Friday, May 18, 2007

Taking the Measure of Alternative Energy Growth

One of the common claims that anti-nukes like to make about nuclear energy is that it can't be expanded quickly enough to have an impact on constraining greenhouse gas emissions. One person who doesn't believe that claim is David Barnett. From the Canberra Times:

Alternative energy can only be peripheral. We do not face up to our real choice because the Greens are watermelon green on the outside and deep Trotskyite red on the inside. Their prime concern is the evil of capitalism, and they command the media.
For proof of the claim that alternative or renewable energy can only be peripheral, click here for the latest DKos diary from NNadir. I've added boldface to the appropriate figures
Let's do the numbers.

Here are the forms of primary energy that are not fossil fuel based available and tested and therefore measurable. In parentheses I am going to put a date off the top of my head indicating when that form of non-fossil fuel energy provided energy to the grid, if I know it.

Solar electricity (1955).

Biofuels/trash/waste burning (Early in 20th century - wood).

Geothermal (1913 - Italy)

Nuclear Power (1954 - UK, 1957 - US)

Wind power (1970's - Altamont)

Did I leave anything out?

Here are the statistics, measured in units of energy for everything listed above except nuclear energy from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) for the period between 1993 and 2007.

Renewable Energy Production in the United States, 1993-2007 (Feb)

Now I am going to take the rate of increase in units of energy, delivered as electrical power per year in the period between 1993 and 2005 (12 years). The units of this calculation will be thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Wood (biomass): 96 thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Waste: - 259 thousand megawatt-hours/per year. Negative number.

Geothermal: - 190 thousand megawatt-hours/per year. Negative number.

Solar: (Usually everybody's favorite): +8

Wind (Another favorite): 1345 thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Overall, renewable energy in the United States has increased at a rate of 1000 thousand megawatt-hours/per year.

Now let's do nuclear, recognizing at the same time that no new nuclear power plants have been ordered since 1978.

Here is the data for the eleven year period between 1993-2004 (2005 does not show up on this chart):
Nuclear Energy for the whole world, but I'm just using US figures.

Be careful with the units and note that this chart is in BILLIONS of KILOwatt-hours.. Thus you will need to correct with a factor of 1000 to be equivalent to the renewable figures above.

Converting billions of kilowatt hours to thousands of megawatt-hours we see that the nuclear figure is 16,203 thousand megawatt-hours per year for nuclear even without building a new plant. Where did all this energy come from if no new plants were built? Improved operations mostly.
Interesting, don't you think? Thanks to Advanced Nanotechnology and Nuclear Australia for the pointers.


Don Kosloff said...

The change in the waste-to-energy contribution is particularly instructive because it highlights the abject dishonesty of the so-called greens and their proclivity for back stabbing. Back in the early 1970s the waste-to-energy concept was a favorite of the so-called greens. As a result, many companies and municipalities invested money and valuable effort into developing waste-to-energy plants. Not long after such plants were running, the so-called greens turned on a dime and brutally attacked any entity who had invested in the technology. As a result of those attacks, many such plants were shut down at substantial loss to our nation. That grotesque behavior by the so-called greens was part of what converted me from a so-called green to a real green. Since I was naive at the time, the disgusting dishonesty of the so-called greens was breath taking to me. I now know that such behavior is to be expected as the norm from the mainstream so-called green denizens. So my breath is no longer taken away by their dishonesty. I have to admit though that I am still sometimes mildly surprised by the antics of NIRS.

Anonymous said...

"We do not face up to our real choice because the Greens are watermelon green on the outside and deep Trotskyite red on the inside. Their prime concern is the evil of capitalism, and they command the media."

Anti-nukes are commies? Are you kidding me?

Any chance we can stick to the policy issues rather than red-baiting? What is this, 1952?

Eric McErlain said...

I understand your frustration, but I wanted to quote the writer accurately, as I believed editing his quote too closely would have led to charges that we were muzzling him.

KenG said...

Trotskyite is an emotionally charged term but I think it is fairly well established that one of the anti-nuclear themes is opposition to large centralized power stations, private utility companies, capitalism, etc.

nada said...

Hey! I'm pro nuclear AND a Trotskyist! What gives with all the red-baiting?

David Walters

Randal Leavitt said...

The watermelon image works for me. It describes my experiences with Greenpeace and the Green Party in Canada. To me the word "Trotskyite" implies being manipulative, and organizing to give political power to a small elite. Truth is not used or useful. I think these people are dangerous, and serious, and must be stopped.

Randal Leavitt said...

There is an excellent DVD available at

It explains what is needed to provide the energy needed to eliminate poverty. Only fast reactors meet the requirements.

Ed said...

I debated included it - this one particular paragraph - in my original post as well (Nuclear Australia - and you're welcome by the way). It wasn't quite an afterthought to go back and post in the first paragraph. I wanted to include it to better represent the author's perspective.

The rest of his article includes a fairly rich argument [nothing new to readers of this blog though, but something nice to see coming out of Oz]. However it should be considered in context.