An Opinion Piece by
Viv Forbes, BScAppGeol, FAusIMM
Scientist, mineral economist and grass farmer.
Earth has only three significant sources of energy.
First is geothermal energy from Earth’s molten core and decaying radioactive minerals in Earth’s crust. This energy moves continents, powers volcanoes and its heat migrates towards the crust, warming the lithosphere and the deep oceans. It can be harvested successfully in favourable locations, and radioactive minerals can be extracted to provide large amounts of reliable heat for power generation.
Second is energy stored in combustible hydrocarbon minerals such as coal, oil, gas, tar sands and oil shale. These all store solar and geothermal energy collected eons ago and they are the primary energy sources supporting modern industrial societies and the vast populations dependent on them.
Third are radiation and gravitational energies from the Sun and Moon which are captured by the biosphere as heat, winds, tides, rain, rivers and in biomass such as forests, crops and animals. These are the natural “Green” energies that support all processes of life and still support a peasant existence for some peoples.
Green zealots believe that we can and should run modern societies exclusively on “Green” energies, and they have embarked on a war on hydrocarbons. They need to be told that their green energy favourites are just stealing from the biosphere – they are not as green as they claim.
The most obvious example is the ethanol industry which takes food crops like corn, sugar and palm oil and uses heaps of water and a lot of hydrocarbon energy to convert them to ethanol alcohol which will burn in internal combustion engines, but has less energy density than petrol.
See: The Water and Corn costs to produce Ethanol:
This process is replacing natural grasslands and forests with artificial monocultures.
The latest stupid ethanol suggestion is to power the “wanna-be-green” US Pacific Fleet using Queensland food crops. Feeding ethanol to the engines of the US Navy would consume far more food than was used feeding hay and grain to the thousands of horses used to move our artillery and Light Horse Brigades in the Great War. Sailors in the British Navy got much of their energy from Jamaican Rum, but the American navy will not run on Queensland ethanol.
More: World turning against Biofuels:
Biomass is a fancy name for plant material and vegetable trash which, if maintained in/on the soil, will provide the fertility for the next crop. Burning it reduces the humus that maintains fertile soil. The ultimate biomass stupidity is to harvest American forests, pelletise them, dry them and ship them across the Atlantic (all using hydrocarbon fuels) to burn in a UK power station. Burning biomass produces the same emission gases as coal.
Most plants will not grow without energy from the sun. Solar arrays steal energy directly from the biosphere. Some incoming solar energy is reflected to space by the panels, some is converted to waste heat on the panels, and some is converted to electricity – much of which ends up as waste heat. Solar radiation that could have given energy to growing plants is largely returned to the atmosphere as waste heat and much is then lost to space.
Some solar farms are built over land that is already desert – the rest create their own deserts in their shadow. Because solar energy is very dilute, very large areas of land must be shaded and sterilised by the panels in order to collect significant energy.
Solar radiation also evaporates water from the oceans and provides the energy for rain, winds and storms. Much of this moisture falls as useful rain when the winds penetrate land masses. Wind turbines create artificial obstacles to the wind, reducing its velocity and thus tending to create more rain near the coast and rain shadows behind the turbine walls. And they chop up many birds and bats. Again, green energy harms the biosphere.
More: The Windfarm Delusion:
Hydro power is one of the few green energy sources that is “grid ready” and can supply economical reliable energy. So, naturally, many greens are opposed to it. However, in most places there is competition for fresh water for domestic uses, irrigation, industry and environmental flow. Hydro power is just one more competitor for this valuable green resource.
So Green energy is not so green after all. It reduces the supply of food, water and energy available to all life on earth, and it often consumes large amounts of hydrocarbon energy for its manufacture, construction, maintenance and backup.
Green advocates are enemies of the poor. They want to burn their food, waste their water and deny them access to cheap reliable energy.
Hydrocarbon fuels are the true green energy sources. They disturb less land per unit of energy produced, do not murder wildlife and their combustion produces new supplies of water and carbon dioxide for the atmosphere. More carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere enables plants to grow faster, bigger and more able to cope with heat or drought.
It was coal, and later oil, which created and still largely supports the populations, prosperity and industry of developed nations. With a backdrop of freedom under the law, they can do the same for the whole world.
Those professing concern for the poor need to realise that Green Energy steals from the biosphere and that hydrocarbons are the real friends of the poor.
Finally, those who have swallowed the carbon dioxide scare should be told that nuclear energy is the most reliable and least damaging “low carbon” option.