The Myth of Sustainability: Renewable Energy is a Perpetuum Mobile

Proposed Perpetual Motion Machine

Proposed Perpetual Motion Machine.

The most ubiquitous buzzword of the past decade is sustainability. It has replaced value laden words such as environmental, ecological or green. Sustainability moves the environmental movement from a ideological driven movement to a scientifically driven endeavour.

Achieving full sustainability is, however, not possible. The idea of renewable energy is fundamentally flawed as it would imply the discovery of a perpetuum mobile, which is not possible following the immutable laws of thermodynamics.

It has always dawned on me that if all the world’s energy would be produced by wind power or solar that eventually less energy will be available in the atmosphere, which will lead to unpredictable climate change.

My intuition has recently been confirmed by Miller, Gans and Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute. They convincingly argue that also wind and solar energy are not limitless sources. The sun will keep on burning for several billions of years to come, but the amount of energy available to us at any time is limited.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not environmentally insensitive. I am convinced that anthropogenic global warming is a threat to civilisation as we know it and that there is a urgent need to find alternative source of energy. I have never owned a car in my life and am a happier person because of it. Cars are evil, but that is for another post.

We live in a time of unprecedented wealth which allows a large proportion of the global population to consume. As a lecturer in consumer behaviour I know that there are very powerful psychological forces that drive us to this behaviour. I have no solutions, but will end with quoting Jonny Rotten:

There is no solution to the problems, so enjoy the chaos.