Jude Clemente: “Five Things I Truly Don’t Understand About… the Energy Transition”

Guest “Fracking-A Bubba” by David Middleton

Jude Clemente is one of my favorite energy analysts. His articles for Forbes are always awesome. Jude hits it out of the park with this one:


5 Things I Truly Don’t Understand About The “Inevitable Energy Transition”

Jude Clemente


This list could be closer to 50 but let’s just stick to a handful of them. I live in this business every day, and I’m just so confused.

1. In a world that is apparently getting both warmer and colder because of global warming, how is it that we can increasingly rely on non-dispatchable (i.e., intermittent, usually unavailable), weather-dependent electricity from wind and solar plants to displace, not just supplement, dispatchable (i.e., baseload, almost always available) coal, gas, and nuclear power? In other words, if our weather is becoming less predictable, how is it that a consuming economy like ours can, or should even try, predictably rely on weather-dependent resources? ERCOT exemplifies this: the Texas grid operator has around 31,000 MW of wind capacity but goes into winter expecting only 6,000 MW (just 20%) of wind farms to be available to generate electricity. 


2. Climate change is a global issue, so how is it that we can claim climate benefits for unilateral climate policy. For example, U.S. gasoline cars constitute just 3% of global CO2 emissions, so how will getting rid of them impact climate change? But this dose of real science doesn’t stop California leaders, a state responsible for just 1% of global CO2 emissions, from telling us that energy policy in the nine-county region of Northern California alone is “responsible for protecting air quality and the global climate in the nine-county Bay Area.” No wonder then that a Biden administration official was incoherent when asked how $50 trillion in climate spending in the U.S. will lower any global temperature rise.


3. Back to electric vehicles. Green-tinted but surely practical Bloomberg admits that more than 85% of Americans can’t afford an electric car, since they are well more than double the price of oil-based cars. 


4. How on Earth could anybody expect those in Africa and the other horrifically poor nations to “get off fossil fuels” when the rich countries haven’t come close to doing it. 


5. But, perhaps I’m most confused about the whole air quality thing. The obsession over it gets attached to all energy policies. But there’s clearly a strawman to the “we need cleaner air now” demand. First, the air quality conversation in the U.S. reminds me of Voltaire’s “the perfect is the enemy of good.” Americans seem completely unaware how drastically our air quality has improved. Check data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our criteria pollutants have been plummeting over the past many decades.


Jude Clemente

I am Principal at JTC Energy Research Associates, LLC. I hold a B.A. in International Relations from Penn State University, with a minor in Statistical Analysis. I got my M.S. in Homeland Security from San Diego State University, with a focus on Energy Security, and an MBA from St. Francis University, with a focus on Energy Economics. My research specialization includes North American and international trends in liquid fuels, natural gas, coal, renewables, electricity and GHG emissions – and their connection to human development. I have over 400 professional publications in a variety of energy-related media, notably Pipeline & Gas Journal, Carbon Capture Journal, Journal of Energy Security, Power, World Oil, Public Utilities Fortnightly, and the Journal of Energy and Development. I have also been a writer and editor for reports commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, International Energy Agency, and other major energy research organizations.


Point #1

While wind power in Texas works fairly to very well in spring and fall, it doesn’t work that well in winter and summer. Nearly all of ERCOT’s capacity additions since the February 2021 deep freeze have been renewables, about half of which were solar PV installations. On sunny days, solar does a fairly good job of offsetting wind’s mid-day doldrums… However, the Duck Curve isn’t limited to the Peoples Republic of California.

The first week of February 2023 was extremely cold, with much of Texas getting hammered by an ice storm. Wind and particularly solar took the week off.

The mindless renewables unreliables cheerleading went FR in this Texas Monthly article:

Solar Power Is Bailing Texas Out This Summer

Enjoying that AC? Thank the mighty power of the sun and the renewable energy source keeping the grid afloat.

By Dan Solomon
July 12, 2022

On Monday the good people of Texas, many still suffering from lingering trauma as a result of the February 2021 failure of the state’s power grid, braced for bad news. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the much-maligned entity that manages Texas’s famously independent grid, warned that the situation was dire because of “a projected reserve capacity shortage with no market solution available.” If things got worse, rolling blackouts might be needed. Not great! 

Fortunately, the worst didn’t happen. There are a few reasons why. To reduce demand, many Texans turned up the thermostat by a few degrees to help save power, and ERCOT’s emergency response program paid some large energy customers to scale back usage during peak times. And significantly, solar power, which has been the star of the Texas grid so far during this interminable summer, continued to set records for energy production. If your air conditioner has been steadily running all summer long, you can thank the mighty power of the sun.


The two key renewable energy sources contributing to the Texas power grid are solar and wind power; solar accounts for roughly 25 percent of the renewable resources on the grid, while wind represents the other three quarters, according to Andrew Dessler, director of the Texas Center for Climate Studies at Texas A&M. 

It’s not all that difficult to understand how and why certain energy sources perform well under various grid conditions. Is the grid struggling to keep up with demand for air conditioning? Odds are it is bright and sunny outside, which explains why solar is performing well and also why wind would be less productive (go outside at noon on a summer day and wish for a breeze!). “The good thing about solar is it really does match AC demand,” Dessler said. “Days that are really hot and sunny are the days you’re making the most power from solar energy.” 

While wind produced a low amount of energy relative to its total potential on Monday (and ERCOT put out a release blaming the energy source for the grid’s struggles), both Dessler and Lewin said that was to be expected, and that the amount of electricity being generated by wind was within state projections for a summer day. (Thermal energy sources—gas, coal, and nuclear—also underperformed on Monday.) While the wind farms of West Texas don’t generate as much power as we might like on stultifying summer days, wind farms along the Gulf Coast tend to do well during those hours. “If you’ve been down to the beach in the summertime, there’s usually a pretty good afternoon breeze,” Lewin said. 


Dan Solomon

Dan Solomon writes about politics, music, food, sports, criminal justice, health care, film, and business.

Texas Monthly

Unmitigated horst schist! Here’s the EIA Hourly Grid Monitor for ERCOT daily generation output by source for July 2022:

Here’s the hourly plot from Sunday July 10 through Thursday July 13, 2022:

The only evidence cited for thermal energy sources underperforming was a moronic Tweet by… drum roll, please… Andrew Dessler. Had the article been titled, “Solar Power Is Bailing Texas Wind Power Out This Summer on Some Afternoons,” it would have been sort of accurate. The author of the Texas Monthly article evidently derived his energy expertise by writing “about politics, music, food, sports, criminal justice, health care, film, and business.”

Wind and solar can’t respond to demand. They can only respond to supply because they are weather-dependent.

The flip side of the coin is that wind and solar often over-generate when they aren’t needed.

Relying on weather-dependent energy sources for an energy transition, ostensibly needed to fix the weather…

Point #2

Mr. Clemente was referring to Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) in this passage:

No wonder then that a Biden administration official was incoherent when asked how $50 trillion in climate spending in the U.S. will lower any global temperature rise.



Point #3

The Bloomberg article is pay-walled… Here’s the Nitwit Pinko Radio version:

The people most interested in electric vehicles can’t afford to buy them

November 10, 2022

Studies show a generational gap in electric vehicle purchases: younger people tend to be more excited about them, but less able to afford them. (Story aired on All Things Considered on Nov. 8, 2022.)



Point #4

Mr. Clemente features this graph in point number 4:

California’s climate policies have been surging electricity prices way more than originally promised, but because residents use less electricity because of mild weather bills are lower.

Anyone who thinks California is the example to follow, missed this:

Point #5

Point number 5, the incessant demand for cleaner air is truly incomprehensible. Lead (Pb) is one of the deadliest air pollutants So deadly, that the inventor of leaded gasoline suffered from lead poisoning. The EPA’s page for lead as a criteria pollutant only shows a graph going back to 2010.

Five years ago, when I authored Putting the Clean Air Act on Ice, the EPA data went back to 1970 and I tied it into the ACT2 Ice Core, Greenland ice core lead concentration data. I determined a “geological background” (the Earth puts a lot of schist in the air without any human assistance) by calculating the 1772-1850 average ± two standard deviations.  The ice core lead (ng/g) correlated very well with the overlapping EPA lead (ppb) data:

Current US atmospheric lead (Pb) levels appear to fall well within the geological background.  Data from McConnell, J.R. and R. Edwards. 2008 and US EPA.

Atmospheric lead in the US is clearly at or near an irreducible level.

There has never been an energy transition

Nor will there ever be an energy “transition” before we harness nuclear fusion power… And that’s a good thing.

On a per capita basis, we consume as much “traditional biomass” for energy as we did when we started burning coal. We have just piled new forms of energy on top of older ones. Now, we have changed the way we consume energy sources. In the 1800’s the biomass came from whale oil and clear-cutting forests. Today’s biomass is less harmful to whales and forests.

From 1800 to 1900, per capita energy consumption, primarily from biomass, remained relatively flat; as did the average life expectancy. From 1900 to 1978, per capita energy consumption roughly tripled with the rapid growth in fossil fuel production (coal, oil & gas). This was accompanied by a doubling of average life expectancy. While I can’t say that fossil fuels caused the increase in life expectancy, I can unequivocally state that everything that enabled the increase in life expectancy wouldn’t have existed or happened without fossil fuels, particularly petroleum.


McConnell, J.R. and R. Edwards. 2008.  “Coal burning leaves toxic heavy metal legacy in the Arctic.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. August 18, 2008. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803564105.

McConnell, Joseph R., Andrew I. Wilson, Andreas Stohl, Monica M. Arienzo, Nathan J. Chellman, Sabine Eckhardt, Elisabeth M. Thompson, A. Mark Pollard, Jørgen Peder Steffensen.  “Lead pollution recorded in Greenland ice indicates European emissions tracked plagues, wars, and imperial expansion during antiquity.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 2018, 201721818; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1721818115

via Watts Up With That?


May 23, 2023 at 05:02PM

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