American Elephants


There is no Climate Crisis by The Elephant's Child
May 25, 2021, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

A goodly number of visitors to this website come to read an old post (July 7, 2013) titled “14,000 Abandoned Wind Turbines Litter the United States”…The turbines pictured were in Hawaii, and you really should note the date on posts you are reading, even mine!

The idea, of course, is that CLIMATE CHANGE is an approaching disaster (it is not) and that we must DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW to save us all. Not true. The Swedish child was dramatic, came to scold the United Nations, which she did, but was totally misinformed about climate. There is no climate crisis. In the last 100 years, the climate has warmed by barely one degree, and the earth is always warming and cooling a little, controlled by the action of our sun. We have had ice ages, and warm years, hot summers and cool summers. Do not take my word for it, but refer to the climate scientists who monitor the temperatures of the world for NASA with satellites and weather balloons, who report to Congress regularly. Refer to Christiana Figueres, who was General Secretary of the IPCC and told a press conference back in 2013 that Climate Change was our best weapon for getting rid of dreaded Capitalism. There are lots of websites run by climate scientists, and those listed in the sidebar also list other scientific sites. Even President Obama’s own climate scientist is currently trying to explain that there is no crisis.

Interest in climate, inspired by a Davos meeting, meant a lot of sleepy labs in major universities awakened and found that the new interest meant government grants, new equipment, maybe even an assistant, so they suddenly got very interested in climate, and fired up their computers. They entered what they knew about climate, which wasn’t really all that much, and what they thought was probably true, and some educated guesses and some probabilities, and discovered that made them experts on the new crisis.

If I am dubious, it is because I grew up in the mountains of Idaho at about 4000′, mostly outdoors, on 400 acres surrounded by National Forest and BLM land. That provides one with a fairly common sense relationship to the great out-of-doors. Heard cougars scream, bears came for the crab apples when they ripened, and had to shoot a lynx that was trying to kill my dog as well as a porcupine that was trying to get in my bedroom window, right next to the bed.

Wind turbines seemed like a dandy idea, we all grew up with the romantic notion of Holland and their canals, with windmills peacefully turning in the wind, never having been there. Their windmills were for the purpose of grinding grain, not producing a society’s energy, and it turns out that they are not that effective in producing energy anyway. The wind does not obligingly blow at a steady 35 mph, but blows occasionally mostly in pleasant modest breezes. When’s the last time you went outdoors to find the wind blowing heartily with things flying around? We’ve tried locating wind turbines in our windiest places without much success. It costs something over $35,000 to take down a single turbine, and nothing can be recycled, but everything has to go to a landfill. The idea, of course, is that there is something dreadful about fossil fuels, and we have to find a more benevolent substitute. There isn’t, and we don’t.



Sun and Wind and Rainbows and Magic Do Not Power the Planet by The Elephant's Child

A post I wrote back in 2013 is getting another round of attention, as it does now and then. I wrote about abandoned wind turbines, and the misguided notion that wind and sun are free, therefore renewable energy—and to be endlessly subsidized as our most desirable source of power. I hasten to add that I am not a scientist nor do I have any pretense of being one. I was an English major at a time and in a college where the pursuit of knowledge and the critical examination of sources were considered essential.

But I also grew up in the mountains of Idaho on 400 acres with a river running through it, and spent most of my time, winter and summer, outdoors. We had winters with 5′ of snow and winters that were fairly mild. Flood, forest fires, lightning strikes, cougar, bear, lynx and woodrats. (I’m a deadly shot on woodrats. They gather up the cotton from cottonwood trees, store it in the attic of the woodshed and then pee all over it, and have their babies there.) You don’t live outdoors for years interacting with weather, and get all panicky about a few degrees warmer or cooler.

Science is complicated. I just read about a cave discovered in Mexico, a half a mile down, so hot that scientists can only stay for a few minutes, where there are microbes trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old, living on minerals like iron and manganese. Lots left on Earth for us to discover yet, diseases to conquer, unknown territory, they are discovering new species every year. The world economy runs on some form of electric power, and not just for our convenience, light and heat. Transportation, manufacturing, business and government are dependent on electricity and their needs are growing constantly, so the more power we need.

People are frightened by nuclear power after the horrific catastrophe in Japan, and the nuclear accident in Russia. We have dams on most of our major rivers, and environmentalists long for free wild rivers. Power good, but dams bad. Environmentalists say that coal, oil and natural gas are all evil, and should “stay in the ground where they belong.” So it’s unsurprising that there is a fetish for energy from the wind and the sun. Surely with our advanced modern technology we can invent wind turbines and solar arrays to harness the free energy of the wind and the sun. Well, no, no we can’t. Or we can, if we’re content to live in extreme poverty.

The wind is terminally, fatally intermittent. When the wind blows, which is not most of the time, it blows in gusts and wafts or gales. What you need is a steady stream of wind and then you get “capacity,” which is what the manufactures of the turbines promise when they are extolling the virtues of wind. Never happens. In winter, when you are freezing, the wind is apt to not blow at all, and the turbines don’t turn. They have already tried most of the really windy places —Altamont Pass in California, the tip of the Hawaiian Islands, they’ve even replaced a lot of the idle turbines in my 2013 post, so now they are moving offshore. There’s a big offshore farm coming online off our East coast shortly. Offshore turbines take a lot more punishment from saltwater and weather. The life of an onshore turbine is 20 years at best, offshore is a lot less.

The sun, on the other hand, is too diffuse. For real power you need really hot sun bearing down, in a cloudless sky. How many cloudless, sunny days do you get? This is the Northwest, where we get rain all the time, and plenty of clouds. The sun also has a habit of sinking beneath the horizon at night, and even more so in the short days of winter. Elon Musk keeps promising battery arrays to take care of that, but it certainly hasn’t happened yet, and his solar farms haven’t been in the news much. Wind turbines have a nasty habit of chopping up bats and birds by the hundreds, birds of prey as well. What that does to our insect population and rodent population I don’t know, but it doesn’t bode well for malaria and Zika. and other disease.

Both of these technologies demand more and more land each year as the need for more and more energy increases, land in quantities simply unavailable.  Look for Robert Bryce’s book: Smaller, Faster, Lighter, Denser, Cheaper. It’s a clear, simple explanation of why wind and solar will remain interesting, but are not a major source of power except in the remote places where any source of power, however limited,  is a bounty.



You Can’t Fool Mother Nature With Your Cries Of “Sustainable” and “Renewable.” She Has Her Own Natural Cycles. by The Elephant's Child

If you are seeing a few more articles about wind energy, it’s because there was a big Windpower 2015 Conference last week. We know, from Obama’s graduation speech to the Coast Guard Cadets, that our greatest national security threat is the dangers of global warming climate change. ISIS, Iran’s Nukes, Russia’s growing expansionist interests, China’s domination of the South China Sea all pale into insignificance when compared to the threat of a warming climate. “Renewable energy” is a major part of Obama’s defense posture.

It has long been observed that wind farms and solar arrays exist because there are government subsidies which support the risks of a new business. Remove the subsidies and wind and solar stop. So the question seems to be more about whose pocket is getting lined, rather than about saving the country.

The Obama administration’s solution for expanding wind power nationwide — is to construct taller, more technologically advanced wind turbines that will be more expensive and difficult to build. This is the 21st Century, and whatever isn’t working — technology will fix. The trouble is the nature of wind itself. Even in the windiest spots, wind is intermittent. It blows in occasional gusts, stops, wafts, gentle breezes. What a turbine needs is a consistent stream of wind at a consistent power. That doesn’t happen in nature. We solve that problem with a 24/7 backup power plant switching on whenever the wind fails. Please explain how it makes sense to shut down all coal-fired power plants to get our energy from the wind, which has to have a conventional power plant running all the time to make your belief in wind energy work? Consistency is not a hallmark of the Left.

The American Wind Energy Association says scaling up wind from conventional 80 meter towers to bigger 100-130 meter towers enables something or other that couldn’t be achieved with standard towers. A 130 meter tower is about 426 feet or 120 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The Energy Department reports that the cost of wind turbine towers increases rapidly with increasing height creating a trade-off between tower cost and the value of added energy production. There are “wildlife considerations” about the “interaction” between taller turbines and eagles. The American Bird Conservancy issued new research showing how wind turbines are threatening many species.

vortex-1024x576A Spanish Company is proposing a radical new way to  generate wind energy with a bladeless wind turbine called a Vortex that looks like a giant rolled joint shooting into the sky. It takes advantage of what’s known as vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that produces a patter of spinning vortices. With enough wind, vorticity can lead to an oscillating motion in structures — which, to bring it closer to home — caused the spectacular collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

The Germans had converted almost 30 percent of their electric grid to solar and wind energy in 15 years from near zero. Tom Friedman gushed that “it has been a great contribution to the stability of our planet and its climate… a world-saving achievement.” One that has come at the expense of sky-high electricity rates and  a yearly bill of $1,700 per person for a median household income of $33,000.  For the poor, a brutal cost to stay warm in a cooling world. Fearful of Fukushima, Germans are shutting down their 20 GW capacity of nuclear power. And to avoid energy blackmail from Russia, they are turning back to coal. Climate change is not caused by too much CO² in the atmosphere.

We have had over 18 years of no warming at all — a fact that escapes those deeply, emotionally invested in “natural” and “free” and “renewable.” Winters are getting colder. And cold kills.



The Energy Battles Aren’t Going to Disappear Any Time Soon. by The Elephant's Child
April 21, 2010, 8:00 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Energy, Law | Tags: , ,

Everyone got, temporarily, a little excited about the president’s offshore drilling announcement, but then they metaphorically read the fine print.  It does little to increase access to domestic supplies, and actually puts 13 billion barrels of oil and 49 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off-limits.  Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been more supportive of offshore wind energy, which is the form of energy that his boss prefers.

A new Institute for Energy Research video compares a natural gas platform to an offshore wind platform, and explains some of the facts.  A government not captive to green ideology should allow industry to pursue these opportunities.  Whatever the energy source, the reoccurring problems are over-regulation and special-interest politicking.  The NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) crowd is always ready to fight.

The Cape Wind project is still in progress, but it has faced strong opposition from the Kennedy family, and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.  The Alliance has reportedly poured more than $15 million into fighting Cape Wind ever since the project began in 2001.  The Alliance says “shipping lanes, tourism, public safety, Cape Cod economy.”  Two Indian tribes working with the Alliance seek to designate the entire Nantucket Sound as an Indian historic property.  And so the battles go on and on and on.



Some Senators are Finally Catching On, Ever So Slightly. by The Elephant's Child

Well, somebody in Washington finally noticed that more than three-fourths of the $2 billion being spent on wind-energy projects  in the Stimulus bill — The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — which is supposed to jump-start the American economy and create jobs here is actually going to foreign companies.

Democratic Senators Schumer, Casey, Sherrod Brown and Tester are calling on the Obama administration to stop spending on a renewable energy program  in the stimulus program until rules are in place to assure that the projects use predominately American labor and materials.

Buy American!  Jump-starting the economy and creating jobs in China really wasn’t what the voters had in mind,  but who pays any attention to ordinary citizens?  If they did, they’d forget the whole “green energy” business.  It’s been a failure in Spain, England, Denmark and Germany, but like all Democrat programs, past failures don’t matter because this time it will be different.  Democrats are in charge.




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