By Steve Gruber
Friday, 12 Oct 2018
Can it be that wind and solar energy is a complete fraud? In the book “Dumb Energy,” Norman Rogers makes a powerful and convincing case. His main point is that there must be backup generating plants because the delivery of electricity from wind or solar is erratic, depending on the surging or weakening of wind and sunlight. The backup plants supply kilowatt hours when the flow of green electricity falters. As a consequence one has to have two systems, the wind or solar system plus a backup system. The backup system is usually a fossil fuel plant powered by natural gas. Natural gas plants are best suited to serve as backup plants, because a gas turbine is agile, able to increase and decrease power rapidly. Agility is needed because the variations in wind or solar can happen quickly.
The cost of generating electricity with wind or solar is nearly the same for either technology — about seven cents per kilowatt-hour. The cost of generation is mostly due to the cost of financing initial construction. Building a wind or solar facility costs about four times as much as a natural gas plant with the same average electricity output. A natural gas plant is cheaper to build, but burns about two cents worth of natural gas for each kilowatt-hour generated.
If you have to have a backup plant, why not eliminate the wind or solar and just use the backup plant? The outspoken supporters of wind and solar energy say consumption of fuel in the backup plant will be reduced whenever green electricity is generated. Burning less fuel means less carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted.
Let’s examine those alleged benefits of wind or solar.
Both wind and solar electricity costs about seven cents per kilowatt-hour but the fuel saved in the backup plants has a value of two cents per kilowatt-hour. Do the math. That’s a net loss of five cents for every kilowatt-hour of green electricity generated. Remember, the only financial benefit of wind or solar is the fuel saved in the backup plants. A wind or solar plant can’t replace a fossil fuel plant, because a fossil fuel plant has to remain in place as backup. The backup plants have to be capable of carrying the full load because sometimes there is no green electricity. Sometimes clouds set in and sometimes the wind just doesn’t blow.
The loss of five cents per kilowatt-hour represents a subsidy for wind or solar. Somebody has to cover that bill and just whom do you think that is? That’s right, taxpayers and electricity consumers’ pick-up the subsidy. The subsidy is paid for primarily by increasing rates to consumers and funneling tax-dollars to the plants.
Is wind or solar justified because it reduces CO2 emissions?
We can calculate how much it costs to use wind or solar to reduce CO2 emissions. Every kilowatt-hour of wind or solar electricity requires a five-cent subsidy. Generating that same kilowatt-hour using natural gas results in the emission of 0.8 pounds of CO2. So it costs five cents to reduce CO2 emissions by 0.8 pounds. That works out to a cost of about $140 to reduce CO2 emissions by a metric ton (2200 pounds). We use a metric ton, because that is the standard method of accounting for reductions in CO2 emissions. Reducing CO2 emissions by a metric ton is called a carbon offset. There are many companies selling carbon offsets, often for around $10 each. They create carbon offsets by such things as planting trees that absorb CO2. Why pay $140 for a carbon offset you can buy one for 10 bucks?
Utility scale wind or solar is 70 percent subsidized — five cent subsidy on a seven cent cost. Residential solar is far more expensive per kilowatt-hour due to the lack of economies of scale, while the benefit of fuel saved is the same. As a result the subsidy exceeds 90 percent. The homeowner that installs rooftop solar may actually save money depending on the economic relationship with the utility but the taxpayers and other electricity consumers pay for the homeowner’s savings. It is laughable that the advocates of rooftop solar depict their highly subsidized installations as allowing homeowners to escape the tyranny of greedy utilities. Actually, the homeowner is swindling the greedy utility, the government and the other consumers of electricity down the line.
The book has a chapter on the extensive propaganda campaigns used to plant the idea in the public mind that wind and solar are a cost saving wave of the future. Environmental non-profits and trade groups generate the propaganda, lots of it. For example they will quote the cost of wind power without revealing the extensive subsidies. Competitors to wind and solar, particularly coal and nuclear, are demonized as dangerous and polluting. Trick photography is used to make it look like coal generating plants are emitting black smoke from their smoke stacks. The meaning of the word pollution has been extended to include CO2, a colorless, odorless and harmless gas essential to plant life. CO2 is not pollution.
The book is primarily about energy, not global warming. But, there is a chapter on global warming. Global warming propaganda has been improved by replacing “global warming” with “climate change.” The reason is that the globe has not been warming significantly, undercutting the climate catastrophe theme. The promoters of climate change now blame every bad weather event on the emissions of CO2. The scientific justification for this is nil, but it makes for good propaganda.
There is a scientific establishment dependent on government money. Scientists are not high-minded and disinterested advisors. Scientific conclusions and advice are slanted to support the interests of the scientific establishment. Scientists who dispute the global warming theme are attacked and may lose their jobs. Scientific truth is discarded if it gets in the way of the money flow from Washington. Rogers provides many examples of corrupt behavior on the part of the scientific establishment.
Rogers does not claim that global warming is impossible. Rather his position is that there are so many different forces that can cause warming or cooling that it is difficult to isolate the effects of CO2 and similar “greenhouse” gases. The data on the Earth’s climate provides little support for the idea that we face a looming catastrophe.
A short chapter on nuclear power shows that nuclear power has been killed in the country where it was invented by environmental hysteria. Nuclear power thrives in Asia and some other countries. Nuclear does not emit CO2.
In contrast to the wildly exaggerated global warming catastrophe there is the danger of a real catastrophe caused by a long term collapse of the electric grid. There are about 2,000 very large transformers that are an essential part of the grid. These transformers are vulnerable to an attack by hacking or by an electromagnetic pulse. If the transformers are destroyed, the grid could be down for years with disastrous consequences for the country. An electromagnetic pulse can be created by a natural solar storm or by the detonation of a nuclear device in near outer space. This is a real danger that can be prevented by protective measures, but that danger is ignored, swamped by the constant propaganda promoting renewable energy and a global warming catastrophe. “Dumb Energy” is a book that takes direct aim at popular beliefs, or delusions, with solid arguments.