WASHINGTON – Renewable energy had its great moment when we had the convergence between Global Warming predictions (or prophesies?) and Peak Oil pseudo-science. It went like this. Burning carbon is insane, because carbon emissions will destroy our habitat. Besides, carbon will get scarce and much more expensive, as we squeeze every drop that is left, after decades of insane drilling.
Renewable energy is the only solution
Our only hope for salvation was renewable energy. Just the expression “renewable energy” sounds sweet and benign. Think of it. A source of energy that replenishes itself, and that does not leave behind any nasty byproducts. No emissions. It is what we need to save the planet.
And so the production of renewable energy did not become an industry, a money-making enterprise. No, it became a mission, pursued by an exalted priesthood of benign scientists –or so we were told.
But now, puff, it is all gone. The prophesies about Global Warming did not go away. But the predictions of oil and gas scarcity have disappeared. And that has killed or will kill non competitive renewable energy.
The fact is that we have an enormous amount of carbon based energy. What happened here in the US, thanks to the shale revolution, is just the tip of the iceberg.
The shale revolution
America was the first country to discover and adopt hydraulic fracturing to exploit shale deposits. But there is plenty of shale in China, Argentina, Russia, Australia and elsewhere. Because of our ability to exploit large shale deposits, US natural gas is ultra cheap. How can renewables compete without subsidies against very inexpensive natural gas? They cannot. And tax payers will soon wise up and realize that the “renewable energy missionaries” are in fact part of a scam aimed at making money by forcing utilities to buy expensive wind and solar energy in the name of lower emissions and sustainability.
So, here is the new picture. The world is awash in oil, (conventional, plus “tight” extracted from shale), and soon enough many other countries will start developing shale gas. And if you say that this is just a phase, because these resources are after all finite, think that our carbon reserves will last at least another 100 years. This is not for ever; but it is a long time.
Besides, we are just beginning to understand the energy potential of methane hydrates, methane crystals found in enormous quantities at the bottom of the Oceans. There are huge deposits that contain colossal amounts of energy.
At the moment, the exploitation of methane hydrates is in its early, experimental stages. It will take time to develop this exploration into commercial activities. But, when that happens, this will be the equivalent of drilling the first commercial oil well (known as Drake Well) in Titusville, North-Western Pennsylvania in 1859.
It will be another energy revolution.
Plenty of cheap carbon energy
Bottom line, contrary to decades of dire predictions, we have plenty of carbon energy, and it is cheap. This does not mean that renewable energy has no future. It only means that renewable energy will be adopted when it will make economic sense.
Its days as a political mandate are over.