The cost and consequences of “green” energy

Solar and wind generation are not practical alternatives to fossil fuel-generated electricity. Biofuel is not practical for transportation. We are now seeing the consequences of politically correct green policies on energy.

Here are some recent stories in the news:

What Happens to an Economy When Forced to Use Renewable Energy?
By Robert Bryce

Some of America’s most prominent politicians want national mandates for renewable electricity. Had these politicians considered the surge in electricity costs that have occurred in Europe in recent years, they might have been less eager to push such mandates.

Between 2005, when the EU adopted its Emissions Trading Scheme, and 2014, residential electricity rates in the EU increased by 63 percent, on average; over the same period, residential rates in the U.S. rose by 32 percent.
EU countries that have intervened the most in their energy markets—Germany, Spain, and the U.K.—have seen their electricity costs increase the fastest: during 2008–12, Germany’s residential electricity rates increased by 78 percent, Spain’s rose by 111 percent, and the U.K.’s soared by 133 percent.

While European countries have succeeded in creating jobs in the solar and wind industries, their energy policies have also resulted in significant job losses elsewhere. Read full report

States Which Support Green Energy Have Higher Electric Bills
by Andrew Follett, Daily Caller

States which offered substantial taxpayer support for green energy pay a lot more for electricity, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis.

The most notable examples of this trend were California and West Virginia. California had some of the nation’s highest power prices, paying 14.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, and had a whopping 183 policies offering support to green energy. In contrast, West Virginia had some of the nation’s cheapest power at 7.91 cents per kilowatt-hour and a mere 11 policies.

Statistical analysis run by TheDCNF found a positive and statistically significant correlation existed between high electricity bills and states with numerous policies supporting green energy. States which offered rebates, buy-back programs, tax exemptions and direct cash subsidies to green energy were 64 percent more likely to have higher than average electric bills. For every additional pro-green energy policy in a state, the average price of electricity rose by about .01 cents per kilowatt-hour. Read more

More US Taxpayer Cash Giveaways for Clean Energy
by Eric Worrall

The US Government is concerned that huge taxpayer underwritten loan guarantees for renewable energy projects aren’t producing the results they want, so they have decided to step up the effort to give away money, by offering free cash and work space to projects which are too “high risk” to attract investment from venture capitalists, or qualify for other green funding schemes. Read story

European Union Scraps Biofuel Targets
EU laws requiring member states to use “at least 10%” renewable energy in transport will be scrapped after 2020, the European Commission confirmed, hoping to set aside a protracted controversy surrounding the environmental damage caused by biofuels. Read more

New administration rule would permit thousands of eagle deaths at wind farms
Fox News
The Obama administration is revising a federal rule that allows wind-energy companies to operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years, even if means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles. Under the plan, companies could kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty — nearly four times the current limit. Golden eagles could only be killed if companies take steps to minimize the losses, for instance, by retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution. Read more

Devastating Finding: New Study Deems Solar PV Systems In Europe “A Non-Sustainable Energy Sink”!
By P Gosselin
Despite hyped claims, much doubt has emerged over the years on whether or not renewable energies such as wind and sun would able to substitute fossil and nuclear energy.

Getting a sound answer to that question naturally would have been a reasonable step to take long before countries rushed to invest tens of billions of euros.

A brand new paper by Swiss researchers Ferruccio Ferroni and Robert J. Hopkirk published by the Journal of Energy Policy now further intensifies that doubt, finding that solar power remains an inefficient way to produce energy in most cases. It’s beginning to appear that Europe has wasted tens of billions of euros in a mass energy folly.

Thus it should not surprise anyone that Germany’s fossil fuel consumption has not been falling over the past years.

So is solar energy a worthwhile alternative in places like Europe? The authors conclude that it is not. They write in the conclusion that “an electrical supply system based on today’s PV technologies cannot be termed an energy source, but rather a non-sustainable energy sink” and that “it has become clear that photovoltaic energy at least will not help in any way to replace the fossil fuel“.

The authors add that “photovoltaic technology would not be a wise choice for helping to deliver affordable, environmentally favorable and reliable electricity regions of low, or even moderate insolation.“ (Source)

Germany’s Green Energy Fiasco
Wind Farms Paid €500 Million A Year To Stand Idle
Because of the boom of renewable energy, more and more wind turbines have to be switched off. The reason is power overloading. The network operators must turn down electricity generated from windmills when their power threatens to clog the network. For the grid operator Tennet alone, these costs added 329 million euros in 2015 – two and a half times as much as in the previous year. The other network operators 50Hertz, Amprion and EnBW had a combined cost of 150 million euros, according to a survey of Wirtschaftswoche among the four network operators in Germany. –Christian Schlesiger, Wirtschaftswoche, 28 April 2016 (Source)
“Consumers are now paying more for their power than ever before” — some 30.27 euro cents per kilowatt hour. Families today are paying 21% more for electricity than they did 5 years ago. (Source)

Renewables receive bulk of tax preference subsidies

While President Obama touts a policy of “ending tax breaks for oil companies,” the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in a new report, says that the bulk of tax subsidies go to renewable energy projects, $24 billion in 2011.  See graph below.


The CBO says, “Tax preferences are generally an inefficient way to reduce environmental costs of producing and consuming energy.”  They also note that some tax preferences for renewable energy have expired or will expire soon.

One thing the graph doesn’t show is the ratio of subsidy to the actual amount of energy produced.  If that were factored in, we would see very little bang for the buck.  This is another example of politicians trying to pick winners and losers in the market place.

See also:

Ethanol mandate fails economically and environmentally

Electricity generated by wind power may raise temperatures and costs

Health Hazards of Wind Turbines

Solar energy cannot economically compete in electricity generation

Another questionable energy deal $16 jet fuel

It looks like crony capitalism is still rampant in the Obama administration.  First there was the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the now bankrupt maker of solar panels.  Now, according to Investor’s Business Daily, the U.S. is forcing the Navy to buy 450,000 gallons of jet biofuel, the biggest federal purchase of biofuel ever, from an Obama-connected firm at $16 per gallon versus the normal price of less than $4 per gallon.

Investor’s Business Daily says:

A  member of Obama’s presidential transition team, T. J. Glauthier, is a ‘strategic advisor’ at Solazyme, the California company that is selling a portion of the biofuel to the Navy.  Glauthier worked on the energy-sector portion of the 2009 stimulus bill.  Solazyme had already gotten a nearly $22 million chunk of change out of the taxpayers thanks to the 2009 stimulus.

And this is only the beginning of this two-for-one bad deal — swindling taxpayers while ravaging national security. Obama’s Agriculture and Energy departments and Navy plan to spend $510 million over three years buying biofuel for military and commercial purposes, bypassing Congress by “leveraging Defense Department procurement.”

See also:

EIA says Clean Energy program will increase electricity costs 29%

Electricity generated by wind power may raise temperatures and costs

The cost of energy conservation

Another Federal Boondoggle?

Biofuel from Prickly Pear Cactus

Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile is experimenting with the use of plantation-grown prickly pear cactus for use as biofuel. They intend to establish plantations in the Atacama desert, a place that averages 0.004 inches of rain a year, mainly as fog from the Pacific Ocean.

Reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev of the Santiago Times sets the scene:

The driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, wouldn’t seem an auspicious place for biofuel production.

Biotechnology experts, however, may have found a way to turn one of the desert’s only available plants, the cactus, into energy.

A US$500,000 pilot project in the Río Jorquera Valley in the Copiapó province aims to reduce Nopal cactus stems to high-energy dry briquettes that can be burned in coal-fired thermoelectric plants.

The five-acre experimental plantation will produce sufficient scientific data on cactus biomass production in arid conditions by the end of 2013, and will then begin supplying fuel to a small-scale onsite power station.

The project’s leader, Prof. Alexis Vega of Universidad Mayor’s Biotechnology Institute in Santiago, believes a pilot-scale plantation of 420 acres will be able to sustain 1.5 megawatts per hour (MW/h) of electricity generation.

At an estimated cost of US$112 per MW/h, cactus biofuel is competitive with fossil fuels at current global prices and is much cheaper than other sources of alternative energy in the region such as wind or solar.

“This is an opportunity to diversify the local economy by utilizing marginal soil—land which has little water and few agricultural alternatives,” said Vega.

The researchers hope to develop the plantation to a level where they can begin supplying large electrical utilities in northern Chile.

One of the advantages of the cactus plantations is their proximity to energy-hungry mining operations. Utilizing locally available sources of energy would reduce the need for costly energy shipments from the south, Vega explained.

“Four years ago, when we approached the big power distributors they told us no. Now the moment has arrived—they are keen to participate.”

A law passed in 2010 binds Chile to generate 10 percent of its electricity from renewable, non-conventional sources by 2024.

At present the figure stands at around five percent, and Vega believes the government’s support for alternative energy puts the nation well on course to meeting the target.

Apart from the environmental benefits, researchers believe the scheme also holds substantial economic potential.

Southern Atacama’s traditional crop has been the table grape, the profitability of which has fallen steadily in recent years due to growing competition from Peru and Argentina.

As cactuses require at most a third of the water used by a grape plantation of the same area, there are large potential savings for farmers, as well as stable year-round jobs.

“For the small declining indigenous communities of northern Chile this is a real development opportunity,” said Vega. “These people can stay on the land, produce fuel for their own use, and sell the surplus, instead of migrating to the cities where they will remain poor.”

According to a report from Universidad Mayor, the cactus can be used in two ways: 1) anaerobic bio-digestion can produce methane for use as a feedstock for electrical generation, much as we harvest methane from landfills here in Tucson; or 2) the prickly pear pads can be dehydrated using solar energy, then pelleted and used as a co-combustion fuel in coal-fired plants. The cactus plantations will have to be irrigated and fertilized to allow a harvest every six months. An added benefit, if the project proves feasible, is that this biofuel is produced from a non-food crop and will provide year-round jobs rather than seasonal employment common to most crops. The goal of the project is to produce at least the equivalent of 40 tons dry matter per hectare per year which they deem competitive with other biofuels.

Ethanol fuel, not as green as you may think

Recently I’ve been seeing television ads promoting use of ethanol. The ethanol industry is founded solely on the myth that we must reduce our use of fossil fuels, even though the U.S. has abundant supplies. The feds have bought into that myth and have rewarded the ethanol industry with more than $25 billion in federal handouts. Big agribusiness, such as Archer Daniels Midland have been promoting ethanol use. But ethanol is not as green as alleged.

Energy Efficiency

Currently, seasonal gasoline is 10% ethanol, but E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) is being touted as a solution to our dependence on foreign petroleum sources. Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline. Consumer Reports (Oct., 2006) tested E85 in a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV (flexible fuel vehicle). CR found that E85 delivered 27% lower mileage compared to gasoline in the same vehicle. The Tahoe traveled 300 miles on a tank of E85 compared with 440 miles on gasoline, so you will have to fill the tank more often with E85. Use of the E85 fuel will cost more than gasoline to get the same energy output (depending on relative price). Because of the way Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards are structured, more large, gas-guzzling vehicles are being built as FFVs. The result is that use of E85 has actually increased national gasoline usage by about 1%.   The energy budget of ethanol is under debate. Some studies show that ethanol takes 30% more energy to produce than the ethanol contains. For instance, a study at Berkeley (Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14:1, 65-76), on the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn, switch grass, and wood biomass, as well as for producing biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants, concluded that corn ethanol requires 29% more fossil energy than the fuel produced; switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.  


Health Implications 

Use of E85 in vehicles poses a significant health risk according to a study from Stanford University. The study found:  


that E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others-formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline. However, in some parts of the country, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.

Inhaling ozone-even at low levels-can decrease lung capacity, inflame lung tissue, worsen asthma and impair the body’s immune system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die each year from ozone and other chemicals in smog.

E85 increased ozone-related mortalities in the United States by about 200 deaths per year compared to gasoline, with about 120 of those deaths occurring in Los Angeles These mortality rates represent an increase of about 4 percent in the U.S. and 9 percent in Los Angeles above the projected ozone-related death rates for gasoline-fueled vehicles in 2020.

Environmental Concerns 

It takes 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol according to a Wall Street Journal report of a Cornell study. A study from Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that “the most water-efficient energy sources are natural gas and synthetic fuels produced by coal gasification. The least water-efficient energy sources are fuel ethanol and biodiesel.”  
Corn ethanol, produced in any quantity to make a difference in oil imports, will take massive amounts of land, destroy habitat and forests, and threaten our food supply.  

The Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that it would take 546 million acres of U.S. farmland to replace all of our current gasoline use with corn ethanol. Currently, the U.S. has 440 million acres under cultivation to produce all our food and fiber. [Source]     

“In 1997, the U.S. GAO found that the ethanol production process produces more nitrous oxide and other powerful greenhouse gases than does gasoline production. A decade later, Colorado scientists Jan Kreider and Peter Curtiss concluded that carbon dioxide emissions in the production cycle are about 50 percent higher for ethanol than for traditional fossil fuels.” [Source, Ethanol: Unintended Consequences]

Ethanol is for drinking, not for burning.