The smart money is starting to abandon the CO2 vessel
Guest essay by Fred F. Mueller
The IPCC and its supporters in the media, in NGO’s and in governments have taken advantage of the issuing of the newly released 5th Assessment Report (AR 5) to mount an all-out PR offensive promoting their view of CO2-induced doom for humanity using any and all news channels and tabloids as pitchmen. Despite growing distrust in the general public, few people have the mettle to stand their ground against such a massive persuasiveness. How can an average citizen acquire the steadfastness to brush off this veil of lies? The answer is simple: follow the money trail.
When confronted with overwhelming “scientific evidence”, one should keep in mind the basic question any criminal investigator learns to ask whenever being confronted with a puzzling case: who is benefitting? In the case of “climate change science”, the answer is simple, since in the past decades a trillion-dollar-business has sprung up providing all sorts of equipment and services intended to lower what is dubbed our “CO2 footprint”. Whole sectors such as solar and wind energy farms have grown like mushrooms promising to supply our nations with so-called clean and green energy.
These sectors have one common mark distinguishing them from normal business activities. They do not provide us with a better or a cheaper product, one that we would want to buy, but rely on subsidies guaranteed by legal frameworks instead. During the past 20 years, they have grown from modest to big to supersized and now feature the proportions of a cuckoo hatchling in the nest of a tiny songbird. This powerful business sector has all the money and resources to pay for adequate services in the world of science. And modern science is by no means impartial. Scientific institutions are business units with a well-developed service orientation that will of course avoid anything that might displease their sponsors. The same applies of course for state-run agencies such as NASA or NOAA, who are supervised and alimented by political bodies packed with green-minded politicians. So forget about any claims of “pure” science, ignore colorful screenshots and simply sniff for the smell of money – and you’ll be on the right trail.
Would the business plan please stand up?
As in the case of any economic bubble, the “climate saving” industries have been building up on promises of returns that would be delivered sometime in the future, in the form of reduced CO2 emissions and lower energy costs due to reductions in fossil fuel consumptions. But unfortunately, it looks like nobody bothered to deliver a sound cost or return on investment calculation: the proponents of the green energy revolution simply ignited a frenzy resulting in the chaotic buildup of all sorts of “green energy” plants in parallel to existing power supplies, without any risks for investors thanks to legal frameworks guaranteeing ample monetary returns for lengthy time periods. In Europe and more particularly in Germany, where the already strong green ideology has been overtaken by a political leader raised in a communist country, this policy has been exaggerated to a point where the financial tolerance limits even of a sound economy start to be transgressed. For a number of reasons, Germany has thus become the nexus of a host of developments that will ultimately result in the rupture of the “green energy and climate rescue by CO2 reduction” bubble.
The German money sink
Germany currently has committed itself to reduce its CO2 emissions by achieving an 80 % share of “renewable” power generation by 2050 while at the same time shutting down its nuclear power plants, which had been contributing 20-30 % of its power supply. Currently, “renewables” including biomass and water contribute about 22 % to Germany’s power production, with the share of wind and solar reaching roughly half of this figure. But for this rather modest achievement, the German populace has been served with a commitment to a € 370.- billion (US-$ 500.- billion) bill, payable over the next 20 years, picture 1. As a consequence, the average German household will have to pay north of € 0.30 (US-$ 0.40) per kWh by 2014. While the majority of the population is up to now indulgently accepting this rip-off, the industry is increasingly feeling disadvantaged in comparison to international competitors benefitting from substantially lower power supply tariffs. But the real challenge for Germany lies in the fact that in order to reach its 80 % “renewable” objective, the sum already spent would have to be more than quadrupled to more than € 2 trillion (US-$ 2.7 trillion). Even for Germany’s rather robust economy, such a sum represents a burden that might well bring down even this sturdy horse.
Picture 1. The German population is burdened with an ever-growing financial commitment based on 20-year offtake obligations at guaranteed prices
No returns: Neither with respect to power supply…
Given these enormous expenditures, one would normally expect to see some kind of return by the prospect of an adequately ample supply of “clean” electric power able to supplant a certain portion of the “dirty” energy produced by burning coal or gas and a corresponding amount of fossil fired production capacity rendered obsolete. But this is not the case, due to the fact that wind and sun are following their own rules. In the case of Germany, where the minimum (nighttime) power supply requirement is around 30000-40000 MW and the max grid load on winter working days can reach 85000 MW, a total of 66000 MW of nominal wind and solar power generation capacity has already been connected to the grid. Nevertheless, there are sometimes extended periods of time when neither the sun nor the wind are inclined to fulfill their duties, as documented by picture 2 showing the situation on Aug. 22nd, 2013. In the time between 05.00 and 07.00 o’clock in the morning of that day, the total power provided by both sources barely transgressed 500 MW, less than the output of a single gas-fired power plant. If one compares this to the needs of an highly industrialized nation with 80 million inhabitants, it would probably not even have sufficed to power the standby lights of the country’s electronic devices. In other words, virtually the complete fleet of German conventional power stations has to remain in standby mode in order to secure the grid supply in case the “renewables” suddenly decide they deserve a more or less prolonged rest. And in the case of coal-fired plants, the term “standby” means they must continuously burn fuel to maintain a certain minimum level of boiler pressure and temperature in order to be able to react quickly to changes in demand.
Picture 2. Production of electric power from wind and photovoltaic plants in Germany on Aug. 22nd, 2013. In the early morning hours, the total fell below 600 MW, not even enough to keep the nation’s standby lamps glowing (Data source: transparency.eex.com)
nor to CO2 reduction
To make things even worse, the decision of the German government to shut down nearly half of the country’s nuclear power generation plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster has deprived the country of a major carbon-free power generating source. The result is that between 2000 and 2012, despite enormous expenditures in wind and solar generating capacities, the quantity of CO2 emitted from power generating sources has not been reduced at all, picture 3. And that situation will further deteriorate when by 2022, a further 16-17 % of the current power generating capacity still supplied by nuclear plants will be shuttered as scheduled. Worse still, before even taking into consideration any cost aspects, one must take into account the fact that a substantial portion of this lost capacity cannot be replaced by wind or solar power for technical reasons, since further increasing their share would simply jeopardize the stability of the grid. A projection of the power production breakdown by CO2 sources reveals that by 2022, when the last German nuclear power plant will be shuttered, the country will have spent at least around US-$ 1 trillion in order to achieve a 10 % increase in CO2 emissions linked to power generation. Not quite what was promised…
Picture 3. Even after 12 years of massive funding of „renewable“ power production, the CO2 output from German power stations shows no decline (figures in Mio. t CO2/ year)
The smart money starts to leave ship
This scenario implies some very interesting consequences. First of all, the CO2 reduction policy currently pursued by our political leaders is doomed to fail, albeit one cannot predict when and how exactly, but fail it must. Producing such mediocre results for so much money thrown at the CO2-“problem” will ultimately be met with growing resistance since the financing of other vital parts of society will be negatively affected. And there is one natural force the doomsday prophets seem to completely underestimate: the explosive reaction of masses of people that feel they have been let down by their leaders. To understand this lesson, one might just have a look at the French Bastille or the many empty palaces in Austria, Russia, Italy, Greece and so on.
While the IPCC and a number of key political figures such as Merkel and Obama are stubbornly staying the course, the smart money has already started to react. More and more lifeboats can be seen leaving the ship. The giant Desertec project aiming at producing solar energy for Europe in the Sahara desert is virtually dead in the sand. Spain is severely cutting back on its “renewable” subsidies. The German solar sector is in free fall, with big players such as Siemens and Bosch closing shop at a loss. Wind energy seems to be more robust, but even the market leader, Danish company Vestas, is experiencing severe headwinds. And last but not least, some governments such as those of Czechia and Australia prove their common sense by throwing useless “renewable” policies over board. As soon as this trend will have gained enough momentum, one might expect to see a new generation of scientists emerge producing nice colorful computer charts proving beyond doubt that CO2 is beneficial for plant growth and thus for feeding our populations.