The long way ahead

After searching some interesting facts on renewable energy to share, I stumbled upon this article from last year.

Article (A quick look at the charts and numbers will give you the basic information)

Reading this article made me realise how far we still have to go. I knew we were far from there, but reading that only 1.6% (in 2011) of the total energy production was from renewables, was still drasticly lower than I anticipated. This actually made me change my mind somewhat as to what the germans are doing. They will have lots of difficulties on achieving their goal, meet a lot of challenges and will probable solve loads of them, clearing up the road for other countries to follow in their footsteps. Maybe not tomorrow, but in 10, 20 or 30 years, when other countries follow the german example, they will have knowledge of the dangers ahead.

Personally I think that the US should do an extra effort and invest some of the money that goes into their (oil?)-wars into renewables. As they have a population density that is 3.5 times smaller than in europe, they have space enough to implement these changes.

As for Africa and South-America, I think they would invest if they could. But as they have been stripped by their own resources by Europe and America they have another evolution to go through.

As for China, they are still polluting heavily, but I think it’s just a matter of years until they are the lead in every sector of renewable energy (Which the graphics actually all show) and will improve on their environmental care.


6 thoughts on “The long way ahead

  1. deckersbram says:

    Very nice graphs! They really put things in perspective, seems like idea solar power is kind of a European thing to do.

    Furthermore I agree with your vision on the US. As a nation that kind of sees itself as the leader of the world, I feel it should play a leading role in renewable energy production.

  2. jefhimself says:

    That reference actually made me wonder whether they’re not making a more appropriate choice in the US. The text mentions that BP includes ethanol and biodiesel as oils in the global energy mix chart; it also implicitly states that these account for 0.5% of global energy consumption. That seems fairly significant when compared to solar and wind power, which combined with all other ‘renewables’ (- hydro) only get to 1.6%. So, I wonder if they’re not actually making a smarter choice. Especially because your comment on the population density of the US reminded me of the reality of that density: few small areas with a very high density, and vast amounts of land which are practically uninhabited (as you can see on the first image from this page):

    Your statement about the wars also reminded me of the political reality in the US. It often gets very complicated over there due to the fact that everything from the lowest local level, up to the highest (president…), is basically in the hands of two parties. Simply put: imagine you could only vote for the christian, and socialist party, at a point where they absorbed all other parties (absorbing some of their characteristics as well). I think we’re familiar with (what I see as…) one of the bigger problems of US politics, in the sense that we all know that both these parties represent totally different things at a local level, vs. the higher levels (in the case of Belgium: up to the federal level, or delivering EMPs). We also know that these levels get mixed up sometimes (like the coalition forming after the latest town elections in Belgium). In the US, this goes a lot further. Think about Greece which is basically in the tank due to decades of widespread corruption, France where people proudly protest against gay marriage, Belgium quibbling about language borders, Italy where Berlusconi has been pushing the boundaries of corruption and election manipulation, and so on… Take all of these together in on country (let’s say Europe is a country for instance, and we elect its president). Then imagine that our christian and socialist parties are just a part of the bigger two parties, which are also the only two parties running for election in all those other parts of Europe, and the two parties that can deliver the president (for some reason that idea reminds me of the Eurovision song contest 😉 ). Imagine how complicated that would get. I believe that’s a large part of US politics (you could look into the local practical implications of the current gun debate for instance, to see it).

    I found a map that shows part of this political reality, combined with population density:

    You can find some explanation and other data on it here.

    My point is this: telling the ‘americans’ they should put some of their oil/war money into solar panels, would be as unconstructive and accurate as the US urging ‘Europe’ not to approve gay marriage and deal with its problems of corruption. I think we should ask for what’s feasible, and work with appropriate partners at the correct levels. They seem into biofuels. That might make more sense… It’s easier to set up. There are great distances to overcome in the US, and they have the means of transport and infrastructure to do so (as opposed to the electrical grid in the US which in many states is in serious trouble and already causing relatively frequent blackouts). Their open spaces and large-scale agriculture are probably more appropriate as well(check out these random fields I found with Google maps, with a diameter of more than 0.5km). Plus, since fields need to rotate crops (for acidity and stuff), ‘growing fuel’ might be a nice addition to normal crops. Belgium goes for solar and wind power, possibly because we can put the solar on our roofs, and the wind in our sea.

    • tijlcrauwels says:

      I agree that politics are a major hurdle. I however don’t think that it impossible. There is just another mentality in the us where environmental consciousness is less an issue. They drive bigger cars, have bigger houses etc. Then if you start looking at emission standards, you see that kyoto has changed the car industry in some way in Europe, but again, the US hasn’t signed this. This just shows me that they have a long way to go, and thinking renewable isn’t equally important there.

      As for their use of Bio-ethanol, they are leading the rest of the world, together with Brazil. But what I know from Biofuels (which is not that much) is that there are still a lot of questions about how they affect the land (using too much of the ground resources), how much greenhouse gasses they still produce, etc.

      Coming to think of this, it might be interested for a follow up in a new blog.

  3. woutcordeel says:

    As Jef mentioned in his comment political support is indeed in most cases the problem. The Desertec project for example is/was a very interesting venture, set up by great industrial companies and countries. The idea was to pipe clean solar power from the Sahara Desert through a Mediterranean super-grid to energy-hungry European countries. Huge solar parks would be built, politicians saw a win-win situation, environmentalists were happy.

    But suddenly one by one the politicians from the most important European countries like Germany and France refused to work together any longer and thus companies like Siemens and Bosch backed out.

    Dr. Wolfgang Knothe, a co-founder of the Desertec Foundation, said: “We should say we’re closing the whole thing down because we have no political support”. Conclusion: the project is not so promising after all and the problems all started when the politicians backed out.

    The only benefit is the fact that the countries situated in the north of Africa are going to start their own smaller but similar projects as the Desertec project.

  4. […] As a reaction to jef’s response on a previous article : […]

  5. gabuglio says:

    I found Jeff’s post very strong and I support his opinion.
    I also think we should let the Americans do what they want to do and keep focusing on ourselves. We might think that our situation is the same as in the U.S. but there is a big cultural difference.
    I also think it’s not our task to say whether or how they have to invest their money. Their priorities are not equal to ours.

    And for the U.S.-haters, think of this as an opportunity to outclass the Americans.

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