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Are California’s Green-Energy-Induced Woes America’s Future?

August 27, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #371

Coming to a city and state near you: California-style energy shortages and blackouts. At least that will be the case if Democrats keep their campaign promises and impose the type of zero carbon dioxide emission green energy mandates and fossil fuel restrictions on the nation that California has forced upon its residents.

It’s not enough that Californians are suffering through extreme heat and seeing their communities go up in smoke amid awful wildfires. Residents and businesses in the state are also suffering government-inflicted harm as power blackouts roll through California. The cause of the blackouts is the ever-growing spate of taxes and restrictions placed on the use of fossil fuels to generate electric power in the state, leaving it dependent on government-favored, intermittent, renewable power sources.

The news satire site The Sacramento Brie described the situation in a hilarious article, “Gov. Newsom: California successfully tests power blackouts as state prepares for 2025,” filled with made-up but basically accurate quotes. As the Brie notes, in 2018 California enacted a law requiring 50 percent of the electricity delivered in the state come from renewable sources by 2025, 60 percent by 2030, and that all electricity in the state come from sources emitting no carbon dioxide during generation by 2050. As such, the Brie writes—with good humor, a wink, and a nod—the rolling blackouts in California over the past few weeks are a preview of the state’s future.

The Brie article satirically “quotes” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D): “‘These blackouts, which occurred without prior warning or time for preparation between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., demonstrate exactly the kind of green energy capability California government has been shooting for,’ Newsom said at a meeting of energy professionals on Sunday.”

“[R]esidents, communities and other governmental organizations did not receive sufficient warning that these de-energizations would occur, which is exactly what we expect to happen—but on a much larger scale—as the state moves toward 100 percent renewable energy in 2045,” the Brie imagines Newsom saying.

Although these quotes are fictional, they describe the situation accurately. In the past few weeks, dozens of news outlets have carried stories outlining how California’s green energy policies have resulted in repeated failures of the power supply in recent years.

For instance, an article in the California Globe, “California’s Electric Grid Is Near Collapse,” explicitly links the state’s repeated blackouts to its embrace of renewable energy sources to the exclusion of historically reliable and inexpensive electricity generated by fossil fuels. “California’s bet on renewables and shunning of natural gas and nuclear power, is directly responsible for the state’s blackouts and high electricity prices,” the author writes.

High and mighty in their mansions, the architects of the policies that have led to this power failure—such as former California governor Jerry Brown (D) and current governor Newsom—blamed the state’s common people, the unwashed hoi polloi, for the blackouts, admonishing them in multiple tweets to turn out their lights and turn up their thermostats. The latter direction from Brown is especially galling, coming as it did during a deadly heat wave. You read that right: according to the elitist current and former governors of California, the answer to the state’s politically induced energy crisis is for people to swelter in the dark.

In a rare honest moment for Newsom, he and other California officials finally admitted at a press event the renewable power mandates were responsible for the power failures across the state, as reported by Breitbart.

“California Gov. Gavin Newsom said [on August 17] the state had to ‘sober up’ about the fact that renewable energy sources had failed to provide enough power for the state at peak demand, and needed ‘backup’ and ‘insurance’ from other sources,” Breitbart reports. Newsome went on to admit the critical reason the state lacked power was its overreliance on renewable power sources, in particular wind and solar. But then Newsom lapsed back into typical political obfuscation, saying, “We failed to predict and plan these shortages.”

Who is this “we”? Analysts from think tanks in California (Reason Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Independent Institute), Washington, D.C. (the Competitive Enterprise Institute), and in between (my own think tank, The Heartland Institute in Illinois) have warned for years California’s policies would cause dangerous power shortages. And, too little, too late, on June 11, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) admitted as much, approving the use of up to 450 megawatts of diesel generators to fill in when renewable power sources failed to supply sufficient energy. One cannot honestly say no one knew this could happen.

Unfortunately for Californians, the recent power shortfalls exceeded 1,000 megawatts, more than double the allowed diesel backup. As more and more green energy is added to the grid, the gap between the reliable power demanded and what is available on any particular day will only grow.

California-based meteorologist Anthony Watts, a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute, perhaps summed up the source of the state’s energy shortfall best:

We are on the cusp of a massive failure of the electricity grid in California. Solar power has this thorny problem; it disappears after sunset. Now, California is paying the price for abandoning reliable energy sources in favor of green energy sources such as wind and solar power, which don’t work when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. During heat waves like California is experiencing now, there’s typically plenty of sunshine, but winds are often stagnant.

The situation is even worse than what Watts describes. Peak electricity use in California occurs in the summer, which coincides with wildfire season, so even when the sun is shining brightly, smoke often blocks much light from reaching rooftop solar panels. Also, if homes with solar panels are destroyed by the wildfires, even this minimal input to the system is lost. As to wind power, winds are often stagnant in California during the early part of the summer, meaning wind turbines are not adding much to the system, but later in the summer, during peak wildfire season, the Santa Ana winds often strike. The high winds make it difficult to fight wildfires. They also sometimes cause utilities to shut down the wind turbines because winds that are too high can destroy them. Ironically, like the porridge in the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, wind speeds have to be “just right” for wind farms to provide energy.

California could have easily avoided these problems, if only bureaucrats and politicians had allowed even one modern large coal-fueled power plant to remain open, or had they allowed new natural gas plants to be built. They could have provided more than enough power to make up for any shortfall from wind and solar. Unfortunately, California politicos care more about the approbation of fringe radical environmentalists than the well-being of the average Californian.

The Democrat Party is promising to impose California-style energy policies on the entire country if it wins power nationally in the November election. Consider yourself warned. Paraphrasing Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent power blackouts!”—at the ballot box.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Breitbart; Deadline; California Globe; The Street; National Review; Red State; Sacramento Brie


IN THIS ISSUE …

OVERSIMPLIFIED UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE LEADS TO FALSE CONCLUSIONS … TOTAL WIND AND SOLAR MAKEOVER WON’T PREVENT CLIMATE CHANGE … ON TEMPERATURES, NEW CLIMATE MODELS WORSE THAN OLD MODELS


OVERSIMPLIFIED UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE LEADS TO FALSE CONCLUSIONS

A recent paper in the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems discusses a fundamental weakness inherent to general circulation models (climate models) that contributes to their failure to track actual temperature changes: the inability to model cloud behavior accurately.

Water vapor, including the water contained in clouds, is by far the largest single greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, making up 95 to 97 percent of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Researchers have long acknowledged cloud cover plays a role in climate change, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admitted it has only a poor understanding of cloud dynamics, with climate models being unable to account for changes in cloud cover and type on a local, regional, or even global scale.

The new paper confirms that weakness, pointing out climate models are unable to simulate microphysics, “the small‐scale processes affecting cloud and precipitation particles such as their growth by condensation, evaporation, and melting.” The authors write,

Because it is impossible to simulate every cloud particle individually owing to their sheer number within even a small cloud, atmospheric models have to represent the evolution of particle populations statistically. There are critical gaps in knowledge of the microphysical processes that act on particles, especially for atmospheric ice particles because of their wide variety and intricacy of their shapes. The difficulty of representing cloud and precipitation particle populations and knowledge gaps in cloud processes both introduce important uncertainties into models that translate into uncertainty in weather forecasts and climate simulations, including climate change assessments.

The models’ inadequate treatment of water vapor in general and clouds in particular “calls into question not only the realism of these schemes [climate models’ projections] at their core but whether or not in principle they are even verifiable,” the researchers write.

Until climate models can accurately account for and simulate clouds’ impacts on climate, their projections of present and future climate will be of dubious accuracy and little or no usefulness to policymakers trying to formulate effective responses to the variety of possible climate shifts.

SOURCES: Iowa Climate Science Education; Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems


TOTAL WIND AND SOLAR MAKEOVER WON’T PREVENT CLIMATE CHANGE

In an article in the Arizona Daily Independent, retired geologist Jonathan DuHamel analyzes claims made by the numerous former contenders for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, including ultimate nominee Joe Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), that the world can “stop climate change simply by replacing all our fossil-fuel generated electricity with renewable energy generation such as wind and solar.”

DuHamel notes carbon dioxide makes up makes up less than 4 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions representing just over one-tenth of one percent (0.12 percent) of total greenhouse gases emitted annually. As a result, cutting all U.S. emissions—at present about 18 percent of total human carbon dioxide emissions and falling—by switching to wind and solar will have almost no effect on global warming.

DuHamel cites the American Enterprise Institute’s estimate that eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power grid would reduce future global temperature increases by at most 0.083 to 0.173 degrees Celsius by 2100. DuHamel also cites the work of Bjorn Lomborg, Ph.D., author of the recent book False Alarm, who has concluded if the U.S. becomes carbon-neutral, by the end of the century it would reduce global temperatures by only 0.031°C.

SOURCE: Arizona Daily Independent


ON TEMPERAURES, NEW CLIMATE MODELS WORSE THAN OLD MODELS

In a forthcoming Global Warming Policy Foundation report, Roy Spencer, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), compares the performance of the new generation of general circulation models (more commonly referred to as climate models) against the performance of the previous generation of models in tracking recorded temperatures and temperature trends. The new models perform worse than the older models in matching historic temperature trends, Spencer reports.

This is important because the climate models Spencer examines are those the IPCC uses in its scientific reports to project future temperatures and other climate trends.

Copious research, some of which has been conducted by Spencer and his UAH colleagues W. D. Braswell, PhD. and John Christy, Ph.D., shows the previous generation of climate models—the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 models (CMIP5)—fail to track temperature trends accurately. The climate models indicate current temperatures, based on the amount of greenhouse gases recently added to the atmosphere, should be higher than they are in fact (as measured by global satellites, surface temperature stations, and weather balloons), and that temperatures over the past three decades should have risen faster (a steeper upward trend) than they have.

For the 13 CMIP6 models thus far reporting temperature projections and trends, the trends they report from 1979 through April 2020 are 50 percent higher than those projected by the CMIP5 models, meaning the gap between measured temperatures and modeled temperatures has grown, rather than shrunk, in the newest generation of models, Spencer finds.

How can the IPCC claim this generation of models is better or more trustworthy than the previous generation when they perform worse on global average temperature, the most fundamental projection they make?

SOURCE: Dr. Roy Spencer

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org
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