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The Dark Cloud of Going Green

image credit: An oil pumpjack operates at dusk Willow Springs Park in Long Beach, Calif., on April 21, 2020. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)
Dawn Thompson's picture
retired Exelon-BGE

Extensive experience in both external and internal customer service. Coordination of projects in engineering department for construction and installation of utilities. Worked on multiple panels...

  • Member since 2021
  • 7 items added with 742 views
  • Apr 21, 2021
  • 742 views

I was invited by a LinkedIn member to share the following post he read on my page. Having been involved in multiple projects, including the one to assist customers with natural gas availability to convert from electric to get them off the grid, I have becoming acutely aware that there are many fingers in the wind (no pun intended) gauging the next big answer to the alleged carbon woes. Sadly, the wind seems driven by "investments" from the Federal Government. If those funds were removed, would we have so many jumping on the green energy bandwagon? I seriously doubt it. In other posts on different sites, I have called into question the pressure of Americans to be the energy guineau pigs, especially now with the intense trajectory expected with Biden's infrastructure mandates. If the goal is to truly reduce carbon emissions, then why isn't anyone putting pressure on China? America's largest importer of goods is China, outpacing exponentially our own production under cleaner energy use. China is the greatest offender of any nation and yet we enable them by the continual purchasing of their products, including many of the components needed for green energy like solar panels and wind turbines. The level of hypocrisy is mind-boggling. The level of acceptance without question is even more staggering. The following is my LinkedIn post (which is not as long as my intro):

It is inevitable that solar and wind, which have too many variables, will fail without a viable means of storage...queue California’s energy woes. This means hospitals, manufacturing, etc, come to a halt when the conditions are not favorable. Yet, what happens when the power goes out? They fire up their gas or diesel generators. Natural gas and oil are essential to sustainability, not just for jobs, but daily life, and it can be achieved responsibly. To eliminate them is a pipe dream of epic proportions and an assault on the poor and middle class. I also question why geothermal energy is never in the conversation. As someone who heats and cools with a geothermal system, I can attest to the fact that my kWh use is half in my current home, which is twice the square footage of my previous home.
The ability to purchase carbon credits is a farce and divides the classes. When the John Kerry’s and Al Gore’s, along with the other privileged politicians, CEO’s and celebrities of the world give up their private jets as a tangible display of their commitment, maybe the rest of us can take this feel good rhetoric seriously.

 

Dawn Thompson's picture
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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 21, 2021

Dawn, welcome to EnergyCentral. I think you'll find it a valuable resource that attracts people from all angles of energy - from consumers, to generators, to utilities, to policy wonks, to consultants, to...?

No one knows for sure what will happen in the next 10, 20, or 50 years in energy - but it's safe to say everyone here knows what they think should happen in the next 50 years. What follows is my perspective.

"Sadly, the wind seems driven by "investments" from the Federal Government. If those funds were removed, would we have so many jumping on the green energy bandwagon?"

Climate change is like the providing mail service, or clean water, or any other public good: for the benefit of everyone, we're forced to rely on government to take care of essential needs shared by everyone in society.

We'd never be successful if we left it up to donations from the public. People, myself included, are too selfish to join together to address a problem like climate change, and though it may not seem serious now, in coming decades it will be very, very serious.

"If the goal is to truly reduce carbon emissions, then why isn't anyone putting pressure on China? America's largest importer of goods is China, outpacing exponentially our own production under cleaner energy use. China is the greatest offender of any nation and yet we enable them by the continual purchasing of their products, including many of the components needed for green energy like solar panels and wind turbines."

I will try to answer your question with a few of my own:

The economies of the U.S. and China are inextricably linked, and President Trump discovered that increasing tariffs on China had direct and negative impacts on American farmers. So if we put pressure on China to lower carbon emissions, who are we really hurting?

Though China creates significantly more carbon emissions than the U.S., many of them come from manufacturing American goods. Lowering carbon emissions is expensive. So we have to ask ourselves: are we willing to pay the price of more costly goods to lower emissions...in China?

The average American emits twice as much CO2 as the average Chinese, and six times more than the average Indian. In climate negotiations, both China and India have insisted they will never reduce carbon emissions if it hurts economic progress. They argue, "America has been polluting the atmosphere for 150 years to improve their standard of living, leaving most of the CO2 for everyone to deal with [true]. Now it's our turn." Don't they have a point?

"It is inevitable that solar and wind, which have too many variables, will fail without a viable means of storage...queue California’s energy woes. This means hospitals, manufacturing, etc, come to a halt when the conditions are not favorable. Yet, what happens when the power goes out?"

Dawn, I couldn't agree more. I believe the best of both worlds lies in clean ,reliable nuclear energy, but other posters here strongly disagree. I can almost hear them sharpening their swords now...

Dawn Thompson's picture
Dawn Thompson on Apr 27, 2021

Bob - I appreciate your feedback. I've been out of town for the last few days, but here are a couple of thoughts that struck me as I was reading it.

"Climate change is like the providing mail service, or clean water, or any other public good: for the benefit of everyone, we're forced to rely on government to take care of essential needs shared by everyone in society."

While that may be true, we have no one but ourselves to blame for allowing an inept, red-tape bloated government to get us to this point. You have to admit that using the post office was not the best choice to support why government should be involved in many "essential" services at all. Having the monopoly, and running it in the red and inefficiently is the very reason they should not have a hand in energy innovation or production. They get to pick and choose what is acceptable. They have mastered mediocrity and, sadly, the general public thinks that's A-ok. 

Our nation was built by multitudes of entrepreneurs who either used their own money or found others who would invest in their ideas and prospects. Some failed, but many not just succeeded, but exceeded. One of which was the company I worked for, Baltimore Gas & Electric. When home gas and electric came into vogue, it was driven by demand and they have been on the forefront of innovation...a proud heritage, indeed.

Americans have only ourselves to blame for our dependence on China for many goods. That discussion could take us down the road of what labor unions have done to American production (and let's not forget the unethical business practice of using children), but that's for another post. Withdrawal from the China addiction would be extremely painful, in terms of cost to the average citizen and pressure on American manufacturing. It would be like pulling off a band-aid - painful, but part of the healing. I believe we are more than capable of finding cleaner processes, and building on them, and I think we can do it quickly. I just don't see solar & wind as the be-all, end-all answer.

Finally, I absolutely agree that nuclear is the way to go. Folks can rattle their sabres against it, but let their power go out for extended periods of time, or the cost per kWh to power their house skyrocket, then we'll hear what tune they're really playing.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 28, 2021

Dawn, thanks for your feedback. As a reformed-Republican centrist-Democrat, if I don't agree with some of your points at least I understand what their basis is.

"You have to admit that using the post office was not the best choice to support why government should be involved in many "essential" services at all."

USPS will hand-deliver a personal check, a handwritten message, or a birtthday card anywhere in the U.S. for 50¢; a private entity would charge 20x that figure. IMO USPS is a excellent example of good government.

"Withdrawal from the China addiction would be extremely painful, in terms of cost to the average citizen and pressure on American manufacturing. It would be like pulling off a band-aid - painful, but part of the healing."

I'm fascinated this is one point on which Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are in total agreement. Though watching capitalism and socialism come "full circle" gives me hope for our democracy, pointing it out makes me no friends from either the right or the left!

Dawn Thompson's picture
Dawn Thompson on May 7, 2021

Bob...While it's true that the USPS will do exactly as you state, it has been running in the red for years and is admittedly unreliable. If mediocrity is an acceptable business practice, then yes, the USPS is a shining example. I contend that this would not, and should not, be acceptable for any business and certainly not for the energy industry, the backbone of all we do (including sending and receiving mail). 

I am not necessarily worried about right or left, but right or wrong. I was once a liberal democrat, now strongly Libertarian, because I could no longer rectify the differences in running my home, to how a business is run (and stays solvent) to how government is run. You simply cannot spend money you don't have. If you did it on a personal level, you'd go bankrupt and forfeit all you possess. If you printed money to make up the difference, you'd be charged with counterfeiting and go to jail. Yet, the government does both and we've allowed it to become acceptable. There are no consequences for poor judgment and costly decisions when it's the government. 

The ties with China, taking into account the detriment to the environment and their human rights abuses, is sheer hypocrisy. Everything America claims to stand against is swept under the rug with China. Perhaps a return to paying more for a quality product and keeping it for years should come back in vogue. The disposable mindset of society has compounded these issues 100 fold. The environment has taken some big hits and we see it in every step from manufacturing, to use, to "recycling". Water bottles immediately come to mind. God help us if we drink water from the tap out of a glass. Now we're dealing with masks. And, OMG, look at the unintended consequences of "saving just one life" has wrought. (I'm not saying lives should not be saved, I'm simply throwing back the rhetoric). But I digress. Thank you for the interaction. I truly enjoy getting other's perspectives. This is how I learn.

Dawn Thompson's picture
Dawn Thompson on May 7, 2021

PS - Now we have a potential conflict of interest surfacing with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and the electric bus manufacturer, Proterra. There are several reports that she owns about $5 million of stock in it and they are slated to receive a huge "investment" through Biden's infrastructure plan. My, what a tangled web we weave.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Apr 22, 2021

The discussion here is all speculation mixed with fear. The CO2 problem is very real, but what to do is more politics than science.

I did achieve a great education. I still don't know anybody who did well in advanced genetics, biochemistry, solid state physics, computers. The Biophysics department at the U of MN. was run by the inventor of digital electronics, and I helped salvaged his large lab while the U was eager to build a big Super-Computer Institute building. The internet was a game changer proving small can beat big.

So I struggle here to plead for conservation and try include agriculture in the discussion. It is not speculation that people will still need food in 50 years. And a responsible food industry can't afford energy to be played around with. If government makes reliable energy illegal we will need to develop our own (and I think we can).

A good web site is here; https://www.weather.gov/phi/extended. We have a water problem. Conservation of everything will save lives.

Dawn Thompson's picture
Dawn Thompson on Apr 27, 2021

Rick - We have every reason to have some fear. My response to Bob addresses some of my deeper concerns. I don't want to see the US become China-2.0. You are absolutely correct in your concern for food production. I live on the DE shore and chicken processing, from incubation to slaughter, is everywhere. After seeing what happened when C-19 hit (they literally had to suffocate over a million chickens on the farms because the processing plants struggled with staff due to illness) that it makes me very concerned what would happen to food production without reliable energy. Even watching farmers run their equipment to preps fields for growing causes me to wonder how agriculture has been factored into these mandates. 

Side note regarding the water problem, I can say that I pay $230/qtr for up to 18,000 gallons of use. We rarely go over 8-9,000 yet pay that price. Where is my incentive to curb my consumption and be more mindful? Exactly...there is none, so I don't think too much about it. It's all a cluster.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on May 7, 2021

Dawn, I enjoy your bold writing style. Please continue "here" (this web site).

Please also consider more than just production of food. You could probably do a better calculation and assessment of energy and resource cost than anybody on this web site to measure the impact of running a home refrigerator on the schedule of wind or sunshine. If anybody knows how to prosper without a simple reliable refrigerator I haven't met them.

To my relief, there is growing competent advocacy in forestry and agriculture, and growing technology options emerging.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Apr 22, 2021

Dawn,  Welcome to the community - great starter post!  I would love to see more discussion.  You bring up some interesting points as does Bob who commented above.  

1) Geothermal Power - we have several members who write about this on the site so keep an eye out.  I am not sure this is something that is available to all, but certainly has a place in the mix

2) US vs China - this is a tough one as Bob points out.  I guess you could say we have an opportunity as American's to lead the way into the next generation of "power". 

3) Clean Power initiatives in America - The issue for Americans is that there is so much political influence and big money behind things like solar and wind that we are not stepping back to make sure these really make sense or to determine how they can be part of the mix but not the only solution. With everything, there are negatives or downsides.  I think we have to find a balance.  In some places like AZ solar power may make sense especially when it is put on homes and not taking up additional land or put in places where we have to build extra lines to tap into that power.  In a place like Seattle solar is probably not the answer, perhaps nuclear is the better fit up there. 

 

 

Dawn Thompson's picture
Dawn Thompson on Apr 27, 2021

Thank you, Audra. I was a peon in my job at the utility, but blessed with the ability to think outside of the box. It doesn't hurt that I'm a fighter and rather vocal <wink>. I do not have a college degree, yet those in higher positions got to know me and often requested that I participate in projects to add that "out-of-the-box" thinking which they appreciated, even though I just thought I was just looking at things pragmatically. In my 61 years, and seeing what I have, I'll take common sense over college any day.

When we purchased this house, the geothermal system was a definite plus for me. Frankly, though, I'm not sure that if I had built the house, I would have considered that option (along with the tankless water heater) due to the high cost and time to recover the investment. A fellow I worked with in the engineering unit, after much research, set out to install it in his new home and adjusted his other costs to allow for it. He won't be sorry. I'm just sorry not to see it in mix of the infrastructure bill.

It's the roots of political influence that frustrates me the most (can we say "John Kerry"?) And when it comes in the form of money, either by doling it out to those that bend the knee, or charging it as punishment to those who don't, that gives them the ultimate say and power over how they respond. This bill will have adverse effects on the poor, who can't pay their utility bills now and depend on government funds. In the case of the infrastructure bill, it is coercion to the nth degree. It's all a vicious cycle and one not easily broken at any interval. However, we must consider the words of Solomon when he said there is no new thing under the sun...except a solar panel...and the occasional cloud.

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