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Green Energy: Facts vs Fiction

Since taking office, the Biden Administration has shut down the construction of oil pipelines, suspended oil and natural gas leases, and increased environmental regulations on oil and gas exploration.

Prior to Biden taking office, America became energy independent for the first time in 70 years. In a short two years, President Biden’s policies have ended our energy independence and sent him begging to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela for energy. His misguided policies also caused him to drain America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to prevent gas prices from skyrocketing out of control before the 2022 election.

The Biden Administration also wants half of all cars sold in America to be electric by 2030. California is mandating that all cars sold in the state be electric by 2035. As many as 17 other states could follow California’s lead.

It was recently disclosed that the Biden administration is contemplating banning gas ovens. San Francisco and New York City have already issued moratoriums on new natural gas hookups. Governor Hochul (D-NY) is also proposing to eliminate gas furnaces statewide. Never mind that the increased use of natural gas has resulted in a dramatic decrease in CO2 emissions in the U.S. over the last 20 years. According to the left, natural gas is just another “fossil fuel” that must be banished.

Europe is even further along in the process of eliminating reliable energy. Germany, for example, spent the last couple of decades foolishly shutting down their coal and nuclear plants in favor of wind power. They were counting on large supplies of natural gas from Russia to supplement the energy they get from their wind turbines. But this never materialized due to the politics surrounding the Ukraine war. Today, Germans who are facing a long, cold winter are resorting to burning wood to heat their homes.

Why is the Biden administration, other Democrat politicians, and much of Europe taking these actions? There are several stated reasons, but the primary one is to fight “climate change”, which they claim is primarily caused by human activity.

There is very little doubt that the climate is changing. But there are serious and well-reasoned scientific objections to the belief that human activity is the primary cause, and that climate change will bring about the apocalyptic consequences that are being predicted by some.

The best scientific estimate is that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Throughout its history, the earth’s climate has constantly changed. At different points, the earth has been a big snowball and a tropical hothouse.

Just 20,000 years ago, much of North America, Europe, and Siberia were buried under the ice that was upwards of two miles deep. Where did the ice go? The earth got warmer, so the ice melted. The warming wasn’t caused by SUV’s, coal-fired electrical plants, and gas stoves. We know this because those things didn’t exist.

Unfortunately, the establishment blocks the facts and smears the integrity of the people who dare to question climate orthodoxy. We are told that we cannot question the “experts”. They know best. But no one is an expert in the future.

History is littered with “experts” who made predictions about the future that never came to pass. Nowhere is this truer than in the “green” community, which has made one proclamation after another over the last 50 years about food scarcity, the imminent depletion of oil, looming environmental catastrophe, and more — few, if any of whichever materialized.

The politicians never tell us how much new electricity will be needed to replace the internal combustion engine, gas ovens, gas furnaces, and everything else they want to ban. So, let’s have a look ourselves.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. generates about 4.41 trillion kWh of electricity. 40% of that is generated from natural gas, 20% from nuclear, 19% from coal, 7.3% from dams, 1.4% from biomass, 1% from petroleum, and 0.4% from geothermal. Only 8.4% comes from wind and 2.3% from solar. Although the percentage of power generated by wind and solar has increased over the last few years, our consumption of fossil fuels has grown as well.

Over the next few decades, worldwide demand for electrical power is expected to soar. Consider the following:

  • Elon Musk has stated that the world must double its electric power generation to accommodate the electrification of the transportation system.

  • Today, over one billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity. As they are lifted from poverty, more electricity will have to be generated to accommodate them.

  • The worldwide population is also expected to grow from 7.5 billion people today to nearly 9 billion people by the end of the century, resulting in an increased demand for electricity.

  • In addition, technological innovation will undoubtedly result in more demand for electricity. Today, the enormous amounts of electricity consumed by mobile phones, consumer electronics, cloud data centers, Bitcoin mining operations, and other technologies could not have been predicted a decade ago. Over the next couple of decades, tens of billions of new IoT devices, 6G mobile networks, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and more will bring about new, large, and unforeseen demands for electricity.

Nathan Myhrvold, who is the CEO of Intellectual Ventures and former Microsoft Chief of Technology Officer predicts that by the end of the century, the world will have to generate five to six times the amount of electricity than is generated today. As he points out, this cannot be done without a substantial investment in nuclear power. Unfortunately, the U.S. and much of Europe is either openly hostile to or ambivalent about the use of nuclear energy.

Generating electricity from solar and wind is unreliable. Electricity can’t be generated from solar cells at night or when it’s cloudy. Wind turbines don’t generate electricity when it’s not windy. Today, the small amount of electricity that is generated by solar and wind is backed up by natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. Putting more solar and wind on the grid will necessitate more sources of reliable backup power to avoid rolling blackouts. Myhrvold is right — nuclear power is the only way right now to do this in a “green” way. But it will take decades to bring the nuclear capacity online just to electrify the transportation system.

Energy conservation may help at the margins, but it won’t stem the need to generate significantly more electrical power as we electrify transportation, help people out of poverty, support a growing population, and facilitate technological innovation.

What about Norway, which gets almost all its energy from renewable sources? Don’t they prove that green energy really works? No, they don’t. Over 99% of Norway’s green energy is hydroelectric, which is generated by dams. The last dam built in the United States was the New Melones Reservoir in California. It was completed 42 years ago. In fact, the U.S. government has been removing dams in America. Yes, there is a new dam being planned to help California store water for droughts. We’ll see if it ever gets past government regulations, and environmental lawsuits, and is actually built. Also, Norway’s population is

only 5 million people, and most of them live in densely packed cities. Their environment is very different than the United States which has 330 million people, most of whom live in single-family homes in the suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Even if it was allowed, we couldn’t build enough dams to supply the energy American needs.

The current generation of electric cars also has too many issues to reliably electrify the transportation system. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive. They take too long to charge. Every charging cycle reduces the amount of energy the battery can hold. They don’t work well in colder temperatures. They tend to catch fire if they are overcharged, or damaged, and when they age. The raw materials needed for lithium-ion batteries are controlled by China in places like The Congo and Afghanistan. Cobalt and lithium mining operations use children under horrific working conditions. And disposing of the batteries poses serious environmental concerns.

There is a technology on the horizon known as solid-state batteries that may eventually improve the situation. Solid-state batteries promise faster charging times (minutes, not hours), higher power densities, better range, longer lifetimes, and increased safety than lithium-ion batteries. They may also be able to operate in colder temperatures. But to date, no one has demonstrated a solid-state battery that can power a car, let alone one that can be mass-produced.

Another potential technology is hydrogen fuel cells. Fuel cells produce electricity through a chemical reaction when hydrogen and oxygen are combined. Hydrogen is the most abundant molecule in the universe. A fuel cell car can be refueled in about the same amount of time as today’s gasoline cars. And the only emission from a fuel cell is water vapor. Hydrogen can also be stored and transported like gasoline. Fuel cells have been around for over 100 years. They were used by the Apollo spacecraft to take us to the moon. Unfortunately, fuel cells have issues too.

Hydrogen doesn’t exist by itself on earth. It must be extracted from something. The easiest way to get hydrogen is to extract it from natural gas. Unfortunately, the process of doing so releases more CO2 than burning natural gas. Hydrogen can also be split from water, but the process is costly and energy inefficient. There are also several issues with the fuel cells themselves, most notably that they require platinum, which is rare and expensive.

Over the last fuel years, there have been numerous breakthroughs in efficiently extracting hydrogen from water and reducing the amount of platinum that the fuel cells need. But fuel cells still have hurdles to overcome to be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine.

Another challenge for fuel cells looms large. Consumers are not likely to buy fuel cell cars without a substantial nationwide refueling network. And businesses won’t be inclined to invest in refueling stations unless consumers are buying fuel-cell cars. This “chicken and egg” problem will be a difficult obstacle to overcome.

None of the current issues means that the electrification of transportation isn’t a good thing or even inevitable. I have looked at this for a long while and have concluded that the future of transportation is almost certainly electrification. Whether that means solid-state batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, or something else remains to be seen.

North Carolina is also becoming a “green” transportation technology hub with the new Toyota battery factory in the Triad and the upcoming VinFast electric car plant in Chatham County. It’s great that the private sector is investing and innovating. Thanks to the pro-business policies of the GOP state legislature, businesses are picking North Carolina to do so.

But it’s an enormous mistake for politicians to try to accelerate the process. The technology is not ready for mass adoption, and the economics don’t yet work. The market should be allowed to progress at the pace the technologies and economics allow. Unfortunately, and to our detriment, the politicians aren’t likely to listen. And as always, the “help” the politicians provide will turn out to be a hindrance.

About Eric Blankenburg

Eric is a husband, father of four, technology guy, U.S. Air Force veteran, and left coast refugee. He is a lifelong conservative and “disgruntled” Republican, who has sought ways to help the GOP live up to its values. When Eric is not working or spending time with his family, he likes to write about a variety of current issues. Eric is a regular writer for Liberty First Grassroots (LFG).

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