A sensible professor!
In the Department of Environment & Geography too!
I’m, like, truly shocked and utterly, utterly, amazed!!!
IEEE SPECTRUM MAGAZINE
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy
It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along
By Vaclav Smil / July 2012
“ …But this can happen only if planners have realistic expectations. The comparison to a giant oil tanker, uncomfortable as it is, fits perfectly: Turning it around takes lots of time.
And turning around the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy system is a truly gargantuan task. That system now has an annual throughput of more than 7 billion metric tons of hard coal and lignite, about 4 billion metric tons of crude oil, and more than 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. This adds up to 14 trillion watts of power. And its infrastructure—coal mines, oil and gas fields, refineries, pipelines, trains, trucks, tankers, filling stations, power plants, transformers, transmission and distribution lines, and hundreds of millions of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil engines—constitutes the costliest and most extensive set of installations, networks, and machines that the world has ever built, one that has taken generations and tens of trillions of dollars to put in place.
It is impossible to displace this supersystem in a decade or two—or five, for that matter. Replacing it with an equally extensive and reliable alternative based on renewable energy flows is a task that will require decades of expensive commitment. It is the work of generations of engineers.
About the Author
Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor in the department of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba, in Canada, dates the interests that inform his article “A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy” to his student days at Prague’s Carolinum University more than 50 years ago. “Contrary to the currently popular assertion of accelerating innovation,” he says, “most technical improvements are evolutionary and take time to make a real difference. Consequently, I think little of claims of near‑instant transformations of any complex system.” ”