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global warning: the wind and solar question
"liar, liar windmill on fire?"
there has been a great deal of ink spilled about the manifold failures, impracticalities, implausible physics denial, and outright fabrications on assumptive costs for electrical generation using wind and solar and the reasons that these modalities are exceedingly difficult to integrate at scale into grids while leaving the grids stable.
certain internet felines took up this topic and discussed the limitations of the physics and production/distribution realities here:
even eminent oxford dons are getting into the mix and throwing shade.
now this would, all on its own, be reason enough to reconsider or abandon such plans. no matter the fabulism, the laws of physics and the laws of economics both remain undefeated. and trying to break both at once lands you in serious trouble that you are unlikely to escape without severe consequences.
pile on the grievous and serious environmental issues that come from the mining, refining, and manufacture of the rare earths and other awfuls that go into these products (especially neodymium and dysprosium used for wind turbine magnets that have created literal lakes of radioactive waste slag) and you’re in pretty dire deficit on net benefit even if one accepts the claims of impending climate holocaust. you’re trading severe issues for postulated ones and even those may not be sufficient justification.
but in amongst all this lies perhaps the biggest question of all that almost always goes unasked:
does any of this stuff even work to reduce CO2 output?
because it sure looks like one can make an argument that it doesn’t.
california has been at the forefront of green dreaming, electric vehicles, and renewable mandates since long before groovy gavin took the reins.
and obviously, these are not the folks whose electrical grid you want to emulate.
it’s been unstable and overwhelmed for years.
it also has among the highest electrical costs in the CONUS. (this is electricity for all sectors, not just residential as it seemed a better metric. data here.)
it had been the highest and likely will be again by summer once new england gets out of the winter squeeze of having to ship in LNG from trinidad because no one can build a pipeline from the prolific gas fields of pennsylvania, cuz, well, green.
and as can be seen, CA power costs have more than doubled since 2001. (2023 figure is only thru jan)
but what’s really striking here was the fracking boom. in the 12 years from 2008, national electricity prices rose only 8.7% vs 44.1% for california as cheap, local natural gas made generation affordable. (and that 8.7% rise for US is overstated as a comparison because it contains california.)
so CA, despite having natural gas of its own and living quite near several states with lots and to spare, managed to miss the whole boom. their costs spike while others were not even keeping up with inflation which was a cumulative 20.1% over the period.
so, in real terms, US power prices fell 13% over 12 years while california’s rose 15%.
there’s your “green dream” price.
note that since 2020, the whole US is being increasingly made to play by these rules and electricity is now up all over.
but california leads the pack.
and is now nearly 1/3 non-hydro “renewables”
the question then becomes, well, what did they get for this? and the answer looks deeply disappointing.
carbon intensity per kWh is slightly higher than in 2011 and has actually been rising for 5 years.
(chart from robert bryce who has done wonderful work here)
how can this be? well, it’s easy actually.
they count biomass as “renewable” despite its awful carbon output.
and wind and solar are highly variable. they need to be supplemented with fast spin capacity that can take up the slack when they fade. and that’s gas (in small, inefficient turbines) and oil. nothing else can slide up and down fast enough. so the “savings” here are not really savings unless you include the backup costs.
and lying about this has become full blown national pastimes.
but is CO2 output really dropping?
because it sure looks like a lot of the “renewables darlings” do not fare terribly well, esp vs nuclear or even california.
and while hyrdo is only situationally available, nuclear could be placed all over.
but instead, we’re shutting it down.
and this really leads to a fairly pointy question, no?
is there really a success story on CO2 reduction anywhere in this wind and solar greentech saga?
where is the example of a country that adopted these technologies and saw overall CO2 output drop markedly as a result?
i’m honestly curious. can anyone cite, say, 3 examples that were actually driven by wind and sun?
or is the claim that these technologies reduce CO2 on a systemic level just as unsubstantiated as their cost and reliability claims and other eco credentials?
(and no, shifting to burning wood and calling it “0 carbon” does not count. that’s a nonsense claim with a massive duration mismatch of “release today take decades to recapture from replanting. maybe.”
because there IS one really good example of a huge drop in CO2.
and that was the US fracking boom.
and note that this is a drop in actual CO2 which we reeled back 30 years in terms of absolute level while the EU “made their numbers” by playing implausible definitional games around burning down sherwood forest then asking the US for more wood.
because it sure would seem like an “inconvenient truth” for wind and solar to discover that they fail to produce systemic reductions in CO2.
food for thought.