Irrational Transition

Irrational Transition

Edward A. Reid Jr.


The United Nations and the leaders of the developed nations have declared that the continued anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere represent an existential threat to humanity and must cease. They have established a goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and have initiated a variety of actions intended to achieve that goal. They contemplate a transition to “all-electric everything”.

The apparent enthusiasm of the UN and the governments of the developed nations for Net Zero by 2050 is not shared by the developing and not-yet-developing nations, which place higher priority on economic development, with little regard for the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. That assures that, even if the developed nations achieved their net zero goals, the globe would not reach net zero by 2050.

However, it appears extremely unlikely that the developed nations would achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The transition could only be achieved with a combination of massive expenditures, successful commercialization and implementation of currently non-existent technology and processes, elimination of the government-imposed “red tape” which delays project approvals and construction schedules, societal acceptance of the resulting upheaval and an enormous amount of good luck. Expecting to achieve this transition by 2050 is not rational. It is also not necessary.

The transition has begun by providing extremely generous government subsidies and incentives to encourage the installation of intermittent renewable wind and solar electric generation and the sale and use of electric vehicles. However, there has been very little attention paid to the electricity storage infrastructure necessary to allow smooth integration of the intermittent renewable generation into a reliable grid. There has been no effort to demonstrate that an intermittent renewable plus storage supplied grid could be reliable. There has been limited attention paid to the utility and reliability of electric vehicles, or to the development of the fueling infrastructure necessary to adequately support them.

There is growing attention being paid to various societal sacrifices which would be a necessary part of the transition, including personal and business travel restrictions, personal consumption of goods and services restrictions and dietary changes. There is also active promotion of the concept of “15-Minute” cities and discussion of population control, though there is very little discussion of how it would be accomplished.

A rational approach to a transition of this magnitude would be based on technologies and processes which have been thoroughly tested and demonstrated and have shown that they can be implemented economically while improving quality of life. This is clearly not the case today. Rather, the controlling bureaucracies: HOPE that sufficient renewable generating capacity can be manufactured and installed timely; HOPE that economical short-term, medium-term and long-term storage technology can be developed, manufactured and installed timely; HOPE that the combination of renewable generation plus storage can successfully replace coal and natural gas generation; HOPE that the new electric equipment and processes required to replace existing fossil fueled equipment and processes can be developed and installed timely; HOPE that the required expansion of the grid, including the “last mile” can be completed timely; HOPE that the issues of electric vehicle utility and charging can be resolved timely; and HOPE that the national economies survive the process.

Regrettably, HOPE is not a strategy and relying on HOPE is not rational.


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