…Prosperity is Linked to Energy…
The accompanying graph shows how gross domestic product (GDP), an accepted measurement of economic prosperity, is tied to the use of energy.
The greater the use of energy, the greater the GDP.
As shown in Fossil Fuels: Villain or Hero? 81% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels.
One could say, therefore, that prosperity is the result of using fossil fuels.
But could renewables replace fossil fuels and make fossil fuels irrelevant?
The answer is no.
However, could renewables replace fossil fuels in certain locations or under certain conditions?
The answer to this question is probably yes.
However, this is the exception that many people use to try and prove renewables can replace fossil fuels.
An island could rely on renewables, solar and wind if the demand was very low and sufficient storage could be made available to compensate for the time that solar and wind can’t generate electricity.
But, this is a very specific situation that is only found in a few places around the world.
It is impossible for the world to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar and achieve the same degree of prosperity that exists today.
First, the amount of energy the world uses is huge, and renewables cannot replace it by themselves. Already I hear the chorus saying, “But the sun can provide more energy than the world needs.”
Of course, this is theoretically true if we can store enough electricity to offset the periods the sun doesn’t shine: And that’s currently impossible. But even if it were possible, the added cost of storing electricity would make energy from the sun far more expensive than energy from fossil fuels. The same is true for wind, though it’s doubtful it could even match the amount of energy the world uses.
Nuclear power, using fission or fusion, could potentially replace fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, nuclear power, using fission, has been ostracized by the same group that is hysterically clamoring to keep fossil fuels in the ground. And nuclear power from fusion has yet to be proven workable.
But what about hydrogen? Someone will ask. Or, someone else will ask, “What about biofuels?”
These so-called alternatives have inherent problems that prevent them from replacing fossil fuels. Hydrogen, for example, is not found in free form in nature, so it must be separated from the compound it’s a part of. It takes energy to separate hydrogen from water, for example, and what will be the source of that energy.
The energy density of biofuels is very low, and as a result, there is insufficient land area to grow enough biomass to produce the energy we need.
The table shows the relative power densities, in watts per meter squared, of biofuels and other sources of energy. Power density is an excellent benchmark for evaluating energy claims.
Fossil fuels are essential for maintaining our prosperity and for bringing billions of people out of poverty.
Efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground are destructive and harm everyone.
We have nothong to fear from CO2.
. . .
“One could say, therefore, that prosperity is the result of using fossil fuels.”
One could say that, but one would be wrong. One would be confusing correlation with causation. Prosperity is the result of the human brain, as Julian Simon pointed out decades ago.
If prosperity was the result of using fossil fuels, then, for example, France would have become poorer by abandoning fossil fuels for nuclear power to power its electrical grid.
Thanks. You may want to revisit your comments.
First, the title of the article was Prosperity is Linked to Energy. But, it so happens that the vast majority of that energy is from fossil fuels.
Man’s genius was to develop the technology that could use those resources.
No one said that fossil fuels were the best source of energy. That revovles around energy density and nuclear is better in that regard. However, fossil fuels have much greater energy density than wind or solar, which is why fossil fuels are so much better than renewables.