News / USA

Energy Expert Questions Green Future

Wind turbine
Wind turbine

The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has intensified the effort to move away from petroleum and other fossil fuels in favor of what is often described as a "green energy future", where clean renewable sources of energy would power the electric grid as well as transportation. Even oil companies now promote wind turbines, solar arrays and bio-fuels as part of their "green energy" initiatives. But energy expert Robert Bryce says much of this is fantasy and that people need to deal realistically with demand for energy.

Repower America TV ad:

"Some people say the answer to our energy lies in the past, they want to
burn more oil, more dirty coal. Problem is, it burns carbon and it is killing God's green earth. The future is over here- wind, sun, a new energy grid."

The televised ad for the non-profit group Repower America lays out a green energy future.

It is one of many calls to embrace renewable energies and end our so-called addiction to oil and other hydrocarbons. In speeches around the country, Robert Bryce challenges that view.

"Hydrocarbons are here to stay. Nine out of 10 units of energy, nine out of 10 units of power that we consume come from hydrocarbons, they are not going away. Second, many of the myths about green energy are just that, they are myths," he said.

Bryce says there may be a larger role for such things as wind, solar and geothermal someday if big advances are made, but to replace the world's current daily use of hydrocarbons, he says, we would need the energy equivalent of more than 23 Saudi Arabias.

Robert Bryce lays out his arguments, with plenty of supporting material, in his new book Power Hungry, The Myths of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. In the book, Bryce shows that fossil fuels like oil and natural gas have a high energy density. That refers to how much energy each measurable unit contains.

In a VOA interview, Bryce compared the amount of energy produced by a wind turbine and a natural gas well, based on the land each requires.

"The power density of a wind turbine is about one to 1.2 watts per square meter. That is, one watt for every square meter that you cover and with a wind turbine you get about one watt out. Compare that with a natural gas well, just a stripper well, which is considered marginal.  It produces a power density of about 28 watts per square meter, so we are talking on an order of 20 times greater power density from a gas well than what comes from a wind turbine."

Bryce also notes that wind turbines rely on rare earth elements like neodymium to generate electricity efficiently and around 90 percent of those rare metals are controlled by one country-China. He says Americans who complain about reliance on foreign oil should consider what it would be like to rely on one foreign country for the entire wind energy sector.

Robert Bryce is not against developing renewable energies; in fact he has solar panels on his own house in Austin. But he says solar is simply not economically competitive.

"I am all for solar. I have invested in the solar panels for a number of reasons, one, this is what I do, I write about the energy business, so I wanted to understand the economics myself," Bryce explained. "But we have to be realistic about what solar can do. It is intermittent and it is relatively expensive compared to conventional forms of electricity."

Bryce argues that policy makers should be looking at two forms of energy already available to power the nation over the next several decades. One is natural gas, reserves of which have grown dramatically in the past few years thanks to new drilling techniques. Natural gas produces about half the carbon of coal in electrical generation and could be used in the transportation sector as well. He also favors expansion of nuclear power.

"Natural gas and nuclear are the two energy sources that I see, moving forward, are the fuels of the future. Why? Because they can provide the scale of energy we need at a cost that we can afford," he noted.

Robert Bryce, managing editor of Energy Tribune and a Manhattan Institute fellow, welcomes debate from anyone who questions his arguments. All he asks is that they look at the facts and do the math.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs