Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

The green-energy chimera



Webster's defines a chimera as "an impossible or foolish fancy." After the massive electrical power outages that took place in Texas last week you would think that progressive Democrats would re-think their obsession with coercive green-energy mandates. Naturally they are doubling down and refusing to accept the obvious: Alternative energy sources such as wind and solar cannot provide reliable electrical energy in sufficient quantities to power modern-day America. The unspoken secret of course is they know this and have no intention of providing energy anywhere near the requirements needed to allow Americans to continue to enjoy current standards of living.

What happened in Texas was not an unprecedented cold-weather event; it has been colder in Texas before. A search of the historical record reveals multiple instances of sub-freezing temperatures in Texas: Houston experienced 12 nights of freezing temperatures (10 degrees) and 20 inches of snow in 1895. In January 1930, Houston hit a record: 5 degrees over eight nights. There were other cold-snaps in the 1940s, 1950s and 1980s. The difference was that Texans used to have a reliable electrical power system. So, what happened in Texas?

Over the last 20 years, pressure has been applied to elected officials via public alarm that climate change is an "existential crisis" requiring drastic curtailment of fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, an atmospheric trace-gas essential for all plant life on earth. Thus we have subsidized alternatives such as wind and solar power, edicts closing coal-fired and natural gas power plants along with shuttering nuclear power plants and dismantling hydroelectric power plants. The latter two energy sources emit zero greenhouse gases and are of proven reliability. Given that we're threatened with extinction, according to climate alarmists, you'd think they'd aggressively promote 21st century nuclear power designs and hydropower, at least in the interim to "save the planet." Nope, that's blasphemy in the new green religion: Wind/solar only or a technology yet to be developed. No heresy allowed.

The heavy government subsidies of wind/solar have made coal and natural gas plants less economical and although fossil fuels receive some subsidies, solar receives 75 times more and wind 17 times more dollars in subsidies than fossil fuels, according to Jason Isaac in his commentary on the blackouts for The Federalist. This disincentive affects profitability and fossil fuel energy companies failed to invest in winterizing their fossil fuel plants.

Before the major snowstorm hit, half of the Texas wind turbines had frozen and gone off-line. Wind turbine blades hadn't been treated for icing and the hundreds of gallons of lubricants (oil) inside the wind turbines were freezing up; by the time of the storm the turbines had gone from providing around 35 percent of power to almost nothing. When the big storm hit, power generated by natural gas, which also experienced some mechanical failures due to non-winterization, was diverted to heating homes instead of generating electricity. Fossil fuel plants were able to surge to provide more of the power needed; wind/solar provided zero and weren't able to surge. Nuclear eventually surged to provide more than half of additional power, but even combined, it wasn't enough to prevent massive power outages.

The worst sucker-punch to consumers already experiencing flooding from burst water pipes and no water for toilets for days, no food in stores and freezing indoor temperatures, was the massive electrical bills received: bills for thousands of dollars as the price per kilowatt hour went from 85 cents to more than $9,000/hWh. One customer normally paying $660/month received a bill for over $17,000, even with his power off for five days. Customers were advised to contract with a fixed-rate utility service, except they weren't taking on any new customers at the time.

The greens don't really care and their anti-fossil fuel crusade demanding conversion of personal transportation to electric power in short order exemplifies their perfidy. In some parts of the world, electric vehicles (EV) were found to emit more greenhouse gases over their life—which includes materials for parts, manufacturing, and disposal—than a gas/diesel car and are environmental catastrophes designed for virtue signaling by their owners more than any benefit to the planet.

According to Ronald Stein, an analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, acquiring the five elements to produce a "1,000 pound EV battery requires mining about 90,000 pounds of ore" with an estimated 3 to 20 tons of extra materials dug up per ton of ore.

"Accessing about 90,000 pounds of ore requires digging and moving between 200,000 and over 1,500,000 pounds of earth," Stein wrote for The Heartland Institute. "An EV battery typically contains about: 25 pounds of lithium, 30 pounds of cobalt, 60 pounds of nickel, 110 pounds of graphite, 90 pounds of copper."

Most of the rare earth metals in an EV are found in China and Africa: both use slave labor and the latter is infamous for child labor. The batteries last about four to five years and cost $3,500 to $8,500 (today's prices) to replace.

One way or the other, greens will have us freezing in our homes and using a horse to commute to work, if we are allowed to work at all. Δ

Al Fonzi had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Respond with a letter to the editor emailed to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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