Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Green Welfare, Green Taxes, Green Poverty

Peter Ferrara
The road to hell is paved with Obama's Green intentions.

What would you do if gangs of robbers roamed your neighborhood at night, breaking into your neighbors' houses and stealing their family jewels and life savings? You would arm yourself, and your family members of sufficient age, to defend your property. Or you would move to a safer neighborhood.

But if the robbers formed gangs called Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, or the Natural Resources Defense Fund, and assaulted your standard of living, the Che Guevara Democrats expect you to greet them with open arms, and gleefully turn over bushels of your cash, until your life savings is gone, and your standard of living has been reduced to the level of Argentina.

That third world destination is where Obama's "green energy" economic strategy is taking America, all while he tells us sweet fairy tales about how this path is the road to 21st century prosperity.

Flower Power

Fancy political propaganda has us thinking that renewable, alternative fuels are the modern energy sources of the future. But just the opposite is true. Robert Bryce explains in his book Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future:

For millennia, humans relied almost completely on renewable energy. Solar energy provided the forage needed for animals, which could then be used to provide food, transportation, and mechanical power. Traveling…was made possible by the wind, human muscle, or animal muscle. And though today's wind turbines are viewed as the latest in technological achievement, land-based systems that captured the power of the wind have been recorded through much of human history.

Indeed, the classic vision of the settlements of the Old West in America involves a decaying, wooden, windmill. Byrce continues, "The use of hydropower likewise goes way back. The ancient Greeks used waterwheels; so did the Romans, who recorded the use of waterwheels in the first century B.C. The use of mechanical power from water continued to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution."

Moreover, "For 265 years after the Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Colony, and for 109 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, wood was the dominant source of energy in America." Coal surpassed wood in 1885. Oil surpassed coal in 1950. Natural gas is undergoing a resurgence today.

The world changed from wind, solar, and biomass to oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear for good reasons of physics and math. First and foremost are the concepts of energy density and power density. The hydrocarbons and nuclear pack a massively more concentrated punch. The power of solar and wind are very broadly diffused throughout the atmosphere, so more than herculean efforts are needed to collect and concentrate it in usable forms. Hence we see solar panels and several hundred foot wind turbines spread out over square miles, and it still doesn't add up to much.

The South Texas Project nuclear plant produces 300 horsepower per acre of land used, about the same as natural gas, with oil close behind. Wind power produces 6.4 horsepower per acre, solar photovoltaic 36 hp per acre, biomass 2.1. Corn ethanol requires about 1,150 times as much land as nuclear to produce the same horsepower.

The Milford Wind Corridor is a 300-megawatt Utah wind project with 139 wind turbines covering 40 square miles. Manufacturing the concrete to build them used 14.3 million gallons of water in producing 44,344 cubic meters of concrete. That means "each megawatt of wind power capacity requires about 870 cubic meters of concrete and 460 tons of steel." That's 32 times as much concrete and 139 times as much steel as for a megawatt produced by natural gas.

The diffusion problem is greatly compounded by the high variability of wind and solar conditions for power production. Bryce writes, "We want the ability to switch things on and off whenever we choose. That desire largely excludes wind and solar from being major players in our energy mix, because we can't control the wind and the sun. Weather changes quickly. A passing thunderstorm or high pressure system can take wind and solar power systems from full output to zero output in a matter of minutes. The result: we cannot reliably get or deliver the power from those sources at the times when it is needed."

Then there is the problem of storing wind and solar power: "Renewable energy has little value unless it becomes renewable power, meaning power that can be dispatched at specific times of our choosing….And despite decades of effort, we still have not found an economical way to store large quantities of the energy we get from the wind and the sun so that we can convert that energy into power when we want it."

As a result, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas concluded that just "8.7% of the installed wind capability can be counted on as dependable capacity during the peak demand period" and "conventional generation must be available to provide the remaining capacity needed to meet forecast load and reserve requirements." With conventional energy sources needed to back them up completely on short notice, wind and solar are really just vanity supply to make the wasteful rich feel good.

These are the reasons why the world changed, and its not going back. As Bryce explains, before the Industrial Revolution, "while solar, wind, and water power all provided critical quantities of useful energy, they were no match for coal, oil and natural gas. Hydrocarbons provided huge increases in power availability, allowing humans to go from diffused and geographically dispersed power sources to ones that were concentrated and free of specific geographic requirements. Hydrocarbons were cheap, could be transported, and most important, had greater energy density and power density. That increasing availability of power has allowed us to do ever-greater amounts of work in less time." Hence the industrial revolution and modern prosperity, now spreading worldwide.

Energy, Economic Growth and Modern Prosperity

Across the globe, modern prosperity is perfectly correlated with the use of energy and electricity. Byrce writes, "[T]he simple, unavoidable truth is that using oil makes us rich. In fact, if oil didn't exist, we'd have to invent it…. [A]s oil consumption increases, so does prosperity. And the correlation is so clear as to be undeniable."

And there is this...

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