An Analysis of the War on Fossil Fuels

President Obama and the EPA insist that the United States cut its CO2 emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, but what would that mean for Americans?

Let’s look at the supply of electricity to see what it would mean.

Figure 1 shows the installed capacity of 1,049,615 MW in 2004, which has changed only slightly since then, primarily with natural gas replacing some coal.

Figure 2 show the total CO2 emissions of 2,298 Million Metric Tons (MMT) from power generation, color coded by source, with coal being the largest source of CO2 emissions.

Figure 3 show the projected increase in new power generation of 609,258 MW required by 2050, with a 1% annual growth rate in electricity usage.

A growth rate of 1% is as forecast by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The 1% growth rate is only slightly higher than the population growth rate of 0.83%, with population in 2050 being 420 million. This growth does not include any increase in generating capacity required for EVs or PHEVs.

Generation Capacity, Today and in 2050
Generation Capacity, Today and in 2050

The next figure show the maximum amount of CO2 that can be emitted in 2050 from power generation sources, which is 361 MMT, if CO2 emissions are cut 80% from 1990 levels.

Allowable CO2 emissions from Power Generation in 2050
Allowable CO2 emissions from Power Generation in 2050

Current CO2 emissions from natural gas power plants, including the recent switch from coal to natural gas, already exceeds the amount allowed in 2050.

This means, that no new natural gas power plants can be built from this point forward, if we are to meet the 80% cut in CO2 emissions required by president Obama and the EPA.

So what can we do, or will there be a shortfall in electricity in 2050?

Figure 4, indicates that wind and solar can provide 20% of our electricity in 2050, but this assumes that the environmental organizations are correct in saying that unreliable sources, such as wind and solar, can provide 20% of the total.

Germany is already finding that this probably isn’t true.

As noted, 663,549 wind turbines or comparable solar installations will be required.

But even with wind and solar, there is a huge shortfall in generating capacity.

Americans will be without the electricity they need.

Note that the projections assume that existing coal-fired power plants will remain in place, but that they will all be outfitted with carbon capture capabilities, and that the CO2, thus captured, can be sequestered underground (CCS).

But the carbon capture installations consume about 30% of the electricity generated by coal-fired power plants. This parasitic load is required to power the pumps and compressors needed to capture, compress and then transmit liquid CO2, via pipeline, to where the CO2 is sequestered, in underground geologic formations, at approximately 2,000 psi.

This creates an additional shortfall, as depicted in Figure 4 as CCS shortfall.

Power Generation Capacity Shortfall in 2050
Power Generation Capacity Shortfall in 2050

In total, there will be at least a 24% shortfall of electricity.

But this assumes that 22 new nuclear power plants will be built, and that all existing nuclear power plants remain in operation, which is highly unlikely, because many will not receive a second extension to their operating licenses.

Environmentalists say we can be more energy efficient and cut our usage of electricity, but it seems highly unlikely that we can cut our use of electricity more than a few percentage points, especially when taking into consideration the growth in population. There is no demonstrable evidence that electricity usage can be cut by anywhere near 24%.

The facts are clear.

  • Wind and solar cannot provide 20% of our electricity. Germany, with 22% of their electricity coming from wind and solar, is already experiencing difficulties that are destroying their utilities, and requiring Germans to pay four to five times as much as we do for their electricity. Storage is supposed to alleviate this problem, but there are no proven methods of utility scale storage other than pumped storage, and all the possible storage alternatives are extremely expensive.
  • Nuclear power plants will decline in number, not increase.
  • CCS is unproven, and requires millions of tons of CO2 to be locked in geologic formations for centuries. Without CCS all coal-fired power plants would have to be shut down.
  • Natural gas power plants already exceed total allowable CO2 emissions from all sources of power generation.

This administration is setting a course for disaster.

Per capita CO2 emissions are 16.6 tons today, and would have to be reduced to 2.3 tons by 2050. The last time we had per capita emissions of 2.3 tons was in 1900, when there was no air-conditioning, refrigeration or other electrical appliances. Is that the standard of living we want for our children and grandchildren?

The above facts cannot be disproven.

If we continue down the road established by President Obama and the EPA, a disastrous shortage of electricity will be unavoidable and will harm all Americans.

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