Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, November 24, 2017

Don't bet the farm on green

If your city or state does spend taxpayer funds on green schemes, it most likely isn't worth the money, but, you can feel green about spending more on renewables - like on Lake Oswego's PGE bill.  Spending additional taxpayers' money on an unnecessary item is merely a gesture that signifies this noble act is important to our city's "brand."  How many other city councils spend needlessly, burnishing their brand?

At some point there will be a resurgence in (modular) renewable, nuclear energy (fuel recycling) regional plants and ways to store power generate by wind, wave and solar power.  Right now, pouring too much time and money into today's technology is a huge mistake.  Read articles by Swedish ecologist, Bjorn Lomborg for his take on large-scale energy conversions. (Search this blog and the internet.)  America (and Oregon) doesn't need to follow German down an economically destructive rathole.

Unfortunately, some extreme greens in Oregon, Oregon cities and the USA continue to push for increasingly steep and expensive carbon reductions and GHG, and restrict automobile use.

NOTE: USC is all for carbon reductions wherever they are realistic, beneficial on a large scale, and do not harm middle and low-income families. A great idea has been the CAFE standards for cars and light trucks.  Today, with more cars on the road and more vehicle miles driven than ever, the total amount of carbon-based fuel used is lower than in 1995.  Increasing CAFE standards will continue to improve gas consumption in the future as cars achieve better MPG, and more people use electric cars.  Some regular gas cars can now equal the 40+ MPG I get from my Prius. A bad idea is requiring ethanol be used in winter gas.  We turn American fields into gas farms, use coal and oil-based energy creating the biofuel, and take farmland out of food production. give farmers government subsidies to grow indelible corn, and it's crummy gas!  My mileage goes way down with the ethanol mix - rather counterproductive. Bad ideas are not exclusive to Germany; however Germany's virtuous extremism should be a warning.

Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2017
Editorial Board
Germany’s Green Energy Meltdown
Voters promised a virtuous revolution get coal and high prices instead.

Amer­i­can cli­mate-change ac­tivists point to Eu­rope, and es­pe­cially Ger­many, as the paragon of green en­ergy virtue. But they ought to look closer at An­gela Merkel’s po­lit­i­cal strug­gles as she tries to form a new gov­ern­ment in Berlin amid the eco­nomic fall­out from the Chan­cel­lor’s fail­ing en­ergy revolution.

Berlin last month conceded it will miss its 2020 car­bon emis­sions-re­duction goal, hav­ing cut em­sions by just un­der 30% com­pared with 1990 in­stead of the 40% that Mrs. Merkel promised. The goal of 55% by 2030 is al­most surely out of reach.

Mrs. Merkel’s fail­ure comes de­spite as­tro­nom­ical costs. By one es­ti­mate, busi­nesses and house­holds paid an ex­tra €125 bil­lion in in­creased elec­tric­ity bills be­tween 2000 and 2015 to sub­si­dize  renewables, on top of bil­lions more in other hand­outs. Ger­mans join Danes in pay­ing the high­est house­hold elec­tricity rates in Eu­rope, and Ger­man com­pa­nies pay near the top among in­dustrial users. This is a big rea­son Mrs. Merkel un­der-per­formed in Sep­tember’s elec­tion.

Berlin has heav­ily sub­si­dized re­new­able en­ergy since 2000, pri­marily via feed-in tar­iffs re­quir­ing util­i­ties to buy elec­tric­ity from re­new­able gen­er­a­tors at above-mar­ket rates. Mrs. Merkel put that effort into over­drive in 2010 when she in­tro­duced the En­ergiewende, or en­ergy rev­o­lu­tion.

En­ergiewende en­thu­siasts say the pol­icy is rack­ing up suc­cesses de­spite the prob­lems. That’s true only in the sense that if you throw enough money at something, some of the cash has to stick. In electric gen­er­ating ca­pac­ity, for in­stance, re­new­ables are now run­ning al­most even with tra­ditional fuel sources.

Yet much of that ca­pacity is wasted—only one-third of Ger­many’s elec­tricity is ac­tu­ally gen­er­ated by re­new­ables. Berlin has in­vested heav­ily in wind and so­lar power that is eas­i­est to gen­er­ate in parts of Ger­many that need the power the least, es­pe­cially the north. Berlin will need to spend an­other huge sum build­ing trans­mis­sion lines to the in­dus­trial south.

The other costs re­late to pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, which is of­ten in Ger­many. The tra­di­tional plants needed to fill in the gaps are over­whelm­ingly fired by coal, on which Ger­many still re­lies for roughly 40% of its power.

No won­der vot­ers are in re­volt. Sur­veys say that in the­ory Ger­mans like be­ing green, but polls about house­hold en­ergy costs say oth­er­wise. The right-wing Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) won a surprising 13% vote share in part on a prom­ise to end the Energiewende im­me­di­ately. A new study from the RWI Leib­niz In­sti­tute for Eco­nomic Re­search finds that 61% of Ger­mans wouldn’t want to pay even one eu­ro­cent more per kilo­watt-hour of elec­tric­ity to fund more re­new­ables.