It is fantasy to believe that wind and solar power can save the world – Opinion


Hugh Holland is a retired engineering and manufacturing executive now living in Huntsville, Ontario.

By Hugh Holland

The Leap Manifesto

The Leap Manifesto presented at the recent NDP convention in Edmonton is laid out in Naomi Klein’s new book entitled This Changes Everything. The book does a good job of emphasizing the urgent need to address some of the world’s ills such as climate change, unsustainable consumption and economic growth (three per cent growth doubles everything in 24 years), income inequality, and international tax havens that are depriving governments of much needed revenue.

However, the book fails badly in other areas. While it rails on about the evils of fossil fuel companies, it fails to mention that fossil fuels were introduced because a population that grew to seven billion in 200 years simply could not survive by burning wood and whale oil as the population of one billion did in 1800. It fails to give credit to many oil and gas companies that are now investing heavily in clean energy solutions. And the remedies she prescribes to replace fossil fuels reveal a total lack of technical understanding.

Assuming the population will grow to 10.6 billion by 2100 rather than the 14 billion UN high estimate, and assuming that conservation by the one billion living in developed countries can offset the much needed economic growth among the six billion living in developing countries (both of which are optimistic assumptions), the global energy supply must grow from 155,500 terawatt hours in 2010 to 237,800 terawatt hours in 2100. Today 82 per cent of our energy comes from fossil fuels. Elimination of fossil fuels will require the electrification of everything and an 885 per cent increase in clean electricity output by 2100.

Ms. Klein and her idealist friends continue to fantasize about how wind and solar power are going to save the world, with no understanding of what that would entail. She grossly misrepresents what is actually happening with renewable energy in Germany and Denmark. Certainly wind, solar and carbon-neutral biofuels can contribute up to 40 per cent of a zero-emission energy supply, but where will the other 60 per cent come from? Hydro is already tapped out in most countries. Natural gas is not clean and proven global reserves will be depleted in 50 years. So the other 60 per cent of a clean energy supply will have to come from safe and affordable nuclear power. But extreme left thinkers like Naomi Klein and Green Parties everywhere continue to vigorously oppose nuclear power.

The ability to supply 237,800 terawatt-hours of clean electricity will require international cooperation to accelerate development in two key areas: finalizing the development of advanced nuclear reactors that eliminate the problem of storing partially spent nuclear fuel, and developing affordable large-scale storage systems to enable the wind, solar and tidal power produced in eight hours per day to be stored for use in the remaining 16 hours. Without nuclear, storing enough intermittent power with today’s leading edge Tesla storage systems at $125 per kilowatt-hour will cost in excess of $150 trillion every ten years.

Until those developments are completed, the world is going to need oil and natural gas for a few more decades. Being the only stable democracy producing oil at a rate that can last for more than 20 years, Canada has as much moral right to produce it as anyone else. The International Energy Agency has stated that emissions from producing and burning Canada’s oil are “not significantly higher than any other source.” Canada’s planned oil production rate is well below our fair share of the global production rate that would keep global warming below two degrees Celsius by 2050. The Trudeau and Notley governments are right to pursue development of our resources and related pipelines in a responsible manner. Many of the ideas in the Leap Manifesto will do much more harm than good.

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  1. I totally agree with Hugh plus I will add, if every one stopped using fossil fuel immediately, nothing but the few electric vehicles around, would move. 80-90% of manufactured or imported goods move by diesel trucks. (not replaceable yet by electric vehicles.) and while the leap manifesto opposes pipelines, the alternative is to haul oil products by rail cars(infinitely more dangerous) which are pulled by diesel locomotives. There are so many questions about this stance by the NDP that no one can seriously consider implementation .

  2. Howard Rosenthal on

    I agree with Hugh and Bill. In addition, we must consider the consequences, as well as the benefits, of alternative energy. By moving to electric vehicles we will add additional demands on our already stressed electrical grid; by moving to wind energy we create a blight on our landscape. In addition to promoting safe nuclear energy, a large scale and probably governmental programme, we need to shift some of the responsibility and production to the small scale and individual. Perhaps mandating roof-top solar panels on every residential and commercial roof would go a long way to reduce the impending problem. Perhaps moving cargo in a more fuel efficient way will help. Perhaps moving oil in a safer way will make its use somewhat more palatable. (I don’t know the answer to this, but possibly double walled pipelines?)

  3. Hugh is pretty much right on yet again.
    One question, How come at all the conferences on the climate change issue, one never hears even a whisper about the possibility of population control?
    This does not need to be Hitler and his gas chambers.
    All that is required is for families to voluntarily limit themselves to one or two children.
    The technology is available, this causes no pain, costs virtually nothing and in about 20 years the population will start to drop. In 40 years the drop will be dramatic.
    Everyone would be able to live with more resources and a cleaner environment for longer before we run out of everything.
    The animals other than humans might have a place where they could still live.
    All that is required is for some brilliant person to figure out an economic system that works well with maybe a 2% negative growth rate.

    Hey, you know that a continuous positive GDP or growth rate is impossible. This is the mantra of the cancer cell and it is ultimately not successful so why do we insist on embracing this philosophy of growth as our world model. We know it won’t work in a closed system.

    Government could “force” this economy a bit by just reducing taxes by a percent or so each and every year. When they had a shortfall, instead of debt they just cut services, starting with themselves. Of course we know this will never happen.

  4. Emmersun Austin on

    & we will continue the transition/transformation of the present monetary system in association with the energy shift & pricing model…

  5. You make some good points, Hugh. On the other hand, considering how dire the climate change situation is, I hope politicians and scientists will work together to find solutions – quickly. I just came across an article about a peer-reviewed study in the journal Energy Research and Social Science which says the use of fossil fuels could be phased out in a decade because of everything we have learned from previous fuel transitions. The conclusion of the article gave me hope: “Although the study suggests that the historical record can be instructive in shaping our understanding of macro and micro energy transitions, it need not be predictive.”

    Here’s the link:

  6. Clyde Mobbley on

    Hope you’re reading these posts Hugh.
    “But a reasonable analysis shows there is no business case for the bitumen pipelines. If the private sector truly believes this business case exists, they should put up their own risk capital without any government subsidy or guarantee. Then we’ll really find out if that’s a leap they believe is worth taking.”

  7. Clyde Mobbley on

    Dear Hugh
    #LEAPTalk There Will Be More New Jobs in Solar Than Oil by the End of the Year

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