Few thoughts on energy and global warming.

by Ginosar  

 

I have not written for months, just read and observe. It was not a satisfying experience. We are digging ourselves deeper into Global Warming trouble.


There is overwhelming scientific evidence that GW is already here and marked by air and ocean temperature rise, global glacier melting, ice sheets disappearing and by major, rapidly changing weather patterns. It is causing damage to the environment and our way of life which will be more severe every day we are continuing on our present path: - talking about Greenhouse gas curtailment but doing nothing about it.


True, China is now the largest CO2 emitter and with time India will have a larger population and will emit high amount of GHG. But the US is the path-setter in the Western world since we have emitted the most GHG to date and have the national wealth ($14 Trillion GDP) to make economic sacrifices to reduce GW.


I do not see any evidence that the US as an aggregate accepts the reality of Global Warming or plans to do anything of substance about it. Period. Even under a Democratic controlled Congress, nothing was done. Just think what will happen now under a Conservative controlled House, composed of both Republicans and many conservative Democrats. With their love of wealth, rejection of reality and fear of change, we are in deep trouble. And the president is unable to grasp the time-criticality and magnitude of GW.


And we are all so comfort oriented, we do not want to modify our easy way of life, reduce our standard of living, reduce our energy consumption, or inconvenient ourselves by even a small amount. This also applies to the environmental movement and liberals; we are not willing to accept that our very way of life is under serious and accelerating attack. We are still operating in the 9 to 5, life is good mode. We dream that we Americans are so smart and capable, wind and photovoltaic, or some future miracle technologies, will save us, so why make any sacrifice?

We do not grasp that most of our standard of living has been the gift of ample, cheap fossil fuels. It is tremendously difficult, it may be even impossible, to replace that temporary gift of nature!


So many articles are appearing continuously about the "magnificent potential" of green technology to save us from the damages of GW. They have been too optimistic and often unrealistic. Little attention is paid to the economics, the way investors look at their potential for profit vs. risk. Only private investors can make the huge financial investments needed for large scale energy systems. Governments do not have the resources for that.

Investors are cool customers; they are influenced by potential profits and are less impressed by market penetration artificially created by government subsidies. Our governments also ignore economic realities often.


We are still not accepting the time-criticality of GW. Many of the dire predictions of climate damages arrived considerably faster than predicted. Many of these processes once started are self-driven. There is no way back!


We can't act as a nation since our political leaders are limited; they are mostly lawyers without substantial experience in any things but words. Broader and deeper grasp of reality is needed; courageous thinking and actions are required. And that is not the way our Congress operates.


Our society believes that technical solutions are just around the corner and, therefore, we do not have to impose significant tax on carbon to reduce demand of fossil fuels, reduce energy use and assist development of alternative energies. Governments subsidies to specific technologies are mostly waste of our very limited financial resources. US energy sector is some one and a half trillion dollar a year. Some twenty trillions would be needed to be invested to replace much of our fossil-dependent way of life. We are already in deep borrowing and will be longer. It is not possible to continue to be economically viable with the immense waste of resources we have exhibited to date: 1. Corn-ethanol fuel, 2. Cash for Clunkers car subsidy, 3.Photvoltaic systems rebates.

Examples: It will cost California population some $50 billions to get one percent of its electricity from photovoltaic system including subsidies by the state and federal government. We can not afford this waste. At this rate the investment in electricity generation by PV for just 20% of CA electricity would be $1 Trillion. Unrealistically high. By the way, the state budget is short $20 billion for several years now.

Germany dedicated some $70 billions to generate one third percent (1/3%) of its electricity from PV while continuing to increase its coal-generated electricity beyond 50%.


Governments are generally not in the energy supply field and should instead, dictate national goals, such as reduce GHG by a certain amount by a certain date, not what is the "correct" low-carbon technology to use. Legislatures are not qualified to select technologies for the future. Their decisions are biased towards business interest. They are subjected to powerful pressure by industry, and even by too emotional environmentalists.



We never faced any thing of this nature before, and we are not mature enough to deal with it.

President Johnson was briefed on the danger of GW and made a serious statement to Congress about it, but more immediate events took over. We had time then.


The way we behave in the US, by the time we will feel significant pain from GW to wake us up, it would be too late.





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