Renewable Solutions are BACK: “Energy Efficiency – Part 1”

July 25, 2011

After spending most of the last year playing whack a mole with denier nonsense and “ClimateGate” canards, and after a whole lot of people asked me to, I switched gears from describing the problem to mapping out the solutions to climate change.

If you haven’t seen the first 3 Renewable Energy Solution of the Month videos, check them out here.

Hybrid and Electric Cars

Wind part 1

Wind part 2


6 Responses to “Renewable Solutions are BACK: “Energy Efficiency – Part 1””

  1. Eclipse Now Says:

    1. False dichotomy — strawman even
    I fully support your critiquing of how we can transition economies into ‘stable state’ economics that are not dependent on growth. However, I think you’ve set up a straw-man between that question and nuclear power. The plutonium economy (non-bomb purity) can supply all our energy needs until the sun turns red giant and wipes out the earth.

    So I truly love New Urbanism, Village Towns, Earthships, and the Lovins institute passive solar design. Walkable town plans offer multiple health and fitness and psychological benefits. Some designs like the Village Town (20 car-free villages of 500 people each around a central town that services the needs of these 10 000 thousand people) even create local economic benefits as one dollar moves through the local economy 8 times before it eventually leaves to buy 20% of their goods in.

    Truly, I love it all. As I’ve said, my sister-in-law has a Phd in passive solar design and has won awards for council buildings in Melbourne. That’s all great. But it is going to take a generation or two to build it out before it can have any real impact. Or, according to the remarkably optimistic Alex Steffen of Worldchanging it will take 20 years. (My favourite Worldchanging piece of all time is “My other car is a bright green city”).

    But you’re not going to close coal fired power today by hoping that the next generation’s cities are more efficient.

    2. Decoupling energy from GDP — a few questions.
    Now, I think you make an excellent point here. We do need to do ALL we can to serve up hot water and cold beer in the most energy efficient way possible. Products CAN be delivered with less energy — especially if we just build super-energy efficient New Urban passive solar homes that are so comfortable in the first place and hardly ever need air-conditioning! But here’s my question. Didn’t American manufacturing start becoming outsourced in the 70’s when the GDP / energy use graph starts to diverge? Isn’t it the case that America started buying in more of their stuff from overseas, and moving into a higher-technology economy like IT & Microsoft & Hollywood & Games rather than producing as many cars and fridges and electronics and washing machines? The whole world cannot outsource our fridges and TV’s and washing machines to … where exactly? I’m just wondering if that graph really demonstrates improved American energy efficiency or just good old globalization kicking in for the first time, and American GDP rising because your economy lost a lot of blue collar jobs. The energy use is still there. It’s just hiding in the cheap fridges and washing machines you’ve bought from overseas.

    In short, I love the goal of efficiency and de-coupling the economy from increased energy use, but I am absolutely convinced it’s not going to do enough quickly enough. Too many American’s just don’t care enough. I’m glad to see signs that this is changing and you are doing your bit, good on you! But with today’s technology I’m convinced only nukes can clean up our energy supply fast enough to save us from climate change, peak oil, and the next Greater Depression. Actually strike the last. I think we’re going there anyway.

    • mrsircharles Says:

      It’s called “Steady State Economy” =>

      You can sign their position paper if you think that an economy which is built on unsustainable (exponential) growth is neither possible nor desirable and the cause of the destruction of the base of life as such.

      Nuclear power? Neither sustainable nor clean. Nukes have ten times the carbon footprint of wind energy, and just 1/3 of the carbon footprint of modern gas plants. What about the waste? After more than half a century still an unsolved problem. Who insures nuclear? Who pays for any damage? The taxpayer. Chernobyl and Fukushima should have taught us the lesson.

      The future belongs to the renewables. Nuclear power is not a renewable energy source and leaves a legacy of radiating waste for hundreds of thousands of years.

      Nuclear power? No thanks!

      • Eclipse Now Says:

        1. Too much concrete and steel
        2. The waste! The waste!
        3. Safety
        4. Solar and wind can’t do it.

        1. Too much concrete and steel
        For wind to generate the same amount of energy as a nuke requires 10 times the steel and concrete.

        Then it’s not baseload but on again off again so you have to build a hydro dam, and possibly a super-grid across the continent to try and collect the wind where-ever it happens to be blowing.

        So 10 times steel and concrete + massive pumped hydro dam + HVDC super grid = much more materials to generate the same amount of energy.

        Check this out for the demonstrable, historical, verifiable difference between French Nuclear and Denmark’s wind.

        Again, this is not right-wing Denialism but from one of Australia’s leading environmental and climate scientists!

        2. The waste! The waste!
        What waste? There’s no nuclear waste any more, it’s almost all fuel. Gen4 reactors that eat nuclear waste are just about to hit the market. We’ve had over 300 reactor years experience with them and *know* the physics works. They’re just commercialising them.

        Indeed, the problem is we don’t have *enough* waste. If we waved a magic wand and suddenly had 10 thousand Gen4 nukes ready to power the entire world with carbon-free electricity, we couldn’t do it. Today’s nuclear waste has to run through breeder reactors according to a 7 year doubling law. After a few decades of this we’ll have enough “waste”. Just today’s waste really *could* run the world for 500 years but it’s going to take a generation to breed that waste up.

        What to do in the meantime? Just build out super-safe, super-clean, super-powerful Gen3.5 AP1000 nukes now. Then in a few decades we’ll have more than enough “waste” to feed Gen4 nukes like G.E.’s S-PRISM. I doubt it will take 20 years, but hey, there’s enough uranium to run Gen3.5 nukes for that long! Both Gen3.5 and Gen4 reactors are modularised like giant lego. This means they’ll come flying off the assembly line really cheap with standardized quality safety systems built in, be trucked to site and clipped together like so much lego.

        With Integral Fast Reactors (and other reactor plans out there) there’s enough uranium and thorium reserves to run the world for 50 000 years. If we haven’t developed super-cheap super-powerful solar batteries by then, well, we can keep using IFR’s for a billion years! How? We already know how to remove uranium from seawater for $300 a kilo. Sound expensive? A kilo of uranium in an Integral Fast Reactor could power your whole life! That’s a golf-ball of uranium to warm you, transport you, cook your food and provide your entertainment from birth to death. Uranium in seawater is topped up as new mountains push up out of the earth’s crust and start to erode. It is, essentially, ‘renewable’. So you are right. ‘Renewables’ are the way to go! 😉

        (But you’re burning up the uranium! It’s not renewable! Neither is the sun once all that hydrogen has fused! 2nd law of thermodynamics — the universe is running down. NOTHING is renewable, not even the sun! Technically.)

        3. Safety
        What about Fukishima and Chernobyl? Oh dear — you sound like me about 18 months ago. How about we just ban all modern aviation because of the Hindenberg? You’re talking about 40 year old Gen2 technology. Just a reminder that the AP1000 is a Gen3.5 with passive safety. Think of a candle burning under a GIANT water balloon. If the candle gets too hot… splash! It goes out when it pops the balloon. And that balloon still pops even if Homer Simpson is asleep.

        And here’s a question for you: how many people died as a result of Fukishima’s radiation? Answer: none. If that’s as bad as a modern nuclear accident gets, then sign me up. I’d rather live next to one of those than next to a coal fired power plant where I am almost guaranteed to develop some sort of throat or lung cancer or condition.

        How many people died falling off wind turbines each year? All major power sources have risks, we have to keep things in balance.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love the *idea* of renewable energy. We should do both. But all the last good hydro-dam sites are taken, or are biological hot spots.

        4. Solar and wind can’t do it.
        And right now wind and solar are not baseload. They’re just not. Any economy that truly tried to go baseload with intermittent wind and solar would bankrupt themselves with the attempt to store power. Why go to all that fuss and bother when safe, clean, low-concrete, low-steel, concentrated nuclear power can provide us with ALL the energy we need *practically forever* (hundreds of times longer than our species has been alive!) and economically as well?

  2. otter17 Says:

    Huzzah, an awesome renewable solution video for sure.

  3. pendantry Says:

    It’s good to hear some upbeat renewable noises, but — I find it interesting that you feature President Carter putting solar panels on the White House, without mentioning that President Reagan tore them off, nor President Obama’s failure to keep to his promise that they would be back by the Spring of 2011. As a barometer of US political intent, I think the White House Solar panels say it all.

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