It used to be that the most rancorous online debate was reserved for questions about religion, especially how and what to teach children about their origins. But today as the climate crisis deepens and world leaders begin to act, policies are beginning to shift as they inevitably must. The energy transition is well underway, and the pyromaniac Neanderthals are furious. Their lies, disinformation and just plain mean-spirited carping about energy questions have no equal.
They know that the world will eventually stop burning carbon. This inevitable shift will be of a magnitude not seen since the Industrial Revolution. It will affect every area of human life and will ultimately save tens of trillions of dollars. It will improve our quality of life dramatically. It will potentially cost some lesser number of trillions to make the shift. We have backed ourselves into a tight fossil-fueled corner. The winners in the transition will be newly industrializing countries, inventors of new energy technology, and consumers. First-world economies also stand to benefit enormously, with the creation of millions of non-exportable jobs actually manufacturing energy locally, instead of simply moving it from underground to above and/or shipping it across oceans.
But there will be huge losses for the fossil fuel establishment who, for generations, have been used to digging dollars out of the Earth. We can expect endless bleating from their sheep-like consuming colluders, who only care about direct out-of-pocket costs and short-term “git ‘er done.” Their chief goal seems to be to throw out as much bluster as they can, to scare the public as much as possible, to undermine and water down President Obama’s initiatives, and to prevent change. They paint a picture of renewable energy as something that’s ‘socialist,’ expensive, doesn’t work and will leave us not only bankrupt but shivering in the dark. And now, they’ve been exposed using “denial-bots” to post climate-denialist comment spam. Shameful, but far from surprising. The carbon clan is fighting for its life. It has a death-grip on the world and doesn’t want to let go. Well I’m here to stamp on its bony fingers and watch it fall to its death.
As I’ll show in this article, the carbon clan’s positions are a self-serving, status-quo justifying, fossil-fuel-pollution-apologizing crock of coal-ash-slurry. And that’s putting it very politely. Every day of inaction not only poses potential existential risks to humanity in terms of greenhouse gas production, but imposes other direct social costs far into the future.
Lie #1 “Electricity from wind and solar costs 10 times as much as from coal.”
Source: David Frum on Bill Maher, April 3, 2009.
Truth: Wind has approximately 50% higher capital cost per megawatt as coal or natural gas, but this ignores the fact that it requires no fuel for the life of the turbine (20-40 years). Wind is marginally cheaper than nuclear and has no waste disposal problem. Total global energy usage from all sources is 16 TW. The global wind resource has been estimated at 72 TW. Which means that industrial civilization could be powered by wind alone, given sufficient grid-storage battery capacity.
Lie #2 “New mileage standards will add $1,300 to the cost of an automobile.”
Source: Drudge Report (in red letters) linking to a Yahoo news article.
Truth: 42-miles-per-gallon–the horror! Is that the best the conservamorons can do? Automakers have been using this ploy for years, most famously in 1977 to oppose air-bags when they claimed it would add $300 ($1,054 in current dollars). While it’s possible that certain improvements in efficiency temporarily add costs to a vehicle, this differential nearly always narrows with time and competition. Manufacturers find better and cheaper ways of doing things, especially when the changes ripple through the global supply chain and change approaches and methods. The statement is also misleading, because it counts only upfront capital cost, but not the accompanying energy savings, which the same article states will offset the difference in 3 years. This kind of deliberatlely sloppy analysis also ignores the artificially low price of carbon-based fuel, which cost (pollution, future climate mitigation) is borne by the taxpayers. Oddly, this time the automakers stood with the President to support the current standards. Yet the neanderthal testosterone-monkeys are still whining: “No personal monster trucks –snif- it’s socialism, dammit, they’re not making the (oversized and inefficient) cars people want to buy –whinge.-“
Lie #3 “Hybrid cars don’t make a profit for their manufacturers, their batteries wear out, and are polluting, they’re noisy and horrible to drive, and they only make sense for rich, smug eco-nuts who have more money than brains.”
Source: Various hybrid naysayer articles over the years, topped by Jeremy Clarkson’s May 17, 2009 vicious Honda Insight review in the UK Times, one of the meanest, sloppiest and most sarcastic screeds ever written about an automobile. No joke, it’s worth reading just for train-wreck entertainment value. What a horrid little self-important asshole Clarkson is!
Truth: Lifecycle analysis of hybrid cars shows that they produce only about half the CO2 of conventional cars of the same size. This study was done back in 2001, so I’m confident things have improved since then. The repeating of this lie by detractors is anything but an accident. Hybrid cars continue to grow in popularity, even proving their robustness in San Francisco’s taxi fleet, where rules required the retirement of Ford Escape Hybrids which were still going strong at 300,000 miles. Toyota has sold well over a million of its hybrids, even in a world of mostly cheap oil. Clarkson’s savaging of the hybrid CVT (continuously variable transmission) is just another example of how people would rather keep their conventional auto esthetic at any cost to the planet. I had a similar reaction when driving my Prius for the first time. I was on the freeway and had the distinct sense that the car was as gutless as an old Ford Pinto. That is–until I looked down and saw that I had accelerated to over 80 mph! Problem is, CVTs make it sound as if the engine is in overdrive without accelerating. But the car accelerates by keeping constant engine rpms and changing the gear ratio. A brilliant piece of engineering that saves a ton of fuel. And the Prius has a respectable 0-60 time of 10 seconds. Not a sports car, but not gutless by any stretch. I can break the front tires loose from a dead stop. And the car is still going strong with 55,000 miles, and a lifetime average fuel economy of about 46 mpg.
Prediction: Non-hybrid internal combustion engine cars will be reduced to an antique auto-show curiosity by 2020. Get used to it.
Lie #4 “There’s one question that is the test of seriousness on this [alternative energy] issue, and that is nuclear power, yes or no.”
Source: David Frum on Bill Maher, April 3, 2009
Truth: Nuclear power is the most expensive method of electricity production ever devised by humans. And this is without even taking into account the non-existent waste disposal methods. Billed in the 1950’s a miraculous electricity solution that would be “too cheap to meter,” nuclear power has been reduced to a niche player everywhere but France. Nuclear electricity generation contributes about 15% of the global total, with coal plants producing about 41%. So to replace just the existing coal plants (not to mention the one new coal plant per week China is building) would require building triple the existing number of nuclear reactors. That’s a “when pigs fly” kind of goal. Only 4 steel companies in the world can produce reactor vessels, so it would seem a tall order even if it were economic. Frum must know this, and is therefore lying through his teeth. Jon Wellinghoff, head of the US Federal Electrical Regulatory Commission stated that the US has enough wind and solar resources to meet all its needs and “may never need another coal or nuclear plant.”
That’s all the debunking I can stomach for today. On a side note, I’m anxiously awaiting the delivery of my first test unit of a 3000K dimmable LED PAR30 halogen replacement bulb. It’s 500 lumens of precision spot lighting at 14 watts or 1/5 the electricity of a halogen. Expensive? Right now at $89, horribly so. But these will come down in a few years to $10 or less. They’re silicon, for crying out loud, the second most abundant element on earth. So no mercury disposal problem (as with CFLs). Replacing all our bulbs with these solid-state beauties could allow us to close dozens of coal-fired plants. Let’s get started!
The EarthLED LumiSelect dimmable halogen replacement being bench-tested:
Update: Many of these energy lies have died down by now, particularly about the cost of wind and solar energy. But nuclear boosters are still going strong. The US share of coal-fired electricity is down to 20% and renewable energy is now at 20%. Natural gas is 40%, and nuclear is at 20%. As demand for electric vehicles soars and EVs approach their mass-adoption tipping point worldwide, defenders of fossil fuel vehicles (FFVs) are becoming hysterical. Europe and California have set targets of 2035 to ban the manufacture and sale of gas and diesel cars, and you’d think it was the apocalypse. I was a bit off in predicting FFVs would be gone by 2020, but I’ll never apologize for energy optimism. –Sean Prophet, September 2022