’ of species of trees and animals. His ecological beliefs, therefore, grew out of his ideas on racial supremacy.

This dark past of environmentalism has largely been quietly ignored in modern times. But lately, with the rise of the loosely defined alt-right movement, the proximity of far-right views to certain environmentalist ones has become clear once again.

However, this does not mean we should throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Just because someone is a passionate conservationist, that does not mean he or she is a latent authoritarian or a bitter misanthrope. There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect the environment, the devastation of which would harm humanity. And wanting to preserve natural beauty for its own sake is admirable, too. But any sincere environmentalist should recognise that no matter how well-meaning he or she is, others are far less so.

That is to say, while some environmentalists genuinely love nature, too many others are fuelled by resentment. They are driven not by a love of nature, but above all by a hatred of people.


Earth Day at 50: Progress, Not Politics, Cleaned Up America

Environmental activists decreed in 1970 that April 22 was to be commemorated as Earth Day. Fifty years later, if you listen to these activists, especially as they are fog-horned by the mainstream media, you might get the impression that our environment is in more jeopardy than ever. Is this true?

Let’s stipulate that post-World War II America was much dirtier than 2020 America. Industrial cities were beset with smog. Pollution in rivers caught fire. Waste dumps weren’t always managed well. Not much thought was given to use and exposure to chemicals like pesticides. Litter was commonplace.

All that said, with the exception of three days in October 1948, when the weather trapped acrid factory emissions in the valley town of Donora, Pa., resulting in the deaths of 20 people, the environment was not an actual public health problem. Still the Donora tragedy propelled states and then the federal government to take action on the environment. Awareness of the value of environmental protection and the regulation of emissions were all underway by the time of the first Earth Day.

Over the decades we have made tremendous progress.  Here are some examples to consider:

Air pollution has declined dramatically.There is no chance of another Donora-like incident.

Except for rare accidents like what occurred in Flint, Mich., drinking water is clean and safe.

Except for stubborn surface water problems caused by runoff (as seen in the Gulf Mexico and Chesapeake Bay) surface water quality has dramatically improved. Any industrial discharges to surface water have been cleaner than the surface water itself for decades.

There are no more uncontrolled toxic waste sites that threaten anyone’s health.

Pesticides are thoroughly tested for safetybefore use and use is strictly regulated.

How did all this progress happen? Environmentalists would like to take all the credit. But reality is more complex.

As our society became wealthier, we could afford the luxury of paying more attention to our environment. That same wealth has made it possible to afford expensive laws and regulations and to afford scientific knowledge and technology development. The key, though, was and remains wealth – a reality backed up by closer examination of the environments of poorer nations around the world.

Air quality, for example, is awful in places like China and India not because they don’t know what to do or don’t care, they just can’t afford to do much about it at this point in time.

Despite all this progress, environmentalists used the 50th Earth Day to sound the alarm about climate change. We have been told that climate change is literally the end of the planet.

Climate is a variegated subject, but suffice to say, for present purposes, that since pre-industrial times, there has been approximately 1.1 degree Celsius of warming and almost 50% more CO2 in the atmosphere. Despite the alarm, no one knows what the future holds. The assumption of the alarmists is that emissions are bad, but history tells a different story.

Since man started emitting vast quantities of greenhouse gases, more people are living longer and at a higher standard of living. Life expectancy is up from approximately 40 years (1850) to approximately 79 (2019). U.S. per capita GDP is up from approximately $2,825 in 1850 to approximately $53,000 in 2016 (2011 dollars).

The Earth is greener today than it was 40 years ago when we started taking satellite photos of the planet, according to NASA.

What is the future of the environment? No one knows for sure, but if the past is any hint of the future, more wealth, strong property rights, better education and new technologies will enable us to keep our environment clean. 

We could also use less hysteria, which just causes money to be wasted versus being spent more productively. Early hysteria about toxic wastes site (such as Love Canal in upstate New York) resulted in $50 billion being wasted litigating Superfund cleanups. A lot of sites could have been cleaned up with that money. Instead, it went to lawyers. More generally, green groups have often taken extreme positions to advocate for overregulation that has impeded environmental protection and wasted time and money.

Radicals often attack capitalism with the line, “You didn’t build that.” On Earth Day, that should be retorted with: “You didn’t clean that up.” Environmental protection has been a group effort enabled by our wealth, culture and system of government.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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