City of St. Louis skyline in September 2008. Image: Wikimeda
The St. Louis city council has unanimously passed a resolution decreeing that by 2035 the city will somehow, almost magically be powered by 100% “clean, renewable” electricity. Or at least by paper certificate, as St. Louis city council raises electricity costs for poor families
By Paul Driessen
In 2016, Missouri generated 96.5% of its electricity with fossil fuel and nuclear power, 1.6% with hydroelectric, and just 1.5% with wind and solar. The St. Louis Metro Area did roughly the same.
But now, by royal decree, the St. Louis City Crown has made it clear, the climate must be perfect all year – and by 2035 the city will somehow, magically be powered by 100% “clean, sustainable” electricity.
The Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution calling for this to happen – via tougher energy efficiency measures and a transition to wind and solar power. The decision was supported by “environmental, advocacy and religious” organizations, which cited “sustainability and climate consciousness” as major concerns, an effusive articlenoted. The decision was simply “smart business,” they claim, because renewable energy is becoming “cheaper and cheaper,” and businesses want to move to cities that rely on renewable energy.
City officials have promised to launch an immediate “transparent and inclusive stakeholder process,” to develop a “plan of action” by December 2018. Who will actually be included in this “inclusive” process, and who will not be invited to participate, they did not say. However, recent marches, rants, dis-invitations, property destruction and physical assaults around cities and campuses offer helpful clues.
The following observations may help initiate the St. Louis review process – and similar discussions about renewable energy in other communities.
The local utility company (Ameren) already has a Pure Power program that lets St. Louis residents and businesses voluntarily purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). When a customer signs up for 100% renewable energy, Ameren charges an extra penny for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. That increases utility bills by 10-20% and on average adds about $150 to annual residential bills; $850 to commercial bills; and $20,000 to industrial electricity charges.
However, it does not mean customers are actually getting wind or solar energy. Each REC simply represents “environmental attributes associated with past renewable energy generation” and proof that “renewable energy was generated by an eligible renewable energy source.”
In other words, an REC merely means electricity was generated somewhere, sometime in the past, and sent somewhere, along a transmission line, whether or not it was really needed at the time. It simply pays wind developers for every kilowatt generated – transferring wealth from customers to developers.
All this raises intriguing questions. If wind and solar are getting cheaper, and more affordable than fossil fuels, why does Ameren charge a 1-cent-per-kWh premium for them? Why do they to be mandated? How many times might certain wind operators sell the same certificates? How many counterfeits will con artists sell? How many “certificate cops” will be needed to police the lucrative trade?
Once St. Louis makes renewables mandatory, the involuntary wealth transfers will become huge. Worse, the system will be enormously regressive – falling hardest on poor and working class families, small businesses operating on slim profit margins, and major energy users like hospitals and factories.
Missouri currently has relatively low electricity prices; St. Louis rates are even lower. Imposing renewable energy mandates will send city electricity rates into realms now “enjoyed” in California and Connecticut: 19 cents per kWh for families, 17 cents for businesses and 13 cents for industries. They could even reach the punitive rates now paid in Germany: 35 cents for families, 18 cents for all others!
How might that affect a vital energy-intensive customer like the 635,000-square-foot Barnes-Jewish Hospital Center for Advanced Medicine? At today’s rates, it pays around $1.4 million a year for electricity. A 13% Pure Power REC hike would increase that bill by $180,000. At CA-CT-German rates, that bill would skyrocket to $3.3 million annually – a massive, unsustainable $1.9 million increase.
How many employees would the hospital have to lay off, to make up for that spike? How many services would it have to eliminate or reduce in quality? How badly would patient care suffer?
How will poor and blue-collar families fare if their electricity rates nearly double? United Way recently found that 56% of St. Louis families are already unable to pay their basic living expenses: housing, food, clothing, transportation, taxes, healthcare and child care. How much worse will this situation become?
Then why are the city and its allies (especially religious groups) so intent on implementing these renewable energy mandates? Perhaps because that is easier than tackling real city problems. Missouri high school students as a whole have an 85% graduation rate; in St. Louis only 46% graduate. The city ranks #12 among “worst US cities to live in,” #4 for murders, and #2 for “most dangerous.”
Instead of trying to improve on this dismal record, the Aldermen & Allies want to be at the forefront on “disastrous manmade climate change” and “sustainability” (or at least “consciousness” about the issues).
Average global temperatures have dropped back to where they were before the 2015-16 El Niño. Harvey was the first major hurricane to hit the US mainland in a record 12 years. Tornado, drought and storm frequency and intensity are on par with historic records. Where’s the disaster or human connection?
As to clean and sustainable, wind and solar are not. The enormous installations require vast amounts of land and raw materials, plus more for ultra-long transmission lines. (The wind installations Anheuser-Busch plans to use for its 100% renewable PR stunt are 350 miles away – in Oklahoma.) Still more land and materials are required for backup fossil fuel power plants or ginormous battery arrays – so that families, hospitals and businesses have electricity when they need it, instead of when it’s available.
For the wind option, just generating the 3.5 billion megawatt-hours of electricity the United States uses every year – and storing power in batteries for just seven windless days – would require some 14 million turbines! That’s because more turbines force us to go to lower and lower quality wind areas, which means instead of generating electricity 33% of the year at best wind sites, they’d only do so half of that time. Using Tesla-style 100-kWh battery packs would require something on the order of 600 billion units!
Have the Aldermen & Allies run those numbers – and costs – for the St. Louis share of all this? Will Gov. Greitens and the state legislature go along with all this – and help pay the costs?
More to the point, all of this would require unfathomable amounts of mining, processing, smelting, manufacturing and shipping: concrete, iron, copper, fiberglass, lithium, cadmium, rare earth metals and more. Since St. Louis and other environmentalist groups generally oppose mining (and foundries, refineries and factories) in the USA, most of those materials will come from someone else’s backyards:
Places like Baotou, Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – where men, women and even children dig them out and process them under horrific environmental, health and safety conditions. Their risk of dying due to cave-ins or exposure to toxic, carcinogenic materials is intense and constant.
Some claim renewable energy is nevertheless sustainable, and moral. It must be an interesting group of religious leaders who’ve come to the fore in St. Louis (and elsewhere) to reach that conclusion, support major wind and solar energy programs – and denounce fossil fuels and investment in oil and mining companies.
People in impoverished and developing countries have little interest in wind and solar power, except as a stopgap for distant villages. They want abundant, reliable, affordable electricity. That’s why they have built hundreds of coal-fired power plants and have 1,600 more under construction or in planning.
One has to wonder if those who promoted and voted on the St. Louis program (and others like it) ever considered these hard realities. Too often, they seem content just to feel righteous, at least among their peers and certain stakeholders – even if most big renewable energy programs are really just pixie dust.
Brought to You by SEPP (www.SEPP.org) The Science and Environmental Policy Project
THIS WEEK: By Ken Haapala, President
Academic Threats? On November 3, the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released what may be the final climate report of the Obama Administration. The USGCRP was established 1989 by an executive order by President George H.W. Bush and was “mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” It comprises 13 Federal agencies and had a 2016 enacted budget of $2.6 billion and a 2017 requested budget of $2.8 billon. [These numbers are out of date, but more recent data was not found in a search of its web site.] The current executive director is Michael Kuperberg, who was appointed by President Obama in July 2015.
The preliminary report was leaked to certain favored groups such as the New York Timesmonths ago. Based on this leaked report, CATO’s Patrick Michaels suggests that the new report will ignore critical issues regarding climate change. A major issue is that the widely used global climate models are overestimating atmospheric warming, with the average model prediction being 2.5 to 3 times that which is occurring. A second major issue discussed by Michaels is the divergence between the observed and predicted values of atmospheric temperature change with increasing altitude (lapse rate), particularly over the tropics. Again, the model estimates are about twice that of which is occurring.
Both these issues indicate that there is something very wrong with the widely accepted greenhouse gas theory, as published in 1979 by the US National Academy of Sciences, called the Charney Report, which is the premise of the global climate models. The speculated estimate of temperature increase for a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) of 3 degrees C plus or minus 1.5 degrees C (50%) have continued, with minor variation, in the 38 years since in the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and the USGCRP.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Steve Koonin argues that the new report demonstrates the need for a Climate Red Team to counter the climate establishment. Judith Curry has posted the critical portions of Koonin’s arguments on Climate Etc.
Over the next several weeks, TWTW will be reviewing the USGCRP report focusing on how well the USGCRP fulfilled a critical part of its mandate: to assess and predict natural processes of global change. If we do not understand the natural processes, we cannot hope to understand the human influence on them. Natural threats to humans from climate change are real, particularly a global cooling. Human influence on these threats may be academic or real (practical). Areas of concern will include agriculture, ocean chemistry, sea level rise, temperature change (atmosphere v. surface), etc.
It is useful to recall the distinction Admiral Rickover made to Congress in 1953 between academic and practical nuclear reactors:
“An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose. (7) Very little development will be required. It will use off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.
“On the other hand, a practical reactor can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.
“The tools of the academic designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone sees it.
“The academic-reactor designer is a dilettante. He has not had to assume any real responsibility in connection with his projects. He is free to luxuriate in elegant ideas, the practical shortcomings of which can be relegated to the category of “mere technical details.” The practical-reactor designer must live with these same technical details. Although recalcitrant and awkward, they must be solved and cannot be put off until tomorrow. Their solution requires manpower, time and money.
“Unfortunately for those who must make far-reaching decision without the benefit of an intimate knowledge of reactor technology, and unfortunately for the interested public, it is much easier to get the academic side of an issue than the practical side. For a large part those involved with the academic reactors have more inclination and time to present their ideas in reports and orally to those who will listen. Since they are innocently unaware of the real but hidden difficulties of their plans, they speak with great facility and confidence. Those involved with practical reactors, humbled by their experiences, speak less and worry more.
“Yet it is incumbent on those in high places to make wise decisions and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is consequently incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forthrightly as possible.” [Boldface added]
See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy, http://www.globalchange.gov/about, and http://ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/Rickover.pdf
Quote of the Week. “If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you, but the bureaucracy won’t.” – Hyman Rickover, Admiral USN
Number of the Week: One Bonneville, or Two Niagaras, or Five Hoovers