Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The big sunny lie, why solar and wind can not replace oil.

Solar and Wind will not significantly decrease America's use of oil and to say or imply that it will is just untrue.

This image is at best a mistake and at worse pure spin.

Yes I said it and it is true, alternative energy will not signinficantly decrease America's dependence on oil. Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Nuclear and Hydro are already being used produce electricity.  However, electrical power does not replace oil for most uses. You can not practically make pastic, fertilizer, or power ships, and aircraft with electricity. 

Some cars can be replaced by electric cars, but the costs are still very high for the batteries and the range is short. Electric car adoption is not being limited by the cost of electricity, or the availability of electricity, so the availability of alternative energy has zero effect on the adoption rate. For more people to buy and use electric cars the price has to come down, charging speeds must be massively improved and range tripled.  However if you can afford a second car for commuting an electric car can make a lot of sense. They payback time will be very long but the Nissan Leaf is a good choice and the new Chevy Volt offers the best of both words so do take a look at them. The problem is that even if we had a major break through in battery tech it will take years to get a large percentage of current cars replaced with EVs.  I left out trains because trains can be electrified and really probably should be but they are not big user of oil. There are just not that many of them and by ton mile are very efficient.

But wait.  Oil is used to make electricity, so we can decrease our oil dependency by using solar for that right? Well yes some oil is used to make electricity, but do you have any idea how much of our electricity in the US comes from oil?
  1. 50%
  2. 35%
  3. 20%
  4. 10%
  5. <1%
Even 10% must add up to a lot of oil, except it isn't 10%.
Less than 1% of all electricity in the US comes from oil.


Please notice that the US already gets several times the amount of electrical power from renewables than from oil which is great. I want to see that increase and coal start to decrease. 

So oil is used to make less than one percent of all electrical power in the US. That cannot be an insignificant amount of oil. 


Well yes, it really is.  It is less than 1.4% of all the oil used in the US and that amount is dropping. Oil is right now one of the most expensive ways to make electricity.  Coal, nuclear, wind, hydro-electric, natural gas, and solar are all cheaper. Except for a few places where ease of transportation is the biggest factor like in remote villages of Alaska and the state of Hawaii oil is on the way out. Yes, Hawaii should replace it's oil fired plants with solar, wind and geothermal. They are working on it. Remote villages in Alaska are a not well suited to solar or wind.


Another interesting fact is that most of the oil burned to make electricity is residual fuel oil.




Resdiual fuel oil is what is left after all the other liquide fuels are removed. It really is the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. For more info just read this link.

So should we keep developing alternative energy even if it doesn't replace oil?

YES!

Solar, Wind, Nuclear, and Geothermal replace Coal which is a good thing.

Coal is a huge contributor to green houses gases, strip mining damages the land, and even not counting green house gases is not as clean as solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas, and even oil. I am not anti solar and wind, I am pro truth. Yes support alternative energy, but don't support it with a lie. Back in the 70s when we had the first oil crisis, the US did get almost 20% of it's electrical power from oil.  But that was then and today the amount is tiny and decreasing, so maybe people are still living in the past, I don't know, but today alternative energy replaces coal but it will not stop oil spills, decrease the price at the pump, or decrease our dependance on foreign oil. 


Now if you want to do that and an electric car is not an option, might I suggest you look at trading in that big old car or old VW beetle for an new car like the Ford Fiesta? With all the safety improvements like anti-lock brakes, airbags, and electronic stability controls you will actually be safer than you are in your big safe car and will get milage of almost 40 MPG highway.


Support alternative energy but don't support a lie.

Cutting green house gases and reducing the use of coal is reason enough to support solar and wind as well as, in my opinion, nuclear.  However connecting solar and wind development with preventing oil spills, dependance on foreign oil, and or the price of gas at the pumps is just fiction. Look up the data for yourself and you will see the facts. Don't take my word for it when you can do the research for yourself.
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