American Elephants

Robert Bryce Explains Energy, Somebody Tell Mr. Obama by The Elephant's Child

Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a long-time journalist specializing in energy issues. His book: Power Hungry  is a guide to all things fuel. This brief conversation with Steven Hayward at a meeting of the Breakthrough Institute covers a lot of ground. Any idea that fossil fuels can be replaced by “renewables” is utterly false.

He speaks of “scale,” to help us understand. We use about 250 million barrels of oil-equivalents a day. But instead of talking millions of barrels he calls it instead— Saudi Arabias, for 8.2 million barrels of oil.

We use 30 Saudi Arabias —primary energy, all forms, a day.
That works out to:

  • 10 Saudi Arabias of oil
  • 9 Saudi Arabias of coal
  • 7  Saudi Arabias of natural gas
  • 2 Saudi Arabias of hydropower
  • 1.5 Saudi Arabias of nuclear energy
  • 0.5 Saudi Arabias of all non-hydro renewables

He explains “energy density”— how much energy (or oomph) is contained in a given amount of fuel.

Gas has 80 times as much energy density as the most powerful lithium batteries. If we were going to replace our existing power sources with wind — wind contains only one watt of power per square meter— we would need a wind farm of three hundred thousand square kilometers, or an area the size of Italy.

The idea that we can just shut down our coal-fired power plants and supplant them with renewable energy is not going to work. It’s called brownouts and blackouts.

(h/t: Powerline)


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[…] is intermittent. Promoters talk about “capacity” which means the amount of energy that could be produced if the wind blew all the time at the perfect speed. In some installations wind produces energy at […]


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