Scaling up the Prospect of Tyranny
Scale generally works to reduce unit costs. Think of conventional motor vehicles and consumer goods. It’s not always the case. Sometimes scale adds to unit cost. For example, the square-metre floor-area cost of a skyscraper tends to rise as more floors are added. There is ample reason to think that scale is not the friend of wind and solar energy. In terms of area required, its lack of density means that land must be increasingly sought. Once low-hanging fruit is exhausted, more expensive land must be acquired or land further and further away from populated areas, resulting in increases in transmission costs.
Most materially, as more wind and solar replaces coal, the need for purpose-built firming is required. This cost is latent while coal power is around to fill gaps. As the penetration of wind and solar increases and replaces coal, latent costs become evident.
What is firming? Sounds small beer. It isn’t. Theoretically, unless some redundant hydro is handily available wind and solar power has to be backed 100 percent by reliable power. Natural gas is the obvious choice. Liddell at full capacity supplied 2,000 MWh of power. Kurri Kurri natural gas plant, if built, will supply 660 MWh. Bit of a gap there.
Enough (over-built) redundant wind farms and long transmission lines from where the wind is blowing to where it isn’t will fix it, won’t it? Maybe, unless a wind drought is extensive and, maybe, if sufficient wind farms can ever be built and, maybe, if 13,200 kms of high-voltage transmission lines can be built as envisaged by AEMO. Good luck with all of that. In reality, somehow or other, 100 percent firming, i.e., backup power, will be required to keep the lights on. Two adjacent power systems to replace one reliable and low-cost coal-power system. Doesn’t sound cheap does it? More wind and solar inevitably means higher per kWh costs. Diseconomies of scale prevail.
Talking of diseconomies of scale naturally leads to green hydrogen. Take the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH), northeast of Port Headland, in Western Australia. Having morphed since its start a few years ago, it is now a 26 GW project designed to produce ammonia from green hydrogen for export around the world. Envisaged is 6,500 square kilometres of wind turbines and solar panels, a desalination plant to produce sufficient pure water to support electrolysers on a vast industrial scale, supplemented with an industrial process to convert the hydrogen produced to ammonia, for safer transport. Wow, that sounds doable and affordable, doesn’t it?
Fortescue Future Industries also popped into the news earlier this month with a planned 10 GW green hydrogen “super hub” located in North Queensland. More to follow no doubt, if Australia is to become what AEMO describes as a “hydrogen super power.” Incidentally, in this event, AEMO increases the required transmission lines from 13,200 kms to 28,000 kms. And thus, one fiction builds on another.
Fictional or not, what is clear is that ‘cheap’ does not describe it. Recently the CEO of Santos compared the cost of blue hydrogen (hydrogen produced form natural gas with carbon capture) with green and suggested it was about a third the cost – and this is long before scale, i.e., when desalination plants and thousands of square kilometres of wind and solar farms and thousands of kilometres of new transmission lines are brought to bear on future costs. Does it seem remotely feasible that the AREH project and others like it will bring costs down? Not to mention, the billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money that are bound to find it their way into the coffers of green-hydrogen barons. By the way, while blue hydrogen might be far cheaper than green, using the natural gas au naturel is much cheaper still. A clue to our future energy impoverishment is in there if our liege lords bothered to notice.
How about electric cars? Scale is not their friend either. They will need increasingly expensive and scarce green power to run. Millions of charging points in homes and thousands on highways. Electricians and power required; apply within. And millions upon millions of batteries dependent on materials that are increasingly costly to mine. Never mind those awful crashes of two-tonne cars and the resulting unputoutable fires. My guess is that EVs will prove to be bridge too far even for the great and good. Petroleum is just too obviously (densely) efficient. Harder to get rid of than is coal. Nevertheless, much damage is on the way before reality clashes with pipedreams.
Where will it end? Nowhere good. I need to segue into the woke corporate world.
Woke is an old word with a new meaning. It has lexiconic company. To wit, micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, safe-spaces, critical race theory, intersectionality, DEI (diversity equity and inclusion), ESG (environment social and governance), LGBTQ+, transphobia, non-binary pronouns, etc. Sorry, I might be behind the eight ball, but a new one only recently came to my attention. Namely, Scope 3 emissions. Call them busybody emissions.
Scope 3 emissions are those not directly under the control of corporate giants but about which they are now deeply, deeply concerned. These are the emissions of their suppliers, their customers and their employees. A report (roadmap) on this matter was issued by the Climate Leaders Coalition (all the major woke Australian companies you can think of) on 22 November.
What do you think of when government and big corporations share the same agenda? An unholy alliance? Indeed, let there be no doubt. Tyranny is in the wings. Not just because of the unholy alliance. Critically, also, because the make-believe plans of governments and corporations to cut emissions to net zero will not work; cannot work. Think of communist regimes. Their plans don’t deliver the goods and, thus, they inevitably resort to force to keep their populations in check.
When energy prices soar and blackouts ensue, as they will, forced rationing will become a fact of everyday life. Teals, and well-to-do others, will live in energy-secure gated communities. Worry not for their coiffured heads.
Smart meters will control the electricity usage of the hoi polloi. The days of cosy warm rooms in winter or cool rooms in summer will end. Traveling will be restricted. Verboten for those breaching public order; like protesting. Corporates, in league with governments, will monitor the energy usage of their suppliers, customers and employees. Penalties and cancellations await the recalcitrant. Apropos, just read in my morning paper (26 November) that ANZ has threatened to reduce exposure to customers “who have not improved [their] carbon-reduction plans.”
Those who doubt that this tumbling into tyranny will happen, don’t understand the knife edge of Western civilisation on which we teeter. Christianity and capitalism brought us our prosperity and freedoms – a very rare condition in the history of mankind. Christianity is under constant attack and is almost undone. Capitalism is a derivative of Christian values and cheap abundant energy. Capitalism can’t be reset as Klaus Schwab and his elite WEF mates maintain. However, it can be replaced with a new version of fascism.