Energy supplies and climate policy

by David Rutledge

Judy Curry has provided a remarkable forum for climate science and policy, and I appreciate the opportunity to continue the discussion on energy supplies that Rutt Bridges started with his post Wednesday on natural gas. In this post, I will consider the limited impacts of climate policy on fossil-fuel production and discuss ways to estimate fossil-fuel production in the long run.

I would like to acknowledge colleagues at The Oil Drum Bulletin Board, where some of these ideas were discussed earlier. For Climate Etc. readers who are interested in energy issues, The Oil Drum is the best place to go. The technical threads are superb.

1. Climate Policy and Fossil-Fuel Production

I will start with the notion that the response of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has slow components that will dominate over time, like the exchange with the deep ocean and weathering of rocks. David Archer expressed this vividly, “A better approximation of the lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 for public discussion might be 300 years, plus 25% that lasts forever.” This means that from a climate perspective, it really does not matter whether we burn a particular ton of coal now or at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution—what counts is the total that the world burns in the long run.

This has several consequences. First, a national policy to reduce fossil-fuel consumption, like mileage standards for cars, will have little climate impact if it does not change world consumption in the long run. Actually, because oil is traded in a world market, mileage standards may have no effect on world oil consumption even in the short run. Figure 1 shows a plot of annual production versus price. Except for the years around the 1979 Iranian revolution, production increased steadily, and the price stayed below $50 per barrel in today’s money. However, starting in 2004, the plot went vertical, with a price range of more than 2:1, but with production varying by only 2%. This is an indication of an almost perfectly inelastic supply. If this is the case, when the United States reduces consumption, it will be offset by increased consumption elsewhere.

Figure 1. Supply vs price for world oil. Gt means billions of metric tons. This figure is an extension of one published in 2009 by Euan Mearns at The Oil Drum. Data are from the BP Statistical Review and from Brian Mitchell, 2007, International Historical Statistics, Palgrave-MacMillan.

Second, a new fossil-fuel resource resulting from improved technology like shale gas adds to long-term fossil-fuel production, increasing any climate effects. This is true even if the shale gas reduces carbon-dioxide emissions temporarily by partially displacing coal in electricity production.

The final implication is that resources must be walled off from future production to have an effect on climate. My favorite example of this, not least because of the political skill involved, was the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah by the Clinton Administration. This area contains most of the Kaiparowits Plateau coal field, which is a big one. The Utah Geological Survey estimated the minable coal at 11Gt. For comparison, annual US coal production is about 1Gt. The action was not popular in Republican Utah, which might have gotten $30 per ton for the coal. President Clinton, a Democrat, made his announcement across the border in swing-state Arizona, which he carried in the election two months later. Even though we can acknowledge President Clinton’s political ability, we should be cautious in crediting him with a full 11-Gt reduction in future production because it is not clear how much production would have taken place without National Monument status. Past production only comes to 40,000 tons, with none since the 70’s. It is worth noting that the US Geological Survey estimate for the recoverable coal was 4Gt, much less than Utah’s.

Can climate policy significantly reduce world fossil-fuel production in the long run? At the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009, our leaders pledged an 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. This proclamation is certainly meant to encourage the countries of the world to commit to this reduction, but so far only the UK has passed the legislation for it.

For perspective, it is worth looking at the historical record before and after the Kyoto Agreement was signed in 1997. Figure 2 shows world fossil-fuel carbon-dioxide emissions, taken from the BP Statistical Review. Do you see a decrease in emissions after the agreement was signed? I don’t either; if anything, emissions accelerated. It is worth noting that the EU and the US show the same percentage decline in emissions, 0.4%/y over the last 10 years, even though the EU countries all ratified the Kyoto Agreement and the US did not.

Figure 2. Annual world fossil-fuel carbon-dioxide emissions. 2012 is the year countries are judged on whether they have met their Kyoto commitments. The 2012 marker is an extrapolation, based on the average growth rate over the past ten years.

The figure also shows where an 80% reduction in 2050 would take us. It is not easy to convey the enormity of what our leaders agreed to. One comparison we can make is to the collapse of the Soviet Union. From 1990-1999, fossil-fuel emissions fell 40% there, and this was no one’s idea of a good time. To get to 80%, the entire world need to do this four times, voluntarily. Not going to happen. What were they smoking?

What about policy impacts at the local level? My home state of California has implemented an ambitious renewable-energy policy through a series of laws, starting with Assembly Bill 1078 in 2002 and culminating in Senate Bill 2 in 2011. These commit the state to a 20% renewable share for electricity in 2010, and a 33% renewables share in 2020. In California-speak, renewables means no large hydro and no nukes. In his signing letter for Senate Bill 2, Governor Jerry Brown wrote, “With the amount of renewable resources coming on-line, and prices dropping, I think 40%, at reasonable cost, is well within our grasp in the near future.”

Well, we are half-way from 2002 to 2020 now. How is California doing? You can judge the progress in Figure 3. The in-state renewables share has actually fallen during this period. California missed its 2010 goal badly, but it appears that the only result of this was to set an even more unrealistic goal for 2020. Governor Brown seems to be smoking something also.

Figure 3. Renewable shares in Californa. The data for the figure come from the California Energy Almanac. Incidentally, if you like plans, this web site is great. But if you want data….

It is hard for me to think of a bigger disconnect between the politics and the reality. What is going on here? Table 1 shows the renewables shares by source. The biggest is geothermal, which peaked in 1992. Biomass is stuck because pollution rules make it is difficult to get permits to build an incinerator in California. Small hydro is no longer favored and it shows. The one bright spot is wind from Oregon and Washington, but wind imports are not going to get us anywhere near 33% by 2020. Most surprising is that the solar share has been flat for ten years, even though California’s solar resources are stupendous.

Table 1. Renewables shares for California electricity in 2010 and 2010. I have broken out in-state and imports for wind, but the total is shown for the other sources.

What this tells us is that there is no magic climate-policy wand that will let us set the total fossil-fuel production in the long run to a particular number. This is not to say that climate policy does not have short-term effects. The EPA’s proposals for carbon-dioxide emissions limits certainly discourage utilities from building new coal plants. If I were a Kentucky coal miner who lost his job this year I would likely blame the EPA. However, the current coal plants could be operated for generations to come, so the coal can be consumed eventually. In addition, even if American customers are lost, an offsetting export market may develop because American coal mining costs are low. Wyoming miners can make money selling coal at $10 per ton, while the price in the main export market, East Asia, is over $100 per ton. This depends on being able to ship the coal to East Asia at a cost that would meet the market price there.

2. Reserves vs. Resources

So, independently of climate policy, how can we estimate production of oil, gas, and coal in the long run? Economists have shown surprisingly little interest in this problem, but many geologists and engineers have been fascinated by it.

First we need to distinguish two terms, reserves and resources:

Reserves refers to oil, gas, and coal that have been discovered and characterized (proved), and that one could produce and sell at a profit now. People distinguish between the oil (or gas or coal) in place, and recoverable reserves that make an allowance for what is left behind when production is finished. Proved, recoverable reserves for oil, gas, and coal have been tracked at the national level for many years.

Resources refers to oil, gas, and coal that are of economic interest. This is a broader term than reserves. At the national level, resources are not well defined or tracked, and they are subject to political winds. In practice, resources means whatever a speaker wants it to mean. As a result, the statement in the President’s recent State-of-the-Union Address, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years,”conveys little information.

The boundary between the reserves and resources is not fixed. New technology and higher prices can cause resources to shift to the reserves category. For one example, because of new horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing technology, some shale gas can now be counted as reserves rather than resources. As another example, high oil prices have enabled production from the Canadian tar sands, and Canadian oil reserves are now 3rd largest in the world.

Perhaps surprisingly, reserves can also shift to resources. In 1913, US coal reserves were 4Tt (trillion metric tons). A hundred years later after 60Gt of production, American coal reserves are now 240Gt. The early reserves criteria were too optimistic—seams as thin as 1 foot down to a depth of 4,000 feet down were counted. However, this coal was not mined a hundred years ago, and it is not mined now. Over time, as it has became clear that the criteria were too optimistic, the US Geological Survey tightened up the rules, and other countries followed their lead.

We will develop estimates first for coal, and then for oil and gas together. At this point, future production for other sources like methane clathrates and oil shales is speculative, and they will not be considered.

3. Coal Production in the Long Run

In energy terms, world coal production is 95% of world oil production, and coal is on track to pass oil this decade. Coal markets are regional—85% of coal is consumed in the country it was mined. This means we need a regional analysis. I have given one in a paper in the Journal of Coal Geology that considers the world in 14 regions. I will only summarize the results here. The approach in the paper is to fit an s-curve (logistic or cumulative normal) to the cumulative production history, and to use the top of the s-curve as an estimate of the total production in the long run. Coal has a long production history that we can use to test our ideas. Several regions are very late in the production cycle, with a current annual production that is a thousand times less than the cumulative production. The results for these mature regions are summarized in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Production for four mature coal regions. This table is an updated version of one that appeared in my Coal Geology paper.

One way to estimate the long-term production is to add reserves to the cumulative production. Early reserves and production history are available for each of the regions. Surprisingly, this approach gives numbers that are too high. For example, Japan and South Korea have produced only 21% of the early reserves plus cumulative production. The other regions also show this pattern. Across the four regions, the average is only 26%.

The results of the s-curve fits are given in the “Long-term production projection” and “Long-term production projection range” columns. “Long-term production projection” gives the current estimate, and the range column indicates how the projections have evolved since 1900 (since 1950 for Japan and South Korea). The average range in percentage terms is 38%, so this gives the uncertainty in the estimate. It is interesting that in each case, it appears that the range will include the actual long-term production. However, we cannot be sure of this until the last mine in each region shuts down.

How should we interpret these results? None of the mature regions has come close to producting its reserves, so for coal at least, we might take the reserves as an upper bound on future production. It is interesting that the IPCC in its scenarios assumes that a multiple of the reserves could be produced. However, there is no historical precedent for this in any of the mature regions. On the other hand, the s-curve fitting ranges do appear to predict the long-term production correctly, with an error of about plus or minus 20%.

We can estimate the long-term production for the entire world by adding the results for the 14 regions. The latest world reserves at year-end 2008 were 861Gt and the world cumulative production at that time was 303Gt. This gives a total of 1,164Gt. The s-curve fits updated for the 2010 production give a long-term production of 723Gt, 62% of the reserves plus cumulative production. Thus, the pattern of underproducing reserves that we saw in the mature regions appears to be repeating.

The analysis also indicates that the world reaches 90% of the eventual long-term production in about 60 years. This result should be viewed as a current trend, rather than a projection with uncertainties, because historical shocks that changed the production rate. For example, production slowed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the mature regions the production at the 90% point had fallen to about 40% of the peak production. So at that point you would need a Plan B or use less.

4. Oil and Gas Production in the Long Run

In contrast to coal, about half of world oil and gas is exported, and we can consider a world analysis. Usually oil and gas are considered separately, but there is really not a clear distinction. They often come out of the same wells and some products like propane are sold pressurized as liquids and burned as gases. Figure 4 shows the production history.

Figure 4. Production history for world oil and gas, taken from the BP Statistical Review. Here toe stands for metric ton of oil equivalent. It is an energy unit equal to 42GJ.

Notice that the world shifted to a slower pace after the 1989 Iranian Revolution. For this reason, I will start the curve fits a few years after the revolution. The approach I use here was popularized by Ken Deffeyes in two very interesting books, Hubbert’s Peak and Beyond Oil. The technique is called Hubbert linearization, in honor of the geophysicist King Hubbert, who first used it for this purpose. In Hubbert linearization, the cumulative production is plotted on the x-axis, and the growth rate for the cumulative is plotted on the y-axis (Figure 5). Algebraically, the growth rate can be expressed as p/q, where p is the annual production and q is the cumulative production. This kind of plot linearizes a logistic function. The chief advantage of Hubbert linearization is that it gives one an excellent way to visualize the fit. There are some disadvantages that are discussed in my Coal Geology paper.

Figure 5. Hubbert linearization for world oil and gas. This is same data as Figure 4, but replotted with different axesw. The point for the reserves plus cumulative production is calculated from various editions of the BP Statistical Review.

In the Hubbert linearization, the x-intercept gives the estimate for the long-term production. In the figure, I vary the starting point from 1983 to 1995 to give a sense of the uncertainty. The range is 530-680Gtoe. This range contains the reserves plus cumulative production, 608Gtoe. This is different from coal, where countries under-produced reserves. This agreement is fortuitous; it is easy to identify factors that might bias oil and gas reserves high and low. US oil reserves have historically been close to ten years of future production, which clearly makes them too low as an estimate for total future production. On the other hand, OPEC oil reserves have often been criticized for arbitrary increases and lack of outside auditing, and may be biased high.

I will not give the analysis here, but it turns out the curve fits indicate that the world reaches 90% of the long-term oil and gas production around 2070, just like coal. Again, this does not mean that production would cease by then, but it is likely to be half the peak value and dropping. And as for coal, we would either need to use less or replace the energy from a different source.

5. Discussion

Oil and gas are really quite different from coal, and we should not expect their reserves to necessarily have the same relationship to long-term production. Oil and gas are usually hidden in geological traps, and they are difficult to find. Once found, however, oil and gas are relatively easy to produce—the pressure helps. Governments can even arrange turn-key concessions, and the money starts rolling in. On the other hand, coal is a rock, and it is easy to identify most of the major coal fields at outcrops. But there is nothing easy about mining coal underground. To get a sense for this, watch Michael Glawoggen’s documentary on Ukrainian coal miners. I am sure most of us would prefer to get our electricity from solar panels in our yard to manually hewing coal underground if we could afford it. However, coal provided the first rung on the energy ladder for many of the world’s economies, and our society reflects the scientific, technical, and social experience of underground coal mining. And coal has a similar importance in many countries that are on their way up today.

Table 3 summarizes the results. For coal, I use the curve fits, because they have proved more reliable in the mature regions than reserves. For oil and gas, the curve fits are consistent with reserves, and reserves are used. The current world production is also shown for comparison.

Table 3. Summary of results, expressed both in energy terms as Gtoe and as carbon dioxide emission as CtC, billions of metric tons of carbon content in the emitted carbon dioxide. At the world level the energy content of a ton of coal in the BP Statistical Review has historically averaged half that of a ton of oil. For these carbon-dioxide calculations, I have used the carbon coefficients in the BP Statistical Review. It should be kept in mind that the long-term production includes the current cumulative production. To estimate the total future production, you would need to take the difference of the two.

How do these emissions compare with the IPCC numbers? The forthcoming 5th Assessment Report uses representative concentration pathways, RCPs for short. The total carbon-dioxide emissions here, 857GtC, fall between RCP2.6 (peaking around 660GtC in 2070) and RCP4 (1,100GtC and rising in 2100). However, these RCPs assume an effective climate policy. They start with a prescribed top-of-atmosphere forcing and work backwards to a published scenario. It would be more appropriate to compare the emissions here to RCP8.5. This is the only RCP that is unconstrained by climate policy and it might be said, even by geology, with cumulative emissions of 5600GtC in 2500.

For people in the renewables business, what are the implications of a 60-year time frame for reaching 90% of the eventual long-term production? I do not know, but I will guess. You will be facing economic headwinds for decades, and competing with rent seekers who are better at securing favorable rules than they are at actually producing energy. You will be dependent on subsidies and renewables targets, in other words, on other people’s money. But as the Iron Lady observed, other people’s money runs out.

Biography for David Rutledge

Professor Rutledge is the Tomiyasu Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech, and a former Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science there. He is the author of the textbook Electronics of Radio, published by Cambridge University Press. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, a winner of the IEEE Microwave Prize, and a winner of the Teaching Award of the Associated Students at Caltech. He served as the editor for the Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, and is a founder of the Wavestream Corporation, the leading manufacturer of high-power millimeter-wave transmitters for satellite uplinks.

JC comment:  Climate Etc. has been very fortunate this week to have attracted two superb posts on energy.  I am very pleased that Dave Rutledge has provided this for Climate Etc.

Moderation note:  This is a technical thread and comments will be moderated for relevance.

249 responses to “Energy supplies and climate policy

  1. The two articles talk about exploitable wealth possible. It is unlikely that politics can prevent the wealth being developed and not defer development for long absent attractive alternatives. I guess that it will take a heck of a scare story to stop development of fossil fuels or a series of technological new energy miracles (fusion anyone?).

    So, except to a few individuals, these energy articles and recent lectures by Pielke Jr at:
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.ca/2012/04/climate-fix-lecture-with-slides.html have to say the climate debate is over and the task for the future is to determine how to adapt to our future.

    Thanks, Dr Curry.

  2. Both this post the earlier post on natural gas offer sober reading of significant issues related to our current and future energy use. Short of some sort of some huge advancement in energy generation techology, which is possible, but can’t be counted on, it appears that one thing we probably can count on is that there is a high probability of mass coordinated action to prevent the Earth hitting the 560 ppm of CO2 by 2100. Two related issues immediately come to the front:

    1) Determining the likely sensitvity of the Earth to such a CO2 level and the related climate change impacts.
    2) Determining the most effective mitigation and adaptation strategies that can be implemented over this coming decades as the anticipated climate changes begin to materialize.

    • Please explain how your claim about mass coordinated action follows from these two articles. I see no connection. On the contrary the present targets are impossible.

      • Actually, I meant to say mass coordinated action seems unlikely, and that short of some major breakthrough such as fusion, we probably ought to be preparing for a world of 560 ppm by 2100 and all that might imply. Naturally, some skeptics will say it doesn’t imply much and some warmists (including the Pentagon) think it has the potential for significant international turmoil IF not prepared for. Thus, a shift in focus from prevention to adaptation and mitigation might be warranted, and will critical if we do get a 3C rise in global temperatures along with 560 ppm of CO2.

      • This makes a lot more sense than what I read above. And I agree that adaption is a much better choice than prevention, with the caveat that the degree of adaption needs to be reasonably tied to provable impacts.

        I would disagree with you about needing a huge advancement in energy generation, but this is not the place to get into a debate abour nuclear power.

      • R Gates

        But thats what they (via the CIA) said in the 70’s, but that time it was about cooling.
        tonyb

    • R, CO2 is the impotent GHG. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      21 out of 42 states say so.

      http://sunshinehours.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/is-the-usa-warming-the-noaa-data-saysit-depends-part-2/

      • I would tend to be quite skeptical of such assertions, especially when looking at such narrow data points. The long term down trend in Arctic sea ice would tend to say it is indeed a function of increasing CO2. See:

        http://www.mpimet.mpg.de/fileadmin/staff/notzdirk/2012GL051094.pdf

        Given the large influence that the Arctic has on the climate of the planet, if sea ice decline is being caused by increasing CO2 levels, as the above paper concludes, then climate change is as well. CO2 is far from impotent.

      • HADCRUT3 also says CO2 is an impotent GHG.

        Jan 2011 and Jan 2012 were no warmer than Jan 1942 and Jan 1944.

        http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/hadcrut3gl.txt

        ” if sea ice decline is being caused by increasing CO2 levels”

        The impotent GHG CO2 is also resonsible for an increase of sea ice in the antarctic.

        774,000 sq km above normal.

        Antarctic + Arctic = a net anomalyof 600,000 sq km.

        CO2 causes more sea ice.

      • Sunshine, you need to take a big step away from the vat of skeptical coolaid you are drinking from. It can cause these cherry picked hallucinations you are having. Humans are affecting the planet in a myriad of ways, of which increasing CO2 levels are only one. I would suggest strongly that you really spend a few weeks reading science journals and stop watching Faux News if you really want to prevent your mind from turning into complete mush.

      • On the contrary, Gates, Sunny makes a good scientific point, while your response is without content.

      • Not to mention insulting.

      • David,

        Sunshinehous begins with a completely unscientific statement and ends with the same, without regards to the scientific article I referenced. This seeming disregard for science in order to further what must obviously then be a political position on the effects of CO2 was the motivation behind my meeting that desire for politics over substance.

        In regards to Sundhinehours attempt at giving some scientific credibility to their otherwise political position by giving some highly cherry-picked sea ice data, my suggestion for further reading of the science on the subject was an honest one. Arctic sea ice is in long- term decline, and anyone who has studied the cryosphere for any length of time knows that the dynamics of Antarctic sea ice is completely different than Arctic sea ice and global climate models have long showed that N. Hemisphere warming would proceed faster and earlier than S. Hemiphere for very good, very plausible, and very scientific reasons. All this would lead me to suggest that Sundhinehours spend less time listening to the political pablum spewed forth from their favorite political pundit, and if they want to really understand the science, pick up a copy of The Warming Papers and read it cover to cover.

      • If sea ice is a proxy for CO2 caused climate changes, then global sea ice suggests CO2 causes more ice and therefore CO2 causes cooling.

        If sea ice is NOT a proxy for CO2 caused climate change then why bring it up and why just try and talk about arctic sea ice when black carbon and wind and current changes may be responsible.

      • And you fail to mention HADCRUT3 which clearly suggests no discernible difference between Jan 2011 / Jan 2012 and Jan 1942 / 1944.

        If you are claiming the globe has warmed, successive January temperatures matching the last big peak from 1942/44 — which is 70 years ago — seem to demolish your claims.

        “It’s as cold as it was 70 years ago” would be an honest but laughably silly rallying cry for chicken littles like you.

        “The ice is melting” also a dishonest rallying cry.

      • If I promise to “stop watching Faux News” (which I don’t watch because I don’t have cable) will you promise to stop reading/watching the extreme left wing media like MSNBC, BBC, Guardian, NY Times, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, LA Times … etc

      • Sundhinehours…you’ve got a deal.

  3. That’s why I keep up with this site. We get the gem of a guest post by Prof. Rutledge.

    Here is the gist of the situation:
    We can do book-keeping and bean-counting when it comes to our own finances, yet when it comes to accounting of energy supplies, only a few people are willing to do the grunt-work. Rutledge has done quite a bit of the heavy lifting in analyzing coal reserves in particular.

    http://www.its.caltech.edu/~rutledge/DavidRutledgeCoalGeology.pdf

    A lot of the data is there, it just takes some digging and application of probability and statistics and one can do some useful projections.

    • Nick Stokes

      Agreed, it’s a very good post. Focuses on the key questions:
      1. How much carbon is available for butning?
      2. How much will the atmosphere let us burn?
      3. If it’s less than what we could burn, how will we arrange to leave carbon in the ground? (and whose?)

      In terms of policy, that’s what matters.

      • The atmosphere is indifferent to what we burn. We will burn all we can get.

      • Nick,

        Where exactly does Prof Rutledge talk about how much the atmosphere will “let us” burn?

        Do you talk to the atmosphere? Does it talk back?

      • Nick Stokes –

        I’m amazed you can say (sensibly) that it’s a good post and then write something so irrelevant about how much will the atmosphere let us burn. Seriously absurd.

        One of the conclusions it is quite reasonable to reach following David Rutledge’s post is that the cumulative angst about climate change has had a total of zero effect on the combustion of fossils fuels after 25 years of hysteria.

        There is also zero prospect of that reality changing any time soon

      • Scott Basinger

        Apparently Nick’s a wind whisperer.

  4. On the coal numbers.

    I don’t think we can ignore the fact that ‘mine productivity’ has been dropping globally for 10 years. Generally, when it takes more labor to produce the same quantity of goods ‘peak production’ is not far away.

    There will be a point at which the ‘substitute’ good becomes cheaper.

    I would note that Chinese coal mines(which produce have the worlds production) have a productivity of about 4 man hours per ton where as Wyoming mines have a productivity of about 30 tons per man hour.

    The size of the Chinese work force is set to begin declining in 2015. With a declining pool of young healthy men to work the mines the combination of higher wages and decreasing productivity numbers don’t appear to me to make for a ‘bright’ long term future for the Chinese coal industry.

    • harrywr2,
      The Chinese technology for production, like the US’s, is not static. You are describing a technology issue, not a mineral shortage issue.

      • Yes, it’s a technology issue. Humanity could not possibly burn all the coal that exists in the earths crust in 10,000 years. The only question is how much of it will be extractable at a cost someone is willing to pay.

        Nobody gets gold or silver fillings for their teeth anymore because the ‘cost of the substitute good’ is less. We also don’t have gold and silver or pure copper coins anymore because the cost of extraction of gold and silver and copper exceeds the value of the coins.

        The Chinese are mining coal at depths in excess of 600 meters. Their deepest coal mine is 1300 meters. Compared to US coal mining where 60% of our coal is surface mined.

        If the Chinese paid their coal miners $5/hour the amount of ‘economically extractable’ coal in China is ZERO.

        Oh look…the Chinese Coal Miners have formed a union.

        http://www.clb.org.hk/en/node/101127

        guaranteed basic wage of 750 yuan, an additional 22 yuan for each shift and monthly bonuses for long-serving and productive employees

        Let’s do the math…750 yuan basic wage + 22 yaun per shift. So figure 26 shifts a month working a 6 day week = (750 + (22 * 26)) = 1322 yaun a month.(About $210/month).

        A junior worker in a Chinese factory assembling iPads makes 1800 yuan a month.

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2012/02/17/apple-supplier-foxconn-raises-pay-again/

        Steam Coal is a source of energy, wind,hydro and nuclear are all cheaper with coal priced above $4/MMbtu.

        A declining workforce in China is a demographic certainty. With ‘full employment’ Chinese coal mines will have to pay a ‘danger’ premium…just as US coal mines do.

  5. To David Rutledge’s excellent essay, we can add one additional sobering note, namely a prediction from Don Steiner’s 1977 article “Nuclear Fusion: Focus on Tokomak” (IEEE Spectrum 14(7) 32-38, 1977). At the time, Dr. Steiner directed the Fusion Reactor Technology Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 1977, he confidently summarized the technological optimism of his generation by foreseeing:

    US engineers and physicists will team to attempt commercial demonstration [of fusion power] by the year 2000. A central pulsed electric plant [will] be producing 1500-2000 MWe. It is estimated that the facility cost for this entire demonstration program is between $2 and $3 billion (in 1976 dollars), and the entire program, including engineering, contingency, and development, and excluding escalation, would be $10-15 billion, an acceptable price for demonstrating the feasibility of a new energy source.

    Needless to say, Dr. Steiner’s rosy predictions of new energy technologies failed utterly.   :oops:

    We can soberly wonder, what is probability that our planetary civilization is flying into what pilots call the coffin corner in which:

    (1) Engineers like David Rutledge continue to be basically right
       about the sobering limits to carbon energy resources, and

    (2) Climatologists like James Hansen continue to be basically right
       about the sobering implications of AGW, and

    (3) Technology optimists like Don Steiner continue to be basically wrong
       about prospects for new, cheap, safe energy sources.

    Respecting (1), if Rutledge is right, then markets cannot sustainably provide cheap carbon energy. Respecting (2), if Hansen is right, then in the long run (or even the short run) climate-change denial is futile.

    Thus our planet’s best chance of escaping the “coffin corner” is to accelerate the pace, focus the strategies, and retire the risks of developing new energy resources. That is, our planet’s sole good bet is (3).

    Therefore, it is an urgent priority to turn-around the dismal track record of (3). This won’t be easy, especially since the slogan-shouting leaders of the Righteous Right and the Righteous Left have been adept at creating catchy slogans and “gotchas”, yet have been utterly bereft of genuinely creative ideas, effective strategies, and capable leadership.

    • Yes, what makes it interesting is that we can actually predict 1 and 2 based on fundamental science, but we can’t predict 3 because it depends on human ingenuity and creativity.
      Yet, we have no choice but to put effort into the latter because what the first two are telling us.
      Rutledge is giving us a a high probability prediction and Hansen is pointing out a high risk potential. Its a no-brainer to invest in alternative energy strategies and thus kill two birds with one stone.

    • Joy,
      What do you mean by “planet”? Nothing we are doing is going to put planet Earth at risk, even if your apocalyptic clap-trap were to be accurate.
      As to your assumptions, since Malthusian-esque predictions have never been correct, need to defended more before you speak on gloom.
      relying on assumptions that involve Hansen being correct, when reality has shown him to be wrong seems like a losing way to push an idea.
      As to your choice of analogies, since you have failed utterly at aviation based analogies, why would you not move to a different metaphor?

      • Hunter, if you can’t even see the incredible pressures we are putting on the ocean ecosystems, then you are truly wearing some heavily tinted (perhaps complete blackout) glasses. Everywhere you look humans are altering the planet. Welcome to the Anthropocene.

      • R. Gates,
        Do you comprehend the difference between “ocean” and “planet”?
        Do you understand how little we can do to either?
        I would suggest that it is up to the AGW beleivers to choose their terms of apocalypse carefully.
        So far, the AGW community, from phony death threats to ID fraud to hide the decline, to contrived Hockey sticks, to neurotically pretending Hansen has been correct, to boldly contriving a new geological term, to ocean acidification, is simply full of bs: Your AGW house is built on a foundation of lies.
        It is almost easier to repalce the term, “effective communication” when used by the AGW community with the word “lie” to get to the true meaning and intent.
        We could not destroy the Earth if we set off every nuclear weapon in all the arsenals in the world. The thinking that we could destroy this planet by way of raising CO2 to any level we could do so iwth our industry on full throttle is much closer to madness- or deliberate con- than anything to do with science.
        Clean out the lies and liars and get back when you have something to say.

      • “Clean out the lies and liars…” Sadly, these are present in reserve quantities greater than all carbon based fuels combined. In addition, the hunt for new reserves is relentless.

      • Hunter, I well understand the difference between ocean and planet, but unfortunately, many skeptics don’t understand the difference between planet and troposphere. We hear skeptics say, “the planet has been cooling for the past decade”, when in fact, the largest non-tectonic heat reservoir on the planet, the ocean, which is thousands of times bigger in energy storage than the troposphere, has not been cooling over the past decade. Why is it that so-called “skeptics” want to say the “planet has been cooling” over the past decade, when in fact, all they can scientifically and accurately say is the “troposphere has not been warming” over the past decade.” But of course, even then they fail to add the fact that the troposphere has seen the majority of the warmest years on temperature record over the past decade. But even so, their failure to mention the planet’s biggest heat reservoir has been warming over the past decade is a bit distressing.

      • Thn again gatsey – is the von Schuckman ARGO study not good enough? Was the ocean a little warmer? Could this be caused by increased downwelling IR in a non warming atmosphere? Waht cn we make of SW in the CERES data? You are hopeless.

      • > What do you mean by “planet”?

        Tough question.

    • You missed the fourth corner – seque from fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels, e.g., nuclear. If we can transform our transportation fleet to electricity over the next few decades (and it’s likely OPEC will help us do this!), then we will need a reliable source of electricity to replace the increasingly pricey fossil fuels. This seems to drive us toward the “edge” of nuclear and new technologies (and probably much closer to the nuclear corner than the other).

      • John, with regard to the relatively favorable (yet sobering none-the-less) risk/benefit ratio of nuclear power versus carbon-burning, you and James Hansen agree entirely

        Perhaps that is why, on sites like The Oil Drum that David Rutledge commends (and me too), Dr. Hansen’s scientific views are regarded soberly and respectfully.

    • Joy, why not just go fishin? That is what people used to do to get away.

    • David Wojick

      Happily we do not need new, cheap, safe energy sources, because we have lots of existing cheap, safe energy sources. Coal, oil, gas, nuclear fission, plus wind, solar, etc., when and if their time ever comes. Fusion is also on track, with ITER in the works. DOE’s research budget has almost doubled, to about $10 billion a year, half in basic energy research and half in applied. I see no problem here at all. Arm waving about 70 years from now is no basis for additional action.

  6. Prof, Rutledge,
    The Oil Drum is well known as a site that promotes alarmism and hype. Can you please advise how we are to seperate out the good you see from the incorrect ideas? For example The Oil Drum was seriously pushing ideas like the BP well blowout as an undersea volcano that was going to produce a geologically significant event.

    • Hi hunter,

      Thanks for your message. There is doomer porn at the The Oil Drum, but it is 10dB less than in climate. I will echo Web’s comments and say that there is no substitute for studying the data. I know BP is in the doghouse these days, but I am a big fan of the BP Statistical Review.

      Dave

      • Prof. Rutledge,
        Thank you for your kind reply. The problem I have with the certain claims of how we are running out of fossil fuels is that hsitory shows these claims to be wrong. My Grandfather was a young man at the end of WWI when Pres. Wilson started a commission to deal with the imminent end of the oil age. I remeber sitting in a nice meeting with a serious geophysicist from the old Union Oil company, back in the early 1980’s, where he was showing how the oil age was peaking out and it would all be downhill starting in only five years. I grew up reading Ehrlich’s serious predictions.
        All of these predictions were based on sober studies of the best data at the time. Web’s endless doom depends on redfining the terms of his claims on a constant basis. Ehrlich and his gang seem to depend on simply ignoring their track record and reality, while simply repeating themselves.
        I would suggest that all of these claims of imminenet disaster are based on a GIGO factor and humanity’s demonstrated endless appetite for scary stories. Instead of looking at the data presented on the assumption that is finally credible, I would spend time asking why should the data being used to support the claims be considered credible at all.

  7. I agree this is an excellent article, but, IMHO, it is spoilt by reference to the IPCC and the AR5, as if this next report is going to be anything different from the previous four. These IPCC reports have been examined in detail by people who have as much, if not more, scientific expertise as the authors, and have been found to be scientificly wanting. There is no sound science, or reliable observed data, to show that adding CO2 to the atmosphere from current levels affects climate in a discernable way. It is a shame to spoil a really good article in this way.

    Two other points. Herman Kahn, of the Hudson Institute remarked that “Nothing would be more surprising that nothing surprising is going to happen”. Very recently, and since this article was prepared, DOE has announced a possible breakthrough in “mining” methane cathrates from the sea floor. If such technology could be made to work, then our reserves of available hydrocarbons may have been increased by a factor of 1000 or so.

    The other point I wouild like to add is that the problem with renewables is storage. The only viable way of storing energy for moving vehicles is the chemical energy of, mainly, carbon based compounds burned with oxygen from the air. Maybe the most promising way for renewables will be our ability the recycle CO2 in a similar way to what Mother Nature now does, or make use of products produced by Mother Nature that we do not require for food. Until electric storage techniques, other than pumped storage, capable of storing gigawatt/weeks of energy are available, this may be the only hope for renewables.

    • “Until electric storage techniques, other than pumped storage, capable of storing gigawatt/weeks of energy are available, this may be the only hope for renewables.” Per an NPR interview I heard yesterday, Exxon shares your thought, at least in general terms. They have an excellent group of forecasters that help them formulate ongoing, strategic direction. Their single point of caution for all their predictions is that a significant change in energy storage technology is a complete wild card. They don’t see this as imminent and likely, but they do recognize that if and when it happens, their department will be working over time to reposition Exxon accordingly.

  8. David Rutledge
    Thanks for addressing fossil resource/climate issues and laying out the major issues re constrained resources vs IPCC’s “projections”.
    Some thoughts.

    Re: “a national policy to reduce fossil-fuel consumption . . . will have little climate impact,”
    This presumes mitigating climate impact is a desirable goal.
    Benefits: The coal and oil (that cause angst to some) were laid down under conditions of high CO2 that were very highly productive of biomass. With growing global populations, we urgently need all the agricultural productivity possible. So why not promote restoring the CO2 to the atomosphere to benefit agriculture and growing food?
    Costs: “The heavy cost of a non-problem, Lord Monckton shows that 1/3 of global GDP ($180 trillion) would be required to abate the IPCC’s predicted 0.3 deg F warming by 2020. That appears to give negligible benefits for extremely high costs.
    Contrast almost half the world – over 3 billion people – live on less than $2.50/day. Economic development to alleviate poverty has a far higher goal than controlling climate. That same $180 trillion could benefit $60,000/person now living below $2.50/day, i.e., equivalent to $10/person/day or four times current income.

    Climate mitigation is the greatest black hole every created in which to bury money. It unconsciencably robs the poor of access to capital desperately needed to break out of poverty. The money diverted to mitigation would provide massive benefits in raising 3 billion people out of poverty by giving them four times their income for a decade. E.g. through grants and micro-loans.

    Economic development rides on the availability of cheap energy. Patzek shows that the USA grew 9%/year for 60 years to 1940, and then 3%/year for another 60 years from 1945-2005. China is now on a similar track and India, Brazil etc are eager to follow.

    Re: “high oil prices have enabled production from the Canadian tar sands, and Canadian oil reserves are now 3rd largest in the world . . . oil and gas are relatively easy to produce—. . . On the other hand, coal is a rock . . .”

    In winter, bitumen or “tar sands” have the consistency of a Canadian hockey puck. Bitumen does NOT easily “flow”. Bitumen was only relabeled “oil sands” for political expediency. It takes about 3 barrels of water turned to steam at 300 C to heat the “oil sands” sufficiently to recover about 30-40% of the bitumen in place. Then about a third of the carbon has to be removed to reduce the viscosity and make “syncrude”. The capital costs for that are of the order of $100,000/bbl/day production capacity.

    Note that last November, Canada quietly DOUBLED its “oil sands” resources to 343 billion bbls.

    Canada has abundant resources of crude oil, with an estimated remaining ultimate potential of 54.5 billion cubic metres (343 billion barrels). Of this, oil sands bitumen accounts for 90 per cent and conventional crude oil makes up 10 per cent.

    Canada’s Energy Future, ENERGY SUPPLY AND DEMAND PROJECTIONS TO 2035, p 16. I.e. it changed the average recovery estimate from 10% to 20%.

    Each type of hydrocarbon shows a Hubbert type depletion curve for each region and technology/cost regime. While “oil” vs “coal” is helpful, I expect readers will find it more enlightening to distinguish resources using multi-hubbert models to compare overall trends. I.e. separately show the Hubbert linearization for each of light oil, heavy oil, bitumen, kerogen, and coal. See Tad Patzek, Exponential growth, Hubbert cycles, and the advancement of technology May 17, 2008 Fig 13.
    A global coal forcast with multi-cycle Hubbert analysis. Tadeusz W. Patzek & Gregory D. Croft, doi:10.1016/j.energy.2010.02.009

    ( Note: To replace US imports of 10 million bbl/day would cost ~$1 trillion in capital. That is about 3 years worth of US balance of payments loss from currently importing “oil”. From a national security point of view, it would be far better to invest that amount in the USA and Canada and provide all the pipelines needed than in Venezuela and OPEC.)

    Re: “the renewables business . . . will be dependent on subsidies and renewables targets, in other words, on other people’s money”
    That is only true when renewables are more expensive. Once renewables are made cheaper than fossil fuels the game changes!
    Capital is the major cost for renewables, which are driven by interest rates. The USA is being drained at 10 million bbl/day (3.7 billion bbl/year) or ~$370 billion /year at $100/bbl. The FED is trying to boost the economy by giving banks ultra low interest rates. If the zero interest rates were given to directly to a national fund to drive both renewable FUELS and electricity cheaper than fossil sources, that would strongly accelerate making solar fuels and electricity cheaper than fossil sources.

    • All well argued, especially the multiple Hubbert graphs for each significant type of hydrocarbon fuel.

      However, the Hubbert graphs are poor estimators, quite pessimistic, of full life energy use. They are the basis for each and every claim of “Peak Oil” since the mid 50’s, while only a few of them have proved true. In fact, the one Peak Oil that Hubbert got right – peak US Oil Production – is in jeopardy of being eclipsed thanks to horizontal drilling and fracking.

      Figure 5 above is absurdly pessimistic. Just look at it: From the low indigo, using the longer time frame, to the high red, using only the latest shortest time, it is clear, that the projected ultimate recoverable has been increasing steadily. The Figure 5 Hubbert curve is less likely to be a linear extrapolation than it is to be hyperbolic, asymptotically approaching Y=0 in the far distant future. The author addresses the differences between reserves and resources, as he should, but then discards the resources base of the pyramid to plot his “cum prod + reserves” on Fig. 5. It’s a mind game! The cum prod + reserves + known contingent resources is well off the right margin of the chart.

      Indeed, we will NEVER run out of oil and gas. Oh, we’ll run out of $100/bbl oil. We’ve already run out of $30/bbl oil. Someday, we’ll run out of $200/bbl oil. Someday, the volume peak of oil use will be clearly behind us and we’ll continue to adjust to the changes. We’ll run out of oil at a price we’d LIKE to pay. We’ll have gas lines return if price controls return. But we’ll always be pulling oil and gas from harder, more expensive places.

      Someday in the distant future, we might get to the point that exploring, developing and producing a bbl of oil consumes more energy than we get from the bbl. When that happens, we may still extract petroleum for its chemical properties, not its energy content. — Or as a means of transforming fixed facility based energy into transportable energy.

      • What is in jeopardy of being eclipsed?

        Horizontal drilling and fracking is extracting residue in places like the Bakken. The recoverable volume does not appear to be there. Historically, it has been large and supergiant conventional reservoirs that allowed massive production rates, not small stripper-like wells that only last a few years.

        The kerogen of the oil shale out west would classify as a different kind of fuel and so would start a new Hubbert peak profile. Lots of energy will be needed to process that.

        Hubbert modeled the lower 48 and not the Gulf and Alaska. These are volume geometric arguments that go into probability models such as dispersive discovery. The finite nature is reflected in the finite volume considered. When the capture volume is increased, of course the ultimate cumulate production is increased with the end result being a fatter tail than originally predicted.

      • “not small stripper-like wells that only last a few years”

        Do you have to make stuff up?

        Bakken doubled production over the last two years with about 10% more wells.

      • The people who actually run / work in the oil business expect the price of oil to come down over the next couple of years.

      • @WHT

        Fracking doesn’t extract “residue”. It’s more like “PREsidue” It is moveable hydrocarbons that never got expulsed and migrated from the source rocks into the conventional reservoir rocks as conventional oil and gas fields.

        Fracking and horizontal drilling is BIG. When Drake drilled his oil well in Pennsylvania in 1850, it was big compared to whale oil. But Drake found oil in a strat trap associated with surface seeps. A few years later and anticlinal theory of traps made for Big Oil. Salt Domes – Bigger. East Texas and Reginal strat traps, Big!. Offshore – Big. Subsalt? Donno how big, but certainly expensive. Fracking might be bigger than all the rest put together. Fracking and Horizontal drilling is how we turn that worthless hunk of rock (resource) into contingent and proven reserves.

        “Oil is found in the minds of men.” Wallace Pratt (1885-1981)

  9. 40 years ago the doom and gloom cult insisted there was only around 450 billion barrels of oil. Since then the world has consumed 1.2 trillion barrels and there is a similar amount in reserves.

    If the current doom and gloom cult (OilDumb.com) says we are running out …. we are just fine.

    • Is that why US 48 States oil production peaked in 1970 and has since dropped by 56%, while US oil imports grew to exceed total 1970 production? And that is obviously sustainable?

      • Why do world oil reserves keep climbing?

      • Because of using SEC rules for “reserves” being immediately around drilled wells, rather than backdating to the discovery of the whole field of which every geologist can make a good estimate that improves with time.
        See Jean Laherrere Backdating is the key. 2009.

      • Correct Answer: They keep finding more and China chose coal over oil as its main fuel.

      • “Correct Answer: They keep finding more and China chose coal over oil as its main fuel.”

        Caught a typo. “They keep finding less” instead of “more”. Global discoveries peaked around 1961. This means volumetrically more oil was discovered in that time span than any other equal time span in history.

        This search behavior can be proven for any finitely bound volume where the goal is to find all the elements of a specific type within that volume. If one adds a stochastic element to represent dispersion in search, this proof turns into the empirically observed dispersive discovery model. Since it is stochastic, the agreement improves as more and more data gets collected.

        This is a beautiful model that happens to precisely match the Hubbert peak heuristic of a cumulative Logistic S-curve for a specific accelerating search function.

  10. Firstly, thanks to Dr Rutledge for this post and the link to his paper, where he and his colleagues have done some heavy lifting to pull a lot of data together. I was pleased to see also that his projection that we would need to have some serious alternatives to coal by around 2070 was appropriately qualified – including by admitting that he has excluded large reserves which are locked up in national parks or are geographically and technologically inaccessible at present – not to mention potential undiscovered reserves.

    A quick and dirty, but useful, snapshot of major world coal production, consumption and export figures is here:

    http://www.australiancoal.com.au/coal-around-the-world.html

    Given the paranoia about energy self-sufficiency in the US, the figures show that the discussion is really about oil, not energy, as the US is a net exporter of coal, and has by far the biggest proven coal reserves in the world (on current information). Nobody, or their grandchildren, is in danger of freezing to death because of external factors. And, since gas can do pretty much everything coal can in terms of supplying energy, the prospects are in fact extremely sound for at least the next couple of generations, even if the fossil vs the rest mix (excluding oil) doesn’t change at all in our lifetimes. This applies to the vast majority of the planet, particularly when likely improvements in extraction techniques for coal and gas are factored in. Developments in nuclear power are an additional safety net.

    So really the only potential problem is oil in the short to medium term, which is a much more manageable problem than amorphous scaremongering about ‘energy self sufficiency’ suggests.

    Being an Australian, I know a lot more about coal than I do about oil, so will leave that topic to others. But, it is good to have the red herring that we are going to run out of energy to keep warm/cool and run our factories and businesses out of the way. It ain’t going to happen in a timeframe that we need to worry about.

  11. David,

    I too am a CA resident (PG&E’s service territory). I came across a PG&E presentation noting their generation sources overtime. PG&E’s plan to meet the 20 and 33% RE standard is based on adding in a lot of utility scale PV installations. The projected generation sources over the next few years is noted in the web link. The presentation also covers the sectors of our economy that generate the CO2 load. As you would expect electrical generation and ultimately usage is not at the top of the list.

    http://xynteo.com/uploads/HelenBurt.pdf

    The 33%RES mandate includes the public utilities so some new players will be able to provide their input on the validity of a few of the assumptions build in the metrics used by policy makers. I see this as a good thing. A director of SMUD’s board is on record as preferring if policy makers would refrain from selecting various programs to reduce CO2 loads vs. giving them a target and letting them figure out the best way to meet it. Palo Alto’s public utility district has questioned the validity of the energy efficiency cost/benefit value used in the macro economic models- as the law of diminishing returns has been hit for many of their customers………

    • krakatoa,

      Thank you for the link to Helen Burk slides. I had not seen them and they are fascinating. It appears that PGE expects to get 25 times as much electricity from solar in 2015 as it did in 2010. Sure …

      Dave

      • Dave,

        The output (kwh’s) from many of the large utility scale PV facilities that you have seen in the news of late is headed to PG&E via 20 to 25 year, must take, PPA’s. I can get you a few specifics if you like. I don’t think the 9400 kwh I generate from my little PV system a year are counted in the total.

        You can imagine why a CPUC board member would say the following in regards to the RPS strategy we FORCED upon PG&E- “It just worries me that if we sign too many of these contracts, it’s going to make the program look bad just when it’s being successful,” and “Mike Florio, however, voted against the agreement. He said the possibility of steep electricity rate hikes triggered by renewable contracts keeps him awake at night.” from this source-

        http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/23/MNLV1M1CET.DTL&ao=2#ixzz1elvov450

      • I don’t think the 9400 kwh I generate from my little PV system a year are counted in the total.

        Unless your system is off the grid why would PG&E not count it? Your system makes you a component of theirs that shows up on their books for accounting purposes.

        What latitude are you at? We’re at 37 N and our 7.5 kW system has been generating 13200 kWh a year. If you were at the same latitude and same capacity factor as us the size of your system would have to be 9400/13200*7.5 = 5.34 kW. So 5 kW and a slightly higher capacity factor by being well south of Palo Alto would make sense. But latitude is not the only variable.

      • But if you’re inland and near Sacramento that would be consistent with a 5 kW system too.

      • Vaughan,

        Your right on the money as far as the location of our place- “inland and near Sacramento”. Our 6.12 Kw (sts DC rated) system was graded out by the CEC (back in 2006) as a 5.22 Kw AC rated system that would produce 9380 kwh per year. For the last six years we have beat that value/estimate 4 times and been as low as 8800 kwh one year (our 2010 to 2011 True up period actually as it was a very cloudy and wet year for us up in the foothills of the Sierra that year). Our Latitude is 38.7 degrees and our Longitude is -120.7 degrees. Our output is benefited by being at an elevation of 2380 feet (no winter fog) and we happen to get a nice light breeze in the afternoons as long as a high pressure ridge isn’t sitting overhead. My panels have lead free soldering ,which makes them a bit more sensitive to heat, so the breeze is important for dissipating the heat under our panels.

        Your system is fairly large. I specified our system to meet 55 to 60% of our yearly electrical demand, while eliminating our peak energy usage from the grid at peak hours. So far so good as far as the system meeting both of these requirements. It sounds like your demand for electrical energy must be a lot larger then ours.

        We haven’t used any grid energy at peak times during the summer months since we put our system in. We send about 1400 kwh to the grid at peak times (as measured by our PG&E E-7 Net meter) at peak times. During the latest round of Flex Alerts (requested by PG&E and CASIO to address a potential system wide generation shortage of capacity to meet expected demand) our system meet all our demand and we sent 5 kwh (on average) to the grid each day of the request for a demand response by PG&E and CASIO.

        I am not sure of the specific rational as to why the output of our PV isn’t counted towards the RE targets. I understand there is a bit of a concern by those who set up the rules about system wide benefits (which is how the utility scale PV facilities are classified) vs. behind the meter benefits. The rational doesn’t seem appropriate to me. At a minimum PG&E should get credit for the kwh my system sends to the grid at peak times. I haven’t looked into the details of how the kwh accounting works for leased residential systems, but it is likely that the third party owners of the systems are getting REC’s for the total output of the systems.

    • Rob Starkey

      It will be interesting to see how well the cost estimates made today of wind and solar generated power compare to the actual observed costs 5 years from now. Sadly, I predict that the actual costs of power generated from these sources will be much more expensive than expected when maintenance is included.

  12. kakatoa, What is the cost per household, for the utility to hook up each new provider? If the cost is to be split, how does this work? Also is there a longer term maintanance cost to the district in manpower? Would this in turn help push up energy costs or is there a tax advantage from the IRS? You have a good understanding of this segment of our economy, thank you for your answers to these questions.

    • Tom,

      No such luck- I don’t have specifics that would allow me to answer your questions.

      If you are interested in how water and sewer infrastructure costs can/could/should/are allocated I can provide you a few specifics. I can get slightly dated specifics on what the hook up costs are for a single family home for PG&E as my brother in law built a home on the families homestead near Ione a few years ago.

      Sorry for not being able to answer anything specific.

      • Today, lots of questions don’t seem to have the answers when we all should be asking them. Thank you kakatoa, for your help in the other areas though.

      • Tom,
        I did my best at the end of the tread to answer a couple of your questions.
        k

  13. Germany’s Fritz Vahrenholt, who is a renewable energy producer, believes Germany’s headlong rush towards renewables is a huge error.

    http://www.europeanenergyreview.eu/site/pagina.php?id_mailing=272&toegang=7a614fd06c325499f1680b9896beedeb&id=3681

  14. The Left seems totally invested in doing whatever it can to prevent prosperity in America even if it means destroying capitalism and abandoning any desire to uplift humanity anywhere.

    The productive are fast approaching a point of no return. That is when the physical strength of society has been sapped to such an extent that a generation finally is born that glorifies in production of inactivity and the rest of humanity simply cannot afford it; and, that’s when the Greece hits the Spain and California goes BK.

    • Kent Draper

      We are repeating what happened quite a while ago on this continent. This is how it transpired. First there was a forsaking of a moral life, and sliding into immorality; then came the extortion and oppression of the poor by the rich; then retaliation and reprisal by the poor against the rich; then came a cry to share the wealth which should belong to all; then the easy belief that society owed every man a living whether he worked or not; then the keeping of a great body of idlers; then when community revenues failed to do this, as they always have failed and always will fail, a self-helping by one to the goods of his neighbor; and finally when the neighbor resisted, as resist he must, or starve with his family, then death to the neighbor and all that belonged to him.
      We are very close to this globally. Need to turn some things around.

      • In a nutshell we have indulged the practice of a nutcase ideology in the public-funded schools for so long that we now have a secular, socialist fraternity of anti-American captains of society who are steering the ship Moby Nihilism into the path of every neurosis known to man. The Left refuses to believe that socialism has already been tried enough. So, for the Left the course for liberal Utopia is clear (and we all should know by now where it ends): culture-wide mental fatigue, self-defeatism, misery, poverty, despair and death.

  15. I work for the 2nd largest utility owner of wind generation in the US. A major reason it has been profitable for us is the ability to sell renewable generation credits to California.

  16. David Rutledge

    A very well written article.

    A pleasure to read.

    Thank you.

  17. David

    Small hydro is no longer favored and it shows.

    Why not?

    • It is a mystery. The technology is inexpensive (per watt/time) and the environmental impact is quite manageable if you assume you do not harvest every available watt from a given source.

      • jbmckim
        Water catchments have about a parabolic distribution. For every halving in catchment size, there are about twice as many catchments – resulting in about the same recoverable energy in each doubling range.

    • Probably an aversion to economic growth.
      Hydro power is one of the cheapest energy sources and was always a major driver of commercial advantage and economic growth.

    • In BC, small hydro required large subsidies as far as I know. It isn’t cheap.

      Big hydro usually is a much better investment.

      • Our local water/energy outfit is building a small hydro station to pump water into a reservoir – but they are only doing it to fulfil a mandated renewable energy target. Apparently it has the theoretical capacity to power 600 homes, so that’s one definition of ‘small hydro’.

        I have heard there is a sort of ‘micro hydro’ where people harness the local stream to power their house, but don’t know much about it. On the face of it, though, it isn’t a practical solution for more than a tiny number of households.

      • I have heard there is a sort of ‘micro hydro’ where people harness the local stream to power their house, but don’t know much about it.

        Matadero Creek runs through our property, but Santa Clara County’s Riparian Protection Ordinance has designated it as a riparian habitat off limits to tapping into its resources, including extracting any energy from its flow.

        Which incidentally varies by a factor of at least a hundred if not a thousand between February rains and August drought. The rainy season was strong enough one year to wash away our 20-ton-capacity bridge over the creek, while there’s barely a trickle in dry seasons.

        So that’s two impracticalities right there even for people with creeks running through their property.

      • If they are pumping water into a reservoir it sounds like a pump storage operation, which actually consumes energy, so should not count as a renewable. Typically one buys cheap electricity at night and runs the pumps, then generates and sells expensive electricity during the day. But the electricity produced is significantly less than that consumed, as both pumping and generation involve energy loses.

    • Kent Draper

      How big is “small hydro” ?

    • Girma;

      Out here in the foothills of CA most of the easy to do small hydro projects have been completed. A few organizations have been evaluating adding in more small hydro- one report is noted here
      Final El Dorado County

      Hydroelectric Development Options Study

      http://www.eid.org/doc_lib/02_dist_info/Final_EDCHydro_07-24-2009.pdf

      The return on investment for most of the projects noted in the report is a bit to long for any cash strapped public water purveyor to consider. We have a few rivers that are still free flowing and the current preference by many advocates is to keep them that way- hence it’s near to impossible to add in new small hydro.

      On the other hand SMUD has been working on a new Pumped storage location AND a new small hydro facility that just so happens to be fairly close to my home-

      https://www.smud.org/en/about-smud/news-media/news-releases/2011-09-12.htm

      “The New Slab Creek Powerhouse project would be awarded nearly $1.5 million under DOE’s Sustainable Small Hydropower program. SMUD is currently in the final stages of relicensing its 688-megawatt (MW) Upper American River Project (UARP).”….”The new 5-MW powerhouse will provide approximately 15 gigawatt hours of renewable energy for California.”

      “Grants were awarded based on their ability to contribute to the development of innovative technologies that produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs and increase sustainable hydropower generation.
      Both projects advance innovation in a traditional carbon-free resource. The pumped storage project has the additional benefit of increasing electric reliability during peak energy use times and also integrating additional renewable resources such as wind and solar into the SMUD electrical system.”

      • Kent Draper

        Much is political. The Auburn dam project could have been finished by now. Other than nuclear, I can’t think of a more efficient means of power. Once the dam is built, other than upkeep, the power is free. Anybody with water running thru their place could build and pond and as long as you had a 40+ foot drop from the pond you could be self sufficient.

      • Let the rivers run unvexed to the sea. Enough dams and loss of habitat for the salmon and other riverine creatures. Best thing in CA now is tearing down the dams on the Klamath, The Elwa river dams in Wash State in the Olympia national park are also coming down. Little hydro power can justify the loss of this prime habitat. Back, to energy, nuclear power will work great where they build it in the southeast. We shall see what Japan does but remember, 16,000 people killed by the earthquaqe and tsunami, 12,000 swept out to sea and presumed dead. Three got a dose from the reactors that will increase the risk of lifetime cancer from 21.1% to something like 21.15%. 100 years is a long time in science and technology. The petroleum era will be pretty much done and coal will be left in the ground. No more big emissions of nitric and sulfer oxides, mercury or radon from the big power plants. Slag heaps will be remediated and the open pit mines and tops of mountains will start to be restored. The big impacts will come from electric or fuel cell cars that will reduce air pollution in the urban and downwind areas. Electricity can be generated by advanced reactors, 20% wind, geothermal, advanced solar and fusion is on the way. I know the last will bring some laughs but lots of progress in magnetic and laser fusion. Everyone keeps promising 50 years but it in 100 it will be here. Lots of work for scientists and engineers. Lots of nature to restore and let heal.

      • Scott,

        I am convinced that no matter how many times you remind people that there were zero deaths from Fukashima and 20 – 30 thousand from the tsunami, we will be hearing far more about the disaster of the former than the latter.

        Pretty discusting when you stop to think about it. tens of thousands of souls reduced to an afterthought.

      • Kent Draper

        You could let the rivers run unvexed if there were no folks around. That’s not the case. People live on this earth and have dominion and stewardship over it. Dams are not there only for power. They also control the irrigation for almost all of California. They save lives and allow farmers to feed millions. They also are a MUST to control flooding. Now if you want to delete all the folks and forget about progress, then it’s doable.
        The simple fact is that if you don’t use the natural resources, some one else will. They WILL take it from you. It won’t matter how noble your cause. I like nuclear also. I like all energy. I don’t know how old you are but we are cleaning up the air. It’s lots better and getting better all the time.

  18. Rob Starkey

    I am less impressed with the content of much of the post than many of the readers here seem to be.

    The post begins with a generally unproven belief–“start with the notion that the response of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has slow components that will dominate over time, like the exchange with the deep ocean and weathering of rocks.” and “A better approximation of the lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 for public discussion might be 300 years, plus 25% that lasts forever.”

    Science does not know how long CO2 will stay in the environment. What actually exists seems to be unproven models and hypothesis, but little more.

    The post stated that “a national policy to reduce fossil-fuel consumption, like mileage standards for cars, will have little climate impact if it does not change world consumption in the long run.” In fact the national policies to increase mileage standards for cars has decreased worldwide per capita consumption since powering personal transportation is the largest user of fossil fuels the worldwide increase in usage has been slower than it would have been without the mileage standards.

    I agree fully that there is virtually zero probability that the US or the EU will lower their CO2 emissions by 80%. I do not see any reason why that is necessary. It is obvious that most developing countries rate of increased emissions will not lessen. Worldwide CO2 levels will increase for decades at a minimum.

    The issue addressed by Rutledge on fossil fuel resources being depleted is clearly an issue that the timing of is subject to great debate. The variables will be the discovery of currently unknown reserves and the discovery of practical technology that will make the use of fossil fuels economically unwise. Neither of these variables can be quantified at this time reliably.

    • RE “Science does not know how long CO2 will stay in the environment.”

      When I started seeing claims about hundreds of years I dug up my Atmospheric Physics textbook. I don’t know how much more has been discovered on the topic in the last 16 or so years, but the estimated number back then for retention time of a molecule of CO2 was 6 years.

      • Rob Starkey

        And if you reviewed the details of that 6 year estimate you would find it was also based on several unproven assumptions. In reading through comments I am suprised how few picked up on this.

      • andrew adams

        There is a difference between the lifetime in the atmosphere for a single molecule, which is, as you say, just a matter of years due to the exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere, the biosphere and the oceans, and the overall lifetime in the atmosphere of excess levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is what the post was referring to. You are comparing apples and oranges.

      • Rob Starkey

        As there is a difference between knowing and providing an unproven theory

      • It is a rookie mistake made by someone that does not fundamentally understand how diffusion works. Someone must have mistaken a diffusive transient for an exponentially damped half-life to suggest that 6 years was a half-life of CO2 molecules.

        Anyone that has ever verified diffusion models will observe fast transients, but they quickly learn that this behavior masks a slow process lurking underneath.

        Like Prof. Rutledge, I am educated as a device guy and got my PhD in E.E. We see this kind of behavior all the time and I am not surprised that climate scientists like David Archer model it this way as well, since it is a fundamental behavior of diffusive physical processes.

        We can’t help the fact that a few people (such as T. Segalstad) are propagating the meme that 6 years is the half-life of CO2, but anyone that knows anything about physics realizes what hokum that is. Could it just be because Segalstad is a mere geologist that (through no fault of his own) this part of his academic training went missing? He just grabbed on to some cheap heuristic, such as “transients have exponentially damped responses”, and ran with it. Might as well just make up any kind of junk while they are at it. Who knows what these guys believe? That’s why they tend to be dismissed.

        Diffusional processes are not unproven theories as they are part of modeling the second law of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in general. OTOH, the junk that Segalstad promotes is useless and counterproductive to advancing our knowledge of how the climate system works.

      • andrew adams

        What makes you think it’s an unproven theory?

      • All of the estimates for residence time of CO2
        are about that 6 year time frame.

        A master equation simply describes the time evolution of a system. In this particular system the parameters inlude anthropogenic emissions whose evolution depends on a large number of factors and emissions from oceans and land that are variable with temperature, an order of magnitude greater than anthropogenic emission and not known within limits of more than 20%. Sequestration varies also with carbonic acid in rainwater. The total carbon stores and how these change are not well understood.

        Archer’s computer model incudes far more than a simple diffusion factor in a so called master equation – but even so the uncertainties surrounding these estimates are considerable.

        ‘For CO2 the specification of an atmospheric lifetime is complicated by the numerous removal processes involved, which necessitate complex modeling of the decay curve. Because the decay curve depends on the model used and the assumptions incorporated therein, it is difficult to specify an exact atmospheric lifetime for CO2.’ http://cdiac.ornl.gov/pns/current_ghg.html

    • “Science does not know how long CO2 will stay in the environment. What actually exists seems to be unproven models and hypothesis, but little more.”

      The questioning of the master equation of physics is frankly astonishing. You can not just assert that the master equation is unproven, because it is used all the time in solving every kind of physics problem imaginable. The most naive application of the master equation will show a fat tail response time due to a diffusive trajectory of particles to their final states.

      So this guy either doesn’t trust the master equation, or the guy believes that atmospheric CO2 is a readily condensing gas, which is also astonishing in its naivete.

    • Hurray! Someone has finally raised the question of how long CO2 does stay in the atmosphere, a moment in the essay that raised my eyes. If there is a convincing case for any length of time, I’d like to be told of it.

      • andrew adams

        Well for a start the fact that the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are rising at the observed rate surely gives us a clue.

      • Rob Starkey

        As I understand the situation:

        We have very rough approximations of human CO2 emissions around the world and pretty good data on the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere over time.

        Science can not reasonably determine the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere that is due to humans over time.

        Science does not have even reasonably good information on changes over time in non human emissions or absorption rates.

        We know CO2 levels are going up, we know humans are emitting a lot of CO2. Peopleoften seem to claim they know more about the system than they do.

  19. MattStat/MatthewRMarler

    Good Review. Many thanks.

    For people in the renewables business, what are the implications of a 60-year time frame for reaching 90% of the eventual long-term production?

    Well, if solar continues to increase @ 10% per year and decrease in price @ 10% per year, then in 60 years there will be 300+ times as much solar power installed as now, and it will cost less than 1% of what it does now. Recent rates of installation increase for solar, and recent declines have been greater than these values, but no one knows how long recent rates can be sustained. Nevertheless, with consistent investments of labor, inventiveness, and capital, there can be a lot of solar power in place when the gas runs out.

    This review portrays a productive future for biofuels without further impacts on the food supplies: http://www.biofueldaily.com/reports/Better_plants_for_biofuels_999.html. We’ll know better 20 years from now, but there will be lots of biofuels available when oil runs out — again dependent on continued investments of labor, capital, and inventiveness. That review does not consider growing salt-tolerant varieties on land that is now desert, so I think it is an underestimate, but we’ll know much more in 20 years.

    Pending continued investments of labor, capital and inventiveness, similar scenarios can be constructed for wind and nuclear, based on realistic assessments of recent progress.

    Our biggest political problem, as far as I can guess at such stuff, is that such a large percent of the people who worry about this problem are more concerned with other goals than expanding alternative energy supplies: the CO2 worriers, for example, who are more concerned with reducing the human footprint and less willing to cooperate on actually building the technology of the future with the technology of today.

    In response to the author’s comments about California, I see trends in California persisting in a dreadful energy-poor direction with continuing reduction in per capita wealth; California can not achieve its mandated renewable portfolio standard without a continued reduction in manufacturing and other economic activity. While some people may be complacent (I do not know of anyone who is), California is sacrificing an achievable long-term goal to an unachievable short-term goal.

    • “Well, if solar continues to increase @ 10% per year and decrease in price @ 10% per year, then in 60 years there will be 300+ times as much solar power installed as now, and it will cost less than 1% of what it does now. Recent rates of installation increase for solar, and recent declines have been greater than these values, but no one knows how long recent rates can be sustained. Nevertheless, with consistent investments of labor, inventiveness, and capital, there can be a lot of solar power in place when the gas runs out.”

      Sorry, I couldn’t let that go past. Firstly, neither the post nor the paper says that gas will run out in 60 years – in fact, the author doesn’t even purport to know how much extractable gas there is. He says in his paper that in about 60 years, all other things being equal, it may be necessary to find replacements for about 60% of coal powered generation, which is a very different thing. Even since that paper was published in 2010, the landscape has changed dramatically with regard to gas, which is almost perfectly substitutable for coal.

      Secondly, the cost of installing and maintaining solar units is never going to fall to 1% of what it is now, unless you believe that construction industry costs are going to fall by that much. The cost of components has dropped a lot but will never be 1% of what it is now, unless the breakthrough I have been hearing about for more than forty years suddenly appears. The costs of managing variable inputs into the grid from solar units needs to be factored in as well. Finally, recent uptake has been driven by subsidies which are unsustainable in the real meaning of the word.

      In terms of delivering cheap, reliable 24/7/365 power, solar is way behind coal and gas and there is no reason to believe that the fundamental reasons for that are going to vanish anytime soon – it’s possible, but not very likely, and certainly not predictable.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        johanna: Firstly, neither the post nor the paper says that gas will run out in 60 years

        I agree. If gas runs out, there will be a lot of solar power available to replace it, and it will be much cheaper than it is now. Whether the price of solar power will decrease as much as the price of hard disk data storage and long distance data transmission can’t be predicted. At some point PV power prices will be held up by bidding, rather than costs of production. PV power from large scale installations costs a little under $0.10 per kwh now. It does not really matter much how far below $0.02 it goes, or exactly when it gets there.

        In terms of delivering cheap, reliable 24/7/365 power, solar is way behind coal and gas and there is no reason to believe that the fundamental reasons for that are going to vanish anytime soon – it’s possible, but not very likely, and certainly not predictable.

        1. I was not writing about “anytime soon.”

        2. In large parts of the world (parts of rural India and rural Africa), solar power is already more reliable than power from coal and gas.

        3. If some time in the future coal and oil are in short supply, or gone, the semi-regularity of solar power will be a small problem.

        So, what do you think the alternative energy supplies of 70 years from now will be like? Or 20 years?

      • You may be writing about sometime soon.

        Combining http://www.cyriumtechnologies.com/ with http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2012/ee/c2ee21136j could achieve 56% efficiency for CPV, which brings us down to below the cost of coal.. and for a product you don’t have to transport from some remote source to use, don’t need to store more than a few days, don’t have to be worried about the emissions of, and you can put anywhere – on rooftops, in empty deserts, on barges – the sun shines, and get dual use out of the space beneath for something else.

        Just imagine all the remote rural roads you don’t need to build now in some far away mountainous region.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Bart R: You may be writing about sometime soon.

        Maybe so. Getting from the lab to mass production, and then reducing the production costs, takes a few years. Not everything survives the process.

      • Indeed

        Even for bona fide business ventures with solidly proven technologies, only about one in five survives five years.

        And even for established businesses, new product lines even with proven technologies scarcely rise above 5% success rates.

        Given the hostile climate alternate energy is attempting to break into, with deadweight loss subsidy of fossils and impatient investment and political stakeholders driven more by ideology than brains, it’s a miracle they even still allow the Tea Party to burn books.

      • Andrew Russell

        “it’s a miracle they even still allow the Tea Party to burn books.”

        What a hate-filled, ignorant bigot you are.

    • Rob Starkey

      People keep projecting that- “at sometime in the near future, solar will be”

      I say that may or may not be true. What we know is true is that if something works cost effectively it will be widely adopted and if it is not cost effective it will not be widely adopted. This is a very simple and basically inarguable concept.

      Unfortunately, there is no economically sound alternative to fossil fuels for the great percentage of energy uses today. If there was, it would be widely adopted.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Rob Starkey: Unfortunately, there is no economically sound alternative to fossil fuels for the great percentage of energy uses today.

        I don’t dispute that. In some places for some uses, PV power is economically attractive; sunny rural places in India, for example, where coal and fuel deliveries are unreliable; southern California for A/C during peak insolation.

        What is your expectation for renewable energy supplies in the next 5 – 20 years?

      • Rob Starkey

        “What is your expectation for renewable energy supplies in the next 5 – 20 years?”

        Based on what I know today, I do not see renewable energy being generally deployed as a primary means of energy production in the timeframe your reference.

        In the next 20 years, I believe electric and hybrid cars may become the primary design as battery and capacitor technology advances. It seems very possible that advances in battery technology combined with continuing advances in PV technology will see much greater deployment in homes near the 20 year timeframe.

        There may be an opportunity to purchase existing wind farms that have gone bankrupt due to the high maintenance costs and retrofit the machinery that has had low reliability with better designed equipment.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Rob Starkey: Based on what I know today, I do not see renewable energy being generally deployed as a primary means of energy production in the timeframe your reference.

        With that I don’t disagree, though there is some flexibility in the phrases “generally deployed” and “primary means”.

        Here are two things that I expect to occur within the next 5 years in the U.S.

        1. There will be a PV fabrication facility powered 100% by PV panels.

        2. The net cost of electricity from PV panels will fall to under $0.02/kwh, over their lifetime, in 2012 dollars.

        I do not know whether IBM will be successful in developing their aerated lithium battery.

        If my 1 and 2 actually happen, and if the IBM aerated battery project is successful (or one of the other large scale battery projects is successful), this entire discussion will change.

        2011 saw the installation of about 35GW of solar generating capacity. I think I posted a link a few days ago. 2012 will see more. Within the next 5 years, on recent trends, a year will see the installation of 100GW of max solar generating capacity. That’s what I mean about changing the entire discussion. There are reasons for skepticism, to be sure. Watch the future unfold.

        And, back to the main post, 20 years from now we shall be able to say much more about 70 years from now, when fossil fuel supplies will be stressed.

      • Rob Starkey

        Matthew
        You believe- “The net cost of electricity from PV panels will fall to under $0.02/kwh, over their lifetime, in 2012 dollars.”

        I would not believe that is an accurate estimation. If that were true, every home in the US would buy one. Over their lifetime would include long term maintenance costs. If you could get to .05/khr long term cost everyone buys one.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Rob Starkey: I would not believe that is an accurate estimation.

        It’s a prediction, a simple extrapolation of recent trends. I would not “believe” it either unless it happens.

  20. “First, a national policy to reduce fossil-fuel consumption, like mileage standards for cars, will have little climate impact if it does not change world consumption in the long run.”

    The ‘fossil fuel-climate impact’ predicate is not valid. Having a national policy based on something that is not valid is dumb.

    • Rob Starkey

      I agree that such a policy may not impact the world’s climate, but that does not mean such a policy may be very wise from an economic perspective.

  21. Professor Rutledge – Thank you for a provocative essay on a complex subject. I’d like to offer my perspective on a few points you’ve raised.
    If we start with a fixed quantity of fossil fuel carbon that is eventually emitted as CO2, and we wait for the Earth to return to a true equilibrium (all other things remaining equal), the consequences are likely to be independent of emission rate. The interval required, however, will involve hundreds of thousands of years (the long tail of Dave Archer’s set of decay curves, due mainly to weathering of terrestrial silicate rocks). On the other hand, if we concern ourselves with consequences over the next 50 – 500 years, the degree of independence of emission rate for a fixed amount of emitted CO2 is less clear, to me at least. It seems likely that a more rapid rate will be more consequential for a variety of reasons. One is the possibility of climate tipping points (e.g., methane release, AMOC changes, etc.) from rapid warming. A second relates to the principle that change in the airborne fraction of emitted CO2 is proportional to emission rate, and it is the atmospheric concentration that will dictate temperature change over the course of decades to centuries, with its attendant effects on sea level rise, droughts, extreme weather events, and other consequences. In addition, the disparity between emission rates and rates of decay of atmospheric concentrations profoundly affects the rate of ocean acidification (the so-called “other CO2 problem), with potential adverse effects on marine organisms, and even independent of pH, more rapid increase in ocean CO2 impairs the ability of calcifying organisms to maintain the integrity of their calcium carbonate exoskeletons.

    I mention the above mainly to get it out of the way, because I think your point that it is the total emitted CO2 rather than emission rate that is of greatest consequence is almost certainly correct for anything except extreme differences in emission rates. The more important question, therefore, would be “What is the relationship between emission rate and total emissions?”, or, as you imply, “How much fossil fuel will be left underground permanently depending on how we address emissions?”

    Knowing more about climatology than I do about reserves, resources, and their response to policy, I can only offer the speculation, which I hope you’ll address, that if we emit CO2 at a slower rate, we will end up permanently leaving more fossil fuel carbon underground. The rationale is simply that as time proceeds, alternatives will become more and more competitive with fossil fuel energy, and so the less CO2 we’ve emitted until that time, the less we’ll need to emit in total. I haven’t tried to supply any quantification of this principle, but perhaps you can offer some.

    Not all alternatives will develop at the same rate. Currently, I think the cheapest is a pair of complementary items – conservation and increased energy efficiency, each being something we can improve through appropriate measures. The others – wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, selected biofuels, tidal, ocean thermal gradients, additional hydroelectric capacity, carbon capture, etc. – will proceed at their own slow and unpredictable pace, but presumably in a favorable direction.

    It seems to me that at this point, we begin to run into issues that are not completely scientific or economic, but also social and political. The question arises, “Can we reduce emissions by a certain amount by a certain date?”, where the reduction might the very daunting 80% or something considerably less than that but better than nothing. The problem here is that the word “can” is fraught with ambiguity. If “can we” refers to technical capability, the answer is a clear yes. If it refers to economic capability within a framework that imposes no serious hardship but only inconveniences, I believe the answer is also yes, although I’m sure others will disagree. However, if it refers to changes made with no cost, inconvenience, or sacrifice asked of anyone for the presumed good of others or of future generations, and with no societal intervention, then the answer is a clear no. That’s obviously where the social and political implications enter the picture, and where uncertainties about the consequences of both proposed actions or failure to act fuel the debate.

    I won’t go there, because the topic has already been discussed exhaustively here and in other venues, and because I don’t presume superior political and social qualifications to those of other readers. I’ll leave it with the suggestion that we “can” , in some practical senses of the word, reduce the total amount of emitted CO2 and increase the quantity of fossil fuels that will never be unearthed, but whether we “can” for all meanings of that word is a different question.

    • I worry more CO2 will make it even colder. Brrr.

    • Fred Moolten
      The CO2 mitigation debate depends on the water vapor feedback magnitude and sign, as well as economic positive / harmful evaluations. I understand that the uncertainty in cloud feedback to be so high that even the sign is not known, and that clouds dominate any CO2 evaluation.
      See Nigel Fox of NPL note that cloud uncertainty was 93% of the total. slide 13 and his presentation video.

      That very large cloud uncertainty would appear to render moot discussions of CO2 mitigation.

      • More uncertainty means there could be even more warming than expected. I don’t see how the prospect of catastrophic warming renders the discussion of CO2 mitigation moot.

      • lolwot
        Re: “prospect of catastrophic warming”
        In the longer term earth has already passed through the Holocene climatic optimum or maximum interglacial global temperature. i.e. temperatures are now generally headed downward towards the next glaciation. From that perspective, if CO2 warms, why should we not assume that the most critical long term strategy for civilization is to maximize fossil fuel use to mitigate the severe harm an massive loss of life among the poor due to global cooling? From that perspective, it would be more beneficial to use coal rather than natural gas.
        To argue catastrophic warming, you have to show quantitative evidence of trends greater than the null hypothesis of global cooling from the Holocene climatic optimum maximum to the next glaciation. I have not seen evidence nor verification nor validation to support that hypothesis that overcomes the very high uncertainty caused by clouds.

      • Rob Starkey

        Is there a long term downward trend in temperature to support this belief?

      • Rob Starkey
        Don Easterbrook (2011) observes that:

        the Greenland ice cap was roughly the same dimension during the Holocene Climatic Optimum and probably even during the Last Interglacial when climate was about 4-5° warmer than today (Willerslev et al. 2007).

        Don Easterbrook Evidence-Based Climate Science, Elsevier 2011
        Willerslev, E., 29 others, 2007,
        Ancient biomolecules from deep ice cores reveal a forested southern Greenland. Science 317, 111-114.
        10.1126/science.1141758
        Older records are likely more diffuse and averaged out compared with recent changes. Consequently the recent “hockey stick” rise probably should be smoothed out to compare with older records (and not “hide the decline”.)

        Note that Hansen and Sato (2011) claim 200 mm/year rise in 20 years from 2080 to 2100 resulting in 5 m rise by 2100. By contrast, Easterbrook provides evidence for a maximum possible rate of sea level rise of 10 mm/year with a best estimate of 5 cm +/- 15 cm by 2100 (Morner, 2004). No need to succumb to a State of Fear.

      • Peter Lang

        Rob Starkey asked

        Is there a long term downward trend in temperature to support this belief?

        Yes. Even James Hansen shows it clearly in Figure 1 shows overall cooling trend for past 50 million years and cooling after each peak:

        http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf

        And IPCC, AR4, WG1, Chapter 6, Figure 6.1 (middle) shows a clear overall cooling trend for the past 50 million years:

        http://accessipcc.com/AR4-WG1-6.html#6-3-1

        We are clearly in a cooling trend. On the basis if these trends, more CO2 would seem to be a sensible precautionary approach.

        Another point to take from the top frame in IPCC Figure 6.1, or better from this schematic http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm , is that the Earth is in a coldhouse phase. It is only the third coldhouse phase since multicell life began about 500 million years ago. Ice at the poles is unusual; for 75% of the past 500 million years there has been no ice at the poles. The message is that we are in an unusually cold period. It would be safer to be warmer. The climate is more stable when warmer (see Hansen’s Figure 1). Life thrives when the planet is warmer and struggles when colder.

        So I tend concur with Hagendl. Or at least, I am not persuaded that CO2 emissions are catastrophic. Cooling would be catastrophic.

      • David – With all due respect, I’ve made my comment for readers knowledgeable enough about climatology and geophysics to be aware of the evidence for climate responses to CO2 in the range generally cited. Unfortunately, I can’t at the same time revisit all the issues raised by you and others who want to challenge those conclusions. I think the evidence is compelling enough so that most of my intended audience will not dispute the climatology but will be interested in the implications for reducing CO2 emissions. I’ll leave cloud feedback for a different discussion, and at that time, I’ll try to refer to the extensive literature on the topic, which I don’t think will create the same impression as implied in your comment at least as far as CO2 is concerned, although cloud feedback for short term regional phenomena such as ENSO is beset with more uncertainty than for CO2 forcing…

      • Fred
        There is nominal evidence for CO2, but not validation sufficient to overcome the null hypothesis of global tempreature declining from the Holocene climatic optimum in the face of very large cloud uncertainty.
        In arguendo that CO2 drives catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, that only raises the issue of what is to be done if anything. Your discussion of “can” only addresses the presumption that mitigation is necessary. As I note above, there are strong arguments for doing everything but mitigation.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Fred Moolten: I’ll leave cloud feedback for a different discussion, and at that time, I’ll try to refer to the extensive literature on the topic, which I don’t think will create the same impression as implied in your comment … .

        That I look forward to.

      • David,
        Fred is hoping to sound authoritative enough that no one notices he is relying on argument from authority.
        The pesky part about CO2 following temps, extreme weather just being the latest of the AGW predictions to fail, and oceans declining to acidify he needs to skip over.

    • Rob Starkey

      If the question is– “How much fossil fuel will be left underground permanently depending on how we address emissions?”

      Isn’t the answer to that question a function of the cost to produce petrol-chemical products independent of fossil fuels?

      If electrical energy could be produced very inexpensively by some currently unidentified process, then it would be possible to make petrol-chemical products from grown materials more cost efficiently than it would be if it was necessary to use fossil fuels to produce that same energy. That would result in leaving the fossil fuels in the ground.

      That would not necessarily result in lower CO2 emissions by humans. It would depend on how the petrol-chemical products were used.

    • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

      Fred, how would you answer this question posed by Prof. Rutledge: For people in the renewables business, what are the implications of a 60-year time frame for reaching 90% of the eventual long-term production?

      Granted, you are not in the renewables business, but how do you view their prospects now?

      Just curious.

      • Matt – I would just be guessing. Prof. Rutledge was referring to coal. It’s my impression that total coal “resources” are estimated as far more than a 60-year supply, although the figure is very uncertain. If we stop extracting much coal after 60 years, that implies that alternatives have made the remaining coal non-competitive due to its extraction costs, which rise when easily accessible coal is depleted. These alternatives would include conservation/energy efficiency, nuclear, renewable energy, and natural gas. Under these circumstances, total CO2 from coal (proven reserves) would still be substantial, but less than if the alternatives didn’t exist. The natural gas alternative would of course still add CO2 to the atmosphere (less than coal), while the others would imply little or no CO2 emissions.

        I don’t know whether the 60 year figure is realistic, since it would depend on our ability and motivation to develop the alternatives. This in turn will also depend on how much we invest in developing the alternatives, and additionally in whether, in comparing costs, we include the cost imposed by the CO2 emissions. The latter would probably not be very susceptible to short term market forces, and would require societal policy decisions that impose a cost on coal burning. Conceivably, a vigorous mitigation policy would reduce the interval to less than 60 years, whereas a laissez faire attitude might make the interval even longer than 60 years, particularly if coal extraction technology becomes more efficient. That’s not very quantitative, but I don’t know enough about the subject to do better. I only hope, though, that there will be no need to mine the coal that lies in a flooded abandoned mine 400 feet below my house.

      • Rob Starkey

        Fred

        You write
        “This in turn will also depend on how much we invest in developing the alternatives, and additionally in whether, in comparing costs, we include the cost imposed by the CO2 emissions.”

        I agree with the goal of having practical alternate fuel sources to fossil fuel but suggest it does not make economic sense for government to fund much development of alternatives other than at the basic scientific research level.

        If government were fund this activity it would make sense to contract for the construction and maintenance of a electrical generation facilities of “x” capacity then a variety of alternatives could be evaluated and the one chosen with the highest probability of the company actually completing the contract at the best long term cost.

      • I don’t have strong opinions on how it’s done, but we agree, I think, that funding basic R&D makes sense. At some point beyond that, one view would be that continued subsidization would be justified to offset the costs imposed by CO2 emissions, while an alternative view would be to abstain from any subsidization but to impose a cost on carbon to account for the costs. The quantities required would obviously involve scientific, social, political, and even philosophical considerations I’m not prepared to get into, but I do believe that an attempt to estimate the societal costs of carbon emissions should be part of the package.

      • Rob Starkey

        Fred

        We do agree in funding basic research. I have strong opinions on how it is done because I have experience in that area.

        Imo, a huge amount of funding has been wasted by government trying to promote and invest in the development of specific technologies and funding companies to try to make them competitive in the marketplace. The wasteful contracting took away from basic research.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Rob Starkey: I agree with the goal of having practical alternate fuel sources to fossil fuel but suggest it does not make economic sense for government to fund much development of alternatives other than at the basic scientific research level.

        I think it makes good economic sense for government funded research to drive the cost of producing fuel and electricity as low as possible. Consider: if the US had started one synfuels plant per year for 25 years, as was started under Pres. Carter (they took about 4 years each to build), the total cost would have been less than the increase in the US fuel bill, synfuels would be plentiful and cheap today (compared to today’s price of petroleum), almost for sure. The reduction in imports of oil would have been sufficient to reduce the price of petroleum appreciably. The developed world would be richer today, and the “oil ticks” poorer, by a substantial amount.

        It’s hard to think of an investment more economically valuable than driving down the cost and increasing the supply of electricity and fuel. After driving down the cost and increasing the supply of food, probably. But what else is there that is used in so many ways by so many people of so many cultures and walks of life?

        There is no reason it can’t work as well as the government funded R&D into the design and manufacture of turbine engines and radar technologies.

      • Rob Starkey

        Matt

        We may share the same objective but disagree regarding how government should help resolve the problems.

        We both agree that some government funding of BASIC scientific research makes sense.

        I contend that government should generally not promote any specific company or technology but should focus on achieving the goal.

        What is the goal? Ah ha– now you can clearly see a problem. If you do not clearly know what your goal is and get a consensus on achieving it, it certainly is less likely to be attained.

        Imo- for the US, the goal should be to become energy independent as quickly as reasonably possible and to implement a plan to sustain the condition on a long term basis cost efficiently.

        The situation you describe about how long it takes to build a synfuels plant is an example of poor government contracting. It is poor government contracting that makes it cost so much and take so long to build things like nuclear plants.

        Instead of building a synfuels plant the government should simply contract for the construction and operation of a power plant that will produce “X output” and will emit not more than “Y emissions” and will not be powered by fossil fuel sources. Corporations would then be free to consider various technological approaches to achieve the goals and could select the approach. The government would select the winning proposal based on which proposed approach would operate at the lowest long term cost and risk.

      • Peter Lang

        Fred Moolten @May 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm, said

        This in turn will also depend on how much we invest in developing the alternatives,

        I’d suggest we should put our efforts into removing the impediments to low-cost nuclear energy. We are stuck with the high costs imposed by 50 years of anti-nuclear protesting and the radiation phobia that has caused. Nuclear is the safest electricity generation technology that can meet our needs, yet it is prevented by huge socially imposed impediments and costs. We could roll out small reactors off production lines (like commercial airliners) and deliver them to sites. But we’d need to remove the impediments to low system cost.

        I agree with your arguments about the market price of fossil fuels and the alternatives will be what determines how fast we transition away from fossil fuels. But at the moment, nuclear has an enormous disadvantage. We need to remove that if we want to transition faster.

        additionally in whether, in comparing costs, we include the cost imposed by the CO2 emissions.

        Why should we include the perceived costs of CO2 damage (a largely value judgement) when we do not include the costs of the many dangerous pollutants from all industries? Why do we pick on just one, and not even a particularly bad one?

        Furthermore, we must remember there are huge external benefits of low cost electricity. Increasing the cost of fossil fuels (by including the perceived cost of CO2) may have some effect on emissions in the developed countries, but will not be accepted in the developing countries. Most of the emissions growth over the next few decades will be in the developing countries. So unless we can provide a low cost alternative to fossil fuels, there will be little reduction in global emissions because the developing countries will continue to build fossil fuel power stations and will continue to grow their emissions.

      • Peter,

        Whenever I run into someone who is anti-nuclear power I immediately know I’ve met someone either with a completely closed mind or the reasoning ability of a chipmunk. Maybe both.

        The US nuclear generation industry has operated safely for 50 years. The Navy has over 60 years of safe reliable reactor operating experience. Yet we continue to hear scare stories whose factual support is more firmly rooted in 1950’s B movies than science and engineering.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Fred Moolten: I would just be guessing.

        Give us your best guess. No money or reputation is at stake.

      • My guess, Matt, is that CO2 emissions will be reduced substantially over the next 60 years – perhaps by as much as 50% although probably not by 80%. This will result from a combination of factors – increased energy efficiency, a small rise in nuclear power generation (barring a breakthrough in fusion energy technology), substitution of natural gas for coal and oil, and a large contribution from renewables, which is the question you’re asking. All renewables will contribute, but increases in solar energy generation will dominate, probably not from PV sources but rather facilities of the Andasol type.. As a consequence, much more fossil fuel will remain permanently unharvested compared with a business as usual scenario.

        This will be driven by a significant reduction in the cost of generating renewable energy, but equally if not more by the realization that fossil fuel energy is much more expensive than apparent from the direct costs, once the hidden costs of environmental damage are factored in. This realization will make its presence felt in various ways, perhaps including carbon taxes, but its net result in all cases will be to increase the price of carbon.

        Most large nations will participate in the process, including China, which recently published (in Chinese, for its own citizens) a huge document describing the potentially severe harm likely to befall Chinese agriculture if current warming trends are allowed to continue.

        Now remember that you asked for a guess, which is what I’ve supplied. Please don’t ask me to prove any of the above.

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        I know nobody asked me, but I hope you won’t mind me adding my own guess guess. My guess is in 60 years, we won’t have seen any decrease in effective CO2 emissions (from current levels). However, I expect emission rates will peak in forty to fifty years, after which they’ll begin to decrease. As you can see, I’m far more pessimistic than Fred Moolten.

        I’ll be extremely surprised if emission rates begin to decrease within 30 years, so I’d offer that as a test to my “pessimism.” If in 30 years, emission rates are still climbing, I’ll know my guess was accurate, or too optimistic. Otherwise, I’ll have to admit I was wrong.

        And just to head off any possible confusion, I’m talking about emission rates, not emission rates per capita.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Fred Moolten: Now remember that you asked for a guess, which is what I’ve supplied. Please don’t ask me to prove any of the above.

        Fair enough.

      • Matt – I notice you’ve commented on the declining cost of solar power generated by photovoltaics. I didn’t mean above to belittle PV-based energy, which I think will complement the large scale solar facilities of the Andasol type.

        Brandon – My guess agrees with your guess that CO2 emissions will increase before they peak and decline – in fact, an increase is almost a certainty. I’m more optimistic about the longer (60 year) milestone.

      • Alex Heyworth

        Andasol type solar? Not at €0.271 per kWh. Which is what the Andasol developers are saying is the production cost.

    • Hi Fred,

      “I can only offer the speculation, which I hope you’ll address, that if we emit CO2 at a slower rate, we will end up permanently leaving more fossil fuel carbon underground.The rationale is simply that as time proceeds, alternatives will become more and more competitive with fossil fuel energy, and so the less CO2 we’ve emitted until that time, the less we’ll need to emit in total.”

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Certainly what you suggest is possible. Please let me suggest two reasons why it might not be probable. First, with respect to oil, gas, and coal, slower development gives a higher recovery factor. Oil and gas reservors produce in the long run if production is slow. In underground coal mining, the production sequence for seams matters, because the process of working a seam disturbs the seams above it. Because there are large capital investments, and the bankers and stockholders must be paid, companies often end up favoring fast production over high recovery factor. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a different time horizon, and may exploit oil fields slowly to get higher long-term production. These trade-offs are well known in these industries.

      Second, with respective to alternatives becoming more competitive, I will offer my own perspective from thirty years of research in electronics manufacturing. As technology challenges, the altenatives are pretty weak beer; solar pv modules are already a small fraction of the system cost. The challenges (and costs) are in deployment, in the distributed nature of the sources, the large areas required, the grid connections, the interactions with the regulatory apparatus of the government at all levels, and the inefficiencies and instabilities inherent in being in a rent-seeking (subsidized) part of the economy.

      Dave

      • Dave – Thanks for your response, which shows why outsiders to an area like me must be careful not to dogmatize as though we knew everything there was to know about it.

        It seems to me that the relationship between your second paragraph (increased recoverability with slowness) and third paragraph (declining costs of alternatives) are related in a way that may be impossible to predict accurately but might benefit from some type of economic modeling. Consider a hypothetical ton of coal in a hypothetical coal seam somewhere that we might want to mine after everything more accessible has already been harvested. As I understand your point, the longer we delay mining it, the less it will cost. On the other hand, that longer wait should have some capacity to reduce the cost of the alternatives as well. When we finally get to deciding whether it is worth mining, which decline will win out – the reduced mining cost or the reduced cost of the alternatives? You appear to imply that reducing the cost of alternatives will be daunting, and that might be true, but I also suspect the uncertainties regarding the next 60 years of alternative energy development are large enough to make any prediction hazardous.

        To the above, I would only add my perspective, from a climatologic vantage point, that the societal costs of CO2 emissions will be substantial enough so that neglecting them would seriously distort our attempts to weigh the options. As you know, though, that’s a topic for another huge discussion/debate, and although I have a fairly good sense of the climate impacts, my ability to translate that into economic terms is meager, not to mention the philosophical challenges that face anyone who wants to balance costs for one person, or one generation, against benefits for another.

    • In an “all of the above” energy strategy, gas and coal compete with nuclear and solar. For an evaluation of US federal R&D technology funding, see:
      Assessment of Incentives and Employment Impacts of Solar Industry Deployment David P. Vogt, et al. Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy

      We find that solar energy is following the same incentive-driven path as other traditional energy sources before it, consistent with the government’s decision to incentivize energy production for a variety of policy purposes. We also conclude that the federal investment in solar energy could bring about a number of tangible benefits, including increased employment, global business opportunities, and energy supply diversity. . . . Historically, each energy resource had approximately a thirty year period of innovation and early adoption before beginning rapid growth that brought it across the chasm and into the phase for early majority adoption.

  22. I want to once more thank Dr. Curry for providing a forum for discussions of the quality and relevancy of Rutt Bridges’ The Future of Natural Gas from May 2, and today’s topic.

    Both of these topics bring to mind the policy issue that our economy worldwide depends on efficient production of nitrogen fertilizer, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other industrial chemicals from fossil reserves. Biological sources are costlier. Synthetic production from inferior resources is costlier. Recycling is limited. Only a petrochemical reserve is as petrochemical reserve, a great treasure for any nation.

    And we burn that treasure so our cars can weigh twice as much as they need to for faddishly cosmetic reasons of taste, or so our homes can be drafty and badly built because our banking sector won’t properly finance properly built homes, and so we can furnish a military response to military threats that went away when the Berlin Wall was torn down, or just and only to keep business interests afloat that long ago ceased to be economical.

    So long as the cost of the disposal of waste CO2 by the carbon cycle is not counted in calculations like the above, then the answers produced will always be suspect and skewed. The comparison of alternatives will generate wrong outcomes, due the hiding of the cost of rising CO2 levels. That error will be passed on to higher future costs to future generations.

    Respectfully, I suggest the “300 year plus 25%” figures cited at the start of the discussion be factored seriously into the policy thinking of all readers; that long run CO2 sequestration be recognized as no longer optional but required at levels in excess of future CO2 emission.

    The very shocking implications of Dr. Rutledge’s essay here bear far more examination than we have to date shown readiness to explore in that light.

    • Bart R.ou write “So long as the cost of the disposal of waste CO2 by the carbon cycle is not counted in calculations like the above, then the answers produced will always be suspect and skewed.”

      As usual, you are merely repeating the unsubstantiated mantra of the proponents of CAGW. There is no proper science, and certainly no proper observed data, to show that adding CO2 to the atmosphere from current levels has any discernable effect on climate whatsoever. In fact, the opposite is true. What little hard observed data we have obtained since the scare of CAGW was started 30 or so years ago, generally speaking, supports the contention that the climate sensitivity of CO2, added to the atmosphere form current levels, is indistinguishable from zero.

      • http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/gistemp/mean:73/mean:79/from:1988/plot/hadcrut3vgl/mean:73/mean:79/from:1988/plot/esrl-co2/mean:73/mean:79/from:1988/normalise/detrend:0.6/offset:0.63

        Since ice core records famously show an 800 year lag between rising temperature and rising CO2 (though I understand recent analyses have revisited that claim and reversed the order so CO2 leads temperature in the ice cores — how strange is that), we can’t yet be seeing CO2 response to temperature in the same sense.

        We see 1991 Mt. Pinatubo reflected in a dip in the temperature trend compared the CO2 trend. We see post 1998 dust storm, coal burning and massive forest fire events influencing the temperature trends too, and can count ENSO effects in that time period. So, just from GMT — one of the least reliable datasets in climate — we must dismiss your claims about CO2 and temperature.

        We can readily establish (and thank Mr. Orssengo for doing so) a minimum transient sensitivity of 2.2 per doubling of CO2, and likely see a dynamic value for this transient number that will only increase as CO2 level rises compared to aerosol and ocean circulation effects.

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Bart R:

        We can readily establish (and thank Mr. Orssengo for doing so) a minimum transient sensitivity of 2.2 per doubling of CO2,

        For those who are interested in the actual science around estimating a transient climate sensitivity, I highly recommend they look at this post by Isaac Held.

        For those who aren’t interested, Bart R is full of it about this.

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        D’oh! I forgot the link. Here it is.

        Sorry about that!

      • http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/blog/isaac-held/2012/04/30/27-estimating-tcr-from-recent-warming/#comment-598

        To be fair to me, I was throwing Mr. Orssengo a bone. I’m perfectly content with NET TCR in the 1.3-2.6 range, and for very short periods heavily influenced by ocean circulations and aerosols especially in the lower half of that range.

        For TCR with ocean circulation and aerosols removed, 2.2 is about as low as it goes.

    • Bart,

      To paraphrase a famous movie line – “You had me until ‘So long as the cost of the disposal of waste CO2 by the carbon cycle is not counted’.

      Up until themn i thought you were spot on.

      • timg56 | May 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

        This isn’t meant to reflect on you, but is merely a general principle of mine; now that someone’s agreed with me, I have to go back and look to see where I made mistakes. Thankfully, you only agreed with about half of my comment. ;)

      • That would make it another PNS ‘truth’. Right. Bart.

      • Bart, and here I thought you were interested in reasonable debate and exchange of opinion.

  23. Let’s not forget fast breeder technology and thorium reactors of various kinds. It looks like China and/or India will develop thorium reactors before the US. That is a race worth running, while solar and wind is not.

  24. California is also home of the eSolar project.

    If Bill Gross, enterprising fellow that he is, pushes up from thermal to CPV with triplet-triplet annihilation efficiencies, he’ll be more than a match for half of California’s current LCOE, if I’ve done my math right from the numbers on his website.

    Do people mind commenting on the eSolar project?

    • Is this the project you are referring to?
      Southern California Homes – Sierra SunTower will produce 5 MW of electricity powering up to 4,000 homes.
      Job Creation – The project created over 250 construction jobs and 21 permanent jobs.
      Local Community – Sierra SunTower provides a new local tax base, as well as direct and indirect economic benefits during development, construction and operation.
      Greenhouse Gases – 5 MW of clean solar power generation will offset more than 7,000 tons of CO2 each year.
      Clean and Reliable – Efficient and clean solar power is reliably available during peak demand.

      Environmental Facts
      The 5 MW output of Sierra SunTower will reduce CO2 emissions by 7,000 tons per year. For perspective, Sierra SunTower’s annual impact is equivalent to:

      Planting 5,265 acres of trees
      Removing 1,368 automobiles from the road
      Saving 650,000 gallons of gasoline

      http://esolar.com/our_projects/

      • True believers in the economics of solar power might benefit from reading this post, just up at WUWT:

        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/04/how-green-was-my-bankruptcy/#more-62937

        “Assuming that the gas-fired plant managed an 85% capacity factor and a 30-yr plant lifetime, the initial capital expenditure would work out to $0.004/kWh… A bit less than half-a-cent per kilowatt-hour. Assuming a 25% capacity factor and a 30-yr plant lifetime for the Cimarron Solar Facility, the initial capital expenditure works out to $0.127/kWh… Almost 13 cents per kilowatt-hour! The average residential electricity rate in the US is currently around 12 cents per kWh… That’s the retail price. As a consumer of electricity, I know which plan I would pick. I’m currently paying about 9 cents per kWh. I sure as heck wouldn’t seek out a provider who would have to raise my current rate by about 50% just to cover their plant construction costs.

        Solar photovoltaic electricity is bankruptcy the green way writ large. Here in Texas, Austin Energy has agreed to a long-term purchase agreement to pay $10 million a year for 25 years, for the electricity generated by the Webberville Solar Farm. That works out to more than 15 cents per kWh.”
        ———————————————————

        I just can’t understand how any rational person could support these boondoggles

        It is just committing economic suicide. If believers want to do this, let them – but all over the world, consumers (i.e. everyone who uses power) are being slugged to pay for this nonsense whether they want to or not.

      • http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/category/58/solar-electricity/ talks about First Solar’s problems;

        http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/18817/smoke-and-mirrors-solar-pv-csp-and-cpv/ talks about the nitty gritty issues of the broader industry, including that solar is racing toward zero subsidies, while competing with conventional subsidized energy generation.

        Solar takes a lot of land, sometimes expropriated, but never as much as pipelines take; and some water, but a fraction as much as frakking does.

      • Bart, until you provide a comparison of the amount of reliable energy that is delivered per hectare of land taken up by solar arrays vs pipelines, your point is just arm-waving. Note the word ‘reliable’ in my query. That would make the answer pretty obvious without doing any sums at all. But, I am happy to look at the figures for ‘intermittent’ if you can find any. Don’t forget to include the land taken up by connections from the array to the grid, which would be comparable to the amount taken up by a similar length of pipeline.

        I have no doubt that 100km of gas pipeline could deliver at least hundreds of times more units of energy per hour, 24/7/365, than a comparable area of solar arrays or the connections running from it to the grid when they are actually producing anything.

      • Bart R,
        Solar of the type you are enchanted with takes orders of magnitude more land than pipelines do to produce the same amount of power. Please do not kid us.

      • He reminds me of Pekka (remember him?) a few months ago who waxed lyrical about windfarms, and even cited examples. When I tracked down the numbers on one of his examples (I think it worked out to $143,000 per person for that project) and called him on it, he disappeared.

        Here’s hoping.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Bart R: Solar takes a lot of land,

        So does hydropower. I read (hence, salt required now) that PV panels covering an area equal to the area of Lake Mead would generate more electricity than the dynamos in Hoover Dam. And, on the whole, more reliably.

      • Matt, your arguments don’t make sense. You say that it is unrealistic to project future costs of gas, because they might rise, but also say that we should assume that the costs of your favoured energy sources are likely to fall. So, what you are saying is that it is a crapshoot, except that your preferences are more likely. Please come and play in my casino.

        As has already been demonstrated, there is no shortage of any fossil fuel source for energy (apart from oil) for at least 60 years – and recent developments in gas probably push that boundary out further. It is possible that there may be problems with oil in the medium term

        So, what is your point?

      • The new power lines needed to connect the wind farms and solar installations will take more land than a pipeline of the same length.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        johana: but also say that we should assume that the costs of your favoured energy sources are likely to fall.

        Prices for solar electricity have been falling. I would say check back yearly and see whether they continue to fall as predicted.

      • Matt,
        Please show us the math, or at least the link to the article you claim said that. Unless we place the solar panels in that special place that never gets dark, cloudy or dusty, your claim cannot be correct.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Hunter: Matt,
        Please show us the math, or at least the link to the article you claim said that. Unless we place the solar panels in that special place that never gets dark, cloudy or dusty, your claim cannot be correct.

        Somewhere in this thread I linked to analysis of prices by McKinsey, and to an analysis of the special case of India. There are places that have no electricity now, where the intermittency of solar is a great improvement over the absence of electricity 100% of the time. There are places where the delivery of coal and fuel is less reliable than sunshine (not to mention great fluctuations in price.) There are places where almost everyone works in the daytime, so a daytime source of electricity to power the workplace would be a great addition.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Bart R: Wonder what the cost to float solar barges on Lake Mead would be?

        I think that in the next 5 years some entrepreneurs and investors will ask that question seriously. For now, it is a comical vision.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Johana: “Assuming that the gas-fired plant managed an 85% capacity factor and a 30-yr plant lifetime, the initial capital expenditure would work out to $0.004/kWh…

        but the initial capital produces no electricity. For that you need ongoing purchases of natural gas, which may be cheap now but can’t be counted on to remain cheap for the next 30 years.

        Here in Texas, Austin Energy has agreed to a long-term purchase agreement to pay $10 million a year for 25 years, for the electricity generated by the Webberville Solar Farm. That works out to more than 15 cents per kWh.”

        What is the cost for peak power generation? It surely is not the “average” cost in your neighborhood.

        I just can’t understand how any rational person could support these boondoggles

        1. You are ignoring some of the current information, such as the costs of generating peak power in your area by other methods and the uncertainty of future natural gas costs.

        2. Continued investment in the boondoggles is driving down the overall costs of electricity from alternatives, and will continue to do so. Solyndra was a Big Mistake, as was foretold by accountants; but it is not the whole story of government investment.

      • johanna | May 5, 2012 at 5:16 am |

        Do you possibly mean LCOE for ‘reliable’?

        As for the which takes more expropriated area, vs. reliability:

        Solar: surface area of solar plant (may be dual use), plus corridor for transmission of electricity (may be dual use), plus road to single solar plant site (likely dual use), plus a small amount of secondary and tertiary surface area (mostly in the advanced electronics sector).

        Fossil: surface area of fossil generator plant (cannot be dual use), plus corridor for transmission of electricity (may be dual use), plus roads to single generator plant (likely dual use), plus surface area of mines, frakking sites, drilling sites, biofuel plantations, pipelines, refineries, pumping stations, storage tanks, docks for tankers, construction sites for tankers, disposal sites for waste, disposal sites for tankers, support roads for all of the above (many of which cannot be dual use), area affected by leaks and spills, (how’s that figured into LCOE, again?) plus refineries for diluents, and other secondary and tertiary surface area related to the support infrastructure (mostly in the heavy industrial sector), plus diminished NET productivity of lands subject to pollution (on the argument that ‘beneficial’ pollution effects might be figured in).

        I don’t know of anyone who’s done all the math on all the land use involved, comparing like to like.. but clearly the fossil industry uses far more expropriated and fire-sale-priced land than solar, or wind, or hydro, or ocean current, or geothermal, or indeed all of the above combined.

        Now, let’s talk about ‘intermittent’. How constantly used are all parts of the fossil infrastructure, really? Tankers travel half their routes empty, of course, so that’s 50% intermittency for that component. Pipelines don’t flow all the time – they need maintenance, repairs, sometimes break down, and of course have limited lifespan before the oil dries up and they’re just toxic hulks good for nothing – so that’s ‘intermittency’ too, after a fashion. The same applies to storage tanks and every other working component of the infrastructure. Sure, the fossil generating plants can run any time of the day or night to match demand, but they can’t run 24×7 for weeks on end on every generator; they too need maintenance and repair, and they have a maximum lifespan before they too become dangerous and useless hulks in the long run. Solar? The sun may not shine all the time, but we don’t expect it to get obsolete any time soon; just pop out the worn-out panel and recycle it, and pop in a new one forever. And if you really want to solve the intermittency issue with solar, you build overcapacity, and convert the excess to carbamide, which you convert back to electricity on demand when the sun isn’t doing the job.

        MattStat/MatthewRMarler | May 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

        Wonder what the cost to float solar barges on Lake Mead would be? ;)

      • Working out the land use of pipelines vs. solar:

        Conservatively, current solar produces about 150W/m^2/day.

        Comparing to Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAP): 1287 km by 30.5 m (right of way) at about 1.1 million barrels/day (on average over the ~45 year total expected lifetime of TAP) = ~4.6W/m^2/day for high quality light crude.

        That’s a ration of over 30:1, discounting the surface area of drilling sites, power lines (which, by the way, will not be as long as pipelines from generating station to distribution hubs: for both fossil and centralized solar the difference ought be a wash — except solar doesn’t need to be centralized, you can run it without a grid), pumping stations (TAP has 11), storage tanks (at the drilling sites, at the docks on both end, at the refinery, at retail centers like gas stations, and for home heat storage), docks for tankers themselves, construction sites for tankers, and on and on..

        For the current proposed pipelines from the tarsands to Texas, the ration is much worse: bitumen is far more costly in energy terms to refine; on top of that, the land for the pipeline is in the heart of America, not some frozen caribou pasture. There’s a real cost to leaks here, and there will be leaks.

        Fossil energy takes two orders of magnitude more land than solar.

        And for reliability, the TAP system has had dozens of pre-retail leaks, the most serious remembered as the Exxon Valdez incident. The minor leaks are sometimes due to sabotage and gunshots, but sometimes it’s just corrosion or accident, shutting down TAP for about sixty hours each time, causing extensive environmental damage and costing an average of over $15 million each time.

        Tell me, where do you think people carry more powerful guns and shoot them more enthusiastically: the deep Alaska wilderness, or along the route between Alberta and the coast of Texas?

    • MattStat/MatthewRMarler
  25. “David Archer expressed this vividly, “A better approximation of the lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 for public discussion might be 300 years, plus 25% that lasts forever.””

    I would like to discuss this point, but this is not the tread for it.
    Judy, could you ask David Archer to guest on his assertion?

    • I second Doc’s request. I still think it is more a matter of semantics than a real issue though. The annual variation of CO2 in the Northern Hemisphere based on the satellite data is up to 40 ppm in some cases. So one could argue a molecular half life of 12 years +/- a bunch depending on depending on what “average” is. Atmospheric life time is about however long it took to build up +/- about the same sized bunch. 300 years plus 25% forever seems a stretch because southern ocean uptake looks pretty substantial.

      • maksimovich

        The southern ocean potential is at present perturbed by changes in O3 by wind forcing.That the reversal of the ” forcing” is an expectation.If the modeled potential is correct the High nutrient low chlorophyll southern ocean has a potential response of around 1/3 of the present emissions eg Sarmiento 2011.

      • NOT ON THIS THREAD
        WAAAAAY TO BIG A TOPIC

      • No reason to talk about this topic unless somebody wants to get debriefed on my verification of Archer’s model. This simply results from a dispersed diffusion mechanism for CO2 until it reaches a sequestering spot. The main point is that this is NOT a damped exponential response.

        This model works for everything from electron-hole diffusion in semiconductor devices to thermal conduction on a large scale. It is conventionally applied statistical physics that is only obscured by a different vocabulary than a physicist or engineer is accustomed to..

  26. In this particular system the parameters inlude anthropogenic emissions whose evolution depends on a large number of factors and emissions from oceans and land that are variable with temperature, an order of magnitude greater than anthropogenic emission and not known within limits of more than 20%. Sequestration varies also with carbonic acid in rainwater. The total carbon stores and how these change are not well understood.

    Archer’s computer model incudes far more than a simple diffusion factor in a so called master equation – but even so the uncertainties surrounding these estimates are considerable. We can thankfully neglect Webby’s debriefing. I don’t think he has read or understood Archer. I don’t think he even has a PhD as recently claimed. I seem to recall him complaining that they flunked him out because they didn’t recognise his genious.

    ‘For CO2 the specification of an atmospheric lifetime is complicated by the numerous removal processes involved, which necessitate complex modeling of the decay curve. Because the decay curve depends on the model used and the assumptions incorporated therein, it is difficult to specify an exact atmospheric lifetime for CO2.’ http://cdiac.ornl.gov/pns/current_ghg.html

    It would be a matter of assertion and counter assertion.

    • The Chief can’t keep up so he nervously lashes out.

      BTW, my full derivation is found in http://theoilconundrum.com

      • Does that “full” derivation include methane hydrates?

      • ‘A model of the ocean and seafloor carbon cycle is subjected to injection of new CO2 pulses of varying sizes to estimate the resident atmospheric fraction over the coming 100 kyr. The model is used to separate the processes of air-sea equilibrium, an ocean temperature feedback, CaCO3 compensation, and silicate weathering on the residual anthropogenic pCO2 in the atmosphere at 1, 10, and 100 kyr.’

        Webby I cannot be bothered with searching full a ‘full derivation’ on your nonsensical site and doubt that it includes the relevant factors which you fail to understand. Archer doesn’t include all of the relevant factors – but he at least has some of them and doesn’t just invent a decay curve out of blue sky based on ‘diffusion’ and a simple mathematical function.

        If quoting science – in this case the CDIAC at DoE – is lashing out then I plead guilty. The belief in certainty from a single study especially in an area such as this where uncertainties are so great – is unscientific. The belief in such a grossly oversimplified math function as yours is profoundly unscientific.

      • “Webby I cannot be bothered with searching full a ‘full derivation’ on your nonsensical site and doubt that it includes the relevant factors which you fail to understand.”

        Chief is having difficulty distinguishing between a comprehensively indexed PDF book that I have made freely available, and a blog that links to that book via a short intro. Thanks for giving me a chance to make this distinction clear.

      • WHT has yet to figure out that there are things beyond his apprehension.

      • Oh my gawd, I’m over my head. Whatever am I gonna do? he he

      • Jump to contusions.

  27. Tom,

    I think I read your question(s) incorrectly yesterday am. I should of asked you does “provider”= new generation capacity (ex a large utility scale PV facility say in Boulder City NV). If yes, then I can answer a few of your questions.

    Question 1) is the cost (for the new generation capacity) split-
    Answer 1)- Yes, for PG&E, per the 2012 Design Rate Window Application (DRWA) Prepared Testimony, the “residential share of PG&E’s generation”costs is 41.89%. The remaining costs are split between the commercial and industrial sectors.

    Question 2) What is the cost per household for the change in 1)
    Answer 2) That depends on a few specifics- which I will attempt to cover below- All quotes are from DRWA.

    A household equates to a billing meter. Each billing meter or household gets classified into 1 of 2 categories based on their economic status. The CARE category receives their energy at a discounted rate for all their electrical energy usage- “28%” of PG&E’s residential electrical sales fall into this category. The costs to cover the discount is allocated to Non CARE residential customers. Any given billing customer/household is allocated a baseline quantity of energy (based on a climate zone/territory to account for avg differences in HVAC needs for all intense and purposes). The baseline amount is designed to cover “a significant portion of the reasonable energy needs of the average customer.” This quantity (kwh’s) is called Tier 1 for billing purposes. If a household use 100 to 130% of the baseline quantity in a month their price goes up and this is called Tier 2. There are a few rules that the electrical service provider is required to follow in regards to allocating costs to their Non Care households/customers that greatly restrict any allocation of costs to Tier 1 and 2 Non-Care rates. “In fact, the legislative restrictions on increasing lower-tier non CARE and CARE rates have resulted in a situation where cost of service has absolutely nothing to do with the levels of the various tiered residential rates”

    Those rates look like this- for a kwh of electrical energy
    NON-CARE
    Tier 1- $0.1233
    Tier 2- $0.13907
    Tier 3- $0.29276
    Tier 4- $0.33276
    AVERAGE E-1 RATE= $.18703!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    CARE
    Tier 1-$.083
    Tier 2-$0.096
    Tier 3-$0.125

    On to the households who get to pay the costs- If the households needs are such that they use 130 to 200% of baseline they pay Tier 3 prices. Additional usage above 200% of baseline is priced at the current highest price and is called Tier 4.

    As things stand today (in regards to all those rules on who pays for what) we have some data from the DRWA that we can use to see how the costs are allocated across the different tiers. The example below is on page 2-7 of the DRWA from Table 2-4 Cumulative Impacts of 33% RPS on NON-CARE Residential Rates:
    “Year- 2015
    RPS Premium (1000s) = $1,159,000. or 1.159 Billion dollars
    Residential Share (1000s)= 486,000
    Cumulative Class Average Rate Increase= $.0.015
    Cumulative Tier 3/4 Rate Increase= $0.048″

    And to get a feel for how big an impact the RPS will have on rates overtime from we have this-

    “Line 10 (page 1-14) “Absent any change in the residential rate design methodology, the differential between Tier 2 and Tier 4 rates, which was 18.9 centers per kWh in Jan 2012 (33.5 vs 14.6 cents per kWh), is forecasted to increase by 65 percent to 31.1 cents in 2022 (50.5 vs 19.4 kWh). The gap is already far in excess of what is equitable on a cost of service basis, and the failure to address this problem will rapidity worsen the situation.”

    Ok, I am depressed. How does one fix the mess (as far as market signals go in regards to the ultimate goal of changing behavior to account for your CO2 load) that we (actually it’s the legislature and the CPUC- specifically not an unknown we) have created!

    I can see why a few folks at Stanford were a bit worried about our approach to the problem of climate change (i.e. CO2) and what our mitigation strategy has been-

    “Use of public and private dollars for scaling up clean energy needs a reality check, say Stanford scholars”

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/may/scaling-clean-energy-050112.html

    Ball writes that governments and investors have spent big money on renewable power, slashing the cost of many renewable technologies and creating jobs. And yet, he notes, modern renewables remain a very small percentage of the global energy mix.

    “Wind and solar power will never reach the scale necessary to make a difference to national security or the environment unless they can be produced economically,” he writes. “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and sustainable stream of electrons.”

    And if you want to get really depressed one could ask how much CO2 was actually reduced from the generation of electrical energy by PG&E via the RPS at what price. To have clean air in the CA urban areas this was about the worst approach to follow for CO2 load or smog reductions. The problem with the air quality in the urban areas (from a pareto analysis) is from the transportation sector NOT the electrical energy generation sector (in CA)! This is why the folks at LADWP said thanks I like the idea of clean air and the RES that you wanted me to follow (but didn’t require/mandate me follow in the 20%RES) doesn’t get me there

    • krakatoa,

      Thank you for an extremely interesting analysis. I am in the Pasadena Water and Power area, and our rates are kept down by imported coal-generated electricity.

      Dave

      • David,

        Thanks for the feedback. With the passage of the 33%RES the 26+/- public utility districts (yours, SMUD, LADWP, Palo Alto, etc.) in California are now mandated to meet certain RE targets over the next 10 years. The previous RES only covered the big three private electrical energy service providers.

        I completely agree with your- “You will be facing economic headwinds for decades, and competing with rent seekers who are better at securing favorable rules than they are at actually producing energy.” An interesting sidebar,on the RPS premium value noted in my post above, is that it is based on a specific alternative means of generation that PG&E could of used to provide the energy (Nat Gas). The data in the table is based on the output form “the Rate Impact Model”. I am an older product and process development guy so I like to check up (get feedback) on the actual impact of things vs. the modeled outcome. I can’t wait to hear back from PG&E, or the CPUC, on exactly what price was used over the years for the cost of Nat Gas in the model to estimate cost premium of the RPS mandate. I have a pretty good idea as in another section of the application (Footnote 20 on page 1-14) a value of $5.00 per Million BTU for natural gas is noted (2012) up to $7.57 in 2020 for the base case scenario. One might ask what’s the actual cost of Nat Gas in 2012? And does this effect the costs premium when using actual data vs. a modeled estimate of a future condition?

      • krakatoa,

        I was looking through the PGE material you linked again, and the language expressing concern for the high-tier customers strikes me as remarkably strong for a document like this. When we talk to the folks at Southern California Edison, they also have a very strong concern about the high-tier customers, but it is a different one and one that might not be acceptable in the PGE document. Unless you are a geek like me who just likes to see the meter run backwards, it is pretty hard to justify a residential PV systerm on economic grounds at the prices flat-rate, coal-burning utilities charge. On the other hand, for a person in SCE’s higher tiers, buying enough solar PV to get into the lower tiers does make sense, and I know several people who have done exactly this. It is clear that SCE considers the tier-dropping PV to be a painful hit to their revenue, and I have no doubt in their accounting. But it is all an artifact of the tier system.

        Dave

      • Dave,

        You can classify me as a geek- I like to watch my meter run backwards too- especially at peak times with my E-7 net meter. The “2009 Central Valley customer rate revolt” likely had a lot to do with the tone of the message. PG&E’s very progressive approach to tier pricing was getting rather large especially compared to SCE. PG&E ratepayers got a bit of a peace dividend via the drop in Nat Gas prices that occurred from the time that PG&E’s original 2011 GRC was submitted- which I calculated the AVG price for kwh going up to 20.05 cents- and what they were able to modify it to (give or take an average price of 18.3 cents on AVG). Yes, I must be a geek as who else would actually calculate my expected costs for my usage based on their need for revenue and how that would effect me based on the info provided.

        And yes, CARB feels energy prices are too low- quote from a CARB representative at their 33%RES public meeting back fall of 2010. From a personal perspective I wasn’t aware that my personal usage of electrical energy was being rated against the average usage in my territory. I think it’s great that both PG&E and SCE are questioning the metric of AVG kwh/month/territory as being the best metric to determine who is being wasteful with energy usage.

        I personally don’t think our using eclectic energy to pump water out of a 260 ft well is wasteful, unnecessary, or inefficient. It appears that the legislature (and then CPUC, CARB and PG&E via their rates) think so as per-
        “Legislative finding; growth in demand; uses of power; depletion of irreversible commitment of resources

        The Legislature further finds and declares that the present rapid rate of growth in demand for electric energy is in part due to wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, and unnecessary uses of power and a continuation of this trend will result in serious depletion or irreversible commitment of energy, land and water resources, and potential threats to the state’s environmental quality.”

        It is becoming uneconomic for me to keep things alive though.

    • Peter Lang

      Kakatoa,
      Very informative, thank you.

      Wow, Your socialism looks worse than Australia’s.

      Are there any states where the rates are unregulated and left to market forces and competition? Can you show how they compare (for various types of users)?

    • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

      kakatoa, thanks for the intro (for our readers) to the California tier system. We served by San Diego Gas and Electric have similar rates. Eventually, the plan is to bill us not just by total usage (in the tier system) but by time of day of use — something that I favor. Right now, SDG&E customers can view online graphs of their usage by time of day, day by day, in preparation for the change-over.

      You ask: How does one fix the mess (as far as market signals go in regards to the ultimate goal of changing behavior to account for your CO2 load) that we (actually it’s the legislature and the CPUC- specifically not an unknown we) have created!

      True, but a majority of voters support what the legislature and CPUC have created.

      The market signals should improve with the time of day metering. Then, if you use electricity, make sure that what you are using it for is worth the cost.

      On the whole, California is not a good model to follow because of decades of underinvestment in electricity generating capacity. But contemporary developments in the economics of solar power in California are an interesting and informative story.

      • Matt- I 100% agree with you as to time of day metering. All of PG&E’s commercial customers are,or are soon to be, on this type of metering. Unfortunately, a few advocacy groups don’t like the concept (nor do they like smart meters- which is the enabling technology that allows this to happen) for the residential market. As you point out TOU metering gives you, the user of the energy, a signal that it really does costs more at certain times for your provider to provide you the energy at a given time of day. You might want to consider if you really need to use energy at that time of day as it is going to cost you more to do so. If you don’t know this fact (it costs more to get the power to you at a certain time) it’s kind of hard to put it into your personal decision making criteria.

        As you are likely aware; in order for the utility scale PV developers (ex First Solar) to get the costs and benefits to work out to build the PV plants the CPUC and the service providers developed long term, must take, PPA contracts with TOD (Time of Delivery) factors that set the price PG&E would be paying ($/kwh) for the output (kwh) at certain times. In the summer at super peak times PG&E will be paying about $.24 for a kwh for the energy (generation) from the PV facilities (2009 contracts – the cpuc time of delivery (TOD) periods and factors are noted here- http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/FINAL_RESOLUTION/111386.htm) ) for 20 to 25 years. If your interested the TOD factors for all three private (PG&E, SCE, and San Diego) utility service providers are noted in the resolution. The newer contracts have a lower start price as the costs of building the RE facilities have gone down (as has the price of Nat Gas).

        As you know a lot of processes (transmission, distribution, billing, overhead for the legal and administrative staff, maint, etc) are in place to move the generation of the electrical power from point A to your house. I went through a bit of a PG&E bill shock back in 2005 so I have been keeping track of how they allocate costs (and what effects those costs) since then. I am a curious fellow so I came up with a thought experiment: If I a bought a Nissan Leaf and I wanted to charge it at home with power from say the new PV facility in Boulder City, NV (I drove by this facility last year which is why I am using it as an example, President Obama was there earlier this year) during the summer at Super Peak times what would PG&E need to charge me based on a few details about what it actually costs them to do their part of getting power from NV to me. I had some data on their cost allocations (see their web site) per delivered kwh so I put the info below into a spreadsheet.

        PG&E % of bill
        Billing Category per kwh
        Generation 46
        Distribution 35.1
        Public Purpose 6.7
        Transmission 4.71
        EC tax 0.02
        Energy cost recovery 1.88
        DWR bond 2.82
        ongoingctc 2.58
        nuc decomm 0.16

        PG&E’s avg rate to cover all their costs to deliver a kwh to the residential market is $.186 currently. Using the table above we can estimate what their generation costs (which includes all RE generation in their portfolio up till the time they calculated the data for the table) are before we add in the new PV facility= $.086 kwh. We also know the price they are going to pay for the power from the new PV facility in Boulder City (the PAA price at super times) is $.24 so we can calculate the cost to deliver a kwh to me to charge my potential Leaf as $.34 kwh.

        The only problem I can think of with this thought experiment is that I am not taking into account some costs associated with the processes that PG&E or CASIO will have to put in place to ensure a reliable supply of electricity at all times on the grid. I don’t have any data on this factor- which I call energy storage/reliability. The folks down at SCE are at the forefront of working out how to quantify this new need in our accounting system (and in the physical world) for reliable eclectic service. The service providers were almost required to have a percent of their generating capacity mandated for energy storage (see AB2415). The CPUC recently said we aren’t ready to require anything specific and they aren’t sure the need for energy storage should be mandated.

        You have lots of other good questions and comments. Unfortunately I am out of time for internet stuff- other then a quick post about what LADWP residential prices were last year and what they are expected to go up to now that they have to meet a mandate for RE. It is hard to believe that LADWP could/can deliver all the energy you want for $.072 kwh during the Oct to May months in the residential market. I can see why a business development associate of mine said that LADWP have a huge competitive advantage compared to the Bay Area when it comes down to utility costs.

        Have a good rest of the weekend. I traveled down to SD about 4 times a year, for about 10 years, to work with a company in your neck of the woods. Great location by the way.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        kakatoa, somehow I missed that May 6 post before today. It’s a good post.

      • Matt,

        Glad you found the post to be of some value.

        I was thinking of using the allocations PG&E notes in my yearly true up bill for my thought experiment. I decided against doing so as my allocations for generation were only 36% for two years and they dropped to 25% last year. I assume the drop off has to do with the price drop in Nat Gas as the amount of peak time kwh I sent to the grid over the three year time period was almost the same for each year. Additionally my actual usage from PG&E is almost never more then 130% of baseline as I generate over 50% (to 58%) of our yearly needs with our PV system and my monthly usage over the years didn’t much. If I had used our personal energy allocation data in the thought experiment above PG&E would need to charge me $.36 to $.38 for charging a Leaf at my house.

  28. Beth Cooper

    Renewable energy technology, solar/ wind, as preferred technology, huh? Joanna refers to WUWT’s 04/05/12 post on the problems of solar energy plants that deliver energy at almost 13 cents per KWH, more than ten times the cost of gas fueled energy. And as Hunter observes, solar plants require orders of magnitude more land than gas technology, hmm… could be crop land. Don’t forget as well, solar technology only produces when the sun is shining… thosepesky clouds and diurnal cycles.

    Intermittant wind technology is similarly fraught with documented problems, despite governments and green advocates hoping to sweep them under the mat. One recent Netherland’s study, ( C le Pair, 2009, ‘Electricity in The Netherlands; wind turbines Increase fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,’ ) examines the problem of the process of cycling or ramping up conventional technology connected as back up to wind plants for the times the wind isn’t blowing, which is most of the time, and ramping down when it is. Even when the wind does blow, however, it can only be utilised by wind turbines when it blows at the required 8-16 MPH. Both ramping up and ramping down increase fuel consumption and CO2.

    And intermittant, inefficient wind farms sure take up a lot of land. They can also take up a lot of sea. Consider the proposed off-shore wind farm in the UK covering over 100 square miles of the Thames Estuary. Operating at an estimated 1.3GW, average output of the 400 or so urbines would only be 390 MW, enough to provide 5KW of electricity to 78,000homes, ‘about enough to power an electric kettle and a toaster.’ (CIVITAS study, Ruth Lea, 2012.) And that’s only when the wind blows. Huh?

    • Beth,
      You don’t get it: The Heartland Institute posted some rude billboards,therefor the AGW believers are correct. We have nothing more to discuss or worry about. Everything is exactly as R. Gates, lolwot, Bart, Gleick, Zwick, Hansen and Gore say it is.
      We demented evil scum should be quiet and cooperate: After all, if Heartland made a marketing error, AGW apocalypticism is correct.

  29. Peter Lang

    Yes Beth,

    Interesting speech by British MP Peter Lilley?

    He dug up a UK Government cost/benefit analysis for the implementation of the climate change legislation.

    Cost: UKP 200 billion (excluding lots of costs such as cost of forcing UK industry to move out of UK)
    Benefit: UKP 105 billion (to the whole world if the UK policy achieves the expected benefits in climate change)

    Renewable energy feed in tariffs:
    Cost: UKP 8.6 billion
    Benefit: UKP 400 million

    These are UK government estimates; no other MP looked at them. Lots more to consider in this Interesting video.

    • Rob Starkey

      If we try to evaluate the situation from a non-emotional perspective.

      Start with some basic premises

      Humans need the ability to generate to vast amounts of electricity per person (worldwide) on a long term basis
      All forms of electricity generation damage the environment to various degrees

      Why isn’t the construction of modern nuclear power plants combined with more efficient power transmission methods the answer to electricity generation/distribution. It would have a low long term cost if managed correctly, and seems to have high reliability and low environmental impact as compared to other options.

      • Peter Lang

        Rob Starkey,

        I am with you on this. I’d go further. To make deep cuts to global emissions over the next four to eight decades, the focus needs to be on providing low cost electricity for the developing countries. China, South Korea and India will work it out for themselves. They may already be ahead of the developed world in developing lower cost nuclear power. But we need to look beyond that. It is the countries like Eretria, Somalia, Mogadishu which will emerge from poverty over these coming decades – just like Germany and Japan did after WWII and China, South Korea, India and other Asian countries have been doing more recently.

        Therefore, if we want to cut global emissions we need to assist the poorest countries to choose nuclear over fossil fuels.

        How can we do that? I suggest we need to cut out all the extra costs we’ve imposed on nuclear.

      • Rob Starkey

        Peter

        I am not sure the poorest countries have any plans for widespread electricity generation and distribution regardless of the source of the power generation. The difference in cost between fossil fuel and nuclear isn’t the real issue. Infrastructure construction is not done and the reasons why are interesting to examine by country.

      • Peter Lang

        Rob Starkey @ May 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm

        You said:

        the poorest countries have any plans for widespread electricity generation and distribution regardless of the source of the power generation.

        I agree that the case as it stands now. But we can look at history to get an idea of what is going to happen over the coming half century or so.

        The authoritative sources project that it is the developing countries that will produce most of the emissions over the decades ahead – especially the countries that are poorest now but will also go through the stages of development that the developed countries have already gone through. The poorest and the developing will progress through the stages of development just as UK and parts of Europe did centuries ago, then USA, then other countries we now called the developed countries (e.g. Germany and Japan after WW II), and more recently Korea after the Korean war, China and India and other Asian and South American nations over the past 50 years or so. There is still most of Africa and many other poor countries to go through this development. It is inevitable; it will happen.

        I am not arguing that the poorest countries are where we necessarily need to place our primary focus on getting nuclear to be low cost. I am just saying that they are important in deciding out long term strategy.

        What we do to remove the impediments to low cost nuclear in the developed countries will assist the whole world to cut CO2 emissions. Conversely, applying CO2 taxes and Cap and Trade schemes may make a difference to emissions in the developed countries but will have little impact on global emissions. The developing countries will not disadvantage themselves – and nor should they – so they will continue to build the least cost electricity generation available to them. Furthermore, the higher cost of electricity in the developed countries will be a factor contributing to moving industry from the developed countries to the developing countries. So much of the emissions avoided in the developed countries will be emitted in the developing countries instead.

        In short, most of the emissions growth will come from the poor and developing countries over the decades ahead – UNLESS, they have an energy option that is cheaper than fossil fuels.

      • Peter Lang

        Rob Starkey,

        You said:

        Infrastructure construction is not done and the reasons why are interesting to examine by country.

        Would you care to expand?

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Peter Lang: I agree that the case as it stands now. But we can look at history to get an idea of what is going to happen over the coming half century or so.

        Historically, electricity from solar power was very expensive. Now it is cost-competitive with electricity from natural gas and coal in poor places that don’t have natural gas and coal, or a good road network, or a good grid. For entrepreneurs in those places who want to start businesses (say a business or coop of women using electric-powered sewing machines to make cheaper clothing than what is now available — or think of one of the thousands of other things an entrepreneur might want to do), one of the advantages of solar is that they don’t need to wait for everyone else to get their act together, and their supply is not interrupted by a strike in the coal mining or trucking industry. Already in many parts of the US roof-mounted PV panels are an economically attractive way to power A/C.

        Almost for sure, the deployment of electricity supplies in the next 50 years will not follow the model of the last 50 years very closely.

      • Peter Lang

        MattStat/MatthewRMarler @May 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        You said:

        Historically, electricity from solar power was very expensive.

        Solar, wind and other non-hydro renewable energy generators are still very expensive. Solar thermal is cheaper than PV and solar thermal electricity is some ten times more expensive than electricity from existing coal plants (in Australia). At a system level (i.e. to replace all fossil fuel electricity generation) electricity would be some ten times more than from what we have now (see Peter Lang @ May 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm:

        Using costs derived from the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET, 2011), the costs are estimated to be: $568 billion capital cost, $336/MWh cost of electricity and $290/tonne CO2 abatement cost.

        That is, the wholesale cost of electricity for the simulated system would be seven times more than now, with an abatement cost that is 13 times the starting price of the Australian carbon tax and 30 times the European carbon price. (This cost of electricity does not include the costs for the existing electricity network).

        For more on this see: http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/

        You said:

        Now it is cost-competitive with electricity from natural gas and coal in poor places that don’t have natural gas and coal, or a good road network, or a good grid.

        That is not really relevant because it provides an extremely small proportion of world energy and replaces virtually no emissions. If we want to displace emissions we have to be able to provide the massive amounts of power that are needed by modern societies. And the power supply has to be reliable.

        Almost for sure, the deployment of electricity supplies in the next 50 years will not follow the model of the last 50 years very closely.

        I agree. it will likely be largely nuclear – in very different forms than our current generation of large reactors – and very little so called ‘renewable’ energy. The term “Renewable” is misleading. Solar generators require about ten times as much material as nuclear (per MWh of energy supplied) and last about 1/5 to ½ as long. Ten times as much material means: ten times as much mining, transport, milling, transport, processing, transport, manufacturing, transport, fabrication, transport, construction, transport, decommissioning, transport and waste disposal. How is that “sustainable”? How can renewables supply the world’s energy needs with that? How can we cut emissions with that? Have renewables cut emissions anywhere? (Denmark, with the highest wind energy penetration in the world, has about the highest CO2 emissions intensity from electricity in Europe and about the highest electricity prices. Conversely, France, with the highest nuclear energy penetration in the world and near the lowest electricity prices in Europe, has the lowest CO2 emissions intensity from electricity in Europe (and of all the major economies in the world). SeeDavid Makcay’s “Sustainable energy – without the hot air”, page 335 here: http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/cI/page_335.shtml )

        The facts are clear. If we want to cut emissions, nuclear power will have to do the heavy lifting. France generates about 76% of its electricity from nuclear. If we move to electric transport, that proportion will increase. That is a model of where we need to get to. Renewables, on the other hand, are a waste of time, effort and money (except for off grid applications).

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Peter Lang: I agree. it will likely be largely nuclear – in very different forms than our current generation of large reactors – and very little so called ‘renewable’ energy.

        I want to see faster development of nuclear power. However, on recent price trends, and recent lab work not yet translated into high volume manufacture, I expect the costs of renewable energy supplies to fall faster than the cost of nuclear power. On this, I would not mind being wrong. In 2010 and 2011, more GW of solar generating power were installed than nuclear generating power, and it looks from preliminary reports that the same will be true of 2012, even excluding the Japanese nuclear shutdowns.

        The technologies and economics of production are changing rapidly. It’s an exciting time.

      • Rob Starkey

        Peter
        A very broad generalization would be that developing countries have rampant corruption that leads to infrastructure construction being cost prohibitive. The specific forms of the corruption can vary in different countries.

        India is a wonderful example. It is an old culture with a great need to have better infrastructure to lessen harms from flooding. Why does India do so little in this area? Corruption.

      • Peter Lang

        Hi Rob Starkey,

        A very broad generalization would be that developing countries have rampant corruption that leads to infrastructure construction being cost prohibitive.

        India is a wonderful example. It is an old culture with a great need to have better infrastructure to lessen harms from flooding. Why does India do so little in this area? Corruption.

        True. But the developing countries will improve their governance over time, just as all the developed countries did to get to where they are now.

        India is lifting people out of poverty at the rate of millions of people per year, as are most Asian countries. Electricity system is expanding to get to more and more people, and doing so rapidly. It is projected India’s coal consumption will expand by a factor of five by 2025 and India will burn more coal than China by then. All the other developing countries will expand their electricity distribution just as USA did long ago, India, China and Indonesia are doing now, and the underdeveloped countries will do next.

        They will all expand their use of fossil fuels, like India, China and (now Japan) are doing, unless they have a cheaper and easier option to use. Hence, I suggest we need to start churning out the small nuclear reactors built on a production line, shipped to site, installed, run for ten years or so, and shipped back to the factory for refuelling.

        Here is an example of what used to be called the “Hyperion” (25 MWe) now renamed to the “Gen4 module”

        http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/advanced/hyperion.html

        Here are the ones most advanced in the regulatory process:

        http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/advanced.html

        Here is a list of small reactors:
        http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf33.html :

        These small reactors will be offered in a range of sizes 10 MW to 350 MW. They could suit most needs. They could be ordered, shipped to site and installed quickly, similar to the advantage of gas turbines, thus reducing the investor risk.

      • Peter Lang

        Hi Matt,

        However, on recent price trends, and recent lab work not yet translated into high volume manufacture, I expect the costs of renewable energy supplies to fall faster than the cost of nuclear power.

        The technologies and economics of production are changing rapidly. It’s an exciting time.

        Matt, if you’ve been involved in the politics of renewable energy enthusiasm, advocacy and subsiies for 20 or 30 years you’ll realise it has always been “an exciting time”. It is an exciting time, not for rational reasons, but because of the public’s euphoria about “renewables” and the enormous public desire that “renewables just have to work out – the Sun is such a lovely god”.

        Yes, the costs of the production of solar components are coming down. But that is not very relevant because solar plants and solar generated electricity are so much more expensive than electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear that solar will never close the gap (without major technological breakthroughs).

        Solar also requires around 10 times more material as nuclear per unit of energy produced. That gap will not close either. So renewables are not sustainable. They are not “renewable” at all; only the fuel is renewable. Enough capacity cannot be built to provide our current power demand, let alone the projected future power demand.

      • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

        Peter Lang: Matt, if you’ve been involved in the politics of renewable energy enthusiasm, advocacy and subsiies for 20 or 30 years you’ll realise it has always been “an exciting time”.

        I wrote that in 2010 and in 2011 the world installed more solar electric generating capacity than nuclear electric generating capacity. Are you ignoring this because you think it is false, or because you think it is irrelevant? In CA that is not a good thing because it results from neophobic/risk-averse hostility to nuclear, but some installations of PV panels are actually good economically.

        Nuclear power has been more heavily subsidized than solar so far, in terms of total dollars, but not in terms of dollars/GW. If the current subsidies drive the cost of solar low enough, then the market players will take over the R&D and leave the R only in basic science. From then on (I expect it, but we’ll have to see whether it actually happens), the dollars/GW will decline with every new unsubsidized GW produced.

        I cited a report by McKinsey consulting that expected a 40% price decrease in the next 2 years. Are you ignoring this because you think it will most likely not occur or because you think it is irrelevant?

        Solar also requires around 10 times more material as nuclear per unit of energy produced.

        There is a lot of it, and it can all be recycled as the old panels decay and have to be replaced.

        The real advantage of PV panels in places like India and Southern California is that you do not have to wait eons for the government or other businesses to do what is right or (in the case of India) for the coal companies actually to deliver the coal.

      • Peter Lang

        Hi Matt, you asked:

        I wrote that in 2010 and in 2011 the world installed more solar electric generating capacity than nuclear electric generating capacity. Are you ignoring this because you think it is false, or because you think it is irrelevant?

        Answer – Because in my opinion it is irrelevant. Capacity is not relevant unless it has the same availability as fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear – i.e. around 90% to 98% availability. Clearly, solar does not have that availability. Any other comparison about capacity are meaningless, IMO.

        Nuclear power has been more heavily subsidized than solar so far, in terms of total dollars, but not in terms of dollars/GW. Nuclear power has been more heavily subsidized than solar so far, in terms of total dollars, but not in terms of dollars/GW.

        As above, it is an irrelevant comparison. Nuclear supplies about 15% of the world’s electricity, solar about 0.2%. Solar PV and nuclear electricity generation both began in the mid 1950s. Since that time, the subsidies invested in nuclear generation have supplied, I’d guess, billions of times more electricity than the subsidies in solar over the same time period. I’d suggest you should normalise your figures on the basis of amount of electricity provided and return on investment.

        If the current subsidies drive the cost of solar low enough, …

        They can’t. It’s impossible without enormous breakthroughs as mentioned in my previous comment. IF statements like yours are the basis of a straw man argument – they just mislead people to prey to the Sun god, like people used to do thousands of years ago.

        I cited a report by McKinsey consulting that expected a 40% price decrease in the next 2 years. Are you ignoring this because you think it will most likely not occur or because you think it is irrelevant?

        Both. Groups like McKinsey have been making similar predictions about future costs of the various types of renewable energy for decades. The reality is it wont occur (i.e. the cost of solar electricity including storage and back up to make it dispatchable, will not drop by much). The advocates’ predictions have invariably been wrong. Compare the predicted and the actual cost of electricity for Gemasolar, Andasol, or others you want to nominate (with the backup and transmission included). Also compare the NEEDS (2008) predictions with the actual outcomes. You will find the predicted cost reductions (for the cost of electricity from the whole system needed to make soar a viable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear) are not happening.

        Secondly, the point is irrelevant, because even if a 40% reduction did occur (which it wont), solar would still be far too expensive. The gap cannot be closed for all the reasons I gave in my previous comment.

        There is a lot of it, and it can all be recycled as the old panels decay and have to be replaced.

        You must be joking. Have you seen the recycling plants? Have you got a cost for the recycling. When do you expect these will be recycled: http://webecoist.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

        Belief that renewables energy is the solution is emotional. It is not rational.

      • Peter Lang

        Hi Matt, you asked:

        I wrote that in 2010 and in 2011 the world installed more solar electric generating capacity than nuclear electric generating capacity. Are you ignoring this because you think it is false, or because you think it is irrelevant?

        Answer – Because in my opinion it is irrelevant. Capacity is not relevant unless it has the same availability as fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear – i.e. around 90% to 98% availability. Clearly, solar does not have that availability. Any other comparison about capacity are meaningless, IMO.

        Nuclear power has been more heavily subsidized than solar so far, in terms of total dollars, but not in terms of dollars/GW. Nuclear power has been more heavily subsidized than solar so far, in terms of total dollars, but not in terms of dollars/GW.

        As above, it is an irrelevant comparison. Nuclear supplies about 15% of the world’s electricity, solar about 0.2%. Solar PV and nuclear electricity generation both began in the mid 1950s. Since that time, the subsidies invested in nuclear generation have supplied, I’d guess, billions of times more electricity than the subsidies in solar over the same time period. I’d suggest you should normalise your figures on the basis of amount of electricity provided and return on investment.

        If the current subsidies drive the cost of solar low enough, …

        They can’t. It’s impossible without enormous breakthroughs as mentioned in my previous comment. IF statements like yours are the basis of a straw man argument – they just mislead people to prey to the Sun god, like people used to do thousands of years ago.

        I cited a report by McKinsey consulting that expected a 40% price decrease in the next 2 years. Are you ignoring this because you think it will most likely not occur or because you think it is irrelevant?

        Both. Groups like McKinsey have been making similar predictions about future costs of the various types of renewable energy for decades. The reality is it wont occur (i.e. the cost of solar electricity including storage and back up to make it dispatchable, will not drop by much). The advocates’ predictions have invariably been wrong. Compare the predicted and the actual cost of electricity for Gemasolar, Andasol, or others you want to nominate (with the backup and transmission included). Also compare the NEEDS (2008) predictions with the actual outcomes. You will find the predicted cost reductions (for the cost of electricity from the whole system needed to make soar a viable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear) are not happening.

        Secondly, the point is irrelevant, because even if a 40% reduction did occur (which it wont), solar would still be far too expensive. The gap cannot be closed for all the reasons I gave in my previous comment.

        There is a lot of it, and it can all be recycled as the old panels decay and have to be replaced.

        You must be joking. Have you seen the recycling plants? Have you got a cost for the recycling. When do you expect these will be recycled: http://webecoist.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

        Belief that renewables energy is the solution is emotional. It is not rational.

      • maksimovich

        The first changes to cutting emissions and fossil fuel growth is increased transparency in both FF production and usage and the removal of Ff subsidies.

        The iea / worldbank/ imf report 2011 suggested this would save governments 600 billion,cut demand growth in energy by 5% (equal to the fuel use of Japan,Korea and NZ ) or around 4.7mbd 20% of US demand.

        It would in addition save around 2gt co2 future growth,level the playing field for substitutes etc.

        Nigeria which decided to reduce subsidies in JAN made the changes to quickly as alternatives were not readily available forcing shocks in food production costs and civil unrest.

        The fuel subsidies were significant around 25% of the govt budget,and a limiting constraint on quality govt spend.The staged removal is now in place,

        The govt investigations into the subsidies however identified substantial corruption ,including payment for fuel shipments that have never even arrived .

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/19/nigeria-fuel-subsidy-

        scheme-corruption

        This is where the role of technology transfer need to be implemented by the IEA.

      • Peter Lang

        Maksimovich said

        The first changes to cutting emissions and fossil fuel growth is increased transparency in both FF production and usage and the removal of Ff subsidies.

        I doubt that is the first place to put our emphasis, although it is one, along with removing the subsidies for renewable energy and the many other distortions we’ve imposed on energy markets over the past 50 odd years.

        To convince me that removing fossil fuel subsidies is the first place we need to focus our efforts you’d need to show me that the subsidies for fossil fuels (i.e. coal and gas, but not oil) are substantially affecting the selection of electricity generation technology for new builds. And you need to make the case for the countries that are, and soon will be, the largest emitters – e.g. China, India and USA. Because, I am fairly sure it is not a major factor in the developing countries, which are, after all, the most important for cutting future emissions growth.

        For interest, in Australia, 80% of our electricity is generated by coal but the subsidies for coal are small, so I doubt this is a high priority place to start – UNLESS it is part of a bigger drive to remove all distortions to energy markets, especially the distortions to the cost of nuclear that we’ve imposed over the past 50 years or so (as a result of nuclear and radiation phobia).

      • maksimovich

        The arguments we can summarize as follows.

        1 That subsidies for FF do exist in most jurisdictions
        2 That often the subsidy is not transparent (most are indirect ,such as depreciation in the Australian CPP case or extraction incentives in Canada etc
        3 The opaqueness of the real costs (without the GHG factor) of FF production is a hindrance for substitution for coal by gas or gas/renewable hybrids preserving base and peak load production.
        4 There are anomalous cases of under-reporting of FF production by a large number of developing countries China for exampl which increased its emission estimates to pass the US in 2006,significantly unreported its coal production (the PRC grey market equal to around 70% of global sea trade)
        5 Uncertainty in FF emissions from Baseline are around +/- 6% the standardized reporting needs to be enhanced.
        6 There is no silver bullet ,each country has its own needs,and resources that may be attributable to its needs ,say hydro and geothermal in Iceland for Aluminum smelting etc.
        7 Multiple solutions allow for a greater diversity of players,the large project solutions often at great cost,become drains on capital and consumers.Greater diversity is abetter evolutionary pathway ie survival of the fittest not fattest.

      • Peter Lang

        Maksimovich,

        I am a bit confused by your response.

        First, you didn’t really address the point I was making. To put my main point a different way, for me to be persuaded that making fossil fuel subsidies transparent (apparently without being concerned about all the other subsidies and distortions in the energy market) is the highest priority for our initial efforts, I’d want to see evidence that the subsidies are of such a scale that, if we removed them, the decisions as to which power stations to build would change sufficiently to make a significant difference (to improve reliability of supply, cost of electricity, health and safety and emissions). I am not at all convinced that would be the case. I also suspect focusing on this, in a clearly partial way, would actually increase the distortions.

        Secondly, your points 1 to 5 are arguing that we must focus on fossil fuel subsidies. However, points 6 and 7 seem to argue we need to make special cases (I suspect you mean subsidies and mandating) for non-hydro renewables.

        In point 7 you mention high capital cost. But it is actually the cost of electricity for the life of the facility that is the most important parameter for comparisons (after reliability and availability). Renewables have much higher capital cost and cost of electricity than fossil fuels of nuclear power.

        We should always keep in mind the enormous external benefit of low cost energy. Reliability of supply and low cost energy overrides all other factors, IMO.

        Your last sentence:

        Greater diversity is a better evolutionary pathway ie survival of the fittest not fattest.

        is a value judgement. The statement, in this context, is meaningless, IMO.

      • No, FF are not heavily subsidized. They are transparent because they are occult: in the minds of the anti ff fanatics.

  30. Peter Lang

    The cost of renewable electricity for Australia

    Researchers at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM), University of NSW, did a desk top study called “Simulations of Scenarios with 100% Renewable Electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market” (Elliston et al., 2011).

    The authors claim their study demonstrates that renewable energy could supply 100% of the Australian National Electricity Market’s electricity and meet the demand with acceptable reliability.

    However, they did not estimate the costs of the system they simulated. I have critiqued the paper and made a crude estimate of the cost of the scenario simulated and three variants of it

    Using costs derived from the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET, 2011), the costs are estimated to be: $568 billion capital cost, $336/MWh cost of electricity and $290/tonne CO2 abatement cost.

    That is, the wholesale cost of electricity for the simulated system would be seven times more than now, with an abatement cost that is 13 times the starting price of the Australian carbon tax and 30 times the European carbon price. (This cost of electricity does not include the costs for the existing electricity network).

    Although it ignores costings, the study is a useful contribution. It demonstrates that, even with highly optimistic assumptions, renewable energy cannot realistically provide 100% of Australia’s electricity generation. Their scenario does not have sufficient capacity to meet peak winter demand, has no capacity reserve and is dependent on a technology – ‘gas turbines running on biofuels’ – that exist only at small scale and at high cost.

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/

    An Excel file is also provided; users can download it, change the inputs and do their own sensitivity analyses.

    • Peter

      If you haven’t looked at it already, the Productivity Commission’s analysis of C02 abatement costs might be helpful:

      http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/carbon-prices

      Good on you for tackling this project – it is work that badly needs doing.

      • Peter Lang

        Johanna,

        Good on you for tackling this project [CO2 abatement cost] – it is work that badly needs doing.

        Thanks you for the support. I agree that abatement cost is one of the important parameters on which we should base our selection of new electricity generation technologies. So too are: levelised cost of electricity for the life of the plant, capital cost, reliability, security of supply, availability, health and risks, environmental consequences, including CO2-eq emissions avoided (and many other types of more harmful emissions).

        Regarding the costs of CO2 abatement, ‘On line Opinion” has this morning posted an article about the compliance cost of the Australian carbon pricing regime:

        http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=13578&page=0

        Please post your thoughts.

      • Hi Peter

        In theory, a Regulatory Impact Statement should have been prepared for the legislation, and is publicly available. This is supposed to canvass the costs and benefits and possible alternatives to regulatory proposals in legislation. Having laboured over writing these things in a previous life, if properly done it should be a long and perhaps even informative document.

        However, there is a history of RIS requirements not being properly met for controversial legislation, which (I think) the Auditor-General reported on a year or two ago.

        I am not sure if RIS’s are online, but they are definitely publicly available. You could ask the Department where to find it, but if they are unhelpful, the relevant staff in Parliament House are usually very good – although Budget week might not be a good time to inquire!

        Best wishes – J

      • Peter Lang

        Johanna,

        Thank you for this comment. It is really great. Would you mind re-posting your comment on Jenifer Marohasy’s thread here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/2012/05/legal-challenge-to-mandated-renewable-energy-in-the-eu/?cp=all

        This thread “Legal Challenge to Mandated Renewable Energy in the EU” is discussing how we can use what engineer Pat Swords is doing in the EU and Ireland, and adapting it for Australia. There are several highly knowledgeable lawyers, engineers and others discussing how best to proceed. Your comment would be much appreciated.

      • Peter Lang

        Johanna,

        I pointed you to the wrong thread. I mean to point you to “The ultimate compliance cost for the ETS”: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=13578&page=0

        Perhaps you could post your comment (and hopefully a link) on both threads. Both are active (both started yesterday) and your contribution would be valuable on both. I am hoping we can get the government to tell us what has been done to estimate the ultimate compliance cost of the ETS, or some how we csn find out what work they have doe to estimate it.

      • Peter Lang

        Johanna, Thank you for posting at On line Opinion. Only four post allowed per 24 hour period so I can’t thank you there.

  31. Tonight the “Genie is out of the bottle” – shattering the 66.7 year barrier to information on Earth’s heat source – the Sun !

    [“Neutron repulsion,” The Apeiron J. 19 123-150 (April 2012)]

    http://tinyurl.com/7t5ojrn

    The current demise of society and loss of confidence in scientists and politicians is the direct result of their fear-based decisions following the vaporivation of Hiroshima on 6 Aug 1945.

    http://judithcurry.com/2012/05/04/week-in-review-5412/#comment-197877

    The rest of this sad saga of misinformation is documented here:

    http://omanuel.wordpress.com/about/#comment-55

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

    http://omanuel.wordpress.com/about

  32. Beth Cooper

    Thx Peter,
    I’ve downloaded your Brave New Climate post, 9 Feb’12, for some serious reading. The madness of intermittant, inefficient, hugely expensive renewable energy technologies make plain the radical agenda of AGW adherents who don’t want plentiful cheap energy. Instead they want to make energy exorbitantly expensive and ration it through a central planning bureaucracy. Brave New World.

  33. Beth Cooper

    Hunter @ 6/5 12.13am:
    Demented as I am, nevertheless … )

  34. So.. what about Dan Nocera’s ‘private energy’ argument: eventually replacing the grid with personal energy generation and persona H2 or NH3 storage?

    Without the overhead of the grid and all the losses in the grid-based system that are somehow never accounted for – lost land use, etc. – Nocera’s argument may even be plausible.

  35. David Young

    This is an interesting post and seems to me to show how difficult it is to reduce carbon emissions by government policy. It seems to me that to reduce emissions, the only viable strategy is to reduce the cost of the alternatives. That can only come from further research and rational government action. Action to make CH4 readily available for transport fuel would be such a rational policy that has positive cost, national security, and emissions implications. Unfortunately, so far, there is no action on this. We are instead fascinated by things like wind and solar that are unlikely to make economic sense even in the medium term.

    I personally find coercive climate policy to be a grave danger to be avoided. One has only to look at the UK and the negative effects of their policies on the cost of energy. Rational policies are possible and represent our best hope for the future. Emotional responses based on fear are not likely to work very well.

  36. One of the problems with measures that raise the price of carbon based fuels is that they will make the fossil industry more, not less, profitable. Even if higher taxes are leveled on top of fossil and biofuels, the producers will make more money per dollar invested. They don’t mind higher prices, so long as they can be sure demand is only a little abated or actually raised by raising taxes.

    And really, why should they mind taxes? They themselves are largely immune to direct taxation. The rate of tax on fossil fuels producers in the USA has fallen 60% as a proportion of price in the past decade. Have you seen a drop in your fuel costs? When you have the sort of elasticity gasoline or home heating fuel have, you can pass almost all the impact of retail taxes on to your customers.. indeed, you can even make them pay more yet, because with everything else artificially more expensive as a proportion of their budget, they’ll go without the higher-priced local goods to drive farther for deals on cheap knock-offs.

    It’s when you _price_, not tax, the carbon cycle, not the carbon-based fuel and return the revenues to the owners of the carbon cycle per capita — not the state, not the fossil producers through subsidies by the state — that you introduce the only disincentive that works economically.

    But is there a reason to do so in the science?

    Who cares?

    This is an area where the science just doesn’t matter. The deadweight loss in the economy due distortions caused by failing to price the carbon cycle, combined with the subsidies on carbon-based energy and favoritism built into the infrastructure by government due industry lobbying pressure is reason in and of itself to stop giving away everyone’s carbon cycle to free riders. Once the Market is allowed to work out the real point of economically efficient prices for carbon energy relative to the whole economy, then such efforts as are being made by amateur accountants might be able to work out the real costings and impacts of policies.

    Until then, it’s simply smoke and mirrors.

  37. This note is for Peter Lang-

    Peter I forgot to follow up with you on some data in the states on electrical prices………

    Here are some sites I use –

    1) Data source for electrical prices by state (and other goodies)

    http://www.eia.gov/state/state-energy-profiles-updates.cfm

    2) by city- example LA

    http://www.bls.gov/ro9/cpilosa_energy.htm

    But please note the data above for LA appears to include only SCE’s prices (SCE is under the 33%RES)

    The prices for the residential market served by LADWP were a lot different as was their power contant. I copied the data below from LADWP’s web site last year (FEB)

    http://www.ladwp.com/ladwp/cms/ladwp000536.jsp

    2. Monthly Rates
    High
    Season
    June – Sep. Low
    Season
    Oct. – May
    a. Rate A – Standard Service
    (1) Energy Charge –
    per kWh
    Tier 1 –
    per Zone Allocation $ 0.07020 $ 0.07020
    Tier 2 –
    per Zone Allocation $ 0.08520 $ 0.07020
    Tier 3 –
    per Zone Allocation $ 0.12000 $ 0.07020
    (2) ECA – per kWh See General Provisions

    If your interested in the effect of RES I’d recomend looking at SCE or PG&E vs say LADWP. All three organiations are in CA. Only 1 didn’t do much of anything towards the RES as noted here-
    “California’s 46 publicly owned utilities manage about a quarter of the state’s power. Of them, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the state’s (and the nation’s) largest public utility with about nine percent to 12 percent of California’s generation, has been thought the bad boy for making lots of promises about developing renewables and then going back to fossil fuels.” http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/ladwp-looks-at-33-percent-renewables-by-2020/

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you

    • Peter Lang

      Kakatoa,

      Thank you for the links and the prices. I’ll store that for now and think about how I can use it.

  38. This information is word for word from Paul Gilding’s book The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis will bring on the end of Shopping and the birth of a new world

  39. The article was also posted at aspousa – Assoc. for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – USA, a site that seems worthy of a bookmark for some reference material, some of which are borrowed from TheOilDrum.com