Fuel: Fail

image from 350.org

I was meaning to get back to Food Friday this week, but honestly,  I really need a full week away from writing about anything to do with food! My poor, scrambled brain is tired of even seeing the word.

Instead, I’m linking to a petition that JP over at The Green Word shared the other day, which is being run by 350.org.  Fossil fuels are still being so heavily funded by governments, while renewables keep on lagging behind.  Our governments tell us over and over that green energy is not yet at the stage where it is  efficient enough, reliable enough and plentiful enough resource.  But they are doing so very little to change this.

They are right that renewables still aren’t at the stage where they could power the whole grid.  Current technology is so, so far behind that stage.  I read a paper a few months back, which I am going to copy word for word here:

Saul Griffith…has provided a powerful illustration of the limits of renewable power.  Griffith estimates that if we are to tackle global climate change, we will need ti be annually generating 110,000 TWH of clean energy in twenty-five years time (this equates to adding 13 terrawatts of clean energy power generation).  Griffith has done the maths to work out what 13 terrawatts of clean power looks like using current technology (…):

  • 2 terrawatts of solar photovoltaic power, which Griffith estimates would require installing 100 square metres of solar cells every second for the next 25 years or 30,000 square miles of photovoltaic cells
  • 2 terrawatts of solar thermal, requiring 50 square metres of reflective mirrors installed every second for the next 25 years or 15,000 square miles of mirrors and;
  • 2 terrawatts pf wind power, requiring twelve wind turbines installed every hour for the next 25 years, or 10,000 square miles of wind turbines and;
  • 2 terrawatts of biofuels, meaning four Olympic-sized swimming pools of genetically engineered algae installed every second for the next 25 years or well over 500,000 square miles of pools and;
  • 2 terrawatts of geothermal power, meaning 3 steam turbines every day for 25 years and;
  • 3 additional terrawatts of nuclear power, requiring 3 1000-megawatt nuclear plants built every week for 25 years.

Each of these tasks seems impossible, but let’s be clear that Griffiths isn’t saying the world needs to do one of them.  He is saying we need to  do all of them: solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal and nuclear.’

(Andrew Charlton 2011, Man-Made World, Quarterly Essay 44)

So, on that basis, why isn’t the government funding the research to improve the technology to make green energy possible?  Why is everyone so stuck in the pockets of Big Fossil Fuels?

Moving to green energy is not going to be easy, at all.  Not even a little.  And it’s a long way from where it needs to be, but that is not going to change without a lot of money, a lot of research and a lot of ingenuity.  We are just not getting any of that from our leaders.   I know that the Australian government is sinking some money into research, with the CSIRO doing a lot of work on algal biolfuels in particular.  But in a country with this much sunshine and this much coastline we could do more.  We should be leading the way, not lagging behind and hiding behind our piles of coal.  One day the coal will run out – and then where will we be?

Please, sign the petition here!

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2 thoughts on “Fuel: Fail

  1. On more than one occasion, I have heard (and read) that what is needed is an industrial effort similar to what occurred during World War 2. An intense focus on the manufacture and distribution of wind turbines and solar panels similar to how we produced bombs, guns and planes during the war.

    The good news is, we don’t actually have to go to war with another country. And we have a lot of people who need jobs right now as most countries are recovering from the recession (and some countries have fallen back into it). The bad news is, loosing this “war” against our changing climate would be much more costly, in every way imaginable. And some countries have yet to even acknowledge the severity of the problem – as demonstrated by the continued subsidizing of the fossil fuel industry.

    On the plus side, did you hear that Germany produced half of its electricity from solar two weeks ago? True, it was on a weekend and around noon. But still, that is impressive.

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