Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
I see that Joe Biden is about to propose a new CO2 goal. This goal would be to get down to half of the 2005 CO2 emissions by 2030. So I thought I’d see what that would entail.
In 2005, the US emitted almost exactly 6,000 megatonnes (MT, a million metric tonnes) of CO2. Unlike in most countries, US CO2 emissions have been dropping since 2005, and we’re currently at about 4,900 MT per year. To meet the fantasy goal, we’d need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 1,900 MT of CO2 per year. (Note that this doesn’t mean reduce them by 1,900 MT every year. We need to reduce them by a total of 1900 MT/year.)
Now, the amount of CO2 emitted per petawatt hour (PWh, or 10^15 watthours) of US fossil energy consumption has been dropping slowly since about 2009. Currently, we emit about 213 MT of CO2 per PWh of fossil fuel used for energy. The average over the next nine years, if the trend continues, will be about 208 MT of CO2 per PWh.
This means we need to replace about 1,900 MT CO2 / 208 MT CO2 per PWh ≈ 9 PWh of fossil energy by 2030.
The only emissions-free source currently available to replace that with is nuclear power. We can add wind/solar to the mix if we want, but as Texas and Germany have recently shown, we still have to have a full backup for those times when the wind dies and the sun sets. Nuclear isn’t ideal for that, but the modern modular units promise greater flexibility in that regard.
Now we need to calculate the nuclear generation capacity we need. To do that, we divide the 9 PWh/year of power we need to supply by the number of hours per year, 8,760. This gives us about 1,030 GW (gigawatts, 10^9 watts) of new nuclear generation capacity needed.
But there’s a hitch. That’s average generation capacity … but we need enough generation capacity for the peak times, not just the average times. I can’t do better than to quote a commenter from a previous post:
I think you missed something, Willis
That 22 TW is average power. But generating plants, transmission facilities, transformers, circuit interrupters, and all that stuff, must be sized for the PEAK demand.
Most distribution systems in the US have a peak to average (PtA) ratio of around 1.6 to 1.7. Except for the New England ISO which is running around 1.8. Some systems in Australia have an annual PtA ratio of around 2.3. I expect Arizona would run that high taken in isolation, which, of course, it never is.
Take 1.8 as an estimated overall PtA ratio, you need to meet a peak demand of 22 * 1.7 terawatts or 37.4 TW.
But no power system can survive with generation equal to demand. So add 15% for reserves for when parts of the system are down because of maintenance, failures, or the like. The result is, you need peak generation of 43 TW. So roughly double all of your numbers as to what needs to be built.
As a result, rather than 1,030 GW of new nuclear generating capacity, we need twice that, or 2,060 GW of new capacity.
Next, from today until January 1st, 2030, when Biden’s plan calls for our emissions to be down to 3,000 MT of CO2 per year, there are about 454 weeks.
And that means we need to find sites, do the feasibility studies, get the licenses and the permits, excavate, manufacture, install, test, and commission two 2.25 gigawatt nuclear power plants EVERY WEEK UNTIL 2030, STARTING THIS WEEK.
To give you an idea of how absolutely ridiculous the idea is of adding two nuclear power plants per week to the grid, the typical time from feasibility study to connection to the grid for nuclear plants is on the order of ten or eleven years. Here’s an overview of the timeline.
Figure 1. Typical nuclear plant timeline, from initial study to final startup. SOURCE.
Finally, switching from direct use of fossil fuels to using electricity will be hugely expensive. Nuclear plants typically cost on the order of seven billion dollars per gigawatt … and since we need 2,060 gigawatts of new nuclear generating capacity, that’s about $14 trillion dollars with a T …
How big is a trillion dollars? If your family had started a business when Jesus was born, and it made a million dollars a day from then until now … you still wouldn’t have made a trillion dollars. A million bucks a day for 2,000 years … less than a trillion.
But wait, as they say on TV, there’s more to this wonderful deal. Switching from direct burning of fossil fuels to using electricity would mean we’d have to upgrade our entire electrical transmission network, including substations, switches, transmission lines, transformers, and wiring both to and within each house. Then every house like mine would need new electrical stoves, water heaters, and space heaters … can I say how much I dislike cooking on an electrical stove? And who will pay for my new stove?
Conclusion? This is just another liberal ecoloonical brilliant idea. This plan is just like your kid putting on a cape, insisting he can soar through the air like Superman, and jumping off the roof …
… it’s never gonna fly, and someone’s gonna get hurt bad …
Let me close by pointing out an underlying reality regarding all of this. Despite my asking over and over in a host of forums, to date, nobody has been able to tell me just what this supposed “CLIMATE EMERGENCY” actually is and where I might find evidence that it exists.
Deaths from climate-related phenomena are at an all-time low. If you think deaths from climate catastrophes are an emergency, please point in the graph below to the start of the “emergency”.
Storminess has not gone up, and there’s been no increase in hurricane strength or frequency … no “emergency” there.
Even the IPCC says there’s only one chance in five (“low confidence”) that global droughts are increasing. Nor have the “wet areas been getting wetter and the dry areas getting drier”. No flood or drought emergency.
Global weather disaster losses as a percentage of assets at risk (global GDP) are decreasing, not increasing.
Tide gauges show no increase in the rate of sea-level rise, and the claimed acceleration in satellite-measured sea level is merely an artifact of changing satellites.
Yields of all major food crops continue to rise, and humans are better fed, clothed, and housed against the vagaries of weather than at any time in the past.
Land temperatures have already risen more than the dreaded 2°C, with no cataclysmic consequences … so no historical “climate emergency” despite temperature increases.
There has been no global increase in the number of wildfires … here’s the NASA satellite data.
Finally, an “emergency” is defined as “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.” Alarmists have been warning us over and over about this for 50 years, none of their doomcasts have come true, and no significant action has been taken … so by definition, it can’t be an emergency.
So before we spend trillions of dollars on an unachievable plan to totally redo the entire US energy supply, how about we wait until someone can actually let us in on the big secret—just where is this mysterious “CLIMATE EMERGENCY!!!”, and when did it start?
A final note: temperature changes with altitude, at a rate of about 1°C per 100 metres (5.5°F per 1000 feet). Even if we could magically cut our emissions to zero tomorrow, and IF (big if) the “CO2 roolz temperature” theory is correct, cutting US emissions to zero would cool the earth in 2050 by about as much cooler as you’d get if you climbed up three flights of stairs … see my post “Going To Zero” for the details.
So what is being proposed by our “President” is a meaningless gesture which is impossible to accomplish, and even if it could be accomplished would do nothing to solve an imaginary “emergency” …
… how the mighty have fallen. We used to fight and win real wars against actual enemies. Now we can’t even win fake wars against imaginary enemies.
Here on our lovely hillside in the forest, I spent the day putting new handles on a shovel, a pitchfork, and a hoe. I was successful in two out of the three. Frustrated, I took my chainsaw and continued the endless task of reducing the fuel load in the forest around our house. There, I was quite successful in cutting and hauling brush and tree trunks, and I also returned with the requisite number fingers and toes … life is good.
My very best wishes to all,
USUAL REQUEST: When you comment please quote the exact words you are discussing. I can defend my own words. I can’t defend your interpretation of my words.
DATA SOURCES: US energy consumption is from the US Energy Information Agency, under “Energy Overview : Primary Energy Consumption By Source.
CO2 emissions are also from the US Energy Information Agency, under “Summary : U.S. Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption.