by Planning Engineer (Russell Schussler)
Reflecting on the U.S. response to the covid pandemic, Dr. Fauci provides some important insights on managing complex risks – with relevance to climate change and the electric grid transition.
Dr. Fauci discussing past covid measures was recently quoted as saying,
“(W)e looked at it from a purely public-health standpoint. It was for other people to make broader assessments—people whose positions include but aren’t exclusively about public health. Those people have to make the decisions about the balance between the potential negative consequences of something versus the benefits of something.”
I was surprised to hear that Dr. Fauci did not think that public health should have been in total control of the pandemic response. But he is right. We needed diverse experts providing input and impacting policy choices – some who worry about public health, others who worry about individual health, others who worry about children, and others well versed on the economic impacts of it all. Doing everything possible to stop the spread of covid, all other costs and consideration be damned, should have been expected to reduce the overall well-being of society and provide grossly suboptimal outcomes. Focusing solely on covid risks was likely counterproductive even for those most at risk from covid.
In the U.S., the balanced path Dr. Fauci is now advocating was not seriously pursued during the pandemic. With the Covid panic, it seemed public health took over with one over-riding goal. Advocates for individual health and individual health care found few available forums and inroads to appeal to and impact policy makers. Appearing to be against the central narrative of those in power may have had severe consequences for individuals and organizations. In hindsight, many see that balancing competing views and values would have better served us all. In focusing so exclusively on the threat of covid, we increased our risk from so many other threats. Many now understand that our “best” scientific understandings should be subject to challenges. It certainly seems we needed “other people” to speak up, but those voices did not find the platforms they would need to influence policy and direction.
There are some similarities here with “experts” who are driving policy as relates to the climate “emergency” and the emerging plans for net zero. My recent posting discussed reasons why utility grid experts were silent while policies were enacted that called for large increases in wind and solar power. It’s fairly clear that insufficient numbers of policy makers want to hear of the potential negative consequences related to increasing penetration levels from wind and solar. Perhaps our experience with covid regulations can shed some light on the discussions that should occur around grid policies. Both covid and net zero efforts are dominated by an overfocused group of experts, crafting an overly simplistic narrative to guide policy makers, the press, and much of the public. These narrow experts and their followers are largely unaware of the large negative externalities that result from their initiatives. Public health was worried about public health, not individual health or the economy. Many of those now driving the net zero mobilization are focused on CO2 reduction, not grid reliability or the economy.
Counter to Dr. Fauci’s calls for “other people to make broader assessments”, in reality often when disaster or emergencies are proclaimed the voices of the “other people” are marginalized, ignored, discredited and/or demonized. Instead of allowing diverse voices to “balance” concerns, those proclaiming disaster become self-righteous and authoritarian, arguing that other voices are at best wasteful distractions and at worst the work of those with selfish or sinister motives. Such sentiments can capture policy makers, the media and the public. The resultant mob wants to build consensus for a complex and highly uncertain problem, and they promote the idea that anyone challenging “the consensus” narrative is a dangerous threat.
The fear-based, narrowly focused public health approach to covid avoidance, largely to the exclusion of all other concerns, seemed to get worse as it trickled down to the broader public. Over-reactions were common as skate parks were filled with sand and beaches were closed. In my active 55+ community, our board had regular visits from public health workers. They focused on obscure risks and studies like this one recommending walkers beware of slipstream transmission. They locked up our outdoor recreational amenities, took down nets and encouraged isolation way longer than made sense. Arguing against their efforts in favor of a two-pronged strategy of avoiding covid and also encouraging individual health, was seen as a selfish and ignorant position by many. They insisted they were following “experts” advice, but it was only from one narrow perspective from one narrow field of expertise. The masses were largely swayed by unchallenged public health concerns such that for many staying home, watching tv and drinking were seen as the responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, the health consequences of that strategy in older populations were generally not good.
The fear-based calls for a “green” grid has followed a similar path. The narrative coming from leaders in this area influence regional and local authorities as well as individuals. Many areas over-subsidize solar for the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Ridiculous “green” projects garner support. As with covid, those challenging the “green” narrative are suspect. “Forget the economy. Forget the negative impacts associated with wind and solar. Forget the cost and reliability implications or what it might do to our standard of living. We are facing a calamity.” When technical claims about the shortcomings of intermittent asynchronous wind and solar are met by exclamations about how bad climate change might be, you realize that fear has pushed rational discussion aside. Hopefully “green” experts and advocates might one day soon see the wisdom of Dr. Fauci’s statement rewritten here for them:
“It is for other people to make broader assessments… Those people have to make the decisions about the balance between the potential negative consequences of something (asynchronous intermittent generation) versus the benefits of something (economic reliable energy)”.
Those calling for economics and reliability to be considered along with social responsibility and “green” concerns should not be seen as the enemy. They should play an important role in the broader assessments of energy policy. They should not be seen as shills of industry or deniers of science but rather responsible experts helping achieve balance in the policy process.
There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that Dr. Fauci actually sought to encourage balance around the bigger issues as covid policies evolved. But his more recent reflections provide rock solid good advice.
“Those people have to make the decisions about the balance between the potential negative consequences of something versus the benefits of something.“
We may one day hear “green” experts cry out, after grand experiments fail, that, “I was only talking about what green energy could do, it was up to others to provide balance and publicize the short comings of the technology.” It will be too late then. Let’s challenge all “experts” now to show their commitments: 1) to balance, 2) to addressing their critics, 3) to understanding the limitations of their knowledge, and 4) to help cultivate an appreciation for how other experts might help better understand potential negative impacts from their proposed actions.
Promoting healthy debates with a variety of perspectives around critical issues, such as a potential grid transformation, is the best course for developing sound policies. Unfortunately, we seem to be moving farther away from such hopes, as those in control argue for our/their “best understandings” and help stifle anything that might cast a shadow of doubt around their narratives . When disaster is predicted, select “experts” take priority, opposition is hushed, and then balance is lost. The overused recipe of proclaiming disaster, proposing a solution, declaring there is not much time, arguing that “misinformation” is harmful and then controlling the dialogue works against us all. While it may get decisions and policies rolling, it is often not in the right direction and long-term needs and feedback mechanisms are frequently overlooked and ignored
As suggested by Dr. Fauci, in any major undertaking balance is needed. It is far better to understood this in advance, rather than recognize it in hindsight. The justification for balance is summarized in this 2016 posting:
“The power system is a matter of extreme importance relating to economic development, quality of life as well as health and safety. In order to best meet the needs of any given area, it is necessary to balance the factors of economics, reliability and public responsibility. An imbalance in any area will lead to repercussions in other areas and may, in fact, prove to be counterproductive across all areas.”
Getting the power system right is important regardless of the threats posed by climate change. Climate change concerns should not trump a reliable economic grid. In fact, quite the opposite, the greater the threat of climate change, the more important it is that we get power supply right. Climate change would not pair well with an unreliable, overly costly, unworkable energy system. Focusing too narrowly on public responsibility (CO2 reduction, equity, social justice) without adequate concern for economics and reliability is a recipe for disaster. Bring on the balance.
Dr. “I am the science” was keeping that fraud rationalization in his back pocket all along.
Two California doctors wrote a book describing how they treated more than 7,000 Covid patients in their clinics, and none of them died if treatments began within four days of first symptoms.
“Overcoming the Covid Darkness,” by Brian Tyson, M.D. & George Fareed, M.D.
They also documented how they tried to inform Fauci and other health experts about their successful treatments, but received no replies.
Contrary to Fauci’s current statements about the need to have input from multiple experts, his actual history is quite different.
He needs to have input from multiple APPROVED experts.
I believe there is way too much government, political, industry and environmentalist money at stake for a reasoned debate to occur on the so called “climate emergency”. Trillions of dollars are being spent, impoverishing everybody but the well-off.
Just like COVID, the perpetrators of the “emergency” will not be held accountable, with the “for others to decide” callously trotted out as cover for their their own malicious greed.
Russell … I think you may be giving Fauci credit for his ‘revision’ of what he actually advocated. If anything, Fauci is adept at how the Beltway works. He knows that he won’t be judged well for his positions. And he knows how to do damage control. For an even better example, see Randi Weingarten.
I don’t mean to push anything more than that I agree with the Fauci statement I quote. I don’t know if he actually revised his thinking (which would be the right thing to do) or if he’s just lost in finger pointing and largely oblivious to what he said. But I say grab that statement-use it n the future. Point to the past- show what ignoring it cost us.
I agree with your sentiments on how policy development should work. And how to move forward from policy outcomes that were undesirable. In all of your posts here you’ve consistently espoused good leadership qualities, this one as well.
My response with Fauci and Weingarten is certainly knee-jerk and there is a reason. While they may be good (or were good at one time) at infectious disease or developing/maintaining a union, they are not good leaders. Unfortunately they are symptomatic of the leadership positions of our bureaucratic class, which are many times run like fiefdoms, jealously guarding their prerogatives, purview and power. Fauci and Weingarten’s revisionist statements are meant primarily for their benefit, the focus being to minimize their past record and point the direction forward with them still holding the gavel … or microphone, if you choose. They have no shame. They will say anything to maintain their power.
Like you, I have confidence in an open process where ideas are exchanged freely. Our society finds itself where that type of process is not just missing, but intentionally thwarted to a most unusual degree. Process is one thing, ethically challenged leadership is another.
Thanks for your reply, and all your enjoyable, informative posts.
Reminds me of Case Blue, the German attack on the southern Russian oilfields. Mannstein crunched the numbers and told Bormann it wouldn’t work, but Bormann told Mannstein Hitler didn’t want to hear that, so he told Mannstein to come up with better numbers.
Fauci supported gain of function research in China.
Lack of access to preventive testing during the Covid epidemic is resulting in an epidemic of advanced cancers in Poland. Mortality rates are very high with long waits for surgery.
Some cancers, such as bladder, colorectal and prostate cancer, have no obvious symptoms in their early stages, and prevention is necessary after age 50.
Visible influence of the geomagnetic field in the north on the circulation in the stratosphere. It promises to be a cool May in the US.
This is a common sense well thought out dialog and I might have agreed with it a few years ago. I can’t today. First, Dr. Fauci’s comments are strictly CYA rather than an honest assessment of lessons learned. COVID became weaponized for political purposes-Think Rahm Emanuals comment about the 2008 recession-“never let a crisis go to waste.” When the Barrington report was published, Dr. Fauci worked within the bureauracy to have it and the authors discredited. He did the same with those who believe the virus originated in the Wuhan labs. As various treatments started to emerge from those on the front lines he actively worked to silencce them. We saw the Governor of New York conciously move infected patients into nursing homes even when emergency facilities went largely unknown. He knew without question that the elderly were most vulnerable. We saw countless family owned restauants driven into bankrupcy while the governor of California had his favorite cheff throw a party for close friends. We saw a beutician thrown in jail for opening her shop so she could feed her family while the speaker of the house had her hair stylist open up shop so she could have her perm. We saw “influencers” and media stoking fear and marginalizing anyone that didn’t tow the line.
Unfortunately, I see the same playbook being used in the Climate change arena. Scientists that speak out against the dogma are slandered and marginalized-True Alinskyism. Every weather event becomes a pounding on the climate drum. Well thought out books like “Uncertainty” get little to no support from the press and no debate wihin the liberal institutions. When I look at the sum total of what we have learned in the scientific world coupled with the formulation of agreements like the Paris accord, and policies comming out of the administration, I have to conclude that this “Climate Change” debate has litle to do with the climate or future risks and everything to do with centralization of control. In fact, it’s not even a debate because one side isn’t interested in listening.
I’ll repeat my response above.
“I don’t mean to push anything more than that I agree with the Fauci statement I quote. I don’t know if he actually revised his thinking (which would be the right thing to do) or if he’s just lost in finger pointing and largely oblivious to what he said. But I say grab that statement-use it n the future. Point to the past- show what ignoring it cost us.”
I am super suspicious, skeptical and extremely critical about so much of what went on. I shared some dots in making my points on balance. Others should embellish and connect them.
I totally agree with your idea of seizing the statement. It’s an opportunity for good open discussion.
The major problem with the covid response was the failure of understanding the long term solution and /or the failure of understanding how to achieve the long term solution.
It has been well known established fact (throughout the centuries) that the only long term solution to a pandemic is developing immunity throughout the general population. There never has been, nor will there ever be any other solution to a pandemic.
Assuming the mitigation protocols actually worked, those mitigation protocols were never going to assist in achieving the long term solution. Those mitigation protocols may have provided some relief at the individual level, but not at the macro/broad population level. (possibly short term benefit, though zero long term benefit). Thus, lots of time, effort and costs were incurred while achieving nothing. A discussion on the value of covid vaccination is outside the scope of this post.
In a similar vain, the push for renewables suffers from the same failure to understand the long term solution. The climate change mitigation protocols (renewables) will have little, if any, impact on achieving the long term climate change solution. (assuming Man[n] can control climate change)
“It has been well known established fact (throughout the centuries) that the only long term solution to a pandemic is developing immunity throughout the general population.”
Did you forget the very effective method of Culling the Herd when a deadly disease infects a herd or flock? Fortunately we treat people a little better than chickens and cows. Look up the history of rinderpest.
Jack – I would prefer to use this forum to debate the merits of climate change mitigation protocols (renewables, ev’s etc) instead of covid.
That being said, the analogy I used with covid was failure to understand the long term solution and thus the forceful (by dictate) demand to implement ineffective mitigation protocols.
Similar issues with the failure of understanding the long term solution pervades the climate change mitigation protocols.
Some things are out of our control, Jack.
Also, keep the government’s nose out of the doctor-patient relationship. I trust my Dr’s judgement much more than the government’s opinion.
I hate to say this, but after reading so many good Planning Engineer articles in a row, this article misses EVERY main point that needed to be made. So I will make them now:
The leftist goal of Rule by Leftists Experts is once again demonstrating that leftists are “experts” only on increasing government power and control. Not experts on medicine. science, climate, energy, economics, etc.
And k leftists do not want to hear from any real experts who disagree with them — that has been true of leftists for over a century, They will censor you long before they listen to you. “BALANCE” AND “LEFTISM” ARE TWO WORDS THAT SHOULD NOT BE USED IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH.
For Covid, the so called “experts: tossed almost all knowledge from past pandemics into the garbage and often reversed past knowledge. From past viral pandemics it was learned that masks do nothing, lockdowns only delay infections, safe vaccines take roughly 10 years to develop, respiratory viruses mutate to evade vaccines, so they can only be useful for a few months, at best, and every pandemic ended after the primary deadly virus mutated into a less deadly strain, within a year or two. How much of that knowledge did we hear from the so called “experts: in 2020? Almost none
Concerning the electric grids — they are not broken (yet) so do not need to be fixed.
Concerning CO2 — more CO2 in the atmosphere significantly benefits plant, human and animal life on this planet/
Concerning the coming climate crisis — it’s imaginary — nothing more than a data free, wild guess prediction, that has been wrong since 1979’s Charney Report.
Concerning government projects, in general, from an economics point of view — what else could the money and labor hours be used for that would benefit citizens more than this project? With Nut Zero, I’d say spending money and labor hours on almost anything else would be more beneficial for the American people. Opportunity Cost is rarely considered.
The bottom line here is balance requires a debate.
Leftists do not debate
They character attack
They condemn your sources of information
They condemn your motives
They cancel you
They do not accept contrary information.
Leftists are the leaders of confirmation bias.
Of course good science and engineering needs balance. But what we actually have with leftists is science combined with politics. In mathematical g terms:
Science + Politics = Politics
Richard, I appreciate your support in general and you are welcome to share what you think. Let me share that I was flabbergasted when I read the Fauci statement. It flys in the face of everything he stood for and promoted sometimes viciously. Lots of people are going nuclear on the man, and not saying he doesn’t deserve a lot of it. But I hope to do some damage by gently pointing out the contradictions.
I originally said this article missed every important point. I have read it again and revised my opinion. Planning Engineer should avoid the field of medicine, which was not necessary for this article. And now I judge this article to be far below average.
Fauci is now tap dancing AROUND THE TRUTH to make his reputation look better. He was the man who first said masks would not work, based on science. And later was recommending multiple masks. He gave consistently wrong advice in 2020 and is now denying responsibility for that wrong advice with statements that revise history. And you fell for that revised history, Your article did not require ANY mention of Fauci. Fauci presented himself as a government Covid expert in 2020, when in fact he was a fool. Anyone who tries to make Fauci look wise by using his after the fact revisionist quotes has been fooled. Fauci was the root cause of all wrong government Covid and Covid vaccine policies.
The most important fact about Fauci is not his consistently wrong advice. The most important fact is that President Trump, who we thought supported conservatives, gave him great authority, along with Debby Birx. Trump gave Fauci and Birx a huge amount of time on TV, to scare the American public with wrong advice on Covid, leading to those unconstitutional lockdowns, and mandatory to keep your job experimental vaccinations that had the worst adverse side effects of any vaccine in history.
You quote a cherry picked sentence of Fauci’s that made sense. That REALLY annoyed me. I’m sure Hit ler must have had one quote that made sense too, but no decent person quotes him.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the general advice in your article. What is wrong is expecting leftists to be fair and balanced, taking your advice. Leftists do not debate. That strategy keeps them from losing debates. That’s also why they avoid the red team – blue team approach.
Two important facts to keep in mind:
(1) The coming climate crisis prediction is not based on science. It is a data free prediction. Science requires data. CAGW has never happened before, so there are no historical data for CAGW. And of course there are no data for the future climate. Therefore, predictions of CAGW are data free. That’s astrology, not science.
(2) Nut Zero is a panic reaction to the CAGW prediction. Nut zero does not include sound grid engineering. It is mainly a vision statement and arbitrary completion date.
There is no detailed plan for each electric utility, to 2050, that is sufficient to judge feasibility, cost and critical path timing. Or a national master plan with similar details to 2050. If such plans existed, grid engineers could analyze them and report exactly where the problems will be. But such a detailed analysis can’t happen without a detailed plan, So they do not exist.
Maybe he was playing a role defined by office. Maybe he expected others to play roles defined by _their_ offices. Maybe the others didn’t – fear?
The solution to a pandemic would take much longer if not for respiratory viruses mutating into less deadly variants. That just happened for Covid, where the last (distant) variant of Omicron had the very low infection fatality rate of any coronavirus common cold. There is no such thing as a common cold pandemic, so with Omicron becoming the dominent strain, the Covid pandemic ended.
Fauci is a good example of hypocrisy, when he claims not to have had executive powers to impose restrictive measures, while he was actually the almighty advisor, whose requests and “suggestions” everyone accepted willfully. Now that, looking in hindsight, things are clearer, he claims not to be liable at all for the disasters.
My guess is that we will something similar on power systems reliability and energy transition policies, which are starting to show symptoms of failure and extremely high costs and other negative consequences for large parts of the population, mainly in the countries that are leading the transition processes or implementing them at higher speed.
Hopefully it will not be too late to correct the policy mistakes.
The words “almighty advisor”, applied to a human, imply misplaced authority. Advisor to whom?
Seems to me that the biggest problem we, as a society, have is: “way too many ‘Experts’ paid by bureaucrats, working on behalf of the Faceless Cultural Elite Ruling Class, without taxpayer input.” Ask yourself who is vetting these “Experts” for the citizenry? The answer is other Bureaucratic “Experts.”
When a private sector (that would be where all the money these various levels of government are spending comes from) expert weighs in he is lucky if he can still make a living if he speaks out against the Bureaucracy. Cancellation is imminent.
This massive Bureaucracy is one big grift and we pay for the restrictions they place upon us in every possible way: in taxes, in inflation, in regulations, in bans on products that improve quality of life. Yet they create workarounds for the 1% who have bought the best Government money can buy with middle class taxpayer dollars.
History will record how the Robber Barons invented the best totalitarian state ever conceived by convincing the have nots including white middle class college under-educated to vote for redistribution of middle class excess income on the promise it will wipe out poverty all the while redistributing 98 cents on the dollar of the money to the 1% and the minions they employ in GovMINT.
Nut Zero (aka “The Transition”) fails
Democrats blame Donald Trump and other Republicans
Next big project
Repair the electric grids!
Thought you’d all like to see what Andy May has been up to.
From the link provided by Bill Fabrizio – “The IPCC ignored crucial peer-reviewed literature showing that normalised disaster losses have decreased since 1990 and that human mortality due to extreme weather has decreased by more than 95% since 1920. ”
in a similar vain – The annual report for the insurance industry association showed that climate related weather disaster losses were growing 2x faster than the rate of inflation. At the same time ignoring population increases, and per capita increases in wealth growing faster than the rate of inflation, Thus using inapproriate data to
Joe writes- ” and that human mortality due to extreme weather has decreased by more than 95% since 1920. ”
Is that reduction in deaths due to extreme weather only for the US?
Rob – probably my bad – I copied from the link provided by Bill F. Unfortunately, there was no indication in the statement as to whether it was the US or worldwide. I should have been more careful when posting.
The data is a strong indicator that building infrastructure reduces adverse weather deaths.
Statement often bears repeating because it is so underappreciated:
Longevity, death rates and the financial costs of things are not good proxies for any specific thing. Too many factors control how long a person can live. The longer a person lives, the more likely they are to expose previously unachievable modes of death. If “we” start bubble wrapping people and storing them in nursing home closets with chemical preservatives in their veins, I can probably design an electromagnetic pulse device to keep their hearts all sync’d at 60.000bpm.
The link I posted is from CLINTEL … Climate Intelligence. That link is a brief, partial summary of their report … “The Frozen Climate Views of the IPCC, An Analysis of AR6”, edited by Marcel Crok and Andy May. 5/9/23. It is 181 pages long.
Dr. Javier Vinós (molecular biologist, writer, Spain)
Dr. Ross McKitrick (Professor of Economics, University of Guelph, Canada)
Dr. Nicola Scafetta (Professor of Atmospheric Physics, University of Naples Federico II, Italy)
Kip Hansen (science research journalist, USA)
Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt (Professor, University of Hamburg, Germany)
Dr. Ole Humlum (Professor, University of Oslo, emeritus, Norway)
Marcel Crok (Director, Clintel, The Netherlands)
Andy May (Science writer and retired petrophysicist, USA).
As to whether the fatalities are USA or world wide, seems to be world wide. I just started reading it. The link I posted has an embedded link to the paper/website.
When combined into one article, Andy May’s four articles on the ECS of CO2 were a masterpiece. I can’t wait to read his new contribution.
I read and then recommend 20 climate and energy articles every morning of the year on my blog. That’s a lot of reading.
It is truly amazing how the information cartel is trying to rehabilitate people who have totally forfeited their credibility. It is shameful in fact.
I don’t think they can really live by those words. It would be great if they could and if so I’d grant the, some rehabilitation for coming clean. I think it was overspeak, and we need to challenge his followers to live up to it.
Society once prospered under a system of professionalism. Those wishing to be engineers, for example, were free to educate themselves to a level of passing exams or other tests giving admission to certification to perform certain works. As with medical doctors, certification qualified the successful to do some things not allowed by others, such as licence to examine genitalia of others. Certified engineers would sign off on the proper design of critical infrastructure like bridges and aircraft.
A large current engineering problem is the design and execution of the critical public electricity supply. Highly qualified engineers should be examiners to certify major future plans. As used to be the case, building non-certified structures should be unlawful. Those who attempt to evade certification are liable, including jail terms for the convicted.
It follows that the standard of engineering should be tested by engineering alone. Quality should not be held to ransom by a belief that a change of climate might create an existential crisis, particularly when that non-engineering assertion has never been properly tested.
In similar vein, although medical doctors have licence for certain acts, that does not of itself allow the potential harm of gain of function research. That type of work must first require evaluation, in public, by a group of top experts making wise medical judgement. It should never be a secret plaything for the military.
Professionalism is less a factor than before. The duty of certified professionals to forbid or modify unsafe proposals by non-professionals like many politicians, has to be revived.
I doubt that many certified electrical engineers would endorse windmills for large scale generation if the topic had not been captured by non-engineers. One remedy is for engineers en masse to decline to be involved in design and manufacture of inferior products. Professionalism, the badge, does involve putting principles before money. Geoff S
One problem with that is that the windmills are fine on the electrical engineering side (their failure modes are generally aerodynamic or mechanical). When the wind blows the turbine produces electricity as per the spec. If operated correctly as part of a correctly operated grid, the product works as designed. The problem is in the complexities of “correctly operated grid”.
I would liken it to an air traffic system that had frequent mid-air collisions and congestion problems when all the aircraft in the system meet any reasonable safety standards. The focus should be on the design and operation of the air transport network, not the design of the aircraft. Each aircraft owner is making a decision to operate his plane or his fleet without regard to the overall impact it will have on the system as a whole, and the people responsible for the safe operation of the system are told to simply accommodate the added traffic. As an overall system there is a gaping responsibility hole that resembles the tragedy of the commons.
If there was a single owner or entity responsible for maximizing the operation and reliability of the whole system, and who owned and operated all the resources that made up the system, and who was free to make all the planning decisions without outside pressure, everything should work out. That’s what we used to have when a regional electric utilities held all the production and distribution responsibilities.
But politicians decided to create incentives to allow investors to build green energy projects and connect them to the grid, and the utilities don’t control those. They are in the position of running a air transportation network and being told to simply deal with the added traffic from aircraft they don’t operate, and they don’t seem to have the authority to just say “stop adding new planes or the network is going to collapse!”
As is commonly on large projects, the problems are caused by having different teams with different areas of responsibility. The grid team may have their act together, and the windmill team might be doing fine, but the poor interface between them is creating all kinds of integration problems. This shows up in all sorts of engineering and software projects, where the way the work is divided between teams also tends to determine how and how well various aspects of the whole project will mesh.
Each team will tend to make rosy assumptions about what the other team has on the other side of the interface, and as a group they won’t work through edge cases looking for potential conflicts and odd failure modes. A team isn’t going to delve into the complexities of what the other team has to deal with because that is the other team’s responsibility. And it’s easier to push problems onto the other team by simply assuming that they should be able to deal with it because that’s their job.
So the grid operator doesn’t worry about the crazy modes a wind farm might get into, and the wind farm operator doesn’t worry about the crazy failure modes a grid might get into. And then the one mode interacts with the other and a failure occurs, and some committee writes a report about it and everybody scratches their head.
I understand you are not a natural gas grid expert. Can you comment (from an electricity reliability, perhaps also natural gas grid electricity generation perspective) on this WuWT article: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2023/05/05/electrified-compressors-and-the-great-texas-blackout-a-threat-to-grid-reliability-everywhere/
It says that one of the problems impacting reliability is the conversion of natural gas compressors from natural gas fueled to electrical.
While the map shows that this changeover appears largely in the primary systems, this isn’t necessarily comforting.
Note that I assume such infrastructure systems are excluded during planning black/brown outs – but they are likely not immune for unplanned ones.
Planning is all about considering what is firm/guaranteed and what contingencies can happen to your firm arrangements. You plan to have enough firm resources to carry you through probabilistic contingencies with some margin. This works when the contingencies are largely independent. If contingencies are correlated and that is not recognized in planning – you will have problems.
Firm generation should have firm fuel supply. Just as there are probabilities for units to have problems, there are probabilities for loss of fuel supply. In the old days, I don’t think anyone would have felt good as counting any portion of wind or solar as firm. So now you can have a shortfall of wind and solar and it correlates with a loss of natural gas fuel. The correlation of those outages is huge.
What I didn’t see in the referenced article is the suggestion that the pumps should have a back up source of energy beyond wind and solar. Previously it would have been standby diesels.
Real problem. Compounding with changes to the grid. Worse because backup options are more limited now.
To ensure that gas continues to flow optimally, it must be periodically compressed and pushed through the pipeline. Friction and elevation differences slow the gas and reduce the pressure, so compressor stations are placed typically 40 to 70 miles apart along the pipeline to provide a boost in pressure.
Natural gas pipeline compressors used to be powered by the gas inside the pipeline. About ten years ago they began a transition to electric powered compressors. Thanks EPA.
The cause of BOTH blackouts in Texas, in February 2011 and February 2021, was a shortage of natural gas. 2011 had few windmills. 2021 had lots of windmills. They made no difference. The common factor was VERY cold weather. Natural gas production declines a lot in very cold weather. And if the electricity is out for any pipeline compressors, the pipeline gas is not moving very far.
Texas needs large on-site storage of natural gas at every natural gas power plant, especially if the pipelines are powered by electricity. I do not believe they plan to do that, so their grid will still be vulnerable to very cold weather.
“So now you can have a shortfall of wind and solar and it correlates with a loss of natural gas fuel.”
A shortage of electricity would be a problem, but there is electricity in Texas without solar (most of every day) and without wind (about 40% of the time)
If natural gas power plants and nuclear power plants are providing electricity for the Texas natural gas pipelines, there is no problem. But wind power is for the birds … if you want shredded birds.
Two sentences that triggered a reaction:
“If contingencies are correlated and that is not recognized in planning – you will have problems.” and:
“Previously it would have been standby diesels.”
The ‘Marshall plan’ plant I cut my teeth on had a Fairbanks Morse diesel black start. But the first step to charge the air starting cylinders was a hand cranked petrol engine driven compressor. If the first two attempts to black-start failed one resorted to hand cranking. I know; eventually my lot as a mechanical junior to see that it functioned flawlessly after one lengthy blackout.
The later built power plant never considered blackout situation in design. They thought the grid was too big to fail.
At another plant (military) I inherited after it was taken over, the compressor was electric driven, meaning that after two failed starting attempts it was ‘game-over’; no more air or electricity. From that and other failures I soon realised the original design dictators did not understand power engineering.
A later remarkable design flaw was at Fukushima were the generators were located at an ‘unsafe’ position. A very common mistake I observed over the years.
If one is to rely on the grid for power in a tight spot, then expect such disasters.
Thank you for your feedback.
I would hope that the electrical pumps are backed up by the formerly used natural gas ones, but I won’t take any bets on that much less that diesel ones were emplaced.
The Texas Railroad Commission was responsible to keep the grid operators aware of the critical O&G infrastructure connected to the grid and they failed. Granted, some of the mechanical failures were due to the sub-zero temps and the power supply was not the only factor. The worst of the failures was because ERCOT didn’t have the info to avoid switching off whole segments of the grid.
Which brings me to my second biggest criticism; Texas has had direct on/off control over 95% of its retail customers by their radio controlled smartmeters. Why they didn’t use them to avoid rolling blackouts was a mistake in my opinion.
If you are referencing the failures during Winter Storm Uri – the issue was not demand, it was supply.
According to this Texas Comptroller report – 69% of Texans lost electrical power for an average of 42 hours with 31 of those being consecutive. 49% lost water also for an average of 52 hours: https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/fiscal-notes/2021/oct/winter-storm-impact.php
Given this widespread failure – not clear how control of demand would have helped except perhaps in reducing the duration of the outages. Control certainly would not have prevented them.
The report notes also:
While planned generator outages fell within the appropriate range listed in ERCOT’s seasonal plan, the report found that outages were still high in number. Additionally, energy power generators failed on all fronts, including those powered by natural gas, wind and coal.
with the further note:
Texas energy is generated from a variety of sources (PDF) with the majority supplied by natural gas, wind and coal — 51 percent, 24.8 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively.
I still wonder if there were negative effects from electricity disruption affecting natural gas pipelines – hence my question above. Note the failures would not have to be systemwide even; a failure anywhere along a natural gas pipeline would disrupt the overall pipeline function.
It’s unfathomable why, in an oil field, stuff would be converted from natural gas to grid electric. At least run a generator on nat gas to power the oil field electrics.
If it’s this bad for medical papers, what of climate papers? 80% made up or plagiarized? 90%?
Around a third of studies published in neuroscience journals, and about 24% in medical journals, are “made up or plagiarized,” according to a new paper.
The research, referred to as a preprint — meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed — looked at 5,000 published papers, as first reported by Science.
Using a simple, automated detection system the researchers looked for two telltale signs: Whether an author was registered with a personal, rather than institutional, email address, and if the author listed their affiliation as a hospital. The papers flagged as potentially fake were then checked by humans. About 1,500 of the papers were likely fraudulent, the researchers concluded.
@ jim2 | May 10, 2023 at 4:05 pm in suspense
Well done Mr Shussler. I for one think that your restraint in rhetoric here works very effectively, in contrast to some of the commenters here who are disappointed you didn’t rant enough or rehearse all the many grievances. I’d encourage you to submit a piece to Quillette, UnHerd, or Spiked, and get your argument out to a wider audience.
Thanks. I appreciate that. I suspect that if someone has a long list of grievances, all those grievances come to mind as they read this piece. If someone doesn’t see as many grievances, I don’t think I am the one to convince them to feel different and I’d most likely turn them off to the whole post. I think my arguments work whether we had mild or grossly excessive problems with the Covid experts. Glad to hear some support for that position. On twitter some readers of the post (or maybe just the title) call me a covidiot and climate denier.
When a country attempts to take rational measures to stabilize its grid, Climate Doomers get angry and aggressive and try to roll back the stabilization measures. Mexico is a case in point.
The Mexican Ministry of Energy (Secretaría de Energía or SENER) changed the operating rules for the Mexican power grid on May 16 to the detriment of private power producers, in particular wind and solar power projects.
The new rules are meant to preserve the grid’s reliability, safety and continuity. With this latest action, SENER has eliminated any doubt that power sector policy in Mexico is being driven by the state-owned utility and dominant market player, CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad), rather than by sound and competitive policy principles enshrined in Mexican law.
So Canada doesn’t like a stable grid apparently.
Mexico is making progress resolving Canadian companies’ concerns about the Latin American country’s nationalist energy policy, and Ottawa sees no current need to escalate the dispute, its top trade official said.
On a trip to Washington, Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng credited her Mexican counterpart, Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro, for meeting with companies to explain the nation’s legal changes, a dialogue that she said was previously lacking.
Canada last July requested talks with Mexico over its power policy that favors state-owned utility Comision Federal de Electricidad over private renewable-energy firms.
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Like this old engineering guy knows enough to criticize Fauci.
It’s the same when old engineers tell us why we can’t transition away from fossil fuels — laughable.
These old men don’t know how foolish they appear. It’s actually sad to see.
In their 20s they scorned old men.
Now they don’t realize they are now the scorned.
They don’t know when to hang it up.
Go play golf.
For several years, the nation’s debt has been bigger than its gross domestic product, which was $26.13 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2022. Debt-to-GDP is a useful metric for analyzing the debt over long time spans, as it puts the debt into relative terms by comparing it against the size of the national economy. Looked at this way, debt as a share of GDP has gone through three main growth phases in recent decades. These have corresponded with periods when the federal government ran large budget deficits: the Reagan-Bush years of the 1980s and early 1990s; the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession; and the pandemic-caused recession of 2020, when federal debt spiked to an all-time high of 134.8% of GDP. The ratio has come down a bit since but remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
The trouble is, they built all the stuff we assume “just works”. The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court delusion – the smartest Google programmer in USA’s skills and knowledge would be useless in the Roman Empire. He/she would have to wait for the Internet to happen.
@ jim2 | May 11, 2023 at 10:29 pm in suspense
This seems important:
FERC commissioner: “Top US energy regulator warns Congress that our grid is reaching a breaking point. ”
Covers all the issues which have been talked about by Russell and commentators to Russell’s posts: dispatchable vs non-dispatchable, age of grid, etc etc.
Hardware we call “the grid” tends to be large, heavy metal machines maintained by blue-collar men born in the 1950s. They’d planned to start golfing in 2015, but changed their mind.