Power to the People

Using taxpayer-subsidized solar power panels as a backdrop, President Obama recently announced another $3.4B in taxpayer subsidies to help upgrade the nation's electrical power grid. The spending includes "smart meters" that theoretically could be used by bribable government officials to throttle back power to the homes of unsupportive constituents.

Not that they actually would engage in such despicable extortion, of course...

Okay, maybe in Chicago.

And Detroit.

Mr. Obama likened the power-distribution portion of the project to the national highway system of fifty years ago. (That's the same taxpayer-funded highway system that nostalgic Leftists now blame for bankrupting the private sector passenger railroad industry.)

It seems odd that an anti-business politician such as Mr. Obama would want to spend taxpayer money to enrich coal-burning and nuclear power companies by funding the construction of their transmission lines. What next -- massive subsidies for a national system of pipelines for oil companies? After all, both are simply private-sector energy-distribution networks.

The explanation is that this particular spending will be showered on the so-called green energy companies. The Einsteins in Washington finally figured out that since few people live in really windy places like North Dakota, funding thousands of wind turbines there doesn't buy votes in New York. They need bigger cables to transport all that subsidized power from the windswept plains to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. So the power grid funding really is just more government spending for wasteful green projects.

Speaking of Einstein, Energy Tribune recently published an article about how his celebrated equation E = mc2 is relevant to the alternative energy debate. The author uses high school math and science to describe the relative energy densities of nuclear, chemical, and kinetic power sources such as wind and moving water:
The release of energy from splitting a uranium atom turns out to be 2 million times greater than breaking the carbon-hydrogen bond in coal, oil or wood. Compared to all the forms of energy ever employed by humanity, nuclear power is off the scale. Wind has less than 1/10th the energy density of wood, wood half the density of coal and coal half the density of octane. Altogether they differ by a factor of about 50. Nuclear has 2 million times the energy density of gasoline. It is hard to fathom this in light of our previous experience. Yet our energy future largely depends on grasping the significance of this differential.
In other words, on a pound-for-pound basis, nuclear power is about a hundred million times as efficient as wind power.  And isn't being "green" supposed to bring about the most efficient use of natural resources?

The author also makes the fascinating point that solar power really is nuclear energy too.  However, the emitted energy is captured ninety million miles from the reactor (the sun), so most of it is wasted.

Since the anti-nuclear-energy activists deliberately blur the distinction between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, let's exploit their propaganda with a few more military analogies:
  • If nuclear power is equivalent to a nuclear bomb, then solar power is like trying to destroy Tehran by dropping a nuke in the middle of the Caspian Sea.
  • If nuclear power is equivalent to a nuclear bomb, then the natural gas that greenies favor over coal is like a conventional bomb, which works by releasing chemical energy.
  • If nuclear power is equivalent to a nuclear bomb, then "green" hydropower is like the guns on a fighter jet, which transfer kinetic energy to strafe their target (but use a lot of lead to do it).
  • And finally, if nuclear power is equivalent to a nuclear bomb, then wind power is like pushing that expensive fighter jet down a hill, with a 20- or 30-percent chance of hitting the target. And when the airplane is rolled down the hill at night or on weekends, the target isn't even there.
Perhaps that's why both the Spaniards and the Danes have begun to regret their costly social-engineering experiments with taxpayer-subsidized wind power. Earlier this year, Aase Madsen, the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, called it "a terribly expensive disaster."