There are few things more beloved of "conservationists" than the environmental devastation caused by wind farms. In Australia, a 2019 project atop Mt. Emerald in Northern Queensland, at first greeted as a great leap forward for "green energy," is now causing major concern. What had once been pristine wilderness, noted environmentalist Steve Nowakowski with dismay, "is now basically a quarry site. That landscape will never come back."
Apparently, he had no idea that many other wind farms were under construction or planned for the same geographical area; some on tracts of unspoilt country. That really gets under the skin of your average environmentalist of yesteryear. “It’s really out of control… and no one knows about it," he said.
That's the price of progress, apparently. Michael Moore’s 2019 documentary movie Planet of the Humans captures the dilemma. Unsightly, costly, acreage demanding, bird-killing, child-labor-using and, to boot, unreliable thus needing nasty fossil-fuel backup. What true greenie would like them? Anyway, it's far fewer humans that they really want, not more energy, whatever the source.
There are no offshore windfarms yet in Australia. One advanced proposal is to build one in the Bass Strait, off the coast of Gippsland in South East Australia. The problem? Birds. One fisherman not only pointed to the danger to migratory birds but also to the effect on fishing. Birds are such good fishermen, he said, “we watch them, and we know where the fish are.” There you go, process it as you will.
But wherever you figuratively fish, on land or sea, from Evia in Greece, where they will “ruin acres of ancient forests;” across the Atlantic to the U.S., where Robert Bryce writing in Forbes in September claimed that 317 wind projects had been cancelled due to environmental concerns; and onwards across the Pacific to Australia, environmentalism has a schism.
Look out above.
Expect the list of rejected wind farms to grow. For example, in recent times, a Southern Tablelands farm in New South Wales was rejected because of its “visual impact on residents.” And one in central Queensland because of its “potential impact on threatened native animal species, including the koala.”
“The faux environmentalist is easy to spot: he loves industrial wind power and couldn’t care less about the environmental destruction it causes,” said one environmentalist. Internecine struggles are afoot. Such struggles, like civil wars, are usually ugly
You wonder what those supporting renewable energy think will happen to pristine land and coastal waters. In 2019 wind accounted for 2.2 percent of the world's primary energy consumption. And if it gets to only a modest 22 percent, where exactly do they think these tens upon tens of thousands of square miles of wind farms are going to go? Thankfully, not before time, the opposition's growing.
A Magic-Pudding Antipodean Plan to Reach Net-Zero
The Liberal and National Parties form Australia's current coalition government. As leader of the Nationals, the junior coalition partner, representing regional and rural areas, Barnaby Joyce is Australia’s deputy prime minister. He came to global attention, you may recall, in 2015 when he threatened to “euthanise” Johnny Depp’s illegal-alien dogs, Pistol and Boo, unless they were removed tout de suite back to California.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison needed Barnaby to bring the Nationals onboard the concept of net-zero. The supposedly right-of-centre Liberal politicians all now embrace climate change. Morrison himself has no philosophy except to be re-elected. Barnaby is a climate skeptic as are some of his party colleagues. But they voted, and pragmatism won the day.
Nirvana ahead! All aboard!
What does pragmatism look like? In this case, twelve Nationals against nine voting in their party room to keep the government together and heighten their chances of being returned to power when the federal election is held early next year. Was there any high principle or conviction involved? Hardly.
This is Barnaby just a little over a year ago: “prospects of getting out of that [party] room as leader [having agreed to net zero] would be zero.” And here he is a few days ago on October 25: “The party has clearly said that they are in favour of a goal of net zero by 2050. I am now absolutely onboard…”
What we have is the deputy prime minister of the country being personally opposed to the very centrepiece of government policy; a policy that will define the battle lines in the forthcoming election. He should resign you might think. Not if you like being deputy prime minister.
There is an excuse of sorts for all of this. Morrison needed to go to Glasgow promising net-zero or risk Australia's becoming an international pariah and suffering retribution from international capital markets. It’s expedient for the U.K., Europe, the United States, woke corporates, and billionaires to point the finger at Australia (less than 1.2 percent of global emissions). No good blaming much bigger fish: China, India, Russia. They’ll shrug it off or, worse, take umbrage. Better to pick a more compliant mark. Kick the cat, so to speak. And Boris Johnson repaid Australia’s redemptive compliance by calling it “heroic.” Morrison purred.
If he only had a brain.
My own view is why stop at net-zero? Go for broke, gross-zero. Anything is possible with Morrison’s costless plan. It won’t cost Australians a cent and will lead to higher incomes and more jobs, he promises. I don’t know why it wasn’t thought of before now. Years ago. And surely, logic says, if net-zero is so beneficial, gross zero would be even better?
The costless plan involves public spending of many billions of dollars; though, apparently, Australian taxpayers won’t be touched for the tab. It’s one of those magic-pudding plans (“The more you eats the more you gets”) which more than pays for itself. So, what is the plan?
Here it is below in a nutshell. It has to be in a nutshell. There are no costings or details.
First, the plan banks the fact that emissions are already 20 percent lower than in 2005. I don’t quite know how that works. Never mind, most of another 40 percent comes from green hydrogen. Australia’s former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, says that the export potential “is almost beyond imaginings.” He’s right, for once. It is beyond imaginings. It’s worthwhile to continually remind ourselves why coal, oil and gas, of which Australia has plenty of the first and third, are so good. It’s because they are the energy. Dense energy. They readily burn without much ado.
Green hydrogen is only energy once much more energy is expended making it into energy. To begin with, energy is required to purify copious quantities of water. To end with, energy is required to convert hydrogen to ammonia, for safe transportation, and to convert it back for use. In the middle is an energy intensive electrolysis process to isolate hydrogen from water. And all the while, solar farms and wind turbines occupying vast areas of land are needed to supply “clean” energy to make it all possible.
Quite apart from its sheer inefficiencies and costs, and assuming it can be done at all at scale, it poses untenable national-security problems. When all of your power plus fuel for transport is sourced from untold acreages of solar panels and wind turbines, the targets are expansive and unmistakable and the effect of them being hit is catastrophic.
The hallmark of the plan, its electoral selling point, is net zero through "technology not taxes." Ergo, another 15 percent of the descent to net-zero is achieved by piggybacking on global technological developments, which are apparently afoot. Yes, I’m not quite sure what that means either. Another 10 percent comes from storing carbon in soils and plants and from buying offsets from abroad. The final 15 percent comes from unknown technological breakthroughs. Something will turn up. Not making this up. I’m essentially quoting from the plan, if not Mr Micawber his own good self.
The plan, of course, isn’t a plan at all; it’s a wish list. Hopes and dreams. Suspend disbelief, and you will be able to look forward to 2050 when there will be more than 100,000 more jobs than would otherwise exist. Each Australian will be $2,000 better off. Electricity bills will be lower than they are today. Australian exports will more than triple between 2020 and 2050, even though global demand for coal and gas will plummet. Hydrogen will more than take up the slack. Warp-speed travel will also take Australians to the stars and beyond. I made that last bit up. It isn’t in the plan; unlike the rest of the faery tale.
All isn’t fantasy. Realism breaks through when it comes to methane. Australia is one of the few countries which has more cows and (many) more sheep than it has people. Awa’ to Glasgow and pressure on Australia to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent on 2020 levels by 2030. Apparently, Biden’s handlers are keen. Suspecting, I imagine, that Trump supporters eat lots of hamburgers.
Cows belch methane; as do sheep to a lesser extent. And there is little you can do about it apart from culling. Barnaby and his mates would never agree to that. Millions of disappeared animals is just too tangible. Best to remain in technological never-never land where nothing is remotely tangible. Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain.
Whom to Believe: Big Brother or Your Lying Eyes?
Professor emeritus Ivan Kennedy, faculty of science at Sydney University, tells me he has been doing some work on the effect of turbulence engendered by wind turbines. Among other things, he hypothesizes that this may have a drying effect extending beyond the immediate area. The outcomes: a fall in the productivity of arable land and more water vapour in the atmosphere.
You’ll note, I said, he hypothesizes. Importantly, he also points out that his theory is testable using technology such as ground-based sensors and satellites. Being a scientist of the old school, he doesn’t rush to conclusions even provisional ones. Greenies are not nearly so constrained; operating comfortably in fact-free zones.
As an exercise, let me take each of the two hypothesized outcomes in turn and see where they lead. You will see that they lead realists (putting modesty aside) like us, and greenies in diametrically opposite directions.
Let us suppose there is a measurable fall in the moisture in agricultural land surrounding wind farms. Our take: build fewer wind turbines near agricultural land. (Build none at all actually but you get my drift.) Their take: climate change is causing droughts. Build more turbines.
Build fewer, senor. No, Sancho, build more.
Water vapour is by far the dominant greenhouse gas. Suppose it is found that the uplift of water vapour is greater, the nearer are turbines to bodies of water; those, particularly, in seas or close to irrigated areas. Our take: build fewer turbines close to water. Theirs, CO2 is causing the oceans to warm. Hence more water vapour. Build more turbines.
The bitter or delicious irony, depending where you stand, is that the more deleterious effects turbines have on the natural world, the more must be built to counter such effects. Wind turbines, and solar panels too, are bulletproof. They both make lots of money for powerful people and big businesses and, not least, for China. And they appeal to the gullible; who, at whatever cost to reason and the public purse, see them combatting the imminent imaginary climate Armageddon.
Even despoiling landscapes and seascapes hardly rates a mention now that Prince Phillip is not around to express his displeasure in his own blunt way. In case you've missed it, Prince Charles is not a chip of the old block. Mind you, that aside, alarms have been raised about the enormous quantity of materials and energy required for the manufacture of turbines and solar panels; for their use of rare earths; their relatively short life spans; and the problem of their disposal. Really? Among whom?
OK, only among those who deal in facts. In other words, not among the much vaster number of people, including government ministers and their apparatchiks throughout the Western world, who deal in fancies. Among the minority who deal in facts is Mark Mills, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. If you haven’t already, it is well worth while keying in to his presentation on February 9, 2021 to the U.S. House Energy Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. Here’s just a taste:
Building a single 100-MW wind farm requires some 30,000 tons of iron ore and 50,000 tons of concrete, as well as 900 tons of nonrecyclable plastics for the huge blades.
A storage system to back-up such a wind farm would require using at least 10,000 tons of Tesla-class batteries.
The tonnage in cement, steel, and glass is 150% greater for solar than for wind, for the same energy output.
Under the scenarios for clean energy imagined by the World Bank, the 700 tons of neodymium currently mined would need to increase by between 1,000 and 4,000 percent. Indium by as much as 8000%. Cobalt by 300 to 800%. Lithium by more than 2,000%.
The Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, concluded last year that the supply of elements such as nickel, dysprosium, and tellurium will need to increase by 200 to 600%.
As Mills explains, while the minerals required are there, digging them up will be daunting and pricey. Count among the costs: environmental degradation; increased threats to the West’s national security in view of China’s dominance in many of the supply chains; the use of child labour in countries not so sensitive to human rights; the massive amounts of energy required to mine, transport and process these exotic minerals; and, the bottom line, the demise of reliable and affordable hydrocarbon power.
On hearing all of this, the Democrat members of the subcommittee, including the chairman Paul Tonko (NY), recanted and became RE-skeptics overnight. I’m fabulising. Inconvenient facts don’t impact dullards or zealots.
Prof. Kennedy’s hypothesis might be true. So what? It would just sit atop of the existing enormous pile of inconvenient facts. Rafe Champion, another friend fond of facts, continually pesters Australian politicians, all 837 of them in this over-governed land, about the inconstancy of wind. No wind no power, he says. Follow up tricky question: if it takes 1,000 turbines to power a particular town when the wind is blowing, how many turbines does it take when the wind isn’t blowing? Alas, arithmetic isn’t the strong suit of the political class; except, that is, when counting prospective votes.
It took exquisite torture on the part of O’Brien to convince Winston Smith that two plus two equals five. Childs play for greenies. To wit, when the wind stops blowing a big battery can take over, they claim, with the conviction of megalomaniacs.
One of the biggest lithium battery installations in the world at Hornsdale in South Australia can reportedly deliver 194 MW for an hour. Though electricity usage has spiked above 4,000MW, South Australia (pop. 1.8 million) generally uses from 1,000MW to 2,500MW depending on the time of day and season. Ergo, the battery would generally run out in 12 to 5 minutes if required to take over.
Mind you, as deluded as they are, look at us. We persist in using logic, facts and figures. Might as well babble for all the influence we have. And then again, what else is there to do? We are condemned, Sisyphus-like, to make the same arguments over and over again. Captors, as we are, of reality.
The one saving: real life is our pal. As the paranoid delusions and lies increasingly hit the road they’ll be undone. For example, when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining that illustrative town I mentioned will last ten minutes or so on batteries before the lights go out. QED.