Richard, What Do You Think of This?
As I mentioned "yesterday," I didn't do the best job of answering Joe's question, which question is now the title of today's blogitem. The "this" he was talking about was the screed below. I won't respond to each of the points, many of which are worth a blog or a book of their own. Rather, I'm going to tell Joe what I think of this, thus fulfilling my promise.
What I think is that while the author, Prof. Larry Bell, has spent a lot of time and done a lot of research to explain just how the promises of "Democratic candidates" to achieve "net-zero" greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 are "disastrously costly and destructive," he needn't have bothered. Prof. Bell and I have this in common: spare time: In a different world, we might both be tilling the soil and hoping to harvest enough to keep us alive for another season. Instead, given the prosperity we and most of you have, we have the time to noodle, either with academic pursuits as does the professor, or, in my case, to commit a blog of indeterminate value. In either world, however, and assuming there were elections, candidates of all parties would have "disastrously costly and destructive" policies because
That's What Candidates Do.
So, there should be no surprise that their demands and predictions, especially about the future, verge on the ridiculous. If all candidates of all parties stuck to sensible, realizable policies, we wouldn't have the electoral spectacle we currently do and might not even need elections. If I continue with this line of thought, I will eventually get into politics. So: Enough.
What about Prof. Bell's thesis? He's unequivocally right in some respects: For example, solar cells don't work at night, and to get continuous power from a solar or wind plant you need some way to store or otherwise provide energy. There are any number of possibilities for doing that: batteries, pumping water, building towers of heavy blocks, heating salts, etc. Are they "too expensive" to be practical? Maybe, maybe not. Engineers and scientists are clever and industrious. Should we bet against them? I wouldn't. What about his complaint about operation and maintenance of wind turbines, their short lifetimes and declining efficiency? Even if his numbers are right today, who's to say turbines won't continue to improve, as they have been doing since their introduction?
Pretty much everything below seems negative and pessimistic; one could just as easily put a positive gloss on each argument. But why bother? The quest for "net-zero" by 2050 is political. Every form of renewable energy has trades-off, which usually improve quickly or slowly over time. I just read that India (yes, India) is finding solar power cheaper than coal and enormous solar plants are in prospect there. Needless to say, the coal interests in India don't see this as a positive! If you don't have time to read the whole argument below, you probably won't have time to read my blog of yesterday, so I'll summarize: I recommend using common sense, not gratuitous political deadlines, to implement renewable energy. And geoengineering as an insurance policy. As for email or internet polemics? Well, that's the internet, isn't it?
Here's the Screed*
Democratic candidates who have committed to the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 are premising disastrously costly and destructive social and economic policies upon "renewable energy alternative" fantasies.
Briefly summarized, I’ll highlight three basic realities their campaigns aren’t informing you about.
Current and Future Wind and Solar Contributions Are Vastly Overrated:
First, for some overall perspective let’s recognize that about 80 percent of all U.S. energy (always measured in BTUs) comes from fossil sources, with another 8.6 percent contributed by nuclear. Total energy from "renewables," a term which probably doesn’t mean what you imagine it does, amounts to 11.4 percent. Of that total U.S. energy amount, solar and wind combined contributed barely over three percent.
In 2018, nearly two-thirds of total U.S. electricity (64%) — not total energy — came from fossil fuels, and most of the rest (20%) from nuclear. Of those so-called renewables, wind accounted for only 6.5 percent - about the same as hydro (7%). Solar contributed a piddling 1.5%.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), nearly two-thirds of the energy that goes into the U.S. electrical power is lost through conversion to mechanical energy and transmission distribution before it reaches users.
All combined, those renewables provide 17 percent of U.S. electricity . . . an energy sector which, in turn, comprises a little more than one-third (37%) of America’s total energy consumption. The rest of total energy is distributed fairly equally between industrial, transportation, and residential-commercial sector end uses.
Wind Operational and Maintenance Life Cycle Costs Are No Bargain:
Wind promoters aren’t generally eager to mention some negative cost –benefit ratio drivers that warrant big "buyers beware" warnings.
They don’t advertise, for example, that breezy intermittent outputs require access to a "shadow capacity" typically provided by an equal "spinning reserve" of natural gas-fueled turbines that enables utilities to balance power grids when wind conditions aren’t optimum . . . which is most of the time.
Such second-by-second grid management to insure uninterrupted power transfer becomes increasingly complex and inefficient as more and more intermittent sources are added to the power supply mix. This requires that the fossil-fueled turbines must be constantly throttled up and down to balance the grid, much like driving a car in stop-and-go traffic.
Remarkably, Green New Deal proponents somehow propose that wind and solar — which together provide just slightly over three percent of America’s total energy — will eliminate a need for fossil sources which produce 80 percent.
This dramatic non-fossil transition presumably includes replacing the natural gas spinning reserve capacity essential to balance the power grid; requiring the constant availability of two different equal capacity sources to do the job of one.
This also somehow includes replacing petroleum-fueled vehicles with plugged-in electric marvels that can mysteriously be recharged when the wind isn’t blowing and sunshine isn’t available — nighttime, for example.
Wind turbines are also short on longevity, long on maintenance.
A major 2012 Edinburgh University study of nearly 3,000 on-shore British wind farms found that the turbines have a very brief 12 to 15 year operating life, not the 20 to 25 year lifespans applied in politicized government and industry projections.
The report also concluded that a typical turbine generated more than twice as much electricity during its first year than upon reaching 15 years of use. Performance due to saltwater deterioration for off-shore installations is even far worse.
Environmental Benefits Versus Costs Don’t Add Up Either:
Along with lifecycle investment and operations costs let’s also add environmental costs to the mix of considerations.
No, it’s certainly not just "dirty" coal, oil and natural gas, that are being challenged . . . or those “hazardous” nuclear plants. Many self-proclaimed environmentalists aren’t all keen on wind turbines either. A Sierra Club official described them as giant "Cuisinarts in the sky" for bird and bat slaughters.
Nearby landowners are fighting wind projects in the courts for un-neighborly human offenses.
"Not in My Backyard" (NIMBY) opposition typically arises from an aesthetic perspective where turbines and associated transmission lines dominate scenic vistas.
Other local wind critics have legitimate health concerns about land-based installations. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, and ringing in ears resulting from prolonged exposure to inaudibly low "infrasound" frequencies that even penetrate walls.
Wind and solar power also require huge amounts of land and expansive transmission lines to deliver electricity from remote sites (plus additional power transmission losses.) Two 2018 papers published in the journals Environmental Research Letters and Joule by Harvard University researchers David Keith and Gordon McKay concluded that transitioning from wind or solar in the U.S. will require five to 20 times more land than conventionally thought.
Socialist green dreamers argue that their proposed new dealings are worth any cost necessary to save the planet from climate-ravaging capitalism. Let’s finally awaken from that nightmare of nonsense.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including “The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives” (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles."
* Edited to add a bit of white space, otherwise identical in text to what Joe received and forwarded.