Below are my thoughts on the Michael Moore climate change movie, Planet of the Humans.
Notes on Michael Moore movie, Michael Laurie, Sunday, April 26, 2020
I basically put this together as I watched the movie. As a comment came up in the movie, I responded with my thoughts and often a quote and a link to a solution or more correct way to view it. I apologize for the lack of solid editing. As it was, watching the movie and writing up these comments took over 12 hours of time and that is about all I want to put into it for now. I have too many other projects of interest that are in need of my time now.
Please note that when I provide a comment in quotes it is eventually followed by a link to the article that it came from.
The movie opens with the usual often repeated history of the environmental movement and environmental problems that I have seen many times. Nothing new to me here.
Then it has a story of a solar powered festival that had to close because of rain. The planners of that festival were bad planners. They should have either done partial solar or had full battery or other back up.
The criticism about how the sun does not always shine or the wind does not always blow has been leveled for decades. As a result, contrary to the thinking of the producers of this movie a number of solutions have been developed to address that:
Pumped storage. The idea of pumping water back up into a hydro reservoir at night when the wind is blowing but demand is low. So that acts as storage for that wind power. Then release the water to generate electricity when there is a demand for it. There are number of these types of facilities operating in the US and more are planned for development, including one soon be added to the NW electricity grid to be located in Montana. There is potential for more in NW because we have a lot of hydro facilities.
Better and bigger batteries keep getting built and installed in utility systems around the world. Large batteries like the ones in Australia and Southern California. And batteries that are reducing their toxic components and batteries that last much longer. See the work being done by Tesla and others on this topic
Demand management: Incentives and controls to shift energy use off of peak demand times which reduces need for energy sources that might only run for a few hours/day. Examples include controls on hot water tanks, controls on industrial plant production to peak in off hours, and more that have already been done.
Electric cars can become the batteries for excess wind and solar that occurs while many of them are parked during the day or at night.
Using a diversity of renewable sources in a diversity of locations that make more renewable sources available more of the time. For example, wind in Montana peaks at a different time from when wind in Eastern Washington peaks. Wind in Wyoming is best of all because it blows a lot and expanded transmission lines are already being built to deliver that wind to us. See the Wired magazine April 2020 special climate issue for more on this.
Suggesting that renewables don’t cut it because of the intermittent challenge is a little bit like being an uninformed climate change denier. There are a wide and growing range of options for dealing with that intermittent nature and the costs of most of them are dropping.
Renewables are already playing a huge role: The movie makes it seem like renewable energy other than biomass is not playing much of a role. See links throughout this paper on that subject.
And thousands of scientists and energy experts are convinced renewables will play and have to play an even bigger role with the help of energy efficiency, demand management, time of day pricing, diversity of sources, diversity of locations, batteries, pumped storage, compressed air, and more.
“Thus, the typical solar plant runs at only 20 to 30 percent of its theoretical capacity. To make more of the energy that can be produced on a lovely sunny day requires affordable storage (see page 86). If the cost of storage could be brought down to $150 per kilowatt-hour, the grid could be moved to 95 percent renewable energy, according to an analysis from MIT.”
Good article on work on building batteries to help store intermittent energy.
Then the movie moves into discussion of Obama’s stimulus package. And how after he was elected billions went into energy startups and green energy. And big predictions of how rapidly it would grow. And Bloomberg gave money to close coal plants.
They show a field of solar panels and say that they are only 8% efficient. That is old information. The average efficiency of solar panels is now 15 – 20% and climbing. They say that filed of panels can only supply 10 homes, implying that it would be hard to meet all our electricity or building needs with solar.
But the 5 story, 50,000 square foot Bullitt Center is on track to be net positive with solar using only enough panels to cover its roof. Net positive means that on a yearly basis it is producing more solar electricity than it consumes, so it actually sells energy back into the grid. And that is largely due to all of the efficiency measures and using a ground source heat pump which reduced the need for electricity. And this is a key part that is missed by this movie so far. The answer is not just coal and natural gas versus solar or wind. It is fossil fuels versus a whole package of measures that allow the renewables to go much farther in addressing energy needs because you have reduced the demand greatly with efficiency and other solutions.
“the Bullitt Center used 75 percent less energy than a new building that meets Seattle’s rigorous energy code. The building used 147,260 kWh of electricity compared to a baseline of 593,891 kWh for a similar building built to code (Source: Seattle City Light). During the same period, the Bullitt Center generated 252,560 kWh of clean, renewable energy from the solar panels on its roof.
“After seeing how the Bullitt Center performed in its first year, I’m certain we will be net positive energy, not just net zero,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “If we can do this in cloudy Seattle, owners in other cities should be embarrassed if they don’t achieve zero net energy,” he added.”
Movie moves to talking about the electric car charging off grid with coal and natural gas and how because of that the electric car is not an improvement on a typical internal combustion car. Incorrect argument in many ways. A number of studies have shown that even when you charge off a grid heavily dependent on fossil fuels the electric car has a lower climate impact. Second coal plants are closing, and the grid is becoming greener in most places. This is especially true because solar/wind/efficiency/demand management is now beating natural gas on price. The movie talks about how the car is charging at night so you can’t use solar to charge it. Wrong. Most people drive their car to work or shop and then park it all day or work from home where it is parked all day and in all of those scenarios solar can charge the car during the day if the sun is out. Then at night when you park it at home a lot of that power can go back into the grid including to help meet peak demands at dinner time and wake up time. And the car parked at night can be charged when there is excess wind power at night.
“Now a new study by BNEF (a Bloomberg spinoff) can help give electric-car drivers some peace of mind in these arguments. It shows that electric cars are cleaner—even when they do run on primarily coal-generated electricity.
The study showed examined electric-car emissions in China, the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan, and found that, even accounting for the energy used in producing EV batteries, electric cars produce about 40 percent fewer greenhouse gases than the average internal combustion car around the world.”
Then the movie shown a weak defense of coal and natural gas-based electricity by car manufacturers and utility company. Of course, we need to transition away from that, and we are. But we are in the middle of a life or death struggle with utilities and fossil fuel companies to defeat it, so even though renewables are starting to win on price the power of entrenched interests will make the transition longer than it needs to be.
I never saw anything about the professional energy training or experience of the movie producers. I don’t know but based on the many incorrect statements in the movie, I think they do not have much if any professional energy, climate change, or environmental training or experience.
The movie makes the following statement: “Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?” No one is making that extreme claim. But reducing our climate and consumption footprints must play a big role in saving ourselves. But renewable energy is starting to power industry, and it can and will power much more of it. The March special Earth Day issue of National Geographic has an article that addresses industrial solutions to climate change which are more challenging. They give an example on page 49 of a steel mill in Iowa that is electric and that is converting over to running on renewable energy. Other industrial processes are exploring making use of hydrogen created by using renewable energy to separate hydrogen from water and then using that hydrogen for a variety of industrial processes.
Starting on page 30 of the update below to the great book Drawdown there is a section on some of the best solutions to climate change in the industrial sector.
The movie talks many times about the need to control population growth and the need to reduce consumption as both being critical. But they present it as if the environmental movement has not been addressing these subjects. When in fact they have been addressing these subjects since the 1970s. No question we must deal with population growth and reducing our consumption. But at the end of the day we must also reduce our use of fossil fuels and that means transitioning to more efficiency, smart grid, and ultimately 100% renewable energy. During the transition fossil fuels will have to play some role. But because fossil fuels play some role in the transition the movie condemns all solutions that are not now 100% renewable. That is faulty thinking. The climate scientists have told us we have to reduce our climate emissions 50% in the next 10 years, so any solutions that help reduce those emissions should be on the table for consideration and if after careful analysis they look good we should support them. That is exactly the approach taken in the book Drawdown in assessing many climate solutions. Yes, we have not found a way to replace all fossil fuels overnight, it will take time. And that is largely due to the lobbying power of fossil fuel companies and the hundreds of billions of subsidies that they have inserted into our energy systems.
Yes, biomass is often a bad idea. Many who once fully supported it no longer do including the Sierra Club and Bill McKibben.
Just because some large corporations are involved in renewables it does not make renewables bad. That also is faulty logic. I would love to see all of the renewable energy companies be worker owned co-ops but there are few companies out there like that. We have an economy where most industries are dominated by rich elite companies. Just because elite companies make use of oxygen and water are oxygen and water bad because also?
When they asked someone in the movie what Bill McKibben thought about a proposed wind project, someone said he thinks McKibben thinks all renewables are good. Wouldn’t it have provided a clearer answer to have asked Bill himself?
The movie asks someone about hydrogen in a car and they are told it can come from “any hydrocarbon” material. And the movie criticizes hydrogen as an option because of that. While that is mostly true so far, it is important to not ignore that hydrogen has been made using renewable energy. And there is a lot of work now on reducing the cost of doing that and increasing that alternative.
“Not all hydrogen is created equal though. Our latest report examines ‘green hydrogen’, which is produced by wind and solar via electrolysis, splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Produced with no hydrocarbons, it can go a long way to reducing a nation's or company’s emissions.”
The movie keeps coming back to a common theme in its criticism that because renewables or a particular renewable in a particular place cannot provide 100% of the energy needs then they are a failure. But again, we are in a transition. We aren’t totally there yet in most cases. We will get there because we have to. And we are getting closer every year.
This is movie comes across as if it is the first place to point out that technological fixes are not enough. That point was made by many people long ago. And many environmentalists, energy experts, and climate scientists have agreed with that thinking for decades. In my experience it is not the renewables and efficiency energy experts that push the techno fix only idea the most. It is the mainstream thinking citizens and politicians and businesspeople who push it the most. Because they don’t want to rock the boat, nor examine their lifestyles, nor make big changes to their lifestyles.
Yes, natural gas is often used to replace closing coal plants. But in a growing number of places renewables, storage, efficiency, demand management, smart grid, and more are being used. And if you look at the carbon emissions per unit of energy produced coal is much worse than natural gas. That is part of the reason why for some years environmentalists saw natural gas as a bridge fuel, better than coal in the short term but ultimately something we would have to replace once the costs, options, and effectiveness of renewable energy improved. Well renewables have improved on all of those fronts and they are increasingly beating natural gas on price per energy delivered in utility sponsored competitions for new resources. Also, what we have learned that we did not used to know is that natural gas leaks from pipelines, production sites, and other places. And based on the best information we have available now it looks like natural gas based systems are no longer better than coal systems.
The fact that utilities have often chosen natural gas instead of true clean energy to replace closing coal plants is not a sign of the failure of renewables it is a sign of the failure of utilities to fully embrace renewable energy. Renewables can and have done it, but it will be a battle to make it happen.
First this on how in 2018, renewables with storage provided cheaper energy than that provided by existing coal plants.
“According to Carbon Tracker, based on these bids, new wind+storage energy in Colorado is cheaper than energy from the state’s existing coal plants; solar+storage energy is cheaper than 75 percent of the state’s coal energy. This is worth repeating, because it’s a significant milestone: In Colorado, getting energy from new renewable energy projects with storage is cheaper than getting it from existing coal plants. Coal is dead.”
And something here from Forbes that is contrary to the points about renewable energy made in the movie:
“New U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data predict solar and wind energy will dominate America’s new generation in 2020, making up 76% of new generation and adding 42 gigawatts (GW) of zero emission capacity, while coal and natural gas will dominate 2020 retirements with 85% of plant closures.
EIA reports U.S. electricity generation from renewable energy exceeded coal for the first time in April 2019, and forecasts coal generation will decline 13% in 2020. EIA also projects natural gas generation will only grow 1.3% in 2020 – the slowest rate since 2017 – while non-hydropower renewable energy generation will grow 15% in 2020 – the fastest rate in four years.
New U.S. renewable energy investment rose 28% to a record $55.5 billion in 2019 despite pro-fossil fuel Trump administration efforts, U.S. solar installations could hit a record 19 gigawatts (GW) in 2020 despite federal tax incentives phasing out, and grid regulators estimate 330 GW of wind and solar will come online by 2029.”
Covid will likely have changed these numbers but it clearly shows that renewables are winning.
The movie keeps coming back to renewables intermittency. But there are many storage options. That said we only have a tiny amount of storage. True we need more but between batteries, pumped storage, compressed air, and more we have good options to build on.
Solar tower plant criticism. The plant they featured, Ivanpah 1, burns natural gas for startup. Many use natural gas for startup but there are others that do not do that. And this brings up the whole subject of again, of the need to acknowledge that we are in a transition and that most of even the green things involve now some fossil fuel use in their lifecycle. But people are working on changing that including changing large solar facilities and industrial production that does not use fossil fuels.
In the solar power station section, the narrator critiques solar because the materials take a lot of energy to mine and produce them. But that energy does not have to be fossil fuel based. He says you use more fossil fuel to create the solar power plant than the benefit you get from it. Not true.
Concentrated Solar Power
Reduce SourcesElectricityShift Production
Reduced / Sequestered
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
“A critical advantage of CSP is energy storage. Unlike PV panels and wind turbines, CSP makes heat before it makes electricity, and heat is easier to store. When equipped with molten salt tanks for heat storage, CSP plants can continue to produce electricity well after the sun goes down.”
Next it says we are being fed a lie. Claiming that Germany’s claim of getting a lot of its energy from renewables is incorrect. What is correct is it is important to make the distinction between energy and electrical energy. The rebuttal is below. It came from the review linked and quoted further down in this critique.
“Wind may only account for a small percentage of Germany’s overall energy needs, but it produces nearly 30% of its electricity, and that is important.
“Is the sun going to come up this time? It looks like it. An enormous number of solar superplants, some of them 10 times the size of Great Valley, are scheduled to go online in the next decade. Vietnam did not have a single large-scale solar installation in 2017. Today, with 5 gigawatts of capacity, it generates more solar power than Australia. India's goal was to install 20 gigawatts by 2022—but then the price of solar dropped below the price of coal, and it hit the target four years early. China, with 175 gigawatts of installed capacity, has the most extensive solar infrastructure in the world.
Despite the ramp-up in investment, solar power in the US still accounts for little more than 2 percent of current power supply. But experts project continued fast growth for solar in the coming years just using current technology. “It's now more profitable to save the world than to ruin it,” says Hal Harvey, a policy wonk who specializes in renewables.”
The movie criticized Germany for importing natural gas. This is not an all or nothing game. Even under the best of scenarios it will likely take 20 to 30 years to transition totally away from fossil fuels. That transition is happening but the fact that it has not completely happened yet does not make renewables a lie or worthless.
Contrary to what the movie says the fact that the Tesla giga factory is connected to the grid does not mean it is not powered mostly or totally by renewable energy or that it is not reducing significantly its contribution to climate change. Many facilities mostly or totally powered by renewables are grid connected for many reasons. One because they often generate more power at certain times than they can use, so they sell back into the grid the excess. It is better for all of us to have this interconnection, so that if one system goes down others can make up for it. Like many sites right now, this site may not be able to produce yet all the power it needs every hour of every day. It may have to buy some power from the grid. Does the fact that it buys power from the grid for 5 or 10% of the time totally negate the value of the solar energy it generates 90 – 95% of the time? No. It is dramatically reducing its use of fossil fuel-based resources most of the time. And on a net yearly basis it probably sells more excess solar power to the grid than the power it takes from the grid. Which is why it can claim to be a net renewable powered plant. A common term understood by those of us in the energy field. No one in this field thinks that net term is misleading or a lie. Only the amateurs who have not taken the time to learn the terminology of this very complex, technical field are confused by that term. Amateurs who feel they are totally able to critique this field without spending sufficient time educating themselves about the basics of the energy subject.
I have watched in amazement for decades how many amateurs have decided that they are knowledgeable and clever geniuses on sustainability topics that they know very little about and this movie is a continuation of that. They feel no need to first spend a few years educating themselves on the topic before critiquing it. Whereas many of us professionals and activists have spent years educating ourselves and continuing to educate ourselves for decades running.
No question that some of the mining could be done better in terms of cleanup, water, and more. And it is a shame that we have to mine to get materials for a lot of what we do. But we do. Part of the answer is living more simply. Part of it is energy efficiency to reduce our energy and resource demand. Another solution is recycling and reusing materials which we are getting better at. Also, we need to have more things like Fixit Cafes.
And we need to make use of fixit guidebooks and tools available at this web site.
I have to mention the book Drawdown again. It has 100 solutions to climate change. And a free update just came out with more solutions. This book and its approach have been highly praised and regarded by climate scientists and environmentalists worldwide. And many of the solutions based on the work of top research scientists include renewable energy options. But many are solutions that are not even directly energy related like solutions in farming, education, forest management, and more. One of the many points being that contrary to what this movie claims, it has already been widely agreed upon by many in the environmental movement that addressing climate change requires a wide range of changes to how we do many things beyond just solar and wind. https://drawdown.org/solutions
Just one of thousands of examples that environmentalists have been working on many solutions to climate change and our other environmental crises is the bill in Washington state that many worked on to pass that provides incentives to farmers who farm in a way that sequesters carbon.
Apple claims to run on 100% renewable energy. The movie critiques that. There is clearly a difference between what a company runs on and what it’s suppliers run on. Again those of us in the industry know that. Recognizing that distinction and claiming credit for running on 100% renewable energy is not a lie. Many are working to get their supply chains to clean up their environmental and social records.
A model for that is Patagonia. Is the total life cycle of all their products sustainable? Hell no. And they like many companies fully admit that. But Patagonia and many others are working on constantly improving the situation. Are their efforts worthless and not having a beneficial impact because they are not fully there yet? Of course not, many are reducing their impact. It is a long and difficult journey, but it is worth making if we are to survive.
Once again the movie claims that because Apple is hooked up to the grid it implies this negates their 100% claim. I already addressed that idea above.
Lie told by movie
“There is not a single entity anywhere in the world that is running on 100% solar and wind energy alone.” That statement is completely bullshit. (See the following links and explanations) Why do they insist is this movie on lying so much? Or is it just that they did such a poor job of researching this topic that is far beyond their grasp that they would have been given an F if it was submitted in an energy, climate, or engineering class in most high schools?
Multiple examples of the truth about off-grid solutions
The San Francisco Eco-Center has been totally off grid since it was completed in 2011.
4 story office building in Australia that runs totally on wind and solar.
“Companies providing off-grid energy access raised over $2.1 billion in corporate financing between 2010 and the end of 2019, including nearly $470 million last year, according to new research from Wood Mackenzie.
An estimated 420 million people globally now use standalone off-grid solar, while another 47 million people rely on mini-grids for access to electricity, according to the World Bank and IFC.”
Then the film moves into tarring the industry as bad because starting with the solar power station the mirrors were manufactured by a company owned by the Koch brothers. And they build plants and provide other materials. This goes back to my previous comment that I wish all the companies were worker owned co-ops. They aren’t. So, should we stop all renewable energy development until enough energy companies have become co-ops to do the massive work needed? If we waited that long, we would be screwed. We only have 10 years to cut our fossil fuel emissions by 50%. They imply that all the solar plants and equipment are provided by the Koch brothers but that is not true there are many suppliers and companies in the industry not owned by them.
Problem pointed out by movie
This relies on the most toxic and industrial processes that we have ever created. I would vote for plutonium production and nuclear power, DDT, and many others as more toxic. No question that there is some toxicity involved as there is with many our products and industrial systems and we need to do better as we need to do better in most things we do. Solutions: But cleaner options and solutions are being developed every day. For many examples see:
Green Biz https://www.greenbiz.com/
Problem pointed out by movie
States concrete is the 3rd leading cause of climate emissions. I think that is exaggerated but it is big. The good news is that there are now forms of concrete that are net absorbers of CO2 emissions. Once again, the movie failed to point out the good alternative, it only wants to put out the bad examples of all of this. Not sure why they ignore so many good examples. Again, maybe they just did not do a good job of research. Or maybe they started out with an agenda to make it all look bad.
Reduce SourcesIndustryImprove Materials
Reduced / Sequestered
Net First Cost
(To Implement Solution)
In other words we can dramatically reduce the climate impact of cement at a lower cost than the way we currently make and use cement. https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/alternative-cement
“Niven launched CarbonCure in 2007. The concept: develop a system to replace some of the cement used in making concrete with carbon dioxide, thereby both reducing emissions and sequestering carbon. Not to mention saving money.
Niven and his team eventually figured out a process that takes liquefied CO2 (captured from places like ammonia and ethanol plants) and injects it into wet concrete as it's being mixed. The CO2 chemically reacts with the cement and other ingredients in the mix, remineralizing it into solid calcium carbonate, which helps bind the other ingredients, increases the concrete's compressive strength, and takes the place of some of the cement that would otherwise be required. And even if the concrete eventually gets pulverized, that carbon remains an earthbound solid.
The company has developed a surprisingly simple system to bring the whole process out into the field. A tank of carbon dioxide feeds into a pair of dorm-fridge-sized metal boxes stuffed with valves, circuitry, and telemetry gear, which regulate the carbon dioxide's flow into a hose, which sprays it into the mixing drum. (The boxes are all made by a few guys in jeans and T-shirts at the Halifax HQ.) The tricky part is figuring out the optimal dose of CO2 for different mixtures; the strength, weight, and appearance of concrete for an airport runway in northern Canada are not necessarily what you want for an office building wall in Southern California. At the Halifax headquarters, CarbonCure technicians keep an eye on a wall of monitors tracking the operations of every one of their machines out in the real world. The monitors let them know if, say, a valve gets blocked at a job site in Georgia or a tank starts running low in Singapore.
The simplicity of its system is one of CarbonCure's best selling points. The concrete makers who are its customers don't have to change much for mixing and pouring at a construction site—they just add a little extra hardware. “The whole system fits in a crate,” Niven says. “It takes a single day to set up and it's universally applicable to any concrete plant in the world.” CarbonCure also connects clients to suppliers of captured carbon from other dirty manufacturing processes. (The company's goal is to someday capture carbon from cement plants themselves.)
CarbonCure's tech has improved steadily over the years, and so has its profile. In 2018 the company was named one of 10 finalists for a $20 million XPrize for turning carbon into commercial products. (The contest's winner will be announced this fall.) That same year, the company got a sizable (Niven won't say how sizable) investment from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the billion-dollar fund focused on carbon-reducing investments backed by Bill Gates and other tech titans. The money helps, Niven says, but the stamp of approval is perhaps even more valuable. “It really meant something for the broader investment community that that group would say, ‘This one's a vetted winner,’ ” Niven says.”
“A Better Build
by Liz Stinson
Concrete dominates construction, but some eco-friendly materials are trying to chip away at the edges.
Made from lumber boards that are glued and layered on top of each other crosswise, CLT comes in giant panels that can replace concrete and steel as the backbone of a building. When produced with sustainable forestry practices, CLT is a green alternative. The material was used to construct what is currently the world's tallest timber building: Norway's 18-story Mjøstårnet tower.
Combining the cannabis strain's woody interior pulp with lime and water produces “hempcrete,” a drywall-like material that's light and robust and has a low carbon output. Hempcrete isn't load-bearing, so it won't replace concrete and steel, but it's already been used in residential projects for walls and insulation.
When the threadlike fibers of mushroom root extensions are mixed with byproducts like corn husks, sawdust, and rice straw, it creates a foamlike material that can be cast into panels, bricks, and tiles. Often used to replace Styrofoam packaging, mycelium materials have also been used to make acoustic panels and insulation. One architecture firm in Cleveland is experimenting with combining mycelium with wood, insulation, and other construction waste to create biodegradable bricks.”
Next, it talks about how deserts are not dead, they are full of life. No disagreement from most environmentalists there. Yet they act like they are way ahead of everyone in recognizing that concept. For many environmentalists Joshua Tree is one of their favorite National Parks and it is basically in a desert. The movie complains about tearing down Joshua Trees not in the park to make way for solar projects. I would prefer not to see that. But we have a life or death choice before us now on our energy choices that the movie never brings up. Sit back and continue to let fossil fuel-based energy systems dominate our energy choices or continue to make good but imperfect progress with renewables, efficiency, and other alternatives. Expecting the renewables to be perfect in every way will ensure that we don’t meet the UN Climate scientists’ goal of reducing our emissions by 50% by 2030. I say go all out on renewables and the other solutions to reduce emissions 50% and try the best we can to avoid and minimize associated problems. And spend the next 10 – 20 years to reduce the emissions by 100%. There is universal agreement that this next step will be harder and that is where we will get the projects that are almost 100% renewable to truly be renewable by choosing the best of a wide range of options.
Now the movie features the Segs solar project site in Dagett, California. They have been building and dismantling solar arrays there for 40 years and they commented on the poor town and lack of jobs. And they showed a solar plant that was automated. I agree that we should have more people in factories and less automation. But again we are in an emergency, and without a major short term change to our economic and financial accounting and tax systems, which I would totally support, some automation is needed at least in the short term to produce enough more sustainable energy options and electric cars at a low enough price to get them adopted at the scale needed before it is too late. See Rolling Stone solar article below for documentation on the jobs created by solar.
Another good news story on solar. The movie never once mentions good solar stories like this. Why not?
“Solar power’s great leap forward over the past decade has been stunning. Solar energy can now supply nearly 14 million homes in the U.S., up from fewer than 800,000 in 2010, and the price for solar generation has plunged by 90 percent. Over the same time, our solar workforce — primarily installers — has more than doubled, to nearly 250,000. Southern states like Florida, South Carolina, and Texas are starting to realize their solar potential, ranking behind only California in new installed capacity last year, when solar accounted for nearly 40 percent of new electrical production nationwide. “Today, solar is cheaper than pretty much any other power technology you can install,” says Jigar Shah, the founder of Sun-Edison, who now helms the green-investment firm Generate Capital.”
The movie says “Giant solar and wind installations may only last a few decades” Well it would be great if they lasted longer but most studies show that they pay for themselves within a few years and they are net positive within 5 or 10 years, meaning it is more beneficial to build them than not. Look at Wired and other documents for studies and examples.
“A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conclusively demonstrates that the manufacturing energy cost versus the energy production payback for solar modules is generally less than 4 years.”
Now the movie claims that it “Turns out that what we have been calling green, renewable energy and industrial civilization are one and the same.” No, the better and more accurate way to frame it would be to compare energy and industry options that have a high climate and environmental footprint and options that have a much lower climate and environmental footprint. Again look to the book Drawdown and other sources mentioned here for examples of the lower footprint options.
The movie says “Desperate measures not to save the planet but to save our way of life.” Well the measures are desperate because the climate scientists are in agreement that the clock is running out and we need to ramp up implementation of renewables and the other solutions. I would say the measures are not primarily to save the planet, it will survive, in fact if we fade out it will likely do much better. No, the measures are to save our civilization. As far as our way of life, most environmentalists acknowledge that it will have to change and become more sustainable or our way of life will blink out. So, the choice is not between saving the planet or saving our way of life. It is a choice between maintaining our unsustainable ways of life or speeding up the transition to a more completely sustainable way of life. This movie continues to not only get the questions and poorly researched and very incomplete answers wrong; it also gets the framing of the subjects wrong. An ongoing sign that the people who put this together are newbies to these many complex topics who did not do their homework and failed to involve energy and environmental professionals as much more than punching bags.
The movie says “Desperate measures rather than facing that we are experiencing the planet’s limits.” And again the narrator of the movie makes this claim as if he and his team are the first people on earth to think about the concept of limits on the earth. They give no credit to those who stepped forward decades ago with that concept or to the many environmentalists who now accept that idea. One of my all-time favorite heroes is Donella Meadows. She is also an all-time hero for many other environmentalists. You know who she is? She was the lead author of the famous study/book “The Limits to Growth.” The study that came out in 1974 and it layed out that we would face major trouble in the future of hitting limits on many resources, if we stayed on our current rate of energy and resource use and pollution. One of the many things that this movie fails to acknowledge is that even if you accept that we also have to limit growth, resource use, population growth, and more, we also have to transition to renewable energy soon. While it is true that renewable energy technology alone will not save us. Reduced growth, reduced resource use, and reduced population growth will also not save us. We need all of that and more.
An ecologist from Montana says that production has peaked as far as farming, fisheries and other key resources. There are a wide range of studies out there that say if we farmed, grazed, and combined farming and forestry more efficiently we could make the land more productive. See the web site of Drawdown for examples of this. And countries like Palau who have set aside some areas of ocean as off limits for fishing have increased the production of their fisheries from such practices. None of this is to say that we are not close to or exceeding limits in some areas especially species diversity.
No question that as the movie says the Colorado river is in trouble and so is groundwater in many areas. I have been working in, teaching in, and reading on the subject of water for decades. No disagreement there.
No question that as the Montana ecologist says that the people in charge are not nervous enough about how close to some limits we are.
One speaker said he is scared. So am I. I have been scared about it all for decades. No question we are not doing enough quickly enough. But making a movie where you only present incorrect information on renewable energy and ignore the success stories only makes our chances of success worse, it does nothing to help the problem. And that leads to another major failing of the movie, it points out the problems sometimes correctly often times not. And it criticizes solutions but it presents no solutions that it supports other than population growth control and consuming less. That is not enough.
This next statement is one of my favorite incorrect statements in the movie. “So why are bankers, industrialists, and environmentalists only focused on the narrow solution of technology?” Guess what? They aren’t. Check out the wide range of things that the millions of environmentalists are working on all over the US and in the world. And once again, go to the Drawdown web site and see all the solutions that are not predominately technology. Of the 82 top solutions, 22 are not technologies. And only 20 of the tech related solutions require in any way high level, industrial technology. So, the solutions are already out there succeeding in ways that this movie wishes were happening, but it is. We just need to wake up to them, adopt the ones that make the most sense in each area, and increase the rate at which they are being adopted.
I agree with the psychologist that we are going to have to radically overhaul our conception of who and what we are and what we value. Totally agree. This is nothing new to me or many other professional environmentalists. The epic challenge is getting most other people to come out of their bubbles of denial to accept that and take action on it.
Movie goes back to biomass topic and yes I and Bill Mckibben and many others are usually or always opposed to that as a solution. But the Drawdown people see biomass as a bridge energy source. Here is what they say about it. They have a lot of research behind this point so maybe they are right that like many sustainability solutions, it is not so much about whether biomass is good or bad it is whether you do it right or not.
“Biomass energy is a “bridge” solution—one that can help the world transition from fossil-fuel power to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Until energy storage grows and the grid becomes more flexible, it can help meet electricity demand, complementing variable wind and solar power.
Carbon-rich biomass can be harvested to produce heat, create steam for electricity production, or be processed into oil or gas. Doing so trades in carbon that is already in circulation, cycling from atmosphere to plants and back again. Grow plants and sequester carbon. Process and burn biomass. Emit carbon. Repeat. It produces net zero new emissions, so long as use and replenishment remain in balance.
Biomass energy is a true solution only if it uses appropriate feedstock, such as waste from mills and agriculture or sustainably grown perennial crops. Using annual grain crops like corn and sorghum depletes groundwater and requires high inputs of energy. Using native forests is nothing less than an atrocity.”
The person in the movie opposes the biomass plant and brings up the point that the biomass facility that he opposes and that I would likely oppose, could not happen without fossil fuels. Once again, this movie makes the major mistake of suggesting that if fossil fuels are involved with a solution in any way that the solution itself is now bad. Wrong. The short term to medium term goal that the climate scientists have set for us is to reduce our contribution to climate change by 50% by 2030. So, any solution that reduces fossil fuel use is worth considering as long as other elements of it are not problematic. And if something can reduce fossil fuel use 50 – 80% then it looks like a big winner, again assuming no other problems. Yes, the goal should be zeroing out fossil fuel use and that is the goal. But completely eliminating fossil fuel use is not so easy to do in all categories right now. But reducing it 50% or more in many categories is very doable now. So, let’s not reject a solution just because it is not 100% fossil fuel free yet. Doing that is a sure recipe for doom.
The guy opposed to the biomass plant says that environmentalists are saying that all we have to do is switch from fossil fuels to solar and wind. I know of no professional environmentalists, energy professionals, climate scientists, or other working professionals in this field who have that very narrow focus. I find it entertaining that the people who produced this movie accuse environmentalists of being too narrow minded in their perspective, when in fact that is exactly a key part of the problem with the people who made this movie. They are ignoring all the other subjects that environmentalists, sustainable energy, green building, and climate scientists, and other related professionals are working on. The set of solutions being proposed by these people is infinitely greater than what this movie focuses on.
Same guy talks about us living like “normal” after adding solar and wind. One thing that has come out on a regular basis now in the time of Covid-19 is that many environmentalists have been talking and posting about how they hope we don’t return to “normal” because they get that normal is a big part of our problems. See Facebook for examples of this.
The narrator talks about how he doesn’t see the biomass plant as being carbon neutral. I don’t know whether it is or not. But he misses the point that it could be carbon neutral if the whole process of growing and burning the trees takes in an amount of carbon equal to how much it emits. There have been studies on other types of plants that have done that. It is possible. See the Drawdown example above. But I don’t know if that particular plant does it or not. Which leads to another problem I have with the movie. Where is the detailed documentation to back up all of their claims? Drawdown and other sources I list have documentation mentioning studies or examples. Also, where are the details on any of the bad examples they claim to provide. Getting sustainability right or wrong is largely in how you address the details. Swooping in for a quick snapshot of a particular project without providing details makes most of their cases not solid but often bordering on just speculation.
Unlike the guy the movie proposes, no one is proposing cutting all the trees in the US to power the country with biomass, it is just one of many possible solutions. A solution that I am not a big fan of but that I acknowledge might have some short term merit or need on a limited basis once I see more information on the subject.
Next the movie shows a solid waste burning plant. About 28 years ago I and other environmentalists opposed the proposed solid waste plants being considered as a solution to our waste problems in the Seattle area. I along with others in the Washington Toxics Coalition and other groups pushed strongly for the city to start a major recycling effort. We won that battle and Seattle started a very successful recycling program that has now hit some big bumps because China and other countries do not want a lot of our recycled material. But the industry is changing and adapting to some of those changes. But we will likely have to find more new ways to use recycled materials here and in other parts of the country. But it is still better than burning waste because it avoided the air pollution that a plant built in that era would have omitted. Now some people are claiming that the technology with the newer plants has mostly eliminated the air pollution problems; I don’t know about that. I tend to thing that reuse of materials would have a lower environmental and carbon footprint than burning the waste. But I have not seen a current uptodate comparison. Sounds like the plant in the movie does have very bad pollution.
The movie continues with biomass and how two universities have approved biomass projects to replace coal. And they go onto say that they are getting out of bed with coal and into bed with logging companies. Logging can and in some cases is done in a much more sustainable way than it used to be done. See the web site of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to learn about more sustainable ways of logging. https://us.fsc.org/en-us/certification Yet another major environmental topic that the makers of this movie are clueless about and as a result the make incorrect comments about what can and in some cases is being done with forestry projects.
The movie then goes to a site that is supposedly a sustainably managed forest. But based on my over 10 years working in the woods and my understanding of FSC forestry practices, that site does not look like it meets their type of sustainable logging standards.
I highly doubt that exporting wood chips from the US to Europe is a solid sustainable idea no matter how it is done, so I agree with the movie on that and many other environmentalists agree with me on that. If biomass could be sustainable it couldn’t be with exporting wood chips.
In the movie, they say that NRDC says you need to use the right type of biomass. That is basically what the Drawdown researchers concluded at least for the short term until we have more fully developed other renewable options. Unlike the movie I don’t see this as being dishonest, I think NRDC is just saying that just like with all sustainable solutions it depends on how you carry out the details. It could be good if done right and if not done right it is not good. That is exactly the perspective we need in examining most solutions.
The movie goes on to ask different citizens and environmentalists and leaders if they support biomass. Many citizens wre solidly opposed and many leaders waffled or said they don’t know. I see no problem with that. Does everyone have a solid, well informed, uptodate opinion on all sustainability topics? As someone who has been a sustainability consultant for decades, I can say that no one does have that. Many of these topics are shifting. I myself am generally opposed to biomass, but yet I have an open mind to being changed after looking more into the research and framing of it by the Drawdown people.
Like them I think even if I were to be convinced of the value of a particular biomass plant that got it right, I can’t see it as being a good long term option because making use of the lumber appears to do a better job of sequestering the carbon because instead of burning it you build with it and lock in the carbon in the lumber for several more years. The movie accuses people who are not sure what they think of hiding something. No proof of anything being hidden to me.
Then the movie goes onto the profit motive. No question that questioning growth is bad for at least some business, those based on the need for more growth. There is clearly a need to find ways to shift to businesses that do not need endless growth and businesses and an economy and financial system that measures the value that nature provides and the values that people provide that are not always measured or not measured so well and that do not require growth based on consuming more things. I have long been a fan of this alternative economics type thinking. I suggest looking at the writing of Paul Hawken for more information on this subject.
See the report below which includes an analysis and efforts to get companies to include the value of their impacts on nature.
And the movie suggests again that involving billionaires in the effort taints the subject. I don’t agree. And they now bring up biofuels which is a big topic complex. And like biomass, it could be helpful depending on how it was done. Certainly, ethanol from growing corn is a scam. But what about replacing fossil fuel for airlines with some kind of biofuel? My response is show me the 3rd party verified details of your biofuel plan. I might support it or not at least in the short term until we have a better option for airlines which right now looks like a very daunting challenge in terms of shifting to a more sustainable fuel.
Movie says that 350.org suggests investing in Green Century Funds. The movie narrator claims that he checked out Green Century Funds and that they had a lot of investments in oil and gas companies. I just went to the Green Century Funds web site and took a quick look at the companies they currently invest in. I saw no oil and gas companies and the only questionable investment was with J.P. Morgan Chase, less than 1% of their investments. If 350 was recommending investing in Green Century Funds when it had oil and gas companies included in its investments, I agree that would be wrong. But I could not find any oil and gas companies now. Nor did it have most of the other companies called out in the movie. And a lot of the investments looked green or at least not what I would call bad. But that is a big subject that many of us might disagree on.
Then the movie calls out Aspiration funds as one of the things the Sierra Club invests in and says that Aspiration has their money in bad things. So, I checked out their web site and found the following. The companies listed for this particular Aspiration fund didn’t look particularly green nor particularly bad. Again, no fossil fuel companies. https://funds.aspiration.com/redwood/
I will acknowledge that many environmental groups and most non-profits have been slow to recognize the need to get their investments in alignment with their principles. I first learned about and fought a few battles on this subject back in the 1980s, I won an effort to get Pax World Fund added as one of the investment options at a company I worked at back then. Pax World pledged back then no weapons, no tobacco, and no alcohol investments. Far from ideal but compared to most other funds, way better. That said I have never seen evidence that how an environmental group or another environmental change organization invested its money impacted its actions. The groups involved in the investments and actions seemed to be not talking with each other much. And even if it was the same people, they seemed to have created a wall in their mind where they did not consider the investments at the level, I thought they should. But I have also noticed that many groups have come a long way on that topic since the 1980s.
Next section gives Al Gore a hard time for his investments in sugar cane-based biofuels and biomass. That could be bad. I don’t know the details. And once again the movie provides few details on the exact projects that Gore is involved with. So maybe bad or not, but certainly no proof.
What they show in Brazil that they say is associated with the sugar cane based biofuel industry is bad. That does not mean all biofuel is bad. Like biomass, I think this subject probably has a range of projects that run from being problematic to maybe being a good choice at least short term. It depends on the details.
Now the movie makes one of the most vague and simplistic statements of all. It says that “The takeover of the environmental movement by capitalism is now complete.” I am not even sure what they mean by that. I suggest looking at the book Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken. That book documents the work of thousands of small environmental groups that while they get money from donations many are not controlled in any way by major companies. That said, we do live in a capitalist society so to say that capitalism does not play a role is not true. Most of us make our living from the capitalist society we live in. And most countries in the world are capitalist. But I wish the movie had clarified what they meant by saying the whole environmental movement has been taken over by capitalists. Is the movie suggesting that large corporations control all of them? I have worked for and been on the board of 7 smaller environmental and other groups most of which received some funding from grants or other larger groups but I saw no evidence of large corporations controlling them. In fact I never even met any of the funders. There probably is some control of some groups but I have seen no evidence to suggest that large corporations control all of the environmental movement. If that is what they mean by the claim that capitalism has taken over the whole movement, they are dead wrong.
I see no problem with environmental groups taking some actions to make money more than bake sale type fundraisers. Once again it is all about the details of what they are doing to make money. To me part of what we need to do to create a more sustainable society is to move to making more of our money from more sustainable enterprises. So Sierra Club selling solar panels from their web site sounds like a great idea to me. We all should strive to make money in more environmentally and socially responsible ways.
I just came to the part that one person said bothered him because Bill McKibben hesitated when he was asked who funded 350.org. He finally came up with the Rasmussen Fund and said that the Rockefeller Fund had given them money, but he didn’t know who funded them now. When I was on the boards and in leadership roles of the different groups mentioned above, I could never have told you off the top of my head which organizations funded or gave grants to us at that moment in time. It changed from year to year. And the Treasurer and or staff accountant kept close track of that. In many cases if a funder was willing to give money to our good work, it didn’t matter for the most part who they were. And unless you have ever been on a board like that you may not realize that the funders typically don’t set a lot if any restrictions other than asking you document that you did with their grant what you said you would do.
I don’t buy that because Al Gore bought a news agency owned by a country and or companies backed by fossil fuels that he has compromised his principles. He bought a news agency not an oil company. The company he bought made its money from news not oil. But I recognize that others may ask for more purity. I guess that if that bothers someone, I would ask that person what steps they have taken in their own lives to reduce and ultimately stop their use of fossil fuel products. I have never met anyone in the developed world who has sworn off the use of fossil fuels. So how is that personal behavior any better than what Al Gore did. In fact, I would claim it is worse because his company made money from news, but our personal use of fossil fuels directly keeps those companies wealthy and in power.
Having some environmental bad guys fund an Earth Day event is maybe bad or not. If they fund a good thing is it bad? Or is it only bad if they require the group to compromise their principles? And it looks like Denis Hayes was wrong to claim that an event in the movie was totally solar powered when it wasn’t. Or maybe he was just poorly informed and didn’t really know the story about it because he was one of many speakers who came in briefly and left. If he was not deeply involved in the event, he may not have known the details himself. That said where do you draw the line on taking donations?. I have a good friend who is a big developer who I have argued with for years trying to convince him to build in a more green way and now I appear to be winning him over on that. And on the farm property that he owns he is planting tens of thousands of native trees and other native plants. So, he and his company are sometimes environmentally and socially responsible and sometimes not. Would it be wrong to take any funding from him? Or does it depend more on what you did with the funding?
The movie narrator goes on to say that all of this is overwhelming, and it is not something we usually think about. And by not thinking about it, it could do us in. I’m here to tell you that I have thought about it almost every day for the last 50 years as I know many other environmentalists have also. And I have constantly evaluated what I thought would be the best way to get more people to think about and take action on this subject.
I could not disagree more with the narrator when he says that awareness alone creates the path to transformation. Not true. I argued this with one of my environmental college professors back in the late 1970s and I still would argue it. In my work on thousands of environmentally related projects over 50 years, I have seen tens of thousands of people made aware of the environmental problems and many commit to working for change and some follow through but many of them also just fell back into their bad habits.
The movie says “We must accept that infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide.” I totally agree. I have thought that for a long, long time. “Billionaires are not our friends.” I partly agree. I opposed Trump for president, and I opposed Bloomberg and Steyer the other billionaires. But unlike the movie I think Bloomberg’s money for fighting coal plants has had much success and been a good thing because it helped close hundreds of coal plants. And Steyer has contributed money to many good causes. To me it is how the money is used than who gave it to you. And it is how much power the giver wants over your efforts.
“We must accept that it is not CO2 that is destroying the planet it is us.” No, it is both and methane and much more.
“It is not one thing. It is all things that we humans are doing. A human caused apocalypse” Wrong. We humans are doing many good things. Once again why does this movie insist on only focusing on the negative? Look at the Drawdown book to see many of the good things we are doing. Or look at most of the work of your local Land Trust. And so many more groups. Suggesting that everything we are doing is not just incorrect and misleading, it is hopeless nonsense. It is ignoring the many good efforts that are achieving great results.
The movie says that the Sierra Club came out against biomass but then gave an award to a college that burns biomass. That may or may not be wrong. Why did they give the award to the college?. Did the policy change and award involve the same people? Again, it depends on the details which this movie often gives short shrift to.
The movie says that Bill McKibben changed his mind about biomass but that the Middlebury plant and others still burn biomass. The Middlebury plant is not owned by Bill McKibben, it is dishonest to suggest there is a negative connection there. Even if Bill McKibben wanted to stop the Middlebury plant it may or may not be so easy, as many of us know who have spent many years to achieve small victories.
The movie says that Al Gore and David Blood opened a new sustainability fund in the Cayman Islands. They probably did that to avoid taxes and oversight and I agree that is wrong.
For the record while I respect Al Gore’s work on climate change and other environmental issues, I have had long running disagreements with a few things he does or has done. He lives in a huge home in Tennessee. And he traveled all around the world to address environmental issues. I like environmental leaders who walk their talk way better than that in how they live their lives. And I believe the most sustainable solutions are those based on a deep understanding of the very different conditions in each place around the world. So, the sustainability leaders around the world have to be mostly local people well informed about which sustainability solutions are based matched to local conditions. National and international leaders can help but most of the work should ideally be done by locals.
The movie claims that shortly after the second showing of this film the Sierra Club’s Aspiration Fund shut down. That is funny because I found a web site with details for it when I looked on Sunday, April 26, 2020.
I find it entertaining that some of the footage in the movie was provided by Aspiration, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bloomberg, Bechtel, Caterpillar Global Mining, Duke Energy, Colorado Oil and Gas Association, General Electric, Georgia Pacific, Goldman Sachs, Middlebury College, Shell Oil, Tesla Motors, Treehugger, Union of Concerned Scientists, and more. All of those are companies that the movie either criticizes and or tars others for taking money from them or associating with them, and or they criticize the type of business those companies engage in. But the producers of this movie feel that the rules about not associating with or taking anything from these kinds of companies are different for them. Curious.
I love the Rachel Carson quote about how we are challenged to prove our mastery and maturity of ourselves not nature. Couldn’t agree more.
Reviews of the movie or others comments related to it start here.
Good review here
Below is one of my Facebook posts on this movie with quotes and a link to a review:
Do you think it would be a good idea to put people with no gardening, cooking, or food sales experience in charge of the organic food movement and ignore the seasoned veterans? How about having someone with no electrician experience work to solve and fix electrical problems in your home? Well than why take the word of what looks like the energy amateurs involved in this movie?
I am only 25 minutes into watching this movie and I now have over 3 pages of solid science and real world based criticisms of the many misleading comments I have seen so far. Very disappointed that Michael Moore supported a movie that appears to not have involved any of the thousands of energy experts who would like me would disagree with its incorrect portrayal of our energy picture. This movie is not only often incorrect but it is a great disservice to the cause of moving rapidly to a more sustainable future.
‘“Fake news” is built on people who claim to be “experts,” using anecdotal evidence, or no evidence at all, to make sweeping generalizations and other unfounded claims that are not backed up by a wider consensus of informed opinion. Unfortunately, there is a lot of that in this movie.’
“The US currently has about 800 million watt-hours (MWh) of utility-scale battery storage in total. This will rise substantially by next year, when a single battery unit capable of storing 900 MWh of electricity comes online in Florida. By 2024, battery storage capacity in the US is expected to reach 14,000 MWh. We will need much more than this to meet current and future electricity needs, but it is not impossible to imagine doing so.”
“Wind may only account for a small percentage of Germany’s overall energy needs, but it produces nearly 30% of its electricity, and that is important.
This is what Bill McKibben, one of the leaders in the fight against climate change, said about the movie:
“A Youtube video emerged on Earth Day eve making charges about me and about 350.org — namely that I was a supporter of biomass energy, and that 350 and I were beholden to corporate funding, and have misled our supporters on the costs and trade-offs related to decarbonizing our economy. These things aren’t true. Apparently there are lots of other falsehoods and misrepresentations in the film as well, but I’ll let others speak to those.”
“I don’t understand the reasoning behind these particular attacks; when I first heard rumors of them last summer I wrote the producer and director to set the record straight, and never heard back from them. That seems like bad journalism, and bad faith.”
A good critique of some of the many ways this film got it wrong.
“But the arrogance of the film maker to use their platform the way they have - to think they’re asking these basic questions for the very first time, to not stop and wonder if they’ve been answered already and do the hard work of wading into the research honestly and without preconceptions - that’s the worst part about this movie. It’s hard to stomach, and deeply disappointing.”
“Ho boy. This film blows right through complicated topics and draws conclusions after presenting the weakest of cherry-picked arguments. Worst of all, it implies that the work of literally thousands of climate scientists around the world is naively misguided and is possibly a corrupt conspiracy with financial fossil fuel and banking interests.”
“There is so much wrong in this film that a complete refutation would need a book.”
“Lately, wind and solar projects are outbidding coal and even natural gas on price, even without subsidies in some cases. When a green energy project wins a bid, it literally means that a fossil fuel plant didn’t get built. That’s why the film’s argument that renewables aren’t displaying coal and gas is so confusing wrong and bad.”
“When you hear about the smart grid, that’s a big part of the solution to integrate a high percentage of intermittent electricity into the grid. We know what the solutions are: demand management, energy efficiency, pricing models that encourage users to shift their electricity use, higher capacity transmission lines, better coordination between electricity markets, and energy storage are some of the many ways we can tackle this problem. It’s hard, but not intractable by any stretch. It’s already happening.”
“There’s a massive Tesla grid-scale battery in Australia that’s been so successful that they recently did a 50% expansion.”
“Even so, when you do a life cycle accounting of lithium batteries, they come out way ahead of fossil fuel alternatives. Not only that, the technology keeps getting better. Tesla, in particular, is working on cobalt-free batteries and recently patented technology that will allow their vehicle batteries to last a million miles.”
“The bottom line is: yes, solar panels are environmentally friendly. In the worst case, solar panels have an energy payback time of 4.1 years, and will generate 8 to 12 times as much energy in their lifetime than was needed to mine the raw materials, manufacture, and install them. Recycling solar panels is still new, but more companies are doing it. And solar panel manufacturing releases fewer heavy metals than burning coal.”