"President Obama has committed the U.S. to a 26% to 28% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by the year 2025. Is a reduction of that magnitude workable? The German experience with energiewende (“energy transition”) proves that it is not.
Having already begun its costly phase-out of nuclear power, Germany plans to rely on renewable sources for more than 35% of its needs by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The country is now more dependent on wind and solar to power its large industrial economy than ever. The result has been a colossal disaster.
German customers, both residential and commercial, pay twice what Americans pay for electricity. As higher energy costs filter through the economy, German industry is no longer expanding, consumers are purchasing fewer consumer goods, and job growth is stagnant. This is a recipe for national decline.
Germany’s GDP declined by .6% in the second quarter of 2014. In the third quarter, German GDP increased by just .1%, below that of the EU overall. The real problem is not so much current growth, or lack of it, but future growth as the cost of renewables sinks in. Anticipating this cost, German industry has cut domestic capital investment and shifted jobs overseas. According to a recent report, German capital investment fell by .9% in the third quarter of 2014. Capital investment is among the most reliable indicators of future economic growth.
The irony is that as Germany and other countries shift to renewable fuels to combat global warming, global temperatures show no sign of warming. Even if they did, Germany’s contribution to warming would be a fraction of one degree over the next century. Germany produces only 2% of global greenhouse gases. With an IPCC consensus of 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100, and with man-made warming supposedly accounting for 40% of that, Germany’s contribution would be .024 degrees. Given the proven inaccuracy of IPCC forecasts in the past, Germany’s contribution to warming would likely be less than .024 degree or even zero. Is it worth impoverishing a nation, punishing retirees on fixed incomes, and forever dashing the hopes of a generation of young job seekers just to make an ideological point?
Compared to the U.S., which relies on fossil fuels and nuclear for 90% of its electricity needs, Germany derives less than 80% from fossil and nuclear, and it has been rapidly moving away from both (with nuclear to be phased out by 2022). As costs mount, business investment is fleeing Germany.
The recent decline of oil prices, along with sustained low prices for natural gas, makes Germany’s energy transition seem all the more doubtful. Germans pay 35 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. Why not pay 12 cents, as Americans do?
The price differential between renewables and natural gas is even more compelling. With an import price just under $9 per mBtu, German electricity prices should be closer to 25 cents per kWh. And with the prospect of U.S. gas exports beginning in 2015, the European import price could decline further. A 43% cut in electricity prices, from 35 cents to a potential 20 cents, would revive growth in the German economy and in the EU as a whole. All that’s necessary is for Germany to abandon the energiewende and embrace clean fuels like natural gas and clean coal as the solution to its energy needs.
Fortunately, a light bulb seems to have been turned on among German lawmakers, who in June 2014 voted to curb future subsidies for renewables. The plan, which calls for a clawback of up to 40% of subsidies from future clean-energy producers, should slow the conversion to wind and solar, and may eventually rescue the German economy from some of the ruinous cost of renewables.
Yet just as Germany retreats from wind and solar, Obama is committing America to a renewables program that sounds a lot like the failed German experiment. Obama’s climate deal with Chinese Premier Xi calls for a 26 to 28% cut in U.S. carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2025. What did Obama get in return for this toxic pledge? A promise that China would begin cutting emissions by 2030—but by no more than they are already likely to be cut.
That doesn’t sound like much of a deal. The only thing Obama got in return is a bundle of cash from well-heeled environmental donors. That cash might help the Democratic Party in future elections, but the China deal will harm ordinary American workers for decades to come...."
Readers should not get me wrong. I do think that there is what I would call a substantial niche market for wind and solar power. In locations benefiting from relatively constant and predictable wind fluxes, windfarms might be an option. In the same manner, for certain localized industrial applications in regions with lots of sunshine solar furnaces, as pioneered by France's Odeillo plant, might be a solution for a.) cheap energy and b.) reducing the need for conventionally generated power. The same goes for small relatively isolated communities awash in sunlight: there solar power towers, like Spain's PS10 might be an attractive alternative. Hydropower and tidal power: same story. And I do believe that it makes great sense to ASAP develop technically sound electric cars - for them to be there by the time real alternative energy arrives.
But politicians and the media should be honest in acknowledging that wind and solar will NEVER be able (unless some efficient means to store the generated power is developed, which I doubt very much) to substitute for the massive energy provided by power plants using fossil fuel and nuclear power. To strive to do so with arguments rotating around the CO2-"threat" is a second lie.
Humanity's energy needs can only be solved adequately, and in the long term, through fusion. Until that arrives, we simply have to rely on the current means of production - and Earth can certainly take a few more decades of CO2-"pollution" augmented by nuclear power (with, in the latter field, a gradual shift from U235 fuel to thorium).