March 15, 2015: another great article -- Renewable Energy: The Vision and a Dose of Reality. This is another great article posted back in 2012, and nothing has changed. From the article, observations like this:
Solar power. While sunlight is renewable — for at least another four billion years — photovoltaic panels are not. Nor is desert groundwater, used in steam turbines at some solar-thermal installations. Even after being redesigned to use air-cooled condensers that will reduce its water consumption by 90 percent, California's Blythe Solar Power Project, which will be the world's largest when it opens in 2013, will require an estimated 600 acre-feet of groundwater annually for washing mirrors, replenishing feedwater, and cooling auxiliary equipment.To put 600 acre-feet in perspective, back in late 2011, it was estimated that approximately 6 acre-feet of water was used to frack a Bakken well.
So, every year from here on out, enough water to frack 100 Bakken wells will be used annually to wash those mirrors, and that's just one solar farm.
The title of the essay:
Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really) and the subtext: There are problems with oil, gas and coal, but their benefits for people—and the planet—are beyond dispute.It begins:
The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.And then the writer systematically destroys each of the three points.
So, let's begin. The preamble:
- in 2013, 87% of world energy came from fossil fuels; unchanged from ten years earlier
- three categories of fuel and three categories of use (oil for transport, natural gas for heating, and coal for electricity)
- over this ten-year period, the overall volume of fossil-fuel consumption has increased dramatically, but with an encouraging environmental trend -- a diminishing amount of CO2 emissions per unit of energy produced (the biggest reason: a switch from high-carbon coal to lower-carbon gas in electricity generation)
- worldwide, wind and solar have contributed hardly at all to the drop in carbon emissions
- the modest growth in wind and solar has come at the expense of nuclear energy
- the shale genie is out of the bottle
- shale drillers can jump back in whenever price rebounds
- frackers are experiencing their own version of Moore's law: a rapid fall in the cost and time it takes to drill a well, along with a rapid rise in the volume of production
- US presidential commission that opined in 1922 that "already the output of gas has begun to wane. Production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate."
- President Jimmy Carter, 1977, "we could us up all our proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade" (1989)
It is an ironic truth that no nonrenewable resource (coal, natural gas, oil) has ever run dry, while renewable resources - whales, cod, forests, passenger pigeons -- have frequently done soThe second argument: stop using fossil fuels because new rivals will shorty price them out of the market --
- that is not happening
- the great hope has been nuclear energy; nuclear is now able to compete with fossil fuels only when it is subsidized
- hydroelectric: will never be more than it is currently
- wind: for all the public money spent on its expansion, wind energy has inched up to ... drum roll... 1% of world energy consumption in 2013
- solar: for all the hype, solar has not even managed that. If we round to the nearest whole number, solar accounts for 0% of world energy consumption
- both wind and solar are entirely reliant on subsidies to survive
- the writer than has a long section on subsidies -- how the poor and middle class pay for the subsidies and the rich get that money (think Solyndra)
- the problem with wind and solar: they take up too much space and produce too little energy (the writer provides good examples)
There has been no increase in the frequency or severity of storms or droughts, no acceleration of sea-level rise.
Arctic sea ice has decreased, but Antarctic sea ice has increased.
At the same time, scientists are agreed that the extra carbon dioxide in the air has contributed to an improvement in crop yields and a roughly 14% increase in the amount of all types of green vegetation on the planet since 1980.
That carbon-dioxide emissions should cause warming is not a new idea. In 1938, the British scientist Guy Callender thought that he could already detect warming as a result of carbon-dioxide emissions. He reckoned, however, that this was “likely to prove beneficial to mankind” by shifting northward the climate where cultivation was possible.And then this:
And yet it is increasingly possible that it (AGW) is wrong.
As Patrick Michaels of the libertarian Cato Institute has written, since 2000, 14 peer-reviewed papers, published by 42 authors, many of whom are key contributors to the reports of the IPCC, have concluded that climate sensitivity is low because net feedbacks are modest.
They arrive at this conclusion based on observed temperature changes, ocean-heat uptake and the balance between warming and cooling emissions (mainly sulfate aerosols). On average, they find sensitivity to be 40% lower than the models on which the IPCC relies.
If these conclusions are right, they would explain the failure of the Earth’s surface to warm nearly as fast as predicted over the past 35 years, a time when—despite carbon-dioxide levels rising faster than expected—the warming rate has never reached even two-tenths of a degree per decade and has slowed down to virtually nothing in the past 15 to 20 years.
This is one reason the latest IPCC report did not give a “best estimate” of sensitivity and why it lowered its estimate of near-term warming.
Most climate scientists remain reluctant to abandon the models and take the view that the current “hiatus” has merely delayed rapid warming. A turning point to dangerously rapid warming could be around the corner, even though it should have shown up by now. So it would be wise to do something to cut our emissions, so long as that something does not hurt the poor and those struggling to reach a modern standard of living.