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Old 02-17-12, 10:14 PM   #31
roflwaffle
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I think you're getting a bit religious too Allen. Lets try to keep this discussion evidence based and avoid some of the ideological arguments on all sides.

In terms of the specifics, renewables tend to create more jobs than FFs, although I imagine that like everything else there are exceptions.

Similarly, a country doing something does not imply that what it's doing is in the best interest of it's citizens as a whole. I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't consider politics in America to be done for the benefit of the common man. Wealthy donors, who make up a relatively small percentage of the population, have a much greater impact on politics than the average Joe does. In China I don't think this is any different. Rolling out a bunch of coal power plants in China certainly has to be good for some group, for instance the wealthier members of society because they can expand manufacturing and make more money selling stuff to the world and to their own country to a lesser extent, but it can also be worse for the country as a whole due to a host of externalized costs.

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Old 02-17-12, 11:42 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by roflwaffle View Post
In terms of the specifics, renewables tend to create more jobs than FFs, although I imagine that like everything else there are exceptions.
Obama bet the bank on your false premise and he, and taxpayers, are now reaping the reward.

It really boils down a simple insight - how much energy can be output per quanta of input. Everything else, jobs created, tax generated, economic activity spurred on, ripples out from that basic function. Oil and Coal have more attractive EROEI baselines, they produce baseline power and they can be delivered to the marketplace more cost effectively than solar and wind, meaning that industries which require steady baseline power can go about their business and create products and jobs and so on.

For your false premise to become reality, solar, wind, tidal power, biofuel, you name it, have to surpass the performance of fossil fuels. When they do that then your dream becomes quantifiable reality and we can avoid the political and business boondoggles like Solyandra.

Don't get me wrong, there are viable reasons to like some of these renewable technologies but efficiency, job creation, cheap power are not those reasons. The primary attraction that can be defended is that most renewables can be operated in a decentralized fashion. It's hard to build your own coal mine and coal power plant to power your own house, or to dig your own own well and refine your own oil to burn in your home furnace, but it's quite feasible to set up your own mini-hydro plant, your own wind power plant, your own solar array and power your own home. That will appeal to a lot of people, probably quite a few on this board who are tinkerers extraordinaire but I think you'd be hard pressed to find people who are deploying such systems because they are more cost effective (ignoring gov't subsidies.)

Green Energy Tech being a net positive job creator is a boondoggle based on wishful thinking and this will always be so until the fundamental physics is resolved to make this energy more cost effective.

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Similarly, a country doing something does not imply that what it's doing is in the best interest of it's citizens as a whole.
I'm not really sure what this is supposed to mean. It's sounding an awful lot like the Philosopher-King reasoning that underpins much of liberal orthodoxy - put the smart man in a position of power and that smart man will make better decisions for everyone than they can make for themselves.

What we have at present is a corrupted system, which more often than not, produces outcomes which align with the best interests of most of the people.

Quote:
I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't consider politics in America to be done for the benefit of the common man. Wealthy donors, who make up a relatively small percentage of the population, have a much greater impact on politics than the average Joe does.
I don't disagree too much. Corruption and rent-seeking are real problems in American politics but they don't completely overshadow the invisible hand of the masses.

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In China I don't think this is any different. Rolling out a bunch of coal power plants in China certainly has to be good for some group, for instance the wealthier members of society because they can expand manufacturing and make more money selling stuff to the world and to their own country to a lesser extent, but it can also be worse for the country as a whole due to a host of externalized costs.
Don't overlook all of the workers who benefit from increased living standards. There are reasons why Foxconn has hundreds of thousands of workers living in dormitories assembling iPhones and iPads - these soul crushing factory jobs are better than the alternatives of living in a village and being in an energy poor environment where the highlight of the day is stewing up some tree bark or something for dinner.

The issue for China is how to apportion the gains that come from energy rich industrialization, not whether that energy rich industrialization is creating wealth for China. China is better off by using dirty energy to create wealth than it is in trying to make due with intermittent power from windmill farms or some other renewable fad.
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Old 02-18-12, 08:01 PM   #33
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OK, now you're getting too political IMO. IEnergy subsidies are more than just one renewable screw up. You can't reasonably expect us to believe that you're up in arms about a .5 billion dollar loss, but you're OK with well over a hundred billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry over the last decade, can you?

If you wanna bash Obama, start another thread and go to town. If you wanna talk about the problems with energy subsidies, then start with fossil fuel subsidies, because as bad as the Solyandra losses were, subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, which has been established for decades, were over one hundred and forty times worse than Solyandra in just six years. Another irony is that more subsidies went to ethanol, which is pretty much a give-away to the farm industry, than all the other renewables combined in that same time period.

The EROEI for fossil fuels is also horrendous. Way worse than renewables barring a few exceptions like the chemical industry. Anyone claiming FFs are better than renewables in terms of EROEI is using flawed data, probably where they're comparing the EROEI of a fossil fuel during one or two steps in it's supply chain to the EROEI of renewables over their whole supply chain.

Many renewables are already better than their fossil fuel counterparts. The second we eliminate the $10+ billion/year in subsidies for fossil fuels and start charging them for the damage to the environment and our health that they cause (Ignoring other issues like the military being in the ME for reasons related to oil), we'll see where renewables really stand. It may also take a bit. For instance people may take a little time to get together the funds for a solar PV setup, but just because it takes time doesn't mean they won't do it, or that it isn't cheaper than power from the grid. If I did a solar install myself it would probably be about half the price of power from the grid, but the subsidies, most of which are economically justified btw, would make it even cheaper at about a quarter of the price of grid power.

And green energy definitely results in more jobs. There are both Republicans and Democrats who acknowledge this. The main reason for this is due to the distributed nature of renewables. Having a large centralized power plant will almost always be less labor intensive than having a bunch of small generators. They are several studies than support this.

In terms of China, yes people are better off than they were in many ways, but they could be even better off than they are now. Pulling someone off of a farm and placing them in a dorm doesn't give anyone the right to exploit them and not pay them a living wage just so that the rich can get richer off of their backs.

P.S. Feel free to call me out on any supporting documentation. I'm kinda rushed for time so I can't link to as much stuff as I would have liked to, but I can hopefully get around to it later in the week.
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Old 02-18-12, 10:24 PM   #34
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You can't reasonably expect us to believe that you're up in arms about a .5 billion dollar loss, but you're OK with well over a hundred billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry over the last decade, can you?
Here's the problem when guys like you go fishing for supporting evidence put out by environmentalists - you present yourself as knowing jack about business and accounting. The vast majority of the tax breaks and subsidies that oil companies receive are simply regular depreciation allowances available to all business but environmental lobbyists classify these accounting expenses as special gifts from the taxpayer when these same depreciation allowances are also available to every single renewable energy company.

Here is an explanation:
The largest tax break at issue is a tax credit passed in 2005, which is available to all U.S. manufacturers. Oil and gas companies qualify for that credit, so they will likely deduct somewhere in the neighborhood of $18.3 billion from their tax bill over the next 10 years. Note that this isn't really an "oil subsidy"; it's a manufacturing subsidy that oil and gas companies--along with many other companies--enjoy.
Your environmentalist "think tanks" are more akin to propaganda mills when they purposely obfuscate facts and twist them to advance their narrative.

If we stuck with the propaganda that infects the fevered swamps of environmentalist-land we'd have to reconcile the fact that solar companies, windmill companies, tidal power companies, biofuel companies, etc are all receiving "oil subsidies" due to their manufacturing activities.

Secondly, there are provisions in the tax code which seek to encourage US domiciled oil companies to explore and develop outside of the US, provisions such as the Foreign Tax Credit, which your own source even notes:
The largest of these, the Foreign Tax Credit, applies to the overseas production of oil through an obscure provision of the Tax Code, which allows energy companies to claim a tax credit for payments that would normally receive less-beneficial tax treatment.
The Foreign Tax Credit is NOT AVAILABLE to US oil companies who drill and process the oil in the US. No subsidy.

Again, when you understand what is going on you see that the choice for legislators here is to a.) do nothing and put US oil companies at a competitive disadvantage to their foreign counterparts thus letting foreign companies develop non-US oil fields and sell the oil to the US or b.) make some provision for US oil companies to drill overseas and level the playing field with foreign oil companies and thus put US oil companies into the game, collect tax revenue at a reduced rate on income that wouldn't have been earned otherwise, and create some US-based jobs. It should also be noted that when foreign oil companies operate in the US they have to play on a level field with US oil companies. So the tax credit seeks to do the same thing for US oil companies when they operate outside the US.

Thirdly, to pick and choose one's facts in order to advance an argument while ignoring other pertinent facts which weaken the argument isn't an attempt to put forth an honest argument about reality, it's more an attempt to advance a propaganda agenda. Here's what I'm talking about:

US tax policy is a convoluted mess, so to understand the effect of subsidies directed to fossil fuels one must also look at the other side of the equation - tax treatment of fossil fuel producers. For the environmentalist narrative to be a true representation of reality we should expect to see favor being granted to fossil fuel companies in the way of subsidies and no favors on the tax side of the equation, with the net result being fossil fuel companies being given an advantage. Is that the case though? No, it isn't: (from above link)
But oil and gas companies have a point when they cry foul. After all, about 41% of the net income earned by the oil and gas industry is already paid out in federal taxes compared to 26.5% for the rest of the businesses in the S&P 500.
This is the unholy mess that is created when Philosopher-Kings intervene in neutral policies and try to rejig them to create some social benefit - there are cascading consequences which follow, which often times means that there are countervailing efforts as responses. When oil companies are penalized with higher tax rates and special taxes that don't apply to other commercial concerns, then they seek to create tax situations which work to minimize those penalties in other areas. An honest environmentalist advocate would look to present the entire picture but I've never met such a thing as an honest environmentalist policy analyst.

The fundamental flaw in the religious arguments put forth by environmentalists on this issue is that their Tu Quoque fallacy fails because fossil fuels are produced economically and desired by the market and renewables are not.

To continue, when a solar company establishes a plant they invest many millions of dollars to build the plant and stuff it full of expensive equipment. That infrastructure depreciates and the must eventually be replaced. The government recognizes this fundamental aspect of commerce and allows depreciation allowances for businesses. The same applies to an oil company's oil field. It costs money to develop an oil field, it costs money to develop a coal mine, etc and at the end of the useful life of these fields, the costs to develop them have to be recouped, in that they've become completely depreciated assets.

So, back to your mixing apples and oranges question - Yes, I object strenuously to liberals/environmentalists using taxpayer money to intervene in the market and decide which companies deserve direct injections of money and which don't. I would object just as strenuously if government was directly granting oil companies cash gifts. As it stands I object to the convoluted mess that is the present tax code because it works to favor and disfavor competing sectors through the use of special tax provisions. However, if I have to scale the distastefulness on display here, I'd score outright grants as being worse than differential tax treatment due to the fact that tax treatment is predicated upon income being earned while a grant is a direct transfer of cash to the favored company or sector. It's really not government's place to pick winners and losers with the money that the public entrusts to government. Government is supposed to be a neutral referee, not a cheerleader, not a banker, not an investor, not a sugardaddy for some of the companies that it supervises and not for others.

Quote:
The EROEI for fossil fuels is also horrendous. Way worse than renewables barring a few exceptions like the chemical industry. Anyone claiming FFs are better than renewables in terms of EROEI is using flawed data, probably where they're comparing the EROEI of a fossil fuel during one or two steps in it's supply chain to the EROEI of renewables over their whole supply chain.
That's a pretty impressive claim. Back it up. I've never seen anything like this in all of the data I've looked at from impartial sources, so go back to the fevered swamps of your environmentalist "think-tanks" and post some evidence in support of this claim.

You see, here's the thing - if what you say is true, then the condition that I specified in my first comment would be met and renewables would be taking over the market because they'd be cheaper than fossil fuels. Here's why - energy costs money. Energy input into producing fossil fuels costs money just like energy input into producing renewables costs money. If, as you claim, fossil fuels have higher energy inputs to produce a given quantity of output energy than renewables, then fossil fuels would be uncompetitive in the marketplace as compared to renewables. We all know that this is not the case.

If you want to blow sunshine up my skirt with your bold talk, then back it up. Your blowhardary of claiming, simply claiming, that anyone who states coal has a higher EROEI than solar is using "flawed data" might fly in the circle-jerk fevered swamps that you inhabit where confirmation bias reigns supreme but simply because you SAY SO doesn't mean jack squat to anyone not a member of your religion.

Quote:
If I did a solar install myself it would probably be about half the price of power from the grid
Terrific. Now the case is solid. IF what you state is an accurate statement, then you win the argument. Let's see what other people have to say, let's also see what independent reports have to say. You'll understand, I hope, that after your performance above, that I don't put much trust in your blowhardy statements of fact. Your statement begs this question though - if renewable power can be had for half the price of grid supplied power, a.) why aren't utility companies rushing to implement such technologies and b.) why aren't individual consumers doing the same?
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Old 02-18-12, 10:26 PM   #35
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but the subsidies, most of which are economically justified btw, would make it even cheaper at about a quarter of the price of grid power.
Am I supposed to take your word for the fact that these subsidies are "economically justified?"

Look, this board has a lot of people who are into alternative energy. It's my contention that many of these people are into this DESPITE alternative energy being more expensive than grid power, all else being equal, but I'm willing to challenge my beliefs. To everyone reading this thread who has a solar PV system - what is your price per kw/h produced including charges for depreciation, and how does it compare to what your utility is charging you? Are you really producing your power at half the cost of what your utility is charging and if you received a grant from the government are you really producing power at only 1/4 of the cost of the power sold by your utility?

Quote:
And green energy definitely results in more jobs. There are both Republicans and Democrats who acknowledge this. The main reason for this is due to the distributed nature of renewables. Having a large centralized power plant will almost always be less labor intensive than having a bunch of small generators. They are several studies than support this.
This is you invoking Bastiat Parable of Broken Windows. Your claims are now mutually exclusive - one can't have a claim that renewable power costs are only 1/2 of those produced by fossil fuels while simultaneously claiming that renewables requires scads more workers, who must be paid, to implement.

Spain's experience with intervening in the market and subsidizing Green Energy has resulted in net job losses in the general economy for every job created in the green energy sector. This makes sense - look at the Broken Windows fallacy. If the government subsidizes an uncompetitive sector, in this case Green Energy, then the money for those subsidies must come from somewhere and where it comes from is the competitive sectors of the economy. When you hobble the efficient so that you can support the inefficient you will get less efficiency and more inefficiency.

If Green Energy was such a godsend then Germany and Denmark wouldn't be pulling back from the experiments and wondering how to extricate themselves from the box that they've put themselves into.

The whole "Green Jobs" program that you guys have latched onto is as crooked as a $3 bill, because jobs are only really created when the value output of the worker exceeds their pay. No one is going to pay a McDonald's fry cook $45 per hour when the cook can only produce value of $10 per hour. The same applies to all these "Green Jobs" - if they actually produced positive net value then the government wouldn't have to provide hiring incentives. The reason that the hiring incentives are in place is because these jobs typically produce less economic value than the worker is paid, hence government has to step in and burn our money in order to placate dudes like you who want to see your religious views turned into reality. Faith is an unsound basis for public policy.
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Old 02-20-12, 05:01 PM   #36
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The following wouldn't be taking place if solar energy was as efficient as claimed. From Slate Magazine:

Quote:
Using the government’s generous subsidies, Germans installed 7.5 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity last year, more than double what the government had deemed “acceptable.” It is estimated that this increase alone will lead to a $260 hike in the average consumer’s annual power bill.
This directly contradicts your claim that solar power can be had for 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of fossil-fuel generated power.

More highlights:

Quote:
Unfortunately, Germany—like most of the world—is not as sunny as the Sahara. And, while sunlight is free, panels and installation are not. Solar power is at least four times more costly than energy produced by fossil fuels. It also has the distinct disadvantage of not working at night, when much electricity is consumed.

In the words of the German Association of Physicists, “solar energy cannot replace any additional power plants.” On short, overcast winter days, Germany’s 1.1 million solar-power systems can generate no electricity at all. The country is then forced to import considerable amounts of electricity from nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic.
Oops for you. I guess that you made the mistake of taking the reciprocal - Solar isn't one fourth as expensive as fossil, it's four times as expensive.

Quote:
Indeed, despite the massive investment, solar power accounts for only about 0.3 percent of Germany’s total energy. This is one of the key reasons why Germans now pay the second-highest price for electricity in the developed world (exceeded only by Denmark, which aims to be the “world wind-energy champion”). Germans pay three times more than their American counterparts.
This speaks to the point I made upthread - paying more for a product or service than one actually needs to pay is a form of inefficiency and when this inefficiency infects an entire economy, then there are profound ripples effects which touch all manner of things, such as competitiveness, job growth, wage growth, economic growth, social spending, deficit spending, etc.

Quote:
Defenders of Germany’s solar subsidies also claim that they have helped to create “green jobs.” But each job created by green-energy policies costs an average of $175,000—considerably more than job creation elsewhere in the economy, such as infrastructure or health care. And many “green jobs” are being exported to China, meaning that Europeans subsidize Chinese jobs, with no CO2 reductions.
Here's the boondoggle of "green jobs" that environmentalists have been tripping on - again, inefficiency with respect to opportunity costs. Faith and wishful thinking are very bad foundations for public policy, especially when they are anti-empirical with respect to their claims.
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Old 02-20-12, 05:26 PM   #37
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The following wouldn't be taking place if solar energy was...
So is your position that fossil fuel is more good and alternative energy is more bad, and it's likely to stay that way?

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Old 02-20-12, 07:37 PM   #38
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So is your position that fossil fuel is more good and alternative energy is more bad, and it's likely to stay that way?

-AC_Hacker
My position is that each form of energy we use has intrinsic advantages and disadvantages and that the best solution is to match project needs to energy source characteristics.

From this principle all sorts of conclusions follow:

-If we want a decentralized grid, then more renewables are the way to go.
-If we want cheap power, everything being equal, then centralized fuel systems are the way to go.
-If we want reliable power, then stay away from solar, wind.

I like solar, wind and mini-hydro but I don't think that they're scalable for society. People don't like brown-outs and they hate black outs. People like reliable base-load power. Solar and wind need battery systems. The battery systems need to be included in the EROEI and pollution calculations, no matter whether the battery is a chemical battery, a capacitor, a molten salt, pumped water, or a flywheel. People also like cheap power and cheap power is conducive to economic health. People don't like being jobless.

There is no easy answer to the problems that face us and the alternatives we have all come with positives and negatives. The positives of renewables, when judged in isolation, sound good but when they're implemented in a top-down decisionmaker fashion then they cause all sorts of problems such that, in my opinion, their negatives outweigh their positives. Look at all of the misery that that incentives for industrial windmill development are causing - big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs put together development funds, they rely on laws passed in State legislatures which prohibit local zoning boards from regulating where these towers get built, they rely on laws which mandate that utilities must buy the power at a fixed cost regardless of demand levels at the instant of sale, and when the towers are built the noise and strobing effect drives locals nuts, the power is often generated at times when there is a surplus of power, the cost paid for the power is higher than the marginal cost that the utility is paying for fuel*** and there is NO RISK for the windmill investment syndicate because laws have forced compliance on others and shifted the risk to them.

In terms of what's likely to happen in the future, here's what I'm pretty certain of - as fossil fuels become scarcer their price will increase and as the price increases, solar and wind, despite their drawbacks will become more price competitive. Those price signals alone are all that is needed to foster greater implementation. All of the artificial gimmicks in place now are just waste, pure and simple, we might as well be burning stacks of dollars on everyone's front door step.

That said, I'm happy to burn some of my own dollars so that I can have a system to tinker with, so that I can buy some reassurance about being decentralized from the power grid, etc. The point here is that I'm trading my own money voluntarily to buy something that I can't get from a utility. No one is forcing me to do this and any inefficiency that I get hampered with also comes with a benefit that I purposely set out to get for myself.

Solar is not yet ready for wide-scale rollout in terms of being cost-effective. Solar prices are the lowest that they've ever been, companies are going bankrupt because they can't make a profit, and yet solar is still not cost competitive with fossil fuels, despite the ever increasing market scarcity of fossil fuels. At some point, all else being equal, if FF scarcity continues to increase, then solar will eventually be more cost competitive and thus the more attractive option. I have no idea when, or if, that will occur. No one else does either.

As for solar thermal for water heating - great idea. I love it. I think it makes sense and I'm pretty sure that it might even be cost effective compared to electric/gas heating of water.

I like energy efficiency, not for some mystical reason of "saving energy" but because I like processes to be efficient. A COP of 4 is preferred to a COP of 1. Energy is a commodity. There isn't anything mystical or special about it. Wheat is a commodity too. People throw away half-eaten sandwiches all the time. No one is on a mission to reduce "bread waste" in society. I like things to be efficient but I don't go so far as to advocate that laws be changed so that everyone must comply with MY WISHES AND DESIRES. If someone wants to waste energy then they should be as free to do so as they are to throw away day-old bread and buy fresh bread to replace it. It's their money and they can be as wasteful as they please. So my objections here are that I find the environmentalist religious fervor to be off-putting especially when laws are forcing compliance on consumer behavior. Mandating an inefficient renewable strategy which costs more than the fossil fuel alternative is simply depriving people of choice and making US all poorer as a result. Efficiency is strongly correlated with wealth. I like that. I don't think that I should be made to be purposely poorer than I have to be.

*** Because people like to have steady baseload power available to them whenever they want that power, utilities have to have a baseload generating capacity built and ready to go on a moment's notice. When a utility is forced to buy power from renewable suppliers the price that they have to pay is a.) usually above their own cost and b.) a cost which is based on an energy price that amortizes the entire generating cycle. If a utility is using a generating plant at 40% of capacity it still must pay for the entire cost of that generating plant, just as if it was operating at 100% of capacity. The only marginal cost in going from 40% of capacity to 100% of capacity is the fuel cost. So, when a utility is forced to buy wind/solar, and let's say the quantity is such that the baseload plant shuts down completely for the period of solar/wind inflow, the utility is still paying for the costs of the baseload plant even when it's idle, yet it's paying "full price" to the solar/wind providers. The upshot here is that these costs get passed down to the consumers of electricity. This is hugely inefficient.
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Old 02-20-12, 09:43 PM   #39
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If we want cheap power...
Why are there so many deep water drilling platforms?

Who is responsible for this boondoggle?

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Old 02-20-12, 10:42 PM   #40
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Why are there so many deep water drilling platforms?

Who is responsible for this boondoggle?

-AC_Hacker
There are so many deep water drilling platforms because the high cost of extracting that oil is still less than the market price of oil and so there is profit to be made. Further, even at that high cost of extraction that oil provides power at a less expensive rate than alternative sources for uses like personal transportation.

There is not a "who" that is responsible, it's a "what" and that "what" is basic physics - how much energy is packed into different fuel types. We can't make the sun shine at night, we can't make the wind blow 24 hours per day, those are physical constraints.

The best that can be done now is to continue research so that we can boost efficiencies of converting sunlight to electrical energy. Even if we achieve breakthroughs we're still left with physical limitations on the density of that power.

If solar gets people jazzed then the best solution is space-based solar powered satellites. The sun shines 24/365 with only a momentary eclipse a few times per year. The sunlight achieves maximum insolation. This means that the power generated can be used as baseload power. The microwave transmission efficiency to beam the power to earth are at over 90% or so (IIRC). No need for battery systems, no need for decentralized (and inefficient) deployment, the system can piggyback on existing distribution infrastructure, no need to buy power while simultaneously idling existing baseload generating facilities. The problem is developing that industrial capacity in orbit. But if we have to throw money at this alternative energy fad in order to appease people it would be better, IMO, to actually, you know, seek out developments which actually solve foundational problems inherent in the technology.

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