Green Energy Delusions

 

California just announced their plans to eliminate gas-powered cars. By 2035, they will make it illegal to sell a gas-powered car in the state of California. As usual, California is leading the nation in delusional thinking.

This is not just my opinion. James Freeman, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says, “The government of California can issue as many proclamations and prohibitions as it wants against gasoline-powered vehicles. No doubt the Biden administration will enjoy the ocean of tax dollars now earmarked for low-intensity energy sources. But reality will stubbornly remain.”

His source of information for this statement is a new report about to be released from the Manhattan Institute. Mark Mills takes on the “dangerous delusion” of a global energy transition that eliminates the use of fossil fuels. Surveying energy markets and public policy around the world, Mr. Mills asks readers to “consider that years of hypertrophied rhetoric and trillions of dollars of spending and subsidies on a transition have not significantly changed the energy landscape.”

He notes: “Civilization still depends on hydrocarbons for 84% of all energy, a mere two percentage points lower than two decades ago. Solar and wind technologies today supply barely 5% of global energy. Electric vehicles still offset less than 0.5% of world oil demand.”

To make matters worse, the demand for energy is growing exponentially. Mills explains: “One can begin with a reality that cannot be blinked away: energy is needed for everything that is fabricated, grown, operated, or moved. . . digital devices and hardware – the most complex products every produced at scale – require, on average, about 1,000 times more energy to fabricate, pound for pound, than the products that dominated the 20th century. It takes nearly as much energy to make one smartphone as it does one refrigerator, even though the latter weights 1,000 times more. The world produces nearly 10 times more smartphones a year then refrigerators. Thus, the global fabrication of smartphones now uses 15% as much energy as does the entire automotive industry, even though a car weighs 10,000 times more than a smartphone. The global Cloud, society’s newest and biggest infrastructure, uses twice as much electricity as the entire nation of Japan. And then, of course, there are all the other common, vital needs for energy, from heating and cooling homes to producing food and delivering freight.”

“Advocates of a carbon-free world underestimate not only how much energy the world already uses, but how much more energy the world will yet demand. . . In America, there are nearly as many vehicles as people, while in most of the world, fewer than 1 in 20 people have a car. More than 80% of the world population has yet to take a single flight.”

Perhaps you’re under the delusion that wind and solar power will someday replace fossil fuels. Maybe you argue they have made huge strides forward in their competitiveness with fossil fuels. Mr. Mills begs to differ: “Claims that wind, solar, and electric vehicles have reached cost parity with traditional energy sources or modes of transportation are not based on evidence. Even before the latest period of rising energy prices, Germany and Britain – both further down the grid transition path than the U.S. – have seen average electricity rates rise 60 – 110% over the past two decades. The same pattern is visible in Australia and Canada. It’s also apparent in U.S. states and regions where mandates have resulted in grids with a higher share of wind/solar energy.”

Government has tried to hide the real cost of this energy grid transition with taxpayer-funded subsidies that were intended to make alternative energy cheaper. Added up over the past two decades, the cumulative subsidies across the world for biofuels, wind, and solar approach about $5 trillion. What has that $5 trillion produced? Only about 5% of global energy needs.

There is also the energy storage issue to consider. Unless we can store the energy produced by wind and solar, we are always vulnerable to periods of brown-outs and black-outs when energy demand is high. Mills goes on: “Storing electricity itself – the output from solar/wind machines – remains extremely expensive despite the vaunted battery revolution. Lithium batteries a Nobel-winning invention, are some 400% better than lead-acid batteries in terms of energy stored per unit of weight (which is critical for vehicles). And the costs for lithium batteries have declined more than 10-fold in the past two decades. Even so, it costs at least $30 to store the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil using lithium batteries. That alone explains why, regardless of mandates and subsidies, batteries aren’t a solution at grid scales for days, never mind weeks, of storage.”

There is a national security issue at stake here beyond the needs of addressing climate change. While countries like the U.S., Great Britain, and Germany are busy trying to lower their carbon footprints, hostile regimes in China, Russia, and Iran are ignoring the issue and capitalizing on the delusions of the West to increase defense spending and fossil fuel profits. While we shut down coal plants and stop drilling for oil, these countries are building new coal plants and drilling deeper for oil reserves. Not only will this negate any progress we may make in eliminating carbon emissions, it will make us more vulnerable to these hostile regimes. We need only look at what’s happening right now in Ukraine to see the real price of our green energy delusions.

In medicine, we have a phrase that describes this situation: The cure is worse than the disease.”

 

Author’s note: Have a different opinion? Let me know your thoughts.

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