This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
SPOTLIGHT: 1970s activists said wind and solar energy would replace fossil fuels. Five decades later, that’s still a fantasy.
BIG PICTURE: More energy equals less suffering and more flourishing. When machines that run on energy wash our clothes and plow our fields, humans are freed from back-breaking, mind-numbing labour. We have time to go the library and to school. We have time to create art, and to discover medical breakthroughs.
To be useful, energy needs to be reliable. No one wants to be in an operating room where the electricity flickers on and off. Food safety is compromised when freezers and refrigerators work only sometimes. High tech manufacturing depends on exacting factory conditions that aren’t possible without a stable power supply.
In The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein explains that the reason wind and solar aren’t useful substitutes is because “the sun doesn’t shine all the time, let alone with the same intensity…and the wind doesn’t blow all the time.” At any given moment, “solar can generate 50 percent of the electricity being used. It can also generate 0 percent.”
In countries such as Germany, billions have been spent on wind turbines and solar panels – yet fossil fuel use has risen. In the entire world, says Epstein, “there is not one real or proposed independent, freestanding solar or wind power plant.” Fossil fuels must still be present in order to fill-in the numerous, unpredictable gaps.
The process of taking raw materials and transforming them into the kind of reliable, affordable energy on which modern societies depend is actually “a major feat.” Epstein’s book makes it clear fossil fuel companies are the only ones that have managed to do this. They deserve our admiration as well as our gratitude.
TOP TAKEAWAY: Fossil fuels dominate our energy supply for one simple reason: they deliver what we need.
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