There has lately been a big push from the federal
government for alternative or green energy. Obviously, any government
push of anything correlates with a push of money from someone's pockets to
someone else's pockets, and certainly this observation does not find an
exception with the recent push for green energy.
Enhancing this push is a near-religious belief in the power
of green energy to address the fears of climate change. I will not
address the issue of climate change here -- to each his own on this scientific
endeavor. But the excitement over the issue of climate change is surely a
driver in the corresponding popularity and federal funding currently enjoyed by
alternative or green energy.
By green energy or alternative energy, I am referring to the
commonly considered sources or devices of the day. Hydroelectric power
has largely lost its charm as an alternative energy; lately, the green energies
most frequently mentioned and celebrated are solar and wind turbine energy.
Solar panels appear stately and peaceful, motionless but
somehow powerful and important. Similarly inspiring, wind turbines look
like fields of spotless, immaculate art forms in perpetual motion; they are
like the human-made corollary to nature's perfect sunflowers, simple in
appearance and perfect in purpose.
There could be no rational argument against these wonderful
machines, could there? They are clean and seem to cause no immediate
environmental damage, or very little damage, and certainly they are better and
cleaner than nuclear or coal-powered electricity plants. All of this is virtually
self-evident, as there are practically no serious positions taken against them.
But these green energy sources are entirely redundant, in
that they cannot reduce the need to continue to produce the same energy output
from nuclear and coal-fired plants.
Sure, you can put a solar panel on your roof to reduce some
of the power you use from your local electric company, and your billing from
the electric company will be lower. But the electric company does not
reduce the coal burned or shut down a generator because lots of customers
install solar panels.
For an electric company, encouraging customers to add solar
panels to their homes addresses the issue of "demand side management"
or the company's planning for peak demand. Electric utilities are also
required by law to push “green” alternatives to their comparatively evil electric
By encouraging the use of solar panels, a company may be
able to marginally reduce the current demand for peak hours of energy use, and
forego immediate requirements to upgrade the local electric grid, or it may be
able to reduce the requirement to purchase extra power from other plants and
transmission companies during peak electricity usage.
But an electric power plant cannot just shut down or even
slow down a turbine, be it nuclear or coal or gas powered, just because
electricity use has dropped temporarily because the sun is shining or the wind
is blowing. Shutting down and restarting turbines (not speaking of hydroelectric
turbines) is a long process that can extend into days or weeks, as there are
tons of metal and formidable heat involved.
The upshot of the green energy drive is that people are
happily expending dollars in return for self-aggrandizing science
projects. Like the pyramids of Egypt,
the solar panels and wind turbines serve a purpose, but they do not reduce the
carbon emission or fuel burned by nuclear and coal-fired power plants.
The purpose they serve is more like a sacrifice to some environmental god; they
are a carefully prepared, visually spectacular offering to the Environmentalism
Actually, the green energy projects do also serve at least
one other purpose: the enjoyment they provide for those who can see the
evidence of religious belief among many who consider themselves "pure"
Now, if they would only practice their beliefs with their
own money, and not seek taxes from the rest of us for the practice of their
Yea the whole "green" movement has been kind of rediculous. I work in IT and now every electronic component is being advertised as green. At any rate it's long been refuted here on the mises site.
There is a reason why the private industry has not taken us away with these alternative sources of energy.
On a flip note I'm not sure I am entirely for status quo either. Many energy company's in our country are run fascisticly as "utilities". In a free market where private property was respected you'd likely have cleaner energy, devices consuming less, and more available usage. Not to mention all kinds of technological gains we would have as a side effect from the free market!
Thank you for the comments.
The status quo is monopoly-licensed energy companies, obviously not free-market. But I was only addressing "green" energy in my essay.
When oil was about US $ 120 a barrel I wrote a piece a bout alternative energies for a local movement. My findings shocked most people: coal is by far the cheapest fuel available right now (even when the most advanced dust abatement technologies are implemented) followed by natural gas and oil (yes, even at over US $ 100 a barrel it's still good value for money). Nuclear energy it's the only viable alternative, though it's still about 20-30% more expensive than fossil fuels per MW according to the technology used. The so-called alternative energies fared very poorly when powers over a MW are considered: solar energy in particular needs very heavy subsidies to be competitive and is pretty much useless when large power outputs are required. In short the only way to have "alternative" electrical power at the same price as coal or natural gas generated one is, you guessed, through heavy government subsidies. Technologies are immature at the very best and would need many years of studies (and financing) to be commercially viable and complete dead-ends at the very worst.
As usual government intervention distorted market forces to create the usual monster.
"When we all give the powerWe all give the bestEvery minute of an hourDon't think about the restThen you all get the powerYou all get the bestWhen everyone gives everything..."
That is the tune the green/communist movement have been singing for ages... Well, life is life!
Kakugo:The so-called alternative energies fared very poorly when powers over a MW are considered: solar energy in particular needs very heavy subsidies to be competitive and is pretty much useless when large power outputs are required.
Isn't this a bit short sited? I see what you are saying vis vi the existing grid, but isn't that in and of itself a government creation? For example, would a typical house not be able to meet it's own power needs with some solar implemented and its own generator running on X fuel with battery back up or who knows what other kind of set up? The average home last I had checked used just under a 1000 kilowatthours per month, meaning 35 per day, which I think works out to just under 1.5 megawatts per month. >Megawatt oriented power generation to supply entire neighborhoods at a time isn't necessarily the best way to do things. Perhaps decentralized power generation at whatever the discovered most efficient way of doing so for a given area is, whether at the individual home or neighborhood level, with sales back and forth to storage site hubs would work better.
The biggest consumers of electrical power are industrial and commercial activities. The smallest enterprise I worked for (agricultural) had a contract for 15 kW/h and it was barely enough. Just the water pump we were running during summer months used 4 kW, not to mention the smaller one which run all year around (1,5 KW/h), the refrigerators etc. I won't even mention how much electricity a small steel pressing operation uses or how much the air conditioner in your local small supermarket uses. Running off the grid is not an option here unless somebody can come up with, I don't know, a portable cold fusion reactor. I have nothing against going off the grid but we have to work with what we have available right now and not rush things into production: solar energy may be cool (if properly developed, right now it's heavily subsidized to make it "palatable") but the market should decide not some bureaucrat who never worked a day on the field.
Gas, oil and coal are all renewable energy sources, they just take a really long time to renew. So what's really at issue is keeping it clean because these resources are by far the most efficient at this time. If they were truly interested in alternative energy sources, then they would remove restrictions on private enterprise to come up with viable alternatives and utilize existing resources more effectively both in terms of energy and cleanliness. That goes completely against their ideology. That means busting up government monopolies; removing restrictions on exploration throughout the world and in space for sources of fuel; removing restrictions on exploiting the resources; etc. That's not what the green movement is about. This is just the issue socialists have latched onto as a means to an end - to seize power and either limit or destroy free enterprise.
K.C. Farmer:Gas, oil and coal are all renewable energy sources,
K.C. Farmer:they just take a really long time to renew.
Nope. Check out gull island and the east slope.
Criminals, there ought to be a law.
Criminals there ought to be a whole lot more. Bon Scott.
We have been manufacturing hydrocarbons as long as we've been drinking. Higher pressures just bond more complex hydrocarbons than ethanol. This occurs naturally where hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen are present. The earth yeah.
Kakugo:The biggest consumers of electrical power are industrial and commercial activities. The smallest enterprise I worked for (agricultural) had a contract for 15 kW/h and it was barely enough. Just the water pump we were running during summer months used 4 kW, not to mention the smaller one which run all year around (1,5 KW/h), the refrigerators etc. I won't even mention how much electricity a small steel pressing operation uses or how much the air conditioner in your local small supermarket uses. Running off the grid is not an option here unless somebody can come up with, I don't know, a portable cold fusion reactor.
Yeah, see your point on those instances. Still, no reason houses need pull from the same grid. Migh be better if they didn't even.
Kakugo:the market should decide not some bureaucrat who never worked a day on the field.
Couldn't agree more. I want all energy subsidies, including the military's safety guarantee for the transport of oil, removed. I think only then after prices adjust will anyone have a true idea as to whether or not certain alternatives are viable and for what purposes.
K.C. Farmer:they just take a really long time to renew.
Nope. Check out gull island and the east slope.
I was speaking on the natural process of creating these resources.
I'm sure there are methods to produce synthetic versions, but are these methods efficient?