Science and Society published an article posted 1 Day Ago by Ron Clutz on all facets of energy transitions throughout modern history. The lessons from recent history of technology introductions should not per Cambridge Professor Michael J. Kelly, be forgotten when considering alternative energy technologies for any carbon dioxide emission reductions.


On Energy Transitions


These days the media are full of stories about people setting targets to “decarbonize” the energy sources fueling their societies. Some are claiming (and some have failed notoriously) to achieve zero carbon electrification. We should take a deep breath, step back and rationally consider what is being discussed and proposed.

The History of Energy Transitions

Thanks to Bill Gates we have this helpful graph showing the progress of human civilization resulting from shifts in the mix of energy sources.

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Before the 19th century, it is all biomass, especially wood. Some historians think that the Roman Empire collapsed partly because the cost of importing firewood from the far territories exceeded the benefits. More recently, the 1800’s saw the rise of coal and the industrial revolution and a remarkable social transformation, along of course with issues of mining and urban pollution. The 20th century is marked first by the discovery and use of oil and later by natural gas. Since the chart is proportional, it shows how oil and gas took greater importance, but in fact the total amount of energy produced and consumed in the modern world has grown exponentially. So energy from all sources, even biomass has increased in absolute terms.

The global view also hides the great disparity between advanced societies who exploited carbon-based energy to become wealthy and build large middle classes composed of human resources multiplying the social capital and extending the general prosperity. Those societies have also used their wealth to protect to a greater extent their natural environments.

The 21st Century Energy Concern

Largely due to reports of rising temperatures 1980 to 2000, alarms were sounded about global warming/climate change and calls to stop using carbon-based energy. To understand what “decarbonization” actually means, we have two recent resources that explain clearly what is involved and why we should be skeptical and rationally critical.

First, Master Resource describes how the anti-carbon agenda is now embedded in societal structures. Mark Krebs writes Paris Lives! “Deep Decarbonization” at DOE. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

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Despite President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw for the Paris Agreement, the basis of that agreement–“deep decarbonization” through “beneficial electrification”–is proceeding virtually unabated. The reason that this is occurring is because it serves the purposes of the electric utility industry and their environmentalist allies, e.g., the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

According to the Paris Agreement, the fundamental strategy for climate stabilization would be by “deep decarbonization” primarily through “beneficial electrification” powered with “clean energy.” But how are these terms defined exactly?

Deep decarbonization: [4]
The primary strategy of the Paris Agreement for climate stabilization through an 80% reduction in the global use of fossil fuels to “decarbonize” the World’s energy systems by 2050.

Beneficial Electrification: [5]
Replacing consumers direct consumption of natural gas and gasoline, along with other forms of fossil fuels, and on to electricity (with the assumption that electricity generation will be dominated by “clean energy”).

Clean Energy:
Strictly interpreted, it’s just renewables. And more specifically, renewable electric generation. However, many variant definitions exist. For example, DOE includes nuclear, bioenergy and fuel cells as “clean.” And so-called clean coal also appears to qualify via “carbon capture & sequestration” (CCS) as does natural gas, if it is used as a feedstock to make electricity. Energy efficiency (e.g., “nega-watts”) is also deemed “clean energy” by some.

Think about it: Transitioning to a global clean energy economy means there must be a transition from something. By the process of elimination, about the only energy sources not clean are the direct use of fossil fuels. In addition to natural gas direct use, “not clean energy” also includes gasoline, propane, etc. Regardless, “clean energy” (i.e. electrification) is being put forth as the universal cure without disclosure of side effects. In essence the ‘clean energy’ future striven for by EERE exports environmental impacts to others and at high costs. Such non-climate related impacts are ignored.

Whether it’s called regulatory capture, rent seeking or political capitalism, the result is the same: Power accrues to the powerful. In addition to receiving taxpayer funding, advocates of “deep decarbonization” have profited greatly by climate change fear mongering for donations as well as from the deep pockets of Tom Steyer and the like. And now these advocates have officially joined forces with the electric utility industry as evidenced by the recent pact between NRDC and EEI that includes the pursuit of “efficient electrification of transportation, buildings, and facilities.” [21]

In large measure, EERE’s current activities should be viewed as inappropriate subsidies for deep decarbonization via electrification in contravention of President Trump’s proclamation to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. It is also contrary to President Trump’s Executive Order 13783.

Decarbonists in Denial of History

Against this backdrop of imperatives against fossil fuels, we have Lessons from technology development for energy and sustainability by Cambridge Professor Michael J. Kelly (H/T Friends of Science). 

Excerpts in italics with bolds by me

Abstract: There are lessons from recent history of technology introductions which should not be forgotten when considering alternative energy technologies for carbon dioxide emission reductions.

The growth of the ecological footprint of a human population about to increase from 7B now to 9B in 2050 raises serious concerns about how to live both more efficiently and with less permanent impacts on the finite world.

 

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