Why Alternative Energy can’t replace fossil fuels
I was in college when the first energy crisis of 1973 happened and joined an alternate technology group. We watched engineers build electric cars, windmills, and convert a car to run on methanol. I got to help build a solar collector by drinking beer and painting the cans black. Saving the planet was not only going to be fun, it was going to be a party!
In 2000 I began reading yahoo group energyresources and runningonempty about the future energy crisis that would begin after world oil production peaked. Ridiculous! Outrageous! I set out for U.C. Berkeley to read the latest research on wind, solar, and other alternative energy to prove them wrong, meanwhile reading some of the books on the fossil fuel reading list, and came to the conclusion that they were right. Alternative energy simply can’t replace fossil fuels for reasons explained in the books and articles listed below. Here are just a few of the reasons:
Scale. Oil is the densest form of energy on the planet next to uranium. To replace the one cubic mile of oil, which is burned world-wide every year, you’d need to build every year for 50 years: 200 Dams (10,000 total), OR 2,600 Nuclear plants (130,000 total), OR 5,200 coal plants (260,000 total), OR 1,642,000 wind turbines (82,100,000 total), OR 4,562,500,000 rooftop PV (22,812,500,000 total). Biofuels: We consume about 105 exa joules (EJ) per year in the USA. If you burned every living plant and its roots, you’d have 94 EJ of energy and we could all pretend we lived on Mars. (Patzek “The Real Biofuel Cycles,” Letter to Science, Science and “The Real Biofuel Cycles,” Online Supporting Material to Science 312, 2006). Biofuels have negative EROEI and too many other issues to list (Friedemann, “Peak Soil“).
97% of transportation runs on oil. Large vehicles like tractors and trucks can’t be electrified or run on batteries, because the battery would be too huge – even a 100% efficient battery can only store 3% of the energy that the same volume of oil would deliver.
Solar, wind, nuclear, hydrogen, biofuels, and the electric grid all depend on fossil fuels throughout their life cycle, from the mining and crushing of ore, to fabrication, delivery over bitumen and coal-power-crushed concrete highways, to maintenance and operations. No form of alternative energy produces enough energy to reproduce itself plus deliver energy to society.
In addition, all alternative energy solutions are limited by shortages of minerals
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report
Overview of Alternative & Renewable Energy Resources
- D. Fridley. Alternative Energy Challenges. 2010.
- M. Hoffert. Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet 1 Nov 2002 Science
- Greenhouse Planet. Science 1 Nov 2002
- T. Trainer. Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain a Consumer Society. 2010
- H. Hayden. The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World. 2005
- A. Friedemann. Energy Overview (fossil fuels and alternative energy). 2011.
- A. Friedemann. Peak Resources and the Preservation of Knowledge. 2006.
- A. Friedemann. High-Tech can’t last: Limited minerals & metals essential for wind, solar, microchips, cars, & other high-tech gadgets. 2013.
- A. Friedemann. Antecedents — too much oil needed to make wind, solar, batteries, and so on. 2013.
- A. Friedemann. Peak soil: Industrial agriculture destroys ecosystems and civilizations. Biofuels make it worse
- A. Friedemann. Dozens of reasons why the world doesn’t run on algal biofuels
- A. Friedemann. Fill ‘er up with kelp?
- A. Friedemann. 60 minutes promotes biomass scam 2019
- Bioenergy — Chances and Limits. German National Academy of Science (Leopoldina Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften). 26 July 2012.
- D. Pimentel. Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower. 2005
Electric Grid: falling apart
- J. Makansi. Lights Out. The Electricity Crisis. 2007
- R. Munson. From Edison to Enron: The Business of Power & What It Means for the Future of Electricity. 2005.
- A. Friedemann. Who Killed the Electric Car and more importantly, the Electric Truck?
- A. Friedemann. The periodic table limits battery development
- A. Friedemann. Batteries are made of rare, declining, and imported minerals. 2013.
- Department of Energy. Vehicle Technologies Program. Energy Storage Research & Development. Annual Progress report 2008.
- P. Prieto. Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution. The Energy Return on Investment. 2013.
- A. Friedemann. Solar Power Overview. 2011.
- Howard Hayden, The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World, 2005, Vales Lake
- A. Friedemann. CSP with thermal energy storage is seasonal, so it can not balance variable power or contribute much power for half the year
- F. M. Mulder. 2014. Implications of diurnal and seasonal variations in renewable energy generation for large scale energy storage
- A. Friedemann. 41 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels
- A. Friedemann. Wind’s dirty secret: it goes on vacation in the summer and year-round in the South East
Solar & Wind
- R. Vartabedian. Rise in renewable energy will require more use of fossil fuels. Los Angeles Times. 9 Dec 2012.
- W. Alley. Too Hot to Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste. 2013.
- A. Friedemann. Why Nuclear Power is not an alternative to fossil fuels. 2011.
- T. Cochran. It’s time to give up on breeder reactors. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 2010.
- H. Hirsch. Nuclear reactor hazards: ongoing dangers of operating nuclear technology. 2005.
- M. Dittmar. The Future of Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fiction (4 parts). 2009.
- A. Friedemann. Hydropower is temporary. Dams silt up, there are limited rivers, and they do harm. 2011.
- DOE. 2011. Dams and Energy Sectors Interdependency Study
- Hydropower has a very low energy density
- A. Friedemann. The Hydrogen Economy: Energy and Economic Black Hole. Skeptic Magazine. 2008.
- J. Romm. Hype About Hydrogen: Fact & Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate. 2004
- U. Bossel. Energy and the Hydrogen Economy.
- A. Friedemann. Fusion not likely to ever work out — be thankful for that. 2013.
- D. Clery. The Most Expensive Science Experiment Ever. Popular Science. June 27, 2013.
- A. Friedemann. Geothermal – can it make up for peak fossil fuels? 2013
Wind & Tidal
- A. Friedemann. Wave, Tide, Ocean Current, In-stream, Ocean Thermal (OTEC) power: National Academy of Sciences 2013
- Steven Vogel, Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle, 2003, W. W. Norton
- Energy Slaves: every American has somewhere between 200 and 8,000 energy slaves
- From Horsepower to Horse Power. When Trucks stop, Horses start.
- Energy from cow flatulence
- Whirlwind power
- Other: human fat, playground power, sugar, tornadoes, garbage
- A. Friedemann. Escape to Mars after we’ve trashed the Earth?