An old complaint: “energy” is not “electricity.” And can Slate check facts?

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Slate is currently running a piece on the German Energiewende. As always you should expect little when it comes to such things in Slate. This one does not disappoint. There are numerous pet peeves of the energy concerned. See if you can spot one in the following sentence:

Germany is also in the midst of a push, known as the Energiewende, to have 80 percent of its energy supplied by renewable sources by 2050.*

Yes, the old confusion of electricity and energy. If you ever see a media report mentioning that a country will get X% of its energy from renewables by a particular date, you can be fairly certain that they really mean that the country is aiming for X% of electricity from renewables.

In fact, Slate have managed to be wrong twice here. Germany has a target of getting 80% of its electricity supply, not energy, from renewable sources by 2050. It’s target for energy is this: 60% of Germany’s final energy consumption is supposed to come from renewables by 2050.

The * indicates that the article has been corrected. Originally it claimed that Germany has a target of 100% renewable energy by 2050. This perhaps can be forgiven. A large number of credulous American greens have been fooled by what can plainly be called German Green Party propagandists into thinking Germany has a target for 100% renewable energy. It does not.

But the old rule of thumb should hold. If someone cannot tell you the difference between electricity and energy supply, and watt and joule, then you should probably think twice before listening to them.


3 thoughts on “An old complaint: “energy” is not “electricity.” And can Slate check facts?

    Craig Morris (@PPchef) said:
    March 26, 2014 at 10:11 pm


    You and I have a fascinating meeting of the minds, almost telepathetic. Just as you were thinking about this matter, but before I had read your post (and possibly before you had written it), I tweeted to someone that neither Scotland nor Germany has a 100 percent energy goal:

    In fact, as anyone can confirm by checking my tweets at AllMyTweets, I correct that confusion regularly. Corrected it only yesterday in an article when none other than Daniel Yergin claimed that Germany couldn’t go 100 percent renewable:

    But we both know that I wouldn’t know the difference were it not for you, Robert. Nor would the German Greens.

    Sure, the @EnergiewendeGER account run by the think tank of the German Greens immediately complained about the very same thing you did:

    And I have it from good sources (the person behind that account) that they then even sent the author a link to this chart, first created in 2012, via direct message:

    So while you rightly claim that the German Greens are the cause of the problem, they at least tried to fix it this time – they are the ones who tried to get the right data to the author. Alas, the author misread the chart.

    But you and I know, Robert, that the German Greens confuse energy and electricity all the time and misrepresent their country’s national target as “100 percent renewable.” That chart from the official Energiewende website by the German Greens is just a smokescreen.

    Now, don’t get mad, Robert – you know how you had to delete your old Twitter account to hide those embarrassing tweets. If you write something now that you are just going to regret, you’ll just have to delete it again later – and then, what is the difference between you and Nafeez, really?

    Telepathetic greetings from someone who is neither German, nor a member of any party, but who did win the 2014 journalism award from the International Association of Energy Economics for his work partly done for the German Greens:

    Keep up the good work, Robert.


    Your biggest fan

    P.S. Not all of Internet is written in ink, Robert. Your tweets are gone. All I have is the few screenshots of the most entertaining ones, which I otherwise would not have been able to share back then with a few older colleagues not on Twitter.


      Robert Wilson said:
      March 26, 2014 at 11:02 pm


      Please jog my memory because it is a little weak.

      As far as I remember I deleted my Twitter account because I decided it was spending far too much time on it, and I just needed to cut it off. Many of my followers routinely joked about my continual efforts to quit Twitter, claiming I could never do it.

      In fact I had a public bet with the environment journalist Keith Kloor that I could not stay off Twitter for a month.

      All of that is public record.

      So, it is very bizarre to find you coming along and claiming that I deleted it because of embarrassing tweets I made towards. What were these tweets? Was it the time I got a little angry when you called me an “opponent of renewables”? In that case it was you who should be embarrassed.

      Now, if I did want to delete tweets I made toward you it would be rather easy. I am a very competent computer programmer. Deleting every tweet directed at you would take me a couple of hours of computer programming, not much else.

      I would suggest that you try to get some perspective on things. The only reason I keep an eye on you is because you repeatedly slander me, whether it is claiming I am a plagiarist or an opponent of renewables.

      If you really think I deleted my Twitter account because of these tweets, whatever they were, then I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself.


    Craig Morris (@PPchef) said:
    March 26, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    P.P.S. Almost forgot – Vaclav Smil recently got those numbers right himself, but that was about all he got right. Man, was he lost.


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