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The Math Just Is Not There

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Tweeted the host this morning:

What he is saying there is that nuclear power generation is the only serious alternative to meet current electrical demand while reducing carbon emissions.  Thus, “climate change warnings” that do not call for nuclear power generation are, in reality, scare tactics to try and motivate redistributionist policies of one sort or the other. When it comes to wind or solar power generation, the math is just not there.  Nuclear is the only viable non-carbon emitting alternative to coal and natural gas.

All this is triggered because the IPCC has dumped a new report and we are all going to die, or something equally as catastrophic. (sarcasm alert!)  Of course, dire predictions are old news by now.

But while we are looking for electrical generation alternatives just remember, everybody wants to increase electricity demand (Significantly!) with electric cars, again to reduce carbon emissions.  But the math does not quite work there either.

See here’s the thing, consider this chart, produced by Lawrence Livermore Labs, that shows where electricity came from, and where it went in 2017 in the US.  Note that “Rejected Energy” category?  What that is telling you is that 66.7% of all the electricity generated in the United States in 2017 was somehow lost.  Basically it was bled away as heat.  It was resistance losses in transmission, losses in up and down transformations, inefficiencies in motors and other devices.  Heck, you know how sometimes when you leave you phone charging too long and it feels warm when you pick it up.  That warmth is wasted, or lost, electricity.

Let me give you just one example.  Aluminum is most commonly used for transmission of high voltage electricity, that is from generation to distribution nodes. But, “Aluminum has 61 percent of the conductivity of copper.”  Aluminum is preferred in this application because of its superior mechanical properties and lower cost.  This means engineers have figured out that despite aluminum’s poorer conductivity and thus much higher heat losses of the electricity being transmitted, its use is cheaper in the long run than the far more transmission efficient copper.  But the result is you have to generate a lot more electricity than you use.

So, back to electric cars.  Those loss figures in the chart mean you have to generate 2/3 more electricity than the car actually uses. So, given the current state of generation capability, converting to electric cars means burning a lot MORE coal or natural gas than we are now, with the resultant carbon emissions.  Furthermore, an internal combustion engine car burns the fuel directly and while there are inefficiencies in it too, they are far less significant than the 66.7% losses in electrical generation and transmission.  Thus, electric cars tend to have higher carbon emissions per mile driven than internal combustion cars if you account for all of it.  So, without a move to nuclear power generation, electric cars make almost no sense at all from a carbon emission standpoint.

DISCLAIMER: For the sake of clarity I have left out a lot of details and the actual math is far more complex than I have hinted at here.  But the general idea remains.

The market has this whole energy thing pretty well figured out.  The market rewards productivity, which includes waste and pollution.  Jumping all over it with schemes to fix one issue or the other is going to have costs not anticipated in the wildest theories of the protagonists.

Consider the example of “fixing” healthcare.  The system for providing healthcare in this nation is far more complex than people realize.  So grand schemes to try and fix it (Can you say, “Obamacare?”  I knew you could!) are going to have all sorts of unforeseen results.  The energy production and distribution system of the nation is far, far more complex than healthcare system.

Sometimes, the “solution” is worse than the problem.


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