From STOP THESE THINGS
There is a cult that holds an unshakeable belief that wind and solar has already defeated coal, oil and gas. Not that there is any real contest.
Indeed, without the hydrocarbons there would be no solar panels or wind turbines. Moreover, were we ever to attempt to rely on wind and solar power generation alone, without the hydrocarbons proven ability to meet demand whenever the sun sets and/or calm weather sets in, we would be sitting freezing (or boiling) in the dark.
The truth is something played cheap by ideologues, everywhere.
However, as Winston Churchill put it: “Truth is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”
Well, here it is. Laid out in 3, easy to digest installments.
Episode 1: How Fossil Fuels Saved the World
26 May 2023
Every person uses energy every day. Most from the time they wake up to when they go to bed. It is such a part of daily life that it is easy to take for granted.
But it’s important to understand that this is a very modern phenomenon. Not that long ago, even the wealthiest kings could not have imagined the energy the working class has at its disposal today.
The use of fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
Yes, the energy sources demonized by politicians, activists, and professors throughout the world are what revolutionized humanity’s quality of life.
Why? Fossil fuels are cost effective. They are reliable. They are portable. And these qualities are what allowed for a boom in automated factories, transportation, indoor heating and cooling, and so much more. For most of human history, the average life expectancy was around thirty years. Populations remained relatively stagnant for centuries. Then, fossil fuels sparked the Industrial Revolution, creating a boom for humankind and changing everything.
Our planet now supports eight billion people. For most of human history, it could not even carry close to one billion. Without the conditions created by fossil fuels, at least seven of every eight people alive today wouldn’t be able to survive, let alone thrive the way humanity does today.
No segment of the population has benefitted more from this improvement in material well-being than the most vulnerable among us.
It is stable, reliable energy that allows premature babies to have a chance at life. It is refrigeration that allows those working paycheck to paycheck to keep their food safe to eat. Air-conditioning makes it possible for people in the warmest places to comfortably survive the summer and warms people in the coldest places through the winter.
Once we appreciate the incredible impact fossil fuels have had on civilization, we can seriously consider the energy debate going on around the world. Before we can decide what changes we should make to our energy consumption or “carbon footprint,” we need to fully appreciate what we’re trying to replace and the real-world consequences of the alternatives. We need to understand what might really motivating fossil fuels’ most vocal critics.
Thinking like an economist means thinking about the unseen, not only what we see around us.
And in this series, we are going to dig into the unseen of energy.
Episode 2: The True Fossil Fuel Crisis
13 June 2023
If we start with an appreciation of the role energy abundance has played in improving the material existence of humankind, we can consider why fossil fuels played this historic role in our energy consumption and what we should keep in mind when looking for alternatives.
Human energy use did not begin with industrialization.
Fire is an obvious source of energy, used from the earliest days of man. Our own bodies, burning calories as we breathe, are an example of energy consumption. Wind and animals were used for transportation. What made fossil fuels revolutionary is their cost-effectiveness.
In his book *Fossil Future*, Alex Epstein simplified the issue of cost-effectiveness into four points:
- Affordability: How much does energy use cost relative to how much money people have?
- Reliability: Can it be produced “on demand,” in as large a quantity as needed?
- Versatility: Can it power many kinds of machines?
- Scalability: How many people can it power, and in how many places?
By these measures, fossil fuels continue to stand alone.
Let’s take gasoline as an example.
While prices can fluctuate, such as when gas production is impacted by international crises, gasoline remains affordable enough that both the elite and the working class use it every day.
Gasoline is plentiful. In fact, thanks to new surveys made possible by technological advancements, there are more known crude oil reserves in America today than there were in 1977. Gasoline is also reliable in that it will dependably power machinery as long as the engine is functional.
It is versatile that in it can power everything from airplanes to lawn equipment.
And gasoline is scalable in that once sealed in a drum or vessel, it can be shipped anywhere in the world and can sit in storage indefinitely without losing its potency.
Natural gas and coal also have these qualities, which explains why countries like China are increasing their investment in these very fuels even while Western leaders make expensive commitments to move away from them.
In fact, it is the reluctance of North America, Europe, and other economies to do the same that is creating the real fossil fuel crisis: a future of declining reliable energy sources. While global turmoil between Russia and the West has forced European countries to consider the realities of energy scarcity, less developed parts of the world have not yet enjoyed the societal benefits of energy abundance, even in peace. In parts of Africa, for example, energy rationing limits access to life-saving medical equipment. In other areas, unreliable energy sources severely limit industrial capacity.
While America has the natural resources to significantly increase fossil fuel production, energy companies are unwilling to invest in expensive new refineries that will not be profitable for many years. By pushing energy policy away from promoting production and toward other aims—such as alleged environmentalism—North America and Europe are making reliable energy resources more scarce at the expense of their citizens and the rest of the world.
Ironically, those that pay the most lip service to “environmental justice” are promoting policies that directly result in the suffering of the most economically vulnerable in the world.
But do green activists’ preferred alternatives have fossil fuels’ useful qualities? Can humanity rely on them? That is the topic of our next video.
Episode 3: The Green Energy Lie
20 June 2023
As we noted in the previous episode, fossil fuels sparked an energy revolution that forever changed our concept of comfort. Powerful individuals around the globe are advocating for a radical change in our energy consumption, and they claim that what are branded as “green” or “renewable” energy sources can replace fossil fuels.
But these so-called alternative energy sources really are not alternatives at all.
Let’s recall the four characteristics of cost-effective energy: affordability, reliability, versatility, and scalability.
Consider two of the most popular “green” energy sources: solar and wind power.
Solar and wind make up a large part of almost every prominent alternative energy program and have been heavily subsidized by government spending. Solar and wind proponents proclaim that these energy sources have a lower environmental impact than fossil fuels, have enjoyed increased popularity in recent decades, and have become cheaper over time.
This overlooks some important details.
Looking at the places where solar and wind are most popular, we see an interesting pattern: the cost of energy tends to be much higher. Why?
One reason is that while harnessing sun radiation or strong wind may seem like a low-impact form of energy creation, the machines needed to harness this energy—like solar panels and windmills—are resource intensive. In fact, using solar and wind equipment to generate a given amount of energy requires ten times more mined materials than using fossil fuels. When these machines break down, their disposal creates yet another environmental burden.
Another problem is energy dilution, which is the efficiency that is lost when energy is transported over distance or time. Larger commercial solar and wind farms tend to be far away from neighborhoods and other population centers, so extensive infrastructure is required to transmit the energy to people’s homes and businesses, and a lot of energy is lost in transit. On the other hand, home solar panels require large batteries to store energy for periods of low sunlight. Over time, these batteries’ ability to hold a charge diminishes.
The concerns about reliability don’t end there. While battery technology may allow a household to prepare for recurring low-sun periods, extreme weather has proven to be deadly for power grids that rely more on wind and solar.
For example, a powerful ice storm can freeze windmills, halting energy generation at a time when heat is desperately needed. The 2021 winter storms in Texas saw people freeze to death in their homes because of the catastrophic failure of a power grid due to reliance on wind energy.
Even the European Greens’ ambitious plans to close coal power plants have stalled in the face of the reality that even heavy subsidization of green energy cannot replace traditional power sources.
While solar and wind can serve as supplemental energy sources, they are nowhere near close to being a serious alternative to fossil fuels, and it is unlikely they will ever be able to replace traditional energy sources.
This inconvenient truth has not stopped politicians, celebrities, activists, and other global leaders from advocating for banning fossil fuels.