The European Union (EU) and the State of California have a lot in common. They both tried to solve a problem that does not exist; and in the process, created a much bigger problem. Now, they are both going to have to change their thinking in order to solve the bigger problem they now face
The EU is currently undergoing one of the most serious crises that it has faced since WWII. In July, 2022, Russia announced that they would reduce the flow of natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 40% of system capacity. The EU responded by saying that they would engage in a voluntary reduction of 15% of historical levels of gas usage. The planned 15% cuts in gas consumption roiled the financial markets, upended the utility markets and set inflation and energy costs in a steep upward climb. Consumers are bracing for a 50%+ increase in electric bills and the prospect of rolling blackouts this winter. On September 2, 2022, Russia announced that it would cut off all of the natural gas it had been supplying the EU through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Now what is the EU going to do? “Now is the winter of our discontent” may well be the phrase spoken throughout the EU in coming months.
Why are things so bad in the EU? The answer is simple. During the period 1990-2020, the EU reduced fossil-fuel (coal and oil) plant electric production as a percent of total electric generation to 21% of total demand and replaced the lost production with an increase in the percentage of power generated by natural gas of 7% and wind and solar by 13%. In doing so, they abandoned 79 billion metric tonnes of proven domestic coal reserves and created a dependence on Russia for an increase in natural gas. Then, they administered the coup de grace to their power grid: they more than tripled their dependence on unreliable wind and solar power-sometimes the wind does not blow and the sun sets every night- just as the load begins to peak every afternoon.
According to the California Energy Commission, at the end of 2021, in-state coal and oil-fired power plants combined to produce 0.2% of the total in-state electric power generation while natural gas accounted for about 50%. Nuclear generation contributed only 8.5% of in-state generation and renewables contributed 35%. Interestingly, in 2021, California imported 33% of its electricity needs from outside the state. California has little or no proven reserves of coal. However, the last comprehensive national assessment of the proven coal reserves in the US conducted in 1974 estimated that there were around one trillion short tons of recoverable coal. More recent estimates put that number at around 500 billion tons; but, a current, comprehensive estimate needs to be conducted to verify that number. In 2020, 22 States in the US mined 535 million short tons of coal. At that rate, the US has at least 1,000 years of proven reserves of coal to satisfy demand!
How does the supply-demand profile for electricity in California compare to that of the EU?California had total electrical demand in 2021 of 280,000 GWh (billion watt hours); 30% of which was “imported” from adjacent states (AZ, NV, UT). In an interview on August 22, 2022, the Chief Operating Officer of the California grid operator CAISO stated that “there’s over 240 gigawatts of resources that have applied for interconnection.” That means that California plans to solve their supply problem by buying more power from out of state providers. In 2021, about 20% of imported electricity was generated by fossil fuel plant operators. So, in effect, California is exporting their CO2 emissions to neighboring states. But, this presents two challenges: the reliability of supply and the cost.
In 2021, California depended on renewable energy sources for a total of 33% of its electricity demand-about 2X the percentage of renewables that supplied the total EU demand. One third of that renewable energy came from out-of-state. At present, the storage technology for wind turbine generated electricity permits up to three days storage. For solar voltaic cells, the storage is 1-5 days. Therefore, if environmental conditions (extreme hot or cold weather) stress the power grid, renewable energy can not supply increased demand for more than a short period of time. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation had this to say about power transfers in its May 2022 report: “The growing reliance on transfers within the Western Interconnection and falling resource capacity in many adjacent areas increases the risk that extreme events will lead to load interruption.” As regards the economics of California’s electric grid, in 2020, the price for electricity was 70% higher than the U.S. average and only five states had higher prices. From 2016 to 2020 the price of electricity in California increased by 18%, the largest increase in the country.
In my book titled “Global Warming: The Great Deception-The Triumph of Dollars and Politics Over Science and Why You Should Care”, I cite published, peer-reviewed scientific research, employing the first principles of the relevant scientific fields of thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, atmospheric physics and spectroscopy to prove that CO2 does not cause global warming. I use publicly available data from the world’s temperature databases to prove that there has been no significant global warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans or land mass.
Do the scientific facts matter at all? Will people in California face the challenges that confront Europe due to ignorance of the facts?