Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Save the Planet by Destroying the Land

If you believe what you read in the propaganda media, fossil fuels have had their day. They have come and are about to go, soon to be replaced by renewables like solar and wind power.

Obviously, this is the type of empty-headed thinking that infests the minds of certain leftist thinkers. If you are thinking like an adolescent, then perhaps you never outgrew your teenage years. Such seems to be the case. It seems especially to be the case when you look at the facts and discover that fossil fuels are here to stay, at least until the world discovers a better way to produce energy.

So explains Francis Menton at the Manhattan Contrarian blog (via Maggie’s Farm). He calls himself an energy realist and he points out that renewable energy sources don’t work and are absurdly expensive:

While we realists may not have the megaphone at the moment, I am very confident that energy realism will ultimately win out, and much sooner than you might think. The reasons are simple: the magical “renewables” don’t work and are ridiculously expensive. And when the people figure this out, as they inevitably will, the anti-fossil-fuel jihad can quickly turn toxic for the left.

Once people learn what it will cost to replace fossil fuels by solar energy and wind farms they are going to cling to their fossil fuels.

The fact is that fossil fuels are cheap and they work and, when confronted with the reality of what doing without them actually means, the people are not going to give them up. 

Take Great Britain, where successive conservative governments are all-in for reducing carbon emissions. Or, at least they were until the people discovered the price:

Over in the UK, the nominally Conservative governments of Theresa May and now Boris Johnson have supposedly committed the country to achieving “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050. It may sound nice, but only little by little do the people get to find out the practical effects. During the month of May the government let it drop that there would be a ban on gas boilers by 2035, and everyone using gas for heat would need to switch to electric — at a cost estimated at tens of thousands of dollars per home. At the moment, the UK has nearly 24 million homes with gas heat, compared to fewer than 2 million with electric heat. The political blowback was immediate. 

So, you want to ban gas boilers.

From the Spectator, May 25: “[I]t is steadily becoming apparent just how politically costly the net zero commitment could be. . . . A government threat to ban gas boilers in existing homes by 2035, and to fine homeowners if they failed to meet the deadline, seems to have lasted less than a day. It was reported on Tuesday morning that ministers were considering including such a ban in a new heat and buildings strategy to be published next month – but by the afternoon the government appeared to have backtracked, and said there wouldn’t be any fines.”

By the terms of the Paris Climate Accord signatory nations will stop oil and gas production by next year. What does that mean in practice? It means that Russia will develop new oil and gas production resources.

The International Energy Agency said in May that all new oil and gas production must stop by 2022 in order for the world to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. And companies like Exxon, Chevron, BP and Shell seem to be making at least some noises about complying with demands to back away from fossil fuels. But does that mean that oil will not be produced to fulfill consumer demand? Get real. This kind of nonsense just gives an opening for the Russians, and other such unsavory characters, to step in to fill the void.

Gizmodo reports on May 28 about a truly enormous new oil project from Russian oil giant Rosneft that has recently begun construction in the Arctic: “The project, called Vostok Oil, is owned by Rosneft, which is controlled by the Russian government. . . . 

The proposed project is dauntingly huge. Rosneft said that it anticipates exporting 25 million tons of oil a year by 2024, 50 million tons by 2027, and 115 million tons by 2030. [115 million tons is around 850 million barrels.] (The company plans to make 15 entirely new towns for the estimated 400,000 workers needed.)”.

And then there is electricity. Surely it will be easy to produce all of our electricity with wind farms and solar panels. You will note that no one says anything about nuclear energy, and certainly not a word about current projects to produce energy via nuclear fusion.

Anyway, what will it cost to produce electricity with renewables?

The crusaders against fossil fuels mainly talk about the electricity sector, where replacing coal and natural gas with wind and solar can at least seem plausible to the poorly informed. But the electricity sector only accounts for about 25% of energy use in the U.S., and plenty of other major sectors like agriculture, industry, airplanes and shipping — using in the aggregate far more energy than the electricity sector — have no realistic strategies for getting rid of fossil fuels.

But then, the ocean shipping industry is massively polluting:

 On June 3 the New York Times reports on the ocean shipping industry, which on the whole emits as much CO2 as all U.S. coal power plants combined, in a piece headlined “Tasked to Fight Climate Change, a Secretive U.N. Agency Does the Opposite.” The bottom line is that the shipping industry, under the auspices of the UN’s International Maritime Organization, is doing absolutely nothing to reduce carbon emissions. 

“The organization has repeatedly delayed and watered down climate regulations, even as emissions from commercial shipping continue to rise, a trend that threatens to undermine the goals of the 2016 Paris climate accord. . . . Next week, the organization is scheduled to enact its first greenhouse gas rules since Paris — regulations that do not cut emissions, have no enforcement mechanism and leave key details shrouded in secrecy.” 

And then there is the question of the land. How much land will we need to occupy in order to produce enough wind farms and solar farms to produce the energy we need?

And finally, getting rid of fossil fuels will require vast amounts of land to be turned over to wind and solar facilities. A big study from Princeton University in December 2020 estimated some hundreds of thousands of square miles of land would be required for the U.S. to get to a fully “net-zero” situation. But when facilities of a small fraction of this amount get proposed, the enormity of the construction becomes clear to local residents and environmentalists, who then rise up to block the projects. 

And, of course, environmentalists would be seriously concerned if that much land was filled with solar panels and windmills.

The Wall Street Journal has a front-page piece on June 4: “Solar Power’s Land Grab Hits a Snag: Environmentalists.” The piece focuses on a big new solar facility planned in Nevada, covering some 14 square miles — a tiny, tiny fraction of the multiple hundred thousand square miles that would be needed to get the U.S. to “net-zero.” 

But here is the reaction: “[M]any here [in Nevada] are dead set against a planned solar plant atop the Mormon Mesa, which overlooks this valley 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Slated to be the biggest solar plant in the U.S., the Battle Born Solar Project by California-based Arevia Power would carpet 14 square miles—the equivalent of 7,000 football fields—with more than a million solar panels 10 to 20 feet tall. It would be capable of producing 850 megawatts of electricity, or roughly one-tenth of Nevada’s current capacity. ‘It will destroy this land forever,’ Ms. Rebich, 33, said after riding her bicycle on the 600-foot high mesa.” 

Save the planet by destroying the land. Now, you know how little these men and women who pretend to be following the science really know about science, to say nothing of policy analysis.


David Foster said...

WSJ article says: "Across the U.S., more than 800 utility-scale solar projects are under contract to generate nearly 70,000 megawatts of new capacity, enough to power more than 11 million homes"

This statement cannot possibly be true, unless one ignores the recurring phenomenon known as "night". Yet I see similar assertions all the time.

David Foster said...

If you burn gas in a home heating system, the efficiency is very high: 78-88%, depending on the system.

If you burn gas in a power plant and then use the resulting electricity for home heating, then:

--the conversion of gas to electricity will be **at most** about 60% efficient, and that's with the best combined-cycle equipment available. Most plants will not do as well.

--then you will lose another 5-10% of the energy in electrical transmission.

markedup2 said...


I can hardly wait for the environmentalists' arguments against space based solar.