1/14/2015

Add Not Subtract


In the energy / climate discourse, it seems to me, many people tend to be "against" everything.

Could we be more "for" and less "against?"

Well, here is my list.

I am for:

  • Coal if it is the only option or if it is replacing biomass (dung or wood).
  • Natural gas. Do we have today a better energy source that is constant / reliable / scaleable / affordable to replace coal? I don't think so. Also, these natural gas plants could probably eventually be converted to nuclear power. 
  • Nuclear. What is not to like in nuclear? It is the lowest carbon energy in the reliable / dense camp. Well, yes, it is currently a little expensive and needs some PR work but still, it is very good.
  • Hydro. If you have hydro, don't think twice. Just look at the carbon intensity of the electrical grids in Albania, Paraguay and Norway. All of them are below 10 grams per kWh!
  • Oil. Nothing beats oil in transportation: cars, trucks, ships and particularly airplanes. 
  • Solar thermal. In other words, solar water heaters. They come with their own storage included and can substantially reduce or even eliminate other fuels used to enjoy hot showers.
  • Solar PV. The roofs are there anyway, so, why not cover them with solar panels? Sure, it is absurd to do this in countries like Germany that have very low solar capacity factors, but hey, most people live in places with more annual sunlight. Just a cautionary note: forget about "solar farms" that industrialize our treasured wilderness or use land needed for growing food.
Having said the above, I do have to concede that even when trying to think positively it is hard to find real merit with two energy sources:

  • Biomass (wood and dung). Hundreds of years ago they supplied almost 100% of our energy and we couldn't move away from them fast enough. Let's not return to that past.
  • Wind. I'm sorry, but I cannot, with a straight face, recommend this option. If there is a point to be made in favor of wind, let Vestas or General Electric do it. I'm sure they have enough financial incentive to try it.
Yes, eventually we will have to move away from fossil fuels but the transition won't take place overnight. No matter in how much hurry we are, it takes time to bring an elephant to term. Doing it hastily would only cause chaos and unnecessary suffering.

So again, people, let's try to build, not destroy, let's have the optimism of an engineer! Or, as the Beatles used to say, think that: we can work it out! 


Feel free to add to the conversation at Twitter: @luisbaram

Thanks.

1 comment:

Lars Boelen said...

I really like your positive attitude! You forgot one: encourage people who are trying to get rid of FF, even if it seems absurd what they do or how they do it. The positive action will gain traction.

Solar hot water should be mandatory, really as it can be done almost everywhere