Greenies can “lean in” as long as they’d like, they are still playing politics

Members of the Senate Climate Action Task Force held a lean in Monday to raise consciousness about climate change.

Says Sen. Brian Schatz, (D-Hawaii): “Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable.”  They were there until 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Of course, this is not about reality; it is about politics. The liberal tribe wants government to use its power to curtail use of fossil fuels; the conservative tribe wants government to use its power to frack, boost the domestic economy, and possibly even put pressure on Putin as the only supplier of natural gas to much of Europe.

So while the Democrats do their thing, let’s have our own lean in right here, because it happens that I have a little form on energy questions, from my former life as an engineer.

First, here’s what I know about computer models, like the ones predicting global warming.

Way back in the 1970s, I developed and used computer models to design water distribution systems and control sewer systems. The computer models were useful, but you wouldn’t want to bet the whole Seattle sewer system on them. A couple of decades later they replaced my conservative controls backed up by a modest computer model and built a much bigger, much more ambitious computer model. Only it didn’t work.

The point being, computer models are great, but imperfect. You don’t want to bet the farm on them – or the planet.

I also worked on resource planning for electric systems. Stripped of the jargon, this means I figured out which kind of electric power plant to build.

For an electric utility there are two kinds of power: there is firm power, which means power that you can turn on when scheduled – e.g., coal or nuclear — or power you can turn on whenever you want it – e.g., natural gas and combined cycle. Combined cycle is really cool: you generate power with a natural-gas turbine, then you use the waste heat to create steam and generate power with a steam turbine.

Then there is secondary power, which might be available or might not, e.g., wind turbines and solar.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the price of firm power is much higher than secondary power. It costs more because it is much more valuable. That’s why the greenies and the crony capitalists have protected green power with a bodyguard of subsidies and renewables mandates. Otherwise forget wind and solar.

Secondary power is useful for some people like Google. If you have a server farm, or a hospital, then you need on-site backup power to power your servers, or your ICUs, through power outages. In that case the cheap power from wind farms make sense, because you can always run your backup power generators if the wind drops. Google & Co. also build server farms next to hydro-electric plants. There’s lots of cheap secondary energy from hydro during wet years.

Don’t forget that the climate change enthusiasts might be right. After all, the leading denialists are old guys: Watts, McIntyre, Spencer. And Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” says that the scientific paradigm only changes when the old guys die off.

Looming in the background there is always this: the normal Earth climate right now is 100,000 year ice ages punctuated by 10,000 year “interglacials” like the current Holocene that’s currently celebrating its 11,700th birthday.

It’s been that way for millions of years. And we don’t know why.


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