Fossil fuels save lives from freezing

By |2019-02-04T22:32:46+00:00February 4th, 2019|Energy|0 Comments

Yeah, I know — having written two pretty good books on the subject — that climate changes. And yes, weather does also, and even far more frequently.

So I’m not going to treat the brutal arctic weather that smashed down on Midwestern states last week as any “I told you so” claim that global warming — and global cooling also for that matter- isn’t occurring.

The planet has been warming itself in fits and starts with no help or permission from us since long before the last big ice age ended about 12,000 years ago. We should fully expect this to continue until the next scheduled 90,000-year-long deep freeze interrupts the brief interglacial times we’re blessedly enjoying in about 3,000 years or so.

For that matter, the climate has been blissfully warming since the last little ice age ended in the mid-1850s. Recent global temperatures over the past couple of decades, however, haven’t changed much at all. Rates of sea level rise have continued to hold steady far longer at about seven inches per century.

But what if the -41 degree Fahrenheit cold snap that literally broke the official weather thermometer at Embarrass, Minnesota, and which exposed Chicagoans to a minus 50 degree wind chill, isn’t nearly as rare as we might wish to imagine.

Lots of scientists believe that recent very low solar surface activity levels suggests that we may be in for colder decades ahead. Such a “solar minimum” of sunspot activity occurred during the previous little ice age.

Perhaps contemplate what would happen if we didn’t have fossil fuels to get us through such events. For example, how would people in vulnerable latitudes warm their homes, or recharge their generously taxpayer subsidized plug-in cars?

Well, at least there wouldn’t be any need to drive to the airport because aircraft wouldn’t fly. Besides, there would be no place to go. Markets would be closed with no transport for restocking. Ditto, restaurants, manufacturing production and service plants, offices, schools, palates classes, and virtually every other destination one might yearn for.

So maybe just bundle up the kiddies, everyone cuddle up with the dogs around grandma, and wait for a spring thaw when those battery-powered tractors can begin to plant vegetables again.

Perhaps this is exactly what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. has in mind with her Green New Deal which is endorsed by at least 40 other House Democrats along with Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The plan proposes to replace nearly all fossil fuels with so-called “renewables” (wind and solar) within a decade.

Not addressed, is what energy source would replace that equal amount backup fossil-fueled turbine capacity needed to balance out the power grid during the majority of times when the wind isn’t blowing and when sunlight isn’t available.

To understand how totally hallucinatory the Green New Deal is, it’s important to look at the full the spectrum of all energy demands measured in British thermal units (Btus). Thinking exclusively in terms of electrical power excludes critical consumption sectors.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. consumed a total of about 98 quantillion Btus of energy in 2017 which supported four sector categories that follow:

  • Electrical power consumed 38.1 percent of total Btus (37.24 quants). Of this amount: coal provided 34 percent; natural gas 26 percent; and nuclear 23 percent. Total “renewables” accounted for 17 percent (6.3 quants of total U.S. energy).

The part of this story we don’t typically hear mentioned is that of that only 27 percent of those renewables came from wind (21 percent), and solar (6 percent), a piddly total of 1.7 quants. Biomass accounted for 45 percent, hydropower provided 25 percent, and geothermal added another 2 percent.

  • Transportation — which accounted for about 29 percent of total U.S. Btus (28.4 quants) — relied upon petroleum for 92 percent of its demand. Biofuels (ethanol and biodiesal) accounted for only about 5 percent. Electricity demand for vehicles is virtually negligible, wind and solar most particularly.
  • Industrial uses accounted for about 22 percent of total Btus consumed (22.4 quants). About 83 percent of this came from fossils, with natural gas providing 45 percent of this amount, and liquid petroleum 38 percent.
  • Residential/commercial consumption accounted for about 11 percent of total U.S. Btu demand, (10.8 quants), with 76 percent of this amount provided by natural gas, and 16 percent from petroleum. Renewables provided the remaining 8 percent, with wind and solar accounting for tiny contributions.

It is more than a bit scary that elected officials — aided and unchallenged by a compliant media — would promote such nonsense.

Whether to be regarded as merely a naïve technological pipedream, a serious socialist economic nightmare, or both, those proposing the Green New Deal clearly aren’t playing with a full deck.