by Planning Engineer
Power System Planners do not have the expertise or knowledge to say whether or not the benefits of reducing carbon emissions are worth the costs. However they should be respected as experts for obtaining a better understanding of what the implications and costs of such programs are.
Unfortunately many non-experts, driven by fear of AGW, have done much to cloud, distort and ignore critical issues around the cost and capabilities of renewable energy and the realities relating to the provision of electrical power. This is harmful because even if carbon reductions justify any level of power system costs; we are better served knowing at least generally the range of those costs. If however, a balancing between costs and emission reductions is required – it is crucial that we understand the true costs and challenges imposed by renewable energy. To provoke discussion this post offers some preliminary thoughts, observations and personal opinions.
Where are we now? The US is seeing exponential growth in renewable resources. This is largely because of the mandates or directives imposed upon utilities. Examination of these renewable programs today could provide valuable information to drive future decision making in the power supply area. Potentially real world results modelled along with falling costs for renewables and estimated benefits from carbon reduction could drive the further expansion of renewables. However what is being observed is that you need ridiculously high valuations for carbon reduction to justify significant increases in renewable generation. Current efforts to increase renewables have abandoned carbon valuations and focused instead on mandates, directives and incentives that are not built upon any sort of comprehensive cost benefit analysis. A cynical observer might believe that the urgency to adopt renewable mandates is driven by fears that we must take action now; as such action will not be justifiable in the near future as the true costs and benefits become better understood.
Myth 1 – Utilities are too conservative and unwilling to investigate and utilize new and promising technologies. In the US alone there are hundreds of utilities operating on very different business models including Investor Owned Utilities, Cooperatives, Municipals, Energy Marketers, State and Federal entities. No group of related utilities provides even 5% of the US market. Furthermore, FERC Order 1000 allows non-utility power suppliers to compete as well. Additionally the development of alternative resources is not just limited to the US. The idea that the collective reluctance of a diverse mix of utility engineers, or worse a conspiracy among them, is slowing down the implementation of alternative technology does not make sense. Those who argue that we must trust climate scientists on climate issues should also consider trusting the experts when it comes to power supply.
Myth 2 – The US has a third world grid. The Eastern Interconnection is the largest, best machine ever built. It’s highly reliable, flexible and economic. The idea that it, or the other two US grids, function as third world grids or are less than smart has been promulgated by entities hoping to make a buck (GE/Siemens) and by those who wanted to hide the costs of adding renewables to the grid (Wind/Solar).
While utilities have had occasional (and unacceptable) blackouts– they have learned from these and made improvements to lessen the likelihood of such events. Much of what is being called for as regards a smart grid has little or nothing to do with reliability. Pushing what is new and different is good for consultants, those producing the new technology and those who want to subsidize specialized costs. The balancing voices speaking in defense of the current grid do not have the same incentives, motivations or resources and as such are not as widely heard.
Myth 3 – All Megwatts are equal – An electric power system is very complex and must operate within narrow parameters while balancing loads and resources and supporting synchronism.
Conventional rotating machinery such as coal, nuclear, and gas plants as well as hydro generation provide a lot of support to the system. This includes reactive power (vars), inertia, regulation of the system frequency and the capability to ramping up and down as the load varies. Most renewable resources lack these important capabilities and furthermore are only intermittently available (not dependable). Since wind turbines must rotate at variable speeds their rotational energy cannot be used to support the system.
Some, but not all of the disadvantages of solar and wind energy can be mitigated at extra costs through electronic and mechanical means. When these resources only make up a small percentage of the generation on the system, it is not a big deal. The system is strong enough that utilities are ok with letting a small percentage of solar lean on the system. But as the penetration of solar and wind energy increases the system robustness will degrade and reliability will be compromised without costly improvements. Such additional costs are not generally applied to renewable resources at this time.
Myth 4 – Renewable resources will degrade the reliability of the power system. This may or may not be seen as a myth. Could a power system operating similar to ours be built that relied on only renewable resource? The answer is yes and no. As noted above there are essential system characteristics that most renewables do not supply or supply well. However a renewable system could be coupled with extensive batteries and other storage devices, large mechanical flywheels and condensers (basically an unpowered motor/generator that can spit out or consume reactive power). These devices could approximate the behaviors of our conventional power system but they would require huge and prohibitive costs. On top of the renewable resources, the total cost for such a system would be many multiples times the cost of our current systems.
This “confusion” between cost and reliability allows it to be technically true that renewables do not necessarily degrade the system. But in practice they do, or they pass high costs on to others. When it’s advocated that some reasonable portion of cost recovery come from renewables it is denounced as unfair, discriminatory or anti-competitive. The new resources and technologies have significantly different operational characteristics than conventional technology and sometimes from each other. Planners typically assume the best for renewables but unanticipated results have already occurred. We don’t know how good our models are or how well we understand their expected performance as compared to technologies that have played out over decades. Renewables increase risks and costs.
Myth 5 – There are many success stories of renewable generation supporting the increase usage of such technology. There are some successes but the overall success of such technologies has been greatly overblown and exaggerated. This myth perhaps deserves a series of posts. We cannot replace large (or significant) amounts of conventional technologies with wind and solar without either wrecking the economy or degrading system reliability or both. Countries, regions and entities that have aggressively undertaken renewable, solar or wind ventures have not seen results which would justify their emulation. Sometimes the costs are hidden subsidies such as tax credits, biased cost allocation and creative financing.
Misinformation is rampant. “Major breakthroughs” regarding alternative technology are frequently announced but typically do not materialize. We frequently see stories as to how much of countries resources are provided by renewables and pleas are made for the US to reach for those levels. A country is not always the same thing as a power system. For example Germany can only have a large amount of solar and wind (for the exorbitant cost they incurred) because they are interconnected to a bigger more balanced grid. The important fact is that the power system that Germany is a part of does not have that high a level of renewables. Similarly Denmark has a lot of wind based generation, but they too are not a standalone system – their wind level would be highly problematic if they were not integrated with the vast hydro facilities in Norway and Sweden
The true costs of these renewables are often hidden though cost shifting and subsidies. The approval of such projects frequently rely on cost shifts along with the most optimistic projections imaginable for the alternative technology and highly pessimistic projections for conventional alternatives. Reality does not match projections for renewable performance. Similarly when performance is analyzed, many costs and burdens imposed by renewable technology are ignored. This topic calls for a much more thorough treatment, but from the sidelines there are many large and small observations that can be made which seemingly in the real world always come out to show renewables underperforming and conventional technology over performing. For example: Wind facilities are not lasting nearly as long as projected due to bearing failures. The output of solar and wind facilities is typically less than projected during peak periods. More costly maintenance than projected is required for renewables. Conventional technology usually exceeds planned life and with refurbishment and can last years longer than it is credited for. Conventional fuels have not escalated anything like assumed projections. Unanticipated improvements to the system are often needed to integrate the operation of renewables. Backup generation required by renewables is not adequately accounted for.
A significant problem is that mandates are made with little, bad or no information. After that programs are judged as to how well that met the mandate, but the mandate’s themselves escape scrutiny. Renewable technologies can be touted as successful because they enabled a Utility to meet a mandate, but that is not the same as saying they would be successful compared to other technologies in an open evaluation.
As a magician can show a gullible audience that a cage is empty by selective exposure, so too can studies of renewables show their apparent benefits. But the seasoned observer in both cases can recognize that there is a curtain that likely has tiger behind it. Unfortunately, as a lead in to Myth 6, it may be the case that often nobody with decision making ability really cares whether or not renewables meet their performance expectations or not. The sponsoring utilities can still be granted a good return on such investment and others are pleased with vague “understandings” that they are doing something “worthwhile” for the environment
Myth 6 – Consumers are protected by their public service commissions and other regulatory bodies. Some commissioners (or other regulatory enforcers) are political appointees and some are elected. In theory they oversee the utility and look out for the consumers. They generally have broad powers and can determine critical items such as rate of return, capital inclusion, rate increases and cost recovery. Many commissioners and regulators lack training and expertise and believe that protecting consumers from CO2 emissions can be done more cheaply than possible or that it is more important than their traditional responsibility of ensuring that the utility provide economic and reliable power. I’m afraid that contrary to the design, in far too many cases utilities are trying to look out for their customers and protect them from their commissioners.
Political pressures exist for all power suppliers, but for brevity I will focus on Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) to describe the workings of power supply planning. An IOU’s primary goal is to earn a rate of return for their investors, their secondary concern is providing economic and reliable power. All things equal Utilities seek to do both. However Utilities focused on providing reliable and economic power to their consumers can find themselves under significant pressure from their green regulators. Their decisions are criticized (with hindsight) and cost recovery and rate of return decisions can be very punitive. Utilities pursuing green programs that satisfy their commissioners can be well rewarded regardless of the bottom line cost on consumers. Political oversight based on cost recovery makes it so a utility might prefer a more costly less effective program that harms their consumers but is rewarded by the legislators.
Many small renewable projects have been undertaken for the purpose of relationship enhancements with regulators. Regulators have huge power to cripple or reward utilities. Politics impact utility resource decision making and it is generally biased towards (not away) from renewables and there is little incentive to negatively evaluate much less publicize the shortcomings of such programs once they are undertaken. Speaking honestly and truthfully to regulators and other stakeholders can easily be re-interpreted by them as the utility being anti-renewables, inflexible and protectionist. Worst case as noted they can find some of your decisions imprudent and not allow cost recovery.
My comments above should not be taken to imply that I believe that Planners or Utilities deliberately undertake significant projects to the detriment of their consumers in order to gain benefits from their regulators. I believe it is a much more subtle process. Utilities are criticized and chastised for not embracing renewables and face additional scrutiny and demands which hurt their bottom line. Over time with pressure study assumptions begin to fall in line more with those of the regulators. Perhaps against better judgment – alternative technologies are credited with higher performance, lower maintenance and/or greater longevity than is warranted. Existing technology does not receive similar benefits and may be penalized. Fuel prices for conventional technology are projected to steeply escalate. High compliance costs are associated with conventional technology. Extra costs to the transmission system associated with intermittent resources are ignored or minimized. The strategic value of experience with new technology is given a high value. Individually most any of these study decisions may be reasonable; collectively they skew the results tremendously. Planners who buy into the benefits of renewables are more likely to participate in forums with environmental groups, industry renewable task forces, and PR opportunities because it matches their perspectives and their presence helps the utilities image.
Some personal observations: I believe there is one large investor owned utility that is adding a bit of solar, just to please the Public Service Commission so that they can get a Nuclear Plant built and have a decent return approved for the investment. Pushing back on solar could cost them far more than the solar program they are adopting. While I think IOUs generally do the right thing the perverse incentives make that difficult. If the Commission is going to approve both your solar and your nuclear and you will get a good return on both, it’s hard for a business to insist on consumer good against the wishes of the Public Service commission who is supposedly looking out for those same consumers.
The major generation alternative to renewables:
Even with studies skewed by overly optimistic treatment of alternative energy and overly pessimistic treatment of conventional technology it’s still generally hard to make the alternative technology appear competitive with natural gas generation. Major studies built upon biased assumptions favoring alternative technology, nevertheless show huge costs for renewable resources as opposed to high gas generation scenarios. To get around this alternative resources are given huge amounts of credit for clean air impacts, conventional technologies are punished, all concurrent with low availability and high projections for natural gas prices (or gas generation is ignored as an option). At national workshops on the future of the grid various scenario’s around skewed assumptions on future resources are developed and discussed. In one forum I asked why we did not have a scenario assuming plentiful and cheap natural gas availability (as forecast by many). After a bit a silence the response was that fracking could be curtailed and that gas generation might be limited in the future. Quite a remarkable statement when you consider the myriad assumptions and uncertainties built into the modeling scenarios that are needed to favor renewables. How reasonable is it to be so optimistic on one hand and so pessimistic on the other? If the optimism shown towards renewables applied in other areas as well, we’d see projections showing huge amounts of generation at highly affordable costs from improved clean coal technology.
Ignoring C02 emission issues, there is no question that over the next 20 years that with the commonly projected availability and cost of natural gas that gas turbines and combined cycle plants should make up the overwhelming bulk of resource additions. Cheap plentiful natural gas is a path to a low cost secure energy future for America. If gas plants are limited by environmental or other reasons, we face a much more costly and challenging future. The economics, operations and reliability benefits offered by modern gas generators cannot be approached with even the most optimistic foreseeable projections for large scale renewables. We need comparisons of this scenario to the renewable scenarios. Likely the savings from natural gas over renewables would be significantly large enough to support carbon capture or other more effective carbon reduction programs.
In the end, to many people the facts and numbers don’t matter. This hit home hard with me once a few year back. The Sierra Club was touting a big efficiency program but their numbers seemed off. The calculation of such efficiency benefits is easily subject to manipulation, but I found it strange their numbers were so low. After a close examination of the original study I saw that they had confused units between Mega and Giga in their calculation and were under expressing the benefit of the touted program by a factor of 1000 in the presentation I had sat through and all their printed material. Accidently they were saying the program was 1000 times less effective per dollar invested than their analysis warranted. I wrote them a nice note explaining that their program would look much better if they revised the numbers. I never heard anything back nor did any updates on their material ever appear. The numbers did not matter. They were presenting an emotional argument for the program and the number associated with it sounded just as big to them regardless of whether they were expressed correctly in GWHs or incorrectly in the much smaller units of MWHs. For most of us, at the end of the day it does matter whether our monthly bill is $200 or $200,000 and so we need to pay attention to people who transcend emotion and have some facility with numbers. If we should be panicking – let’s panic intelligently
The EPA is considering broad and sweeping mandates that will aggressively drive increased renewables and hinder traditional generation technology greatly to the detriment of power system costs and reliability. In public dialogues, utilities typically have not wanted to upset their regulators. Planners don’t want to upset their employers. So in the public conversation the voices of vested interests, alarmists and others drown out the more muted voices of the experts. As policy makers grapple with issues around CO2 it would be highly desirable if System Planners could share their knowledge and expertise without fearing censure.
I expect we will hear more honesty from utility experts. We are moving past the point where the industry is mostly only accommodating token and small programs that have small limited impacts upon grid costs and reliability. The potential EPA mandates would have major impacts adversely hurting grid reliability and economics. The money that pours into the grid from such a change could greatly benefit utilities and planners in terms of business and work opportunities. However I believe most planners and utilities recognize that the overall impacts to society (unless needed to aver environmental disaster) would be extremely harmful in the net analysis. I hope that the voices of concerned utility experts are not drowned out by the noise of “true believers” or disbelieved because of false accusations of self-interest.
Biosketch: Planning Engineer has over 30 years’ experience in the electric utility industry and has overseen generation planning and transmission planning. He is a registered Professional Engineer with a Masters in Electrical Engineering and graduate training in Policy Analysis. He has and continues to serve on a variety of regional and national committees in the power supply arena.
JC note: This is a guest submittal from a long time reader of Climate Etc. I requested this column because on a previous thread “Planning Engineer” shared some perspectives that deserved to be expanded into a guest blog. Planning Engineer is posting anonymously because he wanted to frankly share his personal views and not have them tied directly to his current employer. As with all guest posts, keep your comments civil and on topic.
Whipping a dying horse.
I disagree kim. This is an excellent synopsis of the underlying issues which need to be addressed — proper due diligence for policy and regulation decisions. Its also very proactive.
DOE is currently supporting research related to small scale regional grid generation and has supported some amazing research related to hydrogen which has the benefit of power and potable water from brackish or waste water input.
I also was amazed by DOD research related to making jet fuel from sea water which eliminates the cost of transport to ships at sea.
Eventually, power generation will be decentralized for developing countries.
Kudos Planning Engineer, great article.
Indeed. The possibilities of solutions like this are immense. What this mean is that the world has an effectively unlimited supply of both electricity and liquid transport fuels (petrol, gasolene, diesel, jet fuels). Effectively unlimited nuclear energy can produce effectively unlimited electricity and transport fuels. John Morgan’s post “Zero emissions synfuel from seawater” is interesting: http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/01/16/zero-emission-synfuel-from-seawater/
Yup, John; I overreacted. After reading 420 comments, it’s more like racing 6 month olds. An important perspective from Professional Engineer and an invaluable discussion.
er, that’s from the highly professional Planning Engineer.
Thanks Peter — great read.
“Not everyone has the Navy’s interest in manufacturing at sea. What if the process were operated from a land based site? The largest capital component in the Navy costing is the floating platform, which adds a huge $650m to a 200 MWe power plant. If the platform cost were taken out, the fuel cost drops to a bargain basement $0.79 per litre, and the carbon capture cost drops to $37 per tonne!”
So we can then satisfy the Greens and have our fuel to — works for me ; )
The internal fuel load of a F-18 Super Hornet is 18,800 pounds (2,254 gallons). The Government Accounting Office reported that the DOD purchased $150 per gallon algae derived jet fuel in May of this year at a time when petroleum base jet fuel cost $2.88 per gallon. Do the math, max internal load out $355,000 vs $6,495. Mind boggling, no? Interrogative do you really believe that this algae hydrogen based fuel was funded by private enterprise? This is a prime example of rent seeking scum sucking the life blood of the few remaining tax paying workers of this country of ours.
I agree regarding biofuels, algae and hydrogen. But synthetic hydrocarbon liquid fuels from seawater may be a different story altogether. When powered by cheap virtually unlimited nuclear fission or in future nuclear fusion energy we’d have unlimited liquid transport fuels. The US Navy research estimated a cost of $3 to $6 per gallon using currently available technologies. They are already making the fuel and powering model aircraft, but not at industrial scale of course.
Reblogged this on JunkScience.com and commented:
An excellent summary. I assume by “eastern grid” he means PJM
Was referring to the Eastern Interconnection. PJM is a part of that system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Interconnection
I stand corrected. Thanks.
“Consumers are protected…”
Congress has the authority to govern the EPA. Looks like it will happen in 2015.
Energy group: Midterm voters dislike EPA climate rule
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate rule is particularly unpopular in heavy coal production states that would be hit the hardest, a new industry-backed study finds.
The poll from the Partnership for a Better Energy Future (PBEF) released Wednesday finds that more than half of voters around the country would not be willing to pay even $1 more in monthly household energy costs because of the climate rule.
In fact, 40 percent would be less likely to vote for candidates who support the climate rule, according to the poll.
“The data released today make it abundantly clear that regulators in Washington are completely out of touch with what the rest of America wants,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, a member of PBEF. “The EPA’s plan to regulate carbon emissions from new and existing power plants could drastically increase energy prices for households and businesses alike.”
Reality will be the teacher herein. But perhaps too late for all. IF the EPA shuts down the NE corridor coal plants, rate payers will find out in December the cost of that folly. Expect utility bills of 300% or more wrt past times. ideology has a price, and that, quite soon.
I agree Lance and the UK is a good example of the Green Canary in the Coal Mine. Closing their coal mines was very foolish.
The issue isn’t coal its how its utilized to generate power. Oddly, the UK invented an interesting solution during WWII which was never implemented after the war. They converted coal to carbon rods for large scale carbon arc furnaces. Pollution was thus minimized due to the rod production process as well as the high temperature burn.
Its tragic to find the complete disconnect between Federal Agencies like the DOD/DOE, which are in the solutions business, and EPA which is in the regulatory compliance game. A good example would be EPA sulfur restrictions related to mining and DOE research related to fuel cells which utilize sulfur as a fuel. I don’t dispute the need to properly manage mining waste to protect the water supply but it would be far more logical to seek and streamline solutions in support of various industries.
Typo in myth 5. Should say “without” either wrecking…..
Thanks for your perspective JC, keep it coming..
Under Myth 5, in this sentence
..solar with either wrecking the economy or degrading system reliability or both.
Should it be without?
Renewable energy has had a 100% market share of the energy market for most of mankind’s history. Then (dense-energy) fossil fuels enabled the machinery of the Industrial Revolution. Dilute, intermittent energy cannot power a modern economy… This is a major theme of the posts at http://www.masterresource.org.
The biggest myth is that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant. CO2 is part of the natural cycle of renewable energy.
I haven’t gotten any farther than this, but had to comment:
This cynical observer strongly suspects that the “urgency to adopt renewable mandates is driven by fears that we must take action now” as falling costs for solar and other technological developments will make “renewable energy” competitive on its own, without the need for regulatory impositions and world government that represent the true agenda.
Of course, I may be overly cynical. Maybe.
Of course, I may be overly cynical.
I really don’t think you are overly cynical.
Great post . I’ll jest add Myth number 7 – Subsidies Work.
Top-down bureaucrats pick winners – fail.
Top-down bureaucracies foster innovation – fail.
Modernization by decree works … oh ohh …
Peter the Great – fail.
Shah of Iran – fail.
Guvuhmints developing energy more efficiently
than the private sector -fail.
Ref Peter Z Grossman. ‘US Energy Policy and the Presumptions
of Market Failing. And Jane Jacobs ref beth the serf 21st Edition )
Congratulations Planning Engineer – you have written an excellent introduction to a critically important aspect.
And thanks to the host – this web-site is wonderful.
Excellent! My experience is in large project development and planning, and I am in full agreement with the article.
I want to add the human failures Planning Engineer describes are also seen within projects in which neither regulators nor green lobbyists have much involvement. The use of optimistic scenarios, flawed asumptions, myths, and low quality management can lead to what we call “train wrecks”: Projects which fail miserably, don´t make a profit, or end up killing a bunch of people. The internal struggles within corporate groups between the “loose dreamers” who forget their details and the “hard core planners” are legendary, and during my careeer I got to see a large number of blood baths caused by internal factions fighting over whether a project should be launched, how it should be launched, etc.
The problems both of us have seen can be dealt with, but it requires highly trained, intelligent, and very well protected individuals at the top (well protected means they have to insist the right thing be done without having their careers turned to shreds).
Given Washington politics and the nature of the people Obama has (unfortunately) put in charge, I don´t see a good outcome in the USA.
The EU, on the other hand, may have the fat pulled out of the fire by the Polish Prime Minister, who has promised to veto Brussel´s proposals for emissions limits, proposals which happen to be based on wishful thinking and Alice in Wonderland engineering.
“wishful thinking and Alice in Wonderland engineering.,
Best comment so far.
The same idea was expressed by Dr. James Hansen when he said that believing in renewables is like believing in the “Tooth fairy and Easter Bunny”.
And thank you for mentioning your practical experience in the industry. I greatly appreciate comments from people with experience like yours. I am also very grateful to Judith Curry for getting such a great range of excellent and relevant posts. I hope this post gets broad exposure and debate. I’m spreading it.
Having attended multiple meetings in which included people from the California Public Utilities Commission, I believe Planning Engineer is much to polite about their ignorance and arrogance.
I saw multiple cases where system maintenance and tree trimming funds were cut by one commission administrative law judge, saying “the people of California do need to pay for an ‘excellent’ power system when all that is needed is a ‘good’ one” while another administrative law judge penalized the utility for not providing an ‘excellent’ system for the public – in the same rate case.
I just can’t seem to proof read my own writing: The sentence should read “the people of California DO NOT need to pay for and ‘excellent’ power system when all that is needed is a ‘good’ one”
Planning Engineer is in the pay of Big Commonsense.
Planning Engineer –
==> “However what is being observed is that you need ridiculously high valuations for carbon reduction to justify significant increases in renewable generation. ”
I wonder if, in your planning expertise, you have figured into your analysis the enormous geo-political and financial resources that have been necessarily expended in the past to make fossil fuels an available resource – and whether you have projected out that expenditure of resources into the future?
Additionally, I wonder how you have accounted for any variety of negative externalities associated with using fossil fuels – say environmental impacts, health impacts, and the opportunity costs of enriching the governments of totalitarian states deny vast swaths of their citizens access to basic civil rights — as a start.
Thanks in advance for your expert analysis in response.
Joshua I have not. I would say my use of the word “ridiculously” high referred to magnitude of the number imposed being so large that it would not be credible for any policy initiatives. I would suppose such a valuation would stop our use of automobiles and extend to many other areas as well.
I’m out of my area here and just discussing this with you person to person. The enormous geo-political and financial resources that were expanded in the past- I would call a sunk cost. Sunk costs apply to either renewable or conventional futures. Changing to renewables won’t undo what has been done. Since we have technology and resources for domestic natural gas I would hope that “investments” associated with geo-political and other financial resources would be minimal.
As for my position on the variety of “negative externalities”, please re-read my opening sentence. I leave someone else to weigh in there with expertise not emotion. Hopefully such examinations will not only include the externalities of conventional technology but also renewable resources. My un-expert suspicion is that the “negative externality” information we get is highly skewed as well.
Thanks for the response:
==> “The enormous geo-political and financial resources that were expanded in the past- I would call a sunk cost. Sunk costs apply to either renewable or conventional futures.”
Yes – the “sunk cost” aspect is important to consider…but to the extent that those expenditures extend into the future, they must be a part of ascertaining just what is or isn’t “ridiculous.” Since energy demands will increase regardless, you can’t comprehensively cost out the comparative resources needed to sustain different energy sources w/o at least attempting to factor the enormous costs of sustaining a fossil fuel infrastructure. Past costs are a helpful gauge for considering the potential of future costs. Analysis that promotes conclusions about relative costs, without that consideration, seems to me to be starting in the middle and ending way before a reasonable degree of completion.
==> ” Since we have technology and resources for domestic natural gas I would hope that “investments” associated with geo-political and other financial resources would be minimal.”
A reasonable point – but only to the extent that it is realistic to envision (1) large-scale substitution for reliance on other fossil fuels (which would mean overcoming the political influence of vested interests that market other fossil fuels) and, (2) a willingness to resist the pressure to keep making those expenditures to keep those other fossil fuels flowing to countries that can’t rely on their own domestic natural gas or our exported natural gas – an outcome I would think unlikely.
==> “As for my position on the variety of “negative externalities”, please re-read my opening sentence.”
Well, my point is that your expertise does not lie in some mutually exclusive domain w/r/t benefits and costs. You can’t realistically and meaningfully isolate the benefits and costs of various energy sources from the geo-political costs and negative externalities.
==> “My un-expert suspicion is that the “negative externality” information we get is highly skewed as well.”
What I find interesting is how people draw such suspicions w/o really studying the issues in-depth even as they discount “expert” opinion selectively depending on whether those “experts” state opinions that align with their largely uninformed suspicions.
Joshua, this is a bit much:
==> “My un-expert suspicion is that the “negative externality” information we get is highly skewed as well.”
What I find interesting is how people draw such suspicions w/o really studying the issues in-depth even as they discount “expert” opinion selectively depending on whether those “experts” state opinions that align with their largely uninformed suspicions.
Its a topic that PE didn’t want to comment on because he claims that he isn’t an expert, you coaxed a comment from him anyways, then criticize his comment for his not being an expert. I also suspect that PE’s idea of not having studied something in depth is probably far deeper than most here.
Joshua – I’m all for getting all the information on the table. I shared my perspective because I think it should be balanced with the perspectives of others. You seem to think I should shut up unless I can address the whole thing comprehensively. I am only asking that our perspectives be taken fairly. I hear many environmentalists arguing that renewables are good economically apart from the environmental benefits because the energy is “free”. That’s clearly not true-so balance is needed.
If you posted a piece on geopolitical costs – I’d want to read it and I wouldn’t criticize your analysis because you did not identify that solar panels do not provide vars. Yet you bring geopolitical costs into my post. These are two unrelated bits of information that might impact an overall policy. I would argue both need to be heard by policy makers. You seem to discount what I say because it pushes against your desired outcome. I say let us all speak and hopefully better decisions will be made.
Your last crack about drawing conclusions without study seems a little snarky and I don’t want to continue in that vein. Perhaps I am being humble. I know that the production of solar cells produces caustic materials and that China has devastated some environments with their production. I know wind turbines are not made out of renewable pine trees. I know the standards for harming wildlife are incredibly different for renewable generation as opposed to conventional generation. I know that fracking made small mistakes in the early days when they were Mom and Pop shops but the industry has changed significantly. I’ve been to environmental conferences and seen conventional technology pilloried undeservedly and rarely if ever does anyone even acknowledge the environmental consequences of renewables. I have no idea who the expert(s) you might be referring to is(are). I suspect you are talking about environmental propaganda, but if you have links I would appreciate them. Don’t know that I will be able to read them today.
==> “Joshua – I’m all for getting all the information on the table. I shared my perspective because I think it should be balanced with the perspectives of others. You seem to think I should shut up unless I can address the whole thing comprehensively. ”
Not at all. I think that the points that you’re discussing should be a part of the discussion. On the other hand, they should correctly be viewed as necessarily incomplete – and placed in the appropriate context of uncertainty. Your statements about what is or isn’t “ridiculous” should appropriately reflect that context.
Similarly, the value of Judith’s focus on uncertainty is diminished to the extent that she applies that focus only in one direction.
Joshua wouldn’t have much case to argue if you’d stuck to the engineering side (which was quite good) and left out the value judgements and economic analysis;
“However I believe most planners and utilities recognize that the overall impacts to society (unless needed to aver environmental disaster) would be extremely harmful in the net analysis.”
Though that statement is interesting given you opened with this;
“”Power System Planners do not have the expertise or knowledge to say whether or not the benefits of reducing carbon emissions are worth the costs.”
This is the last message i’m allowing on this topic. Please keep the conversation constructive.
OK, one last piece. I apologize for the tone that came across as snarky. I referred to a characteristic of “people” which personalized the comment. I should have stuck to a criticism of your analysis and not personalized it (and exacerbated by my error by assigning guilt by association).
The criticism of your argument about “expertise” stands, however, as, IMO, you, yourself, extended your realm of expertise in the quote I excerpted.
I appreciate that you refrained from fighting snark with snark (well, to some degree; not sure how to interpret your assumption about my referring to “environmental propaganda”).
You recognized these two excerpts from my post as somewhat contradictory:
1 “However I believe most planners and utilities recognize that the overall impacts to society (unless needed to aver environmental disaster) would be extremely harmful in the net analysis.”
2 “”Power System Planners do not have the expertise or knowledge to say whether or not the benefits of reducing carbon emissions are worth the costs.”
I read them as complimentary. Perhaps instead of using “environmental disaster” is should have said “provide significant environmental benefits.
My point is let Planners tell decision makers how much it costs. We know it’s a lot. If what we do has a worthwhile environmental pay off relative to those costs -we should do it. If the payoff is small-relative to the costs we should not. If we are facing environmental disaster and we can avert it through a switch to renewables – I’d be glad to be part of that effort. the work, challenges, perks … would all be personally great for me.
An aside – good people tend to choose careers where they think they can do some good. I think economic and reliable power is a great thing that enables people to enjoy life, transcend difficulties and widely increase the standard of living for all, but especially the poor. As we make tradeoffs between important goals-we need them all on the table. Not muffle some values to exalt one prime value. I didn’t touch on it here, but I think it’s reprehensible that anyone living in a wealthy country such as ours would hold Africa to a higher standard than we employ as they attempt to work there way out of poverty.
“Joshua, this is a bit much:”
Arguably about the most authoritative and widely cited study of external costs of electricity generation is the EU’s ExternE: http://www.externe.info/externe_d7/
page 13 of this summary: “External Costs
Research results on socio-environmental damages due to electricity and transport” http://ec.europa.eu/research/energy/pdf/externe_en.pdf gives the damage costs of fossil fuels estimated by each of the EU-15 countries; Germany is broken out in more detail as an example. Damage costs are given as (converted to EUR/MWh):
Avoidance* costs for ecosystems and global warming are listed separately and are estimated at (in EUR/MWh)
* the avoidance cost is actually the shadow cost to achieve the EU’s political commitments.
The costs used to deliver fossil fuels to the market are well documented (except for costs incurred by communist nations, where costs weren´t fully accounted for).
The addition of ultra externatilities such as human rights abuses by governments such as Venezuela´s are irrelevant in this context because a) nobody cares and b) nobody cares.
Environmental impacts apply to all human activities, they are properly priced in the enviromental impact statements written for energy projects. If you don´t think their contents has been properly defined, you must take that up with your individual legislator.
What is clear to us engineers is that, when we focus on hard numbers, large penetration by renewables is a loser. This fact tends to be covered up by renewable lobbyists and half baked brochures prepared by green lobby “experts”, most of which happen to be social pychologists and/or movie actors and actresses.
This is why we in the nuclear power lobby feel there´s only one solution. I´ve written a thoughtful proposal (based on very solid science) for those of you who want to support our program to build 60 nuclear power plants in Africa:
“Nuclear Plants Construction: a Proposal for Africa” by Fernando.
This material will surely please you and help us win your support.
Fernando, do you want to do a guest post on this topic?
Thank you Fernando
=> “The costs used to deliver fossil fuels to the market are well documented (except for costs incurred by communist nations, where costs weren´t fully accounted for).”
What amount of the trillions spent on the invasion or Iraq are “well-documented” as being attributable to keeping fossil fuels flowing? To be clear, I am not making some categorical assertion that it was a “war for oil,” but certainly it is reasonable to think that some measure of the policy to invade Iraq was based on a desire to bolster America’s “hegemony” – as is well-documented by looking at the analysis conducted by the architects of the invasion policy (PNAC, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Kristol, Kagan, Fukuyama, Rumsfeld, Libby, Bennett, etc.) – by ensuring the flow of fossil fuels.
==> “The addition of ultra externatilities such as human rights abuses by governments such as Venezuela´s are irrelevant in this context because a) nobody cares and b) nobody cares.”
Really? Irrelevant to a cost benefit analysis of various energy sources? Interesting.
==> “Environmental impacts apply to all human activities, they are properly priced in the enviromental impact statements written for energy projects. If you don´t think their contents has been properly defined, you must take that up with your individual legislator.”
Really? So accounting for the negative health outcomes attributable to particulates is properly well-defined in PE’s analysis? Interesting.
==> “What is clear to us engineers is that, when we focus on hard numbers, large penetration by renewables is a loser.”
Heh. Yeah, as long as you describe aspects that you haven’t accounted for as “irrelevant,” “well-documented,” and “well-defined.”
Thanks for simply arguing by assertion, Fernando. Although in terms of reasonable discussion, it isn’t useful, but in terms of laying out the depth and comprehensiveness of your argument, it is very instructive.
Judith Curry wrote: “Fernando, do you want to do a guest post on this topic?”
That’s a great suggestion. I’d like to heat more about the argument that “ultra-externalities” such as human right abuse and exploitation don’t count because nobody cares.
Dr. Curry, I´m afraid my writing skills are a bit too irreverent. However, I´ll think about the subject and see if I can come up with a proposal for something a bit more intelligent based on my experience.
Joshua: You assume the Iraq invasion was driven by oil. That seems to be a common propaganda theme. I don´t think this is a site where we ought to debate Middle East politics at depth. However, feel free to write or pay me a visit and I´ll show you a radically different vision of the Universe.
==> “You assume the Iraq invasion was driven by oil. ”
Wow! Did you read what I wrote before you made your assumption?
Pierre, nobody cares about human rights abuses enough to alter energy consumption behavior. What you think is energy related is probably religious, or driven by other political issues (Israel versus Palestine, terrorism, US imperialism, whatever suits you).
Let me give you a simple example: I happen to have left Venezuela in 2010, and I saw, and I know of, numerous human rights abuses. These are documented by NGO´s, the UN Human Rights rapporteurs, and international courts. Thus far we have seen zero action on this matter.
Furthermore, what I observe is a rather touchy feely attitude by the EU and President Obama´s administration towards Venezuela´s real rulers, the Cuban dictatorship. So either Obama is playing touchy feely before he bonks them over the head (which I tend to doubt) or the US administration, like it has always done, doesn´t really care about human rights abuses. The topic is used when its convenient, by both sides of the aisle. This is the way it has always been, and this is the way it shall ever be.
There, you got your post. Now let´s forget about human rights issues in a climate discussion. It tends to distract us from the subject at hand.
Fernando, your argument has the form: ‘we don’t care, therefore we ought not to care’. It is invalid and a bit offensive to the people we ought to care for.
I have a great interest in Ice breakers, the Russians are building the next generation of Nuclear Ice breakers, bigger and more powerful- that ice is going nowhere soon! They are working in one of the most dangerous areas in the world and for months on end. Why any one fears this source of energy amazes me.
Pierre, the human rights subject is considered IRRELEVANT when discussing energy. If you want to understand how I feel about it, I suggest you visit my blog.I write about a mix of subjects, and human rights abuses happens to be an important topic, simply because I´m from Cuba, and my family has been abused by a communist dictatorship for over half a century. In my case it´s very personal.
The first Gulf war was primarily about oil and I don’t think most people dispute that.
Joshua’s insinuation/assertion that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with maintaining access to oil supplies is risible. Saddam Hussein was dying to sell us oil–we were trying to enforce a world-wide boycott on these sales (remember “sanctions”?) I don’t where these “blood for oil” nuts manage to hide their own memories of things that were all over the news for a decade.
Pierre – Normand
RE: “a bit offensive to the people we ought to care for.”
You mean it is a bit offensive to you. Unless you think you are qualified to speak on behalf of those “people” you refer to.
Joshua: “i’m bringing up Iraq but i’m not saying we invades it for oil but some people say we did, or we are an hegemónic power seeking oil”
That pretty much resumes it. Bush said it was WMD. Later he wanted to make the Iraqis love democracy. I think it was mostly an Israel Lobby issue, and this is why the democrats backed the war. Now that we thoroughly confused the topic I’d like to point out your comments show you are very smart but also show the inability to counter planning engineer’s points.
I have pondered this topic for a long time, and thus far I can’t find a solution for wind and solar other than starving 90 % of humanity. This means we do need to work on real answers rather than the banalities and Star Trek gizmos we see being offered.
==> “:Joshua’s insinuation/assertion that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with maintaining access to oil supplies is risible. ”
Apparently, Steve never read anything produced by PNAC, and looked at the membership.
“You mean it is a bit offensive to you. Unless you think you are qualified to speak on behalf of those “people” you refer to.”
I am not talking on behalf of them or claiming expertise on concrete particular externalities. I am questioning the validity of an argument that has broad ethical implications.
The context was the discussion of externalities, some of them being dubbed “ultra” and discounted because “nobody cares” about the negative costs unfairly incurred by some who didn’t consent to them. The people who suffer from them care. We may not, but they do. What makes some effect of an economic activity a negative externality is that some negative effects aren’t factored into the price paid by the people who benefit from it. The fact that consumers or political agents may not care doesn’t make the negative externality disappear. It only means that consumers often ignore it out of callousness or ignorance. A policy analysis that discounts them is incomplete and its justification question begging. As I said, it has the form: ‘we don’t care; therefore we ought not to.’
While the idea 60 nuclear power plants in Africa sounds a great idea, I am concerned at the general stability of the political and social environment in Africa. Given certain despotic regimes that currently exist there I would prefer not to see these regimes have access to any form of nuclear technology.
Excellent. Is there a copy available on line? Or a summary or op-ed?
I hope you take up Judith’s invitation/offer. Because I think what your proposal suggests is very important. I do believe it would have to be with small modular reactors (SMR) however. I suspect it will be a long time until most grids in Africa could handle GW scale generator units.
The implication that fossil fuels cause human rights violations seems rather silly.
Would Venezuela be kinder, free-er, and less autocratic and corrupt without oil revenue?! Would life be easier for its citizens?!
Are the resources needed for renewables located in generally more humane regions?
==> “Joshua’s insinuation/assertion that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with maintaining access to oil supplies is risible. ”
See, now this is why I love me some Climate Etc. On the one hand, we have some dude named Steve Postrel, who’s so bleedin’ sure that access to oil had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, that he confidently claims that the very notion is “risible.”
And on the other hand, we have some dudes named, Richard Pearle, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, William Bennett, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, etc. – in other words, the dudes who designed the policy of invading Iraq, who say:
See, now that’s why I love me some Climate Etc.
Joshua, why stop there? What about the first Iraq war? What about the Six Day War? The Crimean War? Everything’s all about the fossil fuels. Forever!
You are discussing the issue from a philosophical perspective while Fernado is doing so from a practical real world perspective.
Did you take note that it is listed third of three reasons?
Of course you didn’t.
I’d say it is idiotic to say that ensuring the flow of middle east oil has nothing to do with our foreign policy in the region. However it is almost equally idiotic to claim the invasion of Iraq was primarily for oil. And if you really have read any of what the gentlemen you list have written, then you should know what long term goal was the primary reason for the invasion.
I think what I love most about critics of that invasion is how they so easily ignore or forget the fact that prior to the invasion we were involved in an active shooting war for 10 years with Iraq. But apparently if MSM isn’t reporting it, it doesn’t exist.
The Iraq war of 2003 was not fought to preserve our supply of oil. We were preventing Saddam from selling us oil and trying to stop everybody else from buying his oil, while Saddam was trying to circumvent these sanctions and sell us oil. These are easily checked facts.
The administration’s public rationale for war and the legal authorization to use force did not to my knowledge mention securing Iraq’s oil supplies or seizing them. A pre-war, non-governmental statement from some group of worthies has no probative weight against the facts of U.S. sanctions at the and actions to stop Iraq from selling oil prior to the war, the public rationale offered by the government, and the legal terms of the declaration of war. To suggest otherwise is risible.
Any proposal to build nuclear in any African country, would be hard to justify. The high upfront capital costs and lack of nuclear skills in most countries outside of South Africa makes it a hard sell.Add in the fact that there are extensive hydro and natural gas resources that can be utilized at lower entry costs and the case for nuclear may be good for nuclear proponents but not for the citizens of those states.
There is merit in the argument that high penetrations of renewables are problematic. The solutions though need to address the local requirements specifically.
The entire impact of driving renewable policy has much larger implications for developing countries. The requirements and needs in these countries are simply vastly different from developed countries e.g. USA, European states. Anything that drives the price of electricity has severe consequences for a poor population.
For this sort of discussion we need to state the time scales we are talking about. If reducing global GHG emissions is the issue, then we need to be talking about time scales out to 2050. In that case Africa has to be part of the solution, and the sooner we get started on removing the impediments to low cost nuclear the better. I believe low cost nuclear implies small modular reactors. In that case costs and finances will be a different ball game.
Secondly, I don’t agree with your point about “lack of nuclear skills in most countries outside of South Africa makes it a hard sell”.
Every country had no skills before they had nuclear. Yet nuclear was being built in various countries for their first time around the world 50, 40, 30 years ago. They all managed it when skills, training and education around the world were much less advanced than they are now. The Korean build and skills transfer program building the 4 x 1400 MW nuclear units in UAE is an example of how it will be done. IMO, skills limitations is often quoted but is a furphy. BTW, I’ve worked on energy projects (mostly hydro) in countries on every continent except Antarctica.
==> “However it is almost equally idi*tic to claim the invasion of Iraq was primarily for oil. ”
You see, this is one of the reasons I love me some Climate Etc. I didn’t make a statement consistent with what you just described. In fact, I repeatedly said something basically similar to your other statement:
==> “I’d say it is idiotic to say that ensuring the flow of middle east oil has nothing to do with our foreign policy in the region. ”
But yet, despite being a self-described “skeptic,” you mischaracterized what I said to confirm a bias on your part about what I do or don’t say.
It is folks like Steve Postrel who speak in such categorical and overly confident terms, in ways that ignore uncertainty.
BTW, tim – nice to see you join me in risibility.
Again, PE – I am pointing to your statement:
==> “However what is being observed is that you need ridiculously high valuations for carbon reduction to justify significant increases in renewable generation. ””
How do you reach such a conclusion w/o addressing the issues I raised. I have no objection to your analysis as a stand alone. What I object to are overly-certain statements such as the one I have quoted – that seem to basically ignore huge uncertainties to draw sweeping conclusions.
OK. I’ve made the point numerous times. I don’t think that you’ve really addressed it. I’ll move on.
Joshua – Maybe “ridiculously high” is a poor choice of words and maybe your objection points to something that should be clarified. I would love to see the high valuations of carbon needed to justify renewables commonly included and defended in analyses of renewable options. It’s critical to understanding tradeoffs. I think that would be very helpful information for policy makers. I am afraid we are not seeing this type of evaluation because the numbers are too high to be palatable for most decision makers.
Instead of ridiculous it would have been better to say valuations that harshly undercut the arguments for renewables. At such a high valuation a carbon market would likely be capable of being supported and we would have tradeoffs between various carbon sources. As I said before if the valuation was so high as it would have to be to support some of the renewable options I’ve seen proffered- being consistent there would mean no more public air travel, personal vehicles, lawn mowers…. You might see such things as necessary changes for society. I think they would invite ridicule, but calling them ridiculous may have been too harsh.
Joshua, you should cut PE some slack. Do you know how truly boring it is reviewing fantasy statistics used in health externiality studies really is?
I dont think Joshua has read or understood any of the health externality
issues related to particulate matter. uncertainties there are pretty large
( still plowing through a large pile of papers–)
In the end what we have is some evidence of shortened life span.
That’s not nothing, but it’s very hard to price the early harvesting of
people who consume more than their fair share of health care dollars.
So the guy who would have died at 92, now dies at 86, and we save
6 years of his medical costs and he loses 6 years of bingo. that’s a rather ugly calculation. Do I really want to do a cost benefit of those last 6 years.
Heat waves also lead to early harvesting. It might be interesting to do the rather grim cost benefit analysis ( akin to death panel math) on this as well.
I don’t have the technical background to evaluate the validity of the analysis. But are you suggesting the criticism applies to all studies on the health effects pollution? Are you suggesting pollution doesn’t have significant effects on health. Do you have any examples of studies found an insignificant effect of pollution on health?
Joshua, ” But are you suggesting the criticism applies to all studies on the health effects pollution”
I am saying it applies to all studies, period. People are still human and tend to have biases. “Causers”, people that have that drive to save something, are the worst and it really doesn’t matter what they are trying to save.
I am not Joshua and that response was pretty thin gruel, if I may quote our host.
Joseph, You might think it is thin gruel but statistics are easily manipulated. Never accept any study as being “correct” since all studies are created by humans.
In other words, invest is salt, you will need a lot of grains. Take a simple drug like HCTZ. It is a diuretic what has years on the market and several “very rare” side effects. Those are based on a large sample mainly in the northern extra tropical latitudes. In the tropics some of those side effects aren’t so rare. Dehydration, exacerbated by a diuretic, can cause a rainbow of “symptoms” which I have suffered through the majority. That got me into double checking things. You would be amazed how many studies have issues and those issue are neglected for anything from the “common good” to profit.
Mosher recently noted the USDA/FDA statistical screw up. Recently there was an article on dietary fat flip flop. I have been critical of the ridiculously high “recommended” internal temperatures for pork and poultry for years. “Flu” vaccines were close to 90% effective until recently when if you are in the 55 plus group they are likely not significantly effective at all. Face it, people screw up and scientists are still people.
As Reagan said, “Trust but verify”.
Steven Mosher, “I don’t think Joshua has read or understood any of the health externality issues related to particulate matter. uncertainties there are pretty large ( still plowing through a large pile of papers–)”
Enjoy. I looked at the Asthma related part and don’t see any way the EPA could be close. Down here Saharan dust, wild fires and Red Tide are by far the largest factors.
“I don’t have the technical background to evaluate the validity of the analysis. But are you suggesting the criticism applies to all studies on the health effects pollution? Are you suggesting pollution doesn’t have significant effects on health. Do you have any examples of studies found an insignificant effect of pollution on health?”
1. Pollution has effects, significant effects.
2. Turning that into costs is an ugly business. Most of the stuff I’ve read
uses really crude methods on cost estimates and they all ignore the benefits.
For example, you wont find me arguing against the elimination of particulate matter. Burn uranium, not dung.
I should also mention mold, but indoor air quality was lower than I expected down here likely because less dry wall is used in construction, hurricanes and all that, plus we generally spend more time out of doors.
That is a big confounding factor btw in many studies.
“Most of the stuff I’ve read uses really crude methods on cost estimates and they all ignore the benefits.”
What benefits? What makes you an expert on the methods used in these experiments? You seem to consider yourself an expert in areas totally unrelated to your professional experience and training.
Just give me some examples of studies on pollution that find non-significant results. Otherwise your objections are just pure speculation on your part. Why should anyone trust that?
The overwhelming determinate to health and longevity (at least in the developed world) is one’s genetics. Everything else is playing at the margins.
I guess you think regulating pollution is a waste of time and money. Yawn..
‘What benefits? What makes you an expert on the methods used in these experiments? You seem to consider yourself an expert in areas totally unrelated to your professional experience and training”
Methods are ,for the most part, discipline agnostic. For example,
when I see someone mis-use conditional inference trees in analyzing sales data for vibrators, I dont need to understand that product or be an expert in it to make a judgement on the methods.
Benefits? you are using one of the benefits.
Joseph, “Just give me some examples of studies on pollution that find non-significant results.”
That is the point Joseph, more studies should have non-significant results. At the start of the Clean Air Act in the us, the significance should have been greater and decrease as air quality improved to the point it would be more difficult to find significant areas for improvement. Now there is a greater number of people living into their late 80s and 90s, a benefit of past regulations, that are the “at risk group”. So how do you say that if is wasn’t for clean air we wouldn’t have as many older people to die of less than perfect air?
Then for PM2.5, what should be the baseline? Since there is always pollen, VOC from plants, dust, dander, mold, mildew, smoke from wild fires, algae blooms and a few I must have missed, how clean is clean? Since the health rating of Massachusetts is better than Colorado, there is more than just air quality to consider, like genetics for example or perhaps more people would like to retire in Colorado than Mass? So while I am sure you are on the cause bandwagon for cleaning up the air, you need to expect less return for your devoted effort because the party started many decades ago.
Steven Mosher wrote, “In the end what we have is some evidence of shortened life span. That’s not nothing, but it’s very hard to price the early harvesting of people who consume more than their fair share of health care dollars.
Pricing (a purely economic exercise) is easy. Doing something about it is hard or impossible.
Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats – BBC Four
Prosperity and long lives are related according to Rosling and others. Cheap and plentiful energy is related to prosperity. It follows that cheap and plentiful energy has positive externalities (economic prosperity and long lives) that outweigh the hard to detect effects of particulates in first world countries. Especially in first world countries that have reduced air pollution.
In October 1948, Donora, Pa., was enveloped in a lethal haze.
Over five days, nearly half of the town’s 14,000 residents experienced severe respiratory and cardiovascular problems. It was difficult to breathe. The death toll rose to nearly 40.
[ … ]
Scientists started investigating the link between air pollution and health. States began passing legislation to reduce air pollution. And in 1970, a milestone year, Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments which led to the establishment of the nation’s air quality standards.
Are we past the point of diminishing returns? A skeptic would say that the EPA has fought and won its war against pollution and rather than cleaning up a few loose ends and enjoying the victory it is searching for new enemies.
I believe there are studies that indicate that things have improved. That doesn’t mean there is not room for more improvement.
I am not completely sure I understand what you are saying, but the primary reason people are living longer is because of improvements in health care, not because air pollution is not continuing to cause health effects.
You can get the same benefits from renewables without the external costs. So I don’t see your point.
Joseph, “I am not completely sure I understand what you are saying, but the primary reason people are living longer is because of improvements in health care, not because air pollution is not continuing to cause health effects.”
Ah, but that is part of the rub. There are a lot of things that have added to longer average life span. Vaccines and Malaria eradication are two biggies, but “heath care” isn’t a typical line item. So when studies are done, health care becomes a confounding factor. Briggs had one example when distance to emergency medical wasn’t factor in so it looked like some rural areas were being impacted by something else. For example country cooking causes more cardiac deaths when it was actually living next door to a ambulance service reduces cardiac deaths.
Now if you say the PRIMARY reason people are living longer is “health care” and the majority of upper respiratory failure is in the 80 and above demographic, is that due to air quality or because the elder are more prone to COPD and Pneumonia? To have an apples to apples study, you would need to think of a say 19 to 40 age group for both periods, not a all ages analysis. If not, you can get any answer you like.
To me it would be refreshing to see a bit more complete analysis with warts and all than a kumbaya analysis. I have nothing against improving air and water quality, but I would like to see the statistics improved first.
I’m going to dive in:
“There are a lot of things that have added to longer average life span.”
It’s easier to understand if we have a baseline, like 1900 when men life expectancy was 45 and women 48.
What came next were the important ones: 1) the germ theory became gospel resulting in two things, a: public health with potable water treatment and sewage treatment. b: vaccinations, around 1935 with hooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus. 2) dental care. people kept their teeth longer and markedly reduced gum disease. 3) nutrition aided by refrigeration, milk didn’t spoil as quickly and, as you mentioned the other day, wheat as a source of protein exceeding the other grains. 4) dramatic reduction in outdoor air particulates with natural gas substituting for coal for home heating.
Natural gas was already in the homes for lighting, and when electric power became available, gas substituted for coal heating. Massive reduction in coal burning, especially since people had to restart the coal fire every chilly morning and the incomplete combustion yielded a large urban particulate load.
The key indicator that that substitution was paramount for me is that the incidence of Tuberculosis dropped precipitously when in the 1920’s natural gas substitution was almost completed. Tbc incidence and then prevalence decreased without drugs, mountain air, or pingpong ball being placed in chests. Reduced the air particulate burden, the lung defenses were no longer overwhelmed, and voila the lung was no longer defenseless.
Today, the persistence of tuberculosis, and still the number one world killer is due in part, at least in my judgement, in hut cooking fuels of wood, dung and other bio fuels. Unfortunately, getting more efficient stoves has not proven a great boon, since the indoor particulate burden is still astronomical and overwhelming infants and mother’s lung defenses, i.e., increase their vulnerability to droplet transmission of Tbc.
Substituting electricity for biofuels would take Tbc out of its killer leadership and we would then need to escalate the plague of insect transmitted malaria to the number one global killer, gratis Rachel Carson.
Don’t put words in my mouth Joseph.
The caveat of “in the developed world” was meant to cover things like clean water, clean air, untainted food and other direct hazards to health. In the US we have by and large accomplished this. Attempts such as the recent EPA regulations on mercury and CO2 isn’t even playing at the margins. It is being completely off the page.
Mosher, so vibrator sales, up or down?
I agree. Joshua is doing what he specialises in – trolling. Why doesn’t he post constructively? he could review the authoritative literature on the externalities of electricity generation himself if he was interested and post an informative comment.
If that is true, that would mean there is very little benefit to reducing air pollution in general and especially after we’ve already made drastic improvements.
I hope this works
In case not, cut a paste. It is a combined US o3 and PM2.5 air quality map. Now try and figure out where the coal fire power plants are. Remember that most of the pollution in the US comes from 10% of the oldest plants that are past due for decommissioning.
“1. Pollution has effects, significant effects.
2. Turning that into costs is an ugly business. Most of the stuff I’ve read
uses really crude methods on cost estimates and they all ignore the benefits.” – Mosher
You say you trust those who study pollution for a living ( ie get paid to) more than me?
hold that thought..
Have you read all of the papers studying the effects of pollution on health? Do you not think that they consider confounding factors? I find it amazing how some think that they know more than others when they really don’t.
Steven, what mean I is, and from my earlier post it should be clear, that I trust the experts more than you. Is that clear enough?
No that means you can have health effects from pollution and still live longer because of better health care. We are, after all, talking about external costs not just morbidity.
A case in point. Most life span projections are skewed due to infant mortality rates:
It’s another myth that people died in their 40s a century ago and live to their 70s today. Infant mortality steadily decreased over that time period.
In crude terms you are correct; i.e., that in 1900 all men did not dropped over at age 45 years.. And yes, there were old Romans, yet the life expectancy for those times was around 25 years.
If we look at the US in 1900 again, the numbers roughly are: 40% infant mortality; i.e. death in the first year of life. Of those who survived beyond infancy, 20% death for those <5 years of age. And of those survivors 1/3 died before age 30. One ends up with life expectancy of 45 years for men and 48 years for women.
There are regions of the world today where the life expectancy is about 45 years. Those people need a modern source of energy;i.e. electricity for cooking that will change dramatically their life expectancy, quality of life, and have a positive impact upon the environment; i.e., no more chopping down rain forests to make charcoal to sell to mostly women who walk to buy the charcoal to cook for multiple hours their one meal a day.
==> “There are regions of the world today where the life expectancy is about 45 years. Those people need a modern source of energy;i.e. electricity for cooking that will change dramatically their life expectancy, quality of life, and have a positive impact upon the environment;”
If the goal is dramatically increasing life expectancy, than focusing on reducing infant mortality rates, specifically, would produce the greatest returns. It is good to see that in this discussion of what increased life expectancy in the U.S., someone finally mentions the most significant factor (albeit, indirectly).
That isn’t to say that increasing energy access wouldn’t improve infant mortality rates – so the two issues aren’t mutually exclusive, but as always, the simplistic reductionism so often seen in these threads of fossil fuels = long life and an end to poverty and the associated alternative energy = billions dying and starving is, well, simplistic reductionism.
Joshua – one of the few posts of yours where I can actually agree to some degree. The issue I have with positions you and the green lobby take is that there is substantially more cost associated with using fossil fuels than benefit – so in your mind, I think based on the comments you have posted, is that the cost/benefit ratio for using fossil fuels is negative, and that’s where I disagree, and the point I think others intend to make. Warmists focus pretty much exclusively on the negative impacts of fossil fuels and I would say they greatly exaggerate them, while completely ignoring or discounting the positive impacts fossil fuels have made.
Life expectancy has increased due to two main factors. As I already mentioned infant mortality has declined significantly since 1900. The second factor is a multiple due to the reduction of heart disease, that is the number one killer. That is attributed to better medical care, diet, and lifestyle:
Joshua, “If the goal is dramatically increasing life expectancy, than focusing on reducing infant mortality rates, specifically, would produce the greatest returns”
The “goal” of this subthread is proper attribution. Every increase in life expectancy is due to a number of factors. Improved “medical care” involves a lot of logistics in addition to actual “care”. Briggs had a great example of how emergency medical care efficiency depends on transportation time. Leave that out you get skewed results. Rural areas still have a lower than average lifespan due to activities associated with rural living. The overall number of death by horse related accident was replaced with auto and tractor accidents.
Infant mortality increased due to medical care and vaccines, but also because of stable electric, gas, communication and transportation. So “medical care” sounds great but where would it be without transportation to medical care? How many phone calls have saved lives?
When the mega studies are done on externialities, where do they consider “reliable” electric, gas, HVAC, transportation, communications and now internet? Most don’t from what I have seen.
There are a few though.
“If the goal is dramatically increasing life expectancy, than focusing on reducing infant mortality rates, specifically, would produce the greatest returns.”
In the modern world, the best way to reduce infant mortality is to improve the health of the mother prior to pregnancy. She needs to have good nutrition, as the first order of business. The second, she needs to be healthy, which, in the underdeveloped world and in keeping with the theme of air pollution, she needs to be cooking in an environment free of high air pollution. Women who cook in huts with biomass have more bronchitis, pneumonia, and in general much more poor respiratory health than their pipe/cigarette/hooka smoking spouse. Most of the 1.8 billion people who live on < 1$/day have their main meal cooked while in a hut. Women bring their children into the hut, some cradled on their backs, others their arms, or set within the hut to be watched while the mother cooks.
The sweet smell of wood smoke contain many toxins including the aldehydes acroline and formaldehyde both of which impairs the respiratory defense system by coagulating mucus, inhibiting the mucociliary escalator and impairing migratory behavior of alveolar macrophages.
If I could do only one thing for the developing world, I would bring electricity to the village so that mother's could cook their daily meal inside the hut without the air pollution of biomass cooking.
No Nobel Prizes required.
I am languishing in moderation. I really really have been a good boy, can’t I get out of moderation a little early?
==> “The issue I have with positions you and the green lobby take is that there is substantially more cost associated with using fossil fuels than benefit
Whoa! Where have I said that? Please point it out.
Because as far as I know, I have questioned the certainty that people express on these issues that are extremely complex and riddled with uncertainties.
I have been consistent in that. I have said all along that I think that a focus on property assessing and quantifying uncertainties, say as Judith talks about, is key. What I have said all along is that, however, I see a ubiquitous pattern where people consider or discount uncertainties selectively in association with ideological, cultural, and political orientation.
In this case in point, we have someone (RE) who has expertise, experience, and training in evaluating the impact of uncertainties but who then glosses them over to draw over-certain conclusions.
So here is what PE says:
But when I speak about how evaluating externalities and a variety of “costs” from fossil fuel usage, I get called all sorts of names, told that my point is irrelevant, threatened to be cut off from being allowed to post on the topic, have what I say mischaracterized, etc.
Which is all same ol’ same ol.’ It’s to be expected. It’s just the way that it is. It’s a “nothing to see here folks, just move along” kind of deal.
As for the more specific point – there are a variety of issues that correlate with something like reducing infant mortality. Access to energy is one of them – but overemphasizing that issue, and acting as if promotion of alternative energies is what prevents access to fossil fuels is also just more same ol’ same ol.’
==> “If I could do only one thing for the developing world, I would bring electricity to the village so that mother’s could cook their daily meal inside the hut without the air pollution of biomass cooking.”
The point is that “just bringing electricity” to villages is a rather complex problem in the real world. Try as folks might, simply railing against solar energy won’t get the job done.
As Sen describes, there are quite a number of variables associated with development. Enriching oppressive governments that deny access fundamental freedoms, political empowerment, civil society infrastructure, economic protections, is not particularly one of them.
These are complex issues. If I were made the master of the universe, the first thing I would do is empower you to “bring electricity” to those villages. Short of that mechanism, I would think that over-emphasizing the role of alternative energy sources is counterproductive in the long run in the sense of opportunity cost associated with not focusing on factors that would bring a greater return. Same with energy access. Which isn’t to say (no matter how many times my fans might misconstrue my point) that energy access is irrelevant.
Apologies for stating
” It is good to see that in this discussion of what increased life expectancy in the U.S., someone finally mentions the most significant factor (albeit, indirectly).”
as I missed your 7:40 AM comments. Kudos for focusing on the signal.
I know I’m making a simplistic case regarding life span. As far as energy I think the capt shows a good example. Aside from medical supplies food transport could be thought of as helping bring a dietary benefit. Although the reverse could be true as well. The traditional farm diet my parents generation grew up on may have been much better than todays typical diet. They would have had the basics of meat, veggies and fruit, grains and dairy in a more balanced macronutrient intake of 30 protein, 30 fat and 40 carb. Todays diet consisting of high intake of refined carbohydrates including sugar along with junk food maybe detrimental.
The low fat diets starting with the McGovern committee have led to obesity and diabetes. My parents generation are in their 80s and 90s and may represent an outlier for life span. My junk food generation and the low fat debacle of the 1980-2010 generation may not be as healthy or live as long. Also as you say third world situations may have their own nuances. Even the idea of a rural lifestyle could be a two way street. Eating locally would have a smaller carbon footprint and be healthier minus packaged processed food. Eating foods of international transport coupled with ag subsides (food stamps) may cover a larger population edpecially the poor. The country folks may also have a healthier lifestyle doing more outdoor activities such as horseback riding, hiking, swimming etc. The city kids sit around playing computer games and become obese.
I think it would be difficult to look at energy and determine life span, I suppose it’s possible. The third world may not be properly represented in statistics. We may have more food available but is it better? Supposedly the localized monotrophic type diet is better for local folks but having the wide variety of food we have from a short trip to the store certainly is better than a more primative hunter gatherer situation; or is it? Like I say there are a lot of factors.
Steven Mosher | October 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
So the guy who would have died at 92, now dies at 86, and we save
6 years of his medical costs and he loses 6 years of bingo. that’s a rather ugly calculation. Do I really want to do a cost benefit of those last 6 years.
Do you have a source for that 6 year loss of life? It sounds very high to me – I think 6 months is more in the ballpark for statistical loss of life expectancy due to PM:
curious and Steven Mosher.
The PM 2.5 ambient health risk is a conjecture from the American Lung Association, another advocacy group. Some people who are knowledgable believe that PM 2.5 in the ambient air from electric power plants and diesel engine sources does have significant health effects, although the evidence for such is missing. The speculation comes from some association studies for children with asthma. There may be some suggestion of health effects of PM 2.5 on people with COPD.
The heart data is….again, nonexistent; suggestive only in some people’s minds. American Thoracic Society, which have some very good scientists contributing to its overall body of work, on this issue, advocacy and over-reach are the name of the game.
EPA, again reaching for straws has incorporated speculation in its spiel, but would be hard pressed to find good/even lousy data to support their position, and of course, there is no back-down. Himalayan glacier melt comes to mind.
Press Release from WHO 25 March 2015:
25 March 2014 | Geneva – In new estimates released today, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.
The press release doesn’t say whether the 7 million died 10 seconds or ten years early.
Thanks for the link to the WHO press release.
As far as cardiovascular deaths are concerned, I guess it depends upon where you live.
If you live in Boston, Mass. and believe Harvard School of Public Health then PM2.5 causes decreased Heart Rate Variability (HRV) claimed by some to be an indicator of troubled heart rhythm disturbances, although, only shown for a small group of people > 75 yo with congestive heart failure and certainly not observed in the young at heart.
Now if you live in London UK and believe the reports from the London School of Hygiene and Topical Diseases, then, not so much HRV, even in those some wished they could find something, just something.
So the reports of ischemic heart disease, stroke, heart rhythm disturbances depend upon which markers for vascular disease you choose; which population you investigate; and to what ends you need to go to torture the data.
Lastly, heart problems from PM 2.5 depends upon which large metropolitan developed country you choose to live.
Let’s just say, the data is “not mature”. Or, better yet, in climatologyese, not yet robust. That’s it.
Curious, “one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. ”
OMG, it is worst than we thought!!
The WHO 2013 report had it at 3.1 million age adjusted deaths meaning PM knocked 8.6 months off the average life span. That is all PM not just PM2.5.
That is the WHO 2013 target map.
“it was demonstrated that the reduction in fine particulate air pollution in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s accounted for as much as 15% of the 2.7-year overall increase in life expectancy that had occurred in that period (24).”
So they use the US as a positive example for clean air regulation. Based on the WHO data the US is at a point of diminishing returns, as far as power generation other than about 10% of the older plants scheduled to close any way. The EPA though has the US as just another great polluter with tons of problems “directly related to pm2.5”.
I am all for clean air, but this smells of over cooked books.
I see accounting is another of the many areas you lack even a basic understanding of.
BTW – exactly what is an “enormous geo-political resource”? And, assuming you have a clue and didn’t pull the phrase out of your butt, what nethod(s) did you use to monitize these “resources”?
Well, now, Mr. Joshua, I (amongst others), wonder if You have figured into your reality the Responsibility, cost and Liability of the Failure of your unsupported claims? Have you accounted for the legal costs of failing to provide power to a hospital, traffic signal, or other public necessity? Have you included the cost of washing solar panels in a desert with deionized water? Have you included the costs of litigating the abrogation of destroying protected species by wind choppers and solar flamethrowers? Are you in the employ of a solar/wind industry? Inquiring minds would like to know such things. Have a nice day. :)
First rule: if you see a long thread with Joshua, Michael, Joseph et al prominent: ignore it, move on, don’t get side-tracked or feed it. OK?
I will not, of course, respond to any responses on this comment.
Shield you eyes from dissenting views.
John Carter seems the worst offender. I’ve never seen someone write so much and say so little.
Now you tell me.
Joshua reminds me of my youngest sister who used to ask a qusetion get an answer that would only lead to another question … to infinity.
It’s sort of fun trying to follow John Carter’s thoughts as he meanders slowly to the sea. Unfortunately he’s unduly deferent to mistaken authority, skeert pantless, and an idealogue. That’s an ugly combination.
So, a typical alarmist.
The parentheses are oxbow lakes.
“””John Carter seems the worst offender. I’ve never seen someone write so much and say so little.”””
To call the above statement inaccurate would be like calling the sun “large.” You just don’t want to consider what is written (or perhaps, since some of what I write is complex, some is hard to follow), but rather find convenient ways to dismiss it so that the same beliefs that this site facilitates the perpetuation and self reinforcement of, can be easily continued.
As for the complexity,the issue itself is complex, and I’m not sure that it is everyone’s cup of tea to really be an expert on it, or really even have a thorough understanding of it. Yet so many nevertheless have fervently held “views” (putting aside for the moment the reality that misinformation is not really a “view”) as if they are conceptually advanced thinkers and scientific gurus who have spend years in deep study on this issue, and so know as much or more about it, and have as good as or better understanding of it, as the scientists in directly related fields who professionally study this issue.
Point being, if one can’t understand my comments, that is very understandable, and certainly fine. But it also indicates one probably can’t understand the issue very well and doesn’t have a thorough understanding of it – which is also very understandable, and also certainly fine. On the other hand, however, if that is the case (which it is for most), then maybe opinions on it are pretty worthless; so clinging to them, much as there might be very strong, perhaps politically motivated, massive misinformation and confusion helping lead and falsely self reinforcing (even exacerbating) these opinions, isn’t really warranted.
Here, again, is a VERY good example of how skepticism works and how flawed it is (and it is relatively easy to follow, reasonably succinct, and has several links.)
“””It’s sort of fun trying to follow John Carter’s thoughts as he meanders slowly to the sea. Unfortunately he’s unduly deferent to mistaken authority, skeert pantless, and an idealogue. That’s an ugly combination.”””
First of all, this extremely insulting. I haven’t called your “perspective,” even though it be awash in a massive misunderstanding of the basic issue, “ugly.”
But it’s pretty clear you have not been able to follow my comments, because just from them alone calling me these things is pretty far fetched. (Unless you have to to do this as a skeptic to simply find a way to dismiss them, as “skeptics” are wont to do with any ideas or concepts or facts that might conflict with CC “skepticism” – in which case, once again, you haven’t really followed my comments.)
But those aside, calling me an ideologue is ludicrous. I am about as opposite of that as can be. But of course ideologues on this issue (and all skeptics are either ideologues or just wildly but genuinely misinformed and far more confused about the topic than they even get close to the same ballpark of recognizing), have to project outward: thus someone who wants CC not to be an issue, doesn’t give a crap about being “right” or wrong” but about trying to simply get the issue right, studies the issue dispassionately, is suddenly an “ideologue.”
But calling me deferrent to mistaken authority is even more ludicrous, if that is even possible. You have so little idea of what you are talking about, I am not sure one could have any less.
I’m not sure what “skeert pantless” is, but it appears like yet another direct, personal insult rather than a focus on the issues (which is what most o your comments, and several on here, are). And it seems to fit the pattern, of intimidation, name calling, insulting, like immature school children. Does it make you feel cool? Make you feel tough? (I’m sure you are, in the way that all cowards and bullies and babies are. Which is to say the opposite.)
I won’t call you in terms of your persona ugly, which is an ugly, and pretty vile charge, but one that seems fitting for some climate change skepticism that lashes out personally at others when they don’t like the sharing of information and ideas that is not in line with their own on a key subject that affects us all and our kids and their kids (and one we should all be pulling together on). But you are incredibly misinformed and, in the truest definition of what it means – not just not knowing,but “knowing” or believing earnestly or zealously that which is in fact wrong – extremely ignorant on this issue.
Perhaps you should temper your opinionating. Probably not likely though.
It’s why most people btw, don’t even bother to comment on sites like this. They think 1) most commenters here are hopeless and either purposefully deceiving, or too stubborn AND too deficient in their thinking to ever change their perspective or learn anything (I’m putting it as clinically as I can, many put it in stronger language) and 2) it is extremely unpleasant, since one gets repeatedly attacked and mischaracterized.
I don’t agree with the former assessment (number 1 in the list above) with respect to most people, naive, or idealistic, or not; so I try. But you are trying my patience. Which is good, bc when I give up, you can go back to your cush little self reinforcing self perpetuating and self sealing limited environment of like minds all feeding off the same myths and misinformation, and remain cozy in the comfort of knowing you must be right because others also say so (never mind scientists who study the issue professionally, they don’t count) – and by gawd judy curry is an environmental professor, she must be right! – and zealous in your beliefs and righteous in your indignation of others; all of which are the truest reflections of ignorance, and have been for mankind throughout our history.
The positive health impacts from the industrial revolution and the discovery of fossil fuels are incalculable. The Hans Rosling video is particularly instructive. You just need to think about where we were and how far we have come and realize that fossil fuels have been the root cause of the most extraordinary and rapid change in the human condition.
If someone asks you to invest in windpower be careful.
“Indications are mounting, however, that green capitalism will not be able to meet all expectations. In courts around the country, complaints are mounting from wind park investors who haven’t received a dividend disbursement in years or whose parks went belly up”
My favourite (yes, we spell it that way!) myth is the amount of solar generation in Germany. One frequently sees in print that ‘Germany gets over 50% of its energy from solar.’ This did happen – ONCE for ONE hour on a holiday.
The annual average is about 7% and during the totally predictable peak demand at supper hour in the winter solar, equally predictably, provides ZERO.
Planning Engineer—Any thoughts on energy storage? Gildemeister’s CellCube can provide up to 14 hours of power, level load, reliable etc.
Pumped storage hydro push water uphill at night when energy is cheaper, so it can flow down during the peak (expensive) times during the day. These facilities use a spinning generator and can be very helpful not only in providing MWs of power but also they support the system (with inertia, frequency control, vars, etc). In many places these are economic good additions, in other places not so much.
Batteries can help a lot in integrating intermittent resources (resources that provide power when the sun shines or wind blows) by smoothing their output so it’s not jagged and that it a great thing because that stops your generators from having to swing back and forth to adjust. Like the renewable resources they themselves don’t support the system with inertia, frequency control, vars, etc. unless additional equipment supplements their operation.
Perhaps it would be possible to shift some of the subsidies and mandates from renewables to batteries.
Compressed Air Energy Storage may also be cost effective. Two demonstration projects have been running. California is now requiring energy storage to handle increasing renewables. A $5 billion Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) project at the Western Energy Hub is being proposed to give some idea of the investment needed for a single project.
There is a large Compressed Energy Storage plant in South Alabama as well that has been functioning for 20+ years. it stores compressed air in a large salt cavern. It was done as a joint effort between a local cooperative power supplier and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Based on the money provided by EPRI the cost to the coop was subsidized so the industry could learn about this technology. Here’s what I “know” about that – Technically the plant has worked well. It provides needed capacity during peak times and when energy is particularly expensive. (There are losses so you have to pump when prices are low and generate when they are high or you lose money on the energy side). The differences between off peak and on peak prices proved not to be as great as studied so economically it did not work as well as planned. For the per MW cost of the plant you could have gotten twice as much capacity from a combustion turbine.
It is a good example of how industry and their trade groups work to try new technology and employ it whenever possible.
more info here http://www.powersouth.com/mcintosh_power_plant/compressed_air_energy
Planning Engineer, before I got tired, …;er, semi-retired, there were a lot of off peak energy storage projects that never made it because projected peak/off-peak cost spreads never happened. I think we need a new crystal ball :)
I may start my own project using a huge lead cube weighing 100 thousand tons raised by hydraulic jacks, when the wind blows, later it can be lowered at a slow pace when the wind dies, and turn large generators…the renewables racket sure seems profitable, all we need is a gadget and friendly government bureaucrats….
Fernado, this may be the ticket :)
According to EPRI, 99% of “world installed storage capacity for electrical energy” (EPRI’s figure title) is pumped hydro (127 GW). Nothing else comes close to being competitive, and there is no sigh of a breakthrough.
For pumped hydro to be viable it needs cheap, reliable power supply in off peak times (every day of the year). Therefore, intermittent renewables are not a suitable source of power for pumped hydro, except in a few special, extraordinary cases – (such as El Heiro island where they have a 700 m high extinct volcano crater providing a large upper reservoir, good wind resource and are replacing high-cost diesel generation.)
Capt Dallas: Fernado, this may be the ticket :)
Why a Coal Guy is Going Green
By the end of our conversation, I had a better understanding of why Rogers and Duke have become advocates of a cap-and-trade scheme to regulate global warming pollution.
Surely you are not advocating carbon pricing, are you?
If you are, have you made any attempt to estimate the costs to the economy or estimate what those costs are at the individual’s level. I have for Australia’s ETS and using the most authoritative cost projections available – the Australian Treasury. The costs would be similar in the USA. See what they mean to you and your family here: http://joannenova.com.au/2013/08/in-the-next-37-years-labor-will-spend-60000-per-australian-to-change-the-weather/
No I’m not advocating Carbon Pricing. The article linked to is simply describing the motivations of Duke Energy head.
My own view is that:
We badly need to address our energy future DIRECTLY and stop trying to implement energy policy through the backdoor via PROXY touting MYTHOLOGY AND DOGMA of CLIMATE CHANGE.
brent, I agree 100% with that approach.
Myth: the supposed efficiency of a Tesla (which is heavily subsidized in California where fully half of these cars are sold) or that it uses some kind of special battery technology (they’re relatively inexpensive laptop computer batteries). Consumer Reports said from the beginning that the Tesla’s did and a big idea in the electric car arena: add more batteries. Marketing articles have talked about the genius of the founder has more to do with seeing an untapped niche of potential enthusiasts.
| October 22, 2014 at 10:29 am |
Interestingly, Mercedes in a surprise sale yesterday evening, sold its 4% stake in Tesla for $780M
Tesla is going to manufacture and sell batteries in and from Nevada. Could lower taxes and cheaper energy be a factor in that decision? Adios California. Tesla is going to create it’s own market in batteries. Elon Musk is no dummy, he knows how to leverage the government subsidies and markets. “If you give me a subsidy or tax break today I will gladly sell you a rocket on Tuesday.”
Wag, one of my companies invented a better supercap energy storage material, so I have become intimately familiar with energy storage, including all existing and potential batteries. 150% of Tesla’s profit comes from selling carbon credits from California to other auto companies for use in California. And those credits were goosed almost 50% percent by Tesla’s battery hot swap scam to solve the range anxiety problem. No such swap stations exist.
Even the range extended Volt is a market failure.
Without the California silliness, Tesla would already have gone the way of Fisker and all the others. Mercedes was smart getting out while they could.
Interesting. Thanks for that bit of insight
“Ignoring C02 emission issues, there is no question….” PE
Well yes, ignoring the question, there is no question.
Nice, clear essay. One of the things that is irksome is that the EIA’ s own estimates of levelized cost of wind and solar expressly DO NOt include the consequences of intermittancy, hence omit the cost of necessary provision of equivalent dispatchable backup generation. If the proportion of intermittant renewables is small, that backup can be just the normal grid reserve margin. (depending on interconnections.) But as renewables grow, it must be expressly provided–but not by the wind farms, rather by the utilities forced to take the power at some feedin tarrif.
That is a huge further hiden subsidy on top of the official ones.
What does EIA stand for? Energy Information Agency? I didn´t know they had much engineering know how. Or do they hire a Washington consultancy with strong power point skills?
Can one generate power by burning the power points?
Yes. It is a branch of the US Department of Energy. It provides everything from energy consumption estimates by type over time, to estimates of remaining resources (like technically recoverable Bakken reserves) to the current and projected costs of various energy sources (including levelized future costs for the various electricity generating options). Some of their work seems solid (bakken TRR is similar to newest USGS estimate and to North Dakota’s own). Some of it is not, the above example being intermittant wind missing the backup costs.
See EIA Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2014
Rud, EIA is now including some transmission costs in the Total.
Rud – I’ve also read where wind mills may actually use more power than they produce because they must draw energy from the grid to operate critical functions (keep rotors turning, lighting, temperature control, etc) when the wind does not blow – see http://www.aweo.org/problemwithwind.html
I would be interested in your perspective and fact checking of this info if you are so inclined.
One of the things that is irksome is that the EIA’ s own estimates of levelized cost of wind and solar expressly DO NOt include the consequences of intermittancy, hence omit the cost of necessary provision of equivalent dispatchable backup generation.
Excellent point. Some regular commenters on CE have repeatedly refused to recognise that key point.
IMHO, one of the more important posts on CE. I believe it should be reproduced in the opinion sections of all major media outlets. One way to stop the renewable madness is to educate the public with facts rather than stupefied with emotional arguments.
I agree. This is an excellent post, and most of the comments so far are excellent too. I hope this continues as I read through (but can’t keep up with the rapidity of the new comments). This is a popular topic.
AJ, I’ve alerted Australia’s Quadrant mag to this article, and will also flag it to the IPA, a prominent rational think-tank.
I’m sure these studies didn’t consider the option of using solar to generate gas. That way, a “full-steam-ahead” approach to the gas generating option could be combined with conversion to “carbon-neutral” gas once the prices of solar PV come down enough. Say in 2-3 decades.
How would you use solar to generate gas? The process must be truly revolutionary.
“… Solar to generate gas…?”
Grow beans and eat them? Sorry, the devil made me do it.
Gas via solar thermochemical generation e.g., hydrogen by splitting water and react with CO2 from making lime or cement, or as absorbed from the air. React under temperature and pressure over a catalyst.
David, I thought the technology AK proposed would turn out to be a revolutionary breakthrough researched at a super secret research lab. Using solar power to generate hydrogen is horribly expensive.
This brings us back to the problems discussed in the original post by planning engineer….we read about really neat technologies all the time. But they turn out to be science fiction. But we musn´t lose hope. We need to hang on and keep on searching….otherwise we´re collective toast as soon as we run out of oil, natural gas, and coal.
Perhaps he means something like this:
Use solar to split water with hydrolysis. Most of the energy is conserved in the resulting hydrogen.
Then combine H2 with CO2 taken from the environment to create methane. Methanogens do it with very good efficiency, AFAIK, and I would guess current genetic engineering is capable of making the necessary modifications.
There are two options I have studied, one involving using the methanogens themselves to drag the CO2 out of an alkaline transfer fluid which in turn takes it from the ocean surface.
The other would involve CO2 extracted from the environment by other means. The latter would involve less genetic engineering, but would require some cheap method such as the one the Navy is experimenting with.
At the moment. But as the price of PV comes down, it will get less so. Remember you won’t need inverters, and the conversion can be done at the solar location, so instead of transporting electricity you transport gas.
It won’t work. My giant lead cube idea is sounder. I only need 70 % of the subsidy you need to make hydrogen using solar power with existing technology. And please don’t quote work by the armed forces, they REALLY do buy $800 toilet seat covers.
Please quantify “Methanogens do it with very good efficiency”. Hopefully that could show commercial competitiveness!
Investigation of the Mechanisms for BioElectrochemical Methane Production Jansen 2013 MSc thesis
For comparison, I expect about 15% efficiency for solar thermochemical H2O + CO2 to CH4.
Perhaps there’s an obvious answer, but why not use solar to make hydrogen, which is a way of storing energy until needed, and then burn that like natural gas to generate energy? Why the methane step?
This is the problem with the whole climate change issue, Assuming that CO2 is an immediate problem, and we need to “act now”. There are people out there who actually believe that using PV (or solar thermal for that matter) to make H2, and then concentrate CO2 from the air (or better yet some higher conc source) and then combining them to make CH4 or some other fuel is a good idea. Everything about this is a bad idea, from an engineering point of view.
Obvious to me (see below): hydrogen is very hard to store, extremely dangerous (explosive at mixtures from 18.3-59.0%, flammable from 4-74%), very hard to contain, and once safely contained would add considerably to weight and cost.
My father worked in the aerospace industry, so I grew up with stories about the difficulties involved in containing hydrogen. And the safety problems in that industry highlight the issue: people simply cannot be expected (IMO) to follow the types of safety guidelines needed to roll out hydrogen as a replacement for methane or hydrocarbon fuels.
Thus, for me, that essential roadblock mandates some sort of work-around for using the energy from hydrolysis. Since I’d already researched the types of energy relationships involved in converting H-H to C-H bonds, it wasn’t hard to track down the info regarding methanogens and their potential to be GE’ed for this use.
I may be overreacting; the article I linked above tries to portray hydrogen as relatively safe if the correct guidelines are followed, but I just don’t buy it. How often have you seen somebody get out of their car smoking at a service station? Have you worked in small-scale industry and seen how often safety procedures are blown off? IMO with widespread hydrogen this attitude would lead to a constant string of bad incidents.
@David L. Hagen | October 22, 2014 at 7:17 pm
According to the thesis you linked, methane has a “high heat of combustion (56 MJ kg-1, 28 MJ m-3 at STP)” (in air/oxygen), which works out to about about 900 KJ/mole (56MJ/Kg divided by 62.5 moles/Kg = 0.896). When I researched the reaction, I discovered:
(Ref 3 copied at bottom of post, paywalled now.)
This works out to a roughly 85% efficiency (14.62% lost energy), which compares very well with the typical 60% efficiency for combined cycle gas turbine. Combining these offers a rough energy efficiency of 50% from H2 to grid-ready energy. (Wiki offers 50-80% for energy efficiency of electrolysis, link not included here.)
3. Physiology, Ecology, Phylogeny, and Genomics of Microorganisms Capable of Syntrophic Metabolism by Michael J. McInerney, Christopher G. Struchtemeyer, Jessica Sieber, Housna Mouttaki, Alfons J. M. Stams, Bernhard Schink, Lars Rohlin, Robert P. Gunsalus Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2008) DOI: 10.1196/annals.1419.005 Paywalled.
@David L. Hagen…
I have a comment in moderation (despite removing a link) answering your request for quantification.
Meanwhile, I note that the paper you link says, in its abstract:
I suppose the difference between current results and theoretical can produce such discrepancies.
Note, too, that the process studied involved direct electricity to methane conversion. I’ve been looking at using hydrogen already produced by electrolysis.
@David L. Hagen…
Just for comparison, a document I’ve been studying on a different tangent offers the following:
Let’s ignore the 7% and assume a 50% conversion of fuel energy to grid-ready energy (compared to 60% for combined-cycle gas turbines). That means the grid shows an average 67% (2/3) energy efficiency delivering grid-ready energy (1÷1.5).
Now, Planning Engineer could probably speak more knowledgeably to this than I, but suppose we assume a 90% grid delivery efficiency for new, small, locally sited combined-cycle gas turbines. Assume essentially 0% loss delivering the gas to the local generators, use the numbers above for H2 to grid-ready, that gives a 45% efficiency: 2.22 kWh of fuel energy (H2) “to deliver 1 kWh (3,412 Btu) of electrical energy” to the consumer.
This is certainly in the range. Even with the low end of hydrolysis energy efficiency (50%) this means ~4.5 kWh of DC electricity (i.e. no inverter(s)) from the solar PV connections “to deliver 1 kWh (3,412 Btu) of electrical energy” to the consumer. Now, apply “Swanson’s Law”, assume that a decade from now solar PV costs 1/5 what it does today.
Of course, all this assumes the cost of solar PV will continue its exponential decline. But then, that was the whole point of my exercise, to try to understand how that exponential price decline, and usage increase, will go to replace energy based on fossil carbon.
Anyone wanting to see the futility of solar photovoltaic energy at scale should read ‘Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution: The Energy Return on Investment’ by Pedro A Prieto and Charles A S Hall, published by Springer 2013. It shows that for a typical 25 year life of the solar panels, the first 10 years are generating the energy which pays for the total solar farm installation (of which the solar panels themselves are already only 30% of the cost). This shows that the ratio of energy out to energy in is 2.5: for nuclear this ratio is 70, and 50 for coal or gas power. Wind is down low there as well. Prieto and Hall point to a study that base-load energy must have a ratio of energy out/energy in of greater than 10 to support a modern society with higher education and the arts! It is a compelling read. The references in http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/471651/catch-22-energy-storage show the same calculation for other systems.
For those who have not seen it, Ozzie Zehner’s takedown of solar is the best I have ever seen and I haven’t seen any of it refuted:
EROI combined with realistic energy prices is the make/break issue.
Thanks for the overview. The US can learn from Europe.
Germany is attempting to solve the problems of backup, variability and unreliability of wind/solar (and Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear) by rapidly building more coal-fired power plants. Seriously.
The UK is planning on being able to keep the lights on by installing thousands of diesel-powered electrical generators at schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., with the capacity to send excess electricity into the grid when needed.
Venezuela tried the same diesel generator approach under Cuban advice back in 2009 and 2010. By the time they had finished installing them they were burning 100 thousand barrels per day of diesel to power their new power plants.
A better solution is to install a small 1000 HP gas powered generator they can sell to the oil industry in used condition once the emergency ends. I assume the UK has sufficient natural gas?
Nuclear ice breakers Vs Diesel.
Nuclear – one pound of uranium per day,
Diesel- 700 tons of diesel per day – hard to refuel when you are at sea for weeks/ months on end.
I ought to write an article on how to build a nuclear power plant in 90 days….you know, sort of like one of those shows in which they build a house in 72 hours?
Yes, you should. And here are a ferew points to consider;
1. The US reduced it’s production time to build aircraft carriers over a year in 1943,until they were producing them (from laid down to commissioned and fully loaded with aircraft, arms and ammunition) in 100 days! http://navalhistory.flixco.info/G/269245×269223/8330/a0.htm Something similar could be done with small modular reactor, if the US administration removed the impediments.
2. the first large nuclear reactor, Hanford B, was built in 20 months from breaking ground (April 6, 1943) to going critical (Dec 25, 1944). It operated for 24 years ( to 1968) and in that time its rated power output (thermal) was increased by a factor of 9 (250 MW-th to 2210 MW-th). http://files.asme.org/ASMEORG/Communities/History/Landmarks/5564.pdf
If we could do that 70 years ago, why have we gone backwards so far in 70 years. What’s retarding progress? (could it be because those who would like to be called ‘Progressives’ are actually retarding progress?)
3. About half the coast of electricity from nuclear power is due to security. But is that reasonable or justifiable given that nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity? How much could be saved by IAEA changing it requirements (from ALARA to AHARS) and NRC being replaced by a new culture?
No, not even close.
You may be thinking about Liberty or Victory ships, both of which were mass produced freighters.
Even an escort carrier which was built on the hull of a freighter or tanker (Bogue) required considerably more than 100 days.
CVs Such as the Essex class, even under wartime no holds barred building required two years to commission.
Clearly you didn’t even bother to check your facts before you posted your comment, did you? You didn’t even look at the link. The link shows all the aircraft carriers, their start date, and commissioning date. Take a look A the link. I await your apology, but will be surprised if you own up and show your real name!
First aircraft carrier in class, USS Casablanka, laid down 1942 Nov 03. took about 250 days from laid down to commissioned.
50th aircraft carrier, laid down 1944 Mar 29, 100 days. About 30 of them took around 100 days or a little over:
Getting back to my main point, if USA could achieve that rate of production for aircraft carriers 70 years ago, surely it is reasonable to churn out small modular nuclear power plants in that time or less now.
@ Peter Lang
Casablanca bore three names and three type designators. Originally assigned the name Ameer and the designator AVG, she became ACV-55 on 20 August 1942, and was renamed Alazon Bay on 23 January 1943. She became Casablanca on 5 April 1943, and CVE-55 on 15 July 1943. Casablanca was launched on 5 April 1943 by Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington, under a Maritime Commission contract, sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt, acquired by the Navy on 8 July 1943, and commissioned the same day, Commander W. W. Gallaway in command. She then reported to the Pacific Fleet.
You are referencing Escort carriers CVEs, the hulls and machinery were already in place, a flight deck was laid and prayers were made,
Contact me at shipmant. @ gmail if you need further clarification.
I remains yours
Your reply is unconvincing to me. Firstly you gave no reference for anything you’ve said, and secondly you apparently didn’t even look a the link, which seems authoritative to me and was pointed out to me by a senior naval officer, and which shows the schedule for construction of 50 aircraft carriers built from keel laying to commissioned, with about 30 of them built in close to 100 days and at least the last one built in 100 days. If you don’t explain what is wrong with that reference I provided and don’t reference your own sources, I can’t take your comment as credible. Sorry.
I may have made my previous comment to hastily. Sorry. Could you assist me to understand this by:
1. give me a link that relates to the schedule of ship build times and shows that those ships are of the type you said, and
2. give me the link to an equivalent schedule (preferably on the same web site) for the build times for more conventional aircraft carriers
I’ve just received emails from two senior ex-navy officers. The first says:
The second says:
Those two sources seem to confirm what I posted.
Owen Paterson has called for the repeal of the Climate Change Act of 2008. He wants the UK to be able to keep the lights on.
“Externalities” get to be complex in a hurry. How does one calculate the cost of people in the third world dying prematurely from cooking with wood or dung because they are being de facto denied access to low cost fossil fuel generated energy?
==> ““Externalities” get to be complex in a hurry. How does one calculate the cost of people in the third world dying prematurely from cooking with wood or dung because they are being de facto denied access to low cost fossil fuel generated energy?”
An excellent question. The magnitude of the uncertainties is quite large. Why, then, do people dismiss those uncertainties to make locktight conclusions?
What are the forces at play that lead to people drawing conclusions that are not explainable by their level of understanding?
They think they can draw conclusions because their level of understanding is sufficient. This is quite common in individuals such as Al Gore, who doesn´t bother to factor in reality when he advocates changes to the world´s energy mix. You happen to be barking up the wrong tree.
On the other hand, when some of us advocate a cautious approach and a more thorough analysis we are told “the science is settled” and please pay the extra cost to subsidize the wonderful solar industry we created for your benefit.
Solar PV is so inefficient that it is entirely outside the error bars. It’s one thing if you’re arguing about a 1-2X difference in costs, but it’s another with a 5-20X or more difference.
Learning from Europe….
” We face a systemic industrial massacre,” said Antonio Tajani, the European industry commissioner.
Mr Tajani warned that Europe’s quixotic dash for renewables was pushing electricity costs to untenable levels, leaving Europe struggling to compete as America’s shale revolution cuts US natural gas prices by 80pc.
“I am in favour of a green agenda, but we can’t be religious about this. We need a new energy policy. We have to stop pretending, because we can’t sacrifice Europe’s industry for climate goals that are not realistic, and are not being enforced worldwide,” he told The Daily Telegraph during the Ambrosetti forum of global policy-makers at Lake Como.
“The loss of competitiveness is frightening,” said Paulo Savona, head of Italy’s Fondo Interbancario. “When people choose whether to invest in Europe or the US, what they think about most is the cost of energy.”
Like so many C.E. comments, its not what’s said — its what’s not said that leads to or infers sweeping and ubiquitous conclusions by many here at CE. Up front, I want to restate that as a System Planning engineer (and a political conservative) that I also very much oppose Federal “Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards” mandates for the reasons “Planning Engineer” stated.
Also, if “Planning Engineer’s” comments are in a context of arguments that the U.S. shouldn’t be like Germany — I also would agree with him.
Where I strongly disagree with anybody is an inference that no renewable can compete economically (under any circumstances) with a fossil fuel alternative. No System Planner worth his/her’s salt would make such a blanket statement or inference.
Engineering economics of system planning for an integrated grid is a highly complex process involving modelling of load shapes, capacity factors, fuel risks (i.e., diversified fuel mix), inter-connections, reliability, etc. It is absolutely not just comparing the capital cost per kW of one generation resource versus another (as many here at C.E. do).
“Planning Engineer” briefly touched on this with his example of of the integrated grid between Germany and Norway (which I learned something about “how” Germany is probably doing what they are doing and actually improving their System’s performance). But what exists in Germany/Norway wouldn’t be the same in other parts of the World.
On our CE Blog, there has been much discussion comparing the cost of nuclear versus solar. What “Planning Engineer” never mentions is that there is not a Utility on the face of this Planet that would build a nuclear unit to meet its peaking load requirement (i.e., concept of capacity factors and costs per kWh).
“Planning Engineer” is absolutely correct that there are significant problems with installing large amounts of renewables into a current grid. But what he doesn’t say is that there are indeed specific applications (especially with peaking load) where renewables can and do make sense (which unless you believe in conspiracy theories, the Georgia Power decision on solar did).
What “Planning Engineer” also did not mention was real time research and demonstration (i.e., trying to learn “outside the established box”) about new approaches such as Micro-grids and distributive generation (where we probably have a good lab experiment on this going on in Germany).
The most telling thing is that you can use your real name but “planning engineer” cannot Why is that?
I work for a utility. I have a unique name. If I used my name I’d have to go through the PR side of our company. If allowed I’d get edits and reedits. I wanted to speak frankly hear.
Please don’t take anything on just my say so. Ask questions, challenge, think. This piece was not meant to be expert advice with which you could not quibble. It was an invitation to try looking at things from another perspective. The ideas stand (or fall) on their own apart from my many years of experience, education or my very high GRE scores.
your thoughts on Hawaii ?
Steven Mosher — Since most of Hawaii’s electricity generation is from oil, its a good example. A System Planner using engineering economics would look at this very different than say, Texas.
“Steven Mosher — Since most of Hawaii’s electricity generation is from oil, its a good example. A System Planner using engineering economics would look at this very different than say, Texas.”
Steven Mosher — What popped into my head from reading the Hawaii article would be a unique application of pump storage hydro: (1) creating a use for the excess solar; (2) while also creating a dispatchable resource to address intermittency issues.
It’s not viable, otherwise it would be done. Look at the El Heiro pumped hydro and wind energy project. A better site would be hard to find. Yet it is barely economic.
Steven Segrest, A better solution for Hawaii is unmandated solar. With the cost of electric in Hawaii it would make sense for those that can afford it to install their own systems without the overly subsidized net metering.
That is where solar should stand out since most of the third world applications are not grid connected, not that Hawaii is third world, but it does have a more isolated third worldish grids.
The problem though is governments love to tax. Being self sufficient off grid would be great for the individual but bad for the “state”. Not a bad thing when the “state” is someone elses I suppose.
Here’s something many don’t think about with solar/pumped storage: you don’t really need a reversible turbine. Instead, use direct current pumps for the solar, and standard one-way generators for the grid (thus no inverters). And you don’t even have to design very big pumps: just use lots of them, spread out with the solar power collectors (thus much smaller transmission losses).
Another point: you don’t need fresh water. Sea Water will do. And you don’t need to find and destroy valleys, “turkey nest” dams can be built anywhere roughly flat.
Peter Lang — I did a Google search on El Heiro using +keywords of “problems”, “uneconomic”, ect. and nothing showed up. It just went commercial.
Could you give me a link as to what you’ve read as problems?
This is another engineer’s estimate, not mine, so I can’t vouch for the numbers.
El Hierro Island – cost of electricity, wind and hydro
Rough estimate by: [name deleted]
Here’s a straightforward way to calculate the cost of electricity from this wind/storage system:
Construction cost is $8 per nameplate watt.
If wind’s capacity factor is 30% and half of the electricity is stored before use (with a 25% round-trip loss) then net capacity factor would be 26%.
$8 divided by 0.26 = $31 per full-time-equivalent watt.
For a moderate cost of money for a utility project (10%), every $1 per FTE-watt equals 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.
So the electricity from this project will probably cost around 37 cents per kWh, before adding the costs of operations, maintenance and distribution. Including those would push it to about 40 cents/kWh.
Which would be extremely high on the mainland, but is perhaps only 50% overpriced for an island.
At $100 per barrel, oil-fired electricity would cost about 25 cents/kWh wholesale, as it does in Hawaii.
The typical U.S. wholesale (busbar) cost is 5-6 cents/kWh.
Some project costings are listed here, but I haven’t checked to see if these are the ones he used.
Let me know if you find a serious error that makes a significant difference to the conclusion.
Good clarification Stephen Seagrest. I agree with what you have said pretty much whole heartedly. In some cases renewables make sense. I support them and have been involved in such projects. I expect future development and improvement to make this a growing sector. But this sector is being pushed to grow much faster than it is warranted. Please don’t take that observation to mean any particular renewable project is not a good thing.
There are many things I did not mention and it was just for space and focus. There was no desire to tell half the story or give a biased picture. There seemed to be a negative implication because I did not bring up the fact that nobody would/could build nuclear to meet peaking needs.. I didn’t bring up Nuclear at all. Some consider it a “clean” resource and some do not. Right now I believe nuclear power base costs are hard to justify unless it gets credit as clean energy, or if the cost of gas generation is projected to greatly increase. . I don’t mean to be dogmatic, but I did expect basic info to be provocative because renewables are so often shielded from criticism. Since many are unaccustomed to such criticism maybe my words appeared harsher than intended. .
PE and Steven Segrest, I am definitely open to future guest posts on these topics! Thanks very much for your input here.
“””But this sector is being pushed to grow much faster than it is warranted.”””
It may be, but you don’t know what is warranted. Again, the market should be deciding most of this anyway and some pretty big “big business” guys, former treasury secretaries, Democrat and Republican alike, agree.
Planning Engineer — What drives me up the wall is how statements from reputable engineers and scientists (like you and Dr. Curry) are taken by some people and twisted into something that wasn’t said, meant, or inferred.
This routinely happens on both sides of the Climate debate, creating just a toxic environment.
I believe a good example of this is Dr. Curry’s Wall St. Journal OP/ED — where many proponents of AGW railed her comment as proof positive that she was advocating no action is necessary.
Problem is, she’s never said this — and its right here in her blog on Fast Mitigation:
curryja | August 4, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
“I’m a fan of the climate fast attack plan that Ramanathan supports and it was my pick for the best climate story of 2012.”
It’s the twisting of comments into black/white positions, opinions, or creating staw-men that drives me crazy.
Just to be clear, the market should not be deciding the harm of a future risk range- as it can’t, even remotely – but in terms of how to maximize our mitigation efforts and simultaneously do so in a way that minimizes intrusional dictate, the market should be playing a huge role.
A commenter below, I believe sarcastically, wrote “smart grids = lower demand when renewable power not available.” But demand is the most effective mechanism for response, based upon choice that, however, at least integrates a little bit of the massive external harm of fossil fuel use (and other atmos affecting processes) currently not being integrated at all, invariably and unavoidable into the decision making process, and in a way that also thus maximizes both incentive and reward, and provides the most efficient path toward at least some level of alteration or pattern shift – which is what is required.
The Georgia example cracks me up. We have subsidized outside solar suppliers able to outbid conventional sources for limited peaking power contracts and this somehow proves that renewables aren’t a costly burden on consumers and taxpayers?
Steve Postrel — Until you make a full Ron Paul statement to eliminate every subsidy/tax incentive on everything (and show equal outrage) — you’re just an ideologue. Do a Ron Paul and show equal outrage, and I can at least respect your opinion.
Where is your outrage on past (ITC) and the current production tax on nuclear (which is basically the same as wind)? Your outrage over Price-Anderson? Your outrage over Congress capping the costs for nuclear construction for Utilities? Your outrage that the new Georgia Power nuclear unit (Vogtle) is only being built having a DOE Loan Guarantee?
I work for AEP, but speak only for myself. I have about 30 years experience in nuclear power operations, training, and engineering. I also have an MSEE and am a licensed PE.
We need to be careful about relying too heavily on gas generation. Natural gas cannot be stored in significant quantities on site, and gas supplies are subject to volatile price swings during periods of high demand. The existing delivery infrastructure is inadequate to the job as prices in the US northeast during the polar vortex demonstrated. Electric system reliability will always be defined by the ability to turn on the lights during the black swan events.
Anytime anyone is comparing economic costs of various generation technologies you need to examine the length of the capital cost amortization period. Last time I checked EIA amortized all generation sources over the same 30 year period…….which is just silly.
Doug Badgero — You comment is 100% spot on and correct. People forget that about 7 years ago natural gas costs were up to 4 to 5 times higher than today. There is absolutely no “given” that they will remain at today’s low prices forever.
Congress could change laws allowing massive exporting of LNG, which could very well increase domestic prices to an international benchmark (e.g., a natural gas company will sell to whomever pays the highest price).
Also, in many cases today with fracking, natural gas is somewhat of a waste product going after the high value lighter oil. But what if oil prices tumble, and its just not economic to do high cost fracking at a large number of current sites? Reduced fracking for oil means reduced natural gas supply.
That’s why we need a diversified fuel mix portfolio of power plants — to manage this fuel risk. Looking at the tea leaves on coal (and forget CO2 for the moment and just consider EPA regs on mercury and probably further reductions in low level ozone), this is why Utilities like the Southern Company (Georgia Power) make fuel diversification a key argument in why nuclear is needed. In my opinion, Southern Co. and you are absolutely correct. Somehow, we’ve just got to figure out how to make nuclear work.
But here is the kicker — whatever assumptions or arguments you make on the need for fuel risk diversification — you must be consistent across the board on all generation options.
JeffN — You and Steve Postrel love to play “word games”. For other people reading this blog, the “game” that JeffN and Steve Postrel are playing is “Build all the solar and wind units you want JUST don’t do it with Federal subsidies”. Folks, the U.S. is not the E.U. What JeffN and Steve Postrel are calling subsidies are Federal tax credits. Where for example, the tax credit for wind is almost exactly that of nuclear power. Many smaller marginal oil wells in the U.S. are only operating because of tax laws written in the early 1900’s (and thus are grand-fathered as to any expiration date — unlike wind and solar are).
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is an example where even some RINOs and Tea Party members are pushing back against ALEC’s “cookie cutter drafted legislation” (one size fits all) to push back and even eliminate renewable energy efforts. ALEC has no business trying to use their political muscle to push their views onto States. This should be a State decision.
(Note cut through all the hubris at the beginning of this article and start reading towards the end, discussing how even conservatives are pushing back against ALEC):
I agree. Nuclear is licensed for 60 years and will probably get life extension thereafter. The average operating life of wind farms is about 20 years and of residential solar PV is likely to be about 12-15 years.
This is a fair point. I don;t fully understand what all the subsidies are for all the different technologies. What I have seen indicates the subsidies and distortions for nuclear are very small compared with renewables. I’d argue we need to stop adding more distortions for renewables. let’s not make it worse. We need to remove all distortions over time.
However, what we also need to remove (an balance in the interim) the distortions that have been caused by anti nuclear advocacy and the resulting nuclear paranoia. These are huge, IMO. Bernard Cohen estimated that by 1990 regulatory ratcheting had increased the cost of nuclear generated electricity by a factor of four. I suspect it has doubled that since. That’s huge. Furthermore, I understand security requirements is about 50% of the cost of nuclear generation. I’d argue that is largely unwarranted and doing far more harm than good given that nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity.
The subsidies/tax breaks for nuclear/fossil are an order of magnitude smaller per unit of energy generated than those for “renewables”. The lobbyists for renewable always talk of absolute dollars because it suits them to do so. What they also never do is acknowledge that a large proportion of the tax breaks are ones given to consumers not producers.
I find it difficult to understand why more is not made of this very obvious fact.
Thanks, and I agree.
Peter Lang — Somehow we’ve just got to make nuclear work — if for no other reason than for fuel diversification. I just don’t see how folks here at CE make this a liberal versus conservative U.S. issue. Obama through the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program provided credit support to build our first nuclear project in decades (Georgia Power’s Vogtle). This is at least trying — more than President Bush did.
Peter Lang — You miss my point. I am extremely pro-nuclear (can’t you see that from one of above threads?) Eliminating Price-Anderson would be total craziness as it would either (A) shut down every nuclear unit in the U.S. or (B) if Utilities could theoretically get adequate insurance from the private market to satisfy their bond-holders, regulators, and politicians — it would be extremely pricey and electricity rates would go through the roof.
But here is the point I am making: Price-Anderson is a Federal Government subsidy.
You are from Australia and maybe don’t know about Dr. Ron Paul (considered by many as the Father of the U.S. Libertarian Tea Party movement). While I disagree with Dr. Paul on many things — I find he is a man of extreme integrity in the consistency in his views.
Dr. Paul is as pure a person in Libertarian Ideology as you’re going to find. And when he calls for eliminating all Federal subsidies, he really means it and has always walked the talk in his voting record.
Folks like Steve Prostrel, JeffN, and ALEC (a very powerful Republican oriented special interests lobbying group) are not consistent with Dr. Paul’s beliefs. One can not pick subsidies one likes (by being silent about them) and then be outraged over subsidies you don’t like.
That’s being a hypocrite.
You’d be familiar with time – e.g. the time it takes to plan. to get approvals, to build and the life of a plant. Importantly the time that infrastructure like transmissions systems and hydro plants last. Even better, think how long it has taken to develop steam turbines, and diesel petrol and jet engines to where they are today. And think how long it has taken to get solar PV (60 years). nuclear (60 years) solar thermal engines (100 years) to the stage of development they are now at.
Importantly, think about how long it will take to undo the damage that 50 years of anti nuclear activism and nuclear phobia has done. It has increased the cost enormously, sent nuclear in wrong directions, and retarded progress. the plants have a 40 to 60 year design life (plus extensions). We can’tr just turn them over as we doe with iPhones and computers. So, it takes decades for the distortions and inflated costs we’ve built in to be removed.
What I’m saying is that, just like the time lags involved in infrastructure, there also needs to be timed removals of subsidies and it has to be done in a balanced way across the various competing technologies.
I agree with removing all subsidies, but doing it pragmatically. It will take many decades to remove the distortions and impediments we’ve placed on nuclear power. I’d argue the USA is by far the best to lead that, for many reasons I could explain. But it wont happen under Obama while he has the sort of advisers he’s appointed to advise him.
By the way, despite working in Canada for 13 years and being close to the USA (and frequently working in the USA for short periods, I had no leanings either way regarding Republican v Democrats. However, following the web sites on climate issues and the politically motivated comments on CE for the past few years, I’ve swung towards Republican. The Republican candidate for the last presidential election had far beet understanding and statements on energy science than Obama.
I’d also remind you that the great recovery in the USA’s industrial productivity can be largely be attributed to gas and fracking. And that must, surely, be credited to Bush and Cheyney. They understood what the industry needed and removed the impediments so they could get on with it. I think the US citizens don’t give due credit to Bush for what he achieved for USA. Likewise Bush senior and Regan. Contrast that with the Republcans – they basically stopped and blocked nuclear development – think what has been lost to the world by the closure of the IFR program and EBR II. This is big picture stuff, not the sniffling noses and the like Obama wants the government to insure and regulate.
Peter Lang — When the Obama Administration is providing credit support of over $8 billion for the Georgia Power nuclear project (Vogtle) — your statement on Obama stopping and blocking nuclear development is puzzlesome.
From what I remember, Obama wanted to originally fund 16? such Vogtle type projects through the DOE loan program.
But this effort along with a lot of R&D programs were cut as a result of the budget deficit sequestration deal (Debt Limit) struck between Obama and Congress.
But, I’ll listen — How is Obama stopping and blocking nuclear development compared to the 8 years of actions in President George W. Bush’s Administration?
What actions were President Bush achieving on nuclear power that Obama has eliminated? In answering, remember the Budget Sequestration mandate.
What “word game” am I playing?
“Where for example, the tax credit for wind is almost exactly that of nuclear power.”
If that’s true, then what is preventing wind power from going gangbusters? Remember, you’re claim is that it gets the same subsidy as everything else, it works and you think it’s cheaper than anything else. If any of that is true, nothing is holding it up. Except none of these things are true so you want something else – something additional – for a product set that doesn’t actually work. Spit it out and let’s debate it rather than your strawmen.
Subsidies for nuclear are mostly R&D, for renewable they are production tax credits. As someone else pointed out they are an order of magnitude smaller for nuclear 1.59mwh vs 22mwh or so for renewable. Price Anderson is definitely a subsidy but it is non-cash (so far), it has never cost U.S. taxpayers anything afaik.
And sure reasonable people can argue over subsidies. Some subsidies have a negative net present value and little or no social benefit. Renewable energy falls into this category IMO. It makes no sense to me to subsidize it. And as PE said it is very regressive. The poor and lower middle classes subsidizing upper middle class and rich people’s toys. Tesla is perhaps the worst example of this. Anyone who would and could buy a Tesla would do it with or without the subsidy I think. I mean give me a break, Tesla is competing with Ford and Chevrolet in the same way that Walmart is competing with Tiffany.
When arguing about subsidies, don’t forget that even patents (all IP) are a subsidy of sorts. Prior to a few centuries ago, AFAIK, the idea of intellectual property, even to the point of granting a prior author credit for something he(/she) wrote, was unknown. There were “patents” granting certain cartels the “right” to perform certain industries with limited (or no) competition, but there was little or no relationship to the person(s) responsible for inventing them.
It seems you have completely missed the the key relevant points.
1 pragmatism, practicality and time to make changes. It will take decades to undo the damage that 50 years of anti nuclear fear mongering has done to nuclear power. Even if IAEA and the US Administration, congress, NRC and EPA removed all the regulatory impediments, changed the risk averse culture over night and the population was persuaded to change from fear and loathing of nuclear power to enthusiastic advocates, it would still take at least three decades to remove all the inbuilt impediments and the development we’ve lost over that 50 years.
I see the subsidies as minor and needed to partially offset the impediments and costs governments and regulators have imposed on nuclear power – in response to community demands which in turn are in response to the effective fear-mongering of the anti-nukes over the past 50 years or so. the subsidies are needed to offset the distortions we’ve implemented.
Mandating and subsidising renewables is another impediment to fair competion. That should be stopped as quickly as possible because it is only adding to the problem and means the subsidies for nuclear have to be even higher if we want reliable power supply with low emissions.
By the way, you said
So what? What is the relevance of that figure. Why didn’t you put it in context. What does it amount to in $/MWh over 60 years and 90% capacity factor? And how does it compare with the subsidies per MWh for renewables?
What I am interested in is the subsidies per MWh and the benefits per MWh:
What are the subsidies per MWh for:
1. all renewable energy power programs in USA
2. fossil fuel electricity generation in the USA
3. all US civil nuclear power programs and the cost of the impediments to nuclear we’ve placed on them (to provide some perspective, Bernard Cohen’s research showed that regulatory ratcheting had caused the cost of nuclear power to be increased by a factor of 4 up to 1990; I suspect it has doubled that since 1990; this provides some indication of how great the impediments to nuclear power may be). Do you have better or more authoritative figures than those?
What are the benefits per MWh and the return on investment for:
1. all renewable energy power programs in USA
2. fossil fuel electricity generation in the USA
3. all US civil nuclear power programs
I would like to focus on policy and progress for the big picture, not the down in the weeds talking points and cherry picked data that is not presented in a full, policy relevant context..
Stephen: “How is Obama stopping and blocking nuclear development compared to the 8 years of actions in President George W. Bush’s Administration?”
Where do you get this misinformation? When Bush took office there had been no nuclear power construction since the early 1980s. During the Bush administration the regulatory process was streamlined and when he left many projects where in the pipeline. The lead time for some of large castings was several years and many orders had been placed.
Why do you so often distort the discussions? We should not be convinced that you are not an operative.
rls — I’m an Operative? Let’s review some of my opinions just on this blog thread: I am clearly pro-nuclear. I am clearly against a Federal Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, Carbon Taxes, and Cap & Trade. I blasted the Obama Administration’s anti-coal position in international development.
I’m an Operative because I believe there are “fits” for Renewable Energy and efforts by many critics (e.g., ALEC) to eliminate tax credits are hypocritical?
I’m an Operative because I follow NREL (and other DOE labs) vast research and demonstration on “how” to integrate renewables better?
I’m an Operative because I believe that a way out of all this fussin’ and fightin’ over AGW policy is a strategy of Fast Mitigation (which Dr. Curry supports) and high economic growth through international trade (that Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman tried to advance)?
You don’t like my opinions because they don’t toe the line with ideological tribalism.
I go away for a day, and Segrest slimes the thread up completely.
As noted by a commenter above, subsidies per kilowatt-hour for wind and solar are way, way higher than for nuclear, even if you don’t net out the excess regulatory costs piled on nukes (in terms of deaths per kw-hr). And targeted–you only get them if you do x–tax credits are subsidies. (At least this time he didn’t try to claim that normal depreciation schedules for conventional and nuclear are somehow subsidies.)
BTW, I would be happy to phase out the Price-Anderson Act if we established more-reasonable regulations and liability rules for nuclear waste, accidents, etc.
Steve Postrel — Someone needs to fight back how you (and others like you) manipulate everything under the sun to often create a toxic discussion environment (far more than needs to be) on our CE Blog.
Although I am very pro-nuclear, here’s what say, a natural gas lobbyist could construct using Keitho’s cost per kWh argument: When the Georgia Power nuclear units and other new units come on-line, they could (and probably will) construct cost per kWh numbers for nuclear similar to what Keitho referenced for renewables. How? Because new nuclear units get a production tax credit almost identical to the wind energy tax credit. In addition to the kWh based tax credit (the per unit measure that Keitho refers to), a natural gas lobbyist would probably through in a slew of other subsidies (construction cost cap guarantees, Price-Anderson, DOE R&D and loan guarantees, etc.).
Also, another problem in trying to offset your manipulation is getting data. Everyone in the oil industry knows that many smaller/medium oil wells are only pumping because of grand-fathered tax benefits (with no expiration dates) written as far back as the early 1900’s.
Your Keitho tactic is no different than that used by coal companies against the nuclear industry in the 70’s and 80’s — except rather than being a coal lobbyist, you are a political ideologue.
In trying to have any type of objective discussion, on these issues could I cite a PERFECT study? Absolutely not. I could cite a paper written by God, and you would demand a second opinion.
While I think that is a fair point to make to some others I don’t think it is a fair point to make to Steve Postrel. I’ve found that frequently shows some of the signs of intellectual dishonesty, and I find that frustrating and and I don’t bother taking much notice or replying to your comments because I realise you either wont respond, wont acknowledge when your points have been refuted, change direction to avoid admitting you were wrong, use strawman arguments, etc.
You twist the truth Segrest. Nuclear only gets 8 years of the production tax credit. Wind get it FOREVER!
But the biggest difference is that nuclear is worth it and wind isn’t.
This is one of the things Segrest whines about: The depletion allowance. It’s simply an acknowledgement of the fact that capital equipment depreciates in value over time and minerals and timber are harvested over time. He just doesn’t seem to get it.
A tax deduction authorized by federal law for the exhaustion of oil and gas wells, mines, timber, mineral deposits or reserves, and other natural deposits.
Frequently, the ownership of such resources is split so that the depletion deduction is allotted among the various owners. Rights to royalty payments, leases, and subleases are not the same as ownership but the holders of such rights may be entitled to depletion deductions under the theory of “economic interest” formulated by the courts to ascertain the right to depletion allowances. Such economic interest, which signifies an investment interest in the minerals that furnish the sole resource for recouping the investment, is usually determined by the parties according to the provisions of their contract.
The cost method and the percentage, or statutory, method represent the two ways of calculating the Depletion Allowance.
Cost depletion, like depreciation, bases the allowance on the original cost of the income-generating property. For example, a taxpayer who purchases rights to extricate oil for $2 million should be permitted to regain the capital tax-free when he or she extracts and markets the oil. The earnings from the depletable property should be viewed as encompassing a return of the taxpayer’s capital investment. A proportionate segment of such receipts each year should be exempt from taxation as income. When oil is viewed as a “wasting asset,” cost depletion permits yearly deductions for the receipt of $2 million tax-free over the duration of the pumping operations. The tax law permits the taxpayer to divide the cost of the investment by the estimated total of recoverable units in the natural deposit. This cost per unit is subsequently multiplied by the number of units sold annually, which results in the depletion deduction permitted for that year.
Jim2’s comment on Wind — I wonder if there is even one person at CE that will comment on Jim2 statement that the wind production tax credit is for forever. Probably not.
That’s nit-picking and a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing with the main points. You know what he meant. You are further damaging your credibility each time you make comments demonstrating one of the “10 signs of intellectual dishonesty”: http://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/
Production tax credit of 1.8 or 2.1 ¢/kWh from the first 6,000 MWe of new nuclear capacity in their first eight years of operation (the same rate as available to wind power on an unlimited basis).Production tax credit of 1.8 or 2.1 ¢/kWh from the first 6,000 MWe of new nuclear capacity in their first eight years of operation (the same rate as available to wind power on an unlimited basis).
Stephen; I did not say you are an operative. However, your comments here raise suspicions; propaganda type comments that might be found originating from progressive think tanks. You can claim to be whatever, but actions speak louder than words. Suspicions are raised when
stuff is spewed that is inaccurate and misleading. Reminds me of John Kerry’s testimony to the Senate when he described soldiers massacring innocent civilians; the words replicating a communist propaganda document.
Stephen Segrest: One can not pick subsidies one likes (by being silent about them) and then be outraged over subsidies you don’t like.
I think that is a perfectly fair thing to do as long as you present a case for what you think the better subsidies are and what you think the worst subsidies are. It is an important fact that subsidies to nuclear are lower so far per kwh than subsidies to wind and solar, just as it is important that subsidies to fusion have not paid off in any net energy return. Likewise it is important that what are called “subsidies” are frequently of different kinds, like the difference between a direct payment from govt and a reduction in tax paid to govt. Whether Price-Anderson is a good idea or not should be based on its merits, not on a consideration that it is like the honey subsidy and ethanol requirement for retail gasoline.
Mathew R. Marler,
I agree with that excellent point.
I made a point earlier and it was skirted (it was not made to you). It relates to your point that there are different types of subsidy.
Firstly, just reiterating a point made by others, subsidies for research, for development, for demonstration and for production are different and need different justifications. Subsidies for production should not be summed together with subsidies for R, D and D.
Now for my main point. RE advocates argue the subsidies for nuclear should be removed. I argue they should be removed at the rate the impediments that have been imposed on nuclear power over the past 50 years are removed. These two things need to be done in coordination. Even if the IAEA and the US administration, Congress, EPA, DOE and NRC completely removed all the impediments overnight, it would take decades for the impediments to be removed from future designs and operation of future nuclear plants. the anti nukes (mostly the same people as the RE proponents and CAGW alarmists), have caused cost increases and retarded the development of nuclear power. Subsidies need to remain to offset these damages, they need to be unwound progressively at the rate the removal of impediments flows through to the reduction of LCOE.
The other point about renewable subsidies, at least for solar, is that subsidies are provided directly to consumers in the form of tax credits to install and use solar panels. The subsidies don’t stop there either as many if not all states pay residential consumers retail rates for electricity they “sell” back into the grid, as opposed to wholesale rates that utilities pay to other suppliers. To my knowledge, no government – state, local, or federal – have ever offered consumers tax credits to incent them to increase their use of fossil fuels.
As noted by others above, SS doesn’t address the basic points:
1. Nuclear subsidies (and I mean real, nuclear-specific subsidies, not the fact that the tax code allows depreciation of all capital equipment) are much lower per kwh than those for wind and solar.
2. Nuclear is effectively taxed with nuclear-specific burdens to have much lower deaths per kwh than alternative power sources.
3. Nobody is saying that nuclear would be cheaper than natural gas, especially at current gas prices. They’re just saying that if you want zero-CO2 power, then nuclear is way more efficient than solar or wind on an unsubsidized basis.
4. What makes something a subsidy in economic terms is whether it changes the marginal incentive to do one thing rather than another. General items such as depreciation schedules for the wearing out of capital apply across the whole economy and do not subsidize one sector over another. Special feed-in tariffs for solar and wind, tax credits that only apply to solar and wind, below-market loans targeted only to solar and wind, etc., are all subsidies.
5. Solar and wind have a deleterious effect on grid stability unless supplemented by even more expensive and wasteful investments in backups, etc., as outlined by Planning Engineer.
Policy-driven wind and solar installation is a large and unnecessary self-inflicted wound on the economies of the world.
Very well put, clear, concise.
I do say that nuclear will be far cheaper than fossil fuels in the future. In the future, over time, the impediments that are raising the cost of nuclear above what it should and could be will be removed. Over time the costs will come down. What I am urging is that people recognise this and become actively involved in promoting it so it happens faster than it otherwise will. I’d urge others to learn and help inform their contacts to better understand. But first, those who do not understand the magnitude of these impediments to nuclear need to challenge their beliefs and open their minds to the possibility that what they’ve heard for so long is largely misinformation and then research it and find out for themselves.
I’d expand point 5. above to explain that the gird issues are a significant cost being added by wind and solar and it will get bigger as penetration of wind and solar increases. There are large cross subsidies for solar and wind going on. These need to be removed. The sooner the better.
“Where I strongly disagree with anybody is an inference that no renewable can compete economically (under any circumstances) with a fossil fuel alternative. ”
Again with the straw man? Nobody is saying this. There is no conservative, anywhere, anytime in history, who would ever prevent you or anyone else from building any “renewable” energy source where it makes sense to do so. None, zip, nada, zilch. In fact, many will happily invest in the endeavor. Have at it.
Then you follow up the myth that skeptics (or perhaps actual conservatives) advocate for “no action” on global warming. Build all the nuclear power plants you want. Erect solar panels wherever they work. Use gas instead of coal every place it works. No skeptic or conservative is preventing any of this effective action on emissions mitigation.
The only opposition your getting is to the ineffective, ridiculous, “progressive” top-down policy proposals that you pretend to abhor in one sentence of every one of your posts pushing the renewable pipe dream.
Treat reality with respect.
JeffN — I’ll make the same comment to you as I made to Steve Prostrel. Let’s hear your Ron Paul statement on everything and also your outrage. Let’s eliminate Price-Anderson today, right?
But I’m not outraged. And I have no objection to slightly reducing the amount we tax things that work (what you pretend is a subsidy.) you see, when you were strolling around telling people you were a conservative, you might have listened to one or two. Here’s a hint, they always favor reducing taxes.
Ill issue the same challenge I issued to you before: give us one example – just one- of a conservative saying he/she would stop solar “in all instances.” Since you are so tired of hearing it, surely you can provide one example.
That’s a silly, over the top comment. Why do you make such outrageous comments and accuse others of being exaggerations, not considering everything, etc. If we want to repeal the Price Anderson, then surely we must also re-balance by removing the unjustified distortions that have been added and are making nuclear power far more expensive than it should be. But that will take decades to flow right through to the cost of electricity.
My two most prized properties are an old solar powered calculator I have owned for 12 years without a battery change, and a pair of eternal rubber flip flops which never wear. Sometimes I suspect they are products of a space faring alien civilization which failed to realize we are happy if they last two years. But let’s be realistic, these are niche products we can’t use in real life settings. The micro grid ideas can’t even work in Papua Guinea, you would do better selling them hand cranked generators.
That seems like a strawman to me. Has anyone said that?
If it is competitive it needs no subsidies and no favourable regulations. Let the market compete to meet requirements at least cost.
I always try to respond to comments up to a point — but I don’t believe in beating a dead horse in discussion.
This current blog will be a good venue, where I am more than willing to go head-to-head with folks like Steve Postrel. Its a good venue because its not the current blog of Dr. Curry and we won’t be hogging the space of a current specific topic. This is the problem I have with Wagathon’s constant off-topic comments. CE shouldn’t be a place to go just to vent about “Liberals”.
The blog threading of CE can get really messy, so I’m going to make an administrative request to create a protocol as we continue. When one has a new sub-topic, go to the end of this CE blog and make a new thread and entitle it in your first line in bold.
I’m going to do this today in responding to Mr. Postrel’s (yet again) ubiquitous statement on solar and wind — where it looks like most of you missed where Planning Engineer agreed with me.
I do want to close here on comments that I’m some “Liberal plant or operative”. For about 20 years, I was in System Planning for the two largest electric utilities in the Southeast. I’ve written numerous system planning models, most notably 100% of the PROVAL engineering economics software that’s an industry standard in much of the U.S. It is this engineering basis that I sometimes disagree with Peter Lang statements on topics involving the integrated grid.
But I don’t do this anymore — Most people here at CE know that I’m into ethanol. Ag (sorghum, sugarcane, energycane) and mechanical engineering (including biogas IGCCs). I’ve worked extensively with the U.S. DOE (and their labs). One year I was awarded “Innovator of the Year” for my no-regrets Ag work on below ground (soil) carbon sequestration. I’ve testified before Congress. And yes, I feel very strongly about what I do.
That I’m a “Liberal” plant, go here (I occasionally blog) where I just blasted the Obama’s Administration position on coal:
I am also a lifelong moderate Republican (that Tea Party types refer to as a RINO). I was a volunteer in the brief Jon Huntsman campaign.
As such, I believe that much of the current black/white, absolutism “framing” I see here at CE creates just a toxic environment — detrimental to Conservative values. I expressed these views on a blog I wrote (The Failure of Conservatives on Global Warming):
@Stephen Segrest I visited your greenenergy blog. Looks interesting.
I also find it difficult to navigate the comment section of this blog. I learn something when comments are clearly stated (preferably within 2 paragraphs) and have found your arguments and the accompanying disagreements not to have been a waste of time to read.
I just finished reading your blog re: failure of conservatives and cans say I agree with part of it, but disagree in a couple of important areas:
1. 99% of scientists agree that for the past 60 years, the bulk of this warming is human driven (meaning 50% or more). I seriously doubt that number. Climate Depot published a report back in 2010 with over 1000 scientists from around the world who would disagree with that statement. Likewise, the much smeared Petition Project managed to get over 30,000 signatories from people with advanced science degrees. The 97% consensus numbers that have been promulgated by the AGW crowd are all based on shoddy surveys or studies conducted by AGW advocates (John Cook for example) and were designed to reach a predetermined result. I would say, based on the numbers, that there is more consensus on the skeptical side than the alarmists side.
2. That same group of scientists would disagree that Co2 WILL warm the planet – even Dr. Curry moderates her position on this topic by adding the qualification that for Co2 to warm the planet, everything else must remain equal, but in fact, nothing else does, and I don’t think Dr. Curry would take bets on the 50% level of attribution either.
3. You also left off your list the most important GHG there is – H2O.
4. Your statement – The “True Problem” for Conservatives is that from the get-go, the issue of Global Warming was hi-jacked by Liberal Ideology policy proposals. Conservatives have never developed meaningful and consistent policy alternatives based on their principles to pro-actively tackle this issue.
— The problem with this reasoning is that many conservatives do not believe there is a problem to be solved, and I am one of them. The climate has been changing for 4.5 billion years and both Co2 and temperature fluctuations have varied greatly over that period – sometimes in sync, sometimes not, and more frequently as evidence by the ice core samples, temperature increase before Co2 increase. The real problem conservatives like me have with the Green movement is the constant call for urgent and drastic action to “de-carbonize” our economy. On the more extreme side, which too many people advocate from groups like Greenpeace, Searra Club, and the WWF is the position stated by Bill McKibben of 350.org:
From the book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”:
“In 1998, Bill McKibben endorsed a scenario of outlawing 60 percent of present fossil fuel use to slow catastrophic climate change, even though that would mean, in his words, that “each human being would get to produce 1.69 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually— which would allow you to drive an average American car nine miles a day. By the time the population increased to 8.5 billion, in about 2025, you’d be down to six miles a day. If you carpooled, you’d have about three pounds of CO2 left in your daily ration— enough to run a highly efficient refrigerator. Forget your computer, your TV, your stereo, your stove, your dishwasher, your water heater, your microwave, your water pump, your clock. Forget your light bulbs, compact fluorescent or not.” That was 1998, today Bill McKibben endorses a 95 percent ban on fossil fuel use, eight times as severe as the scenario described above!
In your post, I get the impression that you lay the blame for all the “bashing” at the feet of conservatives. Let me remind you, it was not the conservatives who started the conversation (not that there ever really was a conversation) by calling the alarmists all sorts of derogatory names – denier (clear implication to the holocaust), flat earthers, just plain stupid, etc. It was not the conservatives who refused to debate. It was not conservatives who refused to show their work. It was not conservatives who participated in “climate gate”. It is not conservatives who started out using character assassination on anyone who disagreed with them. It was not conservatives who claimed that some urgent, drastic action was needed that would dramatically affect our economy.
Given the complexities of the climate system, I would say the chance of any single component of that system having a long term warming impact all by itself, in a manner that effectively negates all other components, is highly unlikely – especially when that one component makes up a bare .04% of just one of the subsystems making up the overall climate system, and further, when human burning of fossil fuels contributes a mere 3-4% of that .04%.
That is not to say that we should not be looking to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. But it is to say that we should not be over-regulating fossil fuels or over subsidizing renewables like wind and solar. I know you say the subsidy argument made by conservatives is specious (my word, not yours), but the reality is that renewables are being subsidized in ways that fossil fuels never were. There may be special tax breaks relative to depletion allowances, but those apply to any type of mining/drilling operation, not just coal, oil, or gas. Also, the fossil fuel industry developed during a time when the tax code was far different than it is today – in fact, there was no tax code when in Rockefeller’s time except during the civil war, and I don’t think he was given some special tax treatment, and I don’t think the government paid him anything to help him along.
Today, our government is literally writing checks to wind and solar companies, not just giving them tax breaks. The subsidies also take on a different form when the government gives preferential tax treatment to consumers for installing solar panels. I don’t think the government ever gave preferential treatment to consumers to incent them to increase their use of fossil fuels. Furthermore, in the case of solar, consumers (in Arizona at least, and I believe in other states as well), are paid retail rates when the “sell” their electricity back to the utility as opposed being paid wholesale rates – that is another form of subsidy that further distorts the market.
If you want to talk about simplifying the tax code and eliminating the so-called subsidies for big oil/gas/coal, I’m all for it. But recognize that it will also be affecting every other industry, which to me is fine as well. But any such simplification must also be linked to eliminating payments made by the government to renewable energy companies.
I am not sure a true rational discussion can take place between someone like myself and a truce believer that Co2 will cause catastrophic anything. In my view, money would be far better spent figuring out how to adapt to an ever changing climate, not looking to “build low carbon intensity economies” . We do need to look for alternative energy sources simply because fossil fuels are a finite resource. But the way to do that is through free enterprise, not government mandate.
That’s an excellent reply to Stephen Segrest. I agree with almost everything (a couple of points that are controversial, not important and therefore distracting I wouldn’t have raised).
On this very important point near the end,
I’d suggest you left out an important point: I’d suggest continuing the last sentence to say:
“But any such simplification must also be linked to eliminating payments made by the government to renewable energy companies ” and it must also be linked to eliminating the many distortions that have been imposed on other technologies, most notably nuclear.
As an example of what I’m alluding to, Bernard Cohen showed that regulatory ratcheting had increased the cost of nuclear by a factor of four by 1990 http://deregulatetheatom.com/reference/ch-9-the-nuclear-energy-option/. I expect that has been doubled since. And the IAEA allowable radiation limits are arguable a factor of 100 too low. This is making an enormous increase to the cost of nuclear – for example it means people are forced to evacuate around nuclear accidents when they should not be. That makes nuclear a very high financial risk and adds massively to the insurance cost.
There is much to be done to level the playing field. The first thing to do is to unwind these impediments and also stop the distortionary subsidies and regulations favouring renewable energy
Thanks for the reply Peter, and I agree with you re: nuclear. At this point in time, it to me is really the only viable proven alternative to fossil fuels. Other technologies may emerge, but at this point in time, nothing beats nuclear.
I found info you linked troubling, but not surprising. The ratcheting and turbulence described are, I am afraid, the new normal wrt any new energy project except for renewables, and that is one thing Stephen and others fail to consider in making their arguments. I would bet that similar problems would surface for any new coal plant or refinery.
One other element mentioned that people refuse to acknowledge is the power, money, and influence of the Green mob and the aid they receive in spreading misinformation through the MSM, pop culture, and specials that run on Discovery, History, etc. The result – an enormous amount of misinformation being spread from a number of sources, while there is virtually no outlet for opposing views other than the blogosphere, and a few brave souls, one of which now appears to be our hostess.
I totally agree with all that. Rrgarding this point in lates tomment
Yes, and don’t for get the schools and universities. They are a major cause of the problem and it takes a generation to undo the damage they are doing with ideologically based beliefs they teach students.
I understand that nuclear plants are generally safe and healthier than any other form of dispatchable energy and that they on balance save lives.
But I’m not a fan of pressurized reactor cores. Reactor cores should operate at ambient pressure. Why people like to use water as a coolant just mystifies me.
Liquid metal or liquid salt seems to be a better solution.
Thanks you for your comment. I think it is best not to pick winners on preferences line you mention. It takes many decades to evolve to better technologies. Look historically to see how long it has taken for us to get from the first engines (petrol, diesel, steam turbine, jet engine, solar thermal engine) and nuclear power plants to where we are at now. Therefore, in my opinion we should be removing the impediments that are preventing nuclear being cheaper than it is. We should be rolling out current technology as fast as we can. Because it is by rolling out technology faster that we can improve the breed faster. The vendors will compete to produce technologies to best meet requirements at least cost. Removing the impediments will drive innovation and expand competition – but it will all happen faster if we ALLOW it to. IMO, advocating for any one design is delaying progress. Just let’s get going with whatever is currently available.
If Vogtle or C. V. Summer plants come on-line in 2018 the defacto nuclear moratorium in the US will be broken and the AP1000 will be deployed in the US for the first time.
If the operators of these plants have a good experience with the AP1000 we could be off to the races.
Modular reactors like NuScale may offer a better chance of reducing regulation simply because of the paperwork/oversight burden they will create for the NRC.
Nuts like the NRDC will oppose any sensible plant deployment, but there are nuts that oppose any sensible solution to known problems.
1. GW scale nuclear plants are far too big for most grids around the world and I’d argue they are too financially risky for investors for even most of the larger grids. The financial risk will come down when the electricity industry can purchase SMR’s of similar capacity to gas turbines and order them just in time with short deliver times. That’s where we need to get to. I like the 180 MW mPower for example: http://www.uxc.com/smr/Library/Design%20Specific/mPower/Presentations/2012%20-%20Reactor%20Design%20Overview.pdf (now put on the back burner because of the huge cost and 10 year time to get it through the NRC licencing process)
2. I suggest the deregulation issue needs to be tackled at a much higher level than the NRC. It needs to start at US president and IAEA. It is definitely achievable, IMO. and the USA is the best placed country to lead the way, for a multitude of reasons. With a well advised US President, he and his Administration can lead the way to 1) advocate to the US population they regain leadership of developing, for the benefit of all mankind, the world energy resource that will supply most of the world’s energy for thousands of years; and 2) because there are only a small number of IAEA representatives to be persuaded and most would be already inclined to support the changes, the USA could persuade the IAEA delegates to set in process the review of the regulations that are unjustifiably retarding progress in the development of nuclear energy. An example of an important ‘early-wins’ would be to raise the allowable radiation limits for workers and members of the public – see this short pamphlet for a short explanation: http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/RadiationSafety26SixPage.pdf
A very timely and well-written piece that should be required reading for the American public.
Thank you !!!!
Outstanding post Planning Engineer, please post more often! If possible, it would be great if you could post some numbers on more narrowly defined aspects of the problem. This is not a criticism but an invitation.
Let me describe some of the unintended consequences of the mandate to use “renewable power sources” here in the formerly great state of California. We have the highest electricity rates in the nation. The rates are a step function with an absurdly low threshold for the lowest tier. Those thresholds on the step function are determined by the commissioners.
I live in a small community on a steep slide-prone mountain covered with a mixed evergreen forest. My neighbors are not stupid, they can read their electric bills. To keep their electricity usage within the lower tiers they install propane systems. The large propane tanks function as bombs in a forest fire. Many use propane powered appliances. However, propane is expensive, so few people use it for heat. Most people, but not me, heat their homes with old wood stoves. Wood is expensive, so most people harvest wood from their property, from the roadside, or from land owned by absentee landowners (rarely).
There are three main unintended consequences of the use if wood for heat here in our community. First and foremost, the air quality is badly degraded. The woodstoves are operated by amateurs. As a result they are usually operated incorrectly, resulting in massive local air pollution. Our air quality is among the worst in the state. From October to March you can see the dense smoke hanging in the air in most neighborhoods, including the school zone where the elementary, middle, and high schools are clustered together. The regional air quality control board (RAQCB) measures the pollution levels, yes we have real data, and tries to educate the public but has made no progress in over a decade. The RAQCB used to have a program to partially subsidize the exchange of high polluting old stoves with new EPA approved stoves, but the air quality is so bad that the program now only support wood-pellet and gas-fired stoves which people reject because of the high costs of propane and wood pellets. Note that even if the stoves were operated correctly the carbon ratio of wood to natural gas is about 40:1, actually a little less in practice. So the unintended consequence of the renewable mandate is increased pollution and CO2 emissions.
The second unintended consequence is damage to the watershed and increased susceptibility to strorm-induced (caused by AGW?) landslides. People much prefer the deep rooted hardwoods like oak and madrone for their burning characteristics. As a result, the population density of hardwoods has decreased over time, leaving behind a population of shallow rooted trees like maple and redwood and fire prone trees like bay, which has high levels of volatiles in their leaves, a fire hazard. Worse yet, the bay trees are the main vector for the devastating sudden oak death syndrome, further reducing the oak population but providing plenty of “free” firewood for the local stoves. The deep rooted evergreen hardwoods help protect the steep slopes from erosion and catastrophic sliding, but they are disappearing. The many small slides dump silt into the local streams damaging the habitat of the endangered salmon – now extirpated – and the threatened steelhead trout. The large slides cause death and expensive propert destruction. Many of my wood-burning and hardwood-harvesting neighbors were not living here during the last big El Niño in 1998. When the next El Niño comes and the “pineapple express” opens up they are in for a big, but frightening, surprise.
The final unintended consequence of California’s green energy mandate is the environmental consequence. Every snag and fallen log in the forest is now seen as someone’s free fuel that could help lower their electricity use and put them in a lower tier in their electric bill. As a result we have lost ALL of the snags – standing deadwood – which function as granaries for acorn woodpeckers and feeding sites for pileated woodpeckers and other species. The acorn woodpeckers can also use live ponderosa pine and other species but the pileated woodpecker, needing larger diameter snags, has disappeared. Similarly, every fallen log, even softwoods, is harvested soon after falling to be burned inefficiently in a wood stove. Fallen logs are an important habitat for many species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and fungi. In addition, fallen logs are part of an important process of returning carbon to the soil. When logs fall into the creek they enhance endangered fish habitat by increasing scouring and providing cover. The only fallen logs in my neighborhood are on my property. The rest feed the stoves.
In summary, California’s green energy mandate has resulted in more local air pollution, deforestation, habitat destruction, local extirpation of species, increased landslide and forest fire risk, increased soil erosion, forest soil depletion, watershed destruction, and, most ironically, increased carbon emissions.
I agree with your assessment except the redwoods being ” better”. I could elaborate, but I already sound pretty truculent.
Thanks for helping me with my physics homework oh so many years ago.
Drawing a blank on physics homework?
Sorry, so many word associations…triggers the associative cognitive cascade. I knew a Howard, in California, a geologist, that surfed, that used words like “bogart”. We went to school together, college and university, did homework in the same tutorial center. Probably just a coincidence.
My name is not Justin, it’s a silly spoof … Just in wonder …
That’s a funny story. I don’t remember much from college 30+years ago at UCSB. It was too much fun, it’s depressing to think of those days. I know why you don’t like the redwoods… having to clean the maroon spots off your car with a Mr Clean white magic scrub pad. Spent half the weekend blowing the needles off my expanse of California Gold crushed rock… I’m still sore.
One of the best deconstructions of the unintended consequences of government mandates.
Howard – what is slv?
SLV is a landslide prone mountain valley evergreen forest with winter air pollution that lingers around the middle/high school campus from poorly designed and poorly operated wood stoves.
I don’t necessarily agree with Justin’s conclusions. Sure, many folks gather litter to sell or burn. Much of the hardwood that is cut is done so because our area was clearcut and burned ~100 to 140 years ago and the oak and madrone took over. Harvesting the hardwood makes room for more redwoods, which is more “natural”. Except they are in the form of fairy rings where you have five or six stunted, frequently bent and precarious trees (prone to falling in a big wind) growing around the old-growth stump. Selective harvesting (locally pioneered by Big Creek Lumber) of these extra trees actually increases the board feet stored in the forest as the better trees are “released” and fills the floor with slash and litter for critters.. However, environ-mentalists oppose all tree cutting just like they oppose all dam building, road widening, culvert fixing, and other infrastructure improvements that will improve land and aquatic habitat.
Thanks for the reply and explanation Howard. Maybe Justin was over-egging a bit, but I think his overall point jibes with yours and that is,I think, that there is no satisfying the green blob and they appear to be immune to understanding the real consequences of their desired action.
Excellent. Extrapolating to estimate the external cost of solar, perhaps it may be 10 times higher than current estimates, which would make it about 30 times higher than the estimates for nuclear.
ExternE estimates of external cost of electricity generation are PV 8.3 EUR/MWH, nuclear 2.5 EUR/MWh, p 13: http://ec.europa.eu/research/energy/pdf/externe_en.pdf )
I wonder what Joshua would say about that?
Such a good point, Justin. When you make it hard to afford what comes down the line without smoke and flame you get a lot of smoke and flame off the line. Even in posher parts of Europe like Tuscany, it’s amazing how people outside the cities will burn whatever they can get their hands on. The emissions aren’t calculated or quantified as with a nice new power plant, so those emissions don’t exist, just like dung/grass/twig/kero etc emissions by billions of poor every day don’t exist.
Except the emissions do exist, and the gunk’s on your washday sheets and in your lungs. And the domestic fires and wildfires also exist.
So I say to our leaders, don’t be girlie governors. Build and modernise fossil fuel energy, improve every aspect from mining to transmission. Just because we have centuries of fossil fuels in reserve, with thorium etc in the works, doesn’t mean we should waste one precious nugget of coal. Real conservation is for money, industry, agriculture and coal, as much as for flora and fauna. (Solar is okay for some hot water, wind will pump up from a river – if you have a river.)
Out with green fetishism, in with conservation. Remember conservation?
Thanks, excellent story.
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It would be in the nation’s great interest if one large and geographically diverse state would agree to become the pathfinder for experimenting with what does, or does not, work well in attempting an accelerated adoption of renewable energy resources.
California is the logical choice for performing a large-scale experiment in how best to adopt renewable energy technology as the primary source of electric power generation in America.
The voting public in California has indicated its strong commitment to a renewable energy future, and the state’s voters have indicated their strong concerns about climate change. California also has the necessarily diverse mix of geographic landscapes, weather patterns, business activities, cultural groups, and socio-political attitudes so as to allow a useful assessment of what kinds of environmental, economic, and lifestyle impacts would be acceptable to a representative sample of American society.
Californians are ready and willing to take on this challenge. Let’s state the objectives for The California Experiment as being 60% renewables by 2030 and 80% renewables by 2040, using a plan which forbids further construction of fossil-fuel plants within the state’s boundaries and which enforces an exceptionally high cost penalty against fossil-fuel electricity imported from outside the state’s borders.
Hey, if California can’t make the grand vision work, nobody can.
Beta Blocker – “California also has the …diverse mix of … socio-political attitudes…” .
Wrong. Dead wrong. California is totally controlled by the democratic party. The party holds every state-wide elected political office save one, which I can’t even remember offhand, and also holds a super majority in the legislature. They can do and have done whatever they want to do. It is true that Californians approved a green energy initiative on the ballot. We will see the consequences unfold as time passes. See my post on the local unintended consequences of the green energy mandate.
Another consequence of the political climate, including taxes, regulations, and changing demographics, has been the pattern of migration into and out of the state. Conservatives move out and the left moves in. Add to that a large low income population, including low income and poorly educated immigrants, that favor a strong central government that provides expensive benefits and you see a feedback loop. In our county more than one in six people work for state, county, or city government and is a member of a public employee union. If it weren’t for Silicon Valley and the high tech industry the state would sink. Governments legally use accounting practices that would put a CFO in jail. The pension benefit crisis looms over our head like a dam with a small crack with the population downstream in denial. Add the green mandate and the loss of manufacturing and we are ripe for a black-swan event.
Check out this book and site about the politico-cultural-demographic big sort we are witnessing:
Justin Wonder, my left-leaning liberal relatives in California who have lived there for five generations are longing for a return to the California of the early 1960s when the state’s population was 20 million rather than today’s 40 million.
However, they are very uncomfortable with my proposal to use California as a test case for accelerating the adoption of the renewables, given the risks to the state’s economy, and to their own livelihoods, if the experiment failed.
My response to their qualms about using California as a large-scale test case for adoption of the renewables is that, one, the majority of Californians say they want a renewable energy future for their state; and two, if things don’t work out as planned, they can always move to Texas where they will be welcomed with open arms by their more conservative but more realistic Texas relatives.
Beta Blocker: California is the logical choice for performing a large-scale experiment in how best to adopt renewable energy technology as the primary source of electric power generation in America.
California is being watched.
Hey, if California can’t make the grand vision work, nobody can.
For 4 decades now, the construction of water supplies has not kept pace with population growth, and the current drought is made worse by neglect of the system in place and other ecology-related decisions. AB32 has driven up electricity prices sufficient to repel most entrepreneurs. California just isn’t that into making things work.
Matthew, the best thing Californians have going for them in becoming enthusiastic participants in The Great California Renewables Experiment is their demonstrated commitment to the adoption of renewable energy technologies and their willingness to accept any near-term sacrifices which might have to be made in order to achieve their commonly held vision for the future.
As the experiment progresses, those in California who don’t like the way things are going can always leave the state, if they are that concerned about it and if they are of a mind to go rather than stay. It’s their choice. The majority of Californians voted for the renewables; and if some of them have serious second thoughts as the experiment goes forward, it’s their privilege to leave for greener pastures elsewhere whenever they decide to.
I have been living in California for 40 of my 60 years and nothing is more absurd than the discussion water. We are on a very tiny municipal water system and it is a major issue. The discussion usual revolves around storage, which is frustrating since right now we don’t have any water to store. We have a supply problem. However, we sit next to massive ocean and, given we are approaching a population of about 40 million that desalination would be a forgone conclusion. It’s not. Some dead-enders continually argue for dams on rivers that don’t exist to gather rain water that isn’t coming. They forget about the EPA and the Endangered Species Act (anadromous fish). Water board meetings are stormed by greens that deplore the CO2 that would be released via desalination. Others, having been deselected for a stem career by fractions, think you can get all the water you need from rooftop rainwater systems. Crunch the numbers and you need some big expensive water storage for that solution. You also need rain, and in a dry climate with no measurable summer rain. Meanwhile, the default has been a true race to the bottom with the valley farmers drilling ever deeper wells to tap fossil water – a bonafide tragedy of the commons playing out for all to see. California water policy is irrational and frustrating.
Perhaps we should position the water discussion as a CAWG issue, like what would happen if, due to CAWG, we experienced a mega- drought. Sadly, I think many in CA would say we better add more wind and solar energy to reduce CO2 to stop global warming to prevent a drought. Never underestimate the power of denial.
Govenor Brown promises a lot of ‘green energy’ in Californias future. That maybe his greatest asset, hopefully. If we don’t go bankrupt from pension liabilities first.
Justin Wonder: Some dead-enders continually argue for dams on rivers that don’t exist to gather rain water that isn’t coming.
The rain will fall, and areas without flood control will flood. It’s just that the rain and snow will fall unpredictably, as they always have.
Justin Wonder: Perhaps we should position the water discussion as a CAWG issue, like what would happen if, due to CAWG, we experienced a mega- drought.
I push the proposition that we will have alternations of floods and droughts with or without AGW. On average, cooler oceans produce greater droughts, so consistent ocean warming is not likely to be harmful to CA. There is evidence of what we would call mega-droughts having occurred often before Europeans came to CA, so they will also probably recur with or without AGW..
From a great distance, any lay person drawing from common knowledge could tell Californians that they live in a notorious drought belt (that can get lucky with rain for a decade here and there). Just like the eastern seaboard is a notorious hurricane belt, where, consequently, a high category hurricane must eventually strike and even a huge no-cat storm like Sandy can make chaos. Also, though California is not in a hurricane belt, NY can get awesomely dry, as it did fifty years ago. Common and long-standing knowledge.
So a climate scientist in California would be spending a lot of time emphasising all this to a forgetful public and administration, right? I mean, that’s what they’re for, right?
I’m sure the People’s Socialist Republic of California will experiment on itself until they all look like little green Martians with built in solar panels on their heads. But please don’t take freebie credits for electricity generated with coal just over the border.
This reminds me of a situation a while back when demand side management was all the rage among regulators. The idea was that through efficiency measures utilities could control growth and save transmission and generation investment dollars in the bargain. The talk was of saving money through generating NegaWatts (negative demand). I believe it was EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) who selected a town in California to use all the cutting edge technology as a test. I love an experiment and eagerly waited for the published results.
Alas combing the reports and literature I was only able to find this (paraphrased through dim memory): The TownX project to control demand side management was abandoned when TownX unexpectedly became the wind surfing capital of the West Coast rendering DSM measures inoperable.
TownX being The Dalles Oregon I take it. Wind capital of the world!
“California is the logical choice for performing a large-scale experiment in how best to adopt renewable energy technology”
Have you looked at the plots of California’s population and its water storage capacity?
So the state of California couldn’t work out that more people should require more water
I know football players often have some pretty unusual – and impressive – names. And am not questioning parent choices in this endeavor.
But still, with a last name of “Engineer,” One would think the parents might not choose “Planning” as the first name.
Seriously: This is ostensibly a serious website by someone who offers congressional testimony on this issue, yet with a post by “Planning Engineer.” Who works in the utility field, about the issue of incorporating other sources of power generation.
Anonymity Disclaimer or not.
@jcurry: “This is a guest submittal from a long time reader of Climate Etc. I requested this column because on a previous thread “Planning Engineer” shared some perspectives that deserved to be expanded into a guest blog.”
Of course the website’s proprietor did, because they fit right in with the extremely one sided patterns of this blog. Which is to say an overwhelming and extraordinarily myopic macro and micro economic fealty to fossil fuels. And thus a piece with some decent points mixed in with a vast mis-presentation of the broader issue, as per the norm.
Would you like to suggest another individual who has similar knowledge base and expertise to do a guest post, who is strongly in favor of renewables? I have spoken with a number of individuals that work for regional power provider companies, and they all pretty much share PE’s opinion. Also the engineers at Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute that I have spoken to share this general assessment. Etc.
If you are trying to get rid of fossil fuels and decarbonize, nuclear power seems to be the way to go, not renewables.
FYI – the person overseeing Southern Company’s two unit addition to the Vogtle Nuclear Generating Station is a Georgia Tech graduate.
Thorium cycle is a very viable means of acquiring 30,000 years of reliable power with a very short half life of wastes. Much better than rainbow ideas and pixie dust. http://transatomicpower.com/white_papers/TAP_White_Paper.pdf
The best bet for finding engineers willing to back renewables on a large scale would be european states like denmark or germany.
Most of the rest of us engineers in the utility environment all over the world get to deal with either the additional costs or complications of adding renewables. The first few % of renewables is not a big issue, however the complications soon add up. On top of Planning Engineers list of myths you could add a list of network integration technical challenges e.g new interconnections, system reliability,network power quality which have to be dealt with.
All of these take up resources to manage or additional capacity or technology. This all adds to the cost of electricity and is mostly never mentioned or added in when discussing renewables.
Could explain some of the most significant network integration technical challenges and perhaps give an estimate of how much they add to the cost of electricity.
I’d refer readers to an excellent paper that does just this. It’s peer reviewed, by an engineer in Melbourne and it explains the hidden costs of residential solor PV in Melbourne and Brisbane Australia:
Graham Palmer (2013) “Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?”
You are missing an important point – Planning Engineer would be harassed, maybe even fired, if he used his real name. That is a big part of the insidious nature of the problem. No person, without tenure, that works in government, academia, or government regulated industries can speak up without punishing consequences. It is amazing that you don’t see that. None are so blind…
“””You are missing an important point – Planning Engineer would be harassed, maybe even fired, if he used his real name. That is a big part of the insidious nature of the problem.””””
I’m not sure I, but going anonymous on such tepid points, and comments like this one, add to the false perception of the “insidiousness” of the problem.
If that truly is legitimate because of some over sensitivity of some of the boards he works on, then I think it is more appropriate or someone else (Curry, for e.g.) to write the article, and she can cite this “expert.” Anonymous citing is not great, but it is better than anonymous posting of a serious article on an ostensibly professional blog, simply claiming that some of the pushes toward renewable utility replacement may be inefficient.
If in fact
“Im not sure I agree.” Sorry for missing word
“or” in last paragraph should be “for..”
And last three words cut out..
Be nice if was an edit function
Justin, I doubt that he would be fired. He said that it would have been a PITA to go through normal channels with rewrites etc. and no compensation for the added effort. Anonymity is just convenient sometimes.
Read it before you post it, dummy.,
John Carter, “the false perception of the “insidiousness” of the problem”? Well, when at a time when I had had multiple serious illnesses but made great efforts to continue working, some professionally damaging and totally false statements about me were made by my head of department, I was warned by my supervisors, HR and an external counselling firm that if I responded I would be destroyed, I would not be able to cope with the vicious response from the head of Queensland Treasury. My main flaw, according to a supporter in senior management? My honesty, integrity, intellect and analytical ability were considered a threat. I learned from my GP and a counsellor/friend who’d worked in Workers Comp of many government employees in similar circumstances who had been driven to suicide. During this time, the excellent head of the electricity utility, made a scapegoat for the government’s failings and subject to public character assassination, threw himself under a train at the State Premier’s local station.
A very real problem when you don’t go along with the anti-public interest flow.
Good perspective added, thanks for the input on that.
Repost “with slight revisions” from above (and thank you Judith)
I work for a utility. I have a unique name. If I used my name I’d have to go through the PR side of our company. I do real work. If allowed by the PR guys I’d get edits and reedits and it would take forever and I personally would get nothing out of all that work. . I wanted to speak frankly here.
Please don’t take anything on just my say so. Ask questions, challenge, think. This piece was not meant to be expert advice with which you could not quibble. It was an invitation to try looking at things from another perspective. The ideas stand (or fall) on their own apart from my many years of experience, education or my very high GRE scores.
The GRE scores part was kind of a joke about credentialism.
Tell us again how the California current is warm and warms the west coast and how the cold gulf stream cools the east coast.
After you explain that novel discovery, then maybe people will start to take you seriously.
I recommend trial by ordeal for JC – 60 minutes in Monterey Bay without a wetsuit. If he makes it, it is warm.
Tell us again how the California current is warm and warms the west coast and how the cold gulf stream cools the east coast.
After you explain that novel discovery, then maybe people will start to take you seriously.””””
I happened to see, and had a chance (don’t always) to respond to that HERE.
Funny though – yet entirely consistent – how you harp on it. Even now bringing it up in a completely unrelated article and comment thread (but then it was irrelevant to the initial one as well.) If you pillage through everything and find a mistake that is otherwise irrelevant to almost every point I have made (and thus prove that it turns out, I am not the very fist person in the history of the world to not have made am mistake), you can then use that to dismiss everything else.
That is what climate change refutation is. IT finds a way to dismiss that which conflicts with its perception or “understanding” (to use the word very nicely) of the issue.
( I was also, while I made the point badly, referring to the global ocean pattern and it’s affect along with other phenomenon upon regional climate differences, but am hesitant to even mention bc then that becomes the new “Climate change refutation” harping point, perpetuating the same pattern.And it’s really irrelevant to the rest of this comment even, not to mention the broader discussion, nor the underlying issue itself. )
This is another form of ad hom that make me feel uneasy. It gives me the impression that your writings o all topics in all blogs will be thrown at you when debating on a completely unrelated topic.
John Carter: Seriously: This is ostensibly a serious website by someone who offers congressional testimony on this issue, yet with a post by “Planning Engineer.” Who works in the utility field, about the issue of incorporating other sources of power generation.
Anonymity Disclaimer or not.
Millions of people agree with you about anonymity, and millions disagree. From The Federalist to “student”, lots of good work has been published anonymously. Judge the work, not the person.
“Millions of people agree with you about anonymity, and millions disagree. From The Federalist to “student”, lots of good work has been published anonymously. Judge the work, not the person.””
Fair enough, but did reflect on the work, and not the person. Did raise questions, which as you point out there are various opinions on, about the anonymity aspect. I think people should be more willing to stand behind their work and what they have to say, particularly on this issue, it is a very public issue in which everyone has an interest, and it didn’t seem that there is that much nefarious about the original post.
It’s a minor point, but my comment really reflected the excessive tendency in climate change refutation to rely upon both highly questionable sources (such as for instance Patrick Moore, who knows squat about the CC issue and has been a shill for companies, just bc he’s arguably one of Greenpeace’s founders back in the day, and a multitude of others) and give them not just the same, but far more credibility on this issue than the scientists in directly related fields who actually study this issue professionally, as well as, on a second tier level, anonymous online assertions that then get posited as authoritative.
Professional Engineer works for a regional power provider, and based on his credentials, I judge him to be a very reliable source of information.
John Carter’s comment reminds me the comments I get from communists who want to know who am I so they can go after my family in Cuba. They can get really focused on this point.
Carter is itching for an ad hominen attack against PE to blunt the points PE has made
The facts are that “renewabubbles” (excluding hydro) are horrifyingly expensive and unreliable; the deeper they are permitted to penetrate a power supply grid, the more dangerously unstable that grid becomes
@ fernando leanme, http://judithcurry.com/2014/10/22/myths-and-realities-of-renewable-energy/#comment-640195
This is ludicrous, very inflammatory, manipulative, insulting, and extremely rude. You’re a [deleted] (at best) for even writing it. Unbelievable insinuation. The issue of anonymity is a legitimate one, and the points I raised are legitimate, and to turn it into that is either zealous manipulativeness, or incredible ignorance – which you have certainly shown on this issue in the past.
Only a small part of the problem when people who know next to squat about the issue go on to comment boards all over the world and spout forth with “opinions, as if they are more knowledgeable on this issue than the scientists in related fields who professionally study the issue, when you don’t even know what the issue is, or the relevant facts.
Your comment is disgusting. Curry is out of line for even allowing such incendiary and completely misplaced crap.
As far as the issue goes, why don’t you spend two or three years taking some advanced science courses, and studying this issue full time from a pure science (not political) perspective, and then return to post comments.
John C, I agree that the comment was offensive but the level of moderation on this site varies considerably due to Judith being often unavailable to monitor what is being said. She has set a number of filters but these often do not catch comments that are otherwise worded neutrally but are nontheless offensive.
Exactly, passive aggressive attacks helps detract from the fact that John Carter know less than nothing about science and engineering. In addition to bullying the OP author, he then plays the victim. His main tactic to make up for his scientific impotence is by disgorging an unceasing flow of words. It’s an offshoot based on the billion monkeys on typewriters theory of duplicating Shakespeare.
Pete Townshend nails his archetype:
John Carter, given that you wrote this, I think your reaction to Fernando Leanme was overwrought: Of course the website’s proprietor did, because they fit right in with the extremely one sided patterns of this blog. Which is to say an overwhelming and extraordinarily myopic macro and micro economic fealty to fossil fuels. And thus a piece with some decent points mixed in with a vast mis-presentation of the broader issue, as per the norm.
The threat of reprisals is real. Maybe nothing more serious than an IRS audit or excrement thrown on one’s lawn; not likely jail time, but real.
“””John C, I agree that the comment was offensive but the level of moderation on this site varies considerably due to Judith being often unavailable to monitor what is being said. She has set a number of filters but these often do not catch comments that are otherwise worded neutrally but are nontheless offensive.””””
“”””””John Carter, given that you wrote this, I think your reaction to Fernando Leanme was overwrought: “Of course the website’s proprietor did, because they fit right in with the extremely one sided patterns of this blog. Which is to say an overwhelming and extraordinarily myopic macro and micro economic fealty to fossil fuels. And thus a piece with some decent points mixed in with a vast mis-presentation of the broader issue, as per the norm.” “”””””
I don’t agree, there is nothing personal in the above, the claim that it is a lot of misinformation, and that the view is extremely myopic when it comes to micro and macro economics, is not a personal attack, let alone one that insinuates something as vile as the one in contrast.
I’m actually understating, because it is a bit of a stretch for you to even compare what leanme wrote, and insinuated, with saying an economic presumption is excessivelly myopic, and that a pattern of one sided and the broader issue mis presented or misrepresented, to put it mildly.
As for that, I have on multiple occasions written about the economics. Givens reasons why. And I have repeatedly given examples over the (very unpleasant) course of commenting here of the one sided and frequently illogical nature of the posts, and the ongoing miscontruction of the basic issue, and some of the most key parts of it..
I’ve even offered, repeatedly in fact, to put the time in to go over them all and prepare a detailed analysis, if it would be debated publicly by Curry (or publicly published with a reply and rebuttal, and time for preparation, otherwise no one is going to read a long document – most of the points are ignored as it is), and that has been ignored. Reasonably perhaps, in one sense. (Though I also think it would be well warranted.)
But the point is, I have repeatedly offered to back it up in a way that is meaningful, and have it be able to be examined in such fashion.
Regarding your point from your other comment:
“”Really? You confound “climate change refutation” with disputations over the quantitative effects of CO2”
– It (as with everything else) has been repeatedly used for that purpose.
Thought original quote that you re quote and respond to, is a little different
“””The irony here is that most climate change refutation is by those who do not have relative expertise on the issue (and in fact, even if they have a lot of “info,” have such a misunderstanding of what the actual issue is, as well as all of the relevant facts, their net understanding is very low.”
Regarding most of the analysis of CO2, (and others) I stand by the statement, for most of the same reasons expressed above.
The issue I am referring to, by use of the term “issue,” is climate change, by the way. (Not climate changing, but the phenomenon itself that the phrase refers to as commonly used by scientists who study the issue – the issue of longer term impact of our atmospheric alteration.) Not what it has been repeatedly and erroneously turned into via ways to try and convince that we can’t much have affected future earth via our past and present actions in terms of long term atmospheric alteration.
Here, once again, on a simpler concept(so it doesn’t take pages and pages) is a perfect example of this process, and applies to something far more direct. If you are REALLY being objective about this issue, read it, and consider.”
Carter is itching for an ad hominen attack against PE to blunt the points PE has made”
That’s interesting, and very ironic. It is hard to have a substantive discussion here, unless one is a bit (or a lot) of a skeptic, or one has poor points that skeptics can easily engage with. Because the commenter is castigated, while the points are ignored, is what I have found with respect to most of my comments, since they question skepticism.
Of all the people on this thread, by the most civil respectful, and productive “conversation” I have been able to have has actually been with Planning Engineer. Kind of puts your jumped to any type of conclusion once again to dismiss the substantive points Carter makes (and so thus to perpetuate skepticism), into a new light, to say the least.
It is also an opinion, I imagine, for you to suggest I can’t wait for an ad hominem attack but it is also remarkably wrong.
“””John Carter know less than nothing about science and engineering. In addition to bullying the OP author, he then plays the victim.”””
The claim I bullied the OP author is political spin, and specious. Not to mention the OP author and I have probably had the most productive discussion on this thread, or certainly one of them, and most civil, as many of the response to my comments have not been, and he is one of the few people willing to discuss substance, and not just make attacks.
Not only that, where I was limited in my view in my original comment questioning anonymity (which I still think generally is a problem online, and more so for actual published articles, but) and it was originally pointed out, even before any discussion with the OP, I responded graciously, and acknowledged where I may have been limited.
The idea of me playing the victim is even more specious on this commenter’s part. I am not going to repeat the outrageous statement and insinuation made, it’s above and that is enough, but the one person who commented on it directly supported my point. And that is a lot given that on this site commenters bend over backwards to find and manufacture fault with every single possible thing I write or suggest, since I take issue with climate change skepticism and, while there is a range of uncertainty regarding exact future change (and the exact time frame) suggest that skepticism over the idea of significant risk of major future climate shift is generally based on a misunderstanding of the basic issue and many of its components.
As for engineering knowledge, it is relevant to part of the OP’s post, not really to the points I have made, and not relevant at all to the underlying issue of climate change we are addressing, (It may be to strategies to redress.) So the assertion on engineering expertise, since not relevant to my points, is baseless. As for the the science of the issue, both in terms of my capabilities for comprehensive and conceptual logical analysis, as well as knowledge, In terms of relevant knowledge I probably know several dozen times more than this commenter, who of course will essentially say anything, believe anything, to perpetuate belief.
Classic example is scouring a blog of mine to find a tangential statement to the issue in that blog post (and wholly unrelated to the thread he later brought it back to) that was poorly enough stated that it was a mistake, and use THAT to refute the many substantive points I raised; rather than of course address the points themselves. Then, using the EXACT same unrelated to anything example, and do it on THIS thread as well; since once he found that little nugget to cling to “know” what he needed “to know” and thus falsely – but not to him – reinforce the notion he needed to have, so all substantive points and facts could be ignored, that is enough.
Zealots interpret everything in a way to self seal belief. Hence the statement in quotes above at the outset of this comment.
John Carter, your irrational, illogical, emotional reaction has caused you to attribute something to me which I did not say.
I have been hoping for an electrical engineer’s take on renewables and how they fit into the real world. Great article, thanks Planning Engineer.
Also thanks to Richard for the Spiegel link. I suspect that the flurry of sleb house sales may have a link to the poor performance of green energy investments.
It is a myth to believe global warming alarmism is not ideologically based. The current situation is easy to describe. The Earth warms and cools over time. That is a fact. Currently, it is politically attractive for the Left to claim a bigger government with greater control over the economy will save the world from being too hot; and, it sounds silly. Even so, the people who say they believe this are all on the Left of the political spectrum
“””It is a myth to believe global warming alarmism is not ideologically based.”””
This is a delusion with respect to most people who are concerned about the issue. since most people who are concerned about it would much rather that global warming be far less significant. Which is AGAINST what their analysis (and that of nearly every scientist in a directly related field who professionally studies the issue) of the facts and science concludes.
On the other hand, and far more closely tied to ideology being the driving force of perception (though ideology is great at confusing itself for analysis by projecting it outward toward anything that conflicts with that ideology) is the fact that, lo and behold,the position of skeptics just happens to not be against, but consistent with “their analyses” of the facts and science concludes.
It is much easier to be for a conclusion that is line with what one would would prefer (skeptics) than a conclusion that one would much rather not be the case. (Those concerned about climate change.) OF course many skeptics kid themselves over this as well, by taking a few extreme examples, and arguing that people want climate change to be a problem. Which is fantasy. Most DON”T.
“””The current situation is easy to describe. The Earth warms and cools over time. That is a fact.”””
What is a fact, is that the fact that the earth warms and cools over time is not relevant to the germane issue of our impact upon future climate right now.
And that to use it as an example or reason why we are thus NOT affecting the earth through a multi million year change in long lived atmospheric greenhouse gases – which absorb and re radiate thermal radiation, slowly increasing the energy balance of the earth – is irrational.
Either ideologically-based or the result of a mass mania –i.e., Hot World Syndrome: fear of a hotter, more intimidating world than it actually is prompting a desire for more protection than is warranted by any actual threat.
The original poster writes:
“””Unfortunately many non-experts, driven by fear of AGW, have done much to cloud, distort and ignore critical issues around the cost and capabilities of renewable energy and the realities relating to the provision of electrical power.”””
Is it possible that in fact, it is not “fear” of AGW, but concern over it, and a perceived need to simply start changing our patterns? And that it is “fear” of having to make energy consumption choices that at least reflect the idea that many energy usages, some far more than others, have massive, collective, counter productive external affects, and fear of change, and fear of the uncertainty of macroeconomic response?
“””However what is being observed is that you need ridiculously high valuations for carbon reduction to justify significant increases in renewable generation.”””
P.E. Started out by saying that planning engineers are not qualified to weigh the costs and benefits of reductions, but apparently, when it is “ridiculous,” they are. And they are when, to them, it appears “ridiculous.” More pointedly is the fact that the value of changing patterns may render the short term that P.E. Focuses on as minuscule. We don’t know, because the article/post talks in generalities, and, though the author is not an expert on costs and benefits, weighs them anyway. In generalities. And adjectives.
Of course, nearly all of the real problems that P.E. gives voice to would be inapplicable, or rendered moot, by simply putting an appropriate tax either on carbon, or, more smartly, net GWPe effect, and allowing the market to then adjust accordingly. This would be infinitely more efficient, and render such abstract rhetoric and hypothesizing about what switches make most sense for what plants based upon often biased analysis irrelevant.
Of course the preferred route by “skeptics,” however, is to both not do that, and write articles complaining of committee response or purposeful substitute choices: Another way of getting to an end result of simply doing less, and remaining more reliant upon Fossil fuels, which George Bush rightly called an “addiction.”
And addictions lead to over rationalizations. Which is essentially what this blog is an ongoing exercise in, veiled as, and self deludingly believed, to be “questioning analysis.”
John Carter – Your points in order.
Concern or fear. I think some people are rightfully concerned and some people have irrational fear and there are all sorts of people in the middle. I was using “fear” as the motivator for clouding, distorting and ignoring power system realities. I would hope properly concerned individuals would not do such things but rather welcome the honest appraisals of experts. But I fear there is some element of the AGW crowd who does over react out of fear.
“ridiculously high” – that’s probably my most inflammatory statement. I’ve tried to explain it above. I really hate having to go to a dictionary but I was using ridiculous in the sense of unreasonable. Some of the valuations used to justify carbon are unreasonable because there are other much less costly options available to reduce carbon that could be employed prior to the uneconomic altering of the operation of the power system. The numbers of multiples higher than what the various experiments with carbon markets might suggest as a reasonable price for mitigation. I do not know the absolute value of carbon mitigation, just an unreasonable price based on todays options. Worst case that’s a statement that can be challenged and leads to a good discussion. If that’s my most strident and ill founded statement, this piece is a success.
Carbon markets make my points moot – I think carbon markets make many of my points moot. (Still need proper cost allocation for grid impacts). WE at least need a good understanding of carbon costs and cost targets. I do not object to carbon markets. I have problems with mandates and directives that are made without any understanding of reference to the ratio of dollars spent to carbon reduced. You seem to be arguing here for the same kind of considerations I am.
skeptics preferred routes – I don’t know what you mean and don’t really have any comments on your polemics except to recommend this move. It seems to appeal broadly to people across the carbon divide. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1988190/
“””I would hope properly concerned individuals would not do such things but rather welcome the honest appraisals of experts. “””
The irony here is that most climate change refutation is by those who do not have relative expertise on the issue (and in fact, even if they have a lot of “info,” have such a misunderstanding of what the actual issue is, as well as all of the relevant facts, their net understanding is very low. The proprietor of this blog, who is nevertheless learned, and has a lot of specific knowledge related to it, is a very borderline example; although, for the same reasons – i.e., she has some relevant expertise on the subject – a very marginal one in comparison with most climate change refuters.)
Yet who despite lack of relevant expertise, do not welcome the appraisal of experts – and on this topic the experts are those scientists in directly related fields who professionally study this issue – but often, at least with the more general anti climate change efforts that have massively skewed the “discussion,” in fact often expend a great deal of effort to find any possible fault, real or imagined with anything they assert, then erroneously turn that into a refutation of the broader issue, along with, often, denigrating climate science efforts, and often climate scientists.
An extreme example of that last point is the highly influential, and allegedly “just conservative” National Review Online, via’ its Corner, proclaiming Michael Mann, for a level of mistake (if any) dwarfed by climate change refutation on a daily basis, to be the child molestor of climate science. It is radicalism, and ideological zealotry, at its core. But is here also largely propellled, or least largely shaped, but massive misinformation and misunderstanding on the issue, which it in turn continues to fuel.
I’d pay ten billion dollars (if I had ten billion dollars ) to simply see the exact same level of scrutiny, and the same level of “standards,” and by the very same parties, applied to (their own) climate change denialism and refutation, which routinely mangles data, mangles the facts, misconstructs the issue, and continually misleads on it, all making whatever Mann did almost laughable
But that’s not seen either by climate change refuters; who instead see all that to be “merely supporting” the “Correct” view, yet all the facts and underlying logic against it, in the opposite light. Or find ways to dismiss it, as evidenced by a commenter in this comment thread harping on a mistake he found on an old blog post of mine that is tangential to the issue, bringing it up in another thread and yet again still harping on it here,as if it is relevant to a single one of the points I have made in this thread, when it’s not.But it gives that commenter a convenient way to dimiss them, and feel the people telling him what he wants to believe, the Experts at fox news (also, see second half here, it’s eye opening) know more than the actual expers who professionally study the issue of climate change.
It seems on the key point of my comment we are in complete agreement. That is, that carbon markets (or user fees or taxes) make most of your points moot. Perhaps we are also in agreement on this related one, or can be: That is, for the points you raise – if they are correct – as well as the ones I do, that is what we need.
Not quite as sure about this part
“””I do not object to carbon markets. I have problems with mandates and directives that are made without any understanding of reference to the ratio of dollars spent to carbon reduced. You seem to be arguing here for the same kind of considerations I am.””””
Not sure what you mean by mandates. In general I don’t like them. Telling people “dont use this” is pretty heavy. Down the road I expect, when this issue gets radical in terms of more immediate and relatable climate impacts (ironically, in large part because of years of misinformation – still continuing today – keeping us from addressing while we continued to and continue to add massive NET amounts of long lived gg to the atmosphere – not only adding to, but amplifying the problem due to key underlying earth stases conditions and threshold issues), and well past the point of the issue materializing – and so least effectively of all -we are going to have them, unfortunately.
But putting a price on processes that have strong additive effect to this problem (carbon, for instance, as one) is something I think is a necessary idea, even if it is an estimate just to at least try to incorporate SOME of the harm (I don’t think intangible long term harm that is qualitative can ever be correctly given a present day snap shot dollar figure, as I think dollar valuations break down over time or we’d all be swimming in happiness versus 50 years ago given our enormous explosion in the worth of tangible goods.) And I think the idea that this represents an imposition is complete illusion.
That is, we can see the cost that is in concrete immediately tangible terms, and we can’t see the cost that is intangible, abstract, and over time, but that likely dwarfs the former many times over.
Also, though it’s not directly relevant to the issue of the most productive approach in terms of our own long term interests (which I think if people really understood this problem would involve a lot more fealty to moving off of FF now, and the idea of building even more coal plants – which are also responsible for most of the excess that allows bio accumulation of the serious neurological toxin mercury in our food supply, damages watersheds, mountain tops, sometimes whole communities and ecosystems, and, CC aside, is also very polluting – would be more apt to be seen as the idiocy it is), in some sense, no one has a full inherent right to anything really we as a world have built up: It has been a collective effort and you can only drive a Ferrari for instance, because of the hard work of countless others before you and along side you.
So the right to cheap oil is an illusion. This is not against keeping energy – in the broader sense – costs reasonable (for the poor at least, who have less option to adapt). But the costs for various processes (as well as agricultural processes) have to reflect some small part of the atmospheric harm, so that people’s decisions are motivated by practicality, and not just ideal “good will to try and ‘buy local and re use plastic bags,’ etc.
Again, why I suggested this
In terms of decision making, maximizing carbon reduction, for any investment, per dollar, seems to make sense. So in the general sense I would imagine I agree with you there. But again that seems to be an argument for the market, rather than committees, even if we don’t know (nor can we) what exact dollar price to put on these things (as high as possible without giving economy time to transition, and it should be a sliding scale over time) so that the market then at least makes these allocation decisions not in terms of what to do, but in terms of how to most efficiently achieve it, and consistent with longer term business and growth opportunities.
The market is extremely good at allocation decisions, and motivation. Committees tend to be really bad at it. It’s not that the market is solving the problem. We are. We are just incorporating the market into it, rather than simply looking to it to rescue us without any benefit to non or less harmful energy and agricultural practices incorporated into their pricing structure relative to far more atmospheric altering processes; rather than dictating what to do, thereby maximizing choice, involvement (even if indirect through market decision making)allocation efficiency, and most of all, motivation, with appropriate direct, rather than just abstract, incentive.
Perhaps where we may disagree, I am guessing, is on the idea of carbon allocations and markets (such as cap and trade.) I am against these – others can disagree. I think they are far less efficient than simply putting a price on the effecting process. (Or using a cap and trade system that does not set a floor level of “acceptable” pollution, which is only a partial approach.)
It seems onerous, but it all works out the same tax wise, and is just more direct. That is, the funds raised offset other funds and then can be used to economic transition (business and worker), and assistance to the poor.
If in contrast we allot a certain “amount” of carbon, for instance, that is allowable, then to the extent we make that allotment (thereby that production is still being heavily if invisibly subsidized by the fact that not a single bit of the enormous harm it is causing is being integrated into it’s pricing structure) we then just have to dip into other funds (or other taxes) to do the accomplish the same things or whatever we were going to do with the funds.
Setting an acceptable carbon allotment, and then a trade program for amounts above that, thus won’t accomplish nearly as much as a system that tries to integrate some of the harm into all applicable pricing, and is also based on the idea of an implicit right to pollute up to a certain level. (Using the term here loosely.)
We all pollute, but once the problem is recognized as a legitimate one directly, physically and significantly impacting everyone’s future shared world (in this case), or say health (In the case of actual air pollution and probably to an increasing degree down the road climate change as well), the idea of an inherent right to do so should take no precedence over the equally inherent right to be free from it.
Re your movie recommendation, thanks. On a lighter note, there is a clever comedy (Bateman and Anniston) of about the same name (“The Switch”)
I will check out the more serious one, when time. But this is what RealClimate had to say about it:
A lot of skeptics don’t like this site. And why would they. It is by climate scientists, and most skeptics think they themselves are better expert on climate science than climate scientists, so they find all kinds of ways to denigrate and convince themselves it is a bad site, etc.
And I don’t know if this is a good assessment of the movie – I haven’t seen the film. But it does provide another view on it.
By mandates I mean things like renewable portfolio standards.
Directives that x% of energy will come from a particular type resource or resource Y will be limited to Z.
On second thought you might not like the movie then. I first saw it at an Environmental Conference and I thought it was widely appreciated by all. Each “faction” thought there was more good to be said for their favored technology on that more could be said harshly about their non-favored technologies. But in general it provided a knowledge base for discussion.
The review you cited was pretty negative. Not having any experience with the site, I’m not impressed in this case. To me it seems to be a fear of getting information out there. But of course I understand that many (probably including you) would think that is my bias for seeing a biased film as neutral.
John Carter. You can’t prove your over-the-top statements. You are appealing to emotion.
There are hundreds of other threads on which you can argue about your CAGW belief’s. Why don’t you argue for your beliefs on them instead of continually redirecting this thread off topic?
Although off topic for this thread, I just want to say this is the first point where I disagree with you. Carbon markets almost certainly cannot succeed. I have the first of a teo-part post due to be posted in a couple of hours on MasterResource. It explains why carbon markets almost certainly will not succeed.
A point not covered in the coming posts is that carbon markets require the cap to be set by governments and legislators – like the EPA and the crowd running California. So they are not real markets at all. They are inventions by … [fill in the words]
I gave a reply to your sea level query here
“””By mandates I mean things like renewable portfolio standards.
Directives that x% of energy will come from a particular type resource or resource Y will be limited to Z.””””
Relative to doing nothing, which I think is extremely counter productive (and while it carries little weight now, if these comments are saved, will be a lot more relevant well down the road) it is an improvement. it’s one way to make the market find a way to make it work, although not the best way.
But in general I agree with you on this also. Goals may be nice, but they should be adjusted as we respond, to see what evolves the easiest. (Can’t find the link, if can will share with or send to Judy to send to you, but there is a great article about a chem plant that is using its excess carbon as part of it’s re manufacturing process. This is brilliant, and we need all kinds of incentive for stuff like this, so that it competes on an even playing field with all of the externally damaging processes whose costs are not integrated.)
I don’t even support tax credits for certain technologies as opposed to user fees for the things that cause direct, unavoidable, physical negative external effect (most economists don’t either.) They are politically palatable, and the public loves it, because they don’t realize it’s the exact same thing – it affects the bottom line the same – (the credit has to come from somewhere), except we target what to produce, which is inefficient.
Again, these tend to be very politically palatable though, and sound great in ads, etc, while a ‘tax’ does not even though it does the exact same thing but far more efficiently and with FAR more individual and consumer choice, and no net change in tax revenue or expenditure.
Regarding the (serious) movie review from RC, I can’t say, since didn’t see it, but if you liked the movie I can imagine that it was negative, since they seemed to pan it.
I might be inclined to agree with them, and our views different, in that I believe that not fully focusing on transforming off of fossil fuels is inane. And I’m if anything being charitable with my use of adjectives. There is a lot of opposition to this, a lot of fealty, a lot of comfort, and lot of built in bias, and a huge amount of presumption that doing so is somehow a negative for our growth as a world, an economy, and a people, and or progress (how ironic), and in fact some radicalism which approaches zealotry.
My guess is that the scientists who run that site, who are pretty familiar with the issue and know the risk range it presents, and how the IPCC (quite in contrast with how Judy Curry, in another post, mistakenly says that to the “forced” consensus overstates the basic idea of climate change, when in fact it renders the IPCC excessively cautious) tends to understate the issue and not incorporate a lot of very significant phenomena, share this view that it is greatly in our interests to take significant steps as a world to tackle this problem together and first step, stop adding to the problem.
And reliance upon a fuel source that reflects an enormously long geological range of time and the accompanying slow capture of carbon from the air and ultimate compression deep under ground, and that thus releases it instantaneously, is directly counter to this.
Thank you, got it.
Peter Lang – I suspect you have a much better grasp of the realities of carbon markets than I do. You might be correct and have considerable reasons and evidence to believe that they will not work in practice. I have no reason or evidence to believe that they would work. I just know they have the potential to be useful. IF they did work, they would be something planners could use to successfully differentiate between various supply alternatives and make more optimal/defendable choices. If however carbon markets can not send reasonable price/environmental signals – then I’m in your camp. I will look for more information on the subject.
Thank you for your reply. Much appreciated. I have enjoyed this post and the many valuable contributions immensely. I am not an economist and it is economists who argue carbon pricing is the least cost way to reduce emissions. But like all projections, they make assumptions. When you look at them you realise they are impractical in the real world.
I have this post, just posted this afternoon, on MasterResource:
“Why The World Will Not Agree to Pricing Carbon (Part I)”
“This two-part series considers the probability of success of carbon pricing and an alternative approach. Part 1, ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’, is an edited extract from my submission to the Australian Senate inquiry into repeal of the carbon tax legislation (Submission No 2; Mr Peter Lang). Part 1 explains why carbon pricing cannot succeed unless it is global, and global carbon pricing is unlikely to be achieved, let alone sustained for the time until the job is done (centuries).
Part 2 tomorrow, ‘Why the world will not agree to pricing carbon’, evaluates the output from the most widely cited and accepted climate economics model and shows that at realistically likely participation rates, carbon pricing would be economically damaging for all this century. Costs would exceed benefits for all this century and probably forever. Negotiators recognize these facts so they will not sign up. An alternative approach is suggested that may be worth more consideration than it has received to date.
Proponents of carbon-pricing acknowledge that to succeed it must be global. Proponents of national or regional level carbon pricing argue that these schemes will, eventually, integrate into a global carbon pricing system. Yet it is highly unlikely a global carbon pricing system will be implemented because negotiators recognise the high cost for negligible benefit for participants until there is a global system with near full participation (all human-caused GHG emissions from all countries). Therefore, national or regional schemes would have high cost for little benefit and hence not be politically sustainable.
Thank you. got it.
Peter Lang – Thanks for the link. That is helpful in explaining the challenges/futility of a sensible carbon pricing scheme.
But I have a question for you about a less than sensible approach (because some times we have to deal with those realities). Say a country or state decided to cut carbon emissions by some arbitrary amount and for some arbitrary reason. Would allocating carbon credits and allowing trading make more sense that specific plant by plant, or resource specific mandates?
I understand many of the flaws – how do you fairly allocate credits, what level do you allow. So clearly you can reward the wrong people and all that, but after it all settles it seems you make the correct decisions about mothballing and retrofitting plants. So given that regulators/legislators/administrators want to push back utility emissions is there a better way?
Well that’s a hypothetical. But, based on the premise, I’d say the answer is yes. Carbon pricing would be the least cost way to reduce emissions in a country or region.
But i have a problem with the premise, because it would deliver no benefits other than simply reduce that country’s or regions’ emissions. It would not cut global GHG emission concentrations because the world would not participate (for the reasons explained in the post). At 50% participation rate the cost penalty for the participants is 250% to achieve a a given global emissions reduction. But even 50% participation is near unachievable even if all countries participated. EU prices only 45% of its human caused GHG emissions. If that’s the best EU can do after all these years and their dedication to achieving it and to be seen as leading the world, what hope is there of countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mogadishu and Somalia achieving high levels of participation?
With no prospect of delivering benefits to it’s citizens it’s not politically sustainable.
I assume you mean “is there a better way to cut global emissions?” as distinct from is there a better way to cut emissions from a country or region?
I believe there is. But I don’t want to preempt Part 2. Once that’s up, we can discuss it and I can expand on it. But it would actually take a post on its own, which I may or may not get around to writing.
Good answer Peter Lang. I think we are views are basically the same. Local regions acting on their own can not accomplish much. But nonetheless they often decide to do things anyway and among the many dangerous tools in their arsenal, tradable carbon credits are a less damaging. I’ve been battered enough that I sometimes endorse a lesser evil (carbon credits) over the potential for a greater evil (mandated targets).
P.E. ” I’ve been battered enough that I sometimes endorse a lesser evil (carbon credits) over the potential for a greater evil (mandated targets).”
It always comes down to lesser of evils. I believe that is why “demonizing” is an effective political tool.
Yes. I agree. Carbon pricing is preferable to mandated targets.
Correction to my previous comment. Your question was not hypothetical. There are many cases where countries and regions have decided to cut emissions (of something) and used pricing mechanisms. Examples are: fuel taxes, the US SO2 emissions trading scheme, and of course, the EU and Australian GHG emissions trading schemes (ETS) and Chicago Carbon Exchange (now defunct). (Australia has repealed its ETS after just 3 years in operation.)
However, in most of these cases, they clearly deliver benefits. But as my post argues, pricing of GHG emissions cannot deliver benefits at acceptable costs unless it is global and there is high participation. Therefore, it will not be politically sustainable. There is a better way, I believe. More to come. Watch this space …
The solar energy has stopped over here, so I am going to bed to save some CO2 emissions from our coal power stations. :)
PE, Tyler Cown has some good stuff on Carbon Tax vs Cap-and-Trade.
This post also links many varying opinions: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/06/cap-and-trade-v.html
Basically, a tax would be more straight-forward and easier to implement. Cap would be much political and autocratic as credits would be doled out by bureaucrats (of course, politician would also give away tax prefferences, so maybe a wash). Cap seems to produce more opportunity for graft and chronie-ism, the government gets less of the revenue.
Think of this, Saudi’s are doled out credits for today’s production levels. The cap prevents competition. As their production falls off, they sell or lease their credits, taking rent on their would be competition.
Here’s some more Cowen: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/07/ross-douthats-case-against-capandtrade.html
I am persuaded carbon pricing has little chance of success in the real world; see this: https://www.masterresource.org/carbon-tax/world-not-agree-pricing-carbon-1/
John Carter: The irony here is that most climate change refutation is by those who do not have relative expertise on the issue (and in fact, even if they have a lot of “info,” have such a misunderstanding of what the actual issue is, as well as all of the relevant facts, their net understanding is very low.
Really? You confound “climate change refutation” with disputations over the quantitative effects of CO2.
Peter, It depends on your goals
I’m a rather hard core skeptic. I don’t think it’s plausible that warming will ever be a net cost.
Rather than looking at it as a short term, immediate need to reduce CO2 emission, think of it as creating incentive for conservation and innovation over the long term. Innovations that happen in one country will spill over to the next.
What I’d like to see is something like a carbon tax at the consumer level.
One scenario would be something like, eliminate corporate taxes, raise capital gains tax and make it highly progressive, make income taxes more progressive &/ make a very high standard deduction (and maybe eliminate all other deductions).
This does several things:
1) Allows consumption to continue in the short term (increases consumption cost, but frees up income to compensate).
2) Incentivizes conservative decisions over time.
3) Incentivizes innovation.
4) Allows production to continue and increases supply energy supply for the developing world.
5) Shifts the economy toward exports .
6) Encourages corporations to base/operate in the country.
Two major issues that would need to be addressed are:
1) How to tax imports.
2) High energy costs would erode our manufacturing base, we may need to provide rebates to manufacturing companies (and maybe commercial transportation).
Energy producers would not pay tax, the end user would. So, energy producers are incentivized to improve efficiency to lower cost for the consumer/increase their margin by reducing the share that goes to the government.
You didn’t mention if you’d read the link I posted? Can you read it first and let me know if it changes your mind, and if int, why do you disagree?
Part I: https://www.masterresource.org/carbon-tax/world-not-agree-pricing-carbon-1/
Part II: https://www.masterresource.org/carbon-tax/world-not-agree-pricing-carbon-ii/
Why The World Will Not Agree to Pricing Carbon
By Peter Lang — October 24, 2014
This two-part series considers the probability of success of carbon pricing and an alternative approach. Part 1, ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’, is an edited extract from my submission to the Australian Senate inquiry into repeal of the carbon tax legislation (Submission No 2; Mr Peter Lang). Part 1 explains why carbon pricing cannot succeed unless it is global, and global carbon pricing is unlikely to be achieved, let alone sustained for the time until the job is done (centuries).
Part 2, ‘Why the world will not agree to pricing carbon’, evaluates the output from the most widely cited and accepted climate economics model and shows that at realistically likely participation rates, carbon pricing would be economically damaging for all this century. Costs would exceed benefits for all this century and probably forever. Negotiators recognize these facts so they will not sign up. An alternative approach is suggested that may be worth more consideration than it has received to date.
Proponents of carbon-pricing acknowledge that to succeed it must be global. Proponents of national or regional level carbon pricing argue that these schemes will, eventually, integrate into a global carbon pricing system. Yet it is highly unlikely a global carbon pricing system will be implemented because negotiators recognize the high cost for negligible benefit for participants until there is a global system with near full participation (all human-caused GHG emissions from all countries). Therefore, national or regional schemes would have high cost for little benefit and hence not be politically sustainable.
[I’ll try again]
You didn’t mention if you’d read the link I posted? Can you read it first and let me know if it changes your mind, and if not, why do you disagree?
Part I: ‘Why carbon pricing will not succeed’ https://www.masterresource.org/carbon-tax/world-not-agree-pricing-carbon-1/
Part II: ‘Why the world will not agree to carbon pricing’ https://www.masterresource.org/carbon-tax/world-not-agree-pricing-carbon-ii/
Sorry Peter, I opened it last night, but fell a sleep before I got to it. I haven’t read it yet. I’ll try when I’m home this evening.
The starting framework I laid out would increase economic growth, both at the home country and developing world. Ultimately it should speed transition to alternatives.
The key in resolving the two issues I brought up. Keeping the tax constrained as much as possible to households is the key; not taxing business activity directly, allowing for exports without paying for emissions and to extract and export fossil resources while incentivising energy efficiency and fossil alternatives.
No, it would not. It would massively damage world output and economic growth.
Why would you think that?
The tax breaks would be more than enough to keep consumption high and energy would gradually shift to other sources and more efficient technology while supplying the developing world with more fossil fuel.
Why would you ask that question when you haven’t even read the post yet. The post answers it. If you find significant error that changes the conclusions let me know. Otherwise, it answers your question and I understand (from other feedback) it makes the point pretty clearly.
I’ll read it, hopefully tonight, but I think John Carter ruined the thread for me. I think I’m operating under a different paradigm. Skimming the thread, you are talking about a specific emissions reduction target, I’m thinking a subtle shift in incentives.
Sorry, I view your comments on this like those of an empty vessel making noise, and repeating ‘pub economics’ without a clue what he’s are talking about. You should have read the articles before making your first response. Sorry to be so blunt. I was trying to be gentle, but this series of responses of yours are trivial, silly and signal you no little if anything about the subject.
Peter, I generally appreciate your comments here.
Calling my comment ‘pub economics’ is fair enough; there’s not a snowball’s chance it could happen politically.
But, dismissing my comment because I hadn’t read your post was rather crude. I was clearly time constrained and your post was not relevant to my point. If you had simply summarized it, I would have been much more inclined to read it. “Pricing carbon consumption is unlikely, but I think climate change should be used to de-regulated nuclear energy production,” was all I needed to hear. It’s all ‘old hat’ to me.
We were clearly talking past each other; I think that you think I disagree with you on some point which I don’t.
Carbon pricing is unlikely.
In my original comment I pointed to discussion of cap-and-trade vs tax, which was PE initial inquiry. I think it is clear, of the two, tax is better than cap (which is just mandates with tradable rights).
My second point was that a tax could plausibly be devised which wasn’t destructive. A nation could do this on its own and not fail economically. It would not achieve a specific, quantifiable reduction in global co2 emissions, but it would promote innovation and reduce its own emissions.
And none of this has anything to do with the point we should be deregulating nuclear production.
I did summarise it and it also summarised at the top of each thread. Yes we were talking past each other. You responded to my comment, clearly disagreeing with the summary I’d included in the first comments without even reading the link. But you didn’t even mention you hadn’t read it when you posted your comment disputing it. Then, despite me answering each of your comments and saying you’ll find the answers in the links, you continued to repeat your unsupported nonsense. I said repeatedly waht you were saying was not correct (it was actually nonsense) but you continued repeating it. Yiu can understand I got fed up with answering someone who continually repeated the same nonsense and not sufficiently interested to read the link.
(ps, did you t he links I posted?)
Beside our fossil fuel addiction we have a worse problem with our food addiction….
“Beside our fossil fuel addiction we have a worse problem with our food addiction….”
But also, food addiction is personal, people can do what they want. It happens to be an area of interest of mine, and almost have a book finished that I hope to be able to donate 1000s of copies to charities and other organizations that help people who are in need, who don’t have all the same info as different socio economic classes, and who are more disadvantaged and don’t have all the knowledge about how to feed themselves and their family really good tasting, yet healthy, food on a very tight budget.
But, it is still personal. It mirrors (in that we took crap food and sugar, which felt like it was benefiting us at the moment, but in the long run was actually far more hurting us) what we are doing with fossil fuel (where economically in the short run we think it is benefiting us, but in the long run is similarly doing the opposite). But it is a choice that only has very indirect, consequences on others (who thus feel pain over the ensuing health problems and help with them) which is avoidable or respondable by others choices,and is mainly personal.
Climate change is entirely different, and that is the point of the problem, and an argument of why even a very limited government, bad as red tape is, is needed in the first place. For justice, maybe defense, and to solve that which is an unavoidable collective problem that very destructively or counter productively (and most important of all, unavoidably) impinges on the rights over everybody, as well as our common world, over the long run.
Doesn’t meant we shouldn’t use the market, and, again, need to, but is is a uniquely collective problem for us and our progeny, that also relates to our responsibilities to them.
I didn’t mean addiction to bad food (such as sugars or fats). I meant: we need food to survive. It is in this sense that we are “addicted” to food. The same goes for energy – we are “addicted” to fossil fuels, because we need them to survive, and there are no other viable sources of energy. There is no arbitrary or curable addiction to fossil fuels. We would gladly use other sources, if they were available and feasible. They are not. Renewables are “fairy tales and Easter Bunnies”. We need way much more energy, quantitatively, than they can supply.
Link in above comment did not work properly – html error.
Link should be by simply putting an appropriate tax either on carbon, or, more smartly, net GWPe effect.
John Carter — Two major issues that Conservatives balk at with a carbon tax:
(1) Any way you package it, it will still be a regressive tax, disproportionately impacting the poor.
(2) Impact of a Carbon Tax on U.S. Manufacturing competitiveness. Will it result in increased imports, just outsourcing carbon emissions to Developing Countries (not having a carbon tax)?
(3) Carbon pricing is highly unlikely to succeed. To succeed would require a high compliance rate, otherwise the costs to the participants to achieve a given level of global emissions reductions is too high. Negotiators know this and countries will not participate. It is highly unlikely to get implemented globally, let alone survive until the job i done.
(4) the cap or tax would be controlled by political process and government regulators. It’s not a real market. It’s a fabrication. It cannot survive.
A tax on carbon would not be catastrophic, as long as it is offset by reductions in other taxes (like, say, the income tax).
But it would not produce any results, energy-wise.
What we need is a technological break-trough. The inadequacy of renewables isn’t an economic problem, it’s a technology (or lack of technology) problem, and that can’t be solved by taxes.
“”””John Carter — Two major issues that Conservatives balk at with a carbon tax:
(1) Any way you package it, it will still be a regressive tax, disproportionately impacting the poor”””””
It’s ironic, bc concern for the poor has not normally been a stalwart conservative position.
Its also ironic because most experts are in strong agreement that what very little climate change we are already starting to see is impacting the poor very disproportionately, and will far more so (as the climate shifts) for very fundamental reasons.
Regardless, for a sensible transformation, while economies can grow with different processes, they can’t switch instantaneously. And since the pace of this probably needs to be greatly facilitated, again, assistance for business and workers in transition is probably fair, and helpful.
Additionally, albeit in a way that helps transition rather than simply perpetuates reliance and the same patterns, specific help for the poor is warranted, both because short term higher prices (if such is the result, as likely will be) affect the poor the most, and they also tend to have the least flexibility to shift and adjust as rapidly.
I’m sure it would be a little inefficient, but it seems just as wih directly affected workers and businesses (paid out of the same funds raised by any program) a sliding scale over time that gives time for adjustment but also motivates that adjustment , for direct energy assistance for the most socio economically challenged, etc, is well warranted, and fair.
Regarding your second point, on the impact of a carbon (or like) tax on manufacturing competitiveness, that is a more complicated question, and I don’t think I can answer it in a comment. I don’t think so, particularly in the long run, because it will lead to far more efficient processes, and innovation.
Additionally, I believe the widespread and highly promulgated idea that any U.S> action is essentially unilateral, thereby greatly mitigating any impact we are likely to have by changing our patterns here, is a fiction, for a couple of reasons.
First, we are the world leader, and until recently led the world despite a fraction of the pop;, in terms of atmos alteration. The world looks to us for leadership, both in general, and also on this issue bc we kind of added thre most (and still do per capita). Also, when we act, the benefits to other nations of acting become compounded due to our action, and increased likelihood of other nation’s acting.
In other words, it takes action to break the paralysis, but it is fear of non action that continues it. The rest of the world doesn’t want this problem, or wants to mitigate it. We lead, they will follow. And WE have a LOT of clout to motivate them IF we lead in a substantial and significant way. That is, given that fact, the shown leadership, the good faith, the fact that their efforts are now suddenly compounded (in a positive way that is), and most of all, who we are and our clout and influence in general….
Third world countries should not be asked to bear the burden. But nor is the argument that “The U.S> got to grow with cheap polluting fuel, why can’t we” very logical. That was then, this is now. This is what the world conditions are. Now. HOWEVER, it is kind of logical, or at least reasonable, when we are not leading on the issue.
We have gotten well beyond the point where debating carbon taxes serves any purpose. Taxes on energy increase costs and decrease productivity. Optimal growth is required in global markets for he foreseeable future. That is a non negotiable value judgment based on getting as many people out of dire poverty as soon as possible. That means that western nations need to grow as fast as possible while freeing up trade to provide markets. This needs to be done while conserving God’s Earth providing the other side of the equation of humanitarian development and conservation. Only prosperous people can afford environments.
We have got to the stage where this is beyond discussion – the recourse is to put it to the democratic process.
“Why the world will not agree to carbon pricing (Part II)”
Part I is here: https://www.masterresource.org/carbon-tax/world-not-agree-pricing-carbon-1/
If we read the blogosphere, we can do a Cook-Lewandowsky-Oreskes type research project. When I had my eight graduate assistants grade AGW sites such as the Guardian’s, they concluded 97 % of participants agreed they were in a sheer panic, while the other 3 % was already catatonic.
Well Planning Engineer, you have gotten a taste of John Carter. At this point, the best course of action, is to not make eye contact, and back away slowly. And then, you can do what I do, put him on the ignore list.
You’re hilarious. Sort of like an ingrown toenail with fungus all over is hilarious.
“””‘Well Planning Engineer, you have gotten a taste of John Carter. At this point, the best course of action, is to not make eye contact, and back away slowly. And then, you can do what I do, put him on the ignore list.””””
Of course ignore what goes against your belief on this issue, since this site facilitates self reinforcement of views – under the guise of questioning analysis – that misconstrue the basic climate change issue and perpetuate the “skeptic” belief; founded upon oh such better knowledge than the scientists who professionally study this issue (that you largely ignore), myself (ditto), and all else that conflicts with the insular manufactured issue misconstructing view of so called climate change “skepticism.”
So, naturally – as I’ve suggested above, find a way to dismiss that which conflicts with what you think you “believe,” need to believe, want to believe, and have convinced yourself is in fact not a “belief” but “objective reasoning.”
So called reasoning that dismisses facts, considerations and analyses, that get in its way.
While of course, being excessively condescending and insulting in the process, because that just helps reinforce the semi delusional view that your skepticism is well founded, while, of course, climate concern, again “naturally,” is not. And climate scientists who spend their lives in professional study in this field? Oh so much more ignorant on it, than Dick Hertz.
You (and in particular other readers) may want to also consider this regarding the main claim skeptics continue to make, its direct conflict with the facts on every relevant level, and yet the need for continued insistence upon this claim anyway.
John Carter, You are assuming facts not in evidence. And the toenail thing, I hope you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of that.
Definition of a “smart grid”: A system for raising the price and reducing the demand for electricity when intermittent renewable energy isn’t available.
Oh, how the victims smart.
IIRC, carbon capture reduces efficiency about 15%. An effective 15% reduction in our fossil fuel reserves is a heck of a cost.
Aaron, the efficiency reduction is more like 30% than 15, based on projects cited in my previous guest post here clean coal. Or read the expanded essay in newly released ebook Blowing Smoke. The problem is twice as bad as you write in re energy. And the additional capital cost effectively doubles the generation investment, another large economic hit.
The only offsetting positive is where the CO2 can be piped to an oil field and injected for EOR (it reduces the in situ crude viscosity, enabling more of the in place resource to be recovered over time, depending on many geophysical details like crude API and reservoir porosity, permeability, wetability, and saturation.)
Thanks. I thought 15% was big. That’s huge!
Where are we now?
Here are snapshots of California, from the California Independent Systems Operator, i.e. the grid owner and operator:
1. the “almost real time” power supply and demand chart:
Page down to see the renewables.
2. Yesterday’s power supply chart for renewables by hour, and total electrical energy supplied by renewables. Yesterday, renewables supplied. Yesterday, renewables supplied 20% of the total.
3. Electricity is billed in a tier system, with the lowest usage charged by San Diego Gas and Electric at $0.15/kWhr, plus a fixed charge for grid costs and fees. The charge is higher in summer than in winter. I don’t know whether other states supply this kind of information.
CAISO does not report on all electricity use in the state: Sacramento, Los Angeles and some other cities have city-owned systems. This also does not include home-owned roof-mounted solar powered generation, which shows up in CAISO statistics indirectly as reduced demand.
I expect that the reasonably well-reported (as here) California experiment will be of continuing interest to the citizens in other states. California law (AB32) requires suppliers to supply targeted amounts of solar power on a schedule.
As an engineering manager I would request ten year statistics. You can use a simulator with a high quality hindcasting and solid cloud cover history match. The history match would be thoroughly audited.
I would have your report crawled through by two third party entities. And I require full accounting of imported power, it’s cost, and sources. I believe by the time we finish the review you would have learned a lot about real engineering.
Fernando Leanme: As an engineering manager I would request ten year statistics.
Not that I disagree, but for what purpose? Eventually they will meet their aggregate goal demanded by AB32 (I doubt they will meet it on the schedule demanded by AB32, unless there are further dramatic reductions in manufacturing and other businesses that consume electricity). The grid can’t distinguish between a business cutting back and a business installing roof-mounted solar.
Notice that they publish their day-ahead and hour-ahead forecasts as well. Those are usually pretty accurate.
Two relevant articles that I’ve spotted on twitter:
Ben Pile on nuclear energy http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/10/nuclear-power-yes-please-but-not-this.html
Electricity prices soaring in top 10 wind energy states
Dr. Curry — The James Taylor article (Forbes) is an example of possible trickery than can go on with Talking Heads. While Mr. Taylor doesn’t come out directly and say it, his inference is that electricity prices have increased because of wind energy — case made, end of story. If you question the value of renewable energy, this is all you need to hear — your views are confirmed.
Maybe Mr. Taylor is right, but we are not really provided enough information in the article to see if his inference is correct — or if its a little bit more complicated than his slam dunk indictment in Forbes.
Rick Scott (Republican governor of Florida) made something of a similar charge last night in a debate against ex-Governor Charlie Crist (a Democrat). While Gov. Scott was “technically” correct about the overall cost of electricity, he was just hammered by Florida newspapers (e.g., PolitiFact) as makingfalse and misleading statements.
I hope you read this PolitiFact article: http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2014/oct/21/rick-scott/rick-scott-says-florida-electric-rates-are-lower-c/?fb_action_ids=1497560637197712&fb_action_types=og.shares
Mr. Taylor (in Forbes) didn’t break down things like (1) fuel costs; (2) demand charges; (3) was there anything else going on like major units having to be retired (old inefficient coal units coupled with mercury regs) — where rates would have gone up with or without wind units).
We don’t know. I’ll do some checking on the Forbes article and get back to you (probably not quickly though).
Stephen, in case you did not know, James Taylor (writing in Forbes) supposedly has the credentials of being the managing editor of Environment and Climate News. That is not some peer reviewed scientific journal. It is the anti-CAGW newsletter of the Headtland Institute. Taylor is a lawyer/lobbyist for an extreme conservative think tank based in Chicago.
One must check all of his assertions carefully. Most are mostly spin, not sound fact. See the disclosure chapter of The Arts of Truth for details involving Mr Taylor in another ‘scientific’ anti- CAGW pronouncement.
It does not help the credibility of those trying to find truth to be closely associated with such. As bad as Mann and Cook and Lew on the other side of this debate. Regards.
We’ve seen very similar rhetorical tactics here in Australia.
The usual suspects claiming that raising electricity prices are down to renewables and the carbon tax.
Analysis of the price rises showed that transmission and infrastructure costs were the primary driver of cost increase and even there, it was significantly driven by utilities getting their power planning badly wrong – forecasting large increases in demand when there was a decrease.
M0tivated reas0ning leads to claims at odds with the facts.
from the Ben Pile article: Just a small fraction of the many £billions spent each year on subsidising the extremely inefficient renewable energy sector could finance instead an array of projects like ITER – the European fusion research programme – where currently many countries now share just one. ITER is a good demonstration of political priorities. It is a 35 year research programme, intended to produce a proof-of-concept of sustained nuclear fusion: zero-carbon energy from water, forever. The programme has a budget of around €15 billion, shared between 35 countries – or very roughly €12 million per year, per country on average – barely enough cash to finance a small wind farm.
The guy wants to sacrifice a plant that will probably work as designed, at lower cost than the green alternatives, in order to increase funding for something possibly really neat in the distant future. And he wants to sacrifice some technologies that work,though expensive, for a technology that to date has never produced usable power.
In another paragraph he sorta-kinda hints that he thinks natural gas prices will never increase; but he comes up short of recommending that new natural gas fired power plants be built. He seems to advocate for power what some people have said I advocate about climate change: don’t do anything that works for a while yet.
He ends: Electricity generation and its delivery are technologies that were mastered many decades ago. Nuclear power was developed not long after. The fuels for these technologies exist in vast quantities, and their quantities are multiplied as the means to extract and use them are developed. The thing that stops the transparent management of resources and their efficient delivery is a form of politics which legitimises itself, to itself, for itself, against us, by problematising such simple things as energy. The more that technical problems involved in life’s most basic necessities – like coping with the climate and producing energy – are made complicated, so the lower the aspirations of politics and the lower the expectations of politicians become.
I don’t think he has a coherent view.
Thank you for the links.
The output of solar and wind facilities is typically less than projected during peak periods.
As I wrote, renewables supplied 20% of demand. A few weeks ago that fell to 10% during a prolonged heat wave during which the night-time winds hardly blew at all and daytime demand for A/C was high. Because demand peaks late in the day, solar and wind combined generally supply less than 10% of peak demand in the best cases.
Planning Engineer, I thought that a good essay. Thank you.
Should you ever decide to rewrite it, I would recommend that you add links and publications for claims of costs, liabilities, and such. Say, links to overviews of the linked systems of Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Or perhaps in replies to comments.
Another point needs to be made: When one says (for example) “20% of electricity was produced by renewables” this implies that there was a reduction of 20% in emissions. This is FALSE. When you use fossil fuel power to balance the intermittent renewable, you need to “ramp” up and down the fossil source, frequently, and this wastes fuel. So, you get, probably, only a 10% reduction in emissions. (And I ignore the additional costs caused to the carbon plant in the “balancing” operation.)
For example: if a coal plant is doing the “balancing” – there is no way of turning it on and off twice a day. So, what they probably do, is keep the fires on, 24/7 (maybe at a somewhat reduced rate), even when they can’t sell the electricity because renewables are preferred by mandate.
That’s an excellent point that few people realise. There have been a number of studies to estimate the effectiveness of intermittent renewables at reducing CO2 emissions. It depends on the proportion of electricity generated by renewables. There have been a number of studies on different grids. One of the best, IMO, is by Joe Wheatley “Quantifying CO2 savings from wind power” on the EirGrid (all Ireland) grid for the year 2011. Wind energy penetration was 17% and it’s effectiveness was just 53% – i.e. each MWh of wind energy displaced just 53% of the emissions from the 1 MWh of energy displaced from other generators.
Free, pre-submission version: http://docs.wind-watch.org/Wheatley-Ireland-CO2.pdf
See here about “cycling” fossil plants to balance renewables
About the possibility to get a 100% renewable supply see this:
In the beginning of 1900 we had a lot of windmills in Denmark. Many of them put in gasoline motors so that they could work when there was no wind. Later on they got electic motors. Wonder why they not just builds more windmills?
Svend, unfortunately those windmills seem to slow down almost in unison. I’m working on a giant gas turbine powered blower to drive air over the wind mill blades.
Have you included a process to use some of the power from the mill to produce hydrogen from water? Burning the hydrogen in a gas turbine results in water, which could be used to irrigate farms in the desert, and some of the electricity left over would provide for air conditioning.
This would satisfy the demands of the environmentalists, the Warmists, the Communists, the Capitalists, the Theosophists and all the rest.
Recycling and energy conservation at its finest! How hard could it be?
Live well and prosper,
Mike Flynn: Just a suggestion, but Thermodynamics would teach you what is already known: Energy Conversion is always < 1. Converting it twice or thrice as you suggest is not worthwhile. Hydrogen is, in general, a worthless form of energy except in political terms. H2 holds less than 1/3 the energy equivalence of Methane/NaturalGas, it is not liquifiable above – 423 F, -253 C. So, unless you include the costs of refrigeration, even Liquid H2 is not a consideration. As a vapour, it would require piping some 3 times the diameter of existing pipelines to deliver an equal amount of energy wrt NG. Hydrogen does not occur in nature as a free substance. You might want to imagine why.
I most humbly apologise for not explicitly indicating that I was indulging in sarcasm. It didn’t occur to me that anyone might have taken my comment seriously – Warmists excepted.
Live well and prosper,
Homer Simpson had a windmill, when the wind slowed down he just put a bunch of fans in front of it to keep it going.
What is your opinion of the majave plant with more on the way:
Ordovic, read the essay in my new ebook titled Solar Sunset. The book is Blowing Smoke: essays on energy and climate. You reference the Ivanpah project. After fed grants, the investors put in zero equity. And borrowed 2/3 below an already low market interest rate thanks to additional fed loan guarantees. And the feed in tarrif is almost 3x the alternative of new CCGT. Thanks to fed/California intervention, the project promoters cannot lose, and the California rate payers cannot win. Another Solyndra, without the bankruptcy.
Oh, and Ivanpah just asked CPUC to remove any restrictions on their percentage use of natural gas to backup fire the generating turbines, since the solar downtime is much higher. When permitted, that restriction was not more than 5% of output.
Oh, and the previously supporting Audubon Society is horrified that birds are being incinerated in midflight at a rate of about 1 every two minutes during daytime operation (ivanpah produces nothing at night). The Ivanpah workers call them streamers, from the smoke trail emitted as the singed birds plunge to earth. Seriously.
Yeah I heard a lady on the radio complaining about that and that the rates would go up to pay for the plant even though the taxpayers already bought it. I’ll look at the book when I start getting my checks in from last satements :-)
They had to relocate turtles and some small reptiles as well.
I’m sure they’ll open a fried bird fast food franchise boasting the birds were fried using solar power.
Ivanpah is partly financed by Google. I like Google a lot, and its contribution deserves to be immortalized. How about renaming the project to Sergeypah?
How about we settle on Chutzpah?
How about Fubar?
I’m not an expert on all things power and I lack a lot of details here. But here are some offhand personal thoughts (and I may be wrong and need correction). It’s good to try large scale projects of this sort to learn about options. (Now who pays for the research value is an interesting subject) As this plant utilizes steam to turn a turbine I suspect it can support the grid the same way conventional fossil fuel plants do, and photo-voltaic and wind resources do not. Based on it’s location it probably has much less interference from cloud cover than other places so that’s good here, but you should be aware that performance might be limited elsewhere. Comparing it to other generation it would be good to know maintenance costs, output, availability and all the other things planners look at when studying power plant additions as well as projections as to how the technology might improve. Additionally the environmental impact of this plant should be compared to other technologies. It is a huge footprint for the output compared to fossil fuel or biomass plants. These plants probably have to be sited far from load centers.
My basic take at this point in time is that large numbers of these plants are probably not going to be warranted (but positive data would convince me otherwise.) There may be niches where they make great sense (Cities on the edges of deserts) and areas where they make no sense (Built on the North Dakota plains to ship energy to Chicago).
Yeah the idea of a steam turbine is what appealled to me as well. Thanks for the reply.
We find these solar panel plants built in desert like areas are using a lot of fresh water to keep the panels clean. This can be a serious issue when we use natural gas to power desalination plants.
Ah, we meet again! Happy to chat with you.
What kind of research have you done on localized renewable? In areas (3rd world) where grids don’t exist would small solar not be viable? Same for wave/tidal for remote bridge/pier lighting where infrastructure costs just to get a wire in place is substantial? Maybe small wind turbines on a remote adobe structure (maybe dual purpose as a water pump and energy generator)? Alcohol fuel from biomaterials?
It seems to me that there is a place for renewables in the overall equation if not on a large scale (at this time) so any analysis would be greatly appreciated.
Danny, when I worked in Africa I saw the natives using mostly renewables. Because they had already cut down the trees they seemed to use dry dung and little pieces of grass. I think it’s definitely viable to put in a small windmill plus a solar panel in remote villages, and connect them to a couple of batteries. These can be used to drive a cell phone tower and charge the cell phones. It also allows the local police station to have a light bulb. To increase reliability they could hook up a rig to have a draft animal walk in circles generating electricity when the batteries are low on charge. However I’m not sure this really solves their desire to have a refrigerator to hold medicines. Nor does it do much for the teeming millions living in cities.
Thus far we seem to hit a barrier with the use of renewables at large scale. I read articles which distort the facts, and it seems to me we have two entities interested in distortion: 1. The global warming types and 2. The corporate interests which sell the wind turbines and solar panels.
Thank you. This goes to the “scale” conversation and is a part of my thinking so I appreciate your input.
The perception I received from the topic is there is no place for renewables, but there are localized applications that do not have to deal with the massive infrastructure that the article covers. That plus niche applications and maybe (just to throw out a figure) some 5-10% of supply can be addressed. Then building on new technologies that come with time in all things mechanical, we may (assumption) achieve greater success.
Just don’t want to throw “the baby out with the bath water”.
You might also notice that they use around a gallon of water/kWh to cool the process. And it is water that evaporates.
It somehow makes it hard to operate these plants in a desert.
In sunny Israel, solar PV produces power 20% of the time. In Germany (where about 1.5 million rooftop PV installations exist), solar produces power 10% of the time. These are facts, based on the output of existing installations.
Alas, we consume energy 100% of the time.
This is Earth, Jacob. Here we read the following
“Israel has laid out targets for 5% of energy from renewable sources by 2014, and 10% by 2020, the latter translating to roughly 2.7 GW of installed capacity. (The EU’s own goal is 20% by 2020.) Right now renewables account for less than 1% of Israel’s energy mix, and Israel’s solar capacity as of last fall was just over 200 MW so there’s a long way to go to meet 2015 goals.”
I decided to do a quick search using “Israel solar power” because I knewthe 20 % you stated is nearly impossible to achieve. This is more so when we consider that Israel has offshore natural gas in large quantities. Their money will likely be spent first trying to develop a strategic natural gas storage facility rather. Than solar panels.
Fernando – Jacob’s percentages are the number of hours Solar produces: 2.4 hrs/day (10%) in Germany and 4.8 (20%) in Israel. NOT the % of total generation.
Planning Engineer, this is a great post, and that is my professional opinion as another electrical engineer (recently retired) who spent 32 years doing planning studies of the North American power grids in the stability limited portions of the eastern and western interconnections. I was one of the guys running simulations, doing modeling, and so forth. I recall that originally the wind guys felt they could get a 15% penetration because the base load coal and hydro generation had excess capacity to cover them when the wind was not blowing. I was always fascinated by wind generation, but I hate the idea of connecting it to the AC power grid as it causes problems for grid. In my opinion, just about any technology that does not provide polyphase AC from a rotating synchronous generator (conventional technology) will cause some problems of some type, if you get too much of it. The reasons for this are very hard to explain in layman’s terms to folks who do not understand electrical power systems, so excuse me for glossing over the heart of the matter. You would need to read a textbook first to understand. A high penetration of wind generation, when connected to the grid, can be a big threat. Expect lots of blackouts. The same with conventional generation if there is effectively no governor response. I spent my career studying the power system during abnormal conditions, and the politically motivated mandates and other changes that have occurred due to deregulation are a threat to the grid, in my humble opinion. The loudest voices, who shout that they have all the answers, are usually the least informed. Folks who really think hard about this stuff are doing a great job of keep the lights on. Listen to them when they try to share their concerns. This is very difficult subject matter for most folks to grasp, including other engineers who are not working in this area, and some of the best and brightest folks I have met in the power business were in the planning area.
Thank you Barry. I suspect we’ve been in the same room at some point. Congrats on your retirement, I’m probably not too far behind you.
Planning Engineer and Barry, thanks for your great discussion and posts.
Unfortunately the CAGW crowd doesn’t like being confused/confronted with facts and analyses.
What can you say when you read that the only country that bothered to even try to determine the cost of Kyoto before ratifying it was the USA.
I directed economic modelling of the cost of Kyoto for the State of Queensland. I think the Commonwealth did too. It refused to sign, but Australia was one of the few, perhaps the only, countries to meet the Kyoto targets.
Newbie here. Been preached at for years by a buddy who’s CAGW. So I’m seeking out sites where I can learn and ask questions. I’m a non scientific guy, but I’m willing to learn and appreciate feedback.
I’ve visited GW, AGW, CAGW and anti sites. Interesting to find Fernando here as I’ve entertained and been entertained by him.
My question is: Is the viewpoint and analysis based on current tech only with no assumption on improvements in those areas? I understand assumptions are assumptions but even the tech leading from where we started to current (no pun intended) the Northeast power grid came with time and monies spent on research.
Maybe my thinking is too broad, but there seems to be a …….what should I say…….negative tone towards renewables. Hydro seems to be reasonable and has a track record. It started somewhere. I’m not intending to read between the lines here but wondering if there this is a “No Renewables” zone or just a “No Large Scale Renewables” zone.
Great read with obviously lots of effort. Thought provoking and a perspective I personally had not read. Thank you so much for sharing.
For political mandate purposes, hydro is not considered to be a renewable, the politicians want to encourage new types of renewable generation. In reality, hydro is a renewable, and conventional hydro is one of the best sources of conventional power and it is an essential component of today’s power grid. However it also has environmental downsides like everything else. I am not down on renewable generation of any kind, I just don’t like to see junk connected to the bulk AC grid when it degrades the rest of the system. Engineers do their best to make it all work but there are always trade offs involved. Just consider that we have to match electrical load with power production in real time, with very little in the way of energy storage such as pumped storage. Well, hydo is inherently a form of stored energy (water behind the dam), and as such it is often used to follow the load changes, but there are always other restrictions on how dams have to be operated that sets additional constraints. What gets bad is when we are not allowed to run base load coal plants efficiently, and when we have to cycle them up and down to chase wind generation’s variable output. A lot of the issues boil down to how much reliability for how much money, and of course, who pays for it all? I want to see us maintain the levels of reliability that we have had in the past in the United States and I want to see affordable electricity.
Sarcasm coming. You mean to tell me there a difference between politics and reality? Sorry, couldn’t help myself and as a newbie maybe shouldn’t have gone there.
Seriously. Thanks for that insight. The more I learn, the more I see that I need to learn.
And without that very power, how would I get my fix on this stuff.
The article does not discuss a potential impact of cheap, safe, and reliable thorium reactors, or of cold fusion reactors, or of hot fusion reactors – all of them always 50 years in future. However I hope that we are approaching a viable battery technology for energy storage (the lead-acid battery design is still the tops 150 years later) and my secret hope, a practical fuel cell, modeled on how animal bodies work.
Danny, I think that Peter Lang has reported that 99% of global renewable power is from hydro. A proposed hydro plant in Queensland was one of the very few government-backed projects of any description that appeared to me to be viable (I generally directed assessments of projects for Queensland Office of Cabinet or Treasury); it was scuppered by Green opposition. As were non-hydro dams when we had a water crisis.
I said 99% of global electricity storage capacity is pumped hydro, not 99% of global renewable power. That’s from EPRI an authoritiative source, but the wording of the figure title is a little confusing because the figures are in units of GW, not GWh.
Peter, yes, sorry.
The question I ask my friends who want to get away from coal, nuclear, oil or even gas and get to solar and wind is: How does one operate a steel mill, or a cement or glass manufacturing plant using wind and solar power??
Pete, if the grid is serving industrial users and if it doesn’t have access to nuclear, coal-fired, or oil-fired generation capacity; and if only limited gas-fired backup capacity is available, then massively-sized grid-scale energy storage capacity becomes a necessity — either as gigantic banks of energy storage batteries or else as large hydropower storage reservoirs.
It is only fair that the costs of these grid scale storage facilities be passed directly on to the industrial customers whose excessively high demand for electricity drives the need for those grid-scale facilities.
the industries you want to charge for the giant storage batteries will move to Mexico. Or they will close and the work force can work distributing Greenpeace pamphlets. On the other hand the unemployed can study philosophy of science and ponder the most ethical solutions to the problems posed by CO2.
I wonder what percentage of industrial electricity demand is required for HVAC, that is, to keep people safe and comfortable. Does anyone have good data?
An advantage of the Quebec Hydro project, IIRC, is that Canadian demand for power is highest in winter, as electrical heating of homes etc. is the norm. It is in the summer when peak US demand kicks in during hot spells.and power is available from the Great White North. I have to agree with FernandoLeanme’s response to BB’s rather naive comment.
petebonk says: “I have to agree with Fernando Leanme’s response to BB’s rather naive comment.”
Pete and Fernando, I am not being naive about this at all. Not in the slightest.
IMHO, from the perspective of the overriding need to maintain the stability of the grid, the only way an ambitious effort in pursuing widespread adoption of the renewables can succeed is that: (1) base-load demand for electricity must be very substantially reduced through a series of highly effective energy conservation measures; and (2) massive grid-scale energy storage technology must be installed to balance demand with supply.
There are two interacting issues which must be addressed here: grid-scale storage will be very expensive to install and to maintain; and the only approach that can possibly work in achieving the necessary energy conservation measures is to raise the price of electricity to levels which greatly discourage its profligate use.
This is why I propose to use California as a large-scale test case in determining just how these factors play out in actual practice when attempting to implement the renewables, wind and solar, as the primary source of electrical energy for the grid; i.e. 50% plus.
If the price of electricity in California must double, triple, or even quadruple in order to support an ambitious set of objectives for adoption of the renewables, then so be it. If a collateral impact of the increase in the price of energy is that some number of industries and some portion of California’s current population choose to leave California, so be it.
This is the reason for doing the experiment in California, to see what actually happens in a place that is large enough and diverse enough to be reasonably representative of American society and of the American economy.
The majority of Californians want a renewable energy future for their state. They are committed to reducing carbon emissions without reliance on nuclear power. GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT.
While they are taking their best shot at it, the rest of us can stand back and assess their progress, gathering any lessons learned that might prove valuable to us as The Great California Experiment moves forward.
Beta Blocker: Pete and Fernando, I am not being naive about this at all. Not in the slightest.
I thought that you were being sarcastic, but I think now that you were expressing a point of view that may in fact have majority support in California. I am beginning to suspect that the California refiners of petroleum might close down in my lifetime. It may sound far-fetched, but think how many other industries do not operate in CA anymore.
again on refining oil in California:http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Chevron-Richmond-refinery-decision-drags-deep-5655736.php
9 years so far, yet no final approval.
It’s only a suspicion, but these are the people who killed off productive orchards in order to save that half of the Delta Snail Darters whose habitat was threatened. The November ballot will contain an item authorizing $7B to upgrade the California Water Project; I expect the same coalition that defeated repeal of AB32 will defeat this initiative, but I note in passing that the environmental organizations split on the issue.
Matthew, I am completely serious in advocating that California be used as a large-scale test case for the accelerated adoption of the renewables, including installation of the grid-scale energy storage technology needed to make the renewables work.
Advocates of the renewables claim that the cost of wind and solar, and the cost of grid-scale battery technology, is dropping precipitously with every passing year. A majority of Californians believe these claims.
If they are right, all well and good. But if they are wrong — and if after a decade the experiment ends up with the price of electricity in California being double, triple, or quadruple the price it is today, but with the renewables still not providing some good fraction of California’s energy needs after a decade of investment — then the value of the experiment to the rest of the nation will be self-evident.
Easy Pete, you just get rid of those bad polluting factories and set up a community farm. Peace and love brother.. peace and love.
David Roberts has an interesting post on roof top solar
would appreciate some input from the experts on off-grid solar
The critical issue now is what can the distributer charge for the backup service provided and what price should they pay for excess energy. For most price points now the residential solar user leans on the system. (Often meaning poor people subsidize wealthier consumers.) Opinions on what proper cost allocation is will vary, but nonetheless the following observations stand:
A spiral will be hastened if existing customers are subsidizing the departing solar customers. When that type of spiral breaks it will be bad for everyone because the solar customers are not standing on their own.
With proper cost allocation a cost spiral becomes less likely. In the end of that leads to the utility no longer being needed – I can’t say that’s a bad thing.
My opinion is that in most areas the grid (even with microgrids) will be a good value providing backup and interchange between areas and that with proper cost allocation such adverse impacts will not happen.
Apologies for the chopped up questioning. This analysis seems to have ‘the grid’ as a common concern regarding renewables, so wondering if stand alone systems were considered?
One question re: cost. My understanding is that residential customers are paid retail rates for electricity sold back to the grid, and are not generally charged for the increased cost to the grid of managing the intermittency issue (maybe that cost is too small to worry about now, but based on your analysis, that cost will escalate exponentially if a critical mass of roof top solar is reached). Can you provide additional info on this specific question?
Barnes, in Queensland solar rooftop installations are not only heavily subsidised, their (highly variable) surplus electricity is fed back into the grid at an extremely high price, guaranteed for 20 years or so, causing a number of grid problems. I think that the net cost to non-solar users has raised their bill by over 20% – I’ve seen the data but don’t have it to hand. As noted above, the poor are subsidising the rich, and the impact on any warming will be absolutely negligible. Government dereliction of duty and commonsense.
Thanks Faustino. I think the model in the US is similar but not quite as drastic. It definitely skews the cost metrics.
From the linked article:
Those defections don’t need to be just solar:
Standby Whole House and Portable Generators – Review, Comparison, and Selection Guide
There are some caveats, but the biggest one, IMO, is that a “Standby” generator may not have the lifetime for long-term service. However, that just provides an opportunity for “more and more entrepreneurial attention”.
“These skirmishes generally center on “net metering,” whereby utilities (forced by state legislation) pay customers with solar panels full retail price for the power they produce, which can often cancel out the customer’s bill entirely. ”
The parenthesis are in the original. There is nothing “entrepreneurial” about a situation where the law forces a company to give you 16 hours of free electricity a day from your local power company because your state-subsidized rooftop panel produces more juice than your empty house uses in mid afternoon. That is not roof-top solar being successful, that’s policy advocates jiggering the stats to pretend they are.
Here’s an idea, pass a law saying Georgia Tech has to pay students the full retail credit-hour tuition rate for every hour that they spend on Google Scholar. Celebrate the fact that kids goofing off on their iPads in the evening can run their tuition costs down to zero. Is that the entrepreneurial spirit of diversification that would only be opposed by an out-dated, greedy business model?
Something has to provide the other 16-hours of electricity to rooftop solar owners. It also has to power the 90% of customers Roberts seems to accept will not have the panels. If you care about AGW, you have to at least think about what that “something” is going to be.
And since when is Dave Roberts excited (a “big deal”) about having only 10% of power coming from renewables in the mid 2020s? AGW is no longer an urgent problem? Dave’s a luke-warmer now?
For a rooftop, a net metering is a standard. However, for large “renewable” projects, utilities must buy the power for a price that is frequently a multiple of a price of power from “non-renewable” sources.
Here in Spain reality set in and the Indy solar power generators are receiving a lower subsidy, which means many of them go broke. The article only shows a glimpse of the study at the government lab, but it seems to be a typical lab study (they tend to have gaps). Also take note they state máximum penetration would be 10 %. Over all these articles dont hold their own under close scrutiny.
Seriously off topic, but too delicious to ignore. From Real Climate:
Stefan Ramdsdorf: “From your response to my RealClimate article, I gather you misunderstood the fact that I introduced you and your coauthor by the fields of your published research (as I looked them up on Web of Science) as meaning to imply that you are not qualified to comment on the 2 °C limit. – I think it is entirely normal to introduce people by the research area they have worked in, and to ignore titles, administrative positions held etc.”
David Victor: “Language can be a funny and subtle thing, and thus to look further into your email I had the good opportunity to read every one of your RealClimate posts for the last five years. You may be unaware of it, but as far as I can tell the only blog post you introduced on a technical topic with information about the authors’ disciplinary backgrounds was the one that you posted about us. Just one in 5 years.”
Stefan Ramsdorf: “Actually would have been nice to be asked before you publish an email addressed to you personally on the internet.”
Dr. Curry — I thought for sure our E.U. bloggers would weigh in on this (being much closer and knowledgeable of what’s going on). But since they didn’t, below is a Google link to lots of articles.
We have in essence, a real-time big experiment of this going on in Germany where Utilities are just getting hammered on market value.
While I’m in Ag now, as a prior System Planner, I find this “German experiment” intriguing/interesting as to where it will end up. Clearly, German energy policy has a “death wish” for the historical paradigm.
I really know almost zero about Germany. But casually looking, I’ve often wondered how in the world Germany is doing what they are doing? German Policy Makers are quite vocal that their reliability is high, and keeps getting marginally better.
“Planning Engineer” taught me something where my lightbulb went on — the German/Norway integrated grid, where Germany evidently has access to huge amounts of hydro which would address intermittency issues.
So maybe some version of the German model might work say, in Maine (Canadian hydro) — but wouldn’t work in say, Texas.
Good observation on Hydro as a renewable. Hydro from the point of view of the power system is a great resource. It can be usually be stored, even if it follows the run of the river you don’t see the fluctuations you do with solar and wind. It has a large spinning turbine which operates in synchronism with the grid. Environmentally there are concerns with damning rivers and most of the potential sites were exploited years ago. Se when talking about renewables here – I was not talking about hydro.
Sometimes we have to agree to disagree. Are planners too negative about wind and solar or are others just way to optimistic about the technology? If no one was saying any good things about renewables, I would step to the plate and argue they have uses and potential and they need to be part of the grid as we meet future needs. I have not meant to argue against that position but rather what seems to me to be unbridled optimism.
Follow up, please. Thoughts on wave generated? I’m sure their are similar environmental impacts, but if nothing else would it be worthy from a research standpoint?
Just an FYI – one of the proposed pilot projects was up here in Puget Sound. It has recently been cancelled. Not to denigrate the concept or the technology, but I wouldn’t expect this to be a viable part of the generation mix for the next decade. Possibly longer.
I remember an analysis once by oceanographer Chris garett basically showing the energy in waves was two low, was to sparse and not really worth it considering environmental impacts. It seemed pretty upper boundish and not hard to do.
I did a quick search and much is oriented towards large scale tidal/wave energy generation. Any idea of a source for small (local) scale?
that’s because building a small scale wave run power plant would not have much power. Usually deep ocean (wind generated) waves do not have much energy, unless In persistently stormy regions, and near shore breaking waves seem the way to go. But other than the damage to near shore coastal ecosystems (not to mentioning surfing!) Even that is too low and too diffuse since the coast is essential one dimensional, unlike the surface available to wind power (two-D) making it pretty insignificant. Breaking waves are also too intermittent both spatially and temporally. Maybe I am missing some obvious solution here, but there seem to be a pretty strong upper bound on available energy from waves.
Thank you for taking the time to respond. That’s kind of like what I’ve found but as I’m not as informed as many here, wanted to ask to be sure.
Danny, forget wave power. They have too many moving parts for an offshore environment. The only non GHG emissions industrial scale option is nuclear. The best investment option for us is those black rubber suits and radiation badges.
As I recall, durability of wave systems or underwater turbines is a problem. Uncontrolled moving water causes some brutal stress on machines. With Hydro, you are controlling the water with the dam and releasing it in a predictable way. That is on top of the energy density problems. Like Hydro wave power would mostly require finding the correct geology or landscape and it would be a very specific niche technology.
There are other options using hydro than “damning rivers” where “most of the potential sites were exploited years ago.”
Danny and AK – you guys are in the range sometimes called the “bleeding edge” of technology. Those might be great things and we may have a future with such, but (and I’ll change my mind with data) they will probably not be ready for commercial exploitation in the near term time frames.
Power generation is a big enterprise and the environment issues are hugely important so I am all for research dollars. But when legislation or commissions request real power plans-we can’t go there just yet.
Planning Engineer: On a previous thread Stepen Segrest was touting the new GA solar projects and I responded that the projects were likely all about politics; GA has a huge amount of federal facilities and stands to gain from pleasing Washington. i mentioned your view, stated on an even earlier thread and again here, that often politics overrides the recommendations of the planning engineers. He then cast me as a conspiracy theorist. Just saying, no need to answer; I know you will side with me. By the way, I looked it up, the new solar projects wil result in GA having about 3% of it’s power being solar, just enough to do no harm yet good enough to keep the $$ comin in.
A good article.
I don’t think I would argue with that at the moment. My problem is that so many people are assuming that things won’t change in 2-3 decades. They offer all sorts of excuses, but at the base I see a refusal to see.
But I also see all sorts of “economic analyses” going out 5-10 decades that appear to be assuming nothing will change. And, IMO, that’s ridiculous.
I guess we could do a five decade plan for the party secretariate assuming we will develop an antigravity generator and faster than light travel, and humanity’s move to virgin exoplanets with earth conditions and zero germs. I would throw in a victory in the war on drugs, a new generation which hates tattoos, and the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series every year. Would this be better?
Sigh. There’s the Fernando I know and love. I get a reasoned response from our guest Author, PE. and I get snarky from Fernando.
Good to have you back!
How good would a 50-year plan for (phone) communications have been 50 years ago?
AK: You draw a very clear message. Good planning has to be done early but should not be done too early. For example, the Georgia solar project should probably viewed as a pilot project. Doing too much too soon with solar without knowing the future ten years out would be unwise.
“My problem is that so many people are assuming that things won’t change in 2-3 decades.”
The problem is that many want, and do, spend hundreds of billions of $ right now, hoping for technologies that don’t exist now (storage) and will exist, maybe, in 2-3 decades (and maybe not).
It makes no sense to invest enormous $ in wind and solar until the complementing storage technology is available.
I agree. But scaling needs to be part of the conversation. If billions is too high but millions is cost effective then those are reasonable investments.
Drat. Poor start. By lots of effort I meant yours, not mine.
Wonder what happens if you DON’T use any energy to manufacture, install and supplement wind and solar and you DO ruthlessly modernise the fossil fuel generation you already have. I’m guessing the results in terms of efficiency, emissions and cost would be pretty alluring. Maybe that’s why modernising coal power is not a polite topic. You can do it, like Merkel is doing it, but you have to be very Victorian about mentioning or promoting the shameful practise. Get the Green Vicars around for tea and photo-ops to discuss the latest green virtues…and don’t let them peek out back.
If Australia burnt its coal more efficiently and introduced sane bushfire policies, the savings in terms of carbon alone would be…? I know, I know, that’s not the point. It’s never the point.
Never mind the carbon, feel the collectivism.
Unless I m mistaken, efficiency has no environmental value, since total consumption increases with efficiency. It has economic value, and that is usually the reason to pursue it.
It’s disturbing how much real conservation you can’t afford when you don’t have wealth. When you’re poor you do any old thing to get by.
Of course, rich and silly is a bad mix. Just look at those wind turbines fouling the landscape and soaking up all the funding and trashing the cred of genuine innovation to come.
Efficiency has enormous enviromental value when increases offset price decreases which may cause an increase. This happens when we are on a full stomach and can’t eat more food even if it’s one of those eat all you can eat places.
I don’t think that’s an entirely representative analogy, notwithstanding that people just get fatter without bound. Unlike food, other forms of consumption like driving or flying or leisure activities aren’t bounded or have large enougb bounds so as to never reach your expected ‘offset’. In these cases efficiency increases consumption.
So deliberate inefficiency is environmentally desirable ?
Most energy isn’t spent driving or flying for leisure. Nor are energy costs the majority of the costs for most activities. Let’s take this to an extreme: do you think that if my electricity bill dropped from €100 per month to €10 per month due to a magic increase in efficiency i would use TEN TIMES the electricity? This is an extreme example, but it does help us understand you are using a poorly supported generalization.
I don’t think I am going overboard with this generalization at all, and it does have support. Look up the Jevons paradox and its variants and it specifically concerns energy efficiency. It seems like a pretty robust observation though hypotheses trying to explain it vary.
A very informative and well discussed post. Have we not forgotten the first principle though in the argument about renewable energy and that is the reduction of Co2. If we go back to the beginning this has been shown to follow climate temperature and not precede it, therefore we are proposing to establish a completely new energy system to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
If you want to produce energy for another reason (pollution control, preserving natural resources etc,) then this should be stated as such. We have/are destroying well established generating systems for the wrong reason and replacing them with systems that wont be able to cope in the future. We ship wood pellet from America to DRAX power station to reduce carbon but this generates twice as much than the coal burnt in the original system.
We should address the problem correctly and not fudge the mistakes that have been made.
Isn’t there some point where we’ll run out of fossil fuels? Isn’t that an equally compelling principle? It will be a while, but at some point we’ll need replacement technology. I’m not opposing the point of view of the guest contributor, but asked about at least the need for continued research in to renewables. There are folks in 3rd world countries (like Alaska) where the grid is currently a pipe dream. Yes it’s a niche, but it should remain a part of the conversation should it not?
The guest seems to be describing specifics towards the US, but without the expense of infrastructure like we have here renewables may be a better way.
I didn’t bring CO2 in to my thought process at all, but it’s interesting to consider in the scope of current policy towards renewables. Thanks for that view.