Micheal Moore has done it again! With a documentry that is controversial across the political spectrum. Instead of reviewing the film directly, I will be critiqueing some of the reviews of the film.
Lets start with the VOX article, https://www.vox.com/2020/4/28/21238597/michael-moore-planet-of-the-humans-climate-change
which states the following:
But the film, directed by Jeff Gibbs, a long-time Moore collaborator, is not the climate message we’ve all been waiting for — it’s a nihilistic take, riddled with errors about clean energy and climate activism. With very little evidence, it claims that renewables are disastrous and that environmental groups are corrupt.
What part of the video seemed Nihilistic ? How is litterally asking for change by starting with some introspection about the progress that has been made, vs the claims that have been made, Nihilistic ? If we can’t agree on what words mean, then how do you expect to have a meaningful conversation ?
There is also the claim of being “riddled with errors” even though less than a sentence later claims “little evidence” which is the only accurate claim in this diatribe, which is also my personal complaint, will also be dissected below. Also the corruption that is being referred to, which the author Leah C. Stokes can barely acknowledge (Due to the sunk cost fallacy, but with the sunk cost being linked to personal identity) , is actually so well known that there is a term for it. That term is: Green Washing which is clearly common enough to have wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing
The article goes on to say “What’s more, it has nothing to say about fossil fuel corporations, who have pushed climate denial and blocked progress on climate policy for decades.”
which is actually accurate, however, this story isn’t for them, he is not asking fossil fuel companies to reconsider, because this documentary is for the environmental movement itself, what would be the point of preaching to the choir, in the middle of admonishing them ? This is a more deflection via finger pointing, to detract from having to look in the mirror.
The book which the author worked on, is interesting, but is also about policy, and not the physics of renewable. I will not address the drawbacks of the other methods which are referred to here, because they are not covered in this article either.
So lets start with the electric vehicle controversy, which makes a reappearance later on as a “solution” You will also notice a re-occurring bias, the cornerstone of the film “Planet of the humans” is the environmental and social destruction wrought from the extraction of the raw materials. Keep that in mind when reading the following:
”Early in the film, Gibbs goes to see an electric vehicle demonstration. He concludes they are dirty because they probably run on coal.
Except it’s not true. Two years ago, electric vehicles already had lower emissions than new gas-powered cars across the country.”
So right off the bat, the amount and types of resources required to make the car, such as the lithium for the batteries, or how often those batteries are replaced, are completely void from this authors conceptualizations of environmental impact, is limited to emissions. While the author may quibble over coal vs renewable, while oh so deftly ignoring that natural gas plants have been taking over for coal, while only being marginally cleaner, the irony ? That is to take into account the fluctuations of renewable, which then simply becomes cheaper to run them all the time. But hey, if we simply pretend that the energy grid is going from coal to renewable and unable to produce any information themselves only balk at how old the information in the video is, so here is data from 2017
Oh, look at that, Solar, Wind, biomass, geothermal, and ocean power, all combined, make up 2% of the energy used in the US, as of 2017. Look look! Renewable has almost won!
How bad do you have to be at math, to think we are going from coal directly to nonrenewable ? The real shills here, are the environmentalists who magically forget about natural gas, which leaves many solar and wind idle most of the time anyway. But yes, it must be Moore here who is for the industry, when he point out this MASSIVE BLIND SPOT created by greenwashing, almost as if that is what greenwashing was intended to do. So strange. Must be a coincidence, because my self-righteous ego is never wrong!
As such I will note that the offical numbers are a bit better:
And yet, the author can’t be completely ignorant, because they note the 2% in the next sentence, while pretending that applies only to biomass, and not literally everything depicted in the film. What is willful ignorance again? That couldn’t possibly be what fossil fuel shills do …
Then goes on about the specifics of biomass, which is actually quite simple. Biomass, under the most ideal conditions, is at best, carbon neutral, but there are often so many inefficiencies in the process, that target is rarely achieved. In other words, not actually carbon neutral. And of course, ignoring what other chemicals may be burned in the process, acid rain come down, tress grow, we burn trees, acid rain go back into sky, and cycle repeats, saturating the ecosystem. BRILLIANT!
Then he goes on about the obviously contentions assertions about activism and the nature of organizing, because those words apply to all sides, not just environmental non-profits. Dysfunction among the leadership of NGOs is not unknown, probably the most obvious failure being https://www.npr.org/2015/06/03/411524156/in-search-of-the-red-cross-500-million-in-haiti-relief
Which is not to say that is true of all environmental organizations, but simply that these issued do occur and when they do, they are covered up. Not to rain on anyone parade, but for the vast amounts that have been spent on environmentalism, with only 2% progress on transforming the energy system after all these years, something obviously isn’t working.
I will refrain from going into the details of my experience in environmentalism being largely a circle-jerk dating service for hipsters. Sorry, I meant where everyone pats themselves on the back in a circle, everyone wins!.
I will also add that I have nothing against bill McKibben and I think he and 350.org have done a great job of raising awareness of the issues.
Then the author circles back around to deflecting to fossil fuel companies, which this film does not at all paint as the only other option, this false dichotomy is only being portrayed by the author. Beyond coal is great, but switching from coal to natural gas isn’t that much of a victory. That is just kicking the can down the road. Thanks for pointing out one of the many compromises by environmental groups that Micheal Moore is specifically referring to in this film. Which is why I complained earlier that this film could have been researched better.
I don’t think what is being peddled here is confusion and doubt. This is literally a wake up call for those very same new young activist movements to not make the same mistakes as the old activists. But hey, just like that netflix series “American Vandal” this judge had made up her mind before the case was even made.
Then the author goes on to claim that micheal more is “spreading misinformation on climate change” while at the same time, the most scathing claim, was that the data was old. Not wrong, just out of date. Pretty sure the author got that backward. Then the author goes on to claim victory by proposed 100% renewable legislation. Which would probably just end with natural gas being classified as “renewable” given the track record so far.
Then all pretense of rationality is thrown out the window when the author claims
“Yet, the film Moore backed concludes that population control, not clean energy, is the answer.”
What ? Arguing that point is like arguing with trump, also known as being “not even wrong” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong
so there is no point in even adressing that hallucination.
Which goes on with
“The fact is that wealthy people in the developed world have the largest environmental footprints — and they also have the lowest birthrates. When this message is promoted, it’s implying that poor, people of color should have fewer children.”
That is only as insane as expecting those very same people to solve climate change by driving electric cars. Privileged white people have assumed they would be at the center of any solutions to climate change, but the fact is plainly simple, that the vehicle emissions from emerging economies (including china) means that even if everyone in the US were to drive electric cars, other than being cost prohibitive, would still just be a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of the problem, which goes far beyond the daily habits of some self-aggrandizing hipsters in the west.
Then we get to the race card of “Notably, almost all the “experts” featured in the film are white men.” oh you think that is a problem ? Have you looked on the boards of those environmental NGOs you are defending so vehemently ? But hypocrisy is so normalized at this point, that it goes by unnoticed.
Then the author says “Yet, if we embraced clean energy, then they would not have to grow up in a world tied to dirty fossil fuels.”
wow, its almost like you somehow tormented a fake or parody version of “planet of the humans” or have the kind of stubborn ignorance that would doom us all while waiting on a solution that wouldn’t have worked (scaled) in the first place.
Then the paper ends with “We have already warmed the planet by more than 1°C, and we are running out of time to scale up clean energy. Planet of the Humans has sowed confusion at a time when we need clarity on the climate crisis.”
Well no shit. It’s almost like Micheal Moore has been trying to tell you that, you need to find some other technologies to scale, because this solar renaissance clearly has not worked. If it was even possible, Germany, the world leader in implementing solar, wouldn’t have the highest prices for electricity in the world. But yea, it’s the activists posting the bullshit about solar being price competitive with coal, not fossil fuel orgs which have infiltrated the environmental moment with PMCs looking for “terrorists disrupting fossil fuels”. A hipster wouldn’t know jack shit about that because they don’t actually know what environmental racism is like, no matter how much they talk about it. Truly, Moore must be the shill here.
Next we will cover the guardian article, keep in note, the guardian also rated the film “Planet of the humans” with 4 out of 5 stars.
One of the opening paragraphs states:
“Across its 102 minutes, the film’s producer and narrator, Jeff Gibbs, weaves a disjointed narrative that renewable energy is just as bad as fossil fuels, high-profile environmentalists are corrupted by capitalism and population growth is the great unspoken enemy.”
Yes, the narrative is quite disjointed, as stated earlier, I feel like a lot more research could have gone into this documentary. I disagree with the assessment that “renewable is as bad as fossil fuels” more like, “The way renewable are done currently, is not much better, so we obviously need to focus on things other than solar” also, when is “environmentalists are corrupted by capitalism “ not a problem ? I have met misogynist activists as well. Many people do activism as a form of redemption, so they weren’t pure innocence before they started, nothing wrong with that, but don’t pretend being an environmentalist suddenly is a high ground. That is just survival. People who are against environmental activism, are simply digging a hole (Their own graves, and taking you with them) , just because they aren’t on the same level, doesn’t mean you are the high ground.
The article does us a favor and focus mostly on the same thing that the film actually focused on “Solar panels generate the energy required to build themselves in one to two years of operation, depending on the type of panel and location and their lifetime is about 20 years; large wind turbines in three to 12 months, depending on size of turbines and location, and their lifetime is 25 to 30 years.”
I personally think that Wind is still a viable option for many locations, because the materials are not precious metals mostly, and the price/watt is more competitive than solar. The issue hinges more on the vast amount of increases in mining that would have to occur to even just get the raw materials for the amount of solar panels proposed to phase out fossil fuels, more than 10x what is currently being mined, and there is not currently a known process for recycling solar panels. Wind turbines can be recycled fairly easily.
The article then goes on to complain about old footage and old ideas, I agree with the guardians assessment here.
Then the articles continue on about issues with biomass, and the primary mistake made here and most places, and especially every time efficiency of biomass is mentioned. There are 2 very different ways to get energy from biomass. The first is obvious and obviously dirty, simply using incinerators to burn garbage. That is also the most common.
The type Bill McKibben is referring to is called gasification, which is the only process which is close to carbon neutral. Also far more expensive to implement, requiring complex sealed tanks which are rotated through. I would agree that gasification plants are reasonable in so far as they are at least carbon neutral, but I think what Micheal Moore was referring to in this film was incinerators being the problem, they are a large problem. So is nuance when talking about biomass.
Then the article goes on to state “ Planet of the Humans is a film that is almost entirely devoid of solutions to the existential crisis that its producers say they are deeply concerned about.”
Which is also true, but that is not the same as there not being solutions. There are quite a few which are not covered in this film, I myself am working on 2 different solutions and advocating for a 3rd. I am also purposely not mentioning them here. The reason is actually more simple then most would imagine. But they are precisely what this documentary was pointing a finger at. The abject failure of most large corporate climate activism to solve climate change through renewable, or even be honest about their own internal dysfunctions.
Problems so large, that even knowing what the solutions are, I refuse (now, I tried the opposite in the past ) to be handed over to groups which would fall SO EASILY into the same old prejudices and biases as put forth by the PMCs which have infiltrated many environmental movements under the guise of national security of the energy system, snitch jacketing and sabotaging anyone who would represent a departure from the corporate curated party line. Instead, the solutions will simply come from somewhere else, How ironic would it be for those solutions to come out of the military ? At last they have a combination of respect and honor.
How many environmentalists do you know, that can accurately describe what the duck curve is ?
From the wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_curve citing the california example:
According to their last study, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, found that the wholesale energy market prices over the past six months during the 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. period (the “neck” of the duck) have increased to $60 per megawatt-hour, compared to about $35 per megawatt-hour in the same time frame in 2016.
Ultimately, there are large differences between the time of day when solar energy is generated, and when people use electricity the most. The enormous differences have a lot of implications that can destabilize existing electrical grids which are typically capacity planned for most energy being concentrated at the heart of the network, instead of at the periphery, and of course there are also a large amount of transmission losses as heat. Which normal power plants do not contend with, due to their location in the electrical grid.
Interestingly, vox actually has an article about this as well. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/3/20/17128478/solar-duck-curve-nrel-researcher oh, and not just once, but twice:
both articles are well written and researched.
The bottom line is, solar works fine, for off-the-grid lifestyles. But cannot and does not scale to grid scale solutions in a way where the pros outweigh the cons. Not to mention that due to the common 8% efficiencies in practical use, not in idealized settings. Would require vast amounts of minerals, that current capacity couldn’t hope to even touch, and ignoring the effects on the rest of the electronics supply chain. Which is bad enough, until we start wading into the non-solutions for grid backups, which are vast banks of lithium ion batteries. Funny thing about those, do you know why they are common ? Because that is what makes the gigafactory sustainable, because the cars also need their batteries replaced every 5-8yrs, so not only is there the expense of lithium ion, but you also have to replace the batteries at a rate almost 6x that of the panels themselves. Oh, but the situation gets even better than that. Another note on the physics of Lithium Ion batteries, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery
Most devices equipped with Li-ion batteries do not allow charging outside of 0–45 °C for safety reasons
and also in graphical form https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/charging_at_high_and_low_temperatures
Australia has been experiencing some fairly severe heatwaves, as of December 2019 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-50837025
The Bureau of Meteorology (Bom) said individual December temperature records had been broken in a number of places – with temperatures in the southern city of Adelaide hitting 45.3C.
Nullarbor, also in southern Australia, reached the scorching temperature of 49.9C.
So, there is also a good chance that your battery backup plant could burst into flames during a heatwave. Truly a well thought out plan. Thanks corporate climate NGOs, this is fine.
So I don’t know what is more jarring, the failures of self-awareness or the emotional stone age behaviors. Wait, you mean that the whole “Solar is price compeditive with coal now” was all just propaganda to corner the market on precious metals and sell solar panels as a cover ?
Otherwise, the price for electricity in germany would have gone down and not up ? Ah well, no positive psycology here, just keep doing what you are doing, great job. I’m sure we will be fine. Just wait! Poor Harambe, he died for this, or what that just hubris ? hhnnnngggggg,