The Myth of “Clean” Energy

As nature gradually goes dark during the winter months, and many plants and animals lower their metabolism almost down to zero, there is one species that continues to persist, to eat, and actually increase its energy use: Humans, drawn to their electric lights, gas heating and fossil or electric-fueled cars, represent an immense aberration in the natural ecosystem of the planet, defying all natural norms and laws when it comes to the consumption of energy.  For humans, there are absolutely no limits: the more energy, the better.  Whether it is fossil fuel or food, humans stash away as much energy as they can.  And while everyone wants to have more of it, no one ever knows how to spend it wisely. 

The doctrine that energy production can be ramped up in a sustainable manner is a capitalist myth and an oxymoron, because “sustainable” energy is a myth all to itself.  Wind turbines and electric vehicle batteries barely ever compensate for the carbon footprint of their construction, transport and operation by the time they become useless, toxic landfill waste.  We need solutions to manage our energy use, not to service its exponential increase.  All we are servicing is capitalism and inequality.  As long as we have an insatiable need for energy and an unwavering crave for the latest fashion, there will be petrochemical oligarchs and sweatshops. There will be climate breakdown and extinction.

Of course, the “renewable energy industrial complex” seems to have other priorities: focusing on how it can service the increasing energy demand and make money from new technology for its investors.  Rather than find ways to downsize our demand, it chooses to make the situation even worse.  What the renewable energy industrial complex has failed to realise is that making our energy renewable is not a technology issue, but a social issue.  It is about changing our lifestyle, not producing more energy from sources that are anything but “green”.  But social issues are the first issues governments run away from.  Our system has already proved that it would rather create mini suns in mega particle colliders, than fully use the energy of the one, real sun that is already there, and which is more than enough for all of us.

The renewable energy industrial complex wants to have its cake and eat it too.  We are constantly fed myths about how renewable energy will allow us to continue to ramp up our energy use with the aid of powerful technology and renewable energy, as if the production of solar panels and EV batteries has no impact or carbon footprint.  The truth is that the concept of “renewable” energy and “sustainability” was corrupted and weaponized as soon as it was invented, and before it could even take hold:  sustainability has become the art of deluding consumers into buying products that magically de-consume themselves, greenwashing renewable energy investments that are nothing but a shopfront for environmental crime, and destroying Earth faster than any new legislation can catch up with the perpetrators.  Almost every product now has its “green alternative”: its more “presentable sister”, who however is just as sinister and just as destructive on the inside.

We are more preoccupied with the durability of the materials and structures our civilization produces, rather than the re-cyclability and re-usability of these materials.  It is profoundly ironic that humans have put so much effort in creating two materials that will last forever i.e. plastics and radioactivity, yet themselves they have become an evolutionary dead end.  Even if humans largely went extinct, under ideal conditions much of the plastic may decompose after about 1,000 years. The Anthropocene would be followed by the silent millennium of the Plasticene

All “sustainable solutions” marketed by politicians and corporations come from people like you and I who just needed a job: they were once hired as consultants to work for a company and paid salaries to develop “renewable” technologies, for the ultimate purpose of winning contracts, earning investments, selling products, and making a profit for their stakeholders.  Inherrently profit-motivated and human-centered, sustainability is an oxymoron and will never be “sustainable”, simply because nature was never included in the long list of stakeholders. In fact, the majority of humanity itself is usually not included in the stakeholders list either.  Profit, capitalism and consumption benefited only segments of human society throughout our history, and have always, without exception, destroyed Earth in the process.  All that remains after the destruction is stale greenwashing propaganda created by marketers and PR gurus living in their own sustainability delusion bubble, spending their time managing perceptions and magically turning brown to green.   They become self-proclaimed “Earth defenders”.  But Earth is not waiting to be “saved” by anyone.  Earth is waiting to be left alone.

The reality is that, in order to manufacture anything “sustainable” or “clean”, you always have to pollute something else. The problem is not the intention, the problem is the human model of manufacturing and economic growth itself.  These are both dirty processes because they are based on depletion and exploitation, as this is the model that brings maximum profit.  Almost everything that humans have created during their brief history on this planet had to involve some element of natural destruction.  Meanwhile human rights and the protection of the environment are, and have always been, the biggest impediments to profit. 

Both primitive and modern humans suffered from the same, infinite delusion that they can continue to deplete and exploit until the end of time. They both failed to realise that the day we ceased to have natural predators, was the day we became responsible for controlling our own population size.  Thanks to capitalism and the industrial revolution, the cheap mass production of goods resulted in the cheap mass production of more humans. 150 species are made forever extinct each day, just as 385,000 additional human babies are born into a world of diminishing resources. That’s 2,500 more humans per day per extinct species.  We are replacing the Creation with copies of ourselves. Every new baby brought into this collapsing world not only constitutes child abuse, it is also a CO2 mega bomb that by far dwarfs the carbon footprint of any other single human activity on the planet.  We are literally the weeds in an overgrown Garden of Eden.  We are the algae that is suffocating the river of life.  And that, is definitely not “sustainable”.

(from the upcoming “Little Book of Doom”)

George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books

5 thoughts on “The Myth of “Clean” Energy

  1. Hi George,
    Blaming an “ism” is missing the root cause. Any system created by humans is the result of human nature, individual heredity, cumulative experiences since conception and after birth(all embodied and physical), and the then present external conditions( environmental and cultural.) We are as selfish as other species, and cooperate when that results in more energy throughput and well-being for the clan/tribe.

    Jay Hanson wrote an explanation of overshoot a decade ago, building on the work of several giants. See:

    1. As a biologist I completely agree. And that “ism” is exactly the result of that inherent biological greed and selfishness. I’m a Doomer exactly because destroying this planet is our destiny, as much as that sounds crude, hopeless, defeatist and misanthropic. My mission as always is to shine the light.

  2. “The reality is that, in order to manufacture anything “sustainable” or “clean”, you always have to pollute something else”
    Or exterminate something else I might add ;
    Associated Press article quote;

    The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a new permitting program for wind energy turbines, power lines and other projects that kill eagles, amid growing concern among scientists that the rapid expansion of renewable energy in the U.S. West could harm golden eagle populations now teetering on decline.

    The federal government already issues permits to kill eagles. But Thursday’s proposal calls for new permits tailored to wind-energy projects, power line networks and the disturbance of breeding bald eagles and bald eagle nests.

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