New York Times – The Gas is Greener: A Response
Robert Bryce’s June 7, 2011 Op-ed in the New York Times “The Gas is Greener” zeros in on a fundamental fault in the logic of depending on solar, wind and other renewables as primary sources of energy. As Bryce correctly points out, generating large quantities of electricity from renewable sources requires vast amounts of natural resources — most notably, land, not to mention the energy and resources expended to collect and distribute that power that could be generated.
These realizations aren’t new. Interestingly, in 1993 Carl Stein notes in “Energy Conscious Architecture” for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) that a report from the Energy Policy Project determined:
“From 1965 to 1973, U.S. energy consumption grew at the annual rate of 4.5 percent. This is doubling roughly every 15 years. If we could, miraculously, switch to total solar power in 1995, and if this switch created a return to the “cheap energy” attitudes of the 1960s with the associated exponential growth, by 2010, we would have to devote one percent of our land area to solar collection; by 2025, 2 percent; by 2070…10 percent of the United States would be taken up by collection systems; and before 2110…solar collectors would completely cover the United States.”
Clearly, there is no “silver bullet” to meet our demand for energy consumption and when considering the environmental impact of creating such systems the attitude that renewable energy is the answer is, in fact, directly contradictory to an environmentally responsible point of view. As Carl further points out, “…we must never fall in the trap of thinking of [renewable energy] as easy, cheap or environmentally neutral.” Simply put, there is no free lunch.
The best and most immediate solutions to address the demand for energy are by decreasing the rate of consumption through conservation, resourceful planning and energy conscious design.