OPINION: When it comes to climate change, the sky isn’t falling

I have been submitting commentaries since 2016 that all advocate for practical and reasonable transition from hydrocarbon fuels to renewable or alternate energy for electric power production, as the incorporation of the renewables will take much more than a decade to develop and install. I have not denigrated climate science in my commentaries, as the argument of practical and reasonable should be enough for those who truly understand the science to know that rapid transition cannot work. The renewable energy sources will provide energy, but a variable energy which cannot sustain our power system without the benefit of natural gas or coal.

The oil and gas production companies do on occasion reap significant profits, which provide the funding to allow them to build new facilities to extract more hydrocarbon fuels. We will need this additional production until such time as a long-term, stable and continuous energy source is available that can replace natural gas as the base source. Nobody was complaining about the oil companies’ profits just a few years ago when the futures were in negative territory. Taxing hydrocarbon fuels to the extent Thomas Wilson supported in his recent letter to the editor would increase the cost of the fuel and thus increase the rate we — Alaskans — pay for heat and electricity. One objective of our utilities is to provide “cheap” energy, and we as residents of Alaska should be doing all we can to provide cheap energy. Electric heat is not cheap, unless we have very cheap electric power to operate from, and with the evidence I see the renewables are not providing the power at a cost as low as many have been speculating for years.

When API President Mike Sommers commented on the tailpipe emission mandate that is intended to rapidly replace internal combustion engine vehicles with electric vehicles, he didn’t say that EVs have no place in our communities. He said that he hasn’t seen any, and addressed those in the audience who don’t buy EVs because of the poor performance in cold weather. A garage will warm a diesel truck in the same manner it will warm an EV. But on a trip to Fairbanks, in the winter when it is minus 50 degrees, that waste heat from the engine of an ICE sure is comforting. And on a trip to the middle of nowhere where there are no plug-ins, a couple of drums of diesel fuel and a hand pump will get you home again. Electric vehicles definitely have a place, but they cannot have all the places on the road.

As for the diminishing Cook Inlet natural gas, we know there is more gas that can be produced that would extend our supply well beyond 2027. We need leadership, government and private enterprise, which will find ways to provide that gas at rates that are tolerable to the citizens so that we can encourage growth in industry and development of new industries. We just need to work with those who have the available gas reserves.

For all those who really don’t understand the sciences and why it is taking so long to develop the renewable resources, or who think the oil companies are not adopting any of the renewable and alternate energy resources, you need to read something besides Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and United Nations reports. The renewable energy sources are a more complex connection to the grid than are natural gas-driven turbine generators, and have more points of failure than the ICE-driven generator.

To understand the consequences of getting energy wrong in Alaska, read Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire.” I am all for incorporating renewable energy and have been for more than 40 years. I have been very active in the grid connection of wind and solar since net metering and grid tie become law in Alaska. I am for doing it right, to minimize the undesirable consequences of a poorly engineered system and variable energy sources.

Robert Seitz, PE, is an electrical engineer and lifelong Alaskan.

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