California Set to Squander Billions on Offshore Wind

It’s about time Californians of all ideological persuasions wake up and stop what is possibly the most economically wasteful and environmentally destructive project in American history: the utility scale adoption of offshore wind energy. 

The California Legislature intends to despoil our coastline and coastal waters with floating wind turbines, 20+ miles offshore, tethered to the sea floor 4,000 feet beneath the waves. Along with tethering cables, high voltage wires will descend from each of these noisy, 1,000 foot tall leviathans, but we’re to assume none of this will disrupt the migrations of our treasured Cetaceans and other marine and avian life, not the electric fields emanating from hundreds (thousands?) of 20+ mile long live power lines laid onto the ocean floor, nor from the construction, the maintenance, or the new ports, ships, and submersibles.

This article from Politico, published September 1, seems to celebrate the passage of AB 1373, which authorizes the California Dept. of Water Resources to go “shopping for offshore wind.” It includes this quote, “’Central procurement makes offshore wind possible,’ said Martin Goff, California project director for the Norwegian developer Equinor.” And massive subsidies, perhaps? 

One month earlier, in August, Equinor pulled out of the Trollvind project in the North Sea because of unforeseen challenges including “technology availability, time constraints, and rising costs that made the project commercially unsustainable.” Also in August, Equinor sought “a 54 percent increase for the price of power produced at three planned U.S. wind farms” off the coast of New York. In the face of a likely denial, Equinor announced it could cancel U.S. offshore wind projects. In November 2021, Equinor abandoned a 1.4 GW floating wind farm off the shores of Ireland. 

With these financial failures behind them, Equinor is betting California can deliver a level of subsidies that were denied elsewhere, killing those projects. They’re probably right.

Last month Cal Matters published a reasonably balanced report describing local reaction to planned offshore wind developments in San Luis Obispo and Humboldt counties. But while the article quoted a paid proponent of the project dismissing skeptics as NIMBYs, it didn’t investigate the possibility of wind industry contributions flowing into the political campaigns of local elected officials, along with the bank accounts of supportive nonprofits, tribes, and media properties. Hundreds of billions in California taxpayer funded subsidies are at stake. 

The Cal Matters article reported the California Energy Commission’s goal to achieve 25 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity. Hasn’t anyone calculated what that’s going to look like? Here is a best case scenario.

Even if these machines had a 40 percent yield, which is a realistic estimate of how frequently there will be enough wind to turn the rotors, and even if each machine had a capacity of 10 megawatts, 2,500 of them would be required to generate 10 gigawatts of baseload power.

Floating wind turbines with a capacity of 10 megawatts have barely been prototyped and have no long-term record of durability. As designed, each one is 1,000 feet from the waterline to the tip of the blade, and also require a commensurate flotation vessel and counterweight below the waterline. From tip to tip, they are longer than a U.S. Navy supercarrier.

Because these machines only generate power intermittently, generating 10 baseload gigawatts would require proportionate battery storage, along with thousands of miles of new undersea and land based high voltage lines. All this would only deliver 10 percent of the 100 gigawatt generating capacity Californians are going to need if the state legislature succeeds in forcing our residential and transportation sectors to go all-electric.

To get an idea of the environmental impact of offshore wind turbines, this article from the California Policy Center provides useful links to additional reports on the environmental destruction wrought by wind energy, both onshore and offshore. Wind turbines aren’t just Condor Cuisinarts. Along with raptors, condors, and other magnificent endangered birds, they kill bats and insects – their blades are at the altitude insect species migrate. 

Offshore, it’s worse. According to a recent study sponsored by a New England commercial fishing association, electromagnetic fields from undersea cables produce birth deformities in marine life and produce magnetic fields that disrupt the orientation abilities of some fish. Their low frequency operational noise disrupts sounds made by fish for mating, spawning, and navigating. The turbines “increase sea surface temperatures and alter upper-ocean hydrodynamics in ways scientists do not yet understand,” and “whip up sea sediment and generate highly turbid wakes that are 30-150 meters wide and several kilometers in length, having a major impact on primary production by phytoplankton which are the base of marine food chains.” 

Support for offshore wind by environmentalist organizations is inexplicable. Apparently, just say the magic words “climate crisis,” and anything goes.

In California, environmentalist safeguards, always a good idea, have been taken to extremes. On the California coast, hyper-regulation is the norm. Natural gas fueled generating plants situated on the California coast are being decommissioned. Diablo Canyon nuclear power station is one regulatory hiccough away from its demise. A desalination plant that would have made Orange County completely independent of imported water was struck down last year by the coastal commission. As for offshore rigs harvesting from some of the biggest reservoirs of oil and gas in the world? Shut them down! 

But if you want to stick thousands of floating wind turbines offshore, at stupefying cost, California’s Byzantine bureaucracy and captive taxpayers are here to help.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

Offshore Wind is an Economic and Environmental Catastrophe

When it comes to “renewables” wreaking havoc on the environment, wind turbines have stiff competition. For example, over 500,000 square miles of biofuel plantations have already replaced farms and forests to replace a mere 4 percent of transportation fuel. To source raw materials to build “sustainable” batteries, mining operations are scaling up, with no end in sight, in nations with appalling labor conditions and nonexistent environmental regulations. But the worst offender is the wind industry.

America’s wind power industry somehow manages to attract almost no negative coverage in the press, or litigation from environmentalists, despite causing some of the most obvious and tragic environmental catastrophes so far this century. Last August I wrote about the ongoing slaughter of whales off America’s northeast coast thanks to construction of offshore wind turbines:

“When you detonate massive explosives, repeatedly drive steel piles into the ocean floor with a hydraulic hammer, and blast high decibel sonar mapping signals underwater, you’re going to harm animals that rely on sound to orient themselves in the ocean. To say it is mere coincidence that hundreds of these creatures have washed ashore, dead, all of a sudden, during precisely the same months when the blasting and pounding began, is brazen deception.”

Nonetheless, when the story can’t be buried, deception is the strategy. Not one major environmental organization, government watchdog agency, or media outlet has called for a slowdown in industrial offshore wind projects. Instead, they repeatedly claim these allegations are misinformation. And from that paragon of truth,, we get this: “No Evidence Offshore Wind Development Killing Whales.”

Let’s set aside the obvious negative impact on whale populations of tens of thousands of marine surveying and construction sorties into offshore areas where shipping traffic has never before been concentrated, or the impact of noise and explosions on not one site, such as would be the case with a lone oil rig, but on thousands of sites, each one being prepared for an offshore wind turbine. The destruction wrought by wind turbines extends well beyond what it’s doing to whales.

report just released by a New England fishermen association summarizes research they completed on offshore wind projects. Their findings are stunning. Just the geographic extent of these proposed offshore wind projects is unprecedented. According to the report, “Federal regulators at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have designated almost 10 million acres for wind farm surveys and development.” That is over 15,000 square miles.

Not included in that allocation are the corridors where high voltage lines will have to cross the ocean floor to transfer electricity from the turbines to land-based power grids. The report found that “electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emanating from subsea cables appear to produce birth deformities in juvenile lobster.” That’s just the beginning.

The report also found that wind farms “increase sea surface temperatures and alter upper-ocean hydrodynamics in ways scientists do not yet understand,” and “whip up sea sediment and generate highly turbid wakes that are 30-150 meters wide and several kilometers in length, having a major impact on primary production by phytoplankton which are the base of marine food chains.” And there’s more.

Wind turbines “generate operational noise in a low frequency range (less than 700 Hz) with most energy concentrated between 2 and 200 Hz. This frequency range overlaps with that used by fish for communication, mating, spawning, and spatial movement,” and “high voltage direct current undersea cables produce magnetic fields that negatively affect the drifting trajectory of haddock larvae by interfering with their magnetic orientation abilities.” Haddock are “a significant portion of U.S. commercial fish landings and are an important component of the marine food chain.”

Nothing to see here, right?

What’s going on off the coast of New England is being allowed to happen because of disgraceful negligence on the part of America’s environmentalist community. What’s about to happen in California is just as bad, and is proceeding without any organized opposition or serious criticism.

Earlier this year, the federal government leased 583 square miles of deep ocean waters off the coast of California for offshore wind farms. When the first phase of these offshore wind developments are completed, these wind farms will deliver 4.5 gigawatts of “clean” electricity to the California grid. That may sound like a lot of electricity. It’s not.

To begin with, even offshore wind only blows intermittently. The most optimistic projections for the actual yield of these turbines are never more than 50 percent. This means that in terms of baseload power, only 2.25 gigawatts will come from these new offshore wind farms. California’s average electricity consumption is 32 gigawatts (of which only 22 gigawatts are produced in-state), which means if these offshore wind farms are ever completed, they’ll supply a mere 6 percent of California’s current electricity demand – the same amount currently coming from Diablo Canyon, California’s last operating nuclear power plant. But how many turbines will this take, and what will they look like?

The biggest wind turbines in the world can now produce 10 megawatts at full output. To generate this much electricity, these machines are 1,000 feet tall, which is more than three times higher than the Statue of Liberty from the water line to the tip of the torch. To achieve a collective capacity at full output of 4.5 gigawatts, 450 of these would have to be built, floated 20 miles offshore, anchored to the seabed with cables nearly a mile long, then from each one a high voltage line would also have to descend 4,000 feet to reach the ocean floor, where it would then lie on the sea bed – some proposals actually call for them to be buried – to transmit electricity to the onshore power grid. Four hundred and fifty floating wind turbines, each one of them with vertical dimensions that are longer than a modern aircraft supercarrier. There are huge and unresolved engineering hurdles involved in developing large floating wind turbines.

Bear in mind, if California’s state legislature gets its way, and the state goes fully electric – think all space heaters, water heaters, dryers, along with all trucks, buses and cars going fully electric – electricity demand will more than triple. While it’s hypothetical, the math is simple and revealing: to get 100 gigawatts of baseload power from offshore wind, you would need 20,000 turbines. And imagine all the high voltage distribution lines, and all the batteries to buffer the massive surges of intermittent power.

To somewhat return to reality, we must acknowledge that none of California’s enlightened planners intend to use offshore wind to generate 100 percent of California’s renewable electricity. But in one of the most reputable mainstream studies produced to date, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, Mark Jacobson, completed a series of simulations, culminating in a report released in December 2021 that called for 20 percent of California’s electricity to derive from offshore wind. Making more conservative assumptions regarding the size of each offshore turbine and the yield, he predicted more than 12,000 offshore wind turbines would be required.

Imagine the logistics.

How many ships will this take? How many submarines and divers? How many port facilities? How many new homes for the construction workers? What about the undersea power cables? What about the storage batteries needed to buffer nearly 20 gigawatts of on again, off again electricity? What about the ongoing maintenance? What about the raw materials needed to build all these leviathans? What about the billions and billions of dollars that will flow into the pockets of the special interests behind this disaster of a project, paid by taxpayers and ratepayers?

Overall, Jacobson’s study projected about one-third of California’s electricity to come from a combination of onshore and offshore wind turbines. Shall we reiterate what else we already know about wind turbines? Their slaughter of raptors, bats, and insects? Their incessant, low frequency sound that is audible for miles and, despite “debunking” articles that defy basic common sense, drives people and animals nuts? The visual blight? The staggering quantity of materials required for their manufacture, and the difficult if not impossible task of recycling the materials after they’ve reached the end of their service life?

Where are the environmentalists?

Where, for that matter, are the economists? Is the mantra “climate crisis” so powerful that literally anything goes, including a scheme that delivers not only environmental but economic catastrophe? In 2020, an in-depth financial analysis by the Manhattan Institute documented how “offshore wind’s costs will far exceed its benefits.” And that was before the supply chain problems, inflation, and interest rate hikes that have forced offshore wind developers from New England to California to greatly increase required rates, or pull out of projects altogether.

Imagine if this was an oil rig, a desalination plant, or a nuclear power plant. The opposition would be apoplectic, and that is not hypothetical conjecture. California had a chance to build another major desalination plant which would have supplied 55,000 acre feet per year of drought proof fresh water to the residents of Orange County, population 3 million. Along with other projects in the works, this desalination plant could have made that relatively arid coastal county completely independent of imported water. But environmentalists fought the project at every turn, and in May 2022, in a unanimous vote, the California Coastal Commission denied the construction permit.

As for oil and gas, California’s state legislators are doing everything they can to destroy production in the state. Despite having massive reserves of oil and gas, Californians have to import more than 75 percent of their oil and more than 90 percent of their natural gas. And when it comes to nuclear power, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, California’s last one, narrowly escapes regulatory shutdown every few years, despite being designed to operate well past the middle of this century.

The scandalous double standard at work here can only be attributed to a combination of powerful special interests representing the wind power industry, interacting with a state legislature and environmentalist movement that is either bought off or alarmingly stupid. As it is, hundreds of billions of taxpayer subsidies are on track to pay for offshore wind. If it is not stopped, it will be one of the most egregious cases of economic waste and environmental destruction in human history.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Newsom’s Disastrous Offshore Wind Strategy

Earlier this year, after the federal government leased 583 square miles of deep ocean waters off the coast of California for offshore wind farms, California Governor Newsom said “offshore wind energy has gone from a distant pipedream to a burgeoning reality.” But when it comes to “renewable energy,” it is difficult to imagine an energy project more impractical, more costly, more fraught with potential for disaster, or more certain to wreak environmental havoc.

When completed, these wind farms will deliver 4.5 gigawatts of “clean” electricity to the California grid. That may sound like a lot of electricity. It’s not.

To begin with, because even offshore wind only blows intermittently, the actual yield of these turbines will be around 40 percent, which equates to 1.8 gigawatts of baseload power. That represents 5 percent of California’s current electricity consumption. If California goes all electric, which the state legislature remains absolutely committed to achieving, it will represent at best 2 percent of the electricity the state is going to need to generate. Two percent. But what is it going to take to get the proposed 1.8 gigawatts off offshore wind energy?

The biggest wind turbines in the world can now produce 10 megawatts at full output. To generate this much electricity, these machines are 1,000 feet tall, which is nearly four times higher than the Statue of Liberty including its base. These towering monstrosities are intended to float in the Pacific Ocean, remaining upright through storms, tsunamis and earthquakes, remaining in a fixed position via cables stretching from the bottom of the floating tower to anchors in the seabed over 4,000 feet under water.

What could possibly go wrong? Along with the natural disruptions, what about the impact of these turbines on birds, whales, other avian and aquatic life, or on planes, or boats and ships? But understanding just how problematic building just one of these turbines is going to be is magnified by what ought to be simple and compelling math. Because to generate 1.8 net gigawatts – a mere 2 percent of the electricity California’s legislature aspires to generate to achieve their “net zero” objectives – it will be necessary to build and float 450 of these 10 megawatt turbines. Imagine the logistics.

How many ships will this take? How many submarines and divers? How many port facilities? How many new homes for the construction workers? What about the undersea power cables? What about the storage batteries needed to buffer 4.5 gigawatts of on again, off again electricity? What about the ongoing maintenance? What about the raw materials needed to build all these leviathans? What about the billions and billions of dollars that will flow into the pockets of the special interests behind this disaster of a project, paid by taxpayers and ratepayers?

It is understandable that the people running a state as wealthy as California, with a culture of pioneering innovation that goes back nearly two centuries, would be inspired to set an example to the world. But the fatal flaw in California’s renewable energy strategy is that other nations aren’t going to follow this example. For everyone on earth to consume half as much energy per capita as Americans do, global energy production needs to double. Because energy is the foundation of prosperity, this needs to happen fast, and it needs to be affordable.

What Californians ought to be doing is developing new energy infrastructure that is practical and cost-effective. For example, instead of decommissioning its natural gas power plants, the state could upgrade them to the most advanced technologies available. Current combined-cycle designs harvest waste heat from the natural-gas-fired turbine to produce steam to drive a second turbine; new designs replace steam with helium, greatly improving efficiency.

For that matter, of course, why aren’t Californians at the forefront of both small modular and large next-generation nuclear reactor development? Why isn’t there a nuclear power plant in California that not only generates emissions free gigawatts of electricity, but utilizes the nuclear waste to produce still more electricity, rendering the eventual waste stream far less hazardous and harvesting far more electricity from each unit of fuel input?

When it comes to transportation, why hasn’t California’s legislature made a priority of widening and upgrading its roads and freeways to accommodate high speed, self-driving vehicles? And why did California’s state legislature ban, starting in 2035, the sale of advanced hybrids? Why is an all electric vehicle, requiring a half-ton or more of battery payload, plus a steel chassis to support all the extra weight, the only option? Why are hybrid vehicles excluded, with their much smaller batteries that harvest energy otherwise wasted from braking and downhill momentum? How can California’s lawmakers begin to predict what new advances may arise in hybrid technology, wherein the emissions from new combustible fuels may become negligible?

These are questions that ought to be front and center in Sacramento. Instead, Gavin Newsom is prioritizing offshore wind farms at a stupefying financial and environmental cost. California, and America, can indeed set an example to the world, but only if it is an example the world is willing to follow. When it comes to energy infrastructure, that boring but nonnegotiable prerequisite for any prosperous civilization, California has yet to live up to its illustrious legacy or its undeniable potential.

A condensed version of this article originally appeared in City Journal.

Elon Musk’s Vision of Abundance

“There is a clear path to a fully sustainable earth, with abundance.”
– Elon Musk, Tesla Investor Presentation, March 2023

Whatever else critics may say about Elon Musk—e.g., he’s an eccentric tycoon, adroitly hogging the trough of government subsidies—he is nonetheless an extraordinary entrepreneur who will be remembered by history as perhaps the most brilliant industrialist of the 21st century. So it is encouraging to hear this influential billionaire claim humanity can move into a future of sustainable abundance. This sets Musk apart from virtually every other member of the global elite, not merely because of his optimistic rhetoric but because of his achievements.

Those of us who remain skeptical of both the potential of “renewables” to deliver the energy required by civilization, as well as of the motives of those who promote them, should evaluate Musk’s case for sustainable abundance. Many of his claims are indisputable, and separating those solid assertions from the more dubious ones can be enlightening.

When Musk says the planet can sustain a population much larger than the current 8 billion, most conservatives would agree with him. His outlook is supported by the evidence of history, known reserves of mineral and fuel resources, and the potential for ongoing innovation.

The debate, once you dispense with a Malthusian mindset, is over how best to achieve worldwide prosperity. Specifically, what technology choices offer the most cost-effective and practical path to abundant and affordable energy? Musk’s choice is to electrify everything.

While much of the support for electrifying everything is based on achieving “net zero,” and much of Tesla’s “Master Plan Part 3, Sustainable Energy for All the Earth” attempts to show how each economic sector can be electrified, there is a case for electrification that has nothing to do with concerns about fossil fuel emissions and the climate.

It rests instead on the inherent efficiency of electricity versus combustion.

To understand the reasoning behind this claim, one must make a distinction between the amount of energy put into any device and the amount of useful energy that device delivers. For example, Musk makes a case for electrification based on the fact that both heat pumps (for heating and cooling) and electric motors will deliver the same amount of useful heating, cooling, and traction using one-third as much electricity when compared with fossil fuel. That is, an electric heat pump is three times more energy efficient than a gas furnace, and an electric motor uses energy three times more efficiently than a gasoline engine.

The following flow chart, compiled by Tesla using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), shows how energy inputs (on the left)—fossil fuels, renewables, and biomass—are converted either into electricity or directly into useful heat and motion in the four primary economic sectors: industry, transportation, residential, and commercial. Using petawatthours as the primary energy unit, what is most pertinent in this flowchart is the fact that only one-third of the energy put into the system as fuel comes out the other end as useful work. Two-thirds is lost to friction and heat.

Tesla’s compilation is validated by other analyses and is beyond serious debate. The next flowchart shows the same analysis as compiled by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This also uses data from the IEA, this time from 2011, but shows the energy inputs broken out by wind, nuclear, hydro, solar, geothermal, natural gas, coal, biomass, and petroleum. The boxes on the left, by the way, are not proportional to the amount of energy they represent, but the numbers within the boxes reveal accurate proportions.

Summing them up, non-combustion energy inputs in 2011 only contributed 8 percent to global energy input. More to the point, on the right side of the flowchart, the ratio between “rejected energy” versus “energy services” corroborates with Tesla’s analysis. The world’s current energy technologies can only harvest and use about one-third of their raw energy input.

It’s the Energy Output That Counts

The opportunity indicated by the data in these flowcharts is clear enough. If electricity can convert energy inputs into energy outputs at a higher level of efficiency, then people can enjoy the same energy services while consuming far less raw fuel. The next flowchart, coming from Tesla’s plan, depicts a hypothetical global energy economy based on total electrification. The primary takeaway from this chart is its estimate that in an electrified economy, two-thirds of the raw fuel inputs can be converted into useful work—heat, traction, etc.—versus only one-third in a mostly combustion-based economy. Based on current technologies, this is a plausible estimate; it may even be a low estimate.

There are, however, at least two cautionary qualifications to all this enthusiasm for electrifying the global economy.

The first concerns just how much energy will be required to enable an adequate standard of living for everyone on Earth. For example, when converting all units of energy—such as gasoline and natural gas—into equivalent units of electricity, per capita end use of energy by Americans in 2021 was 29,041 kilowatt hours. It is reasonable to expect that at an absolute minimum, a reasonable target for per capita net energy consumption worldwide will need to be around half that much, or 15,000 kilowatt hours per person per year. For 8 billion people, that adds up to 120 petawatt-hours, or 160 percent of what Tesla estimates will be necessary.

To be clear, this 15,000-kilowatt-hour target is not energy input, it’s based on half of what Americans consume per capita after implementing the ultra-efficient electrification of their economy. So it isn’t valid to suggest that everyone on the planet will attain a quality of life equivalent to Americans, even if they only attain an energy end-use consumption of half as much as Americans currently enjoy.

To live with half as much end-user energy services means to cut back. That is baked into these numbers. Less end-use energy means less industry, less transportation, and fewer household comforts and consumer goods. We can debate the virtues of a rationed world, but delivering half as much net energy globally as Americans currently enjoy is not abundance.

As it is, Tesla’s projections estimate only 9,100 kilowatt hours of net energy per person per year in their vision of a built-out, electrified world, which is only one-third of what Americans consume. Realistically, the electrified world Tesla is envisioning will probably need to deliver about twice as much energy—around 140 petawatt-hours per year—to enable the abundance they rightly claim is feasible.

How Will Electricity Be Produced?

It’s fair to acknowledge that unforeseen energy innovations may drive the threshold for global energy abundance down closer to 72 petawatt-hours per year than the level that, at present, seems necessary: 140 petawatt-hours per year.

But when it comes to global electrification, what devices will be generating and consuming those petawatt-hours is the other big question. While Elon Musk’s optimism about resource availability is commendable, it is not at all clear that the resources required to produce “renewable” electricity derived from wind turbines and solar panels, as well as the resources to consume electricity, for example, in the form of all-electric vehicles, would require fewer resources than are currently used to produce conventional energy in all its forms.

To properly verify the assertions made in Tesla’s “Materials Required” tables would require sourcing multiple reports on material intensity in wind turbines, solar panels, transformers, transmission lines, and batteries, reserves of at least 20 critical raw materials needed to manufacture these products, data on current levels of raw materials extraction, and estimates of how new technologies may reduce the required quantities of materials. That’s not easy, to say the least, but Tesla’s plan takes a stab at it.

In Figure 17 of the Tesla Plan, two graphs reveal an ironic optimism regarding availability of critical materials. The first graph, “What People Think Happens,” shows “Global Reserves” on the vertical axis, and years 2002 through 2022 on the horizontal axis. The line slopes downwards to reflect the common assumption that we will run out of minerals. The second graph, “What Actually Happens,” shows global reserves of critical materials trending upwards instead of downwards along these same axes. There’s irony here because this is the argument proponents of fossil fuels have been making—and validating—for years. And it’s revealing that they feel they have to make this argument at all.

Plenty of researchers challenge Tesla’s claim that fewer raw materials are required for the solar- and wind-powered economy than for an all-of-the-above energy economy that also utilizes nuclear, hydroelectric, and gas/oil/coal. They would include Peter Ziehan in his many publications including, The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization, Alex Epstein in Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas–Not Less, and Robert Bryce in his podcast and recent book A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations. The perspective of these and other reputable critics of precipitous conversion to wind, solar, and all-electric vehicles is a necessary balance to studies such as the Tesla Plan.

If there is a shortage today of anything, it would be people willing and able to criticize the green “net zero” bandwagon that has coopted every opportunistic politician and profit-driven corporate special interest in the Western world. Properly analyzing and critiquing Tesla’s Plan for converting the world to a “net-zero” electrified economy would require effort commensurate to the effort that went into writing it. It’s a big job.

Who will question the glib suggestion that 111,563 square miles of photovoltaic installations and 14,375 square miles of wind turbines will not have debilitating and climate-altering impacts through the heat island effect of the solar farms, and weather-altering energies being subtracted from the tradewinds? Who will question the absolutely preposterous, ridiculously, scandalously false, agenda-driven estimate that only 14,375 square miles is all it will take to produce 12,200 gigawatts of wind-generated electricity?

Elon Musk is right about one thing: There is a clear path to a fully sustainable Earth, with abundance, and the planet can easily support a population well in excess of the current 8 billion. But getting there through an all-of-the-above energy strategy is the most efficient path.

Wind, solar, and battery technologies have made impressive strides in recent years, but without the “climate crisis” and “net-zero” hysteria, they would be displacing other competing forms of energy based on their economic viability instead of through politics. If everything Musk and his company’s report has to say is true, the path to a net-zero electric age would not require one bit of government coercion or subsidies. And that is how it should be.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Infrastructure Choices Matter

On May 12, 2022, the California Coastal Commission voted 12-0 to reject a proposal to build a desalination plant in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles. The plant would have been privately funded and would have yielded a drought-proof 55,000-acre-feet of fresh water every year. Poseidon Water, the company whose application had been denied, spent two decades and over $100 million submitting paperwork to multiple federal, state, regional, and local agencies—including engineering blueprints that had to be revised and resubmitted repeatedly to comply with regulations that were not only continuously changing, but in many cases were in conflict with each other.

This story isn’t an outlier. Even California Governor Gavin Newsom has complained about the regulatory environment in the Golden State. Newsom claimed during a press conference last month at a massive solar farm in the Central Valley that the state is ready to spend $180 billion on infrastructure over the next decade. But he asked, “Are we going to screw it up by being consumed by paralysis and process?”

Less than a week later, California’s state legislature answered Newsom’s question, killing in committee his proposed package of legislation that would have streamlined the environmental regulations now stopping big infrastructure projects.

The impact of these regulations is staggering. To use desalination as an example, the plant California’s coastal commission killed a year ago would have cost an estimated $1 billion to construct. This equates to a capital cost of $18,000 per acre-feet of yearly freshwater output. For comparison, the Sorek I desalination plant, located on the coast a few miles south of Tel Aviv in Israel, was built at a capital cost of $2,200 per acre-feet of annual freshwater output. It costs eight times as much to build a desalination plant in California as it does in Israel.

Why would any civil engineering contractor or major construction company do business in California? No wonder the state’s infrastructure is inadequate. No wonder everything costs so much.

The Distortion and Misuse of Infrastructure

The word “infrastructure” has been discredited in recent years. Leftist politicians, the same ones who claim speech is violence, and violence is speech, have decided “infrastructure” now includes everything from social programs and social justice to woke curricula in public schools.

But the less exploited and more precise definition of infrastructure is in reference to the physical assets constituting the essential foundation of any civilization: starting with roads, reservoirs, and power plants. The word infrastructure screams “wonk,” and just the sound of it sends most people scurrying for more scintillating political pastures.

Our disinclination to engage with what may already be a tedious topic because it lacks the sex appeal and urgency of, say, debating the pros and cons of encouraging third graders to explore their gender identities, has consequences. It means that debate regarding the future of infrastructure, and hence the fate of our civilization, is denied the centrality required to stimulate an optimal outcome.

By the time a critical mass of politicians and voters understand that “infrastructure,” properly defined as utilities that keep us alive, requires spending be prioritized so the most efficiently achieved, abundant, and affordable transportation, water, and energy assets can be realized, the decisions may have already been made. Long-term infrastructure investments will be committed (or not committed where they’re most needed). This is already happening.

Instead of building next-generation infrastructure that is practical and cost-effective so we can make a civilizational leap up to a higher level of prosperity and economic independence, we risk finding ourselves living in an economy defined by rationing and scarcity. Because we allowed special interests to allocate an obscene percentage of our national wealth to building infrastructure that was impractical and punitively expensive we are finding ourselves going without. And again, this is already happening.

That’s the choice we face. That’s the question we should ask every time we hear the word “infrastructure.” Are you bored yet?

Newsom, to his credit, offered California’s state legislature a package of reform bills focused on physical assets. The legislation he promoted would have reformed environmental regulations that make construction of physical infrastructure prohibitively expensive and would have opened up new avenues of public funding to get them built. But Newsom’s package, for the most part, was not focused on practical or cost-effective infrastructure solutions. It would have streamlined the process and stimulated the funding for projects that cannot possibly deliver affordable and abundant transportation, water, or energy.

California’s “bullet train” boondoggle is a prime example of how infrastructure dollars are misused and wasted. Consuming billions of dollars, millions of tons of concrete, and thousands of tons of steel, the rail project is a testament to special interest corruption. Against a host of more practical alternatives, it cannot withstand an objective cost-benefit analysis based on any honest set of economic or environmental criteria.

California’s proposed Delta tunnel, a scheme to drain water from northern rivers through an underground tunnel to feed southbound aqueducts, is a similar disaster waiting to happen. At an estimated cost of just over $20 billion, this project ignores a host of more practical alternatives. But perhaps the most misguided of all California’s ambitious infrastructure schemes are the proposed offshore wind turbines.

California’s Prodigiously Wasteful Wind Farms

In December, the federal government leased 583 square miles of deep ocean waters off the coast of California for offshore wind farms. Five companies paid a total of $757 million for the right to develop these holdings. Everything about this scheme

screams waste and fraud. It is difficult to imagine an energy project more impractical, more costly, more fraught with potential for disaster, or more certain to wreak environmental havoc.

A rare example of journalistic honesty can be found in the MIT Technology Review’s assessment of the Golden State’s offshore wind ambitions. Published in December, the article provides useful quantitative data, reporting that when fully built out, these wind farms would deliver 4.5 gigawatts of “clean” electricity to the California grid. That may sound like a lot of electricity. It isn’t.

For starters, 4.5 gigawatts of output is only guaranteed when the wind is blowing. Even offshore, the average output of these turbines will only be around 40 percent of their full capacity, which means if you consider the contribution of these wind farms to baseload power requirements, they will only be delivering 1.8 gigawatts. That represents barely 5 percent of California’s current electricity consumption.

If California “decarbonizes” and goes all-electric, which the state legislature remains absolutely committed to achieving, offshore wind would represent, at best, 2 percent of the electricity the state is going to need to generate. Two percent.

But what is it going to take to get the proposed 1.8 gigawatts from offshore wind energy?

As revealed in the MIT Technology Review’s analysis, the turbines will be anchored over 20 miles offshore in waters more than 4,000 feet deep. No offshore wind farm anywhere on Earth, using floating turbines, has come anywhere close to the scale of what Californians are contemplating. The biggest so far, a wind farm off the coast of Scotland, provides only 50 megawatts (in capacity, not yield). What is planned for the waters of Central and Northern California is 90 times larger. How do they propose to do this?

Getting serious megawatts out of wind turbines requires large turbines. Very large turbines. Some of the biggest in the world can now produce 10 megawatts of output from a single turbine. Those machines are 1,000 feet tall, which is nearly four times higher than the Statue of Liberty, including its base. These towering monstrosities are intended to float in the Pacific Ocean, remaining upright through storms, tsunamis, and earthquakes, remaining in a fixed position via cables stretching from the bottom of the floating tower to anchors in the seabed over 4,000 feet underwater.

What could possibly go wrong? Along with the natural disruptions of storms, rogue waves, and earthquakes, what about the impact of these turbines on birds, whales, other avian and aquatic life, or on planes, boats, and ships? But the problems of building just one of these turbines are magnified by what should be simple and compelling math: To generate 1.8 net gigawatts—a mere 2 percent of the electricity California’s legislature aspires to generate to achieve their “net zero” objectives—it will be necessary to build and float 450 of these 10-megawatt turbines. Imagine the logistics!

How many ships would this take? How many submarines and divers? How many port facilities? How many new homes for the construction workers? What about the undersea power cables? What about the storage batteries needed to buffer 4.5 gigawatts of on-again, off-again electricity? What about the ongoing maintenance? What about the raw materials needed to build all these leviathans? What about the billions upon billions of dollars that will flow into the pockets of the special interests behind this disaster of a project, paid by taxpayers and ratepayers?

The Uplifting Potential of Practical Infrastructure Choices

It’s understandable that the people running a state as wealthy as California, with a culture of pioneering innovation going back nearly two centuries, would be inspired to set an example to the world. This negates the argument that even if Californians achieve “net zero” emissions of carbon dioxide, it won’t make a bit of difference.

California’s goal, which its elected officials have exported to Washington, D.C., is to inspire the whole world to achieve “net zero.” If foreign nations aren’t willing to do this voluntarily, then California is happy to have our government somehow force them into compliance.

This entire strategy is flawed on many levels. To begin with, honest carbon accounting has to recognize the embodied energy and resource cost of renewables, and when this is done, most renewable energy solutions are revealed to have an emissions cost in rough parity with the most efficient fossil fuel-based energy solutions.

Then there is the growing awareness that other environmental priorities—such as preserving wilderness and protecting wildlife from biofuel plantations, solar farms, wind farms, and dramatically expanded mining operations—are compromised by renewables development at a cost to the environment that may well exceed the alleged, eventual cost of carbon emissions. And to recite a growing heresy, well supported by scientific evidence, it may be that most of the measured increase in atmospheric CO2 has come from natural sources such as volcanoes, and in any case, the result of more atmospheric CO2 may actually do more good than harm.

But the biggest flaw in California’s net zero strategy is that other nations aren’t going to follow this example. They aren’t willing to impoverish their populations in fealty to what they perceive to be a concocted, overblown, phony crisis designed to further Western hegemony over their sovereignty. For everyone on Earth to consume half as much energy per capita as Americans do, global energy production needs to double. Because energy is the foundation of prosperity, this needs to happen fast, and it needs to be affordable.

For this reason, what Californians ought to be doing is applying their wealth to building state-of-the-art new energy infrastructure that is practical and cost-effective. For example, modern natural gas power plants employ combined cycle designs that harvest waste heat from the natural gas-fired turbine to produce steam to drive a second turbine. But new combined cycle designs replace the steam with helium, which harvests waste heat at much higher temperatures than steam can, which means less heat wasted to the atmosphere, greatly increasing efficiency. This advanced design can convert up to 80 percent of the embodied energy in natural gas fuel into electricity. For anyone who considers anthropogenic CO2 a threat, this technology is a realistic and significant step in the right direction. Why not set efficiency standards and upgrade the fleet, instead of trying to destroy the entire natural gas infrastructure in a state of 40 million people?

For that matter, why aren’t Californians at the forefront of both small modular and large next-generation nuclear reactor development? Why isn’t there a nuclear power plant in California that not only generates emissions-free gigawatts of electricity, but reprocesses and utilizes the waste to produce still more electricity, rendering the eventual waste stream far less hazardous and harvesting far more electricity from each unit of fuel input?

When it comes to transportation, why hasn’t California’s legislature made a priority of widening and upgrading its roads and freeways to accommodate high-speed, self-driving vehicles? And why on earth did California’s state legislature ban, starting in 2035, the sale of advanced hybrids? How can California’s policymakers possibly view an all-electric vehicle, requiring a half-ton or more of battery payload, plus a steel chassis to support all the extra weight, to be an exclusive option?

Why wouldn’t hybrid technologies, which use a battery one-tenth as heavy to harvest the energy otherwise wasted from braking and downhill momentum, be a permissible option? How can California’s lawmakers begin to predict what new advances may arise in hybrid technology, wherein the emissions from new combustible fuels are almost negligible? Why not just set mileage and fuel standards instead of banning anything that uses combustion?

These are questions that should be front and center in Sacramento instead of self-congratulatory, uninformed bloviating over the need to streamline permitting for offshore wind farms and high-speed rail. California—and America—can set an example to the world, but only if it is an example the world is willing to follow.

This article originally appeared in American Greatness.

Renewables Aren’t Renewable

Today in America there are obvious disconnects between observable reality, and the narratives we get from corporate special interests that control news we consume, along with politicians that are supposedly elected to represent us.

But this is nothing new. As it has always been with most nations, elites have defined the destiny of America throughout its history. The only difference today is that the internet, despite ongoing crackdowns, still manages to deliver an unprecedented volume of contrarian perspectives to millions of people. We aren’t necessarily less free or less manipulated today than we ever were, we’re just more aware of it.

What may be different today, however, is the misanthropic folly of America’s current energy policies, which America’s ruling elites are not only imposing on everyone living here, but attempting to impose everywhere on earth. By now it should be beyond serious debate that “renewable” energy cannot possibly scale adequately to replace fossil fuel. Worse still, renewable energy systems are less sustainable than fossil fuel and cause more environmental destruction. And if you care about such matters, renewables even fail to offer significant reductions in carbon emissions, and in some cases actually cause more carbon emissions.

Why these facts are dismissed by America’s elites is a story of corruption, collusion, megalomania, greed, cowardice, intellectual negligence, and delusional mass psychosis. Modern political theory offers solace to those cynics who believe all democracies are actually just “managed” shams by suggesting pluralism and representative government is nonetheless at least approximated if there is competition among the powerful elites running a nation. But what if there is no interelite competition? What happens when every one of these elites believes the same thing? When it comes to “renewables” and “net zero by 2050,” that’s what we have in America today.

As a result, Americans face a future of perpetual scarcity: rationed, algorithmically micro-managed access to energy, punitive pricing for energy use over government mandated thresholds, and a wasteland of landscapes ruined by solar farms, wind farms, battery farms, distribution lines, open pit mines, evaporation ponds, and dumps; all the destructive consequences of industrial scale “renewables” development. At this rate, the blind rush to eliminate fossil fuel and rely solely on renewables will cause catastrophic worldwide shortages of energy, spawning deadly poverty and desperate wars.

Renewables Are Not Renewable

A recent post by respected investment blogger Wolf Richter, compiling data from the Energy Information Administration, reported “renewables” generated 22.6 percent of all U.S. electricity in 2022, a record high. Proponents of renewables consider this achievement as validating their strategy. But the devil is in the details.

To begin with, hydropower accounted for 6.1 percent of that total. But hydropower is under relentless assault by environmentalists, and even if more hydroelectric dams could be built, instead of demolished which is the current trend, the best sites have already been developed. But what about wind, which contributed 10.1 percent of all electricity generated in 2022, and solar, which added another 4.8 percent?

To put this question into relevant context, first consider what it’s going to take to get America’s economy to a “net zero” state by relying solely on wind and solar. To do this, you cannot merely calculate how much additional wind and solar generating capacity would be necessary to replace all other sources of electricity generation in the U.S. The residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors of the U.S. economy rely on direct inputs of natural gas and petroleum for 62 percent of the energy they require. Electricity is only used for the remaining 38 percent, which means at 14.9 percent of that, wind and solar actually only delivered 5.7 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. in 2022.

Merely electrifying the transportation sector in the U.S. would require total electricity generation to nearly double. To electrify the entire U.S. economy would require total electrical generation to triple. To do this using only wind and solar power would require the current installed base of wind and solar to expand by a factor of 18 times, and the process would involve far more than erecting 18 times more wind turbines and solar farms than we have already. There’s what’s euphemistically referred to as “balance of plant.”

In the case of wind and solar, balance of plant refers to thousands of miles of additional high voltage power lines and utility scale battery backup systems. Since most parts of the U.S., such as the densely populated Northeast, do not have reliable solar energy, nor are they the windiest parts of the country, it would be necessary to transmit wind energy from the plains states, and solar power from the southern latitudes. At the same time, hundreds, if not thousands of gigawatt-hours of battery storage would be required.

Peter Ziehen, an economist whose new book “The End of the World is Just the Beginning” ought to be mandatory reading for anyone promoting renewables, had this to say about relying on wind and solar power, along with transmission lines and battery backup: “Such infrastructure would be on the scale and scope that humanity has not yet attempted.”

The Resources Required for Renewable Energy

One of the most prolific and persuasive advocates for a realistic energy strategy in the U.S. is Alex Epstein, whose latest book “Fossil Future,” makes a compelling case for why the benefits of using fossil fuel far outweigh the costs, including the environmental costs. Using data from the U.S. Department of Energy, he produced the following chart, which ought to make plain the devastation – and complete unsustainability – attendant to so-called renewable power.

Epstein’s analysis references “tons per terawatt-hour,” referring to the tons of raw materials required to construct various forms of electricity producing generating plants; natural gas, nuclear, coal, solar, and wind. As can be seen, to generate the same amount of electricity, building a natural gas power plant uses only a small fraction of the raw materials required for a solar or wind system. The magnitude of the stress solar and wind would put onto mining operations is evident when calculating what it would take for them to power the entire U.S., or the entire world.

If the entire U.S. annual consumption of energy were expressed in terawatt-hours, that is, if every economic sector of the U.S. were electrified, based on the most recent data, it would take 28,500 terawatt-hours. That would equate to solar and wind farms consuming approximately 256 million tons of concrete and steel. The entire U.S. steel production in 2021 was 86 million tons. The entire U.S. cement production in 2021 was 80 million tons. Then there’s the copper, which for solar requires about 1,000 tons per terawatt-hour. This means if 50 percent of the renewables required to electrify the entire U.S. economy were via solar power, 14 million tons would be required. Total U.S. copper production is only 1.3 million tons per year. This much new solar energy capacity would use up 100 percent of our entire production of copper for 11 years.

This only begins to describe the environmental toll “renewables” are poised to inflict on the planet. What about the fact that for every person on earth to consume just half as much energy per capita that Americans consume, global energy production will have to double? To do that with wind and solar would require roughly 3.0 billion tons of cement and steel, and 30 million tons of copper. Have the renewables advocates thought this through?

All conventional power plant alternatives, using gas, nuclear and coal, require one-tenth or less raw materials to generate an equivalent quantity of electricity. For modern natural gas combined cycle generating plants, the ratio is closer to one-twentieth as much raw inputs. But when it comes to solar and wind power, which is distributed and intermittent, what about the transmission lines and the batteries? What about the service life of all this installed base, the solar panels and batteries and wind turbines that degrade after 20 years and have to be decommissioned, recycled and replaced? What about the environmental costs of extending this resource guzzling scheme to every nation on earth?

Electric Vehicles Are Not Sustainable

When discussing the sustainability of renewables, of course, an honest analysis cannot focus exclusively on the production side. If the energy consumption of an entire economy is electrified, that would include the transportation sector, where in many cases the goal of electrification is fraught with challenges. Ships at sea cannot recharge their batteries during a four week voyage on the deep ocean. Can they use hydrogen fuel cells instead? Can they can go back to relying on sails? Farm equipment that is too expensive to leave idle during harvests must operate up to 18 hours a day, so how will they recharge in only six hours? Will they swap batteries in the middle of a shift? Perhaps solutions exist. But they are expensive and they squander resources.

It is the ubiquitous automobile, at last count numbering 291 million in the U.S. alone, where “renewable” technology is most readily exposed as incredibly wasteful and destructive to the environment. From his book, here is Peter Zeihan explaining what it takes to build an all electric vehicle: “You think going to war for oil was bad? Materials inputs for just the drivetrain of an EV are six times what’s required for an internal combustion engine. If we’re truly serious about a green transition that will electrify everything, our consumption of all these materials and more must increase by more than an order of magnitude.”

Not just the environmental, but the human impact of replacing hundreds of millions of conventional automobiles with EVs is outlined in a scathing new book by Siddharth Kara, “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives.” When every supply chain on earth, egged on by the “climate crisis,” is furiously bulking up to source raw materials at ten times the rate they’d previously required, abuse is inevitable.

The tragedy playing out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to feed cobalt to the “green” West is almost apocalyptic. Kara describes how private militias control mining areas with child slaves picking their way through toxic pits in subhuman conditions. Environmental regulations are nonexistent. Human rights are nonexistent. This appalling drama repeats itself around the world, at the same time as slick television commercials market electric vehicles to Americans as a virtuous choice.

Alternatives to Renewable Energy That Isn’t Renewable

Current responses to the climate change “crisis” are not serving the interests of people or the environment. Even if every terrifying climate prediction were accurate, the nations of the world are not going to stop developing fossil fuel because, as we have seen, it is impossible to replace based on any existing technologies.

For this reason, the money being directed to retooling the entire energy sector to utilize “renewables” should be redirected to research and commercialize breakthrough technologies. Maybe direct synthesis of CO2 into liquid fuel, or fusion power, or factory farmed high-yield biofuel from algae. Maybe something we can’t yet imagine. If politicians are panicked over climate change, put money into research. Because today’s renewable energy technology will destroy the planet and the people.

There is an upside to green technology when it is commercially competitive. Hybrid SUVs, which carry a small battery and electric motor to recover energy from braking and downhill coasting can get 40 MPG. Advanced hybrids that might utilize onboard generators, natural gas internal combustion engines, and smaller batteries, could deliver much higher fuel efficiency. So why has the State of California banned them, instead mandating new cars have no combustion engines whatsoever?

Similarly, there are places where an all-of-the-above energy strategy can make commercial sense, but those places are limited. One of the reasons natural gas power plants are inaccurately stigmatized as not cost-competitive with solar power is because on grids with a large installed base of renewables these plants are only fired up when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing, meaning their ability to earn revenue is cut in half, even though the cost to build them remains the same.

There is a staggering opportunity cost to rapidly forcing current renewable energy technology onto the American economy. The trillions of dollars in public and private investment could be redirected to upgrade badly neglected existing infrastructure and build new infrastructure in order to deliver abundant energy, water, and transportation assets to the American people. These investments in practical infrastructure during the 1930s and again in the 1950s and ’60s constituted the enabling foundation for an explosion in manufacturing productivity, well paying jobs, and affordable market housing.

There is a demographic irony here that renewables advocates fail to appreciate. Prosperous nations are experiencing unsustainably low birthrates because despite freedom from basic hunger, manufactured scarcity has made it necessary for both parents to work just to spend most of their income making mortgage payments on a ridiculously overpriced home. Many have to live in apartments and condominiums where nobody wants to raise children. When it comes to being able to form families, prosperity in developed nations is an illusion. Only with practical infrastructure development will the cost-of-living descend to the point where people in prosperous nations will again choose to start families.

At the same time, in poor nations, where labor intensive subsistence farming and child labor are how families survive, birthrates remain unsustainably high. Delivering cost-effective energy and infrastructure solutions to these nations will bring their birthrates down, as it has all over the world. Delivering “renewables,” on the other hand, forces both parents to keep working in developed nations, and condemn the people living poor nations, during even the slightest blip in imported aid, to strip the forests bare for fuel and exterminate the wild and endangered game for protein. That’s the green world fully realized. It’s a dismal scenario.

Renewables in their current form will never deliver enough energy to sustain a prosperous human civilization. But they will destroy the earth. Windfarms, onshore and offshore, wreak havoc with insect, avian and marine life, and building them will consume more cement than the world can possibly supply. Solar farms consume vast amounts of open land – where, paradoxically, environmentalists prohibit anyone from building to increase the supply of homes – and they will consume more steel and copper than the world can possibly supply. The same goes for EVs, batteries, and new high voltage transmission lines. In exchange for providing less than 2 percent of oil production, biofuel crops already consume 500,000 square miles; pesticide and herbicide and fertilizer saturated monocrops where there once was rainforest or farmland.

The pillaging of the earth to source raw materials for renewables will make the impact of human civilization on the environment to-date trivial by comparison. In a wealthy nation like America, mandated renewables will complete the destruction of the middle class and for enforcement it will consolidate the power of the surveillance state. If renewables are imposed on poor nations, it will lead to poverty, war and famine on a scale never seen in human history.

Critics of the renewables mania correctly identify climate crisis passions as a new popular religion for a post-modern culture that has lost its way. But it is the elites who have truly lost their way. Some of them have transmuted their natural human need for meaning and purpose into embracing the green religion. But for the most part, America’s elites have become intoxicated with their wealth and power; they have convinced themselves they are uniquely qualified to guide the destiny of the world; they have forgotten the lessons of history. Lost in their own hubris, they are taking this beautiful world and everyone on it straight to hell.

An edited version of this article originally appeared in American Greatness.

The Sustainable Alternative to Renewables in California

Anyone serious about ushering California into an electric age, much less the entire world, faces immutable facts that are indifferent to passions and principles. With algebraic certainty, these facts lead to uncomfortable conclusions: It is impractical if not impossible to achieve an all-electric future by relying on solar, wind, and geothermal power, supplemented by more novel power generation technologies such as harvesting the energy in waves and tides. And even if it were done, it might not be the optimal solution for the environment.

A few years ago, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, Mark Jacobson, completed a report that quantified what it would take, in terms of the installed base of renewable generating and storage assets to move California to a 100 percent net zero energy economy. Relying primarily on over 20,000 wind turbines with an average capacity of 5 megawatts each, along with utility scale solar farms, an analysis published in March 2022 by the California Policy Center estimated the land requirement for this undertaking at over 10,000 square miles on land, mostly for wind farms, and over 15,000 square miles offshore, also for wind farms.

In theory, Jacobson’s recommendations would work, insofar as this stupefying quantity of wind and solar power, properly buffered with battery storage assets, would nearly double the capacity of California’s energy grid. Jacobson’s scheme estimates California’s average electricity output expanding to just over 100 gigawatts. In 2019, the most recent year for which complete data is available, California’s electricity grid produced, on average, 54 gigawatts.

To understand why a credible best case scenario would only require Californians to double their electricity output in order to go all electric, the following chart, prepared by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, can be helpful.

A detailed review of the data on this chart can be found in a July 2022 California Policy Center analysis, but for the moment, three critical variables are explanatory. California’s total energy consumption of 7,352 trillion BTUs, the “rejected energy” of 4,842 TBTUs, and the “energy services” of 2,510 TBTUs. What this describes is the overall efficiency of energy use in California. Of the energy Californians consume to power their residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors, 34 percent actually performs a service – heating, cooling, illumination, pumping, traction, etc. – and 66 percent (the “rejected energy”) is lost through friction, heat, wasted motion, leakage, etc.

The promise of electricity is that it can stand this ratio on its head. The appeal of electric power lies in its efficiency in conversion. Electric transmission losses are about 5 percent, with another 10 percent lost in a modern onboard battery’s charge/discharge cycle and the electric motor’s conversion of electrons into traction. Compare the electric car’s overall 85 percent efficiency to a gasoline powered automobile, which at best can achieve efficiencies of 35 percent.

The 2,510 TBTUs of energy Californians consumed in 2019 equate to 735 terawatt-hours, which in turn equates to an average output on the electricity grid of 84 gigawatts. This means that if every energy service in California were using electricity at 85 percent efficiency, a grid capacity of 100 gigawatts would be sufficient to power all of it. That’s a stretch, but it’s in the ballpark. It would require extraordinary engineering achievements as well as aggressive energy conservation programs. It is therefore the absolute minimum amount of electricity required for California to go 100 percent electric.

Disrupting the dream of accomplishing this goal while relying almost exclusively on wind and solar energy, however, are cold facts: Renewables aren’t renewable, and they aren’t sustainable. The footprint of wind and solar facilities on land and ocean, the battery farms to buffer their intermittency, the raw materials necessary to build them all, the maintenance, replacement, and recycling costs, are far in excess of anything Californians should have to endure, and far in excess of what the world’s resources have to give.

Imagine, for example, if the materials necessary for these wind, solar and battery assets were sourced here in California. Why not? California has many of the necessary raw materials ready for extraction. Are Californians willing to mine the lithium and quarry the concrete? More generally, are Californians willing to confront the fact that renewable energy technologies use orders of magnitude more natural resources than conventional energy?

The alternative to massively subsidized wind, solar and battery farms that despoil literally thousands of square miles of land and ocean is far more practical. Develop energy generation capacity using proven technologies, and further improve them. Californians should be pioneering the installation of the most advanced combine cycle natural gas generating plants and nuclear power plants. Instead of mandating all-electric cars, we should permit within the new mandates hybrid cars that retain range-extending advanced internal combustion engines. We should be allocating billions to upgrade our existing and proposed reservoirs to incorporate pump storage, which is still the most cost-effective way to store large amounts of renewable electricity.

This all-of-the-above approach to energy, on the surface, seems to be moving slightly away from climate purity. But a cradle-to-grave assessment of renewables may belie that first impression. Moreover, if California is serious about setting an example for the world, which after all will yield far more planetary benefits than going it alone, we must develop energy technologies that are practical.

There is enough wealth, and enough political will, for Californians to actually inflict upon themselves an all-electric future that rejects natural gas and nuclear power, rejects pump storage, and rejects advanced hybrid vehicles. But where the climate purists and their special interest puppeteers see a grand vision, history may only recognize hubris and corruption. Californians must put their impressive wealth and willpower into researching breakthrough technologies, while remaining practical in the meantime. That is how California can more effectively demonstrate effective leadership, and set an example for the world to follow.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

Solar Farms Should Not Displace Prime Farmland

Successfully coping with severe droughts in California and the Southwest requires tough choices, all of them expensive and none of them perfect. But taking millions of acres out of cultivation and replacing them with solar farms is not the answer.

California produces over one-third of America’s vegetables and three quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts – more than half of which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley. According to the California Farmland Trust, the San Joaquin Basin contains the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, which is the best there is.

Putting solar farms in more than a small fraction of this rich land will not only displace farming, but have a heat island impact in the enclosed valley. That would be unhealthy for the farms and people that remain, and could even change atmospheric conditions over a wide area, worsening the drought.

If new solar farms are destined to carpet hundreds of square miles of land, they should be dispersed throughout the state and near already existing high voltage lines. Or, they should be concentrated in California’s abundant stretches of uninhabited land such as the Mojave Desert.

With food shortages worsening throughout the world, Californians should be focusing on how to preserve agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Why, for example, are spreading basins being proposed to allow runoff from atmospheric rivers to percolate when flood irrigation used to replenish aquifers while also growing food? Why isn’t that practice being evaluated and supported wherever appropriate?

Much of the depletion of groundwater aquifers that led to passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was caused because farmers had their allocations from rivers reduced, which forced them to pump more groundwater to irrigate their crops. Drought was a factor, but cutbacks in surface water deliveries and the abandonment of flood irrigation is what made groundwater pumping unsustainable.

The motivation to protect ecosystems during a drought is commendable. But there are solutions that don’t have to destroy the agricultural economy on what is the richest farmland in the world. Some of the environmentalist goals, such as maintaining a year-round flow in the San Joaquin River, have no precedent in history.

When there were severe droughts, that river often dried up in the summer.

Recognizing this highlights a larger reality. The civilization we’ve built has permanently altered nature, and returning it to a pre-civilization state is not an option. For example, because we suppress natural wildfires, we have to log timber or the forests become overgrown tinderboxes. Searching for the optimal balance between a thriving civilization and healthy ecosystems requires accepting limits in both directions.

With this in mind, there’s an irony in the environmentalist-inspired regulations that require water, stored in reservoirs behind artificial dams, to be released downstream in order to maintain year-round flows in rivers that used to run dry in dry years.

The solution to meeting the water requirements of farms, cities and ecosystems is to build more water supply infrastructure, not fallow millions of acres of prime farmland during a world food crisis. Capturing storm runoff through a combination of more off-stream storage and aquifer recharge can increase available water to farms and cities.

With wastewater recycling, less water has to be imported to cities, and in the San Francisco Bay region, less water would have to flow through the Delta to flush out the nitrogen currently being discharged. Desalination can also deliver a drought-proof supply of new water.

Investing in water supply infrastructure creates options for Californians that do not require undermining an industry that helps feed the world. Build the solar farms in the hot Mojave, and save the valley farms.

This article originally appeared in Cal Matters.

How Much Fossil Fuel is Left?

Fossil fuel powers the economic engine of civilization. With a minor disruption in the supply of fossil fuel, crops wither and supply chains crash. With a major disruption, a humanitarian apocalypse engulfs the world. Events of the past few months have made this clear. Without energy, civilization dies, and in 2020 fossil fuel continued to provide over 80 percent of all energy consumed worldwide.

This basic fact, that maintaining a reliable supply of affordable fossil fuel is a nonnegotiable precondition for the survival of civilization, currently eludes far too many American politicians, including the president. Quoting from energy expert and two-time candidate for Governor of California Michael Shellenberger, “One month ago, the Biden administration killed a one million acre oil and gas lease sale in Alaska, and seven days ago killed new on-shore oil and gas leases in the continental U.S. In fact, at this very moment, the Biden administration is considering a total ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Another basic fact, easily confirmed by consulting the 2021 edition of the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, is that if every person living on planet earth were to consume half as much energy per year as the average American currently consumes, global energy production would have to nearly double. Instead of producing 547 exajoules (the mega unit of energy currently favored by economists) per year, energy producers worldwide would have to come up with just over 1,000 exajoules. How exactly will “renewables,” currently delivering 32 exajoules per year, or 6 percent of global energy, expand by a factor of 30x to deliver 1,000 exajoules?

The short answer is it can’t. Despite the fanatical, powerful group-think that calls for abolition of not only fossil fuels, but also most hydroelectric power and all nuclear power, the reality is that most nations of the world are going to continue to develop every source of energy they can, and they’re going to do it as fast as they can. Renewables may have a growing role in that expansion, but renewables are decades away from providing more than a fraction of total global energy production.

How much fossil fuel reserves are there?

The argument against fossil fuel rests on two premises. The first is that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel is causing a climate emergency. Without (for now) arguing against the theory that anthropogenic CO2 is going to destroy the planet, suffice to say that we’d better adapt to whatever climate change is coming, because the only nations even semi-serious about eliminating use of fossil fuel are Western nations. Once again, recent events have demonstrated that fossil fuel isn’t going anywhere, and nations that renounce its use condemn themselves to deindustrialization and eventual irrelevance.

The other premise underlying the drive to eliminate fossil fuel is more pragmatic. We are reaching “peak oil,” and there simply isn’t enough of it to last much longer. Oil, natural gas, and coal are all nonrenewable resources, with finite reserves. This argument is worth examining in depth.

The next chart shows how much fossil fuel is left in the world in the form of proven reserves (the blue bars), as well as how much, by fuel, was used up in 2020 (red bars, which are so short you can hardly see them). As shown on the chart, in 2020 174 exajoules of oil was burned, with 10,596 exajoules remaining – a 61 year supply. Also shown on the chart, as of 2020, and at current rates of consumption, there is a 208 year supply of worldwide coal reserves, and a 50 year supply of natural gas.

These proven reserves, also reported in the 2021 edition of the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, don’t tell the whole story. There are “unproven” reserves, which would very likely double the amount of fossil fuel energy available for extraction, and possibly much more.

To understand this, first note that predictions of “peak oil” have been consistently wrong. In a well known early example, back in 1956 economist M. King Hubbert presented a paper to the American Petroleum Institute where “he noted that the rate of consumption of these fuels was greater than the rate at which new reserves were being discovered.” Hubbert predicted U.S. oil production would peak in the 1970s, and indeed there was a peak in 1971, at just over 10 million barrels per day. By 2008, total U.S. production had fallen to as little as 4 million barrels per day. But thanks to the introduction of fracking and deregulation, by 2019 domestic oil production had risen to a new peak of over 12 million barrels per day. New technologies and new exploration resulted in a major expansion of proven reserves.

Another indication of how much energy may remain out there in unproven reserves that are waiting to be tapped is in this 2022 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It estimates America’s total proven natural gas reserves at 473 trillion cubic feet, but estimates additional unproven reserves of natural gas to total another 2,867 trillion cubic feet – six times as much.

Finally, consider this map of the Sub Saharan portion of the African continent. Consider the scale of this map; this continent is over 4,600 miles across at its widest point, compared to the lower 48 of the United States at only 2,800 miles wide. As depicted on the map, promising regions for onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration amount to hundreds of thousands of square miles. Africa is a massive continent, with massive reserves of oil and gas. Now consider this report on “Natural Gas Reserves By Country.” Despite its vast potential, the first Sub Saharan nation on the list is Angola, at number 40, with proven gas reserves equal to 0.14 percent of total global reserves. That’s probably a minute fraction of what Africa’s got.

Africa isn’t the only place where fossil fuel reserves have been barely tapped. Expect deposits to be found as needed pretty much everywhere, from the polar regions to countless offshore sites on the continental shelf, and elsewhere.

The current energy crisis is going to harm nations in Africa, and in other developing regions, far more than it will harm Western nations, and that’s saying a lot, considering how cold it’s going to get in places like Berlin and Copenhagen if Russian gas is turned off this winter. But in African nations, the primary source of affordable energy is “biomass.” Put less euphemistically, and to this day, hundreds of millions of Africans still desperately strip the forests in order to gather fuel to cook food, because Western nations and Western dominated banks have prevented them from developing clean natural gas.

This humanitarian folly is multi-faceted. In 1950, there were 227 million people living in Africa. Today, there are 1.4 billion Africans, and by 2050 Africa’s population is projected to be 2.5 billion. On what had been a stable population for centuries, this population explosion was facilitated by Western aid which reduced infant mortality and, overall, provided food aid and healthcare. But now, Western nations are denying Africans the prosperity and self-sufficiency that comes with affordable energy, supposedly to avert climate disaster.

This absurdity ignores the catastrophic impact of a burgeoning population denied access to fertilizer, industrial agriculture, and a reliable power grid, because these are byproducts of fossil fuel. Deliberately denying Africans the fundamental prerequisite for prosperity means their population will continue to explode at the same time as millions of them, desperate for food and fuel, will continue to strip the forests of wood and wildlife. On the flipside, as has been proven worldwide without a single exception, when prosperity is introduced to a culture, the population stabilizes and begins to decline.

There is plenty of fossil fuel

According to the most authoritative source on energy in the world, as noted, total proven reserves of fossil fuel currently total 49,023 exajoules. This means that just with proven reserves, and if only fossil fuel were used, and if global energy consumption were doubled to 1,000 exajoules per year, there would still be a 50 year supply of energy. How much more fossil fuel can be extracted from unproven reserves is anybody’s guess, but it is a safe bet that twice as much more is available, meaning there’s at least another century worth of fossil fuel even if we used nothing else to power civilization.

The benefits of abundant cheap energy are obvious: prosperity and voluntary population stabilization. In the decades to come, other forms of energy will also be further developed. If hydroelectric power doubles, while nuclear power and renewables both go up by an order of magnitude, the three together would provide 636 exajoules of power per year. Under that scenario, fossil fuel use could remain near current levels, and total global energy production would still double to 1,000 exajoules.

What is impossible, however, is for renewables alone to achieve this level of growth. To begin with, more than half of renewable energy today comes from biofuel and biomass, which – and this is yet another irony alert – is already wreaking havoc across the tropics as hundreds of thousands square miles of rainforest are incinerated to make room for cane ethanol and palm oil plantations. And then there are the minerals required for the wind turbine towers, the silicon photovoltaics, and the billions of megawatt-hours of battery farm capacity. Where are the Malthusians when you need them?

Humanity can adapt to climate change, if there is sufficient prosperity and political will. We are already on the brink of commercializing innovations to turn carbon dioxide into liquid fuel. Should atmospheric CO2 be the horrific pollutant that so many claim it to be, it can be removed from the atmosphere and converted into fuel to drive our trucks around.

Until that time, fossil fuel isn’t going anywhere.

References on CO2 conversion:

How to turn carbon dioxide into fuel | Carbon Engineering

Artificial photosynthesis turns CO2 into sustainable fuel | Freethink

Recycling CO2 into fuels – Dimensional Energy

Solar Powered Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Conversion

Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

Stanford engineers create a catalyst that can turn carbon dioxide into gasoline 1,000 times more efficiently

Breakthrough in converting carbon dioxide into fuel using solar energy

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.


Wind and Solar Energy Cannot Lift Humanity into Prosperity

A recent article in the New York Post nicely encapsulates the latest developments in the ongoing debate over climate and energy. In his article entitled “If the Ukraine war hasn’t scared the West straight on energy, nothing will,” author Rich Lowry reminds us “The world hasn’t embraced fossil fuels out of hatred of the planet but because they are so incredibly useful.” He goes on to accurately observe that fossil fuels are used to produce 84 percent of global energy.

If there is only an alleged consensus on the potentially catastrophic threat represented by fossil fuel, there is widespread agreement on the direct connection between energy and prosperity. With that in mind, and to make clear how critical it is to produce more energy worldwide, much more, here’s an immutable fact, courtesy of data in the 2021 edition of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy: For everyone on earth to have access to half the energy, per capita, that Americans consume, global energy production will have to double.

Meanwhile, according to BP, wind and solar power accounted for 5.0 percent of global energy production in 2020. Five percent. And yet, unless you are a climate contrarian, also derisively referred to as a “denier,” wind and solar are not merely the favored solutions to global energy challenges, they’re the only solutions. But what’s wrong with this picture? Go wind. Go solar. Why not?

To appreciate what it’s going to take to create a global economy powered by nothing more than wind and sunshine, look no further than California, where the state’s policymakers are embracing these energy technologies to the exclusion of all others. The are undeterred by geopolitics, economic cost, social cost, or environmental impact. It almost appears that in their zeal to save the planet, they must destroy civilization.

California Leads the World in Ongoing Renewables Delusions

If you live in California, by now you’ve probably seen the ads, either on prime time television or online, exhorting you to “Power Down 4 to 9PM.” These ads are produced by “Energy Upgrade California,” paid for by “investor-owned energy utility customers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission.”

According to the mission of Energy Upgrade California, they are “a statewide initiative committed to uniting Californians to strive toward reaching our state’s energy goals,” and those goals include “getting 33% of our electricity from renewable resources by 2030.”

And it doesn’t end there. Over the past twenty years, through increasingly ambitious legislation and executive orders, California’s official state policy now aims to “achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045.”

The misanthropic cruelty of these laws ought to be obvious. Normal people need more electricity between 4 and 9 PM, and no amount of public education can overcome that circadian fact. This is the time of day when normal people complete their daily work, prepare and eat dinner with their families, complete routine and necessary chores from doing the laundry to packing lunches for the next day. This is the time of day when people want to heat or cool their homes to a comfortable temperature, and power up all the countless electronic gadgets which are now required for everything from homework to paying the bills. They don’t want to wait till 9 PM to do any of this. By 9 PM they want to relax.

Normal people may also be forgiven if they don’t want to jump through the preposterous hoops required of “programmable” appliances, such as washing machines that will defer ignition until the spot price of electricity drops below a specified threshold. The fact that every major appliance now requires internet connectivity and comes with an instruction manual that rivals Lord of the Rings in scope and word-count is not a sign of progress. It is fetishistic excess. Future generations will marvel at the absurdity of this maddening, mandated attention to technology-driven minutia, and attribute it to the hubris of our times.

But beyond the fact that Californians remain quiescent while algorithms, megalomaniacal bureaucrats, and fanatical green nihilists take over and run their lives, there is the sheer impracticality of achieving “net zero” by 2050, if ever. In a narrowing of options that borders on perversity, the current vision for accomplishing this goal rejects any additional hydropower, requires the decommissioning of existing nuclear power plants, and the abandonment of all fossil fuel. Is that possible?

Accomplishing “Zero Air Pollution and Zero Carbon” in California

A professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, Mark Jacobson, completed a series of simulations, culminating in a report released in December 2021 “that demonstrate the ability of California to match all-purpose energy demand with wind-water-solar (WWS) supply, storage, and demand response continuously every 30 seconds for the years 2050-2051. All-purpose energy is energy for electricity, transportation, buildings, and industry.”

In this relatively unheralded study, Professor Jacobson has done Californians a huge favor, whether or not they support renewables. Because he has quantified a version of exactly what it would take, in terms of the installed base of renewable generating and storage assets to move California to a 100 percent net zero energy economy. Take a look at what Jacobson’s study envisions:

The first thing to note about Jacobson’s selection of renewable systems is that in theory, they would provide sufficient power to replace all legacy systems. The yields (column 4) assigned to each technology are reasonable, which means the total projected annual output as expressed in gigawatt-years, is also a reasonable estimate. Most economists measure total energy produced and consumed in quadrillion BTUs (British Thermal Units), and 101.4 gigawatt-years equates to 3.0 “quads.” In 2018, Californians generated 7.4 quad BTUs, but only consumed 2.5 quad BTUs. The rest was expended as “rejected energy,” primarily through the heat loss when using combustion based power systems including electric generating stations as well as individual vehicles. All-electric systems are far more efficient, and the implied 82 percent efficiency of an all-electric economy from source to user is not outlandish. So Jacobson’s numbers are tight, and assume – presumably via more conservation – no growth in energy consumption between now and whenever total renewable power is achieved, but they are nonetheless in the ballpark.

The other salient take-away from Jacobson’s renewables plan is that it’s all about wind and solar. Other renewables account for very little of the total; hydropower at 5.4 percent and geothermal at 3.0 percent.

Beyond considering the fact that the numbers probably work, however, is a more fundamental question: Do Californians want to live with 8,860 onshore 5 megawatt wind turbines, and another 12,884 of them floating or anchored offshore? Wind turbines of this size are truly monstrous, with a standard rotor diameter of 126 meters, i.e, 410 feet. Imagine a football field, including both end zones and then some, twirling around atop a tower more than twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, and you’re visualizing just one of these. They need a lot of land.

Rather than calculate merely the footprint of the wind tower, a more useful assessment of the land required for these wind turbines is the recommended spacing. An analysis published last year in the trade publication Energy Follower challenged the conventional spacing guidelines, which call for wind turbines to be spaced apart by a distance equal to seven times the rotor diameter. That alone calls for a stupendous amount of land, since that spacing would permit a maximum of four wind turbines per square mile. Citing work by Charles Meneveau, a mechanical engineering professor at Johns Hopkins University, the analysis went on to report that based on Meneveau’s analysis of the performance of utility scale wind farms, for maximum efficiency, “the suggested recommended separation of each turbine being 15 times the rotor diameter away from its nearest neighbors.” That equates to one wind turbine consuming 1.2 square miles.

Wind Power is a Grotesque Waste of Space

A legitimate conclusion that might be drawn from this data is that wind energy is not a desirable choice for Californians. To install 8,860 land based wind turbines would consume between 2,614 and 10,455 square miles, in order to produce only 15 percent of the required total energy in an all-electric economy. To put this in perspective, you could put 10 million new residents into homes, four per household, on half-acre lots, and you would only use up 1,953 square miles. Put them on still very spacious quarter acre lots, with an equal amount of land allocated for roads and commercial/industrial areas, and you’ve still only used up 1,953 square miles. California’s entire urbanized land only consumes around 8,300 square miles. To install these 5 megawatt wind turbines in a manner calculated to optimize their performance, a space greater than the footprint of every town and city in the state would be consumed. And this land would be uninhabitable – anyone who disagrees is invited to live on a wind farm. There will not be many takers.

When reviewing the above chart which estimates the land required for renewables, what is striking is the tremendous difference between the land required for wind farms versus the land required for solar installations. In order to generate 33 percent of the total energy, wind installations propose to consume over 10,000 square miles of land, and over 15,000 square miles of offshore ocean. By contrast, to produce 58 percent of the required energy, solar installations would consume just over 1,000 square miles, and much of that would be on top of existing roofs. Why not just use nothing but solar?

Answering that question goes to one of the hearts of the controversy over renewables, which is its intermittency. The need to balance between wind and solar, to slightly oversimplify, is that the wind blows more in the winter when there aren’t as many hours of sun, and during the summer doldrums when the wind is relatively still, there is plenty of sunshine. This seasonal variation is a bigger problem than the daily variation which underlies the “Power Down Between 4 and 9 PM” campaign, because there aren’t enough batteries in the world to store power collected during, for example, July to be discharged in January, and there never will be.

Viewing maps of wind resources indicate onshore wind energy in California is a poor choice. Far better wind resources are found in the nation’s midsection, assuming that state-of-the-art wind turbines can reliably wrangle tornadoes and ice storms. Possibly more viable is the offshore wind potential in California, especially in the far north of the state, but whether or not offshore wind installations are truly cost-effective is a question that requires far more thorough analysis than we’ve seen to-date.

Ultimately, Californians may want to think very carefully about Jacobson’s analysis, since it is one of the few fully realized and thoroughly vetted visualizations of what it’s going to take to convert to an all-electric, renewables based economy. Set aside the staggering economic cost, and the necessity to import most of the raw materials and even most of the manufactured systems. Set aside the undeniable environmental and social cost of sourcing rare earth metals from nations with an appalling lack of human rights and from mining and manufacturing operations controlled by America’s strategic rivals. For the moment, don’t think about the impact of wind turbines on birds, insects and bats. Never mind the fact that the embodied energy represented by these massive manufactured systems requires years to earn its “carbon payback,” if it ever does. And then contemplate the army of “carbon accountants” and bureaucrats, siphoning a stupefying quantity of wealth out of the economy merely to administer the new scheme.

Never mind all that. Just consider the aesthetic footprint.

Think about what it would be like to have 8,860 wind turbines, each of them twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, scattered throughout the state. Imagine 1,160 “wave” generators and 60 “tidal” generators, actually sneaking past a coastal commission that ties anything going up near the coast in decades bureaucratic delays. And as for over 15,000 offshore wind turbines, with the requisite undersea foundations and power cables and onshore maintenance facilities. Does anyone think any of these will ever be built, much less 15,000 of them?

California’s energy economy, like that of the world, needs to reject narrow solutions. To produce the economic resilience and fulfill the obligations of a responsible government, California’s legislature needs to restore an all-of-the-above approach to energy. It needs to reembrace natural gas power and explore promising new ways to use it even more efficiently. It needs to approve nuclear power plants using the latest technologies. It needs to consider new sources of hydroelectric power – especially for pump storage on off-stream reservoirs which is one of the most cost effective ways to store surplus renewable power. It needs to weigh the total impact of wind energy taking into account its insufficiently acknowledged environmental, economic, social, and aesthetic cost. And it needs to nurture solar energy development, but not to the exclusion of conventional sources of energy.

It is ridiculous that Californians, living in the wealthiest, most innovative place on earth need to “power down” during precisely the moments in their daily lives when they need to power up. It’s time for California’s policymakers and opinion leaders to acknowledge this, and start acting on behalf of the citizens they serve, instead of special interests and their activist cheerleaders.

The Agenda of California’s Ruling Class is No Joke

Before merely laughing at California’s folly, recognize that this state is home to Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Twitter, Google, Intel, and a host of related social media and technology companies which collectively represent the largest concentration of wealth in one place in the history of the world. It is also home to Hollywood, which remains the primary arbiter of mainstream culture in the United States. California may be diminished by its government’s unrelenting hostility to business and working families, but an emaciated eagle still dwarfs the sparrows.

The model for governance that California is implementing, with the wholehearted approval and complicity of other blue states accompanied by the elites of most of the Western World, is oligarchy. They have determined that a middle class lifestyle cannot be sustained in America, much less exported to the aspiring nations of the world, and oligarchy, or neofeudalism, is their answer.

The conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, and the energy shortages that are its inevitable result, may awaken Americans to the futility of moving headlong into an energy future that excludes every form of energy apart from wind and solar. But that awakening needs to embrace not merely opposition to the green tyranny with its epicenter in California. It needs to embrace a moral crusade to double the energy produced in the world as soon as possible. In this quest, all fuels should be used, incorporating the cleanest technologies possible. At the same time, but over generations instead of within a few urgent years, new technologies can be developed that will eventually replace fossil fuel.

That is the path to peace and prosperity.

An edited version of this article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.