But the film does make some silly mistakes. Gibbs claims that a solar panel will generate less energy than it took to build the panel. That’s a misleading claim. Many teams of researchers have addressed the question of energy return on energy invested for solar power, and even the most pessimistic results (with which I mostly agree) say that the technology can yield a marginal energy gain. Much of that gain goes away if we have to “pay” for the energy investment entailed in providing batteries or redundant capacity. Wind power generally has a better energy payback than solar, but the location of turbines matters a great deal and ideal sites are limited in number. Assessing solar and wind power calls for complicated energy accounting, but the film reduces that complexity to a blanket, binary dismissal.
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Planet of the Humans
Let me be clear. Gibb’s critique of renewables is just wrong, and its proportions are absurd. You would never know that the “gas as a bridge fuel” people are no longer held in esteem. You would never know that the intermittency problem is being solved, and the storage problem too. You would never know that the problem of decarbonizing the grid has been front and center on the renewables agenda for decades, and that the electric car people know it all too well. You would never know that the technology revolution is well and widely understood to be necessary but not sufficient to the green transition. All of which is to say that this would have maybe been a good movie 20 years ago. Maybe.