By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
National Energy Policy: “You can accurately judge the viability of a potential energy source by the attitude of green activists to it. If they attack it, it is viable. If they defend it, it is non-viable.” The preceding quote is from John Brignell, a pioneer in scientific measurement. He has long commentated on the energy policies of the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU), pointing out that politicians do not comprehend the long-term consequences of their actions, which may extend for decades. The long-term consequences of energy policies of Germany and the UK are coming to the fore. Due to increasing energy costs, viable industries are considering leaving these countries for locations that offer low costs for reliable electricity. They will take the needed jobs with them.
Image Credit: alp33/Shutterstock
Very simply, unreliable solar and wind energy cannot meet the demands of modern manufacturing, which requires uninterrupted flow of electricity to assure high quality in the product. Computer chips and electronic circuits are an example of such demanding products. Energy intensive industries such as chemicals, petrochemicals, aluminum and steel are also adversely affected by high-cost energy. Firms in such industries, even if headquartered in Germany, are looking elsewhere to expand. The future is not promising, regardless of the number of wind farms and solar panels subsidized by the respective governments. Increasingly, it is become obvious that politicians can no longer blame market failures for their own disastrous, market distorting policies. See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy and Questioning European Green.
Energy Policy – UK
In an essay for the independent think-tank Reform, Robert Darwall, a former Treasurer adviser, exposes many of the unfortunate decisions by the UK government in establishing its current energy policy, one which he states is leading to a major policy disaster. [Please note, he is not the same author as Rupert Darwall who wrote The Age of Global Warming: A History.] Much of what Robert Darwall expresses pertains specifically to the UK; however, certain elements apply to the energy policies of other countries.
One of the most glaring errors made by politicians, and those attempting to influence energy policy from renewable sources, is that all electricity is comparable, regardless of source. They are not. Power engineers distinguish between dispatchable and non-dispatchable sources. These can be roughly categorized as human controlled. From dispatchable sources, electricity can be made available when the consumer requires it. From non-dispatchable sources, such as solar and wind, it cannot. The failure to distinguish between sources that will supply electricity when needed, and sources that cannot, gives rise to opportunists who take advantage of public confusion and lack of clarity in thinking.
Darwall categorizes different sources by weather dependency. Those weather dependent, such as solar and wind, are not human controlled. He asserts that establishing a fixed target for weather dependent (renewable sources) requires the government to establish control of electricity generation. Unlike traditional sources, where the greater the output, the greater the costs, the variable cost and the marginal costs (cost for additional unit of generation, assuming capital costs are already accounted for) of weather dependent generation is virtually zero. For example, if the wind is blowing, it does not cost the producer any more if the wind blows lightly, generating little electricity, or stiffly, generating more electricity. Governments subsidizing the capital costs of such generation, distorts the ability of an electricity market to function properly. Government remedies for such distortions only compound the problem – and require future government remedies. Such policy creates a quagmire from which there is no easy escape. See links under Questioning European Green.
Energy Policy – US Administration
The Administration’s energy policy appears to fit John Brignell’s comment regarding green activists, as stated above. Already, the Administration is engaged in a major program to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants, on questionable claims regarding public health. The US has massive resources of coal, the extent of which are not fully known. The CO2 emissions proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would prevent the construction of the most efficient, non-polluting, commercial coal-fired plants, ultra-supercritical coal, without carbon capture and storage, or sequestration (CCS). Contrary to statements by the EPA and the Department of Energy, CCS is not commercially available and is being experimented with under highly specialized conditions, such as using oil wells for storage. Pumping in CO2, can increase the yield of the oil fields, thereby create a profit for the developers. The duration of the storage may become a major issue.
On an earlier issue, the EPA issued regulations on mercury emissions, and other emissions, from coal-fired power plants, the so-called MATS regulations. The public health benefits from these regulations claimed by the EPA and others, including preventing up to 11,000 premature deaths per year, are highly questionable. On November 25, the US Supreme Court announced it would hear challenges to these regulations. Among the challenges are the extensive costs of the regulations. The arguments will be heard this spring, and a is ruling likely in June 2015.
Not satisfied, on November 26 the EPA announced another round of proposed regulations on electrical utilities. These are on ground level ozone, which can contribute to smog. Smog is a major health problem in China and other urban areas where industrialization is taking place. About one-third of the US is out of compliance under current EPA regulations of 75 parts per billion. The implementation of the proposed EPA regulations of 65 parts per billion may be the most expensive regulations to date.
Often, the EPA avoids the necessary distinction between ozone, and other emissions such as fine particles that contribute to what is called smog. For example, in the eastern US, plants emit volatile organic compounds (VOC) which contribute to smog. Early settlers did not name the Blue Ridge Mountains for its crystal clear air. One can expect that any distinctions between natural and human products will be blurred in the efforts to establish any health effects from limiting ozone. See Articles #1, #2, and #3 and links under EPA and other Regulators on the March.
EPA Carbon Dioxide Regulations
The EPA regulations of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants stems from its 2009 endangerment finding (EF) that greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, endanger public health.
In preparing comments on EPA regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, SEPP reviewed the finding and some of its past comments. Namely, the EPA claimed its findings are supported by science and cited three lines of evidence.
1.) EPA claims a distinct human fingerprint – a hot spot in the atmosphere centered over the tropics at about 33,000 feet. It does not exist. Satellites and weather balloons have failed to find it.
2.) EPA claims late 20th century surface global warming was unprecedented and dangerous. It was not. A similar warming occurred in the early 20th century, which was not associated with carbon dioxide. Any late 20th century surface warming stopped over 16 years ago.
3.) EPA claims climate models are reliable. Climate models failed to predict that global warming would stop and greatly exaggerate the warming over the past 30 plus years.
Experience in the Federal Courts of Appeal have demonstrated that the courts will not accept challenges to scientific findings promulgated by government agencies. The government agencies are well aware of this biased attitude, and take advantage of it.
Current comments, to be submitted on December 1, will include the quote of the week by Karl Popper. The comments will emphasize that no one, today, has been able to duplicate EPA science: 1) the fingerprint is missing; 2) the 20th century warming has stopped; and, in general, 3) the climate models overestimate global warming.
The EPA and the courts may respond that proof is not required each time the EPA establishes regulations. The rejoinder is that proof must be consistent over time, if it is not consistent, it is not scientific proof.
One of the fierce contentions between supporters of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its skeptics is the treatment of the warm period known as the Medieval Warmer Period (MWP) and the cold period known as the Little Ice Age (LIA). The IPCC and its advocates claim that these were largely local or regional and primarily confined to Europe. Recent evidence shows such climate change occurred at Tierra del Fuego, on the southern tip of South America, near Antarctica. Is this the tip of the iceberg on climate change? See links under Changing Climate.
Additions and Corrections: TWTW reader Christopher Essex corrected TWTW in referring to the bitumen extracted from Alberta Canada as tar sands. He writes: “If you have ever seen bitumen it is really sand and fairly clear oil. I have seen it up close. There is no tar. The correct descriptive term is oil sands.” TWTW stands ably corrected.
Number of the Week: 1,718,407 miles (2,764,917 km). According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US Department of Transportation, in 2012 there was a total of 1,718,407 miles of pipelines in the US moving oil, petroleum products, and natural gas. Oil, 151,912 miles; natural gas, 1,566,495 miles. For six years, Washington has held up a 1,179 mile pipeline to move bitumen, oil sands, from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.
ARTICLES: For the numbered articles below, please see this week’s TWTW at:http://www.sepp.org…
1. Supreme Court to Review EPA Rule on Power Plant Emissions
Decision to Review Air Pollution Standards Represents a Setback for Obama Administration
By Amy Harder and Brent Kendall, WSJ, Nov 25, 2014
2. EPA Proposes Stricter Ozone Air Pollution Standard
Proposal Expected to Reanimate Battle Between Businesses and Environmental Groups
By Amy Harder, WSJ, Nov 26, 2014
3. Highway to the Danger Ozone
As Obama rewrites the law, Congress and the courts begin to push back.
Editorial, WSJ, Nov 27, 2014
4. Why Blocking Oil Pipelines Is Dangerous
By Robert Rapier, WSJ, Nov 25, 2014