Click here to see a YouTube video of these turbines in action. The sound you hear is the wind blowing.
Any visitor to the dry side of Maui (where I am presently vacationing) can’t help but notice the wind turbines. Like all energy sources, wind has its downsides. There’s now a scar gouged out of the mountainside to create an access road to them, and at night the mountain has a series of blinking lights up one side. Wind farms are notorious for messing up natural vistas.
At first glance, it didn’t seem likely to me that they will kill many birds, and I’m sure they studied the topic well, but just seconds before I hit the record button to video the turbines at close range, a large flock of seabirds flew through my view finder with the turbines in the background. What a shot that would have made. The public doesn’t have access to the base of those turbines to see if there are any dead birds lying around. Hawaii already has a very large number of endangered bird species.
Climate skeptics fear that people who are not qualified to opine on the complex topic of energy production may cripple economies with assorted misguided energy related boondoggles. Is that a realistic concern? What are the odds? Russ Finley argues that the odds are not zero.
A report written by the British arm of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace titled “Dirtier than Coal” criticizes their government’s plan to burn trees to make electricity. In my opinion, these two organizations seem to get things right about as often as they get things wrong, so you would be just as well off flipping a coin.
For me, this is largely an academic exercise. As a species, I suspect that we are incapable of overriding our instinctive drives for self-promotion, subconscious biases, and propensities for self-deception to the point of tackling a problem of this magnitude — global warming. We will always find ways to rationalize what we do and think, especially if doing so brings home the bacon.
In this case they got one thing right (IMHO) by calling for the withdrawal of public subsidies for making electricity by burning imported trees (roundwood and sawlogs). Their report is based on input from Tim Searchinger who was asked to review the studies done by the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
A recent article by George Monbiot explains one of the potential ramifications of diverting grains into fuel. Thanks to extreme weather around the globe:
”…this is also a year of food deficit, in which we will consume (31 million tons) more grain than farmers produced. If 2013′s harvest does not establish a new world record, the poor are in serious trouble.”
His main point is that thanks to a growing demand for food driven by an increasing population and improving standards of living, along with the conversion of grains into fuel, the world has to break harvest records every year to keep up. Thanks to grain reserves, humanity can weather years that don’t break records, but failing to break records for two or three years in a row means hunger for hundreds of millions because the price of food will spike as speculators capitalize on the fact that low supply relative to demand equates to higher prices. If weather extremes become more and more common, the odds of running out of reserves becomes more and more likely. (See more: Midwestern Drought, Ethanol, & Renewable Fuel Standard)
I was rebutting a comment I found under a CER News Desk article titled: Utility Head: Japan Can’t Afford Renewable Energy, Needs Nuclear when I realized I had generated enough material for an article.
Although not a single talking point in the comment I addressed is novel (few thoughts are), and not a single footnote to a source was proffered, the comment serves a larger purpose by providing me an opportunity to express some critical thought.
I don’t want the commenter to feel singled out and welcome him to continue to participate, but I would also like to suggest that he take the time to provide links to sources so the audience knows who the originators of the talking points are and so they can assess the quality of the sources of the information he passes along. I know of one site that does not allow unsourced comment. I don’t think this is necessarily a good idea because it has a tendency to spill over into censorship. They do this in an attempt to keep the comment field from becoming a come-one-come-all liar’s club (although most people are inadvertently passing along information they don’t realize — or care — is bunk).
Here is the link to my comments.
I’ve seen several billboards around town with this image. I also saw it in an ad here on Consumer Energy Report. They’re part of a joint venture between the Ad Council and the USDA Forest Service. Here is a list of organizations supporting it. Every advertising executive knows that half of their money is being wasted. They just don’t know which half it is. In this case, I hope none of it is being wasted.
Should the cost of maintaining a military presence in the Middle East be viewed as a subsidy to oil companies? This idea has been repeated often enough to become unchallenged conventional wisdom codified by the “NO WAR FOR OIL” bumper sticker.
It has been argued that the Gulf and Iraq wars were not necessary to keep the global price of oil stable and neither is our continued military presence in the Middle East. There is no way to rerun the experiment to see what the world would look like had we not had the Gulf and Iraq wars. My guess is that the Gulf war was probably a smart move, the Iraq war, maybe not so smart.
In the paper, we conclude that evaluated at the average ethanol production level of 01/1995-03/2008, the wholesale gasoline prices is $0.14/gallon lower. The change of retail gasoline prices varies across refinery markets from $0.29-$0.40/gallon.
The continued existence and expansion of human civilization is wholly dependent on affordable sources of energy. The latest study just released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (an organization that exists to study and promote the viability of renewable energy) suggests that it may be possible to get 80% or so of our electric power from renewable sources by 2050. The study also (inadvertently) provides evidence that renewable energy will be a minority player in humanity’s energy portfolio.
The results may disappoint my fellow solar enthusiasts because it suggests that only 13% of our electric energy will come from solar. Distributed solar enthusiasts (who favor photovoltaic solar panels on rooftops) will be further disappointed because half of that 13% will come from water-sucking centralized concentrated solar thermal power plants, many located in desert ecosystems, leaving only about 6% for solar panels on rooftops, of which many will probably not be on rooftops but in centralized power plants, probably displacing ecosystems or crops.