1. Why doesn’t Mike share with us the definition of “renewable”? Is it perhaps because it’s a useless and illdefined marketing word?
    Is it because nothing is renewed, as per the second law of thermodynamics ? The sun has been ever so slowly dying from the day it was born and will eventually just be nuclear ash and a small neutron star. Yes, you don’t have to do any work to make sunshine, just like you didn’t have to do any work to make uranium; you “just” dig it out of the ground, just like you “just” capture solar energy.
    Is it because ‘renewable’ might have to be defined as a stricter form of sustainability, and wind and solar fails the most common test of sustainability? Meeting the needs of today, without compromising the needs of tomorrow; well, it is neither capable of meeting the needs of today, nor doing so without compromising the needs of tomorrow(energy starvation and in particular expensive electricity in the present hurts the transition away from fossil fuels).

    1. It’s because everything that today is branded as “renewable” (except for hydroelectric) is a scam. They are simply not capable of producing anything significant other than tax breaks, and they require huge handouts from the government to even be constructed. For example, “renewable” energy in Europe has become a huge moneymaker for the Mafia (links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
      It is well known that the Mafia does not like competitors “muscling in” on their business. Why would you think that American “renewable” scammers would be any different?

  2. I think we should phase out the term “renewable energy” in favour of “ambient energy”.
    Oh, and the Sun will ultimately end up as a black dwarf, not a neutron star (it’s too small to go supernova).

    1. That’s embarassing, I should have remembered that a star has to have at least 1.44 solar masses or so(Chandrasekhar limit) in order to overcome electron-degeneracy pressure.

  3. What if we have enough uranium/thorium right now for the next 500 years, and in 500 years from now, we’ll get more from other planets? Humanity’s quest for energy is in itself very sustainable, as history has shown, while a static fixation on solar and wind power is not.

  4. The term ‘renewable energy’ apparently means ‘Any power source which is fundamentally incapable of replacing fossil fuels for any application’. Under that de facto definition, nuclear power is certainly not ‘renewable’. I rather prefer the term ‘sustainable’, which I take to mean economically and thermodynamically self-supporting, ecologically acceptable, and capable of remaining viable for the foreseeable future.
    So is nuclear power sustainable? I’m so glad you asked:

  5. Finrod: ‘Sustainable’ is definitely the right word. As in David MacKay’s book, ‘Sustainable Energy, without the hot air’.

    1. I second that assessment.
      My first response was made before I watched the petulant sandbox whiner make his “informed” declaration. So there!

        1. Aye!! And I’ll drink to that … a Fosters? It’s Australian for ‘beer’, right?

        2. My comment got cut off there. I was saying, the irony is that the title for our panel was chosen by the organizer of the event, not by us. And when I took the microphone after the rant they cut the mike so I couldn’t respond. But then, this whole shindig was in Amory’s backyard, so it’s hardly surprising.

          The reason this is such a big deal to these guys is because of RPS requirements in many states. If nuclear is excluded, they can have dibs on loads of subsidies for wind and solar, since the utilities will be forced to use them. If nuclear gets classed as a renewable, then utility companies would be able to fulfill their RPS mandates with nuclear plants, and many of them likely would (or could already, of course) rather than dump money into wind and solar projects.

  6. Geothermal power is not “renewable” because it increases the cooling of the earth’s interior. While some of this heat is replenished by radioactive decay, it still does cause more heat to be pulled from the earth and thus a greater degree of cooling. It can (and does) most definitely deplete the heat from local hotspot areas in the crust. If widely used, it would render the shallow areas of the earth too cold to use and we’d eventually have to dig deeper and deeper. If enough was taken the earth’s mantel would be cooled faster than decay could reheat it.
    Tidal power is also not renewable. If you build tide dams and tidal turbines, you increase the resistance to the movement of the oceans from tidal forces and ultimately extract energy from the tidal fluctuation. This energy is coming primarily from the orbit of the moon. To a lesser degree, it comes from the orbit of the earth around the sun. There is a lot of kinetic energy in these orbital bodies, but it’s not absolutely unlimited.
    One could argue that any effort to extract energy from the tides is not “sustainable” because of the orbital degradation it causes.

    1. One small quibble Steve.
      Tital energy is sustainable in that the earth and moon will have nearly as much kinetic energy when the sun becomes a red giant as they do today. Just like nuclear; it is powered by a resource that will last longer than the time humanity has remaining on earth. If tidal is renewable, then nuclear surely is too.

      1. That’s not my point. Yes, it has plenty of energy but if you want to be precise the amount of energy is not really “unlimited”
        Just like nuclear.
        Thus it should not be considered renewable.

    2. @drbuzzO – likewise, one can make the argument that the available wind energy will drop as more turbines get installed. After all, those turbines take energy out of the wind, so other consumers of wind have less to use each day. The forces that create the wind are not infinite and do not increase as humans take more and more of the available wind.
      Of course, some humans are rather selfish creatures that do not recognize soaring raptors as wind energy consumers and do not recognize people who are “downwind” as wind energy consumers who depend on certain velocities over many hundreds of miles to carry such useful products as rainwater, pollen and seeds.
      They also many not recognize all of the neighbors who enjoy cooling breezes as wind energy consumers, they fail to recall that mountains that have been shaped by millions of years worth of wind energy, and they certainly fail to understand that recreational sailors off of Cape Cod are existing wind energy consumers whose natural endowment of wind is being literally taken by selfish corporate consumers who are erecting massive collectors to capture “free” energy and taxpayer subsidies.
      There is only so much wind energy – nothing is renewing the rate at which it is produced to account for the new consumers. The inevitable result is a shifting of wind wealth into the pockets of the politically well endowed.

  7. I think to many people renewable is a synonym for not using fossil fuels; however, I do not think these people realize that fossil fuels are used extensively in the production of all energy sources.
    Current production techniques for wind and solar devices require extensive use of fossil fuels – just as the production of nuclear devices does.
    I’d be interested in seeing a comparison of how many barrels of oil a kilowatt of solar uses compares to how many barrels of oil the production of a kilowatt of nuclear requires.
    I think the goal ought to be minimizing how much oil we use to produce our power.

    1. A better comparison is how many kilowatt hours you could expect to ultimately generate from your given unit of FF investment. I believe you’ll find nuclear winning hands down.

    1. Glad you linked that article. It was first posted here by Marje Hecht a few months ago and, despite many here who object to the stance the site takes on AGW, there are several excellent articles on nuclear, the economy, DDT and malaria, etc.
      I look at it like a buffet: take what I like and leave what I don’t.

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