‘Renewables are incapable of replacing hydrocarbons at scale’

This isn’t news to Locker Room readers (some recent examples), but I’m glad to read this in The Hill this week from Kathleen Hartnett White.

Here’s a brief snippet, with the understanding that there is plenty more where this comes from:

Policymakers intent on imposing a swift end to the era of fossil fuels, such as President Obama and Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are either unaware or indifferent to the colossal scale, futility and economic risks of a forced transition from energy-dense fossil fuels to the relatively diluted renewable energy sources (wind, solar and biomass). …

For a dose of reality, consider master energy number-cruncher Vaclav Smil’s estimate of a cost approaching $2.5 trillion to build enough new wind and solar facilities in the United States to replace the 1,100 gigawatt (GW) generating capacity of our fossil-fueled electric system. And couple that colossal sum with another $2 trillion in capital assets now imbedded in fossil-fueled generating hardware and related infrastructure. With a national debt of $19 trillion that is increasing $2 trillion a year, an anemic economy and a shrinking middle class, how can taxpayers afford to subsidize such wasteful projects?

The viability of plans to power our energy-intensive society exclusively with renewables is defied by simple arithmetic and basic physical laws.…

Simple arithmetic and basic physics. Where here we heard that before? Perhaps on the Locker Room in posts entitled “Three enemies of wind and solar: nature, economics, and simple math” and “The fourth enemy of renewable energy: physics.”

Yet, policies to avoid dangerous global warming all assume that a mass deployment of renewable energies can replace fossil fuels and still provide abundant, affordable and diverse energy services on which modern societies are utterly dependent. The climate scientists and policy wonks who developed these energy plans remain oblivious to what is increasingly obvious to the engineers who make such things work. As the engineers tasked by Google to develop a realistic, affordable plan to decarbonize concluded: Renewables are a false hope that simply won’t work.

Michael Kelly, Prince Philip Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University and member of Britain’s Royal Society, notes: “If the climate scientist community was to learn that engineering will not be able to 80% mitigate CO2 emissions by 2050 without inflicting massive harm on the global economy and mankind in general, it might improve the quality of the public debate.”

Read on, Lizzy. Other highlights to look for:

  • Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars used over decades to raise the global share of energy contributed by wind and solar just over half a percentage point (from 0.45 percent to 1 percent)
  • Wind and solar can’t even call themselves “zero-carbon” because of the steel and concrete they require dwarfs that used by natural gas-fired combined-cycle plants
  • Plus it takes multiple wind and solar plants to replace one traditional plant, and it doesn’t even do that because they need traditional plants for backup generation when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine or is clouded over (“For this reason, intermittent renewables are parasitic on back-up power from reliable fossil fuels — a hidden but highly expensive inefficiency”)

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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