A Rational Climate Policy

Recently in a post called Silence of Conservative Lambs I wrote:

The 1991 blockbuster movie revolved around meek, silent victims preyed upon by malevolent believers in their warped, twisted view of the world. A comparison can be drawn between how today’s conservative thinkers and politicians respond to advocates of the pernicious global warming/climate change ideology. Instead of challenging and pushing back against CO2 hysteria, and speaking out with a rational climate perspective, Republicans in the US, and Conservatives in Canada and elsewhere are meek and silent lambs in the face of this energy slaughter. Worse, when they do speak it is to usually to pander and try to appease offering proposals for things like carbon taxes or other non-remedies for a non-problem, essentially ceding the case to leftists.

So to be more constructive, let’s consider what should be proposed by political leaders regarding climate, energy and the environment.  IMO these should be the pillars:

♦  Climate change is real, but not an emergency.

♦  We must use our time to adapt to future climate extremes.

♦  We must transition to a diversified energy platform.

♦  We must safeguard our air and water from industrial pollutants.

 

For those not familiar, Climate Intelligence (CLINTEL) is an independent foundation that operates in the fields of climate change and climate policy. CLINTEL was founded in 2019 by emeritus professor of geophysics Guus Berkhout and science journalist Marcel Crok.  Their 1000+ members are signatories of a declaration There is No Climate Emergency

A global network of 900 scientists and professionals has prepared this urgent message. Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of their policy measures.

One example of a national energy and environment strategy is provided by Clintel for The Netherlands.  The document is Clintel’s Integrated Energy Vision.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Preamble

We all agree in CLINTEL that:
– There is no climate emergency. We have ample time to improve our climate models (for a better understanding of the factors that regulate the climate) and to search for better adaptation technologies.

– The influence of CO2 on global warming is overestimated and its influence on greening is underestimated (even worse, it is often ignored). Nobody knows what the optimum value of atmospheric CO2 concentration is, but from a geological point of view we may conclude that we live in a time with historical low concentrations. Again, there is no climate emergency.

– There is an energy emergency.  Decarbonisation policies – in terms of the current energy transition are most destructive. They do much more harm than good. These energy policies must be terminated immediately.

– The new generation (III and IV) nuclear power plants ought to get all our attention. These plants promise low-priced, reliable, safe and clean energy. In combination with natural gas nuclear energy is a ‘No Regret Solution’. Wind and solar energy are at most niche technologies. Their contribution is and will stay marginal.

With respect to the energy transition, CLINTEL emphasises that there exists not something as a global uniform energy system.  Every country needs a tailor-made energy system depending on its geography, mineral resources, development phase, industrial specialization, population density, etc. For instance, The Netherlands – being a very densely populated country and being severely divided on the CO2 issue – it looks like the new generation of nuclear power plants may function as a breakthrough in the political process:

Part I shows that current Dutch energy policy – having the ambition to reduce CO₂ emissions as much as 49% by 2030 – is based on panic and shall lead to immense additional costs and a drastically deteriorated living environment. Below, we will propose an inspiring long-term energy vision that fits our (and many other) country’s needs, is based on scientific facts, and aimed at a prosperous future for everyone. A positive vision that replaces the gloom and doom predictions of the climate models. A vision with a hopeful perspective for the future.

A Guiding Vision for the Future

It is well known that high-risk, capital-intensive decisions should be based on a policy that is as insensitive as possible about the way the future will unfold. We have called it a No Regret Policy. It represents a long-term policy, implemented by taking small steps, and continuously adapted to what is happening in reality. CLINTEL has drawn up a No Regret Energy Policy, especially aimed at the Dutch energy transition.

The proposed NRE policy is insensitive for the impact that CO₂ might or might not have on climate change (dominant or marginal). In addition it is insensitive for what role the future electricity grid will play and for what the best mobility energy option will be. An extra bonus of the NRE policy is that the Netherlands’ energy supply will become less dependent on Russian natural gas and Middle Eastern oil.

CLINTEL’s proposal consists of three main elements:

1. Introduction of nuclear energy
If we base ourselves on the most up-to-date insights in energy supply, and we look at our four objectives as well as to our ‘no regret demands’, then nuclear energy is the only choice that meets these needs:

• No CO₂ emissions (mandatory requirement in the climate policy in force) as well as excellent controlled waste treatment (pollution requirement)
• High safety level (safety requirement)
• Demand-driven, reliable and affordable (prosperity requirement)
• High energy density (environmental requirement)

About the last entry, please compare a medium-sized 500 MW nuclear power plant with a medium wind turbine park of 4 MW full load. For this reactor, we will need a terrain of approximately 1 km², for the wind farm approx. 300 km². In addition, a nuclear power plant delivers guaranteed for at least 60 years power with low operational costsWind turbines on the other hand deliver unreliable power with high operational costs for a maximum of 25 years.  Solar panels aren’t performing any better. Moreover, the corresponding inverter (from direct current to alternating current) only lasts about 10 years.

2. Transforming green electrons into green molecules

Transport and storage of much larger than the current quantities of electrical energy is
technically difficult and economically unattractive. Every physicist will say: Don’t do it!
The real alternative is that with a large supply of cheap and reliable electrical energy we can afford to transform this energy into any desired molecular clean energy carrier, in the form of synthetic gas and synthetic oil.

There are attractive candidates with an appropriate energy density, such as methanol (CH3OH), ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen (H2), or a combination. These truly green energy carriers can be used safely and affordably be stored and transported using the existing infrastructure (bear in mind that 100% H2 is very aggressive and highly flammable, so there is still a lot of work to be done before this energy carrier can be implemented safely at a large scale).

Oil companies should not be tempted by substantial public subsidies to participate in solar fields and wind farms. Instead, they should concentrate on production, transport and distribution of green molecules (green gas, green oil), so do what they are good at.  Plans to store surplus CO₂ underground may turn out to be a silly activity. Oil companies, be critical before starting such an activity at a large scale.

3. Hybrid applications

With the supply of truly clean electricity and truly clean energy carriers, optimal choices can be made without large and expensive  grid reinforcements and polluting battery packs. Examples:

• Clean high-efficiency boilers (green gas)
• Clean road traffic (green petrol, green diesel)
• Clean aviation (green kerosene)
• Clean industrial production (green gas)
• Clean desalination of seawater (green potable water)

Interestingly, for each application there also is a hybrid solution (fossil-fuel molecules combined with green molecules and/or green molecules combined with green electrons). Here are also great opportunities to meet the ever-growing need for potable water. After all, it is bad for the soil if we keep on pumping up groundwater (e.g. soil desiccation, and soil subsidence). This can be done much better if we link our energy policy to our drinking water policy.

NRE policy excludes burning of biomass (‘the most stupid policy of all times’) and includes sun and wind as niches only. Batteries are only used for low-power applications, as in the information sector. Natural gas and natural oil are primarily still raw materials for the industry. ‘Saying goodbye to ‘natural’ gas, is utterly silly. Any CO₂ tax is even more silly.

Nuclear energy is proposed as the only truly sustainable solution.  To start with, nuclear power will have to take over the energy and heat supply from existing power plants that have almost reached the end of their technical and/or economic lifespan. Next are the energy applications proposed by CLINTEL being part of this vision. The present nuclear technology works with enriched uranium. Breeder reactors on uranium and thorium will in the long run take over the role of these traditional nuclear reactors. Hopefully, nuclear fusion will follow. The Netherlands will, together with other countries, have to participate in research and development efforts, thus acknowledging the importance of a 100% clean, reliable and affordable global energy supply for the foreseeable future. 

Footnote:  US Republicans Get Behind a Six-Point Plan

ClearPath Action

♦  Leverage American Innovation

Innovation and creating jobs is just part of who we are. And thanks to innovation, America has reduced its emissions by more than any other country in the last 20 years. We did this through new American technology, research at the Department of Energy, and strong bipartisan support.

We need to double down and get more American innovations to market.

♦  Modernize Permitting

We need to build cleaner, faster. Clean energy and grid modernization present tremendous economic opportunities, but burdensome and outdated regulations mean that new projects take five years on average to come online.

We have to move faster by enacting common sense reforms to the permitting process.

♦  Bring American Industry Back

American manufacturing is the cleanest in the world with the highest environmental standards. Unfortunately, countries like China and Russia don’t have the same standards.

We can restore American manufacturing leadership in industries like steel and concrete by strengthening our own supply chains and eliminating dependence from countries that don’t meet our environmental standards.

♦  Unleash American Resource Independence

A new industrial revolution is going to require an enormous amount of resources like lithium, copper, cobalt, graphite, and nickel. Currently, we are too dependent on countries like China to supply our needs.

This dependence increases emissions and handicaps American businesses. We have to make it easier to safely supply manufacturers with American-made materials and employ American workers.

♦  Make Our Communities More Resilient

As conservatives, we plan ahead. When it comes to natural disasters, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One dollar invested now equals six dollars after the disaster.

We can help take common sense measures and make sound investments that make our communities and farms more resistant to natural disasters like floods, fires and droughts.

♦  Use Natural Solutions

Crop production depends on access to healthy soil, adequate water supplies and predictable weather conditions, all of which are more difficult to manage as the climate changes.

Natural climate solutions – planting trees and farming practices that improve soil health – have a major impact on reducing carbon emissions while making forests and farms more resilient to floods and fires. They are also profitable.

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