Tuesday, 5 April 2011

New green technologies …

This is the first and probably only time I’ll be posting a ‘Dilbert’ cartoon here. But this is unusually good:


And unusually topical, given the leaking of the Government’s Energy Strategy, the first three of twelve “areas of focus” of which are these:

image Just for the record, the working definition of Renewable Energy is “unreliable energy produced by means that would be uneconomic without tax breaks and subsidies.”

Discuss, with reference to this Government’s (leaked) Energy Strategy.


  1. Great post (as is usually the case): short, simple, clear. Thanks

  2. Greetings from USA! Your blog is really cool.
    Are you living in New Zealand?
    You are welcomed to visit me at:

  3. Your definition is ver odd, and astoundingly inaccurate, but I guess it sets up your strawman for demolition so it achieves its objective. However, why you hate renewable sources of energy is a bit of a mystery. Is it ideological?

    Jol Thang

  4. Jol, how can you claim it's a "mystery" while ignoring the glaringly obvious arguments laid out even in this very blog post? There is nothing against 'renewable energy', it's just that ALL current 'renewable energy' technologies just don't cut the mustard - they are unreliable (as PC stated), and are uneconomical, to the point that they can ONLY work if subsidized through taxpayer money (aka theft). (Even with all the latest advances, solar energy costs triple what coal energy costs - and since even the crowd who bleat for "renewables" endlessly would revolt if you told them 'OK, but your energy bill is going to triple', the current strategy involves hiding the cost behind tax structures, while installing only token amounts - since full-scale renewable is Just Not Viable.) It's not a conspiracy, it's not ideological, it's just a hard FACT of the current state of the technology and economics, a hard fact you seem not to want to face. We all want cleaner air, but I want a Ferrari too, just wanting something can't make it materialize.

  5. "it's just that ALL current 'renewable energy' technologies just don't cut the mustard..."

    That's blatantly untrue. NZ's hydro generation and large scale wind generation (Project West Wind for example) "cut the mustard" just fine. You'll deny this of course, but you'll be wrong.

    There's no evidence or arguments presented in this post as to why this odd view of reality is held by libertarians. Is there an ideological bias in favour of burning fossil fuels embedded in libbo philosophy somewhere? Something to do with Rand's love of factories and smoking perhaps?

    Jol Thang

  6. Is it just me or has my post been deleted? I can't see why.

  7. Jol, I'd like to give your post a more detailed response, but since it looks like my posts may be getting deleted for no obvious reason, I fear I may be wasting my time. In short though, wind and hydro generation are indeed relatively inexpensive but wind has problems such as what to do when the wind stops blowing, this is actually a big problem in most of the world as very few geological spots fit the bill of having near-continual winds, making the potential application of wind limited. I don't know NZ's situation really but in NZ you're by the roaring forties and probably have maritime mountain/coastal features that lend themselves to spots with near constant winds - this is rare. Hydro, in NZ you are also blessed with a wet country, many countries e.g. where I am from are MUCH drier, rivers are tiny and run dry often and seasonally. We have a lot of sun where I am from but solar is extremely expensive, literally triple what you'd pay for a coal or nuclear plant of the same generating capacity.

  8. Hydro power is also limited - from what I can recall, even if every potential hydro power source was tapped, it would not meet our energy demands - though I speak under correction.

  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

  10. Dilbert! Here is the perfect green solution:


  11. Solar also of course has a problem of what to do during lengthy cloudy periods. Power stations don't utilize giant batteries; they generate energy and push it out as it's used. If your city relies on solar and you have a cloudy week, you can't just have the city go into blackout. Hence solar is used more supplementary or for peak demand. Scientists and engineers are working hard on trying to find ways around these problems (e.g. molten salt transfer), but it is just a 'tough nut to crack' - these problems are very difficult to solve, and it will take researchers decades before we have good solutions and for industry to implement those solutions.

  12. Now I await the rest of my posts to be deleted.

  13. "We have a lot of sun where I am from but solar is extremely expensive, literally triple what you'd pay for a coal or nuclear plant of the same generating capacity"

    I should add we're a poor country, and telling millions of people who are already struggling to afford basics like food that their electricity price is going to triple so we can have cleaner air is not a solution.

    Cheap clean energy has been something of a 'holy grail' of energy innovation for a long time, there is no conspiracy and no ideology. Everybody wants cleaner air ultimately (though not at the expense of taking food off the table of the poor, which is why we're stuck on coal), everybody wants energy to be cheaper --- but these are just very, very difficult engineering problems to solve. Good solutions will take time. Solar technologies are slowly and steadily becoming more efficient and cheaper. Hydrogen-fueled cars look like they might be the future - a zero-emission fuel, only as dirty as the power source used to produce the hydrogen. WE WILL GET THERE. Don't worry. In another few decades, solar will be cheap and we'll probably have other new tech by then. But we're just 'not there yet'. A multi-trillion dollar global economy built during the age of 20th-century energy tech does not switch over overnight. But it will happen, and is happening.

  14. @Dinther I'm no physicist but I can't see how that can NOT increase drag resistance on the trains, causing them to simply need to use more fuel/energy? Moreover the most you could generate would be only some subset of the additional energy required for the train, due to inherent inefficiency in conversion, e.g. you'd have to burn an additional 2W for each 1W capacity.

  15. Richard McGrath5 Apr 2011, 19:28:00


    Libertarians have nothing against cleaner sources of energy, in fact we are all for them, provided they are not subsidised. They are generally expensive, especially solar power.

    One reason for the dropoff in expansion of hydro-electric generation in NZ is the green lobby who in the past successfully blocked the damming of rivers on spurious grounds. I'm guessing the most cost-effective ways of generating energy in NZ would be hydro-electric, geothermal and nuclear.

    I understand there has been loss of human life on wind farms when the propellors fly to bits in high winds, so that is also a factor to take into account.

    BTW could all the "Anons" put their name at the top of their posts? Seems there are more than one of you out there.

  16. Richard:

    "Libertarians have nothing against cleaner sources of energy, in fact we are all for them, provided they are not subsidised."


    "Just for the record, the working definition of Renewable Energy is “unreliable energy produced by means that would be uneconomic without tax breaks and subsidies.”"

    Thus you do have something against all renewables. Your really odd and frankly irrational bias is evident in you making up silly definitions, denying the very existence of negative externalities associated with fossil fuels and suggesting that windmill blades are so lethal that they could call into question the viability of windpower. But what's the basis for this bias?

    Jol Thang

  17. I'm not happy getting my info from Jol.

    Have none of the NZ hydro projects justified their capital outlay with the value of the power they've generated?

    I imagine the Clyde dam won't have. What about others?

    I thought plenty of power companies are interested in increasing hydro investment but have been prevented from doing so by the environmentalists.

  18. The problem with renewable energy is the wanton waste inherent therein. Cheaper energy sources are gouged to provide subsidies for their inefficient sibling.
    Coal generation in a newly minted plant costs 3-4c per unit to produce, whereas Wind costs 11-14c for the same unit. What is the retail rate the unit sold at? 18-34c for residential and commercial usage is something beyond double these rates at times of greatest need (or as the case is, greatest market manipulation by the producer and distribution cartels).
    Why should consumers be forced to subsidise energy sources they don't like? Is thos not analagous to saying that Hoity Toity's Fois Grois should be subsidized by the people who buy Ham & chicken luncheon, if not why not? Or alternatively if you like wearing cotton, and I like wearing silk, but the silk production costs more, we should average out our cost of materials so the silk manufacturers aren't disadvantaged because the nylo and cotton producers can undercut them everytime.
    The mixing and matching and rampant market manipulations that occur within the govt protected sector of energy production distort the market to allow these blatant ripoffs to occurs. If the RMA were repealed and investors felt a market was open to supply cheaper electricity for the benefit of society (as it liberates wealth savings which can be re-invested elsewhere, rather than malinvested in inefficient, so called green production), what moral right is enabling this theft to occur?

    So called renewable energies never takes into consideration the required energy for the production of the generator itself, or the negative effects of the generator on its environs. Take for example a solar panel, if we ignore the energy requirements to build it, and simply concentrate on its production side, they are terribly inefficient, and given their construct add to local area warming but the fact that the 88% reflected light and dissipated heat is disproportionate when compared with the warming that same light would have imbued on a field.

    You ask the question Jol, "...is it ideological?" Why is ok for you to ask this question, when inherent within the tenents of the question itself is an implied ideologicality that renewables are best. Goose, gander.....


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