The latest report from New York state's grid operator is a master class in everything wrong with the Western world's approach to climate change.
That is: everything wrong with an approach that consists of throwing money at green business interests in defiance of any practical consideration. If you think something else is going on, such as abating climate change, think again.
To meet a legislated goal of emissions-free electricity by 2040, New York will need up to 45 gigawatts of what it delicately calls DEFRs, or dispatchable emissions-free resources. Not only is that more than the state's total current generating capacity of 37 gigawatts, these DEFRs, which are carbon-free like wind and solar yet not interruptible like wind and solar, don't exist and have no prospect of existing in the next decade. Starting very much sooner than 2040, New York's real choice will be Third World electricity reliability vs. paying fossil-fuel operators large fees to keep their plants up and running in a highly inefficient part-time fashion.
Many involved in the state's energy "transition" might question whether purging the last 10% or 5% of fossil fuels from the system is worth the exorbitant cost. Don't expect anyone to admit the bigger problem: The transition won't likely do much to reduce global emissions.
This is the great unmentionable. When New Yorkers use less coal, oil or gasoline because of environmental mandates, the market price transmits the benefit to other global users, who then use more. Even more unspeakable is the corollary: Emission-spewing activities simply relocate from one part of the world to another. China's emissions growth, from half the U.S.'s to almost 300% of the U.S.'s in 30 years, is partly the product of a transplant of emissions from the U.S. and Europe.
If pressed, Biden officials will privately revert to gobbledygook about carbon taxes that appear immaculately without anyone having to advocate them. The media fill the gap with wishful thinking and Soviet econometrics, confusing inputs with outputs. Yes, world-wide investment in renewables in the past two years has exceeded investment in fossil fuels. Supposedly this proves fossil fuels are on their way out. No, it proves fossil fuels are a better deal, consuming less investment to meet their share of the world's growing power needs.
Again, the Biden administration quietly acknowledges the truth. Its own studies show that solar delivers 25% of its rated output in electricity, wind 35%, and natural gas 57%. As recently as 2010, coal delivered 67% but has fallen precipitously to 40%. Why? According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, America's coal plants increasingly are operated in inefficient, stop-start fashion to support wind and solar, magnifying the national risk of breakdowns and blackouts, which are also highlighted in the New York state report.
New England may well experience blackouts this winter . For the Europeans, of course, everything is worse, having pretended that generous wind and solar handouts made them green while relying on cheap Russian gas to slow the transfer of heavy industry to China. Kaboom.
The ironies are not small. Profit-oriented energy providers already have an incentive to incorporate low-cost solar and wind in ways that meet customer demand for cheap, reliable energy. It's the pie-in-the-sky mandates concocted by legislators that drive utilities to adopt renewables in senseless ways unless the goal is to make every homeowner buy a carbon-spewing emergency generator.
For another day is the role of the Obama administration's calculations about the political salability of green subsidies vs. carbon taxes; how climate change became a politics of personal transformation and utopianism; the high priestess Greta.
With its latest "assessment report," the U.N. climate panel actually lowers its estimated odds of worst-case warming; it sees emissions flattening sooner than previously thought. By multiple models, the costs will be unwelcome but manageable. This good news goes unreported but reaches New York Times readers indirectly, as when podcaster Ezra Klein gently scolds his yuppie listeners that climate change isn't an argument to forgo procreation. "No mainstream climate models suggest a return to a world as bad as the one we had in 1950, to say nothing of 1150. . . . Nothing in our near future looks so horrible that it turns reproduction into an immoral act."
The track of future emissions and related costs might be further reduced with well-designed carbon taxes if doing so fitted with today's dishonest, showy green politics, which it doesn't.