RENEWABLE ENERGY: To the paltry strength of human muscles and draft animals--which for centuries before the industrial revolution powered the poor production that kept the population in poverty--human beings finally added man-made power to their repertoire, "power far greater than that found ready-made in nature in the form of wind and rushing or falling water."*
And with that discovery and production of industrial strength energy came the industrial production that fuelled the enormous explosion in population, wealth and human fecundity that characterises industrial civilisation.
This man-made power, and the energy released by its use, is the fundamental cause of our higher living standards, and is the result of advances in both theoretical and applied science and in technology. Man-made power is fundamentally human brain power applied to the specific issue of energy production.**Energy is the very lifeblood of an industrial civilisation. Hence the hysterical opposition of civilisation's opponents to energy production, and their concomitant support for so called 'renewable energy.'
Renewable energy may be defined as energy produced by means that would be uneconomic without such tax breaks and subsidies. The distinguishing characteristic of so called 'renewable energy' is not that it is renewable, but that it doesn't produce reliable energy. For opponents of industrial civilisation, this attribute is not a curse, but a blessing. This largely unspoken argument was voiced by "soft energy" advocate Amory Lovins in a 1977 interview,
If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other. [Amory Lovins interviewed in 'The Mother Earth–Plowboy‘ magazine, Nov/Dec 1977, p.22]This is why, for the most part, the "renewables" so heavily touted just aren't available, and just don't produce enough to keep industrial civilisation going. The fact is, they aren't intended to.
What distinguishes the "new energy" touted by the likes of Amory Lovins, David Parker, Nick Smith & Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons from the "old energy" on which industrial civilisation depends is that while "old energy" is reliable and actually produces energy, so called "new energy" is still experimental, and mostly doesn't.
In other words, it's the modern day equivalent of snake oil.
While "old energy" fuels the world's industry, "new energy" still requires your money to prop it up and barely scratches the surface of the sort of capacity required for a modern industrial nation. Aware of this, former Australian PM John Howard said recently (and accurately):
Let's be realistic. You can only run power stations in a modern Western economy on fossil fuel, or, in time, nuclear power.Alan Jenkins from NZ's Electricity Networks Association issued a similar warning two years ago which has still been widely undigested, saying
It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word... hydro is suddenly becoming too hard... what's left? ...we can't do everything on windpower.We can't, can we.
Which puts into context the attacks on coal by global warming zealots like James Hansen, who declares,
The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.You might now begin to see the reason behind the virulent attacks on real energy. They are attacks on production and human fecundity itself.
Yet even as they're draining our lifeblood, the anti-industrialists are still taken seriously.
This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far can be seen down on the right-hand sidebar.
* Andrew Bernstein, The Capitalist Manifesto.
** George Reisman, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics