“Planet of the Humans” Review

Just saw the film produced by Michael Moore and written by Jeff Gibbs. I saw a lot of people critical of the effort in my Twitter feed.

Checking the film, I agree with the critics that the film presents a lot of inaccurate anti-renewable talking points. It is trying hard to show that renewable energy is not solving anything, using familiar old arguments like intermittency, mixed with some statements that impressed me as false, like when they asserted more than 60 percent of renewable energy in Germany coming from biomass (see here for the correct answer, which is way different).

Update: Kees van der Leen points out that they may actually be right when you count primary energy consumption, not electricity.

The main idea is that in their view there is no solution. The film does not argue for nuclear power, trying to talk renewable energy down as a competitor for market. It is just doom and gloom. The only thing to do is to radically reduce population size. I recall Malthus having similar ideas over two hundred years ago.

The other main assertion is that people like Al Gore and Bill McKibben are mainly motivated by the vast profits they make from green advocacy. The former idea is not new, but not crazy as well. The latter point impresses me as completely divorced from any reality.

Of course there are problems with renewable energy. The biggest problem is that there is still not enough capacity installed and there is still a market left for fossil fuel. But all renewable sources (including biomass) are always better than continuing to use fossil fuel. The intermittency problem is solved many times over. Just use excess capacity in time slots where demand is less than supply to make some hydrogen. Or have a large scale grid, storing excess wind energy from Denmark in pumped hydro in Norway.

And yes, of course the energy problem would be much easier to solve if there were less people needing energy. But how exactly does Gibbs want to achieve that goal? The film does not say much about that.

So I don’t think there is much of useful information to be found in this film. If anyone believes the anti-renewable talking points, it may be somewhat harmful. On the other hand, those are so old and so frequently debunked right now that such danger seems rather remote.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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