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14 Comments

  1. So glad you pointed this out Rod, and that I’m not the only one bugged by this. Whenever I read renewable stats that seem too good to be true, it’s a no-brainier that hydro is included to goose the numbers, as if

    1. Hydro isn’t pretty much built out already in this country and
    2. Hydro has zero environmental impact

    The renewables movement taking credit for hydro power is like my golden retriever taking credit for hunting and killing his morning bowl of purina.

    Don’t get me wrong, I live in the northwest and am glad most of my power comes from the Columbia River – the bonneville dam has made Oregon possible…but I would have far preferred they hadn’t shut down our nuclear plant in the mid 90’s.

    P.S. – I also find it funny that people are perfectly willing to accept 80 year old dams as these eternal power sources but are quick to point out our nuclear fleet’s age as if it is some kind of special or unique risk. Hey, dam failures never hurt anyone, right?

  2. I agree whole hartedly with the sentiment of the article.

    I would however like take one point which is technically incorrect. Energy can not be used up only transferred. Therefore we don’t consume energy rather we consume power.

    Energy is abundant but power is hard to come by. For instance the thermal energy stored in the oceans is mindboggling many many many orders of magnitude than the energy “used” by man. However due to its low temperature and small temp differential to the surrounding world we can’t produce any useful power out of it therefore it is little to no worth.

    Lack of understanding between power and energy fuels a lot of misunderstanding in the world

  3. I’ve recently rediscovered the “documentaries” section of Amazon Instant Video. I happened to watch a doc titled “Dam Nation,” which argued the case for destroying the big dams, especially in the Pacific Northwest (I should have read the description a little more carefully). Ever since Amazon’s A9 search engine has been suggesting more anti-dam documentaries, far more than I ever though would be produced.

    It seems dams are one of those technologies that are frowned upon by the greens. I got the impression the Bureau of Reclamation is disliked as much as nuclear in environmental circles.

    1. @Eric_G

      I trace hatred of hydro to similar roots as hatred of nuclear. It is one “renewable” technology that has actually succeeded in reducing hydrocarbon sales. Entities that were threatened fought back.

      Though there are instances where the created lakes are less valuable than the rather unproductive land that existed before they were formed that has not generally been the case in my native southeast US.

  4. I agree that they pretty much make it up as they go along. Even Nuclear: Ionizing radiation predates the sun by billions of years, and will still exist billions of years after the sun is a burnt out white dwarf ember. Yet, Solar is to be considered renewable / sustainable, while nuclear is to be not so considered.

    The answer has to be to stick to the physics, rather than details of technique. Given technology, they get to pick and choose any detail they want to make their case, yet the physics is clear as a bell.

    1. Notice that one category of “renewable” is energy from “waste”
      So . . . if a CANDU reactor were fueled with SNF rods, then that would be “renewable” energy, right?

  5. The classification of geothermal is a bit problematic too.

    It makes sense to lump it with hydro & nuclear as a reliable.

    1. Nah. Geothermal energy is indeed “renewable.” And since between 50 and 80 percent of Earth’s geothermal energy comes from radioactive decay – Potassium, Uranium, and Thorium in roughly equal proportion – nuclear energy is “renewable” in exactly the same sense.

  6. The dams associated with hydroelectric plants are also some of the most dangerous structures ever built.

    The 1975 Banqiao Dam disaster in China killed 26,000 people from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine. The dam breach also destroyed 5,960,000 buildings affecting 11 million residents. Some estimates place the number of deaths as high as 230,000 people.

    The three meltdowns at Fukushima– killed no one. But the Fujinama dam failure in the same province after the earthquake washed away five houses while damaging others and a bridge, killing 8 people in the village of Naganuma.

    http://www.geerassociation.org/GEER_Post%20EQ%20Reports/Tohoku_Japan_2011/QR5_Preliminary%20Observations%20of%20Fujinuma%20Dam%20Failure_%2806-06-11%29.pdf

  7. This reminds me of a presentation I gave in Ann Arbor, Michigan on nuclear and climate change. I had some IEA data that showed that non-developed countries were more renewable, as a percentage, than developed countries were. When a student asked for an explanation the only thing I could come up with is that some of the undeveloped world cooks over wood fires, and if you call wood renewable and count it in the fuel stock, then a large percentage of energy used in non-developed countries is renewable by that definition.

    1. @Kevin Krause

      Before 1840, the US obtained nearly all of its energy from “renewable” resources, mostly wood. Eastern forests were nearly decimated before trains began burning coal instead.

      1. Between wood and hydro powered mills I would have to agree with you. Is wax or whale oil for lighting considered renewable too?

  8. A few months ago I began noticing RE advocates switching from Wind & Solar only to Wind, Water, & Solar. I believe this mantra is beginning to percolate through several organizations.
    There is now enough public info on RE that many are beginning to see it’s limitations, so the increasing inclusion of water – except for some specific legislation.

    When I point out the WW&S switch to others, I also invite them to just switch to the term Clean Energy (& include nuclear), once they figure out how limiting REs actually are. It’s inevitable to me. I’d rather see them embrace clean technology in this decade rather than have it happen in the next century.

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