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Can alternative energy effectively replace fossil fuels?

Oil is running out and coal burning is cooking the planet. The Obama administration just passed a stimulus bill with billions in it for alternative energy development. The question that remains is whether or not wind, solar and other renewables can actually provide for current energy needs.
Oil is running out and coal burning is cooking the planet. The Obama administration just passed a stimulus bill with billions in it for alternative energy development. The question that remains is whether or not wind, solar and other renewables can actually provide for current energy needs.

Many experts argue that renewable energy energy can effectively replace fossil fuels, while others have taken the current energy crisis as an opportunity to promote increased use of nuclear power and 'clean coal' energy.

Even if renewables can supply or current energy needs, do we really want them to? Do we want to repower the same systems of domination (with alternatives to fossil fuels) that got our world into the mess it's in today?

For those of you interested there is a great new website created by a non-profit in Santa Monia called Alternative Energy ProCon.org that has hundreds of experts answering questions about alternative energy in a Pro/Con format.

After reading through some of the questions, I guarantee that at least some of your assumptions about alternative energy will be challenged.


painted into a corner 03.Mar.2009 15:03

Exile portlander_in_exile@yahoo.com

Rather than enabling the problem, of automobile proliferation, and sprawl, why not focus on rebuilding things correctly.

Remember, there is no, and never will be a "Green Car". Stop fooling yourselves into thinking that we'll have one.

There is only one solution, and that is:

1) Streetcar and bicycles inside urban areas

2) interurban electric rail, between urban centers

3) a unified cargo/freight/passenger rail system connecting urban, rural, ports and agro areas

Build this, and you will see things change for the better. Anything else is pure folly.

Huh? 04.Mar.2009 22:15

a revolutionary

I don't understand how electric transit and bikes are that much "cleaner" than electric (or whatever kind of) car. Both require industrial metal mining and refining and the use of plastics. These industrial practices always destroy the land by tearing up and polluting (with toxins like lead, mercury, etc.) natural landscapes that we all NEED to survive.

It's true that this is an absolutely critical time in the world right now with regards to resource consumption.
What's not true is that an almost cosmetic shift from gas and coal to "green" sources like wind and solar will be a real benefit to us and the natural world.
The use of electrical infrastructure, and industrial technology in general, has been around for less than 1% of the time that humans have existed, and already it has thoroughly and violently proved itself to be harmful in the extreme (though many of us tend to steadfastly resist this fact because we are severely addicted to these amenities).

Arguments that we "need" electricity are no more compelling than the pleas of heroine addicts who claim that they "need" a fix.

The FACT of the matter is that 99% of humanity has lived WITHOUT industrial technology.
Therefore, it is NOT NECESSARY.
It could hardly be LESS necessary.
When coupled with the FACT that industrial pollution and waste has helped to push us into the world's sixth major mass extinction (look it up- it's called the Holocene Extinction Event, and the human race could be facing extinction in about a century because of it), it should be STUNNINGLY clear that we need to start following in the footsteps of tried and true, traditional and sustainable non-industrial lifestyles, NOT novelty-obsessed, rash experiments like our recent, inherently suicidal industrial civilization.

Attn: a Revolutionary 05.Mar.2009 12:52

Exile portlander_in_exile@yahoo.com

There are simply too many people in existence today, to return to a pre-industrial society. Believe me, I would love a world, where we all could live like that. unfortunately, those days had their own wastefulness. (pre-industrial construction methods used 50 times the materials). Quite simply, our population is way too high, for that.

We can plan depopulation now, but that would bring all sorts of problems with it. (racism, eugenics, etc.) or we can mitigate the problems, by weening ourself off of the most wasteful technologies, and methodologies now. We need to stop using carbon-based fuels, of any kind. Coal, petroleum, ethanol and wood. there's plenty of wind, solar, tidal force and geothermal available.

The benefit to electric rail, is that it's so damn efficient. The reason is, quite simply this: it does not carry it's fuel source. any vehicle that has to carry it's fuel source, has a disadvantage in efficiency.

Building towns and cities correctly, would have eliminated many of these problems to begin with. getting change to happen, is going to require a catastrophic fuel shortage, of protracted duration.

not quite 05.Mar.2009 15:17

a rev

Yes there are far too many people today, and yes we do need to decrease our population, but not by coercive means. Community education and re-learning of sustainable birth control techniques (using herbs, etc.) is what I would suggest as far as a non-racist, non-oppressive means of doing this.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that the majority of the population of the world will do this. That means that excessive resource use and pollution will probably continue until we reach the breaking point for humanity and most of us will die off. If at this point those humans that were left just picked up where we left off with our current industrial technology, that would be a terrible tragedy as they would simply be setting themselves up for another fall.

Your logic makes about 0% sense to me though. Basically you claim that there are too many people on the planet right now. That's true. But then given two options for types of technology, ones that's more destructive (electricity) and one thats less destructive (not electricity) you somehow come to the conclusion that - because there are too many people - the more destructive path is the better one? I honestly just don't get it. It's certainly true that neither are perfect answers simply because there are too many people, I get that. But why go with the greater of the two possible evils? If anything going with industrial technology would simply mean that there would continue to be too high of a population for even longer, making whatever crash is coming even worse when it does arrive!
You might try to say that ditching industry would mean people dying. Well people are dying RIGHT NOW because of industry. By the millions. People are starving all over the world, and being poisoned like crazy. Most of my relatives above 50 dying of cancer is NO MISTAKE- there's a cause for that effect.
There is no, and can be no PERFECT solution, people are dying and nobody can engineer a situation where nobody dies. That's the sad fact of the fucked up situation we've put ourselves in. Prolonging industry to "save lives" is nothing but a lie, and a terrible one because of how many more people will die in the long run because of it. So the best we can do is face the facts and start working towards a real solution, not another quick-fix or band-aid.

I never said that I didn't believe populations were out of control 05.Mar.2009 15:56

Exile portlander_in_exile@yahoo.com

But you're speaking of rationality. When four of the five major religions believe that we must "go forth and multiply", it's gonna be an uphill struggle.

Educating women, and providing them with a healthy standard of living, is one good step in the right direction.

Never forget, out-breeding an opponent has always been one method of conquering territories for seven thousand years, at least.

why big heavy metal trains are better than little tiny cars 06.Mar.2009 21:43

counter intuitive

Compared to road vehicles, trains have super-tiny drag and friction energy losses, for the equivalent people and cargo moved.