Hobgoblins, Fuzzy Math, and Wishful Thinking

In a recent post on the National Journal on-line, the founder of the Stella Group asserted that it is “nonsense…that renewable energy cannot meet the world’s energy needs… and many peer-reviewed global and country studies show just the opposite”.  He went on to state “most or all of our nation’s or globe’s energy needs can be met with technology we have today from high-value energy efficiency and the entire portfolio of renewable energy.  That is a very bold statement but it is also reflects the perspectives of many renewable energy advocates and the climate establishment”.

That indeed is a bold statement that ignores the cost of misallocated resources caused by subsidies and the cost of stranded assets caused by the forced turnover of a utilities capital stock. Not only that, but there are practical constraints on the ability to quickly replace that capital stock. Top down engineering calculations that support the rapid replacement objective are theoretical and ignore the economic realities of the real world.  This is demonstrated by the fact that renewable energy, including hydro-power and biomass, currently provides only about 15% of our electric generating capacity and, according to EIA, in 2030, it will provide 17%.

We cannot replace significant amounts of conventional power generation technologies with wind and solar without causing serious damage to the economy and putting system reliability at risk.   Countries that have aggressively undertaken renewable, solar or wind ventures have not produced results that would justify the US following the same course.  The UK has just announced that it runs the risk of black outs and Germany is losing industry because of the high cost of electricity and renewable mandates, and Spain and Italy’s commitment to green energy was a significant contributor to their recent economic problems.  EU nations like Germany make claims about the benefits of solar and wind while not mentioning that they tied to a grid system that compensates when there is no wind and little sunlight.  As a result of its commitment to renewables, Germany’s electricity costs are almost 3 times ours and that higher cost is similar to a tax on almost everything they use.

In the US wind and solar are two to five times as expensive as coal and gas generated electrical power.  See below:

Coal-fired $0.06
Natural gas combined cycle $0.05
Wind $0.11
Solar $0.15 – $0.27

Conventional electric power is continuously generated to keep supply and demand in balance. Wind and solar are intermittent and are dependent on a base load that comes from coal, gas, or nuclear. That dependency will persist until there is a commercially viable way of storing electricity generated by wind and solar.  Presently, the most effective way to store electric power is by pumping water that then can be released to generate electricity.  That option is both limited and expensive.

It is mind-boggling trying to understand why we should embrace higher costs and less efficient power generation that impose economic burdens on consumers and industry.

EPA and environmental zealots claim that those costs are justified to improve air quality and combat climate change.  That is pure bunk that uses hobgoblins to advance an agenda that cannot withstand close scrutiny.  Air quality continues the steady improvement that began in the 1970s.  That improvement is documented in Stephen Hayward’s Environmental Almanac.  As for climate change, the underpinnings for predictions of catastrophe are collapsing as the models on which those predictions are based continue to diverge from the real climate system.  The alleged scientific consensus is a fiction that is obvious when you consider that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses 50 models that each describes somewhat differently how the climate system functions, and none of which predicted the pause in warming that has taken place since 1998.

This article appeared on the FuelFix website at http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/10/28/hobgoblins-fuzzy-math-and-wishful-thinking/

Partner & Fellow Blogs