Published on August 24th, 2011 | by Bob Higgins8
Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt
I sometimes think that many of us have a deep-seated mania that causes us to believe that for a substance to be an effective source of energy it must be something that can be burned. Not only must it be combustible, the substance must be hard to get. This manic belief requires that the energy source must be searched out and dug up or clawed from the earth at great trouble and expense.
What’s more, to be a credible source, the fuel must be retrieved from the bowels of the earth or the deepest depths of the ocean in an odyssey by intrepid explorers with fedoras and a five day growth of manly stubble, all else is considered to be alchemy.
“We know that renewable energies like solar and wind at this point in time are not capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands.” The Remarkable Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate from Clean Technica by Glenn Meyers
Not to single out a fellow writer here at Clean Technica, I’ve heard and read similar statements many times but the fact that they grossly distort the reality of the potential energy sources all around us does make them nettlesome. Actually we “know” no such thing.
I don’t know where this belief comes from or how it got started, maybe it’s primal. It could be an archetype, lodged early in the human mind, left over from the terror, fascination, even trauma, when some guy with a five-day stubble first dragged a burning branch from a lightning struck tree back to the cave for a mastodon roast.
Lightning strikes had to be hard to find even then, so the fire that made that long ago mastodon buffet so tasty and the damp and dark old cave so toasty and bright became a precious commodity, bringing about the birth of the intrepid fire finders… and the fedora.
Not too long ago a reader responded to something I wrote about renewable energy by writing that solar, wind, and all the other hippie forms of energy, like unicorn tears, just don’t have the kick, the raw power of fossil fuels, that swift punch in the belly of a good fission reaction.
I recognized the macho energy syndrome and wrote in reply that a watt is a watt, no matter the source that produces it, the kick is the same. I also pointed out that when hippies use a unicorn as a source of power they ignore the tears and move to the other end of the unicorn in their search for combustibles. I haven’t heard back from the guy, I hope he took it well.
Following the leadership of the giant multinational oil conglomerates and the governments they own is affecting our perspective, our ability to think rationally about energy. Maybe this belief in the machismo of combustibles, fossil fuels, and explosions of all kinds arose more recently, perhaps it began somewhere deep in the bowels of the PR departments of the energy industry. Yes, that’s it, portray the conquering heroes scouring the far reaches of the planet, braving every danger to produce the power to brew our cappuccino.
Reddy Kilowatt in a fedora rides to the rescue.
Every watt that we add to the grid from renewables is one less watt we need from fossil fuels and the watts are being added daily. Just as our existing energy infrastructure wasn’t built overnight, the clean renewable energy of our future will be added one wind or solar farm at a time.
It’s happening all over the world, hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy are being added to the grid yearly, from wind, solar, tidal and other sources in countries from China to Germany and Spain, and from Mexico to Brazil. The technology and resources exist, now. We can, we are “at this point in time”…capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands” with renewables.
Efficiency and economies of scale will follow as will new and improved technologies and challenges, as was true of the long process of building our old, dangerous, planet-killing energy system. As we proceed, the pace of replacement will quicken and the costs will come down. Even the US military has quietly shifted its emphasis to green energy as it has quietly recognized global warming as a serious threat to national security.
We no longer have to claw through the ancient muck at the bottom of the ocean, drill miles into the earth, remove the mountaintops, destroy our water supplies through fracking, or scrape the very hide off the earth to warm our pop tarts or cool our Jagerbombs.
We also don’t need to waste our time and resources searching for new things to burn, looking for lightning strikes ever farther from the cave while despoiling more of the planet and likely killing ourselves in the process.
We just need to start following the right leaders, and the guys with the burning sticks ain’t it anymore.