Joseph Romm vs. Bill Gates
Dr. Joseph Romm, on his widely popular and educational blog Climate Progress questioned today many of Bill Gates views on energy and global warming. With all due respect to Dr. Romm, I think he is not seeing the full meaning of Bill Gates points. Here are some of the comments I wrote today on his blog:
Listen to Bill Gates!
I have been an environmental scientist for several decades and made significant contributions to the commercialization of wind energy when I was the manager of the solar office and the wind energy program for the California Energy Commission. I tried to look at reality and not mislead myself by wishful thinking. Bill Gates is a wise man and we must listen to him; he has a lot of logical things to say we do not wish to listen to because they are against our dreams. But facts are facts, even if we ignore them.
Many of the points Bill Gates discussed are valid:
First, he did not say efficiency is useless, but that it is limited. I have been advocating energy efficiency and conservation strongly for half a century. Almost no progress was achieved to date. It is not sexy like PV and people do not want to use conservation. Only strict national mandatory laws stronger than California may make a difference. It is not that the efficiency and conservation are not important, they are critically desirable and important, it is the difficulty in spreading them fast and widely to make a difference.
Read: Conservation can cut 30 times more CO2 per dollar, on my blog.
Bill Gates is correct on PV. First he is correct that unless the technology can be widely used in China and India it is essentially useless. PV is too expensive by a significant factor to be use on a large scale in these critical countries. No matter how much we cut GHG these two countries will continue to pass us with GHG by increasing amounts. They are the key to cutting GHG!
The PV global industry is in the order of $20 billion a year! This is a huge industry, not in infancy with starting pain. Why does it need more government support? Only to maintain and increase the profit of the PV industry. The cost of the panels went down a little, but it is not passing on to the consumer. The system price has to drop by ten to one according to Dr. Steven Chu to be significant. Not this expensive PV technology! Panels are less than 35% of system cost!
Without government support PV would have died a long time ago, as it should since it has made less than negligible contribution to reducing GHG. Also, too many supporters are dreaming about a world covered with PV panels and do not do other, more important things such as conservation and efficiency. Current PV technology inherently can't do it. Environmentalists often give Germany as a champion on PV we should emulate. Wrong! Germany spent over $70 B on PV by last year and got less than one half a percent of its electricity from that huge investment. At the same time wind produce 7% of their electricity, but worst of all, Germany has been increasing their dependence on coal power by considerably larger percentage that all the green technologies combined. Let's look at facts as they are, rather as we wish them to be.
Using this money for conservation and efficiency would have reduced GHG by 20 times or more.
The basis fact is that flat panel silicon technology demands very highly refined silicon which demands a lot of electricity to refined which is produced by coal power plants in Germany and China. We have also the several years of energy payback to consider.
It will take too long to demonstrate all the sensible points Bill Gates made. Let's listen to him and review carefully what we are proposing.
BTW, yes, nuclear power is more promising BECAUSE little innovations and improvement were made to date. There are so many new improvements that could be introduced. Without nuclear our green technologies are too erratic and even the promising wind energy may be degraded since future weather patterns would be changing and be less predictable with increasing GW.
Read www.ginosaronglobalwarming.org to understand why PV is not any part of the answer with current technology. R&D is critical to find new more practical solar technologies of converting sun energy to electricity.
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