Opinion

Climate change generated collapse of US intellectual standards in science

It is difficult to do good scientific work if you are afraid of countering the dominant conventional wisdom.
Fri Mar 6, 2020 - 7:29 pm EST
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March 6, 2020 (American Thinker) — Each year, approximately $25 billion is wasted paying for so-called renewable energy, overwhelmingly wind and solar. This is the excess cost of the renewable energy versus what it would cost to generate the same amount of electricity in existing fossil fuel plants. Because many states have accelerating legal quotas for renewable energy, called renewable portfolio laws, the money wasted each year will approximately double in the next 10 years to $50 billion each year. If the states fail to come to their senses and continue to pursue these laws, another doubling by 2040 to $100 billion per year is likely. In the state of Nevada, for example, the increasing cost of electricity will likely be equivalent to a 4% state income tax by 2030.

The renewable energy industry has powerful sources of support for its program to make money by fooling the public. There are many effective lies, repeated over and over. Long-term contracts for wind or solar electricity at $25 or $30 per megawatt-hour are touted as proving that renewable electricity is replacing "more expensive" fossil fuel electricity. A close examination of the cost of renewable electricity, either wind or solar, shows that the real cost of this electricity is not $25 per megawatt-hour, but around $80 per megawatt-hour. The difference is the federal and state subsidies. A good chunk of those federal subsidies are set to go away by 2022.

Then there is the matter of replacing fossil fuel electricity. Wind or solar electricity displaces some fossil fuel electricity, but neither ever replaces the plants used to generate fossil fuel electricity. The fossil fuel plants are throttled back when the wind or solar is generating electricity. But sometimes wind and solar are asleep. At those times, the fossil fuel plants have to power the grid without any help from the wind or solar plants. Nothing is replaced by building wind or solar plants. A dual system is created with dependable fossil fuel plants supplemented by erratically operating wind or solar plants. When fossil fuel plants are replaced, they are replaced by newer fossil fuel plants. Often natural gas replaces coal.

The idea that introducing renewable electricity in the USA will reduce CO2 emissions and thus save the world from a global warming catastrophe makes no sense because most CO2 emissions, by a wide margin, are coming from other countries, especially China and India. Further, U.S. emissions are declining due to energy conservation and switching from coal to natural gas. Emissions in Asia are skyrocketing. If the U.S. fans of wind and solar really believed in the coming climate catastrophe, they would be worrying about what China and India are doing, not what the U.S. electric utility industry is doing.

The real believers in the climate catastrophe, if they are also numerically literate, point out that nuclear electricity is the only serious road to reducing CO2 emissions. Some of these climate alarmists are James Hansen; Michael Shellenberger; Stewart Brand; and, before he ran for president, Michael Bloomberg. For a lengthy list of prominent persons supporting nuclear to prevent climate change, look here. The environmental organizations have a problem with nuclear in that it was their fundraising scare catastrophe back in the '70s and '80s. It's hard for them to reverse their position and face the reality that nuclear is the only way to really reduce emissions at reasonable cost.

My own opinion, based on considerable study, is that global warming, now called climate change, is something between science fiction and a hoax. The side-effect of the alleged catastrophe is turning obscure academics, in obscure disciplines, into rock stars. Predicting a catastrophe is a really good method of getting attention. The temptation to cut scientific corners to get in on the bonanza is irresistible. On the other hand, if a scientist refuses to go along, he is seen as killing the goose that lays golden eggs, and he may well be purged. Openly global warming–skeptical scientists are vastly outnumbered by those who are closeted.

The only economic benefit of wind or solar energy is a reduction in fuel consumption in the existing fossil fuel plants. The marginal cost of fuel in a natural gas generating plant is around $15 per megawatt-hour. Wind or solar electricity costs, without subsidies, about $80 per megawatt-hour. The $65 difference has to be made up by a subsidy from someone, in practice the taxpayers or the consumers of electricity. Because the renewable portfolio laws mandate increasing use of renewable electricity, if the federal subsidies go away, the price of electricity will increase.

The saddest thing about the response to the renewable energy scandal, or the global warming hoax, is that the people and institutions that know better lack the courage to speak up. Or, in some cases, they even join perpetrators of the scandal for their own profit.

The international oil companies have vast financial resources. They employ thousands of scientists. It is not in their stockholders' financial interest to be made into villains supposedly trying to destroy the Earth via global warming. At one time, before the eco-left gained huge political influence, the oil companies were open skeptics. In 1997, Exxon's CEO, Lee Raymond, himself a Ph.D., made a speech clearly pointing out the scientific weaknesses in the predictions of a global warming catastrophe. But now Exxon and other oil companies are careful not to criticize global warming, and they constantly publish propaganda concerning their attempts to reduce CO2 emissions.

Of course, their product, oil, is one of the main sources of CO2 emissions. If they dared to be openly critical of global warming theory, or if they made donations to skeptical organizations, they could expect serious political attacks. These companies with vast wealth and knowledge have been intimidated into keeping quiet. They also give what is, in my opinion, protection money to various organizations that push global warming alarmism — for example, the American Geophysical Union. It may be too much to expect that companies whose purpose is to make money will take a principled stand, even if only to protect their long-term interests. These companies also build solar and wind generating facilities. But due to government subsidies and policies, these projects may actually be profitable for the developer. It's the public that is screwed.

Members of the academic and scientific communities who write about global warming, or renewable energy, cower in fear that they might say something that sounds skeptical. It is difficult to do good scientific work if you are afraid of countering the dominant conventional wisdom. The few public skeptics are ornery types with good pensions or fat bank accounts. They are usually depicted as being slightly daffy or as being in the pay of oil companies. The oil companies probably would be hesitant to issue a gas credit card to these skeptics, much less actually hire one for any reason. These public skeptics are the real scientists. The other are charlatans.

There is reason for optimism. The danger of global warming ranks low in the public mind. If Trump is re-elected, there is a good chance that the fake science will be faced with greater skepticism. The federal subsidies for renewable energy could be entirely eliminated. But if Trump is defeated, all the prospective Democrat candidates are fully loony-tunes on the subject of global warming and renewable energy.

Norman Rogers is the author of the book Dumb Energy: A Critique of Wind and Solar Energy. He is a member of the CO2 Coalition.

This article originally appeared at the American Thinker. It is published here with permission from the author.


  academia, climate change, corporate pressure, environmentalism, global warming, groupthink

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