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Energy illiterate elites
Note: Many thanks to Doug Sandridge for coming up with the title of this article and inspiring its writing. It had to be said. Yes, again.
“Just when I thought I’ve seen it all” is a thought that has been occurring to me more and more frequently these days.
Just when I think Germany hasn’t got a part of its body it hasn’t shot itself in, it goes ahead with the shutdown of its nuclear power plants.
Now I’ve seen it all, I say, and they say “Hold my beer” and announce a ban on oil and gas heating.
Okay, now I’ve seen it all, I say, and the G7 come out with a declaration for phasing out “unabated fossil fuels” but get shy on how exactly they are going to do it.
Right, I say, maybe now I’ve seen it all, I say. But no, because after shocking a lot of people by forcing prepaid meters on its citizens, the UK has now tried to remedy matters by banning forced prepaid meter installation… for people over 85.
The EU meanwhile remains the largest buyer of Russian hydrocarbons, which it now gets from Asia rather than directly from Russia. Probably because it’s cheaper and, of course, a lot more moral.
I’m beginning to suspect there is no bottom that energy planners in the West are not ready, willing and even eager to sink to, just to prove they can. At this point, I see no other possible explanation. This is what energy illiteracy does to you.
Most regular people don’t care where their energy comes from. I certainly don’t. I just want it available when I need it.
Yet most regular people also don’t know how this energy comes to them. Sure, they know about wires and cables, and that’s about it. Sure, they know it can come from coal, gas, hydro, solar or wind but beyond that most people are completely energy illiterate.
And that’s fine for regular people, up to the point when they start believing the narrative that wind and solar can totally replace coal and gas and make the air cleaner and life on the planet safer.
It’s fine to believe that if you’re not in a policymaking position. Seriously, why should we try and learn more about energy when there are so many other things to think about and worry about every single day?
It stops being fine when it’s people in policymaking positions that buy the wind-and-solar narrative hook, line and sinker. Because they haven’t got any idea how energy works. Worse, they haven’t got the slightest interest in learning. Because they like their propaganda so much better.
There are tonnes of research — evidence-based research, scientific research — detailing the benefits of nuclear power, for example.
Experts, and by experts I mean people like Mark Nelson and Meredith Angwin who know what they are talking about because they have spent decades studying it and practising it, tirelessly work to enlighten the rest of us but they can’t enlighten people like Robert Habeck because people like Robert Habeck do not want to be enlightened.
They want nuclear power gone. They want it gone, even though this means using more coal to produce electricity, and even though using more coal goes straight against such people’s belief that emissions are the biggest problem our planet and our species have.
But enough about nuclear. How about oil and gas? Jennifer Granholm made my day last year when I read her quote that she drives on sunlight because she has a Volt or maybe a Bolt, which she charges from solar panels installed on the roof of her garage.
Could she be serious, I thought at the time. Yes, she could and she was. The U.S. energy secretary appeared to genuinely believe that she was driving on sunlight and no amount of fossil fuels had gone into the making of either her Volt, or possibly Bolt, or her solar panels. Or the inverters these panels require to produce usable electricity. Or the battery in the Bolt or the Volt.
President Biden made my year by alternating between repeated pledges to force the U.S. into a fossil fuel-free future and calling on oil companies and Saudi Arabia to boost those output rates or else.
Or how about my all-time star, the IEA’s Fatih Birol, and his infamous Road Map to Net Zero that stated we can stop looking for more oil and gas at the end of 2021? Months after the release of the Road Map, Birol, like Biden, was calling for more oil and gas investment to secure… well, short-term supply, apparently, because we won’t need them in 20 years’ time.
You’d probably want to point out that even if these people themselves are illiterate in energy matters, the people who advise them are not. And I would have to say, with some regret and a lot of bitterness, that you may be wrong.
Because the people who advise the illiterate are illiterate themselves. They are deliberately illiterate because they like their vision of tomorrow better than reality. Taken Ember. Take the Carbon Brief. Take Transport and Environment.
Take any nonprofit or consultancy that makes a living by pushing forecasts full of cherry-picked numbers and celebrating solar and wind output records and EV sales, again cherry-picking only the information that supports their vision of tomorrow.
Well, of course, they make a living out of this but I do strongly believe they believe the brave new world crap they are pushing. They genuinely buy their own propaganda and so do policymakers.
None of these people care about energy density and the fact that hydrocarbons have much higher energy density than either wind or solar. I don’t even want to talk about green hydrogen because it’s so obviously an idiotic idea. But to realise how idiotic it is, you need some really basic understanding of how energy works. So I guess I’ll spare a paragraph for green hydrogen.
Advocates argue that since energy does not disappear, it makes perfect sense to take electricity generated from wind or solar farms and use it on water to break it down into constituent elements and then use the hydrogen to… store energy.
Critics who I’ve learned from state that while energy does not disappear it does transform and during electrolysis part of the energy that goes into breaking down water transforms into heat and escapes, which renders it lost during the process.
But that’s not all because there are ideas to turn the green hydrogen into ammonia for more convenient — and safer — transportation and then turn it back into hydrogen for use. Guess what, that reverse process also results in loss of energy, I mean, transformation of energy.
Oh, look, three whole paragraphs on green hydrogen. I really must be a fan, then.
I think there’s a certain element of fear in that level of energy illiteracy. You know, the kind of fear you start feeling when some new information threatens your view of the world? This is mightily scary for most people. No wonder they try to avoid it at all costs.
The more warped and unrealistic your view of the world is, the scarier any threat to it feels. And with good reason. Warped and unrealistic views of the world are fragile structures precisely because they have no grounding in reality. And yet they look so good and feel so fine.
Dare I say fantasies could be addictive? What do you think? Fantasies can and do become addictive. Imagine the high of feeling in charge of a historical transformation for humankind that will make life better for everyone… well, nearly everyone. Because we know what you need better than you do.
It’s the curse of the revolutionary. Revolutionaries are not just filled with ideals, they are eager to change the world and see how their ideals work in practice because they are sure they will work perfectly well. And our brave transition leaders clearly fancy themselves a new breed of revolutionaries. Except those who fancy themselves extraterrestrials, that is.
I know what you’ll tell me now. They’re fearmongering grifters who know exactly what they’re doing and they know it will bring destruction upon most of us. I will agree on the fearmongering grifters part but point out that it does not negate the revolutionary self-righteousness.
No grifter sees himself or herself as a grifter and even when they do, they always justify it with good intentions or necessity. No evil person in history has seen himself or herself as evil. The most evil among us have invariably seen themselves as saviours. And yes, you can be both evil and stupid at the same time, tragically.
But could it be that there is another group of people — people who are highly literate in energy matters — that are egging the illiterates on? Could it be that this second group of people are actual grifters, nay, large-scale swindlers and they are in all this for the money?
Why, of course. There are those who know exactly how bad the energy transition as currently envisioned will be, they are aware of the disastrous effects it will have on civilisation and they stand ready to take maximum advantage of both the transition itself and the disastrous consequences.
Do I have any proof of that second group’s existence? No. But just as the laws of the universe suggest that the chances of us being the only intelligent life form in said universe are slim to none, the law of common sense suggests there must be people who know what’s what but they are encouraging the transition for personal gain, whether in the form of money or in the form of power. Or both.
Are they in a giant global conspiracy? Honestly, I doubt that. I’m not saying there are no like-minded groupings of, say, bankers or politicians, but a giant global conspiracy is hard to devise, maintain, and keep secret for any length of time. The more people know about something, etc.
There doesn’t need to be a centrally managed conspiracy for many like-minded individuals to act in a similar way that involves keeping other individuals in the dark on energy matters because this is advantageous for the first group of individuals. And it’s much simpler and easier to not have a centrally managed conspiracy, if you think about it.
Only this doesn’t make it all better. We still end up at the mercy of the illiterates, actively encouraged to remain illiterate by equally illiterate ideologues and highly literate profit-seekers.
How do we fight it? That’s the simplest part. We try to become as literate as we can and make our children literate, too. Knowledge is power and these are no empty words.
To quote Pratchett, as you know I love to do, “The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass.” And when mass reaches a critical level, we get a — let’s say it all together — chain reaction. We definitely need one.