To give you a sense of scale, to replace the energy from one average natural gas well, which sits on about four acres of land, would require 2,500 acres of wind turbines. That is a massive amount of land. You would have to cover this entire nation with wind turbines in an attempt to replace the electricity that we generate from coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, and even that would not get the job done.
I heard a fellow say, “We all know the reasons why we should switch from fossil fuels to alternatives and those reasons are getting more urgent as time goes on”. Mark Mathis, producer and director of the documentary film FRACTURED, says he has to laugh when people say “alternative” energy as they apply that term to renewables. “We are not going to use ‘this’ we are going to use ‘that’, Mathis says. He correctly points out that an “alternative” is something you use instead of something else. That is not the case when we are talking about wind and solar because they require a backup energy source.
Wind and solar are consistently intermittent, and therefore are not reliable. The electric grid demands a high level of stability. Grids in America operate on a 60 hertz system. If a grid drops to 59.5 hertz a second or rises to 60.5, the grid becomes dangerously unstable and will collapse if it gets much farther outside that slim margin for error. This is why every electric utility has signed agreements with its major users to reduce power under certain emergencies.
Properly defined, wind and solar are “supplemental” electricity technologies. They supply intermittent electricity to a grid system that is already running on 24/7 “baseload” power. Coal, Nuclear, and Natural Gas are baseload sources because they provide consistent electricity generation and can be dispatched in additional amounts whenever needed. Because wind and solar are reliably unreliable, no wind or solar installation has ever displaced a conventional power plant.
Yet, despite this basic energy reality, many nations have bought into what Mathis calls “the big lie” of wind and solar. Nations have misspent tens and even hundreds of billions of dollars in the hopes of replacing coal, natural gas, and nuclear with so-called “clean” energy. Of course, wind and solar and not “clean” in the accurate definition of the term, but that’s an argument for another day.
In the case of Australia, politicians passed a carbon tax to support its renewable fantasies. Not long after, Australia began experiencing failures in electricity (blackouts), especially in South Australia. The Aussies gave up on the carbon tax and are now burning a lot more coal.
Germany’s “Energiewende” (Transition to Renewables) program is a colossal failure. The Germans have spent more than 100 billion Euros on wind and solar and plan to spend an estimated 450 billion more in the next 20 years. Germany now has the highest electricity prices in Europe, more than double what Americans pay. The system is so messed up, sometimes consumers are actually paid to use MORE electricity. But on hot summer days when the wind isn’t blowing people and businesses are told to reduce electric use to avoid blackouts. And, in spite of its gigantic investments, Germany’s CO2 emissions have not dropped as much as other nations that have focused on adding natural gas generated electricity.
What about geothermal power from the earth? Iceland uses a lot of geothermal. But you can’t throw a place like Iceland into a discussion about electricity because Iceland is a highly specific geographic location where they have a lot of geothermal power. There is no other place on the planet like it. There is also the issue of scale. The entire population of Iceland is only about 345,000. That’s extremely small on a planet of nearly eight billion people.
What about hydropower? Canada uses large amounts of hydropower because they have the rivers and topography to provide it. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t. Additionally, as we are now witnessing in the American West, severe droughts require that hydropower be scaled back significantly to conserve water.
If it is not windy in a location, then wind power isn’t going to work. If it’s not sunny most days of the year solar power is not going to work. So everywhere you go around the planet there are geographical problems where solar won’t work here or wind won’t work there, geothermal won’t work here. But you don’t have that problem when it comes to coal, natural gas, and nuclear.
Okay, but why do we have to choose? Why can’t we just use all of the above?
ALL OF THE ABOVE
“All of the above” is a purposely deceptive term invented by political consultants. How can you be against a politician who says he/she is in favor of ALL energy sources? It sounds so magnanimous. But as we have seen, wind and solar are so reliably unreliable that too much of them causes grid instability with the very real threat of grid collapse, which would be catastrophic.
Ironically, the “above” energy sources (wind, solar, biofuels, hydropower) are nothing more than supplements to the real energy sources that run everything in the modern world. That’s right, what we should be talking about is run on “All of The Below” (coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium for nuclear). These “below” sources are what drive nearly all our domestic, commercial, and industrial productivity.
What are the percentages of energy sources that we use in the US? Petroleum 35%, natural gas 34%, coal 10%, nuclear 9.0%. Hydropower ~2.5%. Biomass 4.2% (wood mostly), geothermal ~.2%, wind ~2.9%, and solar ~1.2%. Wind and solar account for only about 4% of the energy we use. We aren’t going to run our society on that four percent.
The big lie is, we can move away from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power and we can exist just on this tiny amount of energy. That should be like saying, “We can no longer move things on ships, trains, planes, and tractor trail rigs. From now on everything will move in a smart car. If it doesn’t fit in a smart car, it doesn’t get moved.” That would be ridiculous.
We have to do things, build things, make things. That is what “all of the below” resources do. We will never fit our lives into a smart car. We will continue to live in the real world, and in the real world the only way to run the transportation infrastructure is with oil. The only way to provide reliable power is with large amounts of nuclear, natural gas, and coal.
Perhaps one day in the distant future we will figure out how to run our transportation and electric grids using something other than fossil fuels and nuclear power. That day is not nearly as close as those pushing the current energy narrative would have you believe.
Portions of this essay were excerpted from the Movie FRACTURED with the permission of its producer and director, Mark Mathis.
The film is available at ClearEnergyAlliance.com. The film is recommended as the most educational and entertaining 90 minutes you could spend this year.
September 8, 2021