In 2016, then-President Barack Obama committed the United States to the Paris Climate Accord — a voluntary agreement in which 196 nations pledged to decrease their carbon emissions to levels that would reduce the rise in global temperature by 1.5°C before the end of the century. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement. Mr. Trump objected to its tremendous cost and pathetic ineffectiveness. If all of the signatories fulfilled their pledges through 2100, the rise in global temperature would be reduced by only 0.17°C — in effect, by 0°C. Trump, the businessman, believed that only an idiot would sign up for a $100 trillion climate change project that would produce zero climate change; it was a bad deal.
Joe Biden thought it was a good deal. And, in 2021, on his first day in office as president, he readmitted the US into the agreement. The war against fossil fuels was on again. To the Biden administration climate change is an existential threat. Explained Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, “We have already poisoned the atmosphere, we have to repair and heal the earth and the only way to do that is to remove carbon dioxide permanently.” As Russia began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Biden’s climate czar, John Kerry, expressed his concern about the many tens of thousands of Ukrainians who would likely perish under the attack, but his greater concern was its “massive emissions consequence.” In a trembling sulk he hoped that “President Putin will help us to stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate.”
While Biden administration officials fret over the increase in war emissions, most Americans fret over the increasing cost of energy, which has been rising relentlessly since Mr. Biden won the 2020 election. For example, Brent crude oil sold for about $37/bbl on November 3, 2020, rising to almost $100 a barrel on February 24, 2022, when the invasion began; in recent days it has as reached as high as $130 a barrel. When asked if Mr. Biden would increase domestic oil and gas production to reduce American energy prices, press secretary Jen Psaki exhorted Americans to reduce their reliance on foreign oil by switching over to solar and wind energy. When asked if US drilling would be increased to counter the shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said that this option has never been on the table.
The war against fossil fuels is on again. To the Biden administration climate change is an existential threat.
Mr. Biden fears the scowls of Greta Thunberg more than the weapons of Vladimir Putin, and his increasingly bellicose allies, China and Iran. Or the frustration of ordinary Americans who must pay $4 a gallon for gasoline, as inflation — now at 7.9%, a 40-year high — erodes their wages.
The president is under the spell of climate zealots, who think that high fossil fuel prices is a good thing. They will hasten America’s transition from hydrocarbon energy to green energy. The thinking is that switching to electric vehicles (EVs) will reduce the demand for oil, thereby solving both the inflation problem and the Putin problem. As to America’s electricity grid, simply remove all of the coal and gas fired power plants and plop down solar and wind farms in their place. Unfortunately, it’s these people’s only thought. In the rush to reduce the global temperature, they have found no time to consider other solutions, such as nuclear fission or fusion. Nor have they thought to worry about issues such as reliability, cost, feasibility, or effectiveness, to say nothing of environmental impacts and national security. They haven’t even thought about the wrath of the American public that will emerge when practical decarbonization begins to strike ordinary people, and the toe-curling stupidity of the green fantasy is revealed.
In their fantasy, energy from the sun and wind is free, clean, and abundant. In the real world, it is not. Weather is intermittent. And its intermittency demands additional solar panels and windmills (i.e., additional megawatts [MW] of power), and it demands batteries (i.e., megawatt-hours [MWh] of storage). To achieve reliability, even basic reliability, the quantities needed are enormous. Intermittency is insatiable.
A conventional 1,000 MW gas (or coal) fired power plant is designed to deliver 1,000 MW of power to the electrical grid 24 hours per day (24,000 MWh), every day of the year. A 1,000 MW solar farm delivers 1,000 MW of electricity only when the sun is out. On a sunny day, it would generate 1,000 MW for eight hours, at most; for the remaining 16 hours, it would generate 0 MWs. To replace the 1,000 MW gas fired power plant, you would need a 3,000 MW solar farm plus a 16,000 MWh battery farm.
In the green fantasy, energy from the sun and wind is free, clean, and abundant. In the real world, it is not.
Additional panels and batteries are required to provide electrical power during cloudy days, especially consecutive cloudy days, especially in winter. The quantity needed is a function of the duration of cloudiness and the duration of battery charging time, once sunny days return. For example, if you want to have electricity through five consecutive days of cloudiness and want to recharge the batteries in the two days that follow, then you will need a 10,500 MW solar farm and a 120,000 MWh battery farm. If, as is standard practice, battery charging operates between 80% and 20% (as opposed to 100% and 0%), a 200,000 MWh battery farm is needed.
Therefore, eliminating a 1,000 MW natural gas fired power plant is not a matter of simply plopping down a 1,000 MW solar farm in its place. You must plop down a 10,500 MW solar farm — a monstrous, sprawling array of solar panels that must provide more than ten times the capacity of its gas fired counterpart. And right beside it, you must also plop down a giant 200,000 MWh battery farm.
The above example is based on the calculations of David Wojick, from his article called “Unreliability Makes Solar Power Impossibly Expensive.” He estimated the cost for a “stand alone solar capacity [10,500 MW] to meet the 5 dark cloudy days case” to be a staggering $60 billion. In “‘More Focus On The Impossible Costs Of A Fully Wind/Solar/Battery Energy System,” Francis Menton discusses New York state’s foray into green fantasy. The details of how New York will transition from its existing energy system to “net zero” emissions is spelled out in a December 2021 document entitled the “Scoping Plan.” Created by bureaucrats of “breathtaking incompetence,” it focuses on power generation (MW), while ignoring energy storage (MWh). Says Menton, “in nearly 1000 pages of heft, [the Scoping Plan] never even gets to the point of recognizing that the MWH (as opposed to MW) is the key unit that must be considered to assess issues of cost and feasibility.”
If you are shocked by this amount, brace yourself. It will be much greater.
According to Menton, the cost to build a solar replacement of a 1,000 MW conventional power plant capable of operating through a single bad month of New York winter is $63.7 billion. Because New York state needs 60,000 MW, the total replacement cost would be $3.83 trillion. Notes Menton, “The annual GDP of New York State is approximately $1.75 trillion.” In his report, “The Cost of Net Zero Electrification of the U.S.A.,” Ken Gregory performed a similar analysis, but for nationwide decarbonization. Incorporating the battery storage requirements to “account for seasonal, daily and hourly changes of wind and solar output,” Mr. Gregory estimated the cost for the US to achieve net zero emissions with solar and wind energy to be $433 trillion.
If you are shocked by this amount, brace yourself. It will be much greater. Mr. Gregory’s estimate only includes the 48 contiguous states. And it does not include maintenance, upgrade, and recycling costs. Moreover, he did not include the energy-intensive, environmentally ruinous cost of excavating the so-called energy transition minerals (ETMs) — lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite, copper, and aluminum, to name a few — that are required to fabricate windmills, solar panels, and batteries (e.g., a single 1,000 pound EV battery requires the extraction and processing of 500,000 pounds of Mother Earth’s precious minerals).
And then there is the cost of irony. Despite climate cult promises to banish fossil fuels, the old gas fired plant may remain after all. Just as people worry about the duration of floods and droughts, they will come to worry about the duration of cloudiness. What if, instead of five days, ten consecutive days of cloudiness occur? In 2020, Minnesota set a record for “the least amount of solar radiation for a January.” There were 18 days of cloudiness; only six were sunny. If given the chance, most residents of northern US states would prefer to keep the old reliable gas fired power plant — fully fueled and at the ready, to avoid freezing to death on Day 6.
We have been incessantly told that solar and wind technology is steadily improving; the prices of solar panels and windmills are plummeting; renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels. But always missing from these Pollyannaish claims is the bottom line cost to decarbonize the entire US. Is it $25 trillion, perhaps America’s share of the $100 trillion Paris climate scheme? Or is it more than $433 trillion, the cost when weather intermittency is accounted for? In particular, what is the Biden climate team’s cost estimate for its climate change remedy? And why does that remedy do nothing to reduce the temperature? Where is the study that establishes the feasibility, let alone the reliability, of a solar and wind power grid? What were the technical reasons for rejecting nuclear power as part of the solution? What is the point of any of this, if China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa, South America, etc. (comprising the vast majority of the world’s population) continue their accelerating consumption of all the coal, gas, and oil (to say nothing of wood and cow dung) that they can get their hands on?
Just as people worry about the duration of floods and droughts, they will come to worry about the duration of cloudiness.
Green zealots, not Vladimir Putin, caused the current energy crisis. Putin is merely a beneficiary. During the Trump administration, America became energy independent; inflation hovered at 2%; Mr. Putin received less than $50 a barrel for his oil. Today, after a year of Mr. Biden’s attack on fossil fuel, America is producing 2 million barrels per day less than when Mr. Trump was president; inflation is at 7.9%, and climbing; Mr. Putin receives well over $110 a barrel for his oil. China, India, Pakistan, etc. are happy to pay. At $110 a barrel, it is still cheaper than solar and wind. Putin uses the windfall to purchase weapons — more than twice as many as during the Trump administration.
Currently, the brunt of imbecilic green projects is hitting Europe, as it learns, the hard way, that green energy is a woefully inadequate substitute for the coal mines it has closed, the nuclear plants it has decommissioned, and the fracking it has banned. In his article “The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin,” Michael Shellenberger writes, “These countries are in the grips of a delusional ideology that makes them incapable of understanding the hard realities of energy production. Green ideology insists we don’t need nuclear and that we don’t need fracking. It insists that it’s just a matter of will and money to switch to all-renewables — and fast.” As a result, the European Union’s consumption of Russian natural gas has grown from 30% in 2016 to 47% today — starkly demonstrating that Europe cannot run its economy on solar panels and windmills. Moronic green fantasies have made Europe increasingly dependent on Russia. In the war in Ukraine, NATO has no leverage over Mr. Putin. It is the other way around.
Mr. Biden wants to make America dumber than Europe — and fast. He thinks that, with enough will and money, his plan will work — a plan that is likely to cost more that $500 trillion, that will not decrease the global temperature, and that, every winter, will subject northern America to intermittent frostbite and the occasional polar vortex.