I discuss the Keystone XL pipeline veto by President Obama, relay facts regarding the environmental argument, how MIT Professor of Energy Economics Chris Knittel says it will actually reduce carbon emissions, rail versus pipeline safety according to the Washington Post, economic impact of refining in the United States since we don’t allow export of crude oil, and the money behind this fight in the form of rail companies (Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad) versus pipeline companies.
The Los Angeles Times is trumpeting, “Renewable power trumps fossil fuels for first time.” From the article:
Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis and an impasse at the United Nations global warming talks. Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.
Much further down is the crux of the issue and why I am presenting this information to you (bold emphasis is mine): The renewables boom, spurred by about $66 billion of subsidies last year, intensified competition between wind- turbine and solar-panel manufacturers, gutting margins from the biggest producers led by Vestas Wind Systems A/S and First Solar Inc.
Humanity will benefit and has always benefitted from renewable, non-hydrocarbon energy sources like hydro power, geothermal, wind, and solar. Historically these were the water mill for milling grain, hot springs, a windmill in the plains for pumping water, and passive solar for heating and cooling. Nowadays it all gets tied to the electrical grid which leads to new and vexing problems. The current problems center around a lack of storage and government tinkering at the behest of profit seeking companies.
The way our electrical grid works is based on a series of complex Alternating Current (AC) electrical grids, with congratulations to George Westinghouse for beating Thomas Edison’s Direct Current (DC) systems. These AC power grids require a constant 60 Hz frequency to operate correctly. As you turn on appliances which are typically measure in watts of electrical consumption, watts equals volts times amps, these take a bit of the electricity on the grid. The grid must always have a certain amount of wattage in surplus to maintain the 60 Hz frequency and voltage to the transformers in your neighborhood.
The problem with wind and solar in particular is that they are inconsistent. The grid needs a baseload power source to function correctly without brownouts or blackouts. Renewable solar and wind can never provide this terrestrially without a method to store large amounts of energy.
As of today there is no storage system in existence that can provide the energy storage necessary to replace hydrocarbon or nuclear baseload sources that provide that consistent energy needed.
Government tinkering in this marketplace is not moving the industry into a place to be free of subsidies. That number of $66 billion above is not going down, and when it goes down the renewable industries collapse. Going back to the post OPEC crisis of the mid to late 1970s the US government tried subsidies under the Carter administration. The industry boomed. The Reagan administration took over and cut the subsidies and the industry nearly failed entirely.
Recently we have observed the same phenomenon in Spain. During financial good times the government subsidized heavily and Spain became a hotbed of solar and wind farms. Then the credit crisis caused a massive cutback of subsidies and the vast majority of the projects in Spain ground to a halt. The industry cannot become successful until they quickly figure out how to become economically competitive.
Finally, we need to focus on geothermal here in the United States. There is massive potential to move to geothermal based on recent information which doesn’t require a non-existent storage location and is a proven technology to replace a large amount of hydrocarbon baseload sources.
According to a news report that just came out from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, a study was completed in conjunction with Google that has measured a massive amount of geothermal energy available in the United States. So much so that ten times the amount of energy is available from geothermal than is currently produced by coal burning plants.
If you want to see what tapping geothermal on a large scale can do for a country, take a look at Iceland. Alcan, Century Aluminum, and Alcoa have actually built huge aluminum plants in Iceland simply because of the cheap energy and shipping capability.
The U.S. could benefit greatly by embracing this opportunity and becoming a leader in the world for geothermal. Plus, how could you possibly have a problem with reducing sulfur and mercury emissions?
More from the report:
Sophisticated mapping produced from the research, viewable via Google Earth at www.google.org/egs, demonstrates that vast reserves of this green, renewable source of power generated from the Earth’s heat are realistically accessible using current technology.
The results of the new research, from SMU Hamilton Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, confirm and refine locations for resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions, including significant areas in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. The estimated amounts and locations of heat stored in the Earth’s crust included in this study are based on nearly 35,000 data sites – approximately twice the number used for Blackwell and Richards’ 2004 Geothermal Map of North America, leading to improved detail and contouring at a regional level.
“Where Did Global Warming Go?” was the headline yesterday in the New York Times Sunday Review section I received in my driveway. The writer, Elisabeth Rosenthal, and her editors berate the people of the United States for letting this topic fade from top-level urgency as they think it should receive. The old line about other countries taking action and the U.S. not leading was thrown around. The writer claims that since President Obama took office, who promised strong action and leadership on this issue, evidence for climate change has solidified.
So why is the USA not doing more?
The writer is correct in that climate change has strong evidence that it is occurring and has occurred. The implication that humans are responsible and that the evidence that humans are the cause has absolutely not solidified since the 2008 presidential race.
I have written articles letting my readers know that CERN in Europe has shown that cosmic rays are likely responsible for 50-100% of warming in the past century, that the weather on the sun can cause large movements of the temperature on Earth, and that I suspect the large chemical polluters of using this anthropogenic warming issue as a red herring to move the focus away from the pollution that poisons us and our environment.
This bizarre siren call that keeps coming from the majority of the press baffles me. They want to use science as their claim but they ignore that computer models are simply educated guesses. Yet they ignore very strong scientific evidence, like the study at CERN, and choose to continue saying that people are bad.
Why do they insist that people are bad? Do they believe in eugenics? Do they want us to live in the dark ages? Or is it that they have a vested interest in companies that stand to benefit from “green” energy? The correct answer is to follow the money, it can be the only explanation for the lack of concern regarding pollution.
As I have written before here, the current global climate change debate has it all wrong.
For all that we pollute, and I agree we need to clean up our polluting ways, the planet we live on and the solar system we live in make a much bigger difference than we ever will. Just a couple of days ago NASA scientists came out and said the weather on our sun is entering a pattern that will cool the earth. If you recall from history class there was a mini Ice Age recorded in Europe from 1645 to 1715 called the Maunder Minimum which was due to the sun entering a quiet period. Also, occurrences like volcanic eruptions change our weather. Remember Mount Pinatubo in 1991? That one volcanic explosion reduced temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere approximately one degree Fahrenheit.
Sending fear into the population over reducing CO2 emissions to neutral is foolish. That change would require a complete alteration of all of our lives to actually accomplish along with potentially trillions of dollars. One change in solar cycles or a series of volcanic eruptions would alter any of our measly human efforts.
How about we invest in a Manhatten Project for alternative energy, particularly storage of variable energy like wind and solar?