The virtuous cycle – a repeat

The following post was written about six years ago. Since that time the production cost of renewable energy has fallen to be competitive and, in some cases, lower than fossil fuel energy costs. And, that is without the residual costs of fossil fuel acquisition, transport, litigation, and maintenance.

The virtuous cycle is a nice term, but what in the heck does it mean? In the context under which I most recently saw it used is with one of two ultimate rationales why the move to renewable energy will begin to accelerate and replace fossil fuel energy sources.

Of course, renewable energy has many benefits and as the cost of production continues to fall, it will be on par with current fossil fuel energy production costs. This does not even consider the other costs that can be avoided which are inherent in the fossil fuel process. And, a key rationale for the migration will be the avoidance of the significant water loss that occurs in the fossil fuel and nuclear power production process through dissipated steam and loss of water to retrieve natural gas and oil through fracking.

But, the virtuous cycle will be one that will join water as the key reason for the accelerated migration to renewable energy. In essence, in fossil fuel energy production, energy has to be used to create energy. For example, to create electricity with fossil fuel, we have to burn coal or natural gas to boil water into steam to turn the turbines which turn the electromagnet generators. We have to exhaust energy to make more energy.

With renewable energy, we need not exhaust energy to make energy. The sun will shine and the wind will blow. They are doing this already, so we are merely harnessing that energy to produce electricity thereby creating a virtuous cycle. Using monetary terms, we do not need to spend money to make money, once the solar panels or windmills are created. Yes, we need to maintain them, but we do not have to spend energy to create new energy.

This matters now as energy companies look to build new energy production facilities. As a company considers the building over years of a natural gas-fired plant, the virtuous cycle of renewable energy may render that natural gas investment obsolete before a return on investment can be achieved. Companies will migrate to cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy sources. The fossil fuel industry is big on focusing on the cost and jobs as reasons to do more of the status quo, yet the production cost will flip the other way and will become more favorable for renewables. The jobs are already there and growing rapidly with double-digit increases.

So, when  people say we cannot afford to move to renewable energy, that is actually a very short-sighted argument. When you factor all of the added costs on environment and health of fossil fuel acquisition, use, and future maintenance, the costs are already in the favor of renewables. The virtuous cycle will accelerate the move even more.

17 thoughts on “The virtuous cycle – a repeat

  1. My daughter works for a solar company and is learning about all this. It makes sense. Funny to see something from six years ago and it is matches exactly what we still deal with today.

    • Stine writing, you should be proud of your daughter’s choice. The misinformation still flows heavy today just as it has when the fossil fuel industry hired the PR firm that the tobacco companies used to promote climate change denial. This was back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There are about 700 peer reviewed science web sites on climate change competing against over 30,000 fossil fuel industry funded web sites to promote denial. Now, we are past a tipping point, so hopefully the move will occur more rapidly. When I hear this is a jobs issue it is true – solar jobs have grown double digit rates for about ten years while coal jobs are retrenching with solar jobs now dwarfing coal jobs. Keith

      • Thanks for commenting. I am so proud of her. She was one of those teens who liked to rebel and tell me she threw all her trash out the car window! I don’t think she really did but it would make me furious! Lol.

      • You are welcome. What kids did as teens, or worse, as eighth graders, left a lot to be desired. It reminds me of the old quote from Mark Twain when he said as a young teen he could not believe how stupid his father was and could not stand to be in the same room with him, then we the teen aged to be a young adult, how smart his father had become. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: My friend Hugh and I have chatted what scares energy companies most, is many solar and wind projects need not be large scale to be effective. IKEA powers its stores with solar panels on the roof, e.g. Once battery storage is more elegant, new neighborhoods can forgo the utility companies, unless required not to do so. The utility companies are now on a path for more renewable energy production, in part for cost, in part for the environment and in part for defensive means. If they do not keep up, they can be left behind.

    As for fossil fuel companies, the electric and hybrid cars are growing at double digit rates and will continue to do so. The numbers remain relatively small, but progress will continue, especially with the mandates. And, two electric bus manufacturing sites just opened in the Carolinas. Market forces will drive the move, as we have passed the tipping point in my view.

  3. I enjoyed both sets of sentiments, Keith. There are definite cycles to these major shifts. First comes bright ideas from denigrated ‘tree-huggers’. Then we have the established and now threatened big money doing everything in their power to disprove the viability, whilst mitigating their risk by backing both – which injects a ton of money into the system. Then we move through silent waters until decent things like wind power pop up as the obvious and cost-effective answer, ‘as they have been all along’. The tree-huggers are victorious, but, as they only own one tree each, they don’t get to make much from being right. Captain big-clout, who knew exactly when to move his billions, smiles all the way to the tall blonde who’s waiting him at the 19th hole on Pebble Beach. Over and out…

    • Steve, given the subject, that is sadly well coined. Play both ends against the middle and still end up with the tall blonde. One of America’s real tragedies took place and no one knew about it until the courts ruled thirty years later against the parties when the dust had long settled. The tire makers, car companies and oil companies were found guilty of collusion to get rid of the electric trolley systems in almost every major city. Think about that. These cities tore down mass transit that could have been used from the 1950s (after they were dismantled) until today. Now “light rail” is a transport of choice, which runs on over head electricity. Imagine that. I wish this was not a true story. I will find a link to an old post. Keith

  4. Very short-sighted indeed. We are removing our gas heating system soon and install a heat air pump. In a second state, we are putting solar panels on the roof and are able to produce our entire energy demand since we are also installing energy storage. It all pays off in only a few years.

  5. Note to Readers; The Capital Group just published a paper that said by 2050, we will be at 76% renewable energy with only 24% with fossil fuels. That sounds like a good direction, but it may need to be even faster. Yet, it shows we are passed a tipping point. Keith

    • Annie, so true. What frustrates me is the legislators from these coal mining states have lied to the coal workers, especially the last ten years. If I have known the coal jobs have been going away, surely the politicians did. I have said before, whether one agrees with Bernie Sanders or not, he was the only presidential candidate to stand up in front of coal miners and tell them their jobs are going away, and here is what I propose we do about – transition compensation and education to learn new jobs in the renewable energy sector It takes chutzpah to tell people what they need to hear when the news is not good. Keith

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