Planet Gore

The Non-Alternative Alternatives

Bjørn Lomborg indeed does a very good job of pointing out the obvious: “A green future will not result from subsidizing immature technology . . . . Wind and solar power are not yet competitive.” But then he goes on to suggest that we can make them competitive with more research money.

But in the case of wind and solar, this is absurd. They aren’t immature industries: They’re windmills and solar panels. Wind-powered, solar-powered, and coal-powered electricity were pioneered within eight years of each other. One works. The others never could match up but now are (risibly) touted by politicians and greens as “new technologies.”

They remain uncompetitive for the reason Lomborg alludes to earlier in his piece without giving it much thought: “Solar panels and wind turbines are not cost-effective replacements for fossil fuels.”

Emphasis should be on “replacements,” not on the irrelevant “cost-effective.”

The wind blows maybe 20 percent of the time. Solar power, subject to similar limitations, is so incredibly diffuse that it makes the wind look concentrated.

Something is not a viable alternative unless it’s an alternative. Wind and solar are inherently limited (in the absence of utterly unforeseen battery-storage breakthroughs) to being supplemental, niche additions to a power mix. From a policy perspective, the sooner we stop calling non-alternatives “alternatives,” the better.

Most Popular

Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
Elections

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Culture

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More