More on the Laws of Physics

In a previous post I discussed the WSJ article [backup link]from Robert Bryce and AWEA’s response – went dead, wonder why – [backup link] to it.  I recently reviewed that posting to see if it could be  made more accurate or more understandable.  As part of this review I created a transcription of Bode’s comments and added a “permanent” recording of them, given that they’re no longer on the front page of AWEA’s web site.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the point that rankled me the most was her assertion that “Any claim that adding wind energy to the electricity grid would not reduce carbon emissions violates the laws of physics.”  This assertion is nonsense, but it took me some time to come up with a reasonable analogy.  Here it is. 

You drive a car 100 miles, burning a certain amount of gasoline and creating a certain amount of emissions.  One day you drive the car 75 miles.  According to Bode, it would violate the laws of physics if driving 75 miles produced more emissions than driving 100 miles.  I trust you can see the problem with her assertion.

For those who don’t get the analogy, here’s the explanation.  The movement of the car is equivalent to fossil-fuel electricity production.  Moving the car involves energy, in btu’s, while producing electricity does also, with the btu’s getting converted to kw-hr’s.  With the introduction of wind the production of electricity from fossil fuels decreases to 75% (for example) of what they produced before.  Is it automatic and inevitable that the emissions also go down?

You could say that under identical conditions her statement is true, and I’d agree.  But that isn’t what she said, and it is clear that she used her statement in an unqualified manner, using the “laws of physics” label to make it appear unassailable.  In the actual case, when wind in introduced to a grid identical conditions do not exist to the pre-wind environment, and that is exactly why the emissions don’t go down.  Returning to the analogy, driving 75 miles in the city could very well take more fuel and create more emissions than driving 100 miles on a freeway.

In any event, whether it ends up producing more emissions or not, the “laws of physics” assertion is just plain wrong, even silly, and shows just how ignorant of reality the leadership of AWEA is.

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