Friday, June 11, 2021

Environmentalist Illusions

The more you look at the question the more it feels like political theatre. I am thinking of the Biden environmental initiative. Apparently, the Biden administration is pushing to replace fossil fuels with renewables.

One suspects that this wish list appeals to adolescents, because it is wildly unrealistic. At best, it will cripple America and empower America’s competitors. At worst, it will cripple America and empower America’s competitors.

Francis Menton, at the Manhattan Contrarian blog, has the sad realities. (via Maggie’s Farm)  I say “sad” because, once you dig into the minutiae, none of it makes any sense. Then again, with the policy being led by that notorious fool, John Kerry, what did you expect?

On today’s question, Menton’s sources are the New York Times and Bloomberg. Thus, the information comes from reliably Democratic sources. If you cannot persuade the Times and Bloomberg, you are probably engaging in posturing, not policy.

So, Menton begins with the Times article, about the Biden administration wish to expand the number of offshore wind turbines… using gobs of taxpayer money.

So, we begin with the current number of American wind turbines. It is, hold your breath, seven:

To begin, how many offshore wind turbines do you think the U.S. has so far? The answer is in the first paragraph of the article: “The United States has exactly seven.” That’s rather embarrassing. So how are we going to turn this around going forward?

Biden now wants to go from seven to two thousand in less than a decade:

The Biden administration wants up to 2,000 turbines in the water in the next eight and a half years.

How much energy will said turbines produce, by the most optimistic forecast. The answer is: .36%, which is not the same as 36%. In short, a miniscule amount:

Does that sound like a lot? In fact, it’s almost nothing — except to the fisherman and shippers and/or wealthy oceanfront homeowners who are fighting tooth and nail to block it all. At 2 MW capacity per wind turbine (optimistic), 2000 of them could be good for 4000 MW of capacity. With 8760 hours in a year, that means you could get about 35,000 GWH of electricity out of the 2000 turbines if they operated all the time; but of course they don’t — a 40% capacity factor would again be optimistic. That would give you 14,000 GWH of electricity from the 2000 wind turbines (at random times, and requiring full backup, but that’s another issue). According to the EIA, the U.S. uses about 3.8 million GWH of electricity in a year, so these theoretical 2000 offshore wind turbines will with luck generate some 0.36% of our electricity by 2030 — if we started today on a crash program to get them built.

Today, the construction is at a standstill because America does not have the equipment to do it. And our American love of litigation will almost surely slow the project down. Anyway, America does not, in particular, have ships capable of doing the job:

But in fact the expansion of offshore wind facilities in the U.S. is going exactly nowhere at the current moment. The Times piece focuses on one particular bottleneck, which is that installation of these offshore turbines requires specialized gigantic ships, and there aren’t any in the U.S.

The largest U.S.-built ships designed for doing offshore construction work are about 185 feet long and can lift about 500 tons, according to a Government Accountability Office report published in December. That is far too small for the giant components that Mr. Eley’s [offshore wind turbine] team was working with. . . . The U.S. shipping industry has not invested in the vessels needed to carry large wind equipment because there have been so few projects here.

Yes, but, Menton continues, Europeans have lots of the ships. Good thing, except that the law forbids us from using foreign ships for such jobs:

OK, but the Europeans have built thousands of offshore wind turbines, and have lots of these specialized construction ships. Why not just hire them? There’s a simple answer: it is prohibited by something called the Jones Act, a U.S. statute that forbids use of foreign flag ships for any intra-U.S. shipping.

Menton quotes the New York Times conclusion-- namely, that the chance of producing a major amount of energy with offshore wind turbines and other renewable sources is nil:

The Times concludes:

These difficult questions can’t simply be solved by federal spending. As a result, it could be difficult or impossible for Mr. Biden to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035 and reach net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050, as he would like.

And as for coal, the kind that produces massive amounts of cheap energy, well the Biden administration and American environmentalists are shutting it down… in America. Around the world, the story is quite different.

Menton quotes an Indian newspaper:

Yes, plenty of that is also getting developed right now, and by private money and outside the U.S., so there is little or nothing that the Biden Administration or environmental litigants can do to stop it. The Times of India has a piece from June 5 with the headline “India, Australia, China, Russia pushing ‘massive’ coal expansion.” Excerpt:

Coal producers are actively pursuing 2.2 billion tonnes per annum of new mine projects around the world, a growth of 30 per cent from current production levels, a new report from Global Energy Monitor said on Thursday. The first-of-its-kind analysis surveyed 432 proposed coal projects globally and found a handful of provinces and states in China, Russia, India, and Australia are responsible for 77 per cent (1.7 billion tonnes per annum) of new mine activity.

The story is the same when it comes to petroleum. America is shutting down pipelines and saving the Arctic from energy exploration. But, other countries around the world are not suffering the same illusion. They are developing dirty energy sources. That is, they are producing more fossil fuels. So, Menton offers this study, from Bloomberg:

Bloomberg has a piece on June 3 with the headline “OPEC leaders mock IEA’s ‘la-la land’ 2050 Net Zero roadmap.” Excerpt:

The world’s largest petrostates rejected calls for a rapid shift away from oil and gas, warning that starving the industry of investment would harm the global economy. If the world were to follow the International Energy Agency’s controversial road map, which said investment in new fields would have to stop immediately to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, “the price for oil will go to, what, $200? Gas prices will skyrocket,” said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak. His warnings were echoed by the energy ministers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who said they will keep expanding their oil and gas facilities and warned others against the consequences of starving the industry of cash.

So, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050-- a pipe dream, one that will not be happening. 


Sam L. said...

Ahhhhh, it's the old "Pie in the Sky" scam.

Sam L. said...

Cynical? Moi???

IamDevo said...

Every proposal being floated or implemented by the leftists who are running Biden is either a pipedream or a feverdream, often both at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Boris? Seems strange…

Alarmingly, it seems we are continuously pushing back the planet’s doomsday date and the West’s carbon neutral target. Why is that?

Don’t know if you saw Greta Thunberg’s recent speech (rant), but she says we are squandering her future. Somebody had better do something fast! I just found out she’s important enough to have her own spellchecker/autocorrect entry on my iPad. If she’s THAT important…

Good grief.

autothreads said...

Wind energy makes sense in a few limited places. A nice fraction of the electricity supply for Michigan's Upper Peninsula comes from a wind farm near the state park at Fayette. The locals seem to be happy with the windmills, particularly the farmers leasing the land for them. I was told that they are operating at greater than the 40% of the time average for wind power and that they're killing fewer birds than expected and mostly starlings, which are an invasive species. Still, in what is close to a wilderness area, it's startling to see the windmills from miles away, and if you're near them when they're spinning, they're pretty noisy.

As it happens, the eastern side of Lake Michigan has some of the highest average sustained windspeeds in the continental U.S. so this may be a case where wind power makes sense.