In their excellent Wind and Solar’s Achilles Heel: The Methane Meltdown at Porter Ranch, Mike Conley and Tim Maloney reported:
“Even a tiny methane leak can make a gas-backed wind or solar farm just as bad – or worse – than a coal plant when it comes to global warming. And the leaks don’t just come from operating wells. They can happen anywhere in the infrastructure… In the U.S., these fugitive methane leaks can range up to 9%.
“If the fugitive methane rate of the infrastructure… exceeds 3.8 %, then you might as well burn coal for all the “good” it’ll do you. All in all, the numbers are pathetic – some of the most recent measurements of fugitive methane in the U.S. are up to 10%. But the gas industry predictably reports a low 1.6%.”
The sediments in many of the world’s shallow oceans and lakes also release vast amounts of methane from frozen organic matter as it thaws and decomposes. When a Russian scientist searched the Arctic shores for methane, he found hundreds of yard-wide craters, but when he returned a few years later, they were 100 yards in diameter.
In 2014, N. Nadir, of the Energy Collective wrote, “The most serious environmental problem that renewable energy has is that even if it reached 50% capacity somewhere, this huge waste of money and resources would still be dependent on natural gas, which any serious environmentalist with a long-term view sees as disastrous.
“Natural gas is not safe – even if we ignore the frequent news when a gas line blows up, killing people. It is not clean, since there is no place to dump its CO2; it is not sustainable; and the practice of mining it – fracking – is a crime against all future generations who will need to live with shattered, metal-leaching rock beneath their feet, and huge amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere.”
Burning just 1 gallon of gasoline creates about 170 cubic feet of CO2.
Tim Maloney of the Thorium Energy Alliance argues that we should be conserving natural gas because methane is the primary feed stock for ammonia, and ammonia is used to produce nitrogen-based fertilizers, a shortage of which could cause starvation. In addition, closing nuclear plants and expanding “renewables” that require natural gas will substantially increase CO2 and methane emissions.
From THINKPROGRESS, Nov. 2017, “A shocking newstudy concludes that the methane emissions escaping from New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.”
Because windmills generate just 1/3 of their rated capacity, the rest is supplied by plants that primarily burn coal or natural gas – which is 90% methane, which makes more CO2. I repeat: methane, over its lifetime, is 20 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, but during its youth, it is 80 times worse – and the next ten to twenty years are years of deep concern. Gas companies love “renewables”.
Ground and satellite surveys reveal that huge volumes of “fugitive” methane are leaking from our wells and distribution system. According to WSJ and the pre-Trump EPA, “Natural gas explosions cause death and/or property damage every other day, and U S ”leakage” is equivalent to the emissions from 70 million cars.” (CNN 9-13-18: “1 dead, 24 injured in 30 natural gas explosions in three Boston area towns.”)
While we pollute our aquifers by fracking for methane in Texas and elsewhere to assist inefficient wind and solar farms, we are simultaneously flaring (burning) huge volumes of natural gas across much of the Bakken “field” in North Dakota because it’s “too costly” to pipe it to market.
Windmills are, in effect, glorified, heavily subsidized carbon-burners that needlessly create more of the carbon dioxide that we seek to avoid. Were it not for our misguided passion for inefficient renewables, we’d have less need for fracking and less of the environmental damage they cause.
Satellite images of oil and gas basins reveal staggering 9-10% leakage rates of heat-trapping methane. Because of these leaks, fracking accelerates climate change even before the methane it extracts is turned into CO2.
In 2015, thanks to a “discovered” email message from Lenny Bernstein, a thirty-year oil industry veteran and ExxonMobil’s former in-house climate expert, we learned that Exxon accepted the reality of climate change in 1981, long before it became a public issue – but then, Exxon spent at least $30 million on decades of Climate Change denial.
In addition, despite studies from Johns Hopkins that reveal an associate fracking and premature births and asthma, Pennsylvania health workers were told by their Department of Health to ignore inquiries that used fracking “buzzwords.”
And according to a 2014 UN report, atmospheric methane levels have never exceeded 700 parts per billion in the last 400,000 years, but they reached 1850 ppb by 2013.
In 2015, a Duke University study reported: “Thousands of oil and gas industry wastewater spills in North Dakota have caused “widespread” contamination by radioactive materials, heavy metals and corrosive salts, putting the health of people and wildlife at risk.”
I understand why power companies cooperated with the rush to wind power. For one thing, renewables were demanded by a misinformed public led by many of the “green” organisations whose goals I support, but not their methods.
33% efficient windmills have received subsidies of USD 56 per Megawatt hour. In comparison, 90% efficient nuclear power, which critics say is “too expensive,” receives just USD 3 per Megawatt hour.
Even the wind companies and Warren Buffett admit that without the subsidies, they’d be losers: “…on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” (2014)
“Most cost estimates for wind power disregard the heavy burden of these subsidies on US taxpayers. But if Americans realised the full cost of generating energy from wind power, they would be less willing to foot the bill – because it’s more than most people think.
“Over the past 35 years, wind energy – which supplied just 4.4% of US electricity in 2014 – has received USD 30 billion in federal subsidies and various grants. These subsidies shield people from the truth of just how much wind power actually costs and transfer money from average taxpayers to wealthy wind farm owners, many of which are units of foreign companies….”
“Nuclear’s production tax credit (PTC) of 1.8 cents/kWhr is not indexed for inflation. PTCs for other low carbon energies are indexed. The PTC for wind is 2.3 cents/kWhr.
“Plants must be placed in service before January 1, 2021. Thanks to Nuclear Regulatory Comm. slowness, that practically eliminates any PTC for new nuclear power.
“Do you know about “renewable portfolio standards”? If government cares about young people and nature, why are these not “carbon-free portfolio standards”?
“This is a huge hidden subsidy, reaped by only renewables. There is a complex array of financial incentives for renewables. Incentives include the possibility of a 30% investment tax credit in lieu of the PTC, which provides a large “time-value-of-money” advantage over a PTC spread over 8-10 years, accelerated 5-year depreciation, state and local tax incentives, loan guarantees with federal appropriation for the “credit subsidy cost.
“Nuclear power, in contrast, must pay the full cost of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license review, at a current rate of USD 272 per professional staff hour, with no limit on the number of review hours. The cost is at least USD 100-200 million. The NRC takes a minimum of 42 months for its review, and the uncertainty in the length of that review period is a major disincentive.”
We are all paying hidden costs to prop up these inefficient, deadly “alternatives” that depend on methane [Natural Gas] to produce 70% of their rated power, even though the methane [Natural Gas] leakage from fracking and the distribution system are erasing any benefits we hoped to get by avoiding coal. Furthermore, the price quoted for a nuclear plant includes the cost of decommissioning, but it isn’t for the thousands of windmills or solar farms that only last about 20 years.
In fact, the deck has been stacked against nuclear power by “green” profiteers and carbon lobbyists who know they cannot compete with 90% efficient, CO2-free nuclear power. Still, despite the bureaucratic handicaps on nuclear power and the support given to renewables, nuclear power is financially competitive, as the following chart reveals.
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