Tomorrow ~ Fabrications

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By Paul Quigg, columnist

The entire climate change debate is a mass of fabrications and falsehoods which are allowed to persist as the truth. These problems are the sacred cows of various interests as they exploit the “Green” energy movement and sow fear concerning a warming future. These fabrications are so ingrained in the public discourse that exposing them is extremely difficult. I will briefly explore two of these and I think it will be obvious to you how compelling their narrative is.

First, there is no such thing as electrical energy. We are constantly told that electrical energy will be a major contributor to our fight to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Electricity makes almost no contribution to reducing emissions. An electrical engine is slightly more efficient than an internal combustion engine, but that is about it. Electric cars, electric this, electric that, and it is all a sham. Billions are invested in this effort, and it has catapulted Elon Musk to be considered the most wealthy individual in the world. Absolutely crazy. 

Electricity is a distribution system that moves energy from the point of its production to its point of use. This electrical distribution system should not be criticized as it has revolutionized our lives in many ways, but it is not going to add any significant contribution to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

Second, is the biomass contribution as a renewable energy source. Biomass is certainly a renewable source, but it is also the most carbon-intensive fuel there is. Biomass is basically trash and municipalities burn it with gusto in huge incinerators, which produce steam to make electricity. Why are we fooling ourselves by thinking we are moving toward a less warm future when we allow such fabrications to persist? Special interests have taken over the narrative and fed us feel-good stories of their wonderful products.

The consequence of fabrications is the continued exponential growth of carbon dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere. For over 30 years we have been calling for strong efforts to reduce emissions with a 10-year window to a tipping point after which it will be too late to avoid a catastrophic warming future. The call for action has continued, and the tipping point has been extended to the next 10 years in order to give us some hope for the future.

I have been closely following the environmental movement since the late 1960s as they continuously predicted the end of the world in the not-too-distant future. As we are all aware, global human progress has progressed by leaps and bounds over the years as billions have been lifted from abject poverty. This progress has not discouraged the climate activists one bit, and they proclaim we have just 10 years to turn the world around. After over 50 years of activists predicting impending doom, I have grown tired and skeptical of their constant drumbeat.

Mr. Quigg, a University of Virginia graduate and resident of Luray, has practiced architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1962. As a lifelong environmentalist, in the 70’s he was appalled at the polluted air and water and has dedicated much of his time since in studying and commenting on the environment. He has been published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. 

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26 Comments

  1. Sir, I understand this is an opinion piece, but you need to support your claims with some evidence to even be considered in the realm of seriousness. This is just a string of assumptions and claims that we’re supposed to accept at face value—which, with all respect, is nothing. We need substantive conversations about climate change, and to be blunt, your arguments and credentials are severely lacking.

    • Travis, My “opinion piece” is an opinion piece and not a scientific paper. I explained that electricity is a distribution system; and not a source of energy. Biomass is well known as one of the most carbon-intensive fuels known.
      My piece was not a string of assumptions, it was a string of facts that were not scientifically verified. You cast judgment on my piece without bothering to check on its accuracy.
      Pardon me for assuming you had some knowledge of the climate system.

  2. I’ve been intrigued by Mr. Quigg’s writing on this subject. It’s hard to peg his position exactly, but his view is unusual. He supports the clear scientific finding that our combustion-based economy has caused the temperature to rise, but he either denies that this rise causes the climate to change, or says the change isn’t necessarily bad. The crux for him, I guess, is that climate is too complex to predict, so climate scientists are only speculating (irresponsibly).

    But even if for the moment we rule out effects like stronger hurricanes and floods, the simple effects of higher temperatures–which cause drought, increase wildfires, melt permafrost and sea ice– are plenty bad by themselves. I don’t see how it’s possible to deny that.

    • Will, I certainly believe our fossil fuels are causing the temperature to rise. How much and how fast is in doubt. The rise in temperature since about 1900 has been about 1.1 degrees Celcius, over that 122-year time span. We have 78 years to go this century and I see the world with a total global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celcius by 2100. Maybe a small bit more! I don’t know if this will be good or bad, it will be terribly disruptive, as temperatures will rise northward and disrupt us humans and our animal friends in unknown ways.
      The drumbeat of a “catastrophic” future bothers me immensely and its effect on our young people could be lasting. Having been closely involved in the environmental movement for over 50 years and seeing the enormous wealth fossil fuels has created, in spite of the “doomsday” rhetoric of many activists, I have hope that continued global growth will help most of the world’s people live long and healthy lives.
      I’m just an optimist.

      • Paul, I understand and share your fear of seeing your grandchildren grow up thinking we have doomed the planet. Hope is essential, but if you place blame for warming on fossil fuels, yet say there is no alternative, how does that allow for rational hope?

        The attack on electricity I don’t understand. Do you have heat pumps at your home? Is there much dispute that the technology is more efficient than, say, kerosene furnaces? Electric cars, which are no panacea, offer greater energy efficiency in the same way. Even when the juice comes from a gas-powered plant, an electric car has a much better mpg equivalent. Internal combustion = loss of energy through heat.

        While I don’t demonize oil companies for making money, I do think they’ve acted badly in purveying doubt about what their products do to the atmosphere. Doubt about how much, ultimately, increasing CO2 will raise temperature is a poor reason to think nothing needs to be done. You acknowledge that 2.0 is bad news enough, but that 2.0 can be a ceiling on warming. My question is how that could ever be, if CO2 production will continue essentially unabated. The physics of the whole thing would need to be reversed.

        • Will, I do not attack electricity, I attack the prevailing position that electricity is going to have a significant contribution to reducing the warming. The real problem is the lack of renewable energy growth to replace fossil fuels. We are racing to reduce fossil fuels and new renewable energy is not filling the gap. Fossil fuel companies are working to keep the economy growing. Biden is pushing green energy and discouraging ramping up oil and gas production. Even today Biden is calling for the refining of existing oil stocks without mentioning increasing oil production. Several refineries were closed recently due to Biden’s early green emphasis and it will take time to increase gasoline production.
          I believe renewable energy research will find more efficient ways to produce clean energy and save us over the long run but we are wasting limited funds on inefficient solar technology. Nuclear is the rational path to a solution but irrational headwinds are moving us in the opposite direction. Special interests dominate the efforts and we are wasting billions on wasteful solutions.
          I don’t know if I am right or wrong, I just study the problem and do the best I can.

          • There can be different ways of looking at efficiency. I was on a bike ride and passed the solar installation on Turkey Knob Rd. Near Mt. Jackson. It’s a large area (50 plus acres?), although as you go along you get only partial views. The energy producing electricity was beaming down from the sky–no trucks or train cars bringing in coal, no pipeline terminus bringing gas, and of course no environmental destruction had occurred at points of extraction. So because solar energy is less dense than fossils, is it really less efficient overall, or does it have some efficiencies that fossils can’t match?

            But really there is little point in arguing this matter if the energy industry believes that solar has become cheaper than fossil fuels, and apparently this is the case. The industry will want to build out solar. To your point about renewables not filling the gap, the Wash.Post recently reported on the struggle to maintain the rate of growth of renewables. It’s always something. We are at 20% for all renewables, so depending on perspective that is either a good start or proof that renewables haven’t arrived.

            Some former environmentalist opponents of nuclear have grudgingly admitted the need for it now. America and Europe don’t seem, though, to believe that the cost and very lengthy construction time make it practical. Solar and wind can be done relatively quickly and more cheaply, if supplies are adequate and public opposition not too strong.

  3. Paul’s an old man who’s having trouble keeping up with the world. He says: “there is no such thing as electrical energy”. What? I have no idea why Page Valley News gave him specifically his own column. Maybe he pays for it? No serious, evidence based news source would print this. Reading this column is like listening to some old guy in the middle of a Walmart aisle, strangely angry about something while you try to get on with your life.

    “If someone says it’s raining, and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the window and find out which is true.”

  4. Jenny, There is no such thing as electrical energy. The US Dept. of Energy, Energy Information Agency lists the producers of energy, they are, oil, gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, solar wind, and biomass. Electricity does not make the cut. Our electricity is produced by one of the sources named above and transported by electricity to the point of use where it is converted into useful energy in many forms. Electricity is just the transfer system. Jenny, look up the sources of energy before you vilify this old man, Get serious and do your homework.

    • I stopped reading at ‘There is no such thing as electrical energy.” A day later I forced myself to read the rest. I could not determine what your opinion is on the central issues you present. I could not parse out how your examples supported your statements. My advice is to hire an editor.

      • The subtext to all Paul’s rants are: 1) climate change is real 2) it’s caused by the burning of fossil fuels 3) the planet is heating up 4) I’m old and got rich during my lifetime 5) the future isnt my problem if it inconveniences my current life 6) Ill be dead before climate change is a real problem. 7) see you later kids

        • Jenny, I’m amazed that you have figured out my “rants.” I challenge you to show me some verifiable information disproving my electrical opinions.

  5. Jenny, I’m amazed that you have figured out my “rants.” I challenge you to show me some verifiable information disproving my electrical opinions.

    • Tom, If my statements are confusing to you, ask me some questions and I will try to answer them. I am no great authority on this subject, I’m, just trying to provoke some conversation so we can all learn a little bit.

      • Mark Twain’s advice to an author included “Say what you are proposing to say, not merely come near it.” Good advice , that.

  6. Mr. Quigg is quite right when he simply states that electrical energy is generated/produced by several sources – oil, gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass – Additionally, aerial and underground systems remain the norm for moving the energy. Both aerial and underground transportation systems require construction/maintenance techniques, and materials that consume large amounts of energy and are not “green”. Given current energy supply, capacity requirements, and peak supply demands an enormous amount of space is needed for solar and wind generation and electrical energy storage sites, which typically are not near the point of sale/use or existing transmission and distribution infrastructure; solar and wind power generation has a long way to go before it is cost effective, efficient, green, and able to reliably and consistently serve the population at large.

    • Let’s agree that “green” is overused. No energy production is green except photosynthesis. What we’re talking about is working toward minimizing fossil fuels so that we can limit the extent of planetary warming. If that goal is agreed on, then solar and wind will have to be greatly expanded despite all the infrastructure needs. It’s not necessary that these renewables are able to replace fossil fuels by themselves, but they’re primary tools we have at our disposal right now. Apparently, energy suppliers see opportunity in renewables. The price is right.

      I’m not arguing about what you just said about realistically appraising the size or difficulty of the task. Also, it’s hard to see how transforming the way we produce energy happens without disruption. But if the priority is to stabilize carbon in the atmosphere, disruption could be an acceptable cost.

      • Will,

        I am not sure I understand what you mean by “disruption”. If that means interrupting the energy supply to end users, I think that is not justified. On the PJM link you can see how much energy is being generated by all of the available production means on an hourly basis. For example, in the evening when it is dark solar production on the PJM grid is significantly reduced. While at the same time, other “energy producers” are brought on line or increased to make up the difference. Energy storage is the problem that must be overcome in order for wind and solar to be effective on a large scale. Peak supply availability is critical. Currently wind and solar are not reliable sources of peak supply.

        • “Disruption” on a general level is what I was pointing to, but I’m sorry if the meaning was fuzzy. It seems clear that the fossil fuel industry will find its business disrupted as we move more to renewables. I’m assuming you’re not saying that renewables can NEVER be reliable sources of peak supply, just that they are not now.

          • I don’t agree that the energy industry will find its business disrupted. It is evolving as we type. Large segments of the fossil fuel industry are investing significant amounts of money in leading efforts to develop renewables and reduce carbon footprints – wind, solar, fuel cells, wind produced hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels, energy storage (battery technology) – to name a few.

            As technology makes advances in energy storage and supply, I think renewables will become a larger part of the energy supply portfolio. The requirements for peak demand supply are by design very tight. The ability to have large capacity stand by energy suppliers come online rapidly (I think it is currently within 5 minutes of dispatch) is crucial. PJM contracts for this type of ability.

  7. In order for folks to get a better understanding of the big picture. The links attached provide insight into the complex electrical grid, load forecasting, capacity and peak demand requirements on a large scale.

    The first link will take you to the PJM Interconnect web page, click on Markets and Operations.

    https://www.pjm.com/

    The second link provides a video about energy supply, capacity and peak demand.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk9YqmAhcmM&ab_channel=pjminterconnection

    PJM is the behind the scenes regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of electrical energy in our area.

  8. Paul Says: “We are racing to reduce fossil fuels and new renewable energy is not filling the gap.” I wonder why? (As Paul spends the last two years of his life fighting a new solar plant in Luray.)

  9. “ODEC (Old Dominion Electric Cooperative) owns and operates eleven diesel generators located at six sites in the Virginia counties of Accomack, Amelia, Highland, and Southampton. Each location has a capacity of between four and six megawatts per site. The generators, which run on ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel stored on site, are brought online to support system reliability in the event of system transmission problems.”
    So they have to have expensive backup machinery that solar farms could help a whole lot with. Solar is only good under the sun yes, but when daylight comes, so does peak demand.

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