A Lost Cause: How The Environmental Movement Manufactured Climate Change
In the 21st century there is huge talk from climate scientists and political pundits about reversing climate change. The threat is very real they say, and that if we do not act now the next generation of Americans will be under water. Is that so accurate to say or is that fear mongering?
What if I told you that planet earth is on the path of destruction because of the environmental movement. Would you call me nuts are out of touch? Maybe even a cold plain liar? I’m going to give you a run down on the two carbon free energy sources we should expand on but are not, and showcase a history of environmental laws that may have done more harm than good.
Before I begin I want to tell you about myself. I am not a scientist, I am not a doctor, not a college professor, or even an engineer. I don’t even have a college degree. I am a former environmentalist who had to leave the movement. I changed my mind after conducting my own research and taking tours of nuclear plants in my area, and from there on I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to going back to school to invest in a future of carbon free energy to reverse climate change. My goal in writing this was to keep this as unbiased and factual as possible. I leave my opinion to the very end of the article. My disclaimer would be that I have absolutely no financial ties to any energy industry. I am a car mechanic, my father is a software salesman, and my last surviving grandfather is a locksmith. I have never owned stock in my life. Just wanted to get that out of the way.
I decided to go on this journey because I was tired of becoming annihilated in a group and movement that used to be supportive of effective change. The reality is that climate change is real, our atmosphere is getting warmer, and it is directly caused by man made activity although not the kind you think. We need opened minded solutions if we’re going to reverse this.
That is why I call this a documented history lesson on how environmentalists manufactured “global warming” and “climate change”, to take control of private industry and to increase tax revenue with a gas and carbon tax. Be prepared to read factual evidence and only factual evidence.
Get ready for some environmental history 101…
American Energy History:
Believe it or not in the 19th century America was the number one producer of carbon free energy in the world. During the Great Depression we started expanding the use of cheaper and cleaner ways to produce energy. At the beginning of the 20th century we were on the verge of abandoning coal.
Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a decree to put thousands of workers out of poverty by having them construct these dams across major rivers of America. It was set to be an exciting new way to harness electricity, that was 100% carbon free and with a 90% energy efficiency which is the greatest energy efficiency of any energy source we ever discovered.
A large misconception is that hydroelectric plants do not operate in the winter because rivers freeze, but in reality a large river only freezes on the surface. The only thing that slows down a hydro plant is grid regulation. Since a hydro plant is so energy efficient it is never run at full capacity. In Maine hydroelectricity produces such a surplus that it is used to supplement solar and wind farms and even natural gas plants when they are off.
Some notable Hydroelectricity Plants you may recognize are the Hoover Dam built in 1931 by Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant on the American side, and the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating Stations on the Canadian side constructed in 1922. Prior to this hydroelectric plants had gone as far back as the 18th century in the 13 colonies. This included some of the largest factories in major cities, including Baker’s Chocolate Factory in Boston and General Electric in Schenectady. Some others included the first textile mills in the world.
In the 1970’s we started becoming more aware of the environmental impact humans were having on rivers, and American environmentalists went into a panic. Nationwide outbursts of protestors started blocking the construction of new Hydro Dams, and thousands poured into the streets.
Hydroelectricity fell out of favor with the public, and in consequence the last major Hydro Dam was first constructed in 1985 and finished project in 2009, called the Bath County Pumped Storage Station in Virginia. This would be the last of its kind of something that size we would ever see again.
The United states now has over 80,000 unpowered dams in America that have the potential to produce over 12 GW of electricity but are abandoned because of their negative public image, and upwards of 65 GW potential of more dams we could build. In 2020 only 6 states utilize hydroelectricity as their main source of power. South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, and Washington are the leaders but are quickly shifting to other forms.
At the same time, we made arguably the most important discovery in all of human history. The discovery of radioactive atoms in our environment. In 1953 President Eisenhower declared an “atoms for peace” program called Project Candor that would set the United States off into the 20th century.
At the height of the Cold War in the 1950’s over 90 nuclear power plants were ordered to be built including over 150 nuclear reactors. Producing 100% carbon free energy with a 91% capacity factor, 35% efficiency rate, while supplying up to 30% of America’s energy needs. They only had to be refueled every 18 months, and 1 kilogram of enriched uranium could produce 320,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. That is far better than coal and even better than the most advanced combined cycle gas plants today. With the added benefit of it being greenhouse gas free. If you were a child of the 70’s in America you probably remember taking a field trip to one.
”At the end of this decade in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need to provide our jobs, to heat our homes, and to keep our transportation moving.” — Richard Nixon
The first commercial reprocessing plant was set online in 1966. America was set to become energy independent, when Richard Nixon declared that America was on its way to becoming 100% carbon free by the year 1980. He ordered the construction of 100 new power plants during the oil crisis that were set to be built throughout the 1980’s, and plans to construct a goal of 1000 power plants by the turn of the century. The future was bright, and we were on our way to a clean energy grid we had never seen before.
Not only power plants, but the United States was innovating in the field of possibilities around nuclear transportation. In 1946 the United States military developed the first nuclear powered submarines, eventually becoming capable of only having to be refueled every 10–25 years depending on the model. Then in 1956 MARAD developed the first commercial nuclear powered cargo ship NS Savannah which was in service from 1962–1972, and it was used as an example to show that nuclear powered transportation was possible. Also From 1956–1978 the United States Navy developed 9 nuclear powered cruisers. NS Savannah project was ultimately cancelled after a union strike, just one year before the oil crisis where it would have reached peak productivity as a success.
However the glory days of nuclear would not last forever. Public perception was starting to change from environmental groups which first started popping up around New England. One of the more famous examples actually took place in the state of Massachusetts in the year 1974, when an organic farmer by the name of Sam Lovejoy took a crowbar and climbed Montague Nuclear Power Plant destroying a 550 foot weather tower that was placed next to his farm. Lovejoy proudly admitted to the crime at his local police station with a note he left on the deputies desk asking to go to prison. He was later acquitted on a technicality at his trial avoiding prison time, and went on to produce the first anti-nuclear documentary in the country Lovejoy’s Nuclear War. In 1975 he also formed the Clamshell Alliance Group, which organized the first construction blockades at nuclear power sites being put up most famously at New Hampshire’s Seabrook.
In 1976 the story was starting to change politically. India had built its first nuclear bomb after we gave them permission to green light nuclear energy. Fearing that nuclear power plants would have the ability to produce bombs, President Gerald Ford wanted to send the message that the United States was no longer friendly to nuclear. He went on to halt funding for commercial plutonium reprocessing plants in the United States. This brought the Republican Party which before under Nixon was very pro nuclear, into a pro coal and big oil faction that would define the modern Republican Party. This was only the beginning of a hard fall for the nuclear industry.
By 1977 Jimmy Carter was elected to the White House, and he ran on a platform of nuclear disarmament. Within his first year in office Carter banned all uranium and plutonium reprocessing plants commercial and military, even though uranium can also be used as fuel. For the first time in history power plants could not recycle and reuse their uranium rods after they were done using them. This would now bring Democrats over to the anti-nuclear side. In the middle 70’s we shut down the Atomic Energy Commission and replaced it with the Jimmy Carter’s Department Of Energy, which told Americans for the first time we had to become “energy efficient” because we were running out of energy in his famous Crisis Of Confidence speech that was broadcast across the nation. This systematically excluded nuclear and started the movement for alternative green energy, and a nuclear plant would never be constructed again for the entire rest of the century as we cancelled Project Independence.
On March 16th, 1979 Columbia Pictures released China Syndrome starring Jane Fonda. Two weeks later Three Mile Island marked the first and only nuclear meltdown or partial meltdown that would ever happen to a commercial power plant in the United States. It would involve a multi million dollar cleanup project from Carter. Even though it resulted in zero workers harmed, and containment walls successfully stopped pollution from spreading outside of the reactor, it would have a permanent consequence on nuclear innovation and public relations.
Massive outcry poured into the streets again from environmentalists, as “no-nuke” rallies started blocking the new construction of power plants that had already begun in the 1980’s. This was the beginning of America’s denuclearization. From 1975–1980, a total of 63 power plants which had already begun construction were cancelled and demolished.
The stone was set for an energy crisis as we entered an era of conservation and deindustrialization. Between 1979 and 1985 one-third of America’s high-technology machine-tool factories were permanently told to shut down, and there was a close-down of a similar percentage of other capital-intensive industries throughout America’s industrial heartland. The rearrangement of capital was labeled “Controlled Disintegration of the Economy” coined by Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker as we entered an era of energy conservation and disinvestment in science and technology.
Reagan would lift the ban on reprocessing plants in 1981, and he pushed for the development of Integral Fast Reactor at Argonne in 1984 which allowed us to reprocess the waste produced from generating power. However subsidies on nuclear projects would remain banned by the Department Of Energy for the next century. In 1994 under President Bill Clinton working with John Kerry and a Democratic Majority, Integral Fast Reactor at Argonne was shut down because it was feared that it was being used for nuclear proliferation for its ability to reprocess plutonium. We would never pursue another liquid metal reactor in that century.
It wasn’t until the next century under a George Bush administration that Department Of Energy changed its stance on blocking subsidies to nuclear projects, but by then the momentum had died. Between 1993-1999 our entire fleet of nuclear powered military cruisers were decommissioned for being “too expensive” to operate and maintain for their age. Another nuclear cruiser would never be built again. Today we rely on gas and diesel powered cruisers and oilers for both military and commercial, with no plans in the future to adopt nuclear. Luckily we still had nuclear submarines.
Now for those who argue that nuclear is too expensive in this economy would be correct. The reason nuclear is no longer viable is because that was by design. It was chosen by government decree and committee that nuclear and coal would be discriminated against to allow other energies to flourish. 1992 National Energy Policy Act. This was a form of deregulation intended to increase competition. The big change was EO’S; 888 & 2000 in 1996 and 1999 signed by President Bill Clinton. He announced be would be incentivizing states to deregulate their power grids which was supposed to “go after” utility monopolies, and in reality it added on new forms of deregulation that were anti-nuclear. For the first time states were allowed to split up utilities through State Public Utility Commissions (PUC’s), and allow third party companies such as National Grid in New England as an example and many states did. This split was usually to put transmission and distribution assets into one company, and generation assets in other(s). The generation companies then were put into a bidding process. No longer did a single company own it all, and could make decisions about the generation mix they wanted. But now we have nuclear plants forced to bid against subsidized wind and solar, and natural gas which had twice the efficiency but half the capacity which mattered more in a deregulated market.
Not all states forced this split. For example Georgia Power is still an integrated utility. Hence Vogtle 3/4 were approved by their PUC, and get built. You can very much correlate the areas of the country were nuclear power plants are shutting down, that have RTO’s or Regional Transmission. That’s why there are such a large abundance of nuclear power plants in the South East. We can choose which energies are cheaper or not. Natural gas and renewables thrive in RTO sections of the country and that is by design.
2002 would mark the last year the United States had an operable nuclear power plant capable of reprocessing uranium or plutonium, and in 2009 the last uranium mine in the United States closed its doors. We are the only nuclear nation in the world without the means to recycle our waste, and we are the only nation in the world which is not allowed to mine for uranium.
This made nuclear energy mind you go from a 35% efficiency rate on average to less than 4%, as now nuclear companies were forced to throw away 96% of the usable plutonium and uranium which could be used to make bombs or be fed back into the grid. Up until 1975 we reprocessed all of our waste, and that is how we gathered enough plutonium to bomb the Japanese. Retired bombs would then be decommissioned by down-blending with U-238 down to reactor grade enrichments (3–5%) and then burned in US reactors. It was called the “dual use” approach. You see that would have made nuclear energy much more profitable if we moved towards that market, and that is why we were able to construct so many plants in the beginning. A similar comparison is the space race.
One of the reasons nuclear power is failing in the 21 century is because of denuclearization. For the entire Cold War the United States and USSR did not drop one nuclear bomb on each other. This is because in 1971 Richard Nixon and Brezhnev signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which assured mutual destruction. We do not drop one bomb after Japan and yet, we completely dismantled the economic system that made nuclear work.
Even though nuclear bombs are in the literal sense what ended the Cold War. 10% of America’s energy has been derived from Russia’s Soviet stockpile. The very existence of plutonium reprocessing led to the elimination of bombs. It was called Megatons to Megawatts program. Started by President Bush in 1992, but expired and not renewed under the Obama administration in 2013.
“When the Cold War ended, the Russian and U.S. governments struck a deal: Russia would turn the uranium from its decommissioned warheads into nuclear fuel. The U.S. would buy this fuel and sell it to commercial nuclear power plants back home.” — Discover Magazine
The argument is not to say that we should build more nuclear bombs, but it’s merely pointing out that if the money were there it would be possible. The only thing that stands in the way of reprocessing innovation is money. When you take away the lucrative incentive to make bombs, paired with refusing to subsidize an energy industry for three decades, you no longer have a financial reason to recycle nuclear waste backed by the military.
Today nuclear power plants are retiring every year around the country, but in particularly more progressive leaning states such as California. Massachusetts just closed down their last power plant in Plymouth. This is the story in practically every state as nuclear energy is still massively feared. Despite the nuclear energy industry having the best safety record of any energy production including renewables, the last nuclear plant would be built in 1977 marking the end of America’s clean nuclear energy era.
There is also misconception out there that the South and Midwest are the big polluters of dirty energy, and the West Coast and Northeast are the green innovators of a carbon free future. If we look at the facts in the year 2020, 60 carbon free nuclear plants are located in the South and Midwest. The West Coast has 1 left, and the Northeast has 12. Let’s look at all 50 red states and blue states. There are 15 plants/reactors in historically blue states, and 73 nuclear plants/reactors in historically red conservative states.
In the last three decades New England alone lost six nuclear plants. Prior to 2014, 70% of Vermont’s energy production was nuclear power. Massachusetts used to be the leader of nuclear power, and today they have zero plants. If we had kept the New England Yankees online and Pilgrim, and built reactor 2 at Seabrook, that would have produced 3879MW equal to 80% of new natural gas production in New England. This article is not about politics, but it shows the blatant misconceptions that exist about who are the largest consumers of dirty energy.
However we have to understand this. In the year 2020 the United States still has 58 nuclear power plants still operating that have never had a meltdown. That also includes 96 nuclear reactors. That means 48 years of nuclear waste that has piled up because America no longer has the means to recycle it. It is reported that right now we have around 60,000 metric tons of uranium that has been stored underground by orders from the government, and 30,000 metric tons of plutonium that is also unable to be recycled.
Uranium and plutonium are both right now worth 32 million dollars per ton and they are seeing record low prices as America denuclearizes itself. That adds up to over three trillion dollars of deemed “waste” sitting in barrels. Not too long ago that would have paid off our entire national debt with a surplus. Not to mention the cost of storage. It’s reported that it costs power plants collectively 40 billion dollars a year to burry it, and yet federal government claims ownership of the waste. That makes nuclear extremely uncompetitive in the energy market. Environmentalists would rather buy uranium from Russia than reprocess our own. Plus these resources would be worth even more if we were allowed to turn them back into energy.
That’s another common argument that is thrown around, that we are running out of uranium. Depending on which publication you read, it’s anywhere from 80–200 years left of available uranium before our entire world runs out of usable material. This of course is not counting untapped potential since we banned uranium mining in the United States, which our country is one of the largest sources of naturally occurring uranium. Also the fact that we banned and phased out fast breeder reactors because bombs, and not considering that we have the means to extract uranium from our ocean, and the means to develop thorium reactors and even turn thorium into uranium. The point is we have 200 years to innovate in this sector, and this industry right now gets close to zero energy subsidies when compared with renewables. Imagine if that changed?
The history of nuclear “waste” itself was a problem which was invented by international law. Starting in 1975 the United States entered the London Convention. This banned the dumping of high level radioactive waste in our oceans. Then in 1994 the convention banned the dumping of low level radioactive waste. From 1946–1994, 13 countries dumped 89,000 barrels of high-level and low-level radioactive waste into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans including United States. Samples taken as recently as 1996 over dumping sites detected no excess amounts of radiation. Compare that to an oil spill? There are 4.5 million tons of naturally occurring uranium in our five oceans. I use this as example simply to showcase that radioactive waste produced by plants is not as dangerous to the planet as many believe.
However we need to stop pretending that nuclear waste poses a threat even if it is stored on land. We have found creative safer ways to store waste in recent times. Many plants utilize storing waste behind 7 1/2 foot thick reinforced concrete cylinder casks with an inner steel shell. They pose absolutely no risk to surrounding areas. Waste is stored on sight. In 2018 Diablo Canyon storage ISFSI sight held 49 concrete casks storing 32 spent rods each. In greater figures we can consider that all of the waste produced by Diablo since 1985 could fit into 49 concrete cylinders measuring 70 yards. The manufactured crisis known as waste really isn’t a crisis at all.
The greater tragedy is that NRC reports that PG&E had planned to build 140 casks before Diablo was shut down. Want more proof? You can look on Google Earth at the Diablo plant itself. Zoom your mouse in on the storage area. You can sadly witness the empty slots waiting for casks to be built. When Governor Jerry Brown approved the early decommissioning of the plant he cancelled 91 future permanent storage solutions for nuclear waste, that would have posed no radiation risk for the surrounding area.
We also have the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico that is successfully encasing nuclear waste in a salt mine. However federal law states that it cannot be used for waste produced by commercial plants. We have the solutions for handling waste, but the reality is far more political.
The basic fear around nuclear waste and nuclear power is the radiation, but the very nature of how radioactive material works defines itself as extremely safe. Essentially the longer the half life the less radioactive it is, and the faster or shorter the half life the more radioactive it is. That means high radioactive waste will be non radioactive is less than 100 years. Radioactive waste that has an extremely long half life is not really dangerous at all. Uranium is amongst the most abundant mineral on this earth. There is 4.5 billion tons of naturally occurring radioactive uranium in our oceans alone. A lot of the fear around nuclear also surrounds the nuclear atom bomb itself. However, the real danger of nuclear weapons are really the explosion itself and not the radioactive fallout. I view the safety of nuclear technology to be incredible in regards to extreme examples. I use the example of Richard Mingus.
Richard Mingus was the security guard at our Nevada Test Site during the Cold War, who guarded the gates of Area 51 as bombs went off in the distance beside him at ground zero. They were called the Plumbbob tests. Richard Mingus is still living at the age of 91 and tours the country at speaking events. He continued as a guard for the base until 1993. Now consider the bombing of the Japanese. In the year 2021, 136,682 Japanese that were at ground zero when the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and survived the blasts are still living. 1% out of that group experienced radiation sickness at all. This very much highlights the safety of nuclear energy and waste. It showcases that mortalities surrounding nuclear weapons very much involve the explosion itself and not so much the radioactivity. It has everything to do with the bomb, and not the risk of radiation from power plants killing human life. Unfortunately people correlate those two and it has a lot to do with the press.
In the year 2011 fears were restocked about the handling and storage of nuclear waste after the Fukushima earthquake. This is the huge problem about conducting research on the internet and unfortunately the way the press pushes the narrative. I did an experiment with Google. I took one of the largest nuclear disasters of recent history and asked Google, how many died because of Fukushima meltdown? I remember at the time Fukushima and was leaking waste was used as an example for why nuclear energy is not safe for the world, and I admit at the time I really had believed that about the industry as well. This is the answer it gives you at the top of the first page. Look at how the BBC article words that paragraph. One nuclear plant created a 9.1 earthquake and 51 foot tsunami that wiped out 160,000 homes and crushed 18,500 people? The incredible part about the BBC article. That was written intentionally. They say it was the second worst nuclear disaster in history, and then they write that 18,500 died in the tsunami. That is very irresponsible journalism although technically true.
The way it is written ties the power plant which had nothing to do with the mortalities. Unfortunately if a deadly accident happens near or at a nuclear power plant, that is automatically related to nuclear even if it wasn’t. Unfortunately that is the way people see disasters like Fukushima, and I see that a lot in the press around the subject of nuclear. No documented case of any evidence has linked massive death from radiation leaking into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima. The plant had zero accidents in its history of giving carbon free energy for 40+ years of service. Japan dumping the water now will not pose any risk to human or other wildlife.
Perhaps if we did not stifle free market innovation for the last 50 years we would have discovered a way to make nuclear reprocessing economical without making bombs into the equation. However the United States truly lost half a century of innovation because of misconceptions and falsehoods that have destroyed the American energy grid. Other nations like China, Japan, Russia, India, Israel, Brazil, Iran, and France, are quickly looking to surpass us in the next few decades. Russia just announced their competition of Project 22220, a nuclear powered ice breaker. Russia still has an active nuclear powered warship the Kirov-class battlecruiser. The former Soviet Union is now beating us at our own game as we are quickly falling behind.
If United States were as passionate about nuclear energy as Iran we would be the world leaders of the free world. Consequently we used to be the leaders of carbon free innovation at the turn of the last century, but today we have politicians in both parties saying they want to eliminate nuclear in 20 years. Should we sound the alarm? Let us move onto other forms of energy.
The Gasoline Engine
In 1886 Carl Benz would revolutionize the world with the first gasoline automobile. Within two decades Henry Ford would discover a way to mass produce the first production line of Model T’s putting 26 million cars on the road by the end of the 1920’s. America were the pioneers of travel.
More importantly these gasoline engines posed less risk to the environment in terms of CO2 emissions, and were more powerful and more energy efficient than the cars we have on the road today. What Happened?
Well again if you want to understand environmental history, you have to go back to the 70’s again at the height of the environmental movement.
In 1969 Richard Nixon entered office on the promise to clean up our rivers and clean up our airways. He would go onto sign landmark bills creating the Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, 1972 Clean Water Act, and the 1970 Clear Air Act which gave powers to the EPA to enforce National Ambient Air Quality Standards or NAAQS’s.
One of the issues plaguing cities like Los Angeles for many decades was smog. Defeating smog received bipartisan support because it was a visible enemy. After fighting for decades for anti-smog legislation on the federal level, President Nixon pressed his new EPA with making an “add-on” that could attach to an exhaust pipe and eliminate the problem for future generations.
That add-on was labeled the “catalytic converter” and considered a scientific breakthrough. It successfully improved air quality in cities in a dramatic way by using a particulate filter. Part of the reason why we had to switch to unleaded gas. Americans could see again while driving, and perhaps breathe again. However there was a catch, because as you know progress is never linear. Not only that but one of the main arguments was to prevent suicide.
Please don’t try this at home, but modern gasoline cars are almost suicide and accident proof and that’s how it’s intended to be. If you left a car running in an enclosed garage without a catalytic converter, you would be dead in ten minutes. With modern vehicles it would take days to suffocate from CO2. That is sort of the point, it’s a safety feature. If I was wrong, every mechanic garage in the country would have CO alarms going off every time a car started.
How do I know that safety was one of the main reasons for converting carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide? CO does not create smog. Smog is developed from sulfur particulates in gasoline and we have solved this by producing low sulfure gasoline. In the year 2000 the EPA mandated that sulphur content be reduced by 90% in commercial gasoline. In modern years it's now down to less than 10 parts per million. There is simply no point to using catalytic converters anymore. If it was simply unnecessary I would not be sounding the alarm, but it’s in fact harmful to our planet.
A catalytic converter works by changing the car’s output of carbon monoxide to “harmless” carbon dioxide, and thus improving air quality in theory. Instead of breathing smog of CO on the highways, Americans are now breathing CO2 behind the car in front of you. However the catch is that CO is not a direct greenhouse gas, CO2 is a greenhouse gas. CO2 emissions increase because of oxidation of the carbon monoxide released into carbon dioxide. Mandating the converters have added up to 7-10% more CO2 emissions per vehicle on the road today. Overtime that extra CO2 adds up.
Another byproduct of gasoline engines are various nitrogen oxides which most are not direct greenhouse gases. A catalytic converter’s job is to convert nitrogen oxides into pure nitrogen and oxygen, but along the way it produces an extra amount of nitrous oxide which is not only a huge direct greenhouse gas but it also depletes ozone. Well as you can image small amounts add up over time, and scientists have been keeping track of how much is accumulating from modern cars.
Thing is you have to go back in time to find truth spoken about this subject. It’s certainly not very popular to talk about in the media today.
“This spring, the E.P.A. published a study estimating that nitrous oxide (300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) now accounts for about 7.2 percent of the gases that cause global warming. — New York Times (1998)
The New York Times article above is from the year 1998. N2O now accounts for over 7% of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.
In order to find those real facts you have to go back to research journals from 1992. From the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. Autos fitted with no catalytic converter produce significantly less N20.
What’s most alarming is this study. The current N2O ppb in our atmosphere is 331.1. According to this paper in 1991 it was 310 ppb. With more cars on the road than ever before this should be a serious concern for environmentalists.
If you want to find this information today though it’s very much hidden within the Energy Department’s website for the United States. EPA originally estimated that nitrous oxide contribution from catalytic equipped cars in the United States were responsible for half of our total production, but it’s since been toned down noting at the bottom of that New York Times article that it could represent closer to 2% of 7% or even less. The EIA now moved transportation into the Energy category under a subcategory known as “mobile combustion”. The latest document published in 2009 was a study going back 20 years, which showed that nitrous oxide emissions from catalytic converters represented 13% of nitrous oxide emissions produced by the United States alone in that year. Still a significant amount.
Not to mention that we replaced carbon monoxide with a gaseous chemical that is perhaps even more dangerous to breath. Ammonia gas.
“ The same catalytic converters credited with reducing harmful pollution from automobiles may themselves produce large quantities of haze-causing ammonia, according to a report in the September 1 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.” — AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY
We also need to mention that a car’s O2 sensors are programmed to feed a catalytic converter. A catalytic converter itself has to be at above a certain temperature to work, or it will simply get clogged and plug your exhaust. That means on modern vehicles the engine is programmed to run rich most of the time to keep it hot. This is noticeable when you are stopped at a traffic light. If you programmed your O2 sensor to run your engine lean most of the time, you could increase your gas mileage by 5–10% and get better horsepower. It’s called the stylometric fuel ratio.
To make matters worse, in 2005 President Bush mandated that 10% ethanol be placed in all gasoline in the United States after meeting with farmer lobbyists from Iowa. A huge gift to corn farmers, a bad gift for the environment and classic car owners that rebuild carburetors like myself. Pure gasoline is 33% more powerful than ethanol. Right on the EPA’s website it says that adding ethanol to gasoline reduces gas mileage by 3–6%. Not taking into account the land and pesticides and fertilizer needed to grow corn. Not even beginning to mention what it does to small twin engines.
So that means if you add the 10% extra CO2 from catalytic converters, 7–10% reduced gas milage from lost engine efficiency, and 3–6% reduced gas mileage from ethanol, that adds up to 23–26% extra carbon emissions from each car ever year due to EPA regulations. Including increasing the amount of nitrous oxide in our atmosphere by 13% since 1976, and making it more costly for average Americans to drive on the road.
Gasoline also used to have a much longer shelf life of sometimes years. Your grandfather is right when he tells you gasoline is not what it used to be. Modern ethanol absorbs water droplets in the air and turns gasoline gummy after 1–2 months of inactive use. There is no reason why we can’t have unleaded gasoline that does not contain ethanol like we had from 1975–2005, and perhaps we have traded CO for something much worse. In 2020 Massachusetts and Minnesota are the only two states that allow ethanol free blends to be sold at the pump for vehicles.
The Diesel Engine
The diesel engine is another phenomenon that originally produced far less carbon emissions, but not the case anymore thanks to new EPA laws.
In 1878 Rudolf Diesel drew up the designs for the first production line Diesel engines in Germany, and by 1914 Winton Motors and Fairbanks Morse were making diesel engines for the first semi rig trucks in America.
In 1967 Mercedes would bring their own diesel cars over to America, and in 1978 Dodge and General Motors released the first diesel pickups in America and thus the need for new environmental EPA regulations.
By itself diesel engines burn off three gasses during combustion. CO2, unfortunately nitrous oxides which do actually heat up our atmosphere, and carbon monoxide which are not all direct greenhouse gases. Until the EPA got their hands on diesel engines they posed no risk for ozone depletion and produced less greenhouse gases. In 1985 however diesel trucks were equipped with their own version of a catalytic converter for the first time. This you guessed it converted carbon monoxide released to CO2.
On top of the direct greenhouse gasses produced by extra CO2 output of modern diesel exhaust systems, the EPA now mandates that all diesel engines require what is called diesel exhaust fluid or DEF for short. In an attempt to reduce the amount of nitrous oxides increased from cats. It’s commonly hidden under the guise of “diesel fluid” or “diesel liquid” at the pump.
“In 2018, nitrous oxide comprised about 6.5 percent of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, compared with carbon dioxide at 82 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nitrous oxide, however, is an ozone-depleting gas with a global warming potential more than 300 times greater than carbon dioxide, said Caranto. Nitric oxide also contributes to ground-level ozone and produces acid rain.” — Cornell University
With good intentions however as it turns out one of the main ingredients of DEF is urea ranging from 40–50%. Urea is produced at fertilizer plants as one of the byproducts of commercial fertilization. The production of DEF is going towards an industry that sets record high methane emissions that were found to exceed EPA guidelines which are the second worst greenhouse gas.
“Using a Google Street View car equipped with a high-precision methane sensor, the researchers discovered that methane emissions from ammonia fertilizer plants were 100 times higher than the fertilizer industry’s self-reported estimate. They also were substantially higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate for all industrial processes in the United States.”
So let us wrap this entanglement around our heads. In an effort to reduce N20 that is 300 times worse than CO2, the EPA now mandates commonly nicknamed “snake oil” that is 100 times worse than CO2 during the manufacturing process. Can you wrap your head around that?
Wait there’s more. Agricultural fertilizer produces nitric oxide, which soil can turn into nitrous oxide Cornell University reports.
“In this new study, the chemists found that hydroxylamine is converted into another intermediary — nitric oxide — which under normal soil conditions acts as the chemical prelude to nitrite. But under imperfect soil conditions, nitric oxide is converted into the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.” — Cornell University
So in order to manufacture DEF, one of the main ingredients requires a manufacturing process that can lead to nitrous oxide emissions. Isn’t that what diesel exhaust fluid was trying to reduce in the first place?
The EPA reports that 29% of greenhouse emissions come from transportation directly, and 22% from industrial plants such as fertilizer production. This is all to point out the ramifications of modern and misguided environmental laws. If we eliminated the catalytic converter and DEF in diesel fuel, America would have a huge reduction in emissions.
To be fair this is not just a problem with United States bureaucrats, but we were the pioneers. Europe decided against the use of catalytic converters in gasoline vehicles until 1997, because they opted for diesel cars instead. That means the vehicles in Europe did not produce as much greenhouse gas emissions as American cars until 1998. That is a big deal.
One of the largest misconceptions out there is that catalytic converters reduce emissions. We need to stop saying that, because they certainly don’t reduce greenhouse emissions. Have we really solved any problems by adding cost to vehicles? Maybe we have even made the problem much worse than before.
Not to mention it’s expensive to have these catalytic converters on diesel engines. A diesel particulate filter gets clogged every ten 10–30,000 miles, and it costs 5–10 thousand dollars to replace. It also lowers fuel milage. A famous example was in 2020 when a Utah business known as Diesel Brothers was fined closed to a million dollars for removing these filter and polluting the air quality of Utah. The EPA took 90% of the fines collected by the courts, and the state of Utah only got to collect 10% of the money.
They did one thing, and that is you don’t have to breath carbon monoxide on the freeway anymore. Would you like to trade in that outdated CO for a brand new shiny cloud of ammonia gas and nitrous oxide? Hurry we’re selling fast.
The Locomotive Engine
This is perhaps one of the most unfortunate things to happen to America, and that is switching to diesel fuel for locomotives.
I’ve always loved trains growing up as a child. I used to ride the steam locomotives in New Hampshire up to Lune Mountains every fall. I collected train sets and helped build scale models that worked in people’s backyards. Many don’t know this but the trains we are using today are far more damaging to the environment in terms of emissions than in the past.
The first locomotive in America was built by George Stephenson on the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. This was followed by the John Bull locomotive imported from England in 1831 by Robert Stephenson & Company. These first locomotives ran on a carbon neutral biomass.
As you can see they ran on wood, and later on we switched to coal for improved performance. Let’s talk about coal for a second. the US Energy Information Agency reports that bituminous produces when burned 205Btu of CO2 per pound. Diesel fuel produces 161Btu so not that big of a drop, especially when you factor in the emissions from the diesel refineries. Both diesel and coal when burned release nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Not to mention that a good chunk of steam engines ran on oil not coal dating back the 19th century. Heating oil has around the same emissions as diesel. Even more to mention would be to ask what produces more emissions? A steam engined train carrying 200 passengers, or 200 cars idling in a traffic jam on the Los Angeles freeway?
However we can even look closer and see that coal produces more horsepower. An SD90 diesel engine puts out 6,000HP. The Big Boy steam powered train built in 1941 for example pumps out 7,000HP making it a more efficient design. We really made the switch not for environmental reasons but because it saves costs. Even though to this day you have environmentalists wanting to ban steam engine trains which unfortunately actually did happen. We have even started driving our trains with natural gas which is far worse than coal, because now you factor in methane emissions from the gas industry.
However I will now get to my point. There was an entire new technology sweeping the nation in the 19th century. You see there was once a time in America where a lot of major train routes produced zero greenhouse gas emissions. Not carbon neutral, zero. This is sort of a forgotten piece of history. Many people believe we discovered the light bulb and electric transportation came later. In reality the only reason the United States became an electrified country was because of trains. You see railroad companies were the original electric companies, and with every town they passed through they brought electricity to the community.
Yes my friends I’m talking about the electric train. By the 1910’s we were well on our way to switching over from steam powered by coal to electric lines. Some great examples were “Milwaukee Road” that cost $60 million, equal to $1.71 billion today to build in 1927 with 207 miles of electrified track. The project was never finished with plans to expand all the way to the Pacific ocean. Some more examples are the largest electric lines ever built spanning 438 miles, the Rocky Mountain Division. The Great Northern Railway was well on its way to becoming fully energized by the 1930’s.
Many of these trains were powered by hydroelectric plants in the area. Electrification in the US reached its maximum of 3,100 miles in 1935. However a government regulation by FDR put this innovation to a stop. We entered a Great Depression and he came into the White House with a plan to nationalize the electric companies to obtain more tax dollars.
“Judge me by the selfish purposes of these utility leaders who have talked of radicalism while they were selling watered stock to the people and using our schools to deceive the coming generation. My friends, my policy is as radical as the Constitution of the United States. I promise you this: Never shall the Federal Government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I’m President of the United States.” — Roosevelt (1932)
You see prior to President Roosevelt railroad companies were the electric utilities. They were fully privatized. This meant that electric trains could be financially lucrative, because railroads were simply a tax write off. Railroad companies would use money gathered from utilities to support the railroads during slow periods where their rails were not in use. This was considered okay in return for railroad companies building infrastructure. Hence during the Great Depression and prior to WWII they were essentially paying zero federal taxes on their railroad business when times were slow.
This was the relationship that existed in America from 1830–1935. However in 1935 President Roosevelt signed two laws. Public Utility Holding Company Act and the Rural Electrification Act. This followed a 1906 Supreme Court ruling that broke up Northern Pacific Railway. What this essentially did was breakup railroad lines. It essentially banned railroad companies from controlling or owning utilities. From 1938 to 1958, railroad holding companies declined from 216 to 18. From 1940 to 1973, electrified railroads dropped from 3100 miles in half to 1778 miles.
This led to the closing and dismantling of Milwaukee Road after the industry switched to double stack freight by the end of the 70’s, and hundreds of planned railroad projects. In the year 2020 only 122 miles of solely electrified track carrying freight are left. There is no way else to look at this predicament. With time we have seen what government regulation in this case has done to carbon free trains. America has seen a 97% decrease in electric rails. We have made it not financially lucrative to build green railroads anymore. The Heritage Foundation ranked the United States #18 on the score of economic freedom in 2019. Switzerland ranked #4. Hong Kong ranked #1.
The United States currently has 4 industrial electric lines left in America, and 16 commuter lines left in operation around the country making up 994 miles of electrified line. Switzerland in comparison has 9 industrial rail lines that move freight, and over 120 commuter lines making up over 3,000 miles of electric line. Keep in mind Switzerland is 38 times smaller in population than the United States. China has 52 electric lines spanning over 56,000 miles, consisting of at least 2,800 pairs of bullet trains that can reach speeds of 217mph. United States today ranks #33 for size of electrified rail infrastructure. Behind Iran, North Korea, Kazakhstan, South Africa, and far behind Russia. Yet in the 19th century we were first place.
A more visual representation is if you take the entire population of the European Union which is around the same as the United States. You get over 72,000 miles of electrified track, while the United States has 994 miles today. Also keep in mind that these electric lines could be powered by nuclear and hydroelectric plants. America could have a much cleaner grid, and in fact had much cleaner trains two centuries ago. The United States population has more than quadrupled since the turn of the 19th century, yet railway infrastructure measured out in mileage has decreased in half since the year 1916.
Aeroflight & Airplanes
Let me briefly discuss what is seldom talked about world history, and it is the realization that the human species was traveling in the sky at high speeds around the world as early as the mid 18th century. Airplanes were not developed in the 20th century as commonly told in history class. A more accurate statement is saying, airplanes that run on jet fuel were invented in the 20th century. In fact, majority of world travel in the 18th and 19th century was done in the sky and at speeds up to 370mph. You could travel from South America to Europe in under three days.
Yes my friends, whatever happened to balloon planes? In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers built the first hot air balloon and it took off overnight. That names brings up an image of a tourist attraction in New Mexico, and maybe a fun trip for a honeymoon over a field for a few minutes. No these hot air balloons were destined to replace the cargo ships and were used for hundreds of years for serious travel around the world, as a hot air balloon and airships could travel twice or sometimes three times as fast as a ship. It was not the hot air balloons we think about today. By 1850 cigar shape balloons were a common sight to see over the world’s largest cities.
During the victorian period, people who had the money had the option to fly by luxury balloon equipped with smoking lounges, piano lounges, master suites, swimming pools, and full blown cafes. Some balloons were even more luxurious than the Titanic, and because of the nature of a balloon there was absolutely no turbulence. It has been said a passenger could stand a pencil on it’s side and it could stand perfectly still. These balloons ran on helium gas and only had to be refueled every two days.
The most famous example being the Hindenburg and even bigger airships and hot air balloons were planned on being built. The Hindenburg was actually designed to run on helium gas which is a really safe gas, but also helium is not a greenhouse gas. Many of these ship planes were built by the Zeppelin Company in Germany. These modes of transportation did not pollute our skies. However in 1925 Pan Am convinced Congress to pass the the Helium Act of 1925, which nationalized all helium production in the interest of national security and was reserved only for military use by the U.S. Navy, effectively banning the sale or export of helium outside the U.S.
At the time only the United States could supply the 18 million cubic feet of helium required for the Zeppelin company’s commercial airship operations. The sale was refused. This made it impossible for airships to run on helium around the world. The Hindenburg was designed for Helium but ended up using hydrogen because the United States government banned it. which is not only an indirect greenhouse gas but extremely explosive. As we all know one year into flight the Hindenburg crashed down over New Jersey in 1937.
With the bad publicity and advancements of and popularity of jet airliners, airships were quickly phased out to the detriment of our environment. The only fuel worse than jet fuel is burning coal, and not only that but jet fuel contains enormous amounts of lead. People who live near airports are very much breathing in lead and other byproducts of airplane fuel.
“The United Nations aviation body forecasts that airplane emissions of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, will reach just over 900 million metric tons in 2018, and then triple by 2050.” — New York Times
Airplanes currently account for 2.5% of the world’s CO2 output, but could airships be making a comeback though and how so? The government of Quebec is actually funding a new project to the tune of 30 million Canadian dollars (23 million in U.S. dollars) to Flying Whales, a French company who is promising to begin building massive Zeppelins in this century.
“But cargo airships may actually make a tremendous amount of sense. They are relatively cheap, they can carry enormous amounts of material, and they emit significantly less greenhouse gas than other modes of transportation.” — Foreign Policy Magazine
Not to mention the fact that there is no longer a ban on exporting helium. The company is hoping to get their first airship off the ground by 2022. In the United States the only development of airships are the Goodyear set aside for advertising at baseball games and no serious form of transportation. In the early 20th century the United States Navy was largely involved in funding. However it’s incredibly humbling and significant to realize that American airport towers and city skyscrapers were once filled with balloons in the 19th and early 20th century connecting us for the first time to world travel. It was a completely carbon free form of transportation.
This is a small but brief and important subject I would like to touch on. During the height of the space race you had scary looking rockets that produced gigantic fumes of “smoke” that could be seen for miles. Today rockets are more discrete when taking off, but does that come at a price?
You see orbital rocket technology in the 1950’s through the 1980’s used what was called liquid hydrogen and oxygen known as cryogenic fuels. This fuel was 100% greenhouse emissions free and did not deplete the ozone. Like the smoke stacks you see from a nuclear power plant, their clouds were only steam and produced zero greenhouse gas emissions.
In the 1980’s NASA started buying solid rocket fuels from Boeing. These solid rocket fuels eliminated the need for kerosene in low orbit that were used on the Saturn V Rocket booster in 1969. Again these solid propellents like hydrazine contained zero greenhouse gas emissions. An example of this is the 1986 Challenger rocket explosions. If you look at the clouds of smoke they are clean and white instead of black and sooty. However environmentalists were not happy with the progress made. These solid fuels contained alumina particles which were believed to be depleting the ozone.
This was the era where environmentalists started becoming concerned about that hole. Protests fronted by Greenpeace took center stage, over fear that the hole in the ozone would make fish go blind and burn children alive.
“As the Smithsonian magazine wrote, veterinarians talked about sheep being blinded by exposure to UV rays, and South American cattlemen said they suffered burns and eye irritation. The public feared epidemics of skin cancer, cataracts and immune deficiencies.” — The Weather Channel
None of that actually happened, but that is not the argument though. The argument was that ozone depletion was caused by CFC’s or chlorofluorocarbons in hairspray. Hairspray has nothing to do with rocket fuel. I like to look back in old literature and media for truth. In 1997 New York Times reported that Federation of American Scientists had this to say.
‘’Rocket exhaust is not a major source of general ozone depletion, but rocket launches are the source of intense, localized ozone depletion that we don’t understand the consequences of,’’ Mr. Aftergood said. ‘’It is good to try to narrow the level of uncertainty around this issue.” — NYT
Missouri University even reinforced this view in the year 2000.
So even though our own EPA admitted that solid propellents had little effect on the ozone layer, they decided to phase out orbital rockets that used solid fuel. Let’s replace solid propellents which do not contribute any greenhouse gasses, and promote liquid kerosene and ammonia. That is exactly what happened going into the 21st century. There are two major problems.
The efforts to produce “green rockets” have been misguided. Kerosene releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions unlike solid rocket fuel. Some examples of rockets that use this fuel today are the ULA’s Atlas V and SpaceX’s Falcon 9. Yup, the man trying to save the planet.
“Kerosene contains carbon sequestered millions of years ago. Burning it causes carbon to bond with oxygen to create CO2 aka carbon dioxide. The primary greenhouse gas causing climate change.” — Michael Barnard
As you can seen burning jet fuel is worse for the environment than gasoline and diesel fuel. It’s the second worst fuel you could use on a rocket if you wanted a “green rocket”, because also unlike liquid and solid fuels it produces a much higher amount of black soot in the atmosphere.
The Verge reports that black carbon can stick around in the atmosphere for 3-5 years and have a massive effect on warming the stratosphere. Which hello, is the major contributor to depleting the ozone layer so it is said.
“It would act as a thin, black umbrella,” says Ross. That may help keep the lower atmosphere cool, but the intercepted energy from the Sun doesn’t just go away; it gets deposited into the stratosphere, warming it up. This warming ultimately causes chemical reactions that could lead to the depletion of the ozone layer.” — The Verge
In recent years there was a big move by the EPA and NASA to eliminate Hydrazine under the Obama administration. Hydrazine was used in solid propellents as a replacement for kerosene and reduced black soot. For a third time I would like to point out that using hydrazine in rocket fuel produced zero greenhouse gas emissions. It would kill you if you took a bath in it, but it was not contributing to warming our atmosphere.
In an effort to make “green rockets”, hydrazine was replaced by hydroxyl ammonium nitrate and was first used in NASA rockets in 2019. Ammonia and nitrate, the worst combination you could ever use as a rocket booster.
For starters, when nitrates are burned they gas off nitrous oxide. We all learned about nitrous oxide further up in the article. It’s 300 times worse than carbon dioxide for our atmosphere, and not only that it contains ammonia. Ammonia is a close cousin to hydrazine which is no less dangerous. Misguided efforts to produce “safer” fuel created a new problem that never existed before. Look at the side effects for ammonia exposure.
NASA is even tracking ammonia gas buildup in our atmosphere, and reports that it can fall back to earth and pollute our drinking water. It’s almost no better than hydrazine and yet, these new fuels now produce greenhouse emissions when they never did in the last century.
So it’s not all bad news. One of the upsides is that nitrous oxide only stays in our atmosphere for 20 years unlike CO2 and methane lasts half as long, but if we keep adding more N20 the levels are only going to increase.
“Renewable Energy” Age:
I’m now going to talk about a new and exciting era of energy. Now we enter the 21st century. It’s the age of two exiting new possibilities.
Before we begin I want to talk about the definition of the term “renewable energy”. The term “renewable” is like the term “all natural” in healthy foods. It really has no basis in reality. For example, did you know cutting down a tree and burning it is considered a renewable energy source just because you can replant a tree? They hide it behind the name “biomass” Even though burning wood produces more CO2 than coal. It’s labeled in the renewable category.
You see in 1977 President Carter consolidated energy departments into the large Department Of Energy. It was the United States DOE that started the Renewable Energy Initiative in 1994. This was a branch of the DOE that gives subsidies to companies that produce “renewable energy”. Hold on a minute though, what does “renewable energy” actually mean? When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez talks about renewable energy, she is really only referring to two main energies. That is solar and wind.
When Jimmy Carter installed the first solar panels on the White House roof in 1979, they were what you call solar thermal heaters. They had a 20% capacity factor with an upward of 40–45% energy efficiency. Twice as energy efficient as the solar panels we are using on homes today, they were just more costly to install and more complex to design for mass production.
“Heat storage is a far easier and efficient method, which is what makes solar thermal so attractive for large-scale energy production.” — Solar Thermal Industry
Solar was once a really promising technology, however oil companies during the Reagan administration got together and decided to massively fund and support PV technology over thermal power plants that were scheduled to be built. Exxon-Mobil actually invented the first consumer PV flat panels we use today. What the energy initiative actually did in 1994 made a conscious effort to exclude nuclear and thermal energy from subsidies. It wasn’t too long ago that environmentalists supported nuclear. The term “renewable energy” was drawn up simply to exclude nuclear from the money table.
‘The asymmetry finally hit me over the head when a renewable energy advocate told me that the main purpose of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) was to “kill nuclear”. I was told, because utilities were required to accept intermittent renewable energies, nuclear power would become less economic, it works best if it runs flat out.” — James Hansen (Former head of NASA Goddard Institute)
You see “renewable” doesn’t have to mean clean for the environment in terms of greenhouse emissions. Greenhouse emissions have nothing to do with whether something is renewable or not. When a politician says they care about global warming or climate change and then turn around and push a “Green New Deal” which completely omits nuclear, they are being dishonest at worst or uninformed at best. Renewable energy category does not take into consideration impact of land use, raw materials utilized, final disposal and total greenhouse gasses emitted. It simply means the source is replenishable.
It dates back to a theory we had during the last energy crisis when we thought we were running out of oil. As we all know that was at best a bad guess. We never did run out of oil or gasoline, and many books have been written about those times. Renewable energy was originally coined as “alternative energy”, as an alternative to nuclear. The modern environmental green movement started with cries for “no nukes!”. That is at the very foundation of its core. If anyone was honest about solving climate change, they would call it carbon free energy and then they would have to include nuclear. If you look at the environmental organizations backing renewables today you would find they are dishonest. The Sierra Club today disavows nuclear, but if you really look at solar and wind you would realize that they are far from carbon free.
Well that is exactly what would end up happening. From 2008 to 2019 we saw a 4300% increase in solar production and 500% increase in wind production across the United States during the Obama administration. At the same time we saw a negative decrease in nuclear and hydro production.
Now ask yourself this, and really read these words carefully. Have you ever heard of someone who works in the oil or gas industry, or even a conservative politician talk out against the solar or wind industry?
I’ll give you an answer. That’s a big no…
The usual answer you hear is, “I support all energies”. That is because big oil believe it or not, companies like British Petroleum happen to be some of largest financiers of renewable energy. You can even read their website.
“We have a 43% share in Lightsource BP and plan to invest $200 million over a three-year period.”
Light Source BP is one of the largest companies that produce solar around the world, and they are headquartered in San Francisco of all places.
“Exxon-Mobil will begin purchasing wind and solar power in West Texas, part of a 12-year agreement signed late last year with the Danish energy company Orsted. The plan is to use cheap, clean electricity to power Exxon Mobil’s expanding operations in the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most productive and profitable oil fields.”
Why would oil companies like BP and Exxo invest so much in renewables? That’s because they physically don’t work. The “big secret” out there (not really) is that solar can’t produce energy when it’s dark at night or cloudy, and wind turbines don’t produce energy when it’s not windy.
Is It Really “Energy Efficient”?
Consider what that means for a second. There are two terms to consider energy. When you’re talking about a time period you’re talking about a capacity factor measured over a year. That means the best solar panels only work 20% of the year or 73 full days of peak energy potential, and the best wind turbines right now have a capacity of 24% or 87.6 days of continuous energy. However we have to factor in a second term below.
Efficiency rate is the ratio of useful output compared to the effort put in. A solar panel has an average efficiency of 20% in the best case scenario. A wind turbine fares much better with a 50–59% efficiency rate. These are known as Betz limits and are the theoretical best case scenarios. In other words it’s essentially saying for solar panels, in that 20% time period it can produce energy its only capturing 20% of the total potential. So after you factor in both the average capacity factor and efficiency rate, you get that a solar panel provides 14 days of continuous energy and wind provides less than 50 days of continue energy a year. In other words solar is only 4% reliable, and wind is only 17% reliable. Starting to make sense I hope?
Compare that to nuclear energy that had a 33% conversion efficiency rate in 2018 and a 90–95% capacity factor because it can run 24 hours a day. That does not even come close to coal fired plants or natural gas either. Hydro plants are even better at a close to 100% efficiency rate.
Now this is a useful Wikipedia page above which everyone reading my article should look at. It showcases the largest power plant facilities in the United States. What’s interesting is that if you sort the chart from best capacity factor to worst, you will notice that the top 30 most efficient plants in the country are all nuclear. This is followed by the top 40 most efficient energy production being coal plants. There are zero solar farms on the list, and only one wind farm on the list that is rated in the top ten worst capacities near pumped hydro storage, and that is the Alta Wind Farm owned by Southern California Edison which is rated at 24.82% capacity factor. This is not even factoring in land usage which is drastically less efficient for renewables. Nuclear energy production takes up 1/1000th of the land it would take to produce the same amount of energy with solar and wind. We are simply being misled.
Renewables will simply never be an economical energy source. Even if solar panels had 100% efficiency, they would only work less than a quarter of the year because the sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing. However it gets much worse again. This means two things. Number one solar and wind only exist as energies because of government subsidies. They simply do not work. The second point is that for 80% of the year they rely on a backup or we would be living by candlelight.
That backup happens to be either natural gas or coal. That is the big secret. In order to operate a solar or wind farm, pipelines are brought in when no one is looking to pump in gas during the night time while everyone is sleeping. Just read some of the websites below from gas and oil companies. In other words you have to factor in the energy it takes to produce natural gas, and if you do that wind and solar are using up more energy than they are creating.
The wind and solar farms out in California have made California the #2 consumer of natural gas. California is set to become the #1 consumer of natural gas by the year 2030 and rising. We can see the direct rise of natural gas proportionate to the rise in renewables dependent on gas.
Prior to the 21st century natural gas production in the United States reached its peak in the 1960’s. Between 1960 and 1970 the United States built over 100 nuclear reactors, and natural gas production dropped as we entered the oil crisis. In recent years we have begin to make a reverse as nuclear plants begin to expire. From the years 2000 to 2019 America saw an 80% increase in natural gas production. From 2009 to 2019, 247 natural gas plants were constructed. In that same time period we lost 10 nuclear power plants. There are currently 1,793 natural gas plants in the United States. Instead of building 1000 nuclear plants by the turn of the century we built gas plants to phase out coal. Between 2006 and 2017, world methane emissions increased by 10%. Methane emissions are 86 times more potent in our atmosphere than CO2.
Few and far between political leaders have admitted to this fact, and one of those happens to be Senator Edward Kennedy who had a 95 percent voter rating from the League of Conservation Voters during his time in office. He successfully rallied enough Democrats to block a wind farm from entering his state when they tried to run pipelines under his home he said would cause a “nuisance”. He joined protestors in the streets of Massachusetts at the time. The matter of the fact is that wind energy is very disruptive.
“Senator Kennedy has real environmental and economic concerns, and the federal government continues to lack a national policy and process to guide offshore alternative energy development, said Melissa Wagoner.”
Not to mention the environmental impact of fracking that has increased thanks to renewables. Natural gas is much worse than we ever thought it would be. From toxic poisons that enter the ground water, and many organizations are now saying that methane is 82 times more potent than the C02 produced by coal. Solar and wind are direct contributors to this problem.
Natural gas would not be an issue by itself, except for the fact that it’s business model is based on deception. It is not a cleaner alternative to coal. Germany today is a prime example of good intentions gone bad. They have completely phased out their nuclear power plants. Germany now has one of the dirtiest energy grids in the entire world. Even dirtier than America.
“The researchers, based at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and Carnegie Mellon University, found that nuclear power was mostly replaced with power from coal and gas plants, which led to the release of an additional 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or about a 5 percent increase in emissions.” — Wired Magazine
You see thanks to the 58 nuclear power stations that still exist in America, the United States is still the largest producer of carbon free energy in the world. Take those power plants away like Germany along with hydroelectricity because we cannot dam the rivers, and you lose 75% of the carbon free grid. Solar barely scratches the surface. Wind looks promising by numbers alone, but when you take into account that wind turbines spin on natural gas 60% of the time is it really a green energy? Now I’ve contact the EPA and Energy Department before I wrote this to ask them a very simple question. Does their survey continue to count kilowatt hours produced by wind and solar even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, when it’s being ran on a backup system from fossil fuel. I could not get a straight answer from anyone. Is a turbine with a 20% capacity which is backed up by gas 80% of the year as a net negative energy, still counted as renewable energy? If that is the case below would be a more honest graph to consider that figures capacity percentage.
When you take into consideration that 80% of the energy produced by solar and wind in 2019 may have been backed up by natural gas and coal plants. If you single out solar alone, roughly 80% of solar produced came from coal. Now let’s say the graph given by the EIA is honest. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say, they only include solar and wind from energy that is only created during its capacity lifecycle of less than 20%. Then let’s take a look at the energy map below and break down the numbers.
Now if you look at the full energy map which includes everything, when people say that solar is “taking over”, or that “we’re already half way there” which is another common buzz phrase you often hear. When activists tout that renewables are producing a large chunk of our energy grid, they fail to break it down even more. Almost half a renewables make up biomass which produces more carbon emissions than coal. Now take away hydro because we can’t dam our rivers. You can clearly see that solar out of all the panels we have produced and land we have used, in reality makes up less than 1%. Whether this graph takes into consideration that solar unlike nuclear and coal has to maintain a fossil fuel backup for most of its life remains to be answered. Nuclear stands on its own at a solid 8% and we used to be a lot more in the past as plants retire every year, and unfortunately we are shutting down a carbon free energy that can run 365 days a year. This graph given by EIA also shows that renewables are without question the dirtiest category of energy on the map not even factoring in land usage.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, and that would be when it comes to hydro plants. In areas with large rivers such as the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast hydro can run without any backup all year round. Nuclear plants only have to be refueled every 18 months, so you typically have multiple nuclear plants that can feed off each other.
There is also the solar technology called solar thermal which has twice the efficiency rate of PV flat panels because it’s stored by heat. However solar thermal plants only made up 4% of the solar energy produced in 2019. Why are solar thermal panels not economical? Maybe the better question to ask would be, why are PV panels economical? You would then realize that the PV revolution is only economical because it is supplemented by the fossil fuel industry. Hundreds of gigantic solar thermal farms have been abandoned in America and around the world because they don’t rely heavily on fossil fuel backup, which means it hurts the bank account of major oil companies that have been funding the push to put PV panels on every home in America.
Resources Used & Wasted
Renewable energy activists shout at the top of their lungs that nuclear power plants produce waste, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that solar panels and wind turbines also produce an enormous amount of waste. However unlike nuclear, there are no sensible means to recycle e-waste.
“At the same time, demand for everything from sand to rare and precious metals continues to rise. While supplying only about 1 percent of global electricity, photovoltaics already relies on 40 percent of the global tellurium supply, 15 percent of the silver supply, a large portion of semiconductor quality quartz supply.” — Scientific America
An MIT report conducted that demand for a host of rare raw materials will increase exponentially as solar and wind grows, including wind turbines that you better believe produce radioactive waste from the large amounts of steel that goes into making them. On a side note steel is made from coal, which is more radioactive than background radiation at nuclear plants.
Scientific America reports that solar panels produce 100% more waste than all of the electronic waste we throw away every year known as e-waste. However right now we’re not recycling solar panels in America. Europe is the only region in the world that currently forces manufactures to recycle PV. This is why America is the largest polluter in this century.
Compare that to nuclear. 1 kilogram of mined uranium ore produces about 30 kilowatt hours of electricity. Yet nuclear is 75% more efficient than solar. How did I do that math? 20% to 35% (nuclear plants) is a 75% increase. If you took all the amount of electricity you will use in your lifetime, the nuclear waste produced by your consumption would fit in one soda can. Why are we not talking about that?
Jobs And Economy
That moves onto the final point, and that is the American economy or western economy. Almost all of the solar panels in the world are manufactured in Malaysia and Philippines, and assembled in Mexico on cheap labor. The same can be said for many of the wind turbines you may see driving by a country road. In 2020, zero US solar panel companies manufacture in the United States. We don’t source our own materials.
The rare earth minerals are not mined in the United States or Europe. China has controlled 97% of of rare earth mineral market since 2001 when the United States entered the World Trade Organization and PNTR. Increase in renewable energy directly benefits the Asian economy.
On the other hand, nuclear power and hydro power directly benefit American workers by providing good paying union jobs because they are considered utility workers. In 2020 the average nuclear physicist in America makes $111,656, with some engineers reporting salaries as high as $222,000. Currently there are almost 100,000 nuclear workers in America. That’s 11 billion dollars directly benefiting American workers, in an industry that sees 7.5 billion dollars a year in income to nuclear power companies.
That does not even include secondary industries such as construction contractors because unlike solar panels, nuclear power plants are built in the United States. Unlike gas pipelines which on average take less than 18 months to construct with plastic pipes made in China since we don’t use cast iron anymore, a nuclear power plant takes 10–15 years to construct from scratch. Those are more or less 450,000 permanent construction jobs according to Nuclear Energy Institute, with materials made in the USA.
Average salary of a worker who installs solar panels on homes made in Asia, performed by electricians and carpenters is $17/hour or $35k/year.
National average salary of a wind turbine technician is not much more at $22/hour or $45k/year and typically installed by journeymen electricians. One of the positives of wind energy I will give them is that larger wind turbines have to be made in America because shipping would be too expensive. There are currently over 500 wind factories in 43 states employing as many jobs as the nuclear field. The big sea based ones of several megawatts have to be made at a dock side factory within a barge ride of where they’ll be installed. However the sub-megawatt types can be made anywhere in the world, as they fit in a shipping crate. In between are the the big land based ones of only a few megawatts, and those can be made overseas as well and often are. Wind also relies heavily relies on natural gas to operate at full capacity. Also producing radioactive waste.
If you love what you do for a career that is great, but politicians have to stop misleading the public by saying renewables create American jobs and directly supports the American economy. Rare earth minerals are a 100 million dollar industry every year controlled by China plus the tariffs we pay. If we allowed it we could recycle and mine our own uranium and plutonium.
If were were honest about the economic impact of renewables, we would come to the realization they are only competitive because of government subsidies, and energies like nuclear and hydro are not growing because of the subsidies and red tape stacked against them. Imagine if we took the money we’ve invested in solar and wind in the last two decades, and instead had put that towards nuclear innovation. Imagine where we would be today. Image the jobs we would have created if we had reached Nixon’s goal of 1000 nuclear plants by the turn of the century. In 2020 88% of federal subsides went to renewables instead. Imagine if we moved the majority of our subsidies towards nuclear, and structured our energy grid economy to support nuclear instead of working against it with every chance we get. A sitting President could do that very easily as part of his energy agenda with the stroke of a pen. It doesn’t take move government action to move us towards this, and it would not require a climate accords or a carbon tax.
My Take / Opinion:
When I began this research assignment I came with an open mind. I searched high and low for old newspapers articles, video archives at libraries, and from my own personal experience from being a former environmentalist.
I happen to live in Massachusetts in the Merrimack Valley, about ten minutes away from where the gas explosions disrupted the lives of hundreds of residents and took a life right down the street from my home.
“As of this summer — and after a lengthy court process — Columbia Gas agreed to pay a total of $143 million to settle class-action lawsuits brought by victims. Exactly how that money might be paid out is still unclear.” — WBUR
You hear stories like this across the country, and yet you don’t see thousands of protestors blocking the construction of gas boilers. The question is, why are these gas and coal companies allowed to continue operation?
Imagine for a second if nuclear power plants were blowing up homes across the country what the the outcry would be. We live in an interesting era where climate activists and the environmental movement are controlled opposition. Big oil and big gas have finical investments in every major environmental organization in America and around the world. Every major oil company from BP to Exxon-Mobil have branches of their companies dedicated to renewable energy, because renewable subsidies directly benefit the gas industry. That is not a biased opinion to hold, that is a fact.
I tried to make this history article as unbiased and factual as possible. I present this to you not to make a case for or against nuclear, but to tell a story that deserves to be seen and told by the masses. My family has been a resident of Massachusetts for over 150 years and we used to live by nuclear plants before they were shut down in our region of the country. New England was where the anti-nuclear movement first began, and perhaps no other region of the country has such a controversial and trivial story in regards to nuclear power. In recent times New England has said “no”.
If we’re going to want to keep up with the nuclear reactors that are set to be decommissioned, the Unites States is going to have to build 100 new reactors by the year 2050. The interesting reality is that America was on its way to a cleaner energy grid in the last century more so than in this century. The only two energy sources that are carbon emissions free we ever discovered were nuclear and hydro, and they account for 75% of carbon free energy in 2020. Those two energies have a massive public relations problem in this century. Even though they contribute to much less injuries than even solar and wind. To report anything different is simply being dishonest to the American people.
Yet we have politicians that proclaim dangerous remarks, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren who personally said she would love to eliminate nuclear by the end of the decade. Would that be a wise decision?
Despite these facts, even some very far left American politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senators Bernie Sanders or even Elizabeth Warren refuse to support nuclear energy. The Green New Deal and Paris Climate Accord would massively expand renewable energies, which would also massively expand greenhouse gasses from natural gas which is worse than coal for methane emissions and that is a fact. Both would do nothing to save or expand on nuclear or hydro infrastructure. You would also be surprised to hear, many conservative politicians don’t support these energies either.
In a misguided effort by environmentalists to save the environment, we have successfully managed to deindustrialize the west. Do not get me wrong the EPA has done important work, but the EPA is not really the problem. We have to pay attention to collective interests who do not have the environment at their best interest. If anyone took the time to do just a little research you would find out that climate change it truly a hoax. It is a hoax because the organizations and powerful companies promoting that word are not fixing the problem, but instead they are looking to gain off fear and hysteria. That is what we need to reverse.
Neil Degrasse Tyson said that a great challenge in life is knowing enough about a subject to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong. I think we can learn from this that progress is never linear. Just remember every time a nuclear power plant closes and a river isn’t dammed, an executive at Exxon-Mobil has a smile on their face.
*If you notice any errors in this article please feel free to comment below and I will be happy to address and fix those mistakes.