Monday, April 26, 2021

Renewable Energy Rant

Wind Farm in Southern Alberta
Watercolour and crayon
©2016 Charlene Brown

Outdated analyses of the climate change mitigation potential of various technologies refer to ‘renewable’ alternatives to fossil fuels.  In these analyses, biofuels (or biomass), which do not result in significant GHG emission reductions* are combined with other renewables (solar, wind, tide) that have huge potential to make significant GHG reductions, and nuclear energy, which is a whole different class with unique disadvantages (public perception) and advantages (remote location can greatly reduce need for transmission lines or pipelines). 

‘Renewables’ should not be considered as a group with similar climate-change mitigation potential.  Alternatives to fossil fuels should be described as low-carbon, clean or green. These alternate energy sources include nuclear and do not include biofuels.

* Originally, biofuels were viewed as inherently carbon-neutral, assuming the carbon dioxide plants absorb from the air as they grow completely offsets, or neutralizes, the CO2 emitted when fuels made from plants burn. However, this offset is largely negated by the GHGs emitted during the cultivation, harvesting, transportation, and refining processes.  When burned for power generation or heating, biofuels emit about the same amount of GHGs as fossil fuels.