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Guest Column

July 18, 2013

Natural gas, renewables can co-exist

Lately, with more and more data coming on line debunking the Great Bubbling-Up Toxic Fracking Menace and the truth about methane migration (occasional and linked primarily to faulty well casings), the scaremongers among the antis have turned to the more amorphous bugaboo of global warming.

Stripped to its essentials, their argument is as follows: gas drilling, by way of fugitive emissions of methane in production and transmission, contributes to global warming. Therefore, ban drilling. A corollary follows: there is a higher path to reduced greenhouse gases — renewables. Take the higher path.

Well, not yet. And not for a long time yet if you live in Realville. Follow me on this one.

The 2011 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the future of renewable energy shows renewables (solar hydro, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal, and biomass) account for 13.8 percent of the world’s total energy output used in transport, heat, and electrical power. However, that number is deceptive since the bulk (10.2 percent) comes from biomass, mostly wood and dung used for cooking. The remaining 2.6 percent of worldwide renewable energy is mainly hydro. Less than one half of one percent (0.5 percent) of the world’s total energy output comes from wind, wave, tide, solar, and geothermal combined, the renewables touted by green energy advocates.

Wind seems the most feasible of these renewable energy sources (0.2 percent worldwide), so let’s consider wind.

Big Wind takes a lot of room. Turbines used to produce 1,000 megawatts (1 billion watts) — the annual power demand of a city of 70,000 — need 300 square miles of space. Conventional power plants of similar capacity, on the other hand, use less than a square mile. Wind is best situated where it is least needed — on the windy plateaus and sparsely populated areas of the world. In population centers, Big Wind’s space requirements pose a big problem.

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