|Wind and solar, intermittent, fickle, and costly, have seduced the energy platforms and governments, and led to a net zero fantasy that is basically, garbage in, garbage out energy policy|
A look at looming crises: two thirds of the US could suffer blackouts this summer
The True Cost of a Power Outage
While the inconvenience of a power loss is real enough by itself, the true monetary costs that are possible when a prolonged outage hits can’t be understated. In fact, according to a report put together by Kohler Generators, American households face approximately $150 billion in power outage-related expenses each year. So where do these costs come from?
In their survey, Briggs & Stratton looked at both how common certain power outage expenses were and their average cost. The most common expense was spoiled food, which 40 percent of survey respondents faced at an average cost of $160, during just one power outage. The second most frequent cost was for emergency supplies such as flashlights, candles and firewood; 29 percent of those surveyed reported such spending at an average of $76 per household.
(Comment: in the days of increased interest rates and inflation these costs are bound to escalate.)
By Sherri Lange
July 16, 2022
A New Dark Age
Stop These Things and its contributors foresee a new “dark age” descending as unaffordable power prices incur statewide imminent blackouts.
Think of it as a malignant cancer that spreads and ultimately devours its host. Wrecking the profitability of conventional generators is integral to the model of punitive mandates and ludicrously generous subsidies, which advance the unreliables at the expense of everything else that works. A power pricing and supply calamity soon follows.
One notable author, Donn Dears (contributor to many energy publications as well as Stop These Things) asks us to think, “California.” And Texas. Californians were asked in 2020 to reduce their use of electricity, under a “flex alert,” to reduce grid stress and avoid power outages. At the same time, electricity prices jumped by 7.5%, the largest increase of any state and “nearly seven times the increase seen in the United States as a whole.”
Dears offers a quick review of how the grid operates and describes its vulnerabilities.
There is a looming threat of blackouts this summer. The Wall Street Journal reported:
“Last week the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned that two-thirds of the U.S. could experience blackouts this summer. Welcome to the ‘green energy transition.’” The primary reason for blackouts is the addition of wind and solar to the electric grid. (Our emphasis)
As the WSJ also pointed out:
“The problem now is the loss of base-load generators that can provide reliable power 24/7.” Coal-fired and nuclear power plants are being closed.
Let’s reference again the ambitious carbon neutral plans in the USA, California, the most ambitious in the country. Governor Gerry Brown signed SB 100 into law, (2018) promising to commit California to net zero use of electricity by 2045. The actual breakdown of the targets are:
- 50 percent renewables by 2026
- 60 percent renewables by 2030
- 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045
The first two targets are merely expansions of the RPS (Renewables Portfolio Standard)
(Note the distinction between “renewables,” and carbon free.)
We note that “carbon free” includes everything, just not coal, oil and natural gas. Include if you will, nuclear, hydro electric, and emerging technologies, we suppose. (Hard to imagine excluding natural gas, I know.)
While some are lauding the clear and steady path to decarbonization being adopted by California legislators, the path does not appear clear (or in our view, even reasonable) of hurdles and real time grid lock, blackouts, and a looming sense that a) complete decarbonization is a rather childish and unrealistic objective, and b) the costs of these plans are absurdly high and untenable.
California’s energy costs and pollution levels are wound tightly with transportation.
The State’s largest carbon issue, a difficult one, is that 40-50% of its Greenhouse Gas emissions, twenty-nine million drivers, is very likely a more difficult problem than merely resolving grid issues.
The California Energy Commission suggests the transportation sector
“accounts for about 50 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, nearly 80 percent of nitrogen oxide pollution, and 90 percent of diesel particulate matter pollution. Transitioning the transportation sector to low-carbon fuels and zero and near-zero emission technologies is critical to achieving climate change goals and clean air standards”,
and that it spends about $100 million per year mitigating and improving this glaring problem.
Through the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), the Energy Commission provides about $100 million each year to develop and deploy low carbon fuels, infrastructure for zero and near-zero emission vehicles, and advanced vehicle technologies. The ARFVTP is in its 10th year and has invested more than $750 million in more than 600 projects.
The program funds projects
- in disadvantaged communities, poor and communities more impacted by pollution
- charging Infrastructure for Plug-in Electric Vehicles
- building a Foundation for Hydrogen Refueling Stations, now there are 38 with more promised
- advancing Low Carbon Fuels. ARFVTP grants have expanded in-state production of low-carbon fuels that assist in achieving the goals of the state’s low carbon fuel standard
- aligning Clean Technology Investment with Economic Development. The Energy Commission is helping to infuse California’s workforce with individuals who have skills and knowledge in cleaner transportation technologies and has invested nearly $35 million into more than 17,400 trainees
- Strategically Supporting Key California Policy Goals and Objectives. California has multiple policies in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, criteria air pollutants, and petroleum fuel use, to increase jobs and continue the state’s cutting-edge leadership, and to ensure that the transition to zero emission transportation is equitable. The ARFVTP is nimble and flexible as it directs investments to the most critical needs.
These nimble and flexible programs are likely to please some or even many. Note that job promises continue to “trill” through the “Cutting Edge Leadership.”
Also of note:
- The Energy Commission has received a one-time allocation of $75 million to replace the oldest and most polluting school buses throughout California, with a priority on disadvantaged communities.
How many sacrifices, how much suffering?
Carbon Delirium leads to nightmares
Blackouts are inevitable with the failings in the grid and overreaching and badly conceived energy policies, abject failures, are accidents waiting to happen, in themselves.
Let’s remember that 100 people died in Texas during the last blackout. Look also to the blackouts in New York City, 1977. 3,800 arrests and millions of dollars worth of damage.
Several news outlets, cite that weather related blackouts in the US are increasing by double, crippling the grids more seriously and for longer periods of time. Again, we know that blackouts can be deadly for the elderly and the vulnerable.
The grid is aging and fragile; it is unable to incorporate the mandates of more renewables to the mix. Or does so with peril.
Dears understands full well the implications. Bloomberg predicts a summer of blackouts. It says, add war, pandemic backlash, shortages, low inventories. Soaring prices. And they say, expect things to get worse.
A quick google search of impacts of blackouts, includes references to public health, violence, all manner of disruption including medical supplies and services. Food spoilage, and water contamination. CBS news paints a “grim” picture.
Six Texas power plants failed earlier this month as the summer heat just began to arrive, offering a preview of what’s to come. At least a dozen US states from California to the Great Lakes are at risk of electricity outages this summer. Power supplies will be tight in China and Japan. South Africa is poised for a record year of power cuts. And Europe is in a precarious position that’s held up by Russia — if Moscow cuts off natural gas to the region, that could trigger rolling outages in some countries
Bloomberg reminds us:
The world is grappling with “more than two years of global supply chain distress caused by the pandemic, the spreading fallout from the war in Ukraine and extreme weather caused by climate change,” said Henning Gloystein, an analyst at Eurasia Group. “The main risk is that if we see major blackouts on top of all the aforementioned problems this year, that could trigger some form of humanitarian crisis in terms of food and energy shortages on a scale not seen in decades.” (Our note: extreme weather is not caused by climate change.)
There is without doubt a humanitarian crisis unfolding at this time: predicated on fatuous energy policies, aging grids, and virtue signalling politicians.
Efforts to electrify everything, are maddening and frightening in their lack of common sense.
Bans on the use of Natural Gas for heating and bans on the sales of automobiles with internal combustion engines. Lavish life support subsidies drive the agenda, consumers be damned.
Some call these efforts, “dangerous.” After all, Net Zero is predicated on tangled targets, unproven technologies to reduce CO2, insincere efforts to control food, distribution of food, land use, and curtail or kill fossil fuels. All while using fossil fuels. Some refer to Net Zero as the “big con.” Tucked inside the rush to net zero, is the push towards wind and solar. How do you build a turbine with hundreds of moving parts? How do you sustain and maintain and transport it?
Electrification itself is a tall order. The high costs of electrification and conformity to simplistic and distorted world accords and agendas, are costing lives. [It is easy to see as Tucker Carlson does, the implications of Green Agendas on Sri Lanka’s economy. Ordinary Sri Lankans stand in line for hours or days, the poor, waiting for cooking gas and petrol…lines up to 2 km (1.2 miles) or more.]
THAT PESKY REALITY CHECK FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES
In one of the best descriptors of the problems facing electrification of vehicles, Connor Tomlinson writing for Net Zero Watch, May, 2022, titles his piece, The World Bank’s Impractical Electric Car Clap-trap. It is worth citing in full, following a precis of the main points.
In a nutshell, see the bullet points, all postulations based on the UK, but easily viewed through a North American or universal lens:
- Renewables will generate the failure of electricity; (Our emphasis)
- A ban on combustible engines would require (in the UK) 400,000 more charging stations by the year 2030, with rural areas “in black holes” of non service;
- Streets could be lined with cars waiting for a charge, for 12 hours at a time;
- A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) modelled electric car ownership will increase traffic congestion eleven percent by 2050. Combined with charging station scarcity, congestion could become chronic;
- Making electric cars requires six times the minerals as combustion engine vehicles: needing thirty times as the lithium, nickel, and other metals currently in circulation;
- …within the next eight years eco-authoritarians use these shortages as an excuse to restrict energy consumption and abolish car ownership;
- Ideological and geo political problems arise as…. China controls eighty percent of global annual battery production capacity, sixty percent of global graphite production, sixty five percent of nickel refining, and eighty percent of cobalt refining;
Here’s a shuddering thought:
- “Even if all of Britain’s cars became electric overnight, and full storage capacity could be returned to the grid without losses, it would still fall short of the deepest energy deficit by eighty-seven percent. This precedent is not only impractical: it means that the state can drain your EV’s battery flat, and enforce a travel lockdown anytime it pleases. If they can’t confiscate your car, the government can remotely deactivate your home charging point anytime they like.”
Both the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank have faced industry pressure to stop investing in internal combustion engine vehicles by 2025. Sixty-eight percent of transport investment by the World Bank involves combustion engines. But perhaps the World Bank has not floored the accelerator on EVs yet because they recognise roadblocks keep the wheel out of reach for working families.
The UK Government insists that combustion engine vehicles will be banned from production, importing, and sale by 2030. But a global semiconductor shortage has produced a projected nine percent slump in electric vehicle sales in the UK. Motorists are modelled to save £700 on fuel for making the switch to EVs. However, road pricing and tolls have been proposed to replace Treasury revenue once fuel duty becomes obsolete. Therefore, the gap between petrol and electric car running costs may close. Electricity costs could even eclipse fuel prices, should the renewables generating electricity fail.
There are also infrastructure impediments to overcome. The ban would require 400,000 charging points to be installed across the UK by 2030, up from the only 35,000 that were in place as of last year. Many rural areas remain ‘charging blackspots’, inaccessible for EVs on long journeys. Annual installation must increase ten-fold to meet the Department for Transport’s promise that ‘drivers will never be further than thirty miles from a rapid charging station’.
Even if charger targets are met, streets could be lined with cars charging for up to twelve hours at a time. This issue will be exacerbated in cities. ‘Generation Rent’ faces housing price rises of 14.3 percent; the fastest for seventeen years. Their reliance on being packed and stacked into high-rise apartments means a third and rising of the population have no access to private off-street parking. 24.6 percent of vehicles are parked on streets overnight. A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) modelled electric car ownership will increase traffic congestion eleven percent by 2050. Combined with charging station scarcity, congestion could become chronic — with motorists jousting for parking and charging spaces, and charging stoppages slowing delivery times for various courier services. This constitutes quite the regression from the convenient five-minute-stop at your local petrol garage.
All of this is presuming that the cars themselves can be manufactured to meet demand. Making electric cars requires six times the minerals as combustion engine vehicles: needing thirty times as the lithium, nickel, and other metals currently in circulation. The UK must expand battery production capacity by ninety times the present amount to keep pace. But absent abundant domestic resources, Britain remains heavily dependent on our geostrategic rivals for the raw materials used in EV and battery manufacture.
Britain imports over 2200 tonnes of lithium every year. Recent sanctions on Russia affected Britain’s top import: $12 billion of annual metal imports. Nickel prices saw a short-squeeze, with prices increasing 250 percent to over $100,000 a tonne. Both metals are instrumental in EV battery manufacturing.
Meanwhile, China controls eighty percent of global annual battery production capacity, sixty percent of global graphite production, sixty-five percent of nickel refining, and eighty percent of cobalt refining. This is because China’s Belt & Road Initiative has annexed more than a third of global precious metals deposits: including forty rare ore deposits in Zimbabwe, the ‘white goldrush’ of lithium under Argentinian salt-flats, and $1 trillion in lithium reserves in Afghanistan.
There is mounting evidence that the only way out of our rare metals shortage is to mine asteroids in outer space. Elon Musk’s rocket-measuring contest against Jeff Bezos and Richard Branston may be an interstellar gold rush to become Earth’s first trillionaire. But until these mad scientists invent safe passage to the stars, the rest of us will keep driving petrol cars.
But instead of abandoning infeasible commitments to the abolition of transport emissions within the next eight years eco-authoritarians use these shortages as an excuse to restrict energy consumption and abolish car ownership.
In addition to the usual anti-motorist platitudes by the cycling lobby, some have taken to advocating ride-share apps as a reason to ‘give up owning a vehicle’. These rent-only alternatives have the downside of making your means of mobility contingent on the kindness of strangers. Ride-sharing is a convenient addition to the transport economy. However, if car ownership were displaced wholesale by public transport and hire-cars, there are dire concerns for civil liberties. Say the wrong thing about the environment, and governments, or the increasing number of companies adopting environmental credit scores, can deplatform from anything except walking. Consumer choice must be a core principle of free societies — and that includes your right to buy and drive a petrol car.
EVs also render homeowners vulnerable to arbitrary power outages. Green Party Baroness Natalie Bennett has suggested that electric cars can be used a (sic) (as) driveway backup generators, should renewables fail to meet consumer demand. The National Grid and Octopus Energy are piloting a policy which drains EV batteries of energy during generation droughts. Even if all of Britain’s cars became electric overnight, and full storage capacity could be returned to the grid without losses, it would still fall short of the deepest energy deficit by eighty-seven percent. This precedent is not only impractical: it means that the state can drain your EV’s battery flat, and enforce a travel lockdown anytime it pleases. If they can’t confiscate your car, the government can remotely deactivate your home charging point anytime they like.
Electric cars are, incontrovertibly, a great idea in theory. But those wanting everyone to drive electric won’t get anywhere fast by banning the combustion engine — all they will achieve is pricing all but a privileged few out of car ownership entirely. That would be politically suicidal; my apolitical plumber recently told me, ‘I’ve never been to a protest, but if they try to take my car, you’ll see me in the streets.’ If the World Bank and British government follow through on their plan to ban the combustion engine, they may well have riots on their hands. They must abandon the planned petrol car ban, or risk terrible consequences.
Demystifying an assessment of the grid and accepting grim warnings about blackouts and imminent energy sacrifices are an important first step. What guerrilla style tactics will be required to upend the now universal chaos in energy? Will draconian energy saving measures be enough to save lives in the winter?
How distant are solutions? How quickly will Small Modular Reactors (SMR) be a reality? Of course, this emerging technology requires enhanced operational safety as well as design integrity and safety. (Ontario Canada is in active development with Saskatchewan; “Ontario is also working to provide the technology abroad in Poland and Tennessee.”) SMRs are scalable, can plug into larger or more local grids. How far do you have to run in the event of a meltdown? “The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission just agreed that any emergencies that could possibly occur at a small modular nuclear power plant probably won’t even get past the fence.”
And for the example of Clinch River, Tennessee Valley Authority, the facility “covers less than a tenth of a square mile or about 60 acres. COMPARATIVELY, it takes over 130,000 acres or about 200 square miles of wind factories, to produce the same amount of energy as one 12 Module NuScale Plant.” Talk about Density Modification.
The US, Canada, Argentina, and the UK, are a few of the front runners developing SMR. “Days before Canada’s national action plan announcement, the U.S. Department of Energy said it is awarding an initial $30 million in “risk reduction funding” for five SMR developers. The cash is part of a $600 million matched-funding package being paid out over seven years from DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).” NuScale has ambitious plans. “Bloomberg reported that NuScale Power, which has developed the first SMR to garner design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, would be supported by the U.S. International Development Finance Corp. to develop plants in South Africa.”
Opportunities are abundant.
But when it gets down to Net Zero Food, Net Zero Medicine, and Net Zero Fuel, with obvious global impacts from Misguided Climate “targets,” all bets are off. This seems to be where we all are now.
Governments ask consumers for constraints with heating, maximum 62 Degrees (20 C) in Germany this winter, follow flex alerts in California, to accept bans of some gas stations in California, bans on fertilizers, understand and support efforts to ban natural gas in Austin Texas and other American cities, encourage tree planting, ask drivers to commit to ride share programs, or engage in Meatless Mondays. Watch the real indicators of relentless stress, as food and fuel dry up and the cost of heating and cooling is out of this world.
We will not be canvassing outer space for rare earth metals any time soon. We will likely revert to coal, preserve stashes of natural gas, and explore the growing interest in Nuclear. Indeed, we are already. A recent Stop These Things blog indicates that “China, India and Indonesia are building hundreds of coal-fired power plants because they deliver electricity all day.”
It is certain that the push for “renewables,” by which most include as primarily wind and solar (although this concept is changing rapidly), has been part of the denouement, part of the ruination of economies and landscapes, and living things. The faster these are sent to the ether of ancient time, the better.
This is a story with many moving parts, as they say: stay tuned.
From Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
“Cheshire Puss…. Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
Sherri Lange writes about climate, energy and the environment, science, and nature