Monday, March 16, 2009

Telling the truth about wind

I have recently been criticized because I allegedly have been unfair to the windmills. This was despite the fact that that I did not count the injuries suffered by Don Quixote as a result of his joust with Spanish windmills as liabilities for wind generation. My critics have managed to misunderstand what my purpose is. My purpose is not to assess the advantages and limitations of wind as a supplemental power source for the current grid, rather it is to assess the suitability and cost of relying on wind resources for large scale electrical generation for a post-carbon grid. I look at issues such as wind intermittency as being problems that must be overcome if wind is to replace coal and other fossil fuels.

8 comments:

Jason Ribeiro said...

Charles, you make an excellent case for all your points as always, I can only hope that a few politicians read your blog and wake up about what Greenpeace is really about. My feeling is that they aren't worth such a fairly worded rebuttal such as yours as they cannot and will not respond in kind, although they should be challenged to.

I was browsing around on youtube and found this commercial greenpeace produced:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZqKwdHveIU

The ad is hyperbolic propaganda in the extreme and plays on the fears of the ignorant. They can't put the ad in a publication they expect to be taken seriously but in reality, this is where they are with nuclear energy, they've made it their Satan to keep them in business. It's too bad really because I like their idea about protecting the whales. And who could say no to the face of a baby seal? They've abused the trust they've gained from the public to leverage against nuclear energy.

Charles Barton said...

Jason, I am focusing on changing the way people think, and this is not easy to do. Right now most thinking about the future of energy is flawed by cognitive errors. University education no longer includes training in logic, so people who believe themselves to be well educated simply imitate the logic errors of others without being aware that they are making mistakes. Since my goal is to change thinking, I want to teach people what is wrong with their thinking.

donb said...

Charles Barton wrote:
University education no longer includes training in logic, so people who believe themselves to be well educated simply imitate the logic errors of others without being aware that they are making mistakes.

No doubt there are many who are not able to reason properly. But I believe the problem runs deeper. I think many people can come to the proper solution to problems via logic and reason. However, they often don't like the result, or it doesn't make them "feel good". Few people have the courage to let the truth overcome their emotions.

Phil said...

I wonder, what is Greenpeace's attitude towards nuclear medicine? Radiation can help cure cancer. Should all those people die?

Thanks for the well thougt out blog.

George Carty said...

No doubt there are many who are not able to reason properly. But I believe the problem runs deeper. I think many people can come to the proper solution to problems via logic and reason. However, they often don't like the result, or it doesn't make them "feel good". Few people have the courage to let the truth overcome their emotions.

What exactly is so emotionally appealing about renewable power sources that people are willing to disregard reality?

Charles Barton said...

George we might describe the feeling as being something like religious piety. Because the renewables true believer holds that the the simple forces of nature, the sun, the wind, the heat of the earth, and the tides provide us with all the energy we need, Thus we seem to have a form of nature worship, although not a well articulated worship.

Jason Ribeiro said...

George, your question is something that is touched upon in William Tucker's book "Terrestrial Energy". Tucker describes the "soft energy path" supporters as carrying on the American cultural thread of believing in the land, low tech, and self-reliance mixed into a dreamy pastoral vision of farms dotted with wind turbines and solar panels. This theme goes way back to Thomas Jefferson's vision of America and he wasn't alone in his views.

I think there is a lot of reinforcement from another cultural undercurrent - a mistrust of science and technology. We see this everywhere expressed in simple buzz words - all-natural, organic, homeopathic, etc. - the list goes on and on. The Green movement has grown around this and tells us we shouldn't trust genetic engineering, microwave ovens, and so on. They distrust the "technical priesthood" of nuclear energy.

I have read quite a few posts from environmentalists who see the logic of nuclear and begrudgingly accept it with many reservations. They still cling to many false beliefs but do realize that a rapid shift to non-CO2 producing energies is virtually impossible without nuclear.

While I don't agree with their philosophy, I do think the nuclear industry has a complex PR problem on its hands that it's never dealt with - how to reach out to the public and give their science a more human touch.

Kirk Sorensen said...

Jason, there is also a large degree of intellectual laziness in the "renewables religion". Because wind and solar panels are supposedly "simple" (they really aren't) and nuclear fission is "complicated" (not as much as they would think) they don't want to take the time to understand and cling to simple ideas.

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