Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Rapid Renewable Rollout?

 The  well-known scripture in Genesis 1:26-28 contains a divine mandate from the Creator relating to humanity’s well-being in several spheres of experience. The twice-used term dominion implies man’s intelligent control over divinely created animals. God extended the discussion to human food supply. By extension, we may include food supply (verse 29) as it relates to agricultural practices, both then and now. In the past several years, world food supply has become an important concern. 

In studying our current energy crisis, we discovered several relevant quotes relating to the speed at which governments are forcing our society to move toward renewable energy sources: “A rapid, large-scale energy transition creates extra demands for energy services. This demand will compete with other economic activity…..This new modeling suggests a significant decline in availability of energy services during the transition phase…..(the) economy is significantly impacted during the transition to the massive renewables roll-out.” (energypost article) Energy crises can result from many other causes in the chain of cause/effect, including artificially constricted fuel supplies, abnormal weather events, unusual depletion or overproduction of fuel supplies, and lack of energy infrastructure.

We cite two recent phenomena which at least partially resulted from the rapid transition to renewables from non-renewable fossil fuels. February 2021 provided an unusual, but not unprecedented severe cold spell in Texas. Many thermal power plants failed during the storm. Fossil fuel supply was inadequate to meet the unusual demand. Wind turbines froze or were unreliable. This served to illustrate the unpredictability of wind and solar power, since the wind does not always blow predictably and the sun does not always shine. An enlightened policy must continue to rely on plentiful fossil fuels, unencumbered by politically driven restrictions on drilling and delivery systems. Over 200 people died from the lack of adequate heat, water, food, and electricity during the severe 2021 cold event.

The other case we cite involves the production of inorganic fertilizers. Nitrogen fertilizer production is necessary for high levels of food production demanded from our world’s agricultural sector by our burgeoning world population. The vital element nitrogen must be combined with other elements to manufacture inorganic fertilizer. In the early 20th century several brilliant scientists developed a means of combining unreactive atmospheric nitrogen gas with hydrogen gas to form ammonia gas—NH3. From ammonia, several other chemical steps are necessary to form, ultimately, ammonium nitrate fertilizer and other valuable end products. The level of food production from world agriculture would be impossible today without inorganic fertilizers. Some sources claim that without crop yields made possible by ammonia-based fertilizers and chemicals, the global population would be at least two to three billion less than it is today. If this startling fact is true, we may all agree on the desirability of inorganic fertilizers which have increased agricultural production levels several times since mid-20th century.

Some world nations are also pressing forward with their requirement to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use, because it requires burning fossil fuels which produce CO2 when they are ignited. In addition, inorganic fertilizers containing nitrogen compounds release nitrous oxide, also a greenhouse gas. By phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energy, nations are able to achieve their ultimate ‘carbon free’ goal. But those leaders should contemplate the risk of going ‘carbon free’ in terms of generating national hunger and devastating inflation.

A few nations (Netherlands is the prime example) may be heading for environmental and political turmoil. The Netherlands is the second largest agricultural food exporter in the world, second only to the United States. With the Russian/Ukrainian war in progress, agricultural food is already compromised in terms of world supply. The Dutch government has dictated that nitrogen emissions be cut up to 70%. Much nitrogen fertilizer must be phased out. This will result in a severe loss in agricultural production. Dutch government authorities, in an effort to maintain high ESG scores (Environmental, Social and Governance scores) are tasked with dictating which farmers must discontinue their farming operations to maintain elevated ESG scores. Food shortages and inflation are in prospect. Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is experiencing runaway inflation and other political woes, because they have focused on phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. A similar dilemma is playing out in African Ghana.

In our contemporary time frame, many governments may mandate the transition to renewable fuels too quickly. Some transitions to renewable energy sources may be desirable, but not at the cost of causing hunger, chaos, and turmoil among our world’s nations. Society’s shift to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels is not feasible in terms of many projections that fossil fuel energy will still be necessary for the next few decades by our societies.

Elements related to fossil fuel consumption—carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and other less common elements combine with each other in thousands of ways to form both useful and harmful compounds. Our Creator has gifted humanity with applied science skills. We offer our prayers to the chemical technicians who discover ways to handle both useful and harmful byproducts of fossil fuel consumption. This includes the prudent use of nitrogen fertilizers. Perhaps the sudden, expensive transition to renewable fuels and electric vehicles would be unnecessary!

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…..” Proverbs 2:6-7 ESV 


Friday, August 12, 2022

Green Light for Renewables

 Our last blog post proposed that our world “runs on” energy. The topic has many vital dimensions. It is is one of the most politically charged of our day. Currently we must deal with the challenges of energy production, not only for our time, but inevitably for our future. Those born in the 21st century will be alive in 2050. Some will achieve young adulthood. Others will look forward to achieving late/middle age. Many authorities state that by 2050 our society MUST transition entirely to renewables such as wind, water, and solar power. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas will generally be remembered as a phenomenon of the past.

Today’s inflation phenomenon has been substantially ‘fueled’ by our current energy policy. Our government has reduced the former level of petroleum drilling, and closed pipeline access. This caused a modest disruption in the supply chain for this vitally important energy commodity. In spite of our administration’s assertion that domestic oil production is higher than in the previous presidency, this claim has proven to be false owing to statistical manipulations. It is actually lower by one million barrels per day. The delicate supply/demand balance has been disrupted with the result that gasoline ballooned to US $5.00/gal. on average. Our president beseeched Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to rescue the US from dangerous inflation. Saudi Arabia declined.

President Biden promised to wean America from fossil fuels while campaigning for president in 2020. He also said, “No more coal plants.” The ideological obsession with the transition from fossil (non-renewable) fuels to renewable fuels (wind and solar) may not be achievable by 2050. It will be a serious challenge to both secular science and our personal faith to devise methods of decarbonizing the entire physical economy by 2050. Christians should pray that scientists will devise effective technologies to cope with CO2 emissions and convert them to harmless or beneficial substances.    


Energy sources have transitioned several times throughout human history. Animal and human power was the source of energy in early times. Early humans discovered fire for cooking and heating. Wood was the most reliable fuel. Throughout human history quantities of some fossil fuels such as coal were discovered and utilized. Natural gas was known in China in ancient times. Metal production relied on coal. Since the onset of the famous Industrial Revolution, energy consumption has not only proportionately matched the meteoric rise in human population, but also exceeded it substantially.

Planet Earth’s first billion population did not occur until about 1800. Human population has increased explosively in the past century. It now approaches 8 billion. Technological innovations of the first, second, and third Industrial Revolutions have produced an intense demand for energy, but the demand has not increased in proportion to population increase—it is proportionately far higher. In the US today, 81% of our energy is still supplied by fossil fuels. Worldwide, 80-85% of energy needs is supplied by fossil fuels, matching the US fossil fuel consumption. In the optimistic goal of the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, world countries commit to the goal of holding world temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C, and ideally not more than 2.0 degrees C. According to Paris Climate Accord officials, the transition to renewable energy (wind and solar, for example) from non-renewable fossil energy (coal, oil, and natural gas) must become a national commitment in order to avoid dangerous climate warming.


God provided ancient energy resources for the use of modern man in contemporary times. Today’s fossil fuels originated in the mind of God when he caused tropical forests to grow during the carboniferous geological periods, (Mississippian and Pennsylvanian—359 mya to 299 mya). Today’s fossil fuels had their beginnings in thick tangles of vegetative swamps. Ironically, in analyzing the modern concept of “carbon as a polluter” voiced even by the US Supreme Court in 2007, scientists may study the distant past ages and reference the Carboniferous geologic era.

For an enlarged perspective, we reprint two relevant statements from our previous post of 7/26/2022 (Non-renewable to Renewable Energy—Easy or Difficult?):

“Life on Earth is carbon-based life. It comprises nearly half of all biomass…..At present, 80% of our global energy production comes from coal, petroleum, and natural gas. These resources are known as fossil fuels, because they are residual remains of living things that existed on our planet millions of years ago.”        

Intense planetary heat and the enormous weight of overlying rock layers resulted in chemical changes producing today’s coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The timeless Creator of All Things also divinely supervised the formation of thousands of other resources on which our modern technological society depends. For example, there are at least 4400 mineral species, many of which supply modern industry with raw materials for the needs of today’s society. Ubiquitous bacteria have played a significant role in forming these mineral resources.

The timeless Creator of Genesis 1-3 has provisioned our planet with its energy and material needs. They were in place in Earth’s rock layers when humanity first inhabited Earth. We ask God to give us wisdom as we make the difficult transition to renewable energy. In upcoming blog posts we will discuss how difficult the transition may be.