Green Energy Profiteering Scam

J.B. Shurk writes at Gatestone Institute The Green Energy Profiteering Scam.  H/T Tyler Durden.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

“Green” Profits Can Only Rise if Citizens’ Freedoms Fall

In free markets, commodities bought and sold possess perceived value. When a buyer and seller reach an agreed upon price for any product, there is a “meeting of the minds.” The value of any natural raw material is proportional to its scarcity. The more of it there is, and the more easily it can be obtained, the less value it holds. A vendor who sells ordinary rocks cannot make a living when his product is found freely all over the ground. If he transacts in gold or silver, diamonds or rubies, however, his hard-to-find “rocks” are worth a small fortune.

If only there were a way to turn ordinary rocks into valuable commodities!

There are, in fact, two well-known ways to do so. An unscrupulous vendor could simply paint ordinary rocks gold and pretend that common minerals are rare, and an unsuspecting customer might never be the wiser. Through fraud, the seller can hijack the perceived value of his goods and undermine the agreed “meeting of the minds” between himself and any deceived customer. His “precious” rocks actually hold no value but provide him with ill-gotten gains. Over time, however, this type of fraud does not last. More discerning customers eventually catch on to the ruse, and that information is shared among prospective buyers. And unless he is quick to move on to a new town with new buyers yet to be deceived, old swindled customers are likely to end his livelihood or much worse. Engaging in fraud comes with serious personal risks.

There is another, safer way, however, to turn ordinary rocks into valuable commodities. The vendor could petition the king of the realm for the exclusive right to gather and sell ordinary rocks. If granted such an extraordinary license — whereby ordinary rocks may only be possessed if first stamped with the vendor’s mark — then an abundantly available natural resource becomes scarce overnight. What was once free now costs whatever the vendor and the king’s tax-collecting chancery decide to charge for the use of regulated rocks. Perhaps citizens with special status or recognized allegiance to the king will still get their rocks for next to nothing. Yet the classical mechanics of supply and demand still come into play for everyone else. Even if the price charged for an officially sanctioned rock is kept low, its value on secondary markets is determined entirely by the scarcity of available vendor-stamped rocks.

How much are licensed rocks worth if they are the only ones that may be legally owned? When a king and vendor conspire to make only a small fraction of available rocks “legal,” then their manufactured “unavailability” makes them extremely valuable. Legally imposed scarcity comes with much fewer personal risks. Licensed monopoly on high-demand commodities is a license to print money.

From this lens, it is easy to see why so many investors love
government intervention in energy markets.

  • When governments limit drilling and mining for hydrocarbons in the ground, they manufacture scarcity.
  • When only certain wealthy individuals and companies can afford artificially expensive hydrocarbon energies as regular business costs, then budding entrepreneurs and small firms can no longer compete. Those at the peak of society’s wealth pyramid have a much easier time staying on top when the same natural sources of hydrocarbon energy once used to amass fortunes are now denied to those who would do the same.
  • A war on “fossil fuels” is a superb tactic for protecting private market share. It is a profitable ideological cause for fattening government revenues. And it is a constant source of income for environmental “nonprofits” and other special interests….
  • Can plastics, heating oil, and most synthetic materials found around a home be magically manufactured without petroleum?

  • Can the global population stave off famine and starvation if farmers are forced to overhaul agricultural and livestock production methods in order to abide by “green” laws limiting the use or release of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen, and phosphate — molecules and compounds essential to basic farming and high crop yield fertilizers?
  • Ideology hijacks the market’s natural direction toward an objective and transparent “meeting of the minds.” There is an unspoken but unmistakable fraud. Until governments, including hostile adversaries such as Russia and the United States, conspired to limit the use of hydrocarbon energy and “go green,” the idea that anybody could turn a profit from the wind or sun would have seemed as absurd as a vendor selling rocks freely available all around us.

  • Are electric vehicles as powerful as their internal combustion engine counterparts? Can wind and solar energies really provide nations with reliable power grids robust enough to avoid rolling blackouts? Can plastics, heating oil, and most synthetic materials found around a home be magically manufactured without petroleum?

Pictured: An electric car at a charging station in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Will not these “green” initiatives wind up looking remarkably similar to the example of the unscrupulous vendor above who learned how to swindle his customers by treating common minerals as rare and painting ordinary rocks gold — or perhaps now, a resplendent green?

Is that not what the imposition of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) standards upon markets accomplishes? Is ESG not a concerted effort to warp trading markets with acutely political aims that seek to reward companies and capital investments for their pledged commitment to ideological beliefs rather than their likelihood for generating future profits?

When boardrooms and investors distort free markets by treating stocks and other assets as more valuable than they really are, simply because they are painted a shiny “green,” then ESG overvaluation turns misguided yet “politically correct” fantasies into gold.  Government-enforced environmentalism has created its own class of “green” billionaires. Whenever and wherever governments have mandated that citizens purchase certain goods or suffer legal consequences, the producers of those goods have made financial killings.

Anyone once blissfully unaware of that kind of crummy crony capitalism surely learned a thing or two watching global vaccine mandates drive up pharmaceutical industry profits, while government-granted indemnification clauses rendered vaccine makers free from financial liability for any resulting injuries.

When governments subsidize entire industries, force citizens to purchase those industries’ products, and protect those industries from the legal consequences of their products’ harm, then money flows into the pockets of those with ownership stakes.

Does that sound remarkably similar to another political philosophy that is predicated on the abolition of all private property? What is that old saying somewhat apocryphally credited to Vladimir Lenin? “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Or perhaps today it is the “green” capitalists who make money by rendering food and fuel scarce, virtue-signaling “green” advocates who cheer the one-sided transaction, and the increasingly impoverished Western citizens who end up worse off than ever.

This much is certain: irrespective of prevailing politically correct Western “wisdom” and the current environmental “madness of crowds,” should the hydrocarbon bedrock of the global economy be traded for worthless “green” rocks, neither wealthy capitalists nor poor citizens will long survive.

Bye Bye Bourgeois Environmentalists

Getty images.

Brendan O’Neill writes at Spectator The trouble with ‘bourgeois’ environmentalism Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images. H\T John Ray

The left needs to shake off its ‘bourgeois environmentalism’. It needs to distance itself from the ‘bourgeois environmental lobby’ and make the case for fracking and the building of new nuclear power stations.

Who do you think said this? Some contrarian commentator? A right-winger irritated by eco-loons? Nope, it was Gary Smith, the general secretary of the GMB trade union.

In an explosive intervention in left-wing discourse, Smith has accused Labour of a ‘lack of honesty’ and of ‘not facing reality’ on the energy question. We are living through a severe energy crisis and yet still Labour is sniffy about fracking and down on nuclear power, he says. All because it is in thrall to bourgeois greens who just don’t like industry and modernity very much.

Yes, climate change is a problem, he says, but we need energy. ‘We import a huge amount of fracked gas’ from America, he points out, so why don’t we just frack our own? We should get serious about developing nuclear power too, says Smith.

The GMB represents 460,000 working people, including the majority of workers at the UK’s nuclear-power stations. So it is logical – and good – that Smith would defend the nuclear industry. But his broader point is even more important.

‘(The) question’, he says, ‘is where is the electricity going to come from? We cannot do it by renewables and we cannot rely on energy imports.’ In short, we should get cracking – and fracking – on generating our own abundant sources of energy.

His killer comments concern the aloof, elitist tendencies of green activists. The renewables industry – ‘and many of those who espouse it in politics’ – have ‘no interest in jobs for working-class communities’, he says. He continues:

‘(We) should stop pretending that we’re in alliance with them.

The big winners from renewables have been the wealthy and big corporate interests. Invariably the only jobs that are created when wind farms get put up, particularly onshore wind, have been jobs in public relations and jobs for lawyers.’

This is really important stuff. Smith has laid down a gauntlet to the modern left – are you on the side of working-class communities who benefit from well-paid jobs in the energy sector and from the domestic production of energy, or are you on the side of ‘bourgeois’ greens who are offended by any kind of human intervention in nature, whether that’s digging down for gas or unleashing the awesome power contained in uranium?

For far too long, Labour and left-wingers more broadly have been embracing the ideology of environmentalism. This has always struck me as utterly bizarre, because it seems pretty clear that green politics run entirely counter to the interests of working-class communities.

It is not a coincidence that environmentalism is the favoured political pursuit of the upper middle classes, posh influencers, privately educated columnists and even our new King (God save him). Because this anti-industrial worldview, this ideology that looks with such horror upon our mass consumer society, and the masses who partake in it, is the perfect vehicle for the expression of an older aristocratic disdain for modernity.

Environmentalism is a modern manifestation of the 19th-century Romantic reaction against the Industrial Revolution. Only back then it was more honest – it was all puffy-collared rich folk shocked that the serfs who once worked their lands were now headed into teeming new cities to work in factories. Today, the misanthropic scorn for modernity tends to be more deceitfully dressed up. It’s less ‘Who will toil my farmland now?!’ and more ‘What will happen to the air I breathe if millions of gammon are driving to Aldi every day?’.

Smith, who made these comments in an interview with the New Statesman, is dead right: ‘bourgeois’ is exactly the right word for modern environmentalism. It is alarming that the left has bought into all this middle-class green nonsense. I trust Spectator readers will forgive me for quoting Trotsky, but he did say that the task of left-wing revolutionaries was to bring about the increase of ‘the power of man over nature and the abolition of the power of man over man’. The modern left does the precise opposite of this. It seeks to shrink man’s power over nature and to boost man’s power over man, via new forms of authoritarianism and censorship. Please, right-wingers, I implore you: stop calling modern leftists ‘Trots’.

Gary Smith has done something incredibly important. He hasn’t only put pressure on Labour to think seriously about fracking and nuclear. He has also forced the left to ask itself why it has lost touch with working-class concerns and found itself so beholden to posh pursuits like ‘saving the planet’. A left that represents bourgeois interests is of no use to anyone. Except, of course, the bourgeoisie.

Energy Options: From All the Above Down to One

Mark Krebs writes at Master Resource Environmentalists Petition EPA to Ban Natural Gas Use in Buildings.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

It never ends…. In the wake of the 725-page “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA), consumer choice for energy could be intentionally restricted to electricity by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Or at least that seems to be the plan. According to a petition submitted by environmentalists, EPA should regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from using natural gas in homes and businesses.

The eco-lobby has been emboldened by their “win” with the passage of the IRA. Never satisfied, their petition is one of the first attempts to expand it.

An article by Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School, originally published on August 24th in the academic law journal The Conversation (original article) claimed the IRA empowers EPA regulation of GHGs (greenhouse gases):

The Inflation Reduction Act amends the Clean Air Act to add seven specific new programs to reduce greenhouse gases and provide funding to the states to develop their own plans. Taken together, these provisions go a long way to address Roberts’ concern that Congress has not spoken plainly enough about EPA’s authority to tackle climate change.

But it falls short of granting EPA the authority to revive the generation shifting approach of the Clean Power Plan.

To get the bill through the sharply divided Congress, the Senate’s Democratic majority used a process called budget reconciliation. That process allows for legislation to pass with only a simple majority of the vote. But legislation passed that way must be closely tied to spending, revenue and the federal debt limit – it cannot set broad national policy.

Mark Krebs provides relevant quotes from the IRA:

Having been pointed to Title VI of the IRA, Secs. 60107 and 60113, I started reading. Sec. 60107 starts on page 668 and Sec. 60113 starts on page 678. Among other things, Sec. 60107 modifies the CAA to promote:

“(1) activities of the Environmental Protection Agency for the purposes of providing financial and technical assistance to reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emissions…..” and

‘‘(E) mitigating health effects of methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, and legacy air pollution from petroleum and natural gas systems…”

Under Sec. 60113, starting at the top of page 681, a carbon fee per metric ton is authorized:

‘‘(c) WASTE EMISSIONS CHARGE.—The Administrator shall impose and collect a charge on methane emissions that exceed an applicable waste emissions threshold under subsection (f) from an owner or operator of an applicable facility that reports more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases emitted per year pursuant to subpart W of part 98 of title 40…”

I venture to guess the fee may be the “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC), which now stands at $51 per metric ton under the Biden administration (up from $1 per ton under Trump). However, the fees for methane emissions are explicitly stated on page 682:

2024: $900
2025: $1,200
2026 and thereafter: $1,500

Devils in the Details

At a minimum, these provisions provide an opening for EPA to regulate carbon and methane emissions. How wide of an opening is at least debatable and probably will be litigated (as Professor Parenteau anticipates).

This could result in CO2 and methane emissions regulated at the point of use (“point source”) as additional “criteria pollutants,” regulated because they are deemed harmful to human life.

What the environmentalists seem to be trying to do via their petition to the EPA is to make homes and businesses point sources for future regulation of carbon emissions. So why didn’t the environmentalists petition EPA to also target electric utilities? After all, electric utilities consume significantly more natural gas and emit more resultant CO2 than residential and commercial gas customers combined.

The answer is: That would not be consistent with the partnership that has developed between the electric utility industry and environmentalists to achieve their utopian goal of all-renewables-all-the-time.

An Unholy Alliance

I discussed this connection in my MasterResource article last month titled All-Electric Forcing in the “Inflation Reduction Act” (up to $14,000 per home). In that article, I referenced another article about a 2018 pact between the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) titled Warring Against Natural Gas: Joint EEI/NRDC Statement to NARUC (crony environmentalism at work).[See my synopsis Perils of Everything Electrified]

On September 2, 2022, Politico, published an article that (unintentionally) revealed the close working relationship between EEI and Biden’s Climate chief (ex-NRDC’s) Gina McCarthy in crafting the Inflation Reduction Act. Mission complete, she is leaving the White House, and John Podesta is replacing her. The article is titled “Climate chief Gina McCarthy leaving White House as John Podesta returns.”

Other sources of the electric utilities’ motivation include:

1.  The lure for electric utility CEOs to double sales through political means (and the bonuses they engender none-the-less) without really having to earn it through competition.
2.  The prospect for electric utilities to control gas markets and put an end to their supply curtailments when residential gas consumers traditionally get top priority during periods of limited supply due to extreme cold. (No more residential consumers, no more curtailments.)
3. It is at least plausible that electric utilities don’t really believe that the best form of backing-up renewables is with batteries because they want to keep their product from getting priced out of the market. Gas-fueled power plants would economically serve peaking requirements, but not if their fuel is curtailed. Also note that at least some types of batteries have a hard time during very cold weather.

EPA also has some perverse motivations. One of these is claiming regulatory efficiency by eliminating all the small point sources (gas consumers) with a relatively few large point sources left (e.g., electric utility power plants).

Overloading Electricity

Regardless of the rationale, transferring the energy requirements presently served by fossil fuels for both transportation and heating (etc.) on an already teetering electric grid is a recipe for failure. We can already see it starting in Europe and now in California:  

Vehicle electrification alone could double electricity generation requirements. Building electrification could more than double electricity peak generation requirements considering extreme cold weather events presently dominated by the direct use of gaseous fuels and fuel oil. Some of my colleagues have estimated it would take as much as 7 times present peak generation to handle “polar vortex” events.

How much battery storage you need depends on the maximum length of outage you’re planning for. “Wind droughts” have lasted 7 days. Typical batteries can produce their rated (fair weather) output for 4 hours. And what happens when it’s too bitterly cold and snowy for wind, solar and batteries to deliver?

Do the math considering the worst-case scenario because people’s lives depend on it. Basically, it becomes apparent that all renewables (with batteries) isn’t going to happen.” But you might die from them trying.

One way or another, you will pay for their folly. In fact, you already are.

Cost Analytics

If reducing carbon emissions is really the primary objective, then why not mandate that consumers replace all electric resistance appliances with natural gas-fueled equivalents? At least in the Midwest, it is relatively straight-forward to show how such fuel switching from electricity to natural gas is a very cost-effective strategy for reducing the atmospheric release of carbon emissions. In fact, the American Public Gas Association did so in 2017  (summaryfull report).

A second phase of this study estimated typical costs per household state-by-state. The full report, and its customizable data spreadsheet, is available on the Energy & Environment Legal Institute’s (E&E Legal) website. According to the report, electrifying the entire nation, with a goal of eliminating the direct consumption of fuel to reduce carbon emissions, would conservatively cost between $18 trillion and $29 trillion in first costs.

At least conceivably, total costs could be double these estimates. Going all-renewable all the time will force costs much higher than these estimates. Also, constructing and implementing an “all-electric” energy monoculture will include other significant costs such as stranded assets and deadweight losses.

Summary & Conclusions

The environmentalists petition to the EPA is just the opening salvo following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (a.k.a., Green New Deal Lite). The overall mission is forcing increased social control by eliminating free markets. Reducing carbon is a secondary objective and a front. Hyperbole? Take it from socialism.com: The Green(ish) New Deal

This next salvo might be targeting industrial electrification: It’s explained in the (just released ) DOE Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap.  Along with the Biden Administration’s “electrify everything” mentality, expect more electricity shortages. Consequently, expect more taxpayer derived “emergency” funding directed to the electric utility industry.

“Manufacture a crisis and then don’t let it go to waste.” Maybe that is the plan. A better plan would be for electric utility CEOs to start listening to their engineers responsible for keeping the lights on, affordably if possible, and stop pandering to socialistic environmentalism.

In truth, natural gas utilities and electric utilities need each other. Consumers need energy diversity and utility regulators need to return to their roles as impartial referees and honest brokers safeguarding consumers best interests.

——————————————-

Mark Krebs, a mechanical engineer and energy policy analyst, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than 30 years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of State energy efficiency proceedings, has been an advisor to DOE and has submitted scores of Federal energy-efficiency filings.

Perils of Everything Electrified

Mark Krebs exposes the unreality of the current drive to electrify everything, including vehicles and home heating. His Master Resource article is All-Electric Forcing in the “Inflation Reduction Act” (up to $14,000 per home).  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

Basics of Peak Demand: Electric vs. Gas

Traditionally, both electric utilities and gas utilities designed peak capacity for worst-case scenarios plus a safety margin of around 10 percent. Electric utilities were summer-peaking due to cooling demand, while gas utilities were winter peaking due to heating demand.

In terms of maximum Btu demand, winter peaks tend to be much higher than summer peaks. The reason is largely a matter of inside to outside temperature differences between summer peaks and winter peaks. For example, assuming a winter design temperature of -10 deg F. and an interior thermostat setpoint of 75 deg. F, the difference is 85 deg. F. Assuming a summer design temperature of 110 deg. F. and the same interior thermostat setpoint of 75 deg. F, the difference is less than half the winter difference.

Without gas utilities to serve heating demand,
electric utilities will become winter peaking,
requiring massive investments of generating capacity and/or battery storage.

The worst-case scenario would then be a prolonged “polar vortex” with no wind (a.k.a., “wind drought”) coupled with snow covered photovoltaics. During such periods, all the heat from a typical electric heat pump will be in the form of electric resistance that is built into it; that’s just how typical heat pumps work.

If your local electric utility has “transitioned’ to all renewables, they will need several days’ worth of battery storage. Also, battery capacity drops sharply in extreme cold. That’s just how batteries work. Altogether, this equates to astronomical costs that get passed on to consumers. In short, if you are “all-electric,” you will need to fend for yourself and should at least consider investing in your own emergency generator system, assuming you can afford it.

Shame on Electric Utility Industry Who Know Better

The electric utility industry deserves much of the blame for these travesties. Leading electric utility industry trade associations support HR 5376. This was documented by an S&P Capital IQ on July 28th in an article (behind a paywall) titled “US climate package contains ‘robust’ clean energy tax incentives.”

What the article inadvertently documented is that the electric utility industry doesn’t like how they too may see income tax increases, and they aren’t holding back their disapproval of such provisions. But, on the other hand, the Federal government is essentially transferring the energy delivered by gas utilities over to electric utilities, and they will be collecting more revenue from increasingly captive consumers as their size at least doubles.

The electric utilities are not complaining about that. Maybe that will change in time as electric utilities realize their product is no longer reliable or affordable. But that may not matter since they became “the only game in town.”

Some of us saw this coming. Electric utility interests have been aligned with those of “all renewables all the time” advocates for several years. This alliance was announced in 2018 at a national conference of utility regulators, which I wrote about: Warring Against Natural Gas: Joint EEI/NRDC Statement to NARUC (crony environmentalism at work). Their efforts are largely being augmented by the Federal government subsidies and DOE’s “national labs,” since the Biden (mis)Administration took control or the lack thereof).

Let Consumers Freeze in the Dark

Politicians and pundits from both parties appear reluctant to question obvious restraint of trade issues and reduced consumer choice impacts. Why?

♦  For politicians, it’s because their interests lie elsewhere, like using “other peoples money” to trade with vested interests in return for campaign donations and insider information. It’s also because they don’t want to risk a reduction in generous campaign contributions from electric utility interests. [1]

♦  For pundits, it’s because most of them cater to environmental interests that are “in on it.” They even have their own trade association: The Society of Environmental Journalism. The one thing they do best is to “stick to the script.”

But who wrote the script? Globalists and global warming activists along with electric utility-oriented organizations like the “nonprofit” Rewiring America boast about their role in drafting these provisions. This is further evidenced by the following yahoo finance article: Inflation Reduction Act would lead to $1,800 in savings for average household, analysis finds.

We have recently begun to witness how Green New Deal variants are failing within the EU. We are also witnessing how the inherent intermittency of renewables put lives at risk. Now “reimagine” the combination of “all renewables all the time” and a major cold weather emergency event (a.k.a., “polar vortex”) like what happened in Texas last year. Further “reimagine” being without coal or natural gas for electric generation as well as natural gas and propane for home heating.

People will die at a far great pace than the 247 that died in Texas last year from Winter Storm Uri. This vicious cycle will just get worse the more reliant our society becomes upon on supposedly “clean” (but unreliable) energy sources. And yet, most politicians are reluctant allow for an opportunity for healthy/democratic debate. Instead, most House and Senate hearings have become infomercials for monied interests.

Renewables Forcing: How Much, How Far

The following EIA based graphic from a recent Washington Post article portrays the magnitude of transforming (perhaps unwittingly) the present energy generation mix to renewables. But be reminded, they are also planning to transfer the energy requirements presently served by the direct use of natural gas over to electricity. This could easily double or triple electric generation requirements. That effect isn’t shown in the following chart.

Another observation to be made from the above chart is that there is still a lot of black (coal) and orange (natural gas) in them. Basically, this means that switching to all-electric may have little if any carbon reduction benefits in such states. It is likely that in at least some states, fuel switching to electricity will increase carbon emissions. So “buyer beware” (in terms of both carbon savings and utility bill savings).

Clearly, the electric utility industry stands to profit from doubling (or more) in size and rate-basing much more expensive renewable technologies, all with the increased cost of “monopoly rents.” The environmentalists also get what they’ve craved: economic control.

Together, they can achieve social control; awarding energy compliance and
punishing energy disobedience; like how the system presently works in China.

Summary & Conclusions

For whatever reason, the gas utility industry has not been very effective in countering these threats. I really don’t have an explanation why, but most gas utilities are owned by electric utilities. This fact is also reflected within gas utility trade associations.

All I know for sure is complacency kills and gas utilities will either capitulate or litigate. I also know that the “Inflation Reduction Act” will cause $billions in stranded gas utility assets.

My advice to gas utilities:

♦  Assuming there is still “fight in the dog,” it’s time to start fighting like your livelihoods (and those of your customers) depend on it, because they do.

♦  Also study up on the takings clause in the constitution and find a way to live with the long-term liability of safeguarding our country’s abandoned gas pipes.

My advice to consumers:

♦  Be prepared to fend for yourself by investing in a natural gas or propane-fueled emergency generator system (if you can afford one). But note that if you have an electric heat pump, you’re going to need a much larger generator than if you didn’t.

I also have some closing advice to regulators: Do your job. Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) should not be Institutionalized Revenue Plundering and Demand-Side Management (DSM) should not be Deceptive/Strategic Marketing. Instead, reconsider Least-Cost Planning that was the standard before it was hijacked by corrupted IRP and DSM.

 

If That Tesla Battery Could Talk

Let’s imagine what an EV battery could tell us about its reality. A short story.  H/T Graeme Weber

The packed auditorium was abuzz; nobody seemed to know what to expect. The only hint was a large aluminum block sitting on a sturdy table on the stage.

When the crowd settled down, a scholarly-looking man walked out and put his hand on the shiny block, “Good evening,” he said, “I am here to introduce NMC532-X,” and he patted the block, “we call him NM for short,” and the man smiled proudly. “NM is a typical electric vehicle (EV) car battery in every way except one; we programmed him to send signals of the internal movements of his electrons when charging, discharging, and in several other conditions. We wanted to know what it feels like to be a battery. We don’t know how it happened, but NM began to talk after we downloaded the program.

“Despite this ability, we put him in a car for a year and then asked him if he’d like to do presentations about batteries. He readily agreed on the condition he could say whatever he wanted. We thought that was fine, and so, without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to NM;” the man turned and walked off the stage.

“Good evening,” NM said. He had a slightly affected accent, and when he spoke, he lit up in different colors.

“A few days ago, at the start of my last lecture, three people walked out. But here is what I noticed about them. One was wearing a battery-powered hearing aid, one tapped on his battery-powered cell phone as he left, and a third got into his car — which would not start without a battery. So, I’d like you to think about your day for a moment; how many batteries do you rely on?”

He paused for a full minute which gave people time to count their batteries. Then he went on, “Now, it is not elementary to ask, ‘what is a battery?’ I think Mr. Tesla said it best when they called us Energy Storage Systems. That’s important. We do not make electricity — we store electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So, to say an EV is a zero-emission vehicle is not at all valid. Also, since 40% of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from coal-fired plants, it follows that 40% of the EVs on the road are coal-powered, n’est-ce pas?”

He flashed blue again. “Einstein’s formula, E=MC2, tells us it takes the same amount of energy to move a 5,000 lb. gasoline-driven automobile a mile as it does an electric one. The only question again is, what produces the power? To reiterate, it does not come from the battery; the battery is only the storage device, like a gas tank in a car.”

He lit up red when he said that, and then he continued in blue and orange. “Mr. Elkay introduced me as NMC532. If I were the battery from your computer mouse, Elkay would introduce me as AA, if from your cell phone as CR2032, and so on. We batteries all have the same name depending on our design. By the way, the ‘X’ in my name stands for ‘experimental.’

“There are two orders of batteries: rechargeable and single use. The most common single-use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and lantern types. Those dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. Please note they all contain toxic, heavy metals.

“Rechargeable batteries only differ in their internal materials, usually lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium.

“The United States uses three billion of these two battery types a year, and most are not recycled; they end up in landfills. If you throw your small, used batteries in the trash, here is what happens to them.

“All batteries are self-discharging. That means even when not in use, they leak tiny amounts of energy. You have likely ruined a flashlight or two from an old, ruptured battery. When a battery runs down and can no longer power a toy or light, you think of it as dead; well, it is not. It continues to leak small amounts of electricity. As the chemicals inside it run out, pressure builds inside the battery’s metal casing, and eventually, it cracks. The metals left inside then ooze out. The ooze in your ruined flashlight is toxic, and so is the ooze that will inevitably leak from every battery in a landfill. All batteries eventually rupture; it just takes rechargeable batteries longer to end up in the landfill.

“In addition to dry-cell batteries, there are also wet-cell ones used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. The good thing about those is, 90% of them are recycled. Unfortunately, the cost of recycling EV batteries is more expensive than the cost of mining and creating a new battery. EV batteries that don’t have enough potency to power a vehicle can sometimes be used to power home appliances, street lights or solar panel backup until they finally lose all their energy.

“But that is not half of it. For those of you excited about electric cars and a green revolution, I want you to take a closer look at batteries and windmills and solar panels. These three technologies share what we call environmentally destructive embedded costs.”

NM got redder as he spoke. “Everything manufactured has two costs associated with it: embedded costs and operating costs. I will explain embedded costs using a can of baked beans as my subject.

“In this scenario, baked beans are on sale for $1.75 a can. As you head to the checkout, you begin to think about the embedded costs in the can of beans.

“The first cost is the diesel fuel the farmer used to plow the field, till the ground, harvest the beans, and transport them to the food processor. Not only is his diesel fuel an embedded cost, so are the costs to build the tractors, combines, and trucks. In addition, the farmer might use a nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas.

“Next is the energy costs of cooking the beans, heating the building, transporting the workers, and paying for the vast amounts of electricity used to run the plant. The steel can holding the beans is also an embedded cost. Making the steel can requires mining taconite, shipping it by boat, extracting the iron, placing it in a coal-fired blast furnace, and adding carbon. Then it’s back on another truck to take the beans to the grocery store. Finally, add in the cost of the gasoline for your car.

“But wait — can you guess one of the highest but rarely acknowledged embedded costs? It’s the depreciation on the 5000-lb. car you used to transport one pound of canned beans!”

“But that can of beans is nothing compared to me! I am hundreds of times more complicated. My embedded costs not only come in the form of energy use; they come as environmental destruction, pollution, disease, child labor, and the cost to be recycled.”

He paused, “I weigh 1,000 pounds, and as you see, I am about the size of a travel trunk. I contain 25 pounds of lithium, 60 pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside me are 6,831 individual lithium-ion cells.

“It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture EACH auto battery like me, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. All told, you dig up 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just. one. battery.

“I mentioned disease and child labor a moment ago. Here’s why. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls, and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Should we factor in these diseased kids as part of the cost of driving an electric car?”

400MW/1600MWh Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in California Image: LG Energy Solution

“Finally, “I’d like to leave you with these thoughts. California is building the largest battery in the world near San Francisco, and they intend to power it from solar panels and windmills. They claim this is the ultimate in being ‘green,’ but it is not! This construction project is creating an environmental disaster. Let me tell you why.

“The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

“Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weighs 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard to extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last 15 to 20 years, at which time it must be replaced. We cannot recycle used blades. Sadly, both solar arrays and windmills kill birds, bats, sea life, and migratory insects.

“There may be a place for these technologies, but you must look beyond the myth of zero emissions. I predict EVs and windmills will be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them become apparent. I’m trying to do my part with these lectures.”

See Also World of Hurt from Climate Policies, Part 3 Wind and Solar Infrastructure Consumes Rare Metals Far Beyond World Supplies

Global critical metal demand for wind and solar power plants

When considering a global perspective, the critical metal demand for our future renewable electricity production is significant. This graph shows the annual metal demand for the six most critical metals, compared to the annual production. The dotted line represents present-day annual production.  

Green Energy Puts US Electric Grid in Peril

Matthew Kandrach writes at Real Clear Energy America’s Emerging Energy Crisis. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

The warning signs are everywhere. We are stumbling toward an energy crisis that is likely to be far more severe and long-lasting than the upheavals of the 1970s. And no, this isn’t about Russia or Ukraine. This is about the perilous state of the U.S. electricity grid.

If action isn’t taken soon to address the unraveling reliability of the grid, the United States will face the specter of rolling blackouts, factory shutdowns, loss of jobs and soaring electricity bills. Our organization CASE recently released a policy brief highlighting just how dire the situation is.

Events In recent years show how serious the situation is. According To the Wall Street Journal, outages have gone from fewer than two dozen major disruptions in 2000 to more than 180 in 2020. The catastrophic blackouts that gripped Texas for a week in February of last year should have been eye-opening. Now, warnings from regulators, grid operators and utilities suggest far worse is coming.

There’s no getting around it. The nation’s electricity transmission system is growing increasingly undependable. Aging infrastructure, severe weather, and the rapid pivot away from baseload power to intermittent solar and wind are all contributing. Supply chain problems and local opposition to building new power lines and siting renewable projects are also turning into increasingly tall hurdles. Expectations of increased demand driven by electric vehicles are only compounding the challenge.

The energy transition is happening but the question we must ask is how do we responsibly manage it? It’s becoming apparent that the transition to renewables is vastly more difficult and complicated than some believed. Those who want to shut down every coal and natural gas plant ignore that fossil fuels supply 60% of America’s electricity. There’s growing alarm the America’s haphazard approach to the energy transition is taking apart the existing grid and the reliable generating capacity that long underpinned it far faster than we’re adding reliable alternatives.

Coal plants, in particular, are being pushed aside when it’s becoming painfully clear the optionality, fuel security and reliability they offer the grid is still very much needed. If we continue as we are – ditching the well-operating power plants that hold the grid together during severe heat and biting winter cold –we’re only going to exacerbate this crisis of our own making.

The affordability of our power supply also hangs in the balance. Last year, a 17% surge in coal-fired electricity helped shield consumers from rising natural gas prices. As we continue to disassemble the coal fleet, with another 100 gigawatts of coal capacity expected to close by 2030, we’re robbing the grid of an important price shock absorber for when natural gas prices rise. With global demand for gas rising, U.S. exports soaring and the Russian invasion of Ukraine throwing volatility into global energy markets, dismantling fuel optionality is short-sighted and reckless.

Europe’s decision to race away from coal and close much of its nuclear power capacity before having reliable alternatives in place, has left it at the mercy of Russian natural gas imports and soaring global gas prices. Energy security – now more so than since the energy crises of the 1970s – requires careful attention.

The singular, haphazard focus of climate-driven energy policy requires an abrupt rethink.

There remains an opportunity for an energy policy reset – both at the state and federal levels – to tackle this reliability and affordability crisis head on. First, we must recognize the need for dispatchable fuel diversity and fuel security. That must also include a commitment to increasing capacity reserve margins in electricity markets instead of letting them continue to shrink. As we grapple with the complexities of the energy transition and the challenges posed by integrating renewable power and building transmission infrastructure, we need a reliability and affordability insurance policy. The insurance we can provide is recognizing the value of the generating capacity we already have and the importance of dispatchable fuel diversity.

Responsibly navigating the road ahead means building on the shoulders of our existing baseload capacity, not taking it apart.

 

 

The Illusion of Eco Cars

This video presentation was developed by DW (Deutsche Welle) News, the German international broadcaster.  (Later deleted) The theme is described by adding a bit to the title: The Price of Green Energy Will Destroy Us.  The message is not about the exorbitant expense so much as the destruction of the world’s environment in order to save it.  The imagery in the video is compelling, and for those who prefer reading, I provide below an excerpted transcript in italics with my bolds.  H/T Mark Krebs

Climate change, long denied, is now sending shockwaves throughout the world. Citizens are demanding their governments take concrete action.
Greta: Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us? [Applause]

In 2015 the UN climate conference in Paris struck an historic deal. Signatories committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
COP 21 President Laurent Fabius: “ I hereby confirm the adoption of the Paris climate agreement.”

The energy transition is in full swing, the future belongs to renewable technologies.
Al Gore: This is one of the most impressive and astounding technological revolutions in all of history.

One commodity has become the primary symbol of this new environmental consciousness.
“People are convinced, they were convinced that all they have to do is drive an electric car, and that’ll solve all the world’s problems with co2.”

“People are just talking about wind and solar as if that’s going to solve the problem, it won’t.”

What if these supposedly clean energies are nothing of the sort, if they ultimately inflict even more damage on the environment than fossil fuels?

“Everything surrounding us in society is made up of minerals. Basically electric cars are made of metals and minerals, and they need to be mined somewhere.”
“ There’s no such thing as clean energy. As long as we’ve got this kind of human behavior, there will also be pollution.”

The energy revolution promises to sharpen the world’s sense of responsibility, but secretly it’s already wreaking its own havoc.

The ecological transition is chiefly economic in nature. An event like the Geneva international motor show makes that abundantly clear. Electric cars are omnipresent. They’re seen as future proof, the new vehicles are touted as green or emissions free.

As the petrol and diesel era nears its end, traditional car makers are reinventing themselves and playing the eco card. The adopters of electric vehicles are people who believe in sustainability. They want to do good for the environment and they want to do their part to contribute to fewer emissions and less pollution, a change in mood that chimes with new environmental requirements. These are COP 21 targets adopted by nearly 200 nations plus the EU.

“We have to meet the co2 emission targets that are set by the European Commission that all of us manufacturers have to make. And they’re becoming more and more stringent. If we don’t meet those targets, there are penalties that will follow and we will have to pay those penalties. And this is what we of course want to avoid.”

This rapid transition comes at a price. By 2023 it’s hoped that 225 billion euros will have been invested in e-cars worldwide. That’s the price of a ticket to tomorrow’s world.
CEO VW France: ‘ It’s a future market that so far makes up just a few percent of the overall market but this market will explode. We’re gearing ourselves up for a completely different ballpark. “The electric car will grow from niche product to mass-produced one, and we’ll be offering it at prices everyone can afford.”

If you believe the car makers, the e-car only comes with a list of advantages. It won’t just push up sales, it’ll also protect the environment, a technological miracle. Before too long there’ll be hundreds of millions of these vehicles on the world’s roads. They no longer run on petrol or diesel.  But other raw materials are essential in the manufacture of their batteries. Rare metals for example. These metals are already present in many components of our combustion vehicles. For example cerium ensures that windshields can filter UV rays. And we owe the colors and touch sensitivity of dashboard screens to europium and indium.

But in an electric car, rare earth metals play a much more significant role.

They’re crucial for the vehicle’s operation. Without neodymium for example, an e-car wouldn’t even be able to start. Neodymium is used to make magnets; they convert electric energy into mechanical energy, thereby powering the car.

The battery is the heart of an electric car. It constitutes up to 50 percent of the vehicle’s weight and contains cobalt and graphite among other elements. But that’s not all. A battery contains many rare metals, especially lithium, that’s the lightest one. It allows an exchange of electrons which in turn charges or discharges energy.

The auto industry is reliant on these little known raw materials and they’re also present in most other green technologies. It’s not just the e-car that needs rare metals they’re used everywhere for the magnets and wind turbine motors, for example. Rare metals are also crucial for the manufacture of solar cells, for photovoltaic systems. Without them we couldn’t generate any green renewable energies.

Today renewables make up almost 10 percent of worldwide electricity production. As a result of the energy transition wind and solar energy could meet almost half of our electricity needs by 2050. In this greener world, rare metals will be almost indispensable for lighting, heating and transport.

So where do these vital resources come from? Cobalt is chiefly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Australia Chile and Bolivia all have huge lithium reserves, and Indonesia is a key producer of nickel, zirconium and tin. Today nations on all continents produce many hundred million tons of these raw materials. One country in particular owns vast reserves of strategic resources. China is the dominant producer of these sought after metals. In particular it produces two-thirds of the world’s supply of a mineral that’s especially important to green tech companies: Graphite.

We’re in the far north of the country, in the province of Heilongjiang. Almost unnoticed excavators have carried away an entire mountain right down to the ground water level to secure our green future. Graphite is often produced in ramshackle factories. These men work day and night without adequate clothing or respiratory protection. They’re the miners of the 21st century.
Miner: “We know our job exposes us to a health risk but we wear a mask for protection. Breathing this air over a long period of time can give you silicosis, where the lung becomes as hard as stone.”

The fine black dust floating in the air contains hydrofluoric acid. Inhaling large amounts of this caustic contact poison can potentially cause death.
“Do you know what this graphite’s used for?”
Miner: “For lots of things. For example, these days it’s used in all types of e-cars mainly for electric car batteries.”

The graphite residues are dispersed over many kilometers throughout the surrounding area. Before their very eyes farmers are witnessing a huge toxic carpet of dust building up on the region’s fields. Here the plants no longer sprout any leaves and the soil is losing its fertility.

Farmer: “There’s waste ore lying around everywhere like garbage. Of course we’re upset about it, in fact we’re very upset. They don’t take any responsibility. We can’t do anything. We’re small, if we protest they will take us away in handcuffs. You need to see it with your own eyes to understand.”

Considering how hugely profitable graphite is to Beijing, these people’s lives are of little consequence. And China is home to thousands of storage sites and production facilities for these sought after metals, indium, antimony, gallium, But also tungsten and germanium reserves are plentiful across the nation. China plays a key role on the international market for all these metals. We can assume that in the e-mobility sector alone, demand will rise rapidly over the coming 10 or 20 years for the most sought after rare earths. Demand is growing by up to 25 percent per year

For our society’s energy transition the Chinese are paying with especially severe environmental damage and high loss of human life.

In many mining regions residents have even left their homes. Entire villages were simply given up.
Chen Zhanheng: Here many companies only care about cost reduction. These companies don’t treat their waste emissions, slag and wastewater. They dispose of them in secret. The government does carry out checks, but there are ways to cheat the regulations. If an investigation is ordered, the companies play along and follow the rules. But the moment the inspectors are gone, they stop treating their waste and just dispose of it. Behavior like that is irresponsible.”
Scott Kennedy: “Central government really would like the mining of minerals to be much more environmentally friendly, but local governments are the ones that either own the mines or are invested in the companies that work the mines. They’re responsible for generating employment, tax payments and growing those local economies. And it’s the local government’s trade off to growing their economy for problems associated with the mining.”

Three thousand kilometers from Heilongjiang, in inner Mongolia, the Chinese have built imposing industrial centers. The industrial sites of the city of Baotou are devoted exclusively to the mining of rare earth elements, a special group of rare metals. The worst environmental damage is caused by the plant’s illegal disposal of waste water. This huge artificial lake on the outskirts of the city is fed by black streams of water containing heavy metals and toxins.

Chen Zhanheng: “Wastewater from the production of rare earth metals is even reaching the groundwater, and in some places this water is being used, but of course that’s problematic. It can be very harmful to people because it contains fluorine, for example, that makes our bones brittle raising the risk of fractures. Slag can contain radioactive thorium, which is also reaching the groundwater and spreading slowly from there. Alternatively it’s stirred up as dust by the wind and settles everywhere in the town or village. That’s how radioactive pollution occurs.

Around Baotou thousands of former villagers have begun a new life in soulless sleeper towns. They’re green technologies’ first refugees. One of them is Gao Sia. The farmer had to give up her farm, the health risks were simply too great.
Gao Sia: “Our livelihoods have been ruined. Young people earn a bit of money with casual work. Their families have nothing and they can’t support them. The water we use to wash and clean dishes every day is totally white. It’s so bad the tap’s blocked, nothing comes out. People are getting cancer, a large number very many. The metals they produce aren’t harmful, they’re sold for a great deal of money. But the mining creates wastewater and pollution.

These new instances of environmental pollution on the other side of the world are the price for our wind turbines, our solar panels and our clean cars, improving air quality in Europe.

The paradox is that greenhouse gas emissions continue to exacerbate climate change all around our planet.
Engineer: To make something clean you always have to pollute something else. There’s no such thing as a co2 free and 100 % ecological product, regardless of what we might sometimes read on the label. It’s impossible, there’s always going to be a knock-on effect. If we want to see what pollution looks like, the environmental damage caused by our ever so clean products which we like to believe are made by workers in white coats, then we only need to look at industrial zones in China or elsewhere.”

Our green technologies don’t just contain rare metals, they require metals of all kinds including the most widespread.

A wind turbine consists of an average 20 tons of aluminum and up to 500 tons of steel. An e-car contains up to 80 kilos of copper, four times more than in some combustion vehicles. This reddish-brown metal is especially important for green tech companies.
Jean-Marc Sauser: “The energy transition is consuming huge amounts of copper, not just in the construction of wind turbines, but also in the connector cables that link the turbines to each other and the grid. The electricity has to reach its target destination after all. If you want electric cars, then you need charging points everywhere. For that you have to lay copper cables, and that’s what’s happening at the moment.
Olivier Vidal: “If you take copper for example, it gives us a clear illustration of what’s going on. Since the beginning of time humanity has produced between 800 million and a billion tons of copper. If we continue on this current growth trajectory will produce the same amount in the next 30 years. We’ll have to produce as much copper in three decades as we’ve consumed since the beginning of time. The demand is huge.”

This increased demand for regular metals such as copper means many other nations are affected by the energy transition. To gauge the full extent of the impact we need to travel thousands of kilometers to South America. We’re in northern Chile. Chuquicamata is the world’s largest open pit copper mine, which is publicly owned. Its vast crater has a diameter of four kilometers and is more than one kilometer deep. Increased worldwide demand means more laborers and more machines.
Production Director: “Last year we refined 330 000 tonnes of copper here in Chuquicamata. It’s pure copper ready for the market. Once we start mining underground as well, we expect to refine 470 000 tons of copper in Chuquicamata. It’ll be an historic year for the mine, 470 000 tons.”

Thirteen percent of the world’s copper reserves are found here in Chuquicamata, but the deeper the machines dig the less metal they’ll find in the ground. At the current pace of extraction, there are already signs that demand may outstrip supply.
Olivier Vidal: “Geologists are warning of a copper shortage that could take hold in just a few years. Pessimistic analysts are predicting a spike in production from 2030 to 2040. In other words today, followed by a decline in primary copper production.”

Just like China’s graphite industry, the copper mines of Chuquicamata are polluting the earth and water with heavy metals. Almost 10 percent of all jobs in Chile depend on copper extraction. The environmental damage caused by mining is completely ignored
Mayor of Tocopilla: “We have a water problem, a serious consequence of the mining and industry in this region.”

This is because mining and processing the mineral requires huge volumes of water. It’s thought that Chuquicamata uses 2000 liters per second. This, although in many parts of this arid desert it hasn’t rained for five hundred years.
Damir Galez, Historian: “The mining industry siphons off most of its water from wetlands and groundwater the water consumption is enormous.”
Mayor: “The water is practically running dry because more is being taken than nature can produce. The natural water reserves of our region are being excessively exploited by mining.”

To get a handle on the actual environmental impact, it’s necessary to examine not just mining itself, but the system as a whole.

The contaminated area covers several thousand square kilometers.
Antofagasta is four hours by car to the southwest of the Chuquicamata mine. The town’s population is used to the daily rumble of trains and trucks bringing the copper to this industrial port. From here the metal is exported all over the world. The air is thick with heavy metal particles released by the vehicles without anyone really noticing.

Although the mine is far away, it has brought disproportionate levels of ill health to the 200 000 people who live in Antofagasta. In 2016 this doctor published a study that to this day has been ignored by the copper industry.
Health Authority: “We studied contamination levels on the roofs of schools and kindergartens where we found a high concentration of heavy metals. In other parts of Chile people mainly die of cardiovascular disease. In the North the main cause of death is cancer, in particular lung cancer. A link to the contamination is indisputable. In some districts of Antofagasta 10% of residents have cancer.”

And producing electricity for the Chuquicamata mine inflicts further damage on people and the environment. To assess the full extent of the problem we’re traveling almost 300 kilometers to the north. Sandwiched between desert and sea the little town of Tocopilla appears cut off from the outside world. Isulina Jerez has lived here all her life. Ten years ago one of her sons died of lung cancer; he was just 17 years old.
Isulina Jerez: “As much as I’ve tried to find an explanation, I see no reason why my son who never smoked and always led a healthy life died at the age of just 17. He was very active and sporty, he was the healthiest of all my children. Then the cancer came and carried him off.”

It’s often difficult to breathe in Tocopilla, the cause of the problem is producing power for the insatiable mine of Chuquicamata. Chile has 28 coal-fired power stations. The government put one of them is here in this tiny town on the pacific coast.

40 percent of Chile’s electricity is gleaned from this fossil fuel. The toxins released in the process have already led to high rates of cancer. Entire systems are being sacrificed: the land, nature, and people’s health. In turn these sacrifices benefit other regions who profit from them. There people can afford the luxury of cleaner, healthier, greener and more renewable energy. But other people pay the price for that.

Damir Galez: “There’s copper here but no coal. That’s brought from many thousands of kilometers away coming from Colombia and New Zealand. The procurement process does of course have an impact. For example, at the coal mines in Colombia, the populations there are exposed to a high concentration of heavy metals in the air. And the ships that transport the coal pollute the sea. The coal travels thousands of kilometers before it arrives in Tocopilla. That requires a well-developed network of mines, ports, trains, ships and thermal power plants. At the end you’ve got the copper mine.

Copper mining takes place in the dark and what you don’t see of course doesn’t count for anything.

But the company that runs the coal-fired power station in Tocopilia claims green credentials. The multinational has even declared itself world market leader for co2 free technologies. The company in question is Engie based in France.
Damir Galez: “During my time in France I was able to observe the big contradiction in all of this. There Engie presents itself as a clean company promoting renewables and always prioritizing sustainability. But this sustainability in Europe, particularly in France has a very dark side: Electricity production.

To be able to generate electricity in Chile, the French energy company operates six coal-fired power plants there, a seventh has been under construction since 2015.

SrVP Engie: “We’re helping the Chilean government. Instead of closing the power stations, which would halt factories and trains and plunge the nation into darkness, we aim to support Julia’s (Julia Wittmayer) EU energy transition. It’s about finding the right moment for the construction of new plants in the renewable sector. We’re working a great deal with solar and wind power and we’d like to support the government in this conversion. That’s our mission and our responsibility.

Damir Galez: But you’re still building a new coal plant in northern Chile.

SrVP Engie: “As i just said Engie’s task is to support the government and we’re currently doing just that. It’s impossible to decommission all coal plants as long as they supply 40 percent of the national demand for electricity. That’s the case in Chile: Without this 40% industry would grind to a halt. We’re supporting the conversion to renewables and a reduced electricity consumption.

Nicolas Meilhan: The eco car has become a kind of religion. If we now can see that maybe it isn’t the be-all and end-all, and the same could be said for solar cells and wind turbines to a certain extent, then all the governments talk about the electric car that’ll save the world will come crashing down like a house of cards. In 20 years we’ll wake up because harmful emissions will have continued to rise and the e-car won’t have changed anything. The next energy crisis is already in the making: ElectricGate.

But at the Geneva motor show, car makers have other things on their minds. New brands are jostling for attention in a promising market. Volvo for example has founded a subsidiary dedicated to making electric cars with a carefully thought out marketing campaign pledging that by purchasing its models we’re saving the planet.

Global automotive industries annual revenue is 2 000 billion euros.

That’s equal to the GDP of a nation like France. With that in mind, very few car makers are prepared to look reality in the eye.
VP Lexus: “ It’s probably an interim solution, but is it also the best long-term solution? I’m not sure about that because if we’re just talking about purely electric vehicles, we can’t just be looking at the car itself. We also need to consider the issues of battery and electricity production. And in many nations the latter isn’t particularly ecological. That’s a global problem.”

So does the future of green energies lie in further innovations? That’s what car makers are promising at least.
SrVP Engie: “The energy transition isn’t over, there are still many innovations to come. We’ve invested in startups that want to develop new technologies, organic solar cells for example. They’re very different from regular cells because they don’t need any silicon. Organic solar cells are like a sheet of paper, very flexible; they can be installed anywhere. If we fixed these thin film cells to all large office blocks we could generate an incredible amount of electricity.

Olivier Videl: “Some key technological developments have the potential for enhanced effectiveness. Performance will improve through research in this area. Despite everything we should throw our weight behind these technologies, because they’re ripe for development.”

Chile has pledged to shut down all its coal plants, but not before 2040. So Engie won’t be able to address the contradiction between its green washing and the bleak Chilean reality anytime soon.

Comment

This abridged transcript excludes the ending message which devolved into a Malthusian appeal, echoing the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth.  The video nailed the essential point:  Obsession with e-cars in particular, and non-carbon energy in general will destroy the planet in the guise of saving it.  The hypocrisy is dripping from those who terrorize the world with fears of global warming and point to zero carbon as the solution.  They get all righteous and indignant at car companies who organized to profitably produce e-cars to meet the demand the warmists created.  They expose their quaint naivete that people can be supplied with goods without any profit incentive. The dangerous obsession has three components.

The Transition to Zero Carbon is Unnecessary

Earth’s weather and climate changes are within the range of historical variation.  In particular, there has been no accumulation of warming in the last four decades.  The rising CO2 in the air has been a boon to the biosphere and to crop production.

Replacing Fossil Fuels with Zero Carbon Energy is Impossible

Presently, despite all of the money invested in them, Wind and Solar power supply 2% of the world’s energy needs.  The renewable energy solution does not scale to the desired outcome of reducing fossil fuel usage to any meaningful extent.

The Attempt to Electrify Everything Will Bring Environmental Desolation

Trying to power modern societies with intermittent wind and solar power will extract planetary resources to depletion.  The landscapes of Northern China and Northern Chile will become typical rather than extreme situations to be managed.  The imaginary climate problem will not be solved, but the environmental catastrophe will be all too real, and of our own making. Cease and desist this madness.

World of Energy Infographics

Raymond has produced another in his Simple Science series, this one providing images explaining  how the world uses its energy and where the energy comes from. It’s a pictorial representation of statistics compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in their 2020 World Report, the latest year being 2018.

World of Energy, World of CO2, and World of Climate Change are projects at RiC-Communications, based in Zurich.  The exhibits are available for download at the following linked titles:

World of Energy

World of CO2

World of Climate Change

In addition there is an introductory video to the CO2 series and in the case of Energy, summary posters suitable for printing.  The download pdf for the energy posters will be available soon.

The World of Energy Infographics

Energy consumption is an important topic and on everyone’s lips. Since fire has been used as an energy source, fossil fuel use has played an important role in the evolution of our species. The rise of carbon in our atmosphere can be traced back to the beginning of industrialization and contributes in part to today’s levels of 420 ppm. Fossil fuels account for 81% of our total energy supply, a dependence that has not diminished to this day. This valuable resource drives the global economy and helps to reduce poverty worldwide. However, fossil fuels are not evenly distributed across the world and have always been the source of conflict or leverage. Renewable energy is becoming more popular, but efforts to replace the high density of fossil fuels will not be easy.

– N° 1 Global Energy consumption in percent by all sectors
– N° 2 Global Fossil fuel consumption in percent by sector
– N° 3 Oil consumption in percent by sector
– N° 4 Natural Gas consumption in percent by sector
– N° 5 Coal consumption in percent by sector
– N° 6 Electricity Generation by Source
– N° 7 Total energy supply by source

 

 

Comment

Many observations are possible by studying these exhibits.  For example, some activists insist that passenger air travel is dangerously warming the planet, and ordinary people should stay home, with flights restricted to essential trips by global elites.  A glance at the transportation statistics on slide #2 shows Aviation is only 4% of fossil fuel consumption (12% of 34% FF used for transportation).  And aviation includes cargo transport, so passenger travel is a fraction of that.

The bulk of FF transport consumption is Road, meaning cars and trucks, which is why some are demanding electric vehicles be the only means of mobility.  Yet a look at slide #6 shows that presently only 10% of electricity comes from Wind, Solar and waste fuels.  Furthermore, for all of the investment in wind and solar power, slide #7 shows that so called “green energy”` supplies only 2% of the world’s energy needs.

 

 

It’s Energy Will Make or Break the World Now

Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains how Energy has become the first and foremost world public concern in her Spectator article Energy is the most important issue in the world.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

Gas prices are climbing, Russia is building pipelines, yet we’re focused instead on appeasing climate activists

One issue more than any other will dominate airtime and influence policy in 2022: energy. Americans are seeing the highest prices at the pump in seven years. Since Biden took office, average gas prices are up by more than $1 a gallon. In November, gas prices in Mono County, California hit more than $6 per gallon, forcing some residents to drive to Nevada (where gas taxes are lower) to buy fuel.

The price of natural gas in the US is at its highest in seven years, and up more than 180 percent in the last year alone. In Europe, the situation is even worse.

Europe’s gas reserves are at record lows. In Germany, which already had the EU’s highest energy prices, bills are up 30 percent in a year. If the European winter is harsh, supplies for heating homes and businesses may have to be rationed.

Domestic energy is a foreign policy issue. The threat of a Russian attack on Ukraine was one of the factors driving gas prices up in late 2021. In December, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, warned that if Russia invaded Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany “could not come into service.” That would mean serious shortfalls in Germany’s energy supply this winter, as Germany is dependent on Russian natural gas. Germany’s economic affairs minister, Robert Habeck, now calls Germany’s assent to Nord Stream 2 a “geopolitical mistake.” Days before Christmas, Russia reversed flows on Yamal, another pipeline to Germany. European energy prices reached new peaks. Russia claimed the reversal had no “political implications.”

Europe is splitting over nuclear power as the answer to secure supplies of green energy. France pushed to classify nuclear energy as “sustainable,” a move that would unlock billions of euros in state aid and private investment, earmarked for green energy. An EU proposal was recently put forward to do just that — despite opposition from Germany, which threw its lot in with Nord Stream 2 and Putin’s natural gas under Angela Merkel.

And don’t forget Iran. Its march toward acquiring nuclear arms creates severe vulnerabilities for the US and its allies — especially Israel, but also the oil-rich Gulf states. China continues to underwrite the regime in Tehran by purchasing Iranian oil and evading and ignoring US sanctions.

Energy will determine elections in Europe and the US in 2022 and beyond. It will determine foreign policy decisions. It will be an overarching and enduring theme for years to come. But energy has always been part of the conversation. What makes this year different? Wasn’t there an even bigger energy crisis in the 1970s?

The answer to both those questions is this: unlike in the past, our current energy crisis derives from our own mistakes. We’ve put all of our eggs into the basket of renewable energy, but its promise has been oversold. The costs of solar and wind power generation may have fallen, but they cannot provide stable energy sources because of fluctuations in the weather. That tends to reduce the overall efficiency of power grids.

The green movement also underestimates the true costs of renewable energy. As Michael Shellenberger explains, a wind farm requires 370 times more land than a nuclear plant does. If we shift away from nuclear energy and toward renewables as Joe Biden’s climate plan proposes, the impact on America’s natural environments would be devastating. Yet the Biden administration remains committed to renewables as a “green” solution.

After Angela Merkel phased out nuclear plants almost entirely, Germans now pay the highest energy costs in Europe, not least because a renewables surcharge of 20 percent is added to their bills. The various European and British decisions to ban fracking have had similar effects on the cost of heating a home. The effect of opposition in the US will be no different.

Fracking played a key part in the US’s transition from coal to natural gas, which led to significant reductions in American emissions of carbon dioxide. But some Democratic-run states are attempting to ban fracking entirely through legislation and, as in California, denying permits. Shale oil production barely grew in 2021, and we are unlikely to see a fracking revival in the near future. A return to energy dependence on other countries is becoming unavoidable. We’ve seen this already: in November, Biden appealed to OPEC to increase production.

Americans and Europeans have become so focused on appeasing climate activists that they’ve forgotten the importance of power — in the sense of geopolitics, not kilowatts. While the West was debating ways to reduce emissions at the UN’s COP26 summit in Glasgow, Russia and China didn’t even bother to show up. While we fall over ourselves to acclaim Greta Thunberg, Russia builds strategic gas pipelines and China builds coal-burning power stations.

The politics of energy will impact the lives of everyone this year, the poor especially. To avoid a new self-inflicted energy crisis, unlike in the 1970s — the West must reassess the costs of the “green transition.” We need a strategy that generates power efficiently, and without handing geopolitical power to our strategic rivals.

 

 

 

Green Electricity Facts on the Ground

Francis Menton writes at Manhattan Contrarian How About A Pilot Project To Demonstrate The Feasibility Of Fully Wind/Solar/Battery Electricity Generation?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.H\T John Ray

At this current crazy moment, most of the “Western” world (Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia) is hell bent on achieving a “net zero” energy system. As I understand this concept, it means that, within two or three decades, all electricity production will be converted from the current mostly-fossil-fuel generation mix to almost entirely wind, solar and storage. On top of that, all or nearly all energy consumption that is not currently electricity (e.g., transportation, industry, heat, agriculture) must be converted to electricity, so that the energy for these things can also be supplied solely by the wind, sun, and batteries. Since electricity is currently only about a quarter of final energy consumption, that means that we are soon to have an all-electric energy generation and consumption system producing around four times the output of our current electricity system, all from wind and solar, backed up as necessary only by batteries or other storage.

A reasonable question is, has anybody thought to construct a small-to-moderate scale pilot project to demonstrate that this is feasible? Before embarking on “net zero” for a billion people, how about trying it out in a place with, say, 10,000, or 50,000, or 100,000 people. See if it can actually work, and how much it will cost. Then, if it works at reasonable cost, start expanding it.

As far as I can determine, that has never been done anywhere. However, there is something somewhat close. An island called El Hierro, which is one of the Canary Islands and is part of Spain, embarked more than a decade ago on constructing an electricity system consisting only of wind turbines and a pumped-storage water reservoir. El Hierro has a population of about 11,000. It is a very mountainous volcanic island, so it provided a fortuitous location for construction of a large pumped-storage hydro project, with an upper reservoir in an old volcanic crater right up a near-cliff from a lower reservoir just above sea level. The difference in elevation of the two reservoirs is about 660 meters, or more than 2000 feet. Here is a picture of the upper reservoir, looking down to the ocean, to give you an idea of just how favorable a location for pumped-storage hydro this is:

The El Hierro wind/storage system began operations in 2015. How has it done? I would say that it is at best a huge disappointment, really bordering on disaster. It has never come close to realizing the dream of 100% wind/storage electricity for El Hierro, instead averaging 50% or less when averaged over a full year (although it has had some substantial periods over 50%). Moreover, since only about one-quarter of El HIerro’s final energy consumption is electricity, the project has replaced barely 10% of El Hierro’s fossil fuel consumption.

Over at the website page for production statistics, it’s still more excitement about tons of carbon emissions avoided (15,484 in 2020!) and hours of 100% renewable generation (1293 in 2020!). I think that they’re hoping you don’t know that there are 8784 hours in a 366 day year like 2020.

So why don’t they just build the system a little bigger? After all, if this system can provide around 50% +/- of El Hierro’s electricity, can’t you just double it in size to get to 100%? The answer is, absolutely not. The 50% can be achieved only with those diesel generators always present to provide full backup when needed. Without that, you need massively more storage to get you through what could be weeks of wind drought, let alone through wind seasonality that means that you likely need 30 days’ or more full storage.

Then take a look at the picture and see if you can figure out where or how El Hierro is going to build that 40 times bigger reservoir. Time to look into a few billions of dollars worth of lithium ion batteries — for 11,000 people.

And of course, for those of us here in the rest of the world, we don’t have massive volcanic craters sitting 2000 feet right up a cliff from the sea. For us, it’s batteries or nothing. Or maybe just stick with the fossil fuels for now.

So the closest thing we have to a “demonstration project” of the fully wind/storage electricity has come up woefully short, and really has only proved that the whole concept will necessarily fail on the necessity of far more storage than is remotely practical or affordable. The idea that our political betters plow forward toward “net zero” without any demonstration of feasibility I find completely incomprehensible.

See also Green Electrical Shocks