Recently, President Obama issued another one of his executive dictates. This time he wants the nation's electric power industry to reduce its carbon footprint by 32% from 2005 levels; and, to do this by 2030. In order to achieve this, the President knows that coal-fired electrical production will have to be completely eliminated. He also falsely thinks that more wind and solar will simply do the trick.
The President's plan is completely flawed and is impossible to achieve. It completely ignores two key factors: Population growth and something called the "capacity factor".
By demanding a 32% carbon reduction by 2030, he is ignoring the fact that, primarily, population growth dictates electricity production; and, subsequently, growth in carbon output. In 2005, the population was 295.5 million. By 2030, the Census Bureau estimates it will grow 22% higher than 2005. to 359.4 million. Thus, the President's plan isn't just a 32% reduction; but a 54% reduction when population increase is factored in. This is impossible when you understand the limits of wind and solar in terms of "capacity factor".
"Capacity factor" is what percentage of a day, week, month, or year that any particular energy source can generate its rate of power. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), photovoltaic solar (PV solar) has a capacity factor of only 27.8% a year; meaning that 72.2% of the time fossil fuels must pick up the slack. But, also, understand that 27.8% is an average. In December, when the sun is low in the sky, the capacity factor drops to 15.6%. Wind, too, has a low capacity factor of 33.9%. In the month of August, wind will hit a low of 22.5%, and thermal solar, the kind that energy utilities typically use to produce power, is even less at 19.5%. In December it drops, on average, to just 5.5%. This is why most thermal systems are built in the desert. Even simply converting coal-fired plants to natural gas only achieves a 45% reduction in carbon.
Therefore, not one of these technologies is capable of meeting the President's goal of 32%; let alone the actual calculated goal of 54%.
Climate change: Obama unveils Clean Power Plan: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33753067
U.S. Energy Information Agency: Capacity Factors: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_6_07_b
Are there CO2 emissions from natural gas?: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/emissions-natural-gas.htm
Population in 2005: https://www.google.com/search?q=us+population+2005&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
Population Projections through 2060: http://www.census.gov/population/projections/data/national/2014/summarytables.html