What Does He Have in Mind?

Michael Bloomberg is an engineer. He should know better. As you may know the former New York mayor has pledged to devote a half billion of his own money to making the U. S. 100% “clean energy”. From his address to the MIT graduating class:

Which is why today I’m announcing that, with Bloomberg Philanthropies, I am committing $500 million to launch a new national climate initiative, Beyond Carbon. Our goal is to move the U.S. toward a 100% clean energy economy as expeditiously as possible, beginning right now. We intend to succeed not by sacrificing things we need but by investing in things we want: more good jobs, cleaner air and water, cheaper power, more transportation options, and less congested roads.

To do it, we will defeat in the courts the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to roll back regulations that reduce carbon pollution and protect our air and water. But most of our battles will take place outside of Washington. We are going to take the fight to the states and cities — and directly to the people. And the fight will take place on four main fronts.

First: We will push states and utilities to phase out every last U.S. coal-fired power plant by 2030 — just 11 years from now.

The Chinese authorities have already announced their intention of increasing the number of coal-fired power plants by 43%. That means that no matter what we do carbon emissions will rise. Rather than going to war with domestic coal our efforts should be dedicated to reindustrializing the United States and encouraging our other trading partners to do the same and stop buying from China. Short of actual shootin’ war it’s the only course of action that would achieve the objective of reducing emissions in the timeframe under discussion. Have I mentioned that there is no such thing as a “clean” ocean freighter?

And his next target is natural gas:

Second: We will work to stop the construction of new gas plants. By the time they are built, they will be out of date because renewable energy will be cheaper.

Other than nuclear energy and fuel cells there are presently no ways to generate enough electricity to power an industrial economy other than with coal and/or natural gas.

That’s where the analogy with the Apollo program founders. The physics of sending a man to the moon was known. We developed the engineering skill to do it through the Apollo program. It’s the opposite with so-called “clean energy”. It’s the physics that’s the problem.

We don’t know how to store enough hydrogen to make fuel cells really practical at scale. We have pushed battery technology very nearly to its physical limit.

Fundamental breakthroughs in physics are not like city buses. They don’t run on a schedule. It may not be possible to make fuel cells practical at scale or achieve the improvements in battery technology that would be required.

Let me ask this. At the present rate of adoption, how long would it take for the entire U. S. passenger vehicle fleet to be plug-in electrics? The answer is never. If 100% of vehicles sold were electrics, it would take 20 years for the fleet to turn over. The present number of electrics in use is 2% of the fleet. Between 2017 and 2018 the number purchased annually increased 80%. IMO that was almost entirely driven by the Tesla 3. In 2019 it’s increased by 10%, the smallest increase since the number actually declined a few years back.

5 comments… add one
  • walt moffett Link

    Reads like he wants to be player on the local political scene. Can’t wait to see a candidate for say, Constable, performs for the money.

    As far as the rest of the world, between a few more signatures on treaties setting voluntary limits and the power of smug, it should sort it self out.

  • tarstarkas Link

    Another virtue-signaler. Let’s see him start walking to work, go without central air conditioning, and taking public transportation to Green Energy conventions and maybe I’ll start listening to him.
    Worst of all, there are strong signs that the Sun is moving into a very inactive phase, with both the primary and secondary magnetic fields growing less considerably less energetic and thus reducing the sun’s energy output. Looking forward to white Christmases, Floridians? You may start getting them sooner than you think.


  • Guarneri Link

    I just hope the MIT students didn’t clap. That would make me worry about MIT.

  • steve Link

    The latest on solar energy, with suggestions on how the success could be applied to small nuclear.



  • Yes, that’s a good post. I was aware of all of that. IMO there are several points that should be made:

    1. Massive subsidies were needed.
    2. At this point the evidence that more subsidies will actually produce more economies is pretty slight.
    3. Consequently, as the post suggests, while that path can be a way forward for other technologies, it probably isn’t for PEV.

    My experience has been that economies of scale aren’t linear; they tend to be hyperbolic—they can be substantial for a while but at some point, frequently at not a very high point, they peter out.

    So, while I’m grateful for the link and see its usefulness, I still think the people who believe we will see another one or two orders of magnitude decrease in the cost of PEV are wrong and it’s certainly not something to build a multi-trillion dollar strategy on.

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