Posts Tagged ‘renewable energy’

What’s wrong with renewable energy?

burning wind turbine

Ten things environmentalists need to know about renewable energy:

1.    Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, manufactured. Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labour, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits. Renewables can never replace fossil fuel infrastructure, as they are entirely dependent on it for their existence.

2.    The majority of electricity that is generated by renewables is used in manufacturing, mining, and other industries that are destroying the planet. Even if the generation of electricity were harmless, the consumption certainly isn’t. Every electrical device, in the process of production, leaves behind the same trail of devastation. Living communities—forests, rivers, oceans—become dead commodities.

3.    The aim of converting from conventional power generation to renewables is to maintain the very system that is killing the living world, killing us all, at a rate of 200 species per day. Taking carbon emissions out of the equation doesn’t make it sustainable. This system needs to not be sustained, but stopped.

4.    Humans, and all living beings, get our energy from plants and animals. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive, and food and habitat for everyone are being sacrificed to feed it. Farmland and forests are being taken over, not just by the infrastructure itself, but by the mines, processing and waste dumping that it entails. Ensuring energy security for industry requires undermining energy security for living beings (that’s us).

5.    Wind turbines and solar panels generate little, if any, net energy (energy returned on energy invested). The amount of energy used in the mining, manufacturing, research and development, transport, installation, maintenance and disposal of these technologies is almost as much—or in some cases more than—they ever produce. Renewables have been described as a laundering scheme: dirty energy goes in, clean energy comes out. (Although this is really beside the point, as no matter how much energy they generate, it doesn’t justify the destruction of the living world.)

6.    Renewable energy subsidies take taxpayer money and give it directly to corporations. Investing in renewables is highly profitable. General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi all profit from renewables, and invest these profits in their other business activities. When environmentalists accept the word of corporations on what is good for the environment, something has gone seriously wrong.

7.    More renewables doesn’t mean less conventional power, or less carbon emissions. It just means more power is being generated overall. Very few coal and gas plants have been taken off line as a result of renewables.

8.    Only 20% of energy used globally is in the form of electricity. The rest is oil and gas. Even if all the world’s electricity could be produced without carbon emissions (which it can’t), it would only reduce total emissions by 20%. And even that would have little impact, as the amount of energy being used globally is increasing exponentially.

9.    Solar panels and wind turbines last around 20-30 years, then need to be disposed of and replaced. The production process, of extracting, polluting, and exploiting, is not something that happens once, but is continuous and expanding.

10.    The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, at a much lower cost. This shows that the whole renewables industry is nothing but an exercise in profiteering with no benefits for anyone other than the investors.

Edit 27 June: Further Reading

Zehner, Ozzie, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

Friends with the Earth

Heard recently: “I really admire and appreciate everything you all do, as Friends of the Earth.  The Earth needs more friends.  I have a bokashi bucket at home, that I put my food scraps in.  That’s how I do my bit for the Earth.”

This sounds like a messed-up idea of friendship.  Imagine describing a friendship with a person like that.  “I’m a great friend of Joe’s.  I put things in a bucket, that’s how I help him out.”

How’s this for a more realistic representation of friendship:  “I’m a friend of Gaia.  We spend a lot of time together.  We sing, and dance, and we play together.  I take long walks with her, and she tells me many stories, of the places and beings that we encounter along the way.  I can sit for hours, in silence, just being present with her.  She is so wise, and has experienced so much.  I’ve learned everything I know from her.  Yet there are parts of her I don’t understand, and maybe never will.  Sometimes she scares me.  She means the world to me.  I would do anything to protect her.  I would give my life.”  Gaia might be the name of a person, an animal, a river, or the Earth.

We could all do with more friendships like these.  We can all be friends with forests, insects, mountains, oceans and spirits.  Friends with the Earth.

Friends of the Earth doesn’t share my understanding of friendship.  They advocate injuring, cutting and poisoning their so-called friend, creating toxic fumes that make it hard for her to breathe.  They call her a resource, and promote ripping her apart, to build machines.  Machines to make electricity.  Machines that are built by mining, extracting oil, manufacturing, transporting, polluting.  Poisoning towns, rivers, farmland and air.  Machines that destroy the lives of humans, nonhumans, rivers and Earth.  Forever.  They call these machines Renewable Energy.

The Earth doesn’t need renewable energy, or plastic buckets.  She needs true friends.  Friends who will protect her.  Friends who listen, and sing, and dance, and play with her.  Friends who will give their life.

photo credit