A posting on WUWT by Willis Eschenbach titled “Thirty-Eight Years Of Subsidies” demonstrates the failure of solar and wind energy to become viable replacements for fossil fuels. Noting this failure is important because the COP 21 envisions reducing fossil fuel to only 20% of the globe’s energy supply by 2050. In some quarters, there are demands for completely eliminating fossil fuel use by that date. Could this really happen?
It may be possible for nuclear energy to replace most of the fossil use, but the idea that wind and solar can do it, is highly unlikely. One might consider solar cell energy as a modern technological innovation and that there is some potential for a profound breakthrough that might make it a viable energy source. Wind, on the other hand, has been used as an energy source for centuries and the present day wind farms are not too far removed from this very old technology.
Eschenbach discusses, in his posting, the history of the subsidization of solar and wind that President Jimmy Carter initiated 38 years ago. He used the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Agency (EIA) tables to check on the current status of government subsidies for various fuels. He found the following:
“In 2013, coal was subsidized about a billion dollars. Natural gas and oil, about $2.3 billion. Nuclear got about $1.7 billion. Total, about $5.0 billion dollars.
Now, how about renewables? Solar energy alone, at $5.3 billion, gets more subsidy than all the fossil fuels put together plus nuclear. And wind energy alone, the recipient of an even larger $5.9 billion dollar subsidy, also is larger than all fossil plus nuclear. In total, the renewable sector got about $15 billion dollars in subsidies, three times that of fossil fuels plus nuclear. More than two-thirds of that went to wind and solar.
And it is getting worse. Despite years of people saying that the solar and wind power were market ready and competitive and all that, in 2010 solar and wind got a total of $6.5 billion dollars in subsidies … and by 2013, the subsidies were up to $11.2 billion dollars.
Note that this $11+ billion dollar subsidy was just for 2013, and does not include the billions and billions of the past 36 years of solar and wind subsidies since Jimmy Carter. It also doesn’t include the billions upon billions of dollars that the Europeans have poured into solar and wind subsidies of all types. And importantly, it doesn’t include the subsidization of expensive renewable energy sources through “renewable energy mandates”. It also only includes US Federal Government programs, so it doesn’t include any State programs.
It also doesn’t include the implicit subsidy of renewables from the penalties imposed on fossil fuels (Carter’s gasoline taxes, “cap-and-trade” programs, the Kyoto Protocol, “carbon taxes”, and the like).”
Eschenbach used the 2015 BP Statistical Review of World Energy to see what all these subsidies have accomplished for the US and the other countries employing solar and wind. He plotted a chart showing the data from the BP report:
Figure 1. Global consumption of all forms of energy (blue line) in millions of tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE). SOURCE: 1.6 Mb Excel workbook
Eschenbach draws three conclusions from this data as follows:
- “The first is to show just how little our ~ hundred billion dollars in solar and wind subsidies has bought us. If that was supposed to be our insurance policy, it’s not only a failure, it’s a cruel joke. It’s cruel because that amount of money could provide clean water for everyone on the planet …
- The second reason is to highlight the continuing failure of these “We’re all DOOOMED!! We’re running out of energy!” kind of prophecies. President Carter was neither the first nor the last of these serial failed doomcasters.
- The third reason is to highlight the ludicrous nature of the claims that solar and wind are making serious inroads into the global demand for energy. They are not. Solar and wind are a rounding error. Despite almost forty years of subsidies, despite renewable mandates, despite carbon taxes, despite cap-and-trade, despite a hundred billion dollars spent on this Quixotic quest, solar and wind have barely gotten off the floor. Look at that chart, and give me a guess for how long it will take for solar and wind to catch up with fossil fuels.
Then give me a guess how long it would take if we removed all subsidies as we should. Here’s the bottom line. It’s not just that solar and wind can’t replace fossil fuels. It’s worse than that. Solar and wind can’t even keep up with just the increase in fossil fuels … fail. Massive fail.”
Well-said Mr. Eschenbach