Another renewable limit is GEOPOLITICAL. (I love renewables and this is painful to admit). Many smaller countries with large populations simply *cannot* power themselves. When one considers how diffuse wind and solar are, there is simply NOT ENOUGH LAND for smaller countries! Australia is fine with all our deserts and our (comparatively) low population. But the UK could not power itself without nuclear. This is simply the laws of physics of scattered, diffuse renewable energy supplied in a small area with a larger population like the UK. In today’s economic and geopolitical environment when many nations are starting to reconsider globalisation and are trying to invent more home-grown solutions to energy security, renewables simply cannot cut it for large populations in small lands. Such countries simply demand too much power for each scrap of land! Let me hand you over to David MacKay.
“David John Cameron MacKay, FRS (born April 22, 1967), is the professor of natural philosophy in the department of Physics at the University of Cambridge and chief scientific adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Before being appointed to the DECC, MacKay was most well known as author of the book Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air.“
David gives the following example in his famous TED talk.
You have a road with a 60 mile an hour (100kmph) speed limit. The cars on the road burn fuel at around 30 miles per gallon (which is the European average car efficiency, and why we are using imperial measurements). Along the side of the road is a ribbon of biofuel fields to fuel this particular road. The cars are about 80 meters apart. Now, the question is, how WIDE would the biofuel strip be to fuel this road of 60mh, 30 mpg, 80 meter apart cars, 24/7? (Length doesn’t matter really because we’re talking about average WIDTH to fuel these cars and if the length of the road extends, so does the biofuel strip along side it.)
It’s a strange example, but physicist David MacKay wants us to think about renewable energy in a new way. If the biofuels grow 1200 litres of biofuel per hectare per year, then the strip along side this one, busy road would need to be 8km wide to fuel this one road!
Please watch David Mackay’s TED talk here.
The bottom line? When today’s Gen3.5 nukes would have easily withstood Fukushima’s tidal wave, and when they supply abundant baseload reliable power at an affordable price, and when they can work so well *with* renewables (at maybe a 60% nuclear, 40% renewable grid), and when their waste provides the PERFECT FUEL for tomorrow’s Gen4 reactors which will gobble all that FUEL up, maybe we all need to have an adult conversation about energy systems, but without all the hype and emotion that is often attached to these quite complex systems?
Gardening Australia recently *so* challenged my approach to waste management I’m thinking of taking the kids on a weekend excursion out to Western Sydney to see this beast. It challenges my ideal of just taking all household rubbish and throwing it in a Plasma Burner. This episode shows how the RED bin (Household waste) can go through industrial strength sorting to recycle plastics and metals and other materials out of the waste stream. Organic material like food scraps are the last thing left on the conveyor belts and is dumped into an *enormous* indoor compost bin. It’s the size of two football fields and has industrial mixers slowly grinding through the compost. The mixers turn the compost over and gradually move it, over a few weeks, towards the exit. It was so amazing I watched the episode 3 times.See the video here.If it doesn’t start, go down near the bottom and click “Gardening Australia Special”.Transcript if you can’t get the video working, but seriously, the video is *worth watching*.
Next Big Future reports that:
Worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels, which at $523 billion are six times higher than subsidies for renewable energy. The fossil fuel subsidies do not include giving fossil fuels a free ride on air and water pollution.
Some estimate that China is losing about 7% of its GDP due to environmental damage for air and water pollution. A rough estimate is that air and water pollution from fossil fuel is costing the world about $1.4 trillion (2% of global GDP)
While the Liberal party continues to argue for abolishing the carbon tax, a new study by the CSIRO points out flaws in their policy.
STEVE CANNANE: But a new three-year CSIRO study into soil carbon raises serious doubts about those claims.
The figures released to Lateline tonight show, “In the parts of the national soil carbon program that studied soil carbon changes over time – most showed soil carbon changes that were within the range (0.3 – 2.0 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per hectare per year) or lower.”
At the top end of that range, you’d need a land mass of at least 75 million hectares to abate 150 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. If you take the 0.3 per cent figure, then you’d need 500 million hectares, or two thirds of the land mass of Australia.
Just because there’s excessive snow somewhere does not mean global temperatures are down. “It turns out to be the eighth warmest March on record. We have now had 334 consecutive months with Global Temperatures warmer than the 20th Century average”.
- The savings with China have halved as their labour costs rise
- quality control issues have costs some companies more than they were saving
- companies had to fill a whole shipping container to get the per unit cost down, and then ended up warehousing goods for far too long
- an estimated half a million jobs could return to America if companies evaluate the problems, and costs, of outsourcing to China.