Twilight of the Green Follies
For more than two and a half centuries, human kind has lived under an irreconcilable dichotomy – the benevolent revolution we call the enlightenment, and the inevitable reactionary counter-revolution that followed it – a dichotomy that has continued to our days.
The enlightenment introduced a number of revolutionary concepts that demolished the church dogma that had dominated the Middle Ages. It established reason and empirical knowledge as the source of authority leading to the scientific revolution beginning with Copernicus and the heliocentric theory of the universe. In government, the enlightenment brought about the radical idea of individual liberty with John Locke’s call for “life, liberty and property.“ The revolution reached its apotheosis in the late 18th century with the American Constitution and its idea of “inalienable rights” given to us by our Creator and of a government based on the consent of the governed. All of this was based on the unshakeable belief in progress driven by man and the Judeo-Christian civilization’s fundamental belief in the primacy of man over nature.
Yet no sooner did these radical ideas gain wide currency in the West than the reactionary counter-assault materialized. It started with Jean-Jacque Rousseau, considered by many the father of the totalitarian temptation, and his idea of an all powerful state using coercion as means of imposing an imaginable “general will.” Since then, humanity has struggled to reconcile two ideologies that are fundamentally at odds: one based on the rights of the individual, the other espousing the unlimited power of the state. The latter one found its culmination in the bloody totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century, best expressed in Mussolini’s dictum “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” And it is this veneration of the coercive powers of the state that fundamentally unites Nazism, fascism and communism despite other marginal differences.
The assault in the belief in progress that underpinned the enlightenment continued in the late 18th century with Thomas Malthus’ reactionary idea of excessive population as a burden to civilization, expressed in our days in the bogus “population bomb” scares of Paul Ehrlich and the coercive and inhuman one-child policy in China. This assault on reason veered off into the racist eugenics theories of the first half of the 20th century and ultimately found its highest expression in the cult of nature over homo sapiens on which all modern green ideology is based. First expressed in 1913 in a proto-Nazi manifesto by notorious anti-Semite, Ludwig Klage, called “Man and Earth,” this has remained the central belief system of the pioneer German Green Party since its founding in 1980 and all the green movements that were to follow since. Indeed, in 1980, the Green Party reissued “Man and Nature” without any reference to its reactionary authorship.
But it would be a mistake to consider this cult of nature an innocent manifestation of the earning to restore nature’s presumed paradise lost. Its most consequential current incarnation – ‘global warming’ -- is a barely disguised assault on capitalism. It is for many, the last and best chance of the Left to do away with the hated free enterprise system. Why this is so is not difficult to understand. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the American socialist, Robert Heilbronner, admitted that the capitalist system had proven economically superior to the socialist model, but urged his co-religionists -- for this is what they really are -- not to despair. It was still possible to achieve socialist goals, he argued, by using the ecological movement. And so they have.
With its bogus claims of ever greater triumphs of renewable energy, government mandates and exorbitant subsidies, the global warming scam closely resembles Stalinist Lysenkoism and the erstwhile Soviet propaganda of the glorious achievements of socialism.
Unfortunately, reality tends to wreak havoc with the fantasies of socialist charlatans and so it has with renewable energy, the putative solution to global warming.
There are at least three problems with renewable energy (wind and solar), which are not surmountable. First, it is intermittent i.e. not reliable, because there are times when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. In fact, the Germans have invented a word for it, they call it ‘Dunkelflaute’ (dark doldrums). This means that there must be a base, non-renewable, grid load maintained at all times. This is hugely expensive, apart from making a mockery of the whole concept of 100% renewable energy.
Secondly, renewable energy depends on government subsidies and is not feasible without them. As Warren Buffet has put it succinctly, “the only reason to invest in renewable projects are government subsidies.” The subsidies, of course, are paid by electricity users which makes rates skyrocket. In Germany, the self-anointed world leader of renewable energy, a kilowatt hour (kWh) now costs 30 euro cents, more than twice the average for Europe. In order to maintain the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries, Germany makes the ratepayers subsidize industry, which is socialism pure and simple. In California, current rates are $0.18 cents per kWh, which is at least 40% higher than the rest of the country and ultimately will lead to deindustrialization. California no longer produces any microchips, nor are there many data centers left in the state, despite the fact that all of the high-tech behemoths are headquartered here. The green charlatans running that state won’t tell you that, but it does not make it any less of a reality.
Third, the efficiency of solar and wind tech, despite being heavily subsidized, is rapidly approaching the limits of physics, which means that there are no great efficiency improvements to be expected, as expert Mark Mills has eloquently argued. Current wind turbines capture 40% of the energy of the wind, while the maximum possible according to the law of physics (Betz Limit) is 60%. Similarly, modern solar cells, says Mills, capture 26% of the sun’s energy, while the physical limit of conversion (Shockley-Gueisser limit) is 33%. Compare this to American natural gas production, which, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), has 500% gap between today’s productivity and what is possible.
The renewable energy emperor has no clothes and it won’t be long before everyone can see it.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Alex Alexiev is chairman of the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies (cbbss.org). He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.