More Biomass Energy than Nuclear?


This morning I came across an article that set off all kinds of warning alarms over on Forbes.  It makes the astounding claim that renewable energy has surpassed nuclear power in the United States.  I knew right away that there was some funny going on because nuclear has been a solid 20% of electric energy generation for a long time and things like that don’t change quickly.

The first indicator of how that claim came about was when she provided the percentage of power generated by nuclear power.

In the first three months of 2011, renewable energy — hydroelectric, geothermal, solar/PV, wind, and biomass — made up 11.7 percent of the U.S. energy production mix, surpassing nuclear at 11.1 percent.

That tells me that she is not discussing actual electric power generation, but total energy usage.  This includes things like gasoline and ethanol.  Suddenly the claim started to make sense.  When it comes to actual generation of electricity, nothing has really changed.  Not that she would give any indication of this.

The Inconveneint Skeptic

So from this it is clear that if hydroelectric is removed from the renewable energy column, then renewable energy is only at 3.3%.  So despite all the money that has been spent on solar and wind, it is still only generating 3% of the countries electricity.  Since nuclear has been producing a stable 20% for a couple of decades now, nothing has changed when it comes to the generation of electricity.

But that isn’t what she is talking about.  She is really trying to make the argument that renewable energy can make it big.  The entire basis for her claim is biomass.  Now biomass is one of those funny terms that is showing up a lot lately.  It basically exists for the same reason that climate change is used instead of global warming.  A majority of biomass is wood for fuel and ethanol.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

This shows that wood for fuel is comparable to hydroelectric for all power uses in the United States. Wood counts as biomass.

The real change is in the use of bio-fuels.  This would be primarily ethanol as an additive to gasoline.  That is really the only change that has taken place in the last decade.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

Only biofuel is showing a real change in capacity.

So the burning of wood and the usage of food crops to make ethanol is the entire basis for this articles claim that renewable energy is now greater than nuclear power.  Needless to say this article is incredibly misleading to someone who takes it at face value.

This fits right in with the IPCC energy bible that came out in May.  The one that said it was possible to go renewable in the near future, but that whole report was written by the renewable energy director of Greenpeace.  Attempts to misinform readers with things like this is why I got involved in the debate.

I would also like to point out that she makes a big deal about renewable energy, but also states that the two largest sources of renewable energy are not really acceptable solutions.

However, environmentalists find objectionable the two biggest technologies that make up the renewables sector: hydroelectric power at 35 percent and biomass at 48 percent.

So her 11.7% of total energy by renewable is really only 2% of acceptable forms of renewable energy.  That is a far more realistic view of the state of renewable energy.  It can do 2-5% of the energy, but it will be the most expensive and least reliable form of energy.  That is the real story.  If people like her would be honest in their presentation of the facts, the entire debate would not be such a mess.

I am not calling this a bald-faced lie, but it is a kissing cousin.

Posted in Bad Science and Fear and Misinformation by inconvenientskeptic on July 10th, 2011 at 9:46 am.

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