This past week I posted the following graphic on my Twitter account (@RRapier) showing the explosive growth of renewable electricity, particularly over the past decade:
The first response to this graphic was “But…INTERMITTENT!”
It is true that wind and solar power are intermittent — points I have discussed on several occasions. Biomass and geothermal power, on the other hand would be considered firm power (i.e, power that can be counted on to be available whenever it is needed).
However, we do not have a single energy source that doesn’t have a “but” associated with it. Every one of them. Even renewable energy sources have “buts” associated with them.
For example, oil has provided us unprecedented mobility at an affordable price, but it has also enriched terrorist regimes and polluted the environment.
Of course the size of a but is also in the eye of the beholder, and that’s why there are such passionate disagreements over energy policy. Someone from the ethanol lobby might claim that their but is tiny, whereas someone from the oil industry might complain that ethanol’s but is huge. Sometimes court battles are even fought over the size of a but, as happened this week when the Supreme Court rejected arguments that ethanol’s but could be problematic for consumers.
The key is to balance the buts with the benefits, and to focus on those energy sources with the smallest buts.