The recent Supreme Court ruling which trimmed the power of the EPA is important to provide for less government restrictions and for the freedom of future Americans to enjoy the “American Dream”. This post is based on the importance of energy to power our way of life. Each American uses about a million Btus of energy each day. Energy fuels our way of life. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has kept track of the total primary energy use of America for many years. Total primary energy use has held steady at about 100 quads (+/-10) per year for the last 23 years. Total Primary Energy includes all forms of energy. The Energy Flow Chart for 2021 is copied below:
Total Primary Energy Supply 1999-2021 about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s
A fair question is, what does the Supreme Court ruling on the EPA’s right to regulate carbon have to do with living the American Dream? Here is my answer. If we accept that the U.S. requires 100 quadrillion Btus of energy to power our high quality of living, then how can we continue living our good lives if over 80% of the fuel we depend on is considered unavailable by the government? Yes, from the LLNL figure above, (in Quads) 35.1 Petroleum + 10.5 Coal +31.3 Natural Gas +8.13 nuclear power = 85.03 quadrillion Btus which is 87.4 % of the 97.3 Quads of Total Primary Energy.
Thermal energy is important for every American. The 87.4% includes nuclear. Therefore, the total primary energy provided from conventional forms of energy is 87.4%.
The government, “Woke” Business leaders, celebrities and many in the media have pushed the fantasy of achieving American energy needs from 100% solar and wind by 2030 or 2050. To attempt to be polite, thinking we can replace conventional forms of energy within a few years is being detached from reality and delusional. Let me explain why I believe this to be so by looking at the last 23 years of energy use to show where we came from in two decades and to then look into the future to see the next two decades:
The 1999 Sankey diagram (above) shows total energy use in the U.S. of 96.6 quadrillion Btus. I stated above that America’s total primary energy has held pretty steady for decades. So, here is the factual data of energy flows from 1999. Over the years, the fuel sources have changed but the total primary energy required to power our lives and economy has remained fairly constant, right at 100 quadrillion Btus. In 1999 coal was 23.3 quadrillion Btus and natural gas 19.29. The “Shale Gas Revolution” which began about 2010 created production of low cost natural gas which displaced much of the coal used for power generation. This fuel substitution of natural gas for coal was mostly for economic dispatch reasons of a more economical fuel for power generation. By the way, if you compare the natural gas prices/million Btus to coal today, coal looks far more reasonable in cost.
Total Primary Energy is Needed for Electricity Generation Plus… Industry, Transportation, Commercial and Residential
The graph below was prepared by the EIA to illustrate the production and use of total energy in the U.S.A. from 1950 to 2020. This also supports the statement that America has used right at 100 Quadrillion Btus for the last 23 years. This includes all forms of energy and including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, Biomass, geothermal. As can be seen from the graph, energy independence was achieved in 2020. This was largely as the result of increased oil and natural gas production within the U.S.A.
The Fantasy of Wind and Solar Replacing Conventional Energy and Achieving Net-Zero Carbon by 2050
Fossil fuels plus nuclear energy provided over 87% of America’s total primary energy for the year 2021. This is a fact. (as shown on the first chart above from LLNL) It is also a fact that wind and solar together provided about 5% of our total primary energy. The question needs to be asked, Is it reasonable to expect solar and wind to replace the energy currently provided by petroleum, natural gas, coal and nuclear? I say NO it is not reasonable to expect solar and wind to replace coal, oil, gas and nuclear any time soon. Yes, wind and solar are being forced on America by the energy policies and incentives of government, but it is implausible to expect the total of 100 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent of energy to come from wind and solar. In my opinion, impossible until there are major technological advancements.
Here are eleven reasons why Net-Zero Carbon is Not Practical within the next 28 years:
- The land area of 100% renewables required is enormous. The energy density of solar and wind is far too low(1)
- Electricity storage is not yet technologically advanced for commercial applications at Utility scale for long time periods
- If all Internal Combustion Engines for ground transportation are electrified, then it exacerbates the first two points. It still takes about the same primary energy content to move vehicles no matter what fuel or energy source is used. Example, EV’s need charging to provide motive force
- Solar and Wind are not Dispatchable. They provide maximum output as nature provides when the wind blows and the sun shines, not as Citizen electricity demand requires
- About 8-10% of petroleum is refined into Jet Fuel. Hydrogen fueled aircraft may be safe & practical some day, but that someday is decades away.
- Fertilizer and food production uses between 2 and 5% of total primary energy. This cannot be replaced with wind and solar
- The Transmission and Distribution network of the electric Grid is not setup for solar and wind systems. It takes time to permit, design and construct T&D systems
- Oil, coal and natural gas provide raw materials for textiles, rubber, plastics and many other products that the world depends on
- Coking coal is required to produce the best quality steel from iron ore
- Cement production requires fuel for production
- Nuclear power is the largest provider of carbon free energy, yet there is only one new nuclear plant under construction in the U.S. The Georgia Power Plant Vogtle Units 2 &3
All Fuels are Important and a Balanced Energy Portfolio is Preferred
America has been depending on coal power for many years. Although not appreciated by the media and even some Utility Exec’s, coal remains important. I will cite three examples below: First the U.S. Grid Electric Generation by fuel type for the weeks of September 25 -October 2, 2021 and from June 10- 16, 2022. Note the Dispatchable power of over 80% in both cases, with coal providing a significant portion of the generation. Also shown below are screen shots of actual generation by fuel for both the MISO and PJM RTO’s (Regional Transmission Operators)
The four illustrations above show examples of the importance of coal fuel to electric power generation for the lower 48 states, for the Midcontenent Independent System Operator and for the PJM Interconnection. All four examples show significant generation by Dispatchable power: coal, gas and nuclear. These four charts could be considered “A Balanced Generation Portfolio” By balanced, I mean fuel diversity of nuclear, gas, coal and renewables. This is good, however, the current U.S. Path is to shutdown many of the coal plants that were participating in the above “examples. Take a look at the EIA report that states 12.6 GW of coal plants to retire by 2022. (4)
Also, the recent closures of Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan and the William Zimmer 1300 MW coal plant near Cincinnati.
Coal, The American Treasure of Energy
When I was active in the American Coal Council we had an interesting speaker from the National Coal Council, on the coal, oil and gas reserves within the borders of the U.S. The speaker (Robert Beck) presented a study of using captured CO2 to force oil still trapped beneath Ohio’s old oil fields. As I recall, the presentation summary was that any place that coal is found, so is oil and gas. Thus, if you look at a map of U.S. coal deposits, sure enough, gas and oil has also been produced. Getting back to the National Coal Council presentation, the statement was made that about 3 million barrels a day of oil could be recovered from the “Old abandoned” Ohio Oil fields of decades ago, by using enhanced oil recovery of pressurizing the oil deposits with CO2 captured from the many coal plants in Ohio.(5) Here below is an illustration of world coal reserves. It could be said, the U.S. likely has the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. The statement made by a coal expert that I heard ten years ago seems true, “Wherever there is coal, so is there oil and gas”. Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota all have coal and all have had significant oil and gas production since Hydraulic Fracturing combined with directional drilling has been utilized.
Why should our politicians cripple our economy over the politically inspired (not Environmental protection driven) U.N. -IPCC, Paris agreement?(56,57,58,59) America can be Energy Independent. We were in 2020 and we can do it again!
Meanwhile in China
China is the world’s largest producer of aluminum and steel. They also are the largest manufacturing nation on the planet. This manufacturing might is powered mostly by coal power. China gets it and they are diligently working toward a “Balanced Generation Portfolio” of coal, nuclear, wind, solar and gas.(51, 52, 53) Russia is conveniently in an excellent geographic and economic position to supply coal, oil, nuclear and gas to China to power their industrial output.
China is a large country that is committed to increasing the size of their economy. Powering manufacturing requires large amounts of reliable, reasonable cost electricity generation. China has a truly “Balanced Portfolio of Generation Capacity”, including nuclear as shown above and also enormous amounts of renewable power from the Three Gorges Hydroelectric plant which is over 22 GW in capacity, as well as wind, solar and coal. I thought I should interject the energy facts regarding China’s Bulk Power Generation, because competing with them will require reasonable cost Bulk Power here. Especially for energy intensive manufacturing such as aluminum smelting and other primary metals production.
Conclusions from Excerpts of Vaclav Smil book, “Power Density” on the Use of Wind, Water and Solar to Generate most of Our Electricity
Vaclav Smil has written many books on Energy, Power and Electricity generation. His book “POWER DENSITY” for this discussion is particularly relevant. Copied below are excerpts from the final chapter of “POWER DENSITY”:
“What Would it Take”
“If you are willing to engage in unbounded science and engineering fiction, then acccording to Jacobson and Delucchi (2011), this is what it would take to supply the world with 100% renewable energy in 2030 by using electricity (generated by wind, water and solar PV installations) and electrolytic hydrogen for all purposes: 3.8 million 5-MW wind turbines, 49,000 300-MW central solar plants, 1.7 billion 3-kW rooftop PV installations, 5,350 100-MW geothermal plants, 270 new 1.3 GW hydro stations, 720,000 0.75-MW wave devices and 490,000 1-MW tidal turbines. All of that will require only about 0.4% of the world’s land for its footprint and 0.6% for spacing, and we are assured that the barriers to the plan are primarily social and political, not technological or economic as the energy cost in a new wind-water-solar world should be similar to that today” (The above is quoting from Jacobson and Delucchi)
Smil continues (from pg 244, Power Density)
“These assurances asides, the simplest reality check shows the fictional nature of these assumptions. In 2013 the worldwide capacity in wind turbines reached 330 GW, while 13 TW (40 times as much) would be needed by 2030. Total rooftop and large plant PV capacity reached about 100 GW, but 17.1 TW of these installations would be required (170 times as much); moreover, there was not a single 300-MW solar PV plant (five plants rated between 200-250 MW), whereas 40,000 would be needed by 2030. In 2013 there was only one central solar power facility rated at more than 300 MW, Ivanpah, at 392 MW, but nearly 5,000 such facilities would be needed by 2030 (an increase of four orders of magnitude). There were fewer than 50 geothermal stations rated at more than 100 MW, but 5,350 would be needed (a 100-fold increase). Pelamis (2014, the world’s most advanced wave energy company, produced six 0.75 MW devices by the beginning of 2014, but 720,000 would need to be operating by 2030 (an increase of five orders of magnitude). Finally, by 2013 there were fewer than ten small tidal stations with aggregate installed power of much less than 1 GW, while 490 GW would have to generate by 2030 (two orders of magnitude more).
Such ramping-up of all kinds of capacities-design, permitting, financing, engineering, construction, all going up between one and five orders of magnitude in less than two decades-is far, far beyond anything that has been witnessed in less than two decades-is far, far beyond anything that has been witnessed in more than a century of developing modern energy systems. And that still leaves out two other key facts, namely, that such a gargantuan renewable energy system would need an enormous expansion of high-voltage transmission and would require the creation of an entirely new, hydrogen-based society. I am still not sure how we would fly with hydrogen (or electricity) or smelt pig iron. In any case the chances of a 100% water-wind-solar world to be ready by 2030 are nil, but it is worth while exploring what it would (realistically) take to create an increasingly nonfossil global energy system.” The preceding “What Would it Take” is a direct quotation from Smil’s book, pages 243-245.
Summary & Conclusions:
In my opinion, Vaclav Smil in the preceding paragraphs captured the essence of the fictional engineering that can create a path to Net-Zero Carbon by 2050. In the references that follow, Donn Dears and others have come to similar conclusions on the futility of achieving Net-Zero Carbon.
With regard to Anthropogenic Climate Change, I have included some references from expert Climate and Atmospheric Scientists that know the topic well.(2,7,8,9,10,12,13,15,16,56,58,59)
Climate Policies and the UN-IPCC are driven by politics and not by science or a sincere interest in saving the planet. Some references which support this claim are also included for further reading.(56,58,59)
I will close with seven conclusions, which are:
- The Economic Harm to the U.S. if the Path to Net-Zero Carbon with solar and wind and without nuclear power as a major component, will weaken the U.S.A. and harm our capability to compete in world markets. Especially competing with China and the rest of the world in manufacturing.(2, 3, 4, 7, 8 & 9)
- Dispatchable Coal Plants should not be shut down until they are replaced by proven and commissioned “Dispatchable” generating capacity. Shutting down 12.6MW of coal plants as planned, will lead to Blackouts and Brownouts(4,22,25, 26, 27)
- Depending on wind and solar to replace the existing 2022 still operational coal and nuclear plants will lead to increased electricity costs as well as reduced reliability(14, 36)
- China is the world’s largest manufacturer and will remain ahead of the U.S. and gain further if the U.S. continues down the Net-Zero Carbon Path(17, 18, 19, 28)
- America invented nuclear power (Rickover) for peaceful purposes and was the world leader in developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. We have lost that lead and China and Russia are building more nuclear power plants in the world than the U.S. Most of our problems are unessessary Federal Regulations(11, 51,53,57)
- Energy Independence plus reasonable cost, abundant and Dispatchable Electricity are pre-requisites for a strong economy and a strong National Defense. America should expand and increase our treasures of nuclear, coal, oil and gas forms of energy to reachieve Energy Independence.(5)
- The U.S. should use all of the energy resources within our borders to be 100% Energy Independent. This includes the Treasure of Coal Energy which we know how to burn cleanly.(30, 31, 32)
Dick Storm, July 4th, 2022
References for Further Reading:
- Vaclav Smil Book, “POWER DENSITY” The MIT Press 2015
- Donn Dears Book, Net-Zero Carbon, The Climate Policy Destroying America” 2022
- Donn Dears website, numerous article on the foolishness of Zero Carbon policies, EV’s and Power Generation: https://ddears.com/donns-articles/
- EIA Report on 12.6 GW of Coal Plants to Close in 2022, January 2022: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=50838
- National Coal Council, Carbon Collection and use for Enhanced Oil Recovery, 2012: http://www.nationalcoalcouncil.org/reports/07-10-12-NCC_Harnessing_Coals_Carbon_Content_to_Advance_Economy_Environment_EnergySecurity.pdf
- Capital Research Center, Nov. Dec. 2021 Issue article on the impossibility of replacing conventional energy with solar and wind: https://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/Capital-Research-2021-8.pdf
- The Right Stuff Climate Team (Retired NASA Engineers): https://www.therightclimatestuff.com
- CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH CENTER REPORT, PRIMER ON ENERGY (GOOD REFERENCE WITH EXCELLENT FIGURES) https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46723
- Dr. Judith Curry, 15 slides to summarize Climate Change website: https://judithcurry.com/2021/09/03/15-minutes/#more-27827
- Science and Environment Policy Project Website: http://www.sepp.org
- World Nuclear Association, Status of Nuclear Power in China: https://www.world-nuclear.org/country/default.aspx/China
- Global Warming Policy Foundation: https://www.thegwpf.org
- Mark Mills, The Myth of Renewable Energy: https://www.manhattan-institute.org/the-myth-of-the-great-energy-transition
- WSJ, Wind Stops in Europe: https://www.wsj.com/articles/energy-prices-in-europe-hit-records-after-wind-stops-blowing-11631528258?mod=djem_EnergyJournal
- A key segment begins at minute 24 where the effects of CO2 are discussed by Professor Happer. https://bit.ly/3zsXcS6
- SKY NEWS SUN ACTIVITY AFFECTS EARTH TEMPERATURE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViY2J3LPgN4
- China buying Russian oil, gas and coal, Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/asian-buyers-russian-oil-gas-coal-2022-02-22/
- China-Russian Energy Deal, February 2022: https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/russia-china-may-sign-energy-other-deals-amid-moscow-tension-with-west-2022-02-03/
- Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as World’s largest oil supplier, June 20, 2022 Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-20/china-buys-7-5-billion-of-russian-energy-with-oil-at-record
- Korea Times, China depends on Sanctioned Russian Fuel, June 20, 2022: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/world/2022/06/501_331352.html
- Utility Dive, Capacity Auction Prices, June 25,2022: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/pjm-capacity-auction-nuclear-solar-coal-prices/625861/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202022-06-22%20Utility%20Dive%20Newsletter%20%5Bissue:42604%5D&utm_term=Utility%20Dive
- Detroit News, Consumers Energy to End Coal Use in 2025: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/2022/06/23/michigan-panel-approves-consumers-energy-plan-end-coal-use-2025/7716918001/
- Alliant and WEC Change Plans to Retire Coal to Meet Demand, June 22, 2022: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/wisconsin-utilities-coal-retirement-miso-delay/626005/
- WSJ Report on Ameren Keeping Rush Island Operating to Satisfy Demand June 10, 2022:https://www.wsj.com/articles/old-coal-plant-neared-retirement-but-now-its-needed-to-keep-the-lights-on-11654858801?mod=djem_EnergyJournal
- WSJ May 8, 2022, Power Plants Struggling With Electricity Shortages to Keep Power on: https://www.wsj.com/articles/electricity-shortage-warnings-grow-across-u-s-11652002380?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_2&cx_artPos=0&mod=WTRN#cxrecs_s
- WSJ June 18, 2022, West Risks Blackouts From Drought and loss of Hydroelectric Capacity: https://www.wsj.com/articles/west-risks-blackouts-as-hydroelectric-power-dries-up-11624008601?mod=article_inline
- WSJ, Opinion, May 27, 2022, Jason Hayes, “Why Blackouts are Coming to Michigan” Regarding shutdown of Palisades Nuclear Generating Plant: https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-electricity-blackouts-are-coming-to-michigan-nuclear-power-plant-green-energy-renewable-climate-11653685521?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_2&cx_artPos=5&mod=WTRN#cxrecs_s
- The Guradian (UK) China’s Premier Calls For More Coal Plants, June 24, 2022: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/24/chinese-premier-calls-for-more-coal-production-as-electricity-demand-soars
- Global Food Supply at Risk Due to High Energy Prices, The Guardian, June 25, 2022: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/25/our-global-food-supply-is-at-risk-when-high-gas-prices-limit-the-creation-of-fertiliser
- US and World Coal Reserves Map: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Coal-reserves-volumes-by-countries-of-the-world-3_fig1_328037099
- EIA 2nd reference on World Coal Reserves, EIA 2011: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=2930
- American Geosciences institute, World Coal Reserves: https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/maps/interactive-map-coal-resources-united-states
- EIA Total Energy Use 1950-2020: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43515
- St. Louis Fed. Renewable Power Increases have reduced Conventional Power Generation Capacity Factors, thus weakening cash flow for O&M and improvements: https://fredblog.stlouisfed.org/2020/10/renewables-have-increased-the-capacity-for-electricity-production/?utm_source=series_page&utm_medium=related_content&utm_term=related_resources&utm_campaign=fredblog
- Fact Check on Wind Power Cost: https://www.factcheck.org/2019/07/does-wind-work-without-subsidies/
- Forbes, Michael Schellenberger article on True Cost of Wind Power: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2021/04/20/why-renewables-cause-blackouts-and-increase-vulnerability-to-extreme-weather/?sh=6400daf54e75
- EPA Retains Tools to Harm Coal Power Production, Utility Dive, July 1, 2022: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/supreme-court-epa-GHG-carbon-power-plant/626456/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202022-07-01%20Utility%20Dive%20Newsletter%20%5Bissue:42837%5D&utm_term=Utility%20Dive
- VOX, Electrify Everything! : https://www.vox.com/2016/9/19/12938086/electrify-everything
- Stanford, Mark Jacobson, Net Zero Carbon by 2050 : https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/08/50states-renewable-energy-060815/
- Jacobson’s website: https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/WWS-50-USState-plans.html
- UN Net Zero Carbon website: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/net-zero-coalition
- Princeton University Net Zero Carbon Plan: Net Zero Carbon Project Princeton University Researchers, Jenkins et al: https://cmi.princeton.edu/annual-meetings/annual-reports/year-2019/the-net-zero-america-project-finding-pathways-to-a-carbon-neutral-future/
- Princeton University, additional presentations on reduced carbon emissions: https://cmi.princeton.edu/presentations/year-2022/
- Cornell Daily Sun, Speaker discusses Coal Plants in a Death Spiral: https://cornellsun.com/2016/10/03/keynote-speaker-investigates-recent-transformations-in-the-energy-grid/
- WSJ Australia Warning on Green Energy Risks: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-warning-from-australias-power-crisis-green-energy-anthony-albanese-11655659465?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_2&cx_artPos=3&mod=WTRN#cxrecs_s
- National News on Nuclear Power needed for the future carbon free generation January 23, 2022: https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2022/01/18/race-to-cut-carbon-emissions-splits-u-s-states-on-nuclear-b/#.Ye2BWS-B2J9
- Reuters, List of Coal Plants Scheduled to be shut down: https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/us-coal-fired-power-plants-scheduled-shut-2021-10-28/
- S&P Global Natural Gas Use for Fertilizer production, surging natural gas prices, cause fertilizer costs to soar Jan 19, 2022: https://www.spglobal.com/commodityinsights/en/market-insights/blogs/agriculture/011922-fertilizer-costs-natural-gas-prices
- Michael Schellenberger article on German experience of “Green Power”: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/05/06/the-reason-renewables-cant-power-modern-civilization-is-because-they-were-never-meant-to/?sh=6da16be6ea2b
- NERC Long Term Reliability study: https://www.nerc.com/pa/RAPA/ra/Reliability%20Assessments%20DL/NERC_LTRA_2021.pdf
- MSNBC China and Russian Reactor Designs Dominate New Construction, Warns IEA Chief, July 2022: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/01/russian-and-chinese-designs-in-87percent-of-new-nuclear-reactors-iea-chief.html
- Bloomberg, China’s Climate Goals Depend on 440 Billion Nuclear Power Plant Buildout: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-11-02/china-climate-goals-hinge-on-440-billion-nuclear-power-plan-to-rival-u-s
- IEA Global Energy Outlook, April 2022: https://www.rff.org/publications/reports/global-energy-outlook-2022/
- IEA Publications Available: https://www.rff.org/publications/reports/
- Three Gorges Dam, 22.5 MW : https://www.britannica.com/topic/Three-Gorges-Dam
- Climate Sensitivity is Likely Low Enough to be of Little Concern: https://everythingclimate.wpcomstaging.com/emissions-climate-models/
- Nuclear Power Is Poised for a Comeback. (In U.S.) The Problem Is Building the Reactors, WSJ July 2022: https://www.wsj.com/articles/nuclear-power-climate-change-russia-energy-11655995024?mod=Searchresults_pos2&page=1
- United Nations-IPCC Reports Are Not Science: http://sepp.org/twtwfiles/2022/TWTW%206-25-2022.pdf
- Donn Dears, IPCC Report, Part 1: https://bit.ly/3Aeruea
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