With all of the talk about how climate change is dire and deadly while President Obama just declared it as, “one of the most urgent challenges of our time.” According to the president and others it is climate change and not terrorism, poisons killing us and bees, or other host of things actually killing us today. What intelligent and simple solutions are being pushed? None, of course.
The smartest and oldest of all is passive or active thermal solar. Did you know that almost anywhere in the United States (or world for that matter) you can install a simple rooftop system for generating most or all of your hot water from the sun, this includes heating your pool in addition to showering, dish washing, and laundry. Further, these systems can be inexpensive to install, like $300-$1000.
Politicians don’t like simple, economical energy efficient solutions because they can’t talk about all the jobs they created or get new billionaires to fund their campaigns through their crony capitalistic ways.
Poor People of Color Subsidize Rich White People – Musk’s Business Plan
Do amazing cars and the promise of cleaner energy justify lower socio-economic classes, particularly of color, subsidizing a white billionaire’s business plan?
Really. I’ve driven the Tesla Model S and there is no question I’d love to drive one daily. My day to day car is more of an electric car for the people, a 2015 Ford Focus Electric. Not my favorite four wheeled vehicle I’ve ever owned, but it does well in stop and go city traffic, plus I have the personal experience for discussion in media. But the whole electric car and solar subsidy business bothers me and it should bother you too.
Recently Elon Musk masterminded Tesla Motors acquiring sister company Solar City and rolling them into one, Tesla. I discussed Elon Musk’s Master Plan Part Deux here.
But an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Solar System: Can Tesla go from sexy car company to clean energy empire?” rubbed me in all the wrong ways. I don’t like this setup for three key reasons: there is no longer a car for the masses, wealthy and upper-middle class (mostly white people) receive the subsidies, and photovoltaic solar isn’t the way to save the world.
No affordable family car
First, Elon Musk’s main goal in his original master plan was to build expensive, high-end cars to fund his empire so he could build “affordably priced family cars.” In Part Deux, he now wants the masses to ride his bus instead of driving a car, since few consider $40,000 (The Model 3) affordable for the average American family when the average annual family income is $53,700. Wealthy people still get to drive a car, but lower income people are required to take mass transit like today, just in one made by Tesla. So his original promise of a car for the people, a volkswagen if you will, is no longer in the works. Is this part of the plan? Shouldn’t lower income people have the choice of taking time consuming mass or the faster individual car?
Subsidies for the wealthy and mostly white
Second, the subsidies go to wealthy and upper-class mostly white people. This is self-evident in Elon Musk himself, on the brink of bankruptcy both personal and business, he received investments from Mercedes but most importantly from you and me. Initially it was a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy from the infamous Solyndra fund. Yes, it was paid back early, but you and I funded Tesla Motors. Then we have the on-going federal ($7,500) and state ($2,500) subsidies for Tesla’s luxury vehicles. After that we have the carbon trading scheme in California in which Tesla sells carbon credits and has made roughly $130 million and Musk is now kvetching that other automakers are taking some of that money.
Here is where it gets worse. The former SolarCity (the combined entity is just called Tesla) is subsidized on the photovoltaic solar panels through tax rebates and through ratepayer subsidies. The problem is all of those rooftop solar subsidies go to commercial building owners and homeowners. According to Trulia’s post “From Own To Rent: Who Lost The American Dream?” wealthy and upper-middle class mostly white people are homeowners. That’s right you have to own a home to get these subsidies, not renters, and homeownership among the wealthy is above 80%, compared to less than 50% for poorer households. And by ethnicity whites receive the greatest subsidy because blacks (61%), Hispanics (66%), and multi-racial (56%) rent far more than whites (34%). Oh, and let’s add in ageism. Young people are over 71% renters and older people are only 24% renters. So young, non-white ethnicities are providing billions of dollars in subsidies to older, mostly white people.
Rooftop solar won’t save the world
Third, photovoltaic solar will not save the world. It is complicated and doesn’t work when the sun sets and works in a diminished capacity when it is cloudy, yet you always want electricity for your refrigerator, lights, air conditioning, electric car charging, and Internet. The Tesla PowerWall violates the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle, because you’ve complicated something with a device in-between. We already have a simple answer for clean, renewable, base-load and peak generating power in the form of Geothermal Energy. According to Google and SMU we have such massive potential in the newer generation geothermal plants that we could produce nearly all of our energy simply using the heat already produced inside our planet. But rooftop solar has become a massive and popular jobs program in California under the guise of saving the planet, so you don’t know about that. I have much more on this topic in chapter three of my book Liars & Whores: How Big Government and Big Business Are Working to Save Their Own Assets, Not Yours.
So, are you one of those people who says that saving the world is a priority? Then rooftop photovoltaic solar is not the best answer, but crony capitalism geared toward wealthy mostly white people is trying to convince you one way, and I am telling you there are better solutions like geothermal.
Tune in to The Ethan Bearman Show on KGO 810 weekdays from noon to 2pm Pacific Time – www.kgoradio.com
Why shouldn’t we have clean, renewable, base load power from a domestic source? It isn’t solar (made in China and doesn’t work when the sun isn’t shining) or wind (kills golden eagles and doesn’t work when the wind isn’t blowing hard enough), it is geothermal!
Answer: Several attributes make it a good source of energy.
First, it’s clean. Energy can be extracted without burning a fossil fuel such as coal, gas, or oil. Geothermal fields produce only about one-sixth of the carbon dioxide that a relatively clean natural-gas-fueled power plant produces, and very little if any, of the nitrous oxide or sulfur-bearing gases. Binary plants, which are closed cycle operations, release essentially no emissions.
Geothermal energy is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Geothermal power plants have average availabilities of 90% or higher, compared to about 75% for coal plants.
Geothermal power is homegrown, reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
Why is geothermal energy a renewable resource?
Answer: Because its source is the almost unlimited amount of heat generated by the Earth’s core. Even in geothermal areas dependent on a reservoir of hot water, the volume taken out can be reinjected, making it a sustainable energy source.
What are the environmental impacts of using geothermal energy?
Answer: Geothermal technologies offer many environmental advantages over conventional power generation:
Emissions are low. Only excess steam is emitted by geothermal flash plants. No air emissions or liquids are discharged by binary geothermal plants, which are projected to become the dominant technology in the near future.
Salts and dissolved minerals contained in geothermal fluids are usually reinjected with excess water back into the reservoir at a depth well below groundwater aquifers. This recycles the geothermal water and replenishes the reservoir. The City of Santa Rosa, California, pipes the city’s treated wastewater up to The Geysers power plants to be used for reinjection fluid. This system will prolong the life of the reservoir as it recycles the treated wastewater.
Some geothermal plants do produce some solid materials, or sludges, that require disposal in approved sites. Some of these solids are now being extracted for sale (zinc, silica, and sulfur, for example), making the resource even more valuable and environmentally friendly.
What is the visual impact of geothermal technologies?
Answer: District heating systems and geothermal heat pumps are easily integrated into communities with almost no visual impact. Geothermal power plants use relatively small acreages, and don’t require storage, transportation, or combustion of fuels. Either no emissions or just steam are visible. These qualities reduce the overall visual impact of power plants in scenic regions.
Is it possible to deplete geothermal reservoirs?
Answer: The long-term sustainability of geothermal energy production has been demonstrated at the Lardarello field in Italy since 1913, at the Wairakei field in New Zealand since 1958, and at The Geysers field in California since 1960. Pressure and production declines have been experienced at some plants, and operators have begun reinjecting water to maintain reservoir pressure. The City of Santa Rosa, California, pipes its treated wastewater up to The Geysers to be used as reinjection fluid, thereby prolonging the life of the reservoir while recycling the treated wastewater.
How much does geothermal energy cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh)?
Answer: At The Geysers, power is sold at $0.03 to $0.035 per kWh. A power plant built today would probably require about $0.05 per kWh. Some plants can charge more during peak demand periods.
What does it cost to develop a geothermal power plant?
Answer: Costs of a geothermal plant are heavily weighted toward early expenses, rather than fuel to keep them running. Well drilling and pipeline construction occur first, followed by resource analysis of the drilling information. Next is design of the actual plant. Power plant construction is usually completed concurrent with final field development. The initial cost for the field and power plant is around $2500 per installed kW in the U.S., probably $3000 to $5000/kWe for a small (<1Mwe) power plant. Operating and maintenance costs range from $0.01 to $0.03 per kWh. Most geothermal power plants can run at greater than 90% availability (i.e., producing more than 90% of the time), but running at 97% or 98% can increase maintenance costs. Higher-priced electricity justifies running the plant 98% of the time because the resulting higher maintenance costs are recovered.
Watch the video above. It was presented to me as a great David versus Goliath story of “green” energy triumphing over Xcel Energy in Boulder, Colorado.
There are so many problems with the video, I simply cannot address them all.
Starting off, the wildfires in Colorado are presented as if there have never been worse fires. This is a complete falsehood that media outlets are perpetrating due to a lack of historical knowledge. Did you know that wildfires were actually worse before the European settlers? Native Americans intentionally burned large amounts of North America and did it regularly to alter the ecosystem. So much for tabula rasa regarding the indigenous people. Also there is significant evidence for the argument that settlers actually helped reduce forest fires and our movement toward naturalism in our forests have exacerbated the fires.
There are also two primary problems in “clean” energy: what is your definition of clean energy, and is the clean energy proposed a baseload power source. For all that video does to market what Boulder is doing, they ignore that coal plants are only being replaced by natural gas plants due to the reduced cost of natural gas for the power companies. As Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California said on my show, no coal plant has been shut down in California with all of our clean energy mandates.
I suggest the entire environmental movement has been taken by other big money interests as there are hundreds of billions of dollars per year to be made in solar and wind. The subsidies for those industries are enormous and we still don’t have energy storage addressing when the sun isn’t shining and/or the wind isn’t blowing. Let alone the environmental damage happening in China (out of sight, out of mind anyone?) due to rare earth mineral mining, theft of the entire solar panel industry, and the massive pollution due to transportation of those Chinese-made solar panels all the way across the Pacific Ocean to our shores.
That’s right, are you going to turn off your television, computer, refrigerator, power charger, lights, microwave, and more when the sun goes behind a cloud or the wind dies down? This is the elephant in the room regarding non-baseload power sources. Thus we still need coal, oil, and nuclear power plants.
Everyone seems to ignore geothermal as the only clean, baseload power source that emits no pollution at all. And that is because there isn’t enough money to be made from geothermal, unlike solar and wind.
Lastly, none of the above address the fundamental problem of a centralized power grid. Why not move to a neighborhood grid model where neighborhoods are in control and can choose what is best for them? For example, this solid oxide fuel cell could power a whole neighborhood. Or your development might choose solar panels on every roof, a windmill near the community pool, and a natural gas generator behind the pond, without ever connecting to the grid.
Think of the possibilities we can accomplish when relegating stale ideas to the trash bin and begin to creatively approach the problems we face. It is possible to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons, but blind faith to a dogmatic approach should best be left to religion and not energy policy.
EDIT 09/03/2013 – I almost forgot another major problem with the Chinese stealing the solar panel business, a horrible defect rate of up to 22 percent. So now the environmentally damaging Chinese panels will possibly fail in two years instead of the promised 25 year lifespan. Don’t take my word for it, this information is from the New York Times. Also, those giant solar plants in the desert are not only sucking up preciously scarce water resources, but killing endangered birds. Water birds are turning up dead. Stick with solar and wind for off-grid where buying the battery banks make sense. But grid-interconnect, no.