Which would you rather have in the view from your house? A thing about the size of a domestic garage, or eight towers twice the height of Nelson’s column with blades noisily thrumming the air. The energy they can produce over ten years is similar.A drive through Palm Springs confirms the sad truth that wind turbines are an eyesore. They look allright in pictures... but you wouldn't want them in your neighborhood. Take a look for yourself.
Difficult choice? Let’s make it easier. The gas well can be hidden in a hollow, behind a hedge. The eight wind turbines must be on top of hills, because that is where the wind blows, visible for up to 40 miles. And they require the construction of new pylons marching to the towns; the gas well is connected by an underground pipe.
Unpersuaded? Wind turbines slice thousands of birds of prey in half every year, including white-tailed eagles in Norway, golden eagles in California, wedge-tailed eagles in Tasmania. There’s a video on Youtube of one winging a griffon vulture in Crete. According to a study in Pennsylvania, a wind farm with eight turbines would kill about a 200 bats a year. The pressure wave from the passing blade just implodes the little creatures’ lungs. You and I can go to jail for harming bats or eagles; wind companies are immune.
Still can’t make up your mind? The wind farm requires eight tonnes of an element called neodymium, which is produced only in Inner Mongolia, by boiling ores in acid leaving lakes of radioactive tailings so toxic no creature goes near them.
Not convinced? The gas well requires no subsidy – in fact it pays a hefty tax to the government – whereas the wind turbines each cost you a substantial add-on to your electricity bill, part of which goes to the rich landowner whose land they stand on. Wind power costs three times as much as gas-fired power. Make that nine times if the wind farm is offshore. And that’s assuming the cost of decommissioning the wind farm is left to your children – few will last 25 years.
Decided yet? I forgot to mention something. If you choose the gas well, that’s it, you can have it. If you choose the wind farm, you are going to need the gas well too. That’s because when the wind does not blow you will need a back-up power station running on something more reliable. But the bloke who builds gas turbines is not happy to build one that only operates when the wind drops, so he’s now demanding a subsidy, too.
What’s that you say? Gas is running out? Have you not heard the news? It’s not. Till five years ago gas was the fuel everybody thought would run out first, before oil and coal. America was getting so worried even Alan Greenspan told it to start building gas import terminals, which it did. They are now being mothballed, or turned into export terminals.
A chap called George Mitchell turned the gas industry on its head. Using just the right combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) – both well established technologies -- he worked out how to get gas out of shale where most of it is, rather than just out of (conventional) porous rocks, where it sometimes pools. The Barnett shale in Texas, where Mitchell worked, turned into one of the biggest gas reserves in America. Then the Haynesville shale in Louisiana dwarfed it. The Marcellus shale mainly in Pennsylvania then trumped that with a barely believable 500 trillion cubic feet of gas, as big as any oil field ever found, on the doorstep of the biggest market in the world.The Bottom Line:
The impact of shale gas in America is already huge. Gas prices have decoupled from oil prices and are half what they are in Europe. Chemical companies, which use gas as a feedstock, are rushing back from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico. Cities are converting their bus fleets to gas. Coal projects are being shelved; nuclear ones abandoned.
Not only are renewables far more expensive, intermittent and resource-depleting (their demand for steel and concrete is gigantic) than gas; they are also hugely more damaging to the environment, because they are so land-hungry. Wind kills birds and spoils landscapes; solar paves deserts; tidal wipes out the ecosystems of migratory birds; biofuel starves the poor and devastates the rain forest; hydro interrupts fish migration. Next time you hear somebody call these “clean” energy, don’t let him get away with it.
Wind cannot even help cut carbon emissions, because it needs carbon back-up, which is wastefully inefficient when powering up or down (nuclear cannot be turned on and off so fast). Even Germany and Denmark have failed to cut their carbon emissions by installing vast quantities of wind.
Yet switching to gas would hasten decarbonisation. In a combined cycle turbine gas converts to electricity with higher efficiency than other fossil fuels. And when you burn gas, you oxidise four hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom. That’s a better ratio than oil, much better than coal and much, much better than wood. Ausubel calculates that, thanks to gas, we will accelerate a relentless shift from carbon to hydrogen as the source of our energy without touching renewables.
To persist with a policy of pursuing subsidized renewable energy in the midst of a terrible recession, at a time when vast reserves of cheap low-carbon gas have suddenly become available is so perverse it borders on the insane. Nothing but bureaucratic inertia and vested interest can explain it.So are the greenies spinning their heads about this? You bet the propaganda machine is switched on Maximum BS, for example, Mr. RFK Jr is 'confused on the facts' today:
Citing the NYT Drilling Down series as the first and final word on hydraulic fracturing is nearsighted enough, but he further attempts to insult our intelligence by citing an Cornell study whose results have been refuted by two subsequentstudies, implying a link to increased incidents of breast cancer when no link has been made. He compares apples to oranges when stating an 80% reduction in Marcellus shale has reserves, treats allegations by the anti-gas community as fact and makes claims that he appears to have created out of thin air.
Remember, Gas is Clean. Not only that, it is cheap. It is less expensive than many other conventional source of energy, renewable or non-renewable. But does the current administration support it? Hardly... but that's ending soon anyways.
Thank goodness we still live in a capitalistic society, and the false promise of renewable energy is on the retreat. The free market will mean a new era of inexpensive gas energy The fable of wind, solar and 'green power' was only a means to ascend to power for its champions. It never had any promise. Long live natural gas.
Oh and there's just one more thing... that's the sound of gas blowing away wind power. You knew that was coming now, I'm sure.