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Europe’s High Cost of Renewables

July 19, 2016

In its quest to cut CO2 emissions, Europe has promoted the adoption of wind and solar to replace fossil fuels.
This has resulted in a large increase in electricity rates for Europeans.

Electricity Rates US v EU

The first chart shows the change in electricity prices after Europe initiated its efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

EU Electricity Prices in Euros

The first chart shows the impact of adding wind and solar to the energy mix for all of Europe, while the second chart distinguishes the effect between countries.

It’s immediately evident that those countries that have invested most heavily in wind and solar have seen their electricity prices soar.

Specifically Denmark and Germany, followed by Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal.

Costs have gone up least, in countries that have continued to use coal, except for France, where nuclear is the primary source for electricity, and Norway where hydro is the primary source.

Poland, Rumania, Hungary and the Czech Republic continue to use coal to provide most of their electricity. For the most part, these and other countries, such as Croatia and Finland, have not invested heavily in wind and solar.

The message from Europe is clear, wind and solar significantly increase the cost of electricity.

The same message can be found within the United States.

States using natural gas or coal as their primary source of electricity have markedly lower electricity prices than California, the leading proponent of wind and solar for generating electricity.

Specifically, California’s electricity rate, at an average of 15.34 cents/kWh, is 50% higher than Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, and Wyoming, which have a combined average rate of 10.25 cents/kWh, and rely on fossil fuels for generating electricity.

States like New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have residential electricity prices that are, on average, 50% or more higher than states that rely on natural gas and coal for electricity, but these higher prices are primarily due to taxes, including efforts to promote wind and solar and pay the carbon tax.

For example, “Up to 70% of New York’s retail electricity price per kWh goes toward Delivery, Taxes, and Regulations.” And, “Since 2008, the cost to produce electricity has stayed the same or been reduced while transmission costs and taxes have shot up dramatically.” Including, “New York’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, Renewable Portfolio Standard, and Systems Benefit Charge.”

In summary:

  • It’s clear that wind and solar in Europe has resulted in higher prices for electricity.
  • It’s also clear that states promoting wind and solar, such as California, and to some extent the states included in the regional greenhouse gas initiative, have also caused higher prices for electricity.

We can learn from Europe’s use of subsidies to promote wind and solar, where the subsidies have resulted in the high cost of electricity.

We have examples in the United States that confirm the lessons learned from Europe.

Wind and solar substantially increase the cost of electricity, which harms families and makes manufacturing more expensive.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear explains why CO2 isn’t to be feared. Chapter 15, An Alternative Hypothesis, describes Dr. Svensmark’s hypothesis on cosmic rays.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Job Displacement Threat

July 12, 2016

(Another article on manufacturing and jobs)

The use of robots in factories is not likely to cause large job displacement, as the process of using robots in factories has evolved over a period of 30 to 50 years, with robots still primarily used for repetitive operations. See Robots inManufacturing.

If there is a threat to jobs, it probably comes from elsewhere.

The University of Oxford’s Martin School, in England, predicted that computerization would eliminate nearly half the jobs in the U.S. over the next 20 years.

As already noted, this seems very unlikely, even when considering concepts such as Uber, autonomous vehicles and deep learning.

Off-highway vehicles, used in mining, etc., have been singled out for conversion to autonomous vehicles. It should be noted that off-highway vehicles follow repetitive routes using GPS or other electronic means, including LiDAR and RADAR, for accurate location of the vehicle as it moves. Their environment is relatively controlled, when compared with autonomous vehicles used on highways where the surrounding environment is constantly changing.

Accuracy for autonomous vehicles may mean a few inches, while for robots used in manufacturing, accuracy will mean a fraction of an inch. This is an important distinction.

While truck drivers may lose jobs, other new jobs will be created and the productivity of the mining operation will be improved by eliminating, for example, unnecessary stopping and starting, and waiting during shift changes, etc.

But, the situation may be different if long-haul 18 wheelers, are replaced by autonomous trucks.

Freightliner Truck, Courtesy of Freightliner Corporation

Freightliner Truck, Courtesy of Freightliner Corporation

If long-haul autonomous trucks become ubiquitous, millions of truck driver jobs could be lost. Freightliner board member, ­Wolfgang Bernhard, predicted that production of autonomous 18 wheeler trucks is only “two, to three years away.”

There is a view that the potential for job displacement could become more pronounced if the family car becomes an autonomous vehicle.

However, the transition of family cars to autonomous vehicles should require considerable time. The recent high-profile hacking of a Jeep ­Cherokee demonstrates there are many obstacles and threats to autonomous vehicles on major highways or in crowded city traffic. And there is the recent fatality involving a Tesla vehicle.

The more extreme view, that many  jobs will be lost, has been expressed by Barcaly’s Capital, which predicted:

“With autonomous vehicles shared between family members and across communities, [coupled with the proliferation of Uber and similar concepts], autonomous vehicles will displace much of the current fleet of privately owned cars.”

Barclay’s Capital went on to say:

“Annual auto sales in the United States could decline by as much as 40 percent, and there would be a 60-percent drop in the total number of vehicles on the road.”

If this becomes reality, there will be a huge displacement of workers.

But that forecast seems extreme.

While Uber may displace car ownership in cities, it seems unlikely that it will have the same effect in the suburbs and rural areas.

People will still need to go to the local dry cleaners or grocery store, and won’t want to call Uber or a driverless taxi for a ride. Autonomous vehicles can be a godsend for the elderly who can’t drive because of poor eyesight or slow reflexes.

Forecasting a dramatic drop in car ownership seems to be a radical view of the future.

If it required 30 to 50 years for factory automation, with the use of robots for repetitive operations, to become common place, it’s likely to require a comparable amount of time for autonomous vehicles to replace the family car.

The idea that every American should be given an annual grant to compensate for job displacement seems inappropriate, counter productive and unworkable.

Without addressing where the money for such grants will come from, let’s look at better alternatives.

As with the use of robots in factories, new jobs will be created, where many of the new jobs can’t be envisioned at this time.

Historically, this is the way the country has confronted change. For example, the transition from horses to automobiles displaced workers, but created new opportunities.

Many sweepers pushing brooms in the factory were replaced with ride-on sweepers, and so forth.

A better way to prepare for the future, than with grants of taxpayer money, is by preparing people for the new jobs that frequently require higher levels of technical skills.

Education should be tailored to the new reality of a technology driven economy.

Expensive college courses that are no better than basket weaving which lead to low-paying, menial jobs are inappropriate in a technology driven economy. They rob from the student and leaves him ill-equipped for the future.

Mathematics, engineering, and science need to be emphasized, along with vocational training for the jobs that can’t be done by robots, of which there will be many, such as welding and tool and die makers. History, especially American history, must be taught to prepare students for a vibrant economy where work is rewarded.

Robots at McDonalds and other fast food stores will eliminate introductory jobs and temporary jobs for students, so, perhaps, vocational training can be supported to compensate for these lost introductory jobs.

Rather than stifling the work ethic with government handouts, let’s prepare people for the technology driven future.

When appropriate, additional articles will focus on manufacturing and the new, high-tech economy. Meanwhile, articles on energy issues will remain the primary focus.

* * * * * *

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Nuclear May Be Green After-all

July 9, 2016

Radical environmentalists may be having regrets over their campaign to kill nuclear energy.

After decades of demonizing nuclear power, some environmental groups are rethinking their opposition to nuclear power.

Unfortunately, they may be too late in the United States and Germany, and possibly France.

Germany is on the path to shutting down all its nuclear power plants by 2020.

In the United States, several plants are on the verge of being shut down, and it’s clear all existing nuclear power plants will be shut down over the next 80 years as they fail to get their operating licenses renewed, and that no more new nuclear plants, other than the four being built now, will be built.

See Nuclear Fallout and U.S. Nuclear Demise Amid Increases Elsewhere.

Radical environmentalists killed the coal industry in the United States, while ignoring and campaigning against the only method for generating base-load electricity that doesn’t emit CO2 … nuclear power.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that environmental groups were rethinking their opposition to nuclear power. The Sierra Club is, according to the article, “debating whether to halt its longtime position in support of shuttering all existing nuclear-power plants earlier than required by their federal operating licenses.”

How can they now say nuclear power is safe, when for decades they have been warning people against the threat of radiation and the China syndrome?

Suddenly, there is no threat from radiation?

Suddenly, there is no threat of the China syndrome?

Chernobyl reactor 4, courtesy of RT

Chernobyl reactor 4, courtesy of RT

Actually, the China syndrome was a creature of radical environmentalists’ imagination, so as to scare people from using nuclear power. The China syndrome could not happen, but it had the appeal of being able to scare people into thinking thousands, if not millions would be harmed by radiation. See Destruction of America’s Nuclear Industry.

Were the radical environmental groups lying then?

Or are they conveniently changing their stripes now?

Was nuclear power dangerous last year, and for the last 70 years? So why isn’t it dangerous now?

The perfidy of radical environmental groups is appalling.

How can they be trusted?

They have misrepresented the dangers from radiation. They have misrepresented the dangers from nuclear power plants. They have hastened and promoted the closure of existing nuclear power plants.

Now … they want to save nuclear power?

What else have they been lying about?

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Appendix, explains why nuclear power is dying in the United States.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

CO2 Through the Ages

July 5, 2016

In my book, Nothing to Fear, I use the 2,000 year period between today and the time of Christ to demonstrate that there is no clear evidence that atmospheric CO2 levels have had an effect on temperatures. For example, the medieval warm period had temperatures as high as today’s, while CO2 levels were unchanged.

In the book, I use an IPCC chart showing that, prior to around 1850, atmospheric CO2 levels were constant at around 280 ppm going back for 2,000 years. I used the IPCC chart since few people would likely criticize the data.

GHG Graph from IPCC AR4

GHG Graph from IPCC AR4

In my talks, I go back 4,000 years to make the same point.

4,000 year history of temperatures and CO2

4,000 year history of temperatures and CO2

During this 4,000 year period, there have been four warm periods, including today’s. In the previous warm periods, Medieval, Roman and Minoan, temperatures have been as high, or higher, than they are today, while atmospheric CO2 has remained essentially constant at around 280 ppm.

This again supports the contention that CO2 is having little effect on temperatures rise.

It’s possible to go back hundreds of thousands of years and still see that CO2 hasn’t seemed to affect temperatures. I didn’t propose going back that far in my book since there were so many other forces at work about which much is still unknown.

During the Carboniferous period, for example, the formation of skeletal life drew CO2 from the atmosphere and locked it permanently in the Lithosphere as Limestone.

However, as the following chart shows, atmospheric CO2 has been very much higher than today, while CO2 levels over the past three million years have been among the lowest levels during the Earth’s history. Meanwhile temperatures have varied widely, with little correlation to atmospheric levels of CO2.

While these records comparing atmospheric CO2 levels with variations in temperatures provide substantial proof that CO2 has not been the primary cause of temperature change, they do not infer that CO2 hasn’t had some effect on temperatures.

They also don’t infer that mankind hasn’t affected the environment.

They do, however, demonstrate that the CO2 hypothesis, claiming that atmospheric CO2 is causing global warming and climate change, is unsubstantiated, and that history has shown there is little correlation between CO2 and temperatures.

Geologic Time Scale CO2 and Temperatures

Geologic Time Scale CO2 and Temperatures

There are other hypotheses for the cause of global warming with greater scientific support than the CO2 hypothesis.

For example, there is Dr. Svensmark’s hypothesis, where cosmic rays create low-level clouds that shade the Earth and reflect sunlight back into space. This is explained more fully in Nothing to Fear.

The recent CERN CLOUD experiments have provided support for Dr. Svensmark’s hypothesis. See, Global Warming Science isn’t Settled.

Not only does it appear that the CO2 hypothesis is weak, but that it has been transformed into a political weapon with political, rather than scientific, purposes.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear explains why CO2 isn’t to be feared. Chapter 15, An Alternative Hypothesis, describes Dr. Svensmark’s hypothesis on cosmic rays.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Robots in Manufacturing

July 1, 2016

There has been much fanciful thinking about having all the parts of a product, or even just the raw materials, entering one end of an unmanned factory, with the completed product exiting from the other end.

This provides the backdrop for how workers will be displaced by robots.

The facts, however, are very different.

Robots aren’t new.

While any automatic piece of equipment can be called a robot, the term emerged more accurately during the 1960s when robots could be programmed to perform specific actions.

GE became interested in robots during the 1960s and worked with a designer of robots, Engelberger, and his manufacturing company, Unimate.

At that time, robots were used mostly for transferring materials from one location to another.

GE became very interested in robots in the 1970s, and by 1980 had dedicated a business to the Factory of the Future, incorporating GE machine controls, an existing business, and robot designs licensed from others.

The concept failed, though pieces of the business remained profitable.

Robots need to be programmed, which is at the heart of many problems, and why robots have been limited to repetitive operations.

Since the 1980s, robots have become familiar pieces of equipment in many factories, if not ubiquitous. In nearly every application, however, the robot is used for repetitive operations, such as spot welding an automobile frame or painting a component.

Different model automobile frames can be processed through the same facility, but the robot must be told to follow a different program for each model, preprogrammed in the robot’s computer controls.

With Unimate in the 1960s, programming was accomplished by moving the robot arm to a desired position, recording it, and then moving the arm to the next position, recording it, and so on. The robot’s hand, or effector, when it was in position was itself manipulated, rotated, grasped, etc., to each desired position which were then recorded in a controller; a simple computer by today’s standards.

Obviously the programing of a robot is much easier today with modern computers, and a plethora of subprograms, or subroutines, that have been banked for use as needed. For example, PolySync used for autonomous vehicles, has a suite of applications that speed-up programing, and make it easier.

But the basics remain: Robots must be programmed to accomplish the work to be done.

The concept of self learning may ease the programming problem. But it too will still be limited to operations that don’t vary, by very much.

For example, a robot’s program can be viewed as a series of what-if statements. Trying to answer an infinite number of what-if statements results in an infinite loop, where the robot freezes.

Robots used in restaurants and in hotels, for example, merely follow a set of what-if statements programmed into the computer. It’s a simple matter for a robot to deliver a meal from the kitchen to a table, as the motions are very repetitive. Even the hotel desk clerk can be programmed to answer the steps taken for checking into the hotel. They are fixed and routine. It’s actually possible for people to check themselves into a hotel without a desk clerk, but people expect someone behind the desk.

Robots Welding Automobile Frames, from The Old Robots. Org

Robots Welding Automobile Frames, from The Old Robots. Org

In a factory, the robot must be able to accurately position itself, that is its effector, to a specific x, y, z axis, and expect that the part, say a joint in an automobile frame to be spot welded, will be precisely at that position.

This is why parts to be worked on by a robot must be prepositioned, or the relationship between the part and the robot be maintained when both are moving.

But, will robots displace so many workers that every person should receive an annual grant from the government?

The fact is, robots have been used for decades and have displaced many workers.

But new jobs have been created, such as mechanics to maintain and repair robots, design engineers who have learned to use CAD, i.e., computer aided design programs, and engineers who have learned how to program the robots.

The main problem has been how to train the displaced worker, a painter, for example, so he is capable of doing one of the new jobs, or finding the painter a job somewhere else.

Again, this has already happened, as progress has been made with automated factories and the use of robots.

The ideal way to accommodate workers displaced by automation is to grow the business so that overall, more workers will be needed.

This is another reason why economic growth and the revitalization of manufacturing is so important.

It’s not likely that automated factories will suddenly cause tremendous job displacement, because the use of robots has been evolving slowly.

It required 30 to 50 years for factory automation, with the use of robots for repetitive operations, to become common place, during which time new jobs have been created.

The potential for large job displacement comes from outside manufacturing, with concepts such as Uber, and the use of autonomous vehicles.

A future article will explore these other forces.

* * * * * *

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Manufacturing, Jobs or Grants to Americans

June 28, 2016

There has been considerable discussion recently concerning proposals to provide every person a guaranteed annual grant.

There have been three basic reasons for these proposals.

  1. To protect people who lose their jobs due to job displacement, especially from robots and technology replacing people.
  2. To replace the welfare state with an annual grant for every US adult.
  3. To revive our civic culture.

Interestingly, a referendum in Switzerland to have every person receive an annual grant was decisively defeated, but the Wall Street Journal devoted two pages to a similar proposal for the United States.

However, even the author of the Wall Street Journal article admitted it wouldn’t work unless all welfare payments, including social security and medicare, were repealed.

This is utopian thinking, as there will always be someone who will be in need, and who will get sufficient political support for additional payments.

Why grants would revive our civic culture is beyond me, because civic culture involves human nature.

It’s my view that any proposal for an annual grant is a bad idea, first, because it is not feasible, and second, because it undermines the economic stability of the country while sending the wrong economic message to people.

The Wall Street Journal also recently published an entire section on the future of manufacturing, or how to revitalize manufacturing in the United States.

Manufacturing, to me, is at the core of job creation, and is contradictory to the concept of free money, or grants.

Welding

Welding

Until now, virtually all my articles have dealt with energy, but now, some of my articles will address manufacturing and jobs. Other people can consider whether the welfare state can be replaced and whether civic culture can be revived with an annual grant of money. My focus, when not on energy, will be on manufacturing and job creation.

My first love was for the sea, which took me, as a cadet/midshipman, to Asia, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and down the East coast of South America while I was 19.

My second love was for manufacturing, including service, which is really the component of manufacturing that deals with products that have been placed into operation.

I spent three years on General Electric’s manufacturing management program, with work assignments in several manufacturing businesses, including DC motors, locomotives, small jet engines, naval ordnance, steam turbines and transformers.

The program was, in most respects, the equivalent of a master’s degree program, while involving real working assignments in manufacturing.

My assignments were in several disciplines: Manufacturing engineering, production control, materials management, and purchasing, coupled with academic studies in related subjects, such as scientific quality control using statistical methods for monitoring the quality of parts and products being produced, and for determining and assuring the reliability of machines to operate at required levels of precision.

My upcoming articles on such things as robots and advanced manufacturing processes have evolved from these experiences.

My first article on manufacturing will address robots, because they are currently in vogue.

There is some preliminary, fundamental information that must be discussed before proceeding to robots.

To begin with, every product has a material list that itemizes every part in the product.

Material lists can include several thousand parts, each part with a specific drawing number.

Each drawing will define the dimensions, including tolerances, and materials to be used in each part.

Materials management and production control will explode these lists to determine how many of each part is required for a production run, and how much material will be needed. Some of these materials, such as forgings, may require long lead times, which must be accounted for when scheduling the factory.

Fortunately today, exploding the materials list can be computerized together with much of the scheduling.

Materials management must manage inventories, both working inventories and finished products. Reducing the number pf parts in a product, and the number of products while still meeting customer needs, helps reduce investment in inventories.

There are thousands of manufacturing processes that must be understood, which is where manufacturing engineering is involved.

For example:

  • Removing metal can be done by drilling, broaching, vertical or horizontal boring, milling, turning on a lathe, reaming or grinding.
  • Cutting materials can be done using saws, acetylene torches, lasers or shears.
  • Forming can be done by stamping, or hydro forming, forging, the use of hydraulic presses, extrusion, brake presses or injection moulding. Powdered metallurgy can be useful for some parts.
  • Forming requires making tools and dies, a vital component of manufacturing.
  • Holding, including pre-positioning, requires jigs and fixtures. Prepositioning is critical for the use of automated equipment or robotics.
  • Painting can involve spray painting, with or without electrostatic systems and immersion. Other coatings, including epoxies may involve fluid beds.
  • Applying wear resistant materials can be done with flame spray or welding.
  • Joining materials can include spot welding, riveting, the use of screws, brazing or epoxy.
  • There are several types of welding that can be used for joining or for repair work including TIG, arc (stick or wire fed), MIG, resistance, submerged arc, flash and many variations such as flux cored wire.

These lists are not intended to be all inclusive, but merely to illustrate the scope and complexity of manufacturing processes.

Manufacturing engineering needs to select the appropriate process and machine tool to make all the parts called for in the material list, taking into consideration the required tolerances, costs and the amount of scrap that’s produced with each process, or whether to outsource production of a specific part or process … or whether the part needs to be redesigned for manufacturability.

Computers used for designing parts, can allow drawings to be downloaded directly to the machine tool.

Additive manufacturing, i.e., 3-D printing, can be useful where standard processes can’t make the part economically, or where the number of parts and sub assemblies can be reduced to a single part, or where the design can be modified to replace several parts with a single part that can only be produced with additive manufacturing.

I apologize for this lengthy discussion, but an appreciation of these fundamental processes is essential when thinking about manufacturing and job creation.

There is also the impact of regulations that affect cost and availability. Large castings, for example, may not be available in the United States because of the regulations that have made casting facilities uneconomic.

There is also the question of critical mass, such as when there are insufficient production facilities to support critical skills, and how to create those skills, when lost, in the work force.

Next, robots, which aren’t that new, in manufacturing.

* * * * * *

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Great Course Failure

June 24, 2016

This is the second in a group of articles describing what’s being taught in colleges and universities about energy and energy issues.

In this instance, I purchased a course, the Science of Energy, published by the Great Courses.

I felt this might provide an insight into what’s being taught in our colleges and universities. And, after going through the 24 sessions, about 45 minutes per session, I believe it does, since the instructor is a professor from a Midwest university.

It’s my opinion that this course is pure propaganda, promoting the CO2 hypothesis of global warming and promoting renewables, specifically wind and solar.

I will try to support my opinion with facts drawn from the course material.

Infrastructure associated with fossil fuels

Infrastructure associated with fossil fuels

The bias of the instructor was confirmed when he said: “We know that renewables will be the dominant form of energy in the not-to-distant future.”

Reconfirmed, when he said: “Renewables are where we need to go.”

It’s also clear the instructor supports big government rather than market forces.
In his concluding lecture, he says:

“If the power companies don’t have the motivation to build [the smart grid], then the government should step in and make sure it happens.”

There are multiple instances throughout the course where these sentiments for government intervention and preference for wind and solar are repeated.

A major focus of the course is on promoting the threat of climate change from atmospheric CO2. In the session on coal, for example, he says “coal is the largest contributor to human induced climate change.” This establishes his belief that CO2 is the cause of global warming.

In fact, he devotes an entire session to human induced climate change, mentioning sea level rise and droughts, claiming that CO2 is the only way by which the Earth’s temperatures can be increased.

The instructor repeatedly refers to CO2 and climate change, so there is no question he is teaching students that CO2 emissions are a threat to mankind.

The instructor demonizes coal, and refers to it as “junk food, cheap, available and not good for you.”

He emphasizes that coal emits more CO2 than any other form of energy.

While the instructor’s demeanor and tone are consistently negative toward fossil fuels, these alone can’t be used in an article such as this.

Only facts are suitable.

There are many instances in which the instructor is actually misleading his students or is wrong, but only a few of these instances can be commented on here, to keep the article relatively short.

  • The instructor is wrong in his assertion that Combined Heat and Power (CHP) improves the efficiency of a power plant. This is an argument used by Greenpeace, and it is wrong.
    For example, using the hot water from an automobile’s cooling system to heat the car doses not improve the efficiency of the engine. See, CHP: Progress or Regression?
  • The instructor emphasized the use of water for cooling in power generation plants, especially in coal and nuclear power plants, without considering whether its use had any real impact on the environment or on the availability of water. He also made the very misleading statement that power generation is the largest user of water in the United States.

The fact is, approximately 90% of the cooling water is returned to the river, lake, etc., from where it was drawn. Agriculture is, in fact, the largest consumer of water in the United States.

Use of water for cooling has no effect on the availability of water east of the Mississippi, or in the Northwest, since, according to the USGS, less than 10% of rainfall in these areas is consumed by all users. The fact that multiple millions of gallons of water are lost to evaporation is meaningless in these parts of the country, and to deliberately accentuate water usage in this manner is misleading, at best.

  • The instructor claimed that Clean Air Act regulations were approved by Congress, when it was the EPA that established the regulations. Congress created the CAA, but doesn’t establish regulations.
  • With respect to nuclear power, the instructor referenced the China Syndrome without clarifying that it’s an impossible concept, and can’t happen. He went on to say that the Chernobyl disaster killed 4,000 people.

This number of Chernobyl deaths is wrong, as reported by UNSCEAR, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. For a clearer understanding see, Unreasonable Fear of Radiation and Nuclear Fallout.

  • The instructor made the claim that solar panels in most areas of the United States can recover their cost within 2 years. This is factually wrong, even if the 30% subsidy is included in the calculation.

The only state where it might be possible to recover the investment in two years is Hawaii. The appendix in Nothing to Fear itemizes the payback periods for every state, and, besides Hawaii, only California achieves a pay back of 8 years, and all the rest require 10 or more years to recover the investment without the 30% subsidy. Half the states require more than 15 years to recover the investment.

  • The instructor emphasized that fossil fuels will run out, so we should adopt renewables now. He specifically mentions biofuels, including algae. And he specifically mentions CO2 emissions from airplanes

He contradicts himself because he mentions there is insufficient land to produce corn for ethanol.

The fact is, there is insufficient supply of any biologic energy source, such as trees, switchgrass, grease or corn, etc., to produce biofuels in sufficient quantities to replace fossil fuels. This is made clear by examples in Nothing to Fear, including the fact that it’s impossible to produce enough biofuels to replace jet fuel, which is only a minor source of CO2 emissions.

  • The instructor claims that the market has determined that the cost of wind and solar is worth the social costs.

This is a distorted reference to market forces, and is clearly false, because both wind and solar are uneconomic when compared with coal-fired and natural gas combined cycle power plants.

The government is making the decision, not the market, by imposing regulations, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), and providing large subsidies to encourage their use.

A more egregious claim by the instructor was during his discussion of the hidden cost of gasoline, where he claimed the cost of US military forces defending oil supplies from the Mideast was a form of subsidy increasing the cost of gasoline. This also is a common refrain from radical environmentalists who overlook the cost of defending the United States from the Soviet Union, terrorists and other enemies of freedom.

There are many other claims by the instructor that should be commented on, but for which there is insufficient space.

Claims such as:

  • Gasoline taxes should be higher to reduce miles driven
  • There should be a carbon tax in the US
  • Switch to electric vehicles to stop funding wars
  • Place speed limits on cars, because higher speeds produce greater amounts of CO2

In summary, the course is teaching students:

  • That CO2 emissions are a threat to mankind
  • Wind and solar are “the way to go,” and that fossil fuels should be kept in the ground
  • Government should step in and make sure things happen

This is why I believe this Great Course is propaganda.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Chapter 15, An Alternative Hypothesis, describes why the sun is the far more likely cause of global warming.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

* * * * * *

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