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Windpower: Ancient, Not Infant

The use of wind power is as old as history,” resource economist Erich Zimmermann observed in his 1951 treatise, World Resources and Industries.

“How is it that wind, with a 4000-year head start, is such a small player in the energy scene? Could it be—just possibly—that the answer has something to do with physics instead of economics and politics?” – Howard Hayden. Quoted in Michael Economides, “The Rhetoric and Reality of Renewables,” August 15, 2011.

he use of wind power is as old as history,” resource economist Erich Zimmermann observed in his 1951 treatise, World Resources and Industries.[1a] “With wind energy, one is not dealing with exotic new techniques,” a Resources for the Future energy overview concluded in 1979. “Windmills have been used for centuries for pumping water and other purposes, and within the past century they have been widely used in rural areas to generate electricity.”[2]

Energy history explodes the fallacy that wind energy is something new and futuristic, while fossil fuels are … so yesterday. What forced energy transformationists, the would-be central planners, see as new and exciting is really ancient and lacking; and what is seen as old is really new and successful.

Coal, oil, and gas are only several hundred years old as primary energies; renewable energies are as old as human time. Solar and wind and falling water and burning plants and trees—renewables all—are caveman energies. In fact, the market share of renewable energy has been virtually 100 percent for most of mankind’s history. Renewables can be thought of as poverty energies, just as oil, gas, and coal are considered modern energies.

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