Category Archives: Energy Development

New Energy Economy:An Exercise in Magical Thinking Part 9 Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector.


Continuing the serialization of Mark Mills’ report New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.  This part is Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector.

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Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector     

Digital tools are already improving and can further improve all manner of efficiencies across entire swaths of the economy, and it is reasonable to expect that software will yet bring significant improvements in both the underlying efficiency of wind/solar/battery machines and in the efficiency of how such machines are integrated into infrastructures. Silicon logic has improved, for example, the control and thus the fuel efficiency of combustion engines, and it is doing the same for wind turbines. Similarly, software epitomized by Uber has shown that optimizing the efficiency of using expensive transportation assets lowers costs. Uberizing all manner of capital assets is inevitable. Uberizing the electric grid without hydrocarbons is another matter entirely.

The peak demand problem that software can’t fix

In the energy world, one of the most vexing problems is in optimally matching electricity supply and demand (Figure 6). Here the data show that society and the electricity-consuming services that people like are generating a growing gap between peaks and valleys of demand. The net effect for a hydrocarbon-free grid will be to increase the need for batteries to meet those peaks.

 

All this has relevance for encouraging EVs. In terms of managing the inconvenient cyclical nature of demand, shifting transportation fuel use from oil to the grid will make peak management far more challenging. People tend to refuel when it’s convenient; that’s easy to accommodate with oil, given the ease of storage. EV refueling will exacerbate the already-episodic nature of grid demand.

To ameliorate this problem, one proposal is to encourage or even require off-peak EV fueling.85 The jury is out on just how popular that will be or whether it will even be tolerated.

 

Although kilowatt-hours and cars—key targets in the new energy economy prescriptions—constitute only 60% of the energy economy, global demand for both is centuries away from saturation. Green enthusiasts make extravagant claims about the effect of Uber-like options and self-driving cars. However, the data show that the economic efficiencies from Uberizing have so far increased the use of cars and peak urban congestion.86 Similarly, many analysts now see autonomous vehicles amplifying, not dampening, that effect.87

That’s because people, and thus markets, are focused on economic efficiency and not on energy efficiency. The former can be associated with reducing energy use; but it is also, and more often, associated with increased energy demand. Cars use more energy per mile than a horse, but the former offers enormous gains in economic efficiency. Computers, similarly, use far more energy than pencil-and-paper.

Uberizing improves energy efficiencies but increases demand

Every energy conversion in our universe entails builtin inefficiencies—converting heat to propulsion, carbohydrates to motion, photons to electrons, electrons to data, and so forth. All entail a certain energy cost, or waste, that can be reduced but never eliminated. But, in no small irony, history shows—as economists have often noted—that improvements in efficiency lead to increased, not decreased, energy consumption.

If at the dawn of the modern era, affordable steam engines had remained as inefficient as those first invented, they would never have proliferated, nor would the attendant economic gains and the associated rise in coal demand have happened. We see the same thing with modern combustion engines. Today’s aircraft, for example, are three times as energy-efficient as the first commercial passenger jets in the 1950s.88 That didn’t reduce fuel use but propelled air traffic to soar and, with it, a fourfold rise in jet fuel burned.89

Similarly, it was the astounding gains in computing’s energy efficiency that drove the meteoric rise in data traffic on the Internet—which resulted in far more energy used by computing. Global computing and communications, all told, now consumes the energy equivalent of 3 billion barrels of oil per year, more energy than global aviation.90

 The purpose of improving efficiency in the real world, as opposed to the policy world, is to reduce the cost of enjoying the benefits from an energy-consuming engine or machine. So long as people and businesses want more of the benefits, declining cost leads to increased demand that, on average, outstrips any “savings” from the efficiency gains. Figure 7 shows how this efficiency effect has played out for computing and air travel.91

 

Of course, the growth in demand growth for a specific product or service can subside in a (wealthy) society when limits are hit: the amount of food a person can eat, the miles per day an individual is willing to drive, the number of refrigerators or lightbulbs per household, etc. But a world of 8 billion people is a long way from reaching any such limits.

The macro picture of the relationship between efficiency and world energy demand is clear (Figure 8). Technology has continually improved society’s energy efficiency. But far from ending global energy growth, efficiency has enabled it. The improvements in cost and efficiency brought about through digital technologies will accelerate, not end, that trend.

 

 

 

 

 

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The serialization of Mark Mills’ report concludes with the next part titled Energy Revolutions Are Still Beyond the Horizon.

cbdakota

Can Wind and Solar Sources Replace Fossil Fuels by 2050?


Can wind and solar sources replace fossil fuels by 2050?   Beginning with today’s positing, I will let Mark Mills answer that question.  I plan a series of posting on this topic beginning with  a summary of Mills’ views. The summary is a condensation of his report titled “THE “NEW ENERGY ECONOMY”: AN EXERCISE IN MAGICAL THINKING “.  I plan to serialized the report as a follow-up for those who want to dig deeper.  I bet you will find the serialized posting to be enlightening and what little math is used is  limited to multiplication, addition and subtraction.

cbdakota

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Want an Energy Revolution?

by Mark Mills

Throughout history, some 60 percent to 90 percent of every nation’s economy has been consumed by food and fuel costs. Hydrocarbons changed the way that humans organize their productive capacity. The coal age, followed by the oil age, and now by the ascendant age of natural gas, has (at least for developed nations) driven the share of GDP devoted to acquiring food and fuel down to around 10 percent. That transformation constitutes one of the great pivots for civilization.

Many analysts claim that yet another such consequential energy revolution is upon us: “clean energy,” in the form of wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, they say, is about to become incredibly cheap, making it possible to create a “new energy economy.” Polls show that nearly 80 percent of voters believe that America is “capable of creating a new electricity system.”

We can thank Silicon Valley for popularizing “exponential change” and “disruptive innovations.” The computing and communications revolutions that have transformed many industries have also shaped both expectations and rhetoric about how other technologies evolve. We hear claims, as one Stanford professor put it, that clean tech will follow digital technology in a “10x exponential process which will wipe fossil fuels off the market in about a decade.” Or, as the International Monetary Fund recently summarized, “smartphone substitution seemed no more imminent in the early 2000s than large-scale energy substitution seems today.” The mavens at Singularity University tell us that with clean tech, we’re “on the verge of a new, radically different point in history.” Solar, wind, and batteries are “on a path to disrupt” the old order dominated by fossil fuels.

Never mind that wind and solar—the focus of all “new energy economy” aspirations, including its latest incarnation in the Green New Deal—supply just 2 percent of global energy, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. After all, it wasn’t long ago that only 2 percent of the world owned a pocket-sized computer. “New energy economy” visionaries believe that a digital-like energy disruption is not just possible, but imminent. One professor predicts that we will see an “Apple of clean energy.”

As it happens, energy does have something to do with the fact that today’s smartphones are much cheaper and more powerful than a room-size IBM mainframe from the 1980s. The essential feature of that transformation is that engineers collapsed the energy appetite and size of transistors, consequently increasing their number per chip roughly twofold every two years. In other words, computing power per energy unit doubled five times per decade. The compound effect of that kind of progress—formally dubbed Moore’s Law, after Intel cofounder Gordon Moore—has indeed caused a “disruptive” revolution. A single iPhone at 1980 energy efficiency would require as much power as a Manhattan office building. Similarly, a single data center at 1980 efficiency would require as much power as the entire U.S. grid. But because of efficiency gains, the world today has billions of smartphones and thousands of datacenters.

A similar transformation in how energy is produced or stored isn’t just unlikely: it’s impossible. Drawing an analogy between information production and energy production is a fundamental category error. They entail different laws of physics. Logic engines don’t produce physical action or energy; they manipulate the idea of the numbers one and zero. Silicon logic is rooted in simply knowing and storing the position of a binary switch—on or off.

But 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, and thermodynamics—not clever software or marketing. Indeed, the differences between the physical and virtual are best illustrated by the fact that, using mathematical magic, one can do things like “compress” information to reduce the energy needed to transport that information. But in the world of humans and objects with mass, comparable “compression” options exist only in Star Trek.

If, in some alternative universe, the performance of silicon solar cells followed Moore’s Law, a single postage-stamp-size solar cell could fuel the Empire State Building. Similarly, a single battery the size of a book would cost 3 cents and power a jumbo jet to Asia. Such things happen only in comic books because, ultimately, physics, not policies, dictates the possibilities—and thus the economics—for energy technologies, regardless of subsidies and mandates.

Spending $1 million on wind or solar hardware in order to capture nature’s diffuse wind and sunlight will yield about 50 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 30-year period. Meantime, the same money spent on a shale well yields enough natural gas over 30 years to produce 300 million kilowatt-hours. That difference is anchored in the far higher, physics-based energy density of hydrocarbons. Subsidies can’t change that fact.

And then batteries are needed, and widely promoted, as the way to convert wind or solar into useable on-demand power. While the physical chemistry of batteries is indeed nearly magical in storing tiny quantities of energy, it doesn’t scale up efficiently. When it comes to storing energy at country scales, or for cargo ships, cars and aircraft, engineers start with a simple fact: the maximum potential energy contained in hydrocarbon molecules is about 1,500 percent greater, pound for pound, than the maximum theoretical lithium chemistries. That’s why the cost to store a unit of energy in a battery is 200 times more than storing the same amount of energy as natural gas. And why, today, it would take $60 million worth of Tesla batteries—weighing five times as much as the entire aircraft—to hold the same energy as is held in a transatlantic plane’s onboard fuel tanks.

For a practical example of the physics-anchored gap between aspiration and reality, consider Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) recently announced plan to replace an old gas-fired power station with the world’s biggest battery project—promised to be four times bigger than the current number one, a system Tesla installed, to much fanfare, last year in South Australia. The monster FPL battery “farm” will be able to store just two minutes of Florida’s electricity needs. That’s not going to change the world, or even Florida.

Moreover, it takes the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that can store the energy equal to one oil barrel. That means that batteries fabricated in China (most already are) by its predominantly coal-powered grid result in more carbon-dioxide emissions than those batteries, coupled with wind/solar, can eliminate. It’s true that wind turbines, solar cells, and batteries will get better, but so, too, will drilling rigs and combustion engines. The idea that “old” hydrocarbon technologies are about to be displaced wholesale by a digital-like, clean-tech energy revolution is a fantasy.

If we want a disruption to the energy status quo, we will need new, foundational discoveries in the sciences. As Bill Gates has put it, the challenge calls for scientific “miracles.” Any hoped-for technological breakthroughs won’t emerge from subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads. If policymakers were serious about the pursuit of the next energy revolution, they’d be talking a lot more about reinvigorating support for basic science.

It bears noting that over the past decade, U.S. production of oil and natural gas has increased by 2,000 percent more than the combined growth of (subsidized) wind and solar. Shale technology has utterly transformed the global energy landscape. After a half-century of hand-wringing about import dependencies, America is now a major exporter. Now that’s a revolution.

Want an Energy Revolution?

 

 

The Endangerment Finding Needs To Be Repealed Quickly


Probably the most important environmental action the Trump administration can take is to eliminate the Endangerment Finding (EF). The EF was used to have CO2 and several other so-called greenhouse gases (GHGs) inserted in the Clean Air Act.   That action has allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact regulations without any input from Congress.  Giving the EPA free reign has given the radicals in that Department the leverage to try to regulate fossil fuels out of existence.

 

As recently as 30 January this year, just a little over a month ago, EPA Director Pruitt said in a Congressional hearing that he was reviewing a challenge to the EF.   Red teams, blue teams and all that but not one to my knowledge has been formed. Nothing seems to be getting done. It is over a year ago that the Pruitt was named Director.

Posting of that hearing by USA Today, reported:

“Pruitt spent much of the hearing touting some of the priorities he sees as important: aggressively cleaning up Superfund sites, modernizing water systems tainted by lead and cleanup of abandon mines.”

Good objectives but minor league compared to the EF.  And that list of his priorities will eventually be done as both parties want them done.  He needs to concentrate on getting things done that the Democrats will not do if they get back in power.

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Green Energy Train To Energy Poverty


The Claim: Europe and Australia are benefiting from their green energy policies. We should follow their example.

The Facts: The Ice Cap blog refutes that claim in a posting titled:“Green Energy Train To Energy  Poverty”.

Joseph D’Aleo shows that green energy is pricing the Europeans out of a number of markets and is wreaking real damage on their poorer citizens.

Two of the many  charts that  D”Aleo uses to make his case are as follows:

 

 

And the following chart equates the amount of installed wind and solar renewable energy with the cost of electricity:

 

Read D’Aleo’s full posting by clicking here:

cbdakota

President Trump’s Speech On Infrastructure And The Swamp


The “swamp” that President Trump plans to clear is inhabited by hold-over big government partisans and the way over the top regulations.  President Trump’s experience in the building trades has shown him how the swamp works and he wants to change it. 

He gave a speech in early June announcing his overall plan calling for the investment of something in the range of $1 trillion of new and updated infrastructure.  Excerpts from the speech are shown in the following:

“We are here today to focus on solving one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately needed infrastructure, and that is the painfully slow, costly, and time-consuming process of getting permits and approvals to build.  And I also knew that from the private sector.  It is a long, slow, unnecessarily burdensome process.

My administration is committed to ending these terrible delays once and for all.  The excruciating wait time for permitting has inflicted enormous financial pain to cities and states all throughout our nation and has blocked many important projects from ever getting off the ground.  Many, many projects are long gone because they couldn’t get permits and there was no reason for it.

For too long, America has poured trillions and trillions of dollars into rebuilding foreign countries while allowing our own country — the country that we love — and its infrastructure to fall into a state of total disrepair.  We have structurally deficient bridges, clogged roads, crumbling dams and locks.  Our rivers are in trouble.  Our railways are aging.  And chronic traffic that slows commerce and diminishes our citizens’ quality of life.  Other than that, we’re doing very well.

Instead of rebuilding our country, Washington has spent decades building a dense thicket of rules, regulations and red tape.  It took only four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge and five years to build the Hoover Dam and less than one year to build the Empire State Building.  People don’t believe that.  It took less than one year.  But today, it can take 10 years and far more than that just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project. 

These charts beside me are actually a simplified version of our highway permitting process.  It includes 16 different approvals involving 10 different federal agencies being governed by 26 different statutes

As one example — and this happened just 30 minutes ago — I was sitting with a great group of people responsible for their state’s economic development and roadways.  All of you are in the room now.  And one gentleman from Maryland was talking about an 18-mile road.  And he brought with him some of the approvals that they’ve gotten and paid for.  They spent $29 million for an environmental report, weighing 70 pounds and costing $24,000 per page.

We will get rid of the redundancy and duplication that wastes your time and your money.  Our goal is to give you one point of contact to deliver one decision — yes or no — for the entire federal government, and to deliver that decision quickly, whether it’s a road, whether it’s a highway, a bridge, a dam.”

Nuclear reactor that generate electricity have been so bedeviled by all the regulations that raise the cost of building so high that investors are reluctant to take a chance.   If you have been around for a while you know that the green environmental machine has made nukes a target even though it essentially makes no CO2 when in operation. That they reject these units that have an excellent safety record, seems counterproductive.

It will take a lot of work to get these unnecessary systems revised. Using metaphors, lots of oxen to gore and sacred cows get rid of—thus a lot of people will be fighting Trump’s agenda.  Huge, wasteful, big government is fighting back. We need to keep supporting Trump’s initiatives. 

The numbers of regulations are staggering.  Next posting will show how big the job of getting rid of these many regulations there are.

Read President Trump’s full speech by clicking here.

h/t Camille Paglia

cbdakota

Renewable Energy Uses 100X Manpower Compared to Fossil Fuels


solar-panelsThe International Renewable Energy Agency of the US Bureau of Statistics provided employment data for three categories–Solar; Oil and Gas Extraction; and Coal Mining.  Bloomberg drew a chart of employment over the period of 2012 to 2015.  That chart is shown below:

Energy Jobs

Stanislav Jakuba looked at the employment in each of these three endeavours to compare electricity production versus manpower in his posting “Renewable Energy: High Jobs, Little Power (inefficiency personified”.  He offered this analysis:

Ever wondered why has our standard of living not been improving?

The upward-aiming line in the above chart indicates one reason: growing employment in the renewable-energy sector. That employment contributes a miniscule amount to power production, and it does so at a dreadfully high operating cost.

Here are the numbers.

As illustrated, 200,000 people work in the solar industry (Photo-voltaic and Concentrated Solar Power combined), and they enabled the generation of 3.0 GW in 2015, which comes to 15 kW per employee. The down-sloping lines, combined, represent the 400,000 employees in the fossil fuel industry.

Assuming that about a half of those are needed just to supply fuel to generate the 310 GW electricity reported for that year, then the remaining 200,000 employees were responsible for 1550 kW per employee.

In other words, one employee in the fossil fuel industry produces 1550 kW, while it takes 100 employees in the solar business to produce roughly that amount.

Solar is thus the most expensive source of electricity. Plus, its output varies daily, sometime randomly (because of clouds and storms) and always intermittently (because of nights). Its inexhaustibility parallels the abundance of nuclear fuel, but the latter provides cheap and steady electricity, as well as heat, and is no less “clean” than solar.

The true cost of renewable energy is presently covered by subsidies drawn from our taxes, from Government borrowing abroad, and from various fees attached to our monthly utility bills.”

Jakuba has some addition thoughts on this topic in his  posting which can be read by clicking here.

I keep reading that solar and wind are now competitive with natural gas and coal.  Show me the cost number when they remove all the subsidies and when they  include operating cost and investment for the backup fossil fuel generated power–because these renewables not reliable supplies.

I am not sure that I completely  agree with the comparison technique, but they do have one heck of a lot of manpower for such a puny output of electrical power.

The politicians said these renewable projects would create jobs.  They sure were right about that.  Although, it looks like they carried it too far.

cbdakota

 

 

Some EV Sales Improvement, But Still Way Below Obama Forecast


ev-for-postingHave you been keeping up with the car buying public’s interest in electric vehicles (EV)? The many models of EVs that are on the market are quite astonishing.  Nearly all the manufacturers have a model or two.  The sales are still well below the Obama Administrations projections.  But 2016 brought some joy to the makers of plug-in EVs.

Probably most of you that are reading this know about the different versions on the market, but for those that have not been following EVs closely, let me give you some guidance.

The Toyota Prius has been the sales leader. Later on, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf came on the scene but they have not equaled the Prius sales volume.  Those three vehicles represent the three major categories of EVs.

The Hybrid (HEV) is a vehicle that has both batteries and an internal combustion (IC) or diesel, fossil fuel powered motor to propel the vehicle. The batteries are not charged by an external plug-in arrangement but are charged by the onboard motor. The Prius is a HEV

The PHEV has both a IC or diesel motor and batteries, but in this category the batteries are charged by plugging into an external power supply.     The Chevy Volt is a PHEV.

The BEV vehicle has only batteries for motive power and those batteries are charged from an external power supply.  The Nissan Leaf is a representative of this category as are the Tesla and the GM Bolt.

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