I put this in as a potential disaster as in many countries around the world we are putting all the eggs in one basket to combat things like climate change. Removing a potential energy source means that there is one less source to fall back on. All processes in society require energy to perform them, and in recent years many countries have ‘streamlined’ and attempted to clean up their energy systems and grids at the expense of resilience.
The world is heavily dependent on oil and gas with resources showing signs of increasing expense and scarecity. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine it is evident how we are dependent on just a few sources for our fuel and energy, with knock on effects in industry and economies.
One of the principles of logistics and supply chains are to have a diverse number of suppliers and customers, only catering for certain types and too stringent demands in terms of economy amongst those rebounding in terms of threats to supply and custom, weakening the organisation by not building in resilience.
In the UK it was thought that having a good storage of natural gas was an unnecessary expense, removing them making the product temporarily cheaper, but leaving it open to massive market fluctuations and now with things like the Ukraine, leaving it open to supply scarcity driving the price through the roof, causing damage throughout the economic systems of europe. The minor and short term gain by the energy supply companies being dwarfed by the massive economic losses incurred by the arbitrary and terminally short sighted managers in control. The get rich quick merchants making a quick buck at the expense of everybody else, with a government that has a energy policy as efficient and able as a teflon door wedge. Competency is not in their remit. They would rather follow their ethos and stupidity than logic or ability. The current situation was predicted 5 years ago when the current administration let it happen. It did and has happened.
The clear message from the start of all moves into diverse forms of energy was the problem of storage. It has been and always will be the main and vital problem. Wind and solar power is good, but where is the storage? Other than the current grid it doesn’t exist. Biomass, which is really burning things and saying it is clean, doesn’t have massive stocks of carbon rich fuel in this country. Nuclear is constant and efficient, if costly energy. The technology demands it, but isn’t something you can just switch on and off, it needs to be operating at full blast all the time. Trouble is, there is no way of storing that power. Gas is cleaner than oil, we did have storage, but it was decided to dispose of that. We don’t really have that many suitable hills and mountains, but you need to flood whole valleys for Hydroelectric power, requiring a lot of water. Good storage, but if the climate goes dry, you’re stuffed. Investment and control in power has been so poor we now have a shaky system that is full of chances for disaster and open to changes in environment and political moves, so is as resilient as ice cream in a heat wave. We probably haven’t yet seen how bad things will get, but its likely that not having this resilience may cause a systematic cascade failure throughout europe, america and the east. The planning has been mostly knee-jerk strategy based on yesterdays world.
So we have a economic dependence on fickle wind and solar power with little storage or reserves, the richest paying dearly and probably the less stable economies probably going without, damaging their economies. It’s highly likely that to cover this many countries will need to return to wood, coal and coal gas, having been boxed into a corner by the unsustainable environmental fantasies of zero emissions and management purely on profit.
But how clean are the clean sources? The idea that ‘pollution should only be recorded from this point’ is the mantra of the environmentalists, compartmentalising the processes into polluting items that can be discounted or concealed completely, and zero emission ones. The earth is a fairly enclosed system, so that anything regarded as such is at best childishly naïve, at worst intentionally dishonest or deceptive, trying to trick people into their illogical and emotive way of thinking. The truth needs no such tricks. It needs no lies, pressure or coercion to be considered correct, only in places where things are not as completely sure or clear cut as claimed.
Much of the environmental movement is of this form, things not clear cut as they claim, exaggerations, some of them criminally deceptive and unopposed, because of the social and financial consequences of calling them out. The truth is not ‘political,’ but lies are.
We live in a world where if Hitler and Jesus re-appeared and Hitler claimed 1+1=2 and Jesus claimed 1+1=3, 1+1=2 would be denied because Hitler said it was, and he was a bad person, but 1+1=3 would be claimed as true because Jesus fulfilled the idea of being a good person. People would be called ‘number 3 deniers,’ seen as evil, or at least of poor character or intelligence and open to evidence manipulation, all their work classed in a blanket dismissal or in many cases refused funding to investigate it. Such character assignments are being used by the media and educational circles these in many cases, where the character and status of the person is more important for validating evidence than what they say. High status and numbers of those, even when most completely out of subject or area, being less critically challenged and evaluated fairly and the evidence behind it, taking a lot of the evidence at first glance. It goes on the idea that if a qualified doctor or professor worked on the dust carts they would be better at it than others who worked on it who had no qualifications. But in fact, the opposite is usually the case, specialisation narrowing the outlook and perspective of the person, maybe spending more time on analysing the output rather than getting the job done and recycling where they could.
You can see this in effect of rock, movie and TV stars pushing the ‘advertising,’ although most have small overall stores of knowledge outside this, many having left their previous fields long ago, so becoming closer to the average person. The idea of ‘once a driver, always a driver,’ without a requirement for critically testing after decades of field neglect. Reality stars are ‘wild cards,’ famous for being famous, average people who have just entered the reward system without any obvious skills, except for the characteristic of being ‘very similar’ to the watchers of such things, so engaging with the concept of ‘hope’ for those. But their status and effect are amplified over and above those they are similar to, not considered the same, having seen as ‘attained’ some special characteristic ability when none is obviously evident from their actions. But the high status in their concentration of their particular field have narrowing of their abilities elsewhere. The cases for Covid-19 were very much of this form where status rather than logic was the rule of the day and I fear much of the climate change movement, where personality and status are swaying and dictating decisions rather than trying to work out what is actually happening.
The climate is changing; this is evident. What’s causing it has been decided. End of story and investigation. But evidence against what’s causing it has been rejected and refused investigation or funding. Is it because of fears of lies coming out and nothing being done, or fears of the truth coming out and just the scientific community being made to look stupid? The ‘experts’ not being as clever as they think themselves, assuming all others as just easily led dumb apes. The progression, manner, and mistakes of Covid-19 and what has happened over the last 2 years suggests the latter is more likely to be true.
So, we come back to energy loss. Whatever we do requires energy. Some forms require more than others, things like coal causing a lot of immediate pollution as all you can really do is burn it when you get it, but effectively just dug out of the ground and at the end returned to the ground. Compare this to say nuclear energy. A source that is seen as set up once and left to produce its energy. But what goes on around it to get to that stage and what happens at the end to dispose of it? This is removed from the equations, what happens outside the power plant staying outside the power plant. Similarly with wind and solar, calculations being at the site, nothing around it.
I’ve investigated many sources of power and the mechanisms that use this power and it isn’t easy to work out the ‘pure’ effects, many contributing to each other and rejecting the things that need to happen around it for its production, but what I have found is the pollution and energy required quite often comes down to a simple cost formula for its provision. So, in effect, if you calculate the ‘full cost’ a £100 provided item requires twice that a £50 item does in terms of accumulated resources and accumulated pollution. So, a ‘green’ resource that needs £100 to provide it roughly pollutes the same as a £100 ‘non-green or dirty’ resource, it’s just that much of the pollution is concealed or discounted. The effects just being hidden from calculations.
The idea is that you have a 1Kg mass of pollution, say CO2, with a dirty process you can’t discount that as you have 1Kg of pollution, but if its green, then amortised and discounted the 1Kg of green CO2 pollution can be less than that of the 1Kg of dirty CO2 pollution depending on where and when you put it in the equation. Some green and dirty things are immediate, with immediate green being discounted over time, immediate dirty not being discounted over time, long term green being discounted over a period, long term dirty not being discounted over a period, end term green being calculated over the full period, end term dirty being placed securely at the end. The effect and entries being calculated to give the best values for ‘green,’ the effect and entries being calculated to give the worst values for ‘dirty,’ or alternative solutions.
So, we end up with resource loss due to more ‘efficient’ and ‘cleaner’ systems, when taking the total output compared to inputs they cost more and produce less.
We now come onto ‘resilience,’ a swearword amongst the green community. Solar is not effective at night and wind doesn’t work when the wind doesn’t blow, both limitations on the system, a still night producing no energy at all on either. Add to this a removal of storage in your main gas, coal or oil provisions and the requirement to keep running at any cost in nuclear, you have a recipe for massive fluctuations, disasters, and total loss for extended periods of all energy. Nuclear is prone to untoward natural problems, most plants being situated near water, where water is a definite requirement, and anything near water or dependent on the physical characteristics of water is asking for problems. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima were effectively water problems and will happen again with nuclear.
But, the main problem with forgetting resilience is that without energy things don’t happen. In a world that a massively dependent on things ‘happening,’ loss of them completely causes all systems dependent on them to also fail in a cascade effect. No energy, no lights, no heating, no entertainment, no controls, no communications, no emergency services, no production, no transport, no food, no refrigeration, no safety, no defence. All because resilience was not there or thought about. The systems knit together well and are running efficiently, but in an interdependent, interconnected and interrelated world a 50p failure may cause the whole system to fail, and once it fails it may not be possible to recover the situation, the assumption in a push button world is that all that happens is a reset and everything comes back up again immediately. The older incandescent light bulbs rarely failed in use, just when they were switched back on again, then they blew and didn’t, many devices having a similar characteristic of sudden lack of use, or switching off, resetting to a state where an attempt at use again giving immediate failure amplifying the cascade even further into new immediate requirements all at the same time.
In the UK we have next to no energy policy in this respect. Resilience not fitting into the government skill set or plans. The idea is that you can always buy energy or stuff, even when it is not for sale or not available, so trends towards lack of any credible back up, other than the most superficial and financially rewarding ones are considered OK. Politically and financially shrewd in the short term, waiting for when the lack of a coherent and effective strategy causes everything to fail, playing with words while instability and lack of action gives the probability of such events narrowing to a certainty.
We probably get about 80% of out power from natural gas. It’s used of heating homes, cooking and in industry, but removal of storage has made it so volatile that we risk disaster. It’s a bit like going down a motorway at 90mph in thick fog, thinking ‘what’s the problem, I’m OK, I’m still ok, I’m still ok.’ But we are now dependent on very few links. The idea that ‘they will always be there’ is naive and similar to not using contraception or protection. Times change, and being dependent for most of your power on other countries out of your control will rebound at some time, especially if they decide to keep those resources to themselves and not release them, of if they have problems, or to a higher bidder. What do you do, go to war with them if that happens? Business is business, even if it bankrupts another country.
To deal with things like shortages of land, water and power, an expensive system such as pumped contained storage may be the only option, but in the financial market of today ‘they would rather die,’ than do this. It’s more likely ‘they would rather die and take everybody else with them,’ than spend the money, but there you go. Solar and wind will only work if there is local storage, eking out the last penny of profit being the motivator, many on government subsidised projects, so resources provided by the ‘government resource fairy,’ that has no knock on cost, causes no pollution, and not included in their fake zero emissions figures anyway, many hi-tech, but totally impractical and some really potentially dangerous systems being supported in a quick fix idea of perpetual motion planning and strategy. The idea of having things like incredibly high-pressure systems or highly explosive systems nearby doesn’t inspire confidence. They work, right up until there is a major disaster that says, ‘don’t put them near people.’
Electrical storage is the biggest obstacle there is, so naturally nobody is investing in any substantial research, most being tiny ad-hoc projects based on pretty faulty non-practical standards and equivalences. Invest billions, get out a few pounds or dollars in practical terms, ‘project sounds promising.’ The first place that manages it if possible, will licence it and become the biggest corporation the world has even known. Similar companies or governments may make a similar profit, only if they are inherently dishonest and steal the idea, using it, but not prepared to pay any fees for it.
Hollowing out a cavern or using an existing one, sealing it, and using it to store water at an elevation with a power station that can use the output is costly, getting energy and drinking water at a higher cost, but without it, we may be in the position we may not just lose value on profitability, but we may lose totally all production and water use rights if things turn bad. If my guess at the change in the climate being irreversible and unalterable is right, then planning and doing it now, when water is available and the financial environment reasonably still stable, against doing it when such water is scarce, industry failing, and unable to finance it, in a time of political blame games for the impending failures, so trying to rush it through, with all the problems that entails, when everybody is suffering, I know which I would choose.
So, we are left with next to no resilience, on a few major sources with next to no storage, with a few key points where problems, geologic or political, will render them unavailable, possibly for long periods, and industries and societies dependent on constant flow and low prices. If the climate does change and get a lot hotter, open water may become a problem, rather than a good resource. You couldn’t really plan for disaster much better, seemingly being the preferred choice of options rather than anybody planning or having a competent strategy for avoiding it. The difference between being employed at a massive salary to sort it out and not even being there is?