As the previous post indicated, my decision to file as a candidate for governor (and pay the requisite $1718.98 filing fee), while primarily to attract viewers to this blog about Sound Transit and WSDOT failure to deal with the areas transportation problem, was also to “question” the efficacy of limiting CO2 emissions to reduce “climate change” and “renewable energy” to meet future energy needs.
This post, in response to a May 16th Opinion page, “Climate change demands an electrifying solution,” is the first attempt. The “Special to the editor” was submitted by Spencer Reeder, one of the “panel of experts” in the recent Seattle Times Livewire forum about “the high cost of climate change”. He opines, “we must electrify the transportation system on a grand scale” to “prevent the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in such quantity as to disrupt the Earth’s energy balance”.
Electric powered transportation would apparently reduce the anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions in this country by 25%. It’s not clear how that reduction would affect total CO2 emissions. However, since anthropogenic emissions make up only about 3% of all CO2 emissions, the reduction for electrifying this country’s transportation on the “Earth’s energy balance” would seem to be “minimal”.
Presumably “electrifying transportation” requires replacing gasoline tanks with batteries (or some other storage device) for vehicles not tethered to some power lines. Unfortunately batteries lack the ability to store the energy and power of gasoline. Gasoline can store approximately 12,900 watt hours of energy per kilogram (Wh/Kg) and100,000 watts of power (W/Kg).
The most promising batteries, Nickel Metal Hydride (NMH), are projected to have only 120 Wh/Kg of energy and 220 W/Kg of power (lithium-ion batteries are similar). While electric motors are more efficient than gasoline engines in converting energy into motive force, battery-powered-vehicle range will be severely limited or the vehicle weight substantially increased by added batteries.
The other rather “dubious” assertion is the city has “an ample supply of near carbon free electricity”. According to “Washington Energy Facts”, while more than 70% of the states electricity is supplied by hydroelectric power, fossil fuels still provide nearly 18%, nuclear 6.3%, and 5% from non-hydroelectric “renewable sources”. The state also exports substantial amounts of hydroelectric and wind turbine generated electricity to California and other areas.
Current legislation purportedly calls for increasing renewable power, likely from wind turbines to 20%, presumably to replace fossil fuels. Thus providing an “ample supply of near carbon free electricity” either requires slashing the amount sent to other states or adding even more wind turbine power. (Its unlikely the other option, more dams or nuclear power plants will be considered.) However, increasing dependence on wind turbines is fraught with the problems of storing the energy needed to accommodate the times when the wind doesn’t blow. (The "Achilles Heel" of the entire renewable energy "movement" is, at least currently, the inability to store energy for use when the "wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine".) Even worse, our state’s problem pales in comparison to the rest of the countries ability to provide the needed carbon-free energy.
The bottom line is electrifying the transportation system as the way to reduce climate change relies on three “dubious” assumptions. The first is sufficient “carbon free” electricity can be achieved with renewable wind and solar power to replace gasoline or diesel fuel as the energy source for the country’s transportation system. Second, that batteries can be developed to provide the needed range without adding excessive weight. And third, that the resultant reduction in anthropogenic CO2 emissions will end the “disruption of the Earth’s energy balance from CO2”. It reminds me of one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons where Snoopy opines, “Birds have been known to fly to the moon and back”.