Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Ready, Fire, Aim.......
Quite an entertaining article found this week on the WSJ Online about the proliferation of marvelous ideas regarding solutions to our “dependence” on hydrocarbons to energize our lives. For ease, I’ve summarized below.
Everyone, it seems, has a plan for how the U.S. can be less dependent on foreign oil and contribute less to global climate change. Oilman T. Boone Pickens has one, and so does search giant Google Inc. Proposals have come from a former vice president and the current president. But how to tell one green manifesto from another? Here is a list of energy-plan authors and some of the plans’ key points.
B. Al Gore. Former vice president of the U.S., co-founder and chairman of investment firm Generation Investment Management, author of books on global warming.
C. Amory Lovins. Co-founder, chairman and chief scientist of the energy policy nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, a MacArthur Fellow, author of numerous books.
D. President Barack Obama.
E. T. Boone Pickens. Texas oil and gas executive and an investor in Clean Energy, Seal Beach, Calif., which sells natural gas for transportation.
1. Cut the number of coal and natural-gas power plants to 20 by 2020 from more than 6,000 today. Gore
2. Cover a quarter of home and commercial roofs in the U.S. with solar photovoltaic panels. Google
3. Create a new “Green Vet Initiative” to place veterans in green jobs. Obama
4. Make every new car by 2012 be a flex-fuel vehicle, which means it can run on either gasoline or biofuel. Obama
5. Stop using natural gas for power generating and use it to move trucks and other vehicles instead. Pickens
6. Reduce use of oil for cars by 44% and stop using coal and oil entirely by 2030, spending $3.86 trillion on the effort. Google
7. Replace a quarter of oil use with domestic biofuels. Lovins
8. Generate 10% of our electricity from renewables by 2012, and 25% by 2025. Obama
9. Create a $1 billion award from the government for an advanced vehicle technology that gains market success. Lovins
10. Create “feebates,” or consumer and manufacturer incentives for efficient vehicles, and cash incentives (or vouchers) for retiring old vehicles. Google and Lovins
11. Install 80 gigawatts of offshore wind power. Google
12. Reduce payroll taxes sharply and make up the difference with CO2 taxes. Gore
13. Create an “electranet,” allowing individuals to sell electricity produced on their properties back to the grid and to use smart meters and other tools to manage their electricity usage. Gore
14. Use energy-monitoring products that show consumers each of their appliances’ electricity consumption. Google
15. Create a “Connie Mae,” or Carbon Neutral Mortgage Association, to market new financial instruments for efficiency improvements in homes. Gore
16. Have 90% of new-car sales in 2030 be plug-ins. Google
17. Have 20% to 30% of electricity needs generated by wind. Google (29% by 2030), Lovins (20% in 10 years) and Pickens (22% from wind and solar in 10 years).
18. Increase current transmission lines by 10%. Google, wants to add 20,000 miles of lines, equal to one-tenth of the current total. (Gore’s proposal includes high-voltage lines combined with smart-grid integration.)
19. Establish a Grid Modernization Commission to facilitate adoption of a national smart grid. Obama
20. Generate 15% of electricity needs from geothermal power by 2030. Google, wants to add 80 gigawatts of geothermal. (Gore has it at 3% in 10 years.).
21. Have solar thermal as 13% of electricity generation and solar photovoltaics as 3%. Gore. Google has it reversed, with proportionally more solar PV and less thermal, totaling 12% by 2030
22. Weatherize one million homes a year. Obama
23. Enter into public-private partnerships to develop five first-of-a-kind commercial scale coal-fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration. Obama
24. Use well-established and profitable efficiency techniques to save half the projected 2025 use of natural gas. Lovins
This is all well and good, but it truly doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize how utterly impractical (silly??)and completely unrealistic most of this is. We’ve been “hooked” on hydrocarbons since the Second Industrial Revolution and over the subsequent time frame have built the country’s entire supply/delivery grid based on these fuels. What took nearly 150 years to build, through massive investment and ingenuity, is not easily reversible, particularly in a 10-20 year time frame envisaged by some. These suggestions also conveniently ignore the law of unintended consequences – for example, what actually happens when you build enough windmills or grow enough corn to meet these mandates?? There is no free lunch………