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December 1, 2008 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, talks about the ten big green energy myths.
posted by Artw (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The uncomfortable reality is that we already struggle to feed six billion people.

Wow, this is crap. The problem is not one of production, but of distribution. Imagine if all the corn that were grown for HFCS were actually edible instead of requiring processing to create an additive? That's millons of bushels that we could be nomming right there.
posted by youcancallmeal at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Myth number one: The energy created from constructing straw men can be converted to convincing arguments. I feel guilty about disliking this, but nearly all of his myths are condescending.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:00 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The uncomfortable reality is that we already struggle to feed six billion people.

I thought this article was actually very good, but I didn't like this heading either.

But not because of the production vs. distribution thing. That dichotomy has always bothered me a fair bit, because ultimately the best means of distribution are in producing at least in the rough vicinity of the areas that need it.

Anyway, the real thing that bothered me about that is simply accepting that as countries gain wealth they're going to demand more meat. Which is of course true, but also very very shitty.

Yes, I'm a vegetarian, and yes, there's a lot for the world to gain from more closely approximating a diet of such a nature.
posted by Alex404 at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2008


but rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun's light and cost a fraction of what they do today.

How can you possibly know that? We can't count on future technology to save our asses.
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2008


I mean, you could also say " rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of coal power plants will be much cleaner."
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2008


A lot of it was quite facile. Take the nuclear power one; his argument was that two nuclear plants were significantly over budget. By itself that doesn't tell us anything since we need to know both whether coal plants or these greener energy sources regularly go over budget and more importantly whether they are cheaper per kilowatt regardless of whether the nuclear plant is over budget.

I have no idea what the real numbers are but I know that his analysis is crap.
posted by Justinian at 1:07 PM on December 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of porn will be much pornier.
posted by Mister_A at 1:07 PM on December 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


Exactly how much do I have to do for the Earth before it constitutes "enough"?

I already cry myself to sleep thinking about all the trees that died because of my paper-pushing job. The worse you make me feel about the environment, the more Wellbutrin I'm pissing into the water supply, dammit!
posted by giraffe at 1:08 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


giraffe, if you recycled your water properly, you could take less wellbutrin since it'd be in your own water supply.
posted by garlic at 1:27 PM on December 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


Rapid innovation in Goodall's head mean the next generation of this article will be £9.99 pricier than it was today
posted by davemee at 1:28 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Exactly how much do I have to do for the Earth before it constitutes "enough"?

You need to stop global warming and a catastrophic ecological collapse.
posted by cytherea at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2008 [7 favorites]


Imagine if all the corn that were grown for HFCS were actually edible instead of requiring processing to create an additive? That's millons of bushels that we could be nomming right there.

posted by youcancallmeal


In 2007, about 5% of corn consumed in the USA was used for HFCS production. 58.5% went to animal feed, and 28.5% to fuel ethanol production. Very little corn is eaten as corn. Most of it is converted to other stuff.
posted by Eekacat at 1:31 PM on December 1, 2008


Most studies show that yields under organic cultivation are little more than half what can be achieved elsewhere.

I'm not so sure this is true. I feel like Polyface-style intensive mixed agriculture was significantly more productive per acre, although much more labor intensive. Also, according to wikipedia, studies find that traditional agriculture yields are bigger in the developed world, where we're dumping tons of fossil fuel-derived fertilizer, but not necessarily in the developing world where they aren't. I'm not so sure why people just LOVE making this type of claim. I think Wired recently also claimed that we MUST use GM foods to feed the world. Observations upthread about distribution and meat eating are also very relevant.

So why does everyone want to claim we can only survive by eating GM monoculture factory farmed non-food? Is it actually BECAUSE it's such a ridiculous idea? If these people want to be contrarian, why not claim that the only way humanity can survive is to eat our own shit?
posted by snofoam at 1:31 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


MIT shows amazing advancements in solar cell efficiency and cost
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on December 1, 2008


How can you possibly know that? We can't count on future technology to save our asses.

The advances are already being made in materials science, lab models, and prototypes. The current hurdle is making them feasible and manufacturable on a large scale. He's not just making this stuff up.
posted by rocket88 at 1:33 PM on December 1, 2008


I'd be happy if you'd stop calling polar bear pelts "God's perfect car seat cover." Of all furs, I think polar bear is hardest to keep clean. And I hear polar bears are endangered, to boot.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:34 PM on December 1, 2008


MYTH: SUPERMAN'S FLYING CONTRIBUTES TO GLOBAL WARMING.
Actually, the Man of Steel exhales only 13% more CO2 than an average human man. Since he has personally planted 1265 trees in Canada, he is actually a carbon sink.
posted by Tehanu at 1:36 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


My previous post was in reply to the question "Exactly how much do I have to do for the Earth before it constitutes "enough"?"

"The current hurdle is making them feasible and manufacturable on a large scale. He's not just making this stuff up."

But he's also banking on these prototypes becoming something that can scale up. Yes, there are a lot of efforts towards higher efficiency renewable energy generation, but so many of these touted Next Great Invention seem to disappear between exciting tech news to on-the-shelves attainability (or maybe they become obsolete, or folded into another technology ...).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2008


So why does everyone want to claim we can only survive by eating GM monoculture factory farmed non-food? Is it actually BECAUSE it's such a ridiculous idea?

No more ridiculous than the other side's hyperbolic claims about conventional agriculture.
posted by electroboy at 1:39 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Isn't that exactly whats happening with windpower right now?
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on December 1, 2008


Windpower? I'm sorry, do you mean "magical consequence-free energy of the future" or "sadistic bat-slaying device"?
posted by Tehanu at 1:45 PM on December 1, 2008


It doesn’t address the ‘ugly’ factor, but I like electric cars.

Still, if your running costs are just over 1p per mile, you should probably get a prostate check.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:50 PM on December 1, 2008


I mean anergy source that's scaling up quite nicely, thank you.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on December 1, 2008


"sadistic bat-slaying device"

Sadistic bats deserve to be slain.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:50 PM on December 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Actually there's this oil baron in Texas building a huge wind farm that's pretty neat. I read about him just last week.
posted by Tehanu at 1:52 PM on December 1, 2008


T Boone Pickens.
posted by Tehanu at 1:54 PM on December 1, 2008


There's an island community in Dnemark that's gone completely carbon neutral with wind, carbon negative if you count energy exports. Denmarks pretty good with wind, though I beleive Germany has it beat in terms of raw gigawatts.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we had 1.21 gigawatts we could go back in time to before we read this article and then not read it.
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 2:00 PM on December 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


electroboy, I guess I'm just not familiar with the hyperbolic claims to which you refer. I feel like most of what I've read with regard to sustainable agriculture is that it's doable, but a lot of work. I don't feel like I've ever heard it referred to as some sort of magic bullet (like rice with extra proteins and vitamins in it). I feel like the overall tenor is that it is worth it in the long run, even though it will take a ton of effort.
posted by snofoam at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2008


Pickens' wind plan hits snag
posted by electroboy at 2:03 PM on December 1, 2008


...but rapid innovation in Metafilter means that the next generation of trolls will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the threads and cost a fraction of what they do today.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2008


Climate crisis game. (lower your volume at first-- there's a bunch of high-pitched BEEP BEEP stuff at the beginning).
posted by Tehanu at 2:21 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


You need to stop global warming and a catastrophic ecological collapse.

And all I heard was, "Are you a bad enough dude... "
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:40 PM on December 1, 2008


Wow, this is crap. The problem is not one of production, but of distribution. Imagine if all the corn that were grown for HFCS were actually edible instead of requiring processing to create an additive?

HFCS is edible, you can use it just like you would honey. And anyway, there is no need to do anything like that to feed six billion people. For one thing, it takes a vast amount of grain calories to make one calorie of beef or other meats. So if people ate more vegetables rather then meat, there would be a huge reduction in the amount of grain needed for the world. But that said, it's not clear at all that we have any supply problems. The problems relate to an inability to get food to war torn areas.

Also, I don't get how on the one hand people can complain about low food prices from subsides driving out local farmers, and then on the other hand complain about high food prices due to ethanol production.

I mean, you could also say "rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of coal power plants will be much cleaner."

He does say that. There's a section in there about carbon capture.

Finally, T. Boone Pickens is a douche. His natural gas plan would be bad for global warming, among other problems.
posted by delmoi at 2:46 PM on December 1, 2008


If we wait for the guys who aren't douches to step up and sink money into new energy ventures, we wait forever.
posted by Tehanu at 2:51 PM on December 1, 2008


No more ridiculous than the other side's hyperbolic claims about conventional agriculture.

Conventional agriculture is comprised of a methodology and set of practices that are, on the outside, about sixty years old. If you want to look for starry-eyed optimists who believe in some crazy untried shit, I'd suggest a big fucking mirror before you start whinging about those of us that practice non-petroleum-based agriculture.
posted by stet at 3:02 PM on December 1, 2008


delmoi, I think youcancallmeal was saying that the corn used to produce HFCS is not edible until it has been processed, which I believe is true. There's a good documentary called King Corn that goes into such stuff in detail.
posted by snofoam at 3:08 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


delmoi, regarding your question about subsidies and ethanol, I believe the argument is that paying subsidies to grow inedible corn is the underlying problem behind both things. We are subsidizing a specific crop, and on a practical level, a specific way of farming, that undermines the viability of small working farms. At the same time, subsidies for ethanol cause give large farms an incentive to move away from edible foods and grow even more corn.
posted by snofoam at 3:15 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


What a load of unsourced nonsense. I mean some of his assertions might be true (solar power is looking good) and some of them might be bullshit (nuclear power's too expensive), but how can you tell?

He might as well have made point 11. Ninety-five percent of all statistics are made up on the spot, or 12. Aliens from another galaxy will arrive and solve all of our energy problems within ten years!

If you want some real information on our future energy options, then read Without Hot Air, it's comprehensive, readable, fully referenced and doesn't cost £9.99.
posted by mr. strange at 3:38 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most studies show that yields under organic cultivation are little more than half what can be achieved elsewhere.

Except in Africa?
posted by symbollocks at 4:08 PM on December 1, 2008


Conventional agriculture is comprised of a methodology and set of practices that are, on the outside, about sixty years old.

Min-maxing subsidies to the point of ridiculousness?
posted by Artw at 4:38 PM on December 1, 2008


I'd suggest a big fucking mirror before you start whinging about those of us that practice non-petroleum-based agriculture.

I was more whinging about ridiculous statements like "GM monoculture factory farmed non-food", which serve absolutely no purpose other than to alienate people.

Say what you want about conventional agriculture, but the Green Revolution made many nations agriculturally self-sufficient and saved millions (possibly a billion) from starvation. That's not to gloss over its problems (erosion, nutrient runoff, pesticides, topsoil depletion) but "non-petroleum based agriculture" (whatever that means) has plenty of instances of soil depletion and erosion, so it's also far from perfect.

What needs to happen is for people to focus on sustainable farming that keeps food cheap. This will likely incorporate organic (incorporation of biomass, crop rotation) as well as conventional techniques (limited chemical fertilizers, GM/hybrid plants, mechanized harvesting).

In any case, fantastic claims about the superiority of either system doesn't feed people, and the current state of organic farming (or that biodynamic nonsense) hasn't existed unchanged for thousands of years.
posted by electroboy at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2008


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