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Renewables - May 26

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Labour plans green revolution to slash energy prices and win back lost voters

Ben Russell, UK Independent
Gordon Brown is planning to use a massive expansion of green energy to win back voters angry at spiralling fuel prices.

They will be offered guaranteed prices for generating their own power that could fund loan schemes to pay for energy-saving technology under plans being finalised by ministers.

The plans are expected to be contained in a major offensive to promote domestic solar and wind power, as well as promoting energy conservation, that will be launched by the Prime Minister next month.
(26 May 2008)

Will the Rate-of-Conversion Problem Derail Alternative Energy?

Kurt Cobb, Scitizen
Many alternative energy advocates claim that it is possible to replace our fossil fuel economy with one that runs on a combination of nuclear power and renewable energy from the wind, the sun and the farm. Credible scientific estimates suggest that they are right. However, those advocates often fail to consider one critical issue that could derail their plans, the rate-of-conversion problem. How long will it take to make such a transition? And, more importantly, how long do we have?

Before David Goodstein, a physics professor and vice provost at the California Institute of Technology wrote a small, physics-oriented book called "Out of Gas," he was known primarily for his scientific research, scholarly writing and textbooks. "Out of Gas," on the other hand, was written for the general public and focused on the then rarely discussed theory and possible consequences of world peak oil production.

... Most of what Goodstein wrote in "Out of Gas" was already well understood by the small group of oil geologists, academics and others who had been following the peak oil issue. But his book appears to have made one very important contribution. He has put a label on a critical, complex problem associated with energy transitions. It is a problem that--even if you understood it--would be hard to characterize. He calls it the "rate-of-conversion" problem.

The first thing to understand is that the fossil fuel alternatives which we normally think about--nuclear power, wind, solar, and biomass--are all heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their production. For example, if biomass--say, corn for making ethanol--is grown in the conventional way, it requires the application of copious amounts of pesticides and herbicides made from oil as well as nitrogen fertilizer derived from natural gas.
(23 May 2008)
Kurt Cobb is a regular contributor to Energy Bulletin.

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