The Inconvenient Truth

An excerpt from the book “Let’s Run the Numbers” provided to 5MN by Authors Mike Conley & Tim Maloney, with adaptations by Alex Kernan.

 As promising as renewables may seem, the harsh reality is that gas-backed wind and solar are only marginally effective as an electrical power source in the fight against global warming. Furthermore, that marginal benefit by which they operate can be reduced, cancelled, or even reversed (read: “adverse outcomes”) by a minor leak in the extraordinary infrastructure of wells, pipelines and storage facilities that is completely beyond the control of the renewables industry.

 If that seems like we’re stepping on everyone’s Green Dream, then please understand that when it gets right down to it, Mother Nature doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s favorite technology. She doesn’t care if some people think that nuclear power is awesome, or if others think it’s the work of the devil. She doesn’t care if some people think that global warming is settled science, or if others think that it’s an anti-capitalist con game concocted by liberal academics angling for grant money.  She frankly doesn’t care what anyone thinks, hopes, or believes. All she cares about is objective reality, quantified by math and explored by science, both disciplines guided by a diligent respect for the true nature of things. 

 Thin ice in a warming world. Fact or fiction? Does the truth matter? Find out Here.

 If the sole purpose of renewables is to reduce mankind’s impact on the ecosphere, then we must have a method to evaluate that impact. We call this method the Worth-It Threshold; which is the point where a gas-backed wind or solar farm, or a “stand-alone” gas power plant, is as bad for global warming as a coal plant.

Energy is the lifeblood of civilization, the master commodity that underlies all economic activity. Pleasant as the thought may be, powering a global civilization with the whims of Mother Nature is not mathematically possible. Sustainable modern life requires terawatts – not megawatts, not gigawatts, but terawatts – of cheap, reliable, carbon-free and controllable baseload power. The Math proves it . The math explains the scientifically accumulated data, which shows wind and solar will never be anything more than green ornaments of the fossil fuel industry. To become anything more, wind and solar companies must: 

  • Overbuild by at least 3X (and probably 6X or more) the thousands of farms they envision, on tens of thousands of square miles, with the hope that all those farms can eventually back each other up (and the stability of the grid does not bode well for this approach)

or 

 (b) Overbuild by 3X, while also constructing hundreds of Hoover Dam-sized “pumped-hydro” mass energy storage systems with trillions of cubic meters of water to back up the farms. Even If while in the middle of a biblical drought.

 An all-renewables national infrastructure would cost tens of trillions of dollars (that’s trillions with a T), plus about 30,000 square miles of land (that’s miles, not acres.) Imagine the entire state of South Carolina carpeted by solar farms. Additionally, the equipment would have to be replaced every 20 years (if it lasts that long), while also realizing we will have mutilated the ecosystem it occupies.    

 We’re not waxing hyperbolic – the scale of a self-supporting, interdependent, renewable energy buildout really is that enormous. Take note that we said “interdependent,” not independent: Without gas backup, becalmed wind farms in North Dakota must rely on solar farms in sunny Arizona. Unless it’s cloudy. During the time it would take to get there, we’d have to rely on gas backup for wind and solar, the marginal utility of which is detailed in the article Natural Gas, The Bridge Fuel to Nowhere

 In case you think we’re overselling our point, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said:

 “We need about 3,000 feet of altitude, we need flat land, we need 300 days of sunlight, and we need to be near a gas pipe. Because for all of these big utility-scale solar plants–whether it’s wind or solar–everybody is looking at gas as the supplementary fuel. The plants that we’re building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.”

 Thank you, sir. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Now know this: There exists emerging technologies which can burn a rock to power a nation. Nuclear. All things are already nuclear and it isn’t overly complicated. It is the most natural and energy dense-clean and green- alternative fuel of the future.

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