Leonid Bershidsky: Despite huge investments, renewable energy isn’t winning

For hydrocarbon doomsayers, there’s good news and bad news. In 2015, there were record investments in renewable energy, and record capacity was added, much of it in emerging economies. Yet despite the huge investment, the global share of fossil fuels is not shrinking very fast. Renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal still account for a tiny share of energy production, and there are factors that may inhibit their growth in the next few years.

  • The longest journey starts with a single step.

    Hydrocarbon will go the way of whale oil. Hopefully before we kill ourselves with pollution.

    • JusticeVegas

      Yeah, cheap slogans and tired cliches will provide affordable energy. Once the tax breaks go away, so will “green” energy. And good riddance to the wasteful spending and destruction of the environment caused by windmills and solar power plants.

      • Talk about wasteful spending, don’t forget the environmental superfund sites.

        We today, get to pay for the hydrocarbon pollution of generations before us.

        The true costs of hydrocarbon pollution cleanup, and health issues, is too often overlooked.

        Like I said, hopefully before we kill ourselves.

        No one said it would be free.

        • Daviddowntown

          Totalitarianism comes in many forms.

        • ntt1

          What a pompous ass ! stop breathing immediately your impact on my planet is unbearable

        • dance…dancetotheradio

          What the fuck does a superfund site have to do with hydrocarbons?
          By the way, the oil sands are one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters.
          And the oil companies are just cleaning it up.

          • Exile1981

            As I mentioned months ago if you look atthe pollution created during the fabrication of the magnets in a wind turbine then the pollution of said turbine is worse than a natural gas power plant and about equal (on a per MW of lifetime output) with an old style coal plant.

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            As Craig Ferguson used to say, ‘I know!’

          • Exile1981

            I recently (march) had to explain to a teacher this fact and even after I showed them the images of the lake of toxins in China from making the magnets she still didn’t want to believe but later admitted it made her question some of the things she believed,

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            I used to believe in environmentalism.
            Then it was hijacked by the global warming crowd.

          • Hydrocarbon use will die.

            You are fighting a losing battle.

            There is some energy solution that does not require the spreading of toxins.

            At the end of the horse and buggy era, New Yorkers complained of too much horse pollution.

          • Exile1981

            Ok Bob I’ll humor you.

            Solar reflector / boiler system
            The largest and most advanced solar plant in the world has never generated a fraction of what it should, they burn natural gas to boost the solar boiler up to a temperature to drive the steam turbine. It takes a huge amount of space and the thousands of reflectors require constant tuning and cleaning to reflect light onto a boiler at the top of the tower. They are also very destructive on birds and animals and require aircraft be diverted around them for safety reasons. Even in death valley they are not practical with current technology and even if made practical the lack of sun at night means you need other sources of power or battery technology way ahead of anything on the market.

            Solar – Photometric
            Still requires a huge amount of space and still has problems with cloudy and night = no power. The advantage is they don’t deep fry migrating birds. The huge one they are building in Ontario is expected to produce less than 50MW with a 10% production rate, that means it will generate that 50MW on 10% of the time; and it takes up the whole site of what used to be a 1,500MW coal plant. very inefficient use of space.

            Wind Turbines
            In Alberta our ones near Pincher creek have a 20% production rate and chop up birds daily. Again you need another source for when the wind is slow or too fast, or nonexistent battery technology.

            Hydro electric
            Lots of pluses and very few minuses but we don’t have enough rivers for all the needs of Canada.

            The biggest cons are what to do with the waste.

            Thorium Reactors
            I hear lots of people spreading this idea around, it isn’t going to be practical in our lives. The originator of the idea keeps glossing over the lack of suitable materials. If you need special materials that have all sorts of special properties and those materials don’t exist you need to invent them before trying to fund a reactor.

          • I love humor. Making fun of important issues only delays efforts to remedy them.

            Hydrocarbon pollution is an important issue.

            Just because the present day solutions are not working as well as needed does not give a free pass to continue to pollute the planet for the next generations.

            There is a solution.

            Twenty five years ago the smartphone was wishful thinking. Solar power with efficient storage is today wishful thinking.

            Today a smartphones are cheap used by billions.

            The solar future will arrive.

          • Exile1981

            I think your missing the point. These technologies are not viable and can not provide the power society needs.

            So we have two possible solutions: either continue to use hydrocarbons while we develop the new technology or we switch now and accept a vast reduction in lifestyle.

            It’s that simple. My issue is with people pushing option 2 but claiming it has no down sides or will not cost more or lower the quality of life.

          • The majority of superfund sites are the end result of hydrocarbon pollution.

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            You may be right.
            The only superfund site I know of is Love Canal which was not affiliated with oil companies.

          • I know this is from Wikipedia but it is accurate. “Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or the Superfund Act. CERCLA created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries”.

            Few if any chemical pollution issues are without a hydrocarbon component.

        • Exile1981

          Most of the superfund sites have nothing to do with hydrocarbons, a lot of them are lead sites or sites where agent orange was made.

          • You would be hard pressed to find a superfund site without an hydrocarbon component.

    • WalterBannon

      Petroleum fuels will be with us for at least another century, and no, it will not kill us with pollution.

      Green energy on the other hand WILL go the way of whale oil.

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        Anyone who espouses the benefits of green energy should have a college level of understanding of physics and electricity.
        If they don’t then they should shut the fuck up.

        • I am an agent orange disabled vet. I don’t shut the fuck up for anyone.

          Pull your heads out of your asses.

          Go talk to people who have been affected by hydrocarbon pollution. There are lots.

          You personally may not be affected. Lucky you.

          Would you want your child bearing daughter to work in a large diesel truck stop? If you say yes, you are beyond a fool.

  • Cat-astrophe

    It is not economical?

    • Yea, silly us.

    • Alain

      Oh, don’t kid yourself. It is extremely economical for a few who have been able to line their pockets and bank accounts with other people’s money. No different than any other organised crime.

  • ntt1

    the cultural marxists don’t care about economics its all about demonizing fossil fuels and virtue signaling by devout adherence to ideology ….despite obvious failures

    • Communism by any other name.

      • WalterBannon

        I think its the other side of the socialist coin – fascism.

        Because green energy is just crony capitalism – state managed private enterprise that enriches the chosen cronies of the state.

        If it were communism it would be the oligarchs in the govt living high while managing green business as some department of the govt.

        • ntt1

          fascism, socialism and communism are just points on the far left spectrum of ideological insanity.

          • dance…dancetotheradio


    • Alain

      They are also coupled with the radical activists who are anti-humankind, themselves excluded of course.

      • ntt1

        well yeah, they are so brilliant they must endure just to help found the new culture of shining collectivism.

  • simus1

    The scamming rent seekers are winning.
    The poor chumps stuck with paying record prices for their power, not so much.

    • She’s feathered a great many Liberal nests.

      • ntt1

        who would have credited such a withered old bird with the ability to lay so many nest eggs?

  • None of this was meant to work. It was all a scam and a way to relieve people of their money.

  • Cat-astrophe

    Fossil fuels?…..What about Titan?

    Titan, so shamefully covered with lakes of the Fossil Fuel, Methane. (CH4).

    What if I think to myself, “Fossil Fuels, my a$$”

    The way figure, if there are open lakes of Methane, that means other hydrocarbons likely exist on the planet as well.
    Stratified as a liquid under the lakes of methane
    The Melting point of pure Methane is (−)182.5 °C;
    The Boiling point is (−)161.49 °C

    Add one more Carbon and two more Hydrogen atoms you have Ethane. C2H6. Ethane is a feed stock for plastics, chemicals… .

    Melting point of pure Ethane is (−)182.8 °C;
    The Boiling point is (−)88.5 °C (stays Liquid longer) and is heavier than liquid Methane by One carbon and Two Hydrogen atoms)

    Melting point of frozen Propane is (−)190 °C
    Propane boils at (-)42 °C (stays liquid longest) This sits under the Ethane liquid of ice.
    It remains the same as you increase Carbon and hydrogen atoms.

    Hydrocarbon, If broken down to simplest elements, you have Carbon and Hydrogen Gas. Some of the most popular atoms in the known universe.

    I wonder if a lump of pure carbon exists as Titans core, with the McMurray layer just two or three layers away, ending with the lightest and most liquefiable hydrocarbon, Methane, on the surface?

    Or is there a huge fossil bed under the lake?

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      How do you get it back to the Earth’s surface?
      Or do you just use it for space stations?

      • Cat-astrophe

        Alberta was going to build a pipeline to an orbiting filling station and then fill huge LNG caravans to bring back to earth, but Quebec did not like this because they were only going to receive an additional transfer payment of 50% percent of all money made, before any expenses. So they had Justin squash the deal.

  • Norman_In_New_York

    Fossil fuels will be with us until we either safely harness and control nuclear fusion or develop an economical means to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. We might even learn how to create natural gas from non-fossil organic material.

    • ntt1

      Bio-mass is interesting but I wonder what the impact on the natural carbon cycle could be ,of removing so much raw bio-mass. If you log a forest two or three times without leaving bio-mass, over time the soil will start to deplete.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      Fusion, if harnessed, could make energy almost free.
      That would change the world.