Energy Realism at RFF (Krugman rebutted, decarbonization drawbacks specified)

” … there are still numerous economic and societal barriers to rapid decarbonization.”

“And it is not like wind and solar come free of environmental concerns. The sheer size of wind and solar installations needed to underpin our electricity system is significant.”

“… lower income households will bear the largest relative burdens of the higher energy costs that are likely as a result of climate policies. While there are ways of mitigating these unequal impacts, they require difficult trade-offs.”

A recent blog post by Daniel Raimi and Alan Krupnick of Resources for the Future (RFF) is unusual, even remarkable, given the institutional history of their organization. For RFF in recent decades has gone Left, way Left, for the cause of climate alarmism/forced energy transformation (see here). 

In “Decarbonization: It Ain’t That Easy,” these two PhD’s caught up to what Robert Murphy and Mary Hutzler at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) have been arguing for a long time: renewables and electric transportation do not hunt against fossil fuels. (And in Murphy’s case, that Paul Krugman is a serial deceiver on energy and elsewhere).

New Energy Era

The RFF contribution is one of a growing number of signs that the Left intelligensia is making room for energy realism. Vaclav Smil was interviewed at Science magazine on basically the same points that the RFF twosome make, for example.

All of this is being made possible by several reinforcing intellectual and political trends.

  1. The rapid technological improvement of oil and gas to negate, market-wise, the improvements of (heavily subsidized) wind, solar, and EVs.
  2. The continuing, even growing, reliance of China and India on (cleaned-up) coal–and growing US exports to meet this demand;
  3. The real-world problems of wind and solar in forced applications around the world.
  4. Trump’s about-face of Obama energy/climate policy
  5. Tiring energy-subsidy efforts worldwide.

At the same time as RFF gets energy-realistic, fossil-fuel foes are isolating themselves with emotional outbursts (see Jaffe and Sachs here). And pretend free-market carbon taxers at front-groups such as R Street and Niskanen Center are getting nowhere–and increasingly ignore/violate classical liberalism in their (Left-funder-driven) pleas.

The big shame in all this is that RFF could not have “gone there” much earlier to prevent all the waste of inferior energies. But given the funding largesse and motivation, RFF/s bevy of Ph.D economists found plenty to do short of examining fundamental premises.

Here are some salient quotations (with my four subtitles) for the Raimi/Krupnick post:

Krugman Exaggeration

“This week, the New York Times published an editorial entitled “Earth, Wind, and Liars” by economist Paul Krugman. In it, Krugman argues that the costs of renewable energy—wind in particular—have fallen so dramatically that

…there is no longer any reason to believe that it would be hard to drastically “decarbonize” the economy. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that doing so would impose any significant economic cost.”

“… the op-ed leaves readers with the impression that decarbonization would be cheap and easy if it weren’t for entrenched fossil fuel interests impeding government policy. We disagree.”

Dense Energy Winning

” … there are still numerous economic and societal barriers to rapid decarbonization.”

“The energy system is enormous, and it changes slowly. Globally, fossil fuels currently provide 81 percent of global primary energy. In the United States, the number is 80 percent.”

“While wind and solar have grown rapidly in recent years, they together account for just 1 percent of the global energy supply, and in the United States just 2 percent. Even if they grow rapidly, the sheer scale of the energy system means that even the most rapid transition would take many decades.”

” … growth in renewables we’ve seen to date has been supported by government subsidies, both in the United States and internationally.”

” … in many parts of the United States and the world, fossil fuels continue to offer the lowest cost option for electricity generation, even with subsidies. This is particularly true in the United States, where the shale revolution will likely provide a low-cost supply of natural gas for decades to come.”

Environmental Issues (back to Jevons)

“And it is not like wind and solar come free of environmental concerns. The sheer size of wind and solar installations needed to underpin our electricity system is significant.”

“According to MIT’s Future of Solar Energy study, solar to power one-third of the US 2050 electricity demand would require 4,000 to 11,000 square kilometers (for context, Massachusetts’s area is 27,000 square kilometers).”

“Wind farms take more land for the same power—66,000 square kilometers, although only a small portion of that is actually disturbed by installations (TheEnergyCollective has an insightful discussion on this topic).”

“Even for relatively modest (from a national perspective) proposals—such as Texas’s goal for 14 to 28 gigawatts of new solar by 2030—there are concerns about habitat fragmentation, loss of endangered species and other impacts on the environment.”

” … decarbonization isn’t just about electricity. Achieving steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will require large reductions from the transportation, industrial, and heating sectors which, in 2017, accounted for 62 percent of US primary energy consumption.”

” … wind and solar is no replacement for fossil fuels in certain industrial and transportation applications (to his credit, Krugman acknowledges the impracticality of electrifying air travel).”

” … despite years of subsidies, the percentage of electric vehicles in the fleet remains miniscule.”

” … consumption of petroleum products internationally is galloping ahead. This year alone, global demand for oil is set to grow by about 1.5 million barrels per day. This growth isn’t driven by lobbyists on Capitol Hill, but instead by strong economic growth, spurred by developing countries in Asia.”

“Social Justice” Concerns

“Setting aside the technological hurdles of decarbonization, it is important to remember that reducing GHG emissions will have winners and losers…. [T]he distributional effects of such a massive shift have political and social impacts that can’t be wished away.”

“… lower income households will bear the largest relative burdens of the higher energy costs that are likely as a result of climate policies. While there are ways of mitigating these unequal impacts, they require difficult trade-offs.”

“Second, consider the effects of the downturn in Appalachian coal mining, where an entire region has struggled to cope with an energy transition. Now apply a similar logic to the hundreds of communities around the country that are, or have become, heavily reliant on oil and gas extraction as their economic base.”

“Cities like Midland, Texas, or Williston, North Dakota … would face fundamental challenges in a world devoid of fossil fuels. Is it any wonder that politicians representing these regions fight for the economic engine that underlies the wellbeing of their regions?”

“Providing assistance to the individuals and communities negatively affected by climate policies has been an important component of past legislative efforts, and must be acknowledged as a complex and daunting challenge in and of itself.”

“What to Do”: Three Questions

The final part of the the Raimi/Krupnick post, “What to Do,” retreats to the RFF’s mantra of forced decarbonization via government policy. Raimi and Krupnick hope that a big technical fix that would be enabled by a large carbon tax on oil, natural gas, and coal.

But it is here that RFF’s best and brightest should entertain what is politically incorrect inside their walls.

How high a carbon tax and for what climate gain? The climate math between fossil-fuel rationing and reversing the assumed anthropogenic influence on climate is extremely bad today–and getting worse by the month, week, even day.

Where’s tending climate science in terms of the problem in the first place? What about “global lukewarming” and the benefits of CO2 fertilization? Just reviewing the Happer, Koonin, Lindzen tutorial should be a high priority.

How is the climate math shifting the debate from (government) mitigation to (free-market) adaptation?

It is high time to check your premises. And as time goes by, expect more leaks in the intellectual underpinnings of the climate-industrial complex.

The post Energy Realism at RFF (Krugman rebutted, decarbonization drawbacks specified) appeared first on Master Resource.

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May 7, 2018 at 01:10AM

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