By Vaclav Smil
However, our civilization continues to depend on activities that require large flows of energy and materials, and alternatives to these requirements can’t be commercialized at rates that double every couple of years. Our modern societies are underpinned by countless industrial processes that have not changed fundamentally in two or even three generations. These include the way we generate most of our electricity, the way we smelt primary iron and aluminum, the way we grow staple foods and feed crops, the way we raise and slaughter animals, the way we excavate sand and make cement, the way we fly, and the way we transport cargo.
Some of these processes may well see some relatively fast changes in decades ahead, but they will not follow microchip-like exponential rates of improvement. Our world of nearly 8 billion people produces an economic output surpassing US $100 trillion. To keep that mighty engine running takes some 18 terawatts of primary energy and, per year, some 60 billion metric tons of materials, 2.6 billion metric tons of grain, and about 300 million metric tons of meat...............................
Electric vehicles are the latest darling of the media, but they run into two fundamental constraints. EVs are meant to do away with automotive carbon emissions, but they must get their electricity somehow, and two-thirds of electricity worldwide still comes from fossil fuels. In 2016, electricity produced by wind and photovoltaic solar still accounted for less than 6 percent of world generation, which means that for a long time to come the average electric vehicle will remain a largely fossil-fueled machine. And by the end of 2017, worldwide cumulative EV sales just topped 3 million, which is less than 0.3 percent of the global stock of passenger cars. Even if EV sales were to grow at an impressive rate, the technology will not eliminate automotive internal combustion engines in the next 25 years. Not even close.
Battery- or fuel-cell-powered designs for small ferries and river barges (see “The Struggle to Make Diesel-Guzzling Cargo Ships Greener”) offer a transport capability orders of magnitude below what’s required to propel the container ships that maritime trade depends on. Compare these little boats with the behemoths that move containers from the manufacturing centers of East Asia to Europe and North America. The little electric vessels travel tens or hundreds of kilometers and need the propulsion power of hundreds of kilowatts to a few megawatts; the container ships travel more than 10,000 kilometers, and their diesel engines crank out 80 megawatts.
Battery-powered jetliners fall into the same category: The big plane makers have futuristic programs, but hybrid-electric designs cannot quickly replace conventional propulsion, and even if they did, they wouldn’t save vast amounts of carbon emissions. If you compare a small, battery-powered trainer with a Boeing 787 and multiply capacity (2 versus 335 people), speed (200 vs. 900 kilometers per hour) and endurance (3 vs. 17 hours), you’ll see that you need batteries capable of storing three orders of magnitude more energy for their weight to allow for all-electric intercontinental flight. Since 1950, the energy density of our best batteries has improved by less than one order of magnitude.
The human craving for novelty is insatiable, and in a small matter you can meet it in no time at all, particularly when Moore’s Law can help you. It took a single decade to come up with entirely new mobile phones. But you just can’t replicate that pace of adoption with techniques that form the structure of modern civilization—growing food, extracting energy, producing bulk materials, or providing transport on mass scales. While it is easy to extoll—and to exaggerate—the seductive promise of the new, its coming will be a complicated, gradual, and lengthy process constrained by many realities.
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Maine as Third World Country:
CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power
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(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/
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"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."