A Free-Market Energy Blog

On Energy Transition

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 7, 2024

“… the ‘energy transition’ has been just the other way around: from dilute, intermittent, and quantity-limited supplies to dense, reliable, storable mass quantities representing the sun’s work over the ages.”

LinkedIn is a forum of vigorous open debate on climate science, energy, and public policy. I have been an active participant, probably responding to comments an hour or more on most days. I learn, and, in turn, people learn from me. It is a good avenue for many of my links on the issues under discussion.

Here is an exchange on “Energy Transition,” as introduced by “professor, author and leader in energy transition engineering” Susan Krumdleck.

Susan Krumdleck: How would you define “Energy Transition”? What outcomes would an investment in an “Energy Transition” project require in order to meet your requirements, or to fit with the science?

Would a university qualification in Energy Transition sit within an accredited engineering programme? or a business management programme? or a social science programme?

Should “Net Zero” be one of the metrics for Energy Transition projects? Is renewable electricity development all that is meant by “Energy Transition”? Should transport and buildings, agriculture and manufacturing as well as power generation have “Energy Transition” standards?

Robert Bradley Jr.: “Energy transition” at the expense of consumers and taxpayers in favor of crony capitalists and government and the intellectual (“expert”) class should be defined as something like:

“‘Energy transition’ is a political term describing government-enabled substitution of wind, solar, batteries, in particular, for consumer-chosen, policy-neutral energies. Forced reductions in energy usage (conservationism) is also part of the initiative.”

Krumdieck: thanks for your thoughts. If you got to write the playbook for “Energy Transition” what would you write as the introduction paragraph? Is it what you have contributed here?

Bradley: The idea of “energy transition” as it is currently meant is a transition away from fossil fuels to wind, solar, and its derivatives.

That is not a market phenomenon but a governmental one. Yes, there has been hydro for more than a century (“white coal,” as it was called). Some geothermal and the rest in niche areas, including solar off the grid.

The “energy transition” was really from renewables (100%) to dense, stock energies, beginning with coal and continuing with oil and natural gas. WS Jevons’ The Coal Question (1865) explains this transformation well for the UK, and Vaclav Smil has documented it well. The “transformation” also included EVs, which dominated the market until ICE outcompeted batteries.

Bradley: 2: Within the fossil fuel family, government tried and failed with synthetic fuels, beginning in 1944 and ending in the early 1980s.

But market-driven developments within the industry (with air pollution regulation, a long story) made fossil fuels sustainable and the fuels to beat. Revolutionary developments in oil and gas extraction–and the development of natural gas cogeneration and combined cycle to beat coal for new capacity– were both huge advance.

Nuclear power? A story of a government created industry that has never been economic in the US if not elsewhere (LNG development).

This is the supply side. The demand side of continuous improvement with oil, gas, and coal is a story in itself.

In summary, the ‘energy transition’ has been just the other way around: from dilute, intermittent, and quantity-limited supplies to dense, reliable, storable mass quantities representing the sun’s work over the ages (versus a very dilute flow).

This was the end of the exchange. I wish she had queried me more. But I was glad to be asked–and to answer a person on the other side of the issues. But are they listening … doubting the climate crusade with all of its side problems (social justice and ecological too)? I might be planting seeds–and helping the open-minded with their thinking and activism. I’ll keep at it….

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