I recently got an email from Ronald Stein that raised an energy literacy issue that has been something I wanted to write about for some time. New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) mandates a transition of the energy system to one with no fossil fuel infrastructure. What about the 6,000 products that are manufactured using fossil fuel feedstocks?
Everyone wants to do right by the environment to the extent that they can afford to and not be unduly burdened by the effects of environmental policies. Unfortunately, looking solely at fossil fuels as evil and not considering the enormous benefits of fossil fuel as an energy source and as the material used to manufacture so many items used by society is misplaced. I submitted comments on the Climate Act implementation plan and have written over 275 articles about New York’s net-zero transition because I believe the ambitions for a zero-emissions economy embodied in the Climate Act outstrip available renewable technology such that the net-zero transition will do more harm than good. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the position of any of my previous employers or any other company I have been associated with, these comments are mine alone.
In this section I quote and paraphrase the material from the email.
Ronald Stein is a professional engineer, energy advisor, and national TV commentator, Ron has spent much of his life trying to get more people to truly understand energy – where it comes from, how it works, and what we can expect in the future. After starting off his career as a project manager for refineries and chemical plants, Ron later did a stint at Universal Studios where he oversaw the building of the Jaws ride. Eventually, he would start his own company, PTS Advance, which partners with engineering firms and refineries to augment their core staff when excess needs arise. The family-owned business now has locations across the country, with over 1000 contractors staffing various energy infrastructure projects.
His email explained:
Energy literacy starts with the knowledge that renewable energy is only intermittent electricity generated from weather dependent breezes and sunshine. For the 8 billion on this planet, wind turbines and solar panels cannot manufacture any of the 6,000 products in our daily lives, nor any of the fuels for ships, planes, militaries, and space programs.
It went on to provide a few takeaways on energy literacy, i.e., the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about:
The potential for nuclear fusion for unlimited zero-emission electricity is exciting. It has the potential, in the decades ahead, to wean the world from coal and natural gas for electricity generation.
Facing reality, fusion, like wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro, ONLY generate electricity. None can manufacture any products, or fuels for transportation infrastructures needed by the 8 billion on this planet.
On the other hand, we have crude oil that is never used for generating electricity, AND is virtually useless until its manufactured into usable products via the 700 refineries around the world.
Today, the world’s 8 billion are dependent on more than 6,000 products made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, and the 50,000-merchant ships and 50,000 jets, and militaries, and space programs are based on the fuels manufactured from crude oil.
We may have long-range plans to generate electricity from wind, solar, and nuclear fusion, but no plans to replace crude oil that is manufactured into everything in our daily lives.
Energy literacy will enhance one’s comprehension that the cost of energy affects everything, from the food we eat, the clothes we wear, transportation, communications, housing, healthcare, and the leisurely living made possible by energy.
The world needs to comprehend that energy is more than intermittent electricity from wind and solar. Ever since the discovery of the versatility of products available from petroleum derivatives, and the beginning of manufacturing and assembly of cars, truck, airplanes, and military equipment, the world has had almost 200 years to develop clones or generics to replace the crude oil derivatives that are the basis of more than 6,000 products we use such as: medications, electronics, communications, tires, asphalt, and fertilizers.
The social needs of our materialistic societies are most likely going to remain for continuous, uninterruptable, and reliable electricity from coal, natural gas, or nuclear electricity generation backup, and for all those chemicals derivatives that get manufactured out of crude oil, that makes everything else that’s part of our daily lifestyles and economies.
The purpose of the email was to announce a podcast posted January 14, 2023 at Energy Media about the elephant in the room, the products manufactured from fossil fuels that built the world from 1 to 8 billion in less than 200 years, beginning right after the discovery of oil. Ron explains:
There’s no doubt about it, our entire modern society – from medication to food to infrastructure and beyond – all was made possible thanks to the discovery of oil. When talking about the energy transition, Ron cautions dropping oil and gas before reliable alternatives are readily available. To him, that’s like “jumping out of a plane without a parachute.”
For more, check out Ron’s interview with The Epoch Times for a video that has already been viewed more than 200,000 times! “The 35-minute YouTube video is a conversation about the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about: the lack of energy literacy in the bizarre California energy policies.” The emphasis on the video is on California’s policies. It is entirely relevant to New York’s Climate Act.
Climate Act Implications Conclusion
One of the talking points of proponents of the Climate Act is that many clean energy jobs will be created. Stein’s work makes the point that the clean energy jobs are only associated with making electricity. In addition, most of the clean energy jobs are construction jobs and not associated with operating the generating resources. New York’s over-riding emphasis on reducing GHG emissions means that fossil fuels that can be used to make electricity but also provide fuel for heating and transportation and support manufacturing will be prohibited. I am pretty sure that is going to lead to a net loss of jobs.
The other relevant point is that the Climate Act fails to consider any positive impacts of fossil fuels. Eliminating fossil fuel infrastructure in the state means that no manufacturing that uses fossil fuels as feed stock will be welcome in the state. I also find it hypocritical that there is no backup plan for the replacing fossil fuel feedstocks used to make the products in the following figure.
Stein makes the important point that today’s society requires not only reliable electricity but all the chemicals derivatives that get manufactured out of crude oil and natural gas. Failure to consider the value of 6,000 products that are manufactured using fossil fuel feedstocks under values fossil fuel benefits to society in the Climate Act.