Week in review – energy and policy edition

by Judith Curry

A few things that caught my eye this past week.

Researchers develop all-weather #solar cell that generates power from rain as well [link]

David MacKay’s book is an absolute gem:  Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air.  Available free online [link]

Water is the Climate Challenge, says World Bank [link]

How to bring aviation emissions to (near) zero? [link]

Are mega dams a solution or burden to climate change? [link]

Energy and agricultural markets have become more intertwined  [link]

India’s Climate Plan: Dwarf Cows That Don’t Fart [link]  …

Plans for coal-fired power in Asia are ‘disaster for planet’ warns World Bank [link]

The best way we can reduce energy’s #carbon footprint? Nurture nuclear. [link]

Exxon Mobil, FuelCell Energy, pursue new carbon capture tech for power plants [link]

Ban Ki-Moon believes Paris Agreement will be in effect next year “at the latest.”  [link] …

UN report finds progress on global climate efforts | Climate Home – climate change news [link]

EU tardiness to ratify Paris Agreement ‘damaging’, says its architect @LaurentFabius: [link]

Fuels created by artificial photosynthesis are getting much closer to reality. [link]

Now this is interesting … UAE proposing to build a mountain to bring more rain? [link]

Massachusetts continues to be the place where the fight over energy policy is the most pitched. [link]

Water, food and emerging security threats in the Middle East [link]

David MacKay on the logical fallacy of renewable energy [link]

Mekong Delta loses half of silt to upstream dams: [link]

Schellenberger: On the best metric for measuring climate progress, the world is going backwards. Here’s why. [link]

Stavins: Misleading talk about decoupling CO2 emissions and economic growth [link]

The triple dividends of disaster risk management [link]

Half of leading investors ignoring climate change [link]

5 trends shaping the global solar market [link]

In #Ethiopia, the Paris Climate Agreement Gets Real [link]

The Onion:  Climate change and first-world problems [link]

Madagascar’s unique ‘Spiny Forest’ is fast being turned into charcoal [link]

Bulletin of Atomic Energy: Public opinion on nuclear energy – what fuels it [link]

Minnesota court case on social cost of carbon: Peabody Coal’s contrarian scientist witnesses lose court case [link]



132 responses to “Week in review – energy and policy edition

  1. Pingback: Week in review – energy and policy edition – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. Half of leading investors ignoring climate change

    Wrong link.

  3. According to the World Bank, the next looming disaster is lack of water… all because of climate change. It must be true. If you can’t trust a banker, who can you trust? A politician? A climate scientist?

    • A banker? A politician? A climate scientist?

      What’s the difference?

      They now all speak with the same apocalyptic voice. They’re all part of the same hustle.

      From the link: “Plans for coal-fired power in Asia are ‘disaster for planet’ warns World Bank ”

      Plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a “disaster for the planet” and overwhelm the deal forged at Paris to fight climate change, the president of the World Bank said on Thursday….

      “If Vietnam goes forward with 40GW of coal, if the entire region implements the coal-based plans right now, I think we are finished,” Kim told a two-day gathering of government and corporate leaders in Washington, in a departure from his prepared remarks.

      “That would spell disaster for us and our planet.”

      Also, get a whiff of non-solution the bankster-politician-climariat complex offers:

      Putting coal-fired plants on hold – permanently – and making it affordable and practical for countries to replace fossil fuels with clean sources of energy such as wind and solar was the prime focus of the two-day meeting, and the bank’s new mission.

      It all reminds one of the 1960s rock hit by the Lovin’ Spoonful, Do You Believe in Magic?

  4. Peter Lang

    David MacKay’s book is an absolute gem: Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. Available free online [link]

    YES IT IS. First sentence in the Preface brilliantly sums up what the book is about:

    What’s this book about?

    I’m concerned about cutting UK emissions of twaddle – twaddle about
    sustainable energy. Everyone says getting off fossil fuels is important, and
    we’re all encouraged to “make a difference,” but many of the things that
    allegedly make a difference don’t add up.

    Twaddle emissions are high at the moment because people get emotional
    (for example about wind farms or nuclear power) and no-one talks
    about numbers. Or if they do mention numbers, they select them to sound
    big, to make an impression, and to score points in arguments, rather than
    to aid thoughtful discussion.

    This is a straight-talking book about the numbers. The aim is to guide
    the reader around the claptrap to actions that really make a difference and
    to policies that add up.

    • RE: David MacKay on the logical fallacy of renewable energy

      This review of the book is also quite good.

      If we could somehow capture and bottle the enormous flatulence emitted by the climatariat, we could solve the energy problem overnight, and remove a foul-smelling element from the atmosphere to boot.

  5. Peter Lang


    This link is broken:

    “The best way we can reduce energy’s #carbon footprint? Nurture nuclear. [link]”

  6. Peter Lang

    “How to bring aviation emissions to (near) zero? [link]”

    None of these ideas has any realistic prospect of success. Why do researchers ignore the bleeding obvious: Unlimited transport fuels from unlimited nuclear power and unlimited seawater?



  7. Peter Lang

    “Fuels created by artificial photosynthesis are getting much closer to reality. [link]”

    No relevant analyses of the relevant issues: cost, land area and resources required to supply a large area of the world’s energy demand.

    • Steven Mosher

      Splitting water. An Olympic sized swimming pool. Google nocera.
      Cost not land is the issue.

      • Peter Lang

        Of course land area is an major issue, dummy, and one of the main factors in the costs if you want to use enough land area to supply the world’s transport energy from “Fuels created by artificial photosynthesis “.

      • Steven Mosher

        Which part of Olympic size swimming pool did you not understand.

      • catweazle666

        Steven Mosher: “Which part of Olympic size swimming pool did you not understand.”

        Which part of ‘the limiting factor is area not volume’ did you not understand?

      • David Springer

        Land isn’t an issue at all, stupid. Artificial photosynthesis is best suited for non-arable land – little rain and lots of sunshine. Take the Texas panhandle for instance. Currently the only agriculture it supports is cattle which occupy 10 acres per head minimum. The only industry there is wind farms. The population density is 16 people and 32 cattle per square mile.

        Just 10% of the Texas panhandle, not even enough to disturb what little economic activity already exists, covered by 10% efficient solar energy harvesting technology would generate enough energy to supply the entire United States’ current energy needs.

        Mosher isn’t right a lot of the time but in this case he is. The issue is cost of the technology not the cost of the land it occupies. Get a clue.

      • David Springer

        That’s an olympic size swimming pool per second which works out to 347 billion gallons per year. To put this in perspective a single hurricane dumps half that much water on the city of Houston, Texas. Granted we probably won’t be using Sparklett’s bottled water but we could if the predominant use is in fuel cells which generate pure water as an easily recovered waste product.

        In any case the only limiting factor is the cost of the artificial leaves themselves not the land area to collect sunlight or the water used as a hydrogen source or the air used as a carbon source. Get the cost down on the leaves and it’s a go from all respects… endless abundant inexpensive clean energy.

      • David Springer

        Correction that’s 18 trillion gallons per year. About twice as much water as the artificial reservoir containted by Lake Mead in California. It’s still a non-issue because water is a by-product of hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels produced by the artificial leaves.

      • The panhandle area produces a lot of crops – corn, cotton, sorgum, etc. When you drive from Sweetwater to Lubbock, you top a plateau just north of Post, and it’s pretty much ag fields all the way to Lubbock, and it keeps going on the way to Amarillo. Cargill keeps permanent employees out there. They buy product. Without irrigation, it would be a lot less.

      • Here’s a thought:

        Lot’s of work has gone into finding electrolytic catalysts that will work in a neutral pH. But what if we turn it around? What if we (i.e. Nocera or whoever) try to get photocells to work in a strongly alkaline solution?

        Put a vapor-passing plastic film in front of it (or even behind it), and structure your “artificial leaves” to maximize air flow/contact from ambient wind, and you can probably tune your electrolyte to extract both CO2 and water from the air without further work.

        You’d still have to have a system of flow for the electrolyte, to bring it to technology to remove excess water and CO2, but in principle your “artificial leaf” could extract the necessary water for electrolytic hydrogen without an external source. And, under most conditions, it would actually produce excess water that could be returned to agriculture.

        If your leaf bubbles out hydrogen and oxygen into separate chambers, the oxygen could be diverted for other uses (CO2 capture from fossil fuels is much cheaper if you’re burning them with an O2/CO2 mix rather than an O2/N2 mix from ambient air). The hydrogen and CO2 could be fed directly into a miniaturized bio-converter, or collected and processed using the (somewhat mature) Sabatier reaction.

      • David Springer

        Lubbock is 75 miles south of the panhandle. It begins north of Tulia. Most of it is north of Amarillo. You can see the extent of what little agriculture there is using google earth. This will get you started.


    • Well, lets assume they get 50% efficient in their use of solar energy.

      They could collect 18 kW-h/m2. OIl is roughly 11 kW-h/liter or 40 kW-h/gallon.

      1 hectare would give about 450 gallons per day.

      How much does it cost to build a 1 hectare swimming pool (4 olympic sized swimming pools) and what are the other costs?

    • They could collect 18 kW-h/m2. OIl is roughly 11 kW-h/liter or 40 kW-h/gallon.

      1 hectare would give about 450 gallons per day.

      “Sigh”, math errors.

      At 50% they only collect 3 kW-H/m2 or enough power to generate 75 gallons of fuel per hectare per day.

      I was starting to think it might make sense… But ..
      Texas consumed 35.7 million gallons of gasoline and 20.1 million gallons of diesel each day in 2014

      55.8 million gallons/75 gallons/day = 743 kHectares or 743 km/2 of swimming pools just to meet the Texas demand. 743 km/2 is a lot of olympic swimming pools, about 3 million of them.

      • Peter Lang


        Just to give me a starting point, what efficiency has been demonstrated so far, and at that efficiency how much area would be required to supply the annual global oil consumption?

      • http://m.pnas.org/content/113/17/4545/F2.medium.gif

        Well, there are claims of up to 22% efficiency at generating hydrogen and 86% at creating methane.

        A bigger problem is what an “artificial leaf” looks like “silicon and titanium nanowires”.

        743 square kilometers of this will be pretty expensive.

        Plus it obviously is going to use a lot of water.

        Can’t go further without an equipment cost per hectare, actual performance figures of a commercial prototype, equipment lifetime estimates, and water consumption data. To me it looks like things are in the lab/prototype stage and not ready for primetime.

        Lets assume the equipment lasts 10 years at 50% efficiency (yeah I know the wildly optimistic current best case is currently 19%). A hectare is going to have to cost less than a quarter million for this to make economic sense. Operating costs subtract from that figure.

  8. Peter Lang

    ulletin of Atomic Energy: Public opinion on nuclear energy – what fuels it [link]

    Anti-nuke propaganda and scaremongering by the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ (and anyone else who suffers from nuclear paranoia and is scared or just plain hates nuclear power and rational energy policy):

    The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists engages science leaders, policy makers, and the interested public on topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, the changing energy landscape, climate change, and emerging technologies. We do this through our award winning journal, iconic Doomsday Clock, public access website and regular set of convenings. With smart, vigorous prose, multimedia presentations, and information graphics, the Bulletin puts issues and events into context and provides fact-based debates and assessments. For 70 years, the Bulletin has bridged the technology divide between scientific research, foreign policy and public engagement.

    The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists who “could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work.” The organization’s early years chronicled the dawn of the nuclear age and the birth of the scientists’ movement, as told by the men and women who built the atomic bomb and then lobbied with both technical and humanist arguments for its abolition.

    – See more at: http://thebulletin.org/background-and-mission-1945-2016#sthash.5IWqy3kD.dpuf

  9. Exxon Mobil, FuelCell Energy, pursue new carbon capture tech for power plants [link]

    A bit fluffy. Energy.Gov has a short discussion of types of fuel cells here (click on “Molten carbonate fuel cells”). A more complete comparative discussion may be found here.

  10. RE: “Energy and agricultural markets have become more intertwined”

    Another interesting article on the same phenomenon:

    When Commodity Prices Fall

    Chandrasekhar points to the financialization of commodities as being the reason that the comodity complex moves in unison:

    The price trends described above show how financialisation of commodities has served to amplify and exaggerate instabilities and fluctuations, in ways that do not benefit either direct producers or consumers.


    • Pepe Escobar argues that commodity prices are on the mend:

      Not many people are familiar with the Baltic Dry Index. Yet the Index is key to track commodity demand. Two months ago, it was trading to all-time lows. Since then, it has increased over 130%. Precious metals prices have all moved higher in virtually all currencies. Why is this important? Because it tells us that faith in fiat currencies – the US dollar especially – is sharply declining.

      The Baltic Index rise portends a rise in oil demand in Asia – especially China. Falling supply and rising demand for oil will likely drive up the price of the barrel of oil in the second half of 2016.


    • From your quote, he said it amplifies. It isn’t the cause of them moving in unison, though. They move in unison with global economic activity and because in many cases, the markets are global. That is, commodities can be shipped around the world.

  11. David Wojick

    The last item on the list is by far the most important. The skeptics (finally) argued the science in Court, and lost. Mind you this brief article is written by one of the warmer’s experts so it tells us very little. Also, the value of SCC is not the place to argue climate science, since it is about 300 year economic impacts. It sounds like the Admin Judge merely endorsed the Federal SCC numbers, which is no surprise.

    • David Wojick

      Turns out the use of the Federal SCC was the issue, see link below. Also it is just an Admin Judge recommendation so happily does not carry much legal weight. Still a bad precedent, so the arguments and adverse findings are important.
      See http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/04/judge-recommends-use-social-cost-carbon

      • DW:

        Many skeptics seem oblivious to policy issues.


        …maybe skeptics should have paid more attention to the ssc {sic} issue

        I, for one, find the policy debate the only reason to follow climate science.

        In fact, some of us were involved in both the environmental policy debate generally and the social cost of carbon debate specifically since well before the first Stern Review. Even before the (Gro Harlem) Brundtland Commission and “Our Common Future” (Maurice Strong and friends).

        The broader policy debate has existed at least since the days of Reverend Malthus and one could argue it hasn’t changed much. Climate science is merely one of the currently popular arguments in a very long debate.

      • opluso,

        I wholeheartedly agree.

        But in addition to putting the debate in its historical context, it also needs to be placed in a larger present-day context.

        The climate debate is part and parcel of the larger upwelling against the dictatorship of an unelected, technocratic, global elite, what Daniel Yankelovich called “the culture of technical control” in Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World.

    • David Wojick

      The absurdity of 300 year forecasting, economic and climate, is the SCC weak point, not equilibrium sensitivity.

      • Steven Mosher

        Too funny. Instead of wasting time making false claims about fraud in the temperature record maybe skeptics should have paid more attention to the ssc issue

      • David Wojick

        I know of no false claims but I agree about SCC. Many skeptics seem oblivious to policy issues.

      • All it takes is the one at the top.


        Trump has decided that the RNC better pick sides now.

      • David Wojick

        Arch, no one is at the top of the 3-way US system. For example, the Courts are beginning to require SCC in Federal oversight activities, such as permitting and leasing. The President has no say in this. (Nor is it certain that Clinton will lose, far from it.)

        The skeptics have simply done a miserable job of attacking CSS, which is a green cancer spreading throughout the Federal government (and some state governments). All based on 300 year forecasts of the damages due to today’s emissions. 300 years!

      • David, From what I have read and see I expect the ‘deniers’ to win for awhile anyway. Even though that is what I think will happen I hope there is a tidal change in the world of global order.

      • David Wojick

        Ironically, the Integrated Assessment Models used to calculate SCC are very precise in their way. That is the real fallacy, that we can make precise climate, technology and economic predictions 300 years out, on a per ton of CO2 emitted today basis, then base specific actions on them. I have yet to see anyone point this out in criticizing the IAMs (except me).

        You folks like data. I would first like to see the annual damages attributed to a single ton, year by year over the next 300 years. Remember in these models the damage from today’s ton never ends; it just keeps accumulating, year after year.

        Then let’s see all these accumulating damages summed. I bet this 300 year sum of global damages, caused by a single ton of emissions today, is a preposterous number. But all we ever see are these yearly damages discounted to present value. We never see the actual damages that are being claimed to occur.

      • The purpose of the discount rate is to devalue later future damages relative to near-future ones. A dollar today is worth 20 dollars a century from now and 400 dollars two centuries from now. By the time you get to 300 years, the costs aren’t impacting the SCC much unless the real-value damage rate is accelerating similarly.

      • Steven Mosher

        Even more funny.
        Instead of arguing that CO2 can’t warm the planet
        The trial shows skeptics should have spent time auditing scc.

        It’s all about focusing on uncertainty.

      • The absurdity of 300 year forecasting, economic and climate, is the SCC weak point, not equilibrium sensitivity.

        Who is using 300 year forecasting in their regulatory decisions? And do you have a source for this?

      • “Who is using 300 year forecasting in their regulatory decisions? And do you have a source for this?”

        Pages 28 and 102 of the final report.


      • DW:

        That is the real fallacy, that we can make precise climate, technology and economic predictions 300 years out, on a per ton of CO2 emitted today basis, then base specific actions on them. I have yet to see anyone point this out in criticizing the IAMs (except me).

        Look harder. Both the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation have raised this issue in the past.

        And before the focus on federal SCC pricing there were critiques of how bogus discount rates used in long-range economic models could result in future generations being valued more highly than people alive today.

      • David Wojick

        Jim D: the combination of economic and population growth largely offsets the discount rate. I am reminded of the EPA RIA for stratospheric ozone reduction, where they used a discount rate of 3% but assumed the value of a human life increased by 2.75%, yielding an effective discount rate of 0.25%.
        Joseph: I am pretty sure that the SCC is the sole source of climate benefits claimed by EPA for the so-called Clean Power Plan regulations. The use of SCC is spreading rapidly among agency action. A green policy cancer.
        opluso: I have read a lot of the Heritage and CEI stuff on SCC and never seen this argument made, much to my dismay. Can you point me to it?

      • DW:




        ​This phrase pretty much sums up the reality:
        “​SCC Rules as a Surrogate for National Carbon Tax​”​http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2013/09/scc-social-costs-of-carbon-a-continuing-little-told-story/

      • DW:

        I’m not sure that you will find precisely the phrasing you are using re: SCC. But your point about the absurd compounding of damages over time from each ton of C (while downplaying potential technological solutions) is the basis of most critiques, including those that examine the models directly.

      • David Springer

        “maybe skeptics should have paid more attention to the ssc issue”

        Or we can wait until it gets to a point where the liberal agenda is intolerable to a majority and then elect a president who will appoint skeptics to key positions starting with science adviser.

    • David,

      The Warmists could not advance their political agenda through the ballot box, because the American public has tuned them out. So their only recourse is to attempt to advance it through judicial and bureaucratic channels.

      We’ll see how this plays in Peoria.

      • David Wojick

        Glenn: The American public is just as divided on this issue as the Congress and the scientific community (including Peoria). Nothing/no one has been “turned out.”

      • David,

        There’s quite a political revolution going on around you, in case you haven’t noticed.

        And sure, the bipartisan Republicrat establishment is dead set againt it, preferring its scientism, sham democracy, and elite technocractic rule instead.

        Here’s a good description of what the people are up in arms about:

        Washington is out of control.

        Legislators, judges and unelected bureaucrats want to control our lives, livelihoods and living standards, with no accountability even for major errors, calculated deception, or deliberate, often illegal assaults on our liberties and on citizens who resist….

        EPA’s Clean Power Plan assumes that shutting down America’s coal-fired power plants – a tiny fraction of such facilities worldwide – can somehow stop climate change that is actually governed by numerous powerful natural forces over which humans have absolutely no control. The plan also assumes any global warming will be dangerous and ignores the many thousands who will be rendered jobless.

        A “social cost of carbon” scheme concocted by a multitude of federal agencies makes the same faulty assumptions. It then hypothesizes every imaginable and illusory “cost” of carbon dioxide emissions – to forests, agriculture, water resources, “forced migration” of people and wildlife, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. But it completely ignores every one of the obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels … and of CO2’s immense fertilizing effects on forest and crop growth.

        President Obama imposed both of these programs because Congress refused to enact almost 700 different cap-tax-and-trade and other climate bills. Rather than working with Congress to achieve at least some of what he wanted, Mr. Obama simply had his agencies issue decrees, as another way to “skin a cat.”….

        The entire system allows unelected, unaccountable government officials to decide winners and losers, and reward cronies and allies with taxpayer-funded grants and subsidies, while punishing critics and enemies. “Progressive” judges defer to “agency discretion” and give bureaucrats free rein to do as they please, even when the rules, decisions and decrees do not comply with legal, constitutional or scientific requirements….

        The federal Goliath now costs US families, businesses, hospitals and organizations over $1.9 trillion a year!….

        America’s “soft despotism” is light years from the atrocities and gulags of its infamous predecessors. But it is highly effective nonetheless. The same agencies write, impose, enforce and adjudicate the rules, and impose punishment for infractions. They work tirelessly and imperiously to “fundamentally transform” our nation’s legal, energy, economic and social systems – and keep our fossil fuels “in the ground.”

        They impose edicts that would never be supported by the People or enacted by Congress, and that they rarely if ever apply to themselves. They lavish billions on allies, while denying funding and legitimacy to critics, siccing IRS dogs on opposition groups, and threatening civil and criminal “racketeering” actions against anyone who “denies” the alleged “reality” of dangerous manmade climate change.

        They seek to ban fossil fuels, biotech crops and insecticides – even from Third World families suffering from abject poverty, rampant malnutrition and disease, and a near total absence of electricity. They do all they can to silence and punish alternative views, and even the notion that there can be alternative views.

        For seven years, our “Try and stop me” president and administration have used and abused their powers to impose their agenda. What we need now is a “Try and make me” president, who will refuse to enforce their edicts. Who will use his pen, phone and power to review them, root out any fraud and abuse behind them, and defund and bury them. Who will work with Congress to restore the rule of law and our Constitution, economic growth, and the role of personal liberties, opportunities and responsibilities.

        – See more at: http://www.cfact.org/2016/03/23/washingtons-despotic-lawlessness/#sthash.71q02w3F.dpuf

      • David,

        The American public is not “divided on this issue.”

        In the courtroom of public opinion the verdict is in, and most Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about the issue.

        The lack of salience is clearly shown by opinion polls, and if we look at WTP (willingness to pay) studies the indifference is even greater.

        This is an issue that is driven exclusively by a small ruling elite that doesn’t care what matters, or what happens, to the vast majority of Americans.


  12. RE: “Massachusetts continues to be the place where the fight over energy policy is the most pitched.”

    Pacheco said he does not want to see any more incentives for fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts, and wants not only to “double down” on efficiency and renewables, but to “quadruple down.”

    Do you believe in magic?

  13. From “Water, food emerging security threats in the Middle East” :

    “For the Middle East to achieve working peace and stability, governments would do well to pursue more sustainable economic policy for growth and development. The unique nature of the region’s resources and demographics – including its reliance on what may be waning hydrocarbon reserves – should be reflected in policy.”

    I don’t see how that region, including Israel, can be sustainable when it has such a fast population growth coupled to oil reserves depletion. If they continue at the current pace it’s going to be super unstable, with several failed countries, civil wars, and large scale migration due to famine caused by overpopulation.

  14. “Researchers develop all-weather #solar cell that generates power from rain as well [link]”

    The amount of energy in falling raindrops is vanishingly small. Pitiful. This is just grandstanding to the ignorant based on some physical property that nobody has yet thought of a real use for but got funded.

  15. RE: “Schellenberger: On the best metric for measuring climate progress, the world is going backwards. Here’s why.”

    There’s some great information in this article — indicators as to the “success” of the renewable energy “revolution”:



  16. The rig count has dropped over a cliff, but rig productivity is very high.


  17. RE: “UN report finds progress on global climate efforts | Climate Home – climate change news”

    From the article:

    Drought, storms and sea level rise also feature on the main concerns of governments, as outlined in the chart below.

    Is there anything under the sun that will not be blamed on CO2 and global warming?

    Here’s another example:



  18. Surprise! Surprise!

    Greenpeace believes our entire modern consumer society is “bankrupt”:

    Ecological bankruptcy

    There may not be a single large-scale industry or multi-national corporation on Earth that is genuinely profitable if they had to account for their ecological impact.

    A recent UN-supported report shows that the world’s 3,000 largest publicly-traded companies alone caused US$2.15 trillion (€2 trillion) of environmental damage in 2008, that the total cost is much higher, and that companies and communities downstream in the global supply chain are at risk from the environmental impacts.

    For centuries, businesses have cheated on this accounting by calling ecological impacts “externalities,” presumably not effecting the business. Thus, air and water pollution, toxins in the environment, or eradicated species were deemed “external” and not worth accounting for.

    We now know that these ecological costs are not “external,” and that if businesses were obliged to account for ecological liabilities, almost no business on Earth would be profitable without dramatically raising prices for consumers

    And you gotta love the visuals, as if these elitist snobs at Greenpeace give a rat’s ass if poor and working-class folks live or die.


  19. The link to David MacKay’s book is actually a link to Bill Gates post about the sad loss of David MacKay last month. Bit of a shock.

  20. India dwarf cows. Shows how much nonsense is out there. Vechurs are the smallest cow breed in the world. Average 130kg, produce ~3 liters milk/day, 1/10 the methane of a regular cow. Saved as a breed in the 1980’s.
    Well the regular cow Holsteins on my dairy farm average about 750 Kg, produce ~35 liters milk/day (nine gallons). So less methane/liter milk than vechurs, and ~11x milk for ~ 6x body mass meaning more food calorie efficient than vechurs.
    With such backwards thinking, no wonder India is a struggling developing world country. Another green solution fantasy that doesn’t work.

  21. RE: “Stavins: Misleading talk about decoupling CO2 emissions and economic growth”

    Furthermore, in some cases, as economies grow, CO2 emissions can actually fall. First, picture an economy which is growing exclusively in its services sector. In this case, economic growth might be accompanied by no change in CO2 emissions. Now picture an economy which is growing in its services sector, while shrinking in its manufacturing sector (sound familiar?).

    Harry Saunders of the Breakthrough Institute found that the energy we consume directly is less than the energy which is embedded in the products we consume. Much of this embedded energy usage has been offshored.



  22. David L. Hagen

    David Mackay – a voice of reason – (except for political CCS)
    Clive some good discussion. However:
    “Renewable energy can never under any realistic scenario meet that target. To imagine that battery prices could fall enough to make wind and solar backup”
    This is a logical weakness of the excluded middle. Better to examine “sustainable energy” including fusion, thorium cycles etc. Original generation need not be in the UK. Storage options other than batteries may be more cost effective.

  23. “You have to bring in the best scientists and base your conclusions on high-quality peer reviewed studies.” – Abraham
    Average scientists have to be not listened to so much until the time they become best scientists. Not all peer reviewed studies are high-quality. The best scientists and high-quality studies happen to agree with me.

  24. David Wojick

    Regarding the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), I posted this above at the end of a thread but am putting it here too, slightly modified, for ease of access.

    Ironically, the Integrated Assessment Models used to calculate SCC are very precise in their way. That is the real fallacy, that we can make precise climate, technology and economic predictions 300 years out, on a per ton of CO2 emitted today basis, then base specific actions on them. I have yet to see anyone point this out in criticizing the IAMs and SCC (except me).

    You folks like data. I would first like to see the annual damages attributed to a single ton, year by year over the next 300 years. Remember in these models the damage from today’s ton never ends; it just keeps accumulating, year after year, century after century.

    Then let’s see all these accumulating damages summed. I bet this 300 year sum of global damages, caused by a single ton of emissions today, is a preposterous number. But all we ever see are these yearly damages discounted to a summed present value. We never see the actual damages that are being claimed to occur.

    Has anyone seen such data?

    • David Wojick

      For example, here is a really simple SCC question. For a ton of CO2 emitted today, in which of the following years will it cause the most damage — 2116, 2216 or 2316? Anybody know? Federal policy is based on this.

      • J. Wellington Wimpy

      • I mentioned discount rates above, but you can read about it here. It will affect how you make sense of your question.

      • Jim D’s link
        5% $12
        3% $39
        2.5% $61
        3% 95th percentile $116
        Which one is it?
        The company will have expenses of from 12 to 61 million, but there’s some chance they will be 116 million. I suppose there are problems with looking at costs alone. Costs don’t look so bad with the right amount of revenue. He’s what it costs me to employ you. I don’t want to hear about how much revenue you generated.

      • So the idea of the SCC is that CO2 generates enough revenue to offset its own future cost. Without it, that revenue has to be found elsewhere, like in taxes and fees, or by borrowing, but the later it is left to start paying in advance, the more impact the cost has on the economy. There is no free lunch, but there is a way to start investing early with the SCC to lessen the impact.

    • Steven Mosher

      It’s a little late for skeptics to be getting up to speed on the critical questions.
      For seven years I’ve been explaining tobs adjustments..what a diversion of skeptical brain power all these years they could have been looking at the important questions.
      Instead they wasted time looking at the orbits of Jupiter and saturn..and other tangential issues.

      • Peter Lang


        You don’t understand what the critical questions are. You need to get up to speed on what they are. They are not the ones you want to talk about. Temperature is irrelevant. It’s impacts that matter.

        You have failed to make a case that impacts the impacts of GHG emissions are significant, or even that they’ll do more harm than good, let alone shown that the advocated mitigation policies will do more harm than good.

        For years you’ve been demonstrating you’re a flat earther. You keep ranting about irrelevancies and keep ignoring the relevant facts.

        You’ve lost. Got that!

      • Steven Mosher
        I don’t quite get your problem with skeptics.
        What impact are we having on policy?
        What more would be done to save the planet but for us?.
        I don’t see were we alone are keeping people in cars and airplanes.
        China is our fault?
        What wind farm have we locked hands and prevented from being built?
        It strikes me as political zealotry and a quasi-religious demand for theological purity.
        Heretics are 3%, no?

      • catweazle666

        “For seven years I’ve been explaining tobs adjustments..”

        Get a life FFS!

    • DW:

      Detailed debates over discount rates and the Ramsey equation have been ongoing for many years. There is a wealth of information out there.

      Specific damage estimates for a single ton of carbon are typically expressed as a per-ton carbon tax today. Because the actual damage estimates are “too low” they are arbitrarily increased until they can be expected to produce the politically desired reductions in fossil fuel consumption.

  25. Different perspectives from Australia and China (than from Rud, Planning Engineer) on Renewables penetration into the Grid: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/western-power-says-high-renewable-penetration-no-problem-grid-24476

    • Details to support those assertions are seriously lacking. This is the quote I’d most love to see a follow up on.

      -The operator of the China state grid said a similar thing in the US last month, suggesting that adapting to high level of renewable energy penetration was more of a “cultural” issue than a technology one.

    • This quote from the senior Exec who has been with the company less than a year is a good one too, ““Western Power is a traditional company, and while it’s on the path to change, there are also a lot of engineers valiantly defending the old model, when they should be changing.”.

      I’ve seen many stories where management pushed engineering to great travail. The converse not so much. Maybe one brilliant manager trumps a lot of experienced engineers.

      But the major point in any case is we need more than assertions. We need to hear how they now this is working and why. I’m not even sure what he means by a lot of solar and wind, hard to get info on their size.

      • PE, South Australia and Tasmania are now green basket cases. (Though SA is only green if you avert your eyes from all the brown coal power they have to buy in from Victoria, and all the supplementary/emergency gas and diesel, much of it super high cost because there are still people who can see suckers coming, even in clean, green SA.)

        The awarding of an outrageously high submarine contract (just the contract, the subs come some time after many of us are dead) to a seriously dodgy French consortium if they manufacture in South Australia is supposed to be a sign of confidence. It is, in fact, a desperate bribe to unions and Adelaide voters devastated by Big Green policies. (We’re hoping the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t too influential in France in thirty years time and beyond.)

        I could tell you about Tassie’s bungling of its clean, green energy but I’m worried you’ll think I’m making it up.

        With stuff-ups on this scale it’s inevitable that there will be cheerful and progressive spokespeople as well as lots of smug “managers” with cooked figures to prove that all is well.

        Subsidy seeks the lowest intellectual level.

      • Thanks Mosomoso for shining that light. I saw a lot of diesels and imports and clues to the bigger picture but no good summary info. We will have to see down the road if the many engineers were more correct or the smug new hires. I’m ready to change with the evidence, on bald assertions not so much.

      • PE, this is an account of the recent Tasmanian scandal. It makes the never-used desal plant ($1/2 a million a day) and rust heap wave generator of my own state look downright sensible.

        Wish I could say I was making it up.

      • This is what some people don’t get about big government. It puts lot’s of money in one place. It draws crooks and opportunists like flies. It stinks as bad as the real thing, too.

      • For any good/insightful discussion of this on CE, PE, Rud, and Others need to clearly define what the key issues are in bullet form (and to probably restate them with every conversation).

        Clearly, PE is talking about something other than SAIDI: https://www.google.com/search?q=EU+and+Germany+SAIDI+versus+U.S.&rlz=1C1AFAB_enUS485US485&oq=EU+and+Germany+SAIDI+versus+U.S.&aqs=chrome..69i57.34700j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

      • Wow, Stephen. Would you like them to take out the trash and wash the dishes too?

      • Also — as I’ve previously stated, there have been tremendous Utility and Industry engineering advancements in Renewables’ shorter intermittency concerns/problems, such as:

        Voltage and VAR control and regulation, voltage ride-through, power curtailment and ramping, primary frequency regulation and inertial response.

        In having an objective discussion, “big picture” framing is really important.

      • This link has the bullet points feel free to link or cut and paste them yourself whenever you see a need.


        Also in the discussion is one of the many times where I tell you SAIDI is a distribution metric that says little (nothing) about bulk grid reliability and notes that I do not have any reason to believe or advocate that renewables need impact SAIDI negatively for a grid backed system.

      • PE — What I balk at is not what you’ve said, it’s what others say as they often cite you (and Rud). As I understand your views on reliability (for CE blog discussion purposes), you are primarily concerned with a catastrophic failure on a Grid with a high penetration level of Renewables. Correct?

        The effect/impact of Penetration Levels can be complex — depending on a specific grid. Dr. Curry’s linked Massachusetts story on natural gas is an example. In MA, high potential renewable energy penetration levels are only possible because of its investment in a fleet of flexible shiny new of combined cycle natural gas units and access to Canadian hydro.

        Conversely, the risk of catastrophic Grid failure would be much higher on a System with a large amount of inflexible and older pulverized coal generation.

      • Stephen Segrest,

        I think cost enters the equation too, much to the chagrin of the climatariat.

        Average electricity prices around the world: $/kWh


      • Glen — Could you at least provide data which recognizes the differences in taxation between the U.S. and Europe? The numbers you cite reflect the very high amounts of “value added taxes” (VAT and other) which the U.S. doesn’t have to this extent.

        Your chart and in your context leaves the impression that Renewables are the reason for higher prices. Their are a host of reasons including taxes, higher natural gas costs (LGN), etc.

        Here in the U.S. an example would be to simplistically compare gasoline prices in Florida versus other neighboring States. Florida’s gasoline prices are higher because of higher sales taxes — where Florida doesn’t have a State income tax.

      • Stephen Segrest,

        Well if you don’t like the Germany to US comparison, then how about the Germany to France comparison?

        Anyway you cut it, “green” energy comes with a hefty price tag.

      • Glen — See Figure 2 where taxes are significantly higher in Germany than France: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Electricity_price_statistics

        Also, France has a state run electricity system — which I would assume includes no equity return (just repay debt).

        Now you may very well be correct — but just throwing out data doesn’t prove anything. Saying the big differences must be because of Renewable Energy may or may not be correct.

    • Geoff Sherrington

      SS re Australian perspective
      South Australia has gone strong on solar and so it has the highest electricity cost of Australian States. Like Tasmania, it is at risk of interconnector failure to fossil fuel generation in the larger use States, Victoria and NSW. West Australia is too early to allow meaningful comment. For both, it will be testing when equipment nears the end of its life and needs replacement.
      The test is not whether this % or that % penetration has been achieved. The true test is whether the cost of electricity is low enough to attract new investment in manufacturing and heavy industry.
      Ask a potential investor if he would power an alumina refinery or an aluminium smelter with non-nuclear renewables and he will laugh in your face.
      Call me when they no longer laugh at you.
      BTW, in Australia it is rare to see backup generation included in the cost of electricity from renewables as told to the public.
      Charades, anyone?

      • Geoff — what I balk at is how you think of backup generation, which is not correct engineering wise. You apply an incorrect simplistic micro approach, rather than a correct integrated grid macro approach.

        You (and others here at CE) think that installing 1 kW of solar or wind would always require 1 kW of fossil fuel backup generation to maintain a current level of reliability.

        For an inflexible/older system you could be correct. But for flexible systems (e.g., with a lot of natural gas combined cycle units, access to hydro, etc) you would be incorrect.

        You are also incorrect under the engineering concept of ELCC.

    • And what has been the net result of the German government forcing the German people to pay almost double for electricity what the French do, or three times what the Americans do?


    • Stephen Segrest,

      • The German government therefore supports renewables with a web of subsidies and preferments designed to entice businesses and households to invest in them.


      Let’s take a look at just one of the web of subsidies, the feed-in tariff (FIT), which gives guarantees for renewable electricity at above-market-rate prices.

      The FITs generally last twenty years and are assessed according to a complex rate schedule.

      Onshore wind is currently guaranteed at least €89.3 per megawatt-hour (MWh) for the first five years of operation, after which the tariff resets to about €49, a little above market rate.

      Offshore wind will get €150 per MWh for the first twelve years before a downward reset, with long extensions if the facility is located more than twelve miles from shore or where water is at least twenty meters deep.

      Photovoltaic solar gets roughly €120-180 per MWh, depending on the size of the rig, for a full twenty years.

      The tariffs are funded by a “renewable energy surcharge” added to electricity bills.

      A utility will pay a FIT of, say, €180 for a megawatt-hour of solar power; it will then sell that electricity on the wholesale market for perhaps €45 and charge the difference to the renewables surcharge. (Some energy-intensive businesses are exempted from most of the surcharge.)

      The tariff-surcharge mechanism seemed unobtrusive and benign when renewables were a sliver of electricity production, but swelling bolts of pricey wind and solar electricity have turned it into a Frankenstein’s monster.

      The FITs will cost €20.4 billion this year, according to the Financial Times, and to fund that the 2013 surcharge jumped 47 percent to 5.3 euro-cents per kilowatt-hour. The surcharge alone is 60 percent of the average total U.S. residential electricity rate.

  26. Geoff Sherrington

    Re book, Sir David MacKay.
    It was terribly disappointing to see a major problem of air circulation dismissed in simplistic, almost childish terms, without many numbers in a book vaunted for its use of numbers rather than emotion. Mackay seems keen to deal with the topic and dismiss it very early in the book. I read this as his recognition that it is a major, unsolved matter. He writes at p.8 –
    “Yes, natural flows of CO2 are larger than the additional flow we switched
    on 200 years ago when we started burning fossil fuels in earnest. But it
    is terribly misleading to quantify only the large natural flows into the atmosphere, failing to mention the almost exactly equal flows out of the
    atmosphere back into the biosphere and the oceans. The point is that these
    natural flows in and out of the atmosphere have been almost exactly in
    balance for millennia (sic). So it’s not relevant at all that these natural flows are larger than human emissions.” (There follows a simple story about airline queues that does not conform with usual human conduct.)
    The following alternative explanation should not be dismissed: The inflows and outflows will come into balance again. The rate of adjustment (while, for example, new trees start to grow and sequester over the next 50+ years) is slow compared to the CO2 changes presently happening, so we get a temporary CO2 bump over decades then a path back towards the postulated balance.
    MacKay gives the questionable impression that Nature can distinguish CO2 from fossil fuels in the air from other, much more abundant origins, and process it separately.
    I fear that MacKay has been caught up in the old argument about how puny Man is compared to Nature, with its companion of why geologists tend to use a different time scale when discussing earth’s transient anomalies.

    • The earth’s rate of absorption of the extra CO2 is limited by the processes that do it. Currently the absorption rate is only half of the emission rate. So the earth’s absorption is not being dismissed, but is just weaker than what we are doing.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Jim D,
        I more or less said that, except I did not single out ff CO2 as ‘what we are doing’. My main points were that MacKay duckshoved this important matter; and that, once slow responses have acted, we will stand a chance of coming back to ‘balance’. (Not that I am keen to invoke balance like MacKay seems to be).

      • The point is to get back to a balanced climate, and preferably to allow a negative CO2 trend to develop through a combination of natural and aided sequestration before the climate deviates far outside the Holocene norm, which happens within a century with no action of this kind.

  27. The N.Y. Times has an interesting article on “Moore’s Law” where the next big breakthrough phase possibly being in quantum physics: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/technology/moores-law-running-out-of-room-tech-looks-for-a-successor.html?_r=0

    Question to Rud (and other smart folks) — Could you link to any good sources how breakthroughs in quantum physics could effect solar energy? Thanks

  28. Michael Shellenberger’s long article is excellent. Almost every sentence could be used for a pithy quote. He’s got to be the world’s most articulate advocate for nuclear. Its hard to choose a short passage, but I thought this was pretty good:

    In the U.S., solar and wind receive 140 and 17 times higher levels of subsidy than nuclear. And states across the nation have enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards, RPS, that mandate rising wind and solar, and that exclude nuclear.

  29. Mark Jacobson (Stanford) has been receiving a lot of media coverage on his 100% Renewable Energy by 2050 project. A clickable World Map giving each country’s portfolio is at: https://100.org/wp-addons/maps/embed-large.html

    Using the UK as an example, 85% of electricity would come from wind (mainly off-shore at 65%) — and not solar or biofuels. Also, a major assumption is that energy efficiencies will result in a 43% reduction in UK demand (versus BAU).

    Finally, land requirements are shown — where Mark Jacobson has a very different opinion than David McKay: the UK land area footprint is shown as 0.23%.

    • I glanced at Jacobson’s numbers for Germany as I have just looked at that situation recently. He shows Solar and Wind combining for 99% of that country’s supply.

      Currently there are at least two 4-week periods within the past year where wind plus solar supplied only about 1/8 Germany’s demand. If you add in weekly, daily, and hourly fluctuations it gets much worse, but lets stick with a 4-week big picture. If you wanted to increase wind and solar by a factor of 8 from the present then you would need a total of 200,000 2-MW turbines. Keep in mind that Germany has a land surface area of about 140,000 square miles. If you tried to get by with a W+S capacity “only” 5 times the present, then those 4 week periods would require at least 16 TWh of storage capacity. If you did that with 10 KWh Tesla Powerwalls, at about $5,000 each installed, then you would need about 1.6 billion of such installations, at a cost of about 8 trillion dollars. (assuming no degradation, 100% depletion, 100% efficiency. In real life you should have twice as many.) That is about $100,000 per citizen or $200,000 per household just for the batteries, and a place to hang 40 Powerwalls in each home.

      I wrote more detail here: https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/30/week-in-review-energy-and-policy-edition-23/#comments

      Based on those numbers I question Jacobson’s analysis, to put it mildly.

      • sciguy54 — as I responded to Dr. Hagen’s post previously, you appear to be assuming something (on batteries) that Jacobson is not saying: http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/CONUSGridIntegration.pdf

      • Jacobson assumes that over 90% of solar storage is PCM-ice and PCM-CSP. Optimum discharge endurance for this type of storage is usually in the 8-12 hour range. That will be virtually useless after a few days and absolutely useless long before the 4 week shortages which are there in the record. I guess he would need storage to back up his storage.

        I will repeat. In order to avoid having more than 125,000 2MW turbines in Germany, a country with only 140,000 square miles of land, you need storage from which which you can reliably draw over 4 TWh per week for a period of at least 4 weeks. This is not a guess or model, this is pulled directly from the records of the past 12 months. PCM will not be able to provide that without vast surplus capacity and huge losses.

      • sciguy54 — You may be absolutely correct and Jacobson all wrong, but for visitors to CE how would we know who is right?

        We need some type of “Point Counter-Point” Blog where two positions are presented and argued.

        Wouldn’t it be great if Dr. Curry could occasionally sponsor/host/moderate live video streams (like for 1 hour) where someone like Mark Jacobson answers questions from CE Denizens?

    • “Wouldn’t it be great if Dr. Curry could occasionally sponsor/host/moderate live video streams…”

      I suspect that Dr. Curry has her hands full polishing her preso for the SPE at the present time. To pull together one-hour video presentations is also quite a different task than building a text blog with a somewhat regular recurring structure.

      That said, I am glad that our exchange has been civil. If you have an interest in following the numbers for Germany, just look in my earlier post and you will see where to go. Supplement the information about weekly production there with the additional knowledge that currently Germany has about 25,000 wind turbines with an average nameplate capacity of just under 2MW.

      It doesn’t take much noodling to see that there are two major kinds of demands for storage. First there are diurnal demands. One day this might largely be met with investments in ice and molten salt storage, along with pumped hydro and home systems that store hot water or utilize other kinds of thermal inertia. But there is also a requirement for storage which can be tapped continuously for periods of 3, 4, or 5 weeks in order to eliminate the need for either vast overcapacity or backup generation powered by fossil fuel, nuclear, or hydro.

  30. India Seeks to Shut 12% of Power Capacity in Anti-Pollution Move: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-06/india-seeks-to-shut-12-of-power-capacity-in-anti-pollution-move

    IMO, the World Bank (and Others) should be providing access to financing new efficient state-of-the-art coal power plants in India (especially including super/ultra critical units).

    I wrote about this on my Blog: Where Obama is Wrong on Coal: http://greenenergy.blogspot.com/2013/11/where-obama-is-wrong-on-coal.html

  31. David Wojick

    Yet another climate change Court Order: http://planetark.org/wen/74424 This is about Salmon and the Snake River dams, an old, old issue. But this time we have this: “[Judge] Simon also ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not prepare adequate environmental impact statements in violation of federal law, and the government’s plan failed to capture the impact of climate change.”

    The Courts are systematically making “capturing the the impact of climate change” (a meaningless concept) a procedural requirement. How about saying that climate changes will cause all the fish to die so there is no reason to protect them? No that won’t work. What will?

    • DW:

      You raise an important point. Failure to pass a carbon tax has simply shifted the focus to regulatory alternatives.

  32. JCurry: I wasn’t really sure how to bring this to your attention but here is a new item of note:
    <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/9/obama-wh-shows-bad-faith-global-warming-case-judge/"Obama White House showed ‘bad faith’ in global-warming case, judge rules

  33. Peter Lang

    I just saw this interesting statistic:

    Fatalities per TWh attributable to PM 2.5, SO2, NOx from coal fired power stations in India (All plants 2008) (does not include accident fatality rates):

    State Owned = 103
    Centre Owned = 95
    Privately owned = 82
    (Ref. Table 8)

    Average for India is 99 fatalities/TWh (Ref. Table 7)

    Cropper, M., Gamkhar, S,. Malik, K., Limonov, A., Partridge, I., 2012. The Health Effects of Coal Electricity Generation in India. Resources for the Future

    Privately owned is definitely best. :)

  34. I want the greens to succeed. I want to see states like Massachusetts enjoy blackouts and smell sewage in the streets. I want to see hospitals going green by having no electricity for days on end. The Massachusetts general hospital has one of the biggest pathology labs in the world, I really want to be there to take a sniff when all their freezers defrost. I want to see industrial collapse and 70+% unemployment.

    I want to see Chinese become the new global language of anything serious and English forgotten. I am curious to see in what way the greens will quadruple down when they get what they want. It won’t tell us anything we don’t already know about them, but it’ll be informative nonetheless.

  35. 4TimesAYear

    Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.