The Biden administration’s new 681-page EPA-proposed regulatory rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions for coal-and gas-fired power plants is but the latest attempt to eliminate America’s fossil-fueled energy independence, prosperity, and global security.
EPA’s Most Recent Attack on Fossil Fuels
Although last year the Supreme Court blocked implementation of the Obama "Clean Power Plan" which would have forced a power shift to renewables from coal, EPA now wants to include natural gas in their kill list.
According to Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA can regulate “pollutants” from stationary power sources through the "best system of emission reduction" that is "adequately demonstrated."
There are a couple of big problems in EPA applying that CAA proviso here.
First, carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant. It is a plant food that is essential to all carbon-based life on our planet, with atmospheric concentrations which were about 10 times higher when big dinosaurs reigned supreme thanks to an abundance of veggies.
On the second point, EPA wants to require that fossil-fuel plants adopt carbon capture and “green hydrogen” technologies produced from “renewable electricity” that are by no measure adequately demonstrated.
As recently noted by Wall Street Journal editors, making gas plants use “low-greenhouse gas” hydrogen produced from renewable electricity, is three to four times more expensive.
Mandated carbon capture is also not currently cost-effective — and quite possibly never will be — evidenced by the fact that only one commercial-scale coal plant in the world uses carbon capture to reduce emissions, and no gas-fired plants do.
The Journal estimates that enforced carbon capture would double the cost of power generation, also requiring thousands of miles of pipelines be built and permitted to transport carbon to geologic structures where it can be injected, facing the same regulatory roadblocks as those carrying oil and natural gas.
Iowa farmers are already fighting a planned pipeline to carry CO2 from ethanol plants to underground rock formations in North Dakota and Illinois.
Overloading Power Grids with Green Goblins
Meanwhile, as the Biden EPA wages a senselessly destructive war on abundant, reliable fossil energy to end many millions of years of climate change, it is simultaneously pushing electric vehicles and an ever-growing list of other electricity-consumption devices on already stressed power grids.
In an early salvo to force a change in free-choice consumer behavior, Joe signed an Executive Order demanding that half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 be ''zero-emission'' models.
This definition applies to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), but traditional hybrids and newer mid-hybrid technology vehicles don’t qualify.
During a January Bloomberg News interview, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr., labeled natural-gas stoves as a "hidden hazard," warning that "Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned."
Next, the Department of Energy is moving ahead with plans for an efficiency standard that will penalize installations of natural gas furnaces which its own analyses have found are less than one-third as expensive to operate than electricity on a per unit energy basis.
With a final DOE rule expected to be issued soon, the only gas furnaces likely to survive will be more expensive and harder to install in millions of homes, especially older and space-constrained ones.
Perpetuating 'Abundant Clean Energy' Mythology
All of these proposals share a common fatal fallacy, namely that the “clean energy” (invariably meaning wind and solar which supply 3% or less of U.S. and global needs,) can be ramped up to replace that more than 80% reliably provided by hydrocarbons.
In the real world, let’s recognize that both wind and solar are intermittent sources, whereby a typical wind farm’s output often drops below 10% of rated "capacity" for days at a time, while solar disappears completely at night and falls 50% or more during cloudy days.
Another fundamental reality is that fossil-fueled turbines are needed to balance power grids when the sunbeams and friendly breezes aren’t available.
A big hitch here is that the most prevalent back-up "spinning reserve" systems for this purpose are "open-cycle" turbines that can be rapidly throttled up and down as needed but burn about twice as much gas as "combined-cycle" turbines that provide standard utility-scale power.
Accordingly, those open-cycle turbines about double the amount of CO2 produced over conventional combined-cycle power-plant types on a bewildering pretext of reducing emissions.
Add to this, no adequate, affordable energy storage solution exists for times when regional power is disrupted over several days due to weather or other reasons.
For example, the current cost of battery storage is about $600,000 per MWh, where every MW of wind and solar power added in California will require about $120 million in investment.
Expect these costs to skyrocket as astronomical amounts of lithium and cobalt needed for those batteries are impacted by globally escalating demands and pricing controlled by Chinese and Congo supply chains.
Meanwhile, as China continues to build an average of about one new coal-fired plant every 10 days to undergird their economy, American and European electric vehicle companies rush to Beijing to purchase those vital rare earth mineral markets they monopolize with more than 80% of available world supply.
Anyone else see a very bad ending looming here?
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 12 books is "Architectures Beyond Boxes and Boundaries: My Life By Design" (2022). Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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