Hartwell Paper: Game Changer?

by Judith Curry

Motivated by an exchange by Chief Hydrologist and Max on the David Montgomery thread, lets a take a look at the Hartwell paper.   Almost one year after its publication, has this paper been a game changer?

A quick summary is provided by the Wikipedia:

The Hartwell Paper calls for a reorientation of climate policy after the perceived failure in 2009 of the UNFCCC climate conference in Copenhagen. The paper was published in May 2010 by the London School of Economics in cooperation with the University of Oxford. The authors are 14 natural and social scientists from Asia, Europe and North America, including Mike HulmeRoger A. Pielke (Jr)Nico Stehr andSteve Rayner.

The paper argues that “decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals which are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic.”

It emphasizes human dignity as a necessary guiding principle for climate policy: “To reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity is not just noble or necessary. It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness – which has failed and will continue to fail.”[1]

It has three main objectives:

  • 1. Energy access for all
  • 2. Clean energy
  • 3. Dealing with climate change

The ultimate goal is “to develop non-carbon energy supplies at unsubsidised costs less than those using fossil fuels.”

Max’s take on the Hartwell paper

Let me offer my (unsolicited) thoughts on this paper. This paper reframes the climate issue in a fundamental way.

- Kyoto model crashed in 2009 and is over, presenting opportunity for a new direction.

- Top-down regulatory schemes do not work.

- A climate policy with emissions reductions as the primary goal is not possible.

- Decarbonization of the global economy is desirable as a long-term goal.

- The issue needs to be reframed with pragmatic and politically attractive goals.

- The basis should be the “raising up of human dignity”.

Primary goals should be:

1. ensure basic energy demands are met with low-cost source
2. ensure we do not upset Earth’s ecology system
3. ensure we can respond to climate changes, whatever their cause

Goal #1 is not possible with current ‘mitigation’ proposals for the estimated 1.5 billion people who have no access to energy today. In order for these individuals to obtain access to energy, the costs of energy must be lowered, not increased.

Goal #2 can be achieved by eliminating real pollution; this refers to “black carbon” from indoor burning or particulates, CO, NOx, Hg, As, hydrocarbons, etc. from industrial combustion, rather than chasing after CO2. Protecting the tropical forests should be a second step toward achieving this goal.

Goal #3 (“adaptation” to whatever climate changes come along) was (falsely) framed by the Kyoto approach as “a cost of failed mitigation”. Yet this approach will manage all the risks of climate change much more effectively and efficiently than mitigation attempts.

The report describes the errors made, stating:

Climate change was represented as a conventional environmental ‘problem’ that is capable of being ‘solved’. It is neither of these.

and

the idea soon became established that climate change represented a global threat that required a coordinated global solution

A ‘wicked problem’ is defined as follows:

What makes a problem ‘wicked’ is the impossibility of giving it a definitive formulation

Anthropogenic climate change (as it has now been re-branded from the earlier ‘anthropogenic greenhouse warming’) is such a problem. As was evidenced from the need to rename it, in the first case!

Policymakers like clear black and white issues, where clear decisions can be made based on the facts before them. This is not the case for ‘climate change’, as it is not a single problem with a simple single solution. The ‘war on climate change’ is, therefore impossible to fight (and impossible to ‘win’).

Yet, the authors continue, some climate scientists used the authority of their expertise to claim that their results dictated specific policy actions, leading some politicians to claim that their policy recommendations were dictated by science:

So, a distinctive characteristic of the climate change debate has been of scientists claiming with the authority of their position that their results dictated particular policies; of policy makers claiming that their preferred choices were dictated by science, and both acting as if ‘science’ and ‘policy’ were simply and rigidly linked as if it were a matter of escaping from the path of an oncoming tornado.

As a field, which is still in its infancy, climate science itself is fraught with insurmountable uncertainties.

And, no matter how well the basic climate science is understood, there are also great uncertainties regarding the drivers of climate change, such as population growth and technological innovation as well as major uncertainties regarding the ‘winners and losers’ from global warming.

In other words, we do not know enough today to arrive at any real conclusions.

So far, so good.  But now the authors get into the “what should we do now” mode, starting off with the very logical suggestion:

We believe that we should begin with the actions that can command the broadest assent and achieve the quickest results.

adding

Our goal is broad-based support for radical acceleration in decarbonisation of the global energy economy. We believe that an indirect approach, which pulls on the twin levers of reducing the energy intensity of economies and the carbon intensity of energy, is more likely to win public assent than a frontal assault upon carbon emissions, especially one coming soon after the recent turbulences.

This is because there are many potential constituencies for, and beneficiaries of such efforts, independent of the politics of climate change.

The authors argue for policies leading to efficiency improvements. This is nice, but these have been ongoing and will continue to be so for purely economic reasons, as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce and their prices continue to increase.  No ‘policy actions’ are required to make these occur (as David Montgomery pointed out in his testimony to US congress).

The authors then state that

we think that the research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D) phase of radical decarbonisation, funded by a low carbon tax, could and should start at once

Following Montgomery’s logic, I do not believe that this step necessarily requires a ‘carbon tax’. Furthermore, it is well known that tax revenues from whatever sources usually end up being tossed into the overall pot for whatever spending or ‘investments’ are deemed politically worthwhile or expedient at the moment. And, finally, the costs of implementing and administering a carbon tax will reduce the overall efficiency (as Montgomery pointed out).

The authors cite the (now famous) quotation from The Economist:

“Action on climate is justified, not because the science is certain, but precisely because it is not.”

Here I would disagree completely with the authors

Action: Yes, at the individual and corporate level. (Reduce waste, eliminate pollution, improve efficiency, develop lower cost alternates)

Large government intervention: No. (Can work to ‘win a war’ or achieve a single deliverable goal, such as landing a man on the moon or beating the enemy in the race to develop an atomic bomb, but will not work to solve this ‘wicked’ problem)

Carbon taxes (direct or indirect): Absolutely not (Will achieve nothing except making energy more expensive and less affordable for all, especially for the poorest)

The authors write:

it is not just that science does not dictate climate policy; it is that climate policy alone does not dictate environmental or development or energy policies

This all makes sense on paper, but I am reminded of Eisenhower’s parting remarks about the dangers of creating an all-powerful ‘military-industrial complex’.

The rest of the paper defines several alternate policy approaches to addressing the ‘problem’ of decarbonization, pointing to past successful and unsuccessful examples, where governments either subsidized new R+D efforts directly or indirectly as prospective customers for the products being developed.

The authors point out:

the unsubsidised cost of clean energy technologies must be the measure that determines which technologies will fly and which will stall in the long term

I agree. But this speaks directly against government subsidizing of clean energy investments, such as building wind farms or subsidizing domestic solar panels.

In arguing for a ‘hypothecated’ carbon tax, the authors point out that a ‘dedicated’ carbon tax will be ineffective in decarbonizing our economy.

Firstly, this is so because it is not possible to establish the ‘cost of carbon’ as it is equated to the detrimental effect of CO2 on our climate, due to the many uncertainties. (Montgomery concluded the same.)

The second problem is that there will be no consensus among the various nations to accept a carbon tax. (Again, Montgomery made the same point.)

Thirdly, even in the nations whose governments may support a carbon tax, the general voting (and tax-paying) public may not.

The fourth point made was that a carbon tax would not necessarily force industries to develop new ‘clean’ energy solutions.

The authors then state:

As explained above, since much of the energy technology revolution will require just such basic RDD&D investment, public funding on a longterm basis is essential; and that is why an hypothecated tax is so important.

By a ‘hypothecated’ tax the authors refer to a tax that is not imposed in order ‘to alter short-term consumption behaviour as the once popular “Cap & Trade” approach hoped to do’.

Instead, they argue

a slowly rising but initially low carbon tax has the advantages of avoiding negative growth effects.

The authors then rationalize the benefits of this low tax as a source of revenue to develop new technologies, agreeing that ways must be found to ensure the revenue gained is not spent elsewhere:

The proposed hypothecated tax would be used to conceive, develop and demonstrate low-carbon or carbon-free technologies. It would provide a dependable and secure means of financing R&D essential to decarbonisation.

The slowly increasing nature of the tax provides a forward price signal that incites firms to take up the lower-carbon technologies and in turn to develop any particular firm-specific adjustments.

These two characteristics of the slowly rising hypothecated tax allow for the most rapid path to a low-carbon economy.

The success of an hypothecated tax will depend largely on the ability of policy-makers to recognise past mistakes, adopt a low tax that voters can accept, convincingly hypothecate the tax revenues and equally convincingly support and permit innovative institutions to manage that investment effectively.

IMO this is all idealized top-down thinking. Life simply does not work this way.

A ‘small tax’ may be ‘less bad’ than a ‘large tax’, as the authors concede, but even better is NO tax.

New energy sources will be developed with or without a tax. The odds of environmentally viable and cost effective solutions being developed by private industry without government subsidy are IMO (and that of David Montgomery) greater than if these developments are subsidized by the government. (The US corn to ethanol disaster shows why this is so.)

History has shown us that tax revenues will go to plug whatever holes are there, no matter how many pledges are initially made to allocate them specifically to clean energy projects. (The US Social Security Tax demonstrates this.)

So I would say that the first two-thirds of this report are on the mark, but the argument for a low ‘hypothecated’ carbon tax is weak.

374 responses to “Hartwell Paper: Game Changer?

  1. If it is potent enough, CO2 may well be the safest geoengineering method to forestall the next ice age. I fear that it isn’t.
    ============

    • I agree, Kim, global cooling seems a more realistic concern now than global warming.

      The Hartwell Paper has one valid point: “To reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity is not just noble or necessary. It is also likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness – which has failed and will continue to fail.”

      Some propaganda tactics have been like the actions of the Communist Youth League in the old USSR who supported Lysenkoism:

      A self-sustainable cult-like system of distortions, omissions, and lies designed to support faulty or fraudulent research of “politically correct” pseudo-scientists.

      http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/lysenkoism.shtml

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel

    • We are technically in an ice age – over the entire 2.38 million years of the Quaternary – that consists of glacials and interglacials and there are 652 factors that contribute to changing albedo – and therefore to the global energy balance. CO2 is a very little influence on the global energy balance – but it might be enough to tip the balance to a little hotter or to a lot colder in a dynamically complex system. Beware the Dragon King

      And what makes you think you’re qualified to do geoengineering? I remember seeing a Russian film in Geoengineering 101 – there were proposing to use nukes to creates immense channels. God save us from geoengineers.

      • I was hoping to get a little traction with ‘safest’ attached to the demon carbon.

        Yes, I fear geoengineering as much as you do.
        ==================

      • Like it or not, anthropogenic release of CO2 is geoengineering. The big question is to balance the pros and cons of that geoengineering with the need for cheap energy.

        Ten billion people don’t bow to your Dragon King.

        Once this anthropogenic aliquot is released and re-absorbed, then it will be possible to add up the pros and cons. As things stand now, CO2 is likely to prove to have been an overall good for the human race and for the earth. Reasonable people may disagree about the answer, but this is the question.
        ===================

      • Is it engineering when we don’t know the outcome (the impact)?

        I think it would be guessing, not engineering.

      • More fool them. The Dragon Kings live in coral castles guarded by crab generals and shrimp soldiers. When angered they cause floods, earthquake, tsunami. Best not to wake the Dragon King.

        You do realise this is just a metaphor for chaotic bifurcation, catastrophe, tipping points?

        Still – if the Dragon King doesn’t exist and I believe in him – I have lost nothing. If he does exist and I do not believe in him – I have lost everything.

        Am I an optimist? We are so close to marketability of cheaper energy in dozens of different ways – especially as oil, gas and coal prices continue up. Australia I heard yesterday has the best terms of trade in 50 years – exporting gas and coal. High prices and not fiscal conservatism is the reason Australia and Canada have done reasonably well. Artificially increasing the price would be a problem – and not one that we need to invoke.

        For me – I have ulterior motives. Never let a good crisis be wasted – as the paper says. This century it has to be about global development or the 10 billion becomes 5 – especially so if the Dragon King plunges us into a glacial interlude. Life is so uncertain and the only solution is to build resilience.

        Always remember that prediction is very difficult – especially if it about the future.

      • Chief –
        Still – if the Dragon King doesn’t exist and I believe in him – I have lost nothing. If he does exist and I do not believe in him – I have lost everything.

        It could also be said that – if the God doesn’t exist and I believe in him – I have lost nothing. If he does exist and I do not believe in him – I have lost everything.

        But I wouldn’t say that to you, would I. :-)

        More seriously –

        This century it has to be about global development or the 10 billion becomes 5 – especially so if the Dragon King plunges us into a glacial interlude.

        We can certainly agree on that – expecially if the development is such that will be applicable to either face of the Black Swan and not such that it will make the 10 billion become 5 through bliindness, arrogance and/or ego.

        Life is so uncertain and the only solution is to build resilience.

        The ONLY certainties in life are death, taxes – and change. And flexibility is the key to survival.

        always remember that prediction is very difficult – especially if it about the future.

        It’s been said that Cassandra deserved a more thorough kicking around than she ever got. As do those who have the arrogance to predict the future without Cassandra’s ability/gift/curse.

      • Sure your Dragon exists. The people run and hide when he demands his tribute, but they don’t live their lives like he’s constantly rampaging among them.
        ============

      • The Aral sea fiasco is a nice example of geoengineering, by the way.

      • Most “geoengineering” schemes that I have seen have no “UnDo” button. :-) For example, putting micro-reflectors in orbit.

    • Come on people! Analyze the Temperature Data. Look at the Antarctic Ice Core Data.
      As we came out of the last major ice age, the warming hit a major snag. Huge amounts of trapped water from melted ice sheets dumped into the oceans and raised the oceans to unprecedented levels. The past ten thousand years is representive of extremely stable data. There is not going to be another major warming or another major ice age. The temperature of the earth is a stable as a rock. Look at and analyze the actual data. Compared to before, we are in a different world. Something caused the major warming that was the Medieval Warm Period. The earth responded with the Little Ice Age. Recent warming caused a record Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent and the earth responded with record snow and cold this past winter. You melt the Arctic Ice and it will snow more. You freeze the Arctic Ice and it will snow less. This system is stable and it don’t care how much CO2 we dump in the atmosphere.
      Analyze the actual data!

    • explanation on Global Warming from mainstream media
      http://www.click2houston.com/video/27156168/index.html
      Melt Arctic Sea Ice and it will snow more.
      Freeze Arctic Sea Ice and it will snow less.
      This is a STABLE system.

    • The temperature of the earth is very stable and CO2 is not causing global warming.
      Manmade CO2 is about 100 parts per million of other molecules. That is one molecule of CO2 per ten thousand molecules of other stuff. Climate scientists may find it easy to swallow the alleged fact that CO2 is causing, or is likely to cause, major global warming, but there are a growing bunch of us who find it very hard to swallow. I find it impossible for me.

      Again, Analyze the actual data. NOT the output of the Climate Models.

  2. The claim that “Decarbonization of the global economy is desirable as a long-term goal” is not supported by any science. I fully support the goals of energy access for all and clean energy. If we can do that with energy that does not burn carbon, that’s fine. At this point, I see no reason why carbonless energy should be preferred over carbon energy.

    • “The claim that “Decarbonization of the global economy is desirable as a long-term goal” is not supported by any science.”

      Especially when the authors see that goal as being met by “radical acceleration in decarbonisation of the global energy economy.”

      The science is uncertain, but we should still decarbonize? OK, that is an idea that conservatives would disagree with, but could still lead to agreement on policies that were not harmful to the economy but had other benefits. But when you state as your organizing principle that your ultimate goal is “radical acceleration in decarbonisation of the global energy economy?” You can forget any compromise with conservatives. How is that ultimately any different from what Michael Tobis wants, other than the pace at which you are willing to kill the economy?

      Imagine the conversation. “Excuse me Mr. Ryan, would you include in your new proposed budget a small tax that will be tolerable to the voters now, so we can raise in astronomically in the future to the point where it would cause the radical acceleration of decarbonisation of the economy? Oh, and we are going to use the revenues of that tax to centrally plan research and development of the energy sector.” Gee, I wonder what he would say.

      “The success of an hypothecated tax will depend largely on the ability of
      policy-makers to recognise past mistakes, adopt a low tax that voters can
      accept, convincingly hypothecate the tax revenues and equally convincingly support and permit innovative institutions to manage that investment effectively.” I don’t know of a single conservative who would accept this as even possible in the real world.

      This paper might work as an outline for a proposed compromise between progressive CAGWers and progressive lukewarmers. But unless the political tides turn drastically in the near future (which is always possible), this proposal is what is referred to politically as “dead on arrival” as far as conservatives will be concerned.

      • I have been an energy policy analyst since 1992 and the only thing new here is that the greens are trying to recover from a crushing defeat. It is not a question of changing the game, it is that the game has changed on them. But without dangerous AGW there is no policy basis for decarbonization, so the world is moving on. However, dangerous AGW is alive and well as a strong minority view so the game is far from over.

  3. History has shown us that tax revenues will go to plug whatever holes are there, no matter how many pledges are initially made to allocate them specifically to clean energy projects. (The US Social Security Tax demonstrates this.)

    Amen to that. In fact, fixing that little issue is even more of a wicked problem than climate change.

  4. Somewhere there was a catchphrase..’energy cheaper then coal’ associated with the Hartwell paper. It’s not a very high bar in most of the world.

    Most of the world is paying $130/ton for coal.

    Nuclear is cheaper, hydro if you have it is cheaper, wind is cheaper.

    The current production costs for solar panels are below $1000 KW . Installed cost for solar panels is in the range of $7000/KW.
    Most of the cost of solar panels is in installations costs, so even solar panels start looking attractive in low wage countries.

    There is a reason China is building 400GW of hydro, 200GW of wind and 30 GW of solar. We can attribute that to the ‘superior environmental consciousness’ of the Chinese people or we can attribute it to the Chinese know how to do their math.

    • You might want to check this. Unless the Chinese have much drastically better sites for their wind farms, then perhaps their math isn’t up to snuff.

    • My understanding is that China has increased their annual coal burn from one billion to three billion tons in the last decade. That is real math, not planning numbers.

    • Harrywr2
      “Most of the cost of solar panels is in installations costs, so even solar panels start looking attractive in low wage countries.”

      The $7000/ KW installed cost isn’t 6K of labor – you still need the batteries , controller, and power inverter. Periodic replacement of the power inverter alone makes solar expensive.

      • Why do the Chinese need batteries?

        They are sticking the solar panels out in the Gobi Desert where there is a high correlation between peak sunshine and peak electricity consumption.

      • I guess they don’t use electricity at night. Or do they run something else at night, which then does not run during the day? That idleness cost has to be added to the solar cost. Unless the solar is strictly peak shaving.

        There are places and uses where solar makes sense, just not many. Solar is irrelevant to the global power issue.

      • I’d be surprised if the grid there is robust enough to bring overnight power in form other places. In any event, you can do that up to a certain point, and no more.

    • harry- wind is certainly not cheaper.

      Nuclear yes.

      • If you have 400 GW of hydro to couple your 200 GW of wind to then wind becomes interesting, even without it’s not bad compared to coal at $130/tonne.

        Assuming a $1 billion/GW(the price of a windfarm in Oregon)
        A 20 year mortgage at 10% interest means an annual loan payment of $116 million.

        A wind farm operating at 23% capacity will produce 2 TWh/year.
        That yields a cost of 5.8 cents per KWh.

        Coal at $130/ton for 5500kcal/kg yields a fuel cost of 6.5 cents/KWh.

      • Except I have to build a backup system to handle the load when the wind fails. So I pay twice. Any system that has a variable in it that is not controllable by the user to get energy is a waste. no v no power.

      • Moreover, a generator that has to run 77% of the time is hardly a “backup” system. At best wind is an expensive pollution reduction system.That is, you first build a fossil plant, then idle it when the wind blows, to reduce emissions.

      • This may be unwarranted David !
        As your fossil plant does not work at its nominal performance, and has to go up and down, it works under suboptimal conditions ; in the end no CO2 reductions ! Evidence from Danmark, etc.

      • And how many places in the world can you do that? The only place in the US is Bonneville’s service area.

        Bonneville’s wind data are available on line btw, and are interesting. They’re barely competitive economically because of the hydro backup, and in their words, the output of the turbines is “essentially random”.

    • Wind is cheaper, only because it is subsidized. In many cases the wind don’t blow much where you need the power. The wind don’t blow all the time, so you must build something to cover for those times. Wind cannot replace any power source, it can only make the other power source run on a lighter load part of the time. Total costs are much higher. The same goes for solar.

      • Herman A. Pope

        You write that wind is cheaper only because it is subsidized, and this is true.

        Proponents argue that wind power is supposedly “free”. If one compares only the variable cost, wind appears to be a winner: less than 1 UKpence/kWh for wind and 1.2 for nuclear, 1.5 for coal and 3.5 UKp/kWh for natural gas.

        Most studies I have seen simply calculate the total (fixed plus variable) kWh cost without including the impact of reliability of the power source.
        http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Cost_Generation_Commentary.pdf

        This 2006 UK study shows the total cost comparison (p/kWh)

        5.4 offshore wind (incl. standby)
        7.2 onshore wind (incl. standby)
        3.8 offshore wind (excl. standby)
        5.5 onshore wind (excl. standby)
        2.5 to 3.2 coal
        2.2 natural gas
        2.3 nuclear

        This shows that wind is quite a bit more expensive than the other alternates, especially if the estimated costs of standby facilities are included to cover the low capacity factor of wind.

        Nuclear plants typically operate at a capacity factor of 90+%. They are highly capital intensive and very inflexible, however, so must have a constant demand load.

        Coal plants are also quite reliable, but are a bit more flexible.

        Natural gas plants are both reliable and flexible; in fact, they are often used as stand-by plants to cover peak loads.

        Wind power is flexible but very unreliable (as you point out). It only works during “just right” wind conditions (not too strong, not too weak) and generally operates at around 30% capacity factor. This may be when power is needed or it may not.

        The argument has been made that fuel prices are expected to increase whereas wind power costs will come down as the technology improves on the learning curve.

        This may be so, but with the inherently very low supply reliability it is unlikely that wind will ever become an economically viable alternate on any kind of a scale to make a difference, IMO, no matter how much taxpayer money is thrown at it.

        Max

      • Breathtakingly, the reason why so many proponents are convinced that wind is cheaper because it’s “free”, is the fact that so many are so utterly clueless about project life cycle finance. They get the concept that if you buy a house, you need to make a monthly mortgage payment. Then when you talk about industrial investments, the concept escapes them completely.

      • Unlike wind energy, which sources of energy have no forms of subsidization?

    • Here’s an extract from an article in The Times by Bjorn Lomborg which demolishes the economic case for windpower.

      From The Times
      September 30, 2008
      Global warming: why cut one 3,000th of a degree?
      Britain’s efforts to reduce the speed of global warming will cost huge sums of money and have a pitifully tiny effect

      The EU has promised to cut its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, through a 20 per cent increase in renewables. There seems to be no better reason for this decision than that 20 and 20 in 2020 sounds good. Gordon Brown has wholeheartedly backed the plan, which includes making a dramatic increase in renewables – mainly 3,500 wind turbines in the North Sea.

      The British Government estimates the cumulative carbon saving from all its plans at somewhere between 950 and 1,100 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. The Department for Business will not give a figure beyond that timeframe but, given that wind turbines have a lifetime of about two decades, this seems the relevant cumulative reduction given the investment. The department confirms that the total investment from public and private sources into renewables will be about £100 billion.

      Computer modelling – using DICE (dynamic integrated model of climate and the economy) – shows that the net effect of the UK renewables effort is impossibly tiny. The temperature increase by 2100 without Mr Brown’s plan would have been 2.4536181C. With the best-case scenario the huge UK effort means that the temperature at the end of the century would be 2.4532342C. The effect is a difference of about 0.00038C – or about one three-thousandth of a degree in a hundred years. This is the equivalent of delaying the temperature increase by the end of the century by a little less than a week.

      Of course, these numbers are way too precise: different models and assumptions would give somewhat different results. Yet because we are talking about relative change, the absolute climate sensitivity of the particular model matters very little. Thus the order of magnitude is robust and indicates an astonishingly small effect for a very large cost.
      If one imagines that the reductions could be sustained across the century (which presumably would also call for five repeated investments of hundreds of billions of pounds), the effect is still very small – a temperature reduction of about one six-hundredth of a degree.

      Using the latest academic meta-study by Professor Richard Tol we can calculate that cutting 1,100 million tonnes of CO2 would create benefits worth £4 billion in terms of the impact on agriculture, forestry, preventing deaths from heat and cold, disease and unmanaged eco-systems. At a cost of £100 billion, the investment involves paying £1 to do less than 4p worth of good.

      The UK emits about 2 per cent of global CO2. Thus we could imagine the world as composed of 50 UKs, each emitting one fiftieth of the carbon. If all 50 of our “UKs” paid a £100 billion to reduce temperatures by one three-thousandth of a degree in 100 years, the result would be still be trivial: one sixtieth of a degree by the end of the century. Costs would most probably increase similarly, fiftyfold to £5,000 billion. This amazing sum would simply postpone global warming and its problems by a mere 11 months by the end of the century.

      The cost of £5,000 billion is equivalent to a hundredfold increase in global donations to developing countries. To make a simple comparison, the UN estimates that for about £40 billion annually, we could solve all major basic problems in the world – we could give clean drinking water, sanitation, basic education and healthcare to every person in the world. But instead we are spending a fortune achieving almost nothing.

  5. If we had left CFC induced ozone depletion unchecked under the idea that it was a ‘wicked problem’, that the science itself was fraught with insurmountable uncertainties, that large government intervention couldn’t possibly work and that left alone industry would improve the efficiency of CFC emitting technologies itself, I think we’d still have that problem.

    • AFAIK there’s no evidence that elimination of CFC’s had any effect on the Ozone Hole. It’s still there and still doing it’s thing – just as it was the day before CFC’s were banned. The ozone concentration plots I saw last year were no different than the ozone plots we produced from UARS in early 1992.

      If you have contrary evidence, trot it on out here. I’d like to see it.

      • I haven’t seen the GRL paper itself yet – it’s still in press – but one source suggests (tentatively) that signs of Ozone Recovery may be emerging, earlier than the expected dates. It will require much more monitoring to confirm this.

      • Fred –
        There have been signs of recovery for the last 19 years – sorta. The ozone plots have shown greater and lesser depletion in successive years with no discernable pattern. The mechanism for ozone depletion was (and is) generally assumed to be CFC’s – and it may be so. But AFAIK that hasn’t been proven and to date, the Hole has not cooperated in confirmation.

        And as always, there are other views on the subject –

        http://www.science.uwaterloo.ca/~qblu/Lu-2009PRL.pdf

      • I’m unaware of signs of recovery reported in the scientific literature for 19 years – merely signs that loss was diminishing and ozone beginning to stabilize, as expected from reduced CFC use. Whether or not the new data demonstrate clear signs of recovery remains to be determined. I think it would be wise to withhold judgment.

      • it would be wise to withhold judgment.

        Yes. I generally do so. After all, today’s “science” will be tomorrow’s belly laugh. As always.

      • But action has already been taken, so are we to withhold judgement on its wisdom? For how long? The massive supposedly-scientific report leading to the Montreal Protocol banning CFC’s was the model for the IPCC. How long should we wait to learn our lesson?

      • But action has already been taken, so are we to withhold judgement on its wisdom?

        Yes, action HAS already been taken – which is why we’re all stuck with replacements for CFC’s that are corrosive and require replacement of appliances (refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, etc) in 8 to 10 years rather than the 20 to 30+ years that CFC’s permitted. Which, in turn, means more and larger landfills, the necessity for more production of those appliances, (with the attendant the diversion of resources into that production) and the subseqent release of other (corrosive) chemicals into the atmosphere that will have unknown effects in the future.

        All that and more based on a commonly accepted theory (consensus) that may or may not contain more than a grain of truth.

        Did we get a good deal? That remains to be seen, but the evidence may be stacking up the other way.

      • John Kannarr

        “… it would be wise to withhold judgment.”

        Exactly my thoughts on the whole climate change issue. But of course, those who think they and only they know better than the rest of us are demanding that we not withhold judgment until more facts are in. Of course, I always support the Precautionary Principle: Who knows what horrible effects will occur if we jump in and start messing with our very successful. free-market, poverty-reducing, human-liberating industrial economy based on cheap, dependable forms of energy? (of course, there are plenty of economists who have warned us exactly what will happen if we destroy the mainspring of human progress, freedom and the free market, such as The Mainspring Of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver).

    • Man made ozone depletion was a scam too.

    • I can’t remember the source, but I recall an estimate that the reduction in harmful exposure from the anti-ozone-depletion-emissions measureswas equivalent to that obtained by moving 150 miles/250 kms further from the equator. That is, anyone concerned could have achieved the same result by moving from London to Manchester.

      Every year, many thousands of people move much closer than 150 miles to the equator, e.g. from Melbourne to Brisbane or New York to Florida, on the basis that the positives of the warmer, sunnier climes far outweigh the negatives. I think the ozone depletion scare was exaggerated, and costs of anti-CFC action far outweighed benefits. (Sound familiar?)

  6. Having read and discussed a good deal of these ideas with Pielke the junior, I think there is something that Max misses here.

    The money raised by government via a tax on carbon is not designed to subsidize existing technologies. That money is designed to put into research that can really ‘solve’ the energy problem. That is, research into physics, chemistry and engineering that will produce techniques to produce and supply energy that fossil fuels can currently, but without the carbon footprint. The time line for this research could be decades, but if we are going to find that technology, we need to invest money into research to produce these technologies.

    The other major contribution from the authors of Hartwell is that the energy industry spends substantially less money on research and development than comparable industries like pharma and I.T. If the energy industry isn’t willing to spend money on developing the technologies of the future, the government needs to take up that role. I will disclose that as a research who studies the future of energy technology, I am definitely involved in this future, but it is a future that awaits us in any scenario.

    So while I think there are aspects of the Hartwell paper that Max correctly identifies, he/she is still missing something in terms of how the government has a role to play in innovation and development of new technologies in every field. Energy is no different.

    • We already spend billions a year of tax money on energy research. Problem solved. Now we just have to wait those decades.

      • David,
        ‘Now we just have to wait those decades.’

        Yes, and while you’re waiting I’ll be working.

        But yes, just as the poor of the wild west waited for a cheap energy source in oil refining for decades, we’ll wait for a cleaner energy energy for the future.

        But I think you need to consider investment by the government the same way as you view investment by the average person. Capitol is needed for both avenues.

      • Slip of the tongue/finger? “Capitol” is the political boss-city. “Capital” is real people’s real money which they either get to use as they think best or is taken over by dirigistes.

      • “But I think you need to consider investment by the government the same way as you view investment by the average person. ”

        That may be the funniest thing I have read in my adult life (I’m in my fifties). When money is spent by politicians, it is spent for the purpose of advancing the interests of the politicians. And when money is invested by the average person, the purpose is to advance the interests of that average person. Anyone who thinks that the interests of the politicians spending other people’s money are the same as the interests of the people spending their own money has already demonstrated that they need to be kept as far away from the levers of power as possible.

      • stan,

        ‘That may be the funniest thing I have read in my adult life…’

        You don’t watch Colbert, do you?

        Apparently you quite cynical when it comes to government. But I have to wonder, did you pave your own streets? Did you put in your own highway? Did you provide your own access to fresh, clean water?

        So much of the comfort of your life has been provided by politicians spending tax money for your personal benefit not their own, yet in order to make a ideological point you willfully ignore all of that.

        I mean, the very fact that you’re saying these things on the internet undermines your whole point given that the internet is available to the masses due to heavy federal, state and local government investment.

      • And you conveniently fail to address how much corruption, graft and fraud took place in the construction and maintenance of those highways and roads. No one says that govt is so extraordinarily incompetent that it cannot accomplish anything. The roads did eventually get built. (although this isn’t necessarily true in other areas of the world where govt funding can disappear without any tangible result at all)

        You seem to assume that whenever govt doesn’t totally botch the job, we should be grateful. Hmmm. Perhaps you DO have a point, but not the one you wish to make.

      • stan,

        ‘And you conveniently fail to address how much corruption, graft and fraud took place in the construction and maintenance of those highways and roads.’

        So you’re willing to accept that your position is wrong. Great.

        As to your point, how much money was lost to corruption? 1%? 5%? I’ll very easily take a 95% efficient government. More to the context of this actual conversation, there is almost no corruption or fraud in government-funded research, so your bringing that point up is meaningless.

        ‘You seem to assume that whenever govt doesn’t totally botch the job, we should be grateful.

        What is your standard for success by the government? If you’re in the US, you enjoy the highest standard of life in the world, in large part because elected officials spent tax money on you and yours. To me, that’s successful. Maybe you’re just being a bit too picky.

      • Taxes made the US great? Clang!

        Bud, it was natural resources, the Constitution and maybe the people.
        ================

      • No one says that govt is so extraordinarily incompetent that it cannot accomplish anything.

        What, then, is your point – that a perfect system would be better than an imperfect system?

      • Maxwell,

        You think America is great because govt spent money?! How bizarre. You must think Europe is paradise. By the way, are you familiar with the basketball term “self-check”?

      • stan,

        ‘You must think Europe is paradise.’

        Have you been to Europe? They actually let you drink in the street. That’s kind of like paradise…

        Moreover, I think America is great for lots of reasons. My favorite reason is that I get to say what I want and when I want and that others also get to do the same. I am also happy that when I have to go to work, the streets are paved because the Lord knows I can’t keep fixing my shocks. I also like that there is a plethora of technological devices that keep more connected to the rest of the world than anyone before me and my generation.

        Those things might not be in a world in which the government decided it didn’t have a role in funding science. And I think it’s worth the risk of losing 5% of the money we spend to make everyone’s life better to actually try to make everyone’s life better. Even, if like you, they don’t appreciate it.

      • maxwell –
        And I think it’s worth the risk of losing 5% of the money we spend to make everyone’s life better to actually try to make everyone’s life better.

        I’d be more likely to agree with you if it were only 5%.

      • Jim,

        if not 5%, how much is it?

        When I lived in Chicago, I used to think about this question a lot. Especially around the time I needed to get a new city sticker to legally own a car in the city. How much of my $100 was lifted right off the top?

        I thought maybe $50 million would be a conceivable number for the money lost by the city in a year. For 100,000 city workers, that’s $100 per worker in money stolen. It actually seems like a lot now, but maybe some really large chunks are lost.

        So $50 million is quite a sum, but the city’s budget was over $4 trillion dollars. That means even if multiply the $50 million by 10 to $500 million in stolen money, we’re still only talking about just over 10% of the budget. So even in an egregious situation in which each city worker is getting $1,000, we’re running at just under 90% efficient government.

        Now, these are just numbers I’m throwing around and there’s no way to know for sure because we don’t catch every crook, but it seem reasonable to me to conclude that government runs pretty close to as well as it can in the US at least.

        Corruption definitely exists, but I don’t think it’s nearly to extent that some seem to think.

      • Maxwell

        The city’s budget was never $4 trillion dollars- double check your source.

      • Maxwell

        A quick check of Chicago shows their budget to currently be around $3.2 billion, with a deficit of over 20%. The state of IL is the state in the US in the worst financial condition of any US State

      • Rob,

        Thanks for looking into that for me. Yeah, I meant billion, not trillion. Sorry for the confusion.

        Those percentages are still pretty close, however, assuming we have a meaningful estimate of the amount of corruption.

        Thanks again.

      • maxwell

        Hate to gang up on you, but hopefully this will at least redirect the discussion toward your point.

        “More to the context of this actual conversation, there is almost no corruption or fraud in government-funded research, so your bringing that point up is meaningless.”

        The US government funds huge amounts (billions annually and approaching or over $100 billion in the past quarter century depending what you include in your accounting) of energy research into ethanol, which by and large is probably in the neighborhood of fraudulent, if the claim is that ethanol in fuel benefits anyone other than large multinational corn interests and their stockholders and the political campaigns they support.

        These large multinationals could easily afford to do all the research they need themselves.

        Likewise, ‘hydrogen’ research funding apparently is mostly aimed at fattening the bottom line of petrochemical interests who could afford to do all the research they need themselves, and hydrogen is almost certain to have next to no real world application within the next century, by which time extracting hydrogen from petroleum would be a special form of madness.

        Coal research? Government funded coal research? What the heck is that about? If Old King Coal can’t afford the research it takes to fix coal’s many problems, shouldn’t coal go out of business instead of sucking funds out of a nearly bankrupt US federal government?

        Now I don’t have any direct evidence of corruption in all of this that one couldn’t find doing a web search, and I’m not sure any court is likely to produce a finding of fraud against the people who appoint judges; I don’t make any specific allegations of wrongdoing against any particular person, doubt the word ‘conspiracy’ is entirely accurate, but I still can’t find myself agreeing with your claim.

      • Bart,

        I hardly think some poorly stated arguments concerning government efficiency and your opinions concerning fossil fuel research constitutes ‘ganging up’, but thanks for caring…and then not caring, I guess.

        More to your point, you’re entitled to your opinion. I, however, do not agree that government money for fossil fuel research is a ‘fraud’. Maybe you’re right that the industry could pay for some of the research themselves, but more research is always better in my mind.

        Also, ‘fraud’, as we’ve found out after debating the ‘Climategate’ fiasco ad nauseum here and elsewhere, really means proving intent. As a researcher, it’s hard for me to question other researchers’ intentions with just your opinion on the matter as justification.

      • Actually it is simply wrong to say it is fraud. You can argue that is is unnecessary, and that may well be correct, but it is stupid to write it is fraud

      • Sorry Maxwell, but I do not understand your point (or points). What are you trying to say? Globally the governments are investing about $50 billion a year in energy R&D, if not more. That is a lot of capital from the capitol.

      • David,

        We’re making the same point. I’m sorry if there is some confusion with respect to our very similar positions.

        I was continuing to make the point of the design of government R&D in the context of Max’s comments above.

      • But what do we have to show for it?

      • ChE,

        ‘But what do we have to show for it?’

        I’ll give you the short list:

        internet, radar, sonar, cell phones, lasers (and all laser-related technologies including every version of recorded home entertainment these days), cancer treatments, GPS, fiber-optics infrastructure, nuclear power, high power transmission lines, every single digital device that contains a transistor…

        …and the list could go on. Here’s the thing, just about every single technology can have its roots traced back to research done at the university and national lab level. Even a good deal of basic science research done in private industry is paid for by the government. Because of that, it seems fairly ridiculous to me for anyone to claim that somehow government research hasn’t affected him/her life. You’re on internet for sake of everything holy. Do you really miss the irony of this fact?!

      • Wow, you think we have a high standard of living because we have a high tax rate? I thought all the true believers in centralized planning gave up that ghost when the Soviet Union collapsed. Ah, I remember the days–the economists dutifully published numbers every year showing double digit growth for every country behind the iron curtain. Everyone laughed when I argued it wasn’t true, because, well, everyone with a formal education in economics knew better. So I hope I can be forgiven for gloating for a few years after it all proved to be an academic fantasy.

        Centralized planning is inherently inefficient, for at least two reasons. The first is the one others have pointed out in this threat: for those who decide how to spend tax money, efficiency simply isn’t an objective. Rather than maximizing the collective good, the goal is buying votes for incumbents.

        The other reason should be more interesting to technical types, I’d think. It’s the computational power of distributed decisionmaking networks. Look how computationally intensive it is, for example, to solve a least energy problem for, say, 100 soap bubbles. Yet the soap bubbles do it instantly and automatically. Each little differencial segment of the bubble’s surface responds to stimuli it receives from the adjacent bits, in the form of surface pressure, and the system rapidly converges to a solution. The free market does exactly the same thing, with each individual actor responding to price information.

      • That should be “surface tension and pressure.”

      • QBeamus,

        ‘Wow, you think we have a high standard of living because we have a high tax rate?

        That’s an interesting manipulation of what I actually stated. Moreover, we have the lowest tax rate of any developed country, so you’re claiming I said something that I know to be false. That’s fairly easy to falsify as incorrect in this context.

        I think we have a high standard of living in this country for a variety of reasons, one very important one being luck. But yes, I do believe that tax money being spent on public goods is one of the reasons. I also think that past private ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit of many Americans has helped make everyone’s lives better.

        See I understand that we’re talking about a complex system of inputs, outputs and interdependence whose dynamics aren’t governed by oversimplistic ideology. It’s something you should think about looking it, but I won’t hold my breath.

        If you’re claiming that tax money being spent on your behalf hasn’t improved your standard of living, you must live in a cabin in the deep woods, chopping your own wood and hunting your own food while accessing the internet via a satellite connection you designed, built and managed constantly without the reference to known scientific and engineering techniques.

        If you’re not, then you’re a hypocrite.

        I really like this one,

        ‘The free market does exactly the same thing (as soap bubbles) , with each individual actor responding to price information.’

        Oversimplification at its best.

      • Firstly, my characterization of your statement wasn’t a “manipulation,” it was my honest impression of what it sounded like you were trying to suggest. If you wish to distance yourself from the proposition that taxes are positively correlated with standard of living, then great, we’re really not very far apart.

        But for someone so touchy about having your pssition mischaracterized, you’re awfully sloppy in your characterization of my position. I don’t believe I suggested that no government action is ever beneficial–just that it should be regarded as a last resort mechanism, because it inherently creates externalities in every transaction it makes.

        As for your complaint about the analogy to least energy problems, it’s called an analogy. No doubt as an example its simler than the case at interest. That’s one of the purposes of analogies. And, of course, analogies aren’t arguments, in and of themselves. Still, you’ve totally failed to engage with the substance of my point. Are you able to ?

      • Q,

        ‘If you wish to distance yourself from the proposition that taxes are positively correlated with standard of living, then great, we’re really not very far apart.’

        I’m not distancing myself from that because they ARE positively correlated. Every single country that can effectively collect taxes and plan and execute spending of that tax money on the public domain has a high standard of living. That is a fact.

        I also don’t believe that this correlation is spurious.

        As for,

        ‘Still, you’ve totally failed to engage with the substance of my point.’

        I apologize. As far as I understood your point was the I was a supporter of the Soviet Union-repressive economic systems and manipulating economic growth numbers to support such a position. After that point was made, I lost interest. Forgive me for not taking you seriously after that.

        Maybe next time you ought to not lead with an insult. It might work a little better.

      • I see, maxwell. So in fact I did accurately aprehend your position, yet somehow I was insulting you. Sorry, I don’t get it, unless you find it inherently insulting when someone disagrees with you.

        And I note that you have still failed to engage the substance of my position. I infer that you cannot.

      • Many of the technologies you list had military significance, while lasers and fiber optics, and others, came from private research labs like Bell. And certainly in Canada, at least, government funding of nuclear research has been present, with medical and other isotope provision resulting. Where I get my undies in a knot is “artificial” government funding, aka subsidies for uneconomic and unfeasible technologies. While these help GE and other giants, they bleed taxpayers. But let’s not go there.

      • MarkF,

        ‘…while lasers and fiber optics, and others, came from private research labs like Bell.’

        That’s an excellent point. Now, it becomes a process of determining whether Bell paid for that research or if the government did. Because places like Bell Labs, SRI International and a variety of other smaller and larger research driven private companies also strongly compete for government grants investigating basic and applied science research. In fact, of the 100 talks I saw at the last Army conference I attended last fall, almost 25% were given by industry scientists. Some even by salesmen.

        So we’d have to go look at the papers and see if the authors/scientists thanked the government for grant number such and such. It seems like a burly task at the moment and I have enough burly tasks in front of me.

        I also agree that subsidies are not the way to go. I think there is much more lining of pockets using those avenues.

      • maxwell,
        No,
        Governments are not to be judged by the same standards as coporate or private investment.
        Governments are not commercial enterprises.

    • maxwell

      The other major contribution from the authors of Hartwell is that the energy industry spends substantially less money on research and development than comparable industries like pharma and I.T. If the energy industry isn’t willing to spend money on developing the technologies of the future, the government needs to take up that role.

      Hartwell authors were referring to R+D, which should lead to new energy solutions.

      The oil industry does some of this (ex. fuels from algae) but it also spends a lot of money on exploration cost searching for oil and gas in new, often more difficult locations. These are rising but are not included in the R+D estimates Hartwell cites.
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/02/11/us-oil-exploration-risk-analysis-idUSTRE61A28X20100211?pageNumber=1

      The high costs associated with developing economically viable and environmentally sound processes for recovering oil and gas from shale deposits are also not included.

      As an example, Exxon Mobil spent around $600 million on R+D expenditures in 2009, with earnings of over $19 billion, so this is only around 3%. As the study stated, other industries (chemical, pharma, semi-conductor, etc) have R+D percentages, which are several times as high.

      But if one includes exploration costs this figure is ten times as high.

      Admittedly, one could argue that tax deductible drilling costs and depletion allowances reduce the net cost of exploration (and a lot of political hay is being made today on these tax breaks, as oil companies are showing record profits due to the oil price surge).
      http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/sites/democrats.resourcescommittee.house.gov/files/Oil%20Profits%20and%20Tax%20Breaks%20(2-1-11)3JD_JP_DW_FINV5.pdf

      But the point is, all industries have “up-front” costs to find and develop new products, processes or sources of basic materials. In the oil and gas industry this includes the net costs paid for exploration of new fields, and these are not included under the normal reported R+D costs, which the Hartwell study cited.

      Max

      • Deducting costs is not a tax break. Business income taxes are on profits, not total revenue. Calling deductions a tax break is a hoax.

      • Lefties think that everything belongs to the govt. We only get to keep whatever they deem to be appropriate. Even then, we only get to rent it. From each according to the govt’s desire, to each according to the govt’s whims.

      • The proper comparison would be how much oil companies spend on non-oil research with how much drug companies spend on non-drug research, such as medical devices. In both cases you only do the research if you are thinking of changing industries, which few firms do.

      • David,

        ‘The proper comparison would be how much oil companies spend on non-oil research with how much drug companies spend on non-drug research, such as medical devices.’

        That’s an excellent point. The fact that energy companies have ‘up-front’ costs is not different in other industries. Intel has to find indium. Dow has to find catalysts. Abbott has to make mice. Every business necessitates spending money. Spending that money shouldn’t count as R&D.

        But I have to tweak your statement,

        ‘In both cases you only do the research if you are thinking of changing industries, which few firms do.’

        You also do research when expanding to new industries or when a technology can radically affect marketability of products. For instance, Ford Motor Company has an extensive R&D division that has looked at hydrogen fuel cells very hard. In fact, much of their research on the topic is leading the academe in quality and utility. In that case this research would expand Ford into a new field, without taking away from their automotive focus.

      • As has been pointed out, it is unprofessional and misleading (deliberately?) to assert that a deduction for expense or depreciation is a special tax break.
        To anyone who keeps up with basic accounting and book keeping, it rather misleading.
        Whoever claims otherwise is either ignorant or deliberately attempting to misrepresent the case.
        It is long past time to call out those who are doing this deliberately, and It is long past time for those who claim so in ignorance to lose their ignorance.

    • Maxwell,
      Here I have to disagree with your thoughts about energy industry research. On the utility side, utilities have in recent years been blocked from research and alternative energy sources. As an example, the large shareholder owned utility company Pacific Gas and Electric in California was forced by the California Public Utilities Commission to sell their hydro and geothermal plants. Their extensive San Ramon research center was forced to shut down. All that was done based on the principle that PG&E is so large that its research and investment capabilities would overwhelm small start-up companies. In other words, PG&E was considered too effective at R&D. Also, Public Utilities Commissions in most states have taken a stand that utility companies should be dedicated to distributing energy, not spending customer money on research. It’s short sighted but today’s reality.
      Likewise, large oil and gas companies do put tremendous amounts of money into researching ways to reduce their costs, which also means the overall cost of energy.

      • GaryM,

        while I would like to account for every single situation, I cannot. It seems that the situation with respect to this California utility is unique. California, as a case in this study, is unique because there are so many factions in the environmental movement there.

        Pielke the junior has pointed out in just about every venue I’ve seen or heard him speak that the energy industry spends substantially less on R&D than comparable industries even when accounting for research into tweaking existing technologies. I’m trying to find some other sources to support that claim, but I’ve come up empty so far. I trust Roger, but I would like to find a paper with some data to look at myself. I can pass it along to you once I find it.

        But no amount of investment in tweaking the current technologies is going to provide the breakthrough necessary to get an energy source we can produce at home, with small environmental impact and that is easy to distribute. In order to find that source, money has to be spent in fundamental research and if the energy companies aren’t going to do that, which they don’t seem likely to do, then the government has a role to play in making that innovation a reality.

        As David has pointed out, this is already happening, but may need to be ramped up.

      • Maxwell,
        With regards to relying on energy and utility companies in today’s regulatory environment, I’d have to agree that not much in the way of breakthrough discoveries should be expected. So yes, government money on research is justified. Where I disagree is focusing that money on energy research. We keep looking under the same research rocks for new ideas. I suggest we need to spin the roulette wheel and aim the research in a different direction. The one I would suggest for the USA is space projects. There is where the wild ideas come into play. Get researchers thinking about problems we have never encountered before. Fund that basic research through that path. After all, the 1960’s moon project pushed the US to the forefront of technology in many areas. The US does not have to take the lead on this though refocusing research dollars here might be a good idea. The hundreds of billions spent of energy research so far has relatively little to show for it except for a good design for a nuke plant that nobody seems to get permission to build. The wind generators still blow down and the solar panels still get dusty.
        (Oops, I’d better step down now. My soap box is cracking.)
        Gary W

      • GaryW (sorry about the miss up with initials there),

        I totally agree. But I think there are externalities we can’t get passed. I think if we’re going to find a technology that will take over for fossil fuels, it will have to implement sunlight in some way. Either storing energy from sunlight in chemical bonds or charge separation so it can be used ‘on-demand’, but I think because it’s just so abundant, we’ll have to find a way to use it.

        But yes, we need an apollo style energy mission where everything gets thrown against the wall to see what sticks. But it’s gonna take a stronger dedication to the cause then we’re going to see in the coming months. I haven’t seen anyone here complaining that the space missions went over budget…

      • Has it occurred to Pielke the Jr that maybe there’s a reason the oil companies aren’t chasing the Moore’s Law of energy?

    • “That money is designed to put into research that can really ‘solve’ the energy problem. That is, research into physics, chemistry and engineering that will produce techniques to produce and supply energy that fossil fuels can currently, but without the carbon footprint.”

      A perfect way to have a multi-decade boondoggle. All US electricity needs can be supplied by existing nuclear designs cheaper than any projected installed solar or wind- not a penny of government funded research is needed. That just leaves transportation needs to be supplied. Forget wind, solar, etc for this application, it won’t work. All electric solutions are wasteful of energy and materials. That leaves liquids or possibly gasses to be burned in engines. DARPA already funds research on new, higher efficiency engines, so what is left is developing and choosing between possible combustibles and their manufacture. That really gets you into a hairball – huge chemical plants that will need all the approvals for air, water, and safety.

      Finally, you get into the NIMBY problem. Watching a biomass conversion company (with pretty interesting technology) try to get siting approval from a town showed the same situation as wind frequently runs into – nobody wanted it there (and this was a pretty “green” town). Solve the NIMBY problem, and it’s pretty easy to make headway.

      • Actually we already have this research, but not from DARPA. DOE’s basic research budget is (or was before the new mega-cuts) $5 billion a year. The various applied energy programs in DOE — efficiency, renewables, fossil, fission and fusion — get another $5 billion. They just funded ARPA-E with half a billion to look at radical solutions. All the developed countries have similar, smaller programs. China, moreover, is about to overtake the USA in total scientific activity and has probably already done so in energy related work. The global total probably exceeds $50 billion a year.

        The problem is that you cannot buy breakthru discovery. Discovery is limited by reality.

      • Harold,

        ‘All US electricity needs can be supplied by existing nuclear designs cheaper than any projected installed solar or wind- not a penny of government funded research is needed.’

        Yes, that’s true, but you have to ignore the billions of dollars the federal, state and local governments have spent on R&D for nuclear power over the last 50 years. We don’t have current generations of nuclear reactors and facilities because the government didn’t invest tons and tons of money into fundamental and applied science research. We have them precisely because the government spent that money.

        As far as possible solutions are concerned, I think hydrogen fuel could play a significant role if we can find a way to hydrogen molecules out of photons from the sun. There is some very fascinating research into that possibility going on right now, but not enough. And that’s the point. We need to continue to grow our investment in fundamental research that can create those types of solutions. Because there are solutions to these issues. We just need to find them and do that we need more money. End of story.

      • Maxwell-

        “We don’t have current generations of nuclear reactors and facilities because the government didn’t invest tons and tons of money into fundamental and applied science research.”

        I call BS on this one. Current generation plants are available for purchase from South Korea, for instance.

      • Harold,

        ‘Current generation plants are available for purchase from South Korea, for instance.’

        Yes, and we all know that the US and South Korea have a terrible trade relationship in which they share absolutely no information related to scientifically oriented products. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the US had to give South Korea nuclear secrets as part of a trade deal, just as we did with India only a few years ago.

        More than that, 99% of the information necessary to build a nuclear facility is found in the peer-reviewed and grey literature on the topic. Lots and lots that original research was funded by the US government. Do you really believe that a company didn’t rely on ANY of that to get to making the reactors available from South Korea?

        Hell, I’m willing to bet that more than half of the nuclear workforce (physicists, chemists and engineers) in South Korea was trained in the US and whose training was paid for with US tax dollars. I’ll even let you pick a representative sample of the workforce to test that theory.

        So call BS all you want, but we have cell phones today because Bell Labs got government grants to perfect land lines. There is a direct link between government research for last generation technology and the current technology we implement today.

      • “That’s not even wrong.”

        – W Pauli

      • Maxwell-

        In a discussion about what to do now, I pointed out there are current solutions for some energy (stationary) needs, and work needed in other areas (transportation). R&D costs already sunk are irrelevant, but I tale your point is government funding has a long history of developing whole new technologies. This is a fact. It’s also a fact that a company is getting approval to install one of the new South Korean reactors in Idaho. It’s available, it’s cost effective, and the R&D is done.

      • Huh? What R&D for nuclear power over the past 50 years? Any money being spent on that came to an abrupt halt on March 28, 1979. Yeah, there’s dribs here and drabs there, but all directed toward esoteric applications. If serious money had been spent on nuclear R&D (emphasis in the “D”), we’d have molten salt by now.

    • Companies will undertake research and development to the point at which the expected risk-adjusted rate of return equates to that from alternative uses of resources (the opportunity cost). Of course, the more fundamental the research, the more distant the expected outcomes , the higher the risk and the greater the uncertainty, but innovative companies deal with such issues all the time. Again of course, they are looking primarily at the return to themselves rather than the community at large, but this has been true of almost all community welfare-enhancing innovations.

      Do governments have a greater capacity than companies to identify the most socially fruitful fields of research? Not in my experience of working for the UK, Australian and Queensland governments. And given that fossil fuels are finite, incentives for commercially-driven research into alternatives are increasing; every time the oil price goes up, research into alternatives becomes more attractive. Are there in fact good grounds for governments to favour energy research over any other field?

      The US government already plays a role by providing extensive research funding to many institutions and insisting on widespread dissemination of the results of that research.

      • Faustino,

        ‘Do governments have a greater capacity than companies to identify the most socially fruitful fields of research?’

        There is the question of how representative your experience is, but I’ll give you that point, no problem.

        But that’s not really the question either. The question should be: are governments so bad at determining useful fields of research for the benefit of society that they should not invest MORE money into research, specifically energy research?

        I don’t think so, but I am also biased.

        You’re right that energy companies are going to look into other sources of energy as availability of fossil fuels diminishes. And maybe that will provide the necessary innovations for transfer of major energy production to those sources. But they will certainly test how much of the price burden the consumer will take on regularly before making any of those decisions. In a economic system so dependent on fossil fuel sources, I wonder how wise a decision that will be.

  7. Decades ago, a Saturday morning TV cartoon series featured the adventures of Rocky the Squirrel and his friend Bullwinkle Moose. I recall an episode that found the two of them in desperate straits, tossed by rough seas in a tiny boat that threatened to capsize at any moment. The dialogue went like this:

    Bullwinkle: Rocky, we’re about to be drowned.

    Rocky: In a situation like this, there’s only one thing to do!

    Bullwinkle: What is it?

    Rocky: I wish I knew!

    My reaction to the Hartwell paper was that it graphically identified the problem(s) facing a politically feasible route to extensive decarbonization, but grappled less successfully with solutions. Still, to fault the paper is probably unfair, because the problems defy easy solution, as the authors acknowledge. The suggested remedies struck me as reasonable, but only because they were vague enough to sidestep the specific obstacles to their realization. Increased energy efficiency is certainly desirable, but how can it be achieved at the scale needed? Alternative energy that costs less than coal, even when unsubsidized, is a consummation devoutly to be wished, but have we so far failed to achieve it because the effort has been inadequate, or because there is an inherent pace to technological innovation that can’t be rushed?

    I wish I knew.

    The most specific recommendation I gleaned from the report was for long term public sector investment in alternative technology development funded by an affordable carbon tax. I believe that is wise, but how many voters will agree? During a recession, the answer may be “few”. Fortunately, we can hope that the recession is waning, and I’ve seen encouraging signs from polling of the U.S. citizenry that many see climate change as a serious long term threat, even if not one that deserves the most urgent priority. There is also evidence that the current Administration, which includes a physics Nobelist (Steve Chu) is willing to exert some leadership in this area, but whether it can withstand political pressures to abandon its efforts remains to be seen.

    One salient point the paper makes that I believe deserves further emphasis in the complementarity of climate mitigation and adaptation. This results from the dependence of adaptation measures on a relatively unchanging or slowly changing environment that would be threatened by unmitigated climate change – to a greater or lesser extent depending on uncertainties such as future emissions (warming and cooling) and the magnitude of climate sensitivity.

    I don’t see the Hartwell paper as a “game changer”, but in its role as an “issue framer”, it has virtue in outlining a future trajectory that is not beyond the realm of achievability. For the long term, I’m moderately optimistic. Over a shorter horizon, I’m less sanguine, but hopeful.

    • The USA switched from coal to gas for new power plants a decade ago. We spend billions on energy R&D every year and have for decades. The game is changing. What more do you want?

      • Coal is still the most utilized fuel for electricity generation. We live in a global economy. Cost competitive alternative energy, wherever the technology originates, will hasten the phase out of existing coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and have global repercussions for reducing carbon intensity elsewhere.

        Gas itself is a fossil fuel that is less carbon intensive than coal only if most of it is captured for human use rather than allowed to escape into the atmosphere as free methane during drilling and related operations. An inexpensive non-fossil fuel alternative would incentivize those improvements as well.

      • Fred, I do not see that you answered my question.

      • Fred Moolten

        You write:

        Coal is still the most utilized fuel for electricity generation. We live in a global economy. Gas itself is a fossil fuel that is less carbon intensive than coal only if most of it is captured for human use rather than allowed to escape into the atmosphere as free methane during drilling and related operations. An inexpensive non-fossil fuel alternative would incentivize those improvements as well.

        The Hartwell paper states:

        It is now plain that it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy’ that has emissions reductions as the all encompassing goal. However, there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable.

        The paper does not list the “many other reasons” for arriving at this conclusion (although they are quite easy to imagine), but let’s accept the premise as valid as a long-term goal.

        A crash program of shutting down all coal-fired power plants in the USA by 2030, in order to avoid the global warming caused by the emitted CO2, as proposed by Hansen et al. does not make any sense as it would only result in a total theoretical reduction of global temperature by year 2100 of 0.08C, as pointed out earlier.

        Besides, these plants would have to be replaced with nuclear power plants (as there is no other viable alternate today). Not only would this be prohibitively costly at $1.5 trillion for installing the new capacity, but it also does not seem to be a viable political option today, at least partially as a result of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

        Gradually phasing out older, less efficient coal-fired power plants and replacing them with nuclear plants might have made sense prior to the Japanese earthquake, but this also appears unlikely today.

        The Hartwell paper suggests:

        We believe that an indirect approach, which pulls on the twin levers of reducing the energy intensity of economies and the carbon intensity of energy, is more likely to win public assent than a frontal assault upon carbon emissions

        It is certainly true, as you write, Fred:

        Cost competitive alternative energy, wherever the technology originates, will hasten the phase out of existing coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and have global repercussions for reducing carbon intensity elsewhere.

        But it is also true that this technology does not exist today

        Gradually phasing out old coal plants and replacing them with relatively low investment cost combined cycle natural gas plants might make sense in the USA, which has ample supplies of natural gas. This would result in a reduction of the carbon intensity, but would not achieve total decarbonization.

        I personally am of the opinion that natural gas is too valuable as a clean and convenient fuel for domestic heating plus automotive motor fuel and as a feedstock for fertilizers or chemicals, and the reserves are too limited for it to be ‘wasted’ as a fossil fuel for power generation in the long term (let alone‘flared’ at the wellhead). But this could be a stop-gap solution until new, cost competitive, non-nuclear alternate energy sources can be developed.

        I believe that you and I are in basic agreement up to this point, although possibly for different reasons.

        The Hartwell study suggests

        While the acceleration of decarbonisation of energy supply is the only long-term approach that can deliver a radical acceleration of decarbonisation of economic activity, it will not be quickly or easily deployed and the primary RDD&D [research, development, demonstration and deployment] will have to be funded from the public purse.

        And this is where I think you and I disagree.

        In his testimony to the US congress, Montgomery stated:

        I convened a group of the most distinguished scholars who have studied the economics of R&D at Stanford two years ago. They produced a set of recommendations for R&D policy that would focus government funding on a much more risky program of basic and applied research and leave most development and all demonstration and deployment to the private sector: it would use stable and credible incentives to stimulate private investment in development, demonstration and deployment. It would also avoid any direct funding of the white elephant demonstration projects that led to failure of many past energy R&D activities.

        IOW limit the scope of government involvement to the more risky (but less costly) basic and applied research, and leave the (more costly) rest to the private sector, with some possible tax incentives.

        Does this limited approach require a dedicated carbon tax to succeed? IMO it does not.

        Would a carbon tax, if implemented, really end up being a ‘dedicated’ tax, to be used only to fund this basic research work, or would it simply end up going into the pot? IMO the history shows it would be the latter.

        For those reasons, I believe that a carbon tax would not achieve anything and the government should stay out of everything except supporting the basic and applied research work at the very front end of the overall R+D process.

        But I suspect that you and I disagree on these latter points.

        Max

      • What if we stopped calling it a tax and called it a resource rent? No. Lomberg suggest about $100 billion/year globally for government basic research. In Australia that is about $2 billion a year – petty cash really that could easily be sourced from general revenue without increasing taxes. There is in no sense a tax as a penalty to encourage energy substitution – it is a limited purpose seeking some funding.

        How to leverage the private sector? Perhaps a sector cap – with players free to deal with the shortfall in any of a number of creative ways without any direction by government. This would in fact result in lower costs for consumers in Australian as sovereign risk was reduced and more players entered the market.

        I am a bit bored with the tax and no

      • tax manifestos of the opposing camps of climate warriors.

        Let’s assume for a moment that we don’t know everything and that changing the planetary atmosphere might therefore be a problem – and be creative about not just energy but about this make or break century for the human race.

      • Fred- You wrote “The most specific recommendation I gleaned from the report was for long term public sector investment in alternative technology development funded by an affordable carbon tax.”

        I suggest to you that such a tax is inefficient and unnecessary. The basic profit motive would make this unnecessary. Many companies are in business to provide electrical energy at a profit to consumers. These companies do not care where the energy comes from; they care about what they can sell. If consumers like you are willing to pay more for electricity from non CO2 emitting sources than there will be a market, but in truth there is probably not a huge market for more expensive energy.

        What is a business opportunity is producing electricity as inexpensively as possible. Many companies are and will continue to research this issue because there is such an enormous opportunity to sell this product to the public worldwide. We do not need government in this business.

        It would make much more sense to get government to stop being an impediment to the construction of clean electrical energy production. Sensible US government action would be to approve standard designs for electrical power plants that would speed their construction and reduce their cost and make them safer. Taking these steps would make the building of modern nuclear plants much less expensive and help the economy in many ways.

      • Fred Moolten
        Fred, Aside from its global warming potential, Methane is very valuable and as such it is not something that is ever willingly “allowed” to escape freely. Depend on Capitalism to know its best interest. Now the two tops sources of methane are, as I assume you are not aware, ruminant digestive processes followed by landfills.
        http://www.epa.gov/outreach/sources.html.
        So where methane roams free is on ranches and municipal landfill sites where it has little or no value. These are not only much larger sources of methane, but in this country very little is done to ameliorate the problem. Australia on the other hand has a program to vaccinate its cattle in an attempt to decrease methane production.

      • Why do I smell vaccination causing unintended consequences in the guts of ruminants. It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature, particularly in that long-established biological niche.
        ========

      • The good news is that they’re self-butchering. The bad news is that they only yield hamburger and it’s a bit of chore to recover (unless you keep them in the barn). ;-)

      • Ultimately I think that this is the assumption behind much of the controversy. “Mother Nature” suggests that nature is nurturing and supportive of what is viewed by most sides as an alien occupation by humanity. But if one thinks about it, nature is more than the natural world around us, more than the earth, the solar system, the Milky Way, but the universe or perhaps universes. I see that Mother Nature locally is as destructive as she is nurturing, ask cancer patients or the Japanese. I say she kills exactly as many as she nurtures minus the present living population, and it seems to me that she is in human terms capricious and uncaring, though we would love to believe that we can control her through science or prayer. But even more to the point is the reification of nature as something separate and distinct from humanity. I know that religion and ideology would like to set us apart and to some extent against nature, but we are not. We are as natural a being as an mountain or an earthworm. Moreover our products are produced by a natural being using substances found in nature and therefore, they are natural products and not synthetic. Once idealistically separated from nature, we may imagine fondly a noble savage who is closer to nature and thereby purer, or fear the untamed savage who also is closer to nature and in this view less human. Nature is not some idealized, homeostatic, but basically fragile and weak womb who needs protection from such as ourselves, hence the precautionary principle. She is not at our mercy and she needs neither placation nor codling. She is not so unstable that she does not know how to find a way to keeps from spinning into some catastrophic state due to minor changes i.e. negative feedback – dare I speak its name “climate sensitivity”. She is in very small part us, and she needs no protection from this small insignificant aspect of herself. If we are sometimes cruel and sometimes kind, then by the definition, so is nature. “She”, why she is neither feminine or masculine, but both and neuter as well. Ah, anthropomorphication is such a comfort and such a cheat.

      • Ah now here is a science I can believe in. There are 2 kinds of farts (snigger snigger). The methenogenisis type which is flammable and provides a spectacular display when lit with a match. Then there is the hydrogenous sulphideses type which is deadly and smelly (snigger snigger).

        As blokes on average fart (snigger snigger) 2 times more than sheilas – we have commenced an emergency vaccination program to change the mix of organisms form the methenogenisis type to the hydrogenous sulphideses type. As the first type warms and the second type cools the planet – we expect to have this pesky global warming problem under control quick smart.

        Fair dinkum – youse couldn’t find a grand piano in a one-roomed house and youse’ll be left standing like a bandicoot on a burnt ridge when it turns colder than a polar bears bum.

      • Fred, Aside from its global warming potential, Methane is very valuable and as such it is not something that is ever willingly “allowed” to escape freely.

        It would be nice, if it were true. This article details a number of ways in which current methane emissions could be reduced:

        Take methane, for example, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing warming. It is emitted by coal mines, landfills, rice paddies and livestock. And because it is the main ingredient in natural gas, it leaks from many older natural-gas pipelines. With relatively minor changes — for example, replacing old gas pipelines, better managing the water used in rice cultivation (so that less of the rice rots) and collecting the methane emitted by landfills — it would be possible to lower methane emissions by 40 percent. Since saved methane is a valuable fuel, some of this effort could pay for itself.

      • Gene
        Here is the EPA web site the details the source and estimated amount of methane release
        http://www.epa.gov/outreach/sources.html
        My point with Fred was that he was talking about letting methane escape during the drilling process. I will guarantee that that does not willingly happen for a whole lot of reasons. Not the least of which is that it is very dangerous for personnel and equipment. I understand that most people have no real idea about what goes on during the drilling process. One only has to read the NY Times about fracking to realize that they do not have a clue as to what really goes on when you fracture a formation. And yes when you transport gas over large distances you will invariable have some leakage, but the fact that there is leakage does not necessarily mean that it is a major source of atmospheric methane.

      • Tell that to a Russian pipeline engineer – :)

      • There’s this and this. The second link indicates that more recent practice in oil drilling is to capture the gas. The first link indicates that more could be done to recover emissions during fracking.

    • randomengineer

      The most specific recommendation I gleaned from the report was for long term public sector investment in alternative technology development funded by an affordable carbon tax. I believe that is wise, but how many voters will agree?

      I wouldn’t. Not in a million years.

      Riches beyond dreams of avarice await those who solve even small pieces of the overall energy puzzle. EMC2 may seem like a longshot today but if their Bussard wiffleball works, fusion is here. Meanwhile there’s people like Rossi and his heat generator that nobody seems to quite get how it works, yet it seems to. You may scoff at these things (we all do), but it’s not the point — these efforts are simply evidence that researchers are well aware of the rewards. The only thing that we can be sure that works is the marketplace.

      Government intrusion here is worthless, e.g. last I heard the public was lining up to purchase the new Chevy Volt at the amazing rate of ~280 to 310 units a month. Nissan sold 87 Leafs last month. If the public was willing to pay more tax these things would be selling. They’re not, thus they’re not. The public cares less about global warming. Median household income in the US was $50k, and due to unemployment and underemployment this number looks like it will decline. Citizens are paying $3.75 for gas and food is getting higher every month. I’m sure that they’re easily convinced that they need to pay out MORE money every month. Just add saving the planet along with the $3 / lb tomatoes?

      Meanwhile in Britain they’ve determined that the wind they have so much investment in provides 10% of capacity over 50% of the time. This is the truth of green tech and government intrusion.

      A tax? Good heavens. We’re already taxed in the western world due to utilities being forced to buy green power that simply doesn’t work. Some look at these things and call them “investments” which is a perversion of the word and the definition. No. Green tech is a punitive tax, and we’re all paying for it.

      Were someone in government to admit that we already pay tax and have the windmills hauled off to the scrap heap where they belong, the same “investment” money redirected at EMC2 and such (i.e. honest efforts that have promise) could at least be useful.

      But MORE tax? No effing way.

      • Seconded. The wind-scam in the UK is shocking, the efficiency is laughable and the utility prices keep rising.


    • Alternative energy that costs less than coal, even when unsubsidized, is a consummation devoutly to be wished, but have we so far failed to achieve it because the effort has been inadequate, or because there is an inherent pace to technological innovation that can’t be rushed?

      I’d call that a false choice. I first visited a wind generator company in 1975. They had a efficient (for the time) airfoil design and generator design. They could sell into specific circumstances, but the equivalent KWH cost was more than the commercial supply cost. The progress of innovation is realatively easy to follow and understand. Generator, battery, controller and power inverter technologies are well developed. They don’t have something like Moore’s Law, where costs keep exponentially decreasing relentlessly over time. The same thing is true of solar. Everyone keeps hoping for a major breakthrough, but I’ve had friends working on solar cell research since the early 80s, and assuming that there is going to be a miraculous jump in efficiency and cost is unrealistic. As an aside, I spoke with government solar cell researchers in Boulder, and was amazed they weren’t aware of developments out of IBM that had general applicability to virtually all solar cells…

      It isn’t a question of how fast innovation proceeds, but at what level it essentially levels off. This is easy to see with announced solar cell efficiency (from wikipedia):

      1980 10%
      1985 20%
      1994 30%
      2008 40.8%

      This is basically a type of “learning curve”, which couples well with the relevant Bass Model for the adoption phase. Wind is even worse.

  8. What I found to be an interesting critique of the Hartwell paper – fortunately free of political preaching about the evils of any view not radically libertarian – that hits some similar themes to those maxwell hit in his (her?) post:

    http://www.economist.com/node/16099521?story_id=16099521

  9. Judith,

    None of the three goals are remotely possible in the current political and economical society we have created.
    It is a fallacy to even think of trying to control the climate or change it planet wide.

  10. While I don’t fully agree with Hartwell, I disagree in substantively different ways than Max, who makes many extraordinary assertions contrary to the views of the experts making up the Hartwell Paper authorship and without actual supporting links or rationale.

    1.) “Policymakers like clear black and white issues, where clear decisions can be made based on the facts before them.”

    While any decent policy maker will see such a case as ideal, experienced policy makers seldom encounter unicorns or magic beanstalks either.

    Implying something special about climate policy that is not beggared by the wicked nature of health care, international aid, dealing with an aging population, education, drugs, law enforcement, hom..

    The list of things policy makers deal with greater uncertainty on all the time is extremely long.

    Get over how wicked you think you are.

    You aren’t.

    2.) “The ‘war on climate change’ is, therefore impossible to fight (and impossible to ‘win’).”

    I’d believed I’d heard every war metaphor ever made, yet I don’t even know what this one means. It sounds like an empty platitude.

    3.) “And, no matter how well the basic climate science is understood, there are also great uncertainties regarding the drivers of climate change, such as population growth and technological innovation as well as major uncertainties regarding the ‘winners and losers’ from global warming.”

    The formation of the sentence about climatology seems to have nothing to do with the conclusion of this sentence about policy and economics.

    Population growth is already a subject of policy, and Hartwell is clearly correct to suggest obliquely including climate within population growth policy and population growth policy within climate.

    Likewise, technology innovation is an area that policy has huge sway over in the area of rate and direction of technology migration and adoption as well as large untapped potential for reducing waste without economic harm.

    The average vehicle on the planet is less than half as fuel efficient as the most efficient generations of conventional vehicles.

    Most of the technologies capable of moving the poorest of the poor up the rungs of self-sufficiency in Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) as established by social experiments and studies do not involve high CO2E, but rather the opposite is found: a tractor or a truck is an anchor around the neck and an obstacle to development and advancement.

    Tools and parts to make bamboo bicycles; hand-cranked laptop computers capable of connection to the Internet through cell phones; cell phones; bednets and indoor DDT spraying with intelligent treatment of the ill; hand pumps and hand-operated filter machines for drinking water and the means to locally produce filters; these do not take fossil fuel at all.

    Policy makers are generally not stupid, and will not be fooled by Max’s unsupported assertions on topics they have been involved in for many years.

    There have been lessons from the past for policymakers about guiding technology adoption, mostly in the form of failures due to poor decision-making and catering to special interests, but there are sound practical and easily administerable means to encourage adoption of low emission technology.

    These merely take political will.

    Political will is not created by head-on confrontation, but by oblique approach and enfolding diverse political interests into a common accord. Or some such. I don’t claim to understand the way politicians work, but I’m pretty sure I understand many of the ways they fail.

    4.) “In other words, we do not know enough today to arrive at any real conclusions.”

    Uhsaywhatnow?

    Many people have arrived at many quite high confidence levels on many substantial conclusions. It’s difficult to believe Max is unfamiliar with at least some real conclusions.

    5.) “The authors argue for policies leading to efficiency improvements. This is nice, but these have been ongoing and will continue to be so for purely economic reasons, as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce and their prices continue to increase. No ‘policy actions’ are required to make these occur (as David Montgomery pointed out in his testimony to US congress).”

    Clearly the authors were familiar with the current state of the world when they published the Hartwell Paper, not much changed today yet.

    Clearly, the authors knew what Business As Usual was ongoing and continues now.

    Clearly, they didn’t mean what Max claims they meant in his straw man, or they’d have said so.

    And while David Montgomery’s testimony is a great deal more compact and nuanced amphiboly than the Hartwell Paper, I’m not entirely certain Max is correctly representing Montgomery’s view here either.

    6.) “Here I would disagree completely with the authors..”

    And here is where Max demonstrates that he does not like the Hartwell conclusions (nor really do I in part), therefore he can bash all conclusions (including some I’m not satisfied ought be dismissed) that do not agree with his own by having demonstrated he doesn’t like Hartwell.

    7.) “Following Montgomery’s logic, I do not believe that this step necessarily requires a ‘carbon tax’. “

    *squint*

    I’ll need more on Montgomery’s logic; he used the phrase ‘carbon tax’ exactly twice in the testimony I read, saying almost nothing about it either time except that it was never considered. What logic is this?

    8.) Max dreams of a world of individual actions that will magically happen out of the pure goodwill of corporations, despite the current system of adverse rewards; much of that system built at the lobbying of corporations just to exploit low cost fossil fuels.

    Max doesn’t see that large government intervention is already part of the equation, in the direction of pushing fossil fuel use with all the ingenuity and taxpayer dollars they can through command and control, subsidy and hidden incentives.

    Max objects to carbon tax with the speed of a kneejerk at the tapping of a hammer to the patella. “Will achieve nothing except making energy more expensive and less affordable for all, especially for the poorest..”

    Max clearly is not speaking of revenue-neutral carbon taxes, which would only make wasting energy more expensive, while conserving energy would cost nothing, and make energy more affordable for all, especially the poorest.

    Sure, I’m asserting the opposite of what Max is asserting.

    At that point, it’s all he-said/she-said.

    The difference is that I have two dozen real-world examples to draw on, the clearest and best of which demonstrate the scare tactics Max employs are so much baseless puff.

    “I am reminded of Eisenhower’s parting remarks about the dangers of creating an all-powerful ‘military-industrial complex’.”

    Oooh. I’m so scared. The bogeyman! Is it Hallowe’en already?

    9.) Carbon taxes are impossible. Will come as a shock to those with them:

    “Firstly, this is so because it is not possible to establish the ‘cost of carbon’ as it is equated to the detrimental effect of CO2 on our climate, due to the many uncertainties. (Montgomery concluded the same.)”

    Sure it’s possible to establish the cost of CO2E. That’s what the market is for, deciding the cost the market will bear. First you let the market determine the price at which returns to shareholders begin to decrease; that is the fair market price.

    Then you decide if the returns to shareholders are enough to compensate for the loss or harm the shareholders believe they suffer, and if the market price does not rise to this level, you raise the price until the market contracts to the point satisfying the shareholders.

    This is the same Law of Supply and Demand as for any other goods in markets.

    “The second problem is that there will be no consensus among the various nations to accept a carbon tax. (Again, Montgomery made the same point.)”

    Montgomery was speaking of Cap & Trade on this; he’d be wrong if he said it about revenue-neutral carbon taxes. Or at least imprecise.

    If nations do not adopt carbon taxes when their neighbors begin to enjoy the benefits of returns to shareholders (perhaps on the scale of $1000/year), then the nation’s leaders will have to explain to their people where that $1000/year is disappearing.

    Along with the corporations relocating to those neighbors where the CO2E dividend reduces corporate taxes too.

    “Thirdly, even in the nations whose governments may support a carbon tax, the general voting (and tax-paying) public may not.

    Which is all well and good as a speculation, but flies in the face of actual fact in places with carbon taxes. British Columbia returned the government that brought in its carbon tax with an increased majority in an election fought solely on the carbon tax issue.

    “The fourth point made was that a carbon tax would not necessarily force industries to develop new ‘clean’ energy solutions.”

    This is true. Some industries won’t develop new clean solutions. Some will seek to subvert, some will seek to exploit, and some will simply be unable to adapt and will dwindle and disappear.

    Those would be the current free riders who enjoy unearned benefits of the current system, and really ought disappear.

    • Interesting point (although I think the points would have stood stronger with leaving the focus exclusively on Max’s arguments rather than on him personally). Anyway, I’m curious about this comment:

      And here is where Max demonstrates that he does not like the Hartwell conclusions (nor really do I in part),

      Could you spell out in some more detail how you disagree with the Hartwell conclusions? Is it primarily that they aren’t specific enough?

      • Joshua

        Noted, and if I’ve said anything offensive.. I’m without excuse.

        Max has contributed sizably and well to the debate.

        That I disagree with his views is no reason to ascribe or be seen to ascribe flaw in character.

        What do I dispute about Hartwell?

        In brief, I see problems with dedicating carbon tax revenue to R&D directly.

        a.) The money belongs to the shareholders of air, not the government, and as a political philosophy I find this expropriation unpleasant; I admit I’m in a minority with this view.

        b.) Government is really terrible at getting R&D done and to market, overall. I’ve seen the inner workings of private and public R&D and — while there are many fine people in publicly funded research facilities and these facilities have their place — private is frankly faster and likelier to produce effective solutions.

        c.) Subsidizing private research is invariably a bust. If governments just naively hand tax money over to corporations in exchange for R&D, they get the unmitigated disaster that is ethanol and the pie-in-the-sky hydrogen-extracted from fossil fuels boondoggles we see today piling up into the billions of dollars annually in the USA. It is seldom the intention of corporations to put such R&D to practical long-term use. Government usually picks exactly the people to do such R&D who have the least incentive to see it through economically.

        d.) Private industry has plenty of incentive, where there are low barriers to entry such as caused by the sort of red tape produced by b.) or subsidy in c.) above, to do its own R&D and go to market with real incremental or game-changing technologies as rapidly as possible. This requires the expectation that industry will see full rewards for the fruit of its research.

        Hartwell’s scheme can’t produce d.) because Hartwell’s scheme, well-meaning though it is, produces the same sort of impediments and adverse rewards, and neglects the same political realities as Kyoto did.

        Hartwell doesn’t see the beam in it own eye.

        That said, not all of Hartwell is wasted or lost.

        There are more than one kind of carbon tax. I’m up to a count of seven or more: carbon tax to create a price for CO2E vs. carbon tax to create a public policy impact are the two main categories I’ve identified.

        Within these categories, there are taxes meant to provide stability (a point I thank Pekka for reminding me of recently), and taxes meant to achieve other results without stability being a first or significant consideration.

        Then there are Pigouvian taxes in the public policy category, meant to shape behaviours, taxes meant to stimulate growth (yes, that works too sometimes), including taxes meant to reduce distortions (see McKitrick), token or low-level taxes that may be merely greenwashing or may be seen as first steps to scaling up price levels later once accepted by the public.

        There are carbon taxes integrated with Cap & Trade and carbon taxes that accept some level of leakage (which will happen without Cap & Trade due to administrative issues).

        There are carbon taxes that are thinly-veiled protectionism, and carbon taxes that frankly are simply vehicle fuel taxes in another guise; repurposed from paying for paving of roads and building of bridges to standing in as tokens pretending to do something.

        Just saying ‘carbon tax’ is like saying ‘beverage’. It’s a generic term for a wide spectrum of entirely different things.

      • Bart R

        Curiously, I agree with essentially everything you’ve written up through:

        Hartwell doesn’t see the beam in it own eye.

        From there on out we may agree on all of the many types of taxes you have listed, but possibly disagree on the basic question of whether or not a new carbon tax (direct or indirect, revenue-neutral or not, hypothecated or not) will help the world decarbonize its economy (or result in any perceptible change in our planet’s climate).

        I don’t think so, for the reasons stated.

        Max

      • “The money belongs to the shareholders of air”

        I looked for my air stock certificate, but can’t seem to find it…

      • John F. Pittman

        BArt R as pointed out, there are no tax neutral taxes. Ashas been pointed out, 1) it costs to administer a tax; 2) businesses prorate profit as a percent of cost, such that the tax neutral tax becomes a hidden tax, which is still a tax, 3) in the US, politicians put everything into the pot, even items which had the original law state the tax had to go to a specific cuae, an example is the hunting and fishing fees the US obtains and yet did not spend as the legislation required; 4) if implemented only by certain countries, it will accellerate jobs leaving developed countries to worsen not just CO2 generation, but other pollutants as well.

      • John F. Pittman

        1) Marginal expenses for reusing larger extant tax systems do count as cost of administration, that is true.

        It is also an infinitessimal quibble. Compared to the cost of introducing a Cap & Trade system, the cost of business as usual for the taxes replaced, the cost of the huge subsidies to the fossil industry, or more to the point to the additional wealth of the nation generated by internalizing the harm to the economy to the buyer, the cost of administering a revenue-neutral carbon tax are tiny. Not even a tenth of a percent of any of these numbers except the cost of administering the more distortionate taxes being replaced.

        2) Again, an infinitessimal quibble. BC’s carbon tax is explicit at the point of sale to the user of the CO2E, whether it be the end consumer or some corporation.

        The _efficiencies_ found when these CO2E users are motivated to overcome the switching barrier by facing a steep but fair CO2E price also get prorated to profit, such that the revenue neutral tax becomes a hidden saving, which is still a saving in that it leads to higher employment, more stability in the industry, more investment in business, and more re-investment in R&D.

        Also, trickle down benefits from the profit-taking shareholders such as influx of capital relocating from competing nations (a double dividend) and the American dream – more chance for someone with a good idea and hard work to get rich through their own merit.

        3) In the US, more politicians need to go to jail, or be voted out of office. How does bad behavior become the enemy of good policy?

        4) If laggard countries are too foolish to jump on the revenue-neutral CO2E tax miracle wagon — BC increased its exports 16% in the past year and has some of the best employment, inflation and growth figures in the world, after being a socialist basketcase only a dozen years ago — early, then yes the laggards, like the USA, will continue to bleed jobs. If China does it, we’ll all be speaking Mandarin in two generations.

        Momma always used to say, ‘stupid is as stupid does.’

      • Bart — I have rarely read anyone’s comments that use so many words to try to explain something so badly.

        Your continual example of British Columbia being a model is completely WRONG. Do you understand how BC obtains most of their revenue and has grown their revenue? It is from fees from oil companies and not the CO2 tax.

      • Rob Starkey

        Being able to google, I quite well understand how the government of BC obtains most of their revenue (which by the way is not mostly fees from oil companies, a tiny part of the BC economy, see http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2010/bfp/2010_Budget_Fiscal_Plan.pdf on page 12: about 10% of income taxes or 1/3rd of corporate taxes come from natural gas), and that compared to that, the carbon tax (about on par with tobacco) is small change at this time, and would be even at a $300/ton level.

        Nowhere did I say differently.

        What’s your point?

        If you’re going to use a model, you use one that’s relevant, current, and working.

        What’s wrong about choosing the best working Western-style economy on the planet, that just happens to have a revenue-neutral carbon tax as a model to talk about carbon taxes?

        I’d be highly skeptical of the duplicity of anyone who didn’t at least include such a model.

      • Bart

        The key is in the details and you missed the correct details. The major source for revenue and the largest area of revenue growth for the last 10 years in BC has been related to the oil and gas industry. The major risk to the BC economy is that there is another downturn in the US economy that will reduce demand for those products.

        In the link you posted they stated those facts. I provided an additional link to show you more information.

        http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/pubs/exp/exp_ann.pdf (page 3)

        I am not “slamming” what BC is doing economically, because I believe they are doing many things correctly. If a country has something it can produce and export at a profit and thereby fund other activities that is great, but please recognize the ultimate revenue source. What I am pointing out to you is that what they are doing relative to a carbon tax is absolutely not driving any positive performance of their economy, oil and gas revenues are doing that.

      • Rob Starkey

        Any economy is much more than the sum of its exports.

        While the 2001-2010 figures are important and interesting, there are limits to how much information one can glean from them about the BC carbon tax for the following reasons:

        1. The carbon tax doesn’t apply directly to exports yet (that’s what the proposed/likely defunct cap & trade proposal with the WCI is supposedly for); in indirect effects the carbon tax might be significant when comparing, for example, wood to fish to farm produce exports; however, when comparing oil and gas exports to all other areas, as oil and gas (mostly natural gas) are not carbon taxed on export, there’s little information to use from these numbers. Thus, a focus on BC exports while discussing the BC carbon tax is simply baseless.

        2. The carbon tax only came in in mid 2008, and at a very low level; it’s not quite 3/4’s of the way to the $30/ton goal in 2012, and was only halfway there in mid 2010. So at best any significant export effect might be seen only in the 2010 figures. My arguments principally demonstrate that all the negative speculation about carbon taxes are simply wrong, for which purpose the export data is enough to tend to confirm I am correct, but hardly enough to draw many other conclusions, or even to assert certainty about some claims.

        3. There was a huge disruption in trends due to the 2009 economic crisis, producing a huge amount of noise in the trend lines. We’d be some sort of special idiots to ignore this for data that begins in 2008.

        4. It takes time for changes to work their way through the system, so we’re unlikely to see some impacts expressed in export figures up to 18 months to several years later.

        5. Natural gas is an extremely volatile commodity on the world market.

        6. BC has many externalities to its oil and gas industry; protection of coastlines and wildlife tourism is a hot issue in BC, and will slow and limit much oil and gas growth for the foreseeable future.

        7. Again, what’s your point? Nothing you say impinges my argument, or is more than tangential to it. While BC may enjoy some large degree of carbon hypocrisy, with its climbing coal exports, from the point of view of an economic strategy this too provides BC a double dividend: keeping the economies of its competitors dependent on old-school soot-spewing outmoded energy production while focusing on high tech research and development.

      • Bart

        My two points are quite simple
        1. You use an excess number of words to try to convey your simple messages.
        2. Regarding BC, you have repeatedly inferred that BC is doing great economically as a result of the fact that they implemented a carbon tax. My point is the economic success of BC is due to the petrochemical industry and is not related to the carbon tax in any way. The example of BC and a carbon tax is meaningless to the USA

      • Rob Starkey

        1. Skip to the end if too many or too large words bother you.

        2. I’ve implied nothing of the sort that the carbon tax is the sole, leading or even overall very significant contributor in my claims about the BC economy. It’s simply been the topic of my discussion. This petrochemical red herring of yours is a diversion and waste of time. I could discuss the whole BC economy, but that would involve throwing in a lot of irrelevant words.

        Which is it, too wordy or not wordy enough? Make up your mind.

        The BC example of revenue-neutral carbon tax is the only case meaningful to the USA.

      • Um, Bart, the Carbon tax issue wasn’t really the lead issue, and it was superior to the alternative being promoted by the opposition, cap and trade, because it is REVENUE NEUTRAL. Revenue stays in the province. Frankly, I hope the issue becomes moot, given the climate trends since that time, and the ridicule to which the main promoter of the tax, Dr. Weaver, has been subjected, on account of his – shall we say – hyperbole.

      • Mark F

        Having been interested in the BC model before the election was held, I took the time to familiarize myself with it.

        You have an interesting take on the situation, Mark, practically identical to the opinion in an editorial in the Toronto Star of the time. Are you a Toronto Star reader, Mark?

        If you don’t believe the local bloggers in BC:

        http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/BC-Politics/2009/04/17/Carbon-tax-kerfuffle-goes-global/

        Why not check out the platform of the opposition party:

        http://www.bcndp.ca/files/u108/BCNDP09_Platform_2009-_Final-April9_last3.pdf

        Look for the placement of the phrase ‘gas tax’. It leads every bullet-point list. It’s the principle complaint. In most speeches, it was almost the only talking point, and certainly it was the soundbyte that made the news feeds.

        Sure, some analysts say that a cynical anti-carbon-tax campaign was the smartest choice, and it may have been, but the fact remains, the government that put the carbon tax in place flourished in that election.

        And while you can hope the issue becomes moot as frankly as you wish, but I believe almost no one in BC who voted would know Dr. Andrew Weaver from Adam, however main a promoter he seems to have been to you.

      • Using BC as and example is like using Washington State as an example for ‘carbon policies’.

        BMW isn’t building a Carbon Fiber spinning plant in Washington State because it believes there will never be a Carbon Tax. BMW built the plant in Washington State because even if there is a Carbon Tax, 85% of the energy it will consume will come from Hydro or Nuclear.

      • Until Grant County PUD’s contracts with Bonneville expire, and California outbids them on the next round. If BMW thinks they’re guaranteed cheap power forever, they’re fools.

      • The Pacific DC Intertie is clogged up with electricity from the Windmills that have 20 year contracts with California Utilities.

        3.4 GW of Windmills are in the BPA grid.
        Almost all of them are under long term contract to California Utilities.

    • “Max dreams of a world of individual actions that will magically happen out of the pure goodwill of corporations, despite the current system of adverse rewards”

      Not much point in reading any further after reading that.

  11. Steve Fitzpatrick

    A good paper, yes.. a game changer? No. The authors lucidly explain why efforts like Kyoto were doomed to failure from the start, which is helpful.

    But I think the authors (perhaps because of their own political views) do not address what I see as very important contributor to the current policy impasse: “command-and-control” approaches, usually with a strong left political lean, and uncompromising ‘green’ requirements have been uniformly adopted as the ‘consensus’ solution. These are exactly the policies the voting public in many countries will not accept… cap and trade and other schemes to ‘force’ reductions in emissions on an unwilling public. The convolution of climate science and climate scientists with ‘climate politics’ has done terrible damage to the public credibility of climate science. Can these be separated? Can public credibility be restored? Based upon the statements of many well known climate scientists, I fear not. It seems this is a mutually desired embrace.

    • My assertion is that all that is needed to speed development and adoption of energy related technologies to to provide financing, assume some or all of the investment risk, and remove or lessen the regulatory process barriers (time, costs, etc). Essentially, all the costs to be born by taxpayers would be realized investment risk costs, and these can be intelligently handled by not financing doomed projects (although I have my doubts that this would be done).

      • Why should the taxpayers want to make this so-called investment? They have better things to do with what little investment capital they have, such as sending their kids to school, buying a house and preparing for retirement. Investment capital is a scarce resource and new energy technologies don’t compete well as personal investments.

      • I should have said arrange financing, which is more clear than provide financing.

      • Harold– What does arrange financing really mean to you? does it mean that if some company has a marginal, high risk idea for a “clean” energy related product that the government should in any way “arrange” or “guarentee” the financing of the project? The “risk” of such an approach is that it will promote the creation of numberous “half baked” new energy related companies that will produce ultimately nothing of value, but those running the companies will still make money and the tax payers will ultimately pick up the cost.

  12. Game changer? No, not yet anyways. I think it has gathered some momentum and acknowledgment, but nowhere near enough to do any serious changing, judging by what I can see as the current state of things.
    I do think the view it promotes deserves some broader consideration, but to direct international momentum in any clear direction right now is a tall order.
    Still, if climate politics remain stalled, there will be a thirst for alternative models. In that case, Hartwell will at least go down as an important precedent – as far as ideas & attempts go.

  13. Flat-out prestidigitation. Here’s one of the concealed assumptions, away from which our attention is being misdirected: “the drivers of climate change, such as population growth and technological innovation “.

    Beg the question, much?

  14. I think harrywr2 has got his prices wrong. It looks like he is referring to coking coal. Steaming coal is generally a lot cheaper than his price, especially for those with a mine attached. Actual prices are hard to obtain, but $30 / tonne at the coalyard isn’t uncommon.

    I think he ought to check his Chinese build figures as well and give a reference for them. Data I saw in one of the energy magazines (i will have to look back for the references) indicated that their wind build was about 1% of their thermal plant. Also to be valid, quote GWh not GW. Then wind looks even worse.

  15. The paper is premised on unquestioning acceptance of the need for decarbonising, something that will require a huge increases in government interference.
    This is not a game changer. Quite the opposite – it is a reactionary Team-style attempt to have us stop looking too closely at the work of the fraud-ridden, over-confident alarmist climate establishment, and so meekly agree to the tax hikes etc which are their true agenda.

  16. I’m just old fashioned enough to wonder why a decarbonized economy is important enough to kick the carbonized economy to the curb. This notion always arrives with a tacit acceptance that carbon is evil without really explaining what that evil is. We have no proof yet that CO2 is a serious problem or even a non-serious problem. What is the justification for this new way to manage people? And that is what decarbonization is. Overlords with happy faces. Kinder gentler energy managers. Bollocks.

    The new way, if nobody is paying attention, is to decarbonize the economy by accepting a miracle will occur in energy production and freezing the expansion of existing technology to create an artificial market for that miracle. I hope this miracle is less stupid than unreliable wind, expensive solar, and really hurtful things like turning food into fuel.

    Right now in Japan what they absolutely require is petawatts of carbon fired energy. Sooner the better. Cutesy wave action energy (haven’t we seen enough of that…), unreliable wind power, and all the other flailing technologies are for not. They need diesel generators and lots of them. I imagine between the tears they can almost laugh at this notion of green power. Japan is a sudden and extreme case that much of the third world faces daily and has since the dawn of human civilization. The latter don’t need miracle energy – they need diesel generators, now. To invoke a bit of the theory of constraints, what is keeping these people from acquiring these generators? How about starting with Dr. Pielke Jr and alike thinkers. Until this miracle energy becomes more than wishful thinking I suggest they get the hell out of the way and let pragmatists bring light to the underdeveloped communities.

    To them I would suggest you first solve the need then solve the problem. Give a society cheap energy and they can afford to evolve to cleaner energy. Deny them that and they will forever have their hand out, and the condemning overlords that manage what energy the are permitted will take that stain on their soles to the grave.

  17. rather than a tax, announce a prize. the first person or company to deliver low cost “green” energy to the world gets 1 trillion dollars. low cost being say 5 cents a kwh or less.

    such a prize would spur many companies and individuals to spend their own money.

    in this way the government doesn’t get involved in handing out tax money to companies and individuals that they like for political reasons. this is the current problem, money is handed out in return for favors, not for success.

    in return for the prize, the government gets a share in the profits. over time this will pay back the amount of the prize with dividends.

    • Hey, Fred, sounds like a scheme. Too bad Madoff didn’t think of it.

      Max

    • Peter Wilson

      Fred

      To the person who develops 5c/kwh “green” energy, $1 trillion will look like spare change! No prize should be necessary, the market provides it own, in great abundance.

    • “rather than a tax, announce a prize. the first person or company to deliver low cost “green” energy to the world gets 1 trillion dollars. low cost being say 5 cents a kwh or less.”

      Nuclear, hydro, and some coal come in at ~3 cents.

      • Hal,

        “Nuclear, hydro, and some coal come in at ~3 cents”

        Wind and solar can never be base load competitive because they will be very costly to both electricity generation and environment by implementing battery storage or pump storage and inverters. Pump money into these investments will be insane.

      • “Pump money into these investments will be insane.”

        There are probably some local situations where they make some sense, but not as broadly used power sources.

  18. There will be no game changer unless it is established beyond doubt, based upon empirical evidence that human generated CO2 causes catastrophioc global Warming with dire consequences for humanity. And I don’t think that this statement would ever be proved as true.

    What’s happening now is typical of ” consensus ” science. Only the language is different. Earlier is was gloom and doom predictions and threats. Now this article can be surmised us ” We don’t know enough about the climate to state anything with certainity. But we feel we must do something to decarbonise the economy “.

    And this is again nicely wrapped up combined with ” energy access for all ” and ” clean energy ” as if decarbonisation was part of that. No way anyone is going for fall for such backdoor attempts.

    What we need is

    Clean energy – Tick
    Cheap Energy – Tick
    Energy access for all – Tick
    Control Real pollution – Tick

    What we don’t need is CO2, or decarbonisation to be any part of the above. CO2 is not an issue and it is blown up beyond proportions with the collusion of administration and dishonest scientists, to find somehow a way to raise a new tax. And as someone said before, every single penny of these taxes will go to plug whatever hole the government wants to fill at that point in time and will never get used for the purpose intended.

    • Good summary. Brief and to the point.

      Max

    • “What we don’t need is CO2, or decarbonisation to be any part of the above. CO2 is not an issue and it is blown up beyond proportions with the collusion of administration and dishonest scientists, to find somehow a way to raise a new tax.”

      Yes! CO2 is not an issue at all. Completely irrelevant. Or just as relevant as H2O emissions. It takes valuable resources, time and money from real issues, like pollutants (CO, NOx, Soot or the real Carbon…) or ash disposal. Coal fired power plants can be made very environmentally friendly today.

      • Edim,

        I agreed with most what you say but need a bit clarification with the following:

        “like pollutants (CO, NOx, Soot or the real Carbon…) or ash disposal. ”

        Soot was long gone with coal fired power stations. Yes you do get unburnt carbon in flyash – usually less than 3%. To comply with EPA’s air pollution control (APC) requirements, modern APC equipment with a series of equipment involving electrostatic precipitators (removal of 99% flyash in flue gas) in series with baghouse filter or fabric filter (removal of 99.9% flyash in flue gas) and then spray with water in a wet scrubber after which flue gas is discharged with virtually free of carbon except CO and CO2.

        To comply with EPA or Federal Requirements (year 2013), a lot of large coal fired power station have already installed APC equipments to comple with the requirements.

        There is a thermal efficiency loss in complying with all these requirements. Call for more stringent air pollution control beyond year 2013 will have all costs with minimal returns.

      • I agree with you Sam. What I meant is that modern coal fired power stations are already very environmentally friendly (cyclones, electrostatic precipitators, bag houses, scrubbers, …). I also think that they can be made even cleaner if needed. There is of course efficiency loss (and CO2 emissions increase) associated with all this pollution control.

        So we should build more coal fired power if needed. It is very clean, but it has nothing to do with CO2.

  19. “Most of the world is paying $130/ton for coal.”

    Steam coal in the US is a fraction of that. Closer to $20 a ton.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/txt/ptb0708.html

  20. a.) The money belongs to the shareholders of air, not the government

    You don’t own shares in air any more that you own shares in government land, or shares in the lakes and streams. If you did, you would be able to charge people rent for the rights to break air. After all, people emit CO2 and methane, so why should they be exempt? If a power plant must pay to use the air, why exempt life? The 300 million people in the US release 100 million tons of CO2 each year by breathing, so the EPA could stop a lot of global warming if they were to halt this source of pollution.

  21. Too bad these scientists meshing around with politics rather than improving their own works – less respectful as scientists nowadays.

  22. You don’t own shares in air any more that you own shares in government land

    True. In principle you could though. And this could, in theory, provide a rationale for managing the air, should there be a need to manage it.
    But since we don’t yet know whether CAGW is an issue, there is as yet no perceived need to manage the air.

    • The danger in allowing ownership of air is likely to outweight any benefits. As soon as you allow ownership, then someone else has to pay for the rights to breathe. Or, that allowing somone to breathe is bad for our country/planet, so it should not be allowed. Humans produce CO2 when they breathe. Therefore, if AGW is carried to its logical conclusion, they are no less a risk to the planet than coal fired power plants and must be eliminated.

      • Fred BerpleAs soon as you allow ownership [of the air], then someone else has to pay for the rights to breathe
        That is already the case with eg food.

        For there to be any managing of the air, it has to be owned. Otherwise we cannot avoid the Tragedy of the Commons situation we are supposedly already in. As it is, government already owns various rights to the air, and as such already controls what is done with it to some extent.

  23. The Hartwell Paper presents many similar valid arguments as its authors have presented elsewhere. I have found the books of Mike Hulme and Roger A Pielke, Jr. to have very much valuable discussion. The problem with all these contributions is the same as with all other well justified writing. They prove convincingly that the simplistic approaches for defining and solving “The Climate Problem” or the “Availability of Energy Problem” are not valid. The problems are “wicked” as emphasized most strongly by Mike Hulme.

    All this analysis is incapable of determining, how far the natural processes of technology development and competitive markets will help. Libertarians among us want to believe that they solve everything better than any alternative policies, but I cannot agree, and the authors of the Hartwell Paper do not appear to agree either. They are, however, quite optimistic on the power of technology development.

    I have followed closely the development of energy technology since the oil crises of 1970’s, when the funding of energy research was radically increased in many parts of the world. In my judgment the emphasis given to energy research has produced pitifully meager results. This experience makes me much more pessimistic on the possibilities offered by future technology development than presented in the Hartwell Paper (or by Pielke, Jr. in his book The Climate Fix).

    I’m really puzzled on what should be done. I’m convinced that the AGW is true, but I think it’s not quite as pressing threat as more alarmistic people want to claim. As Mike Hulme does, I see also the climate change as only one of many potential major problems. It’s not in any obvious way a larger threat to human well-being than the near term problems of the poor countries in Africa and elsewhere or than other shortages of resources are likely to become. The idealistic claims that the same acts would solve all threats are not justified. In reality solving one set of problems effectively most often aggravates the others.

    It’s good that problems are considered having long term consequences taken seriously, but it’s a serious error to think that we can produce good scenarios for the distant future – or that we can calculate the economic value of the damages caused by AGW for centuries to the future as the Stern Report does (getting therefore almost arbitrary results, or any results its authors wish to produce).

    One of the central starting points for the present policy choices should be that they are in the right direction – or at least not in the wrong direction. This means that they should open good alternatives for the future decision makers, when they can make the decisions based on more knowledge. They should not close paths that may turn out to be crucially important. These requirements are a form of requirement for robustness. What is presently done, should not be seriously damaging, whichever of the possible futures will materialize. That is much more useful than trying to find the optimal choices for a very limited set of possible futures.

  24. Anthropogenic climate change (as it has now been re-branded from the earlier ‘anthropogenic greenhouse warming’)

    This ‘rebranding’ is just an attempt to obscure the real behind the politics issue – alleged Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, CAGW.

  25. >IMO this is all idealized top-down thinking<

    This is, I believe, referring to one of my biggest disagreements with AGW advocates.

    In varying degrees, all of them glibly talk about "clean" energy being developed for base loads. Not *one* of the very large number of papers I have ever read (let alone the baloney that the MSM constantly waffle on with) actually include an experienced power supply engineer as a co-author so that actual numbers are used rather than adjectives. The notion that pouring money into some hypothetical R&D program will get you the answers you want is truly Polyannaish – hopelessly naive. The only guarantee is that you will get answers that you do not want

    The Hartwell Paper falls into this category (and I have thought so for the 12 months since its' publication) – the authors are absolutely clueless on this score, apart from their now pious post-tsunami hope for nuclear power

    Judith C: direct question here – WHY do all these learned papers exclude experienced power supply engineers from co-authorship ?

    • You raise the right question, but would an experienced power supply engineer be able to answer it? Experienced engineers are best experts on those technologies and issues they have been working on, but seldom on the potential of new solutions. I have been working both with technology experts and with systems analysts for about 30 years, and this is my experience.

      Many technology experts are conservative and skeptical on major changes, but some may be rather far in the other extreme. In system analysis research groups that study the potential of technology change and of new solutions and build energy system models is certainly a lack of understanding the technologies and the complexities involved in taking new solutions to use and integrating them in energy systems.

      Many of the modelers are overly optimistic and build in their models efficient endogenous learning, which leads to apparent easy and low cost solutions for future problems. Their expertise is typically in applied mathematics and sometimes also economics, but involves seldom enough engineering or understanding of limitations of technologies. In many conferences, most papers are of this optimistic nature and only few authors raise warnings, Richard Tol, who contributes sometimes to these discussions, has often been one of the few more realistic scientists (in my judgment).

      The excessive technology optimism on the solutions has contributed to the policy choices of EU, and the formulation of them as binding targets in a way that may end up as seriously counterproductive in near future.

      • Pekka,

        An experienced power supply engineer could highlight some of the practical issues.
        Things like:
        * Getting new generators in synch with the grid before they switch in.
        * Today’s grid is built for few and big generators supplying many customers. Could it work in a many-to-many way?
        * What exactly a “smart grid” is?

      • Having the grid synchronized and operating is not a real problem as long as sufficient generating capacity is operational, but of course a smart grid cannot create power from nothing. The smart grid by itself appears to be hype with little basis in solving real problems. Combining the smart grid with smart consumer technology helps already a bit more.

        Concepts like virtual power plants are more an issue of handling the billing properly than solving physical problems of the grid.

      • “Having the grid synchronized and operating is not a real problem as long as sufficient generating capacity is operation”

        Very wrong. The system complexity of solar and wind come from exactly making the output compatible with the grid requirements and it’s an efficiency driver. Syncing is, in fact, a big deal – get it a little bit wrong and you’ll trip other plants. There’s no cheap solution to this.

      • Going to the extreme in the share of wind is a problem, but operating networks with some 20% wind and even more is being done all the time.

        Within present limits and beyond the problems are not serious. This is not theory but well understood common practice.

      • Harold,

        “Syncing is, in fact, a big deal – get it a little bit wrong and you’ll trip other plants. ”

        Yes. Synching is a big safety (plant equipment and personnel)deal at synching to the grid. But it may be very wrong that a MW (or more) rating wind turbine or solar plant is capable of triping other thousand MW rating plants on synching the wind turbine to the grid.

        If hundreds of wind turbines suddenly lost synchronization due to loss of wind, it is a very big deal, a black out could occur if caused tripping most other plants on the grid.

        Synchronization of wind turbines will cause the base load machines running less efficiently.

      • There is a system security limit for the greenie plants to be in synchronization to the grid. The more the greenie plants on the grid, the more are the system security at risks.

      • Sam-

        to make a real difference, wind farms would be built. These can run in the hundreds of megawatts and more. Since they’re all in the same area, they’ll experience roughly the same wind, so problems would be correlated between the individual generators.

      • Pekka,
        Digging through all the hype, you will find that it is based upon a concept of utility companies controlling customer power demand to even it out over the 24 hours in a day. Since large non-residential customers are already on Time-Of-Use billing, the true gain is supposed to come from residential customers. In other words, it about shifting customers to using their air conditioners only at night when it is coolest outside. Of course, that has worked out to be a flop.
        Grid synchronizing has two different issues. The simplistic one is that all generators must be in electrical phase with each other. That is necessary for smooth connection to the grid. The other has to do with overall system stability. Generators ‘talk’ to each other on the grid. Governors and voltage regulators are used to control generator loading. Their response time constants and the mechanical inertia of the generators, if not properly compensated for, will cause generators to swap load back and forth in an oscillating manner. If not damped, that oscillation will cause generator and transmission line trips. Our electrical transmission and distribution systems are engineered to maintain stability. However, that stability is always conditional. The wide area blackouts the US occasionally experiences demonstrate the difficulty in achieving stability. Intermittent generation sources such as wind and solar jeopardize that stability.

      • I’ve said for years that the main effect of wind turbines is to drive load managers nuts.

        We used wind when we had nothing better. Now we do.
        ==================

      • Gary,
        Looking from Finland the situation appears a bit different and that gives models of thought that apply largely elsewhere.

        We have had liberalized electricity markets with nodal transmission pricing for almost 15 years. Installing hourly recording remotely read metering to every home has been decided and is being realized. I can choose my retail power dealer from tens of suppliers, …

        I have been working with power engineers of research organizations and power companies on issues related to securing the reliability of supply with large amount of intermittent production and also on issues related to automated detection of faults in the distribution network. I have not personally done that research, but I have been in managerial position in a research organization that has done that.

        Based on all that I am well aware of the risk of blackouts, but also on requirements that must be fulfilled to minimize such risks. Here in Finland we have weather related problems in rural areas, but no large scale blackouts have occurred for as long as I can remember, and that is something like 50 years. There have been some blackouts in Southern Sweden due to failures of switching gear, and there was a rather bad blackout related in part to wind power in Germany a couple of years ago. Total reliability cannot be reached, but a high reliability can be reached in the power grids even with a large amount of intermittent power like wind power.

      • Pekka,
        Yep, Finland does OK at grid stability. Unfortunately, for this discussion, it is an apples and oranges comparison. The entire population of Finland is only two thirds that of the San Francisco Bay area alone. Stability issues are similar but orders of magnitude different in operational complexity when compared with the North American power grid.

      • It’s not only or even mainly the size of the grid. The grid stability is good in many much larger grids as well. The problems that have occurred in Europe have been caused by specific reasons and have been rare. Finland is part of the Nordic grid, which includes also Sweden, Norway and part of Denmark. The problem that I mentioned in my previous message was limited to Southern Sweden and adjoining Denmark.

        There are some geographic problems in North America, which cause problems during strong solar storms (location of the magnetic North Pole, low conductivity of the ground, long North-South transmission lines), but otherwise the question is mainly of taking proper care of the network. The high voltage transmission network does not either constitute a large fraction of the total cost of the power system or the cost of electricity. Thus even economic reasons do not justify its bad condition.

      • See this about 2008 wind power contribution (less than 1% in 2008) to Findland’s grid.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Finland

        Findland’s grid was stable not because of its wind power or solar power contributions but because of interconnections with other countries and other forms of electricity (nuclear and hydro) productions.

      • Yes Finland has little wind power, but Denmark has a lot and so has also the Northwestern Germany. They have quite a lot of experience of large share of wind power. That one case, where the grid failed was an exception caused largely by disconnecting one of the strongest connections to allow a ship get out of the shipyard.

        There are certainly limits on, how much wind power can be handled easily, but the limits are rather high.

      • Yep, Denmark has lots of wind power to sell/give away. It can’t use the power it generates when it is generated, so must get rid of it at any price. So Finland etc. get giveaway power at giveaway prices.

        Nice work if you can get it. A fracking disaster for Denmark, of course.

      • Pekka,

        Have you ever dealt with power generating companies or manufacturers?
        I have.
        The power generating companies would love to have good new technology. They have engineers that can look at the plans and say if MECHANICALLY it will work and what problems they foresee.
        Now add in physics and science. This is out of their field of knowledge. So, now it goes to the CEO and board ONLY if you add very simply why this is a far superior product with details of how this was arrived at.

        Now the manufacturer is not interested in loosing money and are perfectly happy with their current customer demands. Even when first starting on this model you get THEIR engineers stating “absolutely fascinating and worth further research”.
        Where is the money in making one turbine to replace 20?

        The main looser is the science that was behind this that no one knows about. Lost knowledge that could move our knowledge base further ahead.

      • “Have you ever dealt with power generating companies or manufacturers?”

        Yes, very much over 30 years.

      • In Finland, and I believe in other countries as well, the power companies had earlier a wider interest in doing research themselves. Later the attitude started to move to the direction that each company is doing research related to its products, but not so much to the technologies used in the production. They rather buy the production technology.

        This means that energy technologies are now developed more by energy technology companies than by energy companies. Similar change of focus and narrower view on the R&D seems to be true in most industries, not only in energy production. Companies producing bulk products and having little possibilities for developing their products spend now very little in research and concentrate to optimizing the basic business processes and to reducing costs in that way. They buy the technology that they need from the market rather than develop it themselves.

      • Joe Lalonde,

        “Now add in physics and science. This is out of their field of knowledge. ”

        Quite wrong. They (engineers) make every bit use of applicable physics and science in design and operations of the plants. Quite correct if you refer “climate” which is doubtful of any science at all.

      • when it comes to reliably predicting the future, there are no experts outside of perhaps Notradamus and Edgar Cayce.

      • An experienced power engineer would supply numbers (NOT adjectives) on actual demand compared with capacities actually experienced for solar and wind. Once these *numbers* are lined up side by side, the dimensions of the issue become clear. No AGW advocate has so far dared to do this in public, including the Hartwell authors – so, on the issue of what to do about this perceived problem the Hartwell paper is simply pious propaganda

        I also find it sad that Judith C has declined to answer my direct question

      • You’re assuming that these ethereal “clean” technologies exist. What if they don’t?

    • ianl8888,

      “WHY do all these learned papers exclude experienced power supply engineers from co-authorship ?”

      They (engineers) will be isolated and eventually lost their jobs like many professors and politicians (remember former Australian PM?) when they were truly honest about CO2. AGWers have control of media, propaganda, publications. Go against them are suicidal.

      Unlike those climate community who are on gravy train, engineers do not have the luxury of time and funding for the CO2 speculation.

    • Experienced ‘power supply engineers’ work for the ‘enemy’.

  26. I agree with ianl8888. Most of the papers on future energy I have read don’t address real life problems like security of supply, low voltage ride through, grid and voltage support. These are real issues. Saying the market will provide a mechanism is a glib copout. it will but at a very high price. That needs to be factored in to the cost of generation from alternative suppliers.
    In Bishop Hill, there was a good discussion about the contribution wind made over Xmas – it would have needed every hilltop covered with turbines to provide even enough to have a gloomy time then. There is even an idiotic Minister of Energy saying people will have to get used to brownouts to meet the emissions quota. The politicians and their advisers are real problems. Leave grid supply to the engineers. If politicians set more than policy, they are responsible for the lights staying on!

    • Most of them are worse than that; they’re just hand waves. Ask 12 people what the “smart grid” is, and you get 12 answers.

  27. Man-bear-pig reminds me of an old family ax that’s had 5 new handles and 2 new heads in its lifetime.

    PS: good question about the lack of experienced power engineers in all these kumbaya sessions.

  28. Decarbonisation of the global economy is unequivocally a rational goal for humanity. As quite a few people keep saying – uncertainty rather than certainty is a better rationale for action. We can see a few effects of increased carbon dioxide in the environment. Fewer stomata in plant leaf for instance. One could argue pros and cons for this. Water efficiency is improved but – on the other hand – what does this do to regional hydrology? Carbon dioxide must change the pH of water – ocean and fresh. Organisms are adapted to a wide range of pH but ecologies and populations change in their balance. As the latter are examples of dynamically complex systems – there can be change in far reaching ways with dramatic impact. Carbon dioxide must influence the energy dynamics of the planet. The extent is very small but again – in a dynamically complex system – the effects theoretically include extreme climate sensitivity in the region of a Dragon King.

    If you think you can say with any conviction that the outcome is in any way certain – I can say with certainty that you are suffering from one of the 38 types of cognitive bias. If we are uncertain of the outcome then I believe we have a sacred duty to life, the planet and the grandchildren to take prudent, sensible and effective action.

    The central agreement on reducing greenhouse gases has been the Kyoto Protocol. ‘Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’

    One side of the climate wars sees the failure of Kyoto and demands more stringent targets and more draconian controls. The other continues to deny that there is problem that needs to be solved. Both sides use idiomatic science as a justification. I refer to it as post-modernist science or, in my frequent ruder moments, pissant tendentiousness.

    Kyoto has undoubtedly failed. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb. Fully 60% of offsets have gone to China where a lucrative business has developed making and destroying CFC’s, some has gone to lawyers in developing world for imaginary rainforest and the rest gone to Russia who successfully argued their starting point should be pre-collapse of communist industry.

    I am no great fan of carbon taxes. A radio interviewer this morning asked a UK ‘climate advisor’ whether industry in the UK was clamouring for a carbon tax – as opposed to our own coal and gas industry who are clamouring to be allowed to continue to send coal and gas untaxed to India and China. “God yes – the energy companies cannot build nuclear plants at the price that carbon is selling for on the open market.” Britain is in an invidious position – they replaced coal plants with gas because Maggie Thatcher took a dislike to Welsh miners. This helped Britain meet its Kyoto target but now they are running out of gas and need to go to the next, highly expensive, step. The conservative British government can pretend it is doing something about global warming while avoiding the politically embarrassing (and hugely ironic) step of going back to coal where it all started in the industrial revolution. Much higher prices for everything is a small price to pay to avoid that embarrassment.

    I have an idea that the British Columbia gasoline tax will come smack up against a fiscal black hole as well – if it is ever effective in driving consumption to a low carbon alternative. Professor Sinclair Davidson – of the School of Economics of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – wrote today in The Australian that the proposed Australian carbon tax was a fiscal sleight of hand. It the Australian tax was set high enough ($70/tonne CO2 equiv.) to drive a change to nuclear energy (what a can of worms that would open) – the carbon tax revenue would dry up and we would be left with no option but to increase tax commensurately or incur a $35 billion hole in the budget. For us – a fiscal black hole of US dimensions.

    The BC tax is similarly cursed from conception – although as it seems that the tax isn’t working everything will be all right. However, the idea that everyone is much better off under a revenue neutral carbon tax is much too much like a magic pudding for my liking. The Magic Pudding is a fable with a Friedmenesque ‘no free lunch’ moral that we tell toddlers in Australia just before tossing them down the salt mines. This comes back to the first tenet of Bartonomics – a fiscal hole becomes a fiscal surplus if you just squint at it right.

    Nonetheless – a small tax used to fund research and development into low cost energy might be appropriate in some places and at some times. The paper focuses on ‘learning by doing’ and it is not appropriate to rule anything out. We might for instance place a cap on generators and allow them to offset this against R&D. But if we focus on a small tax – we miss the message of The Hartwell Paper of multiple responses to the problem. Indeed – to not focus directly on the problem but to take an oblique view and look at multiple objectives.

    The paper invokes efficiency and carbon intensity. These have been improving for since the oil shocks of the 1970’s in the west – but still have some way to go elsewhere. It suggests addressing black carbon and tropospheric ozone. Forty percent of the radiative effect of greenhouse gases comes from black carbon – which also kills 1.5 million people a year. ‘Poor air quality in urban environments is exacerbated by emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, methane and other volatile organic compounds. In the troposphere, these gases react to form ozone, which is toxic to humans and to plants including crops. Such ozone has been estimated to induce between $14-26 billion of crop damage annually. Tropospheric ozone contributes between 5 and 10% of the total human forcing of the climate system.’ The paper endorses protection of viable ecosystems – rainforests, coral reefs, and savannah – all of the astonishing beauty of our planet. In Australia that would involve repairing soils and landscapes – with a vast potential to cheaply lock up carbon. In Africa it would involve re-greening of the Sahel and ensuring that everyone had safe water, sanitation, health services and education. That would do most for population pressures in Africa and elsewhere and are the essential human rights and dignities. One of the problems we need to solve is to increase the supply of food by 3% a year for the rest of the century.

    ‘Rather than being a discrete problem to be solved, climate change is better understood as a persistent condition that must be coped with and can only be partially managed more – or less – well. It is just one part of a larger complex of such conditions encompassing population, technology, wealth disparities, resource use, etc. Hence it is not straightforwardly an ‘environmental’ problem either. It is axiomatically as much an energy problem, an economic development problem or a land-use problem, and may be better approached through these avenues than as a problem of managing the behaviour of the Earth’s climate by changing the way that humans use energy. That is reflected in the radical reframing which we employ for this paper.’

    Kyoto is dead and carbon taxes are smoke and mirrors. The game of zombies and wombats is a pointless distraction. This is not a game – it is about responsibly addressing an uncertainty but mostly about aking the world a better place for everyone’s grandchildren. Get with the program or get out of the way.

    • I normally agree with most of what you write, but i cannot agree with your central point in this post- that uncertanty is a reason to act.

      it goes against everything i’ve been trained to do.

      • Labmunkey,

        I’d imagine you act because of uncertainty every day – do you use a UPS or at least a surge protector for electrically sensitive equipment?

        The key is not whether to act because of uncertainty, but what’s the appropriate action. If you wake in the middle of the night because you hear a loud noise, you don’t roll a grenade down the stairs, neither do you roll over and ignore it. You pick a reasonable middle path.

      • Actually, i’d go for the grenade, everytime. Insurance premiums are insane, and i haven’t seen the cat for a while- but better safe than sorry….

        On a more serious note though- there’s a difference between something that is a ‘known’ and quantifiable risk (in your surge protector example) and cAGW, which is neither.

        Additionally, and to strain this analogy further; if you had to bankrupt yourself to afford a surge protector and you weren’t even gauranteed that it would work- would you get one?

      • Oddly enough, when I wrote the above, my first example was homeowners’ insurance, but I ditched it for the more graphic “frag the cat” scenario ;-)

        You’re right in that the insurance that I buy without reservation at its current price would be a different matter if its cost rivalled my mortgage payment. That’s part of determining what’s the middle path…bankrupting myself and/or my children falls on the grenade side of the ledger.

      • ‘Grenade side of the ledger’, Gene my friend, i think you’ve just coined a new phrase :-)

        The middle path, is of course what makes sense- but even this relies on an assumption.

        As stated elsewhere- we should de-couple co2 from everything and then just concentrate on those which makes sense (renewables, energy, environment etc) without the fear of overarching targets lousing everything up!

      • Gene my friend, i think you’ve just coined a new phrase

        It’s kind of a hobby (while idle hands are the devil’s workshop, an evil mind is his playground ;-) )

        I think we’re in agreement here. There are a great many sensible, cost effective policies that could be pursued. For some (efficiency measures and increasing nuclear usage, for example), reducing CO2 emissions is a collateral benefit. Radical measures that can’t be cost justified, measures that can’t be easily reversed if found detrimental are not robust options.

      • I have a surge protector because of the certainty that power problems exist and that a surge protector can help solve this. If we were not sure that power problems existed, and not sure that a surge protector could help, there would be far less surge protectors sold, especially if they were high priced.

      • I think that there are a lot of things we should do anyway – and these are neatly summed in the Millennium Development Goals. So the project of the century involves multiple paths with multiple objectives – some of them environmental, some economic and some humanitarian. The primary measure of the paper is the increase in the sum of human dignity.

        But the question of carbon and uncertainty – is no more than simply I don’t know. I’d be surprised if the planet doesn’t cool off in the next decades. But if we do something for which we don’t know the long term outcome – it is simply a gamble equivalent to betting on a roulette wheel. If you imagine that you know the answer – which slot the ball will roll into – I will imagine something very rude about the quality of your mind. Gambling is fine – you bet what you can afford to lose.

        You want to gamble with my planet? I don’t know what you are trained in. In engineering uncertainty is a constant – you use rules of thumb estimates, approximations, ‘expert judgement’ – you don’t have the luxury of certainty very often. But the principle is the usual one of risk management – a balance of probability and consequences. It seems a no -brainer that an unknown but finite probability with global consequence is one of those rare events for which you should build in resilience.

        How to do that without reducing the sum of human dignity is the question.

      • The rolling dice never stop. And if they did we couldn’t read them.
        ==============

    • Chief Hydrologist-

      “We can see a few effects of increased carbon dioxide in the environment. Fewer stomata in plant leaf for instance. ”

      The last time you said this with a link, I checked the link (chinese paper), and that was not what the paper indicated. The stomata decrease was due to a decrease in watering, and a side effect was the plants consumed less CO2. This is to be expected – dry growing conditions reduces the growth rates, so not as much CO2 should be used.

      If you have a re4ference that actually supports your statement, I’d love to read it.

    • “This is not a game – it is about responsibly addressing an uncertainty but mostly about aking the world a better place for everyone’s grandchildren. Get with the program or get out of the way.”

      You are correct that this is not a game. “Get with the program or get out of the way” sounds like a dictatorial coach imposing his system on his new team. Except it’s not a game, you aren’t a coach, and we aren’t on your team.

      And you haven’t made any kind of rational argument for “doing something” despite your concerns for your grandchildren. We all love our children and their children. That love, despite its appeal and motivating influence, fails to equate to an articulate rationale to do something.

      • My intention was to make a rational argument for doing nothing – as in not performing a global atmospheric experiment for which we are ill-equiped to comprehend (some more than others) – while at the same time affirming human dignity.

    • “Kyoto has undoubtedly failed. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb.”

      Kyoto was not about reducing emissions. It was no different than shipping garbage from rich countries to poor countries in return for money. It doesn’t eliminate the garbage, it just moves it around, and makes some people rich and many more poor in the process.

    • Here is what the BC government has to say about the carbon tax:
      http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/tbs/tp/climate/A2.htm

      What it is doing is using the money to reduce taxes to low income people and businesses, from what they would have been without the tax.

      The government then goes on to say that these tax cuts will result in BC having the lowest tax rates anywhere – by ignoring the carbon tax in the calculation of tax rates.

      By this logic, if carbon taxes get high enough, BC citizens and corporations will soon be paying no tax at all. If the carbon taxes go even higher, the tax rebates will reach the point where will can all retire on the refunds from the government.

      As the carbon taxes go even higher we can simply stop driving all together and start taking limos everywhere like rock stars, as everyone will be receiving millions of dollars in carbon rebates each years. As rates increase, none of us will have time to spend all the money we receive in rebates.

  29. Chief Hydrologist : Decarbonisation of the global economy is unequivocally a rational goal for humanity.

    Even though we have absolutely no idea that CO2 will harm us, and that adaptation is likely to be astronomically expensive.

    Get with the program or get out of the way.

    A brain-dead appeal pitched at neo-religious faithfull. Try RealClimate.

  30. “Adaptation” above a poor choice of word.
    I meant “adapting” to different, more expensive energy sources, in the sense of switching to them.

    • Foolish and unnecessary and mass-murderous. Kills residents of the 3rd world and 1st world pensioners.

      Based on anti-Science. Feynman said, “Science is belief in the ignorance of experts.” Experts who recommend your adaptation are the anti-Science we must oppose.

  31. You have not understood a thing that has been written. I can only assume that you have a single idea in your tiny mind and keep repeating that ad nauseum.

    Clearly an objective is supplying power to the 1.5 billion without it at the moment – clearly the only way to do that is if power is a fraction of today’s cost.

    If people cannot see beyond the climate wars – well – the term pissant tendentiousness comes to mind.

    • This was intended for Skunksta – I don’t know what planet Brian is on.

      But yes – high cost energy is genocidal if that’s the point?

      Clearly the first objective is that energy is available at the lowest feasible cost to the entire world. As far as I am concerned – if that remains coal based – so be it. It remains sensible not to continue to change the atmosphere.

      But energy is one path of a multitude. Can’t chew gum and walk? Hmmm.

      • Chief,

        The current market system does NOT want cheap energy. Society does. But society is not a manufacturer. Government grants and subsidies are designed for companies and NOT the individual with the advanced technology that could generate cheaper energy.
        How this was arrived at also looses the science that was incorporated to understand the whole area of energy interaction with mechanics.

  32. It is you, Chief Hydrologist, who is the know-nothing, anti-science, tendentious pissant climate warrior here.
    Give us somereasoning, not gung-ho calls to arms.

  33. This is an excellent analysis, although I disagree on some crucial points. For example:

    “the argument for a low ‘hypothecated’ carbon tax is weak”

    Our models show that a carbon tax will only work if the costs are much higher than governments and business are prepared to countenance. Support for such a tax (or similar mechanism) will depend upon getting the public and some business leaders actively supporting it, and hypothocating to tax makes a coherent link in the mind of voters and business leaders to couple energy use to energy investment. In practice it won’t be quite as simple, but the logic is sound; however, the tax will need to be an order of magnitude higher than seem acceptable today if no other machanisms or regulations are introduced.

    http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

    • And any party that introduces that will probably not get into power again for over a decade.

    • The tax is one path of many possible and is not intended to drive an economic substitution – something that would be very damaging to the global economy. My preference is to disaggregate the investment entirely as it seems only to confuse the issue.

      Bjorn Lomberg suggests about $100 billion a year put into R&D – or about 0.2% of global GDP. In Australia for instance about $2 billion a year – or about 5% of what a carbon tax would need to be to encourage energy substitution by nuclear generators.

      How that could be done is another question. A cap could for instance be put the carbon from coal fired plants – with operators allowed to offset by R&D.

      • There are many policy instuments and, of course, we already pay carbon taxes in many forms. If a carbon tax is hypothocated and used for further mitigation measures many leading economists argue that it will stimulate sustainable growth in the world economy, and cost less than adaptation costs, and payouts for increased climate risk. Other economists disagree. High oil prices, which ensure that many billions of dollars go to unstable governments, is a less attractive option to a carbon tax and economists agree that a carbon tax will reduce the world oil price (but disagree by how much).

        http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

  34. CH 1: high cost energy is genocidal if that’s the point

    CH 2: It remains sensible not to continue to change the atmosphere.

    These two points are at odds.

      • I see the glint of the gun barrel in the eye of the climate warrior.
        It would be preferable if the sky were not so dark with menace.

        All options are on the table – the point is to take multiple paths (which with multiple objectives – importantly including the millennium development goals.

        I would of thought that you, of all people, would be able to chew gum and walk at the same time? Or hold two disparate concepts in the mind at the same time and plot paths to reconcile the disparity?

      • …the point is to take multiple paths

        In my experience, some folks are limited by a binary mindset.

        As near as I can tell, seemingly intelligent people become confused, because the they begin to believe that something plainly obvious (the notion that a perfect system is better than an imperfect system) is a deeply profound insight. That leads them to the belief that any flaws in a system render it useless (and thus, no weighing of costs against benefit sis necessary). Any approach to solving problems can be ruled out because it won’t produce unmitigated success. Singular paths, multiple paths – all useless as none of them are perfect.

        The fact that there is no Shangri-La never daunts them, and they can just sit back an carp endlessly about all the problems in the world as it exists.

        I’m just glad that there aren’t any folks like that at Climate Etc.

      • And the key to progress is ‘learning by doing’. Failure is not the problem – learning from mistakes and continuous reinvention of the future is the solution.

  35. So, all we need to do is impose a tiny little tax that won’t affect anyone’s behavior and won’t impact the economy. The tiny tax will produce large amounts of money for research and development. The wise and brilliant politicians will allocate the R&D money to the right people and they will produce the magic energy solution that will reverse global warming, feed the hungry, cure the sick, and provide spiritual healing for the sins of man. More or less.

    Hmmm. Gotta be a pony in there somewhere.

    • “The wise and brilliant politicians will allocate the R&D money to the right people”

      Says it all. The “right people” being the friends of government. Make a million dollar campaign contribution; receive 50 million dollars in R&D contracts.

      Doesn’t happen? Get real. This is exactly what happens. Government contracts buy re-election. It is corruption at the highest levels of government, driven through human greed over taxpayer money.

      Why else would any sane person spend $100 million dollars to get a job that pays much less than a million? It is because, once elected, you have the ability to exercise control over billions of dollars. The first rule of politics should be this; anyone that wants to be a politician should be automatically excluded from holding public office.

      We would be much better off to elect politicians by lottery. We do this for jury trials, and given these people the power of life and death over other citizen. How is this in any way less important than the decisions that politicians make?

      Simply draw 1000 people at random from around the country to be our leader. Pay them $100 thousand a year, and at the end of 4 years hold another lottery. You will get people from all walks of life, experts in many different areas, not like the current system where most politicians are lawyers.

      A big part of the problem is that lawyers have few skills outside the law. By selecting people at random from around the country we will actually get a representative mix of people with many different skills and points of view. Their decisions would better reflect the needs and wishes of the country. Currently, the decisions made in government better reflect the needs and wishes of the political parties, then political contributors, and lastly the needs and wishes of the citizens.

  36. In the list gramophone, cassette, CD & MP3 players, governments did not tax the older products to encourage the development and production of the newer ones.

  37. The Hartwell paper drains the AGW issue of all of it’s core goals and satisfactions:

    -Proper deference to academics in policy-making.
    -Political and economic reordering to keep people with poor grades/from inferior schools from winding up with more money than the better sorts of people. (i.e., constraining the “Free Market”)
    -Elimination of tacky lifestyle elements (big TVs, SUVs, bass boats, suburbs) under a unified (and enforced) moral and aesthetic environmental rubric.

    What is the point of being concerned about AGW if the Hartwell thing makes it largely about allowing third-worlders access to energy sources that would allow them to become consumerist Homer Simpsons (“dignity”)? Why rush the barricades on behalf of gradualist solutions based on respect for the very things (and people) that right-thinking sorts despise?

  38. One clarification that should be injected:

    R & D today appears to not distinguish between basic research and manufacturing development.

    In reality, much of the money spent for “R & D” is actually being spent for manufacturing development. This is exactly what government should not be doing, because manufacturing development is independent of basic capability.

    My point is that throwing money at the problem results in most of the money going toward manufacturing development, and this in turn prejudices those technologies which are more mature but generally less capable.

    An illustration: a research team looking to create a 4th generation solar panel costs probably $30M over the span of several years.

    A manufacturing line for solar panels costs $400M.

    If the goal is to increase the benefits of cheap solar energy, having 12 teams of researchers is far better than 1 new solar line.

    The government should be encouraging innovation via ‘X’ prize type incentives – including loan guarantees for successful innovations meeting a pre-set bar. This doesn’t cost much money, doesn’t require a carbon tax, and doesn’t entrench lesser but available technologies.

    Once a superior technology is proven, the market itself would be happy to fund the manufacturing infrastructure buildout, and in turn once the capital goods for cheaper energy are available, the market itself will adopt as cheaper energy is better for everyone.

    • Maybe you should look more closely at the actual R&D system. For example, the US DOE separates basic from applied research, with about $5 billion a year going to each. Basic is done by the Office of Science. Applied by various programs in efficiency, renewables (including batteries), fossil, fission and fusion. There are also gov’t-industry funding partnerships, such as FutureGen, as well as various loan guarantee programs, not to mention technology transfer programs. We have been throwing many billions of dollars at these issues for many decades. There is no lack of research, at all levels, from demonstration projects right down to particle theory.

  39. “We have been throwing many billions of dollars at these issues for many decades. There is no lack of research, at all levels, from demonstration projects right down to particle theory.”

    We bought an Arco Solar panel in Hawaii in 1987 for the boat. It produced 50 watts midday in the tropics while charging a 12 volt battery. The cost was $200 and it came with a 20 year warrantee. Over the almost 20 years we used it, some of the cells turned grey, and eventually it was all but useless. It still put out warranted power (80% of original), but the voltage had dropped such that it didn’t charge batteries. (we had the amps, but not the volts)

    In the 30 years since then, after billions of dollars in research, similar 50 watt solar panels still cost about $200. We also used bottled propane on the boat. We eventually switched our refrigeration from electrical to a gas power ammonia system. 12 volt refrigeration in the tropics takes about 3-4 amp, 24 hours a day. You need $1000 worth of solar panels, regulators and batteries to keep up, minimum. In contrast, a 20 kg bottle of gas cost about $20 and lasts 6 months.

    So, allowing that solar panels last 20 years, you can spend $1000 on panels, or $20 every 6 months on gas. If you take the $1000 you were planning to spend on panels, and instead invest it at 4%, that will return $20 every 6 months, and your gas is free, just like the sun. The advantage of the gas is it is more robust and much more portable. The steel tanks the gas comes in can take a lot of abuse. The solar panels in contrast are quite fragile, take a lot of room, and must be cleaned and maintained regularly.

  40. Yes, not only is Hartwell’s suggestion a good one, it is the one that should have been used all along. Everyone wants a cleaner world. Everyone wants better access to energy for the undeveloped world. No one want’s greater regulation, or taxes – especially when the science is still criticizable.

    I want a cleaner world. Everyone does. But all scientific work that’s put to political ends is inherently suspect. Especially work coopted by the Green movement which in the average person’s eyes has in turn been coopted by the radical left. For the movement to work, it has to lose it’s statist bias, and instead focus on the moral argument. An argument which both progressives, moderates and conservatives will support.

    A cleaner world is not something that is politically suspect. It’s just good judgement.

    • Except that excessive cleanliness is a form of insanity, as in when someone has to wash their hands so often that they cannot hold a job. Modern fossil fueled power plants are quite clean enough. Unfortunately EPA is at this moment is killing coal-fired power off with a wave of new regulations based on bogus health claims. The enviros have always operated this way.

      Also, “clean energy” is typically code for carbonless energy, as though CO2 were dirty.

    • There is no gap between claims that the science says this and therefore the policy should be that.

      ‘Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’

      So we are stock between 2 camps of climate warriors – clamouring for mutually exclusive policy. Tax or no tax and both basing this on a ‘superficially scientific narrative’.

      In between as always are the moderates who would prefer to see that the atmosphere experiment end and who want economic development to continue. What are we to do?

  41. Willis Eschenbach

    The Hartwell paper says:

    The Kaya Identity shows that there are four – and four only – macro- scale policy levers in pursuit of emissions reductions. These are, respectively, population, wealth, energy intensity (meaning units of energy per unit of GDP) and carbon intensity (meaning the amount of carbon produced per unit of energy). Each of these factors is amenable to the action of a particular lever and each lever prescribes a particular approach to policy.

    The “Kaya Identity” is given as:

    carbonemissions=C=Pop * GDP/Pop * TE/GDP * C/TE

    where Pop is population, GDP is Gross Domestic Product, and TE is total energy.

    Now, the Kaya Identity is an “identity”, not an equation. If you look at it, you’ll see that you can cancel out the GDP, the population, and the total energy, which gives us the great insight that C = C. So the Kaya Identity can’t “show” anything as Hartwell claims. Here’s another identity:

    The “Willis Identity” is given as:

    carbonemissions=C=Pop * GDP/Pop * TB/GDP * C/TB

    where Pop is population, GDP is Gross Domestic Product, and TB is total beer consumption. According to Hartwell, I’m justified in saying:

    The Willis Identity shows that there are four – and four only – macro- scale policy levers in pursuit of emissions reductions. These are, respectively, population, wealth, beer intensity (meaning units of beer per unit of GDP) and carbon intensity (meaning the amount of carbon produced per unit of beer). Each of these factors is amenable to the action of a particular lever and each lever prescribes a particular approach to policy.

    You can see the problem, I’m sure … the Kaya Identity may be useful, but it can’t “show” us anything about the number of policy levers.

    w.

  42. Willis Eschenbach

    Pekka Pirilä | April 11, 2011 at 8:09 am | Reply

    Going to the extreme in the share of wind is a problem, but operating networks with some 20% wind and even more is being done all the time.

    That’s only true if you are like Denmark, and you usually have the option to quickly export or import surplus energy to/from other sources. Germany is also well placed in this regard.

    In the US, grid operators often don’t have that advantage. This makes the balancing act much more difficult.

    Can we eventually whup the problem? Seems possible, humans are endlessly inventive. But right now, wind over 20% of the total usage is still not a grid operator’s best day …

    You can see it working right this minute where I’m living now from CAISO, the California Independent System Operator. Yesterday (Apr 11, 2011) renewables are available by clicking on the “Renewables Watch” link in the lower left corner.

    I love studying the climate, there are endless things for me to learn. Yesterday in California, total production for wind was 20 GWh out of a total production of 530 GWh, or about 4% of the total.

    Instantaneously, as I write this California generation is 27 GW, and wind is providing .25 GW, or about 1% of the total generated.

    w.

    • Willis,

      Quite right. Your system has to dance with the wind. Get it, pekka, system stability?

      • Well, I meant grid system has to dance against the wind.

      • I’m not arguing on the present state of the US grid. I’m only saying that a rather large share of wind power (say 20%) can be handled with a well built and operated grid and that building such a grid is not excessively expensive.

        Grid extensions and improvements add to the system cost of wind power, but not very much compared to the cost of the power plants.

        My purpose is not to claim that wind power is economic or without its problems. I just defend my original claim that the grid is not the decisive factor until the share of intermittent power gets even higher. There is enough practical experience to support my claim from areas, where large amounts of wind power have been taken in use.

      • Since you had some 30 years in the power industry, you sure know there is a difference between installed wind power capacity and generated electricity. You meant 20% installed wind plant capacity within a local grid with substantial interconnections from other countries to make the local grid system stable.

      • I meant a share of annual energy of 20%. That brings with it moments, when part of the wind power cannot be used. That again adds a little to the average cost of power taken in use.

        The limit depends on the type of the other power plants, but 20% is an indicative value of what can be typically handled by a well built and operated grid, which has enough generating capacity to keep the power balance of supply and demand with the variable production from intermittent power plants.

      • I thought the rule was no more than 20% being wind generated at any given time. In order to get 20% of total generation from a source that only generates 30% of the time or less you will sometimes have to be taking almost all wind power. (Which also means you must have a huge amount of redundant generation capacity, but that is an economic issue, not a stability issue.)

      • Is there really such a rule? Wonder how it is calculated and based on what assumptions.

        Did not Obama with the advices of John Holdren and Steven Chu, say 80% renewable energy? This trio, good grief and God bless!

      • Just a rule of thumb for wind. Renewables in general need not be chaotically intermittent like wind.

      • No, Pekka. It’s not 20% of the generated electrical power from wind, it’s 20% of the installed capacity. But since wind only operates less than 30% of the time, compared to ~90% for fossil fuel or nuclear plants, that’s only around 7% of the power generated.

        Just to clear that point up.

        Max

      • Max,
        Who are you to tell, what I am talking about?

        I referred to 20% of generated energy.

    • Willis

      You point out that in CA, roughly 1% of the power generated is coming from wind today.

      This does not surprise me.

      In May 2008 a report commissioned by the U.S. DOE entitled, “20% Wind by 2030” was published
      http://www.20percentwind.org/20percent_wind_energy_report_05-11-08_wk.pdf

      This report starts with the premise that by 2030 20% of the installed power generation capacity in the USA would be from wind. The report projected that by 2010 (just two years out) the USA would have close to 5% of its installed electrical power capacity in kW covered by wind, which would generate 2% of the total kWh consumed.

      How did they do?
      http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffmcmahon/2011/04/07/coal-oil-gas-make-a-comeback-in-u-s-in-2010-wind-suffers-setback/
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/11/us-wind-usa-idUSTRE73A19620110411

      Looks like the prediction was not that far off. By the end of 2010 there were apparently almost 40,000 MW installed wind capacity (including 5,100 MW new capacity added over the year), or almost 5% of the total capacity by year end. Over the entire year the total power generated from wind was around 85 billion kWh/year or around 1.4% of the total (a bit higher than your CA figure).

      To get to 20% of the installed capacity by 2030 will not be easy.

      Some power experts apparently believe that 20% represents the maximum practical level for wind, and whether or not this level is workable for the grid remains to be seen, due to the notorious unreliability of wind power.

      Even so, wind would represent well below 10% of the power actually generated due to its low capacity factor, and it would require standby capacity to cover periods when there is demand but no wind.

      And (unless capital investment costs come down considerably) it would cost around $300 billion to install these plants, excluding backup capacity and any added grid investment costs.

      Just for comparison, this is around ten times as high per kWh actually generated as the same capacity in advanced open cycle gas-fired plants.
      http://www.jcmiras.net/surge/p130.htm

      Sure, the out-of-pocket operating cost per kWh generated will be lower for wind rather than gas-fired plants, but the projected all-in cost per kWh generated will still be around three times as high (10 UScents/kWh vs. 3.5 UScents/kWh).

      So wind power will continue to require major government subsidies to “compete” unless the investment costs can be brought down substantially. (A comparison with coal shows wind at an even greater disadvantage for wind.)

      Max

    • 20% of actual consumption generated from the wind? inconceivable as we stand at the moment, even in Denmark or Netherlands. Certainly not in the UK, where 5% of installed capacity is aboutm the highest level ever achieved, which is way below 20% of consumption or required capacity.

  43. “Action on climate is justified, not because the science is certain, but precisely because it is not.”

    If the authors of this kind of statement truly belived this tripe then:
    “An absolute belief is God is justified, not because the proof is certain, but precisely because it is not.”

    I doubt many who use the first statement are devote in any faith, save mother earth.

    • We are called on to provide proof of God in the numinous cosmos – well I don’t want to get into that.

      There are some things that are relatively certain – that humans are indulging in a great atmospheric experiment. We are called on to prove that the outcome of the experiment will not be harmful to life on the planet? It is an impossible request.

      I request that you prove that the good will outweigh the harm with some certainty – much as we do with medicines for instance. Again it is an impossible question.

      Willis asserts that C = C by algebraic reduction of the the Kaya Indentity. A not terribly useful result. Indeed in mathematical terms the relationship the relationship is self referential – solving for C and having C on the RHS. It is not a real problem because C is a known quantity. So what is the point?

      The real solution comes from looking at the terms of the identity – population, wealth, energy intensity (meaning units of energy per unit of GDP) and carbon intensity (meaning the amount of carbon produced per unit of energy).

      We can change carbon emissions by changing the number of people – population programs not in a crude sense (although that is possible) but by health programs, safe water and sanitation, education including and especially that women and girls. All our experience shows that population stabilisation follows.

      Carbon emissions can be changed by changing average wealth. With average income of about $24/day – I’m not sure there is much room to move down there.

      This leaves energy intensity and carbon intensity – things which reduce in country after country as key capital formation points are reached.

      These are the things that determine carbon emissions – although I’m sure that beer does that on some level as well.

      They are also intimately bound to the Millennium Development Goals – the paper is about taking multiple paths to multiple objectives. It is the only game in town.

  44. I’ve respected Pielke Jr as a voice of reason in the blogosphere, but I’m afraid he’s lost me now. He seems to have thrown common sense out the window to further his energy research boondoggle. Dr Curry has hit on most of my own criticisms already.

    Pielke Jr has stated that his carbon tax would be ‘revenue neutral’ and not harm to taxpayer. So somehow, the tax – needed to fund research – would be both returned to taxpayers in some sort of refund, and also be spent on research. What’s up with that?

    Roger also claims now that he would be in favor of this action EVEN IF there was no global warming, yet he wants for fund the research with a carbon tax. If he actually just wanted to replace carbon fuel with some other source, why would he pay for it with a carbon tax? Why not just add to the income tax?

    Roger is also clear that he wants a low carbon tax only to start. Once in place, the tax would be ratcheted up. This is no different than the original strategy of the Kyoto Treaty – it would do nothing itself, but it would put the legal structure in place for far-ranging changes in the future. Pielke isn’t in favor of a low carbon tax – he’s in favor of an initial low tax as a tactical device.

    I’m really disappointed in Roger. His current program is built on spin. So much for the Honest Broker

    • Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’

      • I really liked that paragraph. Glad you repeated it. I find it to be proven true by many of the posts I read here.

    • MarkB,

      He (Roger) wanted to share the gravy trains. Instead of working harder in his own field of works, he now wants to grab power as well as gravy. No surprise, these are what the climate community really are, too easy to get public money from the administration. Did not Matha say do it smart in a smart system!

    • MarkB,
      “The Climate Fix” is a good book. I highly reccomend it. For me, however, the conclusion that we should decarbonize no matter the reality of AGW risk rings hollow.

  45. Craig Loehle

    there is a conflict between their stated goal of low cost energy for the world’s poor and a carbon tax to fund “clean” energy. I have never understood the logic of pushing for decarbonization in the absence of a climate change threat (as Pielke argues). Pollution reduction (real pollution) can be accomplished and is mostly not done in developing countries because it is expensive. In the USA the air has not been so clean for 80 yrs (a few locations being exceptions, like Los Angeles). The idea that government funding is going to create “clean” energy when the thermodynamics is against it is contradicted by the fact that billions have ben spent by the government on biofuels (cellulosic), solar, wind, over the past 50 years, and these sources are still hugely expensive and suffer from irreducible intermittancy. No amount of gov $ is going to solve the latter problem.

    • We should take a moment to remember Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin. 50 years ago today Yuri became the first human being to travel into outer space. This was less than 50 years from when people first flew. It was 100 years from the steam engine.

      The human adventure is driven by a rate of technological change that is hyper-exponential. I can’t really prove that the future will be different from the past – but I would bet my entire fortune on it. 5 bucks too rich for you?

      But please don’t tell me that you imagine that continuing the great atmosphere experiment – of which we have but a very little wit to determine the outcome – is the best use of human ingenuity? If so – are you psychologically aberrant in any other way? Do you sniff bicycle seats – a practice known as pooning and frowned upon in polite bicycling circles? Do you eat babies and spit out the pips on the street? I am just asking because I want to recommend the appropriate therapy.

      Moderation note: Chief, way over the top. I’m striking out rather than deleting, since there have been so many responses to this.

      • Craig Loehle

        Wow Chief, that is enough ad homs to get an award. Eating babies? Really? If the government has been funding research on fusion, solar, wind and tidal energy and they are either nowhere near feasible or irreducibly intermittant (needing base load back-up), where is the magic wand that makes them likely to be feasible in the near future? And without a feasible alternative (besides nuclear) what exactly is research going to accomplish? The moon shot does not compare because there was nothing thermodynamically impossible about it. You will note we have not gone to Mars yet, except in the movies, nor attained faster than light travel. If no-carbon energy is NOT available, then perhaps adaptation is the better option (vs. the current AGW preferred solution of strangling the world economy). And I would argue that chasing rainbows is not the best use of human ingenuity either.

      • By what measure is nuclear “feasible” as compared to other energy sources?

        From what I’ve seen, the argument goes that future developments in wind, solar, and other renewable sources are not feasible because they would require subsidization.

        Is nuclear feasible because development of nuclear didn’t rely on subsidization? Is nuclear feasible because the building of significant amounts more of reactors wouldn’t require future subsidization?

        Is existing carbon-based energy feasible because it didn’t require subsidization? Is it feasible going forward because it won’t require further subsidization?

        How do we define subsidization? Does massive military spending to ensure the flow of oil count? Does paying for the healthcare needed because of emission of particulates count? Does absorbing environmental degradation due to mining count? Does massive underwriting required to build nuclear reactors count? Do current subsidies to oil companies count? Does deferring taxes for “unrepatriated income” count?

        I’d like to know where people, who think that paying for research in alternative energy sources is untenable, are getting their free lunches.

      • Joshua

        You wrote- “By what measure is nuclear “feasible” as compared to other energy sources?”
        Modern nuclear power is not only “feasible” but is actually more “practical” today than many other sources for generation of electrical power. It is reliable and lower in cost than other forms of electricity production.
        In answer to your question- no, nuclear would not require government subsidization. In fact, government regulatory processes today greatly increase the cost and risk associated with building nuclear plants. Please try to look at the real details of some of your points- your claim of US government subsidies for current energy production really misunderstands the current or past economics.

      • Rob – every country which has significantly more nuclear power than we have, built their reactors through highly centralized energy policies and with massive amounts of public underwriting.

        The nuclear power technologies we have today are based on past significant “subsidization” of research.

        It is not “feasible” that there will be public support for nuclear power free of regulation. It is not “feasible” that in the current political environment, the kind of underwriting necessary to ramp up nuclear power will take place – unless on a massive scale, libertarian polemicists begin eating their words.

        The building of nuclear reactors requires massive investment with high risks (not only in the sense of nuclear disaster) with a very long wait for ROI. There are other, far less risky places for investors to park their money that bring a much quicker return.

        There are no free lunches.

      • Joshua

        Countries that have highly centralized energy policies ALWAYS have public funding/underwriting. For the United States to field modern nuclear energy it would not require such a public investment.

        It would require that the US government to decide upon what they will approve in a nuclear plant design and to not repeatedly change the approval process throughout the construction. Many companies know how to design and build modern nuclear power plants. Investors do not wish to invest in these types of projects due to federal, state and local government delays due to inconsistent and ever changing regulatory processes. Investors want to know with relatively low risk, how long it will take to yield a return on their capital investment. In the USA it is the regulatory requirements that make this nearly impossible for nuclear power plant construction. It has nothing to do with government subsidies.

        If the US government really wanted to do something smart, it would approve a “standard design” and would fund the construction of multiple facilities at the same time. This, combined with an efficient regulatory approval process; would greatly reduce the cost of construction.

      • Rob – I have seen the argument made that if government regulation would just get out of the way, we’d have willing investment needed to create abundant nuclear power.

        IMO, there are two unrealistic aspects to that argument.

        The first is that the public will not accede to widespread building of nuclear reactors without comprehensive regulation.

        The second is that the financial obstacles to building nuclear reactors extend far beyond those presented by regulatory restrictions. Cost overruns in the nuclear industry are not unique to the United States. For example, a quick Google search returns:

        And despite a well-polished reputation for efficiency and low-cost, the French nuclear industry has been plagued by cost-overruns, equipment failures, and relatively low levels of reliability. Even though French reactors are all of similar design, the cost to build a plant in 1998 was 3.5 times higher than the first plants built in 1974, says Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in the U.K.

        and

        Areva, the French nuclear giant, wants to complete a reactor in Finland by 2012. The original budget was $3 billion. The final budget will be closer to $5 billion, admitted Jacques Besnainou, CEO of Areva’s U.S. group.

        and

        Historically, nuclear plants in Canada have been characterized by gargantuan cost overruns, with the country’s last-built plant, the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station east of Toronto, coming in at $14 billion or more, seven times the first estimates. That overrun and similar and numerous others ultimately led to the breakup of Ontario Hydro, but not before damaging the province’s credit rating and severely straining Ontario’s sovereign guarantee.

        and

        n Eastern Europe, a number of long-established projects are struggling to find finance, notably Belene in Bulgaria and the additional reactors at Cernavoda in Romania, and some potential backers have pulled out.

        notice also:

        the Japanese government spends more than any other government on energy research and development. Nuclear energy receives 64% of this, by far the greatest portion. By comparison, only 8% is spent on renewable energy, while 12% is spent on energy efficiency etc.. It is reasonable to say that this R&D funding is necessary in order for nuclear energy to be able to continue.

        and

        Subsidies can change the picture – the picture most Americans have of nuclear, that is. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently reported that nuclear subsidies total nearly 7 cents per kWh, twice what a typical wind power plant receives and similar to the federal incentives offered for solar power. It’s time to let the market pick our winners, not outrageous government subsidies for nuclear power.

        Also, consider this:

        “Sixty percent of the costs of building a plant in the U.S. come from labor,” said Lucas Davis, a professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley during a session at the Commonwealth Club today.

        I don’t know about the veracity of all those sources, but I it seems to me that the pro-nuclear arguments I see are generally biased. Environmentalists make a good boogeyman – but I’m not convinced by arguments that regulation is what makes or breaks nuclear power in the U.S.

        Would streamlining regulation reduce the financial obstacles? No doubt. But enough obstacles would remain that would necessitate massive public underwriting.

      • Also, Rob – we haven’t even begun to discuss the costs of dealing with spent nuclear fuel. How convinced are you that the current cost accounting for nuclear energy includes a full accounting for the costs of spent fuel disposal associated with a significant increase in our reliance on nuclear power?

      • Joshua- you bring up some credible points so I’ll address them point by point.
        1st you wrote- “The first is that the public will not accede to widespread building of nuclear reactors without comprehensive regulation.” My response- Regulation to ensure safety is fine. What is not fine is changing the regulatory requirements during the project and delays in making decisions regarding compliance with requirements.
        2nd you wrote- The second is that the financial obstacles to building nuclear reactors extend far beyond those presented by regulatory restrictions. Cost overruns in the nuclear industry are not unique to the United States. You show multiple unrelated examples, but I’ll address the key points. In “western countries” most of the cost increase is due to these projects being delayed due to government “participation” and “regulatory delays”. If you are familiar with the term “level of effort labor” it has to do with the people working on a project from start to finish regardless of the volume of work being performed. When projects take longer to complete it does not cost more to actually build the device in question, but the overall project is more expensive because the “level of effort people” continue to charge to the project in question. People like to finance and contracts people working on a program. Delays cost more money.
        3rd— Your examples on inability to obtain financing for eastern European projects are a different issue. Their inability to get financing has to do with the perceived stability of their government and the risk of their defaulting.

        4th- Regarding Japanese investment in nuclear- I really am not knowledgeable about what they are investing in related to nuclear. As is shown by recent events, they had not invested in building modern facilities to replace those that had reached their planned life. The damaged facilities were over 40 year old designs. How do you think your television or computer works compared to designs from 40 years ago?

        5th- I agree that the The Union of Concerned Scientists is not a credible source for information. Nuclear power is a low cost source for power if government works to define requirements (one time) and verifies quickly that those requirements have been met or what must be accomplished in order to meet them.

        No power source is perfect, but the bottom line is that the world wants and needs lots of power. Wind power is costly and inefficient, solar is simply not technically feasible yet. Other forms generate environmental concerns as least as great as does nuclear.

      • Craig Loehle

        Nuclear is feasible in the sense that after past expenditures on research it is currently not terribly expensive. I don’t know how much subsidies nuclear gets but I don’t think that much—current reactors were built with private money. Wind and solar will never replace current power plants because they are intermittant (look it up) and no amount of R&D will fix that. As to externalities, wind kills birds and bats, is loud, destroys the view, and has environmental cost to mine the steel and build them. Solar uses lots of toxic minerals. No, there is no free lunch. But pretending we can just “switch” to low carbon technologies is fantasy—they don’t exist at any price. Even corn ethanol is at its limits without really cutting into land available for other crops (cellulosic ethanol is still not feasible).

      • I’m not sure who is “pretending [that] we can just switch.”

        If we had assumed the kind of stance wrt nuclear power that some now assume towards alternative energies, we could have no nuclear power.

        Obviously, my point is that sometimes people seem to be discounting the costs of nuclear and carbon-based energy sources as they tally up the costs of renewables.

      • Craig Loehle

        Full cost accounting of environmental costs of any technology is difficult because impacts on air quality and biodiversity etc. do not add well. However, switching (decarbonizing) IS being advocated by Kyoto, James Hansen, the Copenhagen conf, environmental groups—what is it you think they are advocating by making fossil fuel use expensive? It is to force people to use alternatives….which don’t exist. Because wind and solar can both completely quit at any time (cloudy days, night, still winds) you need the same base load (back up power) and because you can’t just switch a coal plant on and off like a light switch, it has to run hot to be available to pick up the load, which means it is burning coal doing nothing. THIS is why they are infeasible, not subsidies or R&D.

      • Craig – I’m not sure why you get to call which criteria determine feasibility.

        Financing and political criteria also affect feasibility, not just the technological criteria that you mention. I think that you were on the right track when you spoke about the externalities with respect to wind power, but you need to extend that thinking towards your favored technologies as well.

        The difficulty of full-cost accounting is not an excuse for not making good faith efforts.

        I think that one of the reasons why people are arguing for making carbon-based energy more expensive is to more equitably account for existing negative externalities – as opposed to the current pricing which reflects large-scale subsidization. Obviously, one of those negative externalities is the risk attributed to CO2 emissions, but it isn’t the only one.

      • Craig Loehle

        Feasibility is of course determined by multiple factors, but you can not REPLACE coal plants with wind and solar if the solar only works during the day and wind only when the wind blows. This intermittancy makes them infeasible without backup power—that is, you need the same power plants in order to back them up as you did without the wind and solar. So the total capital costs of the whole setup (wind or solar plus backup) is double or triple what your pure coal plant setup was. If you think this is “feasible” go ahead and find some investors. And it is not “me” who is making this decision, it is engineering criteria.

      • Craig, that’s ignoring the other elephant in the parlor – the huge amount of fuel needed just to run the fossil backup at idle or low loading. It creates the illusion that the electrons are coming from the windmills when in reality the overall system takes a huge efficiency hit.

        The wind people aren’t being honest about just how fickle the output from even a fairly large system really is. But some utilities actually put the real time telemetered data online. Google Bonneville’s wind output data, and prepare to be astonished.

      • Joshua –
        as opposed to the current pricing which reflects large-scale subsidization.

        What subsidization? Specifically. You keep saying that but AFAIK you haven’t backed it up with anything but “wind. “

      • Craig –

        …but you can not REPLACE coal plants with wind and solar…

        I would agree with that – certainly in the short term. But there is a space between replacing coal plants and investing in/subsidizing wind and solar technology development.

      • Joshua –
        Obviously, my point is that sometimes people seem to be discounting the costs of nuclear and carbon-based energy sources as they tally up the costs of renewables.

        Nobody need s to discount nuclear and carbon-based energy – it is what it is. The costs and the benefits are known – and have been for decades.

        The costs, the problems and the marginal benefits of alternative/renewable energy are also known. And don’t compare well to traditional sources.

        I would agree with that – certainly in the short term. But there is a space between replacing coal plants and investing in/subsidizing wind and solar technology development.

        Not sure I agree with that. I think the next viable energy source will be coming from outside the box. Possibly shale gas for the short term, but ultimately something else.

        In any case, wind, solar, geothermal and renewables are all limited and cannot replace what we have now. Nor can they supply what will be necessary for the next century. Like it or not, the numbers simply are not there. It’s not politics, not opinion, just mathematics and nature.

        Unless, of course, you have some magic new power source in your back pocket to fill that space you talk so glibly about.. In which case, you could become the next super Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. But the usual suspects will continue to be peripheral because they can’t physically fill the hole.

      • Jim,

        Nobody need s to discount nuclear and carbon-based energy – it is what it is.

        Well, you’ll notice that when the U.S. government began offering discounts (in the way of subsidizing and underwriting) interest in nuclear energy began to perk up.

        As for coal discounts:

        http://sierraclub.typepad.com/mrgreen/2010/03/does-the-coal-industry-get-subsidies.html

        http://www.gpace.org/news/taxpayer-subsidies-underwrite-the-coal-industry/

        http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2011/02/03/manchin-coal-subsidies/

        Yeah – I know, you won’t like the sources. But if you can offer a substantive refutation of the claims they make (rather than just dismissing them out of hand), I’d be happy to read it.

      • Joshua –
        You’re right – I don’t like sources that play fast and loose with facts. For example –

        “What’s been the healthcare cost of 47 tons per year of mercury from burning coal,” the Sierra Club asks, “that put 300,000 fetuses at risk for neurological damage each year?”

        300,000? Can they back that up? I seriously doubt it. They’ve made other claims using that 300,000 number, too – that were false. It seems to be their favorite number.

        But – back to business. Literally. First – Unlike the esteemed(?) Senator from WV, I made no claims about “no subsidies” but rather asked a question about what “you” considered subsidies. How much do you know about tax law? Do you understand that many of the subsidies that are labelled as such in those sources are normal business practice for EVERY business in the US? And that those sources enjoy subsidies that are not available to you, me or the coal industry? Your tribalism is showing again, but that is what it is, too.

        Anyway – this is an older study but still pertinent –

        http://www.issues.org/22.3/realnumbers.html

        There are others but it’s not worth messing with right now cause I have to leave in the morning for a few days. C’ya when I get back.

        FYI – I don’t like mountaintop removal either. Or strip mining. Strip mines used to be my playground. Not that much fun.

      • I wonder if this comment set a record for Joshua? 12 questions in one comment, and not a single fact. Talk about a low signal to noise ration.

        Below Joshua repeats one of his favorite talking points: “every country which has significantly more nuclear power than we have, built their reactors through highly centralized energy policies and with massive amounts of public underwriting.” Joshua makes this statement, while remaining mute on why he believes it tells us anything. His clear meaning though is that nuclear power is “feasible” under socialist governments, but not under capitalist ones. Which is of course economically illiterate.

        Progressives here still make argument after argument against nuclear power, then wax eloquent about the wonders of socialism in France that have led to their relying primarily on nuclear power for electricity generation. Absolutely incoherent.

        You know why France has more nuclear power plants than the U.S.? Because France has been run by its progressives for most of my lifetime, and they decided for reasons of practicality to ignore their rank and file.

        Since France does not have near the oil, coal and gas reserves of the U.S., its progressives had to decide whether to follow the anti-nuke fad of U.S. progressives, fueled by the release of the movie The China Syndrome and the accident at Three Mile Island (both in 1979), or pay massively more for imports to run its power plants on carbon based energy sources.

        “The present situation is due to the French government deciding in 1974, just after the first oil shock, to expand rapidly the country’s nuclear power capacity. This decision was taken in the context of France having substantial heavy engineering expertise but few indigenous energy resources. Nuclear energy, with the fuel cost being a relatively small part of the overall cost, made good sense in minimising imports and achieving greater energy security.”
        http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html

        France builds nuclear power plants because nuclear power is less expensive than the other alternatives. Now how could that be? How can nuclear power be so expensive and risky that no construction of any nuclear power plant has begun in the U.S. since 1977? Yet be so economical that even the French find it profitable to continue building plants?

        Does concrete cost less in France? Are engineers and construction workers cheaper? Do the French know how to dispose of nuclear waste in some super secret way that we poor capitalists have been unable to learn?

        The difference between the U.S. and France is that the progressives who have governed France for decades never instituted the kind of statutory, regulatory and litigation based system designed specifically to prevent further nuclear development. While when progressives (of both parties) in the U.S. had power here, they did exactly that.

        France has had its share of progressives demonstrating against nuclear power. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-nuclear_movement_in_France) France also has its share of progressives that, given the chance, would file law suit after law suit to prevent development of power plants. The progressives in power just never gave them the chance. Even progressive politicians sometimes put reality before the fervent idealism of their supporters. (Think Obama and Gitmo.)

        France does not have more nuclear power than the U.S. because its central planners are better at building power plants than the U.S.’s entrepreneurs. France has more nuclear power plants for the simple fact that its governing progressives never created the statutory and regulatory nightmare that ours did. Period.

      • Joshua makes this statement, while remaining mute on why he believes it tells us anything

        Sorry if my point wasn’t clear, Gary.

        Let me make it more clear. It is unrealistic to think that we will ever have significantly more nuclear power in this country without massive public financing/underwriting.

        Even with a streamlining of regulation (something I would be in favor of), there is a need for regulation, and there will be no increase in nuclear power without comprehensive regulation.

        I’m fairly agnostic about nuclear power; I can see validity in the arguments on both sides. My point, however, is that pro-nuclear power advocacy that doesn’t recognize the indispensable role of public financing and underwriting are unrealistic.

      • It is unrealistic to think that we will ever have significantly more nuclear power in this country without massive public

        Coal mine productivity east of the Mississippi is dropping, from more then 4 tons/man hour in 1998 to less then 3 tons per man hour now. The cost of transporting coal is increasing, as trains run on diesel and the price of diesel is increasing.

        Those portions of the US farthest from Gillette, Wyoming are facing ever increasing coal costs.

        The financial viability of nuclear power is based on ‘regulatory risk’, ‘construction cost risk’ and ‘demand risk’.

        If nuclear can’t be the ‘cheapest’ then their will be a demand risk.
        Regulatory risk and construction cost risk can be eliminated by building a pair. (I.E. Voglte 3+4 in Georgia)

        Historically low natural gas prices in the US pose a ‘demand risk’. At $4/MBtu nuclear isn’t competitive against natural gas.
        Can anyone state with any certainty what the price of natural gas will be in 2015? 2020?

        Wellhead gas prices from 2000-2007 bumped along at around $6/MBtu, in 2008 they spiked at $10+ now it’s bumping along at $4/MBtu.

        http://geology.com/articles/natural-gas-prices/natural-gas-price-graph.gif

        The natural gas people will all say natural gas will stay at $4/MBtu forever. Of course once somebody builds a natural gas plant it’s a 40 year commitment.

        I don’t know anything about ‘frakking’ other then it is likely additional regulatory burden is going to be placed on the ‘frakking’ industry.

      • harry –

        I guess your point is that the the level of risk is not static going forward. A good point, indeed. But I would think that regulatory and cost risks have spiked dramatically with the recent nuclear event in Japan (I would imagine that there have been significant costs incurred there in dealing with the disaster) .

        I would think that demand risk – for such a huge investment with such a far horizon on ROI, and given the amount of interest in researching alternative energy – would have to be pretty high.

        As for fracking – in PA, the governor is systematically attempting to decrease the regulatory burden. It remains to be seen what the impact of the public response will be.

      • Joshua,

        As far as regulatory risk, we are going to find out soon enough. The final construction license for Plant Vogtle Unit #3 and unit #4 is due this year.

        We aren’t going to know the answer as to construction cost risk for a couple of more years.

        Coal fired plants don’t start retiring in big numbers for another 10 years.

        As far as the Japanese incident spent fuel pool management will be revisited. Dry cask storage adds about $3 million per year in operating costs…spread over 8 billion KWh/year it really doesn’t change the math. Then we will probably add another set of redundant emergency power, it will cost millions but spread over 8 billion KWh/year it still won’t change the math.

      • Harry, the problem with Fukushima wasn’t the amount of redundancy, it was the location of the generators and switchgear. If they’re going to use seawater cooling, they need to build the plant far enough up the hill where no tsunami will ever get to it, and build a pumphouse with submersible pumps that can handle a wave like that. Putting more diesel generators in harm’s way won’t buy you anything.

        Yes, it can be done.

      • “It is unrealistic to think that we will ever have significantly more nuclear power in this country without massive public financing/underwriting.”

        Any chance of your ever saying why? I explained in some detail why your pointing to France and other socialist nations (without ever actually, you know, explaining why you were doing so) is not proof of anything of the kind.

        If you actually believe that private companies in the U.S. will not expend billions of dollars, for the prospects of profits years down the road, without massive government subsidies, perhaps you can explain why so many nuclear power plants were built before the progressives’ strangulation of the industry without such massive subsidies? Perhaps you can explain the construction of pipelines and drilling rigs and development of difficult to reach oil fields that also cost in the billions?

        To the extent there have been subsidies in the past, they were first reactions to the increasingly Gordian knot of environmental/land use regulation and litigation. Plus, one must admit, a certain amount of rent seeking that occurs whenever you have progressives in positions of power willing to trade other people’s tax payments in return for political favors. Oh, and by “subsidies,” I mean the word as it is actually defined in dictionaries.

        But why did the cost, and time required for nuclear plants skyrocketed?

        “For example, Commonwealth Edison, the utility serving the Chicago area, completed its Dresden nuclear plants in 1970-71 for $146/kW, its Quad Cities plants in 1973 for $164/kW, and its Zion plants in 1973-74 for $280/kW. But its LaSalle nuclear plants completed in 1982-84 cost $1,160/kW, and its Byron and Braidwood plants completed in 1985-87 cost $1880/kW — a 13-fold increase over the 17-year period. Northeast Utilities completed its Millstone 1,2, and 3 nuclear plants, respectively, for $153/kW in 1971, $487/kW in 1975, and $3,326/kW in 1986, a 22-fold increase in 15 years. Duke Power, widely considered to be one of the most efficient utilities in the nation in handling nuclear technology, finished construction on its Oconee plants in 1973-74 for $181/kW, on its McGuire plants in 1981-84 for $848/kW, and on its Catauba plants in 1985-87 for $1,703/kW, a nearly 10-fold increase in 14 years. Philadelphia Electric Company completed its two Peach Bottom plants in 1974 at an average cost of $382 million, but the second of its two Limerick plants, completed in 1988, cost $2.9 billion — 7.6 times as much. A long list of such price escalations could be quoted, and there are no exceptions. Clearly, something other than incompetence is involved. Let’s try to understand what went wrong.”

        “The increase in total construction time, indicated in Fig. 2, from 7 years in 1971 to 12 years in 1980 roughly doubled the final cost of plants. In addition, the EEDB, corrected for inflation, approximately doubled during that time period. Thus, regulatory ratcheting, quite aside from the effects of inflation, quadrupled the cost of a nuclear power plant. What has all this bought in the way of safety? One point of view often expressed privately by those involved in design and construction is that it has bought nothing.”
        http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

        Notice the graph on that page, and guess when the real escalation of costs and construction times took place. The late 70s, the time of Jimmy Carter, Three Mile Island and the movie The China Syndrome.

        Musta just been a coincidence.

      • Gary –

        No doubt, some of the escalating costs can be attributed to regulatory pressures. I’ve never indicated otherwise. But my point has been all along that singling out regulatory pressure and “progressives” as a complete explanation for cost escalations and the slowdown of nuclear development is insufficient.

        The slowdown in nuclear construction predated Three Mile Island. To some extent, increased regulatory pressures reflected legitimate, widespread public concern about safety. France, like all other countries with significantly more nuclear power, have strong centralized energy policy development with the political will and the support of the public to underwrite public financing. The political will and public support do not exist in this country. Much of the responsibility for that lack of political will and public support lies at the feet of the nuclear industry itself because of accidents and reliability problems. Cost-competitiveness of other energy sources (other countries were more oil-reliant) is also a factor as well as the profit advantages for utility companies to utilize already existing capacity more efficiently.

        Countries like France and Japan have more nuclear power because their governments decided early on to invest heavily in building nuclear reactors. The Japanese and French have political structures that enable them to more easily invest public money in large-scale construction projects. Like it or not, our civil society enables the public to have more input in energy policies. Even though through there were more significant cost advantages to investment in nuclear power in France, Japan, and other countries, nuclear power development did not take place by virtue of public investment in those countries. In 2005, when the U.S. government began to offer much more subsidization, liability protection, guaranteed loans, and yes, protection against regulatory delays, applications for building nuclear reactors increased dramatically. Along with more government support and subsidization there was more interest in investment.

        I have no idea what universe you were living in, where progressives controlled the levers of power and the development of energy policy in the U.S., but it seems that blaming “progressives” for everything evil in the world give you some pleasure. Hey, have at it. I, for one, find it quite amusing.

      • Oh, and Gary, how much has energy capacity from other sources grown during the period that nuclear energy capacity saw little growth? Efficient use of existing capacity is more profitable than developing new capacity.

      • Craig,

        It is clearly not ad hom if the comments are clearly wildly unlikely. :roll: I am typically unrepentant.

        Can I assume that there is at least some rationale for ceasing the great atmospheric experiment?

        As this paper says, the way forward involves multiple goals and multiple objectives. From the reduction of black carbon and tropospheric ozone – with health, agricultural and environmental benrfits, greening the Sahel, improving Australian agricultural soils and restoring landscapes, educating women and girls, ensuring that everyone has access to safe water, sanitation and health services.

        These are things with multiple benefits and significant potential to begin the management of the atmospheric experiment. Technology is one aspect – but the Millennium Development Goals and the Copenhagen Consensus priorities – plus whatever other useful paths we can imagine – is the way forward.

        Opening Popular Science the other night – there were half a dozen electric cars with reasonable specs. Not that I’m rushing to trade in my Ford. China has started building a 4th generation nuclear plant based on the German design that is 40 years old. These have operated in prototype in various places for decades. There are a dozen different 4th generation designs under development intended for various purposes. The principles are well understood and these are in principle much cheaper and safer than the 2nd (?) gen. plant in Japan. 3rd gen plants are much safer and are being built. There is fuel from gas, algae, garbage, sugar etc. CO2 can be extracted form the air using known technology and combined with hydrogen to make liquid fuels. There are theoretically feasible ideas ideas for nuclear fusion. The Eric Lerner approach seek to use plasma temps of a million degrees and a plasmoid radius sufficiently small to knock a hydrogen and a boron atom together. Fusion power in a box enough to get us to Mars in 4 weeks. Will any of this work at all and at oil prices less than $120 a barrel? Most assuredly it is. You are arguing that the total global demand for computers will be 5.

        We are stuck between the all or nothing mindsets of the climate wars and are in desperate need of a new narrative for the human race. Chasing rainbows perhaps but then relentlessly pragmatic in implementation.

      • Craig Loehle

        You may think your insults were in jest, but many in this debate mean them sincerely. Therefore such insults are disruptive and insulting. They do not add to your stature.

      • Dear Dr. Curry,

        “Chief Hydrologist”‘s baseless and tawdry comment above is surely inappropriate to this forum.

        ps. thank you for the v. interesting (and successful!) blog.

      • You have no sense of humor, eh?

      • Replying to a sincere comment by asking faux-solictious questions, however wittily phrased or implausible, about whether the commenter is mentally ill, sexual abnormal or a cannibal etc. isn’t appropriate in this forum for civil debate (imo) – it seems that Dr. Curry agrees, as she’s struck out the comment.

      • I absolutely disagree – let’s have a serious discussion. There is a paragraph from the paper I have copied a couple of times already. It concerns the culture war of the day in which culture warriors tell themselves and each other climate narratives that are clothed in the ‘superficial idiom of science’.

        If shock tactics work to help free up the discussion – I’m all for it. In this case we moved from decarbonising the global energy supply is not necessary to a discussion about details of low carbon energy technology. Utterly misguided still I feel – but some progress.

        Governments should do the broad range of positive things that could be done with multiple goals and objectives. Halving the incidence of malaria for instance. How is that a related issue? Because health and education, safe water and sanitation go to the core of the population stabilisation problem.

        I was deliberately outrageous – but this is not nearly as outrageous as 146 million people malnourished. Spare me your pious civilities.

      • I was deliberately outrageous – but this is not nearly as outrageous as 146 million people malnourished.

        This is cringeworthy self-justification. Craig expressed concern about how a carbon tax would affect the cost of energy for the world’s poor (for most of whom, carbon-based energy is still the most affordable form of the sufficiently abundant energy they require).

        You replied to Craig’s reasoned and polite comment (which wasn’t even directed at you) with personal and offsensive remarks, formulated in such a way that you could later slyly deny a direct ad-hominem attack – a sad use of your energies.

        Spare me your pious civilities.

        Ok – you behaved like a jerk who couldn’t muster a responsive reply to someone whose line of argument contradicted your own. In my opinion, you owe Craig an apology, but that’s just that civil stuff again.

        Didn’t some clever chap write here on this blog “the required attitude is humor, patience, good will, humility, honesty and good faith.” ? What a pious ass, right? Anyway, he seems to be missing – perhaps you could find him.

      • Chief,
        Take it easy, CH.

      • One universe

        Oh for God’s sake – it was clearly not intended to be a serious comment on the proclivities of anyone.

        Get a life.

      • it was clearly not intended to be a serious comment on the proclivities of anyone.

        The first part, where you queried Craig’s sanity for not embracing your strawman, sounded at least semi-serious. You wrote :

        “But please don’t tell me that you imagine that continuing the great atmosphere experiment – of which we have but a very little wit to determine the outcome – is the best use of human ingenuity? If so – are you psychologically aberrant in any other way?”

        Introducing “shock” vulgarity and inferring depravity and mental deficiency in the person you’re addressing because they disagree with you is usually considered below-the-belt (psychologically) and worthless (logically) in a converstation based on facts and logic, particularly when your argument so far (re: urgency of decarbonisation) has amounted to little more than hand-waving opinion .

      • CH, I apologise for what, on reflection, was an over-the-top reaction on my part. I don’t agree that your use of shock vulgarity was justified, but admit I may have misunderstood the tone of the exchange. In any case, I withdraw my harsh characterisation of your behaviour.

        Also, many thanks for the lucid scientific exposition elsewhere on this blog.

  46. At the top of his form, Chief Hydrologist easily can crush us all, as he clearly demonstrates in this thread.

    My advice is wait until Chief picks on just one to devour, and the rest run away and save yourselves in the hopes he doesn’t notice you. ;)

    Eventually he’ll tire and be safe to approach again.

  47. I am a veritable charger on my little blue pony.

    Did you see this one? – http://judithcurry.com/2011/04/10/hartwell-paper-game-changer/#comment-61439

    My finest contribution yet Le Petomane.

    • Chief,
      chill, great Chief.

    • Chief – I think you maybe got too much sun when you were out in the paddock chasing ‘roos the other day! Time to wrap a wet towel around your head and lie down in a dark room for a rest.

  48. “Almost one year after its publication, has this paper been a game changer?”

    Short Answer – Yes!

    (Because it has given the timid something to hold onto. Yes, it’s just a few pieces of paper and some ink, but it’s also an “excuse” to say no to the zealots and their social engineering political claptrap.)

  49. In a recent post in this blog on energy policy, Rutt Bridges speculated that natural gas could serve as a bridge between current energy uses and nearly complete decarbonization. Natural gas, which is mainly methane (CH4) yields the same energy as coal for about half the CO2 emissions, the remainder of the energy coming from the oxidation of hydrogen to water. It has been stated that because energy demand is rather inelastic, a carbon tax would not significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption, but if it incentivized substitution of natural gas for coal and oil, it would still reduce the rise in atmospheric CO2. The substitutions could come in vehicle fuel power, early phase out of coal-fired power plants, and a variety of other sectors of the energy economy.

    One obstacle is the apparent practice of permitting much methane to escape to the atmosphere as part of the practice of drilling and related operations, particularly as they involve shale gas, although the quantitative estimates seem to be uncertain. Methane is itself a potent greenhouse gas, and ultimately, almost all atmospheric methane is converted by a series of oxidations into CO2, so that releasing methane into the atmosphere is tantamount to adding to atmospheric CO2 without gaining usable energy in the bargain. I gather that current economic incentives may be insufficient for the gas producers to implement measures to capture that excess, but perhaps that can change, and I would welcome the input of those here with economics expertise on how that might come about, as well as ideas from individuals familiar with drilling, frakking, etc. Certainly one possibility would be a lower carbon tax on methane (per molecule of carbon) than on oil or coal. Another might be regulatory actions to impose costs on excessive methane escape and/or to offer tax credits for methane retrieval – given that captured methane represents potential profits, the penalties might not need to be excessive. There are probably other approaches as well, and they need not be mutually exclusive. Once oil and coal supplies dwindle to the point that these fuels become very expensive, the problem might solve itself, but their contribution to CO2 in the meantime would likely be too high to allow us to wait that long.

    A combination of a methane bridge (with restrictions on methane escape), improvements in energy efficiency, and gradual increases in energy contributions from renewable as well as nuclear energy might permit us to decarbonize by at least 80 percent over the next several decades, which would substantially reduce the threat of adverse consequences from continued warming. Apparently China, which is a coal importer, has large recoverable natural gas reserves, and so this nation might also see benefits in the substitution.

    • Until some people have some time to tear that paper about fracking leaks (“frakking” means sexual intercourse), it’s just a paper from an activist. It needs to be taken seriously, but I doubt that it will stand up to serious review outside of this guy’s circle.

      • The EPA has identified leaks as a problem, but the evidence is outdated – see the Environment section at Shale Gas.

        I don’t take this to be an indictment of the potential of shale gas to reduce the carbon intensity of of fossil fuel energy, but I think it should be quantified, and the leaks minimized to the extent that is practical.

      • Fred –
        The leaks will be minimized because it’s in the economic interest of the driller/developer to do so. As the man said – that stuff is valuable.

        But at the moment you’ve taken the NYT version of reality and now labelled yourself an alarmist over the issue. And you were the one who recently told me to withhold judgment?

        Anyway, ChE is correct – the paper was written by an activist with an agenda and has been answered, even before publication, here – http://www.energyindepth.org/2011/04/five-things-to-know-about-the-cornell-shale-study/

        It’ll be interesting to see what else develops on this front over the next several months.

      • Jim – I’m unfamiliar with what you call the “NYT” version. I did read what you refer to as the “answer” to the Howarth study, which I also read (including the references and supporting materials) and the “answer” does almost nothing to contradict the study’s conclusions, but rather quibbled around the edges, which to me suggests that the original conclusions are probably quite robust. Your implications are therefore factually incorrect. You are also incorrect in claiming that the leaks will inevitably be “minimized” simply because it is in the developer’s economic interest to do so. That is illogical, because there is always a balance between the costs of minimization and the costs of losing some of the product, and that balance can be altered by the kinds of incentives or penalties I suggested, including tax credits for minimization. I believe you can be certain that minimization down to zero is not in the developer’s economic interest (nor do I propose it).

        Most of all, Jim, you have misread my own perspective, which was to emphasize the potential value of natural gas, including shale gas, as a lower carbon intensity alternative to coal and oil, particularly in the form of a bridge over the decades needed to replace most fossil fuels with alternative energy sources and increased energy efficiency. If we can come close, via natural gas bridging, to reducing CO2 emissions by their theoretical maximum of a 50 percent cut, that would be remarkable progress in my view, and I strongly favor it. It would certainly make it much easier to achieve a total reduction of 80 percent over the next several decades. I doubt that we can achieve that maximum, but even coming close by reducing leakage would be a considerable achievement.

      • Hmmm – I didn’t see any quibbling, Fred. They point out the author’s misinterpretation of the meaning, for example, of LUG (lost and unaccounted for gas) – which does not mean that it’s vented to atmosphere. Which, if true, then invalidates much of the point of the paper.

        They also quote the author thusly –

        Howarth: “They are limited data. These are not published data. These are things teased apart out of PowerPoint presentations here and there. So rather than try to extrapolate based on any complicated formula, we’ve ended up simply taking the mean of those values”

        and –

        A lot of the data we used are really low quality, but I’m confident that they are the best available data.”

        And –

        “Let me just as an aside say that, again, the quality of the data behind that number [methane emissions during well completion] are pretty lousy. You know, they’re these weird PowerPoint sort of things”

        And – more, but that’s sufficient for now. So how much weight do you think I should give his paper? But we’ll see how it fares in the real world.

        OTOH, did you notice the activism of the authors?

        BTW, minimization down to very close zero IS in the developer’s economic interest because free methane, especially in the quantities apparently claimed by that paper can be flammable/explosive – which is REALLY not good for business.

        Anyway, I’m certainly willing to accept your intent as you state it, especially since I agree with it. But the second paragraph of your 6:12 pm comment read to me like a NYT anti-drilling article. If I misread that then I apologize.

      • Jim -The rebuttal attempt does not quote the paper, but only informal comments made earlier. The paper itself documents its conclusions with appropriate references. Being familiar with the science, including that in the references, I’m aware that the paper, published in the journal Climatic Change (a Judith Curry favorite), is very sound, and that attempts to refute it on a scientific basis are likely to prove futile. In making your comments, had you read the paper itself, or any of the salient references (e.g., on global warming potential)?

        To me, the more important question relates to the implications. Substituting natural gas (particularly shale gas) for coal or oil based on current practices is probably a bad idea – not because the substitution is much worse (it’s probably only slightly worse), but because there is room for substantial improvement, which is imperative if we are to realize the potential of natural gas to reduce carbon intensity.

        As I see it, the challenge now is to use all practical means to reduce fugitive emissions so as to render natural gas preferable to coal and oil. In the paper – here’s a link – Howarth et al suggest some approaches that may help in this regard, and also conclude that these need to be investigated in more detail. That should be a first step, and if it succeeds in leading to an adequate control of fugitive emissions, I hope we proceed at full pace to develop the natural gas resources that we know are out there.

      • Fred –
        the rebuttal attempt quoted the author himself – from this youtube video – and tells you where to find the comments on that video –

        C’ya – I’ll be back on Friday night.

      • Fred,
        Looking at Fig. 1 of the paper of Howarth et al. the shale gas is estimated only a little worse than conventional natural gas. I have seen before occasionally as bad numbers for conventional gas as they present, but my understanding is that they have not been accepted widely, but considered to be almost certainly serious overestimates. This observation casts very serious doubts on the paper.

        I know also that some people emphasize the short term radiative forcing (20 years or so), but that is not well justified from considerations of the dynamics of warming. It’s rather a consequence of putting more weight on reaching some arbitrarily set policy goals than on what really happens for the Earth.

        There are great uncertainties in estimating the methane leakages, and I would certainly not accept a producer web site as an objective source. Their critique appears to be right on details, but that could allow for a very biased overall view. All other information that I have seen on the influence of natural gas production and use on the climate provides, however, strong evidence that Howarth et al are giving a very seriously biased picture through a selective use of the available numbers.

      • Pekka – The relevant evidence is what is in the published paper, and the paper provided references for its numbers, including data from EPA and the industry as well as previous published data. Do you have reliable sources for a different set of values for fugitive gas leaks from shale gas development? Without a reliable set of estimates differing from Howarth’s multiple referenced sources, I think it would be wise to consider current leak rates unacceptably high, and to act in ways that would reduce those rates.

        FinalIy, I note that Jim Owen linked to a YouTube video presentation by the authors citing a range of data estimates required by the uncertainty of the data, but citing conservative estimates as the basis for the low end of their conclusions. Their best estimates, in fact, were lower than the most recent EPA estimates. The video is worth viewing because it indicates that a variety of data sources yield mutually reinforcing ranges of estimates, making it highly unlikely, although not impossible, that the leakage problem is an insignificant one.

        These are compelling reasons in my estimation to oppose expansion of shale gas exploitation without a concomitant leak-reduction effort on the part of developers. There are also problems with conventional gas development, but they appear to be less serious, particularly because of the flowback problems presented by shale gas harvesting.

        I say this as someone who would like shale gas to serve as a partial remedy for excessive greenhouse gas warming. It seems fairly clear that our best estimates from EPA, industry, and other published sources suggest otherwise. Until that conclusion can be convincingly refuted by newer data, or until the current fugitive gas leakage problem can be significantly remediated, shale gas development must probably be considered for the present to be a cure worse than the disease.

      • Fred –
        In making your comments, had you read the paper itself, or any of the salient references (e.g., on global warming potential)?

        Yup – and your conclusion that it’s a proper “scientific paper” leaves me cold. I’ve seen worse, but it’s been a long time. I won’t go into detail – it’s late and I’m tired. But the following link pretty well sums up what I saw in the paper.

        http://theenergycollective.com/geoffrey-styles/55663/still-not-worse-coal

        My tolererance for questionable data, uncertainty and misapplied “science” is apparently not as great as yours.

      • Jim – Based on the link you cited from an industry advocate, with an estimated 5.75 % methane leak, methane seems to come out considerably worse than coal at both 20 and 100 years. Even Howarth’s mid-range analysis doesn’t lead to that bad a result. It’s probably a losing proposition when even the industry supporters produce figures showing the inferiority of methane. (You can try the math yourself using Howarth’s updated 100 year GWP of 33 CO2 equivalents for methane, which is the ratio for a mass/mass comparison, but it works even with the earlier IPCC estimate of 25 – i.e., 25 x 5.75 > 100 percent of CO2 from coal, even without counting the CO2 generated by methane combustion). It’s possible, of course, that the advocate neglected other mitigating considerations, but his article, supported by his “back of the envelope” calculations, certainly didn’t help his case.

        The only area where I believe we might agree (as does Howarth) is that more data are needed for precise results. However, in the meantime, I find it hard to accept the rationale offered by his critics that essentially states, “Based on available data supplied mainly by the gas industry, shale gas methane with current technology is a dangerous proposition. However, the industry data are not reliable, so they should therefore be permitted to keep doing what they are doing.”

      • I had to recalculate my estimates from the above comment, because I neglected to correct for the different weights of methane and CO2. With recalculation, the results match those of Howarth, who concluded that shale gas methane and coal were approximately equivalent at 100 years (but worse than oil) and that shale gas exerted a larger global warming potential at 20 years. My basic conclusions about unwise nature of proceeding without mitigation of leakage or new data indicating it is unnecessary aren’t altered.

    • Fred Moolten

      There were two articles in today’s International Herald Tribune (April 13) touching on the topic of your post.

      The first is a report in the “business” section by Tom Zeller, Jr. entitled, “Why natural gas may not be so clean and green”, quoting a study by Robert Howarth, a professor at Cornell University, who is apparently opposed to expanding naturaal gas development. Howarth claims that “as much as 7.9 percent” of the recovered natural gas “is puffing out from shale gas wells, intentionally vented or flared or seeping from loose pipe fittings along gas distribution lines”.

      But the article goes on:

      Mark D. Whitley, a senior vice president for engineering and technology with Range Resources, a gas drilling company with operations in several regions of the country, says the losses suggested by Mr. Howarth’s study were simply too high.

      I would tend to agree with Whitley for one simple reason: losing almost 8% of total production would represent a major loss of profits for the operating companies, which would not be tolerated for long in a profit-driven society.

      It is true that there were major gas leaks from the Soviet gas fields and pipelines, which have only partly been fixed by Gazprom, based on a 1995 EPA study, but being part of the planned Soviet economy, this was not really a profit-driven industry.
      http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/P1004FNV.txt?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=2000%20Thru%202005&Docs=&Query=430R96010&Time=&EndTime=&S

      The second article under the “commentary section” by Joe Nocera discusses the T. Boone Pickens bill being considered by the US House of Representatives. This is a drastically scaled-down bill (compared to his earlier multibillion dollar Texas wind farms project for freeing up natural gas being used for power generation as a motor fuel for US automobiles and trucks). The new plan simply calls for government subsidies to truck manufacturers to develop natural gas fueled heavy duty trucks and some tax incentives to truck-stop owners who install natural gas filling stations. Total bill $1 billion per year for next five years.

      This makes sense to me as a short-term incentive to get heavy-duty trucks switched to natural gas, as they already are in Australia and other locations.

      The reasoning for making this switch is not so much to reduce CO2 emissions, although this will be a side benefit. Methane (CH4) has four hydrogen atoms for each carbon atom while a typical gasoline component, octane (C8H18) has slightly more than two.

      The primary reason cited is to move away from imported oil to domestic natural gas, of which the USA has abundant reserves, particularly if the largely untapped shale gas deposits are considered. Pickens estimated that just converting 140,000 new trucks to natural gas would reduce the U.S. oil imports from OPEC by 50%.

      Max

  50. I am not sure you are grasping the scale of the problem Fred

    The essential problem for humanity is to increase food supply by 3% every year for the rest of the century. Energy demand will increase at 3 to 6 percent every year. At least a doubling of food and energy supplies every 20 years – the curse of exponential growth – and most of this of this occurring in the developing world.

    Not to mention the political difficulty you find yourself in. Last night on the news was a story that Australia’s rains and floods were not the result of global warming but because of the multi-decadal pattern in the Pacific I have been writing and vilified about for so long. When it gets on the 6.00 o’clock news you know there is a Rubicon crossed. It is a damned good bet that the planet won’t warm for another decade or 3. There will be absolutely no constituency for reducing carbon emissions – unless there is a compelling new narrative. I am pissed enough with climate warriors such as yourself not to give a rat’s arse.

    Changes will not occur while fiddling around at the edges obsessively with energy supply. Things can be done immediately – we could reduce black carbon and tropospheric ozone with multiple benefits and no small impact on the great atmospheric experiment, safe water, sanitation, health programs and education for everyone might see a peak population of 8 billion rather than 10 billion. Improving agricultural lands not only can sequester vast amounts of carbon but improve productivity. Conserving and restoring ecosystems has biodiversity benefits as well as managing atmospheric carbon.

    Is this the extent of understanding of this important reframing of the problem? An obsession with energy taxes and the minutiae of energy technology – much of which is bound to be wrong. Climate warriors telling telling foolish stories to themselves in idiomatic scientific language.

    There are many here who have grasped the point. As for the rest – you need to listen more carefully. The human race must get beyond the climate wars if we are to emerge into maturity in this make or break century.

    • Chief,

      Governments stuck their necks out and put ALL their eggs into one basket and are in deep trouble financially. They need to rely on the cap and trade for the funding short falls they are in. Spent a great deal of money on garbage energy schemes that cost more than they are worth.

      I learned a great deal of new science from the inversion of a turbine and splitting the energy to harness all the energy flow. This taught me a great deal on the mechanics of efficiencies and how this planet and solar system came to create such an efficient system. Centrifugal force was blown off as unscientific as it was never understood. But I was able to recreate it with the technology not available before our scientists enacted the current laws that bind science. I am finding these laws never took into account motion even though it change over this planets life time and the suns as well.

      Many doors in understanding this planet was open and many doors in man made physics and science were closed especially having to have a mathematical formula or follow a specific set of rules.

    • Chief:

      “Last night on the news was a story that Australia’s rains and floods were not the result of global warming but because of the multi-decadal pattern in the Pacific I have been writing and vilified about for so long.”

      I really enjoy your posts (even the bicycle seats made me laugh although I knew our host would taker a dim view. It confirms my expectation that your ancestors travelled by prison hulk!) Your website is equally interesting. If you get a moment, I would be interested to hear how you have been vilified for your ideas on the PDO etc. In what way and who by? I am surprised to hear of these problems because even if your scientific views are slightly non-conformist, your views on taking pragmatic precautionary actions don’t seem far away from the consensus position. A skeptic might even say you are a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing. Regards, Rob.

      • “… your views on taking pragmatic precautionary actions don’t seem far away from the consensus position. A skeptic might even say you are a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing.”

        Bingo! A bit carried away with this Judy’s blog or start of tasting the gravy and ready for the train?

      • A wolf, scared of the dragon dwelling five counties away, and telling the sheep to play dead for protection.
        =================

      • A wolf, a sheep, a dragon, a little blue pony and a dunny rat with a gold tooth. There must be a moral in there somewhere – Kim – but I don’t know what? Which county are you from? You poke your head up above the parapets and take potshots at the wildlife – but I am not too sure about your aim.

      • Like shooting fish in a barrel, aim ain’t too important.
        =============

      • Only if you aren’t the fish – little fishy

      • Well – you know – I have been called psychologically aberrant on skepticalscience. But I suppose that someone who jokes about eating babies and spitting out the pips can take it. Convict indeed – I’ll have you know I’m flash as a dunny rat with a gold tooth. Americans are deficient in self deprecation as I saw an American pundit say on TV last night. You realise you have a traitor in your midst? So they don’t like being sent up or realise that I can make fun of myself.

        I find it astonishing too. But there you are. I keep telling the warmists (I call them wombats because they are utterly muddle headed) that the world is cooling and they are going to be a total laughing stock if they don’t somehow rescue the narrative – and that this will require quite a lot of grovelling and back pedalling (damn – bicycles again). It was only because I didn’t want to be the last person in the world saying that this great atmospheric experiment is still not a real flash idea.

        But mostly because the ‘great moral challenge of out age’ is a great distraction from that other lessor moral challenge – poverty, preventable disease, hunger, war. It requires endless cheap energy. Supplies of food and energy need to increase by 3% a year. So there are some things that are covered in the paper, there are the Millennium Development Goals, the Copenhagen Consensus priorities and other sensible objectives one can easily imagine. These are the problems to be solved to secure the great human adventure – and CO2 is then an easy problem.

      • How about ‘warmbat’ ? A relation of that George Moonbat that writes for the London Guardian.
        Bats, the lot of them…

      • Just curious, were you one of the commenters who whined incessantly about the use of the term denier? I can’t recall.

      • Well I don’t know about ‘whine’ Joshua, but Yes I do point out and criticize use of ‘denier’ as an act of deliberate and deep dishonesty.
        Hardly compares to non-specific abuse like ‘warmbat’ though does it? I would not bother commenting if called some equivalent to that.

      • Gee. I wonder whose ox is being gored?

        Just can’t quite figure it out.

      • It’s amazing how political correctness is always correlated to whose ox is being gored. One might even think there is a causal relationship.

      • Your notions of an ox Gore here are fanciful Joshua.
        The use of blatant lies like calling skeptics deniers – to say nothing of the holocaust innuendo – is not even vaguely equivalent to calling somone something like a fool .

      • I see, punksta.

        So you can determine what level of offense is appropriate for someone else to take from your insults, but someone else has no right to weigh in on how much offense you should take when they insult you.

        I think I’ve got it now.

      • No Joshua, you have once again gone to great pains to duck the issue. I don’t give a money’s about insults really, my concerns are accuracy and honesty.
        Personal insults – idiot etc – are not anything like deliberately mis-ascribing and mis-charactering the views of others. Call me child-molestor, drunkard, even Democrat if you like, I’ll not whine.

      • Call me child-molestor, drunkard, even Democrat if you like,…

        I’ll give you credit, Punksta: you might have a highly selective sense of outrage (I have to wonder how you feel about charges of “scientific cleansing” by Jewish scientists), but you do have a good sense of humor.

      • Well, if I knew what ‘scientific cleansing’ was….and how that and/or Jewishness had a bearing on CAGW, and I saw that such comments ascribed to me thinking alien to my own on the topic, I might well be moved to point this out.

      • The charge was made that Ben Santer, and the IPCC, was guilty of “scientific cleansing.”

        In May 1996, a document entitled “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing’?” was widely circulated to the press and politicians. In this document, the Global Climate Coalition claimed that after a key Plenary Meeting of the IPCC in Madrid in November 1995, all scientific uncertainties had been purged from Chapter 8. The GCC’s “scientific cleansing” allegation was soon repeated in an article in Energy Daily (May 22, 1996) and in an editorial in the Washington Times (May 24, 1996). It was also prominently featured in the World Climate Report, a publication edited by Professor Patrick J. Michaels (June 10, 1996).

        Santer’s grandparents were subjected to ethnic cleansing.

        I personally think this is only relevant in the sense of explaining the roots of “tribalism.” My assumption is that the charge was made without a direct allusion to the term “ethnic cleansing.” However, on these here threads we read many accusations about “frauds” and “statists,” blah, blah, that have and will in the future cause the “deaths of millions” — accusations coming from the very same people who are outraged, outraged I say, about the use of the term denier.

        When I use the term denier, I try to remember to put in into quotes and with a slash line (“skeptics/deniers”) – so that people can choose to identify with whichever term they like. I think that the climate debate, like all politically oriented food fighting in the blogosphere, is fraught with inaccurate language and poorly supported and overly broad accusations. I do, however, get a kick out of people who object, object I say, out of political correctness, to food being slung towards them even as they load up with a spoonful of mashed potatoes – particularly when they are “skeptics/deniers” with a rightwing lean.

      • I do, however, get a kick out of people who object, object I say, out of political correctness, to food being slung towards them even as they load up with a spoonful of mashed potatoes – particularly when they are “skeptics/deniers” with a rightwing lean.
        Since you again duck and corrupt the point, I will again bring it up.
        The issue is nothing to with insults or double standards regarding political corretectnessas as you fondly misrepresent. It is about lying. I do not believe there are people actually too stupid to know the difference between a denier and a skeptic, hence the people who do this purely in order to lie. (Which seems to include almost 100% of alarmists).

      • I do, however, get a kick out of people who object, object I say, out of political correctness, to food being slung towards them even as they load up with a spoonful of mashed potatoes – particularly when they are “skeptics/deniers” with a rightwing lean.

        Since you again duck and corrupt the point, I will again bring it up.
        The issue is nothing to with insults or double standards regarding political corretectnessas as you fondly misrepresent. It is about lying. I do not believe there are people actually too stupid to know the difference between a denier and a skeptic, hence the people who do this purely in order to lie. (Which seems to include almost 100% of alarmists).

      • Scientific Cleansing

        I suggest this term be applied to anyone who uses the term “denier”. Each and every time they do so.
        But not to anyone else.

      • Chief, we are a lot in agreement. I fear the Dragon less than I do Human Indignity. And I think Gaia is gasping for breath; increased pCO2 could restore her dignity, too.
        ============

      • To be honest – I have a deeply spiritual aspect with a technological bent. Avatar sitting on top of a Roman candle and waiting for it to be lit. We belong to Gaia and Gaia does not belong to us.

      • … merely an attempt to inject a little ironic levity. Actually, I have a lot of sympathy for the Chief’s views. Back to your tribe, Sam.

  51. Very mature Fred. This is me playing nice – :mrgreen:

    So you have a passionate, articulate and intellectually flexible Mum. Skipped a generation aye?

  52. Entire premise is that somehow CO2 is “dirty” and bad in some way. An idea that has not yet been proved, at least not to my satisfaction.

    • I’m on my best behaviour and won’t accuse you of spitting out the pips on the street.

      First of all the logic is technically – don’t get offended – an ‘argument from ignorance (appeal to ignorance): the fallacy of assuming that something is true/false because it has not been proven.’ CO2 has not been proven to be bad therefore it must be good. In reality it seems – there is a great atmospheric experiment occurring for which we have but little wit to understand the outcome. I’m inclined to counsel prudence in the face of such uncommon uncertainty.

      The premise is not about CO2 primarily at all. Some of it is about black carbon and ozone – both extremely damaging to plants and people and quite active in the atmosphere. Some of it is about conservation and restoration of landscapes. Some of it is about population stabilisation through health and education. Some of it is about efficient production. Multiple paths and multiple objectives.

      All of it is about making a better world and increasing human dignity. Surely these are not things to be objected to regardless of the truths you subscribe to in the climate wars?

      • Chief

        Another slant on the “argument from ignorance” is the IPCC approach to attribution of warming.

        In the late 20th century “poster period” IPCC tells us that the models can only explain the observed warming if they include anthropogenic GH warming.

        Since it is clear that the models do not “know” everything there is to know about what makes our planet’s climate do what it does, this is an “argument from ignorance”.

        The “ignorance” in this case the model’s handling of natural forcing factors.

        So this variation of the “argument from ignorance” illogic is the “we can only explain it if we assume…” variety. Climate science today is full of this one.

        As far as the other points you mention. I agree fully on combating real pollution and slowing down population growth in the poorest nations.

        I would add “affluence” to your point about ” population stabilisation through health and education”.

        The best driver of low population growth is increased standard of living. And this can only be achieved in the poorest countries today by building up an energy infrastructure that delivers inexpensive and reliable energy to the populations. (And, this will result in the combustion of more fossil fuels.)

        But if it results in a drastic reduction of th estimated 4 million people per year who die from indoor air pollution or lack of clean drinking water, it will be well worthwhile. Sure, a cynic could say that this will only add to population, because eliminating these deaths will only add to population growth.

        But I am not a cynic. Nor do I believe that you are, from other things you have written here.

        Max

      • Max

        See I don’t believe the IPCC at all. These quasi 25 year periodicities are largely driven by a variable upwelling of sub-surface water in the eastern Pacific – ENSO in other words. What initiates this? The correlation between the Sun and ENSO is obvious in very many studies and the connection is probably with solar UV. ENSO is not one thing – there are waves, winds and cloud. It changes everything.

        I keep pointing to CERES from 2000 – without a doubt clouds change considerably with ENSO and ENSO changes considerably over decades. Low level cloud changes significantly with ENSO from observation of the 1997.1998 El Nino. Low level clouds change decadally with ENSO from observation – quod erat demonstrandum. The much revised ERBE and ISCCP-FD now agree, pick up late 1990’s cloud change and show – horror – much cooling in the IR and more warming in the SW.

        I am tempted to say that the IPCC couldn’t find their arses with a map – but I am treading a fine moderation line here Max.

        Black carbon and troposhperic ozone reduction is simple, hugely practical and immensely effective in reducing radiative forcing in the atmosphere by perhaps 50% in days at best. It is a no brainer. Unfortunately – there is a bit of that going around.

        Everything we know about wealth, health and education shows that it leads to lower population growth.

        Cheers

      • Chief

        Looks like we are in agreement:

        I am tempted to say that the IPCC couldn’t find their arses with a map – but I am treading a fine moderation line here Max.

        I’d add “or with a Garmin navigation system”.

        Max

  53. Does anyone remember the paper that reports about 15 years of flat global temperature contradicts AGW?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Girma

      I have not found this paper, but you have raised a basic question.

      How many years of lack of warming despite continued increase of CO2 levels to record heights would it take to falsify the premise, held by IPCC and a “majority consensus” of climate scientists, that AGW, caused primarily by human CO2 emissions, has been the principal cause of 20th century warming and that it represents a serious potential threat for humanity and our environment?

      10 years? (These have passed with no warming despite record CO2 increase.)

      13 years? (Ditto – although some will object that the starting year 1998 was a record El Nino year)

      20 years?

      30 years?

      Or more?

      Believers in the “mainstream” premise will avoid stepping on the slippery slope of getting too specific here.

      However, they will tell you without a doubt that 10 years is too short a period.

      But, wait a minute!

      The period most frequently cited by IPCC as the period during which AGW played a major role is the 30-year period ending at the end of 2000.

      There were two earlier multi-decadal warming cycles: one in the early 20th century (which was indistinguishable from the late 20th century IPCC “poster” period) and another in the late 19th century (which showed slightly less warming). Both also lasted around 30 years.

      These periods occurred before there was much human CO2, so cannot be attributed to AGW.

      In between there were 30-year cycles of slight cooling.

      The whole record since 1850 resembles a sine curve on a slightly tilted axis (long-term warming since 1950 of around 0.04C per decade or 0.7C over the entire period).

      The key question now is: Is the current lack of warming the start of such a multi-decadal period of slight cooling like the others?

      If so, how many more years of no warming would be required to confirm this?

      In other words: how many more years of “no warming” would it take to falsify the premise of alarming AGW?

      Ask any believer in this premise and they will waffle around with general talk referring to hypothetical considerations, paleo-climate data interpretations or model studies, but so far I have not heard a straight quantitative answer from any believer in alarming AGW.

      Max

  54. My guess is some Indian scientist will go a long way to sorting out this crap somewhere down the line if her society is allowed access to cheap and plentiful energy. If not she’ll likely be stuck in a hand-to-mouth existence like much of the present generation of her country.

    Unrelated. Why, on some websites, does climate science discussion degenerate so easily into bitching about your tax dollar? I’ve never quite understood the direct link.

    • HR,
      The good that will come from plentiful energy is well worth the costs.
      As to your question, I think that if climate science was no heavily funded by and in favor with big government, we would not be faced with the problems of the terrible policies AGW believers are demanding.
      That problem leads directly to people wanting to cut the gordian knot of the the academic/government policy complex.

  55. The US corn to ethanol disaster shows why this is so.

    I don’t subscribe to this orthodoxy that corn for ethanol was a bad thing. It was and is a good thing. What do we need more – more human beings on the earth, or new renewable energy sources? The question is rhetorical and the answer obvious.

  56. Pooh, Dixie

    The question was whether or not The Hartwell Paper is a game changer. In my opinion, there are two answers: No and Maybe.

    No, because the Paper is at heart a change in marketing strategy (“fundamental re-framing”) for selling accelerated decarbonization and a managed (“public sector”) energy supply of economies. It offers no new solutions, just new rationales. Further, it does not recognize in its phrase “vagaries of climate” that cold is one of those “vagaries”.

    Finally, it proposes a “hypothecated (dedicated) Tax on Carbon”. However, the “Social Security Trust Fund” is a cautionary example. Politicians borrowed and spent it; nothing but IOUs remain in the “lock box”.

    Maybe, because for the first time in my recollection this Paper concedes that there might be other significant drivers of surface temperature, independent of CO2 (land use and UHI, pages 22-23). Since observed temperature changes have been mainly attributed to CO2 and its feedbacks, an independent driver reduces the effect of CO2, even if tuned to suspect data.

    If this concession opens the door for examination of other independent drivers, then the role of CO2 is further diminished. More players, independent of CO2, await off-stage: i.e., Ocean Circulation and Oscillation, Clouds, and the solar wind-galactic cosmic ray-low cloud interaction, etc.

    Lastly, let us change the game in two ways: 1) in place of surface temperature, let us focus on heat energy and its transport, and 2) let us recover the original raw data, documenting its source, reliability, uncertainty and integrity. Surely for $3 trillion we can make some progress in this.

    This comment is an overview of about eight pages of notes and cites, too much to post here. However, it is said most succinctly in
    Anonymous. 2010. Oblique strategies. The Economist – Green.view. May 11. http://www.economist.com/node/16099521?story_id=16099521

    “The difficulty with the current approach to climate change, according to the Hartwell paper, is that climate change is not a problem.” Emphasis added

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