Is this the future?

Idyllic scene, you might think?

Well, of course some people don’t like them and some people do, for various reasons, which I won’t go into here.

The reason for this post is to show that massive structures like this can never be part of our long-term energy future.

Here’s the base of one of those towers being put into place :

All that rebar and all that cement…..made with the energy from fossil fuels.

Next comes the tower, fabricated elsewhere, using, you guessed it, energy from fossil fuels. Oh, and that big semi-trailer thingy runs on diesel :

Whacking big crane to lift the tower into place. Fossil fuels made that, too :

Up goes the tower. What’s driving that crane? Oh, of course, fossil fuels :

There are more images where these came from, and a comprehensive analysis of how much energy it takes to put one wind turbine into place, but I hope you’ve got the idea by now. Everything about wind turbines, their manufacture, installation and maintenance thereafter, depends on fossil fuels. Which are an unsustainable energy resource. Which are running out. Which will not be part of the future. Which is why building wind turbines is a complete waste of resources and energy, never mind whether you like the look of them or not.

To be useful to mankind, an energy source has to be renewable AND sustainable. Read it again, it’s that important. Oh, but wind is renewable, the wind will always blow. It’s what they tell us, so they must be right. Same as solar…the sun will always shine so solar is renewable, too.

But renewable does not always mean sustainable. To be truly sustainable, an energy source must be able to reproduce itself so it can keep producing more energy. A horse using energy to pull a cart can make more horses, BUT the horse has to be fed and its food must be able to reproduce itself. Horses eat plants. A plant makes more plants via seeds. Plants are renewable and sustainable as well. People make more people, but like the horse we have to be fed from a sustainable food source, too (enter plants again). ‘Sustainable’ is the operative word and so many people have no idea what it really means (I’ll be writing a future post about that, too).

The energy from a wind turbine can’t make more wind turbines. I’d be willing to bet every cent I have that you will not see wind turbines producing ‘baby’ wind turbines that will fully erect and maintain themselves, forever. That’s what sustainable means….if not forever, then for a very, very long time.

Production of wind turbines as a means of capturing wind energy will cease to exist when fossil fuels cease to exist. You can’t mine mineral resources for making wind turbines using machinery powered by wind turbines. You can’t make wind turbines in a factory powered by wind turbines. You can’t propel a vehicle powered by a wind turbine sitting on the back. And I haven’t seen anything to suggest that a factory powered by solar panels can make wind turbines either. Or more solar panels, for that matter. Neither wind turbines nor solar panels are sustainable energy sources and to be technically correct, they aren’t energy sources either. They’re energy carriers. The original source of wind and solar energy is the sun. Solar panels and wind turbines just collect it and turn it into electricity. Electricity is an energy carrier too, not an energy source.

The writer of the blog linked to above wrote a reply to a comment in his comment box. He said :

……….my main contention is that these devices are part of the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure. I don’t see them reproducing themselves, nor their auxiliary parts, nor manufacturing the objects that we want to use the electricity for. The crane, the huge mining dump truck at the end of the essay, the whole process is interconnected. With the world “scalping the bottom of the barrel”, what do we do at the 25 year mark? My opinion is we will have used precious, limited resources on a dead end mainly to continue the unsustainable.

My main reason for doing this research is trying to bring reason to the supporters of these devices. They have an almost religious fervor making them (willfully?) blind to the total system needs and are living with and creating false hopes. These false hope will add to the trauma of facing the need to live at much, much lower energy level. It will also have us making decisions that will be detrimental to the next generations.

While I haven’t written anything about solar energy here, even though it applies equally, my main reason for writing this is because I’m tired of seeing newspaper articles and Facebook posts, and all and sundry praising and promoting so-called ‘renewable’ energy sources which are clearly unsustainable, thereby giving false hopes to people about an energy future which is clearly not going to be ‘business as usual’.

A false hope is no better than an outright lie. With the truth, you know exactly where you are and can move forwards from there. With a lie you can only go so far before you fall into a hole.

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21 Responses to “Is this the future?”

  1. notsomethingelse Says:

    Reblogged this on Not Something Else and commented:
    I don’t need to say much here other than that the following reblog is absolutely the case, well put, on the renewable energy lie. The so-called ‘renewables’ are N-O-T not the future of energy. There is no future of energy – of the kind, and level, that we have become reliant on for our daily existence.

    Renewable energy is, at best, a temporary partial stop-gap between a fossil-fuel driven society and a post-fossil-fuel society, which gives us a 25 year (max) step-down period to adjust to that idea.

    At worst, renewable energy is a total folly, which may ensure that we have no future for our daily existence.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. narf7 Says:

    I agree with what you are saying Bev but what is the alternative? We need to show people the error of their ways and then give them some kind of hope in the form of honest to goodness achievable alternative energy. I know of a few different kinds but most of them rely on water flow. “The Masses” might be easy to lead by the nose etc. but in order to harness their incredible buying power we need to show them alternatives that actually ARE sustainable into the future and that can be achieved. You get more flies with honey than you will a stick and if we truly want to show people the way forward, we need to show them viable alternatives that they can aim for.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Fran, there are no alternatives to an energy source that is as good as fossil fuels have been. Their energy density can’t be bettered by anything else we currently know about, renewable or not. The alternative is to go back to living the way we did without them. In the long run there will be no heavy industry, no cars, no computers and very little of the technologies we now have. I’m sure many people don’t understand this and hope for a business as usual scenario. The transition will take many years, although problems with oil availability could happen any day, with the Middle East the way it is. The alternatives are food grown close to home and community, just like it used to be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf7 Says:

        I was thinking about things like water generated power (water wheels) etc. as they were how power was generated in the past. I guess we all need to relearn how energy was used in the past including candles for lighting and other ways to heat our homes and water supplies. Wood fires are a good alternative and can be constructed to heat both homes and water at the same time. What I was trying to say was that we really need to let people know that moving forwards is, inevitably, going to involve many steps “backwards” and technology isn’t going to be able to set the pace any more. People who know how to live simply and sustainably using old fashioned techniques are going to be ahead in the satisfaction game. Growing your own food, learning how to produce food, clothing etc. yourself or at least sourcing it from local suppliers/growers is the way forward. We need to go back to “butchers, bakers and candlestick makers” rather than try to bolster our current production facilities and current consumer trending outcomes. People are starting to sit up and take notice and are trying to find ways to do something about the approaching crisis and aside from informing them about the problems, I feel its vitally important to show them the way forward sustainably and with hope. We might all be stuffed in the long run but at least we can learn to do the least amount of harm and teach others to do the same. I love your site for how valuable your sustainability lessons are. I love that I can learn how to change my own, and others, situation using ideas that I have gotten from you. I think the true value of communication is in the ability to inform, to educate and to offer solutions to the reader.

        Liked by 1 person

        • foodnstuff Says:

          Oh, definitely agree. I think we need to let people know that life without fossil fuels can be more enjoyable and satisfying than they would ever think. Good wholesome food, supportive community, sharing and recycling and what’s more we have much more knowledge about food and how our bodies work and so on, than we did before fossil fuels. Your own blog is so good at showing the things you do by way of recycling and re-using; I think you do much more in that respect than I do. I don’t have access to all the bits and pieces you discover, like those fridges. That was a great idea!

          Liked by 1 person

          • narf7 Says:

            I pinched that idea. I am a magpie that hunts around for tasty worms and assembles them in my nest ;). You are a prime source of tasty worms. I also love to share what I am learning. I get really excited about it and want to show other people how you can do something for nothing, or next to nothing. I think the rise of the “Hipster” has brought about a new way of thinking about resources, sustainability and all things consumeristic. The only problem is that the hipsters are all internet entrepreneurs and are all about making their dosh through writing cookbooks, flogging online SEO courses and selling anything homemade/homespun for an enormous price. There has to be some medium someplace and it’s people like us that have the capacity to show “the masses” how it might not be easy but it is possible. I have just learned to keep my dad’s old metal thermos (from last century πŸ˜‰ ) that is still going strong next to the electric kettle (Brunhilda is out now. NO idea why as it’s colder this week than it has been all winter but there is a principle to this thing!) so that any left over boiling water that isn’t used for tea/coffee is poured into the thermos where it stays hot and can be poured back into the thermos for quicker boiling next time or used for small lots of washing up so we don’t have to use the hot tap. It’s all about relearning natural cycles, how valuable natural resources are and how to use them all over again. It really doesn’t take long to relearn habits and you can save an enormous amount of resources by being more careful with how you do things and what you spend your dosh on. Now if only we can find a way to make peeing in a bucket and recycling it on your fruit trees and pouring your excess kettle water into a thermos “trending” we will be in! πŸ˜‰

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  3. Chris Says:

    Actually, there is a renewable type of energy, Bill Mollison gave a speech on it. This was a viable technology, which was actually driving cars and trams in Melbourne. Until a car manufacturing company, bought the patent and put it under lock and key, for decades.

    The technology is called a “Trompe” and it utilises the flow of water. Bill will explain it better than me on this Youtube video. The harmless gas generated through the Trompe, can be stored in regular gas cylinders. That’s how it was used to drive cars and trams – via these cylinders. Bill goes on to explain some of the Trompes which are still running today, in some mining operations.

    So the technology is in existence, but I suspect the patent is probably why no clever entrepreneur has attempted to reinvent this amazing technology, and sell it to the masses.

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      I remember now, I have seen that video. I assume that regardless of the patent, anyone could use this for home use (don’t know anything about patent law). There’s another, similar technology for pumping water uphill called a ram pump. If I remember there are no moving parts, just the water flow involved. I was going to have a go at making one once, to pump water from my main tank to my 2 smaller ones which are on a higher level and not connected to the house roof. Never got round to it as usual 😦

      All these little bits of alternative technology will come in useful in the future, providing the knowledge of them isn’t lost.

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      • Chris Says:

        I so agree with you, its the smaller alternative technologies which will be useful/essential in the future. Windmills will probably come back into vogue too. The original water pump. It would be great if you could get water up to your upper tanks, and use gravity feed to drain them. πŸ™‚

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  4. Chris Says:

    PS: I agree most alternative energies, have a down side to them as well. And would certainly not function without fossil fuels.

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  5. Craig Says:

    Surely you are not serious about going back to a subsistence agrarian style lifestyle.

    Why can’t the energy from a Windfarm go into the production process line for creating more windmills ? Sure the trendy line now is to the use the cheaper more plentiful resource (Fossil Fuels) to power those factories etc – however the reality is that the majority of the processes that run those factories are done so by electricity now.

    Are you advocating mass genocide to bring farming back to a sustainable level without the use of industrial fertilizer and pesticides- obviously no travel overseas etc so we will just leave all the 3rd world countries to it and see how those people go ?

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Craig, thanks for getting in touch. I went back over the post and I haven’t said anything about going back to an agrarian lifestyle, although the reality is that renewables can never power the sort of energy-intensive lifestyles we take for granted now. Energy is a very complicated subject so, I would encourage you to read further on it and especially such concepts as EROEI (energy returned on energy invested). If you Google ‘peak oil’ you will probably find enough to keep you busy!

      To answer your question however, to be used for what you advocate, the electricity from wind will have to be stored somehow, as it’s obvious that you can’t run a factory powered by wind turbines on the roof. That means batteries and battery technology at the moment is not up to it and anyway, huge numbers would be needed to do the job. The amount and type of resources needed to manufacture them would need to be considered as these are mostly non-renewable also, as fossil fuels are. The question to ask of any process is, “is it sustainable?”, i.e. can it be carried on indefinitely? If you are a regular reader, I have a post about sustainability coming up.

      When you say ‘more plentiful’ referring to fossil fuels, you have to consider also that global oil production peaked in 2005 and is now in decline. When oil starts to become really scarce, the price will rise and this will make large projects problematic. I’m assuming what remains will have to be rationed eventually and that agriculture and transport will get preference over anything else.

      I think what I was trying to get over in the post was that huge structures such as wind turbines can only be built, installed and maintained with the intensive energy from oil. There is no way a huge vehicle or crane like the ones shown could be powered by batteries. Wind turbines will not be part of our energy future. They have a ‘shelf-life’ and once the oil has gone, the energy needed to make their replacements won’t be available.

      I also didn’t advocate ‘mass genocide’. Farming will have to cope without pesticides and fertiliser, but it did that for thousands of years before oil became available to manufacture them. There are plenty of farmers farming today without them and producing good, healthy food.

      But yes, there will be some sort of a ‘correction’ that reduces population; there has to be, as we are way over carrying capacity now. That is nature’s way and we have to accept it. We could certainly make it a lot easier, if we took steps to reduce the birth rate right now.

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  6. Craig Says:

    Thanks for your reply to my comments. I know all about Peak oil and EROEI – i have worked at a firm that does financial markets analysis for a good many years.Unlike many of the doomsayers would like you to believe there is not a huge cliff we are all going to fall over when oil is suddenly going to disappear.

    What will happen is that the price of oil will steadily rise as the artificial price that it is now being held at will over time disappear. As this happens the natural law of supply and demand will kick in – we can already see that happening to a certain degree now with the advances being made in electric vehicles for commuter transport, once the price of oil begins to rise – more and more mainstream people will turn to electric vehicles for day to day commutes – as this technology evolves it will become more scalable for larger transport needs and will eventually have this ability to replace all but the most long distance of heavy transport truck options.

    There is no problem with having base load electric capacity generated by a variety of sustainable energy sources, Solar, Solar Heat (liquid salts for energy storage), Wind, Geothermal, Wave. And thus have that energy available for powering the farms of tomorrow.

    Depending on whose numbers you want to believe (there are plenty of good case studies with peer review on the internet – here is a link to a single paper

    http://www.witpress.com/elibrary/wit-transactions-on-ecology-and-the-environment/105/17822

    You are looking at a minimum of around a return of 20:1 on the EROEI of a windfarm.

    Longer term as the price of Oil rises, so too will the price of industrial fertilizers and pesticides, thus making the trend towards large monoculture more and more expensive. This coupled with the general awareness of the middle and upper class as to the benefits of organics and/or sustainable production will force those largers farms to adapt further and introduce newer methods of production. This will initially be a knee jerk reaction with more and more GMOs, larger farms and the like, but will at a point in the future reach a tipping point where this will become uneconomical and sustainable (without an as yet unforseen technological breakthrough).

    Craig

    Liked by 1 person

    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks for the link; I will check it out. With regard to agriculture, what do you see as an energy source capable of powering large agricultural machinery once diesel has gone? Also for trucking food to markets far away? I suspect that food-growing will be small-scale and local in the future.

      There is still the problem of what energy source you use to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and wave power, install them and maintain them through their lifetime. Oil is the most energy dense substance we have known. Nothing comes close.

      What sort of society can we run on an EROEI of 20:1? Remember that it is just electricity and most of the world’s fossil fuels are used to power transport. And how about the resources to make all this stuff, including replacing the world’s ICE fleet with battery powered vehicles? And how long have we got to do it? Will we wait till the oil has nearly all gone, before starting the changeover? How is climate change going to affect all this, particularly agriculture? Will we have enough money to do all this and still have enough to mitigate the ongoing effects of climate change?

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  7. Craig Says:

    Oil is not going to disappear overnight – it will gradually get more expensive – as it does so – innovation will drive increasing efficiency in other forms of energy production.

    Why is it not feasible to produce electric farm machinery ?? All the technology pieces are in place today – it will just require the will power and economics to make it happen

    Have you seen a video of how quick it is to change out the battery subsytem on a Tesla ? Exactly the same idea could be employed on a medium sized farm – modular battery packs that are charged by the sun and are interchangeable with all the different types of machinery on the farm ?

    As a transition – much of the mid sized diesel farm equipment today can run on locally produced and grown vegetable oil (not turned into Biodiesel – simply added directly to the fuel tank after filtering and purifyng

    Alternaitvely you can turn it into Biodisel and make even more use of it

    http://rodaleinstitute.org/small-scale-oilseed-production/

    The majority of factory processes today are run on electricity – why can this electricity not come from renewable sources ? The technology already exists and is in commerical use to use molten salts to store the electricity as it is produced for baseload requirements

    I am definitely against monoculture and industrial sized farming operations – but at the same time think that the idea of going backwards in terms of energy usage etc is ridiculous and will not happen – unless it a catastrophic event that forces an excinction level event on us.

    Craig

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Craig,
      “……….. modular battery packs that are charged by the sun and are interchangeable with all the different types of machinery on the farm”.

      And how many resources and of what type would be needed to make these things? Are these resources renewable and sustainable themselves? Would the process of farming that way be sustainable in the long term? Plus, there is no need to use electrical energy on a farm. Plowing has been shown to be destructive to the structure and life of the soil, so we don’t need to use plowing. The farming methods of Fukuoka don’t need machinery. Harvesting can be done by hand as it was hundreds of years ago. There will be enough people who will be put out of work by fossil fuel energy decline to do it. You say you are against industrial-sized farming operations, so small family farms run along permaculture lines could make a comeback. The many and varied yields of a permaculture system have been shown to be greater than those from a single monoculture.

      I don’t see thing as ‘going backwards’ as you say. I see a better, community-based lifestyle than the insanity we have now. In any case whatever we do has to be sustainable in the long term. We don’t need to do anything really. If we just keep doing what we’re doing or even if we make the changes you suggest, then if that’s not sustainable, we won’t survive. Nature makes all the rules, not us.

      Have you done any energy/resource/sustainability calculations to show that your suggestions would work? I’m thinking of the work of Pimental and others, for example, in showing that biofuels are not a viable option for the future.

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  8. Craig Says:

    And her is one closer to home for you

    http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/energy/sustainable-energy/bioenergy/Farm-grown-energy

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