Why fossil fuels are so hard to kick

freedom_in_4low

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I was about to type this out in another thread but I feel like it could deserve it's own and I'm interested in the discussion it might spur.

I'm a BSME that's worked in HVAC for 17 years, which doesn't make me a climatologist or a geologist or any of those other things that might qualify someone as some sort of global warming expert. But what it has done is it's shaped my brain in such a way that every system I see is viewed from a standpoint of energy, how it moves, how it's stored, how it's converted. I have no idea if my perspective is actually unique but when I see threads discussing the topic I never really see it from this angle.

The energy sources we know of basically break down into two types:
1. "new" energy that is moving around us, that we capture and store in order to use
2. "old" energy that is already here, that we unlock in order to use

The energy sources commonly described as "alternative" or "green" are all in the first type. Solar energy captures energy in the form of light from the sun, converts it to electrical energy. Wind converts into electrical from kinetic energy from the wind, which is driven by the Earths' weather patterns, which are powered by....the sun. Hydro power is likewise sourced from kinetic energy from water falling down, which was lifted up (given potential energy) through evaporation and moved by weather patterns....powered by the sun. Common theme here, right? Every one of them eventually traces back to the sun, and the maximum rate at which it becomes available is the rate at which it arrives here, from the sun. After that the maximum availability is reduced at every step by our own resources. How much land is suitable and can be dedicated to solar arrays? Wind turbines? Hydro generators? How much do we lose due to inefficiencies in conversion?

Fossil fuels and nuclear are #2. With fossil fuels we're getting stuff out of the ground that has been dead for a long time, was once alive and was either some sort of plant or was a microorganism or a fungus or an animal that ate plants. Plants that got their energy from....the sun. So fossil fuels are similar to other forms in that if you go back far enough, it's just another form of solar but the critical difference is that we're not limited by the rate of supply and we don't have to store it. We can take as much out as we can get out of the ground, as fast as we can do it, and we've been getting better at doing that for over a century. Nuclear energy, likewise is already here, locked up in the ground in the very atoms that make up our planet and it's so highly concentrated that it takes very little to get a lot.

Fossil fuels are nothing but a big, solar charged battery that's been charging for a billion and a half years and we can pull energy out of that battery as quickly as we can pump oil or gas or dig coal out of the ground. That gives it a huge advantage in efficiency because what comes out was already here, we didn't have to really "generate" or capture it in the same sense that we do other forms.
 
So let's put some numbers to it. I haven't done the math to prove this particular point but let's say solar arrays are the most efficient way to capture solar energy, rather than getting it after it's been through multiple conversions through wind and water.

Average solar panels are like, 15-20% efficient but the leading tech is hitting close to 50. Inverting the DC output to AC is supposedly 75-80%. Batteries are all over the place at 50-90%
Global energy use in 2021 was 595.15 exajoules, which works out to about 18,900,000,000,000 W. According to NASA, the average amount of sunlight striking the Earth's surface is 340W/m^2...so we're gonna need a 66,000 square mile solar array with the bleeding edge of solar tech, and if we're using typical of today's tech we'd need 238,000 square miles. For context...that's bigger than the entire state of California and almost that of Texas.

Going beyond just the area need to do that, how about manufacturing, operating, maintaining that much solar array, the batteries to go with it, and then disposing of or recycling them when they reach the end of their service life? It all costs more energy and money along with the environmental damage.
 
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Seeing some of the areas they're planning on building wind and solar farms just disgusts me. This is one of our wheeling spots by Idaho Springs and there's rumors they're gonna put a wind farm in there. I go outside to get away from that stuff. The last thing I want to see are massive chunks of forest cut down for some massive wind farm. It also will cut off even more access. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from a treehugger, but windfarms and solar panels just destroy the environment they're supposed to preserve. Nuclear is the best option in my opinion. They already have ways to turn coal plants into nuclear plants for dirt cheap. And if you compare how much a power plant in the middle of the city effects the environment compared to a windfarm or power plant, it's a no brainer. Great post! It's amazing how far you can get with a bit of common sense.


Here's the project if anyone's interested
http://www.clearcreekpower.com/index.html

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Seeing some of the areas they're planning on building wind and solar farms just disgusts me. This is one of our wheeling spots by Idaho Springs and there's rumors they're gonna put a wind farm in there. I go outside to get away from that stuff. The last thing I want to see are massive chunks of forest cut down for some massive wind farm. It also will cut off even more access. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from a treehugger, but windfarms and solar panels just destroy the environment they're supposed to preserve. Nuclear is the best option in my opinion. They already have ways to turn coal plants into nuclear plants for dirt cheap. And if you compare how much a power plant in the middle of the city effects the environment compared to a windfarm or power plant, it's a no brainer. Great post! It's amazing how far you can get with a bit of common sense.


Here's the project if anyone's interested
http://www.clearcreekpower.com/index.html

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I hate that, as a native Coloradan. It surprises me since I never seem to see them in the mountains (a good thing). They're all over eastern Colorado of course and I get that because it's an extra income stream for the farmers that lease their property to the power company. I guess the same thing is going on here, with private landowners looking to make some money and certainly some virtue signaling involved as well. I consider myself a libertarian but I will admit I get pretty socialist when it comes to private and public lands...I'd see the entire mountain range made into public land if I could be in charge of it.

The kiamichi trail was the most famous and fun forest-road type wheeling in Oklahoma. The entire western half, which incidentally was the half that was more technical than a graded dirt road, was closed to put up wind turbines. The power company now uses it for access and driving on it by the public is trespassing. Disgusts me.

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I consider myself a libertarian but I will admit I get pretty socialist when it comes to private and public lands...I'd see the entire mountain range made into public land if I could be in charge of it.
It sounds like we'd get along very well then. My guess is that it's less the landowners and more the county. A big molybdenum mine up here is shutting down and the county is losing millions in tax dollars because of it. It sounds like it's very heavily backed by the county. I've heard all sorts of rumors with corruption and typical small town drama with the county government. Its gonna take a lot to stop it and I haven't really heard anyone fighting it. I only heard about it because I was looking at trail conditions on Trails Offroad and someone mentioned finding some surveyors for the wind farm stuck on one of the trails. I'm afraid that what happened to y'all's trail is gonna happen there. There is a huge trail system back there. Hopefully some organization catches wind of it before it's too late. They're supposed to start construction next year.

Another thing that concerns me is I haven't seen any environmental impact reports for it. All of the government bodies that back it are either the county or clean energy commissions. Parks and Wildlife, USFS, none of them have looked at it it seems like. The company is also basically bribing the county with the usual "job growth", more tax dollars, as well as promising to help with mining reclamation which is a huge thing here.
 
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No one needs fossil fuels! We can just install more wind turbines and solar panels ;)

Toe the party line!

Forgive my sarcasm. I just always get such a kick out of the folks who seem to think that ditching fossil fuels is easy or even remotely possible in the near future.

Did you ever see the segment Joe Rogan did where he had that guy on who was shining light on the despicable atrocities and treatment of Africans who are mining the cobalt and other rare earth minerals that we're using for batteries now?

Yeah, I'll bet that really makes the virtue signaling EV drivers feel really proud.
 
If you need details on anything I can try to answer questions. I've been in the power industry for 30 years. You can search for some of my posts on the complexities of the market and impacts as generation changes.

The key take away is they want YOU to scale back when they switch sources. The first world is too wasteful, and there are too many people. That's the only way the math works out. Dense cities, less stuff, public transportation.

They, however, will still own mansions, estates, cars, yachts, islands, and fly on private jets.
 
Here is what central Iowa looks like at night. The turbines don't just affect the daytime view.

IMO, wind farms should be built in every city pushing for them. Tear down a home in every neighborhood and put them where the people pushing the tech get to enjoy them too.

 
Going beyond just the area need to do that, how about manufacturing, operating, maintaining that much solar array, the batteries to go with it, and then disposing of or recycling them when they reach the end of their service life? It all costs more energy and money along with the environmental damage.

This is what the "environmentalist" and politicians always ignore, or flat out have no concept of. The same can be applied to EVs.

Average solar panels are like...

Without stating what I do for work, you should see the con jobs I see with residential solar setups around here. People will talk themselves into a solar system that cost $40-80K, finance it for the life of the system (15-20 years) to save $50-100 per month. The monthly payment rarely breaks even here. It's almost a guarantee the payment for the system will be greater than any realized savings.
 
BEME here (or I assume that's the acronym for Bachelor of Engineering and not Science...).

I am actually quite for the transition to cleaner energy sources. I also would really like to learn more/build an electric vehicle. I think there are many benefits to all of it.

BUT, we really aren't to this point yet. You can't force something to be better, you can only work at it. I don't think the transition is as smooth and or financially feasible as many are led to believe.


An article concerning coal vs renewables. I'd be curious of it's accuracy.
https://thehill.com/policy/energy-e...xpensive-than-new-renewables-would-be-report/
 
Seeing some of the areas they're planning on building wind and solar farms just disgusts me.... but windfarms and solar panels just destroy the environment they're supposed to preserve.

NC has been pushing the solar agenda for at least 5 years now. Farm land and wooded land are being cleared for "solar farm" installations.

This one is around 150 acres and was farm land in a rural area.
1677699756679.png


In this area, they have been clear-cutting tracts of typically densly wooded land as they become available.
1677700614435.png
 
BEME here (or I assume that's the acronym for Bachelor of Engineering and not Science...).

I am actually quite for the transition to cleaner energy sources. I also would really like to learn more/build an electric vehicle. I think there are many benefits to all of it.

BUT, we really aren't to this point yet. You can't force something to be better, you can only work at it. I don't think the transition is as smooth and or financially feasible as many are led to believe.


An article concerning coal vs renewables. I'd be curious of it's accuracy.
https://thehill.com/policy/energy-e...xpensive-than-new-renewables-would-be-report/

to be clear, I'm not inherently against cleaner energy, I'm just discussing why the forms of it being pushed today is a pipe dream. Nuclear is the only way.

I read the link and scanned the source it's referencing...without redoing the entire study it sounds like they're talking about the cost to the developer, not the actual cost, because they're taking into account the federal tax incentives to building alternative energy. So it's cheaper because the fed is paying the difference. I'm also skeptical of the obvious slant toward alternative energy in the paper, which was written by a San Francisco based policy firm.
 
to be clear, I'm not inherently against cleaner energy, I'm just discussing why the forms of it being pushed today is a pipe dream. Nuclear is the only way.

I read the link and scanned the source it's referencing...without redoing the entire study it sounds like they're talking about the cost to the developer, not the actual cost, because they're taking into account the federal tax incentives to building alternative energy. So it's cheaper because the fed is paying the difference. I'm also skeptical of the obvious slant toward alternative energy in the paper, which was written by a San Francisco based policy firm.

Did not take you as being against it. To be against it is completely silly. I think everyone would agree on paper that getting cleaner energy would be a positive... but the current methods don't get us there as you say.

I agree, gov (or better we) are eating the cost for that to be cheaper.
 
NC has been pushing the solar agenda for at least 5 years now. Farm land and wooded land are being cleared for "solar farm" installations.

This one is around 150 acres and was farm land in a rural area.
View attachment 404080

In this area, they have been clear-cutting tracts of typically densly wooded land as they become available.
View attachment 404085

One of those I see on the way to the beach, not sure who owns it but was farm land. All solar panels

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A11884D7-0BE7-434C-9151-319F0D0A8DFA.png
 
BEME here (or I assume that's the acronym for Bachelor of Engineering and not Science...).

I am actually quite for the transition to cleaner energy sources. I also would really like to learn more/build an electric vehicle. I think there are many benefits to all of it.

BUT, we really aren't to this point yet. You can't force something to be better, you can only work at it. I don't think the transition is as smooth and or financially feasible as many are led to believe.


An article concerning coal vs renewables. I'd be curious of it's accuracy.
https://thehill.com/policy/energy-e...xpensive-than-new-renewables-would-be-report/

The report is 100% accurate. Because the government is thumbing the scales. It's impossible to build a new coal plant, impossible to finance it, the government will likely carbon tax it, and ....

When adding energy community tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act,

It's like California banning the sale of gas powered cars then saying EVs win.