Clean Renewable Energy leaves India Vulnerable to more Massive Power Blackouts

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 25th, 2012

Week in Review

Hydroelectric power is the king of renewable energy.  The fuel is free.  It doesn’t burn.  It doesn’t pollute.  It’s quiet.  They can produce power when the sun doesn’t shine (unlike solar power).  And they can produce power when the wind doesn’t blow (unlike wind power).  Their reservoirs make scenic lakes and wildlife areas.  And after they’re built they don’t need a complicated infrastructure or masses of workers running around acres of land to keep them running.  They really only have one drawback.  You have no control over that free fuel (see More Power Blackouts Expected In India by Kenneth Rapoza posted 8/20/2012 on Forbes).

Between lackluster rainfall during monsoon season and a nasty political imbroglio in the capital city, India seems to be going back to the past.

And now, the northern states, including Delhi, could face power outages yet again as three small hydroelectric power stations have been shut down.  Combined, they run about 3,000 megawatts of electricity. Electricity generated at those power plants is distributed to 28 per cent of Indian households.

At the end of last month, back to back power outages gave way to power surges that unleashed quite a bit of chaos for over 600 million people affected.  In the last week of July, around 360 million people lost power in northern India due to excessive demand and a shortfall in hydropower. On July 31, power resumed in Delhi only to fail again the next day, with the chaos spreading to Calcutta and other parts of eastern India.

This is why reliable coal-fired power plants typically provide the majority of baseload power requirements.  The minimum amount of power we consistently use throughout the year.  Because a coal-fired power plant can also produce power when the sun doesn’t shine or when the wind doesn’t blow.  And they can even produce power when the monsoons don’t come.  You can call coal Mr. Reliable when it comes to power generation.  Old Faithful.  Mr. Dependable.  The Life Saver and Comfort Giver.  No matter the heat or humidity a coal-fired power plant will say, “Give me coal and I will keep your lights on and your air conditioners running.  In your homes.  In your hospitals.  In your restaurants.  Wherever you go.  Whatever your needs.  To help you back to good health.  Or so you can simply relax at the end of a hot, humid and exhausting day.  Give me coal and I will provide for you.”

But, alas, the government of India is trying to reduce India’s carbon footprint.  And is pursuing wind and solar power.  In fact they have just connected the world’s largest solar power plant to their electric grid.  Gujarat Solar Park.  Covering some 11 sites spread over 3,000 acres.  Putting some 600 megawatts onto the grid.  Replacing about 20% of what those three small hydroelectric dams were putting on the grid.  That is, the world’s largest solar power plant can only produce what three small hydroelectric dams can produce.  And that’s only when the sun shines.  An incredible investment of capital that did not prevent in any way the back to back massive power failures that left 360 million people without power.  Which is more than the entire population of the United States.  Which is about 314 million.  Just to give you an idea of how big this power failure was.

Just think what that massive investment in solar power could have done in the northern states of India.  Instead of tilting at windmills.  The global warming boogeyman.  They could have rebuilt the electric grid.  Added a coal-fired power plant or two.  And paid for who knows how much coal.  Had the Indian government done that the good people of India probably would not have suffered through back to back power outages.  Not with Mr. Reliable on the scene.  Who laughs at large power loads.  Because he can produce power every hour of every day of every season.  The way people like their power.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #57: “Environmental policy is a zero-sum policy; save the planet, kill man.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 15th, 2011

What do Cows and Dinosaurs have in Common?  They’re both a little Gassy.

Bovine flatulence contributes to global warming.  That’s a theory at least.  Cows fart.  It’s a byproduct of the digestion process.  Like with people.  As things break down chemical things happen.  It releases nutrients.  And gas.  Methane.  Until nothing is left but solid waste.  The nutrients help other things grow (people, animals, plants, etc.).  And the gas just dissipates into the atmosphere.  Or annoys your significant other when you do it under the covers.  We poop the solid waste.  As do cows.

But farts aren’t just fun and games.  Because the chemical compound for methane is CH4.  That’s one Carbon atom and four Hydrogen atoms.  In other words, methane is a hydrocarbon.  As in carbon footprint.  Yes, that’s right, methane is a greenhouse gas.  And cows are indiscriminately farting it out like there’s no tomorrow.  And the larger the human population gets, the more cows we raise for food.  Which means more cows are farting.  Which creates more greenhouse gases.  Which leads to more global warming.

So you can see it’s a problem.  All this farting.  I mean, it’s one of the theories why the dinosaurs went extinct.  Dinosaur farts.  Of course this raises an interesting point.  Currently, man is causing global warming by raising more and more cows to feed our growing population.  Among other things.  Man wasn’t around for the dinosaurs, though.  They killed themselves off without any help from man.  Which can mean only one thing.  That global warming predated man.  Or the dinosaur theory is a silly theory.

It’s Man or the Environment

So while smug environmentalists may enjoy the smell of their own farts, they want to cut back on bovine flatulence.  And the easiest way to do that is to just have fewer cows.  Reduce the food supply.  And gamble with our lives with that smaller food supply.  That’s because they worry about the planet today.  They don’t care what happened in the past.  Whether dinosaurs raised the earth’s temperature more than man has ever done.  Or that there were ice ages.  And that those ice ages ended.  Without man’s help.

Once upon a time the glaciers covered a lot more of the earth than they do today.  And when they last melted there were no man-made greenhouse gases.  Except maybe a camp fire or two.  And the occasional fart.  Man did less than at any other time in his existence to warm the planet.  Yet the planet warmed.  So much so that the glaciers moved farther than they have in the last 2,000 years of man’s existence.  Something warmed the planet back then.  And it sure wasn’t man.

But today it is only man who is responsible for global warming.  With his man-made greenhouse gases.  From our polluting industries.  Or from the cows we raise to eat.  Man has been the curse of this fair planet.  And the more advanced he got the greater his environmental destruction has been.  In fact, the environmentalist will say that the world was a better place before man came along to spoil it.  And a lot of what they do today tries to right this great wrong. 

Bigger, Heavier and Safer or Fuel Economy

Engineering is a balance between tradeoffs.  Take cars, for example.  There are two driving features of cars these days.  Safety.  And fuel economy.  They’ve made a lot of safety innovations in the last few decades.  Seatbelts.  Crumble zones.  Airbags.  Telescoping steering wheels.  And the list goes on.  And we added a lot of these because of that other feature.  Fuel economy.  To get better gas mileage we made cars smaller.  And lighter.  And a smaller and lighter car does not fare well in an accident with a bigger and heavier car or truck.  So the tradeoff between fuel economy and safety really became a tradeoff between fuel economy and people.

The environmentalist is okay with this.  In fact, they added to this tradeoff.  With the emissions equipment they want.  Catalytic converter.  Secondary air injection.  Evaporative emissions control.  Etc.  Pop the hood on a car today and much of what you see is for emissions control.  More equipment added to the car.  Some of which is belt-driven.  Increasing the car weight.  And the engine load.  Requiring weight reductions elsewhere to meet required CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations.  Thus making cars less survivable in accidents.

Some will argue, though, that cars are safer today than when they were all big and heavy.  Well, yes, cars are safer today compared to the bigger and heavier cars we used to drive.  But if you put seatbelts and airbags into those bigger and heavier cars, they would be safer than the cars today.  How do we know that?  Because we have cars today that are a lot like those bigger and heavier cars of yesteryear.  We call them SUVs.  And they are very popular.  Especially with parents who have kids to drive around.  Because they are bigger and heavier and safer.  And parents are more than willing to spend a little more in gas to drive those big honking things around to protect their kids.

From Global Cooling to Global Warming

But there are other tradeoffs besides fuel economy and people.  There’s the tradeoff between energy and people.  As populations grow they need more energy.  The energy of choice is electricity.  Produced by power plants that burn fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).  Fossil fuels are, of course, hydrocarbons.  Those poor, hated, misunderstood hydrocarbons.  When we burn these to make electricity we create greenhouse gases.  And you know what that does?  That’s right.  Global warming.  At least, that’s what the environmentalists tell us.

There was another alternative.  Nuclear power.  It’s clean.  But there was a big problem with that.  A movie.  The China Syndrome.  And then Three Mile Island.  Both in 1979.  A growing nuclear power industry came to a screeching halt.  And we haven’t built another nuclear plant since.  The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island released a negligible about of radioactive steam into the atmosphere.  But the safety features worked as designed.  There was no China Syndrome.  But there was a movie.  And that was enough.  Nuclear power became the redheaded stepchild of energy generation.

There wasn’t a lot of talk about global warming in 1979.  Back then we were still talking about global cooling and the approaching ice age.  Then things changed.  The Nineties were all about global warming.  So not only did we shut down the nuclear industry, they so attacked fossil fuels that opening a new power plant was a regulatory nightmare.  So by the end of that decade our energy demands were taxing our energy supply.  Blackouts were becoming more and more common.  The elderly and infirmed suffered during these power outages.  Some died from heat stroke because there was no air conditioning.  With no escape from the heat there was other trouble.  Hot temperatures created hot tempers.  Often resulting in violence.  Looting.  And murder.

The Smug and Pretentious

The theory of global warming is a theory.  And not a very good one at that.  As those emails leaked from the University of East Anglia clearly showed (they were massaging the data to support the theory).  And making policy based on this theory has consequences.  It has altered the free market.  Regulated our lives.  Reduced our liberty.  And killed people.

No surprise, really.  Because environmentalists hate man and his impact on the planet.  So a few deaths along the way is a small price to pay.  And it thins out the herd of some of the less desirable.  Those who drive.  And energy hogs who use air conditioning.  But the environmentalist will live in his air conditioned ocean-side mansion (Al Gore).  But that’s okay.  Because some people have to show the way for the rest of us.  Not by example.  But by telling us how to live our lives.  Because caring is enough for them.  Makes them special.  Better than us.  So these smug and pretentious can sit back and enjoy their big carbon footprints.  And spend their days enjoying the smell of their own farts. 

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