Austin-based journalist Robert Bryce is the managing editor of the Energy Tribune and the author of several books about the science, economics, and politics of energy. With the release of his most recent book, Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future (PublicAffairs), we asked Bryce to list three resilient myths about alternative energy technologies.
Electric cars will be our green transportation future. The New York Times in 1911 said the electric car "has long been recognized as the ideal solution." But the problem today is the same as 100 years ago: the low energy density of batteries. Gasoline has, by weight, 80 times as much energy as the best lithium ion battery. Not to mention the problems of recharging electric cars. Electric cars are the Next Big Thing—and always will be.
Oil is inherently ungreen. Most replacements for oil, such as palm oil or corn ethanol, have more bad environmental effects per power generated than oil. Look at deforestation, the effects on endangered species, or indoor air pollution among the poorest of the poor, who can't afford oil-based cooking and heating.
Wind power can reduce our carbon footprint. This is an energy source that has low power density, needs fossil fuel backup, and is costly. Even Denmark, famous for its wind reliance, has never claimed wind power reduced its carbon emissions.