Sunshine Doesn’t Dry the Swamp

A former colleague passed on this observation from a letter to the editor to the Idaho Post Register.  “The USA’s solar energy industry is currently telling its Congressional supporters that it’s finally become willing to lose some of its subsidies. …  It’s not a consequence of declining real costs …The real reason is that its leadership knows that investment tax credits (ITCs) aren’t their most important subsidy.  The real gold mine is the renewable portfolio requirements adopted by many states dictating that a certain percentage of electricity be produced by what they’re selling. Moreover, this country’s technically clueless green new dealers will likely ramp those requirements upwards over time creating a chain of events guaranteeing profits for its solar and wind energy entrepreneurs for decades to come.”

This move to mandated renewable standards is a classic example of the Bootlegger and Baptist public choice theory.  In this case, the Bootleggers are electric utilities and the Baptists are state legislatures and environmental advocacy groups.  The Baptists seek to reduce CO2 emissions as a way to avoid an asserted  climate catastrophe.  When renewables don’t do the job, the legislatures will simply increase the mandates. Solar is making the swamp wider and deeper.

The Bootleggers can laugh all the way to the bank by embracing and championing renewable  standards even though they know that solar and wind are not cost effective.   Because they only generate electricity erratically, more conventional generating capacity is needed to provide backup. Utilities make their real money by making investments in plants and infrastructure for which they receive a rate of return. Building more power plants and power lines, makes more money.  Compensating utilities this way represents what is in their best interest; not the best interest of ratepayers or cost-efficient investments.

Since wind and solar are fast growing sources of power generation, utilities must also invest in maintaining reliability since reliable electricity is essential to our economy.  The National Renewable Electricity Lab noted that “Wind and solar provide increased reliability risks because they are new changing technologies”, that are intermittent. High levels of reliability are gained from experience and the gradual adoption of new technologies.  When a legislature mandates a schedule for achieving specific percentages of alternative energy, it challenges stresses the learning process.

For utilities to have the capacity to produce electric power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine as well as maintain high levels of reliability, utilities have to over invest to avoid problems such as those experienced by Germany, the leader in promoting renewable energy.  In January 2017, Germany’s power grid almost collapsed because wind and solar power plants under-performed as a result of cloudy weather with little or no wind.  This set the stage for massive blackouts and Germany was forced to recommission coal power plants to simply keep the lights on.  

Maintaining the necessary conventional backup has its own set of unintended consequences. According to the MIT Technology Review, “Because fossil-fuel power plants cannot easily ramp down generation in response to excess supply on the grid, on sunny, windy days there is sometimes so much power in the system that the price goes negative—in other words, operators of large plants, most of which run on coal or natural gas, must pay commercial customers to consume electricity.”

While all of this additional complexity creates additional risks of grid problems, utilities—the Bootleggers—do not see risks as much as they see money making opportunities resulting from mandated investments.  And, who pays?  Consumers, which helps to explain why Germany’s electricity rates are about three times the US average.  Pretending to be green, isn’t cheap.

Climate Politics: A Mugs Game

Democrat candidates for president talk about climate change as an existential threat that is not being addressed.  Their solutions range from rejoining the Paris Agreement to the Green New deal.

This is a collection of clever devils who claim that republicans, the fossil fuel industry, and skeptics deny that climate change is real and oppose any actions to solve the problem.  They paint a picture of an impending apocalypse that requires their leadership to avoid disaster.

Their rhetoric is nothing more than a Mugs Game, Mug was a 19thslang word for a fool, in particular someone who had been duped.  In the early 20th century, Mugs Game was applied to a wide range of activities that would result in a loss no matter how much it looks like a winning opportunity. 

If  climate advocates and their complicit media were honest, they would admit that the basis for their certitude is far less than certain and that no matter what we do, the effects will not have a great effect because the rest of the world will not commit economic suicide. EU economic growth has been declining in large measure because of programs like Germany’s ENERGIEWENDEwhich has led to electricity prices almost three times the US average.  

A review by the Climate Action Network concluded that “While all European Union countries signed up to the Paris Agreement, most are failing to work towards delivering on its objectives,”– cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels.  Sweden is doing the best in achieving the 2020 interim target but most of the others will fall short in spite of efforts to exploit loopholes.  The EU actions, ineffective as they have been, demonstrate the inherent conflict between attempting to be dark green and economic growth.

Slowing economic growth makes citizens restless, so additional and more serious EU climate change action will likely take a back seat to economic concerns.

If the democrat candidates and the complicit media told the truth, it would become clear that the 40% reduction below 1990 emissions that the UN claims is needed to avoid catastrophe by 2030 is foolish, with or without US participation.  Last year, global emissions were 37 billion tons.  In 1990, they were 22 billion.  The 40% reduction would take them to 14 billion, the level of 1970.

The current crop of candidates offering elaborate climate actions know all of these facts, including that serious action to meet the Paris Agreement objective would cause a global depression.  They are not trying to save the planet; they are trying to save their jobs.  They are political entrepreneurs who are using the climate change as another way to shift more political power in Washington.  But if one them is successful next November, he or she won’t be able to completely abandon today’s rhetoric, so economic growth will once again will be imperiled.

Failure of the Big Con

According to a recent study by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies global demand for energy which has risen 2.8% per annum since 1900, 2.2% since 2000. EIA has estimated that energy consumption will grow 28% between 2015 and 2040. Currently, the world consumes about 565 quadrillion BTUs of energy. ExxonMobil in its forecast estimates that by 2040 that number will rise to 681. This increase will be driven mainly by population growth, rising incomes and decreasing poverty.

There is a broad energy industry consensus that the expected increase in energy demand by 2040 cannot be met with today’s renewable technologies and that fossil fuels will continue to play a key role in the energy mix. In other words, CO2 atmospheric concentrations will be higher than the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deemed acceptable in its 2018 Special Report. Whether it is the Energy Information Administration, the International Energy Agency or other organizations that forecast energy use and CO2 emissions, there is general agreement that emissions will increase from today’s roughly 34 billion metric tons to 39 billion.

If these analyses are anywhere near correct, then according to the IPCC the world will face a climate catastrophe because global temperatures will easily exceed its threshold of 1.5C. It has asserted, “To meet a goal of 1.5 °C warming, this demands immediately cutting the planet’s emissions to 45 % below 2010 levels by 2030.”

Instead of emissions being reduced 45% below 2010 levels, they are forecast to increase 15% above today’s level. According to the 2018 IPCC Special Report the world has only 12 years left to enact ”rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society″ to avoid a full-scale climate catastrophe. In interpreting the IPCC report the Huffington Post wrote that failing to take mitigating actions will cause us to enter “into an unknown and unprecedented era marked by severe and regular drought, flooding, hurricanes, extreme temperatures, mass dislocation and death, economic collapse, and an acceleration of what we now know to be the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.”

Since the IPCC goal demands immediate and drastic action, why aren’t the government leaders of the climate change movement proposing radical changes in their countries life styles and energy systems? Because they know that the goal is impossible to meet and they haven’t been able to convince their citizens adopt economically damaging goals. And, being practical politicians, they also know they would be booted out of office if they tried to implement the IPCC’s extreme policy prescription.

In all likelihood the next 11 years will be much like the past ones—small temperature changes up or down, small rises in sea levels, and no consistent increase in extreme weather events. Our climate in 2030 will probably resemble the climate we have experienced since the start of hand wringing about a climate armageddon.

The biggest questions for the year 2030 will how apocalyptic politicians explain the missing catastrophe? And, will the public finally realize that they have been the victims of the big con?