Because money now is more important than stable energy options in the future, amirite?
There sure is an awful lot of missing the point in this thread. No, because developing stable energy in the future is going to be a lot more difficult if all anyone can say is "HURR DURR COAL IS RUNNING OUT" instead of looking at why coal is so successful. If we can't get the cost per energy down to around the same price as fossil fuels by the time we have to make the switchover, the global economy is going to suffer a hell of a shock as energy prices increase by 20-30% worldwide.
This. We really aren't doing ourselves any favors by pushing for the implementation of alternatives, and then subsidizing them in order to make them appear to be more cost competitive.
Aside from the fact there is an inherent subsidization of fossil fuel generation (since companies are paying nothing or next to nothing for the pollution they make, and not paying a reasonable price for the irreplaceable resource they are using up) - I live in a jurisdiction that has no coal power, and uses natural gas only as backup generation, and our power is cheaper than in any jurisdiction I know of that relies on coal and other fossil fuels. We run on hydro and our current industrial rate is around $40 MWh
Nevermind that if we put a $500 tonne carbon tax in place (and put the money aside to be used to build the best dykes around our coastal cities possible and their upkeep etc, and other climate change related infrastructure) - coal wouldn't look cheap to anyone. Instead - society will eat the costs of extreme weather events caused by climate change - and the companies that profited while making the pollution will pay nothing (or no more than every other sector of the economy).
It is hard to believe anyone could agree that fossil fuels are a limited resource which we will not be able to use forever (unless we go extinct before running out of them) - and then simultaneously argue we shouldn't get to work developing alternatives.
Yes, the energy intensity of alternatives is lower. 300 million years of sunlight baked into a little rock is really energy intensive, and I am pretty sure that no alternative is going to match that intensity. That's not going to change, even with technological advances. If we are sitting around waiting for wind to be hard power with the same energy intensity as coal, we will be waiting forever, because it is not going to happen.
However, it is imperative that we start the technology train rolling, and get alternatives out there and into the grid so that we can learn how to make them better.
The energy mix in a grid has an impact on how well different energy sources feed into the grid. For example - a grid that is primarily wind and coal faces a lot of challenges around peak load (and overload) because coal is hard power (on or off) that doesn't scale well. You're either burning it, or not burning it - so it is incredibly difficult to not either burn out your grid or have brown outs - because wind is so intermittent.
Wind and hydro, however, can work beautifully together - because, at least here anyway, we have a central control that can increase or decrease the amount of hydro energy flowing into the grid - unlike coal power - hydro power can scale up and down with the amount of water which is let through the dam.
You need to have wind in the grid to start identifying those problems/solutions/advantages/disadvantages and working on solutions. Yeah, Germany has had some hiccups feeding wind into its mostly hard power grid - but they have learned from them and the technology is getting better. That doesn't happen unless we prioritize developing the technology (which has an initial cost that is unavoidable no matter when we engage in it).
Also the idea that we should wait till the downslope of peak oil/peak gas etc to develop alternatives (cause we don't need energy to make solar panels, amirite) is hilarious