Elected leaders lack education in physics

Politicians ignore the way the world actually works in favor of political narratives like ‘catastrophic global warming’ because they don’t understand science

By Michael Blair, What is Wrong with Canadian and American democracies? June 12, 2023

Over the course of human history, great minds like Fourier, Maxwell, Turing, da Vinci, Einstein and a host of others observed that nature works in somewhat predictable ways leading to the development of “laws of physics”—things like F=MA and you can’t push a rope.

This understanding allowed mankind to harness energy to develop ways to advance economic growth and improve the way humans lived migrating from caves to cities and from log cabins to high rise towers serviced by electric power, heated and cooled, impervious to the weather and comfortable to live in. Today’s politicians seem to lack any understanding of the underlying physics that makes these things possible, particularly in respect of the creation and conversion of different forms of energy.

Here are some:

Conversion of energy from one form to another results in waste of energy, a property called entropy. The first coal-fired generation plants converted the energy in coal to electricity at an efficiency level of about 10% and the first electric light bulbs converted only about 1% of that electricity into light, so very little of the energy content of coal found its way into light, the rest causing waste heat and conversion losses.

Today, natural-gas generators are about 60% efficient and LED light bulbs are around 45% efficient.

Wind energy is between 20% and 40% efficient in converting wind to electricity.1

Solar panels are 15 to 20% efficient. Since energy cannot be created, only converted, the unanswered question is what happens to the energy not converted into electricity?2

No one should be surprised that the lost energy manifests itself as heat or mechanical work (work is force through distance). In the case of wind, a portion of the lost energy becomes heat generated by friction at the windmill tower, the rest mechanical work. In the case of solar, the lost energy is heat (which is where it started) except for a portion converted into work. It follows that the solar power converted into work is “trapped” on Earth, not reflected back to space. Sound a bit like the beef attributed to CO2?

Once electric energy is created, it must be transmitted to where it is used and that results in transmission losses. Then, when it is used to power light bulbs, it is no more efficient than any other power used in light bulbs, and when it is used to power motors it is converted into heat and work. Each step has entropy.

Efficiences of internal combustion (ICE) engines ranges from 15% to 45%. Efficiency of electric motors is about the same depending on whether the motor is operated at full or partial load, with a sharp decline in efficiency over 50% of rated load.

Entropy losses are cumulative. Assume the mechanical efficiency of a car is the same regardless of whether it has an ICE engine or is an EV, leaving out the efficiency of the power plant for a moment. The mechanical efficiency of a car in converting engine power into miles driven at the same weight of car plus passengers plus load is in the range of 50%.

System efficiency is easy to estimate and a comparison between two fossil-fuel sources used in systems to power vehicles sets out the reality:

Natural gas to electricity (60% efficient) times electricity to motor output (45% efficient) times the mechanical efficiency of driving of 50% = 11.5%.

Gasoline to motor output (50% efficient) times the mechanical efficiency of driving of 50% = 25%.

Basically, over twice as much of the energy in a molecule of a fossil fuel like gasoline manifests itself in miles driven than the equivalent amount of energy in molecules of another fossil fuel like natural gas manifested in miles driven in an EV.

Solar/wind alone can only power a tiny fraction of electric vehicles

Eighty percent of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels. EV’s compel more fossil fuels to be burned than internal-combustion vehicles unless the energy comes from wind or solar. To date, all wind and solar power combined would not be enough to power a tiny fraction of the vehicles in use if all that power were directed to EV use.

This dilemma cannot be solved without embracing one of two realities—first, that fossil fuels do not contribute to climate change, which is demonstrably the case, and second, that wind and solar have only a limited ability to provide the energy the world consumes and that only nuclear can replace fossil fuels at any meaningful level if fossil fuels became depleted. Replacing fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions is silly since CO2 is harmless but necessary to human life.

Replacing fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions is silly since CO2 is harmless but necessary to human life.

Yet the climate nutters on the left are just as opposed to nuclear as they are opposed to fossil fuels. Go figure.

We elect people we admire to run our country and they are well-educated, typically in law or finance. But the halls of power in Washington and Ottawa are virtually bereft of people who understand physics and who apply only political science to physics problems. The result is nonsensical policies that harm society. But to be fair, they get their pronouns politically correct.

To read the original of this article, click here.

1 Aaron Foyer, The energy conversions behind new tech, June 9, 2023.

2 U.S. EPA Renewable Energy Fact Sheet

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