Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking

 

This is a very good read though it is very long but well worth reading. It is a comprehensive critique of why “renewables” are never going to work as currently thought of in terms of revolutionizing energy use (solar, wind, batteries). It explains that there are definite obstacles based in physics to how efficient current technologies can be and will not be capable of revolutionizing energy. It does not argue that the quest is futile. It does argue that where government funding is centered will not achieve the desired results.

From the executive summary:

“A movement has been growing for decades to replace hydrocarbons, which collectively supply 84% of the world’s energy. It began with the fear that we were running out of oil. That fear has since migrated to the belief that, because of climate change and other environmental concerns, society can no longer tolerate burning oil, natural gas, and coal—all of which have turned out to be abundant.

So far, wind, solar, and batteries—the favored alternatives to hydrocarbons—provide about 2% of the world’s energy and 3% of America’s. Nonetheless, a bold new claim has gained popularity: that we’re on the cusp of a tech-driven energy revolution that not only can, but inevitably will, rapidly replace all hydrocarbons.

This “new energy economy” rests on the belief—a centerpiece of the Green New Deal and other similar proposals both here and in Europe—that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage are undergoing the kind of disruption experienced in computing and communications, dramatically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. But this core analogy glosses over profound differences, grounded in physics, between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.

In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

This paper highlights the physics of energy to illustrate why there is no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.”

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  1. Seawriter Contributor

    The real new energy economy is centered on fracking.

    • #1
    • September 26, 2019, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  2. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hang On:

    In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

    This paper highlights the physics of energy to illustrate why there is no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.”

    Hang,

    Thanks for this. There is nothing more dangerous than this kind of wishful thinking stimulated by an ideological obsession. Over the last 40 years, massive amounts of research dollars and huge direct subsidies have been unable to make these “renewables” anything like a replacement energy source. To put all of one’s eggs in this basket is completely insane.

    The Green New Deal is spending a huge amount of money that we don’t have on a technology that will not work to solve a problem that does not exist.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #2
    • September 26, 2019, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  3. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    The real new energy economy is centered on fracking.

    The author is arguing that solar, wind and batteries are not new – but then neither is oil, natural gas. And it all comes down to economics and solar, wind and batteries are vastly more expensive. The rapid improvements in solar, wind and batteries have already occurred and they are asymptotically approaching their limits as imposed by physics.

    Fracking is undergoing the same type of fast cost reductions / output efficiencies, but there is again a limit imposed by physics and will eventually push into asymptotic improvements. Oil and natural gas will still hold the upper hand in terms of economics.

    • #3
    • September 26, 2019, at 11:46 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Seawriter Contributor

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Oil and natural gas will still hold the upper hand in terms of economics.

    Umm . . . what else are we fracking for other than oil and gas? Fracking is new technology to get oil and gas. Fracking is not just hydraulic fracturing, either. It is the marriage of directional drilling, multiple-hole wells, and hydraulic fracturing.

    • #4
    • September 26, 2019, at 12:03 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western ChauvinistJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You know something is of value if people are willing to pay for it — recycling of metals, like aluminum and copper, for example. The fact that you have to pay to have someone take your newspapers indicates the activity is worse than useless. 

    Same goes for wind and solar, which we heavily subsidize (involuntarily pay for) with our tax dollars. It’s a giant red flag as to their economic inefficiency. Not to mention their environmental devastation to birds and other flying critters.

    I tell my family, when the zombie apocalypse starts, you’ll find me strategically positioned at the base of one of those damned wind turbines with a stick of dynamite between my teeth. I figure, if I’m going out, I’m taking a few of those monstrosities with me, domino style. 

    • #5
    • September 26, 2019, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Those who push for an end to the use of “fossil fuels” in favor of “renewables” care not a whit for anything in that paper. They do not care how expensive or unreliable so-called renewables are, they care only for power, and the power that allows them to control what kind of energy you use, how you heat and (not) cool your home, how you travel to work and other activities, how you wash your clothes, cook your food, and light your home and business.

    • #6
    • September 26, 2019, at 12:17 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  7. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    It is important to realize that there is a lot of money (mostly subsidies) being made by “Green Companies” and that a loot of funding to the anti-Trump movement comes from them. It is not just ideology, whatever ideology one thinks Trump has, it is about the billions being made by the green industries.

    • #7
    • September 26, 2019, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Oil and natural gas will still hold the upper hand in terms of economics.

    Umm . . . what else are we fracking for other than oil and gas? Fracking is new technology to get oil and gas. Fracking is not just hydraulic fracturing, either. It is the marriage of directional drilling, multiple-hole wells, and hydraulic fracturing.

    Directional drilling has been around since the 1960s. Hydraulic fracturing has been around since the 1940s. It was as a result of the price of the barrel of oil that lots of innovations have occurred and continue to occur.

    • #8
    • September 26, 2019, at 12:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. JosePluma Thatcher

    Talk about synchronicity! My post from this morning discusses the same subject on a more local level based on my experience and comes to the same conclusions–including the magical thinking.

    • #9
    • September 26, 2019, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    they care only for power, and the power that allows them to control what kind of energy you use, how you heat and (not) cool your home, how you travel to work and other activities, how you wash your clothes, cook your food, and light your home and business.

    From a post I wrote 10 years ago:

    James Boswell is of course best known as the great biographer of Samuel Johnson. But Boswell didn’t spend all his time in Dr Johnson’s company. In 1776, he visited the Boulton & Watt steam engine factory. Showing Boswell around, Matthew Boulton summed up his business one simple phrase:

    I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have–POWER.

    Fast forward to 2009. In the United States as in Western Europe, politicians are conducting a vendetta against the energy industry. See for example this, which describes the closure of an aluminum smelter in Montana–because it can no longer obtain affordable electricity–and the probable exit of much of the nonferrous metals industry from Western Europe, for the same reason. 

    So, was Matthew Boulton wrong? Have we finally found a group of humans–our present-day political leaders–who are NOT interested in power?

    Hardly. Our present generation of politicans are at least obsessed with their personal power as previous political leaders were.

    So why are they so willing to take actions that will clearly reduce the power of the countries they represent? Mechanical power is not identical to national power, but it is surely closely correlated.

    Part of the answer is simple cluelessness. Most American politicians, in particular, have long been lacking in any scientific or technological knowledge. And, increasingly, they also lack both theoretical and practical knowledge of economics and business. They often make decisions without understanding the real implications.

    But there is another and even less creditable reason for these political attitudes. Many politicians–and many of the academics and other “experts” advising them–simply do not identify closely with their own nations and with the people and culture of those nations. There is a strong thread of belief in the U.S. Democratic Party that America is too wealthy, too powerful, too dangerous–that it is country that is “just downright mean,” in the words of America’s (then-current) First Lady. And if you think these things about a country and its people, you’re not likely to want to increase–or even sustain–its power.

    Especially if you decouple the power of your country from your own personal power. And I think “progressive” politicians, and many members of academic and even business elites, do see themselves as inhabiting a transnational space in which their personal well-being is not strongly coupled to that of their countries.

    • #10
    • September 26, 2019, at 1:30 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  11. PHCheese Member

    Facts are always a problem for the left.

    • #11
    • September 26, 2019, at 2:53 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    David Foster (View Comment):
    . Most American LAWYERS, in particular, have long been lacking in any scientific or technological knowledge. And, increasingly, they also lack both theoretical and practical knowledge of economics and business. They often make decisions without understanding the real implications.

    FIFY

     

    • #12
    • September 26, 2019, at 2:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Hang On:

    In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

    This paper highlights the physics of energy to illustrate why there is no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.”

    Hang,

    Thanks for this. There is nothing more dangerous than this kind of wishful thinking stimulated by an ideological obsession. Over the last 40 years, massive amounts of research dollars and huge direct subsidies have been unable to make these “renewables” anything like a replacement energy source. To put all of one’s eggs in this basket is completely insane.

    The Green New Deal is spending a huge amount of money that we don’t have on a technology that will not work to solve a problem that does not exist.

    Regards,

    Jim

    And the opportunity cost, the lost R&D and development in useful energy energy, nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas, diesel engines, cleaner coal, etc etc etc will never be known.

    • #13
    • September 26, 2019, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  14. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kozak (View Comment):
    And the opportunity cost, the lost R&D and development in useful energy energy, nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas, diesel engines, cleaner coal, etc etc etc will never be known.

    Kozak,

    You have got it exactly. Even taxation is better. At the end of the day, the tax money still exists and can be spent on something that might help someone. With this environmental madness, trillions of dollars of GNP that would have existed doesn’t exist anymore period. Gone forever. No tax was ever that cruel.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #14
    • September 26, 2019, at 5:37 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    This has been the case for some time.

    Want a green new deal? Tell the NRC to start approving new nuclear reactors. Even modern variants on the classic PWR are slow to appear.

    Use the waste steam heat from reactors for coal liquefaction to avoid destroying coal country.

    • #15
    • September 26, 2019, at 5:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    Great article. I think it understates the lifetime energy production per oil rig investment. A quick glance at the math suggests they failed to account for the productive lifespan of the wells drilled, which reduces the estimated total production.

    Anyways, the disparity between advances in computing and advances in other facets of life is the base for many expressions of anguish from many progressives. “If cars advanced like computers, our cars would cost a few pennies and get a million miles to the gallon!” Yeah, and those cars would be the size of a cockroach.

    • #16
    • September 28, 2019, at 10:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Kozak (View Comment):
    dangerous than this kind of wishful thinking stimulated by an ideological obsession. Over the last 40 years, massive amounts of research dollars and huge direct subsidies

    This is why the Democrat donors who live from these subsidies are adamantly anti-Trump. There are trillions of dollars at stake. Anti-fracking is a litmus test for fundraising on the left.

    • #17
    • September 28, 2019, at 12:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. Barfly Member

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    It is important to realize that there is a lot of money (mostly subsidies) being made by “Green Companies” and that a loot of funding to the anti-Trump movement comes from them. It is not just ideology, whatever ideology one thinks Trump has, it is about the billions being made by the green industries.

    In fact, it’s always been about the loot. John Holdren, Rachel Carson, Michael Mann, James Hansen, and all the other seminal propagandists all knew they were lying. Solyndra was the merest tip of the iceberg, and Elon Musk is a con man too. The whole green scam is all about the money.

    • #18
    • September 29, 2019, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt BartleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Just a day or two ago the Buffalo News had an article about how battery technology is this close to a major jump in capacity that will make solar and wind work. It’ll keep the lights on for 100 hours even without wind or sun! It said that renewables taking over fossil fuels is inevitable.

    • #19
    • September 29, 2019, at 6:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. cirby Member

    I know a few people who are incredibly pro-solar. They are absolutely certain that solar is going to get much, much better and cheaper in just a few years.

    It’s always funny to watch their faces when I mention that right now, you spend more money on the installation of a rooftop solar system than you do on the panels themselves – and the installation costs aren’t going down at all.

    The sad part is when I tell them that, if their house catches on fire, the fire department will pull up and keep the blaze from spreading to neighboring houses, but won’t do much of anything to fight the fire in the solar-equipped building.

     

    • #20
    • September 29, 2019, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    We get hit by so many solar companies, it’s ridiculous. We figured out that it would take 20 years to break even. We also discovered that many of the companies were frauds.

    • #21
    • September 29, 2019, at 9:44 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    Thanks. The hard part is not the read; the hard part is getting people who are frothily shouting “SOLAR!” and shaking their heads at how stupid the knuckle-draggers are to read anything that runs contrary to what they’re being fed by schools, colleges, and media.

    If only colleges were places of learning versus places of indoctrination.

     

    • #22
    • September 30, 2019, at 3:11 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Steve C. Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Oil and natural gas will still hold the upper hand in terms of economics.

    Umm . . . what else are we fracking for other than oil and gas? Fracking is new technology to get oil and gas. Fracking is not just hydraulic fracturing, either. It is the marriage of directional drilling, multiple-hole wells, and hydraulic fracturing.

    Tied together with improved computer modeling. 

    • #23
    • September 30, 2019, at 4:26 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. cirby Member

    Fracking isn’t just for new fields, either – there are a lot of older, “tapped-out” fields in the US and other places that have massive amounts of oil still in place.

     

    • #24
    • September 30, 2019, at 5:47 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  25. aardo vozz Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    The sad part is when I tell them that, if their house catches on fire, the fire department will pull up and keep the blaze from spreading to neighboring houses, but won’t do much of anything to fight the fire in the solar-equipped building.

     

    Why is that?( Sorry for being dense, but I really don’t know, and would like to know).🙂

    • #25
    • September 30, 2019, at 6:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. cirby Member

    aardo vozz (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):

    The sad part is when I tell them that, if their house catches on fire, the fire department will pull up and keep the blaze from spreading to neighboring houses, but won’t do much of anything to fight the fire in the solar-equipped building.

     

    Why is that?( Sorry for being dense, but I really don’t know, and would like to know).🙂

    Because there’s no way to “turn off” a solar panel array, especially when it’s tied into a big battery system.

    Even at night, when the firemen show up, they use big lights to illuminate the building, and that gives enough voltage in the panels to be dangerous.

    A lot of solar panels are also very flammable and give off nasty fumes.

     

    • #26
    • September 30, 2019, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Steve C. Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    Fracking isn’t just for new fields, either – there are a lot of older, “tapped-out” fields in the US and other places that have massive amounts of oil still in place.

     

    There was an excellent article in Texas Monthly about five years ago about the chemistry of fracking sand and how one service company had reinvigorated exploration and production of the Permian Basin fields in the early 2000s through customizing their recipes. Once dormant or depleted fields were being redeveloped at a rapid pace.

    • #27
    • September 30, 2019, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):

    Fracking isn’t just for new fields, either – there are a lot of older, “tapped-out” fields in the US and other places that have massive amounts of oil still in place.

     

    There was an excellent article in Texas Monthly about five years ago about the chemistry of fracking sand and how one service company had reinvigorated exploration and production of the Permian Basin fields in the early 2000s through customizing their recipes. Once dormant or depleted fields were being redeveloped at a rapid pace.

    Clayton Williams spoke about his land holdings in the western Permian Basin about 25 years ago, and explained that development there had been very limited because being closer to the mountains and the uplift of strata formations that caused, the rock was ‘bad’ in that it did not give up its oil and gas easily to fracking using vertical drilling techniques. It was the modern frac methods combined with the horrizontal drilling that opened all those layers of shale to releasing their oil and gas.

    • #28
    • September 30, 2019, at 8:24 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The oil companies are reacting to the Democrats’ anti-fracking efforts in the run-up to the 2020 election by ramping up drilling in southeastern New Mexico, even as drilling in the Texas portion of the Permian Basin (and other basins to the east) has been in decline over the past six months, because of the lack of pipeline capacity to get any of the oil and gas to market. Why drill and complete now if there’s no way to ship out what you’re drilling?

    The answer to that in New Mexico is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Oilfield land in Texas is controlled either by the state or private landowners, while about 50 percent of the land in the New Mexico portion of the Permian is in federal hands — even if you’re drilling on private land in New Mexico, if you build pipelines to ship out what’s being drilled, you’re going to have to deal with the BLM.

    During the Obama years, companies in the western Permian did everything they could not to run pipelines that started in Texas through New Mexico, even though that meant spending a bunch of extra $$$ to get them across a lake, because if the pipeline went into New Mexico it was going to be on BLM land and would have to comply with interstate rules. That’s been relaxed under the Trump Administration, which immediately showed up when Exxon paid $6 billion to buy oilfield land from the Bass family in New Mexico.

    But with the 2020 election coming up, the oil companies aren’t taking any chances that the Democrats might win, and someone like Liz Warren might ban fracking on all federal lands. So they’re doing everything they can to get their current target sites drilled out and producing by January of 2021, to the point the two counties that make up New Mexico’s main portion of the Permian currently have over 105 rigs in operation, which is about 12 percent of all the rigs operating in the United States.

     

    • #29
    • September 30, 2019, at 8:36 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):
    . Most American LAWYERS, in particular, have long been lacking in any scientific or technological knowledge. And, increasingly, they also lack both theoretical and practical knowledge of economics and business. They often make decisions without understanding the real implications.

    FIFY

     

    I have to object to the swipe at my profession. Lawyers generally don’t make public policy decisions of any consequence.

    They may do so if selected for another position, such as legislator or judge. I agree that many legislators and judges don’t tend to think through the implications of their decisions, but this appears to be much more highly correlated with holding a Leftist ideology, rather than with legal training.

    There are, obviously, good reasons to want legislators and judges to have been lawyers, as their job is to write and interpret laws. We lawyers actually do have technical knowledge regarding the law.

    • #30
    • September 30, 2019, at 9:59 AM PDT
    • 1 like

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