122 Comments

Nobody makes fuel form fuel, when you can just use the fuel as is. That's just common sense, no need to invoke thermodynamics.

I never said hydrogen should be directly used as a transportation fuel. I said hydrogen could be used for things like a blast furnace or used as a starting material for transportation fuel and chemical synthesis. SO hydrogen would be used *indirectly* to power planes for example, by using it to make conventional aviation fuel that does not add new carbon to the atmosphere.

You suggest making hydrocarbons out in the desert using cheap solar will be cheaper than fossil fuels. To make hydrocarbons you need air, water, and 8.8 kwh of electrons to make 1 kg of hydrocarbon. A gallon of fuel is about 3.2 kg so this works out to 28.2 kwh per gallon. This is assuming perfect efficiency. Lets assume 50% overall efficiency, which is pretty good, that is 70% efficient CO2 removal from the atmosphere and 70% efficient conversion of CO2 into fuel using some yet-to-be-discovered super-process.

So, to make the gallon of gas we need to input 56 kwh of raw materials. At 4 cents per kwh (this is the lowest price I have seen for any form of electrical power) this works out to $2.2 per gallon (compare to 0 input cost for fossil fuels). And this is just the process inputs. So no, manufactured fuel is never going to be cheaper than fuel that nature has already made from you can you just extract out of the ground.

If we live in a world where most people believe as I do that using fossil fuels has some nasty future climatic side effects* and we properly price in those side effects, we might find that the actual cost of using fossil fuels is not just the $3-4 we pay at the pump but more like $5-6 when we consider the cost of dealing with the climatic side effects in the future. The fuel in the desert people will never be able to compete with $3 gas, but $5 gas, that's a different story.

*People don't really talk about this, but looking at historical sea level and temperatures over the past 400 millennia, one can obtain a relation between sea level and temperature. It suggests 15 feet of future sea level rise is already baked in the cake from the first 1 C rise we have seen. Add another one before were get this under control and we have 30 ft. Florida is going to be underwater in the future. I then look at the forcing associated with this temperature rise and calculate how long it would take for it to melt enough ice to raise sea level by that amount. It's on the order of 1200 years. So that's 2.5 ft per century and if you look it up you see forecasts for sea level rise for the rest of this century are around 2 feet.

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What they want is a single wire monopoly to your home and business. They want everything from your car to your dryer to be at the mercy of their hourly pricing. They do not care that much of our gas is a by-product and will simply be flared off - they do not care about the environment. They want a MONOPOLY to your home, ( And they want to stop maintaining the last mile to your home too, a bonus savings of billions ) - They will burn every molecule of gas in centralized turbines, at 3 times the rate of burning it at point of use, the loss in generation, transmission, and conversion back to heat, requires 3X the gas - another win. Electrification is about MONOPOLY. Bryce continues to do a great job

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Propane may cost more per btu than gas. But my gas had a $40 per month connection fee on $10 worth of gas. Never again. And I have 250 gallons in my yard they cannot turn off. :)

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It's disappointing to see that the author of this article missed the big picture by getting too caught up in the details. The fact is that heat pumps are 300% efficient up to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, not including wind chill, which covers 95%+ of Americans for 355+ days per year. This puts most Americans at current cost parity, and in many areas, heat pumps are actually cheaper to run than natural gas. Acquisition costs can be an issue, but the government can provide assistance to address that. It's incredibly disingenuous that the article failed to mention heat pumps, especially considering that many Americans can heat their homes more affordably with an electric heat pump than with a natural gas furnace. For the sake of fairness, heat pumps should have been addressed.

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Another great expose from Robert - thank you sir!

Just more proof, as if any were needed, that Progressives hate the poor and working classes.

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I am also a Ph.D engineer, but chemical rather than nuclear. So when in look at replacing a fuel with electricity for heating, this initially makes no engineering sense. Electricity is produced (at high efficiency) from *work*. So using "free" work to produce electricity makes intuitive sense. Hydropower uses water flowing downhill to do work for free (a 900-year-old tech) to generate electricity at high efficiency. So much so that hydro plants were among the earliest power plants used. Wind power uses flowing air to do work for free (another 900-year-old tech) to do the same thing. Solar cells passively generate electricity from sunlight. If the cells are cheap enough this makes intuitive sense.

Work can also be produced from heat using a heat engine, which ideally operates at the Carnot efficiency. In the real world the efficiency is less than ideal and it well under 1. It makes little sense to convert heat into work at a loss, then convert the work into electricity (small loss but big capital) only to convert the electricity back into heat, when you could just create the heat at the point of use (i.e the home furnace).

But here's the kicker. If using fossil fuels to power the furnace is going to cause big externalities, then those externalities need to be captured in the cost of the fossil fuels. It could well be that the *cost* of using the fossil fuel (when externalities are taken into account) to heat the house will be greater than using a home heating system that does not employ fossil fuels.

But of course, nobody is proposing electrical heating. They are proposing heat pumps (e.g. AC) where heat is pumped into and out of the home during the winter and summer. This is more efficient than direct resistive heating, but as I learned in school 40 years ago, most suitable for mid-latitude US states.

Too many of these analyses tacitly assume that rising temperatures are a nothing burger and do not have to be taken into account through the cost of fossil fuel use. Which sort of makes such analyzes useless, except as a polemic.

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Great piece as always. Looking at the affordability of electricity vs gas, would the efficiency of the appliance not make an impact too? i.e. yes electricity may be more expensive than gas per btu, but if the electric heat pump needs less btu to produce the same heat output, should that not be considered too?

Extract from EDF Energy:

"A well-designed heat pump installation may have a coefficient of performance (CoP) of 3.5 or better. This sounds complicated, but what it simply means, is that for every unit of energy it uses, it produces 3.5 units of heat."

"This makes it about four times more efficient than gas central heating! And, based on standard tariffs, on a par with running costs."

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Our Beeg Guy, a Rich Man North of Richmond if ever there was one, could take a few lessons from King Canute who realized that commanding tides and a few other things on a human time-scale were above his pay grade.

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Mr Bryce, please chime in about the relationship between increase greenhouse gas concentration and global temperature rise. It seems your readers don’t understand the basic physical science. It would make a great new column.

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I wish energy realists from across the Western world would wake up and start pushing back on this nonesense. Want to know what the future looks like? Come to the UK.

Over the last 10 years, we have seen this agenda take a hold of our energy policymaking establishment. Energy costs have increased and we've become more exposed to Putin's energy weapon. People are so ignorant and we are yet to see a backlash. This is because the media and politicians refuse to talk about what is actually happening. And the funders you mention in this article are the very same ones pushing the same barmy policies here in the UK. They do this through a network of third-party campaigns who are in turn amplified by agenda-setting Big Media. They fund think tanks, focus groups and polling. The end result of this massive lobbying effort is that we are all poorer.

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This campaign needs to be defeated at local level. Every utility needs to ask its consumers if the will accept a 330% increase in their monthly bills (on top of inflation). And consumer groups need to mount legal challenges to utilities that favour ideology over affordability.

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Great analysis of this insane global warming cult, which is causing a real energy crisis almsot all over the formerly knonn as Free West. We all know that it isnt about the climate, but about the destruction of our western way of life and freedom and about big money for some. Sadly the totalitarians own most branches of society and the media and are silencing all critics. But we have to fight for the truth.

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It's all about cost-benefit analysis and the Free Market, not snot-swallowing, corrupt, nitwit bureaucrats telling us what we must do. Having energy choice in commercial, industrial & residential sectors is important. A little competition goes a long way. If electric heat with a heat pump/air conditioning unit, is cheaper than a gas boiler, fine use that, if you wish. We don't want the equivalent of the Arab Oil Embargo or Russia gas blockade or pipeline sabotage to cause an energy crisis for homeowners, who have only one source of energy.

And, a big one, if the corrupt government keeps pushing electricity prices sky high with their nutty wind & solar, H2, CCS, biomass burning scams, then the electricity consumer can opt out with a CHP gas boiler or Bloom Box. Grid Defection should be a right.

As for low carbon, these morons don't seem to know that you can make Methane carbon neutral through nuclear synthesis. So you can still supply NG with negligible carbon emissions. Better yet, switch to Methanol which is the easiest liquid fuel to make and easy to make carbon neutral, a dozen different ways. Methanol will go through existing gas pipelines at a much higher energy density than CNG. And can be used directly as fuel for gas automobiles. Or converted to DME as the best fuel for Diesel transport. I should say 2nd best, the best thing for diesel transport, rail, short distance shipping & diesel heavy equipment is to switch to battery electric. Far more economical, and by far the wisest use for very limited battery supplies. Makes utility or wind/solar battery storage or BEV light vehicles look stupid. Diesel is precious, we need a non-petroleum substitute for it, badly.

But when it comes to low carbon energy sources, the proper thing to do, the effective and efficient thing to do, is replace the myriad of preferential subsidies, mandates & exemptions given to Wind & Solar exclusively with a Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee & Dividend, and bring fair competition to low carbon energy sources like CCGT, ultra-supercritical Coal, nuclear, hydro & geothermal, not just wind & solar. And get rid of the nuttiest scams ever: Carbon Trading, Cap n' Trade, Carbon Credits or Net Zero. Just a big Wealth Transfer scam for the ultra-rich. Crooks.

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You are right, but it is largely a regulatory problem and not a really a technical one as I understand it.

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Why are climate change deniers so rude and condescending?

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