Week in review – energy, water and food edition

by Judith Curry

A few things that caught my eye this past week.

Energy policy

France, which was supposed to prove the viability of large-scale nuclear power deployment, is proving the opposite. [link]

Corn Ethanol Is Even Worse For The Climate Than We Thought. But Is It Legal? [link]

Government scientists conclude #ethanol refineries pollute a lot more than previously known [link]

Latest analysis from @RobertStavins: Assessing the #energy efficiency gap [link]

Energy technologies

Wind energy could be a lot cheaper – and better looking – in the next few years if this blade-less technology works: [link]

“There’s just one problem: Tesla’s new battery doesn’t work well with rooftop solar—at least not yet.” [link]

One of the few evenhanded articles about the @elonmusk Powerwall. [link]

Nature:  Will Tesla’s battery change the energy market? [link]

Energy Vampires Suck Up Home Power: 5 Ways You Can Stop Them [link]


Congo River:  “The potential for economic benefits from low-carbon energy make the project hard for a global institution to ignore”  [link]

China’s Water-Energy-Food Choke Points: [link]

Why is São Paulo running out of water? Dodgy privatisation is largely to blame. [link]

Multiple dams are an ominous threat to life on the Mekong River [link]

Fear of floods and droughts dominate Pakistan climate plan [link]

Israel cuts cost of desalination in half. A model for California? Great @NewsHour segment. [link]

Great primer on desalination, which is pricey, has drawbacks, but will likely expand as freshwater becomes limited: [link]

Great guide on California’s current water supply crisis: [link]

How California’s water markets work — and where their limits are: [link]


Farmers of the future will utilize drones, robots and GPS [link]

Smart piece on the future of CA agriculture in a drier climate [link]

76 responses to “Week in review – energy, water and food edition

  1. The simple truth about Musk’s vaunted powerwall is that there already are competitors in this market.

    • Another simple truth is that Tesla has never made money. But of course, Musk has.

      • The crazy thought-processes, fueled by government twerking of the market, underlies what’s happening in the economy and this was captured perfectly in an article in the previous post:

        Consumers are content filling their gas tanks with petroleum and flipping the switch to gas-generated electricity. Americans are less worried about the environment than at any time since the 1980s, according to Gallup. Concern over global warming, the same poll found, has waned measurably since last year. ([link])/blockquote>

        Success may take some luck but the opportunity to participate in a chance to be successful takes a lot of work. In the real world if you don’t do the work no amount of luck will help and that’s your typical global warming-fearming, big government loving, democrat-voter, praying that faceless bureaucrats will flip a switch that will erase all of their bad decisions in life.

      • And of course, the Dimowits are more than willing to tell the LIV they will be taken care of. Of course, the Dimowits will live like kings when elected.

      • Because it’s reinvesting so much in newer products and growth.

        Don’t diss its products: CR: ‘the best car ever made’ and owners saying ‘I’ll never buy a gas car again”. They’re a delight to drive or ride.

      • And at $60,000-90,000, they are a joy to pay for.

      • Tesla has never made money

        It’s the ‘IPO’ game.

        There are a number of ‘names’ that if they show interest in a company/product then an irrational amount of money will flow into the stocks of those companies. The ‘ground floor’ investors end up making a fortune regardless of whether the company/product ever succeeds.

        Elon Musk is one of those names. If he were to announce tomorrow that he was investing in a buggy whip manufacturing company there would be no shortage of foolish investors lining up to invest in buggy whip manufacturing.

  2. WTI front-month futures contract continues to hover around $60. The contango has narrowed from $6 to $4. This lessens the pressure to lower prices and more oil into storage, but it is still a contango. Crude stocks fell last week, but some analysts are saying the rise in WTI price is done.


  3. David L. Hagen

    Automotive Life Cycle Energy Use & Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    Transport energy use is central to both Peak Oil and Global Warming (aka Climate Change) issues. UCSB Prof.Roland Geyer developed a life cycle energy and GHG use model for the World Steel Association. The spread sheet is free to download and explore and adapt. It provides for replacing steel with aluminum, magnesium or fiberglass etc.
    UCSB Auto Materials GHG Model

    “The main goal of the Vehicle Materials Energy Model (also called UCSB GHG Automotive Materials Comparison Model) is to quantify the energy and GHG impacts of automotive material substitution on a total vehicle life cycle basis, under a broad range of conditions and in a completely transparent fashion.”

    WorldAutoSteel released Version 4.0 of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) Automotive Materials Comparison Model in October 2013.” http://bit.ly/1bG416e

    Geyer R, Kallaos J, Del Maestro C (2009) Life Cycle Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Assessments of Automotive Materials: Phase II Model, developed for the World Steel Association, Brussels, Belgium.

    “Light-duty truck and SUV material studies show steel lighter on the environment than aluminum over total vehicle life”

    DETROIT, Nov. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, recently released findings of two new case studies that examine the effect various automotive materials can have on total life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for light-duty truck and sport utility vehicle (SUV) classes. By conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) of each vehicle class, the studies showed that advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) lowered total life cycle emissions and decreased fuel consumption.”

    Caveat emptor on assumptions. Happy hunting!

  4. With our current anti-market, government knows best, greenie energy policies, this is where we’re headed (smell the sulfur?):

    “Venezuela’s currency has declined 76 percent on the black market in the past year to around 289 bolivars per dollar…

    Most international airlines that operate flights to the country including American Airlines Group Inc. have stopped accepting bolivars for ticket purchases. Consumer products company Clorox Co. pulled out of the country last year because of currency problems.” ~BloombergBusiness

    • David L. Hagen

      The drop in oil revenue has strongly reduced Venezuela’s current account balance and GDP. The public external assets have strongly dropped.
      Causes: Siphoning off oil from the oil “cow”, and the drop in oil price.

    • I wouldn’t link USA government policies to Venezuela. That poor country suffers from an exceptionally incompetent, corrupt, and criminal regime. Obama isn’t my favorite USA president, but he’s better than G.W. Bush.

      • I’m sure Obama and Gore and Castro, the left-leaning media and the left-thinking government-education complex would agree with you, not to mention the voters of California who vote like they want to follow in the footsteps of the Greeks.

  5. An excellent review article with historical perspective by Kenny & Norris.

    Congo River: “The potential for economic benefits from low-carbon energy make the project hard for a global institution to ignore” [link]

    “The world can’t want Inga (hydroelectric dam project) more than the people of Congo want Inga; that just won’t work. Until then, the vast power of the Congo (River) churns on, waiting to be harnessed — one day.”

    The unresolved question remains: who owns and gets to use the electricity from such a project?

  6. Pingback: Week in review – energy, water and food edition | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  7. Danny Thomas

    Re: California and water. Sometimes the market gets it right, and sometimes it doesn’t.
    “Market forces are driving the crops that are grown…not water and/or climate change.” Smart piece on the future of CA agriculture in a drier climate [link]

    Sometimes policy gets is right, and sometimes it doesn’t.
    7 million acres of (illegal?) “new land” from carbon sequestering grasslands to high water use corn for ethanol production via a high emitting processing plant: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-05/agu-erm050515.php

    (Guess this is why some refer to things climate being a “wicked problem”)

  8. Does not look like the bladeless wind generator scales. 4kw at present, and looling to down not up in size. Very inefficient coupling.

  9. The two links on the Tesla Powerwall got it about right. Musk does not have a new lithium ion chemistry. The energy, power, and cyclelife limitations of LiIon are well understood, and VERY difficult to advance simultaneously. Many billions have been spent trying.The hype around Musk’s grandstanding just shows how little the media knows, or cares to research before just amplifying hype.
    The benchmark grid scale ‘energy storage’ solution (beyond pumpd hydro) is a gas turbine peaker. The energy is ‘stored’ in the natural gas. The LCOE is presently about $128/mwh in the US if gas prices rise to $6 (they probably will in a couple of years give the decline in rig counts caused by the ‘land rush/use it or lose it’ oversupply nowmstarting to work off). Those units come in capacities as small as 80Mw and as large as nearly 800Mw. Run as many hours as you like. The biggest ‘test’ flow batteries are on the order of a few Mwh, with costs in excess of $400-800/Mwh.
    One concludes Musk is signaling his cars won’t be able use the batteries from his hyped $5billion megafactory; so Powerwall is a ‘solution’. One further concludes Tesla stock is a spectacular long term shorting opportunity.

  10. Dr. Curry posted 2 not-so-flattering stories on ethanol this week One story was from Climate Progress of all places — (Yikes!) about a Univ. of Wisconsin non peer reviewed paper on how ethanol farmers are breaking the law (and should be arrested and perp-walked) by their planting on non pre-existing cropland — destroying grasslands. Double Yikes!

    Of course, the Renewable Fuel Industry challenged the report and we will have to wait on peer review before passing judgement.

    If I have to go to jail, here is my story in pictures. The pictures are on the same area through time.

    First I took some pasture land (grassland). The land had been invaded by a very bad weed called cogongrass. You can’t kill it with herbicides (extensive rhizomes/root system) Cattle won’t eat it. I double-disked the cogon (releasing a lot of CO2 I’m sure).

    Next, I planted a crop of fast growing trees. After 4 years, the trees were harvested and co-fired at an electric utility pulverized coal unit (for NOx and SO2 reduction). These trees coppice (re-grow) after the initial harvest.

    The unique thing about trees is that ~60% of the mass you can see above ground is also below ground (root system). This organic carbon is a catalyst to do some remarkable things in soil quality.

    Where I went from pasture land soils like this initially (with very little soil organic matter):

    To soils that looked like this (very high in soil organic matter — with lots of earthworms).

    After the 2nd tree harvest, I planted sorghum as feed-stock for ethanol production (same land) into very rich soils (requiring very little N).

    I wonder if one can still blog to CE from jail?

    • Stephen

      Having never heard of cogon grass before, I thought ‘ yeah, I bet goats would have eaten that cogon grass if he had bothered to try.’

      However I found out they can’t


      It seems really tough and damaging stuff. You deserve a medal, not jail


    • Would you be able to grow anything as profitable as the sorghum, something not for ethanol?

      • This will be good. I vote for pot.

      • JCH – I agree with you. Pot and other “recreational” drugs should be legalized and I mean all of them.

        Making them illegal makes a market for “designer” drugs which are as bad and frequently worse than the ones we had originally, occasionally killing people outright. It has led to the confiscation of property without due process and in fact in many places, the cops get to keep the property – giving them an evil incentive to do it. It has encouraged the government to spy on us and pass draconian laws. It has sent many a poor person to prison where they learn how to be better at crime. And the prison sentence keeps them from getting a job which almost guarantees they will do more crime.

        The drug laws are way more evil than the drugs themselves.

    • This is pretty interesting. Illustrates ‘wickedness’ :)

    • The one place I go hard conservative is property rights. If you paid for family’s farm and pay the property taxes, then you can tell the landowner what is pasture and what is field. Short of that, the landowner should be allowed to carve a pound of flesh off you if you try to interfere with his rights.

      • Danny Thomas

        Agree with the exception that according to the study, this “new” land was CRP and farmers had been paid (by you and I) to not use.

    • Danny Thomas

      Looks like at least one was reviewed: (didn’t check the other). http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/10/4/044003/article?fromSearchPage=true (Looks like an interesting piece).

      “Our definitions of grasslands and other non-crop categories were based on remote-sensing capabilities and thus included retired croplands planted to permanent vegetative cover through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federal program that pays farmers to set aside environmentally-sensitive land for periods of 10–15 years [33]. We measured the maximum amount of land that could have come from the CRP during the study period using gross county-level enrollment data from the FSA”

      So I don’t think your salvation of land with an invasive species should lead to any difficulties for you, and I agree with Tony and thank you for your work.

    • Great set of images, and a good soil conservation story. Envy your flatter land. We have to contour everything to prevent erosion. We also selective cut the 3 main forest lots about every 30 years, staggered (so one ~40 acre lot per decade). Keeps the forest bioproductivity near max, with more than enough residual crown firewood for me and the neighbors per decade.
      We had a pseudo mini tornado come through one of the three woodlots two years ago. (Straight line winds from a Tstorm. Wiped out everything about 200 meters wide, over 10 miles long, including my northern ridge). Took out 22 truckloads of firewood last year, and we still have not gotten into half the downed timber from that one little 30 acre woodlot. Mostly oak, some hickory. Neighbors are happy. I would be happier without the furniture/flooring quality timber loss, but still happy for the extra firewood. Our propane guy is not happy at all.

  11. Peter Lang

    Sweden regulatory impediments to nuclear progress

    Some claim that the subsidies for nuclear power exceed the subsidies for renewables. This claim is disingenuous. The subsidies for renewables greatly exceed the subsidies for nuclear per unit of electricity supplied. Furthermore, the subsidies for nuclear are a fraction of what would be needed to balance the impediments to nuclear that governments have imposed over the past 50 years. These come in the form of regulatory ratcheting that has increased the cost by a factor of four up to 1990 and probably doubled that since to a factor of eight. Here’s a recent example from Sweden (all countries have their own version; in Australia federal legislation bans nuclear power).

    Dr Staffan Qvist, Uppsala University:

    To their credit, the greens of the current government have come up with a quite clever way to phase out nuclear. The law allowing new-build still stands but has been rendered moot due to the implementation and subsequent increases in a nuclear-specific tax called the “effect tax” (separate from the tax paid to finance the repository). It’s a tax of about $25000/MW-thermal of installed power per year, to be paid monthly, even if the plant is not in operation. It is thus completely disconnected from electricity production, and is only levied on nuclear. The extra tax of $100m/year per large reactor, on top of all other taxes, plus the heavy subsidy of construction of large amounts of un-needed wind and solar and the dumping of cheap coal on the European market means that at current electricity prices some of the nuclear plants are “economically uncompetitive”. The government then claims that nuclear “can’t compete in the market”, nuclear proceeds to decommission itself, without any law imposed for this and any settlement payments.


    • Curious George

      Let’s just add coal, oil, and gas effect tax, and we will breathe a very clean air and live happily ever after – but not for long.

    • For Peter Lang, re your false statement that “Some claim that the subsidies for nuclear power exceed the subsidies for renewables. This claim is disingenuous. The subsidies for renewables greatly exceed the subsidies for nuclear per unit of electricity supplied.”

      No nuclear plants would be built if not for massive government subsidies, as stated clearly in the Price-Anderson Act:

      “Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act in 1957 to ensure that adequate funds would be available to compensate victims of a nuclear accident. It also recognized that the risk of extraordinary liability that companies would incur if a nuclear accident were to happen would render insurance costs prohibitively high, and thwart the development of nuclear energy.
      . . .
      The Price-Anderson Act requires owners of commercial reactors to assume all liability for damages to the public resulting from an “extraordinary nuclear occurrence” and to waive most legal defenses they would otherwise have. However, in exchange, their liability will be limited to capped amounts established in the Act.” – Re-Authorization of the Price-Anderson Act, December 9, 2003, Senate Report 108-218.

      Nuclear plants also enjoy many other subsidies, as if the Price-Anderson Act alone were not enough:

      Construction loan guarantees in $billions per reactor,
      No lawsuits allowed during construction (with a limited exception)
      Increased utility rates during construction, even if the reactor is never finished,
      Safety regulations are routinely relaxed to allow existing plants to continue operating without compliance, and
      Cries for help via a carbon tax to “preserve jobs” (not yet a subsidy, but a loud cry for yet another subsidy)

      see e.g. “US Nuclear Plants are Heavily Subsidized”


      Also see e.g. “NUCLEAR POWER: Still Not Viable without Subsidies (2011)”


      • [repost in correct place]

        Roger Sowell,

        You said;

        For Peter Lang, re your false statement that “Some claim that the subsidies for nuclear power exceed the subsidies for renewables. This claim is disingenuous. The subsidies for renewables greatly exceed the subsidies for nuclear per unit of electricity supplied.”

        You said my statement is false but did not provide numbers to demonstrate it. Please provide the total subsidy per MWh for nuclear, for coal and for renewables, and the authoritative sources for those figures. Do not waste time referring me to anti-nuke sites like your own web site. That is not authoritative.

      • To Peter Lang, it is self-evident that nuclear plants would not be built except for almost total subsidy for liability resulting from meltdowns and illness and death to surrounding populations. The evidence is quite clear, even if you refuse to acknowledge such evidence. I refer you to the quote from the Price-Anderson Act, above.

        In fact, one could confidently state that nuclear power is almost 100 percent subsidized, whereas wind power receives only a 30 percent rebate for capital costs. As a self-proclaimed expert on the matter, it is quite certain you know this.

      • David L. Hagen

        Roger the nuclear liability argument is amplified by the enormous cost of too many lawyers in the US.
        Compare the new generation of passive mini nuclear plants.

      • To David L. Hagen, re “…enormous cost of too many lawyers in the US.
        Compare the new generation of passive mini nuclear plants.”

        There is no requirement for a person to hire a lawyer to bring a lawsuit against the owner of a nuclear power plant. If and when an “extraordinary nuclear occurrence” happens, to use the Price-Anderson Act language, anyone can bring the lawsuit. Such a person would be ill-advised to do so on their own, though, just like a non-medical doctor would not be very successful at performing open heart surgery.

        As to the mini nuclear plants you mention, which ones would those be? And, compare them to what? There are zero benefits from small modular reactors, SMR, with all the problems of safety and security of large plants. That is why both Babcock & Wilcox, and Westinghouse have both given up and exited the SMR folly. As I wrote on my blog, economies of scale work against SMR. That is why, even though SMR designs have existed for decades, commercial nuclear plants have grown larger and larger, from about 700 MWe progressively through 1000, 1200, and now 1600 MWe for the EPR that is such a disaster for the French. Reactor vendors have resorted to larger and larger designs out of sheer desperation to try to produce an economically viable product. It has not worked.

        It always amazes me that people who question the data and methods of alarmist climate scientists are so ready to swallow the propaganda of the nuclear power industry. What happened to rational skepticism?

      • From the article:

        The most advanced small modular reactor project is in China, where Chinergy is starting to build the 210 MWe HTR-PM, which consists of twin 250 MWt high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs) which build on the experience of several innovative reactors in the 1960s to1980s.


        From the article:

        In 2005, the first 210 MWe HTR-PM plant, based on the HTR-10 experience, was approved for construction at Shidaowan, near Rongcheng in Weihai city, Shandong province in China. In 2006, Huaneng Shandong Shidaowan Nuclear Power Company (HSSNPC) was formed as a result of joint investments by China Huaneng Group, China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group, and Tsinghua Holdings Group as the technology provider. HSSNPC received environmental clearance in March 2008 for construction start of a demonstration HTR-PM station in September 2009 and commissioning by 2013. The domestic Chinese supply chain for the HTR-PM is nearly set (the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction contract was finalized in October 2008 with the involvement of Shanghai Electric Co. and Harbin Power Equipment Co.), and construction works for the Shidaowan plant started in December 2012 with commissioning scheduled before 2017. Additional 18 HTR-PM units are envisioned to be built at the same site. China is also looking to possibly export the HTR-PM to smaller, developing countries, once the domestic demonstration project is successful.

        The main HTR-PM application is electricity production. Hydrogen production exploration is part of planned activities as soon as the HRT-PM tests aimed at demonstrating safe and reliable production of electricity are completed.


      • From the article:

        The construction of a pilot production line for fuel elements for the Shidaowan HTR-PM is nearing completion in Baotou, Inner Mongolia. The production line will have an annual capacity of 300,000 fuel elements. The National Nuclear Security Administration issued a permit for its construction in February 2013 and a groundbreaking ceremony was held the following month. It is expected to be commissioned in August.
        The demonstration HTR-PM plant being constructed at Shidaowan, near Weihai city in Shandong province, will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012, with commercial operation scheduled in 2015. A further 18 such HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan.


      • So, Roger, since people like you have stymied nuclear power in the West, maybe we can buy SMRs from China. Thanks for all you do, Roger.

      • Roger: “No nuclear plants would be built if not for massive government subsidies, as stated clearly in the Price-Anderson Act: “Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act in 1957 to ensure that adequate funds would be available to compensate victims of a nuclear accident.””

        And what is the risk of a nuclear accident in the US? Pretty negligible with all of the regulations. So if premiums are risk-related, they would also be negligible. Any subsidy is implicit and involves no actual current expenditure by the US government.

      • To genghiscunn, re “And what is the risk of a nuclear accident in the US?”

        There have been 79 near-misses or similar incidents in US nuclear power plants in the past 5 years alone. Each incident resulted in the NRC deploying a special investigation team to determine what happened and why. That averages to approximately one serious incident every 3 weeks. You might be interested to know that Three Mile Island – 2 actually melted down and the hot nuclear fuel melted almost completely through the reactor vessel wall. For a summary of the incidents, see Part 16 of my series, http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-truth-about-nuclear-power-part-16.html “Near Misses on Meltdowns Occur Every 3 Weeks”

        “Pretty negligible with all of the regulations.”

        Is one serious incident every 3 weeks “pretty negligible”?

        “So if premiums are risk-related, they would also be negligible.”

        You, like Peter Lang has repeatedly done, miss the entire point of insurance and premiums in the US nuclear power industry. Insurance covers only a very small part of the liability. Only $300 million in insurance is required for a $7 billion power plant that has the potential to create more than $1 trillion in human lives lost and injuries. Of course the premiums are small because the US government requires a small policy amount.

        “Any subsidy is implicit and involves no actual current expenditure by the US government.”

        It’s only a matter of time.

      • Roger Sowell | May 10, 2015 at 8:52 pm |
        To genghiscunn, re “And what is the risk of a nuclear accident in the US?”

        There have been 79 near-misses or similar incidents in US nuclear power plants in the past 5 years alone.

        Near misses count for horseshoes and hand grenades. Not nuclear power glitches.

    • Peter Lang

      Roger Sowell,

      As usual you make unsubstantiayed assertions and when aksed to support them with authoritative evidence, you don’t. It’s clear you don’t know what you are talking about but are driven by anti-nuke culti beliefs, nuclear paranoia. We’ve had 50 years of people lie you delaying progress.

      Here’s a few facts:

      Renewables are about 2 to 5 times the cost of nuclear.

      Neither is cost competitive with fossil fuels but renewables need much higher incentives – otherwise they would not be built. Nuclear will be built and the costs will come down massively when we remove the massive impediments that people like you have caused o be put on nuclear

      Nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity – hundreds of authoritative studies during the past 30 years or more – so your furphy about higher fatalities from nuclear is ignorance or dishonesty.

      The insurance for nuclear amount to about 1% of the cost of nuclear – and note that since nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity, if all other electricity technologies had to insure or pay for for the fatalities they cause, their insurance cost would be higher than nuclear’s

      Decommissiooning of renewables is about 3 times higher cost than nuclear per TWh.

      Unlike you, I have the numbers from authoritative sources.

      Burt I am still waiting for you to support you assertion you made in your first comment – or admit you made an error or were trying to deceive the readers on CE.

      Note the 10 signs of intellectual dishonesty: https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

      • Peter Lang

        I accidentally quoted from the wrong numbers. Correction below:

        Energy Source Mortality Rate (deaths/trillionkWhr)

        Coal – global average 170,000 (50% global electricity)

        Coal – China 280,000 (75% China’s electricity)

        Coal – U.S. 15,000 (44% U.S. electricity)

        Natural Gas 4,000 (20% global electricity)

        Biofuel/Biomass 24,000 (21% global energy)

        Solar (rooftop) 440 (< 1% global electricity)

        Wind 150 (~ 1% global electricity)

        Hydro – global average 1,400 (15% global electricity)

        Nuclear – global average 90 (17% global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)

        Therefore, correcting the figures in my paragraph, it should read:

        "Provide perspective. What would the insurance be (if applied equally to all technologies) for the 3 times greater rate of fatalities per TWh of energy supplied by wind farms, 5 times greater rate from solar PV and and 35 times greater from hydro (world average)?

      • Peter Lang

        Damn, I posted before I’d edited the paragraph. I’ll try again:

        “Provide perspective. What would the insurance premium be (if applied equally to all technologies) for the 2 times greater rate of fatalities per TWh of energy supplied by wind farms, 5 times greater rate from solar PV, 14 times greater from hydro (world average), and 150 greater for coal (USA)?

      • JC SNIP

        Peter and Roger, your discussion is over here, too many insults, no new development of the discussion.

      • Seven years ago I was involved in a project to build a wind estate at Coega on the southeastern coast of South Africa. I did the financial modeling. NERSA, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, provided us with the comparative per kwh costs for coal, nuclear and hydro so we could see what we were up against. Coal is the cheapest. If we assign coal an index value of 1 then nuclear came in at about 4. Wind and solar were both around 10 times more expensive than coal. The subsidy was to be acquired by means of a strike price, i.e. only for power units actually produced. I haven’t kept up with the NERSA renewables program and perhaps it has changed to make better financial sense for renewables developers. I’m not pro-renewables for several reasons but at this moment with a severe shortage of generating capacity in South Africa, I’d be happy to take whatever power I can get.

      • Peter Lang

        I agree. Any power is better than no power.

        1 Energy supply requirements

        The most important requirements for energy supply are:

        1. Energy security (refers to the long term; it is especially relevant for extended periods of economic and trade disputes or military disruptions that could threaten energy supply, e.g. 1970’s oil crises [1], world wars, Russia cuts’ off gas supplies to Europe).

        2. Reliability of supply (over periods of minutes, hours, days, weeks – e.g. NE USA and Canada 1965 and 2003[2])

        3. Low cost energy – energy is a fundamental input to everything humans have; if we increase the cost of energy we retard the rate of improvement of human well-being.

        Policies must deliver the above three essential requirements. Second order requirements are:

        4. Health and safety

        5. Environmentally benign

        1.1 Why health and safety and environmental impacts are lower priority requirements than energy security, reliability and cost:

        This ranking of the criteria is what consumers demonstrate in their choices. They’d prefer to have dirty energy than no energy. It’s that simple. Furthermore, electricity is orders of magnitude safer and healthier than burning dung for cooking and heating inside a hut. The choice is clear. The order of the criteria is clearly demonstrated all over the world and over thousands of years – any energy is better than no energy.

  12. Mike Jonas

    Thanks, Judith, for your “week in review” series – lots of interesting stuff to read (and too little time to read it all).

    The “‘China’s Water-Energy-Food Choke Points” article appeared to be by an outfit (Wilson Center) looking for ways to make China look bad. Their graphics are unclear – it is difficult to get any comparative information from them – and all it adds up to is basically that China uses a lot of resources. For example, they say that China’s CO2 emissions from irrigation are “equivalent to the entire emissions of New Zealand”. That is obviously meant to sound like a lot. Well China has 300 times the population of New Zealand (1.35b vs 4.5m). Per capita, that’s just 0.33% …..

    • It’s revealing, Mike. The idiotic factoid about NZ is meant to plant something in our minds, namely, that there was no yellow peril when people starved and perished (in some of history’s greatest climate disasters, the floods of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers) but now there is. How dare they dam and irrigate! Why can’t they be more like Middle Earth?

      It’s not just coal which Big Green wants to stop. It’s anything which functions and brings earned wealth. They will get around to us all. Compromising with these people is like hoping the shark will get full dining on the other guy.

      That’s a particularly creepy website, by the way. Glad they named it after the particularly creepy Woodrow Wilson.

  13. “France, which was supposed to prove the viability of large-scale nuclear power deployment, is proving the opposite.”

    Look more to me like an argument against socialist central planning.

    Compared to the various government-funded boondoggles for “renewable” energy around the world, the rather temporary financial troubles being experienced by the French-owned nuclear company are rather minor. It’s not as if it’s going belly up like Solyndra, right? And even if it did, this company has managed to supply France with 75 to 80% of its electricity (carbon-free mind) for decades, whereas all that Solyndra managed to do was soak up US taxpayer money.

    The article also fails to mention the “nuclear” French company’s “renewable energy” division, which has been a money-loser since the French started buying up wind and solar companies to make themselves more appealing to the bureaucrats in Brussels.

  14. Peter Lang

    France, which was supposed to prove the viability of large-scale nuclear power deployment, is proving the opposite.

    Gee, Judith, that seems a rather disingenuous statement.

    France has the highest proportion of nuclear electricity in the world (about 75%-80%) and it’s been demonstrating that for 30 years. It has near the most reliable electricity in Europe and clearly in high demand from its neighbouring countries who purchase the equivalent of about 5 nuclear power stations running at full capacity. It also has the lowest GHG emissions intensity of electricity and near the lowest electricity prices in Europe. That’s quite an achievement on any objective criteria, right?

    Then along comes the pro renewables and anti-nuke brigade and bureaucrats running the EU and tell France they have to obey EU regulations and build 20% renewable energy (or whatever is their requirement). Never mind the success of what they’ve achieved. Ideology must win over common sense and rational analysis.

    I accept that the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) is over engineered and excessively bound up in red tape and excessive regulations. Compared with the USA, the Europeans have always tended to over-engineer and fail to understand the market. That’s in all technologies, not just nuclear power. It’s been with aircraft and cars and … the list is long.

    Comments like this in the article demonstrate it is simply another anti-nuke propaganda article:

    When Paris plays host to United Nations climate talks later this year, French officials are planning to remind anyone who will listen that nuclear reactors are a low-carbon power source. But if the French can no longer demonstrate that modern nuclear power plants can be built on time and on budget, that could add to the stigma that has made many countries think twice, over concerns about safety and radioactive waste. Germany andSwitzerland, for example, have dropped nuclear power as an energy option.

    Many nations in the developing world, though, see little choice but to adopt nuclear power as the hazards of burning coal become all too evident.

    We’ve had 50 years of this clap-trap. Time to get over it.

    • I originally read that paragraph as problematic as well.

      The EPR is plagued by poor project management.

      The original build schedules were too optimistic which has resulted in big delays. It takes the 3rd or 4th or 5th unit of building anything to optimize the construction schedule. Unfortunately…Atomic Annie committed to an ‘optimized’ construction schedule on unit #1 of the EPR.

      Of course committing to an optimized construction schedule on Unit #1 of anything is handing those opposed to building anything a very big propaganda victory.

      In the US the propagandists like to talk about the delays and cost overruns on the 1st and second AP1000’s and don’t really talk much about the 3rd and 4th AP1000’s being built(still some delays but the cost overruns are much less).

  15. From the article:]

    It was our boast that in America, unlike in any other country, you could live your life as you saw fit as long as you accorded the same liberty to everyone else. The “sum of good government,” as Thomas Jefferson put it in his first inaugural address, was one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another” and “shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” Americans were to live under a presumption of freedom.

    We now live under a presumption of constraint. Put aside all the ways in which city and state governments require us to march to their drummers and consider just the federal government. The number of federal crimes you could commit as of 2007 (the last year they were tallied) was about 4,450, a 50% increase since just 1980. A comparative handful of those crimes are “malum in se”—bad in themselves. The rest are “malum prohibitum”—crimes because the government disapproves.


  16. Just found an interesting study from “MIT”: The Future of Solar energy “An Interdisciplinary MIT Study”. Some excerpts (from the “Summary for Policymakers):

    Massive expansion of solar generation worldwide by mid-century is likely a necessary component of any serious strategy to mitigate climate change. Fortunately, the solar resource dwarfs current and projected future electricity demand. In recent years, solar costs have fallen substantially and installed capacity has grown very rapidly. Even so, solar energy today accounts for only about 1% of U.S. and global electricity generation. Particularly if a substantial price is not put on carbon dioxide emissions, expanding solar output to the level appropriate to the climate challenge likely will not be possible at tolerable cost without significant changes in government policies.

    The main goal of U.S. solar policy should be to build the foundation for a massive scale-up of solar generation over the next few decades. [bold in original]

    Well, I’m certainly in favor of “a substantial priceNOT being “put on carbon dioxide emissions”.

    Photovoltaic (PV) facilities account for most solar electric generation in the U.S. and globally. The dominant PV technology, used in about 90% of installed PV capacity, is wafer-based crystalline silicon. This technology is mature and is supported by a fast-growing, global industry with the capability and incentive to seek further improvements in cost and performance. In the United States, non-module or balance-of-system (BOS) costs account for some 65% of the price of utility-scale PV installations and about 85% of the price of the average residential rooftop unit. Therefore, federal R&D support should focus on fundamental research into novel technologies that hold promise for reducing both module and BOS costs.

    The federal PV R&D program should focus on new technologies, not — as has been the trend in recent years — on near-term reductions in the cost of crystalline silicon. [bold in original]

    Floating Solar Power comes to mind.

    Today’s commercial thin-film technologies, which account for about 10% of the PV market, face severe scale-up constraints because they rely on scarce elements. Some emerging thin-film technologies use Earth-abundant materials and promise low weight and flexibility. Research to overcome their current limitations in terms of efficiency, stability, and manufacturability could yield lower BOS costs, as well as lower module costs.

    Federal PV R&D should focus on efficient, environmentally benign thin-film technologies that use Earth-abundant materials. [bold in original]

    The other major solar generation technology is concentrated solar power (CSP) or solar thermal generation. Loan guarantees for commercial-scale CSP projects have been an important form of federal support for this technology, even though CSP is less mature than PV. Because of the large risks involved in commercial-scale projects, this approach does not adequately encourage experimentation with new materials and designs.

    Federal CSP R&D efforts should focus on new materials and system designs, and should establish a program to test these in pilot-scale facilities, akin to those common in the chemical industry. [bold in original]


    Because distribution network costs are typically
    recovered through per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) charges on electricity consumed, owners of distributed PV generation shift some network costs, including the added costs to accommodate significant PV penetration, to other network users. These cost shifts subsidize distributed PV but raise issues of fairness and could engender resistance to PV expansion.

    Pricing systems need to be developed and
    deployed that allocate distribution network costs to those that cause them, and that are widely viewed as fair.
    [bold in original]

    And so on. I haven’t read the whole thing, so can’t really vouch for it, but the parts I’ve read, and excerpted from, seem to make sense, given the underlying assumptions.

  17. New Zealand 6 May 2013:
    New Zealand’s worst drought in 30 years is over


    New Zealand April 30, 2015:
    A Timaru cropping farmer has received long-awaited confirmation that he’s the new world record holder for the largest barley crop yield.


    New Zealand May 4 2015:
    The Green Party’s 14 MPs will starve themselves on Tuesday to highlight the threat climate change poses to food supply.


    Egad. The green stupid. It hurts.

    PS. I usually comment under the name Mark M, but can’t anymore!

    • “Starve themselves on Tuesday.” A day without food is not starvation. Once again, the Greens ape the Red Queen. (No offence intended to apes.)

      PS. I usually comment under the name Faustino, but can’t anymore! WP used to give me options (pre the Denizen II changes). Now, when it asks me to log on using my WP account, it uses genghiscunn from my e-mail. But when I attempt to access my account to change the displayed name, it tells me I don’t have an account. Aaaaggghhhh!!!

    • Green Party, ivy-walled, back ter the golden-age –
      advocate, inner-city dwellers. Let them eat gruel,
      let them not fly to exotic far-away, environment

  18. Audi is making diesel fuel from water and CO2:


    Could energy storage in the form of liquid hydrocarbons from excess electricity and CO2 have better prospects than batteries?

    • Could energy storage in the form of liquid hydrocarbons from excess electricity and CO2 have better prospects than batteries?

      Yes. Also methane, for use in place of natural gas in generation. Thus preserving massive investments in storage, transport, and generating capacity.

    • Peter Lang

      Could energy storage in the form of liquid hydrocarbons from excess electricity and CO2 have better prospects than batteries?

      I think that is likely. It’s taken batteries 215 years to get to the state of development they are now at. There is virtually no prospect of them becoming economically viable to store TWh scale electricity generation any time soon, which is what would be required to make wind and solar capable of replacing a large proportion of coal for electricity generation. So I see no realistic possibility of batteries being a significant part of the solution to reducing global GHG emissions.

      On the other hand, I see liquid hydrocarbon fuels from seawater and nuclear energy as being a realistic possibility. Nuclear fuel and seawater are both effectively unlimited so this source of transport fuels would be sustainable indefinitely (effectively). There US Navy has been working on this for years and estimates the cost of fuels at $3-$6/gallon using commercially available and proven technologies.

      Germany should turn it’s inventiveness from focusing on solar and wind to focusing on nuclear and hydrocarbon transport fuels from seawater.

  19. Bill Nye flipped his opinion that GMOs were inherently bad after getting a visit from Monsanto. Interview here. This brings up all sorts of questions like how could the “Science Guy” come to believe that GMO’s were inherently bad?
    Can Bill Nye be persuaded of other science things by having had visits from industry scientists?
    Does Bill Nye do typically do research before he proclaims the scientific truth?
    Does Bill consider that others (above 4th grade) can do research too?