The fundamental question
There is a fundamental question to be asked and fully answered before any further commitment is made to respond to Climate Change / Global Warming / Net Zero / ESG (Environment Social and Governance)”, etc.
Simply put: is it certain that Man-made CO2 emissions are increasing global temperature and if so is that increase a truly existential future global problem at all ??
Global warming science in summary
Compared to the water vapour and clouds in the atmosphere, CO2 is a minor Greenhouse gas, probably contributing ~8% of the warming of the overall Greenhouse Effect. For cogent technical reasons, as CO2 concentration increases, so its warming capability diminishes. At its current level of CO2 of ~410parts / million in the atmosphere, CO2’s warming effect is almost saturated. Accordingly, whatever the scale of future Man-made CO2 emissions, those CO2 emissions can have only marginal warming effect in future.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXSt3u9-9-U min 24>
On the other hand, marginally higher levels of atmospheric CO2 and recent minor rises in temperature over the last 200 years have already brought massive positive effects for Mankind since the Little Ice Age with enhanced plant growth and improved agricultural production Worldwide.
Methane, a more powerful Greenhouse gas than CO2, reacts rapidly with Oxygen in the atmosphere and dissipates on its release, whether that release is from the major natural sources, (Marsh Gas, termites etc.), or Man-made. As Methane oxidises in contact with atmospheric Oxygen, the residual level of Methane is low, currently at ~1900 ppb, (parts / billion). As a result Methane has an insignificant warming effect and like CO2 its warming capability also diminishes with any increasing concentration.
Beyond the “developed” Western world, all other Nations, including China, India and in Africa, dismiss the fallacy that CO2 is problematic pollution at all. They have no interest in restraining the advance of their well-being to control what they know to be a non-problem.
Whatever energy self-harm the West indulges in, “to set a virtuous example in reducing CO2 and other emissions”, the rest of the World will be entirely unconcerned, emitting whatever is needed to advance their economies.
Western actions to control Climate Change
In the expectation that Weather-Dependent power generation technologies would reduce emissions of Man-made CO2, the Western policy to combat “is still to install, heavily subsidise, (loading an extra >25% on UK utility bills), and give massive preferential legal support to Weather-Dependent “Renewable” Wind and Solar “Renewables” for power generation.
At the same time the mandatory support of inefficient “Renewable” means that the business case for essentially reliable Conventional generation is undermined and those technologies suffer from significant underinvestment.
This is the pernicious outcome of ESG, Environmental Social and Governance, rules for investors.
The Productivity of Weather-Dependent power generation is crucial to the comparative cost of providing an equivalent level of power to the Grid, as provided by conventional power generation technologies, Coal, Gas-firing and Nuclear.
In Europe the measured productivity achieved by Weather-Dependent generators over the past 10 years has been:
Conventional power generation, Gas-firing, Coal or Nuclear technologies:
- run 24/7
- can be turned on when needed to match demand
- use very small land coverage
- can be located close to centres of demand
- produce much more energy for use by civilisation than their energy costs to build and run
- use limited materials for their installation
- are substantially cheaper for their power production, even at current European Gas prices
Regrettably Solar and Wind power technologies are mature: very little performance improvement can be expected as their power production is now limited by immutable laws of physics.
When these European productivity values are combined with the capital and long-term costs as assessed by the US EIA to contribute the same level of power to the Grid, their comparative results are:
- Onshore Wind power provision is ~6 times the cost of Gas-firing
- Offshore Wind power is ~15-20 times the cost of Gas-firing.
- Solar power provision is about ~10-12 times the cost of Gas-firing
Would anyone sane buy a car costing 6 – 20 times the normal price that only works one day in five, when you never know which day that might be ? And then insist that its technology is used to power the whole economy.
The excess expenditures at USA Gas prices
The resulting excess expenditures across Europe to date compared to using Gas-firing for power generation can be estimated as:
This is a reasonable estimate of the scale of direct fiscal damage that has been caused by the obstruction of Fracking throughout Europe, just to the benefit of Russian Gas exports. The lack of Russian Gas is now being used to blackmail Western nations in Russia’s war in the Ukraine.
It will be fruitless to continue ever more massive excess expenditures on Weather-Dependent “Renewables” trying to avert possible minor warming in the distant future.
Weather-Dependency means that “Renewable” power is intermittent, unreliable and non-dispatchable, so, there will always be times, whatever the scale of future Weather-Dependent generation installed, when their power output will be virtually nil for Wind power in still Weather and obviously nil for Solar power at night, on cloudy days and throughout the winter.
Even when the fuel costs are added it at current higher European prices, (say 4 times USA normal prices), the excess expenditures for “Renewables” installations across Europe are still very substantial.