Energy strategies: horses for courses

by Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan

Just because something works in one place’s circumstances does not mean it will work elsewhere under different circumstances.   Slide1Perhaps you’ve seen the posting on the left, or others with a similar message. With any thought though, it soon becomes clear that not “every” parking lot is a good candidate for co-functioning as a solar generation station. Parking lots are incredibly diverse: some lack sun, some can’t support the infrastructure, some are far from power needs and converting some parking lots would unduly sacrifice the local environment.

The Green Diamond Group was likely engaging in a bit of hyperbole. Unfortunately, many embrace such hyperbole without thinking, such that unrealistic expectations abound when it comes to the potential capabilities, performance and applicability’s of many renewable resources.

This posting will challenge some common misperceptions.

  • If something “succeeds” in one place it will be good in many places (or everywhere)
  • If something is tried in one area, it was a good idea there and that demonstrates its “Success”
  • “Success” at some level in one area can be taken as proof of concept for wide scale application across many or all areas

Selection of energy technologies is a “horses for courses” type problem. There is not one horse (or horse type) that is good for all competitive environments. Cutting quarter horses don’t race with Thoroughbreds, and Thoroughbreds are useless at a rodeo. “Horses for courses” for energy technologies means the best-suited technology can vary by location, by need, by time (e.g of peak grid load), and a host of other factors. In evaluating technologies we have to remember that what is practical in one area may not be practical –or even possible– in other areas. Our argument is that simplistic blanket conclusions about ‘renewables’, biofuels, and the like are not possible. Most ‘alternative’ energy advocates ignore the specific situational characteristics inherent in providing electric power.


New Zealand HVDC Tie to Support Renewables

In a recent thread discussion, the proposal that long distance HVDC would work to support extensive long distance integration of renewables was advanced. The case of New Zealand’s HVDC Inter Island tie was offered as a concept demonstrating the feasibility. This facility was commissioned in 1965 and has performed well. It connects two islands and is valuable because it allows the north access to the large hydro resources in the south to help meet their peak demand and it provides the south access to the north islands thermal generation when hydro resources are low.  HVDC was justified because of the long distances.

Originally 600 MW, today the line can accommodate 1200 MW. Relative to the size of their system, this is a big tie that approaches only 20% of their peak demand. Before generalizing that greater percentages of grid load can be served long distance through HVDC ties to renewable resources, much further study is required case by case.

UK – Solar Power

Solar power comes in various flavors, and its utility is strongly influenced by insolation. Solar PV might make technical (if not economic) sense in the American Southwest, which has high insolation and summer daytime peak loads from air conditioning demand. But it makes little sense in the UK, which has much lower insolation because of its latitude and weather, and where peak demand is about 6 pm in winter months after the sun has set.

Perhaps it is not so surprising, then, that SunEdison’s UK rooftop solar initiative is not going well.


SunEdison invested £400 million in UK rooftop solar, including ‘zero down” offers, to mine the rich UK subsidy vein it was after. After Osbourne and Cameron announced elimination of future rooftop feed-in-tariffs on grounds they were financially unaffordable, Sun Edison announced on 7 October 2015 that it was exiting the now unprofitable UK. Its stock is down ~70% since that day. It has delayed filing its annual financials citing material accounting weaknesses. SunEdison (based in high insolation California) now carries $11.67 billion in debt on a market cap of ~$650 million. There are serious doubts whether it can avoid bankruptcy. Foolishness has consequences; the New York Times said on March 15, “ If SUNE enters bankruptcy the autopsy will show suicide.”

Wind –Denmark

The idea that the US should become more like Denmark is prominent in some circles. Some claim that Denmark shows that the idea of a world powered by renewables is no fantasy.

Denmark has some of the best wind conditions in the world. They are well positioned to take advantage of the wind generation. Because they were a pioneer hundreds of companies supporting wind are located within the country. Denmark also benefits from being able to export wind power to surrounding countries which makes such high penetration levels possible for an intermittent resource. Denmark also benefits from offsetting Norwegian hydropower.

Denmark should be expected to be much more successful at wind generation than many other countries and their “success” will not be easily emulated. Still Denmark has the highest electricity costs in the EU. Perhaps it should be also be noted that overall the US produces nearly 14 times more wind power than Denmark.


The idea that biofuels are green and carbon neutral really depends on location and fuel.


US E10 ethanol in gasoline has been criticized because it uses a food source, maize (corn). The food impact is overstated by critics, because the 41% of the US corn crop that goes to ethanol production returns 27% distillers grain (yeast protein and carbohydrate enriched, and roughage enhanced), which makes an excellent ruminant feed stock (beef cattle and dairy cows).

Whether corn ethanol is actually ‘carbon neutral’ is hotly disputed. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA, sort of a Midwest Farm Bureau extension) says of course it is. Greenies like Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Scientific American say of course it isn’t. Who to believe?


Ethanol in Brazil makes imminent sense. The country is vast, and large regions are ideally suited for sugar cane production for ethanol (and rum). By 2020, 4/5 of all Brazil cars will be able to run on gasoline, E10, E85, or pure ethanol. Even though Brazil has vast oil deposits in its offshore Santos and Campos basin subsalts (current estimates are 62Bbbl of TRR, with full production by 2017 at ~4.5mbpd), ethanol still makes practical sense in Brazil. In 2010, BP bought Devon’s Campos subsalt concessions for $7 billion as an oil play. BP has also invested about $1 billion in 3 modern Brazil cane mills/ethanol fermenters fed by about 400 square miles of leased sugarcane fields as an ethanol play.

Brazil is already the global biofuels leader.



Not only does ethanol make no sense, neither does the conversion of some units of the DRAX coal station to wood pellets sourced from the US southeast. Three of 6 645 MW units have been converted, at an annual subsidy of £350 million. The EU is investigating whether the UK subsidy proposed to DRAX for a fourth 645MW unit conversion from coal to wood, ~£200 million per year for 15 years inflation indexed, exceeds even its own crazy green subsidy rules.

DRAX coal produces 1901 lb. CO2/MWh; DRAX wood pellets produce 2128 lb. CO2/MWh. Wood pellets are worse than coal for direct DRAX emissions. But DRAX exploits a loophole in EU regulations concerning ‘renewable’ biofuels, so worse emissions are of no consequence.

Rather than being produced from logging waste wood (e.g. slash, crowns) or plantation pine (as DRAX told the UK in order to obtain its green subsidies, and advertises in its FAQs), hundred-year old mixed hardwood Carolina bottomlands are being clear cut to supply Enviva’s pellet mills for DRAX. Greens in both the UK and the US are outraged. Those forests will take at least century to regenerate, and in the mean time DRAX is NOT carbon neutral since this SE US forest carbon sink is being destroyed. Those forests do not care whether their CO2 for photosynthesis came from coal or wood.


ENERGY Efficiency

Oregon is among the greenest of the US states. One of Oregon’s many green policies is a subsidy for better home weatherization (e.g. insulation, insulated ductwork, double glazed windows), to reduce winter heating CO2 emissions. But the program isn’t working, as at current natural gas prices the efficiency improvements simply are not economic even after state subsidies. They might be economic if homes are electrically heated, but 73% of Oregon’s electricity comes from hydro. The whole program simply does not make practical sense.


We’ve discussed various technologies and approaches employed in specific areas due to specific circumstances. Renewable advocates often illogically suggest that because something has “worked” in one area it will work in others. Just because something works in one place’s circumstances does not mean it will work elsewhere under different circumstances. It’s not just energy production – areas will differ in the extent of their ability (if any) to support various industrial, agricultural, cultural and recreational endeavors. North Dakota should not be expected to match Hawaii’s historical capability to export pineapples. AND Hawaii doesn’t grow a lot of wheat or export a lot of pineapples these days.

Complicating the picture is the stark truth that, just because somebody built something, that doesn’t mean it made any sense to have done so. Not all renewable “achievements” deserve to be imitated even under similar circumstances. While some renewable projects struggle to remain operational and are shown in hindsight to be obviously bad decisions, the operation of others provides benefits even though they too were bad initial decisions. Renewable projects have relatively large up front fixed costs which cannot be recovered by terminating a project. In deciding to keeps a facility going or not, “sunk costs” should be ignored. So an overly costly project that never should have been built can still remain a worthwhile part of an energy portfolio once completed. The fact that such resources are effective in a portfolio under such conditions should not be used to argue for sinking further costs into construction of more such facilities.

Trying to replicate someone’s success without understanding the factors behind that success can be a recipe for disaster. Making goals, targets, and regulations for broad areas based on overgeneralized limited experiences from incomparable areas is very poor public policy. The more energy supply decisions are made based upon considerations tied specifically to local/regional circumstances, the better off we will be.

279 responses to “Energy strategies: horses for courses

  1. Danny Thomas

    Thanks Rud and P.E. Always providing food for thought.

    The one part of this equation which seemingly should work across the spectrum lies on the energy efficiency side of the equation. In this area, what works ‘here’ should work everywhere. Payback based on the lowest energy cost only improves as those costs rise.

    Keep ’em coming.

    • Danny, even though your thought is very logical, it still fails a bit in reality.
      The efficiency of ‘efficiency’ depends on the seasonal thermal gradient. Thermodynamics 101.
      So, going from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, maybe (ignoring economics). From flourescents to LEDs, maybe not.
      Better insulation at my propane heated Wisconsin farm is a no brainer (where possible, we are at R40). Better insulation in my common law wife’s propane heated North Georgia R20 mountain cabin, no way. We just change propane suppliers based on price and reliability.

      • Heat with waste heat from doing something else. Then it’s free.

      • rhhardin,

        I think I understand what you are saying. The problem is that coal, oil, and gas are all free. So is the enormous amount of heat in say a cubic kilometre of ice at 270K.

        Trying to boil a kettle for a nice cup of tea using any of the above might cost more than some may think, however.

        Sometime the Devil’s in the detail, but I’m not trying to rain on your parade.


      • David Springer

        Ever heard of solar tea?

      • Some tried it but they could not get their water to boil before adding the sugar and dissolve it properly. So that fad, faded into the pages of history.

      • I’m thinking more using electricity to power computers. Bring home several dozen from work in the winter and let them work on problems.

        All that power goes into heat watt for watt, getting used for something else first.

      • Rud wrote: “going from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, maybe”

        and: “Better insulation in my common law wife’s propane heated North Georgia R20 mountain cabin, no way”

        Good points. If you use your cabin as I used mine (off Aska Road in north Georgia), then waste heat from incandescent lights provide welcome supplemental warmth most evenings and cost little extra on an annual basis over even the LED lighting available today.

        Now if I had a full-time home in say Fort Myers Florida, then keeping heat out of the insulated envelope would be an obsession. Unfortunately we are rapidly buying into one-size-fits-all building codes. I would love to build a picturesque little shack on a canal or river with “hurricane protection” consisting mainly of board-and-tin awnings I would simply lower and lock when gone, which would be most of the time. If a 100-year storm did come I would just replace with a similar shack at my own expense.

        Alas, that kind of common sense build-to-usage is no longer an option in most places. Such a “small shack” would require a 14 foot clearance underneath for rising water and bullet-proof-glass windows. In short, it would become a monstrosity in appearance and cost and offer little utility to an older generation without an elevator.

    • Thanks Danny. I appreciate your comments here on the various threads, and would like to see them if I ever do a piece on efficiency that I’ve toyed with. I think energy efficiency like other approaches is a means to an end. Even energy efficiency can be problematic when we uncritically embrace it and treat it as an end instead of a means. But that essay needs a little more meat on it’s bones.

      • More time I would come up with a better example, but suppose you have a remote and/or rarely used facility for metering, emergency supplies that is not normally heated or cooled. Should it have heavy insulation, high efficiency bulbs to make it more efficient during it’s limited use. Would you get payback for the extra materials and all or is it better to just use 15% more kwh or fuel for that day.

      • Danny Thomas

        Thank you for your kind words.
        I look towards the efficiency side (I mean, heck we could turn everything off) as a land of diminishing returns, but also as the one area which can conform no matter where the application. And it’s considered as a stand alone not having anything at all to do with climate. Rud made good points from a ‘weatherization’ view as was discussed about Oregon. It struck me that they might become less important should the efficiency of the electrical heat reach the point of not needing to implement the costs of of even those.

        Either way, you, Rud and many others here make me think about things I may not even have considered while providing alternate perspectives. And for that, much appreciation.

  2. Rud and PE,

    Has it actually been demonstrated to within a reasonable doubt that when you include mining, manufacturing, transportation, installation, grid connection, maintenance, decommissioning, and disposal/recycling, that photovoltaics anywhere even have a positive EROI?

    • Good question. To my knowledge (which is considerably more than shows here), NO. China does polysi PV because it is environmentally prohibitive elsewhere. And China cornered (briefly) the global rare earths metals market for the same reasons (more relevant to wind and EVehicles).

    • Thanks Rud, my late father, who was a civil engineer was also adamant that you would never get more power out of wind generation than you put into it, but I left it out of the question, as I think in some cases he may have been wrong.

      It the EROI on photovotaics and most wind can clearly be demonstrated to be negative, the true insanity of current renewable subsidies and policies might even be understood by low information politicians.

      • If all costs were in the price and the EROI on photovoltaics was positive then subsidies wouldn’t be needed which is why putting a price on carbon made economic sense. The insanity of carbon pricing schemes (including theoretical future damage from climate warming) has made it unworkable.

    • David L. Hagen

      Re: Solar PV EROI
      For an extensive 2015 review see: Bhandar, K.P. et al.,
      Energy payback time (EPBT) and energy return on energy invested (EROI) of solar photovoltaic systems: A systematic review and meta-analysis

      The embedded energy had a more than10-fold variation due to the variation in BOS embedded energy, geographical location and LCA data sources. The harmonization narrowed the range of the published EPBT values. The mean harmonized EPBT varied from 1.0 to 4.1 years; . . .The mean harmonized EROI varied from 8.7 to 34.2. Across different types of PV, the variation in embedded energy was greater than the variation in efficiency and performance ratio suggesting that the relative ranking of the EPBT of different PV technology today and in the future depends primarily on their embedded energy and not their efficiency. . . .
      A cradle to gate system boundary was selected for the analysis because there is limited and widely varying data available for the distribution, operation, maintenance, and end of life management of PV systems . . .
      Our study showed that the embedded energy reported in the literature varies greatly with a minimum of 894 MJ/m2 for thin film to 13,428 MJ/m2 for mono-crystalline silicon.

      This suggests PV EROI is positive, but with a 1,500% variation you have to ask a lot of questions for any given system.

    • David L. Hagen

      EROI for Quality of Life
      An important question is what EROI do we need to achieve a “higher” “quality of life”? And to enable developing countries to rise out of a “poor” quality of life?
      This was reviewed by Hall et al. (2009) What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have? and recently by Lambert, Hall et al. (2014) Energy, EROI and quality of life Downlaod PDF

      1. For the indices examined countries with an EROI SOC of less than 15-25:1 and/or less than 100 GJ per capita per year tend to have a poor to moderate “quality of life.” LEI values below 0.3 also correspond with a poor quality of life.
      2. A threshold is passed with an EROI SOC of from 20 to 30:1 and/or access to 100–200 GJ per capita per year which is correlated with a “higher” standard of living (e.g. an HDI index of above 0.7). This trend is reflected in an LEI threshold between 0.3 and 0.4.
      3. This improvement in well-being appears to level off at EROI SOC values above 30:1 and/or greater than 200 GJ per capita per year, observed in LEI value greater than 0.4. There is little or no additional improvement in societal well-being above these levels.

      The EROI of much of today’s PV appears to be insufficient to achieve a “poor” “qualilty of life”. The upper end of EROI is barely able to achieve the 30:1 EROI needed for a “higher” standard of living.

      • Curious George

        The life in the Garden of Eden must have been very poor. Adam and Eve escaped in horror.

      • David L. Hagen

        Curious misunderstanding. Reality check: “So He drove the man out”

      • David L. Hagen: recently by Lambert, Hall et al. (2014)

        Thank you for the link.

      • David Springer

        EROI is accounted for in the price of the panel. Duh. Does some clown here really imagine PV manufacturers spend more to make panels than they sell them for?

      • David Springer,

        You wrote –

        “Does some clown here really imagine PV manufacturers spend more to make panels than they sell them for?”

        Not quite, but –

        “The U.S. Department of Commerce recently sided with petitioners of such a trade complaint and imposed tariffs after finding that Chinese solar companies have indeed received illegal government subsidies and sold solar panels at below cost.”

        Does “sold panels at below cost” sound similar to “spend more to make panels than they sell them for?””

        Duh. Clowns? You be the judge.


      • David Springer,

        I suppose only a clown would purposely sell pre owned Teslas at a loss. This same clown would even take a loss on every Tesla sold, and run a company that doesn’t make a profit.

        You appear to be a clownish belief expert. Do you suffer from coulrophobia (an irrational fear of clowns)? Were you frightened by a clown as a child? Why does clownism terrify you?

        Clowns are funny. I’ve been known to clown around on occasion – I’m unable to see many adverse side effects from laughter. Most people prefer it to being miserable. Of course, if you choose misery to laughter, the I support your right to misery.

        May you enjoy all the misery you want, if it makes you happy!


      • Hahaha David Springer you embarass yourself.
        “EROI is accounted for in the price of the panel.”
        Before you call other people clowns, learn what Energy Returned On (Energy) Invested actually means.

      • Good one.

      • That actually happened, as reported by either the WSJ or American Spectator long ago in a Washington DC energy fair. The reporter asked what was spinning the wind turbine since there was no wind. They said it was run electrically for demonstration purposes.

      • ” They said it was run electrically for demonstration purposes.”

        Much better than the scammers in Germany who lit solar PV with electric lights and sold the “renewable” energy back to the grid AT A PROFIT.
        They only got caught because they got greedy and ran it at night.

      • EUREKA, kneel63 has discovered the ENERGY HOLY GRAIL !

        The discovery is so simple I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it. Just shine a light bulb on a solar panel and you will make more electricity than the bulb is using.

        Just think what you could do with a flashlight and a solar-powered bicycle.

        Congratulations kneel63

        Don’t forget the bicycle idea is mine, not yours.

      • Read harder Max.

        What max says I wrote:
        “Just shine a light bulb on a solar panel and you will make more electricity than the bulb is using.”

        What I actually wrote:
        “… lit solar PV with electric lights and sold the “renewable” energy back to the grid AT A PROFIT.”

        The only reason they could make a profit from such an abomination is the greenies insistence on unsustainable subsidies – somewhat of a giggle considering they also believe that all things should be sustainable (except, obviously, “renewable” energy subsidies)

        I do not blame the perpetrators of this scam for doing what they did, any more than I think VW did anything wrong when they “scammed” the diesel emissions rules – in both cases, anyone examining the rules could easily conclude that they could do what was done without breaking the rules as written. That the rules allow these things to happen is the fault of those who write the rules, not of those who exploit the loopholes – as the legal system in most democracies (and even sporting control bodies for that matter) has repeatedly confirmed.

        I’m not happy that it happened, and even less happy that it was so predictable and no-one who could have prevented it bothered to make sure it couldn’t happen. Especially given that this sort of thing happens all the time and usually the grossest violations happen using rules that the writers believe were created with the best of intentions (or at least are promoted as such).

      • What a disappointment, kneel63. Oh well.

        Hey, I’ll overlook your ethics if you provide a link that gives the details about the solar PV scam. I gave up trying to find it through Goggle.

      • I’ve long suggested using earth rotation to generate energy, by putting a gyroscope horizontally across the north pole, say on a circular track. Take energy from the differential rotation of earth and gyroscope.

        Of course you can put the gyroscope anywhere and it will work as well.

        It does depend on not understanding how gyroscopes work, but it’s good enough for a grant.

      • Curious George

        rhardin, an even better variant: a merry-go-round of youth. Put a merry-go-round on either pole, run it a proper direction, and whenever you cross the International Date Line (180 W, or 180 E) you subtract a day.

    • Charles the Moderator,

      You might be interested in this: Catch 22 of energy storage

      It shows that when you include the back up or energy storage the are essential for weather-dependent renewables, they cannot produce sufficient energy through their life to support modern society and reproduce themselves.

      There have been many attempts to show this is wrong, but it has stood up well. see this response by the author, Dr John Morgan:

      • Curious George

        Somehow I did not find in that article that a storage can be used more than once. What am I missing?

      • Curious George,

        The ERoEI is for life cycle energy invested and returned. All energy consumed cradle to grave is included.

      • Curious George

        Then the article says that we don’t have an effective way to store energy – today. What a surprise.

      • Curious George,

        I may have misunderstood your original question:

        Somehow I did not find in that article that a storage can be used more than once. What am I missing?

        What was that question meant to ask? I thought you were asking if the EROEI included the full life cycle cost of energy storage. I answered “yes, it does”. I don’t recall how the analysis was done or what assumptions were made (e.g. pumped hydro and/ or chemical storage). If you want to know the answer to that, I’d suggest you read read the post and the papers it cites.

        I expect your last comment is making the point that we are a very long way from having viable electricity storage. Pumped hydro provides 99% of all electricity storage but sites are limited and it seldom economic, certainly not with power supplied from unreliable renewable energy sources. Other electricity storage technologies are a factor of 10 more expensive and nowhere near viable at the scale required to make renewables viable.. It’s taken 215 years for batteries to get to the stage they are at now. When submarines replace lead acid batteries with batteries that can give them better reliability, endurance and 10,000 times better range (as nuclear subs have now with the energy stored in their fuel for 30 years operation), then there’ll be signs of progress. Until then, why muck around wishing, hoping and waiting? (I think you agree; I am making the point for anyone else who might drop in)

    • Yes. It has been demonstrated many times.

      One example:

      (not exactly on EROI, but related)

  3. Logic of the situation, you would hope.An example:

    In England by the time of the Domesday Book, the
    water wheel, known but little used by the Romans,
    was beginning to replace animal power.The Cistercian
    monks took the watermill to its technical zenith, for
    food and cloth production.The water wheel was no
    good in the low countries so they adapted it as a
    wind mill. Horses for courses, but nevertheless,
    it was peat, rather than the wind, that gave the
    Dutch the power to become the world’s workshop
    in the 1600’s.

    H/t Matt Ridley ;The Rational Optimist.’ Chapter 7,
    ‘The Release of Slaves.’ Say, serfs like that!

  4. Can’t imagine why a comment on Medieval water
    wheels and adaption by the Dutch to wind mills is
    in moderation. :) Word press yer funny.

    • Thx from down under. A serf can always learn something
      from your posts and Planning Engineer’s ditto. .

      • Last time I was down under, had a wonderful time. Only got to Melbourne and Sidney that 6 week round the world trip. But got to the Aussie rules football final one weekend. A cross between rugby and NFL, without any protective equipment. Got to say, made an impression: crazy! Your country is amazing. And you are a beautiful soul. Highest regards.

  5. Within the US, the CPP follows this idea because every state can develop its own emission-cutting plans based on what is easier for them. Some have good solar resources, others have good wind or hydro resources, and others have nuclear in place or have already been building up their natural gas capacity. Others have coal, but can only transition to gas or clean coal in the near term. Every state is different and that is recognized by the plan. I even expect that HVDC could help some of the coal states to adapt more easily by importing power over long distances.

    • JimD, you ignore a few ‘facts’. 1. The CPP is likely unconsitutional. See my previous comments (other threads) on Larry Tribe’s brief in re same. 2. State level differences are not additive. 3. HVDC long distance interconnects to ‘level’ state differences are not necessarily economic, or even technically viable; else, California would already be demanding some of the eastern TVA hydropower their western taxes paid for. You missed a couple of our major thesis points. How about responding to our thesis and its supporting specifics. Specific counter examples welcome, if you can come up with any.

    • I was talking about methods of moving to less emissions like all the examples you cited. These methods are proceeding as we speak in many states regardless of the CPP, and they follow horses for courses. Some are trying to bring politics in because of their coal interests, but that is beside the point. Coal is not a horse for any course, and that particular horse is best sent to the glue factory.

      • Curious George

        Damn the specifics. Let’s keep the discussion lofty.

      • Exactly, CG, the complaint was beside the point. Other countries don’t have coal lobbies trying to step in front of this type of emission reduction. The US is a special case. Ignoring that is what most of the states have done, and they are proceeding regardless of these transparent delay tactics. As I said, each state has different horses for the courses, and no one thinks that horse is coal, nor in any of the examples cited. On the contrary, all the national efforts given are to move away from coal because in terms of emission per energy, it is the worst fuel you can imagine, and that’s even ignoring other pollution from it and coalmine safety issues. The article rightly takes the need for reduced emissions as a given, as does the EPA, but the coal lobby is not there yet, hence the rather special US problem.

    • JimD – You are correct that in the CPP that the states are all treated differently by the Clean Power Plan. It has That consistency with the concepts argued here. It’s a good question as to how well the goals of a central entity can be meshed with plans at more local entities to acheive a suitable degree of fairness, efficiency and effectiveness. It is a challenging question without an easy or definitive answer. From the point of view of horses for courses it could clearly be worse, but it could likely be better as well. The hard question is “is it reasonable to expect a better approach?” My own personal opinion on the CPP which was not a part of the piece is that those involved in the formulation of the plan have not shown sufficient insight and understanding as to the factors involved in changing the power supply and as such it probably could be much better.

      • The states opposed to the CPP are effectively leaving it to the EPA to plan for them, which is probably not in their best interests, and perversely these are exactly the states that don’t trust the EPA, so hopefully they will come to their senses and make their own plan if they don’t want that to happen. Those making their own plans are in a much better self-determining position because they know their resources and industries better.

      • Jim D – it is informative to see how the requirements flipped between the two versions of the plan. Some states saw the road ahead much easier in the second version and others picked up the burden. One change concernened nuclear initiated pre plan getting credit. In the second version credit was given for nuclear under way now. Some like that others don’t, to an extent it could be viewed as an arbitrary decision of great consequence for some. When you “cooperate” on you own pre plan sometimes it is recognized and decreases your burden sometimes it is used to redefine your position so greater burdens can be imposed.. Some fear no good dead goes unpunished, rather than getting privileges as favored children. It’s often a crapshoot so your advice may be good or not.

      • aplanningengineer,

        It sounds like living in a theocracy, where the law is applied very unevenly, depending on one’s closeness to the theocrats.

        It could also be like living in a country governed by a totalitarian regime:

        [T]he “objective” enemies in Bolshevik language, knew that they were “criminals without a crime.”….

        The language of prophetic scientificality corresponded to the needs of masses who had lost their home in the world….

        [T]he totalitarian version of the possible crime is based on the logical anticipation of objctive developments….

        Totalitarianism’s central assumption that everything is possible thus leads through consistent elimination of all factual restraints to the consequence that any crime the rulers can conceive of must be punished, regardless of whether it has been committed….

        The scientificality of totalitarian propaganda is characterized by its almost exclusive insistence on scientific prophecy as distinguished from the more old-fashioned appeal to the past….

        This excessive arbitrariness negates human freedom more efficiently than any tyranny ever could….

        Science in totalitarian propaganda is obviously only a surrogate for power…. [T]he Bolsheviks use the reputation of their scientists for entirely unscientific purposes and force them into the role of charlatans.

        — HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

      • Also, contrary to Bolshevik propanganda, their “scientific management” was not efficient.

        Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty….

        The best documented result…was neither progress nor rapid industrialization but famine, chaotic conditions in the production of food and depopulation…

        And all this together was indeed an incredibly “high price”…exacted for the opening of careers in the party and government bureaucracies. The truth is that the price of totalitarian rule was so high that in…Russia has it yet been paid in full.

        — HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

  6. I looked at the picture on the left with its parking lot and solar cell accoutrements having just come home from the grocery store. How would such a solar array fit in the grocery store parking lot?

    First of all, the panel would have to have an armored base; i.e. a large concrete (about 2 feet diameter by 3 feet high sunk 3 feet into the ground) for each supporting beam. Not that every driver in the parking lot plays bumper car, yet, on any given day, there are at least 2 such accidents (fender benders) caused by somebody slowly running into your car or the parking lot lighting pole; the latter is the reason why the lighting poles are armored in the first place. A 4 X 4 box steel post would hardly withstand a year’s Abuse, especially around the handicap slots. So there is a need for the armored supporting posts for the solar panels.

    The second issue is snow. We have had 1/2 dozen heavy wet snow storms this winter. The snow stayed 5 to 6 days after each snowfall. For the un-initiated, heavy wet snow sticks to everything it lands on, power lines, tree branches as well as the local solar roof panels. When the solar panel is covered, no electricity. When the snow begins to melt, the melt water seeps into all the little tiny cracks and crevices in and around the panel, shorting out the electric system. And then, when the snow is slightly melted during the day, it freezes to ice during the below freezing and windy night. Wait until somebody’s Beemer gets a load of ice on its hood or roof, dent city. Whose to pay for that damage? Insurance liability costs would be high, especially if the slug of ice cascades off the panel onto someone walking, pushing a shopping cart, children in tow: brain damage.

    This whole idea of solar panels here and there and every which-way is the product of brain damage.

    Now don’t get me started on solar panels on some roof tops in California subjected to the Santa Ana wind. The solar panel acts as a wing of an aircraft and… and away they go. Wind gusts are not “average wind speed” to which some solar wings have been installed to.

    When your roof leaks from the push and pull of your roof top solar panel installation through the roof supports, who are ya going to call? Ghost Busters? A $25,000 solar panel investment with subsidy now became a new roof at $10,000 performed by a contractor who has no knowledge of how to make the next installation better able to withstand nature’s vicissitudes.

    In 20 years or so, after this fad is well past novelty and reality sinks in, I think we will hear more and more: “What was I thinking?”

    • Thanks for sharing. Good example. I remember a parking lot outside of Muir Woods with beautiful trees. I looked for a picture of it to be an example but could not find it. Perhaps we should get a list of parking lots that should be left alone in case passion takes over during a green revolution?

  7. With the science of CO2 so undecided, the current magnitude of government intervention to quash CO2 emissions is abominable.

    • That’s the crux of it, jim 2. And yr point 2, having to
      import steel, what does that mean for the US defence
      of the realm?

      • I’m sure China would ship us only the best steel for military use.

      • We shipped fantastic steel to the Russians.

      • globalist believe and hope that if no one nation state has the capacity to wage war then peace, love and sexlessness will break out all over
        I’m pretty sure that the US no longer has a facility that can produce antibiotics
        inter-dependence produces harmony

    • Geoff Sherrington

      jim2 –
      The blind leading the lame model works badly when the blind think they are seeing, worse, seeing the future.
      It is an extraordinary circumstance that will be remembered by historians with disbelief.

  8. From the article:

    But let’s suppose that the U.S. coal industry were to be shut down, as Hillary Clinton hopes. What would that mean in practical terms?

    First, energy costs would rise significantly, since renewables are hardly cost-effective.

    Second, and more troubling—the U.S. would need to start importing the steel currently used to manufacture cars, military equipment, and whole host of other industrial products.

    Why this sudden importation of steel? Because without sturdy electrical generation, it’s simply not possible to liquefy metal or power heavy-duty furnaces and machinery. And even more significant, it’s impossible to make steel without coal. That’s because steelmaking starts with metallurgical coal, which is used to make coke. Combining coke with iron ore yields steel.

    Let’s be clear about this: The domestic steel industry is already struggling to stay competitive against subsidized imports. America’s steel producers simply can’t bear the twin, added expenses of higher energy costs and imported metallurgical coal.

  9. The idea that one solution fits all is also demonstrated by AGWers everywhere and to consider that climate change is having a uniform effect on all regions around the globe and on sea levels generally
    sets off my BS detector.

    • Well, you just set off my “where’s he been” detector. If one solution fits all, why are there so many solutions? Who thinks rising sea levels will make Glacier National Park into Glacierless National Park?

      Mr. Davies, I’m afraid what you believe is being “demonstrated by AGWers everywhere” is all in your head.

    • Perhaps you could read a little harder Max? You haven’t addressed my points, which were: De-carbonisation is the solution being offered to the perceived problem of global warming, because of AGWers fixation on CO2. Problem with global warming as a concept is that is only in AGWers heads because Oklahoma’s temperature may well be declining relative to that in California or rising relative to that in Wisconsin. Sea levels have not, are not, and will not be rising or falling on a uniform basis.

  10. Great post.

    It’s anecdotal, but as a resident of our all too often grey-skied UK, I’ve struggled to comprehend how the case for solar could ever have worked out well.

    • Your memeplex posts have helped me understand more of all this nonsense than all the technical stuff I and other techies like PE could ever post. Many thanks for that enlightenment.

    • It’s true that solar doesn’t work as well on overcast or cloudy days, but it doesn’t stop working altogether. Germany has been more successful with solar than the UK. Is that because it isn’t grey-skied as often as the UK or is it just because the Germans are smarter than the Brits. Before anyone accuses me of prejudice, I want it known all my ancestors came from the UK. I believe they left voluntarily.

      • UK is Maritime climate, but over half Germany is Continental climate. I guess this means better summers on average; so about 4 months should be good production of solar. But about 4 months during winter will be poor. It is still a northern temperate place.

      • max1ok said:

        Germany has been more successful with solar than the UK…

        So what do we have then, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”?

      • Germany has not been “more successful with solar”. They have built more solar because their feed in tariff is much more lucrative than subsidies in the UK or the US.

        A solar system in Berlin will have a capacity factor of just above 10%:

      • max10k,

        You wrote –

        “. . . or is it just because the Germans are smarter than the Brits.”

        If solar power is uneconomic compared with other forms, but Germany has more than Britain, might it not be a case of dumber and dumb?

        People try things. Some work out, some don’t. Some work well for a while, but stop working so well when circumstances change.

        I guess a more efficient method of manufacturing buggy whips worked well for a while, when there was a lot of competition. Maybe not so useful now. Cheques are falling into disfavour, telegrams no longer exist, and CRT analog TV sets seem to be thin on the ground.

        So possibly lauding someone for using a greater number of inefficient products than another, might not be seen as particularly rational.


      • WRONG !

        If you have the courage to face the truth about Energiewende, read the linked article from this month’s Atomic Scientist. Be prepared to have your socks knocked off.

      • You apparently don’t understand the economics of power production. Any rich country can mis-allocate capital resources to solar and wind and come up with impressive sounding results to the uninformed, or willfully ignorant.

      • If that’s the economics that ignores externalities, yes, I understand it real good.

      • Wow.
        This max guy is a character.
        Shouting “wrong” to other people while calling the German energiewende a success. He really has no clue whatsoever does he.

      • Well wij, if you were here much you would know Mike Flynn is wrong about almost everything, so chances are he’s wrong about Energiewende too.

        Not surprisingly, Germany’s energy revolution, Energiewende, isn’t popular with the fossil fuel luddites who hang out at ClimateEtc, most of whom are Americans and Australians of advanced age who are stuck in the last century. It’s hard for these fuddy-duddy buddies to acknowledge Energiewende is popular with the German

      • Max,×404.png

        CO2 emissions in Germany are not decreasing, In spite of the fact that Germany’s EEG feed-in act total subsidy for supporting the Energiewende and expanding renewable energies in 2014 cost approx. 24 billion euros (In 2015 the cost is projected to be some 27 billion euros). Their emissions are increasing. They subsidize solar power with a market value of 1 billion Euros with 11 billion euros.
        If you want to call that a succes go ahead but don’t be surprised if other people then think you are kinda special.

        All hail the Energiewende!!

      • wjn …
        ‘They subsidize solar power with a market value
        of 1 billion Euros with 11 billion Euros.’
        Horses fer courses, betting odds of 11 ter 1, serfs
        not gonna’ bet on that nag, Energiewende. ..Think
        I’ll bet on the bay, tra la.

      • wij, you are not showing me anything I didn’t know. What we are seeing is just a pause in the energy revolution. Energiewende will have you and the other fossil fuel Luddites eating crow in a few years. You forgot to mention the revolution has the support of the German people, and the government is doubling down rather than lowering the goal.

      • Australia’s 17.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita in 2014 was almost twice that of Germany, despite Germany being more industrialized. Beth and the other Australians who frequent ClimateEtc should hang their heads in shame.

      • Did me own reading M, and became sceptical regardin’
        the Church of CAGW. Cli-scientists never did establish
        the positive feedback data or find the hot-spot finger-print,
        heck, all that expenditure based on doomsday fear ‘n guilt
        projections. SARS IPCC 2nd order draft, observations
        versus guess werk. Don’t intend ter hang my head on your
        say so. M, my conscience is mine own

      • So despite the Energiewende MASSIVELY wending back to brown coal [cue excuses, claptrap about bridging, transition etc], Australia is still way in front on per capita emissions. Love it.

        Of course, Germany has been helped by downturn post ’08 and by continuing merrily with those “discontinued” nukes. Plus, any VW buyer can tell you that Fritz is no amateur at fudging emissions data.

        Moreover energy policy for Germany is half waiting game to see who is going to sell them the most gas for the least price. (Depends on how those just wars of liberation and self-determination go. If the outcomes are not too good for NATO, Turkey etc, it’ll have to be Nord Stream 2 and nice Mr Putin.)

        On the semi-bright side, when the sun shines on Brandenburg at 50+ degrees N there’ll even be solar energy in expensive trickles. That’s for the smug demographic.

        But why spoil a good citizen’s tale? Any win for Australia is good.

        Today Germany. Tomorrow the world!

      • max10k,

        You wrote –

        “Australia’s 17.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita in 2014 was almost twice that of Germany, despite Germany being more industrialized.”

        Australians apologise for not producing more CO2 directly, but we try to make up for it by exporting lots of coal for direct conversion to CO2 and H2O, and also lots of iron ore, which requires lots of coal to be converted into CO2 and H2O, as part of the steel making process.

        Steel uses a fair bit of carbon directly, as steel consists essentially of iron carbide suspended in iron. Unfortunately, hydro, wind or solar power, or all the blathering of Warmists cannot produce a single atom of carbon.

        However, the main users of CO2 and H2O are plants. The greening of the deserts, (being restored to their previous state, when CO2 levels were far more plant friendly), seems to be a good thing. To rational human beings, of course.

        Now any number of Witless Warmists, complete with almost nearly Nobel Prizes, mad useless toy numerical models, running on the world’s fastest super computers cannot create a single grain of rice. Nor can they change the speed or direction of a single breath of wind.

        Of course, Warmists do have a purpose – to serve as an object lesson to more rational and logical human beings, showing what can happen if extremely susceptible and gullible believers in magic fall under the influence of delusional psychotics calling themselves climatologists.

        Or maybe magic really does exist, and the world’s surface will return to its molten state. I’m assuming it won’t, but I don’t care if I’m wrong or not. Why should I?


      • Worth a read, Max who says he’s okay…Post @
        ClimateEtc 2nd Dec,2015. ‘German Energiewende
        -Modern Miracle or Major Misstep.’
        Seems it’s the latter. Intermittency, it’s a bitch.

        * Germany, like Denmark, has only been able to
        develop intermittent renewable energy resources
        because of the high capacity inter-connections
        with other large European energy providers/
        consumers. In effect, Germany and Denmark
        have used the European and Nordic grids as a
        large battery. It follows that if other European
        countries were to follow the path taken by
        Germany the system as a whole would soon run
        out of capacity to deal with the fluctuations in
        renewable energy production.

        * The German Energiewende has not resulted in
        less dependence on the burning of coal to generate
        electricity and will not do so anytime soon.

      • What can we expect from a country settled largely by people other countries didn’t want. Australia was the UK’s dumping ground for deadbeats and thieves. The native population soon found out the new arrivals wanted to steal land,welch on loans, and pollute air and water. Unfortunately, their descendants aren’t much different. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    • max10k,

      My socks are still firmly on. I note with interest that the staff of the Atomic Scientist appear to include precisely no atomic or other hard scientists.

      I will let others decide whether its articles are just more poorly informed journalistic hyperbole, or not.


      • Probably because you haven’t changed em’ in a couple of months and they are stuck to the skin on your feet.


      • max10k,

        You change your socks? Why? Do you have smelly feet or some scrofulous disease of your phalanges?

        I don’t suffer from anything of that nature, so you have my deepest sympathies.


  11. “Renewable projects have relatively large upfront fixed costs which cannot be recovered by terminating the project.” Perhaps they never will be recovered.

    Just because you built something, does not follow that the project should necessarily continue by re-capitalizing the debt (or stiffing the taxpayer by way of federally guaranteed loans). If the investment is fundamentally not sound (as in unable to compete in the marketplace) then it should be terminated to stop the financial bleeding.

    Absent mandates and production tax credits, most green energy projects are financially stupid. Alas, same can be said of nuclear power in the US. Wrong solution for our unique circumstances (cheap natural gas).

    • If the ongoing cost of a project can not be recovered – it should be cancelled. But sunk costs (even if they clearly can not ever be recovered) should not be the cause of project abandonment. Assume you have two projects in your portfolio (or two vehicles in you fleet, or two roosters in your henhouse). If both provide the same X in benefits for the same Y in costs ( and the same salvage value). going forward (ignoring accountants and artificial distortions) they should be treated similarly. The cost to acquire them should be ignored if you can’t recover it any differently in either case. Practically it should make no difference if one were given to you and the other came at an exorbident price many multiples above the ongoing costs.

      Suppose it cost $Xbillion to put in a project that was supposed to produce lots of near free energy. In fact it produces $70 million in energy a year but it’s ongoing variable costs average $60 million a year. Obviously it will never recover its fixed (sunk) costs or payback the loan. By why destroy the facility and forgo the $10 million in benefits that it could provide? (For simplicity here assume decommissioning and salvage value balance out whenever you do them). Flip the $60 and $70 million in benefits and costs and it should be terminated.

      Renewables have high fixed costs and supposedly low operating costs. When they can’t pay their way ignoring sunk costs – they are boondoggles of the highest degree. When they can pay their variable costs but not recover their fixed-they are ordinary boondoggles. I’m afraid many ordinary boondoggles are sometimes touted as successes.

      • Your analysis is weak. More or less impossible to put a value on “benefits”. If your product cannot be provided without fleecing the taxpayer, then it deserves to go in the scrap heap.

      • Not sure why you are saying that this “analysis is weak”. It’s quite clear, and well-known too ( This is not controversial.

      • Excellent PE. This is basic economics sprinkled with some logic. It never fails to amaze me how few people grasp basic economic analysis, even after it is explained clearly.

      • I agree 100% with PE and dougbadgero on this. I am also amazed how may people do not understand this.

        However, I suggest discussing whether or not to terminate existing RE projects (we should not if they are profitable going forward without further subsidies or incentives), instead we should be stopping the government incentives that are provided to renewables. This is where the massive boondoggle is. We should not be supporting new RE projects with incentives.

  12. You lads take a rather cavalier approach to using corn to fuel our vehicles. Drives up the cost of food (mandate= more demand = higher commodity price = higher cost food). All this so the politicians can get votes (and money) from the “welfare queen” corn farmers.

    • Curious George

      A skyrocketing cost of grains was a major driving force for the Arab Spring.

  13. PE, common sense such as yours is now an offence.

    Common sense involves experiment, observation, reflection and caution. You are even coming across as a conservationist, the prime enemy of Big Green.

    Beware. When you attack their white elephants you attack the very fabric of the New Class, who need to waste money and resources like Cossacks needed to burn villages.

    You have been warned, PE.

    • Of course, the same warning applies to Istvan, the farmer with the imperialist christian name. You too are suspected of conservationist tendencies. Big Green is watching you (from its inner-urban air conditioned strongholds).

    • Mosomoso – I an prepared with a bicycle, flipflops, a tolerance for ramen and enough sunscreen to last till the tan comes in.

  14. The Oregon Legislature does not understand, nor care to learn what is written above.

    “The US state of Oregon has become the first to vote for a complete ban on coal-generated power. By 2035, at the latest, the state’s utility companies must ensure none of the electricity they provide comes from coal.

    “And, by 2040, at least half of the state’s energy must come from renewable resources, under the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act, voted into law by the country’s legislature yesterday.”|NSNS|2016-GLOBAL-hoot

    • Don Bishop says
      “The Oregon Legislature does not understand, nor care to learn what is written above.”

      They may think where there’s a will there’s a way, and figure it’s a long time from 2016 to 2040.

  15. Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan,

    Thank you for a plain speaking and informative post.

    Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The cathedral keeps collapsing, the dam fails, the plane falls from the sky. These things happen.

    Life goes on. It all seems like a good idea at the time, otherwise you wouldn’t do it.


  16. Question: Who wrote the following — Planning Engineer or me?

    As I’ve said in previous postings – for a well interconnected system it is the overall penetration level withing an integrated power supply system that is important. A component of that system can have high levels of intermittent renewable if that is balanced out by other parts of the system with more conventional flexible generation.

    Who said the following — Andy Boston or me?

    “To those tempted to use simple metrics like LCOE to compare technologies: You can’t. You have to do holistic modelling (e.g., GE MAPS) as value is a function of grid mix.”

    Who said the following — Rud or me?

    “I oppose a U.S. Carbon Tax (regressive tax) that will displace U.S. manufacturing to foreign countries; Cap & Trade, a financial derivative (another Wall St. play-toy); a Federally mandated Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that takes decision making out of the hands of our engineers — and places it with Politicians in D.C.”

  17. Stephen Segrest is again trying to big note himself, but as usual lying and trying to mislead readers. He does not have the integrity to be an engineer.

    Andy Boston did not say this. Segrest added the bit about “(e.g., GE MAPS) ” and tried to imply Andy Boston had said it.

    Nothing Segrest says should be trusted without checking. He’s a green ideologue and for him anything goes.

    here is Segrest’s question to Andy Boston:

    And here is Andy Boston’s reply:

    You have to watch how Segrests misrepresents and makes strawman arguments about what you say.

    • “He does not have the integrity to be an engineer.”

      That’s a low blow. Give the guy a break. Wouldn’t it be enough to say he doesn’t have the integrity to be a used car salesman?

  18. I want to thank Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan for their presentation. It was interesting, easy to read, and while I may disagree with some of the details, I agree that different problems require different solutions.

    I would ask the authors to consider whether the following excerpt might give readers the mistaken impression Sun Edison’s stock decline, delayed financial filing, debt, and the quoted NYTimes article, stemmed from its exit from the UK market.

    ‘After Osbourne and Cameron announced elimination of future rooftop feed-in-tariffs on grounds they were financially unaffordable, Sun Edison announced on 7 October 2015 that it was exiting the now unprofitable UK. Its stock is down ~70% since that day. It has delayed filing its annual financials citing material accounting weaknesses. SunEdison (based in high insolation California) now carries $11.67 billion in debt on a market cap of ~$650 million. There are serious doubts whether it can avoid bankruptcy. Foolishness has consequences; the New York Times said on March 15, “ If SUNE enters bankruptcy the autopsy will show suicide.” ‘

    The closing price of Sun Edison stock has declined from $9.72 on October 7, 2015, the day the company announced it was leaving the UK, to $2.13 on March 18, 2016. Little of that loss, however, occurred in the weeks after the announcement. Most occurred in the middle of November, when the price dropped from $7.40 on the 9th to $3.02 on the 17th. The price hit a closing low of $1.26 on February 24, 2016 before recovering to its current level.

    I doubt Sun Edison’s delay in filing its financials for 2015 and its $11.67 billion debt are just a result of leaving the UK market. The NYTimes article on the company was not about the UK.{“allowChartStacking”:true}

    • max

      I have often said here that we need renewable horses for courses. It is very foolish to rely on a solar based industry here in the UK due to our lack of sun. I live in just about the sunniest part of the country and we get around 1700 hours per year. When we most need it in winter the amount of energy supplied by solar is tiny.

      However, we are surrounded by ocean with nowhere in the UK further away from the coast than 70 miles so in our instance this is the obvious renewable course to follow.


      • Hi Tony,

        I have visited the UK several times during winter and I know how gray it can be. I doubt solar will be a significant source of energy unless there’s some technological break through.

        It’s past my bedtime.

    • Max10K, just got back here after a rather long day at the mine face. To your expressed concerns about my comments on SunEdison:
      (1) posted all the complete story company details by reference links which you obviously followed. Yieldcos, bad US deals, etc. Not only their UK disaster, although for their stock that was evidently the financial tipping point. Knew all that or would not have posted the additional SUNE links for you to follow.
      (2) is true they entered UK to mine solar subsidies, and when those were cut, withdrew booking great losses. The SUNE stock crash started that day.
      (3) is true their stock is down about 70% from that days announcement. So, ~70 percent fall leaves about ~30% value. I note you changed those dates a bit. ~$9 prior to ~$1.5 ( more generous than your cherry picked number) is (~9 * ~0.3) = $2.7. The stock closed well below that. My number was simply taken from the linked NYT article. Is about correct on average. You don’t like it, argue with the NYT.
      You want all exact details of every company every day in every post, then plan on no posts. Perhaps that was your intent? What is your “ENRON” defense of now near bankrupt SUNE? Cause there isn’t one, IMO. Their business/financial model bet on large government subsidies in multiple countries, plus hiving those risks off into ‘yieldcos’. Those subsidies went away, so did SUNE and its ‘yieldcos’. QED.
      Yet you quibble about the daily details concerning such large sordid sagas.

      • Sorry, ristvan, I’m not buying your claim that SunEdison’s stock suffered a 70% decline solely as a result of it’s exit from the UK when I can see from the record that most of the decline didn’t start taking place until about a month after the exit. I will again post the link to the daily stock prices, so anyone who looks at the record can understand what I mean.

        The loss of the UK market hurt SunEdison, but the company had a lot more problems than just that one. If you want to tell the story of SunEdison you need to tell the whole story, including the disasterous attempt to acquire Vivint Solar.

  19. Fracking, which the 97% Obama opposed, is doing more to “clean up the environment” that any government program:

    “2016 is shaping up to be a year for the record books: the Energy Information Administration is anticipating that this year, for the first time ever, natural gas will displace coal as America’s largest source of electricity generation.”

    Obama-Backed Solar Plant Could Be Shut Down For Not Producing Enough Energy

    “Ivanpah, which got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration, only produced a fraction of the power state regulators expected it would. The plant only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data.”

  20. Horses for courses,
    even among us,
    tinker, tailor, soldier,
    sailor, lawyer, thief,
    variations beggar belief,
    long distance runner,
    sprinter, discus thrower,
    even in epic theatre,
    why, put Hamlet in
    Oedipus’ scenario,
    no problemo, Oedipus,
    likewise, in Hamlet’s,
    job done, horses for
    courses, problems though
    when you find yourself
    in yr inappropriate zone.

  21. Sorry, MarkM, but you are not up to date on Ivanpah and the author of the article on fracking doesn’t seem to understand the process is too expensive to make many new fracked wells profitable at today’s low price of oil.

    • Apologies max10k.
      Can you provide updated information for me?

    • November 17, 2014
      Huge US solar plant lags in early production
      One of the reasons is as basic as it gets: The sun isn’t shining as much as expected.

    • And in Germany, whither Energiewende?
      … For the 11 billion in subsidies about 1 billion euros
      of power is actually produced.

      • For the 11 billion in subsidies about 1 billion euros of power is actually produced at the much higher cost.

        Compared to cost of power without renewable, it is much worse, it actually bought much less power with the money.

      • From the linked article:

        For the photovoltaic producers, it’s a great business: Many get 50 cents per kilowatt hour (guaranteed 20 years) while the same kilowatt gets sold for only 3 to 4 cents on the market.

        The wonders of a command economy never cease to amaze.

        It’s like turning lead into gold. All one needs is a little help from the long arm of the law to reach out and make it so.

        The scientist kings have achieved what the alchemists could only dreamed of.

        The form of infallible prediction in which these concepts were presented becomes more important than their content. The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility, he can never admit an error.

        The assumption of infallibility, moreover, is based not so much on superior intelligence as on the correct interpretation of the essentially reliable forces in history or nature…

        Mass leaders in power have one concern which overrules all utilitarian considerations: to make their predictions come true….

        This method, like other totalitarian propaganda methods, is foolproof only after the movements have seized power. Then all debate about the truth or falsity of a totalitarian dictator’s prediction is as wierd as arguing with a potential murderer about whether his future victim is dead or alive — since by killing the person in question the murderer can promptly provide proof of the correctness of his statement.

        — HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism

    • max1ok said:

      …the author of the article on fracking doesn’t seem to understand the process is too expensive to make many new fracked wells profitable at today’s low price of oil.

      The oil market is an entirely different market than the natural gas market.

      The economic viablity of natural gas wells has little to do with the price of oil.

  22. Alas, this isn’t about St. Patrick’s Day but about trendy snobbery that hurts the poor.

    With “green” having become a status symbol, the affluent can afford it. Yet, their desire to “broadcast their own goodness” actually results in higher costs to those who can least afford it.

    Solar power is a great example.

    • That’s BS. I’m not a goody-goody and I support renewables

      • “In short, the utility is required by state laws to purchase the extra electricity generated by rooftop solar panels at the full retail rate — even though they could purchase it at a fraction of the cost from the power plant. As more and more people sign up for these programs, it increases the overall cost of electricity.”

        Which part is bs?

      • The part that ignores my tax dollar goes to support earned income tax credit and other programs to help those less fortunate than me. And I’m not whining about it. If getting a little payback for helping the environment makes me a snob, I’m glad to be a snob.

      • max10k,

        Would you support renewable energy so much if you actually had to pay the full unsubsidised cost?

        I possess no occult powers, but I surmise that you consume precisely no unsubsidised renewable energy of any consequence. Can you demonstrate otherwise, or are you just another AGW proselytiser, willing to fight to the last drop of my blood?

        Bah. Humbug.


      • Would I support renewable energy so much if I actually had to pay the full unsubsidised cost?

        ABSOLUTELY !

      • max10k,

        Why don’t you then? All mouth and no trousers? What’s stopping you?


      • Geoff Sherrington

        “I’m not a goody-goody and I support renewables” is a childish comment that reveals more of the immaturity of your comments.
        You have just been reading example after example of renewables failures in many places for several main reasons. You can read of the financial losses many have made.
        But, seldom do we see a detailed explanation of the how and the why such planning disasters occur. The code of silence seems intended to hide embarrassment and the work of fools.
        So, why do you make the blanket statement that you support renewables? Have you found a dominance of examples in which performance gives profitability and increasing market share (without subsidies)? What is your guideline for support of this technology?
        Is it so primitive that it can be summarised as “I am told that C fuel is bad. Renewables without C are therefore supportable”?
        There is not a great deal of value to others here if you simply parrot what long ago many of us saw as propaganda, to mask poor engineering and economic outcomes.
        But since you do not seem to quote many examples of top notch, unsubsidised renewables successes, we simply have to assume that you have no special insights and are therefore safely left unread.

      • Max? Are you there? Geoff Sherrington has asked you a question which deserves a detailed answer.

      • Several in fact!

      • Would I support renewable energy so much if I actually had to pay the full unsubsidised cost? ABSOLUTELY !

        I suggest that those of you who want to throw their money away on worse than useless, so called, renewable energy be allowed to do so and the rest of us who do not want to waste our money, not be required to help.

        Billions of dollars, or more, have already been wasted on useless projects that kill birds and bats and poor people who can’t afford electricity, while already rich people get richer and bale out with the money before the projects are announced to be bankrupt.

      • Peter M Davies | March 21, 2016 at 6:55 am |
        Max? Are you there? Geoff Sherrington has asked you a question which deserves a detailed answer.

        Geoff doesn’t seem very deserving to me, but I’ll explain why I support subsidies to renewable energy anyway. (1) Renewable energy has lower external costs than energy from fossil fuel. (2) Renewable energy conserves fossil fuels for future generations (3) Renewable energy sources are infant technologies with promise.

      • I thought GOP stood for Greedy Old Poots. Can anyone explain why old Republican farts are suddenly concerned about the poor?

    • From the linked article:

      Despite claims of “green prosperity” that implies such policies can “fight poverty and raise living standards,” the opposite is true. Everyone pays more — even those who can least afford it — so the elites, seeking green status symbols, can feel good and appear to be community leaders.


      Like the saying here in Mexico goes:

      La cruz en el pecho y el diablo en los hechos.

      The cross on one’s chest and the devil in one’s deeds.

    • Alas, this isn’t about St. Patrick’s Day but about trendy snobbery that hurts the poor.

      The the average residential monthly electric bill in the US is around $115 a month in the a rise of 3% translates to an increase of around $4 a month. If we do find the costs are rising too fast,the government could provide subsidies to help with paying their electric bill

      • Joseph

        Difficult to reconcile that with European prices. Presumably that would include air conditioning if needed?

        How big is the ‘average’ American house as that would make it easier to see the context of that monthly cost you quoted.

      • It does include air conditioning and since we are talking about the poor I would assume that the poor pay less than average because of smaller accommodations.


        Let’s recap what the Edison Foundation study found:

        • The average distributed PV solar system installed in California in 2014 cost $14,586

        • Of this, the entity investing in these systems (this can be either the homeowner or the lessor who leases the system to the homeowner) receives an immediate federal tax credit of $4,376

        • Then on top of this, the party making the investment receives NEM subsidies — mandated by the state of California — which have a present value of slightly over $20,000.

        • The households which benefit from these subsides are wealthy households. Their average energy consumption is more than twice that of the average California household.

        • The subsidies are paid for by less wealthy households.

        • The subsidies are paid for by households that are not energy hogs.

        • Most of the subsidies do not accrue to any household, rich or poor, but to the finance companies that lease the systems to homeowners.

        And you don’t see anything wrong with this arrangement, all imposed by the long arm of the law?

      • The subsidies are paid for by less wealthy households.

        How exactly are the poor paying for the subsidies? How much poorer are they because of it?

      • How did the practice of taking from the poor to give to the rich become a left-wing cause?

      • Joseph said:

        If we do find the costs are rising too fast, the government could provide subsidies to help with paying their electric bill.

        And just how do these redistributive schemes enhance the aggregate utility of the society?

      • How exactly do you measure “aggregate utility?”

      • Joseph said:

        How exactly are the poor paying for the subsidies?

        The money to pay the subsidies doesn’t grow on trees. It has to come from somewhere.

        Residential electric rates were increased to pay for the subsidies.

        Poor people do not install solar systems. Only wealthier households do. Poor people therefore don’t board the subsidy gravy train. The subsidies are welfare payments that go strictly to more affluent households.

        To add insult to injury, energy expenditures are a much larger percentage of a poor household’s income than a wealthier household’s income. For poorer households, it’s the worst of all worlds.

      • Well you mentioned the federal subsidy and the net energy metering. The federal subsidy is paid for with tax money (poor people don’t pay federal taxes). And I don’t know about the net energy metering and how that affects utility rates and ultimately the poor. How much higher are the rates because of the subsidy? And if some program is driving up costs too much I would be open to changing it. Or again the government could subsidize the poor with paying electric bills.

      • Joseph said

        “the government could provide subsidies to help with paying their electric bill.”

        Of course the government can do that. I don’t know why anyone would think otherwise.

      • Joseph,

        Utility refers to the satisfaction or pleasure that a consumer gets by consuming a product. If you buy a car, you derive a certain utility from it. Each consumer is not likely to receive the same amount of utility from the consumption of a product, however, as everyone’s preferences are different.

        Aggregate Utility
        Aggregate utility is the total utility that a society gains from making a certain economic choice.

        For instance, a society might have to set an age at which an individual could start to collect retirement benefits. Each choice is likely to benefit some individuals more, adding to their utility, while negatively impacting other individuals, reducing their utility or creating a disutility.

        The aggregate utility of a choice for a society, as a whole, is the sum of the utility gains for those positively impacted, less the total disutility experienced by those negatively impacted by the choice.

      • I still don’t know how you measure that. Sounds like a lot of value judgements would have to be made and it would be difficult to measure quantitatively.

      • Joseph,

        I don’t see what’s so difficult to understand.

        As the linked article states:

        Researchers have found that some buyers are willing to pay for environmentally friendly products because those products are “status symbols.”

        So environmentally friendly products are a utility for some people.

        But these folks don’t want to pay for these products. So they’ve gotten the state to intervene to force somebody else to pay for them.

        And you’re right, it does entail “a lot of value judgments.”

        In the case of California lawmakers, they value the utility of some of their constituents a great deal. But other constituents’ — including a bunch of poor people — very little.

        How the value judgments are made, and by whom, is what much of the argument is all about.

      • You mentioned aggregate utility in response to my suggestion that we subsidize poor people. How does doing that factor in?

        n the case of California lawmakers, they value the utility of some of their constituents a great deal.

        The point is to reduce CO2 emissions and has nothing to do with valuing one constituency over another.

      • Joseph said:

        The point is to reduce CO2 emissions and has nothing to do with valuing one constituency over another.

        Sure it has to do with valuing one constituency over another. As the quote I cited above explains:

        Each choice is likely to benefit some individuals more, adding to their utility, while negatively impacting other individuals, reducing their utility or creating a disutility.

        The California lawmakers decided that the affluent were not going to pay for their status symbols, nor for the disutility caused by mandating renewable energy. The only question that remains then is who is going to be made to pay.

        California has a two-tier rate structure. There are regular residential rates, and then there are CARE rates for low-income families. Here are the criteria to qualify for CARE rates:

        What we see is that over the past five years, CARE rates have increased by 47.4%, whereas regular residential rates have increased by only 17.3%.

        The CARE rate in California as of March 1, 2016 is 12.8₡ per KwH.

        In Texas we don’t have rates set by the state, but rates set by the free market.

        We are also not forced to cross-subsidize the status symbols of the rich, nor to pay for the disutility caused by mandating renewable energy. Compare Texas electric rates to California electric rates, and the same rate applies to rich and poor alike:

      • Well it looks from your comment about CARE rates the impact on the poor is being taken into consideration. So I don’t see the poor being the significant losers in this scheme. And as I pointed out rate increases will only be a tiny fraction of a poor person’s income so the impact is minimal to start with. The average spent in California is $96 a month for electricity.

      • Here’s an example of what residential electric customers pay in Texas.

        As can be seen, not only are the rates far lower than the rates Californians pay, but residential customers can choose between a number of different providers, whichever one they believe offers the best deal.

      • But I think because of California’s milder environment they use less electricity. So again the impact on the poor in terms of rate increases and with the CARE rates (which is a 30-35 percent discount) is minimal.

      • Joseph said:

        So I don’t see the poor being the significant losers in this scheme.

        The poor have seen their electricity rates increase by 47.4% over the past five years in California, and now pay 86% more than they would in Texas, and you don’t see them being “significant losers in this scheme”?

        Lordy! Lordy!

        How does one argue with logic like that?

      • Glenn, have their monthly bills gone up 47.9% in the past five years? What people actually pay is what matters, right? And if the increase is small then the impact is also small, considering they already get a deep discount.

      • Well, Glenn, if Texas is a better place for the poor than California, we should be seeing a migration to Texas, which eventually could make it a Blue State. This suggests the utility rates in California are a liberal scheme.

      • max,

        So I ask again, how did robbing from the poor to give to the rich, justified under the pretense of “reducing CO2 emissions,” become a liberal cause?

      • Joseph,

        In other words ‘Relax, the poor will be fine’.

        What happens if the future isn’t so rosy for the poor? Maybe subsidies don’t happen? Maybe rates increase on top of that $4 for other reasons?

        Contrast with someone advocating for lower rates wherever possible. Imagine a a few years from now changing that $115 a month to $75, instead of growing it to say $150 month.

        Myself and many I know have found ourselves in the ‘scraping by’ category in the past and these numbers matter. I think your on the wrong side of this argument.

      • Glenn Stehle | March 22, 2016 at 7:15 am |
        Glenn asks again

        “So I ask again, how did robbing from the poor to give to the rich, justified under the pretense of “reducing CO2 emissions,” become a liberal cause?”

        Glenn, the poor aren’t being robbed. I’ll try to explain why. Suppose you are a poor person, and I take a dollar out of one of your pockets and then put the dollar in your other pocket. You still have the same amount of money, so obviously you weren’t robbed.

      • max10k said:

        Suppose you are a poor person, and I take a dollar out of one of your pockets and then put the dollar in your other pocket. You still have the same amount of money, so obviously you weren’t robbed.

        But that scenario only exists in your mind. The real world is a very different place than the Alice-in-Wonderland world your imagination has conjured up.

        In the real world — the world flesh and blood human beings are required to live in — the dollar did indeed get taken out of one pocket of the poor. But no dollar was put in the other pocket of the poor.

        Take California, for instance.

        There are 11.5 million households in California, 24% of which have annual incomes of less than $25,000. That means there are 2.75 million households in California with incomes less than $25,000.

        Also from the link, these 2.75 million households use an average of 4313 KwH per year.

        So in 2011, if they went through the loops required to enroll in the CARE rate plan, their annual bill for electric usage would be $375.

        But in 2016, largely in order to pay the generous subsidies which the California PUC lavished on renewables producers, their annual bill for electric usage increased to $553.

        That’s a $178 per year increase that poor households are required to pay for electricty. Multiply that by 2.75 million households, and we’re talking an additional $490 million that poor households must pay.

        This money is in turn redistributed to the wealthiest of California households, those with incomes of more than $150,000 per year, whose annual electricity usage is double the average.

        That’s what happend in the real world. It is a far cry from the world which exists in the mind of the limousine liberals.

      • So in 2011, if they went through the loops required to enroll in the CARE rate plan, their annual bill for electric usage would be $375.
        But in 2016, largely in order to pay the generous subsidies which the California PUC lavished on renewables producers, their annual bill for electric usage increased to $553.

        I don’t see anything in your link about actual utility bills. I want to see the difference between the average amount paid in 2011 compared to 2015. And how do you know that subsidies for rooftop solar (which is the subsidy we were discussing) was the primary cause. You need to quantify that.

        And I don’t know when the CARE program was started but it was probably done in anticipation of these costs increases. So they get the initial deep discount to cover future costs.

      • This chart shows the top 1% uses 4% of electricity but they pay 20-35% of income tax. The next 9 percent in income uses 20% of the electricity but pays over 30 to 45% of income taxes.

        So when environmental costs are applied directly to electricity users, this provides a tremendous break to upper incomes rather than if the costs were born under general tax schemes.

        Opinions can vary as to whether it is right or wrong, but the poor pay more when burdens are imposed upon utilities than they would if they were imposed upon taxpayers in general.

      • So when environmental costs are applied directly to electricity users, this provides a tremendous break to upper incomes rather than if the costs were born under general tax schemes.

        That sounds like a good argument for subsidizing the poor unless of course you don’t want environmental regulations.

      • Joseph,

        All the information is there in the links I provided (in my comments made in response to your March 21, 2016 at 12:25 pm comment).

        No reality and no common sense can penetrate your mind.

      • Who runs and administers the subsidy program? That’s the question, and is that preferable to just having the cost of clean air paid somewhere else. I’ll assume your intent was to put the subsidy on the utility (but if not – thoughtful suggestion). Utilities are not good at doing wealth re-distribution. Do you favor that grocery stores to provide different prices based on customer wealth? Or are food stamps preferable?

        Utilities have subsidy programs that cover the very poor. From what I know they are basically provide one cut point between assisted and unassisted “applicants”. The challenge for utility programs are that they will be too simplistic or would involve too much oversight to effectively allocate costs in anything approaching an equitable income redistribution.

        It’s just easy to see utilities as having the ability to provide a lot of funding for environmental goals. It is easy to ignore that they will get a lot of it from poor people.

      • The challenge for utility programs are that they will be too simplistic or would involve too much oversight to effectively allocate costs in anything approaching an equitable income redistribution.

        Right.. I am open to alternative approaches to helping the poor with paying electric bills. One approach would be for the government to offset a certain percentage of any rate increases for low income customers.

  23. “The idea that the US should become more like Denmark is prominent in some circles. Some claim that Denmark shows that the idea of a world powered by renewables is no fantasy.”

    Some States could be like Denmark on renewables. States which are well located to take advantage of renewables could sell power to other States, like Denmark sells power to other countries. As mentioned elsewhere at ClimateEtc, Iowa already is doing that with wind power.

    • Max10K – Not being an Iowan, I take no issue if in regards to wind someone wanted to say “Iowa should be more like Denmark”. In the interconnected grid (as discussed on the energy thread this week) the energy from Iowa is high compared to it’s load. I wouldn’t dispute that at times wind in Iowa could exceed loads. But Iowa would be like Denmark, not we (the US or the midwest even). The wind in Iowa would be balanced out by conventional of flexible generation (as Stephen Seagrest prefers) in the more energy intensive surrounding areas.

      Would it make sense for Iowa to have that much wind. Depends what prices their neighbors choose or are forced to pay for it directly or indirectly as other options are more constrained.

      • Thank you for your reply. When making comparisons, external costs should be taken into account. I don’t see that being done.

        BTW, do you have any comments on my post about SunEdison?

      • max10 – you are correct we are not touching on externalities. For my part I am not trying to say what is right or wrong but things to think about in formulating policy evaluating projects and what works where.
        You might be right that I should be emphasizing externalities as well. It’s very hard to find concensus and guidance on externalities. Are externalities a horses for courses problem? To some extent yes but maybe less so than for technology. To be totally frank, I claim no expertise on externalities and on some of the concerns I don’t know who or what to trust. I suspect the linear extrapolation estimates of deaths from coal emissions are high. War and oil I won’t touch. Are children mining in Africa for critical elements for wind turbines? – I don’t know. I suspect China is doing horrible things to the environment in producing solar tech. This is off the cuff and rushed. I think the technology used by us utilities are preferable to other options. I believe they are sufficiently regulated, go to tremendous Lengths to mitigate impacts (especially compared to other) such as they work to the public good and provide far more good then harm. But I don’t write and advocate or argue on externalities.

        I did not write the part on SunEdison and my opinion there could be in the bottom quartile compared to what other posters might say there.

      • PE, I know external costs are hard to estimate, but if there were none, there would be no reason for renewables other than to conserve fossil fuels for future generations.

        On the subject of horses for courses, have you looked at the problems Singapore faces in attempting to go clean on energy?
        I ask because Singapore may be a special case.

      • David Springer

        aplanningengineer writes:

        “To be totally frank, I claim no expertise”

        No need to belabor the obvious.

      • David Springer

        Here’s a thought. A national grid. So that when the wind is blowing excess energy in Iowa the power gets shipped to somewhere it isn’t blowing. The wind is always blowing somewhere right?

        Come to think of it the sun is always shining somewhere too.

        Write that down and feel free to quote me.

  24. With regards the Cook Straight DC cable, a very important factor is that there are fast start hydro machines at the southern end (and most of the power goes north). The hydro and geothermal base provides a lot of grid inertia, which renewables don’t. The thermal generation availability has gone down markedly, with half of it being decommissioned over the past couple of years. They are trying to run the country as a single grid, with only one frequency control. The jury is still out on how effective it is.

  25. In Oz, Queensland had an election in January, 2015.
    “The Queensland Leader of the Opposition Anastasia Palaszczuk (now premier) has spoken of her desire to triple the number of Queenslanders with solar.
    @0.17 seconds, Anastasia Palaszczuk accidentally lets the truth out.

    The climate changes. Always has. Ripping off taxpayers won’t change that.

    • Good for her. That’s just what Queenslanders need. She would get my vote. I’d vote for her again and again, except I can’t because I’m not an Australian. And thank God for that.

  26. stevefitzpatrick

    In Brazil, the distilled spirit from sugar cane is not rum, it is Cachaça. Mostly cheap and awful, but a few pricy brands are OK.

    • David Springer

      ” cachaça is also known as Brazilian rum.[8]”

      Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.
      Here I am, stuck in the middle.

      • DS, just arrived after a day at the mine face. E100 is 200 proof rum. 100 proof rum is E50. My Ethanol references were to E10 and E85. So, E50 rum in Brazil is called Cachaca. Well, their cars can run on it.
        Get a grip on reality.

  27. SunEdison invested £400 million in UK rooftop solar, including ‘zero down” offers, to mine the rich UK subsidy vein it was after… Sun Edison announced on 7 October 2015 that it was exiting the now unprofitable UK. Its stock is down ~70% since that day. It has delayed filing its annual financials citing material accounting weaknesses. SunEdison (based in high insolation California) now carries $11.67 billion in debt on a market cap of ~$650 million. There are serious doubts whether it can avoid bankruptcy.”

    In this I see something relatable to the irrational exuberance of Tesla’s $32B market cap.

  28. PE and Rud: Have you found any analysis of (or consideration of) a relationship between unreliable renewables and the relative risk of the unreliability? For example, dependence on wind power has very different ramifications for folks in California and those of us in Manitoba. If a failure occurred during January we are likely to be sitting at -30C and power loss would be brutal. I would think that the “precautionary principle” would eliminate any “renewable” up north simply because one needs 100% backup for reliability. Solar, of course, is very limited here – 8 hours of very low sun just doesn’t cut it seasonally (it does work for remote fishing lodges with 18-20 hours of sun during summer). I really don’t see where any of the current technologies are useful horses anywhere in central Canada. As an aside, has a massive hail storm ever hit a major solar installation? An interesting article- thanks.

    • As concerns the necessities, we have the apocryphal, “Let them eat cake.” This phrase is representative of a dismissive utterance by an ignorant elite about real concerns faced by people who are starving due to a lack of bread to eat.

      What phrase comes close to capturing governments’ total misunderstanding of the economics of basic energy policy? In this instance, shortages are not the result of poverty but are instead due to a lack of supply. The shortage would in this instance be because of the superstition and ignorance among an elite about global warming and market forces?

      Let them burn books for warmth.

      • Let them burn books for warmth.


        In times like these the bookish certainly have a marked advantage over the hoi polloi.

      • Glenn

        Books? Let them burn money

        From a comment up-thread

        ‘For the 11 billion in subsidies about 1 billion euros of power is actually produced at the much higher cost.’

        Now would burning around 2 billion 5 euro notes produce more heat than that generated by ‘1 billion euros of power?’


      • Laggy says
        “As concerns the necessities, we have the apocryphal, “Let them eat cake.” This phrase is representative of a dismissive utterance by an ignorant elite about real concerns faced by people who are starving due to a lack of bread to eat.”


        choke, wheez , cough ….. GAG !

        And maybe a little lead on their bread. Mmmm … tasty !

        Every time I try to put a “W” before “aggy” my mac mini changes it to an “L.” Is the computer trying to tell me something?

      • … maybe that your computing capacity is lagging?

      • Nope, the computer isn’t lagging, it thinks you are falling behind. It also thinks I can’t spell and has this annoying habit of correcting me. The computer insists on calling you “Laggy.” Don’t blame me.

      • No one would question a computer.

    • David Springer

      “as a massive hail storm ever hit a major solar installation”


      You’re the first person to consider what would happen to a solar panel in a hailstorm.

      Wow you’re smart!!!!

  29. Nitpick warning!

    Ethanol in Brazil makes imminent sense.

    the word you want is “eminent”.

    That and a few others aside, thank you for the essay.

  30. “Horses for courses” — alluding to the optimal means to a specific end — is a foundational principal of the finance function that underlies the practice of enlightened free enterprise capitalism. The allocation of scarce resources for the maximization of net present wealth requires personal freedom.

    Rather than a populist vision of, “a thousand points of light,” as popularized by US president H. W. Bush, global warming has become a matter of human rights and survival. AGW theory is no long about science: it’s about the individual vs. the state in battle between the Left and right to decide if our personal decisions about how we choose to lead our lives will be permitted by remote government elites.

  31. richardswarthout

    Rud & PE

    Thank you for the post. Very informative and practical (there has to a word that combines those two descriptions)


  32. johnvonderlin

    “Half-baked Crocodile tears”, I bet you’ve never seen that word salad before. However, I think it is an apt description of some of the analyses I’ve read upthread. How about an example? “The poor are subsidizing the solar systems of the affluent” Yes, there are tax subsidies available to the affluent that church mice like myself can’t use. However, with utility Lifeline rates that are set considerably below the average (and probably below the cost of delivery to my humble abode) we are already subsidized. With multiple tiers of electricity costs, the affluent who generally use considerably more electricity than I do, are paying significantly more for each kilowatt hour than I do for those above the Lifeline rate; a further subsidy for me. Likewise, those taxpayer funds used to give the affluent subsidies come disproportionally from the affluent. How many times have I read “the top 1% pay almost half the income taxes paid?” Let’s give them a well-deserved break and maybe the economy-of-size factor will come into play for the rest of us. The trend certainly seems to indicate that is happening strongly already.
    While I appreciate the concern for me and the rest of the hoi polloi from some of the rabidly anti-renewable crowd here, I think the case against renewables should not rest on any feigned concern that is so obviously out of line from your usual anti-government rhetoric.
    Anybody that remembers the brown haze that was our air in the not so distant past should also recall the car company’s protestations at that time; about their ability to make the needed changes, their huge costs, and the resultant performance and reliability degradation; every one of which has been proven wrong thanks to technology. Transitions can be messy, but brighter days are ahead for all of us.

    • David Springer

      Surprisingly enough those are great points.

    • rogercaiazza

      I object to your disparaging suggestion that my reservations about renewables should not include a “feigned concern that is so obviously out of line from your usual anti-government rhetoric” when I argue that renewable implementation should not disadvantage those least able to pay the additional costs. I think that these added costs to the poor cannot be dismissed as you suggest.

      It is generally agreed by economists that taxing energy or raising energy prices in general is regressive because poor people live in older, less insulated households, have less fuel-efficient vehicles, and use older and more energy-consuming appliances. So the poor spend more of their money on power as a share of annual earnings. When energy prices go up, the effect is felt more by the poor than the rest of society.

      In the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand (for instance), a household is said to be in “fuel poverty” when its members cannot afford to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost, given their income. In the UK, fuel poverty is said to occur when a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income to maintain an “adequate heating regime”. An example in the United States is the Columbus Ohio community service organization, Impact Community Action, which provides assistance when energy bills are six percent of a person’s income.

      Would you agree to include a parameter called “energy poverty” defined as those households who pay some agreed upon fraction of their total income for heat and electricity in the regulatory process implementing renewables just in case your characterization is wrong? If the “energy poverty” parameter or metric were available and updated on a regular basis, it could be used to track household energy cost impacts of all sectors including the poor. If the energy poverty parameter changes over time, then modifications to renewable implementation programs could be made based on numbers rather than rhetoric.

    • Indeed a good comment. Progress stems from a proper appreciation of how all members of society can benefit from the adoption of new technology and that the economic pie is not fixed in size, whereby it is falsely assumed that we are playing a zero-sum game.

      • Peter M Davies,

        But what if the “new technology” does not increase the size of the “economic pie,” but decreases it, as is more often than not the case with renewable energy?

        Then the question is no longer “how all members of society can benefit from the adoption of new technology,” but who will bear the burden for the disutility caused by the deployment of the “new technology.”

      • Can’t see how a new technology can reduce the economic pie Glenn. Any links? The economic pie IMO never shrinks, but hey, I am always happy to hear different!

  33. David Springer

    Are either of the authors likely to be called to testify before congress on this? I don’t get why it’s here. Curry is a recognized expert in her field. She does get called to testify before congress. This is about as important as a high school girl’s diary. Get a room, girls.

    • David Springer,

      You wrote –

      “I don’t get why it’s here.”

      Have you attempted to find out? Is displaying disdain for curiosity, and positively radiating, and basking in, self important ignorance, the new intellectualism?

      If your question is serious, and not just an immature and poorly thought out attempt at being gratuitously offensive, I might be able to supply a few reasons. You might first ask the authors, and the blog’s proprietor. This might save both of us time and effort.


      • richardswarthout


        Your too kind. Have you thought that Springer might be merely insane?


      • Springer isn’t insane.

        He does sound really cranky at times. My advice is to ignore the insults and look for the good input. At least he provides the latter, unlike our grade school dropout from Oklahoma (who in actuality appears to reside in Neveda).

      • Did live in Nevada. Wised up, and left. What a stupid place (Clark County) for 2 million people to live. Rivals New Orleans in vulnerability, but for the opposite reason.

      • How about that! Common ground between Max and I.

        I too have always thought it foolish to believe that you can support a large urban population in the middle of a desert. Sure we have the energy technology to do so, but not necessarily the water technology.

        Actually, we do have the technology. One of the nuclear plants I worked at got its cooling water from the greater Phoenix wastewater system. The water was good enough to drink upon delivery to the plant site. They then treated it further so it could be used in the steamwater system.

        Any sub sailor knows this as well. Potable water comes from the ocean.

      • richardswarthout


        History shows many examples of insane intelligent people. Wasn’t Newton in that category?


      • David Springer is very intelligent IMO, just cranky at times. He is always worth reading and even his ad homs are quite well contrived.

    • David Springer – We’ve been here before. You’ve challenged credentials, been rebutted slunk off and now you are back with a new arbitrary standard. I’m not playing your games and offering any defense to you. I try to respond to any serious requests, but this could well be the last time I respond to you.

      Your implication that Judith’s blog is worthwhile because she has testified before (C)ongress as opposed to her qualifications, research, position with Georgia Tech or the quality of what she posts is ridiculous.

      I understand vaguely that at some point Rud said something that offended your religious sensitivities. Is that still the issue? Or did a new nerve get touched?

      For fun match these experts with their Congressional Testimony. Kevin Costner, John Travolta, George Clooney, Seth Rogan and Stephen Colbert. The areas of testimony are Alzheimer’s research, immigrant farm workers, the situation in Sudan, religious discrimination in Europe and oil spill cleanup technology.

    • David: Your comments say far more about you than they do about the authors of this post: Anyone wasting time posting 8 comments on material that they believes belongs in a girl’s diary clearly has a screw loose somewhere.

      Your complaints should be directed to our host – who as you note is called to testify to Congress on some subjects. In my experience, she tries hard to make sure guest posts are technically reliable and relevant.

      Why don’t you make Judith’s job of moderating comments simpler by skipping the negative comments based solely on personal opinion? Doug Cotton’s antics shut down comments at Roy Spenser’s blog. You could do so here. I’m sure Judith despairs over nature of the discourse at her website.

  34. Rud (or maybe PE) — Could you provide a link or two on the claim/story of Enviva clear cutting forests for pellets. Its not popping up in a Google search for me. Thanks.

    • Yes. Check out the UK news websites that did this investigation 2 years ago. Start at Paul Homewood’s blog Notalotofpeopleknowthat. He has several posts that cover the published UK press information on this outrage. The posted pic came from the UK press, supported by US environmentalists.
      Google is your friend. Try ‘DRAX wood pellet sources’. Just worked for me in re US nonsense, after a few more clicks. Google images will take you there even more quickly. ‘Enviva wood pellets DRAX’ does this in image mode real quick. Then go back to page source rather than image. You have arrived at source docs. Just a bit of Google Fu.
      Basically, some UK reporters followed Enviva pellet plant supply trucks from source to plant and back, taking pictures the whole way. Whole trees. No questions. Then hired helicopters to photo the whole tree source woods. You have one of those horrifying pics in my post. Sorry did not provide a direct link.

      • Rud — thanks. Lots of anecdotal information here. Number of reasons where whole trees can be considered waste.

        Enviva (of course) denies any wrong doing (they cite their independently audited industry sustainability standard). Asked a couple of people at ORNL if they know anything other than anecdotal. Will let you know what they say.

        I personally know diddly about this. However, I’ve been involved in wood to Green Circle (Enviva acquired) — where I’ve never seen or heard anything like clear cutting old growth hardwood forests.

        One story raised my eyebrows though, where it was claimed that cypress trees were being cut for pellet fuel. This is extremely hard to believe as cypress is very, very expensive wood.

      • Stephen

        As long as a year ago The Ecologist magazine was running articles on the madness of Drax and Enviva.

        Yes, they do use whole trees as noted here and admitted by enviva . This is hardly new, it has been reported on for several years

        Even the deep greenies know the foolishness of this operation, you are surely not condoning it?


      • Tonyb — I was asking questions about the charge of Enviva clear cuttingold growth hardwood whole trees — e.g., the mental image/picture of a gazillion acres of U.S. pristine forests being clear cut for Drax boiler fuel.

        This is quite different than a whole tree say that is diseased, fire damaged, grown as a short rotation crop, . . . . . etc.

        An illustration is growing whole trees as a crop where we utilize something called a Sigmoid Curve (a log function of tree growth).

        We want to harvest the tree (and replant or let coppice) at the time the curve flattens out (getting the most value from land use):

  35. Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan,

    Thank you for another interesting post to ad to your collection of previous interesting and informative posts.

    One thing you didn’t mention is the effect of the distortions government cause by incentivising some technologies (such as renewables) and disincentivising others (such as nuclear and more recently fossil fuels). In the case of incentivising renewables and disincentivising nuclear governments are actually doing the opposite of what they claim is thier objective. They are actually delaying progress to cut global GHG emissions.

    • Thanks Peter. Carrots and sticks (distortions if you will) can be seen as part of the “course” that has to be dealt with as “horses” are selected. Of course it makes it an “artificial” course and people will differ as to whether or if that “artificial” course could, should or should not be maintained. Likewise they can argue whether other areas should modify their courses.

  36. Test

  37. Geoff Sherrington

    max1ok | March 21, 2016 at 3:49 pm wrote –
    ” I’ll explain why I support subsidies to renewable energy anyway. (1) Renewable energy has lower external costs than energy from fossil fuel. (2) Renewable energy conserves fossil fuels for future generations (3) Renewable energy sources are infant technologies with promise.”

    My reply.
    Max, I did not ask why you support subsidies to renewable energy. I asked clearly why you support renewable energy. You did not answer.
    The 3 points that you give about subsidies here are in any case a bit silly.Here is why:
    1. External costs, correct me if I am wrong, but I assume externalities in the broad sense. These do not matter in the present case because the magnitude of externalities that can be quantified is between the low cost of FF electricity and the very high cost of renewable. Even by subtracting or subsidising externalities, you still do not bring the price of renewables down into competition with FF.
    2 .Conservation. Conversely, FF conserves rare earths for future generations. Every method of electricity generation saves something else for use by future generations. Look at both sides of the argument.
    3. Infants. This is no more than romantic speculation. It does not matter much if technology A is new and technology B is old but undergoing new developments – it is all an advance for society. Think how much better FF coal advanced generation of latest design is, than the stations I remember from the 50s. What one does need to beware is a technology going backwards, which is the inevitable fate as far as I can see ahead, for renewables as we know them
    They are simply bloody dismal performers propped up by money-seekers and vote-seekers playing on a current theme about conservations and sustainability, neither of which really means much in the hard, cold world.
    Max, big FAIL.

    • Geoff Sherrington,

      O/T, thanks for your comment on the Nuclear power learning rates: policy implications thread . It turned the discussion around from a pack of anti-nukes having a rave to mostly interesting and rational discussion.

    • rogercaiazza

      I would like to add another reason that max1ok’s inclusion of external costs is silly. Like most of those who want to incorporate external costs he only wants to include the negative external costs. If you simply consider the differences between society before fossil fuels when we were using only renewable energy (say 1850) and today it is clear that fossil fuels offer many more positive benefits than negative impacts. For example we would really want to be lighting our homes with whale oil?

      Alex Epstein in “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”, 2014. (Published by the Penguin Group, New York, NY ISBN 978-0-698-17548-8 makes a compelling case for using fossil fuels. For example, there is a strong correlation between fossil fuel use and indicators of better human society. In Mr. Epstein’s opinion one parameter that reflects improvements to society are increased life expectancy and income. If the negative externalities for fossil fuels actually out-weigh the positive benefits then life expectancy should go down as fossil fuel use increases. However it doesn’t. (Figure 1.3 in “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”, Page 9). If you play around with the on-line World Bank World Development Indicators Data similar relationships that suggest positive externalities out-weigh the negative are found.

      • roger, of course fossil fuel usage has advanced civilization by making our lives richer in a multitude of ways. But that benefit is not what you call an externality.

      • From max “But that benefit is not what you call an externality.”

        The futility in trying to have an adult conversation with someone who makes statements like the one above on a regular basis should be obvious.

        Max, can you enlighten us as to what then would constitute an externality?

      • timg56, I will try to explain the meaning of “externalities” with an example. We will call it the external cost of onion burgers. Suppose it’s Saturday night and you decide to enjoy a couple of $3 onion burgers at your favorite greasy spoon diner before taking in a movie, despite knowing these treats inflate your digestive tract. In the middle of the feature film you start passing gas with such force and frequency that the people around you flee the theater. The cost of your burgers was $6. The external cost of your burgers is the money the fleeing movie goers spent on their tickets and any refreshments they dropped while stampeding out of the place, a cost which could be $100 or more.

        If you want a formal definition of “externalities,” one from the New Palsgrave Dictionary of Economics follows:

        “Externalities are indirect effects of consumption or production activity, that is, effects on agents other than the originator of such activity which do not work through the price system. In a private competitive economy, equilibria will not be in general Pareto optimal since they will reflect only private (direct) effects and not social (direct plus indirect) effects of economic activity. This article explains how this outcome arises and considers the policy responses that have been advanced to remedy the market failures stemming from externalities.”

      • This is in response to max10k on externalities.

        Not all externalities are negative.

      • max10k,

        From the link you provided:

        Externalities are indirect effects of consumption or production activity…

        So let’s say the government outlaws the use of fossil fuels in the production of electricity.

        But the cost of producing electricity with renewables (total production cost, including grid cost) is three times what the cost of doing so with fossil fuels is.

        So the electric bill for the average Calirnornia household that makes less than $25,000 per year also increases three-fold, going from $358/year (what it was in 2011) to $1074 per year.

        Would the trippling of a poor household’s electric bill not also be an “externality”? It would, after all, be “an indirect effect of consumption or production activity.”

      • max10k,

        And then let’s say that the natives get restless because their electric bill has trippled and they can no longer afford to keep the lights turned on in their humble abode.

        And as a result they riot and burn half of LA down.

        Would that not also be an “externality” of the government outlawing the production of electricity using fossil fuels? It would, after all, be “an indirect effect of consumption or production activity.”

      • Hi Glenn,

        I hope this is in the right place. You understand the meaning of “externalities”, but your hypotheticals are absurd.

      • max10k,

        Why are my hypotheticals “absurd”?

        They’re certainly every bit as much within the realm of future possiblities as the apocalyptic speculations of the environmentalists.

    • Geoff complains:

      “Max, I did not ask why you support subsidies to renewable energy. I asked clearly why you support renewable energy.”

      Well, Geoff, clearly the reasons are the same. You are entitled to think these are not good reasons, and I am entitled to think you are a hopeless fuddy-duddy.

      • Curious George

        Max, you have a right to support subsidies for renewable energy. However, you have no right to force me to support them.

      • Curious, I doubt you have a choice. There are a few government subsidies I don’t favor, but my taxes go to them anyway.
        So I am paying for something I don’t like, but I am not losing sleep over it.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Some people support sports teams.
        Whether they think subsidies for them are good is an entirely different question. So it is for renewables.
        For the third time, why do you support renewables?

      • This link is a good overview of the state of renewable energy technology, their respective pros and cons and the take-up of such technolgy around the world. Because of intermittency issues the various types (excepting hydro schemes) seem unable to provide base load grid support on their own but they can be said to reduce the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, but at much higher costs.

      • Geoff does not give up easy.

        “For the third time, why do you support renewables?

        And for the third time, I will say I gave you the answer the first time.

        This is fun.

      • Peter M Davies,

        From the article you linked:

        There is widespread popular support for using renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy, which provide electricity without giving rise to any carbon dioxide emissions.

        The only reason “there is widespread support for using renewable energy” is that the public has been lied to regarding the costs, efficiency and feasiblity of using renewable energy.

        If the public were informed of the factual realities, the “widespread support” would crack and crumble under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.

      • Glenn quoted from an article on renewable energy. Widespread public support for this technology, especially the use of solar PVC panels in situations of isolated and off-grid loads in remote areas, is NOT based on lies.

        The fact that base load grid support is not forthcoming from renewables is indeed based on real life experience as well as logic does not, IMO, detract from their value in certain situations. The 3rd world will indeed benefit from this technology because it would never be considered for grid applications.

    • rovingbroker | March 23, 2016 at 8:45 am |
      This is in response to max10k on externalities.

      Not all externalities are negative.

      Well, the quoted definition does just say the “indirect effects,” but if you say the costs of the indirect effects, its negative.

  38. PE and Rud wrote: “Our argument is that simplistic blanket conclusions about ‘renewables’, biofuels, and the like are not possible. Most ‘alternative’ energy advocates ignore the specific situational characteristics inherent in providing electric power.”

    The DOE’s “Leveled Cost of Electricity” is the propaganda that prevents the public from understanding your message. The value of a product is not determined by the cost of its production. In the long run, the cost is determined by the law of supply and demand – though PUCs protect the public from abuse and thereby disguise this reality. And the current supply must match the current demand; significant amounts of electricity generally can not be stored in a cost-effective manner.

    We really need a model that can properly demonstrate the value created by adding a new source of renewable power generation IN THE CONTEXT of an existing (or hypothetical future) generation capacity and distribution system.

    Additional wind turbines are much less valuable when their total capacity (i.e. maximum output) begins to approach local demand, even though average output may only meet 25-30% of that demand and minimum output can be negligible. Unless expensive transmission capacity is available to carry excess power to satisfy an unmet distant demand, excess power is worthless. Distant customers won’t want to be dependent on electricity from unreliable renewable generators.

    Wind power can always replace the production of a fossil fuel generator, but that saves only the cost of fuel. Unless that fossil fuel plant is not needed to meet peak demand (which renewables can’t reliably meet), customers need to pay the cost of the wind power AND the capital and fixed costs of the fossil fuel generator – or the fossil fuel generator will go out of business.

    • Demand is adjustable. User’s have control over what they demand.

      • Max,

        So what happens when Users decide they want to increase their demand?

        You have hit on one of the core issues – even if accidentally. If you bother to pay attention to what some of the groups clamoring the loudest for reducing the use of fossil fuels are advocating for, it should be rather clear that they believe Users are irresponsible in their demands or are not informed enough to understand that their demand will ruin the planet. To them the answer is simple. Adjust the system so that someone other than the User gets to control the demand adjustment knob. One of the easiest methods is to make what they are demanding more expensive. That way you can maintain the fiction of them still having a choice.

      • max10k,

        So in the middle of January in Germany, when the country is in the throes of blizzard conditions — bitter cold, ice and snow — “users have control over what they demand”?

      • Glenn, of course they have control over their demand for energy when temperatures plunge. They increase their demand. Don’t you understand what “having control” means?

      • max10k,

        And the weather didn’t have anything to do with the increase in demand, or the plunge in supply?

        I don’t think the users have nearly as much control as you believe, unless you consider freezing to death to be a viable option.

      • Glenn, my body produces heat. I can control this heat by covering or uncovering my body, using scientific methods. If additional heat or cooling is needed, I can also control the amount by adjusting a thermostat or other device. By using these two methods, I maintain the comfort level my body seeks.

  39. Everyone — Just a reminder, It works both ways:

    My argument is that simplistic blanket conclusions about ‘renewables’, biofuels, and the like are not possible. Most ‘alternative’ energy advocates naysayers ignore the specific macro situational characteristics (e.g., grid) inherent in providing electric power.

  40. timg56 asks

    So what happens when Users decide they want to increase their demand?

    Answer:Same thing that usually happens in a market, price goes up.

    Question: What happens when supply goes up? Prices go down.

    When there’s an abundance of power from wind, for example, prices can drop a lot because the power can’t be stored. If you have the flexibility of taking advantage of lower prices, it’s a good deal.

    • max10k,

      I support renewables too. Particularly if you can buy grid power cheaply off peak, and then sell it back at a fat profit as renewable or green after storing it in a heavily subsidised battery pack.

      Of course, proponents of renewables don’t advocate such shenanigans –

      “Whilst we don’t support the idea of charging the batteries at an offpeak rate and then selling it back at 44ct (it is against current regulations) we do obviously support storing solar energy in batteries for use at a later time.”

      The rest of the article mentions “solar profits” and how to maximise them. This looks like a Dooh Nibor (reverse Robin Hood) scheme. Robbing from the poor, to give to the rich.

      I know you’ll tell me about all the poor people who could borrow thousands of dollars to take advantage of Government subsidies, but you can’t actually name one who has.

      Al Gore and James Hansen don’t count as poverty stricken. By the way, as far as I know wind power is completely uneconomic compared with conventional fossil fuel methods. Without enormous Government subsidies, no more wind power.

      If you reckon you can produce wind power economically, give it a try. You won’t, of course. All hat and no cattle.


      • You got it backwards. Had cattle, but not hat. Used wind power to pump water for cattle. Now have no cattle, but still don’t wear hat.

      • Danny Thomas

        You should have a hat. There’s a radiation thingy up in the sky that might cause you a problem. Can’t prove it, but there’s a risk management thought process out there ya might wanna consider.


      • Danny,

        Thank you for your concern. Since I no longer have cattle, maybe I should get a hat or go outside only after sundown.

      • Danny Thomas


        Not sure the cattle come in to play. That may require boots.

      • Actually, I am outside a few hours each day and do take precautions against getting skin cancer, including a broad brimmed hat. But a little sun on the skin helps with Vitamin D. Everything in moderation, including moderation.

  41. max10k,

    Wriggly Warmist Wormy Waffling?

    First statement, “Now have no cattle, but still don’t wear hat.”

    Second statement “Actually, I am outside a few hours each day and do take precautions against getting skin cancer, including a broad brimmed hat.”

    This would appear to be a typical example of Warmist logic, or lack thereof. Make a statement, contradict it if it makes you feel foolish, all the while evading providing support fro a previously unsubstantiated assertion.

    I am surprised that you don’t claim you now have no trousers, but instead are all mouth. I could understand this, as it would seem to have the ring of truth,

    As far as “everything in moderation, including moderation”, Oscar Wilde also said “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”

    Maybe he was a closet Warmist. Say something, contradict it, maybe even pretend you were looking for Steven Mosher’s lost clue at the time, and didn’t realise what you were saying.

    Only joking, of course. I came back into the country yesterday, and when the Border Force official asked me if I had anything to declare, I blithely quoted Oscar Wilde, saying “Nothing except my genius!”.

    Genius not being on the list of prohibited imports, he waved me straight through. Ain’t life grand!


    • Mike, my favorite Wilde is “A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.” I may be misquoting and I’m not even sure it’s from Wilde, but I like it.

      I tried saying something clever to a border official once. I never tried again.