Renewables, such as Solar, Wind, and Biofuels, are offered as better solutions to fossil fuels. But are they really?
One of the key attractions with fossil fuels, is that originally it only required about a single barrels worth of energy to extract and process the fuel into a usable form, for every 100 barrels that were extracted. This 1:100 ratio is a huge return on your energy investment and is believed to be the reason that agriculture increased crop yields four fold and that the population also soared four fold during the last century. The renewables on the other hand, are at the other extreme and are closer to 1:1. At this ratio, you are simply getting back what you put in, a net zero gain. Current renewables are simply not sustainable and the ratio needs to be at least 1:5 to be sustainable.
The next problem with renewables is the degree of government subsidization that is occurring. A recent study of renewables throughout the USA puts subsidies as high as 200% in some states. This is insanity.
The third problem with renewables is the cost of the electricity that they produce. Current conventional sources, such as hydro, nuclear and even coal, are well below $.03/kwhr and continuing to drop and are nearing 1 cent. Renewables on the other hard, are charging the utilities a feed in tariff of $.38 a kwhr and it was recently as high as $.75 in Ontario. That means that our utilities are purchasing “green” energy at a rate that is 40 times more expensive than traditional sources. And this is after the cost of the equipment needed to do this has been covered by the state two-fold.
The fourth problem with renewables is that they are intermittent and are not tied to demand in any way. And this is so critically important for the electrical grid in that supply must always equal demand. It is a property of electricity. Most of the traditional sources for the grid, such as hydro, nuclear and coal fired steam can not be throttled. So typically what occurs, when demand drops below supply, is that they boil water, or offer the electricity to other regions below cost. And they have no choice, they have to dump it. There are some novel approaches to solving this problem and one of them has been to hold the base supply level below the base demand level and top up using throttable sources such as oil fired generators that can be spooled up and shut down several times a day. Another method is to construct hydro batteries, such as at Niagara Falls, that pump water up hill to a reservoir when demand is low and draw down the water and generate electricity when demand is high. These are expensive though. Newer experiments are using li-ion batteries but these are really really expensive. This is just making an expensive source of energy all the more expensive.
The thing that is really important to understand is that cheap energy is underneath just about everything in our modern world. Take that away and you take away the things it gives us. Plus it is a huge source of revenue for governments and is taxed again and again at many steps in the chain. Renewables on the other hand, are subsidized not taxed. This is not sustainable.
Furthermore, it is often forgotten that the renewables are being manufactured using these cheap fossil fuels, yet even at that, they are barely returning their investment in energy. Were they to be manufactured using expensive renewable energy sources, say at the 40x cost of solar, then you would be investing 40 barrels worth of energy to get back one barrels worth of usable energy. 40:1 This is beyond insanity and must be stopped.