Clean Air – Who Pays?

by Planning Engineer

A recent posting presented taxonomy of potential policy perspectives around climate/energy policy. The ensuing comments brought home the unfortunate recognition that energy providers have not advocated specific actions and preferred directions for climate/energy policy. I think they have a good story. Why aren’t they telling it?

While you can question the accuracy and appropriateness of the following declaration, “We are headed for serious adverse climatic consequences if we don’t adopt clean, affordable efficient low cost renewables”, you can’t dispute that it serves to effectively frame an advocacy. Energy providers need to similarly articulate an alternative message or set of messages that positively voices their concerns to regulators and policy makers.

What are the messages from energy providers to date? (I could easily of have missed something. So if you know of anything; I’d appreciate your sharing them.) Energy providers recognize the following: They are not climate experts but see the policy proposals addressing climate change as being very challenging. Proposed renewable technologies are not in many ways suitable alternatives for conventional technology and they will increase costs and degrade reliability with limited benefits. Some energy policies do not recognize the local differences in the ability utilities have to employ various renewable technologies. Compared to lawmakers and regulators they are relatively powerless. The basic messages I’ve seen from utilities are along the lines of: “Please be fully aware of and consider the cost and reliability implications of the proposed policies as well as what is possible in a limited time range. We stand ready to go along and do the best we can with whatever policies are adopted”.

On the one hand I admire utilities for staying out of the debates around the environmental consequences of emissions. They are not climate experts and any advocacy or research efforts sponsored by them in this area would be highly suspect. They should respond to public concerns of that sort rather than seek to alter the debate. On the other hand, I fear that energy providers may be ignoring their responsibility to their consumers by taking the path of least resistance. Uncritically accepting environmentally proscribed programs may meet short run business goals better than more forceful efforts at resistance. Unfortunately the political landscape often allows utilities to profit from making poor resource choices endorsed by regulators. Perhaps such speculation is too harsh and it’s just fear on the energy provider’s part that if they do not cooperate and become party of the “solution” that the measures adopted and imposed on them will be harder still.

The challenge for energy providers is “cooperating” with the process and supporting the concerns of those in power while at the same time protecting the interests of those they serve. Developing coherent and simple messages for utilities is a challenging task that I will take a stab at in the hopes that it might inspire better efforts.

The Traditional Utility Focus

Coming of age in the utility business the stated mission was to provide economic and reliable power. A judicious balancing of cost and reliability should be expected to vary across place and time. As affluence increases more can be spent on providing reliability. It is a balance because as you undertake expanded measures to improve reliability, costs increase disproportionally. Improving reliability by 10% might cost X dollars. Going for another 10% increase in reliability will cost more than X. The increment for the next 10% will be even greater perhaps many multiples. Eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns such that there is a balance between reliability and cost. In any and every case it would be recognized as folly to try building the most economic or the most reliable system possible while ignoring the balancing value.

By the 1990s energy providers realized they were leaving something important out of their mission statements. Mission statements were appropriately modified to recognize the goal as, “providing economic and reliable power in a publicly/environmentally responsible manner”. Again the balancing of the factors is of major importance. One priority cannot be undertaken in isolation ignoring its impacts on the other factors. Adverse consequences can result whenever any one factor is prioritized unduly. (See this piece on solar DG increasing carbon.)

Two Very Important Questions

  • Are energy utilities the most cost effective socially beneficial instrument for limiting emissions?
  • Secondly, if utilities are the best mechanism to achieve needed emission goals, who should pay for the changes?

Emission policies focus on utilities and their consumers perhaps only because they are easy to regulate and as such they become the most politically expedient path. Are their “better” targets and “better” cost recovery mechanisms?

A Rough Justification

All humans have some sort of carbon footprint. The problem is reducing the collective footprint and determining where reductions should occur and who should be obligated for making those reductions? Most human activities result in emissions. In relation to the accompanying emissions, some of these activities are of great value and some of lesser value. According to the EPA, electricity makes up 38% of US carbon dioxide emissions by source. The benefits that affordable electricity provides are often pretty worthwhile–supporting business and industry, enabling information technology, powering hospitals and universities, heating and cooling our homes, storing and preparing our food and providing a host of other creature comforts. Electric consumption and increases in the standard of living and the reduction of poverty go hand in hand across time and place.

Based on the value of electricity, it must be asked, “Are there other sources where you can get a greater reduction in carbon based on the costs imposed?” (Readers – you might help me. Are there good reasons, besides political expediency, to focus so strongly on carbon from electric energy production? I know that imposing a “carbon tax” is controversial, but not sure it’s clearly inferior to just focusing on energy production. I may not have a good understanding here.) Even if there are no better options it still must be asked, “Who should pay for the increased energy costs?”

These two questions become particularly important as you consider the characteristics of electric consumers in the US. Many lead simple lives on low incomes with simple comforts where the cost of electricity makes up a large portion of their budget. While for more affluent Americans energy cost may seem high, for them cost increases do not impose anywhere near the same level of burden. This study found that low income families emit on average 76% less CO2 than their high income neighbors. Putting a large chunk of the responsibility for our collective carbon footprint disproportionately on the backs of low income families who bear minimal responsibility for the problems should create significant concerns. It’s wonderful that some people have the ability to travel extensively. It’s great that many others can afford multiple cars and have the resources for long commutes and avoid using public transportation. I did some rough calculations and I don’t know that it’s a good thing, but a couple of yahoos in a cigarette boat can put more carbon in the air in a single weekend than many families would contribute in a year powering their homes. Why are we singling out the electric consumers to compensate for the footprints of others? When utilities absorb the cost, the wealthiest do not pay anywhere near their fair share related to their average contributions to the problem.

You can say utilities are wealthy and have plenty of money, but utilities money comes from the consumers they serve. Except for a small percentage of profits denied to shareholders, when you expect unities to cover costs, it is the consumers who will pay. Accomplishing social good through mandated utility programs function as an involuntary regressive tax. Efforts to make utilities pay have serious unintended social justice implications. Having utilities experiment with alternative technology is gambling with the resources of those who can least afford it.

Unfortunately it gets worse. Programs like residential solar primarily benefit people with more wealth and for subsidized by those with less resources. For example in this piece cited earlier, it is noted that the beneficiaries of net metering in California have on average 68% more income than the average households in the state who are subsidizing them. We don’t seem to be learning ay lessons from Germany’s grand experiment and the resulting energy poverty it created.

If electric generation can be shown to give society the best bang for a buck to reduce carbon, let’s go with it. But let’s pay for it with equitable cost recovery schemes. Don’t place the responsibility where it is the least justified and the most crushing.

The Message that is Not Getting Out

Here’s an unpolished first pass stab as to what utilities could be adding to the dialogue, based on what they do know, to take a stronger stance on behalf of their consumers.

The currently proposed expanded policy actions to reduce greenhouse emissions cannot be justified at this time. They impose tremendous costs, adversely impact the reliability of the grid and they have not been sufficiently demonstrated to provide significant net environmental benefits as part of any thorough lifetime analysis.

The energy sector is critical to our nation’s economy, infrastructure and serves to greatly improve the quality of life for many struggling Americans. We caution against energy policies that disproportionately burden average and low income utility consumers. Opportunities for reducing emissions from other sources should be more fully exploited before undertaking any increased expansion of mandates and requirements impacting the energy sector.

We will continue to exploit available alternative technologies when their use can be justified. We will continue research and programs that explore potential technological innovations and improvements so that the electric sector can continue to increase its contributions to the improvement of our environment. As opportunities arise to meet policy objective through new technologies we will employ them when they can work within our systems to provide cost effective and reliable energy to our consumers. When new approaches are effective for reducing emissions, but represent a sharp increase in energy costs over preferred alternatives, we will work with policy makers to formulate ways to appropriately allocate the undue costs associated with these endeavors. We urge the avoidance of any policy measures that must be subsidized disproportionately by those who are among the least capable of bearing the cost burden and also among the least responsible for the harm being mitigated.

Perhaps I’m politically naive and such pronouncements would be counterproductive because it’s a message no one wants to hear. Is one end of the political spectrum throwing concern for the less fortunate under the bus in order to keep focus and momentum around solving an environmental crisis? Is the other end of the spectrum afraid of expanding the role of government to more broadly attack carbon emissions? I’m not worried about utilities – they will likely survive and do well under any mandates or environmental regulations. I’m worried about “average” consumers and wondering who will have their back. Sometimes we fall back and say we need to respond to what the public wants. I’m not convinced that just because some majority of the population somewhere is in favor of assigning utilities the burden of emission reduction and adoption of clean technologies, that this automatically does away with the social justice concerns. Consider Germany today has millions living in energy poverty. Even if the majority of struggling households believed in the policies and asked for them, was the massive wasteful transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy an appropriate government action? Do we want to emulate that?

JC note:  This is a guest post, please keep your comments civil and relevant.

223 responses to “Clean Air – Who Pays?

  1. The Energy Providers here in Germany are backing up slowly, trying to get close to the exit.

    • Who pays? The public.

      Who benefits? Big Brother!

      • The main question now?

        Can we safely stop the inertia of massive consensus opinions purchased with public tax funds without an outright revolution?

      • Germanys “big four” E.on, RWE, EnBW, and Vattenfall are publicly vilified for everything that goes wrong with the Energiewende.

        So what are they doing? They’re loudly running green feel-good ads on tv, and quietly putting their eggs in other baskets. When the piper comes to be paid, they will demand government compensation, or the lights will go out.

        I’m betting on compensation, but I’m also looking into a gasoline generator.

      • Who is Big Brother, the grant chasers, rent seekers or the all round Eco Socialist? “We have wished, we eco-freaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion—guilt-free at last!” – Steward Brand, writing in the Earth Catalog.
        “Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.” – Dave Forman, founder of Earth First.

        Quote by Club of Rome: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill….All these dangers are caused by human intervention….and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself….believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or….one invented for the purpose.”
Premier environmental think-tank, consultants to the United Nations“Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsiblity to bring that about?” Founder of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)– Maurice Strong,

        “Whoever desires to promote the transformation of the global economy, must first overhaul the UN Commission,” say Nils Simon, Marianne Beisheim and Steffen Bauer. “Rio 2012 is the only chance for this and the state leaders must not pass it up…a fundamental institutional reshuffling of the United Nations in the area of environment and sustainable development. A strengthened mandate paired with strong political leadership as cover, more effective negotiating processes and implementation instruments as well as comprehensive and secured financial means are essential elements of such a reform.”
        It certainly cannot be denied that the warmunists and the rest of their brethren on the political left entirely disapprove of virtually our entire American social order — from the distribution of wealth to race relations to the war against radical Islam to how we make and use energy and more.
        “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection, says the German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”
        Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III

      • Revolutions just follow the circle. Make straight the way. It all makes sense.

  2. Worrying about the emissions of a trace gas, CO2 is so really stupid, I have trouble reading this post. I will try to read it later, after I get over being so upset about the stupidity.

    • I do consider this civil and relevant. I could have used unreasonable instead of stupid, but that would have been less correct.

    • Planning Engineer

      Pope, I responded below but then figured I should place something near the top. Reducing carbon is a “problem” on the table in the US and other countries (at least and maybe only) because policy makers have adopted it as one. I am addressing shortcomings with a proposed solution set. My intent was to avoid discussing the legitimacy of the problem, as I have no special expertise to add. Perhaps many see the utility based solutions as easy and beneficial so much that they are not honestly grappling with understanding and defining the perceived problem. More below.

      • Planning Engineer, Thank you for placing something near the top!

        you wrote: Reducing carbon is a “problem” on the table in the US and other countries (at least and maybe only) because policy makers have adopted it as one.

        YES! It is a problem only because it has been declared a problem. It is a problem with NO supporting data. The King has no clothes on. The media shows the king with no clothes on and never mentions that there is no real supporting data. They don’t have as much as a sales ticket for a fig leaf.

        You wrote: My intent was to avoid discussing the legitimacy of the problem, as I have no special expertise to add.

        I got a college degree in four years. I have studied climate for almost 7 years. You call yourself a Planning Engineer. One of the best Aerospace Engineers I know, got his degree in civil engineering. One of the best Engineers in the Apollo Program had no degree. You can study and learn whatever you need, with or without a formal degree. People with formal educations from biased instructors who kick you out if you disagree is not what we want. Any engineer can become a qualified expert in some area of climate science, without the bias. You likely qualify in multiple areas. Don’t try to tell us you have no special expertise. Judy Curry would not feature your posts if that were true.

        Here is the problem. We must study and understand natural variability and discuss the legitimacy of the problems!

        Again, thank you, Planning Engineer!

    • Ordinary citizens are remarkably gullible, only exceeded by . . .

      the inherent stupidity of arrogant world leaders and puppet scientists.

  3. When the ordinary people get really, really, annoyed with the rich and powerful ensuring that their only aim in life is to get richer and powerfuller, history shows that torches and pitchforks might be the least worrying things that the rich and shameless have to face.

    I believe that the UK regulator of electricity and gas markets officially advised consumers, having difficulty with paying their energy bills, to take a packed lunch and a thermos of coffee to work, give up their gym memberships and get a cheaper mobile phone plan, amongst other things.

    I heard, in similar vein, that Marie Antoinette advised people, who couldn’t afford bread, to eat cake instead. Sterling advice! Take a teaspoon of cement and harden up! Stop whining!

    So who is to pay for clean air? I share the common opinion – who cares? As long as it’s not me!

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

    • So who is to pay for clean air? Clean air does have CO2, Air without CO2 does not keep green things growing and does not qualify as clean air. I do want clean air and I do want my clean air to include as much CO2 as our emissions can help provide. CO2 makes green things grow better while they use less water. There is not anything about more CO2 that can possibly be bad for life on earth.

      The war against increased CO2 is a war against all life on earth.

    • Peggy Noonan in the WSJ, best quotes of 2013, likes the words of the billionaire who said, “Everytime I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are getting closer”.

    • Hmm. First, thanks for this. It’s a cogent argument, probably better than most utilities are capable of making for themselves.

      However: Utilities are governed differently from most public and private companies for a reason. They are providers of a public good. The nature of the good they are in the business of supplying often changes–just ask Ma Bell.

      Perhaps a better way to phrase the challenge for utilities might be, “Granted the imperative to provide constant and economic service to your customers, what is possible to lessen your environmental impact including emissions of CO2 and equivalents?” Perhaps by acknowledging their long-held mission statements, it won’t scare them away from thinking.

      You have a bit of a strawman up there regarding residential solar. It is true that the average household income of a solar home is $150,000. But it is the utilities that are asking for compensation for any extra work solar entails and impacts on performance overall, not these customers, most of whom never imagined that they would be impacting the grid or beggaring their neighbor. (I wrote about this yesterday:

      I agree with you about the negative impacts of Germany’s Energiewiende and the UK’s equally harmful race to wind. But there are other more successful role models out there. Utilities are one of the actors on the stage. They have a prominent seat at the table. There are strategies that could alleviate energy poverty–and at least in Germany and the UK, some utilities have been obstacles to helping the poor.

      Utilities are probably staffed largely by conscientious workers who would be happy to sign on to your thesis above. However, they are also businesses and as such have historically chosen not to turn their backs on the opportunity to extract monopoly rents whenever possible.

      If we are to go green on a large scale, we will need the active participation and cooperation of utilities. But we will also need to keep our eye on them as well as on the ball.They are not saints.

      • Granted the imperative to provide constant and economic service to your customers, what is possible to lessen your environmental impact including emissions of CO2 and equivalents?

        This brings up a point I keep wanting to make and forgetting: if you want to “lessen your environmental impact” you need the right metrics: to identify them, then keep them in front of everybody as a target.

        IMO the correct metric here is the net amount of fossil CO2 emitted per MWHr over an entire year. Thus averaging both daily and seasonal factors. Also, it should be measured for appropriate agglomerations of system functions: for fossil fuel from digging to stack, for solar/wind from production (pro-rated over lifetime) to decommissioning. And energy should be measured when it leaves the grid at the customer’s connection. Or something like that.

        For evaluating technologies, you also need to consider how that metric changes as the input power sources (digging, production, etc.) themselves shift to fossil-neutral. Averaging by overall grid values is a bad idea. With better planning and design, some production could switch to non-grid (or partly non-grid) renewables much sooner than the whole grid switches.

        For instance, glass fiber is a very useful material for cheap structure, but energy expensive to make. Would it be cost-effective to create glass fiber factories that use solar thermal for most of the heat? I don’t know, but I do know that there’s a much better chance of doing it if you ask the questions, and provide the appropriate metrics for the answers.

      • Tom, it’s not so much that utilities are regulated differently because they supply a public good, but rather because of the expense of the grid, they monopolize, and that must be restrained.

        It would be simpler to leave the business of ‘supplying public good’ out of the equation; it’s relatively irrelevant. Dang, wanted to slip in ‘irreverent’, too.

      • Tom,

        I work for a utility and your statement “have historically chosen not to turn their backs on the opportunity to extract monopoly rents whenever possible.” requires some backup. Perhaps this applied to some monopolies in some fields, well in the past. Today that statement is highly unlikely to apply to any gas or electric utility.

        A more accurate statement would be that power utilities were not always the best at tight cost control. If you have a guaranteed return on your expenses, where is the pressure. It wasn’t to exact higher profits. In todays environment utilites have become very budget oriented. State utility commissions do not rubber stamp rate hike requests. In fact I believe it is rare a utility gets a request approved in whole.

  4. I’m not worried about utilities – they will likely survive and do well under any mandates or environmental regulations.

    The more stupid rules you put in place the more the utilities can profit from the stupidity. They celebrate the stupidity. You got that right.

    • You may not be worried, but the utility companies are worried. At one time you would look out your window and see wires and poles, which represented two entities, Ma Bell and your local electric utility. The latter are taking note of the change in condition of the former and wondering if they could be next.

  5. We think we are not tribal but we are. The elite is even more so. The “best” condition is that which pleases our tribe the best.

    The object is not to do as well as possible for the greatest number but to have one’s preferences prevail. Greenpeace did not trample on the Nazca Lines to improve the lot of the Peruvian peoples but to express the opinion of a subset of Greenpeace activists. We witness not a struggle for consensual agreement but for winning.

    Non-affordable energy costs for the lower incomes are simply a price the higher incomed Enlightened are willing to suffer to create the world that suits them best.

    • Non-affordable energy costs for the lower incomes are simply a price the higher incomed Enlightened are willing to suffer to create the world that suits them best.

      Their understanding of everything is so bad that they really don’t understand that what they really want is not even best for them.

  6. Great post.

    Beware the sharks are coming. The next scam is going to be a big push for local, decentralized, community or neighborhood power plants – green, of course. This will be a big opportunity to move energy customers from the big, bad corporate utilities, with their decades of experience and economies of scale, to the well connected friends of the political left. The poor might be subsidized for lifeline electricity, but the middle class will be gutted.

  7. “All humans have some sort of carbon footprint. The problem is reducing the collective footprint and determining where reductions should occur and who should be obligated for making those reductions?”

    Sorry, have I just been snuck a warmie message? We start talking about clean air and go on to seamlessly merge that subject with CO2.

    So, all my venting and ranting, and that of other skeps on this site, has been in vain? Not noticed at all?

    Please tell me I haven’t been snuck a warmie message. I hate that. It’s not the theory of warminess that worries me, it’s the white elephants.

    Remember: the difference between warmist and lukewarmist is just in the scale and rate of white elephant arrivals. They still arrive. Hear those western economies going crunch and squish under their mighty white trotters.

    • Carbon is another C word that we can do without? Mosomoso? White elephants are not all concerned with carbon, however, and I am convinced that there are lots of projects out there that have environmental protection and/or the preservation of endangered species as their stated aim, all looking to get funding from the public purse.

    • moso, I thought PE was presenting the politically-perceived problem which has impacted on energy suppliers and to which, without challenging the political orthodoxy, they should respond so that activists/policymakers have some grasp of what they are doing. I don’t think that PE was in anyway endorsing the comment which roused your ire.

      • Oh, you nuancy policy types with your perceptions and stuff! All I want is a strong leader who’ll make the coal trains run on time.

      • Planning Engineer

        Thanks Faustino. Reducing carbon emissions is the “problem” on the table. In discussing approaches to the “problem” I am trying to avoid discussing/considering the legitimacy of the problem. Not saying that the question of legitimacy is not an important one, just one that I can’t add much to. Avoiding it can get you labeled both a denier and a warmest. There’s a contest among engineering students in the US to make concrete canoes. That’s another “problem” where the exercise of solution sets can be valuable. I mean no advocacy of reduction of ant particular emission or not, just if you must do it, do it effectively and appropriately.

    • moso, just saw your reference to my change of domicile on another thread. It was fortuitous and unplanned, not based on a comparison of the many alternatives. The UK has, or had, many qualities I don’t find here, but I could no longer cope with the climate, nor could I afford to live in places I’d want to. There’s always the India option in reserve, but I expect I’ll stick with West End Bris. Good enough, better than most places.

    • There is nothing sneaky about it at all

      The post reverberates with variations of the “social justice” propaganda line

      • Planning Engineer

        Ian (or someone else) Help me here if you can. I struggle with the vocabulary here, but I am taken aback by the reference to the -“social justice” propaganda line.

        For routing transmission lines and siting generation facilities utilities have to make sure they do not unfairly impact the less advantage. (No thought of that as propaganda – but just a curb on past practices that favored the advantages). Other than that I know the term as used for many liberal causes.

        Thinking of the way utility costs for public good objectives works to function as a regressive tax calling it social justice seemed as apt as any of the applications of the term I’ve seen before.

        Has industry or utilities used the term in this way before? Or does Ian think the use of the term for liberal causes was/is propaganda?

    • Curious George

      PE: “In discussing approaches to the “problem” I am trying to avoid discussing/considering the legitimacy of the problem.”

      PE, you are conceding your freedom. False prophets must me challenged.

  8. Sometimes we fall back and say we need to respond to what the public wants. I’m not convinced that just because some majority of the population somewhere is in favor of assigning utilities the burden of emission reduction and adoption of clean technologies, that this automatically does away with the social justice concerns. Consider Germany today has millions living in energy poverty.

    Sometimes we read what is written by the Alarmist Media and think that is what the public wants. That is total BS. What the public wants is not what the Alarmist Media writes. The public would have elected all democrats in the last US elections if the public wanted what the Alarmist Media said we wanted. The majority of the population is smart enough to know that emission reduction of CO2 is stupid and the emission reduction of things that are bad for us is really good. That is why more democrats are out of office. That and gun control.

  9. “Are there other sources where you can get a greater reduction in carbon based on the costs imposed?”

    Is there any reason to reduce carbon fuel use based on actual real data?

    Not to reduce the wonderful result from more CO2 causing green things to grow better using less water.

    Yes, so we can save it for later because we use fossil fuel for lots of wonderful stuff in addition to the energy we get from it.

    • pope, as with my reply to mosomoso, I don’t think that PE is is supporting what you, I and many others here think is nonsense, he’s saying that this is the situation faced by energy suppliers, and they could respond to it much better, by laying out some basic facts etc as per his three bolded paras. Seems worthwhile to me.

  10. Pingback: Clean Air – Who Pays? | Climate Etc. | john namnik

  11. Uncritically accepting environmentally proscribed programs may […]

    Shouldn’t this be “prescribed programs”? If not, I suspect “proscriptions” would be clearer.

    • Planning Engineer

      Yes-could be clearer. Its both, coal and conventional is proscribed, renewables are prescribed. Over managed may be the words.

  12. PE, I fully support your three-para statement. Those advocating and implementing policies don’t seem to have grasped the points you make.

  13. Readers – you might help me. Are there good reasons, besides political expediency, to focus so strongly on carbon from electric energy production?

    Well, there’s widespread belief that soon enough we’ll have working electric cars, or perhaps cars powered by hydrogen, which could be produced via electrolysis from the grid. So once the grid is (fossil) carbon-neutral, so are they. Also, at temperatures above freezing heating can (AFAIK) be more efficient using a heat pump than burning fuel.

    Another observation I’ve made is that when social goals are advocated, many people ask “what can I do?”. And many advocates are there trying to answer them. Rooftop solar, whether or not cost-effective, or even sensible, is like switching to fluorescent lighting: something they can do.

    But rooftop solar mustn’t be allowed to cost too much: people want to be “with it” “doing their part”, but they don’t want to pay through the nose for it. Thus it has to be subsidized. And there’s a large correlation between folks who want to push “renewables” and folks with a strong anti-corporate bias. And utilities are sitting duck targets.

    But I think the issue with utilities is also somewhat temporary. Right now, solar power may be at cost parity with other methods for small penetrations in certain locales. But as the cost of solar cells (and hopefully panels) continues to drop exponentially, they’ll probably become much more cost effective for off-grid applications.

    For instance, desalination and pumping water (for irrigation/drinking) don’t necessarily need grid energy. If the systems are designed up-front for on-energy-supply operation, rather than assuming energy-on-demand, I’d guess it could already be cost effective, and become more so with continuing cost decreases.

    IMO the same is true for energy→gas/liquid fuel, although it might take a little longer. None of the necessary technology is anywhere close to mature, but it’s my guess that with time, volume, economies of scale, and learning curve, the whole system will ultimately be cost-competitive with fracking, or sea-floor methane hydrate.

    Where the system will switch from intermittent on-energy-supply to on-demand will depend on relative costs of storage vs conversion facilities. But one way or another, it’ll happen (IMO). Which is why I think an immediate focus on gas (with an appropriate type mix) is the best strategy for now: it keeps options open allowing movement in a variety of directions depending on how technology development shakes out.

    • Planning Engineer

      Good point that a “clean” grid could support clean cars. But 1). the batteries are likely a long way off. And 2) the demand on the grid would be so much greater than what we can’t effectively reach now with just renewables.

      • Planning Engineer

        By batteries being a long way off, I don’t mean to imply I am unaware of your Prius, Tesla, Volt, highlander or Leaf – but rather trucking and achieving general penetration levels of significance.

      • 1). the batteries are likely a long way off.

        Well they’re probably not taking that into consideration. It’s politics, remember. It doesn’t have to make sense.

        2) the demand on the grid would be so much greater than what we can’t effectively reach now with just renewables.

        See above. But also, there’s probably some effort to push stuff on a broad front, so that they’ll all be in place by, say, 2050.

        Also, with solar I see two separate agenda items: switch to “renewables”, and switch to “decentralized” generation, i.e. local. The latter may be a sop to the large proportion of anti-corporate types in the “movement”. It’s clear to me because I don’t see how the latter could be easily accomplished, but with easily foreseen technological advances solar could be done, using much more long-distance transmission and putting the collectors in appropriate spots. (I’m still skeptical of how safe wind would be to the climate.)

        Of course, it’s not a simple either/or. For instance, with cheap enough solar and power→gas/liquid fuel conversion, you could go entirely to local grids, hooked together at the edges, powered by local gas generators, and replace the entire big grid with long-distance gas distribution. Efficiency would be low (~15-25% by energy) but AFAIK gas is orders of magnitude cheaper to ship (by pipeline), and if the solar and conversion were cheap enough it might be more cost-effective.

        And if the power→gas/liquid fuel conversion used ambient CO2 (air or ocean surface), it would be fossil carbon-neutral. Not only that, but once the technology is mature, some of the CO2 extracted from the environment could be sequestered, allowing an inexpensive draw-down to early 20th century levels. If needed.

      • Number 2 here is the real point. A clean, reliable and low cost electricity supply is a prerequisite for getting off of gasoline for cars. That might be batteries, might be hydrogen, might be something else entirely, but whatever it is will require energy input to make it happen. If you plan for expensive, unreliable energy, there won’t be any innovation in alternatives for transportation.
        On a meta scale, activists want a low-energy future- restrictions on travel and energy use (imposed by price and inadequacy of their preferred alternatives).
        That’s not going to happen- Pielke’s “iron law”. But it isn’t going to be energy companies that drive that, it’s going to be their customers. Energy companies are, by nature of what they do, crony capitalist or socialist enterprises. They will do just as well with a high-cost, low-energy future as they would with a low-cost, high-energy future. Maybe even better.
        On a more political note, Europe is discovering that high-cost, low-reliability energy is a threat to the welfare state. A Europe facing the prospect of Greek, Italian and Spanish default on billions of Euros needs to avoid strangling it’s remaining industrial output and cut wasteful spending.

      • RE battery technology.

        I’m not sure where they rank now, but for years the US Navy and DARPA were big funders of battery technology research. Based on the results, I’m not placing bets on any significant improvement breakthroughs in that area. (Though Ellison’s carbon battery sounded like something new.)

    • Rooftop solar, whether or not cost-effective, or even sensible, is like switching to fluorescent lighting: something they can do.

      Switching to rooftop solar, which is not cost-effective, or even sensible, is not like switching to fluorecent, which is both cost-effective and sensible.

      This is a strange analogy.

    • “Also, at temperatures above freezing heating can (AFAIK) be more efficient using a heat pump than burning fuel.” Bravo!
      Now all we have to do is figure out how to get the power to run the heat pump.
      Thermodynamics has been summarized by three rules:
      1) You can’t win. 2) You can’t break even. 3) You can’t get out of the game.

      • Yes you can win. Electricity generated at 55-65% (for CCGT) transporting heat from 1°C to 30°C will provide much more heat to the target than simply burning the same gas in a furnace.

        Work the numbers…

      • AK: If you can get the numbers for a heat pump to work as well as a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) or a closed-cycle gas turbine (CCGT), I look forward to seeing you listed as the world’s richest person.

      • Typical straw-man dismissal. Current technology high-efficiency heat pumps have a coefficient of performance (COP) from 0°C to 35°C of 3.8-5. This means that for every joule of electrical energy consumed, 3.8-5 joules are delivered to the target (heated floor or low-temp in-room heat exchanger). Between the 55-65% efficiency of CCGT and average line losses, we can assume 2 joules of thermal energy from burning gas for every joule delivered to the heat pump. Therefore, divide the COP by about 2, for a net gain of 1.9-2.5 joules delivered to the target for every joule gained from burning the gas at the generating plant. Compared to just 1 if you burn it in a furnace.

        And that’s using current technology. The “Theoretical Carnot cycle limit, source 0°C” for a 35°C hot-side is 8.8 joules delivered for every joule of electricity, or a net profit ratio of ~4.4 for gas burned at the generating plant.

        One observation is that while current “best practice” heat pumps (ground source system, operating between 0 °C and 35 °C) have a typical COP around 4, no better than 5, the maximum achievable is 8.8 because of fundamental Carnot cycle limits. This means that in the coming decades, the energy efficiency of top-end heat pumps could at least double. Cranking up efficiency requires the development of a better gas compressor, fitting HVAC machines with larger heat exchangers with slower gas flows, and solving internal lubrication problems resulting from slower gas flow. Depending on the working fluid, the expansion stage can be important also. Work done by the expanding fluid cools it and is available to replace some of the input power. (An evaporating liquid is cooled by free expansion through a small hole, but an ideal gas is not.)

  14. “It’s only money, and it’s not even ours”. Pretty much sums up the green energy movement.

  15. Vaughan Pratt

    No mention so far of William Nordhaus. Is he out to lunch, and if so why?

    • Yes. OTL.

      1 Using the OMB-mandated discount rate that the EPA omitted reduces the 2020 estimate of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) by more than 80 percent.
      2 An updated estimate of the ECS distribution (CO2’s temperature impact) reduces the 2020 estimate of the SCC by more than 40 percent.
      3 With an updated ECS distribution, a time horizon up to 2150, and with the omitted discount rate, the 2020 estimate of the SCC falls to $4.03 from $37.79—a drop of nearly 90 percent.
      4 Since moderate and defensible changes in assumptions lead to such large changes in the resulting estimates of the SCC, the entire process is susceptible to political gaming.
      5 While running the DICE model (and similar integrated assessment models) may be a useful academic exercise, the results at this time are nowhere near reliable enough to justify trillions of dollars of government policies and burdensome regulations.


      I’ll add my own pet peeve to the stupidity of EPA CO2 “pollution” mandates. China isn’t cooperating. Making manufacturing and business in general more expensive in the US by raising the cost of energy through regulatory burdens passed on to consumers simply spurs those businesses to migrate overseas where such burdens don’t exist. Even worse, real pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, soot and other particulates, are not scrubbed from Chinese smokestacks like they are in the US. DICE is a stupid as stupid gets or in other words exactly what we’ve all come to expect from liberal faculty disconnected from reality in their ivory towers.

      Thanks for asking.

    • Yes Nordhaus is OTL. Why- The DICE model assumes damages that there is no reliable data to support occuring in the timeframes being considered.

  16. Okie-dokie. For those who deny that JC is a denier, her happily hosting this stuff should lay that to rest.

    • I retract this comment. I thought I was reading a headline from WUWT. (Please don’t tell my wife. She’s been on at me for years about my knee-jerk affliction and this will only give her more amo).

      • It’s OK Peter, I thought I was reading a comment at SkS. It’s easy to get confused when you comment before reading.

  17. Policy Engineer,

    Your first sentence is excellent: “The currently proposed expanded policy actions to reduce greenhouse emissions cannot be justified at this time.”

    The next sentence should be: “The government been less than candid with the public about the benefits and dangers of nuclear energy.”

  18. The answer is very simple: The energy suppliers depend on the government for rate increases, permits etc. So they go along with any nutty idea the government comes up with else they might be denied their profits.

    • Simple and obviously correct, Mr. Clark. I have a brother in law named David Clark. You couldn’t be him.

  19. First of all, we have working solutions to pollution. They’re actually quite inexpensive relative to the price of power. Its decades old technology. What we don’t have is a “solution” to the manufactured problem of CO2.

    I think the energy companies simply received the message of the greens. The greens made it crystal clear that anyone not with them is a villain and therefore clearly not to be trusted…especially if they have money…and that any scientist on that side was effectively a carbon demon trying to seduce the pure population.

    This problem actually goes much deeper than simple energy. These people have been trying to shut down all heavy industry because its “too polluting”, They’re the same people demanding all kinds of regulations to make the work face “fair” and free of any substance that might cause cancer (only at ridiculous exposures that can’t ever be encountered) then they sit in their coffee shops and lament the outsourcing, loss of the middle class workers, and wonder why it is all the local, small businesses are closing. They actually can’t figure out that a service based economy can’t function fully without…you know…stuff.

    This and things like political correctness are a cancer on common sense…a generation taught to be victims and that while “we can all make a difference” (by being neurotic by them), when it REALLY comes down to solutions, its the responsibility of someone else to make their dysfunctional, fantasy world actually work. And of course that someone else has to be the one with money because those are the only people that could afford such a dysfunctional dream.

  20. Once again, I will point to the book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” to help utilities in framing their case re: policy and advocacy. Fossil fuels are what make the lives we live in the Western world possible. I have asked the question many times of those with the belief that fossil fuel use is net negative to name me one thing in their lives that they eat, wear, walk on, use, or otherwise consume that is not somehow dependent on fossil fuels, and I am still waiting for an answer.

    I agree with PC re: the stupidity of the focus on Co2, but also understand PE’s point that his focus is not the validity of that argument, but coming up with a way to frame the debate about costs and benefits in the current political environment that will make people aware of renewable shortfalls. One problem is fighting the strawman arguments that dominate the coverage in the MSM, all the doom and gloom and calls for urgent, often irrational action. Unfortunately, until the MSM (along with gollywood and our school system) starts providing more balanced coverage, the average person will hear only what they’ve been hearing for the past 2-3 decades, and little to no progress will be made in making rational arguments about energy usage.

    • Planning Engineer

      Well said Barnes.

    • Barnes, PC and Joe Born below, you guys clearly get it!

      Alex Epstein’s book is well worth reading.

      PE, thanks for your post. One thing that bugs me though is your use of the term carbon as opposed to CO2. This is often confused in the MSM and by the progressive green mafia (on purpose). Controlling emissions of black carbon (and other true pollutants) is a good thing to do within reasonable limits. Reducing CO2 emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels in order to limit future temperature increases is a fools errand. It is the center piece of the CAGW hoax and as such needs to be advocated against strongly by those who understand it. My guess is that you understand this.

      • Planning Engineer

        I hadn’t picked up on carbon being a loaded word and did not intend to buy into a strategy I had not picked up on. (Not my only insensitivity to partisan vocabulary.) Sad truth is I was being lazy and not wanting to go to the trouble to make the small font needed for the 2. I will keep my eyes open on that one.

        Non-climate scientist to non-climate scientist, Matt Ridley’s take on CO2 (sorry I even cut and pasted yours, but the 2 is still big) seems well founded and reasonable to me.

        Take these three questions
        1) Does CO2 demand a response now?
        2) If so should it be done with electric generation, and
        3) If So should rate payers be responsible.

        I think I am near certain the answer to 3) should be no. For 2), I’m pretty confident that it should not be done with today’s intermittent renewable technologies, but maybe nuclear. For 1) I would not lose any sleep if we thought about it a few more years. But being open to question 1 for for the purpose of discussing 2 and 3 seems upsetting to many.

  21. I would also be interested in a post re: the benefits of increased Co2. After all, the alarmists here continually point to the fact that they can prove Co2 has a warming effect because it can be easily demonstrated in a laboratory. Likewise, it can be proven in the millions of labs around the world, called greenhouses, that increased levels of Co2 make green things grow faster, larger, produce more of what we need and want, while using less water. While we are at it, we can take a deeper look at the historical record on civilization re: what happens during warmer periods vs. cooler periods. I suspect Tony B., Kim and others could contribute greatly to such a post.

    I found it comical last year when a discussion erupted in the comments on one post re: the complexities around attributing too much benefit between Co2 and the biome. It seems that many pro-AGWers felt that the interaction was far too complex to model or to ascribe too much benefit, yet they continually state their case that Co2 is THE control knob for the entire climate system, which by the way, includes the Biome as but one of 5 subsystems making up the entire system. So, in other words, the AGWer argument was that the complexities surrounding interactions between biome and CO2 are too complex for mere humans to comprehend and model, but somehow, when you add in the other 4 subsytems along with all the externalities and who knows how many unknown unknowns, it becomes far simpler and much clearer how a trace gas making up .04% of just one of the 5 subsystems, and of which human contribution is but a fraction (some say as low as 3%) is what controls climate. If we control Co2, we will no longer have hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, floods, bad snow storms, and in fact, will live in some climate utopia that AGWer seem to think we lived in prior to the 1980s or so.

  22. If it were worthwhile to limit CO2 production and we could accurately evaluate its production’s externalities, then a fairly and efficiently administered carbon-dioxide-generation tax that matched those generalities’ cost would indeed be the appropriate way to limit CO2 generation. This is true independently of how much such a tax would affect the poor.

    The problem that poor people have is lack of money. If you want to help them the most with the least expense, give them money. Don’t attempt to help them by distorting the price mechanism under the theory that increasing of the cost of something will most hurt those who can least afford it. In most cases that reason isn’t an argument so much as a tautology: being least able to afford an increased cost is what it means to be most hurt by it.

    In the real world, of course, CO2 generation’s externalities are actually positive, not negative, we can’t evaluate them accurately, the tax (or, in the case of positive externalites, subsidy) we imposed wouldn’t match the externaliities, and it would not be administered either efficiently or fairly.

  23. Incidentally, if you’re looking for the larger case that the power and oil companies should be making, you could do a whole lot worse than read Alex Epstein’s “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

    Of course, Mr. Epstein doesn’t concede, as Planning Engineer is doing here for the sake of argument, that something needs to be done about CO2. generation.

  24. The very first place we should limit carbon emissions is the use of private jets – both private and public. Cut off the politicians and wealthy from their private jets and I bet policy changes quickly. Then limit all their travel – impose a mileage limit for all their commerical jet travel. Next, we limit politicians and green energy advocates to solar and wind sources for their homes – so if the wind isn’t blowing and it’s night time, all their power shuts down unless they pay for and maintain a bank of batteries in their house. If we can make those who advocate carbon emissions limits live with the actual results, the policies would be reversed rather quickly.

  25. I recommend this post on the Master Resources website that addressed the issue:

    “Nearly all will readily admit that the advocates of change are motivated by a progressive view of the social role that electric utilities should play in the future, animated most pointedly by climate-change ideology. The “malcontents” opposing them are for the most part the utilities themselves.

    But the utilities are subservient to the State, beginning with their franchise. Their bottom line is not necessarily affected by success in the market; it is driven by a half-point difference in the return on equity set by a public utility commission.

    While utilities are not completely impervious to the implications of many of the shiny objects being dangled before them, they cannot aggressively oppose the dumbest ones (did advocates of renewable portfolio standards learn nothing from the natural gas restrictions of the Fuel Use Act?). They must live in the real world, and that is a very political world.”

  26. Since healthy air is not a Left/right issue how about we all agree to invest a few billions to pump trillions of tons of negatively charged beach air into the environment?

  27. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Planning Engineer, your essay begins with a false premise and jumps immediately to a mistaken conclusion!

    Planning Engineer begins “I ‘admire utilities’ [the mistaken conclusion] for ‘staying out of the debates around environmental consequences’ [the mistaken premise] of emissions.”

    The invaluable SourceWatch provides abundant evidence against the premise that “utilities stay out of environmental debates”

    Organizations denying climate change

    Heartland Institute/ICCC Sponsors

    Why document the skeptics?

    Conclusion  Analyses that begin with false premises and jump immediately to mistaken conclusions aren’t worth much.

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  28. Planning Engineer,

    While I believe your proposed utility statement is correct in both its intent and content, it would would not be well received.

    Having been around for discussions with and about the California Public Utilities Commission, I can tell you that that statement would not be accepted well. One of the factors considered in utility rate cases is a company’s performance in environmental issues, including publicity and projects associated with global warming / CO2 reduction. Failing to present a solid ‘Green’ public image as perceived by the CPUC environmental staff would have a direct negative impact on Return On Investment allowed as well as approval of utility maintenance and construction projects.

    Additionally, the social climate in California and ,to a lesser extent, the rest of the US is such that your proposed statement would likely be interpreted as self serving and intended to increase profits at customer expense. “Corporate Greed” is a common, though illogical, complaint within the general public. While every penny collected and spent by a utility is both monitored by and controlled by adversarial negotiations with the CPUC, the public believes the CPUC is in the pocket of the utilities.

    • Planning Engineer

      There’s the rub. You are tight. For many involved it’s a lot about the widow with a small pension and others like here. But such talk seems insincere. So it’s more appropriate to use wordings of proper cost allocation, rate impacts in impersonal sterile terms.

    • John Vonderlin

      “While every penny collected and spent by a utility is both monitored by and controlled by adversarial negotiations with the CPUC, the public believes the CPUC is in the pocket of the utilities.”
      You must not live in the Bay Area if you believe the first part of that sentence. Web search “San Bruno pipeline disaster PG&E CPUC emails” and learn the truth. For five years locally we’ve been exposed to the depressing drip of details of the incestuous relationship of the CPUC and P.G.&E on a whole spectrum of issues.
      “Federal prosecutors have told Pacific Gas and Electric Co. that they are investigating five years’ worth of back-channel communications (a crime)between company employees and the California Public Utilities Commission, including several that enmeshed utility executives in a judge-shopping scandal, PG&E said Monday.”
      Mr Peavey, the CPUC’s former head, “retired” and several other top aides were booted because of an earlier batch of revelatory emails. But then lately there’s been a “call for an immediate forensic investigation of all erased correspondence on the computers of the new California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) president Michael Picker.”
      and this cozy, not adversarial, relationship resulted in a Federal indictment and huge fine because: “The suit alleges that, for decades, the defendants ignored safety violations, diverted funds earmarked for pipeline replacement projects and repeatedly cut budgets needed to safely maintain PG&E’s natural gas transmission and distribution lines – all of which ultimately culminated in a Sept. 9, 2010, explosion in San Bruno, Calif. that killed eight people and caused dozens of injuries.
      Every penny monitored and controlled? Be skeptical. Be very skeptical. I am, even when I’m cashing the hefty dividend checks I get quarterly from their stock.

      • John,

        Yep, exactly my point. Yours view is the common public opinion. Unfortunately, when viewed from the “Greedy Corporation” perspective, that is the way facts appear to line up. The truth is far different from that.

        What you are describing is the result of the internal politics of the CPUC. What happens is members of the CPUC and their internal groups negotiate for under the table concessions. The three investor owned utilities are forced to interact at that level. In spite of public opinion, those utilities are at the mercy of the CPUC. Every cent collected and every cent spent must be accounted for and approved by the CPUC.

        The great annoyance for the utilities is that any complaint made to the public about CPUC actions results in both subtle and overt punitive action. In spite of what the newspapers said, maintenance funds for things like those gas pipelines is not limited by the utilities, the amount is set by an administrative law judge. In the gas pipe line situation, PG&E campaigned for and was refused funds to deal with upgrades to the system. Once it blew up, the CPUC was forced to allow it.

        The internal issue within PG&E management was partially managers leaving because they were exhausted with the CPUC situation and a couple for being too proactive at coordinating with the CPUC.

        Of course, viewed from the “Greedy Corporation” perspective, what I just wrote will seem unbelievable.

  29. Matthew R Marler

    Planning Engineer: Except for a small percentage of profits denied to shareholders, when you expect unities to cover costs, it is the consumers who will pay.

    It is also the consumer who benefits. When there are external costs (e.g. someone downwind whose cattle or children suffer the consequences of the pollution), those costs should be included in the price somehow, so the costs will be paid by the beneficiaries. Actually working out the costs and the payment mechanisms is hard, but worthwhile, a difficult political debate and haggling among all interested and powerful parties.

    The debate about CO2 is about whether there are external costs of the CO2 that exceed any external benefits. For example, have there been social, agricultural etc costs of the appx 1C warming since 1850? And if so, was any of that warming caused by anthropogenic CO2?

    • Mathew – how are you going to measure the “downwind costs”? And, if you are going to put a price on external costs, you will also need to come up with an estimate of external benefit – like having reliable heat in the winter (especially for the elderly in the UK) and cooling in the summer, and if we are going to put a price on the cost of any possible warming caused by increased levels of Co2 along with any other external costs, we also have to put a price on the possible increased benefits of longer growing seasons and improved greening due to increased levels of Co2. The problem with the AGWers is that they only look at the possible downsides without considering the possible benefits. A valid cost/benefit analysis cannot be done without considering both.

      • Matthew R Marler

        Barnes: The problem with the AGWers is that they only look at the possible downsides without considering the possible benefits. A valid cost/benefit analysis cannot be done without considering both

        I agree.

        I did say that working out the costs and payment mechanisms was hard. For the case of lead pollution, the process has taken decades. Downwind and downstream costs included sick cattle, and middle class mothers with elevated blood lead levels.

    • Matthew, I understand that almost all of the output of power station chimneys is water vapour, harmful to none. No problem. The comparison with lead (your later post) is not relevant. Incidentally, in the two major areas of lead pollution in Australia (Mount Isa and Port Pirie), it always puzzles me why parents who complain that their children have been suffering from lead pollution for years have not moved away. If you knowingly remain, what’s the case for compensation?

      • Matthew R Marler

        Faustino: If you knowingly remain, what’s the case for compensation?

        The middle class mothers I mentioned did not exactly suffer. But inner city kids had pretty high blood lead levels. People downwind from battery factories did not know what was wrong with their cattle until it was very late, and then they could not sell the meat or the milk and lost money. It took a long time for them to get any recompense.

        It was about the same, but worse, with mercury in Lake Minimata in Japan, and asbestos in the US ship-building industries — most people knew nothing about the dangers.

        I do not think that CO2 is remotely like lead pollution; the only thing they have in common is that if the public decides there is a problem then the problems of allocating costs and providing redress and such such will require a long and arduous process to achieve any resolution.

      • Matthew,

        The big difference between lead, mercury, asbestos, and CO2 is that animals exhale and plants inhale CO2 – it is not a pollutant.

        I support very tough and equitably enforced anti-pollution and environmental protection regulations.

  30. “What are the messages from energy providers to date? (I could easily of have missed something. So if you know of anything; I’d appreciate your sharing them.)”

    During baseball season Entergy mentions their Indian Point Energy Center, a 3 reactor nuclear power facility on the Hudson near Peekskill. The of course never mention “nuclear”, only that the plant is “as green as the grass at Yankee Stadium”. IIRC they mention no emissions, but in the 2014 season they dropped the climate change link.

  31. Matthew R Marler

    Planning Engineer: Readers – you might help me. Are there good reasons, besides political expediency, to focus so strongly on carbon from electric energy production?

    Instead of “political expediency”, use the phrase “efficacious policy”. Some people have proposed that CO2 is a problem; if so, electricity generation is a large part of that problem, and an efficacious policy to reduce the CO2 produced by electricity generation is in the public interest. It is debatable whether CO2 is a problem (we debate it here, and Congress debates it, and it is debated in publications), but not hard to understand why it might be a problem.

    The use of the phrase “political expediency” suggests that you have already decided that CO2 is not a problem.

  32. Planning Engineer

    Mathew I just meant to suggest that power providers were a more vulnerable (expedient target) than the transportation and industry sectors.

    • Planning Engineer

      Your wording is better there Matthew.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Planning Engineer: Mathew I just meant to suggest that power providers were a more vulnerable (expedient target) than the transportation and industry sectors.

      I see. There are calls for alternate transportation: electric cars charged by the wind; H2 as fuel. I think it might just be, granting your idea, that coal is the easiest target.

  33. Easy, lungs pay. Or maybe it’s sell. Where’s my antique Samuelson’s?

    • It’s on my bookshelf:
      Samuelson, Paul A. Economics: An Introductory Analysis. 3rd edition. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1955.

  34. Regarding a carbon tax and its effect on the poor, a tax with some revenue neutral aspect would be a net gain for those using less than the average carbon. If you pool the tax from industry, home and transportation, and then redistribute that back to users in some way, it benefits the lowest users. The trick is to figure out who counts as a user. Is it anyone with a utility bill, and/or anyone with a car? There are ways for rich people to game the system and count as multiple low-carbon users.

    • Gruber can work it out for you, yimmy. He will build you a model and toon it just right for ya. He don’t work his magic on the cheap, tho.

    • Wrong– a revenue neutral carbon tax does little to reduce consumption long term and is an expensive tax to administer

    • ‘Revenue neutral’ is a delusion held by washington goobers who believe in their own significance more than the decisions of producers and consumers.

      The whole idea to tax carbon is to get people to stop using it, right?
      Then what happens to ‘revenue neutral’ if they actually do stop?

      What taxing carbon would do is induce taxpayers to alter behaviour, not on business merit, but on tax code, which is the definition of inefficiency.

      I guess that’s why washingtonians are so excited about exaggerating global warming so they can have justification for taxing something that’s difficult to quit.

      • > … induce taxpayers to alter behaviour, not on business merit, but on tax code, which is the definition of inefficiency

        From Jimmy Doo Doo’s viewpoint, inefficiency is a wonderful way to reduce consumption and redistribute other people’s money by force

    • Some of those who would benefit from it are also against it, but more for political reasons. This could also be administered at local utility level as a flat rebate based on collected carbon tax. California is doing it as “climate credits”, but based on cap-and-trade that they are operating there rather than a carbon tax.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Jim D: If you pool the tax from industry, home and transportation, and then redistribute that back to users in some way, it benefits the lowest users.

      Market prices already benefit the lowest users. In detail, how can an actual tax and administrative staff improve on that?

  35. “Greenies” should be restricted to micro-grids, with no connection to the real grid or fossil fuels.

  36. Very nice post, PE. I think there are two simple things going on that will prevent messaging such as you suggest. Electric utilities are heavily regulated, so generally have to go along to get along. Second, the renewables industries have obviously ‘bought’ a lot of political clout. Solyndra shows this at the national level. Excluding the Eagle Crest pumped storage project from CPUCs energy storage mandate (itself caused by renewable intermittency) shows it at the state level. Essay California Dreaming. Put the two together and you get the present situation. And that situation is worse in the UK and Germany. RWE is even splitting in two to isolate conventional generation, increasingly unprofitable because of the baseload inefficiencies and added peaking costs forced on it by the Energiewende. Won’t end well for either country, or in California.

  37. John Smith (it's my real name)

    PE, you say
    “On the one hand I admire utilities for staying out of the debates around the environmental consequences of emissions.”

    Does anyone, even just one, on the warmist side agree with this statement?
    I would ask if JimD, FOMD, or Gates, would concede your point.
    From my observation you are correct, however few accept the fact.
    I do observe skeptics being universally accused of being paid off or brainwashed by the industry.
    I fear a rational debate on this issue is nearly impossible because it is really a proxy cause disguising a deeper culture war few of us understand and are willing to talk about.

    • Planning Engineer

      I’m curious as well. Many others agree that utilities can’t speak up and said so in strong words.

      FOMD posted a “refutation” above. He provided three links from Sourcewatch saying utilities don’t stay out. None of the links seemed to tie to any of the “utilities/power providers/energy providers” I mean to be referring to. Maybe my sloppy use of those three terms somewhat interchangeably contributed to the confusion. I don’t think of Exxon as a Utility a power provider or an energy provider. Especially not in the context as being a entity challenger by a responsibility to rate payers under the Clean Power Act or renewable mandates.

      I was hoping this post would help me understand a little more about the economic justice take of those who favor renewables. To me that should cause some concern. Maybe that’s why FOMD resp9onded with just outright dismissal.

      • Planning Engineer

        I think I found the link that was buried in the three citations. Excel energy donated to the American Legislative Exchange Council as recently as 2010. Furthermore they donate money to both Democratic and Republican candidates to Congress, they’ve used tax breaks and their CEO makes big bucks. Am I missing others?

      • Unfortunately PE, the only economic “justice” that will satisfy the renewables crowd is the complete dismantling of the fossil fuel industry, and on the (barely) more extreme side, the arrest and prosecution of Oil company CEOs and the like. As GaryM stated above, your basic statement would not likely be well received, and would more likely than not elicit childish responses like those of FOMD, Then of course, we have the convoluted logic of Jim D. with the simple solution that if we just find new and better methods to tax everyone in a fair and balanced way, all problems will be solved. We are dealing with people who are simply disconnected from reality. They are blind ideologs who see only harm coming from our use of fossil fuels, despite the blindingly obvious benefits.

        The following link provides another bit of info that the renewables crowd should read and respond to.

      • Planning Engineer

        Good link Barnes. Thanks

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Planning Engineer, a simple Google search for “Duke Energy” indictments will help you to appreciate the importance of two questions that your essay overlooked: who runs energy corporations?” and who regulates them?”

      Your increased curiosity and closer attention to these matters will be appreciated, Planning Engineer!

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      • Planning Engineer

        Your quote:
        The invaluable SourceWatch provides abundant evidence against the premise that “utilities stay out of environmental debates”

        Well since you gave three links, I would have figured one of those covered it. But the links don’t seem to do any better. Committing fraud of engaging in unethical business practices means you are engaging in the environmental debate? No more soup for you FOMD.

      • Planning Engineer

        From a previous post: 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.

      • PE
        Well said!

  38. Holy smokes, at first I thought this a JC post instead of a guest post. I was all ready to come in screaming yeahNay-whatever dal appropriate to my tribe. Yeah, slacker shame, bad Mark.
    Who is we?
    When we talk climate, it’s possible that this is the fundametal question none of us getz. Who’s we?
    If we could answer this confidently and intelligently, I think humanity would win.

    • Downright revolutionary thought, Mark. So let’s be formal; start with ‘we’ to be white, male and land-owning. I suspect it’ll be useful to broaden the inclusive requirements at some point.

      • so close and yet so far.

        Does the color of my skin matter when I contemplate the future of my kids, does the fact that the son in law might be a member of muslim brotherhood outweigh the fact that he’s studying computer science. No, not really.

        It’s not what I was talking abuut Kim.

        Look, there are some truths that we all accept. I think that the ‘WE’ part is harder that the ‘TRUTH’ part, that’s all Iz be sayin. Ez. Sayin-Ez. Ye-Ah. You saw what I did there.


        I need a nap.

    • Oh.


      We’re apes right? We be bright eyes.

      Darnit. I sit down and shup now; cookie me.


  39. A good question to ask is: how many people are at risk of energy poverty? One measure of such a risk is to determine how much of the family’s budget is spent on housing. When a homeowner’s mortgage is >30% of income or a renter’s rent is >43% of income. Query: how many people are in these categories?

    30% of homeowner’s mortgage is >30% of household income.

    30% of renter’s rent is >43% of household income.

    These are the people at high risk for energy poverty if not already immersed up to their eyeballs.

    American Community Estimate 2009 to 2013 with 2010 US Census.

    • Steven Mosher

      “Electricity is the bargain among all consumer energy products. Among consumer
      energy goods and services, electricity has maintained relatively lower annual
      average price increases compared to residential natural gas and gasoline.
      Electricity prices have increased by 51% in nominal dollars since 1990, well
      below the 72% rate of inflation in the Consumer Price Index. The nominal prices
      of residential natural gas and gasoline have nearly doubled and tripled,
      respectively, over this period.”

      “Higher gasoline prices account for nearly four-fifths of the increased cost of
      energy for consumers since 2001. In nominal dollars, average U.S. household
      expenditures for gasoline will grow by 136% from 2001 to 2012, based on EIA
      gasoline price projections for 2012. In comparison, residential energy costs for
      heating, cooling, and other household energy services will increase on average by
      43%, from $1,493 in 2001 to a projected $2,131 per household in 2012.

      • Interesting. Would be even more interesting to see updated statistics.

        Interesting is that 80% of the increase was due to increases in the price of gasoline. Interesting that the cost increase in household energy is some 1/4 that of gasoline. I wonder what updating would do to that number?

        Interesting that electricity cost increase has been less than inflation in the CPI.

        Interesting to think of what the implications would have been for synergistic positive externalities derived from greater subsidizing of electric cars/electric-powered public transportation (less increase in fuel costs, less pollution, less enriching of autocrats who deprive their populations of basic civic infrastructure with the potential for significant opportunity cost in human capital).

        So I wonder if simplistic assumptions about the “coupling” of GDP growth and energy demand and the impact on different demographic sectors of the public might just be…um…er…eh…simplistic?

        I wonder that Danny thinks about those numbers?

      • I am frankly surprised, Steven Mosher, that you are still around after Steven Goddard and others demonstrated the data manipulation behind AGW.

        I deeply regret that the BEST team drug the good name of UC-Berkeley onto the consensus train before it derailed.

      • I wonder what would have happened if Obama had succeeded in his plan to kill coal companies and stop electric utilities use of coal with his carbon tax. He said it would make the cost of electricity “skyrocket”.

        Well it took him a while to get around to fulfilling that campaign promise.

      • “Interesting to think of what the implications would have been for synergistic positive externalities derived from greater subsidizing of electric cars/electric-powered public transportation (less increase in fuel costs, less pollution, less enriching of autocrats who deprive their populations of basic civic infrastructure with the potential for significant opportunity cost in human capital). ”

        Interesting that someone writes something so completely meaningless.

      • Steven Mosher

        “I am frankly surprised, Steven Mosher, that you are still around after Steven Goddard and others demonstrated the data manipulation behind AGW.

        I deeply regret that the BEST team drug the good name of UC-Berkeley onto the consensus train before it derailed.”

        Lets see. Berkeley adjustments COOL the record post 1960.
        That’s right.
        Those crazy guys adjusting the ocean cooled it.
        and the berkeley guys cooled the record after 1960. WTF..
        we didnt get the conspiracy memo.

        Wait.. you didnt know that. Goddard didnt know that.

        Now that Booker and Delingpole have swallowed the conspiracy meme, hook line and sinker.. bobber on the lips..

        its time to reel them in.

        See the post coming.

      • Mosh

        Will your article specifically tackle the examples given by booker and delingpole which gained quite wide traction herr?

        . I am not a conspiracy theorist so I look forward to your explanation as to why some believe the past has been deliberately cooled.


      • Steven Mosher

        From your link:

        “On average, energy costs have nearly doubled as a fraction of annual family budgets since 2001. The unequal distribution of incomes in the United States imposes disproportionate energy cost burdens on minority and senior households. The average after-tax incomes of low- and middle-income U.S. families have not grown since 2001. Meanwhile, inflation has eroded 27% of the value of American families’ incomes.”

        “For low- and middle-income families, energy costs are now consuming a portion of after- tax household income comparable to that traditionally spent on major categories such as housing, food, and health care.”

        “In 2010, 62% of Hispanic households and 68% of Black households had average annual incomes below $50,000, compared with 46% of white households and 39% of Asian households. Due to these income inequalities, the burdens of energy price increases are imposed disproportionately on Black and Hispanic households”

        “The relatively modest long-term rate of price increase for residential electricity reflects, in part, the electric utility industry’s historic reliance on low-cost coal for roughly one- half of its energy supplies. …coal prices delivered to electric utilities over the past decade have remained low and stable relative to competing fuels”

        “Current and prospective EPA rules for the utility sector are expected to result in additional electricity price increases in many areas of the country. For example, U.S. EPA estimates the annual costs of compliance with one recent Clean Air Act regulation – the utility Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule – at $9.6 billion (in 2007 dollars) in 2016. The projected annual cost of this rule is 45% greater than EPA’s $6.6 billion (in 2006 dollars) estimate of the costs of compliance with all utility Clean Air Act requirements in 2010”

        It is indeed ironic that Obama, via his Green agenda, has invoked the “nuclear option” in the War on those in Poverty. Wouldn’t LBJ & MLK be proud. (sarc.)

      • Steven Mosher

        “I am not a conspiracy theorist so I look forward to your explanation as to why some believe the past has been deliberately cooled.”

        Well, I cannot explain why they refused to look at the sites that had their past warmed.
        I cannot explain why they didnt see that we cool the arctic
        that we cool africa
        that we lower trends from 1960 to today.

        Rest assured an algorithm was built that was BLIND to human politics.
        Blind to cherry picking.
        It looks at all the data and then minimizes the error.

        Sometimes that warms the past and cools the present
        Sometimes that cools the past and warms the present.
        Sometimes it does nothing.

        The thing that needs explaining is why someone would only choose half of those examples to accuse people of criminal acts.

        And the thing that needs explaining is why skeptics want to give those folks a pass.

        So ask them.

        Why does Berkeley Cool Africa?
        Why do Berkeley adjustments decrease the trend from 1960 to today in the critical time when human forcings are strongest.
        Ask them why they ignore corrections in one direction.

        Me? I show all the data and code. And then guys like Delingpole and Booker, and homewood, do 1 of two things

        A) they look through all the data till they find what they want, and fool YOU
        B) They look through a little bit, find what they want and fool themselves and you.

      • John Smith (it's my real name)

        you…distinguished learned gentleman with a good reputation to uphold
        “deliberately cooled” = conspiracy

      • I haven’t been following this discussion at all, but I had to laugh when I saw this in my RSS reader:

        Well, I cannot explain why they refused to look at the sites that had their past warmed.
        I cannot explain why they didnt see that we cool the arctic
        that we cool africa
        that we lower trends from 1960 to today.

        Since BEST doesn’t actually publish what its results would be without its adjustments. The only way to check how the adjustments affect their results for an area is to look up the area you’re interested in. That’s alright if you’re only interested in an area or two, but it makes doing any sort of systematic analysis of the effects of BEST’s adjustments a huge chore.

        This is kind of like saying, “I can’t explain why people didn’t see the results we didn’t bother to publish.”

      • My take on the land record and temperature construction is that if you have the talent, time, and inclination; you should do a deep dive into BEST’s methodology. If you haven’t done that, you are making baseless accusations. Or, you can appeal to some authority or another, it’s just you never know for sure unless you do it yourself.

        Some problems I see:
        1. The true raw data isn’t really the scribbles of farmer John on paper. What passes for “raw” data has already been adjusted.
        2. IIRC, some organization “lost” their raw data entirely.
        3. The land temp reconstruction(s) does not seem to comport with the sat readings – this knowing they are from different altitudes.

        I still trust the sat numbers more than the land temp reconstructions.

    • Steven Mosher

      “For low- and middle-income families, energy costs are now consuming a portion of aftertax
      household income comparable to that traditionally spent on major categories such as
      housing, food, and health care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2010 Consumer
      Expenditure Survey reports that 121 million “consumer units” in the U.S. with an average
      pre-tax income of $62,481 in 2010 spent an average of $16,557 (27%) on housing,
      $6,129 (10%) for food, and $3,157 (5%) on healthcare.”

    • David L. Hagen

      Stephen Mosher’s post highlights why CO2 is a red herring, avoiding the real problem of liquid transport fuels.

      average U.S. household expenditures for gasoline will grow by 136% from 2001 to 2012, based on EIA gasoline price projections for 2012. In comparison, residential energy costs for heating, cooling, and other household energy services will increase on average by 43%,

      Carbon taxes addresses a very minor problem when we should be dealing with critically important issue of transport fuels to keep our economies going.

  40. Retired Engineer

    As a retired utility engineer I watched the change in upper management philosophy take place over the last 10 – 15 years. Specifically with respect to not burning coal, the more conservative managers were talking a decade ago, with disdain, about their counterparts who had “drank the Koolaid” and were looking to abandon coal. Now the managers and public relations people only talk (in public) about how they are working to be good stewards of the environment. Some utilities are trying to work to minimize the cost impacts of shutting down coal and moving to more expensive sources. Some utilities have powerful politicians greasing the skids for them to get past any state opposition, including the Public Service Commissions, who are there to protect the public unnecessary charges. The small rural co-ops are probably the last ones to try and make a stand against increasing costs because they are their own customers.

    I realize this is just hearsay, but before I retired I was listening to a discussion of several managers from around the western U.S. The ones representing a large utility in a very progressive state said that the mandated move towards renewables and moving totally away from coal was, by that utilities estimates, going to result in an electric rate of $.28 per kWh by (I believe) 2025 (it could have been sooner).

    Comparing “cleaning up the air” to getting us to the moon is fine except that the people just getting by didn’t get one of their biggest monthly bills doubled as a result.

    • Spot on. Gotta stop the narrative-pondering, culture-unravelling, taxonomy-towarding etc…and just burn us some coal, preferably in efficient new facilities which do not waste a precious lump and which minimise non-imaginary pollution.

      When there’s something better than coal, we’ll use that instead.

  41. We don’t need to wait until the average global temperature trend is unequivocally down. It is trivially easy for anyone with access to existing CO2 and temperature measurement data-sets to falsify the statement that CO2 (at any level that ever existed) causes significant warming.

    If CO2 is a forcing, a scale factor times average CO2 level times the duration divided by the effective thermal capacitance (consistent units) equals the temperature change of the duration. During previous glaciations and interglacials (as so dramatically presented in An Inconvenient Truth) CO2 and temperature went up and down nearly together. This is impossible if CO2 is a significant forcing so this actually proves CO2 CHANGE DOES NOT CAUSE SIGNIFICANT CLIMATE CHANGE.

    See more on this and discover the two factors that do cause climate change (95% correlation since before 1900) at . The two factors which explain the last 300+ years of climate change are also identified in a peer reviewed paper published in Energy and Environment, vol. 25, No. 8, 1455-1471.

  42. Planning engineer believes that this is the industry’s current message:

    “Please be fully aware of and consider the cost and reliability implications of the proposed policies as well as what is possible in a limited time range. We stand ready to go along and do the best we can with whatever policies are adopted”.

    A more cynic or realistic view might be:

    As long as electricity distributors are allowed to pass the full costs of generation and distribution on to our customers – including a fair return on our current and future capital investments – our industry will abide by any emissions plan legislators and regulators devise. Public utility commissions, not the industry, are responsible for setting the rates that we charge most of our customers. Power distributors and the generators they own generally do not earn more profits from providing cheaper or more reliable electricity to our customers. It isn’t their job to decide whether “the currently proposed expanded policy actions to reduce greenhouse emissions” are economically “justified at this time” or “provide significant net environmental benefits as part of any thorough lifetime analysis.” The industry is owned mostly by mutual funds (“share renters”) that are interested in little besides the price of our stock. Current management must be principally concerned with current profit and avoiding regulatory and legislative actions that threaten those profits – and the very existence of businesses. (Flawed regulations and legislation drove California’s power distributors into bankruptcy in 2001.) Future management will be able to deal with the unreliability of renewable power more effectively once the public has experienced the consequences.

    • Frank, what you say is only partly true. The reason is [although I can only point to specifics in Florida (hurricane hardening) and Massachusetts (Cape Wind)] regulators do not automatically pass through hidden intermittency costs or necessary minimum returns on new capital investments. This post is not the place to debate regulatory law, but rate setting is highly politicized. So badly that a big German utility announced it was throwing in the towel. See comment upthread.

  43. Contributions to greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation is some 26%. Black carbon has a bigger forcing. Real responses require a broader base – one that encompasses social and economic development.

  44. So big oil and big power should send out press releases saying that decarbonization is a bad idea?

    Maybe somebody didn’t notice all the ads from BP, Exxon/Mobil and Shell touting how ‘green’ they are? Or maybe you failed to see all the press about their contributions to Green Peace, university ‘research departments’ and CAGW proponents?

    Power companies? They are the prototypical crony capitalists, with government frequently guaranteeing them a profit.

    Don’t expect anything other than lip service regarding the benefits of the free market from these companies. They would much rather lobby government, than compete in the open market.

    • Yep. One side of the fossil fuel industry is out to flay the other. It’s Coke versus Pepsi, and one of them has the greener bottle. Big Oil/Gas loves wimpy alternative power – so ripe for supplementing with some “transitional” oil and gas!

      The best energy source is the one which minimises expense, waste, hot wars, cold wars and pipeline wars, and which actually does not suck. In Australia’s case, that means coal/nukes for electricity. Throw in some gas, maybe.

      I wish it well, but Big Oil needs to be just “the oil industry” again…just another shop along the strip.

    • Utilities in the US and in just about every other country around the world is in cahoots with government. Government tamps down competition, hands out special tax breaks, and generally keeps the winners winning. While companies fork out loads of cash to the politicians. Look how the pubs promised to limit immigration – that is until they got into office. Now they want to hand Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo all the cheap HIBs they can take on, while the likes of SCE lay off Americans when obviously, they have already hired workers with the needed skills. That puts the lie to the H1B story. Companies want cheap labor – period.

      From the article:

      Information technology workers at Southern California Edison (SCE) are being laid off and replaced by workers from India. Some employees are training their H-1B visa holding replacements, and many have already lost their jobs.

      Computerworld interviewed, separately, four affected SCE IT employees. They agreed to talk on the condition that their names not be used.

      The IT employees at SCE are “beyond furious,” said a second IT worker.

      The H-1B program “was supposed to be for projects and jobs that American workers could not fill,” this worker said. “But we’re doing our job. It’s not like they are bringing in these guys for new positions that nobody can fill.

      “Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn’t already performing,” he said.


    I liked “Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan. He has some good ideas in this article regarding agricultural sequestering of carbon. Permaculture – planting trees and perennials, keeping bees, aquaculture, hedgerows – is a great idea but the word has been hijacked by the sustainable/lefty/social justice movement.

  46. It is obvious that the public has berg fooled by the media who realise that the public do not know the difference between carbon as a visible pollutant ( soot) and carbon in carbon dioxide. \Why else would TV precede any climate news item with pictures of chimneys belching soot?. The public should know that all reputable power stations use precipitators or scrubbers to remove soot from their chimneys. Carbon pollutant in power station chimneys indicate inefficient combustion and cost the utility money in waisted fuel.

    Any contributor to this topic should know thif.

    • Retired Engineer

      Actually the pictures are generally of stacks belching evaporated water from wet limestone scrubbers along with the exhaust gases. There are some really tight particulate (soot) regulations on power plants already.

  47. “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have—POWER.”
    Matthew Boulton, James Watts’ business partner.

    The electricity industry is in the same position today. They know we need their product. So they’ll go along with putting up prices, as necessary, plus a little bit more.

    • Seems they have us over a barrel.(

    • The electricity industry has increased prices, as necessary, plus a little bit more. That is reasonable. Our Electric providers have kept our prices down very well. in 1976 I did pay about 3 pennies per KWH. I do have the data. In 1983, I paid about 9 pennies per KWH. i do have the data. Now, I pay about 18 pennies per KWH. I do have the data. I could switch providers and easily get better than that. My electric rates have doubled in the same time that my income went up an order of magnitude. Of course, if you don’t live in Texas, you may have not got this good deal. Some states and some countries have done some really stupid stuff. I do have relatives and friends in some other places who have not been ripped off as much as people in the alarmist states and countries.

      • We elected people who did regulate the electricity industry. We replaced that with deregulation, most prices have not gone up. We really do have them over a barrel. They do try to max their profits, but then other companies undercut them and get our business.

        Keep the EPA out of Texas and we will be just fine.

  48. The solutions for electricity generation are decades old. I’d suggest it involves a mix of generating technologies – including landfill gas – but essentially nuclear.

  49. This is a confusing Gish’s gallop of a post. Denier mythology is asserted as fact, and dubious claims about the economics of not using the atmosphere as a garbage dump are presents, sans citation, as facts.

    The central thesis seems to be that fossil fuel interests aren’t doing enough to promote waste and pollution, environmental destruction and global warming. That is laughable. Obviously they are doing everything they can, but, as a matter of common sense, they have to lie to the public about it.

    The poster’s question is like asking why Republicans don’t openly promote white supremacy. It is because they are intelligent enough to know that the human decency they themselves lack is nevertheless present to others.

    Here’s what we know: the basic principle is that the polluter pays. If the “energy producers” (an Orwellian variant on referring to plutocrats as “job creators”) want to use the atmosphere as a waste dump, they should pay the cost for it. Or regulations pay prohibit it, just as they prohibit dumping radioactive waste in our drinking water.

    In the event that polluter pays places an undue burden on the poor, the solution could not be simpler: tax the rich and give the money to the poor. Problem solved, if poor people are actually what you’re worried about and not merely props in a game of insincere political theater.

    • Tell you what Robert, why don’t you shut down your laptop, cell phone, HVAC, shed the clothes you wear, eat only foods produced by Amish farms using no fossil fuel powered machinery, get a horse for transportation – and shed every other item in your life that is dependent on fossil fuels and let us know how that works out for you.

    • “If the “energy producers” want to use the atmosphere as a waste dump, they should pay the cost for it.”
      I don’t think the issue is pollution. We are happy with the amount of pollution we have if we ignore CO2. I say this as the courts and politicians over time have brought us our pollution level status quo and while we could do more, there are other priorities as well to address. We have CO2 policies and need to decide who will pay for them?
      “…the solution could not be simpler: tax the rich and give the money to the poor.”
      Which is to pay for CO2 reductions using a progressive formula. Adding a carbon tax to the form 1040 to compensate the poor with a refundable carbon credit. While this may seem simple, by the time to politicians get through with it we may see something not so simple. Where your above polluter logic may fail is that if we dump carbon into the atmosphere and now greatly reduce it, the rest of the world may not do much of that. In that case most of the rest of world is a free rider, and everything we pay for more expensive energy sources gives us very little tangible benefits. So in the case of the United States, do we punish our rich regarding CO2, our poor or both according to a political compromise. And after we’ve punished somebody, will we even see a difference?

    • “tax the rich and give the money to the poor.” Economic growth comes about because of people’s incentives to raise their living standards, to increase their wealth. All funds for the poor, whoever they may be (for the record, I grew up in a poor fatherless family), come from the efforts of the wealth-creators, which do not include government. Anti-wealth creation policies = lower growth = less for the poor. You can only redistribute so far, and I suspect that the US has crossed that line. Reduce/remove incentives for wealth creation in your jurisdiction, and people will take themselves, their ideas, their funds, their energy and innovativeness elsewhere. Then what will you do, Robert?

  50. From the article:

    The IPCC has published a series of five multi-volume climate change assessment reports, the most recent of which was completed just a few months ago, as well as a number of special reports assessing specific issues. Over time, the organization has subtly adjusted its position on the role of nuclear power as a contributor to de-carbonization goals. Here is a timeline of the IPCC’s shifting attitude toward nuclear power.

  51. “We are headed for serious adverse climatic consequences if we don’t adopt clean, affordable efficient low cost renewables”.

    The greens and the press view as ok:
    1. Lying by the greens
    2. Savagely attacking anyone who is remotely honest.

    That is the problem in a nutshell.

    Renewables are not:
    1. Clean
    2. Affordable
    3. Efficient
    4. Low cost.

    “We are headed for serious adverse climatic consequences” is not a fact. It is an opinion. It is based on some unlikely assumptions and bad modeling.

    Unless the greens are honest about the situation a discussion is futile.

  52. “Putting a large chunk of the responsibility for our collective carbon footprint disproportionately on the backs of low income families who bear minimal responsibility for the problems should create significant concerns.”
    And, not discouraging/failing to subsidize coal power generation for poor countries can be said to be a cost they bear based on our ideas. I find these two things similar and perhaps hints at their point of view. You bring up the idea of using utilities which are on the scale of total to partial monopolists to implement green ideas. Perhaps this is a low hanging fruit idea, the easiest way to go about it, with the possible result of energy poverty. Which is to say, the easiest approach hurts the poor. Let’s bring in a North/South comparison. We Yankees want you poor in the South to not raise the global temperature so much that our electricity bills go up a lot. We want cooler Summers and less weeks of running our Air Conditioners. We would rather run our AC as little as possible and we expect you to help with that. If temperatures continue to rise, you’ll suffer the most, so this is for your own good and the fact that we are saving too on our electrical bills really isn’t your concern. Since the South has in general better PV conditions, you’re lucky. Your utilities can incorporate that. Meanwhile, we’ll burn natural gas in the Winter to stay warm and kind of not use too much solar.

    • Planning Engineer

      Yes I think trying to prevent Africa and India from improving their lot with fossil fuel generation is the other side of the same bad coin.

    • “You bring up the idea of using utilities which are on the scale of total to partial monopolists to implement green ideas. Perhaps this is a low hanging fruit idea, the easiest way to go about it, with the possible result of energy poverty. ”

      The greens have made a number of statements that quite clearly indicate they do not consider the well-being of the general population a priority.

      The green goal is to reduce energy use and population. Making energy scarce and more expensive is a feature of their plan and not a problem to be solved.

      The problem with a debate with greens is you are trying to have a discussion with dishonest crazy people. They want fewer people leaving a smaller energy footprint (less people/less affluence). It is hard to sell that agenda in an honest fact-friendly way to a group of people (the general population) that the greens by and large don’t want to have around.

      Since the green agenda is

  53. From about 1902 to today – yes, today – companies have sold an uncountable number of asbestos grinding machines to the general public. These machines have introduced an unknown amount of finely ground asbestos into the air which we breathe.

    Asbestos is relatively inert, and there is no way of knowing just how much an individual has breathed in during their life, or what health impacts will occur.

    These asbestos grinding machines are called motor vehicles.

    If you give the choice of breathing say 400 ppm CO2, or an unknown quantity of finely divided asbestos, I might choose the CO2.

    As of 2015, the following items were not banned by the EPA in the US –

    Automatic transmission components
    Clutch facings
    Friction materials
    Disk brake pads
    Drum brake linings
    Brake blocks

    Still worried about clean air?

    It looks as though we need to define clean, before we start worrying about who is to pay. It surprised me, too!

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  54. P.E.
    Thank you for your work and for the fortitude to post publically. I’ll join you.

    Okay folks, lemme have it. Tossing out a bit of polyanna here. Let’s do lotto. Attaching solor to our individual roofs is voluntary. Allowing utilities to control our individual thermostats is voluntary. Since there is broad discussion questioning CO2/GHG emissions all the while a push for “action” how about an experiment. Hypothetical “Green, California” a fairly green town wants solar. It will cost “X” dollars to install. So “Green’s” utility offers to accept voluntary supplemental payments and on reaching a certain goal funding will be aquired and construction proceeds. Nobody is required to participate allowing fixed income/poor a “pass” and the more financially capable individuals contribute. Corporations do also and use that for marketing, momentum builds (or dies on the vine). This way those who put forth the concepts also put forth the funding. Might answer a few questions.

    Ball’s in play! Thoughts?

    ( Side note to Joshua, I’m hearing ya. I’m working and have little time and know I owe you some follow up. Forgive my transgressions. We’ll get there eventually.)

    • I don’t like the idea of a “town” buying solar. I can see where that leads here in sunny California – political patronage. I would like to buy electricity at the lowest possible rates from a big utility unencumbered by ridiculous mandates. I buy everything else wherever I want and that works fine – that is called choice. I would like to do the same with electricity.

      If someone wants to put PV on their roof, fine, but no subsidies, tax credits, or net metering.

      • Justin Wonder,

        Thank you. Would that apply to any level? (Neighborhood to state). And may I ask why? If you don’t approve, you don’t support financially. Those who do either put up or (well you know). Strictly voluntary, no mandate, test the waters. Doesn’t have to be solar. Could be wind, methane, (nuclear?) whatever.

        In some states, consumers have “choice” of whom to pay for their electricity. Maybe even a “green” power company could evolve (just tossing stuff out). I don’t know how California does it and only chose that as we know California professes “green” orientation. It could as easily be Nebraska or Florida (or anywhere). Would that modify thinking if you could chose your provider and even go so far as to vote with your feet?

      • Danny,

        I want to buy what works for me, my choice, just like the way I buy everything else. Unfortunately, it does not work that way today. If we are going to have utility monopoly, like we have today, I don’t want the government mandating a plum for their various donors and then passing along the costs to me, as is done now.

      • Justin,

        And I want you to have that choice also. Here’s a Texas example:
        Same power, consumer choice with “plans” to fit need.

        So, if one wishes to support solar (as an example) one choses that company.
        And it’s a marketing tool if coporate wishes to participate. Thinking Apple’s commercial where they contributed $10M seed money (another example). Green feel good passed along by buying new iPhone.

        Again, I don’t know if you have that choice in California. And not all of Texas does.

    • Planning Engineer

      My thought would be to get peoples commitments in writing first. Now let me admit upfront my understanding of this is secondhand and may be based on huge distortions – I don’t know where/if this is documented. But there is a common perception that frequently utilities have asked consumers if they are willing to spend X more dollars for green energy and when they develop such programs and try to market green energy for X more dollars the participation rates look nothing like what the survey results indicated. I’ve suspected this understanding to be true-but I can’t vouch for it.

    • It’s all good, Danny.

      • Joshua,

        Quick note while having a bite for lunch. Re:”It’s all good, Danny.”

        Wondering where your commitment is to my hypothetical voluntary utility plan?

        I got one no, and zero favorables. Excluding P.E. as he was “lukewarm” :). So is all the AGW “we gotta fix it” only for purposes of discussion and not worthy of financial commitment? Does it require O.P.M. (other peoples money)? Expected a few others “who shall remain unnamed”.

        Show me the money~!

  55. As a first time poster I need to chime in….
    IOU’s (invester owned utilities) have rates and policies approved by their local state Utility Boards or Commisions. These boards ride herd on the utilities and try to balance competing and conflicting interests. They protect the public from monopolistic companies, but allow the utility to remain in business and profitable enough to provide reliable service while returning an earning on investment.
    Many policy decisions, including whether to invest in wind generation, are negotiated in advance with the State’s protective agency. Oft times there are underlying agreements that come into play, approval for this vrs a rate freeze, vrs, fast track approval for Project X.
    As a generality, one does not see utility cooperatives (membership owned) investing in wind / solar, since there is reduced public policy oversight over these groups.
    (I’ve been in the investor owned camp for over 30 yrs, (along with post graduate courses in glacialogy, earth sciences and the like). Ms Curry, thanks for what you’re doing for rational discourse.

    • Planning Engineer

      Good point Erik, the difference between unforced consumer owned entities should tell you something. But the cooperatives are being pushed as well. So much that eventually you might not be able to tell any difference. Some are regulated by state PSCs and some are not. In Kentucky they are regulated by the PSC and East Kentucky Power Cooperative experienced a dramatic turnaround from unsuccessfully trying to build a coal plant (in Kentucky of all places) to being an aggressive promoter of green programs.

      The RUS (Federal entity that makes low loans to coops) today will not loan coops a nickel for fossil fuel plants (excluding practically all conventional economic generation), but will finance renewable efforts. Historically they have financed the bulk of power projects (except mostly federal and state hydropower) supporting rural America.

  56. John Vonderlin

    Hi Erik,
    I live in the city of Santa Clara which owns its own power company. (Silicon Valley Power) •The average electric bill in Santa Clara is almost half of those in surrounding communities.
    •Over 4,000 residents choose 100 percent green power. (adding 10% to your bill)
    •There are now over 6,000 active users on the City-wide free outdoor Wi-Fi available as part of SVP’s MeterConnect® program.
    We also have extensive rebate and financing programs to lower residential and industrial energy usage. These kinds of win/win circumstances are possible with careful, forward-thinking policies.
    I have seen the future and it is us.

  57. Stephen Segrest

    For the U.S. as a whole, solar is currently zero point two two percent (0.22%) of electricity generation. At such low current penetration levels, what’s this “fight” on C.E. about?

    I’ve had the impression that for most of the U.S., the increase in electricity prices since 2000 (which has basically tracked inflation — consumer price index) has primarily been driven by capital spending on the grid — and certainly not Renewables.

    This Bloomberg Business article supports this perspective:

    The majority of discussion here at C.E. seems like an another ideological anti Obama battle in the Culture Wars.

    • I wouldn’t want to say for sure, but I suspect the objection is to putting restrictions on fossil-based energy that raise the price of energy because solar can’t replace it. Or not without expensive energy storage. Or something.

      Certainly California could be made a poster-child for this.

      As I’ve pointed out before, the problem (IMO) is how few people here can really internalize the effects of exponential technology improvement. The current growth of solar, and exponential reduction in price, and rate of advance in technology for both energy collection and storage/conversion to storable forms (gas, liquid fuels) are all fully consistent with substantial penetration in 1-2 decades, and total replacement by, say, 2030-2050, all due to market forces.

      But most alarmists don’t see that they don’t need short-term punitive price adjustments (too much too soon), because they fit the progress into a linear, rather than exponential, scale.

      And most objectors don’t see the difference between such short-term punitive price adjustments and policies that support, and incent, front-end R&D into the technologies needed.

      • Yes, AK, there’s a simple logic to that. If something is going to be good in 1-2 decades, then I’m going to acquire it in 1-2 decades. If the claims prove to be false or exaggerated, that’s okay, since I haven’t bought it yet.

        Why are we mainstreaming beta energy tech today? It’s beta!

      • Why are we mainstreaming beta energy tech today?

        For the same reason Google and Yahoo do: no way to test in realistic conditions without putting it in realistic conditions.

      • No way to test hard infrastructure without implementing huge national and even global scale plans? Because they do software that way?


  58. Stephen Segrest

    What’s seldom discussed here at C.E. is that old coal power plant closings have been driven by (1) lower cost natural gas; (2) EPA Regs on mercury emissions — not Obama’s supposed “War on Coal”.

    The next wave in this “Fight” will be/is over smog. And although eventual new Regs will probably be less restrictive than in Europe or Canada, this will be cast as Socialism Left Wing driven “Junk Science”:

  59. Stephen Segrest

    The U.S. Comic Jeff Foxworthy has rocketed to fame with the line: “You just might be a Redneck IF” (fill in the blank).

    In the current GW war of “Skeptic” versus “Denier”, You just might be a “Denier” if you have historically also opposed health protection on Lead, Mercury, Smog, Particulates, Acid Rain, Ozone Depletion, Methane, Fluoridation, and Coal Ash.

    • Planning Engineer

      Stephen – I would be surprised to hear that any significant number of people here (or anywhere) concerned about the cost effectiveness of CO2 mitigation had historically opposed basic health protection in the past.

      There are ditches on both sides of the road. Failing to support worthwhile protective measures will land you in the ditch. There is a ditch on the other side where you go overboard responding to potential threats. It’s a challenge to walk that line and stay on the road. Can we go to zero on everything that is harmful in all our activities? If we haven’t gone to zero on everything that could be a risk in the past is our opinion suspect now? If we don’t want to go to zero now on CO2 now is the assumption that we must have been opposed to any efforts to limit lead in the environment?

      My own personal experience with the items you have listed is limited. The specification/recognition of requiring BACT (Best Available Control Technology) to be employed for some of those pollutants is as far as I ever had to get involved. My understanding was that BACT added a premium to cost that was in balance with a commitment to balancing cost, reliability and environmental responsibility. I don’t know who was using non BACT technology. But saying you can’t build a plant with emissions of any sort (no matter how miniscule the contribution) might hypothetically speaking have ben a “health protection” measure I would have opposed.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — Go back and look at the primarily negative comments here at C.E. when Dr. Curry thought that “Fast Mitigation” (pollutant GHGs) is a promising idea.

        (Note: Anybody reading this Blog that labels Dr. Curry as a “Denier” should read what she’s said about Fast Mitigation).

        You don’t recall the Electric Utilities and Industry’s Catastrophic Messaging (which didn’t happen) on Acid Rain Regs?

      • Planning Engineer

        I think I found what you referenced “Climate Fast Attack Plan”. I will give it a look. I was out of the loop for that. I was thinking you were going way back.

        Here’s my take on the issues surrounding acid rain. Tradable emission credits were issued to limit SO2 emissions. You could not burn above your allotment unless you found someone else to sell you credits. The credits my company got were insufficient for our needs and based on projected emission credit costs, things did look quite dire. But some who were given credits found ways to effectively reduce emissions and the market prices ended up being very low. Far lower than was commonly projected by an order of magnitude at least. Without being able to buy low cost emissions our consumers would have taken it hard. Now I don’t know why some entities got surplus credits they could do without or modifications to so easily gain. (Problem with government allocation?). We felt we were punished because we had already spent the money to reduce emissions and had we waited a few years we would have gotten long term credit allowances which would have had value. Had our reduction just been assigned with no market mechanism to emit, we’d have had very adverse impacts and been in the same boat that many are projecting for CO2 mitigation. No miracle of markets on the horizon here. (Attempts at carbon markets ended up crashing suggesting low costs – so if utilities had access to such I think we could go close to business as usual. ) Back then I don’t think most were just crying wolf, but even if that were so,crying wolf does not mean he won’t come one day.

        Learning from that experience, goals for different entities and regions contain some arbitrariness. Back then even if you didn’t get your fair share, you could benefit from buying from others (some of who may have been over allocated) so the net result was more efficient reduction of SO2. Current RPS or EPA strategies just flat our limiting emissions will likely cause some areas to suffer terribly and some areas likely will pull a rabbit out of a hat and find they have untapped potential for greater CO2 reductions

        Stephen – I think you are reasonable and seeking the best. I didn’t like that what you presented seemed to force a dichotomy between those who favor environmental regs and those who don’t. I don’t’ think it’s about good guys and bad guys (though some are in the mix having all perspectives). We’re mostly just differently informed. My basic take on pollutants is that there is some level that’s too much to be allowed into the environment and some level that it is too cost prohibitive to slide under. Regulation is worthwhile when it finds a sweet spot within that band.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — While we may have differences in opinions on some issues (I fit into your nurturing box and probably read more stuff from MIT, EPRI, NREL and other DOE Labs), we both agree that these should be engineering and not political decisions. I just hate a Federal RPS or any State RFS that is a “Locked in Concrete Mandate”.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Made a typo — Should be Federal or State REPS (Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to folks viewing these comments)

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — Do you have a reputable link to how much load shape generation comes from base load, intermediate load, and peaking load here in the U.S? I see plenty of graphs on the www that represent this, but no source data.

        Its my impression that in the U.S., peaking load represents about 15%. For no other reason than fuel source diversity, I believe that current solar technology has a place — say, a 5% penetration level. With solar currently representing 0.22% of U.S. electricity generation, we’ve got a long way to go.

      • The Case for Long-Duration Storage: Net Electricity Load in Calif. Is 5 Years Ahead of Schedule by Julie Blunden

        As Julie Blunden explains, California’s system operator is already hitting “duck curve” projections for 2020.

        On January 11, 2015, a rather unremarkable Sunday earlier this month, the California Independent System Operator’s daily duck curve was approximately 1,500 megawatts below where it is projected to be in 2020.

        Experiencing this net load years ahead of the CAISO’s forecast has not placed the California grid in crisis. The state’s grid has sufficient flexibility today to accommodate the rapid rise of solar power, which is the primary driver of change in CAISO grid operations.

        However, with the January 2015 milestone landing well beyond the 2020 forecast, the utilities and CPUC should accelerate procurement of energy storage to match the accelerating duck curve.

        We are already witnessing the impact of manufacturing scale on cost for lithium-ion batteries being bid into the electricity market. A variety of emerging long-duration energy storage technologies will also experience the rapid cost reduction that inevitably follows commercial scale.

        Pay attention to what happened with solar — many of those folks are now working in energy storage. In both my consulting practice and in my pro-bono work with CalCharge, I have had the opportunity to see inside the proto-factories of a range of emerging long-duration energy storage technologies, all of which have demonstrated major engineering progress. What they need next is a commercial contract of modest scale to prove bankability.

        I’m not sure how “reputable” the link is. Trying to figure out who Julie Blunden is, I discovered news stories that she left SunPower to take over as CEO at the ClimateWorks Foundation (April, 2012), but that foundation’s web site has no mention of her at all. Instead, it shows somebody else taking up the CEO spot a few months later, and Blunden’s resume shows 6 months at ClimateWorks Foundation. A bit more research suggests that her leaving may have something to do with the fact that the ClimateWorks Foundation is listed as part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), but a search of the ClimateWorks Web site (using their search tool) finds no mention of this group. Interesting. Could there be a strong division over CO2 vs. short-lived climate pollutants? The world wonders (at least I do).

      • Planning Engineer

        Stephen – I think we are pretty close on philosophies just plugging in different numbers and expectations in some cases. If there’s a way to figure it – I don’t mind going off-line with you to discuss details,

        I’m not sure about how to address your question on what percentage of generation serves peaking load. We could be talking daily, monthly, annual peak loads. The resource mix during a system annual peak hour might be very different than the system resource mix on a typical big day. Generation energy consideration may focus more on typical daily peaks during peak season. Generation capacity and transmission concerns more so with annual peak. What I would think would be valuable is to get hourly system lambda data (data showing the incremental cost of generation each hour) and see what the resource mix is during the highest lambda periods. Typically those will be your system peaks as well. (Unfortunately the results would be somewhat biased towards showing lower intermittent contribution because that would be a factor driving the price up. But I suspect you could do a control of similar load levels looking at lambdas when intermittents are high and out, versus cases with major conventional generator outages.)

        I like renewables whenever they pay for themselves. Here’s my take on residential solar and other programs using the power system as backup. If you assume the cost for a system to serve regular consumer is X, and that it costs an additional incremental Y to provide backup service to renewable self generators – I would want to make sure we don’t charge the regular customers more than X. That means you have to charge at least Y to the backup customers. Serving just the backup load without regular customers would be expected to cost a value Z which would be much much greater than Y. In my perfect world I’d charge a value between Y and Z for backup so that both regular and backup customers benefited from the arrangement. But if you want to argue that home renewables are a good thing and should get the benefit of all the breaks and only pay Y, that would not cause me heartburn and I would not be posting on line to complain about it. Interesting link on one perspective I hope Judith posts this in her weekly roundup.

        I’ve read a lot of EPRI and been on various study teams and been on projects that received millions in EPRIC subsidy dollars. On the utility side I’ve never heard anyone in any situation think EPRIC was too pessimistic about some new technology. I would never accuse them of underselling any thing that could be reasonably (or unreasonably) expected/hoped to contribute to progress. I think they are better today and working to better that image and be more practical, but historically they have pushed a lot of stuff way before it’s time (bleeding edge). At the end of the day we got a high tech over 100 MW plant with EPRI picking up maybe a quarter of the cost. But I’d have rather spent our share on 140 MW of conventional technology. With renewable mandates a reality for an organization like EPRI the definition of what’s reasonable balloons tremendously because they are freed from worrying about whether it’s cost effective or not. With infinite value ascribed to CO2 reduction what renewable program is not worthwhile?

  60. Geoff Sherrington

    Planning Engineer links to Brown and Bunyan, a beautifully presented article that puts rooftop solar economics and performance into perspective and highlights some problems. The more one digs, the more the problems, which by now are being ignored after paralysis by analysis.
    Here is a continuation of problems, just one for now.
    Net metering on a solar unit on the roof turns the meter backwards on generation of more than is needed by the host. Now, utilities that input power to the grid are structured to pay taxes and other imposts. The private rooftop owner is not. This is, by any definition, inequitable.
    Such costly aberrations commonly arise from decisions from the heart instead of the brain.

  61. The fundamental problem in ‘mitigating’ CO2 in the US is that except for a few notable exceptions…we really don’t need a lot of new ‘baseload’.

    Given the rate of improvement in air conditioning efficiency the question of ‘new peakers’ also becomes a problem.

    For the utilities the ‘easiest’ way to transition to a ‘cleaner’ technology is to relegate existing base-load to intermediate load…existing intermediate load to peaker…existing peakers to seasonal peakers.

    This ‘lowering the utilization rate over time of existing assets maximizes the return on the asset. No one loses.

    Unfortunately…the preferred method of ‘reducing CO2’….windmills and solar has the tendency to reduce the need for base-load turning everything into ‘peakers’.

    There isn’t an economic case to invest in new, high, clean, environmentally friendly low utilization rate generating capacity.

    If I was a utility operator I would just wait for the lights to go out.

    We’ve had an administration for the last six years that believes it is capable of running the private health care and private energy sectors better then the private sector. Until the public loses faith in the ‘Wisdom of Washington’ there is no point making capitol intensive investments in either the heath care or energy sectors.

  62. @PE

    An interesting series of posts on this topic, to date. The issue of “what to do” is politically fraught – Judith C’s position of “wickedness” – but it does bring out the crazies

    In my view, a hard empirical measurement of the difficulty people have with this issue as compared with issues that allow arm waving without accountability is the number of comments accruing to this post and the succeeding post (on the perennial “temperature adjustment” armflap):

    Both topics were posted the same day. This one attracted about 200 comments, the succeeding one has already over 320

    My conclusion ? Keeping the mega-cities from collapse while “transitioning” to renewabubbles is just way too hard for most people. It requires far too much accountability. I’ve observed this disparity for over 30 years now at all public levels (the uneven comment numbers here are just a minor example)

  63. What applies for low income public in US, same applies to developing countries like India.

  64. Back in the 50s, I used to fly over the river north of Albany NY on the way to Glens Falls, and it was day glow green downstream of some plant or other.

    That saved some manufacturer money, and, owing to competition, that saving went to consumers.

    You only profit from pollution if you’re the only one doing it.

    At some point around then, society was rich enough so that it was politically possible to say we’d rather pay more for stuff and have a clean river, so that’s what happened.

    It depends on how rich the society is, whether you clean up.

  65. I repeat what I said earlier. CO2 has been fallsely ladbelled a pollutant, but but is a colourless non-toxic gas, despite the TV propaganda of chhimneys belching mostly soot.. CO2 has an on/off effect on climate, but the total effect since 1910 is about 1.0C. and that ended in 1997 and there is no evidence it will resume.