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brenthutch

Green new deal equals magical thinking

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REPORT: GREEN ENERGY ECONOMY IS SIMPLY ‘IMPOSSIBLE’

  • Date: 26/03/19
  •  
  • Mark P. Mills, Manhattan Institute

Hydrocarbons—oil, natural gas, and coal—are the world’s principal energy resource today and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, meanwhile, constitute a small source of energy, and physics dictates that they will remain so. Meanwhile, there is simply no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.”

Screenshot-2019-03-26-15.50.57-783x1024.

A movement has been growing for decades to replace hydrocarbons, which collectively supply 84% of the world’s energy. It began with the fear that we were running out of oil. That fear has since migrated to the belief that, because of climate change and other environmental concerns, society can no longer tolerate burning oil, natural gas, and coal—all of which have turned out to be abundant.

So far, wind, solar, and batteries—the favored alternatives to hydrocarbons—provide about 2% of the world’s energy and 3% of America’s. Nonetheless, a bold new claim has gained popularity: that we’re on the cusp of a tech-driven energy revolution that not only can, but inevitably will, rapidly replace all hydrocarbons.

This “new energy economy” rests on the belief—a centerpiece of the Green New Deal and other similar proposals both here and in Europe—that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage are undergoing the kind of disruption experienced in computing and communications, dramatically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. But this core analogy glosses over profound differences, grounded in physics, between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.

In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

This paper highlights the physics of energy to illustrate why there is no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.”

Among the reasons:

* Scientists have yet to discover, and entrepreneurs have yet to invent, anything as remarkable as hydrocarbons in terms of the combination of low-cost, high-energy density, stability, safety, and portability. In practical terms, this means that spending $1 million on utility-scale wind turbines, or solar panels will each, over 30 years of operation, produce about 50 million kilowatt-hours (kWh)—while an equivalent $1 million spent on a shale rig produces enough natural gas over 30 years to generate over 300 million kWh.

* Solar technologies have improved greatly and will continue to become cheaper and more efficient. But the era of 10-fold gains is over. The physics boundary for silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, the Shockley-Queisser Limit, is a maximum conversion of 34% of photons into electrons; the best commercial PV technology today exceeds 26%.

* Wind power technology has also improved greatly, but here, too, no 10-fold gains are left. The physics boundary for a wind turbine, the Betz Limit, is a maximum capture of 60% of kinetic energy in moving air; commercial turbines today exceed 40%.

* The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand. Meanwhile, 50–100 pounds of materials are mined, moved, and processed for every pound of battery produced.

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(edited)

That's basically a fluff piece that equates the pipe dreams of the Green New Deal with attempts to curb emmisions.  It falls short, written by a Denier For Hire.

Please link the report it references.

Edited by DJL

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20 minutes ago, DJL said:

That's basically a fluff piece that equates the pipe dreams of the Green New Deal with attempts to curb emmisions.  It falls short, written by a Denier For Hire.

So things like the Shockley-Queisser limit, the Betz limit mathematics and the laws of thermodynamics don't exist?  That IS magical thinking.  I would like Kallend to join in and help flesh out some of this.  Seriously.

Edited by brenthutch

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5 minutes ago, brenthutch said:

So things like the Shockley-Queisser limit, the Betz limit and the laws of thermodynamics don't exist?  That IS magical thinking.

Yes, those are very fancy words, learned them in undergrad mechanical engineering.  It's easier to just say things like that a windmill only extracts about 15%-40% of the energy from the wind but I understand how lingo appeals to people.  There's a limit to all types of energy production and that includes global scale of  room, distribution and materials.  BTW, the same applies to the fossil fuel industry but he doesn't seem to touch on that. We're going to rely more on nuke when we realize that we can't live under a blanket of solar panels but anyway for real world results look at the countries/cities/states that are making giant strides in reducing renewables.  I'll let that inevitability take the conversation from here, sorry, it'll take a decade or two for that to play out.

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When you said  "but anyway for real world results look at the countries/cities/states that are making giant strides in reducing renewables." I assume you meant to say fossil fuels instead of renewables.  Let's take a look at what that looks like in the real world.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckdevore/2018/12/17/texas-taxpayers-pay-for-political-virtue-signaling-with-costly-renewable-energy/

 

 

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Meanwhile in the real world (as opposed to the land of denial):

 

2019-01-03: Renewables overtake coal as Germany's main energy source

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-power-renewables/renewables-overtake-coal-as-germanys-main-energy-source-idUSKCN1OX0U2

 

2018-12-14: For the first time, a major US utility has committed to 100% clean energy

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/12/5/18126920/xcel-energy-100-percent-clean-carbon-free

"So what pushed the company’s ambition so much higher?

First, renewables are getting really cheap. In its recent solicitations, Xcel has gotten more bids for renewables, with more variety, for much cheaper. Wind and solar plants paired with storage are bidding in cheaper than the ongoing operating costs of existing coal plants. Renewables are even giving natural gas a run for its money."

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12 hours ago, brenthutch said:

When you said  "but anyway for real world results look at the countries/cities/states that are making giant strides in reducing renewables." I assume you meant to say fossil fuels instead of renewables.  Let's take a look at what that looks like in the real world.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckdevore/2018/12/17/texas-taxpayers-pay-for-political-virtue-signaling-with-costly-renewable-energy/

Wups.  Yes, meant to say fossil fuels.  Again, I'm not really interested in debating a "what may come" issue and I'm sure that there will be cities, states and countries that do it wrong and lose out so that's why I say that we should put a pin in this for about 20 years while we learn from the success stories rather than point at the anecdotal failures or anecdotal wins.

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It not a matter of what may come, it's a matter of what is right here, right now.  Everywhere wind and solar have been widely adapted, electricity prices have risen significantly.  Germany 51% from 2006-2016, California 24% from 2011-2017, Denmark 100% since 1995 (when they began to shift to wind).  People are suffering now.

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/369386-germany-shows-how-shifting-to-renewable-energy-can-backfire

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17 hours ago, brenthutch said:

So things like the Shockley-Queisser limit, the Betz limit mathematics and the laws of thermodynamics don't exist?  That IS magical thinking.  I would like Kallend to join in and help flesh out some of this.  Seriously.

Those all are valid.  What do you think they prevent?

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17 hours ago, brenthutch said:

 

* Scientists have yet to discover, and entrepreneurs have yet to invent, anything as remarkable as hydrocarbons in terms of the combination of low-cost, high-energy density, stability, safety, and portability. In practical terms, this means that spending $1 million on utility-scale wind turbines, or solar panels will each, over 30 years of operation, produce about 50 million kilowatt-hours (kWh)—while an equivalent $1 million spent on a shale rig produces enough natural gas over 30 years to generate over 300 million kWh.

OK, so this is saying that ratio is 6:1 right now - and dropping.  It would be silly to think that oil/gas will get cheaper; indeed, the reason we have more access to it now is that rising oil prices have paid for the higher extraction costs of tight oil.  It would also be foolish to assume that solar/wind prices will go up, since beyond politically correct forces (i.e. tariffs) they have been dropping steadily.  Today, ,the most expensive parts of a solar panel is the glass and the aluminum, not the cells themselves.

Quote

Solar technologies have improved greatly and will continue to become cheaper and more efficient. But the era of 10-fold gains is over. The physics boundary for silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, the Shockley-Queisser Limit, is a maximum conversion of 34% of photons into electrons; the best commercial PV technology today exceeds 26%.

The S-Q limit is for single junction cells.  Google tandem perovskite cells.

But in any case, we don't have to make 10 fold gains any more.  The article claims that we only have to improve by a factor of 6.  Even today, solar and wind are cheaper than coal.

Quote

* Wind power technology has also improved greatly, but here, too, no 10-fold gains are left. The physics boundary for a wind turbine, the Betz Limit, is a maximum capture of 60% of kinetic energy in moving air; commercial turbines today exceed 40%.

?? We have NEVER improved 10 fold in efficiency. We have improved in size, electrical conversion and ease of construction. And again, on shore wind is already cheaper than coal.

Quote

* The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand. Meanwhile, 50–100 pounds of materials are mined, moved, and processed for every pound of battery produced.

Or 100 gigafactories running for 10 years.  Seems a lot more reasonable.  And given that we have 135 megarefineries right now, 100 gigafactories seems quite doable.

Re: weight of materials.  Sounds similar to how many tons of materials have to be mined, moved and processed to produce a ton of coal.

 

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3 hours ago, brenthutch said:

It not a matter of what may come, it's a matter of what is right here, right now.  Everywhere wind and solar have been widely adapted, electricity prices have risen significantly.  Germany 51% from 2006-2016, California 24% from 2011-2017, Denmark 100% since 1995 (when they began to shift to wind).  People are suffering now.

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/369386-germany-shows-how-shifting-to-renewable-energy-can-backfire

That's because consumers have not been paying the hidden costs associated with fossil fuels.  Future generations will pay THAT price.

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20 minutes ago, brenthutch said:

The green new deal 

?? You used them as arguments to claim that green energy will never work.  Why did you claim that?

I think you just copied some words from the report that you didn't really understand, and are a little embarrassed that you got called on it.

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(edited)
1 hour ago, kallend said:

That's because consumers have not been paying the hidden costs associated with fossil fuels.  Future generations will pay THAT price.

Yes yes, disaster is always just right around the corner yet it never seems to arrive.  Polar bears, the Great Barrier Reef, summer Arctic sea ice, the Maldives, tornadoes, floods, droughts, wildfires, famine, hurricanes, desertification, acne, male sterility, war, cats and dogs living together on and on and on.  Net net the social cost of fossil fuels is negative,(a negative cost is a positive for those who did not go to business school) and the downside is largely imaginary.

On a side note Governor Cuomo cited the climate as a reason why people were fleeing NY for TX and FL.  If climate change was a problem wouldn't folks be moving in the OTHER direction?

Edited by brenthutch
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1 hour ago, brenthutch said:

Not really, the green new deal is predicated on the notion that there will be an explosion of innovation and advances in green energy technology.  Physics and math say otherwise.

I like how in one thread you say how rich people are driving innovation and here are saying innovation cannot happen because of costs.

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11 minutes ago, brenthutch said:

No it can't happen because of reality.

20 years ago reality would have dictated we could not watch tv, wireless on handheld device.

20 years ago reality would have dictated the UK would be entirely off coal for 3 days in a row.

20 years ago reality would have dictated Germany would not be able to produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources for a day.

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(edited)
9 minutes ago, SkyDekker said:

20 years ago reality would have dictated we could not watch tv, wireless on handheld device.

20 years ago reality would have dictated the UK would be entirely off coal for 3 days in a row.

20 years ago reality would have dictated Germany would not be able to produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources for a day.

Ok you've got me, I should have said because of physics. Just because over the years I have been able go from holding my breath from one minute to nearly two minutes, doesn't mean with additional training I will be able to hold my breath for twelve minutes.  It is illustrative that your examples are one day and three days.  You failed to address Germany's stratospheric electricity prices and its GROWING carbon footprint.

Edited by brenthutch

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39 minutes ago, brenthutch said:

Ok you've got me, I should have said because of physics.

Even that is not correct.

Let's take one of your "cause of physics" examples. You bring up the SQ limit. That limit is certainly real. But that limit is also tied to a specific technology. Working on that technology has already pushed efficiency well beyond the SQ limit. You are making the same mistake many other people make when thinking about advancement. You are limiting yourself to current technology, believing we are at the end of innovation.

And with additional training you would be able to hold your breath beyond 12 minutes. Current record I believe is slightly longer than 22 minutes.

Not too long ago people believed the human body would never be able to run a sub 4-minute mile.

Edited by SkyDekker
edited because an hour and a minute are not the same thing ;)

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26 minutes ago, brenthutch said:

It is illustrative that your examples are one day and three days.

Why? In your other thread you go on about how technology is first aimed at a small market only for the rich and then driven to a larger market by the inequality in wealth. You argue that much of innovation wouldn't take place without wealth inequality. Based on your logic, you should be applauding that these innovations are expensive and only available to rich countries. It would fit with your thesis. Yet, somehow here you find a way to argue the opposite.

The same would apply here: Expensive and only for a small market of rich countries. Eventually getting cheaper through innovation moving down to less wealthy markets.

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Good point, I used a personal example.  I should have used yours.  Just because someone can hold their breath for 22 minutes doesn't mean that with additional training they would be able to hold their breath for 132 minutes ( the gap renewables would have to close to be on par w fossil fuels)

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