A guest post by Wayne Hooper
There has recently been a sudden increase, even on Green sites, of articles pointing out that the Great Green Dream is a fantasy. The wildly optimistic Resilience website republished this article:
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2023-04-10/the-rising-chorus-of-renewable-energy-skeptics/ . Even this leftish Green website: https://www.truthdig.com/dig/green-tinted-glasses/
Here are some excerpts from the latter:
Then there is the legendary energy and systems theorist Vaclav Smil. An emeritus at the University of Manitoba and author of more than 40 books on energy, environment and industry, Smil has declared the “rapid-speed transformation narratives” in the renewables field to be so full of “magic prescriptions” that they are “the academic equivalents of science fiction. … Heavy doses of wishful thinking are commingled with a few solid facts” … “We are dealing with people who, despite receiving relevant education, refuse to acknowledge basic physical [and] mathematical facts,” he explained. “That a global decarbonization is impossible by 2030 or 2040 is beyond any reasonable dispute.”
“Curious as to whether renewables could “power the future,” professors in design and mechanical and aerospace engineering at Monash University in Australia concluded in a 2016 study that estimates for the technical potential of renewable energy were all over the map. Academics, Patrick Moriarty and Damon Honnery, argued that “values at the lower end of the range [of technical potential] must be seriously considered… future [renewable energy] output could be far below present energy use.”
Moriarty and Honnery revisited the subject of renewable energy potential in a 2020 report published in the journal Energies, reiterating that “a future world entirely fueled” by renewables could end up being “a lower-energy one.” Moriarty then teamed up with seven co-authors — climate scientists, sustainability experts and engineers — to look at “energy descent as a post-carbon transition scenario.” The team concluded that “… deep uncertainties remain about whether renewables can maintain, let alone grow, the range and scale of energy services presently provided by fossil fuels.” As Moriarty and Honnery put it in their 2016 paper, the “prudent course” in a renewables-only future “would involve major energy reductions…we will likely [need] to re-evaluate all energy-consuming tasks, discarding those that are less important.”
Politicians cannot win elections if they tell the truth about energy decline:
“To win at the polls, says influential Democratic Party consultant Ruy Texeira, one must always remember that “degrowth is probably the worst idea…since communism.” Successful politicians must offer an optimistic program that “technology can produce an abundant future,” that “the transition to a green economy is really only possible in a high-growth context,” with “expensive technological innovation and infrastructure development” — that is, making capitalist business-as-usual the only solution. ”
“University of Lausanne ecological economist Julia Steinberger thinks of green growth as a zombie notion. It has been killed several times over, “canceled by research,” Steinberger has tweeted. “I’m not sure our public discourse in media & teaching has quite caught up to the fact that green growth is a fiction …deceased, gone.” Why the persistence of an idea that has so little substance behind it? For obvious reasons, as Steinberger explained: “growth aligns with currently powerful forces and structures in our economies: profit-oriented corporations, wealth accumulation and the power that comes with wealth.”
The British economist, Dr Tim Morgan:
I applaud those who advocate de-growth as a positive choice, but I see little or no chance of society voluntarily abandoning its fixation with growth. Growth in most Western countries went into reverse in the early 2000s, but the subsequent years have been characterised by (a) denial that this is happening at all, and (b) a desperate and futile search for a ‘fix’ for economic contraction.
I suspect that much of the recent awareness of the geological limits to economic growth in general, and The Green Dream in particular, stems from two gigantic reports* by the Australian physicist and mining engineer, Dr Simon Michaux, for the Finnish Geological Survey and, since then, the many interviews he has given and the Youtubes which feature him— for example, this presentation he gave to the University of Queensland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBVmnKuBocc
Here are links to Michaux’s reports:
Oil from a Critical Raw Material Perspective: https://tupa.gtk.fi/raportti/arkisto/70_2019.pdf
Assessment of the Extra Capacity Required of Alternative Energy Electrical Power Systems to Completely
Replace Fossil Fuels: https://tupa.gtk.fi/raportti/arkisto/42_2021.pdf
Both these reports are in English and each has a very good table of contents, so it is fairly easy to find what you want.
For those in a hurry this short statement by seven prominent British geologists and mineralogists gives an excellent overview of the magnitude of the problem: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/press-office/press-releases/leading-scientists-set-out-resource-challenge-of-meeting-net-zer.html?fbclid=IwAR3J94YKNBHWfI6_tt-4mWDLDIzzQ-iF5uAxv1l0fV6tJV1qVKXW0corjj8 .
Stop Press Simon Michaux gave a Zoom conference hosted by the University of Tasmania last week: Rethinking Sustainability.