It took the good old U.S. 150 years to gear it up to one billion tons. And they want to add another one billion tons of coal in the next six years. So it doesn't matter how many wind turbines are built.Well, actually it does, when it comes to migratory birds and bats.
When it comes to the energy arena, there is the investing arena and there is the political arena. The president is in the political arena when it comes to coal (and everything else). When it comes to coal, he is speaking and beholden to his base. In the investing arena, the situation is different.
I love politics (although not so much any more, as I grow older and have fewer productive years left) but I survive in the investing arena.
Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on what you read here or what you think you may have read here. For investment advice, google George Soros or Algore.
A portion of the interview that you can find at The Wall Street Journal, an energy report, over at Berry Petroleum:
MR. BALL: What you've essentially described is that nothing fundamental is happening. Am I wrong about that?
MR. SMIL: It is and it isn't. Look at the Chinese example. They are building all these wind capacities and solar capacities, but in the past eight years they added one billion tons of coal production. It took the good old U.S. 150 years to gear it up to one billion tons. And they want to add another one billion tons of coal in the next six years. So it doesn't matter how many wind turbines are built.
MR. BALL: So renewable energy is insignificant?
MR. SMIL: Renewable energy is very significant. I live in a province where we have the cheapest electricity in North America, indeed in the Western world, but all of it is perfectly renewable because we have beautiful Manitoba Hydro. Every few tens of kilometers we can put a river dam. Bingo. One gigawatt here. One gigawatt here.
MR. BALL: So there's no one answer for the world. There are specific resources that work in specific places.
MR. SMIL: Wind is my favorite example. I live in one of the windiest places of this continent. This is a wind corridor all the way from Texas through Nebraska all the way to Manitoba.
Except when do I need most of my juice? For the past three months, we had the third-coldest winter in the past 100 years. But there's absolutely no wind for three months and it's minus 45 overnight and we have a chill factor of minus 55. What would I do for those three months?
It's all regional. It's all local. And we just have to descend to that level to judge it. If you just say globally, that tells you very little.
When you talk in terms of electricity, renewable is very important. Hydro in Manitoba. Hydro in Sweden. Wind in Denmark. Of course, those are very important.
But when you look at the total primary electrical supply, it remains insignificant.
Globally, the new renewables, that is wind and solar, are still way less than 5% of global total primary energy supply. If you look at the fossil fuels in 1990, they were 88% of the global supply. In 2012, they were 87% of global supply. These are very embedded, inertial things. These things don't change rapidly.Just for the record, I invest in, and accumulate shares in, Canada's largest solar company.
Just for the record, I invest in, and accumulate shares in, Canada's second largest wind company.
I am an equal-energy investor. Except I don't think I invest in coal, except directly.