To all the people gathering at COP28 wanting to get the public onside we have a piece of advice: plan a big demonstration. No, not of the Extinction Rebellion/Just Stop Oil kind. Rather the kind that the Manhattan Contrarian has berated them over: If you’re so sure this energy transition can work, and be fun exciting cheap easy and great, stop with the grand pontificating and finger-pointing, and show us a demonstration project. Show us just one large or even medium-sized jurisdiction that can run its economy on ‘green’ energy.
Just not the one inadvertently being put on where he’s from in which, he observes,
“New York thinks it is going to be the ‘leader’ in showing the world how to transition away from fossil fuels to ‘green’ energy. Our politicians and bureaucrats have not bothered with things like feasibility studies or demonstration projects showing that this can be done, because after all they are geniuses and it is up to the little people to figure out the details. So the energy transition has been ordered up via statutes filled with mandates and deadlines and penalties, with no attention paid to feasibility or cost. We now all get to sit back and watch as this crashes and burns.”
You’re not the only ones, alas. For instance, in its “The Future of Everything” feature, not at all pretentious, the Wall Street Journal recently asked us “Could ‘Green Concrete’ Kickstart the Market for Carbon Capture?” To which we’re tempted to say “Probably not” but also “Why are you asking us? Do you think we make cement?”
Actually our business is making objections. For instance that it’s a bit discouraging to read that “Researchers and entrepreneurs across the U.S. are racing to find ways to capture carbon and sequester it to reduce emissions, with billions of dollars in tax credits from 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act potentially up for grabs.” It would be better if they were racing to find ways to capture carbon because it was looking promising, and lucrative, rather than to get subsidies even if it’s just sucking the fizz out of soda and putting it in a hole in the ground or something.
It looks as though it is. For instance they say “capturing and storing carbon is easier said than done.” Well, duh, unless you’re a tree. They are literally trying to snatch carbon dioxide from the air. And it turns out “There’s only one commercial power plant in North America that uses the technology, and it’s not as climate-friendly as boosters had hoped.” Still, they’re starry-eyed:
“This week, we look at another approach to carbon storage that could help alleviate some of the burgeoning industry’s growing pains: ‘green’ concrete. The hybrid material is made by injecting liquid CO2 into concrete, which creates a rocklike calcium carbonate. That process reduces the concrete’s emissions by about 5% and locks away carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere.”
Five percent? So you admit that even if it works it’s a total waste of time, money and hope. As Canary Media wrote back in October:
“Cement production has an enormous carbon footprint. That can be curbed with plug-and-play solutions, but eliminating emissions entirely will require big, ambitious action.”
Still, don’t let us spoil the fun. If you can actually do it, show us. If not, if you can’t even do it on a small scale under favourable conditions, why go to Dubai and pretend the whole planet could do it just like that?
If you want a demonstration project, how about this one? The head of Volkswagen, the auto giant in the engineering giant Germany, announced cost-saving measures including staff reductions it had promised to avoid, because “With many of our pre-existing structures, processes and high costs, we are no longer competitive as the Volkswagen brand”. So yes, aggressive alternative energy programs can do what even socialism could not, and make it impossible for the German people to work productively. It is a demonstration. Just not the one we were hoping for. (Like the one where a court ruling that they couldn’t use a COVID fund to cheat on fiscal prudence seems to be blowing their federal budget to bits.)
Meanwhile Euronews reports on an Irish startup that wants to dump concrete dust on U.S. farmland. What could go wrong? The strange thing, though, is that:
“Silicate, which is based in Sligo, has developed an ‘enhanced weathering technology’ which aims to permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company is set to undertake its first trial in the US, where it will spread hundreds of tonnes of crushed waste concrete onto farmland…. The trial will see 500 tonnes of concrete dust spread over 50 hectares of farmland – roughly equivalent to 120 football fields – in Chicago. Over several months, the crushed concrete will break down in the soil initiating a process called ‘enhanced weathering’.”
So in the first case the cement must not break down, in the second it must. OK, we’re all for experimentation. But not for thrashing. And if these things keep flopping, or can’t seem to get anywhere without endless subsidies, well, it ought to tell us something.
Consider the headline “A $30 Billion Meltdown in Clean Energy Puts Biden’s Climate Goals at Risk” on a Bloomberg story saying that:
“No one expected the transition from fossil fuels to be easy. But a year after President Joe Biden’s landmark climate law promised billions of dollars for America’s switch to clean energy, some of the nation’s most ambitious renewable power projects have been shelved, electric car sales are missing targets and investors are fleeing the sector in droves. The result is a $30 billion collapse in US clean energy stocks in the last six months – a market many investors expected to flourish in the aftermath of the law’s passage.”
Did fools rush in? Should someone have run a test first?
Some outfit called “Canadians for Clean Prosperity” emailed us about another exciting development in which “Canada Growth Fund makes its first investment – a Calgary-based geothermal energy company”. Investment, you say? Well, sort of:
“A new federal financing agency set up to attract private-sector capital to fund commercial-scale, climate-related projects is making its first investment, plowing $90-million into an Alberta-based geothermal energy developer. The contribution from the Canada Growth Fund (CGF) represents nearly half of a $182-million series B funding round for Eavor Technologies Inc., which generates baseload heat and power using a closed-loop geothermal system that it invented.”
At the risk, again, of quibbling, when public money covers half your costs things look profitable that are actually cash capture and storage facilities. And with startup funding of $15 billion the Canada Growth Fund is certainly in a position to bury large amounts of the stuff. But we deniers have all the money, remember.
Overall a demonstration of all this brilliant technology shouldn’t be rocket surgery. As the Contrarian wrote in late October:
“Under the enlightened leadership of our expert bureaucrats in Washington and various state governments, we are embarked on a program to replace our functioning electricity generation system with an alternative system based on wind, solar, and energy storage. We are told that this will be easy, and in fact cheaper than what we currently have. Surely, if that is true for an entire country, it must be equally true for some small place like an island or a small town. Easiest of all for the demonstration would be an individual house, particularly if the house is surrounded by sufficient land to accommodate all the required elements of the system.”
Well yes. So where’s the beef, or insect-based patty?
“I have previously reported here that there is no such thing anywhere in the world as a demonstration project that has achieved anything close to 100% electricity generation from wind and solar sources without fossil fuel backup. The most significant attempt at such a demonstration project — El Hierro Island off the coast of Spain, which opened in 2014 — has barely achieved 50% of electricity generation from its wind/storage system in some years, while falling far short of even that level in other years. Today their website has quietly dropped or downplayed any mention of claims to be trying to achieve 100% renewable electricity generation. In the most recent year for which they provide data (2020), their backup diesel generator ran approximately 85% of the time.”
Many people think politicians are totally cynical true believers, who will make up any facts at all because they’re sure they’re right. But actually the inability to produce evidence for important policy claims does matter a great deal, if slowly.
P.S. The “Inflation Reduction Act” is paying U.S. states millions of dollars to develop “a comprehensive climate action plan” and guess what? They are. Nothing will happen… but they will get the money and the activist churn will intensify.