One Smartphone takes as much energy to produce as one refrigerator.
In the WSJ James Freeman introduces readers to Mark Mills. Mr. Mills (Manhattan Institute) asks readers to consider: “Years of hypertrophied rhetoric and trillions of dollars of spending and subsidies on a transition have not significantly changed the energy landscape.”
Civilization still depends on hydrocarbons for 84% of all energy, a mere two percentage points lower than two decades ago. Solar and wind technologies today supply barely 5% of global energy. Electric vehicles still offset less than 0.5% of world oil demand.
A Reality that Cannot Be Blinked” Away:
Energy, as he notes, is needed for everything that is fabricated, grown, operated, or moved… digital devices and hardware—the most complex products ever produced at scale—require, on average, about 1,000 times more energy to fabricate, pound for pound, than the products that dominated the 20th century…
[I]t takes nearly as much energy to make one smartphone as it does one refrigerator, even though the latter weighs 1,000 times more.
The world produces nearly 10 times more smartphones a year than refrigerators.
Thus, the global fabrication of smartphones now uses 15% as much energy as does the entire automotive industry, even though a car weighs 10,000 times more than a smartphone.
What’s the Weather Like on Your Planet?
The global Cloud, society’s newest and biggest infrastructure, uses twice as much electricity as the entire nation of Japan. And then, of course, there are all the other common, vital needs for energy, from heating and cooling homes to producing food and delivering freight.
Advocates of a carbon-free world underestimate not only how much energy the world already uses, but how much more energy the world will yet demand… In America, there are nearly as many vehicles as people, while in most of the world, fewer than 1 in 20 people have a car. More than 80% of the world population has yet to take a single flight.
Wind and Solar Pushing Out Fossil Fuels?
There is no evidence, argues Mr. Mills, to claims that wind, solar, and [electrical vehicles] have reached cost parity with traditional energy sources or modes of transportation
Even before the latest period of rising energy prices, Germany and Britain—both further down the grid transition path than the U.S.— have seen average electricity rates rise 60%–110% over the past two decades. The same pattern is visible in Australia and Canada.
It’s also apparent in U.S. states and regions where mandates have resulted in grids with a higher share of wind/solar energy. In general, overall U.S. residential electricity costs rose over the past 20 years.
The Dangerous Delusion of a Global Energy Transition
In spite of the collapse in the cost of natural gas and coal, rates have not collapsed, explains Mr. Mills.
But those rates should have declined because of the collapse in the cost of natural gas and coal—the two energy sources that, together, supplied nearly 70% of electricity in that period. Instead, rates have been pushed higher thanks to elevated spending on the otherwise unneeded infrastructure required to transmit wind/solar-generated electricity, as well as the increased costs to keep lights on during “droughts” of wind and sun that come from also keeping conventional power plants available (like having an extra, fully fueled car parked and ready to go) in effect by spending on two grids.
Batteries Are Not a Solution at Grid Scales
Despite the vaunted battery revolution, the facts remain that it is extremely expensive, to store electricity.
Storing electricity itself—the output from solar/wind machines—remains extremely expensive despite the vaunted battery revolution.
Lithium batteries, a Nobel-winning invention, are some 400% better than lead-acid batteries in terms of energy stored per unit of weight (which is critical for vehicles). And the costs for lithium batteries have declined more than 10-fold in the past two decades. Even so, it costs at least $30 to store the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil using lithium batteries. That alone explains why, regardless of mandates and subsidies, batteries aren’t a solution at grid scales for days, never mind weeks, of storage.
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