“This house believes that subsidizing renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.”
– ECONOMIST magazine, Online debate, November 8–18, 2011
Yesterday we reviewed the surprising rebuke of renewable energy–and the underlying premise that fossil fuels were inherently unsustainable–by an international voting audience.
Today we revisit the essential question: Can renewable energy really help ‘wean the world off fossil fuels’?
Although the affirmative’s Matthias Fripp, moderator James Astill, and their colleagues evaded this fundamental question, here is a sampling of oft-heard rationales, most if not all of which were implicit in Astill’s comments and final announcement. Windpower (providing more than 75% of any politically correct renewable portfolio), we are told, helps to:
(a) Reduce reliance on foreign oil;
(b) Substitute for coal;
(c) Complement the fuels used in our electricity generation portfolios;
(d) Provide a fair return to wind investors while making them feel good about helping save the world;
(e) Spawn discretionary revenues to help bootstrap our economic doldrums;
f) Create new jobs;
(g) Establish leadership credentials to encourage the rest of the world to follow our example; and
(h) Serve as a bridge to newer, better technologies in some more enlightened future.
“Arguments have no chance against petrified training; they wear it as little as the waves wear a cliff.”
— A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Last month, The Economist magazine conducted a two-week Oxford style online debate over the proposition “that subsidizing renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.”
“Renewable” in the case is really politically correct renewables: basically wind power, with some solar and a bit of of biofuel/geothermal thrown in.
Matthias Fripp, a research fellow for the Environmental Change Institute and Oxford’s Exeter College, defended the motion, while Robert L. Bradley Jr., founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, argued against. Three comments by Jeremy Carl , Travis Bradford , and Ben Goldsmith each played to the premise that government energy policy had to displace fossil fuels.…