Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

All Energy Is Solar


All our energy is solar energy. At least, it all begins there.

All the food you eat is made from solar energy. Sunlight powers photosynthesis, which enables plants to form proteins and other compounds that can be eaten by people and animals directly, or we can inefficiently feed it into giant methane-and-poo factories that we then carve up and eat.

What we call "dirty burnables" or more politely "fossil fuels" are made from plants that fossilized millions of years ago. Green plants. Which got their energy by photosynthesis. Photo meaning light. Sunlight. And from fossilized animals, which ate plants. Or animals that ate the animals that ate the plants. All the energy for which came from the sun.

So here’s what to do next time some fossil fuel funded fossil tries to tell you that renewable energy can’t work because it’s intermittent and needs storage. If you don’t want to repeat what you’ve already told them about the myriad ways of storing power, just remind them that their precious fossil fuel is nothing more than recklessly-inefficient stored solar power.

I say recklessly-inefficient because the infernal combustion engine on gasoline cars is less than 25% efficient at generating motion, compared to an electric car’s 80+%. And that doesn’t factor in the huge amount of electricity (yes) needed to run the gasoline refinery and pump the gasoline from there to storage, the energy to drive it dozens or hundreds of miles in a tanker truck from there to the gas station, and run the electically-operated gasoline pump ( no need to ask why the gasoline pumps don’t run on gasoline!).

As gasoline refineries and gas stations wind down over the next decade, all that electricity will be freed up to power electric vehicles: cars, SUVs, pickups, semis, snowmobiles, UTVs, and small airplanes. And we’ll all breathe a little easier.