Running Out of Renewable Resources

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What renewable biomass energy looks like in Haiti

Matt Ridley, author of the wonderful book The Rational Optimist has an interesting op/ed over at the Wall Street Journal arguing that it is renewable resources rather than non-renewable resources that appear to be at most risk of being depleted. Tropical forests chopped down to make charcoal or grow palm oil; fisheries so depleted of fish that they may never come back; and there may be significant thermodynamic limits to the amount of energy that can be globally extracted from wind.

Ridley concludes:

All in all, once you examine it closely, the idea that "renewable" energy is green and clean looks less like a deduction than a superstition.

Whole op/ed is here.

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  1. But- something something blargle blargle GREENER FEELS GOODER!!!

  2. the idea that “renewable” energy is green and clean looks less like a deduction than a superstition

    Environmentalism is a religion and as such it is based on faith and superstition.

    1. +10,000

    2. so’s objectivism

      1. Cult or no, Objectivists aren’t a threat.

        1. There is a small cult, then there are poeple who read her books and simply like that it is a full throated defense of free markets and individual liberty.

          Environmentalism on the other hand is entirely about faith and superstition.

          In fact here is a quote from one of their priests from just last week:

          “People underestimate the power of models. Observational evidence is not very useful,” adding, “Our approach is not entirely empirical.” John Mitchell, principal research scientist at the UK Met Office

          Even the few true Rand cult members are not that irrational.

          1. That’s right, fuck empirical evidence. Do you think Newton, Kepler and Galileo wasted their time with empirical evidence? Hell no. They built little toy models, and said “see, this is how shit works. Now go create laws from this model”.

            Now that’s real science.

            1. Not sure how my pointing out that environmentalism is a religion provoked a counterattack on objectivism. Not that Rand’s detractors ever need a reason to fling feces.

          2. Environmentalism on the other hand is entirely about faith and superstition.

            In fact here is a quote from one of their priests from just last week:

            …so, do you have the full context for that quote? Do you understand his point? Or are you just repeating what the reverend Watts tells you?

            ;^)

          3. Environmentalism on the other hand is entirely about faith and superstition.

            That depends on how you choose to define “environmentalism”.

            It seems that you’re focusing on AGW. There is a hell of lot more than AGW to being in favor of protecting the environment, based on empirical data.

            1. BSR,

              JC is on record stating that there are no real environmentalists, only communists cynically using hype about environmental issues to infuse more government into our lives. And yet, environmentalists are all “true believers” who ignore science. If you examine it too closely, it all falls apart. Adding another complication is not gonna help.

      2. so’s your mother.

    3. A valuable service was done by Ken Burns’ series on the National Parks. It introduced people to what a religious nutcase Muir was. It surprised me that they didn’t whitewash that.

    4. oh the best thing is the ticker symbol for the ETF for wind power.

      http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=PWND

  3. look at the amount of resources needed to build wind and solar generators (land,labor,raw materials}.Not to mention up keep and the amount of inflexible power generated,their not a very good deal

    1. This. If you can’t run your wind power farm on wind power, you’re losing ground.

      1. That’s why my car has been converted to run on CHILDREN.

        1. My truck runs on hopeychangeyshinyhappypuppybubbles. And unicorn farts.

        2. I grind up baby pandas to power my Unimog.

        3. Funny. My car has been converted to run over children.

          1. all you need to do is create a harvesting mechanism.

            http://archives.cnn.com/2000/N…..obot.reut/

            1. I heart you guys.

  4. Hair shirts, for the modern hipster.

    1. Nice!

  5. Well, if Haiti can’t make renewable energy work, then we should just forget the whole thing.

    1. Rampant deforestation is not a highly adviseable strategy, whether in Haiti or Sweden. And surely, you’re not endorsing the charcoal solution to our energy woes. Perhaps you should address the points concerning your ideal progressive sources such as wind. And if you wanted to pose a solid critique of the article, you might chose to mention the absense of any evidence against solar.

    2. All this time we’ve been trying to be more like Somalia, when we should have been trying to emulate Haiti.

    3. I think the point is that even a country with the relatively lower energy usage of Haiti can’t even keep up with those needs using biomass. Also, I’m not sure it’s true that sugar refineries and rum distilleries are fueled by charcoal. They burn a lot of waste biomass of their own making, and are sometimes net generators.

  6. But the Earth is good and Corporations are bad and the biodiversity and ecosystems and sustainability…

    1. clones aren’t organic! except for bananas, whatever.

  7. You can’t run out of something that is renewable.

    This is why government should take over energy production.

    1. Dodos. Carrier Pigeons.

      Sure you can run out of stuff that is “renewable”.

      And what is it with the birds offing themselves from the Earth? Stupid birds!

      1. Carrier pigeons aren’t extinct. They are just obsolete. You mean the passenger pigeon

        1. fucking mass-transit pigeons! DIE!

        2. Yeah, that – thanks, SIV

      2. smart birds If I were living on this planet I’d probably want to off myself, too.

        1. If I may inquire – where are you living now, and are there abodes available?

          1. well, my body’s here but I spend a considerable amount of time not on the planet.

            1. earth to yonemoto

            2. Yonemoto is actually Skynet connected to a Terminator prototype down on earth?

              1. hey, we’re doing a better job than anon-bot.

    2. What we need are better spoof trolls. The government should take them over.

      1. Bingo. This one and “Danny” are just pathetic.

        1. My new least favorite is Sacre Bleu. Just pitiful.

          1. The sad “gotcha” of untrenchant insight.

          2. It has to be Dan T. No one else puts so little effort into trolling.

            1. Sacre Bleu! is just a slight variation of waffles’ The Truth.

          3. They just have no pride in their work anymore.

            1. Trolling for lulz is an artform. It takes a special kind of person to get their jollies from provoking mindless, frothing outrage in complete strangers.

        2. Sadly, I think Danny is real.

  8. Contrary Troll is Contrary

    NEWS AT ELEVEN!

  9. You can’t run out of something that is renewable.

    This is why government should take over energy production.

    This is true; our government will supply us with an inexhaustible supply of methane bullshit.

    1. There is more “methane” in DC than the entire surface of Titan.

      1. Any hope for peak bullshit?

        1. Bullshit is the only truly renewable resource.

          1. Unfortunately we are no where near hitting Peak Retard.

            1. True. It pays to be bullish on HURR DURR.

              1. I’m going long on HERPA DERP, myself.

              2. HUMPERDIDOO!

        2. if only there were a bullshit reserve bank to inflate a bullshit malinvestment bubble.

          1. the startegis bullshit reserve is right next to the startegic petroleum reserve…

  10. The American people won’t accept energy poverty as a solution, so ultimately the green left needs to choose between eternal marginalization and begrudgingly turning to economics.

    People who aren’t willing to save the environment if it means turning to capitalism–aren’t real environmentalists.

    So environmentalists really need to embrace innovation already. …and not the woefully unproductive kind that comes from government funding.

    If the solutions we need to save the environment don’t already exist, then every tax and regulation that discourages investment is a threat to the environment.

    If we can’t tax carbon dioxide because we’re already taxing away too much of our GDP through income taxes and corporate taxes, then income taxes and corporate taxes are a threat to the environment.

    1. then they must be taught to accept “energy poverty”

      1. As I have accepted “brain poverty”

    2. Embracing a philosophy that means relinquishing the idea of controlling others does not compute with environmentalists. the assumption being humans will always choose the wrong solution, therefore must be forced to choose the right solution. Innovative ideas are just solutions that environmentalists feel they are the gatekeeper to prevent negative externalities from occurring

      1. “Embracing a philosophy that means relinquishing the idea of controlling others does not compute with environmentalists.”

        I would say it doesn’t compute with all of them. I consider myself an environmentalist. And I’m a rabid capitalist.

        You’re right about the environmentalists on the left. People who see government coercion as the solution to everything tend to see coercion as the solution to environmental problems too.

        I think a lot more people would call themselves environmentalists if the word didn’t have such an association with the left. I think there are lots of gun owners, hunters, fishers, hikers and campers, who are just as concerned about the environment as anyone else.

        They just don’t call themselves that because they aren’t politically on the left.

        1. Ken. Get the branding through to your head. The proper term for folks like you and me is conservationist.

          1. I’m not sure what it is I don’t like about “conservationist”.

            I think it’s maybe that I don’t want to save what little we have–that makes it sound like a zero sum game.

            I want to make things bigger and better. I want to see things grow and flourish.

            Conservation doesn’t convey growth, and I think capitalism makes thing grow dynamically.

    3. My carbon footprint is not directly replaceable or fixable by the government, so any taxation of it is just a general wealth distribution scheme.

      1. my carbon footprint stinks almost as bad as my carbon foot.

      2. any taxation of it is just a general wealth distribution scheme.

        Yes, and?

      3. “My carbon footprint is not directly replaceable or fixable by the government, so any taxation of it is just a general wealth distribution scheme.”

        Right, but then the corporate tax and the income tax are redistribution schemes too.

        If as de Rugby and Gillespie has shown us so many times, the government will never get more than 20% of our GDP or so, the question for environmentalists isn’t about getting more income to redistribute. The question for environmentalists is about where they want those funds to come from.

        I’d rather pay a sales tax on carbon emissions than an income tax personally, but then I’ve always preferred a sales tax to the income tax.

        Anyway, the question I was addressing wasn’t whether I as a libertarian would rather pay a tax or no tax at all; the question I’d like to put to the environmentalists out there is whether they’d be willing to stop redistributing income and corporate profits–if that’s what it took to save the environment.

        I want the people who prefer redistributing wealth to solving environmental problems to stop masquerading as environmentalists. They’re not environmentalists. They care more about redistributing wealth than about saving the environment.

        Once we get those charlatans out of the environment game, then maybe we can make some real headway.

        1. I want the people who prefer redistributing wealth to solving environmental problems to stop masquerading as environmentalists.

          That could have been written more clearly:

          I want the people who prefer redistributing wealth–[rather than] solving environmental problems–to stop masquerading as environmentalists.

        2. How about:

          “I want people to stop masquerading as environmentalists in order to push an agenda of wealth redistribution.”

          I, personally, think these folks are a minority in the environmentalist camp, but they certainly exist. Ron Bailey will, of course, remind us that there is a correlation between left-leaning political positions as self-declared “environmentalist” status. But, as you point out above, there are a lot more people who consider environmental concerns an important issue than identify themselves as environmentalists.

          1. There’s just something about Ron “cane toad” Bailey articles that makes my conservationist ass want to sympathize with the environmentalists, regardless of their economic beliefs. The affinity, however, is short-lived.

            My point being knee-jerk wacko arguments can sometimes push moderates into sympathizing with other knee-jerk wackos.

            1. I thought is was Ron “environmentalists are responsible for killing millions of African children” Bailey.;^)

  11. Obvious argument op-ed is obvious

  12. This is why I taught my students that “renewable” is an arbitrary term. I wouldn’t use it at all if it were up to me.

    1. Indeed. Pretty much any energy source is renewable. Some just have better timescales.

      1. Interesting… explain to me how nuclear is renewable.

        Inexhaustible maybe. Renewable? Not on this earth.

        1. You’ll never get anywhere with that kind of localist attitude. Just pop over to the nearest supernova and get some newly minted uranium.

  13. Coal and oil are renewable resources. You just need a little sunlight and a couple hundred millions years of pressure.

    1. probably some bacteria, too.

      1. details

        1. basically everything underground is secretly made by bacteria. Even gold deposits.

          http://www.abc.net.au/science/…..Over44.htm

    2. Coal and oil are renewable resources. You just need a little sunlight and a couple hundred millions years of pressure.

      Titan disagree with you.

  14. Solar isn’t renewable. Sol isn’t exactly getting any younger.

    1. Younger? No. But I will get bigger, much bigger.

      1. Not unlike most of us at middle-age.

        1. We should start referring to the elderly as Red Giants since they’re going to leave my generation is a giant red hole before swallowing the Earth entirely.

  15. A pretty disingenuous op/ed, on the whole. Not quite sure why it warranted an “interesting.” In other news, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    People who aren’t willing to save the environment if it means turning to capitalism–aren’t real environmentalists.

    Agreed. Similarly, people that are unwilling to consider regulatory solutions.

    So environmentalists really need to embrace innovation already. …and not the woefully unproductive kind that comes from government funding.

    Or at least not solely depend upon government funding of research. But there is no reason we can’t have both.

    If the solutions we need to save the environment don’t already exist, then every tax and regulation that discourages investment IN FINDING THOSE SOLUTIONS is a threat to the environment.

    If we can’t tax carbon dioxide because we’re already taxing away too much of our GDP through income taxes and corporate taxes, then income taxes and corporate taxes are a threat to the environment.

    Which is why most supporters of a carbon tax would implement it by replacing labor and corporate income taxes with a tax on material throughput (primarily carbon).

    1. Agreed. Similarly, people that are unwilling to consider regulatory solutions.

      Free Markets and property rights are regulatory solutions.

      Simply because they are decentralized and not government agencies does not mean they do not regulate the use of resources.

      1. Free Markets and property rights are regulatory solutions.

        Simply because they are decentralized and not government agencies does not mean they do not regulate the use of resources.

        No argument with that assertion.

        It seems, however, to skirt the issue I raised. I guess I could have qualified my “regulatory solutions” with a “government” or something, but that just seemed unnecessary in the context of the discussion.

    2. Which is why most supporters of a carbon tax would implement it by replacing labor and corporate income taxes with a tax on material throughput (primarily carbon).

      If this is true then why did the Dems choose to support Waxman’s bill rather then a revenue neutral carbon tax?

      It is to late New Mex. The left have shown their true colors and lost. Switching back after the fact will do you no good.

      1. If this is true then why did the Dems choose to support Waxman’s bill rather then a revenue neutral carbon tax?

        Because the Dems weren’t supporters of a carbon tax? What does this have to do with what I said. The Dems are not “environmentalists” for the most part.

        It is to (sic) late New Mex. The left have shown their true colors and lost. Switching back after the fact will do you no good.

        What has “the left” got to do with I wrote?

        1. It’s called a straw-man. Now put your hippie costume back on and pretend you’re a socialist so we can enjoy making fun of you.

        2. Huh? Waxman’s bill WAS a carbon tax and it WAS supported by a large portion of the Dem majority. In fact, it passed in the Senate 219-212 with only 8 Republicans in the Yes camp.

          1. Cap & Trade ain’t carbon tax it is Cap & Trade. Unless there is some other Waxman bill. It certainly isn’t the “revenue neutral” carbon tax being discussed.

            And just to be pedantic, I don’t know think that many Senators voted for the bill. If so, someone needs to look into it. There’s something fishy going on.

    3. There is no amount of environmental regulation that people will accept in a democracy that’s big enough to solve the problem.

      If we eliminated corporate taxes, much of the income tax and eliminated the capital gains tax too?

      That would be big enough to solve the problem.

      We should start at the bottom of the scale. Say, eliminate the income tax for people making less than $50,000 a year. Eliminating the income tax for voters who make less than $50,000 a year will presumably bring a lot of political support.

      Imposing regulation through federal agencies–on the other hand–brings exactly as much political support as we already have right now.

      …which is another way of saying “not enough to solve the problem”.

      I’m talking about getting rid of the bullshit political talking point. We don’t need to talk about the environment like it’s another Red State/Blue State issue, like it’s gun rights or abortion.

      We need to solve the problem. …and if the solution to our environmental problems rids us of all the economically destructive stuff that the income tax and those other taxes encourage too? Then that’s even more reason to get on board with environmentalism.

      1. Then that’s even more reason to get on board with environmentalism.

        Indeed. And for businesses, there is no conflict between greener more efficient processes and making money. They are, in fact, coherent goals. Less waste is environmentally friendly, and a good business choice.

        1. There is a conflict with energy efficient processes if the savings are marginal, the capital costs and the maintenance costs are high, or some combination of the three.

          Energy efficient does not equate to economically efficient.

          1. If companies just spent as much money on avoiding carbon emissions as they do on avoiding taxes?

            That would do a lot to help solve the problem.

            People and companies react to price signals, but there’s even more benefit to it than just that.

          2. Energy efficient does not equate to economically efficient.

            More often than not there is a way to increase efficiency economically.

      2. Are there currently people earning below $50,000 that are actually paying taxes on April 14? Not to go all Pauline Kael, but I don’t know anyone my age (28) earning under $50k that has paid. Everybody just gets fired up about their refunds…

        1. There not being a lot of revenue there might be one reason it would be a good place to start.

          Remember the employer side of the income tax too. It costs a lot more to pay somebody $50,000 a year than $50,000.

          Also, you’re talking about people waiting for a refund, but I’m talking about there not being any withholding whatsoever for those people.

          They may get some of their money back now, but I’m talking about how they shouldn’t have anything withheld to begin with. They may be getting some of their money back, but not as much as is being withheld.

          Also, it may not be a lot in percentage terms of government revenue, but we’re still talking about a tremendous amount of savings in absolute terms. If people use that money to substitute away from carbon intensive activity, that’s great.

          If they use it for other things–rather than government largess? That’s good news for the economy too.

          The fact is that if we had a tax on carbon emissions big enough to make an impact on the problem, we would need some kind of real economic stimulus to offset that. The fact is that anything we do that’s big enough to solve the problem would necessarily crush our economy unless we offset those costs elsewhere.

          Letting people keep the income they earn is by far the best way to offset those costs. It should spur a lot of employment too as it becomes increasingly less expensive for companies to pay employees their take home pay.

  16. Biomass should be divided into farmed resources and non-farmed resources. Farmed resources are renewable insofar as the underlying resources (fertilizer, pesticides, water, arable land) are available. Non-farmed resources are entirely dependent on the ratio of removal to replenishment.

    He makes a great point about the resources required to “harvest” renewable energy. Those resources are themselves dependent on a world of cheap, easily available fossil fuels, and possibly dependent on rare earth elements. A world with declining fossil fuel output may not be able to transfer to renewable fuels.

    1. so would that make you a non-farm resource that we could compost for your bio-mass…oh the sun shines bright on my old kentucky home…

  17. Good thing dogs are a renewable resource, otherwise the cops might run out of ones to shoot.

    Really peachy facts in this case, if the news report is correct.

    Sheriff’s deputy serving an arrest warrant for a domestic dispute. The guy they were looking for did not live at the address (so why the hell was he serving the warrant there? Who knows?). The lady says she was saying, “don’t worry, he doesn’t bite – come here, Blue, come here,” when BOOM, the deputy shot the dog, because he was afraid the dog was about to bite him.

    “the bullet ricocheted off her neighbor’s window,” and the news reporter says they found the shell casing that the Sheriff said they were unable to locate the night before.

    Best part? The deputy did it in front of her 9 and 10 year-old sons, and “She wasn’t allowed to tend to their dog Blue, because she said the deputy claimed the injured dog was part of a crime scene.”

    So they had to sit there and watch the dog suffer in pain, until he finally let them take it to a vet, where the vet said the dog was paralyzed, so they euthanized it.

    1. Jesus Christ that is the worst one yet, it has all the elements, trigger happy authority loving police officer, wrong address, kids present and not letting them attend to the dog. Jesus.

      How can we live in a world where the local DA there would not bring charges and the sheriff turned out of office next election? But I’m betting neither will happen.

    2. That’s because most cops share certain personality traits.

    3. I get a 404 page when I click the link.

      1. Link seems to work OK – it might be on your end.

      2. remove the br tag

    4. Barely, you bastard! Couldn’t you wait for the dog killing till Tuesday?

      OK, nevermind – you are forgiven for the lol-worthy note that it’s a good thing “dogs are a renewable resource”

      1. Have your pet spayed or neutered

        1. or sprayed with bullets.

    5. I don’t understand…do these types of things only happen to families with no adult males?

      I don’t know anyone who would just stand by while a deputy tells them they cannot attend to their dying dog. I could see how a mother might be terrified of trying to counteract the deputy in front of her kids, but come on.

  18. A world with declining fossil fuel output may not be able to transfer to renewable fuels.

    No. You will find other energy sources, but none will be renewable.

    1. Well technically, every power source we currently are able to use (other than geothermal) is either from a finite, depletable fuel source on earth or dependent on solar activity.

      1. Technically schmecklicky. Are you really trying to negotiate with me?

        1. I was trying to agree with you, jerk. Do you have some sort of disorder?

          1. I am disorder.

      2. or dependent on solar activity

        redundant.

        1. Pretty much everything is solar dependent…all the higher elements are created in stars. Of course, all of our naturally occurring radioactive elements were made in stars that died billions of years before our sun even formed.

          1. True, I guess the distinction I was trying to make was that some forms of energy are not dependent on continued solar activity… if the sun disappeared tomorrow we’d still have nuclear, coal, oil, and geothermal, but we’d lose solar and wind immediately and hydroelectric not very long after.

            Of course, the oceans would all freeze to the bottom within a few days so it would be irrelevant, but there you go.

  19. supporters of a carbon tax would implement it by replacing labor and corporate income taxes with a tax on material throughput (primarily carbon).

    And, as we currently are seeing in the per-mile tax debate, if the carbon tax actually proves to be effective, there will be a mad scramble to compensate for the “lost” revenue.

    1. See above
      Ken Shultz|5.23.11 @ 2:07PM|

    2. exactly – i carbon tax can either be effective at getting people to emit less carbon OR it can be effective at raising revenue. It can’t be both.

      1. Or we can passing claiming the former, eventhough we intend to utilize it only for the latter.

  20. The laws of environmental politics trumps both the laws of supply and demand, and the laws of thermodynamics. You people clearly did not attend Green religion classes.

  21. I always prefered the old-school Naturalist.

    1. “I always prefered the old-school Naturalist.”

      Isn’t that about old people getting together and camping in the nude?

  22. Please check out my website as it is all about renewable resources!

  23. it would be the important part of our lives, knowing the natural resources, we need it in our way of living.

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