Friday, August 02, 2019

100% Renewable Is 100% Unachievable, Even If You’re An Optimist

100% renewable energy isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. The science doesn’t exist, the cost would be astronomical and the politics impossible.

There are several studies that indicate it would cost the United States trillions of dollars to transition to an electric system that is 100% renewable. Costs range from $4.5 trillion by 2030 or even 2040 to $5.7 trillion in 2030—about a quarter of the U.S. debt. The lower estimate results in a cost per household of almost $2,000 per year through 2040.

The $4.5 trillion cost does not include the stranded cost of the oil, natural gas, and coal technologies that would be disrupted. Costs can be greatly reduced by allowing nuclear as part of the non-carbon emitting mix and allowing natural gas to generate 20 percent of the electricity. Allowing existing nuclear plants to operate would save about $500 billion. Also, moving the goal to 2045 or 2050 would help to reduce costs by allowing advanced technologies to be developed and commercialized.

A spokesperson for Wood Mackenzie, who was in charge of one of the studies indicates, “In areas of the country that have a decent mix of wind and solar potential, those places can probably get to 50% renewables without struggling. Above 50%, the challenge of ensuring reliable grid operations starts to take off.” No large and complex power system in the world operates with an average annual wind and solar generation level greater than 30 percent. Another issue is that installers of wind turbines will be faced with NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) challenges.

Wood Mackenzie Study

The critical factor in 100% renewable energy with no nuclear power depends on the future of utility-scale battery storage. The firm estimated that 1,600 gigawatts of new wind and solar capacity would be required to replace all U.S. fossil fuel generation and 900 gigawatts of battery storage backup would be needed. There are only 5.5 gigawatts of battery storage world-wide in operation or under construction. If wind or solar replaced a 2-gigawatt nuclear power plant, and batteries provided the only backup, 6 to 8 gigawatts of battery storage would be required.

The U.S. power grid has about 1,060 gigawatts of total capacity, of which about 130 gigawatts is wind and solar capacity. One hundred-percent renewables by 2030 would require adding more wind and solar power in the next 11 years than the total capacity of these two sources installed in the past 20 years. The costs of new wind and solar units needed for a 100% renewables standard would be about $1.5 trillion.

Adding the required battery storage would raise the cost to about $4 trillion and adding new transmission lines would increase the cost to $4.5 trillion. The United States currently has about 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission. The report estimates that achieving 100 percent renewables would require doubling the transmission lines, which would add $700 billion to the total price. The cost estimate does not include additional supply chain costs that could result from the increased demand for steel, construction equipment, or other supplies.

An 80 percent carbon-free target with natural gas generation providing the other 20 percent would reduce new battery storage costs by 60 percent. Natural gas provides an important back-up fuel for solar and wind power, which are intermittent technologies and are not available when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. Natural gas can be ramped up or down quickly, is abundant and low cost. As such, it has helped the U.S. generating sector reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which declined by 27 percent between 2005 and 2018.

American Action Forum Analysis

According to an analysis by the American Action Forum, the proposal to transition 100 percent of U.S. electricity production to renewable sources by 2030 would require at least $5.7 trillion of investment in renewable energy and storage. This is a ballpark estimate and not an in-depth projection, and may not include all the contingencies necessary to make the system work. The group also notes that it is likely to be a significant underestimation, as it reflects the lowest possible cost.

Assumptions of the analysis include:

* the United States would use solar power during the day, and wind power during the night;
* for the hours in the day where neither solar nor wind produce their stated capacity, a mixture of hydroelectricity and storage would be used;
* the United States would build the entirety of all potential hydroelectricity resources (a controversial issue with environmentalists and an objective that could not be completed by 2030);
* storage costs associated with batteries would be their average operation and maintenance cost, rather than the significantly higher costs of batteries that can discharge electricity quickly and repeatedly throughout the day;
* electricity demand will be roughly flat (rather than demand spiking during afternoon hours); and,
* there will be no increase in the price of wind, solar, hydroelectricity, or storage, despite the fact that demand for all of these sources would skyrocket due to such policy.


As these two studies indicate, a 100% renewable electricity system is not realistic by 2030 as the Green New Deal requires and certainly not at a reasonable cost. Wind and solar technologies are intermittent, as they depend on the weather and have low capacity factors, meaning that much more capacity would be required than the natural gas capacity that they would be replacing. Further, battery storage is currently not a viable option as the technology is expensive and still developing.


Burning corn so we can drive 1/3 less miles to the gallon

Biofuels, primarily ethanol in gasoline, provides 5% of our current energy use. Wrongheaded environmental zealots believe it represents an ideal short term solution for replacing fossil fuels for transportation and on site energy generation. They argue that because biofuels come from plants, they are natural, green and non polluting. They claim that in contrast to fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable and sustainable because they can be regrown every year.

Once one wakes up to reality, however, there arguments all fall apart. The major losers in this current trend controlled by government regulation, which obviously benefits farmers who are indeed suffering very low grain prices, is the public at large. Bio fuels both raise the price of transportation and concurrently our food.

Here are some of the reasons why biofuels are not the answer to what some see as our energy problems.

Numerous studies have proved that biofuels consume more energy than they produce;

Biofuel production is extremely land intensive;

Biofuels cost more than gasoline;

Most cars and trucks can’t function using pure ethanol as fuel;

Biofuels ruin small engines;

Biofuel production competes with food production.

David Pimental and Cornell University documented long ago that the biofuels, primarily ethanol, consume more energy in their production than they produce. Pimental and others estimated that corn from an acre of land produces between 330 and 450 gallons of ethanol. As a gallon of ethanol only has 63% of the energy content of gasoline, 400 gallons of ethanol per acre is equivalent to 250 gallons of gasoline. Additionally it is estimated that the farm equipment used to plant, tend and harvest the corn consumes 140 gallons of fossil fuels. After harvesting, processing. steps which include fermentation and distillation also require fossil fuels. The arithmetic shown in the original research articles calculates that 100,000 BTU are required to produce a gallon of ethanol which in turn will provide only 77,000 BTU of of energy. Clearly it makes no economic sense.

It takes a huge amount of our land to produce ethanol. We have about 320 million farmable acres in the conterminous 48 states. While it varies from year to year we tend to use about 90 million of those acres to produce corn, and 40% of that corn goes to produce ethanol. That works out to about 10% of our farm land to produce an uneconomical fuel.

Replacing all currently used gasoline, 140 billion gallons, and diesel fuel,143 billion gallons, would require 20 times the amount of ethanol that is being produced today. We would need 720 million acres of land to achieve this.

During the Obama Administration the President had decreed that military transportation take advantage of biofuels in ships and airplanes. The early implementation of this order proved an economic as well as practical disaster.

Most cars and trucks can’t function using pure ethanol as a fuel. Currently 10% of ethanol is placed in gasoline without difficulty to improve performance, but efforts to increase that amount to 15% is being greeted with great resistance from the Automobile Association of America which states that such a level will seriously overheat engines and damage many engine components, such as fuel pumps.

Biofuel production competes with food production. Every acre of land now used for biofuel production was formerly used for food production, mainly as feed for livestock and poultry. Over 40% of US corn production has made the switch from food to fuel since 2005. Other crops including oats, barley, sorghum, wheat and hay have seen their acreage decrease as well in order to produce biofuel. This increases the prices of all these grains. Farmers are only responding to the fact that large government subsidies promote ethanol and you the public pays those subsidies.

We should all love our farmers for providing us with the most inexpensive and healthiest food available on our planet. The vagaries of weather and world grain production provide them with a roller coaster of good and bad years. We should all want to see them provided with a safety net to keep them going under the worst circumstances. But having said that, a safety net involving a nonsensical plan to make fuel from corn is clearly counterproductive


Guardian discovers skeptical climate videos, urges censorship

The left wing Guardian has published an article on a study that found something I pointed out two years ago, that YouTube is full of videos skeptical of climate alarmism. There are at least a thousand skeptical videos. I have begun collecting them at my Climate Change Debate Education website and have about 300 listed at this point.

The Guardian title is accurate: ” Most YouTube climate change videos ‘oppose the consensus view'”.

Mind you “Consensus view” should be capitalized because it is the name of a specific political position, disguised as a statistical description. When it comes to climate change there is no scientific consensus on the role that humans might or might not be playing.

The subtitle however is threatening: ” Scientist behind study urges platform to tweak algorithms to ‘prioritise factual information.’”

This is clearly a call for algorithmic censorship of skeptics. We are already seeing this bias on Google searches, which I have also documented.

Of course the Guardian thinks that climate alarmism is “factual information.” They just instructed their writers to use the terms “climate emergency” and “climate crisis”, neither of which exist. The article leads with a picture of Bill Nye setting the globe on fire, which is simply ridiculous. Here is how the Guardian puts it:

“The majority of YouTube videos about the climate crisis oppose the scientific consensus and “hijack” technical terms to make them appear credible, a new study has found. Researchers have warned that users searching the video site to learn about climate science may be exposed to content that goes against mainstream scientific belief.”

The study in question uses the UN IPCC as the standard of scientific truth, which is absurd. What the IPCC claims is questionable and the focus of the scientific debate. There is no “mainstream scientific belief” at this time. There is just scientific debate.

At this point my collections include numerous videos from William Happer, Patrick Michaels, Roy Spencer, Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry and CFACT’s Marc Morano. These are legitimate skeptics, not “hijackers.” Videos range in length from one minute to over an hour so there are hundreds of hours of detailed scientific content.

The study in question is either really bad or deliberately bad, it is hard to say which. They even found a spurious correlation between skeptics of climate alarmism and the bogus chemtrails conspiracy theory. No such correlation exists.

The 300 or so scientific videos on my website never mention chemtrails because that is not what the climate change debate is about.

However “chemtrails” was one of the study’s top search terms. So it looks like they jiggered the study by looking at the false issue of chemtrails changing climate, which is trivial compared to the overall climate change debate.

Having studied the YouTube for skeptical content I cannot figure out how these folks got these goofy results, unless they designed them. YouTube is full of well argued skeptical science. The problem seems to be that the alarmists simply do not understand the debate.


Dems' Energy Ideas Confused, Disastrous

Great news! Chicken Little’s sky never descended, and the big bad climate wolf has never responded to the boy’s repeatedly overheated warning calls.

But you aren’t likely to have gotten this impression from last year’s much-ballyhooed news coverage of the National Climate Assessment report produced by Obama administration hold-overs based upon hysterically extreme worst-case modeling predictions of a 10 to 15 degree Fahrenheit temperature rise by the year 2100.

No mainstream network has bothered to mentioned that only one out of more than two dozen climate models that the report relied on was even able to accurately simulate ("hindcast") past climate changes.

That uniquely successful model developed by the Institute of Numerical Mathematics in Moscow also forecast the least warming — about 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit — under realistic CO2 emission assumptions.

Radically irrational Democrat/Socialist energy proposals based upon unfounded climate alarm ignore fundamental realities.

First, let’s understand that replacing any significant share of total current U.S. fossil-fueled energy (80 percent) with intermittent and unreliable wind and solar (slightly more than 2% combined) is disastrously implausible.

Second, given that the U.S. accounts for less than 15 percent of all global CO2 emissions, our control over the planet’s thermostat would be extremely limited at any cost.

Nevertheless, putting all scientific, economic and broader common sense logic aside, is there sufficient climate guilt and fear virtue-signaling value in anti-fossil variations of the "Green New Deal" to advance a 2020 presidential victory as all leading liberal candidates obviously believe?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., promises on her first day in office to impose a moratorium on all new offshore drilling leases, take a significant percentage of oil and gas production offline, eliminate tens of thousands of jobs, and forego many billions in federal, state and local tax and business revenues.

Other candidates have joined with Warren in calls for "net zero" emissions with the same social and economic impacts. Consequences would dramatically reverse recent progress in drilling, refining, liquid-natural gas terminals, pipeline installation, and manufacturing —along with myriad service industries and businesses that support these areas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would not only ban all offshore drilling, but nuclear energy (8.6% of U.S. energy) as well. And whereas Joe Biden has vowed to push for a "full electric vehicle future" by 2030, he at least cracks the door open for adding nuclear to help power his proposed half-million new charging stations.

Since 2013, a green "shut-them-down" nuclear movement has helped to force plants in Wisconsin, Vermont, Florida, Nebraska, and California into retirement, with Three Mile Island scheduled to close by September 30 of this year.

Very belatedly, pro-nuclear green advocacy appears likely to be emerging from a realization that anemic wind and solar installations won’t be nearly adequate. In addition, their intermittency demands an immediately available backup amount of fossil-fueled natural gas turbine capacity to keep power grids constantly balanced.

Stupefyingly late, even the long-time militantly anti-nuclear Union of Concerned Scientists now advocates reversing planned shutdowns of embattled plants in Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, and upstate New York, where three plants along the shores of Lake Ontario had been under threat of closure.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. presently has only one new nuclear plant under construction, and just a handful in planning stages, other countries — including India, Russia, and China - are moving rapidly forward to expand and upgrade this non-fossil energy source.

The same naïve mantra that has precluded green activist acceptance of hydropower (which provides more U.S. energy than wind) as a "renewable" energy classification, also famously weaponized the Obama administration’s all-out, take-no-prisoner assaults on coal.

"Progressive" 2020 campaigners might be reminded to take a lesson from Hillary’s book which devotes an entire chapter about her regret about bragging at a March 2016 Ohio town hall event that her administration was "going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

A former candidate, Barack Obama, made the same pledge in 2008, when he vowed to "bankrupt" the coal industry. By the time Mrs. Clinton came along, those industry workers who had suffered years of crushing climate regulations certainly weren’t favorably impressed.

Encouragingly, voters in states which include Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, continue wisely to reject ballot initiatives for carbon taxes.

Meanwhile, there is also no reason to believe that other countries will wean themselves off of fossil fuels at great expense to their economic and social survival.

"Quiet Australians" have recently rebuked climate alarmists by reelecting conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Even France, home of the Paris Climate Agreement, continues to wrestle with "yellow vests" who are protesting rising fuel costs and taxes.

Climate alarm-premised assaults upon fossil energy constitute direct attacks upon the roaring American business economy: our businesses, prosperity, and social stability for all.

We’re a lot smarter than that. Right?


Nevada's Rep. Susie Lee Fearmongers Over Yucca Mountain

Last month, I wrote an op-ed for USA Today about Yucca Mountain.

The argument I made, in a nutshell, is that the nuclear waste storage facility that has already been built is safe and should be opened for business. However, because Nevadans are (improperly) worried about the safety of the Yucca facility, I suggested that the federal government offer to pay each of the state's citizens $500 each year (for 10 years) as "rent." This provides financial compensation for the risk of hosting the site, even though the risk is exceedingly small.

The usual counterargument is, "F*** you."

Admittedly, I don't have a good response to that.

Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee also weighed in. While her counterargument is at least civil, it spreads disinformation about geology and public health. Let's fact-check her statement.

"NV is the 3rd most active seismic state in the country"

True but irrelevant. Nevada is a big state. What matters isn't if it's seismically active but if earthquakes would damage the nuclear waste storage facility. The answer is "no."

In 2009, Scientific American addressed this concern. According to the article, the Department of Energy says that "frequent, if low-level, seismic activity does not pose a threat to potential safe nuclear storage some five miles (eight kilometers) under Yucca Mountain." The article concludes, "[T]he proposed Yucca Mountain repository could withstand whatever earthquakes Mother Nature might muster."

"shortsighted proposal"

False, this isn't a short-sighted proposal. It's a long-term solution. Yucca Mountain will be able to safely store nuclear waste for thousands of years. What is short-sighted is what we are doing now, i.e., storing waste on site at 80 different nuclear facilities in 35 states. As I explained in my USA Today piece, soon the Department of Energy will be required to pay billions of dollars in "damages" to nuclear power utilities because of the Department's failure to collect the waste.

"The health of our children & our community is worth more than $500."

Oh yes, the children. I didn't think of that.

An absolutely excellent, must-read article by physicist Dr. Richard Muller explains the science behind nuclear waste disposal. We routinely say that nuclear waste needs to be secure for about 10,000 years. That's because, by then, most of the radioactivity has decayed away. But in reality, after merely 300 years, the level of radioactivity has declined by roughly 90%. So, the question isn't, "Can we guarantee that Yucca is eternally secure forever and ever amen?" but "Can we ensure that Yucca is safe for about 300 years?" And that answer is yes.

Dr. Muller really slams the door shut by comparing the risk posed by a leak at Yucca Mountain to the risk posed by uranium found naturally in the soil:

"Colorado, where much of the uranium is obtained, is a geologically active region, full of faults and fissures and mountains rising out of the prairie, and its surface rock contains about a billion tons of uranium. The radioactivity in this uranium is 20 times greater than the legal limit for Yucca Mountain, and it will take more than 13 billion years—not just a few hundred—for the radioactivity to drop by a factor of 10. Yet water that runs through, around, and over this radioactive rock is the source of the Colorado River, which is used for drinking water in much of the West, including Los Angeles and San Diego. And unlike the glass pellets that store the waste in Yucca Mountain, most of the uranium in the Colorado ground is water-soluble. Here is the absurd-sounding con­clusion: if the Yucca Mountain facility were at full capacity and all the waste leaked out of its glass containment immediately and man­aged to reach groundwater, the danger would still be 20 times less than that currently posed by natural uranium leaching into the Col­orado River. [Emphasis added]

The science is utterly conclusive: Yucca Mountain is not a threat to Nevadans' health. Grandstanding and fearmongering by politicians is why America has a completely backward energy policy. The good news is that a smart energy policy is really easy. We just have to elect politicians who care more about physics than feelings.


Why the Carbon Tax Would Backfire on America

Leftists once initiated a carbon tax in Australia.  A little while later the Leftists were thrown out of goverbnment and the tax abolished

Several members of Congress have floated different carbon tax bills in recent days, some of which have both Democratic and Republican sponsorship.

But marginal bipartisan support for enacting a new tax on American families and businesses doesn’t make it good policy. 

Different models and prices have been proposed, but they all tax activities that emit carbon dioxide on the premise that emissions are responsible for global warming, a cost to society which otherwise isn’t accounted for. They propose to address this “market failure” with a policy that could well lead to economic failure. 

Families would pay more at the meter and the pump. Approximately 80% of America’s energy needs are met by natural gas, oil, and coal, which means the costs would be economy-wide. It would cost more to manufacture, which would drive up the price of manufactured goods. And it would cost more to farm, which would drive up the costs of food.

Analysts at The Heritage Foundation used the U.S. Energy Administration Information’s energy model to estimate the effects of a carbon tax to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as aggressively as possible between now and 2040. According to the model’s results, a carbon tax would cause:

A peak employment shortfall of more than 1.4 million jobs.
A total income loss of more than $40,000 for a family of four.
An aggregate gross domestic product loss of more than $3.9 trillion.
Increases in household electricity expenditures of 12% to 124%.
Even worse, the burden would be heaviest on low-income families who spend a higher portion of their budget on energy costs. Some carbon tax proposals acknowledge this and offer rebates from the tax revenue collected.

But even if a rebate check compensates low-income families for their higher energy bills, it won’t undo the damage they’ll incur from paying more for groceries, clothes, health care, and everything else they buy because of the increased cost of energy for all those providers.

Some supporters talk of returning the tax revenue to the people in various ways, but not without taking some kind of cut for their own special interests, whether for green energy projects or new infrastructure.

Then there’s the bureaucratic nightmare of implementing a new tax. Acknowledging that a carbon tax would harm American businesses and U.S. competitiveness, carbon tax proponents suggest enacting a border adjustment tax for imported goods from countries where no carbon pricing exists. Others propose to eliminate environmental regulations in exchange for a carbon tax.

Administering border taxes on goods imported from countries without carbon taxes “would be enormously complex, requiring an estimate of the tax-equivalent value of the given policies under examination,” said resident American Enterprise Institute scholar Benjamin Zycher. And the administrative state would be empowered to make decisions micromanaging the economy via tax policy.

Supporters argue a carbon tax is worth it despite the costs, but it’s not clear it would do much to benefit the climate. 

No doubt, carbon dioxide emissions would decline—if you tax something, you’ll get less of it. But the impact on global temperatures would be negligible by the end of the century, even if you assume the most catastrophic scenario.

It’s also highly unlikely a carbon tax would be faithfully applied to everyone, Zycher pointed out, because various interest groups will influence which businesses are subject to the tax and other countries are likely to implement alternative policies that subsidize solar and wind energy instead of taxing carbon.

Carbon taxes are a cure worse than the alleged disease: They have a minimal impact on emissions and will do next to nothing to affect climate change. In the end, they hurt the very citizens they are intended to help.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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