Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The only good use of fossil fuels

Roy Spencer's opinions on Climate Change are highly debatable, to say the least. But, on this point, I think he got it right. The only good use for fossil fuels is to use them to replace fossil fuels. 

Roy Spencer came up with this rather counterintuitive suggestion in an interview with Catholic Online:

COL: Let’s say tomorrow, evidence is found that proves to everyone that global warming as a result of human released emissions of CO2 and methane, is real. What would you suggest we do?

SPENCER: I would say we need to grow the economy as fast as possible, in order to afford the extra R&D necessary to develop new energy technologies. Current solar and wind technologies are too expensive, unreliable, and can only replace a small fraction of our energy needs. Since the economy runs on inexpensive energy, in order to grow the economy we will need to use fossil fuels to create that extra wealth. In other words, we will need to burn even more fossil fuels in order to find replacements for fossil fuels.

h/t Brian Angliss


  1. U
    I do not know who Roy Spencer is, but my life looks too short to find out.
    Most of his arguments about the nature of renewable energy seem badly put.

    Perhaps we all need to take time-out with a wet towel round the brow and feet in a bowl of cold water. I am feeling that need just now – to stay quiet for a long time and let some real numbers sink in. (As an alternative I will cycle the 20 km to collect our bi-monthly medication supply from the pharmacy – a kind of metaphor in action!)

    100% renewable primary fuel for electricity is technically and probably economically possible now at relatively small extra cost, allowing for transfer of existing subsidies from fossil fuel to renewable electricity. This calculation (for Australia) shows such a move would make a big difference to Australian carbon emissions. But the other two thirds of the economy, the non-electric side, would still be running on fossil fuels.

    An 'electric-only' economy might still be possible and become a very desirable option in a world when fossil fuels are no longer cheap, as obviously they still are. We are in a twin predicament of needing to replace primary energy sources as we use up the more ‘economical’ ones, and to slow down inevitable climate change already ‘baked in the cake’. These twin predicaments each have the capacity to change (!) our economies, without giving us the luxury of choice!

    ‘Payback’ times (with regard to energy in over energy out) are relevant to a ‘build out’ of renewable sources such as wind-power, especially if say wind is to be the majority source for electricity. This work has and is being competently done. Michael Dale (Stamford) gave a presentation in Edinburgh this summer, which is relevant. Michael Dale (Stamford) gave a presentation in Edinburgh this summer, which is relevant:


    1. That section of the economy is 2/3 just because we are inefficient and wasteful. Most sectors of the economy that run on fossil fuels today can be transformed to work on electric power - those that can't be transformed, we don't really need.

  2. the situation seems to me like that of this dog:


    1. (sorry if this is in Italian. An old song by Giorgio Gaber)

      Il gatto si morde la coda
      si morde la coda il gatto
      il gatto si morde la coda
      e non sa che la coda è sua.


      Il gatto è un po’ stupido il gatto
      forse più che stupido è ignorante
      e non sa che la coda è sua.

      Povero gatto si morde la coda
      certo che se nessuno glielo dice
      lui non sa che la coda è sua

  3. "in order to grow the economy we will need to use fossil fuels to create that extra wealth. In other words, we will need to burn even more fossil fuels"

    So that's exactly what we are doing right now, no ?

  4. Well, mostly we are burning fossil fuels in order to burn more fossil fuels

    1. To explain my point better, investments in new fossil fuels resources amounted to about 650 billion dollars in 2012 (according to the Grantham research institute), much larger than the investments in renewable energy, estimated as less than 250 billion dollars in 2012 according to UNEP.

    2. Yes, but then again, seems to me that the first "source" to invest in these days, as much as renewables, is in consumption decrease by changing the products : insulation, smaller lighter vehicles or investment in "mass" transit infrastrucuture, etc ...

    3. Well, yes, but there is a problem. Most investments in consumption decrease perpetuate our dependency on fossil fuels. So, if you buy a more efficient car, you set yourself to a condition in which you can pay more expensive oil, and so you push the oil industry to keep extracting it.