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Obama Is Wrong; Alternative Energy is Not an Alternative

 By Dr. Tim Ball  Monday, June 21, 2010

Obama is using the oil spill in the Gulf as an emotional lever to push his cap and trade policy. The spill is a disaster, but exploiting it is truly despicable. It is made far worse when the alternative energies solutions don’t work. Increased costs will damage the economy and negatively impact the people he claims to represent. We’re in this predicament because of exploitation by politicians and environmental groups who deliberately ignore scientific evidence and corruption in climate science. Options were dramatically reduced by campaigns of fear against nuclear power creating legislation so that it now takes up to 14 years to construct a nuclear power plant.

Obama’s Cap and Trade will increase the cost of oil, coal and natural gas sufficient to make the US economy uncompetitive. This will reduce the possibility of paying off the massive debt he has incurred.

Capabilities of alternative energies were misrepresented and real costs grossly distorted by subsidies. Politicians added political canards such as US self-sufficiency, when all solutions are available in-house. Wikipedia says, “alternative energy is an umbrella term that refers to any source of useable energy intended to replace fuel sources without the undesired consequences of the replaced fuels.” If this were true what people consider alternative energies would qualify as “replaced fuels.” It is a cute academic definition, but the reality is the only fuels considered “undesirable” are those that produce CO2. This is because of the false work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). People forget their predictions of future temperatures are based on continued and increasing demand for electricity – business as usual. They cannot anticipate technological innovations. For example, though expensive at present, Light Emitting Diode (LED) white light will dramatically reduce power requirements.

Some define renewable energies as the only acceptable alternative energies, but they have severe limitations. The focus is diverted away from the real power production problems and potential resolutions. Obama cleverly concedes they’re not a short-term solution, but ignores the fact they’re not a long-term solution either.  Major energies touted are wind and solar, but in 2007 they provided only 6 percent of alternative US production, which is just 7 percent of total US production (Figure 1). Percentages have changed slightly but are still insignificant and limitations continue.


Figure 1: Breakdown of US energy production.

Except for petroleum to drive vehicles the common denominator of any energy source is to produce electricity. The overarching need is for a continuous supply of energy. Solar and wind are not continuous, so they must have backup sources instantly available and coal, oil, or nuclear are the only options. Countries that have attempted wind power experience an increase in CO2 production. An article titled “Wind power is a complete disaster” reports the German experience. “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.

Wind power is a complete disaster

Denmark has the highest percentage of wind power and their experience is telling. As the National Post article reports, “Its electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to Ontario’s current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” Aase Madsen , the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it “a terribly expensive disaster.” Because the wind can drop or surge suddenly it puts stress that can overload the grid so wind power is generally limited to 12 percent of the total supply. Other problems include the surge demand placed on the grid when the wind drops off, or the addition of surplus power when the electrical demand drops and wind power is still being added. A report from Britain tells of wind farms being paid to shut down turbines to prevent this problem.

These are economic realities, but add in the number of birds killed, the blight on the landscape, and the cost of transmission from remote locations and it is not an alternative.

Solar power is no better

Solar power is no better. Spain has paid the price and has moved to stop the bleeding. “Spain is lancing an 18 billion-euro ($24 billion) investment bubble in solar energy that has boosted public liabilities choking off new projects as it works to cut power prices and insulate itself from Greece’s debt crisis.”

Loss of supply is slightly more predictable because of known hours of daylight. However, these are less than half the day in winter for most of the world. The unknown factor is cloud cover. You reduce this by going to desert regions but then there is wind blown sand damage, as well as vast arrays despoiling landscapes and ecologies.

Even modest usages of biodiesel would consume almost all cropland in some countries in Europe!

We’ve already experienced limitations of biofuels triggered by government subsidies. In that case it was simply US agricultural land diverted. As one review notes, “Switching to biodiesel on a large scale requires considerable use of our arable area. Even modest usages of biodiesel would consume almost all cropland in some countries in Europe!”

More CO2 and nitrogen oxides are produced than from fossil fuels, but they divert from this reality by presenting a net figure achieved by subtracting CO2 used to grow the plant. Biodiesel has lower fuel efficiency than petrodiesel. Low temperatures are a serious limit for all diesels but worse for biodiesels.

Geothermal has potential but is limited in location and usually far from where it is needed. The same is true for hydroelectric and tidal power. If Obama really wants to solve the energy problems he should offer a prize for a method of reducing line loss, and another for a method to effectively store electricity.

Obama’s exploitation of the Gulf oil spill is a shameless effort to push Cap and Trade

Obama’s exploitation of the Gulf oil spill is a shameless effort to push Cap and Trade, a policy that will bring the US economy to its knees and give the government control over all aspects of people’s lives. He claims the spill is proof of the need to shift to alternative energies because they do not produce CO2. He acknowledges that alternative energies cannot replace traditional energies in the short-term, but he ignores the fact that they cannot replace them in the long-term either. Like all his other actions, such as massively increasing the debt, creating jobs by expanding government, introducing legislation to increase the role and power of bureaucracies to bypass the elected representatives, have all been tried and failed. The pattern seems to support the argument that alls his actions are designed to cripple the US economy. A political motive is the only explanation for such illogic.

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Jonah Goldberg

Oil: The Real Green Fuel
It’s counterintuitive, but oil is greener than “green” fuels, and the oil spill doesn’t change that fact.

A rolling “dead zone” off the Gulf of Mexico is killing sea life and destroying livelihoods. Recent estimates put the blob at nearly the size of New Jersey

Alas, I’m not talking about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As terrible as that catastrophe is, such accidents have occurred in U.S. waters only about once every 40 years (and globally about once every 20 years). I’m talking about the dead zone largely caused by fertilizer runoff from American farms along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river basins. Such pollutants cause huge algae plumes that result in oxygen starvation in the Gulf’s richest waters, near the delta.

Because the dead zone is an annual occurrence, there’s no media feeding frenzy over it, even though the average annual size of these hypoxic zones has been about 6,600 square miles over the last five years, and they are driven by bipartisan federal agriculture, trade, and energy policies.

Indeed, as Steven Hayward notes in the current Weekly Standard, if policymakers continue to pursue biofuels in response to the current anti-fossil-fuel craze, these dead zones will get a lot bigger every year. A 2008 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that adhering to corn-based ethanol targets will increase the size of the dead zone by as much as 34 percent.

Of course, that’s just one of the headaches “independence” from oil and coal would bring. If we stop drilling offshore, we could lose up to $1 trillion in economic benefits, according to economist Peter Passell. And, absent the utopian dream of oil-free living, every barrel we don’t produce at home, we buy overseas. That sends dollars to bad regimes (though more to Canada and Mexico). It may also increase the chances of disaster, because tanker accidents are more common than rig accidents.

But wait a minute — isn’t that precisely why we’re investing in “renewables,” to free ourselves from this vicious petro-cycle? Don’t the Billy Sundays of the Church of Green promise that they are the path to salvation?

This is infuriating and dangerous nonsense, as Matt Ridley demonstrates in his mesmerizing new book, The Rational Optimist. Let’s start with biofuels. Ethanol production steals precious land to produce inefficient fuel inefficiently (making food more scarce and expensive for the poor). If all of our transport fuel came from biofuel, we would need 30 percent more land than all of the existing food-growing farmland we have today.

In Brazil and Malaysia, biofuels are more economically viable (thanks in part to really cheap labor), but at the insane price of losing rainforest while failing to reduce the CO2 emissions that allegedly justify ethanol in the first place. According to Ridley, the Nature Conservancy’s Joseph Fargione estimates rainforest clear-cutting for biofuels releases 17 to 420 times more CO2 than it offsets by displacing petroleum or coal.

As for wind and solar, even if such technologies were wildly more successful than they have been, so what? You could quintuple and then quintuple again the output of wind and solar and it wouldn’t reduce our dependence on oil. Why? Because we use oil for transportation, not for electricity. We would offset coal, but again at an enormous price. If we tried to meet the average amount of energy typically used in America, we would need wind farms the size of Kazakhstan or solar panels the size of Spain.

If you remove the argument over climate change from the equation (as even European governments are starting to do), one thing becomes incandescently clear: Fossil fuels have been one of the great boons both to humanity and the environment, allowing forests to regrow (now that we don’t use wood for heating fuel or grow fuel for horses anymore) and liberating billions from backbreaking toil. The great and permanent shortage is usable surface land and fresh water. The more land we use to produce energy, the less we have for vulnerable species, watersheds, agriculture, recreation, etc.

“If you like wilderness, as I do,” Ridley writes, “the last thing you want is to go back to the medieval habit of using the landscape surrounding us to make power.”

The calamity in the Gulf is heartrending and tragic. A thorough review of government oversight and industry safety procedures is more than warranted. But as counterintuitive as it may be to say so, oil is a green fuel, while “green” fuels aren’t. And this spill doesn’t change that fact.

 



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