Week in review – energy and policy edition

by Judith Curry

A few things that caught my eye this past week.

Considering power system planning in fragile and conflict states [link]

Peter Gluckman: Understanding the challenges and opportunities at the science-policy interface [link]

Could we illuminate the world with tidal power? How about this: let’s try. [link]

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:  Germany’s Energiewende – the intermittency problem remains. [link]

Obama-Backed Solar Plant Literally Incinerates Itself [link]

Coal Decline Steepens in 2016 in India, China, U.S. China’s latest idea for cleaning up air pollution could be horrible for climate change:[link]

Is it time to unplug the Colorado River’s massive Glen Canyon Dam? [link]

China’s latest idea for cleaning up air pollution could be horrible for climate change: [link]

Exxon began acquiring the technology for low-emission vehicles and electric cars in 1963 – if not earlier. [link]

Nuclear Matters’ Sen. Evan Bayh on Department of Energy Summit on Improving the Economics of America’s Nuclear Power Plants [link]

Breakthrough Institute: Low carbon portfolio standards – raising the bar for clean energy [link]

People who claim to worry about climate change use more electricity [link]

Done sensibly, agricultural development can reduce poverty in Africa [link]

BBC: Agricultural emissions ‘reality check’ [link]

In Sharp Reversal, California Suspends Water Restrictions [link]

With women at the top, UN climate body has chance for real change [link]

EPA Chief: ‘Climate deniers are not about’ science, they’re just selfish about ‘the solutions’ [link]

What happens to renewable energy without the Clean Power Plan? [link]

Investors beware: Iranian govt calls large dams the wrong investment under climate change [link]

Droughtlandia:  When climate change causes Californians to migrate north to Oregon and Washington [link]

How Ethiopian farmers made the desert bloom despite #drought:  Big dams are not the answer! [link]

Building #resilience helps communities bounce back from drought  #Ethiopia [link]

Sea Level Rise Could Help Marshes Ease Flooding [link]

The Left’s jihad against American energy [link]

How Washington Politicians Wasted Billions Trying to ‘Invest in Our Future’ [link]

Senate Hearing on advanced nuclear technologies [link]

India to ‘divert rivers’ to tackle drought  [link]  “The public has welcomed it and they are happily ready to be displaced.”!

This Is What a Smarter 21st-Century #Transportation System Will Look Like [link]

Turning the Impending Mosul Dam Disaster Into Opportunity [link]

The global air pollution ‘blindspot’ affecting 1 billion people [link] … for once, we can truly blame climate change

New study sets climate target for agriculture [link]

Why even the people who worry the most about climate change often take little action [link]

America is finally building new nuclear plants. We need more of them. [link]

9 things you should know about a carbon tax: [link]


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

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

  2. Willis Eschenbach

    My favorite headline this week?

    People who claim to worry about climate change use more electricity

    This is my shocked face.


    • Not only that, but in California the limousine liberals have figured out a way to get the poor to pay for their sanctimonious self-righteousness:

      Subsidizing the rich

      So what’s the problem? First, the credit paid in California for the excess solar power is far higher than the cost of alternative electricity sources, usually from utilities or from the spot power market.

      Consumers without such solar installations have to finance that excessively expensive electricity, so that overall power prices are forced above the level that would prevail in the absence of the net metering system.

      This system, by the way, subsidizes the affluent (median income of those installing solar systems: $91,210) at the expense of all other power consumers (median of $67,821), an embarrassing reality from which the supporters of the net-metering system prefer to avert their eyes.


    • Imagine my shock that you would respond in that manner to a scientifically meaningless but tribalistically satisfying report of an association that doesnt control for variables (such as SES) and thus focuses on a relationship that might not be very meaningful.

      • Oh, you mean conservatives aren’t supposed to use liberal “outcome oriented” methodology?


        Further, if it is wrong, why do liberals use it?

    • On controlling for SES and other correlated variables: if you are trying to establish causality – controlling for confounding variables is an important part of the process But variables of that sort are often tangled and inter-related such that causality is an elusive goal in almost any area where you can’t do controlled experiments. If we can only talk about things that meet rigorous scientific standards for control, we can’t talk about much. And then really what’s the point, it’s all been established,

      it can be of interest to notice how groups differ, how characteristics vary and such without any one intending to claim specifics of “causality” or specify the paths and mechanisms. I’d love to know more aboit climate beliefs and actions. But aggregate patterns are something that can color our world view. Whiles they are imperfect they are better than total ignorance. I took Willis to sarcastically recognize that those who claim to worry about climate don’t use their resources to more efficiently utilize electric consumption as compared to a group of people driven by other concerns and needs. The survey could have come out the other way even with confounding variable if climate concern were a strong driver of behavior.

      But maybe at the end of the day when the studies are all done and the population sub groups identified we will find jet setting millionaires concerned about climate use less electricity then their peers based on how they view climate change, just as that relation holds across the spectrum down tof poor pensioners struggling to pay their electric bills. But even then after “knowing”. Environmental concern shapes behavior, it may be interested to note that those concerned about climate use more overall.

      • PE –

        What if you did a study of people who are well off, and who lived in the same region, and found that among that group, those who say that they are concerned about climate change use less energy than those who say that they aren’t?

        That would be of interest to me.

        And how would you compare that to a study that found that when you didn’t control for SES or other factors, those who say that they are concerned about climate change use more energy than those who say that they aren’t?

        I find such a study of no interest, because it doesn’t really tell me anything of value. Maybe it just tells me that people of higher SES are both more concerned about climate change and use more energy than poor people.

      • Joshua,

        Would this fact be of interest to you?

        The typical California residential customer with rooftop solar PV consumes about 15,000 kWh per year, which is substantially more than the 6,800 kWh per year consumed by the average residential customer served by the three California IOUs.


        You gotta love those California regulators and their reverse Robin Hood logic.

        Take from the poor and give to the rich.

        Take from the energy frugal and give to the energy hogs.

      • Relatively rich people should be able to “sacrifice” even more than relatively poor people. The fact that they don’t is also revealing.

        After all, if you believe global warming is an existential threat to our existence, that should be revealed through your choices.

      • The typical California residential customer with rooftop solar PV consumes about 15,000 kWh per year….


        To put 15,000 kWh per year in perspective, here’s a graph from the California PUC. As one can see, 15,000 kWh per year is off the chart:


      • Glenn –


        The typical California residential customer with rooftop solar PV consumes about 15,000 kWh per year, which is substantially more than the 6,800 kWh per year consumed by the average residential customer served by the three California IOUs.


        That’s a little interesting, but I’m not sure just exactly how relevant it is. First, there’s again the question of whether SES is controlled for. Perhaps people with rooftop solar are more wealthy, in general, so saying that they use more electricity doesn’t tell us a whole lot. How many of that subset are relatively “concerned” about climate change? How many are using rooftop solar because they had a financial interest in doing so? Of the group that has rooftop solar, what is the electricity usage of those who are concerned about climate change relative to those who aren’t? And then there’s the question of whether those who have rooftop solar and consume more electricity have more of an impact w/r/t climate change – which would seem to be a pretty freakin’ interesting question to look at since the analysis if framed w/r/t the criterion w/r/t how concerned people are about climate change. So is your point that people who have rooftop solar and use more electricity emit more CO2 into the atmosphere than those who don’t have rooftop solar and use less electricity? Maybe you could link to something that’s actually on point?

        ==> “Take from the poor and give to the rich.”

        Yes, if your goal is to confirm that bias, and to use evidence that isn’t actually on point to that question in order to confirm that bias, then you can certainly find ways to do that. And yes, I do think that is interesting.

      • ==> “The fact that they don’t is also revealing.”

        What does it reveal?

        ==> “After all, if you believe global warming is an existential threat to our existence, that should be revealed through your choices.”

        So what is your point? Is your point that they don’t actually think that global warming is an existential threat? Is your point to pass judgement on them as being somehow morally or ethically inferior?

        What other issues do you judge in the same way?

        Do you judge people who are concerned about terrorism on the basis of whether or not they live their lives in ways so as to minimize the existence of terrorism (e.g., consume less energy because oil production contributes to the problem of terrorism)?

        The problem of global warming is complex. By its very nature, it is difficult to assess and recognize how personal actions at the individual level will impact the larger problem, which plays out as low probability high impact developments over a very long time horizon. It’s funny how “skeptics” like to argue that action at the individual level, or even feasible action at the collective level, will be ineffectual towards addressing the overall problem, and then climb on their horse of moral superiority to criticize others for not taking action at the individual level.

        Perhaps if people were more interested in examining the issues and trying to determine common interests the situation would improve. But instead, unfortunately, people are more interested in identity-aggressive and identity-defensive behaviors. For some, no way to feel better about oneself than to find ways to confirm their superiority to others, now is there?

      • •••••Joshua said:

        Perhaps people with rooftop solar are more wealthy in gerneral….

        That’s for sure. The data I’ve cited already confirms that.


        •••••Joshua said:

        ….so saying that they use more electricity doesn’t tell us a whole lot.

        Says who?

        People with rooftop solar not only use more electricity than other people, they even use more electricity, and by no small amount, than other wealthy people. They are energy hogs par excellence.


        •••••Joshua said:

        How many of that subset are relatively “concerned” about climate change? How many are using rooftop solar because they had a financial interest in doing so?

        Good question. Regardless of what they say they are concerned about, there is plenty of financial incentive there to motivate the decision to install rooftop solar.


        But if we listen to what people say motivated them to install rooftop solar, researchers at Yale and the University of Connecticut found that

        the single most important factor driving whether a given house installed solar was…much like with buying a Prius, it looks like installing solar has a lot to do with how you want people around you to think of you.

        “People have called it green envy before, where you want to be green so that you can show off your greenness effectively,” says Yale’s Kenneth Gillingham, a professor at the School of Forestry and one of the study authors.


        People want to wear their rooftop solar like a badge of honor — a symbol of how holy, righteous and virtuous they are.

      • Joshua,

        The appearance those in California who install rooftop solar seek to achieve is what is known as “costly signaling.”

        Costly signaling and cooperative behavior

        The reality those in California who install rooftop solar achieve is what is known as “cheating.”

      • Beta Blocker

        Speaking of people who are well off, at a conference on clean energy hosted by Fortune magazine last week, PG&E CEO Tony Early said that California would have no problem reaching 50% renewable electricity generation by 2030.


        Aplanningengineer, I have a question for you. Is Tony Early’s unqualified optimism that it can easily be done in 15 years justified by the facts?

      • According to the EIA, in February 2016, the percentage of electricity generated in California from wind and solar was 16%


      • Whole lotta smug Leo Decaprio and Al Gore-types out there……but we knew that.

        And Josh’s argument becomes a chalk outline once again……

  3. Could we illuminate the world with tidal power?
    OK, so shredding birds is getting to be old hat. Let’s shred a bunch of fish now.

  4. RE: China’s latest idea for cleaning up air pollution could be horrible for climate change

    Surprise! Surprise!

    Smog and air polution are salient issues.

    CO2 and global warming are not.

    China’s biggest cities are choking on smog and air pollution emitted by nearby coal plants, and residents are fed up….

    Reuters reports that China has just approved three new plants in its western provinces that would turn coal into synthetic natural gas. The idea is that this gas would then be shipped to population centers in the east, where it would burn much more cleanly in power plants and detoxify the air in cities like Beijing.

    Except there’s a huge catch: The coal-to-gas (CTG) plants themselves are highly energy-intensive and can create far more CO2 overall than coal alone. It’s basically swapping less smog for more climate change.

  5. With women at the top, UN climate body has chance for real change
    Sometimes it seems women get the top spot because all the good has been milked and they get promoted to take the fall.

  6. America is finally building new nuclear plants. We need more of them.
    Bad link.

  7. tomdesabla

    9 things (the liberal Brookings Institution thinks) you should know (believe) about a carbon tax.

  8. The fountain of energy Copernicus discovered at the gravitational center of the Solar System in 1543 is a daily reminder of the empirical top of the energy chain and human powerlessness.

    It also illustrates the basic conflict of science with arrogant world leaders.

  9. Also another court-case trend to worry skeptics. Those pesky young people, caring about their future climate. What next?

    • Jim D,

      “those pesky young people”

      Let’s be real. The teenagers — the one HuffPo mentions is 17 — are pawns, just fronts for “Our Chidren’s Trust” — an advocacy group that prefers not to operate under their own name.

    • Sure the kids are concerned. They don’t have much of an experience base to weigh information against so it is easy to lie to them. And global warmers enjoy doing that and taking advantage of their naiveté.

      1. The ECS studies are converging on 1°C
      2. Studies of major crops (grains, corn, soybeans) show drought and heat resistance is increasing.
      3. A study of soybeans yields showed the greatest increase at the equator.

      The bulk of the evidence is that adaption is occurring and more CO2 is beneficial. The 2°C target is far too conservative and should be adjusted upward as crops adapt.

      When Trump becomes president studies for the other side of the coin will be funded instead. The science of CO2 enhanced growth, low CO2 forcing, and the discrediting of global warming studies will bring sanity back to climate science.

      • We have had 1 C already with only half a doubling, so we can now safely rule out 1 C ECS per doubling. It looks like 2 C for TCR, making ECS more towards 3 C, just like the experts have always been saying.

      • JimD, “We have had 1 C already with only half a doubling, so we can now safely rule out 1 C ECS per doubling.”

        Hmmm, starting at 190 ppmv we have had about 4 C for a doubling, starting at 280 ppmv we have had from 1.0 C to -0.5 C depending on where you want to start. It is almost like sensitivity is dependent on initial conditions.

      • Well, Trump is going to take the adjustment toy out of your toolkit.

        Without adjustment the temperatures don’t look as scary.

        I really don’t have much of a stake here. The ECS looks like 1°C and even if it is higher or lower, the improvement in crop heat and drought tolerance makes any climate change really meaningless.

        I tend to think the change will be low because of the low forcing and the unlikelihood that peak CO2 will be over 460 PPM. On the other hand if it is the global warmers have made 0 (zero) credible case warming will be harmful.

        Trump should mandate that the attribution of forcings be made to +/- 10% as a priority over any other global warming studies, and pull the plug on the other global warming funding until this gets sorted out. This will take the gamesmanship out of the global warming discussion.

        Some of the claims like negative land use forcing just aren’t credible.

      • captd, yes, 1 C since 280 ppm gives you 2 C per doubling. This is during the period where we can be quite confident of both global temperature changes and CO2 levels. Since 1950, when we have even more confidence in both it goes even a bit above 2 C per doubling.

      • JimD, Sometimes I have a vision of a little clown car flying over your head when I read your comments :) How much warming there has been depends on how accurately we can determine “preindustrial”. Without that the only “known” is that a doubling should cause ~1 C of warming provided all other things remain equal.

      • captd, how do you think Lewis and Curry determine preindustrial, or would you discount that whole method, similarly Lindzen, Monckton, etc. Some things haven’t been denied as much as you would like to think.

      • JimD, “captd, how do you think Lewis and Curry determine preindustrial,”

        I believe Lewis and Curry compared several different periods so they didn’t need to “know” what was “preindustrial.” That gave them and estimate of ~1.6 C per doubling assuming all other things remained equal. Their ranges though were limited by the available instrumental record. If they were able to start at 1700 their estimate would be different. 1500 different still.

      • David Wojick

        How do you determine CO2 sensitivity from past warming without first determining how much of that warming is from the CO2 increase? How much is due to things like land use changes, methane, and a host of natural changes, including emerging from the LIA? It simply cannot be done. We first have to solve the attribution problem, which is far from being solved because the modelers refuse to consider it and they run the science show.

      • So, using post-1950, during which time we have had 75% of the temperature increase and 75% of the emissions is a valid method for TCR. From this the TCR comes out to 2.4 C per doubling.

      • DW, we can narrow it down to forcing because of the imbalance. This leaves the sun and volcanoes or other albedo effects, but none are evaluated to be large enough to compare with GHGs and aerosols especially considering the time since 1950.

  10. Another far-right ideologue selling a story that denies grade school history

    “How Washington Politicians Wasted Billions Trying to ‘Invest in Our Future’” by Nicolas Loris at the Daily Signal — “Because revolutions don’t come from the government—they come from the people, and the same holds true for energy.”.

    Communication systems (e.g., the internet), transportation systems (canals, railroads, highways, the space program), power systems (hydro-power and nuclear) — many other fields were nurtured and developed by the US government. More broadly, much of the infrastructure that built America was built with some form of government funding.

    Also, his references to “revolutions” is false in both senses. Government-funded R&D has produced “revolutions”. And the critical infrastructure that produced “revolutions” in American society and business were rolled out with government aid — from the Erie Canal to today’s solar and wind systems.

    • “Communication systems (e.g., the internet), transportation systems (canals, railroads, highways, the space program), power systems (hydro-power and nuclear) — many other fields were nurtured and developed by the US government.”

      This thinking is a product of this:

      “Another far-right ideologue selling a story that denies grade school history.”

      Sure, grade school history taught us all about the “robber barons” and the “gilded age” and how we need government to step in and save us all from those nasty businessmen, at least the public schools did. But let us truly examine your government apologist claims.

      The worlds first hydroelectric power plant began operation on September 30th, 1882, along the Fox river in Appleton Wisconsin, initiated by H.J. Rogers a paper manufacturer. This is the Vulcan St. Plant, inspired by Thomas Edison’s plan for a steam driven power plant in NY. Rogers funded the plant by bringing investors together to form the Appleton Edison Electric Light Co.

      In terms of nuclear power, governments greedy little hands snapped this up before any free market could exploit it, and of course, government wanted the technology for bombs…bombs that remain a much bigger threat to humanity than climate change. Of course, we have scientist to thank for that. Because the governments built their weapons of mass destruction, it was only reasonable – and I use that term loosely – greatly limit who could have access to the materials needed to create nuclear power. Governments mucking up the whole thing by opening a spectacularly dangerous Pandora’s box is hardly “nurturing” nuclear power.

      When people tell me I should be thankful for government because they gave me “the internet” and “nuclear power”, I say stop urinating down my back and telling me its raining.

      It is also interesting how you sneak the railroads into the same group as highways and the space program. First of all, railways were not brought to the people because of government. The railroads were brought to you by private people, a few of them rich and most of them immigrants looking for work, including a whole lot of Chinese American’s, that’s who brought us the railroads.

      In terms of the highways, they followed auto trails, which were largely created by private associations such as the Jefferson Highway Association or the Des Moines-Kansas City-St. Joseph Interstate Trail Association, but you know what? I will concede highways to government, let’s say governments are known for using a 16th century technology quite well…sometimes. Oh yeah, and NASA the vaunted space program that has spent the past several years declaring that the sky is falling.

  11. China’s latest idea for cleaning up air pollution could be horrible for climate change: [link]

    No one has ever proved that this true. There is no data that supports this. Earth is not as warm yet as the Roman and Medieval Times and the temperature has a good ways to go and it has not headed out for decades.

    More CO2 will make green things grow better while utilizing less water. This has been proven.

    • China’s latest idea for cleaning up air pollution could be horrible for climate change

      No, it won’t.

  12. http://www.climatedepot.com/2016/04/03/18-years-10-months-the-global-warming-pause-refuses-to-go-away-despite-greatly-exaggerated-rumors-of-its-death/

    My beloved science has been commandeered by politics. It breaks my heart.

    Real science still works, that junk is called science, but it is not any kind of science. You give science a bad name by relating Consensus junk to science.

  13. We now know why the modern form of humans has existed for ~200,000 years, but the current scientific revolution started only ~500 years ago in 1543: The evolutionary stage of human civilization is reset by another super-solar flare every ~1,000 years!


  14. Ivanpaw Incineration.
    Its worse than this factual news report. The plant has never produced the contractually obligated generation, never mind the ridiculous high price thereof. So, CPUC granted two contract extensions this year. First, to burn 4x the originally projected natural gas to make up morning/evening differences. Second, a two year waiver to make up the contractual generation commitment now not met.
    And now, the thing flames out in addition. Worth keeping a skeptical eye on. Won’t end well.

  15. The response to drought, population and agriculture expansion, fisheries’ needs etc is one matter. But using florid prose to make us hate dams is so tawdry it could only be…the New York Times!

    Did you know that dams “block the flow”? Oh, it’s worse than that. “…the river is turned back on itself.” Gosh, if we’d known those engineers were doing that to the river!

    But it gets worse: “plasma-red gorges” are “drowned”. And we won’t even repeat what they did to those “free-spirited rapids”.

    Curiously, there are no reports of green celebs and intellectuals consciously uncoupling from dam water and walking to any free-spirited rivers to fetch water. Not even if there are attractive plasma-red gorges to view. But Western dams are a big fail and the fail is due to “climate change”, right? And if you argue you have to prove that climate never used to change. So “climate change” it is.

    As climate mullahs have demonstrated so often, with slob terminology you can win arguments in your sleep. So why play into the hands of those anti-science gun-and-bible clingers by being scientific?

    Be a slob, and, if your cause be just, the New York Times will wink you through. Cultural Marxism needs to mix a little poetry into the scienciness. Let the thousand plasma-red flowers bloom.

  16. New study sets climate target for agriculture [link]

    The way agw has been pitched is that fossil fuel emissions contain extraneous carbon from under the ground where it had been sequestered from the surface-atmosphere carbon cycle; and that the injection of this extraneous carbon from under the ground into the surface-atmosphere system creates a perturbation. This perturbation is at the root of agw.

    Therefore, surface phenomena are not included in agw. Agriculture, including rice farming and enteric fermentation are surface phenomena and they are part of the surface-atmosphere system and these carbon emissions cannot be considered to be a perturbation of the surface system. They are part of the surface system.

    In any case, natural flows of methane from wetlands, geothermal fields, hydrothermal vents, natural seepage, and other sources are large and their uncertainty is unquantifiable. So it would be very hard to detect the effect of agriculture on changes in atmospheric methane net of oxidation losses.

  17. “How Ethiopian farmers made the desert bloom despite #drought: Big dams are not the answer!”

    Yes when the World Bank is not forcing them to take measures that leave them exposed to drought of famine, they can make it work.

    Fancy that.

  18. “The global air pollution ‘blindspot’ affecting 1 billion people [link] … for once, we can truly blame climate change”

    Posting Guardian links is like posting links from the Flat earth society, Guardian climate change section is literally Sks, literally, not figuratively.

    They say “Outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people each year and it is getting worse. ”

    No one actually knows this number, it’s entirely made up, yes pollution is a problem, but knowing how many it kills? Nonsense, no death certificates show air pollution as cause of death

    • Then there is the thing called Global Population. A number that moves rapidly higher by very large percentages. There is no way the UN could number our heads and no way for the people to check, so it must be fiction. It’s your guess too, give now…

      • You mean there are no birth and death certificates one can count. Huh. Could have sworn I was asked to present my birth certificate at least once this year and my mother’s death certificate several times. But you’re right, no way to count heads. What a shame.

  19. “Why even the people who worry the most about climate change often take little action “:

    “taking action” seems to be about organizing crowds to throw a public tantrum to protest against the laws of thermodynamics.

    I would guess that “worrying” about the climate is tied to education which is tied to income which is tied to consumption which is about dissipating energy.
    The best one could really do would be reducing CO2 production by foregoing
    consumption. But this must be done by outright destroying the money earned (the IMF and Krugman will be horrified, not to speak of Mario Draghi). Perhaps just burning dollar bills outright.
    Would be interesting to calculate the CO2 reduction efficiency of this technique. Probably groundbreaking, if not revolutionary….

  20. ‘Exxon began acquiring’

    I grew up near Hamilton Standard..the company that built the fuel cell for the Apollo program. About every 5th father worked at Hamilton Standard.

    We were going to have neighborhood fuel cells for electric power and heat…cars,planes, trains were going to powered by fuel cells. Fuels cells held out the promise of clean almost limitless energy at incredible inefficiencies.

    If only they could get the cost of the catalytic plates down…..

    It’s almost half a century later…the patents all expired more then 20 years ago…there has been some progress on getting the cost of the catalytic plates down…maybe in another 50 years fuel cells…along with nuclear fusion will be a reality…

    In the meantime..we have crackpots at the Guardian implying there was some sort of conspiracy……

    • In the meantime..we have crackpots at the Guardian implying there was some sort of conspiracy……

      Sells more newspapers.

      I suspect most of their readers don’t understand the various types of fuel cells, and their various performance and operating requirements well enough to see the real story. Conspiracy ideation is more their speed.

  21. “How Washington Politicians Wasted Billions Trying to ‘Invest in Our Future’ ”

    I agree with Loris, but want to expand the premise a bit further.

    Federal investments in startups and pre-market technologies are often worse than as waste. When an entrepreneur first stands before investors looking for capital and each time he/she returns for additional injections of money, one of his first tasks will be to paint a picture of the competition within his technology space. The moment that Washington throws huge sums of money at a firm it largely closes the door to capital for its competitors. After all, what private investor wants to compete against a bottomless Federal pocket?

    In this way, the availability of funding for alternative technologies is distorted before the field has advanced to the point where technical advantage is clearly known. As a result, we shift from a multi-horse-race where the winner is unknown and unknowable to a single-horse parade to nowhere as flaws almost inevitably emerge in the original premise of the anointed winner.

  22. RE: America is finally building new nuclear plants. We need more of them



    But compare China’s aggressive rollout of nuclear plants to the US, which is just treading water when it comes to nuclear:

    • America’s 99 nuclear reactors provide about 18 percent of the electricity used in the U.S; in the 12 months that ended in February, they accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total.

    • Construction of new plants has been dead in the water since the 1990s. Two decades passed without a single nuclear plant coming online.

    • The Tennessee Valley Authority’s newly constructed Watts Bar Unit 2, a 1,150-megawatt behemoth, will soon be producing as much electricity as a couple large coal-fired plants.

    • Watts Bar Unit 2 marks the beginning of a small wave of nuclear construction. In Georgia, a consortium of power companies, backed by some $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees, is constructing Vogtle Unit 3 and Vogtle Unit 4, the first U.S. uses of a new Westinghouse reactor design. In South Carolina, construction crews are busy building two plants, V.C. Summer Unit 2 and V.C. Summer Unit 3. All are expected to come online within the next four years. These five plants together will add about 6,000 megawatts of new capacity, boosting the U.S. total by about 6 percent.

    • And there’s potential for more. In the past year, the government has granted licenses for developers to construct nuclear power plants in Michigan and in Texas. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing applications for five more plants.

    • Even with this small wave of expansion, the U.S. nuclear industry is shrinking. In a best-case scenario, the plants under construction will replace capacity being lost. Most U.S. nuclear plants are several decades old. It costs a lot to maintain and repair them, and many politicians and landowners are only too eager to see them go. In the past three years, companies have either shut down or announced their intent to close eight reactors with 6,300 megawatts of generating capacity, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

    • It turns out that the best the U.S. nuclear industry can hope for is precisely what every manager of a nuclear power plant hopes for: that the existing core remains stable.

    • As to economic competitiveness of the newly constructed Watts Bar Unit 2, I found this. But unfortunately there are no estimates of absolute dollar costs (per kWh) for the new nuclear plant.

      Potential Value

      • Nuclear power is expensive and complex to build, but can generate power much more cheaply than fossil sources, second only to hydroelectric in TVA’s power fleet in terms of lowest cost of operation.

      • In 2007, TVA determined that completing Watts Bar Unit 2 offered the best “levelized all-in cost of generating options” when compared to constructing a new nuclear plant from the ground up, an efficient coal-fired plant or a combined cycle natural gas plant.

      • The 2012 “estimate to complete” still finds Watts Bar Unit 2 to be a lower cost option for baseload generation, compared with building a combined cycle natural gas plant.

      • Nuclear power has proved to be around-the-clock reliable. Watts Bar Unit 1 ranked No. 6 among the nation’s 104 commercial reactors in highest capacity in 2010, according to Electric Light & Power Magazine.

      • The reactor’s operating capacity factor since it opened in 1996 is 93 percent.

      • Watts Bar Unit 1, which set a mark for continous operation of 513 days in 1999-2000, has generated about 140 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity since 1996. That much electricity would be worth more than $9.5 billion at 2011 average wholesale prices.

      • Nuclear power also generates power without carbon emissions. TVA estimates Watts Bar Unit 2 could help TVA avoid coal-fired emissions of 6 million to 8 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

      • Watts Bar Unit 1 was completed 16 years ago at a total cost of about $7 billion. Cost estimates today are being given as about $9.8 billion for SCANA’s two AP1000 units in South Carolina, without financing costs, and $14 billion for Southern Company’s two AP1000s in Georgia, including financing costs.

  23. Could we illuminate the world with tidal power? How about this: let’s try.

    Not much there about costs. Besides the occasional destructive storms (which tore up a large Scottish project in its first year of operation), everything in the ocean requires maintenance, more than for onshore hydroelectric power..

    • Lots of things went unmentioned in the article and the comments. For instance, in the article there was no talk about restrictions to the use of harbors within a subject tidal area, or the impact upon water quality in those bays.

      In the comments there was lots of talk of tides acting like sine waves, but no-one appeared to understand that the sine of 45° is 0.85, so that 85% of the vertical range in a sine wave occurs over only half of its period, meaning that no useful work will likely be done for the majority of any given day.

      Typical half-bakery.

      • Curious George

        Sine of 45° is 0.85 now. It used to be 0.7.

      • Ha… right you are CG! This is what happens when one inadvertently has his PC calculator set to rads not degs and his brain in half-[m]as[t] setting. It has little effect on the conclusion, however. Likely no useful power for half of each tidal cycle leading to inefficient use of capital, and lots of environment impacts. If you already wanted a dike for flood control, then it might be worth considering.

  24. Is it time to unplug the Colorado River’s massive Glen Canyon Dam? [link]

    This article is a bit dated. I guess longing for the idilic past is what the modern day environmentalists do…if only…sigh.

    One can look at Lake Powell today as well as yesterday, and, if you want, one can look into the future of water levels by clicking on the available water content/levels of the reservoirs above Lake Powell. Or, if you want an estimate of future filling of the reservoirs above Lake Powell, then there is the snow levels in the Rockies and environs. That is what water hydrologists do and then publish the data. Real nice.

    Disclosure: I am keenly interested in Lake Powell’s water levels. I have rented a house boat on Lake Powell for a week in August and wondered out loud to my accompanying family if they would be willing to haul the craft along the river bottom like Volga Boatmen.

    For those not so inclined to click on the data:

    This year, Lake Powell’s Spring water level began rising 4+ feet above last years water level. Nice head start. A million or so acre feet above last year. The rate water is coming into Lake Powell is 30,500 cubic feet per second and passing by the turbines at 11,400 cfs flowing into Lake Mead.

    Currently, Lake Powell is at 48% capacity, and, with a little bit of luck, will be well past 65% when the hydrologists get done with all their fiddling with upper river flows and reservoir releases. This also bodes well for Lake Mead down stream of Lake Powell.

    Hopefully, I will be able to give a “no adjusted” view of water levels for Lake Powell at the end of August. Or, having been wrong about water levels, please send out a search party for my bleached carcass abandoned by my family having toiled their way back to civilization, without me.

    The modern day environmental movement seems to make worst case scenario pronouncements and projections in spite of, at times, contrary observational data available to them.

  25. As a chemist, I cringed when I read this …
    It’s easier and safer to transport liquid H2O2, according to the article, and while its total efficiency is much lower than conventional solar cells, the researchers hope to get better results by using better materials.”


    Actually, concentrated H2O2 is highly reactive. If a large tank, say a tanker truck, full of it is contaminated, the H2O2 will decompose and release heat. Eventually, the heat will cause more decomposition and the entire thing will go up in a steam explosion.

    • Hydrogen peroxide was mixed in the combustion chamber with methonol in the ME-163 Komet. It often exploded or dissolved pilots!

  26. Competing claims:

    Ninety-six aboveground, aquamarine pools around the country that hold the nuclear industry’s spent reactor fuel may not be as safe as U.S. regulators and the nuclear industry have publicly asserted, a study released May 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned.


    The NRC staff in its 2014 study said a major earthquake could be expected to strike an area where spent fuel is stored in a pool once in 10 million years or less, and even then, “spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking.”


  27. Nuclear shutdowns could ramp up U.S. carbon emissions

    As many as 20 nuclear plants in the United States could shut down over the next decade, and their closure could dramatically increase emissions of greenhouse gases. That was the alarming conclusion of a Department of Energy conference on the future of nuclear power yesterday in Washington, D.C.

    “We are supposed to be adding zero carbon sources, not subtracting (them),” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in his remarks at the meeting.

    • Clearly, you are a hard-line skeptic on AGW (which is OK). But as such — why is closing nuclear power plants (replaced by natural gas) of interest/concern to you? Why would it matter?

  28. Jim D,

    If you fill a room with CO2, how much does the temperature rise? Rhetorical question of course, because it makes no difference at all. How many doublings to get to 1,000,000 ppm? Even at 1 C per doubling, where’s the temperature rise?

    Don’t tell me you need sunlight for the temperature to rise! Really? That’s gentle sarcasm, in case you thought I was being serious.

    CO2 warming? You tell me.


  29. Just for fun?

    “Drax Sees Lifeline in Unpopular Coal as Biomass Move Slows”


  30. Top Democrats Ally With Oil and Gas Industry to Fight Colorado Anti-Fracking Ballot Measures

  31. From the article:

    There’s a saying in the auto industry that hydrogen is the future of transportation and always will be. It’s a scam as far as I can tell because the energy equation is terrible. People will say that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it’s abundant out there in the universe not here. We live on a planet where hydrogen is super reactive — it’s bound up into everything. It’s bound up into water, wood and everything else. They only way that you get hydrogen requires you to pour energy into it to break it from the chemical bonds. Electrolysis is the most common method. You put electricity in water and it separates it, but you are pouring energy in order to make hydrogen, and then you have to compress it and that takes energy, and then you have to transport it to wherever you actually need it, which is really difficult because hydrogen is much harder to work with than gasoline or even natural gas — and natural gas is not that easy


  32. From the article:

    Nevada’s Bureau of Land Management has granted a land lease to a $55 million project by Advanced Rail Energy Storage, which “proposes to use excess off-peak energy to push a heavily-loaded train up a grade,” according to Fortune.


  33. Earth’s climate may not warm as quickly as expected, suggest new cloud studies From ScienceMag.

    Clouds need to condense around small particles called aerosols to form, and human aerosol pollution—primarily in the form of sulfuric acid—has made for cloudier skies. That’s why scientists have generally assumed Earth’s ancient skies were much sunnier than they are now. But today, three new studies show how naturally emitted gases from trees can also form the seed particles for clouds. The results not only point to a cloudier past, but they also indicate a potentially cooler future: If Earth’s climate is less sensitive to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, as the study suggests, future temperatures may not rise as quickly as predicted.


    The new research, however, suggests that the past may have been cloudier than scientists realized. To simulate ancient atmospheric conditions, one research group used CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets), a controlled chamber at CERN, Europe’s particle physics facility near Geneva, Switzerland. Nearly as big as a bus, the chamber was filled with synthetically produced air, allowing precisely controlled chemical conditions. Jasper Kirkby, a CERN particle physicist, and his colleagues introduced a mixture of natural oxidants present in the air and an organic hydrocarbon released by coniferous plants. The hydrocarbon was rapidly oxidized. The only other ingredient allowed in the chamber was cosmic rays, high energy radiation from outer space, which made the molecules clump together into aerosols. Sulfuric acid was not required. In fact, even when the researchers introduced low concentrations of sulfuric acid to the chamber such as might be found in unpolluted air, the aerosol formation rate was unaffected. In a second CLOUD experiment published simultaneously in Nature, researchers showed these same oxidized molecules could rapidly grow the particles to sizes big enough to seed cloud droplets.

    In search of a pristine atmospheric environment, a second group of researchers made atmospheric measurements of aerosol formation at the Jungfraujoch high altitude research station, 3500 meters up in the Swiss Alps to confirm that this process really occurs in nature. Over the course of a year, they measured the changing concentrations of sulfuric acid and organic molecules in the air. They found more aerosols formed with more organic molecules around, and—crucially—observed formation of organic particles without sulfuric acid. They used exactly the same instruments as at CLOUD to analyze the aerosols: “The clusters were formed mainly by organics,” says atmospheric chemist Federico Bianchi of the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, Switzerland, who led the Jungfraujoch research published today in Science.

    I’ve copied all the links to the new, peer-reviewed, papers from the news blurb I blockquoted. The first two are open access, I had no trouble accessing the third through Sci-Hub.

    • I’ll work up a post on this next week

      • Don’t forget the sharp points:

        …Circularity in tuning

        …Building in expectations based on centuries-old paradigms

        …Arm-waving dismissal of potential factors not analyzed (“unicorns”)