The Science Behind Jim Chanos's Anti-Green Energy Trade

James S. Chanos
Scott J. Ferrell | Congressional Quarterly | Getty Images
James S. Chanos

Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates told the Ira Sohn Investment Conference today that he is short green energy.

His presentation was called “Alternative Energy: Does Solar + Wind = Hot Air?”

Central to his argument against so-called green energy is the amount of land they require.

Chanos is right. Especially when it comes to wind. One study found that to meet the 2005 energy demand of the US with wind alone, we’d need wind fields the size of Texas and Louisiana. There’s probably not enough land in the world to feed our population and supply our energy needs through wind.

The most important paper on the problems with renewable energy sources such as wind, water and biomass, to read is by Jesse H. Ausubel, the Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University.

Here’s the abstract:

Renewables are not green. To reach the scale at which they would contribute importantly to meeting global energy demand, renewable sources of energy, such as wind, water and biomass, cause serious environmental harm.

Measuring renewables in watts per square metre that each source could produce smashes these environmental idols. Nuclear energy is green. However, in order to grow, the nuclear industry must extend out of its niche in baseload electric power generation, form alliances with the methane industry to introduce more hydrogen into energy markets and start making hydrogen itself. Technologies succeed when economies of scale form part of their conditions of evolution.

Like computers, to grow larger, the energy system must now shrink in size and cost. Considered in watts per square metre, nuclear has astronomical advantages over its competitors.


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