Monday, August 31, 2020

Senate Democrats unveil California-style $400 billion per year climate plan

Senate Democrats on Tuesday rolled out an ambitious climate change plan that calls for spending $400 billion annually to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050, even as California struggles with rolling blackouts under a comparable statewide renewable energy standard.

The 263-page report, the latest of the Democratic Green New Deal-style proposals, seeks to increase federal spending to address climate change by at least 2% of U.S. gross domestic product annually, or about $400 billion, with a guarantee that 40% of the benefits would go to minority and disadvantaged communities.

“The climate crisis is not some distant threat. It is here now, and it will be catastrophic if we don’t strike back immediately,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Over the next few decades, climate change will affect every part of American life: our health, our economy, our national security, even our geography.”

The plan would create “at least 10 million new jobs” with an aggressive transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind energy. It also would invest in electric vehicles, retrofit buildings and expand public transportation.

Critics said the plan is unrealistic and wildly expensive, but the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis said in its report that “there is no viable scenario in which our country avoids significant spending.”

“We can wait and spend trillions of dollars in a disorderly, unproductive manner to continuously respond to our changing climate. Or, we strategically invest in climate solutions now,” the report said.

The proposal was introduced while Californians were suffering through power outages during a heat wave. The state hopes to convert its electrical grid to 100% renewable energy by 2045, five years before the Senate Democrats’ goal, raising questions about the feasibility of such plans.

James Taylor, president of the Heartland Institute, said efforts to achieve net-zero emissions with current technology are “simply pixie dust and wishful thinking with absolutely no basis in reality.”

“It’s impossible to have net-zero energy electricity generation without frequent blackouts and substantial economic pain from higher electricity costs, just as a matter of science,” Mr. Taylor said. “We don’t have the capacity to generate our electricity right now from unreliable intermittent sources and still have a reliable electricity grid, and that’s not going to change anytime in the near future.”

Last year, renewable energy represented about 11% of U.S. total energy consumption and 17% of electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It’s just political grandstanding,” Mr. Taylor said. “The Democrats would either destroy our reliable electricity grid or they would immediately need to break their campaign promise. It has to be one or the other.”

Like the Green New Deal resolution proposed in 2017 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, the program laid out by Democrats on the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis includes a focus on environmental justice while adding a call to expose those who donate to “groups trafficking in climate denial.”

Several pages of the report were devoted to blasting the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which have challenged the “climate crisis” narrative, as well as trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“This report charts a smart path forward for climate action in Congress. It includes the vital first step of exposing the fossil fuel industry’s decades-old covert operation to scuttle meaningful climate legislation,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat. “To move forward on major climate bills, we’ll need to execute on that recommendation.”

Steven Milloy, publisher of and a member of the Trump EPA transition team, said the spending would “accomplish nothing — but at great cost.”

“Regardless of one’s views on climate science, U.S. emissions are an ever-shrinking part of global emissions,” Mr. Milloy said.

Carbon dioxide emissions dropped 12% in the U.S. from 2005 to 2018, according to the EPA, and rose nearly 24% worldwide.

“Democrat plans to ‘decarbonize’ the economy would only raise energy prices, reduce our standard of living and put our national security in jeopardy without changing, much less improving, the weather,” Mr. Milloy said.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, drew a connection between climate change and the novel coronavirus. He said the “pandemic is showing us the importance of responding to crises boldly and decisively with science, not ideology.”


The dismal economics of offshore wind


The generation of electricity by onshore wind turbines has benefited from federal subsidies and state renewable energy mandates for decades. More than 100,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity have been constructed in the lower 48 states,[1] 9,000 MW of which came online in 2019. Onshore wind capacity has now surpassed installed nuclear capacity (although because of its “always-on” nature, total electricity generated from nuclear plants far exceeds that of onshore wind) and is exceeded only by natural gas- and coal-fired generating capacity.[2]

But from an economic perspective, the future of onshore wind is unfavorable. The federal production tax credit (PTC)—which was created in 1992 and today pays qualifying wind plant owners about $23 per MWh of electricity generated for 10 years—began to phase out in 2017. The PTC has decreased by 20% per year, and wind projects whose construction begins after January 1, 2021, will no longer be eligible.[3]

The demise of the PTC is not, however, the source of onshore wind power’s troubling future. Instead, given the remote location of many wind farms, expensive transmission lines are necessary to bring the electricity to cities and towns; perhaps most significant, local opposition has intensified over the past few years and stymied the development of new projects.[4]

In response to local pushback, some states are pushing back. In March of this year, for example, New York enacted legislation to overturn the state’s traditional “home rule” deference, which allows local governments to have final say over the types of facilities that can be built. Now, under the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, almost all renewable energy development in the Empire State will be approved by a new Office of Renewable Energy Siting. Locations will be denied only if there are valid and substantive reasons; local opposition, however, no longer will be considered a valid reason.[5]

Nevertheless, the opposition to additional onshore wind turbines, as well as the decreasing availability of high-quality “windy” locations, has led politicians and policymakers to shift their focus to offshore projects. In January 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for developing 9,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2035, up from his previous order that 2,400 MW be developed by 2030.[6] In January 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order requiring 3,500 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.[7] A 2016 law in Massachusetts requires that the state’s electric distribution companies procure 1,600 MW of “cost-effective” offshore wind capacity by June 2027 and 3,200 MW by 2035.[8] Similarly, Maryland’s Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 calls for 480 MW of offshore wind capacity to be developed.[9]

Proponents of offshore wind energy tout its clean energy bona fides and rapidly decreasing costs (as evidenced by recent competitive solicitations), which will enable states to meet ambitious targets to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuel and nuclear power. Advocates also see offshore wind as an avenue to create a manufacturing and economic renaissance in their respective states, one that will create thousands of construction jobs and generate billions of dollars of new economic activity.[10]

As this paper will show, the arguments made on behalf of offshore wind are invalid.


Potentially Powerful Pipeline Precedents

Fracking (horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing) has unleashed bounties of US oil and natural gas, dramatically reduced energy prices from their historic 2008 peak, saved families and industries billions of dollars annually, helped create and sustain millions of American jobs, made the United States stronger militarily and turned it into a net energy exporter.

Those fixated on alleged climate dangers from fossil fuels don’t care. In fact, they are aghast and angry about this oil and gas renaissance. Unable to stop all production, they have focused on blocking pipelines. If companies can’t get oil and gas to markets, they reason production will dwindle, companies will go bankrupt, and the case for supposedly renewable energy will grow stronger.

Acceding to their demands, tunnel-visioned federal judges recently blocked theAtlantic Coast Pipeline, told operators to shut down and drain the fully operational Dakota Access Pipeline, and mandated still more studies for Keystone XL and 75 other pipelines.

The judges issued these decisions in the name of preserving wetlands, preventing stream siltation, protecting endangered species, safeguarding scenic views, stopping greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting other environmental values.

They effectively deemed it irrelevant that fossil fuels still provide over 80% of all the energy that powers American industries, homes and living standards, and that virtually invisible underground pipelines replace much more dangerous alternatives.

TheDakota Access Pipeline alone replaces some 255,000 oil tanker railcars going through our towns and cities, or 730,000 semi-trailer tanker trucks on our highways, every year!

The activists and judges said even short-term scenic, stream sedimentation and ecological impacts during pipeline construction are unacceptable.

Even after aUS Supreme Court decision reversed the ACP decision, the company sponsors cancelled the project anyway, due to threats of more costly lawsuits and delays ad infinitum.

Even more extreme, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want no fossil fuels, and net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, by 2050. They claim this will lead the world in eliminating climate and environmental catastrophes. In reality, the impacts on US and global environments would be monumental.

In 2018, coal and natural gas generated 2.6 billion megawatt-hours of America’s electricity. Natural gas also provided the equivalent of 2.7 billion MWh of fuel for factories, businesses and homes. Internal combustion vehicles used over 2.0 billion MWh equivalent of gasoline and diesel.

Under the Biden-AOC Green New Deal, all those 7.3 billion megawatt-hours of electricity would come from “clean, green, renewable, sustainable” sources. Wind and sunshine certainly fit that description.

However, harnessing this intermittent power definitely does not. That would require unimaginable numbers of wind turbines and solar panels, and warehouses of huge batteries to provide backup power for just week of windless, sunless days – especially since the more wind and solar we demand, the more we must put turbines and panels in low quality locations. Without them, we would be hit by hundreds of rolling blackouts every year, like the ones that have been clobbering California.

A recent analysis suggests that generating all that electricity would require some 17 billion sun-tracking solar panels; or 25 billion fixed thin-film panels; or 3.5 million 1.8-MW onshore wind turbines; or 260,000 monstrous 10-MW offshore turbines; or some combination of those facilities. We’d also need nearly 2 billion half-ton Tesla battery modules, and thousands of miles of new transmission lines across America.

Building and installing these massive facilities would require tens of billions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, aluminum, cobalt, rare earth elements, fiberglass composites and dozens of other materials.

Getting those raw materials would require mining, processing and smelting hundreds of billions of tons of ore, from all around the world, but mostly from companies owned or controlled by China – almost all with fossil fuels; without regard for US pollution control, wildlife protection or workplace safety laws; and all too often using child and near-slave labor.

The turbines and panels would sprawl across hundreds of millions of acres of crop, scenic and habitat lands. Construction would scar landscapes, remove mountaintops, rip through forests, destroy scenic vistas, obliterate wildlife habitats, fill streams with sediment during construction, and displace or kill endangered plants, animals and birds.

Dominion Energy alone plans to construct solar panels in rural Virginia on lands totaling eight times Washington, DC, to serve a small fraction of the state’s electricity needs. Multiply that times 50 states and thousands of communities in a 100% electric economy, and you can begin to envision the ecological devastation from this “clean, green, renewable, sustainable” energy.

The 600- to 850-foot-tall wind turbines would slaughter millions of raptors, other birds and bats annually, completely eradicating them in many areas. Residential, business, hospital and school electricity rates would skyrocket. America’s economy and job market would never recover from Covid.

A few landowners – and a lot of utility company officers and investors – would get rich. But other people would suffer from infrasound and light flicker, watch their beautiful landscapes disappear forever, and get no compensation whatsoever.

The turbines, panels and batteries have short life spans, and are generally non-recyclable. Most would end up in enormous landfills.Vast rural areas would be turned into energy and trash colonies for politically powerful urban centers.

But on one positive note, years of pipeline lawsuits, human rights campaigns, and battles over mining and US and global air and water pollution have set powerful legal precedents.

Landowners, citizen groups, human rights defenders and environmentalists not fixated on climate change will be able to use them to delay, block, bankrupt and scuttle many or most of these destructive pseudo-renewable energy projects. They will also demand that wind, solar, battery and electric vehicle metals, minerals and components be responsibly sourced – in accordance with all US laws and ethics.

Utilities think they hit a buzz saw over pipelines. Radical greens think they won this war. It could be a Pyrrhic victory if those laws, regulations, EIS rules and judicial decisions are applied to wind and solar. In fact, they are potentially powerful pipeline precedents.

And if regulators, politicians and courts apply double standards – one for fossil fuels and one for pseudo-renewables, akin to one for rioters and another for churchgoers – the situation could become extremely troublesome, to say the least. It could turn into real resistance, rebellion and conflict.

It’s time for civilized debates, with no cancel-culture interference, on all these issues, before that happens.


A practical way of using renewables

Kalbarri [in Western Australia] is now the proposed site for a massive 5,000-megawatt renewable hydrogen export operation. Although construction is still 10 years away from breaking ground, should it go ahead, the project will put the tiny town at the bleeding edge of a pioneering technological development in renewable energy.

“The idea is to become a low-cost producer of green, renewable hydrogen,” says Terry Kallis, one of the project’s promoters.

Like solar and wind power, the technology to make “green” hydrogen from water has been around since the 1970s.

Historically the production of hydrogen relied on fossil fuels to make “brown” or “blue” hydrogen by running an electric current through water using an electrolyser – a device that breaks down water into oxygen and hydrogen.

But today the development of renewable energy has advanced enough that coal or natural gas are no longer needed to create the electric current. The entire process can instead be powered by wind and solar – making green hydrogen possible.

For years, technological development in the sector stalled due to a lack of demand, but that is changing rapidly. Each year the world consumes 70m tonnes of hydrogen to make glass, steel and fertiliser. That figure is projected to grow to 90m tonnes by 2050 under the more conservative scenarios.

The Kalbarri proposal aims to take advantage of this by constructing a combined wind and solar plant to power the commercial production of hydrogen from seawater. If all goes well, the gas will then be exported to nations like Korea, Japan and Singapore, countries that – thanks to their geography – cannot make it themselves.

Kallis and his business partner, Peter Sgardelis, have a background in large-scale renewables. Kallis was involved in the construction of the first commercial windfarm in South Australia and Sgardelis worked on the Star of the South offshore windfarm in Victoria.

This experience – along with the growing global interest in renewable hydrogen – has helped attract support from German multinational engineering giant Siemens, which in October last year signed up to build the electrolysers for the project.

“We’ve seen the costs associated with production of green hydrogen coming down, or coming down sooner than expected,” Kallis says. “We’ve also seen the development of the electrolyser to commercial scale and people start talking about demand. That has been a missing link.”

The area around Kalbarri – the traditional land of the Nanda people with whom they are currently negotiating a land use agreement – is an obvious choice, he says.

The landscape offers the right type of wind, good exposure to sun, and is close to both ocean and the Dampier-to-Bunbury pipeline – the longest gas pipeline in Australia.

Since the project is being developed in stages, the earliest phases will see hydrogen blended into the liquid natural gas supply before it then pivots to focus on export.

Like any ambitious project that pushes the boundaries of technological and industrial development, it is not without problems to solve.

While the process of making hydrogen from water is well understood, until recently the electrolysers required for the process have not been large and efficient enough to produce in commercial quantities.

The other issue has been transport.

Moving hydrogen offshore currently requires the gas to be packaged up in ammonia, or cooled 250C below freezing until it forms a liquid that can then be pumped out onto a ship like LNG.

“Those details have yet to be determined, as it will depend on what the buyer wants,” Kallis says. “We’re under no illusions and we make clear this is a very large project, something that will be developed in stages over time.”

Should they succeed, they will be helping to pioneer what may be a whole new industry for Australia.

Many believe hydrogen could play a role in turning Australia into the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.

“Countries such as Japan, Korea and Germany have already come to Australia, asking for us to export renewable hydrogen for their domestic energy consumption,” says Ken Baldwin, the director of the Energy Change Institute at the Australian National University. “We have enormous opportunities … [to create wealth and] jobs due to the demand for our energy from these countries.”

In November last year, the CSIRO released the National Hydrogen Roadmap to plan out how an export industry could be developed.

The potential to get in on the ground floor of a future industry has the private sector excited, with a flurry of 30 new proposals for renewable hydrogen projects in Western Australia alone.



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.  

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