A Rebuttal of Gail Tverberg’s 10 Reasons Renewable Energy is a Problem

Off the keyboard of A. G. Gelbert

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 29, 2014


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Gail is Wrong

An Agelbert Response to Gail Tverberg article Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem

Haniel called bollocks on it (I agree) and Monsta, defender of Charles Hall’s disingenuous (i.e. LOWER than fossil fuel and nuke EROI) data on EROI for Renewable Energy technology (which has been conclusively shown to be MUCH higher than fossil fuels or nuclear when all the MASSIVE mining costs that Renewables DON’T have in comparison, regardless of what Charles Hall or Gail Tverberg say, are computed).

And then there are those giant elephants in the room, dirty energy subsidies, that Gail flat refuses to call a premium we are all forced to pay on those dirty pigs.

She lists TEN reasons for the “problem” of Renewable Energy technologies.

Reason number ELEVEN: Centralized energy production and monopoly cost control is “mother’s milk” to actuarial “energy experts”. It means speaking fees and paid publishing. It means participation in “studies” by the fossil nukers about “energy for the future”.

In a distributed energy world, people like her will have to hump a lot harder to make ends meet. The average Joe or Jane is not going to pay her to pontificate about “energy, energy, energy”. To us, she may have a tremendous capacity for the obvious, (LOL!) but I’m not going to pay her to explain the laws of thermodynamics to me.

Reason number ELEVEN is the MAIN reason she came up with the other TEN! She’s just talking her book.

But just to be consistent, let’s wade into these tired arguments.

Intermittent renewables–wind and solar photovoltaic panels–have been hailed as an answer to all our energy problems. Certainly, politicians need something to provide hope, especially in countries that are obviously losing their supply of oil, such as the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the more I look into the situation, the less intermittent renewables have to offer.

1. It is doubtful that intermittent renewables actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

KEY WORDS: Intermittent, Unfortunately, less … to offer, doubtful.

WHY? Let’s consider how the above paragraph changes in meaning and context WITHOUT those words:

Renewables–wind and solar photovoltaic panels–have been hailed as an answer to all our energy problems. Certainly, politicians need something to provide hope, especially in countries that are obviously losing their supply of oil, such as the United Kingdom. The more I look into the situation, the more it appears that renewables cannot make good on their vaunted promise.

1. Renewables actually do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

As you see, it doesn’t have as much punch in it. Moreover, she can be challenged for publishing false information. SO, she is careful to talk about wind and solar as if they were EXCLUSIVELY INTERMITTENT technologies. And AS LONG AS THEY ARE intermittent, SOME of them will NOT reduce carbon dioxide BECAUSE a part of the energy process will ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SOURCED FROM DIRTY ENERGY.

She has covered her actuarial energy expert posterior AND undermined the efficacy of ALL renewables by tacking on the “intermittent” handle to get to the CO2 generating business. Only a skilled propagandist can wordsmith this mendacity so well. It’s really quite clever because it has a lot of truth in it.

And she didn’t stop there; She REPEATED herself (a basic tenet of all successful Bullshit propaganda techniques) with the last bit of mendacity on her list:

10. Wind and Solar PV come nowhere near fulfilling the promises made for them.

As I showed you in the paragraph minus her disingenuous adjectives, she makes it sound like Renewable energy is BY DEFINITION, INTERMITTENT. Renewables ARE intermittent if you DON’T provide redundant systems. That is a rather blatently obvious condition in the material world due to those pesky laws of thermodynamics.

She quite deliberately left out the fact that, in practice, there is NO SUCH THING as NON-INTERMITTENT energy, whether from fossil fuels, nuclear power or renewables.

I have spent long hours explaining the fact that power plants have down times for various reasons and the KWHs they pump out lose as much as 80 to 90% of their energy value from power plant parasite loads, start up. peak shaving, base load overshoot, transmission losses and weather problems. Gail NEVER will admit they are intermittent.

How was the intermittency of fossil fuel power plants dealt with so you could get power the instant you wanted it?

They built lots of them so when one is down the others fill the gap. The exact same principle applies to Renewable Energy with the ADDED ADVANTAGES, despite being partially reliant on wind and sun, that

1) they are closer to the consumer (a KWH gives 80% or more value from harvest to use!)

2) there are a LOT more of them so they have more redundancy in bad weather and

3) they are NOT subject to fuel price hikes due to profit over planet resource wars

4) they have STORAGE technology that makes them LESS intermittent than fossil fuels or nukes (see new CSP MOLTEN SALT POWER TOWERS, massive Li Fe batteries in homes put in by Solar City and GE’s energy storing turbines, to name just a few).

And last but EXTREMELY IMPORTANT because it eliminates the need for quick start natural gas power plants for rapid second by second load demand response (Nukes and Coal Plants don’t ramp up power quickly- nukes and coal plants need several minutes to a half hour to respond to increased demand):

5) Renewable Energy smart grid plus storage technologies provide second by second demand response which save millions of dollars by allowing a lower baseload (no shunting – throwing energy away into a resistance because nobody needs it that second or minute – it’s getting used or stored by the split second!).

Gail KNOWS there is just NO CONTEST between Renewable Energy and dirty energy.

A few years ago the talk was that Renewable Energy was “too costly”. Now it’s a “problem”.

Gail does what she can but I have known for some time that she is not objective. She is firmly in the CENTRALIZED ENERGY camp so she flat refuses to show the massive waste that goes on in electrical centralized grids due to the fact that fossil fuels and nuclear power are used.

You and I are PAYING, say 15 cents a KWH on our bill but ya know WHAT? The utility is LOSING about 85% of EVERY KWH they are manufacturing at a centralized power plant!

They are making US pay for 100 KWH worth of REAL generated juice at the power plant (putting CO2 into the air out the ying yang) for every 15 KWH we are actually using! They make a “PROFIT” throwing AWAY 85 KWH that YOU and I are PAYING for in MONEY and ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS! I don’t like that, to put it mildly. Gail LOVES THAT!

To those wagging their heads and staring open mouthed, I will provide a plethora of accurate power plant to user loss details. It’s the sad truth. THAT is why when Roamer talked about how many barrels of oil we USE for electricity, I told him WE CAN shit can fossil fuels with renewable energy through distributed power.

The fossil fuel corporations ARE NOT up front about the enormous use of energy for extraction and transport. They are using a lot more than they claim they are using. We-the-people are paying for this waste in money and health costs. We do not need to do this.

For example, WHY doesn’t Gail address THIS gem from the government data available for mining the alleged “cheapest” form of fossil fuel (coal)?

Due to a lack of current information on the energy requirements on mining and beneficiation, the “SHERPA Mine Cost Estimating Model” along with the “Mine and Mill Equipment Cost, An Estimators Guide” from Western Mine Engineering, Inc., were used to calculate the energy requirements on mining and beneficiation coal in the eastern, interior and western U.S.


At the above link you will find HYPOTTHETICAL tables built with the “SHERPA Mine Cost Estimating Model” showing the term “Withheld” on electrical energy used to mine coal (the last date with some energy unit figures that appears to be almost complete on the table is from 1992).

Now why would they do that? Because if the world KNEW conclusively how much energy it takes to extract the cheapest coal (surface = 60% of current mining – Underground = 40% and more costly), never mind the horrendous ash slag build up and pollution, there would be total outrage.

They DO admit they use coal at the site to produce energy to mine the coal. They also admit to using a smorgasbord of other fossil fuels (and dynamite – that takes a LOT of energy to make too!) in the process.

I would be grateful if an impartial party with math skills would dig into the above pdf and come up with a KWH per pound figure to mine coal. That is a real energy and pollution cost not on the EROI books of the fossil fuelers.


• Five million pounds of explosives a day are used by the coal mining companies in Appalachia.

• More than 1,500 miles of streams.


After mining, this VERY heavy stuff has to be transported to the power plant for burning. Then only 40% of the coal thermal energy is, when everything goes just right, extracted from the thermal energy of combustion. At last the FIRST KWH emerges from the steam powered generator and begins getting scaled down from inefficiencies before it reaches the consumer.

This is INSANE! But it has “worked” quite well for the centralized power corporations because they have been using the environment as a huge “rug” to attempt to hide, with government complicity, the pollution AND energy costs we-the-people are forced to pay in addition to the electrical tiny percentage we get at the tail end.

MKing says “pull the plug on the power company and STOP USING POWER”. Well, that is what people are starting to do. But there is another solution. It’s called Distributed Renewable Energy. That’s the way electrical use BEGAN in the USA!

Check out this nice ad from 1897!

Electric Power Generating Windmill system advertisement 1897

We were convinced to go the centralized power route. It was ALWAYS a bad idea. It was ALWAYS grossly energy inefficient. But it’s the world that Gail is defending without pointing out the FACT that when most of this energy is distributed close to or at the harvest point, we can get the SAME amount of energy buck from a global reduction in centralized energy of over 80%!

So when they say we just CAN’T pump up to the 18 TWs or so we need a year on this planet, tell them to stuff it because we need, at most, about 25% of that with distributed renewable energy.

• In the Southeast 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity requires approximately 1 pound of coal.


The above is AFTER the coal is mined and transported to the power plant. What percentage of a KWH of electricity was required to pull the pound of coal out of the ground and move it to the power plant INCLUDING the pollution remediation and human health care costs in energy units. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts it’s MORE than 100% (MUCH MORE). We are being USED!

Bill McKibben has written about the FACT that not all KWHs are created equal. He goes to great pains and much detail to track energy use from the mine to the power plant to the user in the centralized dirty power paradigm.

That’s why he can claim that we can make a go of our civilization with an 80 to 95% reduction in ACTUAL energy consumption. He wrote about it in his book “Eaarth”. I learned of this watching a debate he particpated in.

Get it? For electrical energy, we will use ONLY about 15% of what people like Gail claim we have to have or we will all freeze to death!

More on fossil fuel lies and scare mongering as well as Renewable energy solution at the links below:

Don’t Believe the Dirty Lie

NO FOSSIL FUELS REQUIRED FOR NEW WHOLE HOME ENERGY SOLUTION from SolarCity: Voltage and frequency regulation. Black-start capability after macro- or microgrid outages. Using batteries as a less expensive alternative to peaking plants during high-demand periods. Demand charge reductions via peak shaving. Shifting load profiles with batteries to take better advantage of time-of-use electricity pricing. And the list goes on

While Abengoa’s parabolic concentrating plant in Arizona is more than twice the size, Solana can only store energy for six hours. Chili’s plant will be able to produce energy without sunshine for a very impressive 17.5 hours.

2. Wind and Solar PV do not fix our oil problem.

Well, I might agree with Gail here if she admitted that our REAL “oil” problem is corruption, fascism, wars for profit and the “make the rubes pay for your pollution” mentality fostered by the fossil fuelers. This is a HUGE problem that a new energy technology cannot fix simply because it requires a struggle between mindsets (predatory versus biosphere stewardship).

My hope is that as energy is democratized by distributed renewable energy, the conscience free centralized power monopoly pigs will lose their strangle hold over politics but it will be a long fight. Gail is on the wrong side of it.

As to the alleged “oil” problem, there isn’t one. We require energy. That isn’t a problem. that’s a fact of life in this universe. We get that, Gail.

Read my article on ocean currents. Your concentration on wind and solar MINUS the storage features they NOW HAVE without all the other Renewable Energy technologies like undersea turbine and tide, to just name two, along with SEVERAL storage technologies that ramp up instantly for peak loads including pumped hydro floating in the ocean, is disingenuous.

Renewable Energy Technology, unlike your beloved fossil fuels, is not a one trick DIRTY pony and can supply us multiples of what we need in energy NOW. In the future it will be even better. Trying to narrow our choices for energy is what monopolies do, Gail. We are a little tired of that SHIT.

Ocean Current Reliable, cheap, Low Maintenance, Immune to Surface Storms, 24/7 Energy for the Entire Planet

THIS is just a SWEET TASTE of our future energy choices:

IT’S ABOUT TIME Homo SAP started using and storing energy like the biosphere does (i.e. releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade)!

3. The high cost of wind and solar PV doubles our energy problems, rather than solving them.

Renewable Energy from wind and solar is much cheaper, including the TOTAL manufacturing life cycle from mining to recycling, than for fossil fuel power plants. How you can keep catapulting this noisome propaganda is absolutely despicable. Shame on you.

Renewable Energy Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuelposted by M Caulfield September 24, 2013


4. Even if wind is “renewable,” it isn’t necessarily long lived.

Manufacturers of wind turbines claim lives of 20 to 25 years. This compares to life spans of 40 years or more for coal, gas, and nuclear.

NO IT DOESN’T! The “life span” of a coal, gas, and nuclear is ZERO years without FUEL!

The initial cost of those pigs is wildly more expensive than a wind turbines. If Gail was honest, she would discuss the gargantuan maintenance costs of those pigs NOT present in wind turbines!

In addition, wind turbines can be 100% recycled. That is not possible for fossil fuel or nuke power plants due to severe pollution poisons (although I am certain a lot of that polluted metal scrap ends up poisoning people in third world countries right now – See the link to Areva and Uranium mining in Niger later on in this article.).

The literature is available and I will supply it on request. Such a bold faced lie is shameful!

Wind turbines, PRECISELY because they were challenged as not being cost effective from the start, received extensive cradle to grave cost benefit analysis by engineers. Otherwise they would have never been produced in such massive quantities. Even Charles Hall admitted their EROI was above 18:1 and got higher with larger capacity.

NO fossil fuel or nuclear power plant has EVER been subjected to the detailed study of where every single part came from and how much energy to manufacture it was required.

And then there is that MINOR DETAIL of 40 YEARS of fuel for a fossil fuel power plant and nuclear poisoned pig versus ZERO years of fuel costs for wind turbines that DOES compare but YOU don’t mention it. WTF is going on here, Gail?

Wind turbines are IN! They have proven their worth as superior replacements to fossil fuel energy power plants many times over.

They were in the path of the tsunami in Japan that knocked out EVERYTHING including the Fukushima Daichi nuclear white elephant. They were UNSCATHED by the tsunami and provided needed power in the absolute worse case scenario!

The offshore ones are baseload power quality! The UK is building an ENTIRE PORT facility to manufacture them and ship them to their position out at sea!

You are beginning to sound ridiculously quixotic in your crusade to undermine the worth of wind turbines. This is pathetic!

5. Wind and solar PV don’t ramp up quickly.

After many years of trying to ramp up wind and solar PV, in 2012, wind amounted to a bit under 1% of world energy supply. Solar amounted to even less than that–about 0.2% of world energy supply. It would take huge effort to ramp up production to even 5% of the world’s energy supply.

After over forty years of the fossil fuel industry doing everything possible to hinder the growth of renewable energy, it is PAR FOR THE COURSE for a fossil fueler to wail and moan about how “slow PV and wind are to ramp up”. ::) It’s like Bush asking “Why do they hate us?”. It’s like asking the Native Americans why they are so “lazy, disgruntled, suicidal and drug addicted” in those nice Reservations we put them in. It’s like Southerners complaining about those “lazy thieving negroes.”

The exact same line was taken by the Exxon CEO over a year ago and Bloomberg News told him he was full of shit. Why? Because the growth rate of Renewable in THIS decade is MUCH FASTER than that of fossil fuels when they were growing in the beginning of the 20th century.

The percentages that Gail is quoting hide the FACT that a large part of renewable energy DOES NOT SHOW on the fossil fuel utility radar because it appears as a DROP in demand. So they don’t “see” it. But let’s say it is JUST 10% when all is added up and we need to ramp up production 8 or ten fold, something Gail claims cannot be done.

She is dead wrong. Consider the number of cars made each year. Our manufacturing capacity and that of the rest of the world can EASILY pump out all the renewable energy machinery we need in less than a decade. I wrote a long article comparing this effort to the Liberty Ships of WWII.

Tesla is pumping out almost 500 cars A WEEK. Each one is a huge battery storage bank for homes as well as transportation. Of course we could ramp up wind turbine manufacture ten fold! Fossil fuelers, while claiming it can’t be done, are doing everything they can to make damned sure the financing isn’t there because they KNOW the industrial capacity IS THERE!

At present the growth is exponential. There is no stopping it but people like Gail are doing all they can to hinder its growth, as they have done for the last 40 years. Google the George C. Marshall Institute for info on this nefarious MO. A pox on them.

Here’s some nice reading from the World Wind Energy Association.

Worldwide Wind Capacity close to 300 Gigawatts

The worldwide wind capacity reached 296’255 MW by the end of June 2013.

However, in terms of new capacity, USA and Spain played hardly a role, as they represent less
than 1 % of the market, so that the share of the Big Five in new capacity dropped down to only 57 %.

For the first time, the United Kingdom has entered the top markets by becoming the second largest market for new wind turbines.

In total, four countries installed more than 1 GW in the first half of 2013: China (5,5 GW of new capacity), the UK (1,3 GW), India (1,2 GW) and Germany (1,1 GW). In 2012, only three countries had a market volume of more than 1 GW.

Dynamic Markets to be found on all Continents

It is important to notice that for the first time, the most dynamic markets can be found on all continents: The ten largest markets for new wind turbines included next to China, UK, India, and Germany: Sweden (526 MW), Australia (475 MW), Denmark (416 MW), Romania (384 MW), and Canada (377 MW). Brazil as the 10th largest market added 281 MW, being the biggest Latin American wind country.

– 14 GW of new installations in the first half of 2013, after 16,5 GW in 2012

– Worldwide wind capacity has reached 296 GW, 318 GW expected for full year
– Dramatic slump in US leads to global decrease, partly compensated by new markets

– China has reached total capacity of 80 GW


Big Oil in the USA is flexing their muscles to slow wind power DOWN. This is about fossil fuel corruption, not the “ramping up” power of wind turbine production. The rest of the world is NOT going start being STUPID just because our oil pigs force us to.

6. Wind and solar PV create serious pollution problems.

As compared to WHAT, exactly, eh Gail? We are going to get 80% of every KWH they collect without paying for fossil fuels while we are getting 15% of every KWH your beloved fossil fuel power plants are pumping out.

Do the math, Gail. It’s OVER for fossil fuels. The “rare earth mining” reason 😉 doesn’t fly because there are thousands of OTHER applications to rare earths that you don’t say WORD ONE about used in modern civilization (Your big oil pals use a LOT of them in the many electric motors they have on their rigs! ;D).

Every oil rig, tanker and cancer patient from Chevron oil spills in Ecuador or some other part of the world is going to GO AWAY because they COST TOO MUCH to the biosphere in general and Homo SAP in particular.

You know, I have never seen you write THIS: Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Power Plants create serious pollution problems.

I’ve never read articles from you about uranium dust cancer to Navajo miners or the hundreds of thousands of disabilities and deaths from coal mining related diseases as well as the pollution from oil spills and all the wildlife deaths cause by big oil in their quest to drill all over the planet.

And why aren’t you all over Areva for THIS?

World’s Poorest Suffer From Radioactive Sickness as Areva Mines for Uranium
Brandon Baker | January 24, 2014

More than 60 percent of Niger’s population lives on less than $1 per day, and even more have no electricity.

Still, French company Areva keeps contaminating those residents and their environment while mining away for uranium—one of the few resources the world’s poorest country still has.


Two hundred and fifty METERS down into the earth (the last time I checked, it tales a LOT of energy to mine that way, DOESN’T IT?) to extract a total of about 250 thousand tons of Uranium since the start of operations several decades ago! Poisons, poisons and more poisons and you are silent as a tomb about this horror.

But now you are “so concerned for our welfare” because of rare earth mining pollution that supplies wind turbines? Excuse my French, dear, but that is FECAL COLIFORMS on steroids.

7. There is a danger that wind and solar PV will make the electric grid less long-lived, rather than more long-lived. This tends to happen because current laws overcompensate owners of intermittent renewables relative to the value they provide to the grid.

I hate to do this, but I have to agree with MKing here. You are woefully uninformed about how the electrical grid(s) in the USA actually function.

Current laws OVERprotect utilities from liability in natural disasters. We-the-people end up footing the bill for downed power lines or the insurance premium the power company pays to cover losses. Don’t tell me you don’t know which way that “playing field” is tilted. The consumer is just now getting an opportunity to somewhat even the score. The consumer is NOT being overcompensated. That’s hyperbole.

Read this article from the Rocky Mountain institute. They really do understand energy and our electrical grid. They have the exact opposite view. Renewable energy actually makes the grid stronger by providing more redundancy! But that is only part of what Renewable energy does to make all of us more energy secure:

That is battery power handling the peak, NOT NATURAL GAS!

If current trends are any indication, soon batteries may become a common part of solar PV systems, including residential. “This will be a whole-home energy solution,” according to Guccione. “That’s where the next frontier is, and we hope to see SolarCity and Tesla go there.”

And pretty soon it won’t just be for those in the higher-income bracket. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that battery storage costs will fall 57 percent by 2020. And Lux Research sees the global market for PV systems combined with battery storage growing from the current $200 million dollars a year to $2.8 billion in 2018.

“We look at economics as the thing that will bring the critical mass to the tipping point,” says Guccione. “There has to be a whole wave of first movers—but the increasingly favorable economics will evolve solar-plus-battery systems from early adopters to a mainstream solution.” And that’s why it is so exciting that more companies are starting to offer battery storage. Solar installers will start to get asked if they offer battery storage options more often, and with more demand and more players entering the field, the price will go down, utility companies will come up with innovative business models, and a solar system without battery storage will seem so last decade.

New business models will make it easy for customers to add storage to existing systems or build storage into new systems, through leasing and third-party financing models similar to what has made rooftop PV so accessible. And solar-plus-battery systems will be available to the masses, not just to off-grid pot farmers who can pay in cash. All good news for people wanting clean, reliable electricity.

NO FOSSIL FUELS REQUIRED FOR NEW WHOLE HOME ENERGY SOLUTION from SolarCity: Voltage and frequency regulation. Black-start capability after macro- or microgrid outages. Using batteries as a less expensive alternative to peaking plants during high-demand periods. Demand charge reductions via peak shaving. Shifting load profiles with batteries to take better advantage of time-of-use electricity pricing. And the list goes on

8. Adding more wind and solar PV tends to make government finances less sound, rather than more sound.

Well, if you DEFINE “government” as the Big Oil bought and paid for politicians, I certainly agree with you. And it’s not going to do any good for YOUR finances, Gail. I can tell.

9. My analysis indicates that the bottleneck we are reaching is not simply oil. Instead, a major problem is inadequate investment capital and too much debt. Ramping up wind and solar PV tends to make those problems worse, not better.

Of course, all these billions of dollars in “misdirected” capital going into electric vehicles, wind turbines, green pension funds and the current call by people high up in the U.N. for pension funds to divest from fossil fuels is a HUGE “PROBLEM” for fossil fuelers. And yeah, it’s going to get a WHOLE LOT WORSE! Good!

I understand your position. That is why there is no need for me to bring up your reason number 10 again. After all, I think this article is based on REASON NUMBER 11: Centralized energy production and monopoly energy cost control is “mother’s milk” to actuarial “energy experts”.

We can’t afford your beloved dirty energy, Gail. We use WAY TOO MUCH ENERGY just to GET that dirty energy. And you are soon going to be in actuarial outer space because distributed energy is NOT being “seen” by the utilities that prepare all those charts and statistics you love to quote. Renewable Energy is an ongoing sneak attack on dirty energy.

People know the dirty energy companies lied about pollution and continue to do so. They are tired of it. It’s about time. We trusted you big centralized energy corporations once. NEVER AGAIN!

A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with RenewablesWind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels. Here’s how


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