Recently I was interviewed by Peter Perri for his Podcast on “Energy Media”. We talked for about an hour and I expressed my opinion on America’s dismal… “Lack of a Rational Energy Transition Policy”. It is just a Decarbonization Policy without provisions for providing power generation until technology and build out of new nuclear catches up. However, Mr. Perri got me thinking and he offered some information regarding the IRA Act 45Q, Provisions for Tax Credits for coal plants that capture and store carbon dioxide (CCUS). That was new to me. I consider myself well read on energy news, but I sure missed 45Q. The CO2 credit is up to $85/ton of carbon dioxide captured and sequestered or utilized. Not that I agree with the legislation or the practicality of CCUS, but it shows some sanity of the policymakers, that they understand America may get around to using its vast, God given Treasure of coal.
Energy=Life as we know it and it takes about 100 Quadrillion BTUs of Primary Energy to fuel our economy and our way of life. As a review of previous posts I have made, here is a summary of approx. how the U.S. uses about 100 Quads/year of Primary Energy. Many folks (those who are not technically trained) do not appreciate or understand the concepts of Primary and Secondary energy. An example is a video on hydrogen that I recently watched discussed hydrogen as a form of primary energy. Hydrogen is secondary energy and does not exist naturally in nature, it must be produced from primary energy.
37% Electricity Generation
26% Industrial Production
10% Commercial and Residential
My point is it takes about 100 Quadrillion Btus to energize and make it possible for us to sustain our high quality of life, including keeping warm in the winter. Right here within our borders is the richest source of primary energy on earth. America’s Treasure of Coal. Why not use it to keep America Prosperous & Energy Independent? By the way, America and Canada have plenty of Uranium deposits in North America and few of the U.S. deposits are being used, but that is a topic for another day.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Sankey Diagram (below) shows the energy flows for 2021. Total energy use that year was only 97.3 Quadrillion Btus because of a slower economy. In 2019 energy use was over 100 Quads.
The “Leftists” and power hungry government Bureaucrats have done an effective job of Demonizing carbon dioxide. Their Rationale; By demonizing carbon, then we won’t use it. The demonization of carbon restricts use of a valuable natural resource. This combined with the fact that we now enjoy a high standard of living which coal continues to provide a significant part of our energy when it is needed makes one wonder; “What are the Policymakers thinking?” Coal is one of the most readily available, usable & affordable forms of energy that America is Blessed with. It is my prediction that coal will be more appreciated after a cold winter of 2013, including some Blackouts. With winter approaching and expected scarce reserves of electricity generation capacity, coal plants may achieve new acceptance by society. They did in Germany. My November 25th Blog post discussed coal as America’s Treasure. Let me start with a bullet list of the facts and statements, as I understand them. These points are the premise for my suggestion that coal fuel will (and should!) look good again. So will all conventional fuels, including coal, oil, gas and nuclear. Kindly take a glance at the LLNL chart above, note that less than 5% of America’s Primary Energy was provided by wind and solar in 2021. This after decades of tax incentives. It is unreasonable to expect that we can “Electrify Everything” and power “Everything” with electricity generated from wind and solar.
Energy Realism Facts
Everyone, including me desires clean air, clean water and a healthy environment
Sustainable Life, as we enjoy it, requires a lot of energy about 860,000-1,000,000 Btus of per capita energy each day
America uses and depends on about 100 Quadrillion Btus of primary energy each year.
Fossil Fuels provide about 79%-80% of the primary energy America depends on
Wind and Solar provided less than 5% of America’s total Primary Energy in 2021
New HELE Coal plants can provide reliable, Dispatchable and affordable electricity. HELE = High Efficiency Low Emissions. Replacing many of the retired coal plants with new HELE plants should be part of the transition to our reduced carbon future.
Reshoring of American Manufacturing to recover lost Market share will require more use of Energy for reshoring of Industrial production. Opposite of German recent experience of lost Industry due to energy shortfalls
Currently in the U.S. , the largest carbon-free electricity generation is from nuclear power plants. Most over 40 years old.
Electricity generation uses about 37% of the U.S. Primary Energy
Transportation uses about 27% of the U.S. Primary Energy
The major forms of Energy within the U.S. Borders that can provide the equivalent of 100-150 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy supply for U.S. Energy Independence are: Uranium, Coal, Oil and Natural Gas.
Coal Power Potential to Provide 20+ Quadrillion Btus of Primary Energy
The total Primary Energy Flow chart shown below is from 2009. Back then, coal was the primary fuel for about 50% of America’s electricity generation. The U.S. used right at a Billion tons of coal/year and America’s Total Primary Energy Use was 102.75 Quadrillion Btus. The technology and Infrastructure remains to return to this coal generation capacity and to do it cleanly. We should be building new HELE Coal plants with future provisions for CCUS. This would be a Rational Energy Plan to embark on, (a transition plan) until new nuclear, hydrogen, storage and renewables technologies can advance to meet energy needs.
Reasonable Cost, Abundant Power and Clean Air Too!
The EPA has prepared a graphic below, this illustration shows the Results of cleaning the air in the U.S. Between 1970 and 2019, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10, SO2, NOx, VOCs, CO and Pb) dropped by 77 percent. This progress occurred while the U.S. economy continued to grow, Americans drove more miles and population and energy use increased. The point is, the six public health related & objectional pollutants have been corrected. Further restrictions, rules and Regulations on coal power plants since 2019 are not for cleaning the air, they are for politically biased reasons.
Since 2010 over 102,000 MW’s of reliable, reasonable production cost, Dispatchable coal and nuclear plants have been shut down. Worse yet, another 14.9 MW’s of the remaining 200 GW coal plants are planned to be shut down in the next few years. The “War on Carbon”although misguided and anti-American, has been very effective. It is not possible to replace the approximatley 117,000 MW’s of Dispatchable, reasonable production cost coal and nuclear plants with wind and solar. For folks that do not work in the electric generating field, let me digress and compare what 117 GW of reliable power generation looks like. Almost everyone has visited Niagara Falls and are aware that most of the water runoff from all of the Great Lakes drains through the Niagara River and through the Robert Moses Hydroelectric Generating Station. The American share of that water flow generates about 2,500 MW’s of electricity. Therefore replacing the 117,000 MW’s of coal and nuclear plants shut down since 2010 would require almost 50 generating plants the size of Niagara Falls.
Replacing existing or recently shut down coal plants with carbon-free nuclear is technically possible. However, the supply chain for new nuclear plant design, permitting, construction and talent development will take years, maybe decades. I submit that for the near term of the next ten-twenty years, a Rational Energy Policy would be to build technically proven HELE coal plants. Yes, planning for CCUS and using the IRA 45Q provision may help? I know what will not. That is… Continuing the Mythical Net-Zero Carbon path of depence on wind and solar. All this will do is weaken America. America’s Treasure of Coal may be tapped, thanks to the provisions in the so called, Inflation Reduction Act, 45Q provision for CCUS.
America and all Developed countries require Energy to power our lives and our economy. It is time (for the government, energy savvy citizens already know this) to face the facts and reality that nearly 90% of the energy America depends on, including for our Defense of National Security, is sourced from conventional fuels or sources of natural gas, nuclear, oil, coal and old hydropower generation. Wind and Solar cannot replace these forms of energy and the path to Net-Zero Carbon will weaken our country. A Rational Energy Transition is needed over the next few decades. As a reminder, the Sankey Diagram below shows the total primary energy flows by sources and flow for all of 2021 forms of energy . Note that less than 5% of the primary energy provided to the U.S. was from wind and solar.
The two key words are PRIMARY ENERGY! As a couple people have asked me on EV’s…..”You mean the electricity has to be generated somewhere else to charge an electric vehicle?”
Yes, over 89% of the PRIMARY ENERGY we use is from conventional sources of Petroleum, Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Hydroelectric and yes, electricity to charge an EV likely came from conventional sources.
I have met with numerous groups to discuss our energy future and every time I outline the current government path to Net-Zero Carbon the people I talk with are shocked that there is not a planned transition to reduced carbon emissions and sustaining a reliable, affordable energy supply. Why? I believe it is because those that are knowledgeable in all forms of primary energy production are a small minority. Similar for secondary energy production, such as for producing electricity and hydrogen. I estimate that the people who thoroughly understand energy production is less than 5% of American (and the world) citizens. Smooth talking non-energy savvy politicians, the United Nations, the Main Stream Media, World Economic Forum and Public Education have Hoodwinked the Public into Demonizing carbon and preaching and legislating Green Power incentives. These powerful innfluencers have forced wind and solar Green Energy Religion on Americans. It is not possible to switch all of America or the rest of the Free World to Renewable wind and solar energy. It is possible to have a smooth transition to increase carbon free nuclear power and nuclear power produced hydrogen over the next three decades, but not by 2030 or 2035 as is proclaimed by the Biden Administration. America has no energy policy, only a policy of demonizing carbon and forcing the citizens to depend on unreliable, intermittent wind and solar.
Energy Misinformation is World-Wide
My friend Vincent who lives in France has sent me dozens of informative documents on energy. One document he sent yesterday caught my attention. It is the opening introduction of Professor Samuel Furfari’s article published on the Friends of Science Blog of Calgary University. I will quote Professor Furfari as he captures what I believe to be true as well. Furfari is referring to Europe, but much of what he states is applicable all over the Free World:
“Energy is life. Without energy, we could not live. That is why our distant ancestors adopted, then invented ways to create fire. The use of energy is essential for life: animals and human beings eat because their bodies need energy. Moreover, energy is also the blood that runs through the veins of the economic system. In recent years, instead of seeing energy as a vital commodity, environmental activists have succeeded in reversing the logic by blaming energy for all the planet’s ills, to the point where energy is no longer spoken of in negative terms. Energy has become the symbol of pollution and climate catastrophe. A few days ago, at the end of a lecture, a student confessed to me that he had been shaken because I had shown, with data, that the quality of life measured by the UN HDI index and life expectancy at birth depended on per capita energy consumption. This correlation is also valid with CO2 emissions since 82% of the energy used in the world is fossil fuel. He had never thought about it. No one had ever told him that.” Furfari continues….
“Will the current crisis be enough to bring us back to the common sense of the absolute priority of having abundant and cheap energy, as the founders of the EU said in the past? This is not certain, as the population has been so indoctrinated with negative and even catastrophic messages. But if the current crisis was to last and worsen, climate policies could face fierce opposition from the population, since it is true that the population cannot do without abundant and cheap energy, as the current panic demonstrates. Thanks to the development of technology and our energy resources (North Sea hydrocarbons and nuclear energy), the EU was able to escape the oil crises of the 1970s. The energy terrorism that may develop in the near future will have much more far-reaching consequences, as the EU is now much more dependent on energy consumption than it was fifty years ago.”
The foregoing is from a European viewpoint. My opinion/commentary now continues:
We Cannot Electrify Everything!
It is not even possible to install enough wind turbines and solar collectors across the U.S. to “Electrify Everything”. Further, we cannot electricfy everything and still sustain our high quality of living. For such products/materials as fertilizer, ammonia, food production energy, plastics, cement manufacture and steel manufacture. So what would a Rational Energy Policy look like? Here is my shot at offering one:
A RATIONAL ENERGY PLAN
Here is what a Rational Energy Plan would look like:
Maintain Existing Coal & Nuclear Plants as If they will Run for 20 more years….because… we will likely need them.
Reduce Federal Regulations on Oil, Gas, Coal production and all hard rock Mining within the U.S.A.
Reduce Regulations and build more Refinery Capacity
Approve Keystone and other Pipelines for Construction
Reduce Federal Regulations on Coal Plant Emissions to levels in effect in 2020 (except CO2 restrictions that were later vacated by SCOTUS)
Build New HELE Coal Plants, Equipped with Provisions for Future CCUS (HELE=High Efficiency Low Emissions)
Continue R & D for Energy Storage and Hydrogen Production
Increase Hydrogen Distribution Infrastructure
Keep Options of Continuing Internal Combustion Engines Beyond 2035 for those citizens that prefer Internal Combustion Engines
Expand Oil & Gas Infrastructure to meet next 30 year Demand
Increase the pace for designing, NRC Approvals, manufacturing and construction of new Small Modular Nuclear Reactors to be built all across the U.S.A. to replace the 102,000 MW’s of reliable, Dispatchable electric power production capacity that has been shut down since 2010.
Summary and Conclusions
When America’s economy and our productive capacity are restored, it will be with the result of reduced Federal Regulations and increased Domestic Energy production. To sustain life as we know it, each American on average needs about one million BTUs of energy equivalence each day. This includes energy for electricity generation, transportation, Industrial production, National Defense, commercial and residential uses. Over 90% of that energy is sourced from conventional sources of natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear. These numbers are substantiated by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Sankey Diagram I placed as the first illustration. Yes, it shows 95% of the primary energy America runs on is from conventional forms of energy. It is Energy Fiction to believe that the conventional forms we use and depend on now can be provided by wind and solar as the Biden Administration and Congress have advocated. (I suppose we could add to this list of indoctrinators: the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Environmental Extremist groups, the MSM, U.S. Public Education and Woke corporations)
If the Biden Administration and Congress do not create a Rational Energy Policy as I have outlined above, then America’s Infuence in the World and our Economy will go into an ever increasing decline. As outlined by Professor Samuel Furfari, the same is true for Europe. “Energy is Life, Without Energy we cannot live”.
The Developed World runs on energy and America has the natural resources to regain Energy Independence.
Dick Storm, October 12, 2022
Quote of the Week: “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression.” —James Madison (1788)
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
America, the rest of the Developed World and the Developing Countries of the World all depend on Fossil Fuels to power Industry, Quality of Life, Transportation and strong Economy’s. In fact more than 85% of the energy used today is used in “Heat-Engines”. Think about your life today and what you depend on. A car for transportation, air conditioning for summer comfort, Industrial production to provide jobs, economic strength and to continue to fuel our strong Economy, fuel for jet aircraft to shrink the world, Diesel fuel for trucks to deliver our food, Diesel fuel for shipping to transport products around the world. The largest slice of the energy production pie is provided by petroleum. Love them or hate them, the energy density of fossil fuels make them important to power our lives.
In America we use about 20 million barrels of oil each day. America has about 275 million cars and light trucks on the roads. This is peak vacation time in America, summer travel is brisk of people getting away to our favorite beach, mountain retreat or foreign destination. When we travel, we use energy. A lot of it.
Some prominent Americans, the Main Stream Media, the President and elected officials in high office are promoting “Net Zero Carbon by 2050”.
In my opinion, this is wrong for America and impossible to achieve. I will attempt to simplify my reasoning of why fossil fuels are important and the fact that we cannot eliminate them in the next 30 years unless there are major new break-throughs in technology.
Where We Get Our Energy
Each year, America uses about 100 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy. The U.S. Department of Energy has kept track of our actual energy sources and consumption for decades. Each year a report is produced to show the previous years energy production and use. Since about the year 2006 America has used between 95 and 103 Quadrillion Btu’s each year. Here below are two charts which show the sources and uses for energy in the U.S.A. during 2020. Note that due to the Pandemic, energy use declined from 2019 to only about 98 Quadrillion Btu’s. This was due to reduced travel and economic production during 2020, because of Covid-19. Chart 1 below shows the sources of our energy and the consumption. Note that the optimistic Renewables in 2050 is about 17 Quadrillion Btu’s equivalent. The EIA converts energy from hydroelectric, solar and wind to equivalent energy in Btu’s. Each Btu is equivalent at 100% efficiency of conversion to 778 Foot Pounds of work. Thus, the BTU’s produced and used represent all forms of energy on the charts below.
Sources in 2050 of our energy. Forecast based on the EIA analyses.
38 Quadrillion Btu’s Petroleum
37 Quadrillion Btu’s Natural Gas
17 Quadrillionn Btu’s Renewable Energy
7 Quadrillion Btu’s Nuclear energy
3 Quadrillion Btu’s Hydro-electric
3 Quadrillion Btu’s Biofuels
Total 105 Quadrillion Btu’s projected to be utilized in 2050 (5)
In my opinion, that number is low because our population is growing and I suspect that in order to provide the same quality of life in 2050 as we enjoy now, with a population expected to grow to 390(6) million in 2050, will require more than 105 Quadrillion Btu’s if we continue our high quality of lives.
Let’s discuss Electric Vehicles. Today there are about 276 million cars and light trucks on the road (7). Most are fueled by gasoline or diesel fuel which is provided by over 100,000 conveniently located service stations for refueling. If these are switched to being powered by electric, then the electric power demand will be much larger than 37% of our total energy production.
The electricity production chart below shows current and future trends for electricity production. If the auto manufacturers stop producing cars powered by internal combustion engines, then to preserve our current freedom to travel, the same total energy will be required for a given prosperous population. Thus, driving similar miles per year will require that electricity be produced in proportion to the fleet of EV’s. Study the chart below. In 2050 the projections are for 42% of our electricity to be generated from Renewables. The other 58% then is projected to be generated from traditional sources, natural gas, nuclear and coal. We should keep in mind that the population is expected to increase by about 18% by 2050.
If we continue our high quality of living, then Fossil Fuels will be required through 2050. Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 will be difficult or impossible to achieve, in my opinion.