Moore No Mas: New Film Drinks the Lysol

April 25, 2020

Full disclosure: I met Michael Moore long before he put on all that weight. He was a frequent guest at my parent’s home back in the 70s.
And I got crosswise with him more than once back then.

He hasn’t changed.

Films for Action:

When Planet of the Humans first came out, we added it to the site before watching it because we trusted Michael Moore’s track record of releasing quality films that are factually accurate. After we watched it, we had issues with the film but assumed it was at least factually accurate, since Michael knows his films will be rigorously fact-checked.

We are disheartened and dismayed to report that the film is full of misinformation and is also very, very dated. While the film makes many important points, the film also misleads in significant ways.

The film distributor published a scathing review of the film they have now disavowed.

Instead of focusing on biomass, however, Planet of the Humans sets out to tar all green alternatives with the same disdainful brush. A whole array of solar panels is described by one man as being barely enough to power a 1200-watt toaster. Another person says his panels are only 8% efficient, and to get the efficient ones would cost him “$1 million per square inch.” These and other claims in the film are false and hugely misleading.

The efficiency of solar panels has been steadily rising while their price has been steadily falling. If you are able to stop the film and look closely at the array that “could barely power a toaster,” you will see that it consists of 60 solar panels, each rated at around 300 watts, for a total rating of 18.30 kW (18,300 watts). That’s a lot more than a toaster’s worth.

The “only 8% efficient” array in Lansing, Michigan, may have consisted of very old and inefficient solar panels, but a modern solar farm of that size (approximately 250 panels, each rated at 300 watts) would generate at least twice as much electricity as the speaker was claiming, at a tiny fraction of the cost he was quoting ($1 million per square inch).

Many solar farms now contain thousands of panels, not just a few hundred, and can power entire communities. And there are now more than 2 million of these farms across the US, with a total capacity of 77 GW (77 billion watts). That may still be only a small percentage of the nation’s total electricity needs, but it is much more than you would think from watching this movie.

Wind

Planet of the Humans goes on to suggest that, like solar power, wind will never be able to produce enough electricity to meet our demands. It quotes an expert from Germany saying that the contribution of wind and other renewables to German electricity production is still small in comparison with coal and other fossil fuels. This is incorrect.

What the movie showed to back up this claim was a pie chart showing, not German electricity sources, but German energy sources. This includes natural gas used for heating buildings, petroleum products used for transportation, and other industrial uses of energy. Wind may only account for a small percentage of Germany’s overall energy needs, but it produces nearly 30% of its electricity, and that is important.

Other European countries, including the UKSpain, and Portugal, are now getting more than 20% of their electricity from wind. And Denmark produced 47% of its total electricity in 2019 from wind. These hugely significant and rapidly increasing amounts of electricity coming from wind are not mentioned in the movie.

Meanwhile, scientists, engineers, and even other filmmakers have mercilessly skewered the film’s gross negligence.

PV Magazine:

It’s difficult to take the film seriously on any topic when it botches the solar portion so thoroughly. Although the film was released in 2020, the solar industry it examines, whether through incompetence or venality, is from somewhere back in 2009.

The film reports on a solar installation in Michigan with PV panels rated at “just under 8 percent” conversion efficiency. It’s difficult to identify the brand of panel in the film (Abound?) — but that efficiency is from another solar era.

The film pillories the Ivanpah thermal solar plant and SEGS, the original solar thermal power plant in Daggett, California, but fails to distinguish between overachieving photovoltaic solar and laggard thermal solar.

The film ignores the plunging cost of solar and its steadily increasing price advantage over coal and natural gas — as well as the similar trajectory of battery storage. It is plain wrong on renewables not displacing fossil fuels and it might be right in its excoriation of ethanol and biofuels.


Zeke Hausfather on Twitter:

While I enjoyed reading @emorwee‘s piece on the hot mess that is the new @MMFlint documentary, I wanted to correct the record that we at @TheBTI are not “using the film to claim that renewables are worse for the environment than fossil fuels.”

The opposite is in fact true; we’ve strongly criticized it for being highly misleading on renewables (as well as for advocating population control as a main solution). Here is my comment on the film when it first came out:

Our analyst @wang_seaver had a similar take:



Elsewhere on twitter, knowledgeable commenters similarly horrified:

19 Responses to “Moore No Mas: New Film Drinks the Lysol”

  1. Gerhard Dekker Says:

    It’s upsetting to become aware of our imminent demise. Panning this film is another manifestation of our denial of death problem

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Panning this film is independent of our denial of death.

      I have no trouble being completely pessimistic about humanity’s future while puking all over misrepresentations of reality in this film.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      Exact same reason why I found Weekend At Bernie’s to be technically unfeasible. The old denial of death thingy. That and the fact that they had an old dead corpse on the sofa with a beer bottle glued on its hand throughout a 24 hour party and nobody noticed. Hang on I’m getting flashbacks of the 1960s and I retract that criticism. It’s entirely technically feasible.


  2. […] Moore No Mas: New Film Drinks the Lysol (25 Apr 2020) Climate Denial Crock of the Week by Peter Sinclair provides multiple perspectives highlighting deceptive elements of the film. […]

  3. Birch Gaukroger Says:

    As much as I am a humanist and it is tragic to witness the suffering that is taking place to populations everywhere, some much worse than others, no-one with any grey matter and awareness could deny that this is density-dependent population ecology at work. In a wild population of a species there are many examples of the already sick and the older individuals in the population being “culled” by disease and other factors.. Spacially disconnected populations of the particular species may escape infection as a result of isolation geographically, which of course is what we as a species are trying to achieve with our social distancing
    It’s important to realise this probably had to happen and the biosphere is not malicious or evil.
    This will just happen due to a combination of factors as an attempt (which sounds anthropocentric, I know) by the planet to impose population regulation and limiting factors on the human population.
    This is nature at work as described by ecological science. When you think about it everything we do nearly as a human population, cheats and challenges evolutionary history. Sars-CoV2 and the disease it causes are an attempt at correction. Sounds horrid but it is really intuitive to anyone who has some remaining sense of the planet they feel so much for, as being under siege and dying a death of a million cuts, figuratively.
    On a lighter note, as the good Paul Beckwith has tweeted re international lockdowns “It’s as if the Earth has told us to go to our rooms and think about what we’ve done”.
    Regarding renewables, despite the criticism of Michael Moore’s new film, it is absolutely important to remember that nearly all renewable energy technology requires very finite sources of rare minerals of which some will require very destructive extractive measures to obtain, such as mining the sea floor, two for example being cobalt and neodyprisium.
    So you cannot call alternative energy sources, including storage batteries as completely renewable. They are in fact non-renewable renewables in the medium to long term..
    A good place to read about this the “Consciousness of Sheep” website, in the articles on renewables, which give a very pertinent summary of how limiting supplies of these rare earth are, particularly in battery storage. http://consciousnessofsheep.com

  4. indy222 Says:

    Alas, pretty disappointing that the film is so badly flawed, and so little fact-checking was done before releasing it. Sorry I recommended it before watching it, on faith from some of Moore’s better efforts in the past, and the general thrust of renewables not being the real solution to our refusal to accept we live on a finite world and growth must end.

    I had not actually watched the film before urging others to watch. Sheepishly – yeah. Looks like that was a mistake. I put the “Rumble” talk-about on the film on my iPhone this morning and then listened while I did a long cydling ride today…. and heard one monster of a mis-statement, and that was the claim that global power consumption is many thousands of terrawatts. It’s not, it’s more like 19TW. Perhaps they meant TWh per year?
    I tried to find the claimed “National Academy of Sciences” study showing full life-cycle environmental costs of renewables was worse than for fossil fuels, but could not find anything. Life Cycle costs are notoriously open to bias, from what assumptions you chose to make, is another caveat.

  5. indy222 Says:

    Peter, I give you credit for not throwing good text after bad, and altering course right away. Really too bad, as Moore has said some valuable things on politics in the past. This is going to really tarnish his reputation. I hope it was just sloppiness and that Moore too, and his team, can own up to mistakes immediately and not do like the Republicans, and double down.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Moore completely rebutting his own film? I think not. He will have to go through the well deserved sh!tstorm now.

    • jimbills Says:

      Part of the problem would be that Gibbs is a long-time producer and composers for Moore’s films:
      https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1345020/

      So, probably a friend. I get the feeling that this was Gibbs’ passion project for the last two decades, he finally finished it, and Moore released it as a favor.

      I’ve looked over Gibbs’ Twitter feed. He’s not a conservative or a FF shill or anything like that. This won’t be appreciated here, but I think his heart was in the right place. He just laid a turd on the execution. Much of the criticism of the film is fair (that it is lazy, misleading, etc.).

      It’s a shame because the heart of the film is that we should question growth and whether renewables and technology alone can save us. Additional questions are whether corporate influences are undermining the effort to reduce environmental destruction and if the rampant greenwashing taking place on a daily basis blinds us to the true cost of our actions. The film also contains many aspects the public should know (the problems with biomass, the costs of mining and the other hidden costs of renewables that make a smooth transition much more difficult).

      But Gibbs played fast and loose with his editing, presenting very old footage and tech as new, and likely his facts. He also spent a lot of time hero bashing, and the vociferous rejection of the film by many in the environmental movement isn’t exactly surprising. And it’s a shame that many on the right (and actual FF shills) are using the film for their own purposes – also predictable, but apparently not so by Gibbs and Moore.

  6. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    For the record, there are many non-genocidal ways to reduce the human population.
    (1) Stop encouraging people to have children. Really, get after those religious, tribal and government leaders who are encouraging people to have children. Please note that this is not “keeping people from having kids”, but avoiding pushing the ambivalent into parenthood.

    (2) Give women in backwards societies other value and options rather than having kids.

    (3) Have sex education and cheap contraception (including sterilization) available world wide.

    (4) Encourage delayed parenthood.

    (5) Encourage wider spacing if having multiple children.

    (6) Make sure everyone from Abrahamic religions knows that the Bible has a recipe for inducing abortions.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Of course there are also genocidal ways to reduce the human population, like continuing to vote in people who are incapable of preparing for, understanding, or leading through pandemics.

    • jimbills Says:

      “Stop encouraging”

      Developed societies experience lower population growth due to the expense of having children, and that ‘should’ be amplified. Ending tax credits for having children would have some effect. At the very least, ending it at the replacement level of 1 child per 1 adult ‘should’ be considered.

      But even this would be difficult. Social Security relies on younger generations (especially as its reserves have been raided for decades by bi-partisan governments), and there are a bunch of negative effects to the economy if population growth dips too much. Governments react to that with encouraging more children:
      https://qz.com/1646740/japan-wants-to-raise-its-fertility-rate-with-new-perks/

      The problem is biologically, economically, and culturally rooted. We actually can’t accept lower populations for multiple reasons. So, we’ll keep growing – at least until we are stopped by some exterior force.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        The US used to have “demographics insurance” in the form of immigrants, the first generation of which tended to have more children. That buys us time for the transition to a different model.

        Changes to the young-support-the-old model should be accelerated. Between automation (ranging from automation food production and harvest to Japanese elder-care robots) and the extended work life of old-timers, we’re approaching what I hope would be a new steady state.

        As for governments paying for people to make more babies, I notice that it’s usually aimed at particular ethnic groups. It would be less of an economic problem to take the excess from third-world and war-torn countries…except that tribalism is the main driver.

    • Bold van Kaalen Says:

      There are easier ways: wealth and education is sufficient


  7. Plenty of cherrypicking going on here too. The man quoted NASA building the Mars Rover costing a million a square inch. In no way was he suggesting that was the only other option. The panels he was demonstrating looked to be some sort of flexible printed type which are cheaper to produce but less efficient. While dated, A brand new panel installed today will still be junk in about 15 years. The inverters that are also a key part of the system do not even last that long. Full life-cycle assessment of any technology will reveal the true entropy. Anything less than that is a dishonest

    Richard Heinberg and Jim Kunstler have been banging on about this for years and they are hardly champions of fossil fuels. Micahel Moore is hardly a revelation here but if it wakes a few deluded ‘environmentalists’ up to the truth that we are all screwed then that may be a good thing.


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