(12h) Renewable energy

It seems something frightening is going on in the USA and elsewhere (if I am allowed to be sarcastic): people start having solar panels, and even some members of the Tea Party are going to use them with the argument it is against centralised policies. Indeed, I also argue in favour of this much better system but of course other parts of the extreme right are against this because it will remove profits from energy companies and thus from the bosses and shareholders. But this is because many of those people are past retirement age and simply can't understand that one can also make profits with renewable energy while it protects the environment and others, including themselves and their family if they don't mind others.

Fig. 1: Windmills (shown) and solar panels, an almost never-ending story of the use of natural resources. I like them.
I don't understand why those large energy companies didn't invest more in research into affordable renewable energy so they would be able to sell this while now the profits are going to new and small companies while their own profits may go down unless they start to introduce (with the help of governments) extra costs for those who invested in renewables. For instance, after many countries stopped subsidies for solar panels, the EU threatened to introduce heavy taxes on cheap solar panels from China with the argument of unfair competition. In addition, it seems energy companies invested decades in developing the technology of "fracking" (= removing of trapped gas from rocks such as shales by injecting water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressure into a wellbore) to produce shall gas and this profitable. And just at the moment they have the technologies, people start to prefer renewables and thus to me it seems oil and gas companies are now using governments to promote fracking as the alternative against global warming with the prospect of earning millions while the effects on the environment are played down. In addition, although the technology may work in one place, at other places it may not, even when the underground contains the necessary shales as the experience in Poland demonstrates. Finally, people should be allowed to voice concerns and not being arrested and if indeed the technique is very innocent than this can be properly debated. Although if it may go wrong, people may be more willing to accept windmills.

Advantages of renewable energy

And still, those who know a minimum about economy know renewables could cause lots of profits. Indeed, fewer old-energy-producing industries (such as gas or nuclear power plants) need to be built, saving tens, if not hundreds of millions in local currency. In addition, investment in renewable technologies would have allowed those old companies to sell equipment to produce the new energy, earning them money while now other companies do (although the possibility of introducing extra costs or even forbidding to use renewables may result in bankruptcies of these new companies as people will not be able to buy the equipment because too expensive while it will also destroy entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship the right claims is what they support).

Other advantages: it will be less likely we go down the gutter because of punishment by nature for our stupidity, less very expensive old-energy-producing companies need to be build that provide some work but probably less than in companies that build renewable equipments for individuals or small groups of consumers (thus cheaper in building and more employment) while the risks something can go wrong are smaller (e.g. the nuclear plant at Fukushima is leaking again, maybe polluting large sea regions and thus fish stocks although then we can't fish any longer and thus fish stocks may recover and new species may arise due to mutations and thus biodiversity may increase again after the disaster (if I am allowed to be cynical) while a house with solar panels may burn down disrupting hardly anything although when the company making them burns down may result in temporarily shortages).

But ...

Still, I am quite sure the old-energy industry will continue fighting every effort by people (and governments) to invest in renewables. In fact, this financial crisis is ideal for them, forcing people and local and larger governments to abandon support for renewables with the prospects of profits (e.g. the promise that local governments receive a certain amount as compensation for allowing fracking in their region although most of the profits will go to the companies while the effects on the environment such as climate change or possible ground water pollution have to be taken for granted; in addition, alternatives to fracking are not allowed to be discussed, thus either fracking or fracking). And if that doesn't work, then they force higher prices on the use of renewable energy (e.g. no subsidies) or on gas and oil to proof fracking is needed to keep prices down so the big old industry is ensured their profits will continue to rise. If that doesn't work, you can arrest protesters so they become silent. Of course, when you compare the emission with using coal to generate energy, than it is a clean energy source and using it will delay climate change a little longer but probably it will be in addition of using coal, therefore increasing emissions. I don't say we should never use it but we should use it for other purposes than simply burning it because gone is gone.

E.g. Shell seems to be prepared to invest $1billion a year to help China recover shale gas while I never hear anything about their investment in renewables (or they are so humble they don't mention them). And thus they can claim that due to the slow pace in the development of renewables, the benefits for communities and lower prices for gas, shale gas should be exploited. In fact, it seems that so much gas from shale fields is now yielded that prices collapsed and certain companies only continue to keep a foot in the markets without making profits, thus forcing them to recover gas when not needed and exhausting those fields, when maybe we may need them in future. If something may go wrong, then those companies will have little if any reserves to compensate and thus most (all) costs will be for society.

Existing example how it can be

And it can be differently. Windmills can be built in cities: windmills can be built on top of building (without the need to be very tall as they are for local use) or even better, almost hidden in holes such as a example of a building in London (Fig. 2). Of course, solar panels are already widely used to generate electricity (even cars can use these as an unlimited resource).

Waterpipes can be on the inside and outside of the building, whereby water from underwater tanks can in summer be pumped up via the interior to cooldown the building while running outside in black pipes to warm the water that is then collected in another tank so this water can be used to help heat the building in winter (some heating system may still be needed to reach the correct temperature but using less energy to warm the water).

These systems are already used in some large buildings, bringing down energy costs and increasing profits for companies. Of course, at this moment we still need companies producing energy so trains and metros can run but then we no longer need many more gas and nuclear power stations to produce electricity and thus costs to produce energy will be less.

Fig. 2: Strata Tower in Elephant and Castle, London, UK features at the top three 9 meter diameter wind turbines (here shown during the building), beautifully inserted in the building without causing any problems standing in someone's backyard. Although I read not completely self-providing, still it shows the lead London took.
Thus, I imagine future cities where buildings have solar panels, small wind turbines (even bladeless ones) and water systems, producing energy for themselves and neighbours and thus reduced energy bills but also less air pollution. But people will not be able to make profits from electricity send back to the grid. It even seems it is bad for the system to send electricity back and if correct, than a system can be developed whereby electricity travels from the panels and turbines to the house and neighbouring houses until it is used. Only when not enough electricity is produced will electricity from the grid enter the building. I am sure a device can be developed that allows a one-way run. Water is warmed by sun to less energy is needed to heat water. Cars too will start to use renewable energy and thus can drive much further. A few energy stations are left to ensure public transport system and other essential players can continue to work (until methods are found that these transport systems can produce enough energy so even fewer or no large energy plants are needed anymore).

Indeed, having a few years a crisis results in the abolition of many Western principles, except making profits: we now want more gas with the argument it is good for the environment. Another example: we hardly donated any money to Ecuador (it proposed we gave a certain percentage of the expected profits from their oil production and than they would not drill for oil), probably because we want the oil. And now the President announced they would start drilling.

(Another example of forgetting our principles: while years ago (skilled) foreigners were considered as good for the economy, they are no longer and politicians are starting to say there are too many foreigners (of course, they still can come to our universities as long as they pay the heavy tuition fees or when they are rich while people will not know who is welcome or not)).

Already parts of the USA are burning, already people are dying worldwide because of extreme weather, starting to cost more than we can gain. Still, there will always be those who deny anything is happening, or they blame gods as always others but never themselves are responsible. And thus they will continue gaining money. The only positive of this will be that people will learn that we can't continue destroying everything and that it is better to have a wind turbine in our back garden than a storm.

Information obtained via the Guardian and BBC website and via article "Frack to the future", New Scientist (2013, August 10). Please comment if my information concerning fracking is inadequate.


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