Clean Energy is Pure Fantasy
(Originally printed in
Personal Liberty Digest)
Barack Obama must be thrilled with fellow Nobel Prize winner and former Vice
President Al Gore and his just-published book, Our Choice, A Plan to
Solve the Climate Crisis. In it, Gore sings the liberal refrain that
big government can save the world.
Gore, who is making the rounds touting his book this month, argues there are
economic as well as political reasons to be green.
"There is a common thread running through the discussion of climate,
(national) security, and the economic crisis, and that is our ridiculous
dependence on foreign oil and coal," Gore said.
other words, clean energy will bring us peace, prosperity and respite from
that “End of Days” scenario known as global warming.
Gore thinks we can have peace because America will no longer be dependent on
Middle East oil. As a result we can pull out of the region lock, stock and
That will save hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on Arab oil. Best
yet, that money can be invested into clean technologies—a super-grid to
capture and transport wind and solar power.
Gore’s vision is for America to become a world leader in clean technology
and export it around the world, correcting one last annoyance—our staggering
Gore’s utopia is green. Soon we can sleep easy in our lavish solar homes
with our electric cars plugged in.
it sounds too good to be true there is a reason for that—it is.
Jousting at Windmills
If you have ever been to Palm Springs, Calif., and driven west you can’t
help but notice the forest of wind turbines that pockmark the desert
we drove along Interstate-10 years ago my wife Angela said, “How come the
windmills aren’t turning?”
wind,” I said.
That sums up the problem with wind power, a system that currently produces
about 1 percent of America’s energy needs.
When the wind blows you get electricity but when it doesn’t blow you get
nothing. That is because it is impossible with current technology to store
alternating current. Direct current wind power can’t be stored in batteries.
As a result consumers need redundant power plants.
Then there is a question of cost and space.
Last year in England, former Industry Secretary and current Labour MP John
Hutton announced the British government should build a huge array of giant
windmills to meet the country’s future energy needs.
The Energy Tribune
said Hutton’s plan would literally change the face of Britain. That’s
because Hutton wants the government to build 7,000 turbines—or one every
half-mile around the entire coast of Britain.
It’s interesting that as much as the greens hate to spoil the environment
they embrace wind power. Turbines not only kill tens of thousands of birds
but also use up more space per unit of capacity than any other power source.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy each wind turbine requires 40
Physicist Howard Hayden at the University of Connecticut sums up the
situation: “Imagine a one-mile swath of wind turbines extending from San
Francisco to Los Angeles. That land area would be required to produce as
much power around the clock as one large coal, natural gas, or nuclear power
station that normally occupies about one square kilometer.”
wind turbines don‘t come cheap. One commercial 2 megawatt turbine costs
about $3 million installed.
According to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), “At a time when America needs
large amounts of low-cost reliable power, wind produces puny amounts of
high-cost unreliable power. We need lower prices; wind power raises prices.”
The Sun of All Things
My experience with solar power dates back to that time we drove past the
motionless windmills. It was the early 1980s and we were buying our first
house. The 1970s energy crisis was still lingering and since real estate was
cheap in Spokane, Wash., we decided to spend some extra money and buy a
brand new solar home.
was a nice enough berm house if you didn’t mind dirt piled up against the
sides and the back of it. As for the solar panels, they collected energy to
beat the band in the summer, which was too bad since we didn’t have an air
conditioner. As for its use in the winter, we were in the rainy Pacific
Northwest so our solar panels were practically useless.
Nearly 30 years later solar power meets about 1 percent of America’s
electricity needs. And solar is still an incredibly costly proposition. It
costs up to $80,000 to put in solar technology that would meet the
electrical demands of a modest home.
Green Econometrics did the math. In a 2007 article they calculated that
solar energy is 10 to 20 times more expensive than fossil fuels for power
generation (see graph below). You can read the story at:
Beam Me Up Scotty
To better understand how ridiculous the prospect of solar energy is,
consider a press release sent out by Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation
(PG&E) (NYSE: PCG) this past spring.
PG&E announced that it had requested approval from the California Public
Utilities Commission to enter into a power purchase agreement with Solaren
Corp. in Southern California.
Under the plan Solaren would deploy a solar array into space—yes space—to
beam an average of 850 gigawatt hours (GWh) for the first year of the term,
and 1,700 GWh per year over the remaining term to PG&E customers.
According to Solaren it has even had talks with Lockheed-Martin and Boeing
to build the solar plant and the rockets needed to send it into orbit.
of which prompted Energy & Capital to write: “The press has gushed
about the ‘next frontier’ of solar power, which would collect power ‘24
hours a day’ from the far brighter solar radiation available above earth’s
atmosphere from a low-orbit. The energy would be transmitted to a receiver
based in Fresno, Calif.”
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the Pentagon had done its own study on
space-based solar power. Their report said that a $10 billion program could
create a measly 10-megawatt pilot satellite.
The scale of the PG&E project is out of this world. Their satellite would
have to be hundreds of times bigger than the International Space Station,
which can barely sustain itself with solar energy.
Just one final detail: nobody—not even a Nobel Prize winner—has yet figured
out a technology that will actually transfer the sun’s rays.
fundamental truth is that we will, for decades longer, continue to rely on
Next week, in Part Two of this three-part series, I will touch on more
earthly problems, including America’s all too real oil crisis and one rock
solid industry that will help ease America’s energy pains and earn you
Yours for real wealth and good health,
Myers’ Energy and Gold Report