But Renewables

A modern scapegoat. Bashing renewables is an indirect way to argue for what is portrayed as an alternative, i.e. #ButNukes. But it is a false dilemma.

The overall strategy rests on three basic tactics. First, reject hippie punching by showing your willingness to welcome all energy sources. Second, compel anyone who’d whine against subsidies to take a stand against fossil fuel subsidies, the actual elephant in the room. Third, grant that renewables are not purity tests and that the world is messy and full of compromises.


Dealing with energy sources that are inherently unreliable, and require large amounts of land, comes at a high economic cost.


Over the last few years, I have been pushing back against the idea that renewables are good for the environment. 


Objections and Replies

Ban. They want to ban fossil fuels
☞ The endgame is to get to carbon zero, not “ban fossil fuels,” whatever that means. All we need is to stop burning them like there’s no tomorrow.

Benefits. There’s no benefits of fossil fuels and plastics to humanity
☞ Don’t be absurd. Plastics are so important that we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Until we reboot dinosaurs to kill them back, we can’t renew our sources.

Biomass. Burning wood chips from thousands of miles away is nonsense
☞ Indeed. If only conservative governments should not have diverted subsidies toward biomass and championed for Drax!

Birds. Windmills kill birds
☞ We certainly should do something about it. Speaking of which, did you know that glass skyscrapers killed more than a billion birds in the US per year? This is more than cars, but less than cats, the worst enemy of birds.

Collapse. Renewables will collapse
☞ Which odds would you give me? Betting against renewables lost so far, and Europe generated more electricity with renewables than fossil fuels in 2020.

Costs. Renewables aren’t even close to being cost competitive or effective
☞ Their levelized costs is quite competitive. Coal can’t compete with solar anymore. You’ll have to find another reason to keep burning fossil fuels.

Force. Renewables are held in place by force
☞ We live in a society.

Intermittent. Renewables are too intermittent to
☞ Efficient dispatching of electricity on a grid is a challenge whatever source you choose. It is a challenge that requires a variety of complementing solutions. Energy demand needs to be managed properly in all cases, and no strategy is perfect.

Price. Aren’t renewables supposed to put fossil fuel out of business
☞ Solar already beats coal, and coal is the first target. Next should be diesel. One alpha at a time.

Quantity. Renewables will never give enough energy at capacity
☞ How do you know? In some places it could, it some other it may not. Except for true optimists, very few dispute that we need more than renewables to make it through. At least for a while.

RealPolitik. Investing in renewables throwing money at Putin, Xi and
☞ Which kind of dressing goes with this word salad?

Subsidies. Without the massive subsidies and incentives renewables— 
☞ Fossil fuel subsidie amount to 6.5% of global GDP in 2015.


Fossil Fuel Subsidies; the International Monetary Fund has good stuff.

2015-08; Without the Hot Air; David MacKay’s tour de force.


2020-02. Forks in the Road. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3543639