The Case Against Renewable Energy, as Presented By Bernie Sanders

On his Facebook, Sen. Bernie Sanders uploaded the following graphic*:

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The Senator is trying to spin this as an argument for renewable energy, but in doing so he confuses costs and benefits.  Ironically, he makes an extremely strong case against renewables:

Looking at this chart, we see approximately the same number of jobs in coal and nuclear.  Renewables have a considerably higher number of jobs.  But their output are quite different.  According to the EIA, coal produces approximately 16% of our energy consumption (or about 15.6 quadrillion BTU).  Nuclear power is ~9% (or ~8.8 quadrillion BTU).  Renewables are ~10% (or 9.8 quadrillion BTU).

What does this mean for resource efficiency?  Quite a lot.  The average worker in coal produces 2.1e^11 BTU.  The average nuclear worker produces 1.1e^11 BTU.  The average renewable worker produces 1.8e^10 BTU.  That means the average coal worker is 1033.92% more efficient than the average renewable worker!   We’d need to put in approximately 10x the number of labor resources into renewables as coal to get the exact same results!  That’s highly inefficient and quite against the idea of resource conservation.  On environmentalist grounds, I oppose renewables at this date and time.

But, the point the Senator is making, is that the jobs themselves are desirable.  But he confuses costs and benefits.  Jobs are a means not an ends.  Our lives are improved by finding ways to reduce the amount of labor in them, not increase it.  In short, the Senator has things exactly bass ackwards.

*Note: I have not independently verified these figures.

15 thoughts on “The Case Against Renewable Energy, as Presented By Bernie Sanders

  1. Perhaps that yuge number of solar workers includes those who regularly knock on my door trying to sell me panels for my roof. If so, that number may be too small.

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  2. It would be interesting to know what the cost of Non-Renewable energy is with health and ecological costs added in. The DWH spill alone cost $62 billion. The US spent $58.6 billion on renewables in 2016. Fukushima so far is projected to cost $187 billion. Japan spent $36.2 billion on renewables in 2015.

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  3. It would be interesting to know what the cost of non-renewable energy is with health and ecological costs added in. The DWH spill alone cost $62 billion. The US spent $58.6 billion on renewables in 2016. Fukushima so far is projected to cost $187 billion. Japan spent $36.2 billion on renewables in 2015.

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  4. Labor is a factor, but not the only factor. Capital density is much greater in conventional power generation, as a percentage of overall cost. A coal-fired power plant uses much more capital and much less labor than solar or wind for equivalent megawatts. But I don’t think anyone is suggesting that’s the ONLY relevant criteria.

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