Goodbye to Dependable Juice


I am deeply concerned about global warming, and do my part to influence vast, complex planetary weather systems by replacing light bulbs and reusing grocery bags. Together we can make a slight, statistically insignificant difference! But the real test of your concern comes when you have to give up things you really like, such dependable electricity. 

As you know, we shouldn’t build nuclear power plants, because they’re scary, and Karen Silkwood died for our sins. Besides, if we get power from our friend the Atom, it will mean there’s no incentive for clean “green” methods like bird-mincing wind turbines, or solar power, which could provide us with limitless power. (Unless the solar farm impinges upon the habitat of the Arizona Squeakrat, in which case, forget it.)  Green-enengy enthusiasts believe we can get sufficient energy from wind and solar some day, so we don’t need to get more gas or drill for oil now.

That’s what we think now, anyway. The message is starting to change. This BBC interview interview spells it out quite nicely: 

“The grid is going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030,” said  Steve Holiday, the CEO of Britain’s “National Grid.” “We keep thinking that we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It’s going to be much smarter than that. We are going to change our own behaviour and consume it when it is available and available cheaply.”

It’s one thing when an Earnest Youth with a clipboard and a petition wants to tell you how we have to give up electricity to save the planet; it’s quite another when it comes from the chap in charge of making electricity in the first place. There you have it: the next step in readjusting our expectations and experiences downward.  Because of intentional scarcities engineered to combat global warming, you will not be able to flip on the switch and get light, or make coffee, or turn on a computer.   The power grid will not exist to serve the citizens; the citizens will serve the the objectives of the people who control the power grid. It’s rationing, pure and simple – but it’s not because they couldn’t provide enough power. It’s because they refused to do it.  Better to love the darkness than light a candle, you know. All that smoke.

By the way, half of Scotland’s power comes from two atomic plants. Both will close by 2023. The Scottish parliament has banned the construction of new plants. Wikipedia notes that “Scottish leaders hope to replace these with renewables.” Let us know how that works out there, Angus. 

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    My crank generators plays Pop-Goes-The-Weasel. How about yours?

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    Then again, perhaps the only thing that can save Britain is to turn back the clock. A desperate move, but it’s all they got. Electing Cameron has so far proved unsuccessful.

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  3. Profile Photo Member

    James Rummel develops an interesting analogy with hydraulic empires and their use of control over water as a means of social control.

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  4. Profile Photo Contributor

    Two words come to mind, a formulation I believe originated at the fertile keyboard of Jonah Goldberg: “feckless crapweasels.” Did I just violate the Ricochet CoC?

    I’ve spent time in Addis Ababa, a city where the citizens consume power on those days and times when–miraculously!–the electrons flow in abundance. Hydropower is the renewable powering Addis–actually the only practical form of solar power–but, alas, the reservoir is undersized, perpetual drought reduces available generating capacity and, of course, the socialists in charge tolerate a good deal of kilowatt piracy in order to prevent Benghazi-style unrest from curdling the political goat milk.

    Rotating blackouts cruise about the city each day, seemingly at random, obliterating any ability to construct a modern industrial economy. Restaurants can’t preserve and prepare food, factories can’t produce…not much happens when the power is out.

    Nevertheless, I suppose we can all be grateful that the Ethiopian government is doing its part to Save The Planet.

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  5. Profile Photo Inactive

    Socialism means equality of misery. Why should anyone have more power than, say, North Korea? The left is all about fairness, remember?

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  6. Profile Photo Podcaster

    Warning: The following is a politically incorrect and cruel statement. Read at your own discretion.

    I can’t wait until the elderly grandparents of liberals start to die in their 102° apartment buildings in Chicago because of summer-time rolling blackouts.

    Or that in the suburbs Grandma died when the oxygen generator quit in the middle of the night and Gramps couldn’t afford the $6 a gallon gas to fuel the backup genny. (Actually, Gramps did fill the tank last week, but at those prices thieves kept sneaking into the backyard to steal the gas. He couldn’t help it. See, Joe down the street tried putting his generator in the garage and ended up dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.)

    America’s energy “policy” to Win the Future. WTF?

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  7. Profile Photo Thatcher

    This is insane! No civilization has ever reduced it need for energy without a collapse. Either we will need to consume more energy in the future, or we will not be here.

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  8. Profile Photo Member

    Look, the crunch has never come in Scotland and 2023 is a long way away. I’d bet money those plants are never closed.

    The other thing is that the guy managing the grid is just saying that he and his company have found a way of jacking up electricity prices during certain hours. That’s something to which the electricity company is not averse. “Green” has more than one meaning.

    Wind and solar will never work as more than a small fraction of the power consumed. The wind doesn’t always blow so is difficult to plan and it’s light for no more than 12 hours per day on average.

    The policies that Obama and the Democrats are following are highly reactionary. They want to use lower energy density fuels when the course of civilization has been to use ever higher energy density fuels.

    I’ve lived in 3rd world countries with rolling blackouts. I can remember when I moved back to the US, flipping on the light switch in the middle of the night and being surprised the electricity came on. I doubt Americans would ever put up with it.

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  9. Profile Photo Inactive

    The lunacy of our energy policy and that it is only timidly challenged, if at all, by our “feckless crapweasel” side of the political argument renders me less than optimistic. I am nearly ready to submit to the misery of the future sooner than later so we can get the pain over and done and rise from the ashes(or piles of toppled windmills and functionless solar panels).

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  10. Profile Photo Inactive

    tabula rasa: I think I may have a good idea for dealing with the occasional blackouts we’ll have to endure to save the planet: small, back-yard, coal-powered home generators.

    Funny you should say that, as I am working on a wood gas generator to supply burnable gas fuel for one of my IC generators (actually a portable welder, but juice is juice).

    I’m also working on a tiny steam powered generator that can supply the 25 kW necessary to fully power a modern house with electric heat. It’s not a turbine though, disk turbines are not very efficient, and blade turbines are way too expensive to fabricate on such a small scale. I’m talking good old fashioned piston/crankshaft locomotion, but using modern materials and methods.

    We all need to work on the political solutions to keep this stuff from becoming a necessity, but politicians being what they are, I find it prudent to plan for crappier eventualities as well.

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  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    James, this gives you the perfect reason to move to Arizona–solar power can sorta, kinda work down there. Escape the coming Dark Age!

    The left hates affordable electric power for the same reason it hates automobiles and general aviation: all of these technologies provide people with the means to achieve and enjoy personal freedom.

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  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    I once lived a few miles from Dun Rey, pronounced Doonray, the nuclear power plant in Northern Scotland. This was almost 50 years ago, 1963. Of course, the promise of nuclear power has been extinguished by the AGW insanity. Now, here in Colorado Springs, I’m watching the Air Force Academy building a gigantic solar panel array, for on-base power.

    What does this say about the nature of civilization? It is fragile. Never underestimate the stupidity of mankind. If Darwin had been right, we’d be gone. Only the grace of God keeps us from wiping ourselves out.

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  13. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’m basically with you, James, but if this Holiday chap is talking about smart metering, that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. If power can be priced in real time, according to demand, then consumption can be smoothed so that peak loads are not so great during the day. As it stands now, peaking plants (usually natural gas-fired) stand idle most of the time, generating electricity only during the hottest days. This is a wasteful deployment of capital. With lower power prices at night, folks would be more likely to forgo AC until they’re home and ready for beddy-bye. They could also choose to charge their Chevy Volts overnight with those cheaper electrons. (That’s a joke.)

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  14. Profile Photo Inactive

    So you, Rob, Peter and the gang would have to come to my house each week and talk for 90 minutes? Come on, its for the children.

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  15. Profile Photo Member

    I laugh at your fears of an unstable electricity supply! I laugh because I live in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and my electricity is supplied by PEPCO! I already live in an electricity optional world, we lose power due to rain, snow, sleet, ice, wind, sushine, blue skies and daylight! In the last 10 years the longest period without electric power was 10 days, but the same year had a nine day and a five day period of no power. I listened to Superbowl 2010 on the radio, wrapped in quilts, by candle light. This year we have only been without power for a total of 6 days, three days in July during the peak of the summer. Now PEPCO wants to get me to install a device that turns off my air conditioners compressor preventing if from doing 25%, 50% or 100% of what I want it to do [cool the house to 78 degrees] for savings of $80 to $120 per year! One neighbor installed a natural gas generator, others use the noisy portables, we just eat everything in the ‘fridge and freezer and replace it when the power comes back.

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  16. Profile Photo Inactive

    I think I may have a good idea for dealing with the occasional blackouts we’ll have to endure to save the planet: small, back-yard, coal-powered home generators.

    With a little American ingenuity we can have these available to power up as soon as the power goes off. I picture a contraption that, once it senses the power is off, spills a pint of regular gas on some good-quality, quick-burning dirty coal. A wire then causes a good old kitchen match to get the fire going, which heats a miniature boiler, creating steam, which turns a turbine designed to produce just the right amount of electricity for your home.

    For hot-weather areas, the devices may need to be a bit bigger to handle air-conditioning.

    It’s a win-win: we get electricity and West Virginia coal miners keep their jobs.

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  17. Profile Photo Inactive

    In some ways, I almost admire the testicular fortitude of the British political class. On our side of the pond, even some Republicans get weak in the knees at the thought of reducing funding to the Federal Department of Cowboy Poetry. But the Brits are more than willing to tell their constituents “Hey, we’ll give you electricity when we feel like it, and you’ll LIKE it.”

    Of course, I’m sure this has a lot to do with what’s near and dear to the hearts of politicians. Anything “green” is all the rage these days, because, it’s like, the only planet we’ve got, man. On the other hand, even some supposedly “conservative” politicians seem to regard ideas like fiscal responsibility and limited government as eccentricities on the order of witchcraft.

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