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Renewables raising energy costs intentionally?

 
 
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 02:03 pm
The following article elaborates an extensive argument against 'greens,' who are accused of (maliciously) wanting to raise the cost of energy by shifting to renewables:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/05/27/we-shouldnt-be-surprised-renewables-make-energy-expensive-since-thats-always-been-the-greens-goal/#4e03f9f64e6d

More energy overall is indeed bad, but that doens't mean that certain efficient uses of energy are too problematic. The main problem with energy-use overall is that it generates greenhouse gases, including raising levels of atmospheric water-vapor to artificially-high levels, which causes warming and then prevents the warming from allowing trees, plants, and animals from growing faster to absorb the CO2 and function as a natural thermostat for the planet.

Nuclear power, praised in the article, is actually a non-renewable fuel whose waste products have extremely long half-life so that they build up over millennia. What's more, if humans would continue to dig up radioactive fuel over the course of millennia, the natural geothermal energy that maintains the Earth's magnetic field and protects the biosphere and atmosphere from harmful radiation would be gradually eroded.

Sustainability means finding ways to live that can be maintained permanently without resulting in future problems at any point in the future. It is difficult to foresee all such problems, but it is not hard to see that nature has evolved organic systems that are as sustainable as we can currently imagine. I.e. it is difficult to imagine humans bioengineering or genetically manipulating anything to be more sustainable than what nature has been testing through trial and error for billions of years of evolutionary 'R&D.'

So part of our challenge is protecting natural species and ecosystems by building around them and incorporating them into our architecture and infrastructure; i.e. so that they will be able to continue to flourish and perform their natural functions despite our activities.

The article makes a valid point that solar panel arrays are not sustainable when they are built on land cleared of trees and/or crops. She makes the valid point that intensive power and agriculture allow more natural land to be spared from clearing and development. That is true, but it is also the reason why smarter solar panel arrays should be designed and built, smarter agricultural methods developed, and so forth. This can be as simple as situating solar panels on above-ground platforms so that trees and/or crops can grow in the soil underneath.

We also should start understanding that intensive industrial power has made us more lazy and dependent, even while we patted ourselves on the back for achieving the ultimate work ethic by industrial means. If it is more expensive to repair and/or re-furbish/recycle solar panels locally than sending them away to lower-wage offshore sites for processing, that is because we have priced our own labor out of the options.

Ultimately, we may need to do more of our own labor while sufficing with less energy per capita. That may sound like a step backward, but if so that is because adapting to rely on unsustainable industrial technologies and their power sources was never more than a fake step forward.

Like Mickey's experiment with the sorcerer's magic in Fantasia, we were immature in how extensively we pursued industrialization and automation of anything and everything we could innovate. What we should have done, and still can do, is rethink our approach to energy and industrialism so that we apply it more selectively, judiciously, and conservatively. Think energy-efficient washing machines and line-drying, to use a simple domestic example. It still uses energy, but not as much as a less-efficient washing machine combined with a dryer.

Many other smarter energy-application innovations are possible as well. Think about insulation. Better coolers now exist that can keep ice frozen for a week just by keeping the door shut. Insulation technology can also improve indoor temperature control, but we should also become more flexible about what temperatures we can tolerate. It's simply unnecessary and wasteful to fill up entire buildings with hot air in the winter and cold air in the summer. Natural shade, air-flows, warm clothing, etc. vastly expand the types of conditions that humans can comfortably inhabit. There is no reason to waste energy avoiding those other methods because we are too lazy to wear sweaters inside or open windows to let a cool breeze blow in from the tree shade outside.

Cheap energy serves no other purpose than to encourage more energy use. If people would conserve energy regardless of price, we could make the energy as cheap as we wanted and it wouldn't make that much difference anyway because the bill was already low from conserving usage.

No fantasy of abundant energy use is wise, because all energy dissipates as heat and all heat increases atmospheric water-vapor levels. Water vapor has to condense and precipitate in order to not act as a greenhouse gas, so if we don't want the planet to grow increasingly foggy and muggy at night, slushy with more violent weather in cold winter areas, and drought-plagued in regions prone to lower precipitation; then we should be reducing overall energy usage by making less energy do more at the per-capita level.

Abundance has a double meaning. It can be used to refer to the idea that we can have as many inefficient energy-wasting machines as we want because we assume we can just always generate more energy, through fusion or other sources. The better meaning, however, is that the more efficient and conservative uses for energy we develop, the more utility we can milk out of smaller quantities of energy.

This second meaning of abundance is how we've ended up with bright LED light bulbs, smart phones, flat-screen TVs and monitors, warmer and more comfortable winter clothing, cooler summer clothing, more efficient electric vehicles, smaller vehicles that reduce the amount of paved land so that more trees and other live growth can be restored to naturally cool us with shade and breezes.

We also should realize that living organisms and ecosystems themselves are functional machines. Cells are nano-machinery that absorb latent heat from their surroundings and recycle that (waste) heat into new growth. Trees and plants produce shade, clean air and water, produce food, and feed animals that serve as pest-control by eating insects, and then fertilize the soil with their droppings. Humans have traditionally feared nature because of the health problems they couldn't control, but modern medicine and non-medicinal understanding of nature, microbiology, etc. allows us to live with nature in ways that don't harm us yet allow us to reap all the benefits it provides.

Far from being a step backward, energy conservation and innovation that do more with lower levels of per-capita energy use are the way forward. Progress isn't the elimination and replacement of nature with artificial systems; it is the advancing ability to integrate human activities with nature to make both more sustainable in the longest term.

Whereas the biblical phrase, "take dominion of the Earth and subdue it," was once interpreted to mean dominating nature and eliminating everything we feared because we couldn't understand it; it can now be understood to refer to making the Earth our home by understanding and coming to terms with nature as the life-support system that was created/evolved as our life-support system, together with every other living species.



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oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 03:47 pm
livinglava wrote:
Nuclear power, praised in the article, is actually a non-renewable fuel

It only needs to last until we can set up giant orbiting space mirrors to reflect tons of sunlight to the earth.


livinglava wrote:
whose waste products have extremely long half-life so that they build up over millennia.

Nonsense. That supposed "waste" is the result of environmentalists not letting us consume it as fuel.


livinglava wrote:
What's more, if humans would continue to dig up radioactive fuel over the course of millennia, the natural geothermal energy that maintains the Earth's magnetic field and protects the biosphere and atmosphere from harmful radiation would be gradually eroded.

No it won't. We will not be removing any radioactive material from the mantle.
livinglava
 
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Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 04:27 pm
@oralloy,
oralloy wrote:

livinglava wrote:
What's more, if humans would continue to dig up radioactive fuel over the course of millennia, the natural geothermal energy that maintains the Earth's magnetic field and protects the biosphere and atmosphere from harmful radiation would be gradually eroded.

No it won't. We will not be removing any radioactive material from the mantle.

Of course they will if they're not weaned off nuclear power by the time the upper mantle has cooled due to the crust being mined full of holes.

It's like eating hot cake out of the oven. At first you just scrape the top as it cools, but the more you scrape, the faster the interior cools. Eventually you can dig right through to the bottom.

If future humans reach the point where they are mining through the (cooled) mantle to get to the core, tectonic plate motion will have jammed up and the magnetic field will give way to cosmic rays sweeping away the atmosphere.

It's easy to dismiss such future consequences as being too far off to worry about, but once upon a time the year 2000 was too far off to worry about.

Sustainability means only doing things that you can be sure will never ever cause problems for future humans.

We should be restoring the planet to a state better than we inherited it generation after generation so that after enough generations have passed, future humans will inherit it in as good a state as any past generation ever did.

That way, we can exist as a species until the sun expands into a red giant, which isn't estimated to occur for another 5 billion years.
oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 04:35 pm
@livinglava,
The crust is not going to be mined full of holes and the mantle is not going to cool.

You surely don't think our descendants are going to let themselves go extinct when the solar system becomes uninhabitable? There are plenty of other stars out there that they will be able to use as a source of energy.
livinglava
 
  0  
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 04:57 pm
@oralloy,
oralloy wrote:

The crust is not going to be mined full of holes and the mantle is not going to cool.

You surely don't think our descendants are going to let themselves go extinct when the solar system becomes uninhabitable? There are plenty of other stars out there that they will be able to use as a source of energy.

1) If the current generation fails to embrace the ethic of sustainability reform instead of putting the burden off for future generations, why would we expect subsequent generations to do otherwise?

2)I assume we will continue to work on technologies for moving beyond Earth, but it's of utmost importance that we grasp how to use resources sustainably both on Earth and wherever else we go in the universe. Otherwise we'll become an interplanetary/interstellar parasite species.

You can find articles where critics of environmentalism decry the use of 'parasite' to describe humans' relationship with the Earth, but the reality is that we have the ability to be parasitic or benevolent mutualist symbiotes.

Would you rather have a species of ant living in your tree, which eats dead leaf and bark material and thus leaves the tree intact and healthy; or a species of ant or termite that bores into the leaves and bark and gradually causes the tree to degenerate until it dies?
oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 05:00 pm
@livinglava,
Our lifestyle is perfectly sustainable. There is no need to be parasitic. We just need to collect massive amounts of sunlight.
livinglava
 
  0  
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 05:08 pm
@oralloy,
oralloy wrote:

Our lifestyle is perfectly sustainable. There is no need to be parasitic. We just need to collect massive amounts of sunlight.

I've told you this many times, so please stop mentioning it this thread:

Earth receives the correct amount of energy based on its orbital position vis-a-vis the sun. It has a certain size, tilt, and gravitation; all of which interact to keep a certain amount of water liquid, a certain amount vaporized, a certain amount of CO2 circulating through the carbon cycle that's naturally evolved throughout the life of the planet and its evolving climate cycles.

Humans are great at survival, but when we do so by systematically altering the natural input/output cycles of nature generation after generation, it is going to cause problems.

Better to tailor our activities and technologies to operate and function within the natural parameters of the planetary climate and to support maximum restoration and preservation of natural ecological systems.

There is plenty we can do to live well and prosper within those margins. We just have to apply our natural ingenuity and creativity with the right priorities instead of the wrong ones.

oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Wed 29 May, 2019 06:23 pm
@livinglava,
livinglava wrote:
I've told you this many times, so please stop mentioning it this thread:

And you were wrong every single time. Why should I stop telling the truth?
livinglava
 
  0  
Reply Thu 30 May, 2019 05:55 am
@oralloy,
oralloy wrote:

livinglava wrote:
I've told you this many times, so please stop mentioning it this thread:

And you were wrong every single time. Why should I stop telling the truth?

The truth is that you think it would be a good idea to put mirrors in space to reflect more sunlight to Earth.

It is also the truth that Earth has evolved to function with a certain natural proportion of sunlight to gravity, tilt, rotation-time, etc. So during the day in a given season, a certain amount of daylight time allows the ground to warm at a certain rate, which adds a certain amount of energy/heat to the atmosphere.

That natural amount of heat that goes into the atmosphere on the day-side of the planet then has to get processed by blowing around, causing evaporation of water, mixing with cold air from the poles, which causes the water to precipitate out of the air so the clear air can allow some heat to radiate away at night.

Adding additional heat to the planet systematically using space mirrors, or nuclear power, or by digging up fossil fuels and burning them, or by putting too many solar panels and wind generators, etc. can all disrupt natural climate patterns as they scale up too much.

So a couple mirrors in space to boost power to some specific solar array for some unique application wouldn't cause problems. Likewise, renewable power generation shouldn't be expanded to the point of altering natural patterns of solar heating of the planet and the wind patterns that naturally distribute the heat and move fresh water around for precipitation. We can tap into these naturally renewable forms of energy for electronics and select industrial applications, but there is danger in scaling industry up to levels beyond what natural ecological systems can process as waste.

The best approach to take to energy/power and industry is as follows: Start reducing energy and power use by evolving existing processes to more efficient forms that use less energy. Also allow economic markets to eliminate unnecessary energy-uses by rewarding fiscal sacrifices at every level. Continue developing renewable energy, but do so in a way that remains critical of the consequences of scaling them. E.g. build solar arrays not on cleared ground but on platforms above ground level so that trees and/or crops can be grown on the ground below the panels. This and other more intensive land-uses will help restore and preserve as much CO2-absorbing soil/trees/forests/groves/orchards as possible.

Start insulating small areas, even single rooms, to be hyper-efficient low-energy areas. That way, even if the majority of a building is cold in winter or hot in summer, there will be small, well-insulated areas to escape to stay warm/cool without using much power/energy.

As such measures are achieved, there will be a basic level of energy-security that allows people to approach the problem of how to live with less energy without fear. At that point, we may find that we can generate a lot of surplus energy above and beyond what we actually need to survive, without endangering sustainability; and that will provide plenty of room for enterprise to explore how to use that surplus sustainable energy fruitfully.
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