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NYT: Solar/Wind Power Could Backfire

The in-house environmentalist guru for the New York Times is worried that solar and wind power will be too successful:

Could Energy Success Backfire in the End?

By Andrew C. Revkin

February 10, 2009

One aim of this blog is to explore efforts to expand the menu of cheap, non-polluting, renewable energy options. That’s a pretty clearcut need given the risks attending the unfettered use of fossil fuels and the reality that 2 billion people today cook on guttering fires using fuelwood or dung harvested mainly by girls who are not going to school as a result.

But I had a dream about energy one fitful night not long ago and it left me a little cold. I pondered what kind of world might result if Nate Lewis at Caltech or Dan Nocera at M.I.T. or Shi Zhengrong at Suntech Power Systems in China had a breakthrough that made solar panels as cheap as paint?

We could synthesize food, even meat, in solar-powered factories. We could render water from the sea or briny aquifers drinkable in endless amounts (as is being done with wind power in sere parts of Australia even now).

And we could, in essence, vastly increase the carrying capacity of the planet. Fossil fuels were a big part of the growth spurt from 1 billion to nearly 7 billion people in two short centuries. On a finite planet, where would limitless energy, combined with humanity’s infinite aspirations, take us? This leads to a question that’s been touched on here periodically. Does a shift in values and aspirations have to accompany the technological leaps that will assuredly be made in the coming decades?

There have been heaps of warnings for a very long time about unintended consequences from a rush to new technologies. (If you haven’t read Bill Joy’s 2000 essay for Wired, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” I encourage you to do so — possibly with a stiff drink nearby.)

But even Mr. Joy and others sounding this alarm have pointed out that, on the whole, technology has given humans longer, better lives — so far. And while he wrote about “knowledge-enabled mass destruction” from advances in genetics, nanotechnology and robotics, Mr. Joy continues to invest in new technologies as a partner, along with Al Gore and others, at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. (At the firm, he helped set up a $200 million “pandemic and biodefense fund” — the ultimate hedge?

I’ll ask Mr. Joy and others their views on the consequences of humans getting boundless energy. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University has often asserted that technological advances will inevitably lead to more space for nature, allowing forests to expand, fisheries to rebuild and the last refuges for wild things to persist.

But others warn that creeping deterioration of the world’s biological patrimony is happening in parallel with our creeping disinterest in the diversity of life and ecosystems. As Edward O. Wilson explained here in laying out “Wilson’s Law,” if we focus too much on the physical infrastructure that sustains us, without sustaining the planet’s variegated veneer of life, we’re in deep trouble. Arthur Koestler and others didn’t have confidence that our values could catch up with our runaway explosion of technological capacity. What’s your view?

As usual with most articles from the New York Times, it is hard to cut through the babble.

But this environmental expert is lying awake nights worried that solar panels and windmills are going to be too effective and give us an infinite cheap supply of energy.

Which of course will mean more and more of those disgusting human creatures infesting the defenseless earth.

Looks like we better stick with cooking our meals on guttering fires using fuelwood or dung harvested mainly by girls who are not going to school as a result.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

11 Responses to “NYT: Solar/Wind Power Could Backfire”

  1. Media_man says:

    I guess Revkin yearns for the day when the planet is human free. This seems to be the sentiment across the board for most liberals.

  2. Right of the People says:

    He’s right, let’s can all forms of alternative energy, we wouldn’t want to upset Mother Nature now would we? Give me that good ol’ pollutin’ oil and gas. The libs are never happy, I agree with both Media_man and Trogdor, if we got rid of all the liberals what a wonderful world it would be, and cleaner too.


  3. Trogdor says:

    I read an EO Wilson book, “the creation: an appeal to save life on earth”. It started off saying the he was going to put metaphysical ideas of evolution and creation behind, and then proceeded for the rest of the book to hammer that evolution was the only possible explanation and that Christians should just stick with cooking our meals on guttering fires using fuelwood or dung harvested mainly by girls who are not going to school as a result.

    In exchange of my reading that piece of crap, my liberal friend read Mark Steyn’s “America Alone”. He admitted to agreeing with most of what Steyn said.

    I guess I’m a closed minded troglodyte because I didn’t agree with much of anything EO Wilson said. /sarc

  4. proreason says:

    You really have be concerned for the sanity of some of these fools.

  5. catie says:

    I saw some crazy show a few months back where this clown was saying what was going to happen to the world when all the humans were no longer here. He said he was “excited” about it.

  6. bill says:

    No one ever wants to talk about where they get the power to build to solar panels and the windmills. Like with plug-in cars, you just plug them in, right?

    The liberal mind is really a very tiny place.

    • 1sttofight says:

      They also never mention that with the current crop of plug in electric cars, your power bill will roughly double.

    • proreason says:

      “your power bill will roughly double.”

      plus the cost of replacement batteries
      plus the problems recharging away from home, or if there is a weather related power failure
      plus the extra maintenance costs because parts of the power train are handled two ways.
      plus the cost of electicity will increase if there are millions of them, and the grid will be stressed, which might actually result in more co2, not less.
      plus the cost of retooling huge factories
      plus the risk of commiting $20K+ to a vehicle that might be completely obsolete in a few yrears.

      Probably the biggest issue is that any conversion from one major system to another is fraught with unforeseen costs and risks. That’s why major computer system implementations frequently fail and are abandoned.

      Liberals never think things through. It’s all emotion for them.

  7. Confucius says:

    Mr. Revkin doesn’t need to worry. It’ll be light-years before the Enterprise returns from the Delta quadrant.

    Somebody needs a crazy-pill . . . .

  8. Grassy Knoll says:

    So I guess the only solution to this mess is that all humans should just check out and leave this nice planet alone. OK, Mr. Revkin; you go first.

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