President Biden has called for 50% of all new car and light truck sales be Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) by 2030. Even more draconian laws from States like California say:
“…….. all new cars sold in the state by 2035 be free of greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide”.
That means no gasoline vehicle sales can be made in California after 2035.
What is the outcome of these proposals that only allow ZEV to be made? The Fuels Institute, a proponent of the man-made global warming, posted “Reducing carbon emissions effectively-now and tomorrow” has the answer. The charts premise is that of California’s pathway, meaning 100% of new car sales are ZEVs and no new fossil fuel powered cars can be sold.
“As the chart shows, in a hypothetical scenario in which all U.S. light duty vehicle sales are required to be ZEV in 2035, the market would likely only convert 16.5% of vehicles in operation to ZEV by that time. This would leave 83.5% of vehicles in 2035 still operating primarily on liquid fuels used in combustion engines with a potential life expectancy of longer than 20 years. This means that BEVs and a cleaner electricity grid will not be able to significantly cut transportation-related CO2e emissions for many years to come, resulting in increased atmospheric concentrations that will linger for another 100-plus years
It might be possible for the manufacturers to make enough ZEVs, but it may not make any difference if the manufacturers can. The cost, the range anxiety, the charging time, fires, etc. have turned off the common man buying ZEVs so far.
Open Letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy
Your leadership regarding Climate Change is very important. Your members must weigh in on the nearly a half of trillion dollars of subsidies for the so-called renewable energy projects and directing legislation to stop the urge of the Democrats to rush headlong into unproven schemes to replace fossil fuels.
Your Email for contributions has a list of your objectives beyond just energy that are things I hope you can obtain though it will be uphill with the Senate and Executive in the hands of the Democrats. I hope you can find ways to block the Biden Administration’s plans.
This letter is to focus on just one part of the House’s objectives and that is to counter the disinformation that the global warming alarmists have been spewing. The way things work now are—-Media support the alarmist’s “experts” and they know that there will be no significant effort by skeptics to counter the alarmists.
“The recent polling showed only 16% of Americans said they have a “great deal or quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers with only 11% of Americans having confidence in television. It represented a 5% decrease since 2021 and was also the lowest rating given towards newspapers since Gallup’s original poll back in 1973.
And there is no need not be afraid of the title “skeptic”. Almost without exception skeptics believe that the globe is warming.
The skeptics need a microphone that is so big it can work around the media. I think the House of Representatives can do this.
The House could have regular sessions of skeptical testimony. The House should rely on the skeptical experts, of which there are many, to counteract the alarmists. Don’t be afraid to allow the alarmists “experts” to testify, too. The alarmists usually get beaten in debates with the skeptics. In fact they have a reluctance to debate. Try getting Al Gore to debate any skeptical expert. No way, he always backs out. You will be doing this to help educate all of the Members of the House of Representatives. Record all the sessions and publish them on YouTube.
The site names 1010 experts listed by country. (The site needs to update the list as it has now grown to 1499 experts.)
The Skeptical Daily post a summary regarding the skeptics on the lists and some notable quotes. They call the list of the skeptic experts a Declaration.
“The scale of the opposition to modern day ‘settled’ climate science is remarkable, given how difficult it is in academia to raise grants for any climate research that departs from the political orthodoxy. A lead author of the declaration, Professor Richard Lindzen, has called the current climate narrative “absurd”, but acknowledged that trillions of dollars and the relentless propaganda from grant-dependent academics and agenda-driven journalists currently says it is not absurd.
The Declaration is an event of enormous importance, although it will be ignored by the mainstream media. But it is not the first time distinguished scientists have petitioned for more realism in climate science. In Italy, the discoverer of nuclear anti-matter Emeritus Professor Antonino Zichichi recently led 48 local science professors in stating that human responsibility for climate change is “unjustifiably exaggerated and catastrophic predictions are not realistic”. In their scientific view, “natural variation explains a substantial part of global warming observed since 1850”. Professor Zichichi has signed the WCD.
The Declaration notes that the Earth’s climate has varied for as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm periods. “It is no surprise that we are experiencing a period of warming,” it continues. Climate models have many shortcomings, it says, “and are not remotely plausible as global policy tools”. They blow up the effect of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, but ignore any beneficial effects. “CO2 is not a pollutant,” it says. “It is essential to all life on Earth. Photosynthesis is a blessing. More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth; additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also good for agriculture, increasing the yield of crops worldwide.”
Last year, Steven Koonin, an Under-Secretary of Science in the Obama Administration, published a book titled Unsettled in which he noted that, “The science is insufficient to make useful projections about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what our actions will be.” He also noted that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate change is settled demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, “retarding its progress in these important matters”. In 2020, the long-time green activist Michael Shellenberger wrote a book called Apocalypse Never in which he said he believed the conversation about climate change and the environment had in the last few years “spiraled out of control”. Much of what people are told about the environment, including the climate, is wrong, he wrote.
These experts get printed in skeptic websites, but we need to widen the audience.
Firstand foremost the media, the alarmists and some educators have convinced the young that they may die soon. This poisoning of our childrens minds must be stopped.
“The climate crisis can be overwhelming. (Click on that climate link. See what the kids are being taught.)
Statistics often paint a dire picture of the earth’s trajectory. The UN has warned that existing climate pledges provide ‘no credible pathway’ to preventing temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Deadly floods and fires are on the rise, while global wildlife populations have shrunk 70 per cent since 1970.
Presented with these facts, it’s easy to sink into eco-anxiety. Previous studies have proven that this distress is heightened in children and the new survey confirms this.”
Secondly, the public should know that the basis of the catastrophic climate change is the computer forecasted global temperatures. It goes, things get very hot, glaciers melt, sea level rises, cities are deluged with sea water, crops cannot survive, creatures cannot adapt to temperatures and huge extinctions occur, etc.
The following chart shows that the forecast temperatures by the alarmist are higher than the actual temperature readings and that the forecast temperatures become more ridiculous as time goes by. These temperatures are the ones They use to forecast catastrophe.
All the squiggly lines are individual computer forecasts. The Red line is the average global warming temperatures predicted by the computers. The lower Green straight line is the mean of the actual measured temperature for this same period. Note that as the years go by, the computer forecast gets further away from the actual measured temperature. The actual temperatures noted in the chart are based upon weather balloons and satellite measurements. The actual temperatures are rising but not at the rate that will cause a catastrophic outcome. The computer produced temperature forecasts are used to brain wash our children.
“In 2023 it’s hard to avoid seeing images and headlines like these. The result for many is a deep seated fear, anxiety, and pessimism about the future. The topic of Climate Change (CC) has seeped into nearly every facet of our lives, and never in a positive way. It’s always present as a dark cloud hanging over society; a source of guilt for those who indulge in some of life’s most basic pleasures, the basis of moralistic judgments by those who like to signal their concern, and the cause of nihilism and hopelessness felt by many in the youngest generations.
Why does CC have such deeply negative connotations and harmful effects on people’s mental well being? Because we are constantly reminded of the six dark and destructive consequences of CC:
1) heat will cause millions to die or live in misery
2) tens of millions (some say billions) will be forced to migrate
3) a million or more species will become extinct in just a few decades
4) sea level rise will have disastrous world-wide consequences
5) agricultural production will be devastated, causing widespread famine
6) humanity will suffer floods, droughts, and other terrible natural disasters
These are the six pillars of climate change despair that activists and the media obsess over. The activists do it because they think they are saving the planet; the media do it because bad news gets more clicks than good news. Plus, they both do it to appear virtuous. They both keep ramping up the rhetoric so that with each passing year the predictions about each of these consequences become even more frightening and apocalyptic. There are some lesser concerns (eg. Arctic and glacier melting), but these six are the catastrophic ones.
No wonder so many people are depressed and pessimistic about the future. It shouldn’t be surprising there’s an epidemic of “climate change anxiety”.
But is it in any way justified? What is the truth (if any) behind these catastrophic predictions? That’s what I want to examine here. The fact is, every one of these pillars is made of sand, and crumbles apart when subjected to the slightest critical scrutiny.
The author, Doug R Rogers, puts together a comprehensive essay. Please read it to it end by clicking here.
The Fourth issue is the headlong race to decarbonize the world. Renewables (mostly wind and solar) are believed to be the future energy sources, leaving fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) to be only available chemical feed stocks, for example. Combined with electric vehicles (EV) the globe will be free of carbon dioxide gas vented into the atmosphere they say.
The benefits accrued by fossil fuels are discounted in this rush to decarbonization. The benefits from vented CO2 are enormous. The greening of the globe has been the result of the vented CO2. Crops, such as wheat, oats, rice, potatoes, cane, etc. have skyrocketed in quantity feeding billions of new people.
Renewables are not reliable. What we know is that wind and solar are dependent on the weather. No wind, no sun, no renewable produced electrical energy. No where has a major grid sourced by solely wind and solar been demonstrated. No plans have been made to prove a grid can actually run solely on wind and solar. Grids have to be supplied 24/7 with NO interruptions. Yet we find that the politicians, urged on by the media, are willing to build more wind and solar capacity and prematurely shut down fossil fuels before they can prove that renewables can provide 24/7 with no interruptions.
The enormous upset that has occurred in western Europe would not have been so serious if renewable could have done the job. For example, Germany has renewables with name plate capacity greater than the nation’s electrical needs. But at times in September ‘22 the wind did not blow, and the sun shined only intermittently. So no matter what their nameplate capacity was, wind and solar were producing little to no electricity. That happened and they stumbled through, saved by natural gas and coal based production of electricity.
Obviously, there are many more issues than the several I have mentioned. I picked them because the first one, traumatizing our children has to be stopped NOW. The other three go right to the heart of the problem. The experts could line up excellent debates or testimonies at House Committee requests.
Expert testimony by skeptics has been ignored by the media. So how can we get around that?
Freelancers Wanted: Help Knock Out the Mainstream Propaganda Machine authored by Matt Taibbi is a plan to create a team to produce a document that knocks out the mainstream Propaganda machine. Perhaps supporters that could fund similar skeptical teams. There must be NGOs that are skeptical in their view. Find them, give them help with finance, programs and topics
Another interesting team is the Center of the American Experiment. The Center of the American Experiment is a Minnesota-based think tank that advocates for conservative and free-market principles. One of their tasks has been to target the objectional courses that public schools in Minnesota are putting into their schooling. The Center of the American Experiment has people and programs to show what is going on and how to change it. The group will speak to PTAs school boards or other interested groups. This group has been successfully getting schools to drop radical racial material. This could be a model for another skeptical group to copy.
Work with the local TV stations. They are often in need of topics to produce for their locality. Hire people that know how to do communications. Make sure that Federal Departments that award research money gives skeptics fair treatment. If they don’t, you can have your way with their funding.
“The trend is unmistakable. Prices are rising—by a lot”.
“But the good news for the wind and solar industries is that their resources remain among the least expensive, largely because every major source of electricity is also experiencing a spike in costs. And the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August, contains incentives for renewable energy manufacturers to build their products in the United States, which could set the stage for a new era of growth in the domestic supply of wind and solar components, and could help to reduce prices.”
I underlined the long sentence above because this drives me crazy. If renewables are least expensive—Why do they need subsidies? Well of course subsidies and being parasites on the backs of fossil fuels are the reason they appear like they are the” least expensive”. You might counter that big money people are building the wind turbines and the solar cells. So they must be good investments. We, the taxpayer are securing these investments. The Fed’s have made them almost impossible for the investors to loose any money. Really not just lose money but make big money. The Feds, not the market are driving the attempt at transition from fossil fuels to renewables..
But lets look at the Fed largesse. Robert Bryce posted “Talk about corporate welfare: Federal giveaways to wind, solar sectors are about to explode”. He reviews how much money is being given away based upon the approval of badly misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022”. Bryce focused on how the $370 billion in energy-related spending will be divvied up.
Click on Page 2 to go to read Robert Bryce’s posting.
Rupert Darwall points his finger at President Biden and the Climate Alarmists as the creators of the current world energy crisis in his posting “Joe Biden’s Energy Crisis”. He says:
“…the energy crisis was not sparked by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies or by Iranian ayatollahs. It was self-inflicted, a foreseeable outcome of policy choices made by the West: Germany’s disastrous Energiewende that empowered Vladimir Putin to launch an energy war against Europe; Britain’s self-regarding and self-destructive policy of “powering past coal” and its decision to ban fracking; and, as Joseph Toomey shows in his powerful essay, President Biden’s war on the American oil and gas industry.”
“Hostilities were declared during Joe Biden’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel,” candidate Biden told a climate activist in September 2019, words that the White House surely hopes get lost down a memory hole.”
The Biden Administration’s actions are all over the map. When US gasoline prices skyrocketed, and they found their policy on the wrong side they begged Venezuela, Iran and Russia to send their production to the US. Their campaign promises were abandoned by their fear of losing votes come November. How do you spell “hypocrites”?
“Although the price of oil has slipped back from recent highs, the factors behind high gasoline prices remain in place. Foremost among these is the steep decline in U.S. oil refinery capacity triggered when Covid lockdowns crushed demand but continued after the economy reopened. There has never been such a large fall in operable refinery capacity.
Just recently, the Biden Administration said that Big Oil was failing to keep the Northeastern states inventory of gasoline up to standard capacity. Darwall responds”
“Moreover, Gulf Coast refineries were operating at 97 percent of their operating capacity in June 2022. As Toomey remarks, “There isn’t any more blood to be squeezed out of this turnip.”
Darwall notes where climate alarmists are part of the problem. He says:
“Corporate and Wall Street ESG** policies are another factor driving refinery closures, especially of facilities owned by European oil companies to meet punishing decarbonization targets that will effectively end up sunsetting them as oil companies. If finalized as proposed, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate disclosure rules, with the strong support of the Biden administration, will heighten the vulnerability of U.S. oil and gas companies to climate activists and woke investors to force them to progressively divest their carbon-intensive activities, such as refining crude oil, and eventually out of the oil and gas sector altogether. To these should be added aggressive federal policies aimed at phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles in favor of electric vehicles (EVs); an administration staffed from top to bottom by militants who believe that climate is the only thing that matters in politics; and an increasingly hostile political climate (“you know the deal,” Biden said of oil executives when campaigning for the presidency. “When they don’t deliver, put them in jail”).”
**ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) has become a major issue of interest in the modern corporate world. Usually associated with things like climate change, pollution and resource scarcity, in reality, ESG covers a much wider spectrum of socio-economic issues like employability practices, diversity, social and cultural ethics, data security and sustainability.
SRI investors seek companies that promote ethical and socially conscious themes including diversity, inclusion, community-focus, social justice, and corporate ethics, in addition to fighting against racial, gender, and sexual discrimination.
This is part two of Robert Bryce’s testimony to the House Select Committee on The Climate Crisis.
Our electric grid is fragile. Robert Bryce writes that the Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergence Response illustrates the declining reliability of our grid. Bryce says:
“In 2002, there were 23 “major disturbances and unusual occurrences” on the domestic electric grid. Those outages were caused by things like ice storms, fires, vandalism, and severe weather. By 2016, the number of disturbances and unusual occurrences had increased six-fold to 141. In 2020, the number of events jumped to 383 – an increase of 270% in just four years. Even more alarming: through the first two months of 2021, there have been 122 of these outages.”
“Electrifying everything is the opposite of anti-fragile. Attempting to halt the use of liquid motor fuels and replace them with electricity will make our transportation system more vulnerable to disruptions caused by extreme weather, saboteurs, equipment failure, accidents, or human error. Electrifying our transportation system will reduce societal resilience because it will put all our energy eggs in one basket. Electrifying transportation will reduce fuel diversity and concentrate our energy risks on a single grid, the electric grid, which will make it an even-more-appealing target for terrorists or bad actors.
Furthermore, and perhaps most important, attempting to electrify transportation makes little sense given the ongoing fragilization of our electric grid. The closures of our nuclear plants is reducing the reliability and resilience of the electric grid and making it more reliant on gasfired power plants and weather-dependent renewables.”
While skeptics have known for years that the alarmist’s forecasts of doom are not likely to be realized, the alarmists oddly want to shut down all nuke plants. Nuke plants that do not emit their enemy carbon dioxide (CO2). Bryce notes Congress inaction regarding this issue when he says:
“Instead, Congress is standing idly by as our nuclear plants – our most reliable, safest, and most power-dense form of electricity production – are being shuttered. Nuclear plants are, as writer Emmet Penney recently put it, our “industrial cathedrals.” If policymakers want to decarbonize our transportation system while enhancing the resilience of our society, the best option would be to have a grid that is heavily reliant on nuclear energy.”
Bryce discusses recent issues that demonstrate the gird’s declining reliability in his report. They can be reviewed by clicking here.
See part two about supply chains and mineral needs.
When President Trump walked away from the Paris Agreement in 2017, Democrats, principally, around the US, were enraged. They decided they would show the world that even without the support of the Trump Administration they were “woke” and would do the job without him. Mayors, Governors and Corporate Executives rallied one another and began setting carbon dioxide reductions goals. Most of these goals contained the CO2 amounts and timelines. I am reasonably confident that most of this crowd does not understand the real-world consequences of their actions. I think they were motivated by politics.
The Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank, surveyed the top 100 cites to see how they were doing. On 22 October 2020, E&E News posted their take on the Brookings Institute survey titled “U.S. cities struggling to meet lofty climate goals”. They began by saying:
“Most major U.S. cities that have signed on to the climate fight with pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions are failing to meet their goals or haven’t even started to track local progress, according to a survey by the Brookings Institution.
The report, “Pledges and Progress,” looked for climate policy and actions in the nation’s 100 most populous cities, finding that two-thirds have made commitments to address citywide emissions.”
The E&E News continues:
But the Brookings analysis found that actions taken by cities aren’t matching up with their pledges to address climate change.
Among the 100 largest cities, only 45 set specific targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions during the past decade and inventoried emissions levels within city boundaries as baselines for measuring progress.
Twenty-two more cities have made general pledges to address emissions. But the Brookings analysis found they haven’t set emissions targets or inventoried current emissions levels.
“Half the cities aren’t doing anything,” said David Victor, co-chair of the Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate.
Ok, you may be thinking that the corona virus is the reason. E&E reports that Brookings does not think that is the major reason:
“But roadblocks facing mayors in the climate campaign were obvious even before the coronavirus pushed the nation’s economy into a dramatic downturn.
The Brookings results point to the challenges faced by cities whose climate commitments diverge from policies at the state level. Another challenge for cities is the limits within which they operate. City governments can’t control everything that happens within their borders.
For example, when Pittsburgh inventoried greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, it estimated an annual citywide total of 4.8 million metric tons. Emissions from operations directly under City Hall control came to just 115,069 metric tons. The city government plans more reductions in part by buying refuse trucks that run on lower emission compressed natural gas. Its Parking Authority is teaming with Duquesne Light Co. to bring 16 new electric vehicle chargers to city parking lots.
These are marginal changes in a city and county with nearly 694,000 registered passenger vehicles. Most of them run on gasoline engines that pump out carbon emissions.”
The Paris Agreement is the Green’s framework for reducing CO2 and the timeline for reaching their goal of preventing the global temperature from ever rising more than 0.5C over the current global temperature, I sure you have heard that the world is all in step with this goal, except for the US, of course. Well they are not. First of all, the nation that leads in emissions of CO2 is China. And by agreement with then President Obama, they do not need to start to reduce their emissions before 2030. By then they will probably be emitting twice as much CO2 as the US. Further, India, the number 3 CO2 emitter has no plans to stop increasing their emissions.
China has a political move going called the Belt and Road Initiative. The less developed nations in south east Asia, for example want to improve their citizens lives by providing electricity. The World Bank bans making loans to these countries as the Bank, taking guidance from the UN does not want them to put in coal plants. But China is loaning them the money. This raises China’s political standing in these nations. More than 1,600 coal plants are scheduled to be built by Chinese corporations in over 62 countries and that will make China the world’s primary provider of high-efficiency, low-emission technology.
But Japan is not exactly twiddling its thumbs, either. Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Tokyo has ramped up coal use and has raced ahead in clean coal technology development. Japan now boasts the world’s most efficient coal-fired plant, which uses less coal to produce more electricity. Seizing on this competitive advantage, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to capitalize on these capabilities in a bid to increase Japan’s reach across Southeast Asia – and in China’s backyard. Through the Japan-led Asian Development Bank, Tokyo has pledged US$6.1 billion for projects throughout the Mekong as well as for various other projects from Vietnam to Myanmar, providing an alternative to China’s regional designs.
A coal plant can be made more efficient, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that this makes them close to the much lower CO2 emissions created by a natural gas-based facility.
And do not think the European Nations are still on board with the Paris Agreement. The EU leadership in Brussels are deeply into this the Paris Agreement, but most of the Nations have not even met their meager 2020 commitments. Each year the required commitments become much greater, too. And the nominal leader of the EU, German politicos are not getting much support from their industries. They see themselves becoming non-competitive with China and all these developing nations. Their auto industry sees themselves even becoming non-competitive in the US market.
Former President Obama also committed to be the big sugar-daddy for the Paris Agreement fund to give money to the underdeveloped nations to hold down production of CO2 Each year the developed nations are to pay $100 billion to the fund. This as I have noted is not a once and done fund, it is to be refunded each year. So, assuming that the Trump administration are not playing nice with the Paris Agreement, those Mayors and Governors and Corporate Exes are going to have pay at least $5 billion every year. And get this, China is not obligation to put money into this fund because they are said to be a developing nation. Meaning China can draw money from the fund for their own use.
Continuing the serialization of Mark Mills’ report New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking. This part is Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector.
Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector
Digital tools are already improving and can further improve all manner of efficiencies across entire swaths of the economy, andit is reasonable to expect that software will yet bring significant improvements in both the underlying efficiency of wind/solar/battery machines and in the efficiency of how such machines are integrated into infrastructures. Silicon logic has improved, for example, the control and thus the fuel efficiency of combustion engines, and it is doing the same for wind turbines. Similarly, software epitomized by Uber has shown that optimizing the efficiency of using expensive transportation assets lowers costs. Uberizing all manner of capital assets is inevitable. Uberizing the electric grid without hydrocarbons is another matter entirely.
The peak demand problem that software can’t fix
In the energy world, one of the most vexing problems is in optimally matching electricity supply and demand (Figure 6). Here the data show that society and the electricity-consuming services that people like are generating a growing gap between peaks and valleys of demand. The net effect for a hydrocarbon-free grid will be to increase the need for batteries to meet those peaks.
All this has relevance for encouraging EVs. In terms of managing the inconvenient cyclical nature of demand, shifting transportation fuel use from oil to the grid will make peak management far more challenging. People tend to refuel when it’s convenient; that’s easy to accommodate with oil, given the ease of storage. EV refueling will exacerbate the already-episodic nature of grid demand.
To ameliorate this problem, one proposal is to encourage or even require off-peak EV fueling.85 The jury is out on just how popular that will be or whether it will even be tolerated.
Although kilowatt-hours and cars—key targets in the new energy economy prescriptions—constitute only 60% of the energy economy, global demand for both is centuries away from saturation. Green enthusiasts make extravagant claims about the effect of Uber-like options and self-driving cars. However, the data show that the economic efficiencies from Uberizing have so far increased the use of cars and peak urban congestion.86 Similarly, many analysts now see autonomous vehicles amplifying, not dampening, that effect.87
That’s because people, and thus markets, are focused on economic efficiency and not on energy efficiency. The former can be associated with reducing energy use; but it is also, and more often, associated with increased energy demand. Cars use more energy per mile than a horse, but the former offers enormous gains in economic efficiency. Computers, similarly, use far more energy than pencil-and-paper.
Uberizing improves energy efficiencies but increases demand
Every energy conversion in our universe entails builtin inefficiencies—converting heat to propulsion, carbohydrates to motion, photons to electrons, electrons to data, and so forth. All entail a certain energy cost, or waste, that can be reduced but never eliminated. But, in no small irony, history shows—as economists have often noted—that improvements in efficiency lead to increased, not decreased, energy consumption.
If at the dawn of the modern era, affordable steam engines had remained as inefficient as those first invented, they would never have proliferated, nor would the attendant economic gains and the associated rise in coal demand have happened. We see the same thing with modern combustion engines. Today’s aircraft, for example, are three times as energy-efficient as the first commercial passenger jets in the 1950s.88 That didn’t reduce fuel use but propelled air traffic to soar and, with it, a fourfold rise in jet fuel burned.89
Similarly, it was the astounding gains in computing’s energy efficiency that drove the meteoric rise in data traffic on the Internet—which resulted in far more energy used by computing. Global computing and communications, all told, now consumes the energy equivalent of 3 billion barrels of oil per year, more energy than global aviation.90
The purpose of improving efficiency in the real world, as opposed to the policy world, is to reduce the cost of enjoying the benefits from an energy-consuming engine or machine. So long as people and businesses want more of the benefits, declining cost leads to increased demand that, on average, outstrips any “savings” from the efficiency gains. Figure 7 shows how this efficiency effect has played out for computing and air travel.91
Of course, the growth in demand growth for a specific product or service can subside in a (wealthy) society when limits are hit: the amount of food a person can eat, the miles per day an individual is willing to drive, the number of refrigerators or lightbulbs per household, etc. But a world of 8 billion people is a long way from reaching any such limits.
The macro picture of the relationship between efficiency and world energy demand is clear (Figure 8). Technology has continually improved society’s energy efficiency. But far from ending global energy growth, efficiency has enabled it. The improvements in cost and efficiency brought about through digital technologies will accelerate, not end, that trend.
This is part 6 of the serialization of Mark Mills’ report, New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.
A discussion of batteries being proposed as backups for renewables is an important topic. So, I have chosen to bring together that which Mills has written about them in one posting, making it somewhat long. Consider the recent threat by the Chinese that they would withhold, from the US, the mined products that are necessary to make these batteries.
Batteries are a central feature of new energy economy aspirations. It would indeed revolutionize the world to find a technology that could store electricity as effectively and cheaply as, say, oil in a barrel, or natural gas in an underground cavern.47 Such
Jump-starting Frankenstein’s monster
electricity storage hardware would render it unnecessary even to build domestic power plants. One could imagine an OKEC (Organization of Kilowatt-Hour Exporting Countries) that shipped barrels of electrons around the world from nations where the cost to fill those “barrels” was lowest; solar arrays in the Sahara, coal mines in Mongolia (out of reach of Western regulators), or the great rivers of Brazil.
But in the universe that we live in, the cost to store energy in grid-scale batteries is, as earlier noted, about 200-fold more than the cost to store natural gas to generate electricity when it’s needed.48 That’s why we store, at any given time, months’ worth of national energy supply in the form of natural gas or oil.
Battery storage is quite another matter. Consider Tesla, the world’s best-known battery maker: $200,000 worth of Tesla batteries, which collectively weigh over 20,000 pounds, are needed to store the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil.49 A barrel of oil, meanwhile, weighs 300 pounds and can be stored in a $20 tank. Those are the realities of today’s lithium batteries. Even a 200% improvement in underlying battery economics and technology won’t close such a gap.
Nonetheless, policymakers in America and Europe enthusiastically embrace programs and subsidies to vastly expand the production and use of batteries at grid scale.50 Astonishing quantities of batteries will be needed to keep country-level grids energized—and the level of mining required for the underlying raw materials would be epic. For the U.S., at least, given where the materials are mined and where batteries are made, imports would increase radically. Perspective on each of these realities follows.
How many batteries would it take to light the nation? A grid based entirely on wind and solar necessitates going beyond preparation for the normal daily variability of wind and sun; it also means preparation for the frequency and duration of periods when there would be not only far less wind and sunlight combined but also for periods when there would be none of either. While uncommon, such a combined event—daytime continental cloud cover with no significant wind anywhere, or nighttime with no wind—has occurred more than a dozen times over the past century—effectively, once every decade. On these occasions, a combined wind/solar grid would not be able to produce a tiny fraction of the nation’s electricity needs. There have also been frequent one hour periods when 90% of the national electric supply would have disappeared.51
So how many batteries would be needed to store, say, not two months’ but two days’ worth of the nation’s electricity? The $5 billion Tesla “Gigafactory” in Nevada is currently the world’s biggest battery manufacturing facility.52 Its total annual production could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. Thus, in order to fabricate a quantity of batteries to store two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand would require 1,000 years of Gigafactory production.
Wind/solar advocates propose to minimize battery usage with enormously long transmission lines on the observation that it is always windy or sunny somewhere. While theoretically feasible (though not always true, even at country-level geographies), the length of transmission needed to reach somewhere “always” sunny/windy also entails substantial reliability and security challenges. (And long-distance transport of energy by wire is twice as expensive as by pipeline.)53
Building massive quantities of batteries would have epic implications for mining. A key rationale for the pursuit of a new energy economy is to reduce environmental externalities from the use of hydrocarbons. While the focus these days is mainly on the putative long-term effects of carbon dioxide, all forms of energy production entail various unregulated externalities inherent in extracting, moving, and processing minerals and materials.
Radically increasing battery production will dramatically affect mining, as well as the energy used to access, process, and move minerals and the energy needed for the battery fabrication process itself. About 60 pounds of batteries are needed to store the energy equivalent to that in one pound of hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, 50–100 pounds of various materials are mined, moved, and processed for one pound of battery produced.54 Such underlying realities translate into enormous quantities of minerals—such as lithium, copper, nickel, graphite, rare earths, and cobalt—that would need to be extracted from the earth to fabricate batteries for grids and cars.55 A battery-centric future means a world mining gigatons more materials.56 And this says nothing about the gigatons of materials needed to fabricate wind turbines and solar arrays, too.57
Even without a new energy economy, the mining required to make batteries will soon dominate the production of many minerals. Lithium battery production today already accounts for about 40% and 25%, respectively, of all lithium and cobalt mining.58 In an all-battery future, global mining would have to expand by more than 200% for copper, by at least 500% for minerals like lithium, graphite, and rare earths, and far more than that for cobalt.59
Then there are the hydrocarbons and electricity needed to undertake all the mining activities and to fabricate the batteries themselves. In rough terms, it requires the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to fabricate a quantity of batteries that can store a single barrel of oil-equivalent energy.60
Given the regulatory hostility to mining on the U.S. continent, a battery-centric energy future virtually guarantees more mining elsewhere and rising import dependencies for America. Most of the relevant mines in the world are in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Russia, the Congo, and China. Notably, the Democratic Republic of Congo produces 70% of global cobalt, and China refines 40% of that output for the world.61
China already dominates global battery manufacturing and is on track to supply nearly two-thirds of all production by 2020.62 The relevance for the new energy economy vision: 70% of China’s grid is fueled by coal today and will still be at 50% in 2040.63 This means that, over the life span of the batteries, there would be more carbon-dioxide emissions associated with manufacturing them than would be offset by using those batteries to, say, replace internal combustion engines.64
Transforming personal transportation from hydrocarbon-burning to battery-propelled vehicles is another central pillar of the new energy economy. Electric vehicles (EVs) are expected not only to replace petroleum on the roads but to serve as backup storage for the electric grid as well.65
Lithium batteries have finally enabled EVs to become reasonably practical. Tesla, which now sells more cars in the top price category in America than does Mercedes-Benz, has inspired a rush of the world’s manufacturers to produce appealing battery-powered vehicles.66 This has emboldened bureaucratic aspirations for outright bans on the sale of internal combustion engines, notably in Germany, France, Britain, and, unsurprisingly, California.
Such a ban is not easy to imagine. Optimists forecast that the number of EVs in the world will rise from today’s nearly 4 million to 400 million in two decades.67 A world with 400 million EVs by 2040 would decrease global oil demand by barely 6%. This sounds counterintuitive, but the numbers are straightforward. There are about 1 billion automobiles today, and they use about 30% of the world’s oil.68 (Heavy trucks, aviation, petrochemicals, heat, etc. use the rest.) By 2040, there would be an estimated 2 billion cars in the world. Four hundred million EVs would amount to 20% of all the cars on the road—which would thus replace about 6% of petroleum demand.
In any event, batteries don’t represent a revolution in personal mobility equivalent to, say, going from the horse-and-buggy to the car—an analogy that has been invoked.69 Driving an EV is more analogous to changing what horses are fed and importing the new fodder.
Can wind and solar sources replace fossil fuels by 2050? Beginning with today’s positing, I will let Mark Mills answer that question. I plan a series of posting on this topic beginning with a summary of Mills’ views. The summary is a condensation of his report titled “THE “NEW ENERGY ECONOMY”: AN EXERCISE IN MAGICAL THINKING “. I plan to serialized the report as a follow-up for those who want to dig deeper. I bet you will find the serialized posting to be enlightening and what little math is used is limited to multiplication, addition and subtraction.
Throughout history, some 60 percent to 90 percent of every nation’s economy has been consumed by food and fuel costs. Hydrocarbons changed the way that humans organize their productive capacity. The coal age, followed by the oil age, and now by the ascendant age of natural gas, has (at least for developed nations) driven the share of GDP devoted to acquiring food and fuel down to around 10 percent. That transformation constitutes one of the great pivots for civilization.
Many analysts claim that yet another such consequential energy revolution is upon us: “clean energy,” in the form of wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, they say, is about to become incredibly cheap, making it possible to create a “new energy economy.” Polls show that nearly 80 percent of voters believe that America is “capable of creating a new electricity system.”
We can thank Silicon Valley for popularizing “exponential change” and “disruptive innovations.” The computing and communications revolutions that have transformed many industries have also shaped both expectations and rhetoric about how other technologies evolve. We hear claims, as one Stanford professor put it, that clean tech will follow digital technology in a “10x exponential process which will wipe fossil fuels off the market in about a decade.” Or, as the International Monetary Fund recently summarized, “smartphone substitution seemed no more imminent in the early 2000s than large-scale energy substitution seems today.” The mavens at Singularity University tell us that with clean tech, we’re “on the verge of a new, radically different point in history.” Solar, wind, and batteries are “on a path to disrupt” the old order dominated by fossil fuels.
Never mind that wind and solar—the focus of all “new energy economy” aspirations, including its latest incarnation in the Green New Deal—supply just 2 percent of global energy, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. After all, it wasn’t long ago that only 2 percent of the world owned a pocket-sized computer. “New energy economy” visionaries believe that a digital-like energy disruption is not just possible, but imminent. One professor predicts that we will see an “Apple of clean energy.”
As it happens, energy does have something to do with the fact that today’s smartphones are much cheaper and more powerful than a room-size IBM mainframe from the 1980s. The essential feature of that transformation is that engineers collapsed the energy appetite and size of transistors, consequently increasing their number per chip roughly twofold every two years. In other words, computing power per energy unit doubled five times per decade. The compound effect of that kind of progress—formally dubbed Moore’s Law, after Intel cofounder Gordon Moore—has indeed caused a “disruptive” revolution. A single iPhone at 1980 energy efficiency would require as much power as a Manhattan office building. Similarly, a single data center at 1980 efficiency would require as much power as the entire U.S. grid. But because of efficiency gains, the world today has billions of smartphones and thousands of datacenters.
A similar transformation in how energy is produced or stored isn’t just unlikely: it’s impossible. Drawing an analogy between information production and energy production is a fundamental category error. They entail different laws of physics. Logic engines don’t produce physical action or energy; they manipulate the idea of the numbers one and zero. Silicon logic is rooted in simply knowing and storing the position of a binary switch—on or off.
But the energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature, whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, and thermodynamics—not clever software or marketing. Indeed, the differences between the physical and virtual are best illustrated by the fact that, using mathematical magic, one can do things like “compress” information to reduce the energy needed to transport that information. But in the world of humans and objects with mass, comparable “compression” options exist only in Star Trek.
If, in some alternative universe, the performance of silicon solar cells followed Moore’s Law, a single postage-stamp-size solar cell could fuel the Empire State Building. Similarly, a single battery the size of a book would cost 3 cents and power a jumbo jet to Asia. Such things happen only in comic books because, ultimately, physics, not policies, dictates the possibilities—and thus the economics—for energy technologies, regardless of subsidies and mandates.
Spending $1 million on wind or solar hardware in order to capture nature’s diffuse wind and sunlight will yield about 50 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 30-year period. Meantime, the same money spent on a shale well yields enough natural gas over 30 years to produce 300 million kilowatt-hours. That difference is anchored in the far higher, physics-based energy density of hydrocarbons. Subsidies can’t change that fact.
And then batteries are needed, and widely promoted, as the way to convert wind or solar into useable on-demand power. While the physical chemistry of batteries is indeed nearly magical in storing tiny quantities of energy, it doesn’t scale up efficiently. When it comes to storing energy at country scales, or for cargo ships, cars and aircraft, engineers start with a simple fact: the maximum potential energy contained in hydrocarbon molecules is about 1,500 percent greater, pound for pound, than the maximum theoretical lithium chemistries. That’s why the cost to store a unit of energy in a battery is 200 times more than storing the same amount of energy as natural gas. And why, today, it would take $60 million worth of Tesla batteries—weighing five times as much as the entire aircraft—to hold the same energy as is held in a transatlantic plane’s onboard fuel tanks.
For a practical example of the physics-anchored gap between aspiration and reality, consider Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) recently announced plan to replace an old gas-fired power station with the world’s biggest battery project—promised to be four times bigger than the current number one, a system Tesla installed, to much fanfare, last year in South Australia. The monster FPL battery “farm” will be able to store just twominutes of Florida’s electricity needs. That’s not going to change the world, or even Florida.
Moreover, it takes the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that can store the energy equal to one oil barrel. That means that batteries fabricated in China (most already are) by its predominantly coal-powered grid result in more carbon-dioxide emissions than those batteries, coupled with wind/solar, can eliminate. It’s true that wind turbines, solar cells, and batteries will get better, but so, too, will drilling rigs and combustion engines. The idea that “old” hydrocarbon technologies are about to be displaced wholesale by a digital-like, clean-tech energy revolution is a fantasy.
If we want a disruption to the energy status quo, we will need new, foundational discoveries in the sciences. As Bill Gates has put it, the challenge calls for scientific “miracles.” Any hoped-for technological breakthroughs won’t emerge from subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads. If policymakers were serious about the pursuit of the next energy revolution, they’d be talking a lot more about reinvigorating support for basic science.
It bears noting that over the past decade, U.S. production of oil and natural gas has increased by 2,000 percent more than the combined growth of (subsidized) wind and solar. Shale technology has utterly transformed the global energy landscape. After a half-century of hand-wringing about import dependencies, America is now a major exporter. Now that’s a revolution.