Planet of the Stupid

April 25, 2020

Exhautive, devastating and much-deserved point by point takedown of Michael Moore’s sadly bogus energy doc. This is the the one I’ll be linking people to, for now.

The fact-checked response is, a film that is not just stupid, but lazy.
“Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad.

“All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient”

Ketan Joshi:

The film ‘Planet of the Humans’ opens with the director, Jeff Gibbs, operating a fossil-fuelled combustion engine vehicle, on a road full of combustion engine vehicles, followed up with some footage taken from the International Space Station (fossil fuelled rockets put that in space).

This is not a documentary about the environmental damage that had to occur for Gibbs to go on his drive – it is not mentioned. Nor is it about the harm from fossil fuels.

It is about why renewable energy is bad. I used to work in the renewable energy industry – first, with wind farms and later in research, government agencies and advocacy groups. So it was hard to resist both watching and reviewing this one, considering it launched on ‘Earth Day’, and it has been widely promoted.

Not only is the documentary bad, it’s old bad. Please join me on this journey back in time. It won’t be fun, but I’m glad you’re here with me.

All of the stuff in this documentary is ancient

It is clear that Gibbs has been trying to make this documentary for a long, long time.

“He is currently working on a film about the state of the planet and the fate of humanity”, read his bio, in 2012. It is clear, digging into these early posts, that he very passionately loathes the burning of trees to generate energy – a wildly controversial and genuinely problematic thing, for sure.

But as early as 2010, Gibbs was posting HuffPost blogs extending that into wind and solar, too.

This one, for instance, repeats a bog-standard list of anti-wind and anti-solar memes that, back in 2010, were fashionable among climate deniers. The ‘wind and solar are too intermittent’ meme, for instance, is a great hallmark of that era. “How much variable energy can a grid accept? Around ten percent, twenty percent tops it appears”, he wrote back then. I’d include examples of grids with higher percentages operating without a hitch today, but it feels almost cruel.

The extreme oldness of this documentary stands out. In one instance, he tours a solar farm in Lansing, Michigan, in which a bemused official states that a large farm can only power ten homes in a year.

It is the Cedar Street Solar Array, a 150 panel 824 kilowatt (that’s small) farm in downtown Lansing. Guess when that bad boy was built? 2008. Twelve years ago – an absolute eternity, in solar development years.

As PV Magazine writes, “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”. Efficiency gains in solar have been so rapid that by leaving the dates off his footage he is very actively deceiving the audience. The site generates 64-64 MWh a year, according to the owner – a more recent installation in the same area generates around 436. The footage really is from another era. It’s like doing a documentary on the uselessness of mobile phones but only examining the Motorola Ultrasleek.

Later, they visit the Solar Energy Generating System (SEGS) solar farm, only to feign sadness and shock when they discover it’s been removed, leaving a dusty field of sand. In the desert. “Then Ozzie and I discovered that the giant solar arrays had been razed to the ground”, he moans. “It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at. A solar dead zone”.

Which is a weird one, because the latest 2020 satellite imagery shows a site full of solar arrays, and a total absence of any “dead zones”. The damn thing is generating electricity.

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