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  1. The problem continues to be the lack of understanding in the community about the systems science nature of the problem

    http://theconstantfire.blogspot.com/2009/04/climate-science-and-growing-up-as.html

    Comment by adam frank — 29 Apr 2009 @ 2:10 PM

  2. For a layman, like me, a 2 degree C rise doesn’t sound alarming. It isn’t beyond the range of daily temperature fluctuations and yearly averages too. Of course, I understand that non-linear dynamics in the atmosphere, based on this rise, are alleged by scientists to cause droughts and hurricanes, but I just have to take their word for it. It is no comfort that the existence and smoothness of Navier-Stokes in three dimensions remains one of the seven Millennium Problems in mathematics. So, for a lay audience, the alarm sounds like much ado about nothing. That seems to be what recent polls indicate. Is there some easier way to explain the link between the rise and the predicted disasters?

    [Response: The climate of the last glacial maximum was six degrees colder than today. That doesn't sound like much, either. David]

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 29 Apr 2009 @ 2:23 PM

  3. Thanks for the heads up on this article. I’ll read it this afternoon.

    How DOES one adapt to a train wreck? Well — it has not happened (yet). How much time do we have as we try to apply the brakes?

    Burgy

    Comment by John Burgeson — 29 Apr 2009 @ 2:36 PM

  4. When you folks, however well intentioned, venture into prescribed solutions, you can not claim quite the level of authority that you have, and deserve, in analyzing climate effects. This is not to say that people that understand physics can not bring that to bear in analyzing technical solutions. That would be welcome.

    Technological feasibility is not meaningful without including the financial affordability factors.

    I have yet to find a forthright analysis of wind farm cost. There is also a lot of information discussing power outputs of these on a peak rather than average basis.

    Coal plants are obvious targets to eliminate, but there is a very significant cost to forcing these out of existence. However we might pretend otherwise, this cost will fall to the public in one form or another.

    The integrated “smart grid” electrical power network may be needed to make wind farm power available in the right places, but it will also perpetuate the most wasteful practice known to man which is the system of central power plants that throw away up to twice the heat energy as they manage to get converted into electric energy. Expectations for wind farms seems to fall far short of eliminating the central power plant.

    And a huge network improvement is not needed if we were instead to implement distributed cogeneration on a large scale. (Yes, I represent such a plan.)

    Then we get to the plug-in car panacaea. Now that the plug-in Hummer, the plug-in Fisker, and the Bright Automotive plug-in van have been added to the plug-in Prius we might start to catch on to the reality of this concept. It will surely reduce the use of foreign oil by shifting the load to the electric grid, but isn’t it clear that this will just exacerbate the electric power problem. Imagine trying to get coal usage for electric power generation cut when the roads are filled with plug-in SUVs.

    Efficiency is indisputable as a place to make huge gains. However, this often reduces to building insulation efficiency, which is great, but not so easily implemented on a large scale. Buildings do not turn over all that frequently. While new construction offers much opportunity, retrofitting is often quite problematic.

    The list of pet projects is long; the ready and affordable list is short.

    A danger of crash programs is that when done, they are done, and if they are painful and still not effective there will not be another chance for a long time.

    Ultimately, the question of affordability on a national scale becomes the issue. Zeal for a solution is appropriate, but it is a fact that there is not money lying around for this. It will be a current tax burden, or it will become a future tax burden on future generations. We all know how that goes.

    Finding pallatable solutions needs some real imaginative force being brought to bear on the problem. That seems in short supply.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 29 Apr 2009 @ 2:39 PM

  5. Is it naive to think that we must not even THINK the potentially inevitable? By suggesting to prepare to adapt to 4 C, do we not give way to the nay-sayers that efforts are useless anyway? If we start to not believe that we CAN make it, then we will have started to loose the battle.

    An comment on the Meinhausen paper: As I understand, even with “just” 1 trillion tons of CO2 emissions by 2050, we still have a 25% chance of passing the 2 C threshold. How can that be at all acceptable?

    Doesn’t this paper show that we already have no room to spare, that we absolutely must NOT emit those 1 trillion tons of CO2, and that we have to set the emergency bells to red?

    Isn’t this paper confirming that Jim Hansen and others are correct in saying that we are already way above the acceptable level, and that we have to do whatever is possible to immediately put a moratorium on coal fired power plants – at least in the industrialized countries that can afford to do so?

    Comment by Maiken — 29 Apr 2009 @ 2:44 PM

  6. I’m not a chemist, but 1 kg C = 3.664 kg CO2.

    [Response: Well, OK, it's not rocket science, but the differing units that people begin to adopt are really a pain in the butt. Read these papers and you may sympathize with my irritation. David]

    Comment by Johank — 29 Apr 2009 @ 2:47 PM

  7. It would be so much better to adapt to 80% less energy use – that’s something we and many other species could survive. But while the community of climate scientists grows ever more emphatic in their alarming prognoses, the political sphere, far from discussing how much to cut emissions, seems locked in endless temporizing to postpones any cuts at all.

    I find persuasive Hansen’s argument http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2009/20090424_Australia.pdf that the only way to achieve a sustainable consensus behind CO2 cuts is a tax with 100% dividend, such that all proceeds are immediately returned to the public – rather than given over to government priorities (read “cronies”). But the only solution in sight is tax-and-trade, which had its chance in Kyoto and failed to produce results. It’s hard to know what to do, and just discouraging that even the people we would hope are on the right side of this issue don’t seem to get it yet, as we watch Wilkins crumble.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:08 PM

  8. The ClimateProgress site has an interesting review of this issue of Nature.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:09 PM

  9. The point made by these articles is consistent with what has been my understanding for some time:

    We cannot emit more than a certain total amount of greenhouse gasses without causing dangerous climate change: http://www.sindark.com/2008/09/26/how-much-carbon-dioxide-can-we-release/

    And the fossil-fuel industry necessarily has no long-term future: http://www.sindark.com/2009/01/23/the-fossil-fuel-industry-has-no-long-term-future/

    Comment by Milan — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:25 PM

  10. For some reason all of the links in this article seem to be non-functional… [we've fixed-sorry!]

    Comment by Zane Selvans — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:26 PM

  11. Where do you plan on putting those wind farms? A quick SWAG puts the land area of wind farms to replace the current coal facilities at something like 50,000 square miles.

    Comment by Jim Norvell — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:28 PM

  12. Broken links (2 links) “,a News & Views piece written by two of us, and a couple of commentaries” [see above, we fixed this already]

    Comment by Kjartan Bleie — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:47 PM

  13. Daniel Goodwin wrote: “It would be so much better to adapt to 80% less energy use …”

    No, not 80 percent “less energy use”. It’s 80 percent less CO2 emissions. We can use as much energy as we can harvest from the sun and wind and rivers and tides and the Earth’s internal heat, which is plenty. More, in fact, than the entire world uses at present.

    Equating “energy” with fossil fuels is a fossil fuel industry propaganda tactic that we should not internalize.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:52 PM

  14. Practically, what that means is that the U.S. should start eliminating the worst fossil fuels immmediately.

    The first item should be a ban on any imports of Canadian tar sand oil to the U.S., plus pressure on Canada to shut down those operations. This may not really be needed, however:

    http://priceofoil.org/2009/04/29/shell%E2%80%99s-tar-sands-operations-make-a-loss/

    The second item should be a ban on any new coal-fired plant construction, ideally a global ban.

    The third item should be a realistic plan to replace current coal-fired generation with wind and solar. The main opposition to that is from the coal-financed Electric Power Research Institute, which makes a business out of distortion of economic models to ‘prove’ that renewables are just too expensive. What they carefully do not do is to attempt estimates of the cost of global warming.

    The fourth item should be more ambitious, and that is a plan to set up modern industrial and agricultural systems that are entirely powered by renewable energy – for example, fossil fuel free farms run off solar-powered water pumps and worked with electric tractors, charged with wind and or solar. It really should be a rule that if you are growing and processing biofuels, no fossil fuels should be involved.

    The fifth item is perhaps the most complicated: managing the economic transition such that conflict is minimized – really, it’s a task equivalent to replacing slavery with for-pay labor – consider all the turmoil that caused. In fact, similar arguments abound – BP’s justification for developing Canadian tar sands was the same as that of British politicians who argued for slavery – “otherwise, the international competition will take over / those resources are going to be developed anyway.”

    As far as costs, the cost of switching to a renewable energy based economic system is far lower than the costs of global warming over the next century. Take a look at what insurance companies are saying:

    Climatewire: A premier group of European insurers is warning businesses to prepare for the worst effects of climate change, including civil unrest in Latin America that could drive more illegal immigrants northward. The report by Lloyd’s of London, a specialty insurance market, amounts to a request to its clients: Act now to reduce your future losses, or risk big damages later.

    Now, if we could just get all the fossil fuel organizations to cancel their PR and lobbying contracts on this issue, starting with Edelman and Burson-Marstellar, we might be able to make some progress. Personally, I think the public relations types and the lobbyists who work for the API, etc., are the real problem – they probably are as dishonest with their clients as they are with the media and the public. Not only that, the fact that they are being paid to spread falsehoods certainly opens their employers up to massive climate-related liability lawsuits – something for the CEOs to consider.

    They’re a liability – fire them.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:02 PM

  15. We don’t “adapt” to 4 °C of warming,” except in the sense that residents of New Orleans “adapted” to Katrina. It ain’t adaptation. As John Holdren would say, it’s “misery.”

    It is also an exceedingly open question as to whether one can in fact “stabilize” at much above 2°C — or whether you destroy the tundra and the peatlands and saturate the sinks and basically quickly go up to 5°C or more. I think the science is moving in the direction of stabilize below 450 ppm or cross thresholds that take you shoot you up to 1000 ppm.

    Frankly, I didn’t think Nature did a very good job in these articles, other than one very useful figure. See http://climateprogress.org/2009/04/29/nature-climate-crunch/

    Comment by Joseph Romm (ClimateProgress) — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:04 PM

  16. Re: 11

    Anywhere you have 50,000 sq miles. Texas is 268,000 sq miles, so Texas.

    Comment by Bob Cousins — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:08 PM

  17. “Both papers come to the same broad conclusion, summarized in our figure”

    Where is that figure?

    All the Nature articles are behind a paywall. Paying for information is so last century ;)

    Comment by Bob Cousins — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:17 PM

  18. Jim Norvell wrote: “A quick SWAG puts the land area of wind farms to replace the current coal facilities at something like 50,000 square miles.”

    According to data from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories recently cited by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the gross offshore wind energy resources of the mid-Atlantic region alone exceed the total output of all the coal-fired power plants in the country. That’s just one region, and wind energy is just one component of America’s vast renewable energy resources.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:22 PM

  19. Hi Gavin,

    Nice summary, thanks. Of course, many realclimate readers will know that Wally Broecker (http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1139585) and Tom Wigley (http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.316.5826.829c) were arguing about the size of the carbon pie a couple of years ago. What is new here is how observations constrain this cumulative warming commitment, which (let’s hope!) will prove a lot more tractable than climate sensitivity.

    Regards,

    Myles

    Comment by Myles Allen — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:32 PM

  20. Wilmot McCutchen (2) — For an approximation, use this graph:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:65_Myr_Climate_Change.png
    to see we are heading for Miocene temperatures and the distinct possibility of melting much of Antarctic ice sheets.

    John Burgeson (3) — We have negative time. Should have started 20 years ago. Now we can only try to slow it down, starting immediately.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:36 PM

  21. I would like to thank RC for finally initiating a thread where it is entirely appropriate to discuss the issue which has been on my mind lately, and stated so clearly in this work: We will pass dangerous tipping points if we continue to rely on emissions reduction as the grand strategy. I would say that the strategy is at least 67% assured of failure on the simple basis that other nations will not agree. Add to that the severe reductions being insisted upon, which are economically as well as politically infeasible, and we are clearly left with two choices, and perhaps both must eventually be accepted as reality:

    1. We must develop methods by which we draw down atmospheric CO2

    2. We must begin to prepare for a much warmer world.

    Thus, we need immediate recognition of the need to invest in two areas where we do not, as yet, commit meaningful resources:

    1. We must invest in technological advances which can suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. There are some good ideas already in play, and we need to get busy examining their feasibility and then keep going to better and better ideas.

    2. We need to ask the question: what will a 2*C, 3*C or 4*C warmer world look like? Will today’s frozen tundra be tomorrow’s farmland? What sort of plant migrations can we expect? What will be lost, what will be gained and what impact will those changes have on humanity and the habitats upon which we depend?

    Bottom line: We need to move beyond yesterday’s conversations. I said once and I will say again, Gavin once correctly pointed out that Lindzen was trying to have yesterday’s conversations. Today, it is the “good guys”; i.e., those who really want to solve this, who are stuck in yesterday’s conversations.

    I don’t consider it an insult to you to point that out. I just consider it my moral obligation to remain intellectually honest about where we are and where we’re headed.

    Let’s have a robust discussion about how we accomplish that. We have to commit ourselves to rationality over fear, and we have to get busy doing that as soon as possible.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:51 PM

  22. SecularAnimist Says (29 April 2009 at 4:22 PM):

    “…the gross offshore wind energy resources of the mid-Atlantic region alone exceed the total output of all the coal-fired power plants in the country.”

    So that’s what, 1000 x 50 miles? Also note the word “gross”. I think I would also like figures for how much of that energy is acturally capturable at practical cost (say not more that 2X the equivalent nuclear generation). What exactly goes into the computation of the available wind energy? For an interesting but meaningless factoid, the occasional hurricane that passes through the mid-Atlantic produces wind energy roughly equivalent to all the world’s generation – but just try to capture it.

    On the other hand, the equivalent nuclear generation might at a rougn guess occupy a hundred square miles or so (in a few hundred sites dispersed over the country), most of which can be nicely landscaped and used as habitat by wild creatures.

    Comment by James — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:55 PM

  23. Jim Bullis – you find the scenarios for NOT decreasing CO2 palatable? Choose your poison. Wind farms, solar? I cant recommend MacKay’s “sustainable energy – without the hot air” more highly for this discussion. Available on on line for free but also cheap and easier to digest as a book. http://www.withouthotair.com

    I doubt many people will find his numbers very palatable but he does point to what is feasible and USA much better placed than say Europe. You cant have a meaningful discussion without the numbers he presents.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:56 PM

  24. #18 Go talk to the Kennedy’s. My Senator in California wants to shut down some of the best solar potential in the country. It will always come down to NIMBY.

    Comment by Jim Norvell — 29 Apr 2009 @ 5:03 PM

  25. Couldn’t resist – Captcha “Frizzled Times”

    Comment by marktime — 29 Apr 2009 @ 5:08 PM

  26. David B. Benson — Thanks for the Wikipedia link to Miocene conditions, showing Antarctic melting with a 2 C rise. That’s good evidence, but what I was hoping for is some explanation of how such an apparently trivial amount of extra energy in the atmosphere can result in such huge effects.

    If the effects are predictably severe, there is no question of adaptation. A frog may complacently endure heating the water in its pot before it boils to death, but that’s not adaptation, it’s misery, as Joseph Romm points out.

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 29 Apr 2009 @ 6:04 PM

  27. Re 24 (Jim Norvell) – I can understand a little NIMBY with wind farms (though that must be tempered with ‘do I want electricity?’) – but why they heck would someone not want solar power plants nearby? Just to be perverse? (Not to doubt you; I’m just curious about it.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Apr 2009 @ 6:17 PM

  28. Gavin wrote, “build wind farms”.

    [Response: note that group posts are joint - only solo efforts are labeled by name. I'm pretty sure that we (collectively) don't think that wind farms are the only solution here, and you should not read that into the text.- gavin]

    Gavin, you must have read more up to date material than me. I’m still reading the Socolow and Pacala study which seems in the published material to support a multi-pronged attack system…not just building windmills, but a huge combination including solar.

    Just windmills doesn’t seem to work out mathmatically. Your blog is a source of hope from the mainstream scientific communtity’s point of view.

    Can just building windmills alone do it? Maybe you are being tongue and cheek or reading published materials I’ve missed (or maybe depressed by the two studies!), but many people are reading your blog for nearly the first time and would not know the difference and would take your word for it.

    Socolow and Pacala
    http://www.princeton.edu/~cmi/research/ghgt/GHGT-7_poster_color_figures_7-1-04.pdf

    [Response: You're right, we were being over-simple; it would take more than windmills. The point is that it's technically doable. If we were running out of fossil energy, we'd figure out a way to stay out of the stone age, I'm confident. David]

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 29 Apr 2009 @ 6:34 PM

  29. Wilmot McCutchen (26) — We also know that during the previous interglacial, the Eemian, that global temperatures were about 2 K warmer than “at present”, i.e., 1950s, and during that time considerable melt occurred in Greenland (and probably some of WAIS), resulting in a 4–6 m sea highstand (different in different locations).

    On millennial scales, the oceans take up heat, lots of it; upper 2.5 m has the heat content of the entire atmosphere (from a Wikipedia page with a title I don’t recall just now).

    Not sure that answers your question.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Apr 2009 @ 7:17 PM

  30. #27 Ask Sen. Feinstein or the enviromentalists who object to solar in the outbacks of California.

    Comment by Jim Norvell — 29 Apr 2009 @ 7:22 PM

  31. Patrick 027 Says:

    “but why they heck would someone not want solar power plants nearby?”

    It is a matter of location. Our deserts in North America are “living deserts,” with an amazing variety of flora and fauna. There are already disturbed desert locals (used by industry or the military, for example) that might not have much opposition, but there is a gold rush going on to secure power plant sites everywhere on public lands in the desert — sometimes with the thought of later selling the rights to the highest bidder.

    Check out this website to get an idea why there are folks opposed to the Ivanpah Valley proposal:

    http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/IvanpahValley.html

    ReCaptcha: coverts shale

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 29 Apr 2009 @ 7:24 PM

  32. Jim Bullis (#4) wrote:

    Then we get to the plug-in car panacaea. Now that the plug-in Hummer, the plug-in Fisker, and the Bright Automotive plug-in van have been added to the plug-in Prius we might start to catch on to the reality of this concept.

    Actually, we don’t have a plug in Prius yet, Toyota won’t make it despite the fact that it would be easier and cheaper and more fuel efficient to make than the current parallel hybrid system. They won’t do that because the Prius uses NiMH batteries, the patent on which is owned by Chevron / Texaco. One can only presume that they are preventing Toyota from using these batteries in a hybrid system that derives some of its energy from a source other than fossil fuels. They know that once the plug-in idea catches on, there will be nothing to stop it.

    The lack of decent electric vehicles on the road in 2009 is absolutely ridiculous. As an engineer, it is obvious proof to me of some level of “conspiracy”, if you can define corporate greed as “conspiracy”. Look at your cell phone, laptop, digital camera and the advances they have made in the last 10, 20 years. To think that none of those advances have moved over into the automotive industry to improve fuel economy speaks to the ridiculousness of the situation.

    Toyota is designing a new Prius which uses Lithium ion batteries (not patented, but 10 years behind in development compared with NiMH) Surprise, it will be a plug in!!! Maybe in a couple years we will be able to get our hands on it.

    The transition away from fossil fuels will not be very difficult. If everyone in the US Southwest put solar panels on their roofs they could power the entire continent. And solar panels in the southwest are nearing grid parity; in other words, people will automatically choose them over other energy systems. And Obama seems to want to add in additional incentives. Everyone could charge their electric cars using solar panels and the extra burden on the grid would be eliminated and decentralized. They could power their whole lives with solar panels on sunny days.

    Large wind turbines can be scattered across rural farmland in the Midwest, causing no one any grief. This, couple with solar panels, could easily replace the current electrical generation of North America.

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 29 Apr 2009 @ 8:27 PM

  33. David Benson (20), I like this one because it combines multiple eras (albeit in multiple scales) in one place:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/All_palaeotemps.png

    Comment by Jim Eager — 29 Apr 2009 @ 8:29 PM

  34. re 14.

    You left something out, imho. Given tha damage done, sustainability issues and the problems likely incurred with 0.8c warming as we move into the future, there will need to be found a way to halt global population growth – and reduce it.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 29 Apr 2009 @ 8:52 PM

  35. Richard,

    Going beyond “wind farms” and the Socolow and Pacala wedges study, I’d suggest you take a look at some of the other packages of solutions out there – perhaps starting with Joe Romm’s excellent global warming solutions using the same “wedge” approach and a lot of background thinking on cost-effectiveness.

    Wind, efficiency and a smart grid are almost certainly part of the ultimate package… but I can’t imagine they’d be enough on their own.

    - David

    Comment by David — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:04 PM

  36. Jim Eager (32) — Thank you!

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:08 PM

  37. Lets get some hard numbers out folks. We generate 2E15 W-Hr/Yr from coal (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table1_1.html). Solar PV’s output something like 2E6 W-Hr/Yr/KW-installed. We need to install 1E9 Kw-DC at 5K$/Kw . That is 5 Trillion dollars. I don’t think the Chinese are willing to pony up that amount of money.

    Comment by Jim Norvell — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:13 PM

  38. Re #20 and #3 Could we have acted 20 years ago?? Try 50 years ago

    See the classic 1958 video warning… on minute duration http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lgzz-L7GFg

    And the new application of Google Timeline reminds us this story has been around for a long time – articles on the subject in appeared as early as 1968.. could have been written today.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=3MkLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UVYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7247,2505197&dq=global+warming

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:20 PM

  39. I have two broad observations about how this issue is being processed by those who accept its reality and want change.

    1. Global warming has been interpreted to the public as a “flow” problem, not as a “stock” problem. “Emissions” are an annual flow measure. Total CO2 concentration is a “stock” measure. If we were dealing with “Clean Air” we’d be on solid ground discussing emissions. Clean the “flow” and the surrounding air gets cleaner. But we’re talking about Earth’s equilibrium temperature, and the critical variable is the total stock of CO2, not the annual flow from human activity. The higher the stock, the higher the temperature and the more severe the climate consequences.

    And that ought to be the message to the public. Cap total CO2 at the lowest and least deadly level. The longer we have high emissions, the higher the stock becomes, and the higher the stock of CO2, the greater the damage. That’s a message that uses the logic of the situation to teach the public how urgently we must act.

    But is that the message? Heck, no. Scientists and environmentalists alike persist in positioning this problem as a “flow” problem to be resolved by a reduction in the “flow”, i.e. by cutting emissions by some arbitrary amount.

    To the public, this positioning entirely takes away the urgency. Cut the flow today, cut the flow in fifty years, what difference will it make? As with the Clean Air Act, the sooner we cut dirty emissions, the sooner we get clean air, but if we had waited, we would have gotten the same clean air anyway, just later. Translate this logic to global warming. Cut emissions today, cut them later, who cares? As soon as we get around to the emission cuts that are being asked, the problem will go away.

    It is utter folly to persist in describing a stock problem using flow language. The public is confused, and loses its sense of urgency. It is time for scientists and environmentalists alike to take the Pledge. Describe the issue in stock terms, not flow terms. As in “Cap atmospheric CO2 at the lowest and least deadly level.” Any takers?

    2. From a public policy perspective, especially from a presidential and congressional perspective, this whole problem resolves as an energy risk issue. Is fossil fuel energy safe for the long term? And, if not, how does one rework the nation’s energy system to produce one that is truly safe? This is essentially an all or nothing problem. Either we redo the whole thing, or CO2 never gets capped and temperatures continue to rise indefinitely.

    Given this, we have to adopt the discipline of seeing the whole grid. Socolow and Pacala are on the wrong track. The right way to frame the problem is with a simple Sources and Uses matrix. I put Sources across the top, and Uses down the side. Sources include all types of source energy – fossil fuel electric, hydro electric, nuclear electric, wind electric, etc, but also direct coal (not much) and direct petroleum fuel (a lot) and direct natural gas (fair amount). Uses divide into Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Transportation, which further subdivides into Gasoline, Diesel, and Aviation Uses. The ~57 terawatt-hours/day in net Sources provides energy for ~57 terawatt-hours/day in Net Uses.

    There are four Uses themes for reworking the nation’s energy matrix:
    1) Efficiency – appliance efficiency, building efficiency, vehicle efficiency, process heat efficiency.
    2) Carbon neutral buildings. Tight standards for new buildings, and a 30-40 year retrofit program for old buildings, which will combine insulation, switching to heat pumps, adding geothermal, etc.
    3) Carbon neutral vehicles. Must be twelve to fifteen different applications, each of which will need to be reinvented. Some will work with electric power (cars) and some will need liquid fuel (planes) and the task of providing the fuel will have to be solved in conjunction with the task of choosing the best use technology. No point in creating liquid fuel for electric vehicles, right?
    4) Carbon neutral process heat. A major end use, 20 TWH/Day out of 57, but I have zero expertise on the options.

    There are four more Sources themes:
    5) Carbon neutral electric power. This will surely combine wind, and solar thermal, and photovoltaic, and possibly ocean wave energy, and a bit of hot geothermal. As well as niche nuclear. And surviving hydro.
    6) Carbon neutral liquid fuel. Surely not corn ethanol. Possibly crop-based, but more likely algae based, as the gallons/acre/year potential of algae is far higher than any crop.
    7) Properly sized and sited electric grid. If siting is done project by project, we lose. Feds have to do comprehensive siting for wind and grid at the same time, use incentives to create permits, then open permitted sites up to developers.
    8 ) Phase-out of fossil fuel power. As fast as renewable electric is ready, coal has to be phased out. As fast as renewable liquid fuel is ready, petroleum has to be phased out.

    As a general principle, much of the potential cost of this can be met simply by redirecting capital budget priorities. Money that would have been spent on fossil fuels needs to be spent, instead, on renewables. The upfront costs will be higher, and will need incentives/subsidies/mandates/deadlines, but the long term cost picture includes a trillion a year that we don’t spend on fossil fuels, a huge savings.

    Frame the problem properly, as one of limiting total stock, and perhaps we finally help the public understand the urgency.

    Frame the solution properly, as an orderly and aggressive reworking of the nation’s energy technologies, with redirected capital budgets and appropriate federal support, and we at least demonstrate that we are orderly enough to think about the whole of the problem. The more we highlight the problem by emphasizing all eight themes, the faster the public learns to understand all eight themes.

    Comment by Steve Johnson — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:41 PM

  40. Phil Scadden #23

    Getting the discussion correctly to the numbers is critical. Unfortunately there are a lot of misunderstandings here.

    Your reference indicated in UK the conversion from fossil fuel to electricity is done with 40% thermal efficiency. Yet that author goes on to say we should “electrify transport.” And that, “Electrification both gets transport off fossil
    fuels, and makes transport more energy-efficient. (Of course, electrification increases demand for green electricity.)”

    All this is correct if the electrification leads to transport that is indeed driven by green electricity. In the USA, coal is so abundant that it produces heat at a cost of about $1 per million BTU. Natural gas produces heat at a cost varying from about $4 to about $12 per million BTU. Electric power generating entities have the option to choose which fuel to use. Of course, coal burning causes about twice as much CO2 as natural gas. Hence the campaign against coal.

    But when we campaign to electrify transport by means of the plug-in hybrid vehicle, we are seriously exacerbating the problem, since the economically sensible reaction (yes short term) is to fill the added demand for electric energy from coal fired facilities.

    I try to make the case that this could be ok if transport was also redesigned such that it would use a small fraction of the energy that it now consumes. However, as I pointed out in my original (#4) the fact is we are now bringing forth as plug-ins, a Fisker, a Hummer, a Bright automotive van, as well as a Prius. Well known persons such as Mr. Andy Grove, ex head of Intel, advocate electrifying all vehicles, beginning with the least efficient we can find. This is not going right.

    When the 33% efficiency of coal fired power plants (no it is not 40% for these) is factored in, as well as the high rate of CO2 per BTU, the plugging in turns out to be not a good thing. Even the Prius hybrid, though excellent as a hybrid, turns out to be degraded by the conversion to plug-in.

    The situation is then confused by the seeming complementary benefit of reducing dependence on foreign oil. Yes, the plug-in will be beneficial in this regard since it resets us to use coal instead of oil. Unfortunately, many think it will also make great progress in reducing CO2 emissions.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:42 PM

  41. #30 Jim, just out of curiosity where exactly are we going to put windmills that don’t have a chance of killing birds or ruining someone’s ocean view. Where exactly are we going to put solar panels that don’t in some way interfere with the natural plant and animal life. What exactly is the technology that will allow us to use renewable energy sources that all seem to require a vast amount of space without putting up transmission lines? I have yet to decide that co2 will in fact warm to earth to a dangerous level but I would expect that those that do would be prepared to understand there are compromises involved and to be prepared to accept these compromises. The energy isn’t just going to magically appear.

    Comment by steve — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:51 PM

  42. Yes Mark Cunnington #31, Jim Bullis has trouble spelling panacea.

    I think the plug-in thing is gaining considerable momentum. Here is where more attention is needed by those who can make analytical assessments and are willing to speak on them. This is one of my main reasons for posting here.

    Solar panels on our roofs and wind turbines in our fields would be fine, but they do cost a lot of money. If these were only required to fill a modest demand for electric power, we might even get there with these answers, though that is not clear.

    It turns out that the hopes for solar PV panels get dashed when the real costs of installation, maintenance (roofs under them included)are fully reckoned. Wind turbines seem to be not forthrightly costed out for the whole picture. But hopefully, there can be a blend of solutions that use these kinds of equipment.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:54 PM

  43. Walt says: “I would say that the strategy is at least 67% assured of failure on the simple basis that other nations will not agree.”

    Actually, it’s the other nations that have already agreed, and it is the U.S. that is refusing to go along by passing a benchmark renewable energy generation goal – a law that mandates that 20% of electricity will be from renewable sources within, say, five years. Germany’s 2004 Renewable Energy Act is an example:

    “This act is further intended to contribute to the increase in the percentage of renewable energy sources in power supply to at least 12.5 per cent by 2010 and to at least 20 per cent by 2020.”

    China has also gone ahead with such plans:

    China’s Renewable Energy Law Takes Effect; Pricing and Fee-Sharing Rules Issued by Zijun Li on January 18, 2006

    Even major oil producers like UAE have agreed to similar strategies, although India continues to behave like the U.S. on the issue.

    In Southeast Asia, many governments appear to be following the successful Korean model, as applied to renewable energy.

    It’s really simple – the U.S. needs to do what China and Germany and others have done if we wish to remain anywhere near the forefront of the energy revolution now in progress. Many other countries have agreed to boost renewables in order to replace fossil fuel emissions – but that goal has never been explicitly stated in binding form in the U.S., although recent Presidential speeches are highly encouraging.

    As far as the technical ability to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar, see this story:

    http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/04/28/in-israel-solar-power-that-wont-need-subsidies/

    The technology, a system of rotating dishes made up of mirrors, is capable of harnessing up to 75 percent of incoming sunlight – roughly five times the capacity of traditional solar panels. In addition, using mirrors to reduce the number of photovoltaic cells needed, it makes the cost of solar energy roughly comparable to fossil fuels.

    While this technology has been implemented elsewhere, Israeli start-up ZenithSolar – working in conjunction with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University – is a pioneer in combining it with a water-based cooling system that increases the photovoltaic cells’ efficiency and produces thermal energy to boot…

    * See this thread also

    Comment by Ike Solem — 29 Apr 2009 @ 9:54 PM

  44. ““but why they heck would someone not want solar power plants nearby?”

    It is a matter of location. Our deserts in North America are “living deserts,” with an amazing variety of flora and fauna. There are already disturbed desert locals (used by industry or the military, for example) that might not have much opposition, but there is a gold rush going on to secure power plant sites everywhere on public lands in the desert — sometimes with the thought of later selling the rights to the highest bidder.

    Check out this website to get an idea why there are folks opposed to the Ivanpah Valley proposal:

    http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/IvanpahValley.html

    Lets see:
    Wind Farms: 1000s dead birds killed on the blades
    Nuclear: Terrorists, fail to manage the waste across many glacials etc etc and you have a sterile world
    Roof top solar: Energy storage for rainy days and nights
    Lower energy use: get real! no hope here
    CCS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdHuB7Ovl2o

    Guys we need to use every option, too much soapboxing and we will wax extinct

    So instead of opposing every option that spoils our favorite pretty picture lets work constructively or the BAU folk will prevail

    Comment by James — 29 Apr 2009 @ 10:23 PM

  45. Patrick 027 Says (29 April 2009 at 6:17 PM)

    “Re 24 (Jim Norvell) – I can understand a little NIMBY with wind farms (though that must be tempered with ‘do I want electricity?’) – but why they heck would someone not want solar power plants nearby?”

    You have it almost exactly backwards: it’s not NIMBY, but IMBY, or more precisely, on my rooftop – and yours too. Put PV panels on every existing rooftop in the southwest, and I’ll be leading the cheering section, because that’s where they belong, on rooftops, or shading parking lots, or on any structure that already exists. Where they don’t belong is out in the countryside, blocking the sunlight from wide swathes of land, and so destroying the ecosystem.

    Same applies to wind turbines: there are a lot of places they can be built, such as those midwest corn and wheat fields, without harming the environment much more than it already has been. A short distance offshore from a scenic coastline is NOT such a place, though.

    Comment by James — 29 Apr 2009 @ 11:01 PM

  46. Adaptation or misery?

    Some people think that adaption is something like adapting to a different flavor of ice cream if somebody stops making your favorite.

    But for the folks already here in North America, adaptation to the arrival of European germs meant an 80-90% die-off. That’s what adaptation can mean in the broad sense.

    It’s not that I’m not predicting specifically that for 4 degrees of warming. Just that adaptation in the scale we are talking about makes comparison with a percent or 2 of GDP (or drop in property values) for mitigation laughable.

    Comment by Dean — 29 Apr 2009 @ 11:18 PM

  47. Mark Cunnington, you write about batteries: “… absolutely ridiculous. As an engineer, it is obvious proof to me of some level of “conspiracy … one can only presume …”

    Well I thought that sounded nuts, but poked around and someone might want to look into this and see if it holds up.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteries

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Apr 2009 @ 11:32 PM

  48. Interesting, but I have to say as a fellow scientist I find it a huge turn-off that the authors feel the need to mention more than once in this post how important their work is.

    [edit]

    [Response: You are mistaken. None of us were authors on the main papers. Instead, two of us were instead asked to comment on the results (exactly as we often comment on other papers here). If you spent any time reading here, you would also find that we rarely discuss any of the over 30 papers a year collectively (estimate) we publish. - gavin]

    Comment by Peter Williams — 29 Apr 2009 @ 11:38 PM

  49. Alexis Madrigal has a good story on this in Wired this week, too. All the more reason to stop the stranglehold that coal and other fossil fuels have on this world gone over-mad, and thus my graduation
    speech to the future class of 2099, which remains on YouTube and awaits your kind eyeballs….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-wnrm2jE-E

    Comment by danny bloom — 29 Apr 2009 @ 11:55 PM

  50. #11 Jim:

    For an update on what’s going on in places where political will is usefully married w/capital as opposed to both being paralyzed by nervous handwringing, neurotic perfectionism and nostalgic, romantic attachment to hazardous anachronisms see the cover article in the latest issue of MarineLog. There you’ll see what is basically mutated offshore oil equipment being put to use installing offshore wind farms. All quite routine, quite productive. The imaginary problems just don’t seem to be quite as real as is our fear of the new.

    http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/sb/ml0409/#/3/OnePage

    Is wind generation perfect? Obviously not. But then neither is coal generation, not by a long shot, amazingly efficient though the underlying technology has evolved to become.

    We in the U.S. are looking increasingly strange, locked in perpetual discussion about what we might do while others have long moved on. Hardly like our self-image at all, really. We’re becoming exceptional in a way that is sort of embarrassing.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:14 AM

  51. On the topic of the impacts of building solar power stations in deserts: There are now many parts of the World where semi arid and increasingly arid regions have been converted to farmland that is and will become increasingly unviable for agriculture. Much of the southern and south-eastern hinterland of Australia is heading this way. For example, the acreage of vinyards and orchards being abandoned along our Murray Darling system is likely to be orders or magnitude larger than would be required if we were to decide to start to convert our entire economy to solar power. Once cleared of native vegetation this land will never revert to a natural state any way. Vast areas of wheat and crop land will be in the same category. It’s not as sunny there as in true deserts, but it is sunny enough and getting sunnier.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:32 AM

  52. re: #2.
    So are you saying that just because YOU don’t believe 2C is much that it isn’t a problem?

    Arguing by personal incredulity is no argument.

    I wouldn’t believe that banks would len d out 125% mortg ages to people who cannot pay and then wrap the deb t up to sell to some poor sucker (or that some poor sucker would buy it).

    Yet it happened.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:07 AM

  53. “I have yet to find a forthright analysis of wind farm cost. There is also a lot of information discussing power outputs of these on a peak rather than average basis.”

    That would be because you haven’t looked.

    Google it.

    It’s even been posted here.

    Have you heard of ANY long-term wind farm? There are quite a few.

    Guess what: they have to report how much it cost to build and how much energy they have received over the year in their annual reports to either the shareholder or government (or both).

    So find one.

    Read it.

    And stop yibbering on about “prescribed solutions”.

    There is none.

    Just that if we DON’T stop 80% of our CO2 production, we’re committed to a rise of more than 2C.

    Is there a solution there? No.

    Your insanity is making you see things.

    (PS I bet you turn of the trip computer if it tells you you only have 30 miles to go before running out of fuel. How DARE it give you a prescribed solution!!!)

    (PPS read a dictionary)

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:11 AM

  54. “Bottom line: We need to move beyond yesterday’s conversations.”

    What? Where you ignored any queries about the validity of your ideas?

    Why then do you bring up your ideas AGAIN.

    And unmodified, I note.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:20 AM

  55. “I think I would also like figures for how much of that energy is acturally capturable at practical cost (say not more that 2X the equivalent nuclear generation).”

    Um, ALL OF IT.

    And yes, gross.

    However, it is only one region, only one of several energy sources and only if energy waste isn’t combated.

    You read, but you don’t understand.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:22 AM

  56. “On the other hand, the equivalent nuclear generation might at a rougn guess occupy a hundred square miles or so”

    And where are the mines?

    Or does Uranium grow on trees now?

    How about the waste recycling and storage?

    How about the processing plants that turn useless Uranium into usable uranium?

    Do they not have to be built???

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:23 AM

  57. As I have posted before, I completely expect the worse outcome for a variety of reasons. Because of these reasons, I believe scientists should focus on worse case scenario solutions. The time for avoiding consequences is long past, so we must focus on directly dealing with the consequences. Scientists, who believe this can be avoided, are living in a conjured felicity, and they need to drop the quixotic ideas of a changing humanity.

    Most nations are typically unable to react to problems until after a catastrophe occurs. If the ruling party attempts to address a problem early on, the opposing party can subvert the ruling party with basic disinformation. The problem is not deficiency of information but how the information is interpreted and judged by individuals. Many individuals are politically misinformed and uneducated; as a result, they often make poor decisions. Technical information is particularly difficult because most people (even in the academic world) lack the background required to understand technical information. There has been more then enough information presented on global warming, but large portions of the population fail to comprehend the effects of global warming or how valid the information is. So it’s very difficult to act politically for most governments.

    Developing nations are not going to stop burning fossil fuels any time soon either. China, for example, will be a developing nation burning fossil fuels for a long time to come. China is not going to switch over to a more expensive technology during the development process. I do not think they could maintain political stability if they made the switch. Fossil fuel is a cheap method to produce energy, and it will be used unless another technology is able to produce energy cheaper.

    The real danger of global warming is over-population. The increasing world population trend cannot be sustained even without global warming. There exist more people then what available resources will allow. Global warming makes diminishing resources more dangerous because it could force various species to migrate quite rapidly. These species are already in danger from increasing human population, and migration could be the last nail in the coffin of many species. Many ecosystems are already in danger of collapse, and global warming could push them over the edge. The increasing world population is another reason that this hope of change is not going to come. If there is 3 billion more people by 2050, we will need to produce an extra ½ of the worlds energy to support such an increase in population. I honestly do not see how the world is going to support that many people. Nations are already doing frantic resource grabs.

    Comment by EL — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:29 AM

  58. “Comparing the two papers is obscured by the different units; mass of carbon versus mass of CO2 (moles, anyone? Is there a chemist in the house?)”

    Well, from the looks of the discussions over the years, chemists apparently aren’t qualified to participate, nor wanted, in the climate debate. ;)

    [Response: Huh? - gavin]

    Comment by Séretur — 30 Apr 2009 @ 4:33 AM

  59. I agree with #5 (Maiken): how acceptable is an estimated 25% of passing 2 degrees? Economists like Terry Barker think it is technologically possible and economically maybe even advantageous to completely decarbonize even before 2050. See for example:
    http://www.theclimategroup.org/assets/resources/Macroeconomic_Effects_of_the_Transition_to_a_Low_Carbon_Economy.pdf

    http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/publications/working_papers/twp117.pdf

    Suppose a miracle happens and we would succeed in that: what chance would that leave us of passing 2 degrees? Probably still about 10%, so the faster we decarbonize completely, the better. It may even not be as hard as we fear. And 2 degrees could mean significant melting of GIS and WAIS, so eventually maybe up to 10 meters sea level rise, or even more, plus extensive melting of permafrost and release of methane, which would lead to further warming, melting and sea level rise. Not to speak of all the other consequences. So we really should minimize the chance of passing 2 degrees. Not to do so would be ‘criminal neglect’, I’m afraid.

    Comment by Lennart van der Linde — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:02 AM

  60. It is frustrating not to be able to see the papers/news free on the web. Given the importance of this subject and the criticality of the current discussion on targets, it would be of benefit to us all if Nature considered making these articles freely available.

    Having got that off my chest, I love this post. At last the real meat of the discussion. Congratulations for going to this effort. The policy targets are so important to our future (and our children’s) that we realy have to rely on the scientific community to make it absolutely clear what response is needed.

    Clearly we are getting closer to the statement that the remaining fossil fuels need to be left in the ground. This is very hard to expect countries like China to do when their poor are crying out for the luxuries of the west.

    This is where we nave to lead the way. We must understand that the costs will be high. All people have to realise it will be more costly to buy energy and the products produced with it.

    This is a necessary burden if we are to salvage something of this planet for the future. We have to pose the question: What do you want–a clean planet for our decendants or to live a life of indulgence now? For indulgence it is when we know that the GHGs we produce now in our complacency will condemn the world to spiraling human (and other species) misery.

    What ‘cost’ do we put put on the displacement of 100s of millions of humans from their homes when sea level rise starts to bite (not to mention the loss of community capital represented by the land value). And what about the mass starvation when fish stocks collapse due to ocean acidification.

    Thisis a big subject and a big effort has to be made to address the challenge.

    Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:09 AM

  61. I thought that sinks soaked up around 55% of our emissions which equate to 7 billion tonnes of Carbon per year from human emissions and 2 billion from land use, 9 billon tonnes in total multiplied by 2x O16 atoms (which is what Co2 is) to give around 30 billion tonnes per year of CO2. If 45% is left in the atmosphere, around 13.5 billion tonnes at present (the sinks are getting weaker I thought) is left in the atmosphere or 135 billion tonnes per decade. It has been stated that the present amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere is around 200 billion tonnes which when added to what is already there makes fro 800 billion tonnes. It was once stated that 1 trillion tonnes of atmospheric CO2 was enough!

    That is only 15 years worth at present emission rates. If sinks begin to falter by 1% per year then in ten years thats a lot more CO2 being left in the atmosphere then there is now. By the year 2050 – 40 years time at present rates of emissions that will mean around 4×135=520 billion tonnes more added to the atmosphere and 620 billion into the sinks (oceans mainly) which means that the atmosphere will be holding around 1.3 trillion tonnes of CO2 in total.

    1.3 trillion tonnes is a lot surely? This means that is this a science article or a economic and political one?

    Comment by pete best — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:19 AM

  62. —oops, HTML glitch, please replace previous by following—

    I wonder what it takes to get the right-wing media such as The Australian and Wall Street Journal to wake up to the dangers they are exposing us al to by slowing down political acceptance of the need for change. Here in Australian, the federal government is spending tens of billions of dollars on stimulus package after stimulus package, and tiny fractions of that (mainly at the instigation of Greens senators who are using their balance of power for leverage) are going towards emissions reduction.

    A commodities economy like Australia is well placed to go hard at clean energy now, spending the boom years surplus on change. Instead, we have a mindset of digging in and waiting until things change for the better. Then back to business as usual. Believe it or not, my home state, Queensland, is gearing up to double coal export capacity by 2015. How irresponsible can you get? If we don’t destroy the environment to the point where there is no economic benefit, it will be because the demand for coal collapses. A stupid investment all round. No wonder the industry is fronting up a tiny fraction of the cost.

    To me it seems that the coal industry, recognising that the game will soon be up, has conned our rather stupid state government into helping them ramp up production rapidly to make a windfall profit before they go out of business — akin to drug dealers getting governments to help them ramp up sales before banning the product.

    Any good ideas on how to get the message out in the face of hostile media welcome.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:20 AM

  63. These articles rely on computer models.

    Sceptics say that computer models tell us nothing.

    OK, so if I abandon computer modelling and merely extend the present temperature graphs into the future with an HB pencil and a school ruler, am I in practice “modelling” the future, albeit without using a computer?

    (This above written by a non-scientist)

    And if one does not rely on computer modelling, is one left only with sacrificing a goat and seeing what the entrails foretell?

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:34 AM

  64. Phill Scadden
    29 April 2009 at 4:56 PM

    I cant recommend MacKay’s “sustainable energy – without the hot air” more highly for this discussion

    I can’t warn you more for this misleading work. Let’s analyze his prime example: the car. His claim is that Britain would need to fill up Wales with wind turbines to power half of the cars. A lie. He’s smart with numbers and his calculations seem to hold up, but under scrutiny they fall apart.

    What tricks did he use? First of all he introduces the concept of the ‘moderately affluent Brit’ who drives an estimated 50 km per day (or was it miles? sorry I am too lazy to verify right now). He then goes on to multiply that number by 60 million as if every man, woman and child in Britain is ‘moderately affluent’ and thus drives said distance per day, alone. The result: he overestimates the number of vehicle miles traveled by a factor of three. But it doesn’t stop there. He then goes on to make 1 J of electrical energy equivalent to 1 J of chemical energy, completely ignoring the much higher efficiency of electric motors compared to internal combustion engines. The reality is that an electric car needs about a quarter of the energy that he estimates. Total result is a 12 fold overestimate of the electric energy required to drive Britain’s cars.

    You do the math yourself, Phil. You can lookup the number of vehicle miles traveled in Britain yourself. I will provide you with the information that a Prius-like car travels about 6 km per kWh. You can check that fact if you like. Then multiply and compare your number to the professor’s and you’ll understand my warning.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:35 AM

  65. Putting the brakes on CO2 emissions has to mean replacing coal as a power source, unless emissions from coal can be sequestered safely and efficiently, which seems unlikely just now, given that research has not yielded any progress. Eventually replacing petroleum also seems advisable, if less urgent. Evidently we need to replace coal rather quickly.

    Wind, solar and concentrated solar power get most of the attention on how to replace coal. As for supplanting petroleum, biofuels as presently conceived appear to have too many drawbacks, especially a gargantuan land use footprint.

    Other fossil-fuel replacements occasionally touted in print or on the Web include nuclear fission, subcritical thorium fission, high-altitude wind power, enhanced geothermal, hot dry (or hot fractured) rock geothermal, wave power, tidal power, open-cycle ocean thermal energy conversion, and advanced biorefinery products like 2,5-dimethylfuran, various other furans and furfurals. Forgive me for not providing links but you can Google (or Google Scholar) these phrases if interested.

    Due to meager news coverage dominated by passionate polemic, I have had trouble assessing the relative merits and feasibility of these proposed coal and petroleum replacements. Also, wind and nuclear have been criticized for the amount of concrete they require, due to the CO2 emissions from conventional concrete production, so I would like to know the relative merits and feasibility of concrete alternatives like magnesia ceramic cement products.

    Can anyone here provide a succinct, rational, fact-based analysis of these technosystems and their near-term prospects? Which of them are most deserving of investment?

    Comment by Manu Phonic — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:41 AM

  66. “Technological feasibility is not meaningful without including the financial affordability factors.” – Jim Bullis

    How have you got on persuading the atmosphere of that profound truth?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:21 AM

  67. Jim Bullis
    29 April 2009 at 2:39 PM

    I have yet to find a forthright analysis of wind farm cost.

    I am amazed by that statement. I am sorry to say, but then you have not been looking. Look at the subsidies in Denmark. The wind farms are built entirely by private investors, they only get a subsidy per kWh produced, which amounts to a total price of around $ 0.08 per kWh. These farms are being built, so obviously the companies that build and operate them can do so profitably.

    Google for ‘Horns Rev II’, that 200 MW offshore windfarm is currently being built in Denmark for a total investment of 450 million Euros. Estimated production is 800 GWh per year.

    This is an analysis of investment cost for onshore wind.

    But you should try harder, that information is certainly out there.

    The integrated “smart grid” electrical power network may be needed to make wind farm power available in the right places, but it will also perpetuate the most wasteful practice known to man which is the system of central power plants that throw away up to twice the heat energy as they manage to get converted into electric energy

    Please explain that. By replacing conventional powerplants by wind farms we are continuing those powerplants? I honestly do not understand that.

    Btw the most wasteful practice known to man is the private motor car which manages to throw away 80% of the energy in the fuel and us only 20%, making it twice as wasteful as the powerplant.

    Then we get to the plug-in car panacaea.

    I am not quite sure what you mean by that. I am certain that one day, all cars will be electric for various reasons. The plug-in hybrid is a logical intermediate step, enabling us to get experience, roll out the charging infrastructure and develop the battery technology. I have a feeling you are suggesting we should wait with (semi-)electric cars until we have 100% clean energy. But what is the use of clean energy if we do not have cars that can use it? Seems like a chicken-and-egg situation. Both developments must take place in parallel, which is exactly what is happening right now.

    Even without clean energy, the electric car is more efficient overall because of the higher conversion efficiency of modern power plants compared to the internal combustion engine. Biofuels? All research currently being done is how to convert biomass into a liquid that is usable a modern engine. Burning the biomass directly in a power plant and then using the electricity to drive your car is a more efficient solution that is ready today.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:34 AM

  68. “The real danger of global warming is over-population. ”

    Incorrect. Global warming is not a result of over population.

    Imagine if there were not [edit] 3Billion people in the third world. The ones using the least per-head CO2.

    Guess what?

    Global warming is still a problem.

    Now, overpopulation makes the HUMAN RESULTS in a global warming situation worse. I’ll give you that. A 3C warming with 1 Billion humans worldwide would be less of a catastrophe than 6Bn. But most of those billion will still be living in an area that will be flooded. It just means that there is more space for them to relocate to, but does nothing to change the fact that if they live where people want to live now (even if they can’t because there are more people than houses there) they will still have to move.

    Maybe you were wording your thoughts incorrectly.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:49 AM

  69. There has a been a large resurgence in skeptics recently with the media talking about Ian pilmers book “Heaven and earth” http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/04/23/ian-plimer-heaven-and-earth/

    I’ve also had a few people pointing me to JoNova’s site.
    http://joannenova.com.au/global-warming/

    Everyone seems to be convinved the data has changed. I’d love to hear a reply from real climate regarding these new arguments..which seem a lot more sophisticated that what I am used to from the skeptic crowd.

    [Response: What new arguments? For a group that seems dead set against any action to reduce our environmental impact, they do an awful lot of recycling. - gavin]

    Comment by Beyondtool — 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:51 AM

  70. “#30 Jim, just out of curiosity where exactly are we going to put windmills that don’t have a chance of killing birds or ruining someone’s ocean view.”

    If you’re THAT worried about the little burdies, steve, how about painting the windows of the glass skyscrapers so that the burdies won’t be killed by flying into glass?

    And if you’re only worried about the ocean view, put the turbines on land.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:55 AM

  71. gavin,
    once again….i was blogging at another website and a denialist said,

    “More and more scientists and thinking people all over the world are realizing that man-made global warming is a hoax that threatens our future and the future of our children. More than 700 international scientists dissent over man-made global warming claims. They are now more than 13 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers. http://www.climatechangefraud.com/content/view/3562/218/

    Additionally, 32,000 American scientists have signed onto a petition that states, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate…” http://www.petitionproject.org/index.html

    now, you and i know this is silly, but when john q. public hears about these lists it puts doubt in their mind. doubt is enough to make people not act. i haven’t bothered to count the “jims” on the lists, but i bet we could do better.

    HELP!!!

    Comment by walter crain — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:15 AM

  72. “There is also the fairness issue, in that the beneficiaries of fossil energy (rich countries today) are not the ones who pay the costs (less-rich countries decades from now).”

    Right! Damn good thing that such an exceptional, rich country as the United States will not have any costs from meters of sea level rise. I guess that means I can go back to my favorite pastime of sleep walking into history.

    Why on earth does Real Climate repeat such nonsense?

    [Response: The costs will be paid by future Americans, not the same people that are driving big cars today. Still unfair. David]

    Comment by David Stoney — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:41 AM

  73. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 3 looks at mitigation. With assumptions that are perhaps somewhat optimistic (hydro, for example, doesn’t disappear anywhere, only expands, and GHG emissions most pessimistic assumptions are below actual emissions), no analysis got us to below a 2 °C increase.

    In other words, we will need all the solutions coming out of reports like International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives (their 2008 report is the most aggressive plan I’ve seen from a major organization), and then we need to find ways to supplement their proposals.

    ETP also discusses more or less expensive routes to the same (too high) goal. And no, wind is not considered even 1/4 of 2050 electricity. It will be important, though.

    Re the developed nations will not suffer as much as poorer nations, this is undoubtedly true. But it’s important to emphasize that if southwest North America moves into a dust bowl by mid-century or later (PNAS Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions, http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/01/28/0812721106.full.pdf+html), there will be suffering closer to home, even for people on other parts of the continent. It will be more than tens of millions of people looking for a place to live. California alone has 1/6 of CA agriculture, add in a need for more agriculture with a shift to biopower and biofuels, add in the effect of increased carbon dioxide on decreasing food quality in many species, and increased temperatures in decreasing food productivity in many cases (rice). Canada is less fertile than the US, so it’s not just a case of agriculture moving north.

    Not to mention what other parts of the continent will see. The breadbasket states may need to begin irrigating crops even as rainfall increases. Etc.

    At my last presentation, someone said we expect to see this in our children’s lifetime. She is younger than I, and I told her that I expect to see many of the changes discussed in mine. I believe some people listen harder when they understand the time lines better, and I encourage others to be sure to give a sense of how rapidly some changes may come upon us.

    Comment by Karen Street — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:43 AM

  74. Re: Beyondtool

    I think what is more interesting is that Plimer hasn’t been sacked by the Aussie government, where as the New Zealand governments NIWA have sacked Jim Salinger.

    It seems the ‘lefty’ Aussie government is happy with scientific freedom whether good or bad.

    Comment by Paul — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:45 AM

  75. “There is no convincing scientific evidence …”

    Depends on what they call “convincing”.

    Do they say WHY the evidence before them is not convincing?

    If they answer, you will find their arguments unconvincing.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:59 AM

  76. #70 Mark in all fairness to you I can at times see how you fail to understand my point. A great deal of this is due to my typing skills but they are improving and I occasionally throw a 3rd finger into the process now although I still find myself searching for the keys that seem to constantly move on me. But for the life of me I can’t see how you missed the point of my last post.

    Comment by steve — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:01 AM

  77. Re David’s response to comment 2: “The climate of the last glacial maximum was six degrees colder than today.”

    This is a sobering stat. It doesn’t take all that much. Six degrees stands,for example, between a temperate climate in the northeastern U.S. and a covering of a thick sheet of ice.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:01 AM

  78. Re 34,

    Given tha damage done, sustainability issues and the problems likely incurred with 0.8c warming as we move into the future, there will need to be found a way to halt global population growth – and reduce it.

    Given the synergistic effects of climate change and peak fossil fuels on the “global economic growth is necessary and good” paradigm, maybe a “Black Swan” event, such as a global pandemic might solve that little issue and make it moot.

    Resources wars followed by massive famine and starvation could be a plan B :-)

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:32 AM

  79. Do these papers include the soil, forest dieback, Arctic methane and methane hydrate positive feedbacks? If not, should they? How well are these feedbacks quantified?

    Comment by Alexandre — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:37 AM

  80. Re: #72 Stoney

    Everyone will suffer some degree of consequence. No one is saying the US won´t have *any* impact.

    But today´s rich countries tend to be the greatest emmitters. At the same time, they will have better chances to adapt because of this wealth.

    Comment by Alexandre — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:50 AM

  81. Re: #43

    Ike,

    Do you take issue with my basic point? We must get busy allocating serious resources into mitigation and adaptation research and strategies.

    Gavin (or whoever wishes to comment):

    Do these papers address the fact that CO2 and methane will continue to enter the atmosphere through means other than human emissions? Is oceanic outgassing included? Is thawing permafrost? Do they estimate the probability or large fires?

    I assume that the trillion tons are inclusive of all sources, am I correct?

    If so, what does this really say about the remaining CO2 “budget”?

    [Response: I think these, what they would call carbon cycle feedbacks, are a major source of uncertainty. The CO2 slugs they're talking about are the ones from human emissions only. David]

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:52 AM

  82. A full quote to illustrate the view of Terry Barker on the economic feasibility of full decarbonization by 2050 (p.15 of the first article referred to earlier at #59):
    “Political economy has been portrayed by Thomas Carlyle as the dismal science, but on the contrary, a new understanding of the economy suggests that a transition to a low-carbon, even zero-carbon, economy is feasible; and that if we choose a good mix of policies, such action will benefit economic performance and improve human well-being. Just as Thomas Malthus was wrong (so far!) in his predictions of population growth leading to economic collapse, so rapid decarbonisation need not ruin our economies, and for much the same reason: technological change. GHG-reducing technologies with carbon trading and carbon taxes can accelerate decarbonisation, reduce the risks of dangerous climate change, and contribute to economic development and human well being. The economic feasibility and benefit of a net-zero carbon economy have not been investigated, at least by 2050 or earlier as implied for a long-term “safe” climate. The technologies required for most sectors are available and extrapolation of available studies suggests that the economy could benefit, but the main technical and institutional options have not all been explored and the scale of the transition, especially for the energy sector, is immense. The immediate challenge however is one of devising, then agreeing, international policies and actions that can guarantee results and benefits for the more modest 50 percent target, recognising that this is not strong enough for a safe climate but much better than no target at all.”

    Also see this excellent report “Climate Safety”, which urges full decarbonization within the next 20-30 years, for the UK at least:
    http://climatesafety.org/wp-content/uploads/climatesafety.pdf

    I think the two articles in Nature are still not ambitious enough in implicitly seeming to accept a chance of 25% of passing 2 degrees. The precautionary principle asks of us to do more than we would like, but as long as it seems not completely impossible, we should try all we can, or else take unacceptable risks of catastrophe. Climatologists like Jim Hansen and John Schellnhuber urge us to go back from 387 ppm CO2 now tot 350 ppm or less as soon as possible. That implies we’ve already overshot our carbon budget since the end of the 1980′s. The articles in Nature still seem to be overly optimistic in this regard.

    Comment by Lennart van der Linde — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:00 AM

  83. However we might pretend otherwise, this cost will fall to the public in one form or another.

    Maybe people could help.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:00 AM

  84. “Do you take issue with my basic point? We must get busy allocating serious resources into mitigation and adaptation research and strategies.”

    But anyone suggesting an avenue other than one you propose is told that it won’t happen.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:03 AM

  85. “But for the life of me I can’t see how you missed the point of my last post.”

    It could be because there was no point.

    Birds being killed by wind turbines was mostly a myth and the death rate was better than the glass skyscrapers built all over the US anyway. And now they are bigger and move slower, they kill very few birds.

    But some birds will die. Heck, some may die because a bird of prey is waiting on top of one of the rotors and catches a bird. If there had been no perch, the bird of prey wouldn’t have been there and so you can blame the wind turbine on that.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:12 AM

  86. The Oregon Petition

    Below is what is mostly quoted about the petition:

    “Additionally, 32,000 American scientists have signed onto a petition that states, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate…”.

    But…. the petition has two papagraphs, of which only the second is above.

    The first papagraph is a petition to the US government not to sign up to Kyoto. It is thus _political_, not scientific, and it is quite reasonable for people (and scientists arepeople) to object to Kyoto. I quote para #1:

    “We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.”

    If the “welfare of mankind” as seen above is only ever-increasing material wealth where the third world is aiming to, and expects to get, the same as the first world, than, yes, I might sign up to the petition.

    Trouble for the US (and Europe where I live) is only if the first world is to take a cut (or “cut”) in our living standards (what ever that means) will the third world play ball with carbon reduction.

    Material wealth? I was a five year old kid in bombed-out London in 1945. Toy shops were unknown and sweets (candies, US) were on a ration of 2 ounces (60gm) a week. But as I knew no different, I was as happy as any kid today.

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:22 AM

  87. “Do these papers address the fact that CO2 and methane will continue to enter the atmosphere through means other than human emissions?”

    And if they don’t, should we then make things WORSE?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:22 AM

  88. 56 Mark: Who needs uranium mines when we could recycle the fuel that is being wasted in Yucca mountain?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:28 AM

  89. See:
    http://environmentaldefenseblogs.org/climate411/2008/01/14/global_winds/
    The desert belt IS moving north in the northern hemisphere and south in the southern hemisphere. “IS,” not “might some day”. The genocide in Darfur IS caused by permanent drought which is desertification. The drought and fires in Australia, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Carolina, California, Greece and other places ARE being caused by the same desertification process and permanent drought. The rain HAS moved and IS causing floods in Iowa, Illinois and North Dakota. The farmers ARE NOT moving. They are stubbornly trying to plant wheat in the new desert. Since the formerly available river in Australia IS now a dry river bed, irrigation IS NOT an option there.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:49 AM

  90. About electric cars, I was struck by the following bit in President Obama’s “100 Days” press conference last night. He was speaking about the situation of the US auto manufacturers:

    I’m not an auto engineer. I don’t know how to create an affordable, well-designed plug-in hybrid. But I know that, if the Japanese can design an affordable, well-designed hybrid, then, doggone it, the American people should be able to do the same. So my job is to ask the auto industry: Why is it you guys can’t do this?

    In fact, it’s not a matter of “if” the Japanese can design an affordable plug-in hybrid.

    The Chinese have already done it. Chinese automaker BYD Auto began selling the world’s first mass-produced plug-in hybrid passenger car last November. According to the HybridCars website, the BYD F3DM will sell for the equivalent of $22,000 and has a range of 70 miles on fully-charged batteries. BYD is currently selling the car only in China but hopes to sell cars in the USA and Europe by next year.

    China is also expected to become the world’s largest exporter of wind turbines this year, and is a major exporter of photovoltaic panels.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:51 AM

  91. You can make comments to the EPA on a proposed rulemaking. Go to:
    http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:54 AM

  92. Birds being killed by wind turbines was mostly a myth

    False.

    and the death rate was better than the glass skyscrapers built all over the US anyway.

    Not the point as the early raptor blenders were selectively killing species that occur in fewer numbers than, say, house sparrows.

    And now they are bigger and move slower, they kill very few birds.

    Combined with better siting, true.

    But some birds will die. Heck, some may die because a bird of prey is waiting on top of one of the rotors and catches a bird. If there had been no perch, the bird of prey wouldn’t have been there and so you can blame the wind turbine on that.

    Congratulations. You’ve just explained why early windfarms, like Altamont with its derrick-style towers, selectively killed perch-hunting raptors like red-tailed hawks.

    We learned from the early experiences and moved on. If the early problems had been a “myth”, as you claimed, there would’ve been nothing to learn in the first place.

    Since I know you’re going to rant and rave with your typically obnoxious and insulting misinformation, I’m telling you in advance that I’m not responding further. What you think simply doesn’t matter.

    Comment by dhogaza — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:56 AM

  93. #71 – Hi Walter. Have been doing some more digging, and am more convinced that CO2 may not be the problem. In one of the “denialist” sites, WUWT, a proponent of AGW put out a Fourier analysis similar to what we had talked about. In his analysis he stated there was no correlation to sunspot activity to temp.(~10 year periods). However he failed to mention the fact that his graph showed a strong correlation to solar activity in the 57 year period. In his figure:

    http://img22.imageshack.us/img22/5025/cetssnavgfft.jpg

    he shows the presence of a strong 57 year cycle correlated to solar activity.
    In my analysis Figure T_est_05 shows this longer wave, with about a 50+ year period.

    http://www.imagenerd.com/uploads/t_est_05-NVRm1.gif

    Fig T_est_05 shows a fairly strong amplitude. Note the strong amplitude and apparent peaking in the past few years. That plus the fact that the Arctic ice is close to the 1979 average, and according to the recent German Eisdicken study (Radio Bremmen) the ice thickness more then expected. I would be careful on the term “denialist”, I was graphing Hi/Lo temps and taking solar photos, in grade and high school, over 50+ years ago.

    [Response: Just so that we can be clear, perhaps you'd like to tell us how much variability is explained by this new '57 year' period? - gavin]

    Comment by J. Bob — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:01 AM

  94. See:
    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian

    Here is what Mark Lynas says about 4 degrees Centigrade of global warming in his book, “Six Degrees:”

    “At four degrees another tipping point is almost certain to be crossed; indeed, it could happen much earlier. (This reinforces the determination of many environmental groups, and indeed the entire EU, to bring us in within the two degrees target.) This moment comes as the hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon locked up in Arctic permafrost – particularly in Siberia – enter the melt zone, releasing globally warming methane and carbon dioxide in immense quantities. No one knows how rapidly this might happen, or what its effect might be on global temperatures, but this scientific uncertainty is surely cause for concern and not complacency. The whole Arctic Ocean ice cap will also disappear, leaving the North Pole as open water for the first time in at least three million years. Extinction for polar bears and other ice-dependent species will now be a certainty.

    The south polar ice cap may also be badly affected – the West Antarctic ice sheet could lift loose from its bedrock and collapse as warming ocean waters nibble away at its base, much of which is anchored below current sea levels. This would eventually add another 5m to global sea levels – again, the timescale is uncertain, but as sea level rise accelerates coastlines will be in a constant state of flux. Whole areas, and indeed whole island nations, will be submerged.

    In Europe, new deserts will be spreading in Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey: the Sahara will have effectively leapt the Straits of Gibraltar. In Switzerland, summer temperatures may hit 48C, more reminiscent of Baghdad than Basel. The Alps will be so denuded of snow and ice that they resemble the rocky moonscapes of today’s High Atlas – glaciers will only persist on the highest peaks such as Mont Blanc. The sort of climate experienced today in Marrakech will be experienced in southern England, with summer temperatures in the home counties reaching a searing 45C. Europe’s population may be forced into a “great trek” north.”

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:03 AM

  95. Re: #87 and many other comments by Mark,

    Your rejoinder makes no sense.

    All we are trying to do at this point is learn to speak rationally about the situation as it is and as it is likely to be.

    [edit - be constructive or don't bother]

    What I take from these articles (at least from the summaries that I am permitted to read) is that we will almost certainly exceed the budget. Thus, what is the plan for that eventuality? Today, and especially as evidence by many comments in this blog, the answer is “Denial.”

    We ought to be trying to address that.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:05 AM

  96. David (or anyone that wishes to comment),

    Thanks for your reply to Bennet (#81). My question was similar.

    So these carbon cycle feedbacks *are included* in those uncertainty margins? Or are they left out for scientific reticence´s sake?

    Sorry to insist on it, but this part seems to me to be important enough. You did not sound sure up there.

    [Response: They are included in the uncertainty ranges. - gavin]

    Comment by Alexandre — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:10 AM

  97. It is useful to have a thread in which the discussion of potential solutions to global warming can be discussed without straying off topic.

    I heartily endorse Phil Scadden’s comments(#23)that consideration of alternative sustainable technologies should be numerate. Mackay (“Sustainable Energy without the hot air”) concludes that Europe won’t be able to survive on wind and solar (sans imports of energy from elsewhere)whereas, at a pinch, the USA could. Similarly, Australia might but most of Asia couldn’t cope with wind and solar totally to replace fossil fuels. It is doubtful that either of the technologies can reach grid parity with coal and they will only grow under the protection of subsidies or carbon taxes. Jim Bullis (#4) is quite correct to highlight the importance of affordability when discussing alternative energy scenarios.

    If we are committed to attempt a soft landing for human civilisation and many other species on the planet this century, we will need approximately to double (even treble) the energy we currently use/capita by 2050. This must come from carbon free sources and must be affordable. While I claim to have no special expertise in this area, I remain extremely concerned as I would like to believe that my newly hatched grandchild has a better than 30% chance of reaching three score years and ten. I have been given some cause for hope (if not optimism)by Tom Blees’ “P rescription for the Planet” – at least with respect to 4th generation nuclear power. I am heartened by the fact that Dr Hansen and Professor Brook (BraveNewClimate)appear to have been sufficiently persuaded by Blees to want to explore the possibilities of the rapid deployment of IFRs.

    I am therefore surprised that Ike Solem (#14), Joseph Romm (#15) and SecularAnimist (#18)all prosetalise about the risks we face and the benefits of wind and solar energy solutions but, nevertheless, appear to turn their faces against any major expansion in the use power from nuclear fission, apparently regardless of the type of fission. Unless they know much more about the subject than Blees and Hansen, I suspect that they may have minds that were closed in their youth by anti-nuclear sentiments and have ceased to be rational on the subject. Should this be the case, they could be deemed to be more of a threat to my grandchild than that represented by global warming denialists (many of whom are pro nuclear and concerned about peak oil and population overshoot). However, it is, of course, quite possible that they are true experts on such subjects as IFRs and LFTRs and I may have missed their detailed rebuttals of Blees. Should such be the case, perhaps they could provide links to anything they have written on this subject. Should I find them capable of persuading me that Blees is completely wrong, I shall reluctantly revert to my previous state of gloom. I can assure them that their efficiency/renewable energy solution arguments have signally failed to convince me that they will do more than ameliorate catastrophe for a minority of those who are projected to be filling the planet by 2050.

    Comment by Douglas Wise — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:25 AM

  98. I will attempt to re-word the snipped portion, which I believe to contain actual substance:

    Would you prefer to constrain the discussion in order to make that impossible? (nothing wrong with this line; should not have been snipped.)

    If so, why? Are you too {insert your own word} to contemplate the distinct possibility that emissions reduction is not going to solve the problem on its own?

    And the larger point (Eli, are you listening?): The true “inactivists” are those who refuse to discuss the clear need to look beyond Kyoto-like deals, which have quite obviously failed to engage the public in a meaningful way. (nothing at all wrong with this line, please consider letting it through.)

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:33 AM

  99. ” > Birds being killed by wind turbines was mostly a myth

    False.”

    True.

    The death rates were bad, but not the catastrophe they were made out to be. There were far more injurious elements to contend with.

    Invisible glass buildings being one.

    The ***myth*** is that wind farms were uniquely responsible for bird death.

    And I know that we learned. You aren’t saying anything I don’t know.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:42 AM

  100. “Who needs uranium mines when we could recycle the fuel that is being wasted in Yucca mountain?”

    And after a while, no need for electric lights, since the workers will glow in the dark!!!

    NOTE: the Yucca mountain detritus will still have to be processed. Otherwise, why do you think they put it down there?

    If you want to use fast breeders to create further fuel, then you’re in trouble politically since that’s exactly what the US and UK have rattled many a sabre over: they contend that the only reason for doing so is to create weapons-grade plutionium.

    It would be untenable to keep that stance if the UK or US then opened up a breeder themselves.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:49 AM

  101. Let’s do a little calculation…. which shows that if automakers made cars that were covered with solar panels instead of paint (incorporate them into the bodywork), and you covered your windows with solar panels when not using your car, you could drive 30 km a day for free with today’s technology, and 50 km a day with slight improvements.

    Sun shining down on sunny day: 800 W / m2
    Area of car available to harness this: 5 m2
    Therefore, available energy shining on car: 4 kW
    Efficiency of solar panels: let’s be generous, 25%
    Therefore, available energy from solar panels: 1 kW
    Length of time sunlight available: let’s say 8 hours
    Therefore, total energy available per day: 8 kw hours
    Add in efficiency loss in charging electric car batteries: 7 kW.hr
    Energy usage of electric car: 0.23 kW.hr / km
    Therefore, the car could go (7 / 0.23) = 28 km a day, for free, in the sunshine. Add in future improvements in efficiencies and you could push this to 50 km. This is not science fiction.

    What would be the cost of adding this feature? The cost of the solar panels themselves would be a thousand or 2. Then the rest of the cost is simply in manufacture, but if they were mass produced by the millions, this would drop significantly. The savings in fuel economy would pay for the increased cost of this feature. Why aren’t they doing this? Because the auto companies don’t like being told what to do, they are run by dinosaur cronies who want to move at a snail’s pace. They need a serious kick in the ass. If they don’t innovate, others like Tesla will overtake them, but the problem is that it will take Tesla et al a few years to get up to mass production and we don’t have that time.

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:58 AM

  102. Birds being killed by wind turbines was mostly a myth

    False.”

    True.

    Bird deaths from wind turbines all depend on siting. Some areas are bad, others have virtually no kill.

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:59 AM

  103. QUOTE
    Re: #3 John Bergeson
    How DOES one adapt to a train wreck?
    ENDQUOTE

    May make a few suggestions?

    1. Power down. Incredible amounts of energy are wasted. Stop wasting. But this means real, sometimes exceptionally difficult (for us spoiled first and second worlders) lifestyle changes. E.g., don’t eat out. Don’t indulge in entertainment that isn’t within walking distance. Play/have fun with your family and neighbors, instead. Turn off your TV. Localize.

    1b. Nationwide program to get homes/communities off-grid and homes highly efficient. Cost: 0.5 Trillion. Here’s a sketch:
    http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2008/03/build-out-grid-vs-household-towards.html

    2. Grow a garden/allotment/small farm plot. Eat only food grown within 100 miles of your home. All using natural farming/permaculture/biointensive methods, etc.

    3. Join an intentional community/ecovillage.

    4. Join the Transition Town movement.

    5. Start doing outreach, even if it makes you unpopular.

    6. Understand that exponential growth is a big part of the problem. Help undo the systems that not only make it the center of their planning and policy, but require it to function. Look into steady state economy.

    And so much more, particularly in terms of details.

    Cheers

    ReCAPTCHA says: warlock presents
    Query: How did they know????

    Comment by ccpo — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:08 AM

  104. #85 Mark I will give this one last try since you seem oblivious to my point. My point was that all of the reasons I listed had caused the slowing of progress in the field of renewable energy and should not be allowed to. My point was not that they were legitimate reasons. I will not respond to any more comments from you that do not address my point especially since you seem to be arguing my position to me as if it were enlightening.

    Comment by steve — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:19 AM

  105. “appear to turn their faces against any major expansion in the use power from nuclear fission, apparently regardless of the type of fission.”

    Because fissionable materials are no better than coal in their needs for mining. They run out, are placed inappropriately, cost lots, demand (and get) subsidies and take lots of time and money to build and need careful decommissioning and do not produce any power until complete.

    A wind turbine can start producing as soon as one is linked to the grid.

    I would also say that those who propose nuclear power ignore the renewables, regardless of the type of renewable.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:19 AM

  106. I don’t think it’s been mentioned yet, but here’s an enjoyable press conference by Michael Mann, Gabi Hegerl and Hugues Goose following last weeks climate of the last millenium session at EGU:

    http://www.h82.at/webstream/egu2009/index.php?modid=18&a=show&pid=47

    Comment by SteveF — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:25 AM

  107. QUOTE
    Re: #4 Jim Bullis

    Technological feasibility is not meaningful without including the financial affordability factors.
    UNQUOTE

    Spend some time on The Oil Drum. It is, in my opinion, the best discussion of energy issues on the internet. Even if you don’t understand peak oil production issues – or give damn – the discussions are wide-ranging, often quite technical, and extensive.

    Wind, for example, you will find discussed in terms of energy needed, costs, energy produced, whether it can serve as peak load, base load, mini-generators, Liebig’s Minimum, locations… etc.

    Also, perhaps equally important, if not more important, in the long run are discussions of EROI/EROEI. Lots of that there, but not much discussed anywhere else.

    Disclaimer: post there, not a member of the team, and not one of their favorite posters, so consider this an objective suggestion.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:31 AM

  108. Dave @ 72 wrote:

    ““There is also the fairness issue, in that the beneficiaries of fossil energy (rich countries today) are not the ones who pay the costs (less-rich countries decades from now).”

    Right! Damn good thing that such an exceptional, rich country as the United States will not have any costs from meters of sea level rise. I guess that means I can go back to my favorite pastime of sleep walking into history.”

    Umm. Is this meant to be tongue in cheek? Sorry if I don’t understand.

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:33 AM

  109. Douglas Wise: “I am therefore surprised that Ike Solem (#14), Joseph Romm (#15) and SecularAnimist (#18)all prosetalise about the risks we face and the benefits of wind and solar energy solutions but, nevertheless, appear to turn their faces against any major expansion in the use power from nuclear fission … I suspect that they may have minds that were closed in their youth by anti-nuclear sentiments and have ceased to be rational on the subject.”

    In my experience, discussions of nuclear power with nuclear proponents who begin the discussion by accusing nuclear critics of having “minds closed in their youth by irrational anti-nuclear sentiments” are not likely to be fruitful or edifying.

    Having said that, I believe that a rational consideration of nuclear power as it relates to the problem of global warming leads to the conclusion that an expansion of nuclear power is neither a necessary nor a particularly effective solution for reducing GHG emissions from the generation of electricity. Since nuclear power is neither a necessary nor an effective way to address global warming, there is no need to debate the very real, very serious problems and dangers of nuclear technology.

    Today’s mainstream wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy technologies, combined with efficiency improvements, can do the job better, faster and cheaper than nuclear power, without the problems of nuclear power.

    The “fourth generation” nuclear power plants that nuclear proponents love to talk about are science fiction. They are not a technology that is available, demonstrated, proven and ready to build now, nor will they be within the time frame within which large emissions are needed.

    And the conventional nuclear power plants currently under construction are, as always, way over budget and way behind schedule and fraught with problems.

    Meanwhile, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and efficiency technologies are here, now, and can be rapidly scaled up to make significant emissions reductions very quickly. Wind and solar in particular are already growing rapidly worldwide, at record-breaking double-digit rates every year.

    And new, emerging renewable technologies — e.g. ultra-cheap, high-efficiency thin-film solar — are poised to truly revolutionize the way we generate, distribute and use electricity.

    The USA has vast commercially exploitable wind, solar and geothermal energy resources, far more than enough to generate all the electricity we need to sustain a comfortable, technologically advanced civilization. I agree with the new head of FERC that the USA probably will never need to build another coal or nuclear power plant again. I think that in a sustainable energy economy of the future, most electricity will be generated, stored and used locally, and large centralized generating stations (which by then will be predominantly wind turbine farms and concentrating solar thermal power plants, coal and nuclear having been phased out) will play a much smaller role.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:34 AM

  110. The discussion here does not make me optimistic about our chances for a coherent response…

    Captcha “warpaths”, heh!

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:36 AM

  111. QUOTE
    #21 Walt Bennet
    1. We must develop methods by which we draw down atmospheric CO2

    1. We must invest in technological advances which can suck CO2 out of the atmosphere.
    UNQUOTE

    Walt: why is it that with all the increases in technology and efficiency energy consumption still eventually rises?

    Population and the Growth Paradigm. Without considering these two points, your suggestions are just as doomed to failure as any other.

    http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-exponents-growth-matters-or.html

    I am an eclectic in most things. Rarely is there only one answer or a problem with only one facet. Carbon capture? Sure. Possibly decades away, if ever. All eggs in one basket? Is this wise?

    Societies and/or civilizations DO fail. Ours will. Maybe now, maybe in a thousand years, but it will. (My money is on now if we follow your growth paradigm.)

    See my previous post as to some better long-term answers than “Technology can do it, but we can’t.”

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:45 AM

  112. Re 104, um, no mining is needed, no manufacturing occurs, for renewables?

    While a nuclear power plant requires a truckload of fuel every 18 months, and produces a truckload of waste, a coal power plant requires a 3-mile train of coal per day. There does appear to be a difference.

    I suggested the IPCC and IEA writings because I read people writing of their fears and hopes. If we’re going to address climate change, it’s going to start with solutions experts agree on (efficiency, low-GHG sources such as nuclear, carbon capture and storage, wind, geothermal, cellulosic biofuels, and eventually solar), and processes that experts agree on (increasing the cost of GHG emissions, funding more R&D, mandates sometimes). These will be a minimum. To reduce GHG emissions to a level that may keep temperature increase below 2°C, more will be needed. What I hear from so many in the public, and so many in this discussion, is that we can get there by subtracting solutions.

    I’m worried enough about climate change that I would prefer not to do that.

    Comment by Karen Street — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:46 AM

  113. “My point was that all of the reasons I listed had caused the slowing of progress in the field of renewable energy and should not be allowed to.”

    How do you get “and should not be allowed to” from:

    “just out of curiosity where exactly are we going to put windmills that don’t have a chance of killing birds or ruining someone’s ocean view.”

    If you’d said “There is nowhere you can build anything that won’t have a chance of killing birds or ruining someone’s view” then you’d have something.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:05 PM

  114. re 48:
    Gavin,

    Apologies; I did not read your into paragraph carefully enough.

    In any case, please understand I meant my comments as a critique, not a criticism. And, I well understand the notion that no good deed goes unpunished, so I commend you for everything you do and how you thereby open yourself up to such critiques, criticisms, and outright attacks.

    However, getting the public to understand this problem is, I am sure you would agree, far more important than any one person’s ego, and to make absolutely certain that the public sees the science as coolheaded rational inquiry, we must adhere to standards far far far exceeding anything that the deniers have to offer.

    Jim Bullis (#4) is right on when he says:
    “When you folks, however well intentioned, venture into prescribed solutions, you can not claim quite the level of authority that you have, and deserve, in analyzing climate effects. This is not to say that people that understand physics can not bring that to bear in analyzing technical solutions. That would be welcome.”

    For the sake of our children we *must* win the argument in the public sphere. To do so, it is absolutely essential that when you comment on things, you make it 100% clear when you are commenting as a scientist speaking from your area of expertise, and when you are commenting as somebody who is perhaps knowledgeable but not expert.

    When scientists comment on things that they are not expert on, it makes them appear elitist, and it devalues their credibility in the public sphere on things that they ARE expert on. (I said something similar in my comments which you edited – what ethical standard is that, BTW?)

    If my comments get your feathers ruffled, may I suggest that instead of editing my comments out, put your ego aside and take a deep breath and realize that I am on your side.

    Comment by Peter Williams — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:17 PM

  115. mark (#75)

    i personally find the mainstream scientific consensus’ arguments MUCH more convincing than the “skeptic” arguments. but that’s because i’m a reasonably intelligent well-educated scientifically-literate person who’s “plugged in” to the global warming discussion. you guys have a distorted perspective here because you’re even way more plugged in than i am. for most people “global warming” is something they only think about for one minute a day, maybe when they catch a snippet of something on the news or in the paper. i think when they hear of some list of dissenting “maverick” scientists – entered in the congressional record no less! – it resonates. when they read george will in a (supposedly reputable) newspaper saying global ice is just like it was in 1979, it resonates. it allows for doubt. doubt allows them to oppose any mitigating efforts and still maintain a clear conscience.

    for your average person out there – who probably didn’t even get to physics or chemistry in high school, and if they did, they probably hated it – the latest graph showing clear evidence of global warming looks like gobbledygook. most could probably be convinced it shows whatever a clever “explainer” tells them it shows. they rely on the scientific consensus. but, while the scientific consensus is getting stronger, the publics’ opinion is wavering, due to the extremely effective PR campaign of the denialists.

    so when i’m talking to people out there and they can produce a stupid list of dissenting scientists, i can’t explain to them about the radiative proberties of co2 and feedbacks and so on. and if i can’t produce a stupid list of “believing” scientists, well…it sucks…(that’s why i keep bugging gavin about project jim… sorry gavin, sort of…)

    Comment by walter crain — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:20 PM

  116. The denialists have a well-funded team of professional spinmeisters, who are adept at swaying ignorant decision-makers. The Green Team has a poorly-funded association of well-intentioned scientists, who tend to talk way over the head of a lay audience. Two degrees C — who cares? Doesn’t sound like much, and what is a C anyway? Maybe this is why the Green Team is losing the battle for public opinion: they disdain to dumb down their message and put the crisis in terms that a lay audience can understand.

    How about this: The body’s normal temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and a 2 C rise would cause a fever of 102.2 which is enough to kill the germs that are causing the fever. Same with Mother Earth: we are behaving like an infection, and she’s getting a fever which will kill us soon if we don’t change our ways.

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:22 PM

  117. Re: Douglas Wise #97

    This study of Pacala and Socolow is already sort of a classic about the big changes needed to stabilize emmisions.
    http://www.carbonsequestration.us/Papers-presentations/htm/Pacala-Socolow-ScienceMag-Aug2004.pdf

    They include nuclear energy. I was never a big fan of it myself, but I recognize we have to explore every bit of solution available at this point. (bear in mind they wrote it in 2004. Technology, emmisions and knowledge have evolved a bit since)

    Although in light of the studies of this topic, the huge changes suggested by P & S are probably only the first step needed.

    I´m convinced the solutions are within the reach of humankind´s capabilities. It remains to be seen if we´re able to go for what we need, instead of what we immediatly want.

    Comment by Alexandre — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:42 PM

  118. Gavin warned me that “nobody wants to have this discussion” and I can see that he’s quite right.

    We have those who say that this just gives more ammo to the denialists, who will (correctly) point out that our own science is telling us that we can’t prevent the warming (of course, more warming is even worse, but that would be the NEXT conversation after this one); we have philosophers telling us that the planet has a fever and we are the infection which caused it; we have many, many more who continue to insist that maybe NOW we will finally undertake drastic emissions reductions.

    And when they’re all done with these “observations” (to be gracious about it), here we still are, staring at the same set of facts.

    We now know that “other” emissions are part of the “uncertainty.”

    Excuse me? The only “uncertainty” about those emissions is how much of them there will be. There is no confusion about the sign. We need some sort of estimate, don’t we? Without one, the “trillion ton” limit is meaningless as a guide for human emissions, and without question we can conclude that our “share” of that “pie” is even smaller than the reports indicate.

    [edit]

    [Response: You have misread the papers. The slug being talked about is the anthropogenic emission. Potential carbon cycle feedbacks (which are generally expected to be amplifying) go into the temperature responses and their uncertainty is a big part of the ranges given. - gavin]

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:43 PM

  119. Karen Street wrote: “If we’re going to address climate change, it’s going to start with solutions experts agree on (efficiency, low-GHG sources such as nuclear, carbon capture and storage, wind, geothermal, cellulosic biofuels, and eventually solar) …”

    “Experts” certainly do NOT “agree” that nuclear or carbon capture and storage are either necessary or effective. Some “experts” argue that nuclear and CCS can, should or even must play an important role, while others strongly disagree.

    I am not an expert, just an ordinary citizen who has followed energy issues for 40 years; but for what it’s worth, I think that nuclear and coal-with-CCS are neither necessary (since we can get all the electricity we need, and more, from renewables) nor effective (since nuclear will take too long to build up to the point where it makes any significant contribution, and working CCS doesn’t exist and is unlikely to exist for decades). Thus investment in these technologies diverts precious resources from more effective solutions and hinders rather than helps the effort to reduce GHG emissions.

    I’d also note that you mention “cellulosic biofuels, and eventually solar.”

    This is odd because solar — including photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal, and solar space & water heating — is a mature, commercialized technology that is already being installed in quantity today, both as centralized utility-scale electricity generation and as distributed, small-to-mid-scale electricity and heat generation.

    On the other hand, the technology to produce cellulosic biofuels is still in development and far from ready for prime time.

    So you really ought to say “solar, and eventually cellulosic biofuels”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  120. Steve,

    Perhaps renewable energy needs its own Robert Moses.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Moses

    It is staggering, the number of constituencies which seem to serve singular purposes with utter blindness to the effects of those positions beyond their narrow view. Clearly, we are in for many more years of haggling over placement of solar and wind farms and so forth.

    It is also worth noting that water turbine is a current clean, renewable source of energy which will actually become more scarce. At some point, for example, the Hoover Dam turbines will become less effective as the Colorado loses more and more volume.

    We certainly do need a broad array of solutions and the will to implement them. But by all the evidence in front of us, our children’s children will be adults by the time meaningful levels of renewable energy are achieved, especially when we remember that as far as AGW is concerned, national borders are meaningless.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 12:58 PM

  121. recommendations in cases like this.

    There are plenty of experts around, and I should have specified, expert peer review analysis acceptable to IPCC.

    Re Pacala and Socolow, I find myself attracted to their concept of the wedge. I’ve stopped using this concept in my own teaching, however, because IPCC does not use it. More importantly, many believe that we need only 7 or 8 wedges (stabilization need assuming, as P&S did, that growth is below average expected, rather than above maximum planned for, as is actually the case). Also, many in the public believe that it’s a matter of selecting whatever wedge I want (I’ll take two of energy efficiency and one of solar, and…)

    Comment by Karen Street — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:01 PM

  122. Re: #118

    Gavin,

    Let’s go over this more slowly, it’s very important:

    First, keep in mind that I have not read the papers because they are behind the subscription wall. I am relying on you and others to address specifics.

    Second, as I understand it, human emissions must be capped at 1 trillion tons of carbon by 2050, and we are more than a half of the way there already. Now, it seems to me that it doesn’t matter where the carbon comes from. If oceanic outgassing and thawing permafrost contribute 250 tons of carbon by 2050, won’t that mean that we have to limit our emissions even further?

    If my understanding is flawed, I will ask that you help me to overcome that misunderstanding, and I thank you in advance for taking the time to do so.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:03 PM

  123. #58 “Well, from the looks of the discussions over the years, chemists apparently aren’t qualified to participate, nor wanted, in the climate debate.”

    Well, the National Center for Atmopspheric Research (NCAR) has an entire separate chemisty division. They are considered essential to studying the climate change issue from my obvervations there.

    I would hardly say that anyone is excluding them.

    Then don’t forget about paleo geochemistry and the exciting published work the chemists are doing on past times of (relatively slow to today) global warming.

    Kump, Geology; May 2005; v. 33; no. 5; p. 397-400; DOI: 10.1130/G21295.1

    Beerling, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 15 July 2007 vol. 365 no. 1856 1843-1866

    Meyer, Geology; September 2008; v. 36; no. 9; p. 747-750; DOI: 10.1130/G24618A.1, etc.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:10 PM

  124. Anne van der Bom Says (30 April 2009 at 6:34 AM):

    “Google for ‘Horns Rev II’, that 200 MW offshore windfarm is currently being built in Denmark for a total investment of 450 million Euros. Estimated production is 800 GWh per year.”

    So can I use that as a reasonable basis for a cost comparison? Assume typical nuclear plant of 1 GWatt capacity, 1 Euro = 1.32 USD (today’s exchange rate), gives $2.97 billion cost. But that’s nameplate rating. Actual generation is typicallly about 1/3 nameplate, their numbers imply they expect 0.46 * nameplate, so I’ll use that, and assume the reactor has 90% uptime (recent US average is 91-92%). This gives $5.85 billion as the cost of wind generation equal to one nuclear plant, not all that far from the estimated cost of the nuclear plant. Plus of course you need to add some cost for storage, because of the intermittent nature of wind.

    Mark Says (30 April 2009 at 11:19 AM)

    “Because fissionable materials are no better than coal in their needs for mining.”

    Yes, they are better, because you need to mine something like 0.1% as much uranium as coal to produce the same energy.

    “They run out, are placed inappropriately, cost lots, demand (and get) subsidies and take lots of time and money to build and need careful decommissioning and do not produce any power until complete.”

    And all of this is not likewise true of renewables? You think the concrete, steel, aluminium, copper, & composites going into a wind turbine don’t have to be mined?

    “A wind turbine can start producing as soon as one is linked to the grid.”

    This is what I call the fallacy of scale, which you also see in cost calculations. ONE wind turbine or ONE solar panel is fairly cheap, and can be constructed quickly. Building the number needed to equal the output of one nuclear plant costs about as much, and takes about as long, as building the plant.

    “I would also say that those who propose nuclear power ignore the renewables, regardless of the type of renewable.”

    Then you are absolutely wrong. I think renewables are great, and should be used wherever they’re reasonably cost-effictive and don’t cause major environmental effects. It’s just that I don’t think they can completely replace fossil fuel generation, given current or forseeable technology, and as the articles that are the topic of this thread should have made clear, we desperately need to do just that.

    Indeed, I think the position’s often reversed: those who are most in favor of renewables won’t consider nuclear at all, and usually base their objections on quasi-religious grounds, such as the absurd claim that nuclear workers might start glowing in the dark!

    Comment by James — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:12 PM

  125. Re. 43 I am surprised India is so in to wind power, since in that country solar would be more natural. Covering just a few thousnad square miles of it’s deserts with solar facilities would slove it’s power problems. In the hot latitudes covering just 250,000 sq km with solar panels could produce enough electricity for the entire world.

    Comment by dave p — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:13 PM

  126. Something got truncated, here’s the missing section:

    Secular animist, by experts, I’m referring to the uber reports acceptable to IPCC.

    I have not seen any report in this category with an expectation that solar will come in at under $50/metric ton carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, or that solar will supply even 1% of world energy by then. This includes solar thermal power.

    There are plenty of experts not acceptable to IPCC with other views. I remember hearing a talk at UC, Berkeley about a group of experts who had been invited to discuss together low level nuclear waste sites. The experts were of two kinds: had produced peer reviewed articles in the field, and had a web site. The first kind of expert thought their work was to evaluate storage of low level nuclear waste, primarily medical. The second type of expert thought their work was to stop nuclear power. The speaker, from the first category of expert, discussed how hard decision-making can be in cases like this.

    There are plenty of experts around, and I should have specified, expert peer review analysis acceptable to IPCC.

    Comment by Karen Street — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:14 PM

  127. Opps!

    I don’t know if my recent posting got to RC as it was flagged up as spam.

    Apparently my use of the political/economic word “s*ciali s t” contained the name of a drug that does you-know-what!

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:22 PM

  128. #64 Anne van der Bom,
    (I try here to point out a general mistake made by large numbers of people, some of which even have PhD degrees from our most prestigious institutions. You are in high company by bringing the problem to the table.)

    Some of us feel constrained by the laws of physics when it comes to energy conversion and some of us do not. You are subject to arrest (I am joking about the arrest warrant) on reasonable suspicion that you are in the latter group due to your statement “–the much higher efficiency of electric motors compared to internal combustion engines.”

    First, it is not possible to make an efficiency comparison between a machine that relies on heat energy and a heat engine to convert that heat into mechanical or, secondarily, electrical energy and any machine that does not utilize such a heat engine.

    Conversion between kinetic (wind) and electrical energy and conversion from electrical to mechanical energy(propulsion energy to drive a car) are subject to quite mild inefficiencies and are subject to better and better design to mitigate their effect. The First Law of Thermodynamics says the process will not ever be perfect, but it often can approach 100% if that is worth the effort. Losses in electric motors are quite often around 10%.

    However it is entirely different for conversion from heat energy to electrical energy, with mechanical energy being a step along the way. Due to the limitations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and the Carnot efficiency corollary, it is very difficult and expensive to get a heat engine to convert at better than 50%, and it is more common to see 33% for electric power generation at central power plants. Thus losses in this department of the world are 50% to 66%.

    There is no such thing as an electric motor that is not coupled to a heat engine. The only difference is the price of the fuel used in the heat engine. That can be a very large difference. Hydro and wind power are no exception; nature does not send us bills at least in dollars for running the heat engines that make potential and kinetic energy in these forms. Unfortunately, we have to spend a lot of money, either to build dams and wind turbines to capture this, or we have to supplement the otherwise limited amount of such ideal system output. So in the end, we have worked out fossil fuel based systems as the poor substitutes that they are.

    Re #67, (I continue in relation to your request that I explain my statement about “wasteful practice” and the “smart grid”. I did not make that clear.)
    We really can not be blamed for nature giving us 100 to 1000 years worth of coal, depending on how much dirt we are willing to scrape off these reserves. It is even not shameful that we tried originally to put the power plants that use this fuel away from population centers so as to minimize damage from the truly dirty emissions. But the whole thing is different now that we know the effect of excessive release of truly clean CO2.

    For whatever reasons, it was determined about 100 years ago to organize our electric system around central power plants, located far from population centers. It seemed reasonable to accept a 33% efficiency and do our best to throw away the remaining heat energy with a minimum of cost and environmental impact.

    Fuel was almost free for the digging and we had railroads ready to handle the freight. The railroads thus became an integral part of the system, and in the USA they now get about 50% of their revenue handling the coal.

    I am putting our electric power system on my list of Magnificent Blunders of the Modern World.

    So what is wrong with the “smart grid?” Yes, we say it is to bring wind power to places it can be used. No doubt this is part of the truth. The other part is that the improved grid will help make the central power plants look better, since it will help reduce the 7% distribution loss that also burdens the power system. But more than that, it will make it easier to install more centralized, fossil fuel burning power plants. Further, it will enhance the present sites, as wouldn’t want to have to build more railroad track to get coal further distributed so we need the grid to keep the existing sites running.

    It is possible for us to conceptualize all this being pre-empted by wind power. Very few would venture to suggest that there would be enough of that in the USA to change the fact that coal based power is the available power capacity.

    Now we have to get to economics. Maybe not so definite as the Laws of Physics, there is a law of economics that tells us that the lowest priced available resource will be the selected basis for fulfilling demand. Thus, all the very inexpensive power sources are fully utilized. Marginal response to new loads is a selection from the lowest priced options that remain available. At $1 per million BTU for coal, that is the choice. Thus, until the last coal fired capacity that can possibly be tapped into is eliminated, coal will be the response to any new plug-in electric vehicle.

    I have to add that even in California where there are legally imposed restrictions on coal use, there remains a capability to tap into outside capacity, and more subtly, there is a further law of economic displacement due to the operation of the natural gas market. In complying with restrictions on use of coal, California buys more natural gas. This puts pressure on the national system of natural gas pricing, and the resulting effect is that power operators in other states seek to avoid paying higher prices by shifting more to coal. Thus the price of natural gas remains stable, given the presence of coal as a price anchor.

    The final coffin on the nail is that there is no money lying around in the USA for this. Whatever we do will be paid for currently as a tax burden, utility rates which are effectively the same, or it will be passed down to the future generations. We have already wasted far more than we have on war and financial chicanery.

    I think there are answers that work in this scenario. They will not get serious consideration in the face of the mythical solutions on the table, these being plug-in cars and the “smart” grid, and perhaps CO2 capture and sequestration.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:30 PM

  129. 93. J Bob. “he shows the presence of a strong 57 year cycle correlated to solar activity.
    In my analysis Figure T_est_05 shows this longer wave, with about a 50+ year period.”

    A:) You can get your data analyzed by the world if you publish it to see if there are any holes in your thinking. Even an economist (McKitrick) got published, when he analyzed a mainstream climate scientist’s (Manns’s) data on the so-called hockey stick. (However, McIttrick’s information did not hold up under world wide fact checking-”Wahl and Ammann (2007 and Briffa, Keith R.; Duplessy, Jean-Claude; Joos, Fortunat; Masson-Delmotte, Valérie (2007), “Chapter 6: Paleoclimate”, Working Group I: The Physical Basis of Climate Change, IPCC). So you can publish your information too if if it is valid.

    B:) How do you know what you are talking about if you are not using published studies that have held up under long-time peer review?

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:31 PM

  130. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/anti-green-economics/

    “Anti-green economics

    Clearly, opposition to doing something about climate change has fallen back to a new position: claims that attempting to limit greenhouse gas emissions would be incredibly costly. Yet the most careful studies, like the big MIT study of Congressional proposals, find only modest costs. ….”

    ReCaptcha: “U.S. bossier”
    ___________It’s ALIVE I tell you!__________

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:33 PM

  131. re #67

    Anne van der Bom, you provided a forthright analysis of the cost of wind power so I do not have to look further. It is $0.08 over market expectations. Oh well, that is for Denmark which might be a more orderly place to get things like this done.

    We all have our idea of what is politically possible. In the USA I think this would be difficult at best.

    Instead, to get around the objections this would raise, we work out tax credits and deductions which are clever ways to obfuscate the cost. Even so, the prognosis for providing available capacity that displaces coal available capacity is worse than poor.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:38 PM

  132. so how do you plan on getting China to shut down their coal plants, not to mention building more capacity than the US has?

    Why are you suggesting wind power instead of nuclear power which clearly has a larger capacity?

    Comment by MikeN — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:38 PM

  133. James said:

    This is what I call the fallacy of scale, which you also see in cost calculations. ONE wind turbine or ONE solar panel is fairly cheap, and can be constructed quickly. Building the number needed to equal the output of one nuclear plant costs about as much, and takes about as long, as building the plant.

    Unless, through incentives, it becomes economical to install solar panels on your roof; then you’d have instantly opened up a workforce of 100 million homeowners who would each take care of installing solar panels on their own roof. Of course, you’d need contractors to do the work, and these could be the currently unemployed construction workers. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about all the hassles of opening up vast ares of deserts to make solar farms. The only tricky part would be supplying that many solar panels.

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:45 PM

  134. Walt Bennett wrote: “… our children’s children will be adults by the time meaningful levels of renewable energy are achieved …”

    We’ll see, but I think that’s mistaken. I am 55 and I expect that within my lifetime, wind and solar will be generating a larger share of the world’s electricity than nuclear power does today — perhaps much larger. I would call that a “meaningful” level.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:52 PM

  135. 37 Jim says, “That is 5 Trillion dollars. I don’t think the Chinese are willing to pony up that amount of money.”

    Ask the military to build it. Cancel foreign wars and spend 5 years worth of our finest’s labour building something the nation can be proud of.

    Comment by RichardC — 30 Apr 2009 @ 1:52 PM

  136. Brief point on nuclear vs. renewables:

    * To my knowledge, not one privately funded nuclear plant currently in operation on the planet.

    * Cost estimates rising towards 12 billion each, or 4.8 trillion for the US alone (assuming only 400 needed. Some estimates run as high as 1k needed in the US.)

    * Time frame: decades. (I.e., too late.)

    Compare that to:
    $5,000 for every household in the US to retrofit and/or add solar and/or heat pumps and/or wind turbines in a community-based program using local materials and local people, thus pumping all that money directly into the wide economy rather than into the hands of a few large businesses. Cost: $500 billion. Time frame: a few years.

    Further, distributed energy systems are more resilient and redundant.

    See previous post for link.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:00 PM

  137. james @ 133:

    “The only tricky part would be supplying that many solar panels.”

    China?

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:01 PM

  138. James wrote: “You think the concrete, steel, aluminium, copper, & composites going into a wind turbine don’t have to be mined?”

    Come now, James.

    Sure, the materials for building wind turbines — and concentrating solar thermal power plants, and geothermal power plants, and photovoltaic panels — all have to be mined (or in the case of concrete, manufactured, producing significant GHG emissions).

    The same is true of the materials needed to build nuclear power plants.

    But Mark was talking about mining uranium.

    Wind and sunshine and the Earth’s internal heat don’t have to be mined.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:05 PM

  139. Re: #134

    Sec,

    What I call realism others call pessimism, and I understand that is the crux of the matter. What others call realism I call optimism, perhaps even self delusion.

    I expect humans to behave much as they have behaved. I would need to see a radical change happen before I would believe it to be possible, and I don’t see how we can base policy on something we’ve never seen happen.

    Now, a paradigm shift is another thing entirely. If there were a sudden breakthrough or discovery which immediately made a practice obsolete, then there could be sudden change, but that would not be based on large numbers of people changing their minds, it would be based on large numbers of people taking advantage of an opportunity.

    My definition of “menaningful” is, first, “world-wide” (or nearly so) and second, enough to anticipate the eventuality of reducing CO2 emissions in a substantive way.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:07 PM

  140. James wrote: “Building the number [of wind turbines or solar panels] needed to equal the output of one nuclear plant costs about as much, and takes about as long, as building the plant.”

    Do you have some actual empirical data to support those assertions? Or is it just another “rough guess” or “assumption”?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:10 PM

  141. j.bob (93),
    i’ll take a look at those graphs soon. thanks.

    Comment by walter crain — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:21 PM

  142. Regarding solutions, now that we agree on the bad news:

    Renewables — Solar and wind are presently only a tiny fraction of power supply. They are intermittent, so they are unreliable for baseload power over 20%, and connecting them to the existing grid is an unsolved problem.

    Nuclear — Politically doomed due to Chernobyl and the waste disposal issue. Yucca Mountain has no future.

    Hydro — Out of sites.

    Natural Gas — Expensive, and best used for peak power generation and vehicle fuel. High energy density and pipelines are built already, but combustion produces CO2.

    Biofuels — Still unproven at scale. Biofuels waste energy (transportation costs, drying) and water (cf. corn ethanol). Much lower energy density than natgas and coal. Combustion of biofuels still produces CO2.

    Coal — Presently supplies more than half of the electricity in the US, and nearly all in China. Coal is the legacy of solar for the previous eons, and it has high energy density while being relatively abundant. Burning coal for electricity is the main reason the world has a CO2 problem. Post-combustion chemical CO2 capture is unproven at scale and unlikely to succeed, and underground dumping (euphemistically dubbed “sequestration” by its advocates, including the Bush DOE) is an unrealistic scheme. See the GAO report. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081080.pdf

    So what now, given the foregoing assessment? It seems clear to me that the only way we can possibly satisfy our accelerating demand for electricity (including electric cars) is by continuing to use the fleet of pulverized coal plants. So the solution to CO2 emissions must lie in a new way for post-combustion CO2 capture out of flue gas, followed by CO2 cracking using the otherwise wasted energy of renewables. For scalable mechanical carbon capture, please consider this: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2009/0013867.pdf

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  143. Mike N @ 132:

    “so how do you plan on getting China to shut down their coal plants, not to mention building more capacity than the US has?”

    Easy. Except for the political implications in the USA (or Europe).

    Do a deal. Cut the number of coal plants in USA/EU and just get people there to use a lot less electricity.

    That life will go on as before in a post-carbon economy, just with less CO2 is probably a dream. No wonder the right in USA (mostly) and Europe (to a lesser extent), in that they represent business and commerce, are scared of AGW. A low carbon ecconomy will be a less wealthier ecconomy.

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:33 PM

  144. #66 Nick Gotts,

    I said,
    “Technological feasibility is not meaningful without including the financial affordability factors.” – Jim Bullis

    You said,
    “How have you got on persuading the atmosphere of that profound truth?”

    You got me on that one; sounds pretty silly. Answer though is: Not very well; the developed world is not much interested in financial truth, profound or not.

    Well ok, but I am trying to get at the problem we have in the USA of credit. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but our National Charge Card is in danger of being denied the next time we buy something.

    Oh, you are talking about the real world atmosphere of gases? I just checked: Mother Nature told me that it would be ok to skip the stupid solutions to global warming, but get the heck busy working on some real stuff. She went on to explain, “If you are not carefull and throw a lot of money on things that promoters are telling you to throw money at, you won’t be able to afford real hard decisions.” She also warned against getting the public too riled up by setting up national financial disaster and that global warming could get the blame for all the wasted money of the last ten years.

    “And by the way Jim,” she said, “Why don’t you get off wasting your time on this stupid blogging?”

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Apr 2009 @ 2:56 PM

  145. #142 and #132

    Either we have to find a way for us and the Chinese and Indians to use a lot less energy, or nuclear has to get serious reconsideration.

    I would put serious effort into reconsidering (1)how we ride in cars and the aerodynamic possibilities that enables; (2)how we distribute our sources of electricity and the cogeneration possibilities in that, and (3)how we make wheels on our road vehicles and reduction in energy loss that that makes possible.

    Until these possibilities, and hopefully a lot of other real innovative thoughts, are worked through we should keep nuclear power at the study level. Of course, if we can get that fusion stuff working it all gets easy.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:14 PM

  146. #64 Where in MacKay’s book do you find the claims and the calculations which you attribute to him? I can’t find them. On page 30 in the notes he calculates the average energy used for car driving per person in the UK based on UK DfT figures for total car travel per passenger km and average UK petrol consumption as 24 kWh per person per day. He uses a figure of 40 kWh for car energy use per average affluent Brit per day, which equates to about 50 km per day per car (occupancy average about 1.7) for the next few chapters in his energy balance, but I cannot find anywhere where he then scales this up, but I may be wrong, I haven’t re-read the whole book.

    I do not see where your point about equivalence of chemical and electrical energy comes in. The figures he uses are calculated from mileage and fuel energy content for IC engined cars, so 80 kWh per 100 km for average UK car. He has a variety of figures for electric cars and says he thinks 15 kWh per 100 km is attainable (no allowance for how the electricity is generated, I assume). MacKay is pro electric car on energy grounds, apart from any others.

    Toyota claim an average consumption of 4.3 l per 100 km which is 23.3 km per litre or 2.4 km per kWh assuming 9.7 kWh per litre, not 6.

    Comment by Mike F — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:15 PM

  147. Wilmot McCutchen wrote: “Solar and wind are presently only a tiny fraction of power supply.”

    I remember when cell phones were zero percent of the telecommunications system, and personal computers were zero percent of data processing.

    Wilmot McCutchen wrote: “They are intermittent, so they are unreliable for baseload power over 20% …”

    It’s not true that wind and solar are unreliable for baseload power. Multiple studies in the USA and Europe have found that a diversified regional portfolio of renewables including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass can produce 24×7 baseload electricity that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear.

    Moreover, widespread implementation of distributed, local electricity generation — especially low-cost, high-efficiency thin-film photovoltaics like those now being manufactured by Nanosolar for the municipal utility market, and other innovative PV technologies like the cylindrical PV modules being manufactured by Solyndra for commercial rooftop applications — will greatly reduce the need for large-scale, centralized baseload generation. I expect that in the future, most electricity will be generated locally, near the point of use.

    As for the 20 percent figure, I am frankly tired of hearing that the limitations of today’s ancient and dilapidated electric grid prevent us from fully exploiting the USA’s vast wind and solar energy resources. The existing grid is inadequate even to do what it is already supposed to be doing, as major regional blackouts of recent years have demonstrated. We need a new grid, a smart grid, an electricity Internet that is capable of intelligently integrating diverse, centralized and distributed, large and small, baseload and intermittent electricity consumers and providers. Work on this is ongoing, both in the public and private sectors.

    Wilmot McCutchen wrote: “… and connecting them to the existing grid is an unsolved problem.”

    Given that thousands of megawatts of wind and solar generating capacity are being connected to the grid already, it is obviously not an unsolved problem.

    Wilmot McCutchen wrote: “So what now, given the foregoing assessment? It seems clear to me that the only way we can possibly satisfy our accelerating demand for electricity (including electric cars) is by continuing to use the fleet of pulverized coal plants.”

    The assessment is wrong, so the conclusion is wrong.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:19 PM

  148. Re: #69 (Beyondtool)
    For a response to Joanne Nova’s argument that the evidence has changed, see my atmo.sphere blog entry on the Skeptic’s Handbook.

    Comment by John N-G — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:35 PM

  149. #142 Theo, I assume that is a joke, but in case you’re not joking, what does that mean? How will reducing the number of coal plants in the US and EU have any significant impact if China is building more plants? Already they are the #1 carbon emitter.

    Comment by MikeN — 30 Apr 2009 @ 3:43 PM

  150. I’ve been hopeful that wave energy technologies would mature faster than they have. But these things take time.

    http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/wesrf/

    Comment by Pete Wirfs — 30 Apr 2009 @ 4:00 PM

  151. #131 Jim:
    “Anne van der Bom, you provided a forthright analysis of the cost of wind power so I do not have to look further. It is $0.08 over market expectations. Oh well, that is for Denmark which might be a more orderly place to get things like this done.

    We all have our idea of what is politically possible. In the USA I think this would be difficult at best. ”

    I run a telecomms network out in Hawaii. This gives me an interesting perspective on affordability of electricity; perhaps I may even say doing business where we are located gives us a glimpse of the future in other places.

    Where most of our gear is located electricity for residential use is presently $0.30/kWh. Our expectations about costs are stretched, let’s say.

    But guess what? We still use electricity, businesses find it possible to make money, lights burn in homes when needed, in fact all sorts of things prove possible in spite of the dour predictions of Cassandras in other places more amenable to needless consumption. Not so remarkably we’re much more likely to notice parasitic drains, wasteful lighting schemes and other things that seem rather stupid once they come to one’s attention. I work from the mainland and when my colleagues from the Islands visit it is rare not to hear wry remarks on the waste they see here.

    It seems the price of vital products such as electricity turns out to be highly inelastic. Recently costs in Hawaii spiked to $0.40/kWh. Guess what? Life was still easily possible, though some of us were prodded to notice and eliminate even more waste. Meanwhile many other enterprises still seemed to have money and presumably profit available to sacrifice so we still saw parking lots illuminated throughout the night long after customers have gone home, etc. There’s obviously room for improved habits even with Hawaii’s astronomically high rates, leaving us to conclude that tolerance for even higher rates is also available.

    I’d say Hawaiian electrical consumers make a nice lab population to help identify and then dismiss fearmongering about economic collapse due to the possibility we may be forced to fully account for our energy habits.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 30 Apr 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  152. P.S. Thanks for the post. I realize I was a bit cranky-pants this AM and last PM. Keep it up. Great work and – whew! – do we have a mountain of more work ahead of us if we want to survive the century….

    Comment by Peter Williams — 30 Apr 2009 @ 4:45 PM

  153. Wilmot McCutchen (141) — Anaeobic digestion of any biomass produces biogas which can easily be separated into methane and acid gas. The methane, with a little effort, can be of sufficiently high quality to introduce into the natural gas pipelines; this is being done at several locations in Europe and even the U.S.

    Pyrolysis of any dry biomass produces pyrolysis oil, similar to #2 heating oil, and biochar. Biochar can be made as low grade as bituminous coal, but easily can be as high as 96% carbon, 4% ash.

    An increasingly used method is torrefication (a form of slow pyrolysis) of woody biomass; in some localities the result is marketed (to utility companies) under the name of “biocoal”. Another inceasingly used method is simply to co-fire dry biomass with fossil coal but there is now a Southern Company project to refit two coal reactors into forestry waste reactors. There are other, purpose-built projects producing building heat or electricity from forestry wastes; some as CHP.

    Biodiesel from Jatropha is the preferred route in South Asia and some countries in Southeast Asia. The largest project I know of is a million hectare plantation in one state of India. Brazilians meet much of their motor fuel needs with ethanol from sugarcane; on a smaller scale also in India.

    Checking
    http://www.icis.com/blogs/biofuels/
    once or twice a week enables one to keep up with the fast developments in biofuels.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Apr 2009 @ 4:47 PM

  154. #56: As an addition to your list of the non-positives of nuclear energy, it is my understanding that the CO2 generated through the enrichment processes of uranium (and mining and transportation) is roughly equivalent to the CO2 released by burning coal.

    #145: Thank you for bringing up geothermal and thin film PV. In terms of cradle to grave, geothermal has a similar footprint and payback as wind or water power, and similar ecological impacts, depending on the method, the installation, and the decommissioning (long life span though, with appropriate upkeep!). Thin film has certainly boosted panel efficiency and decreased the production “costs,” in terms of sustainability. Imagine if we’d have focused R&D on solar panel technologies since its inception in the 1880′s?

    Undoubtedly, solar is a direction we have to go with energy. Small-scale solar, which can essentially be done anywhere at mid and lower latitudes, has fairly limited effects on ecological habitats (though I’d like to see better resource extraction for silicon, copper, etc), concentrates resource needs to a local level, harnesses an “unlimited” resource, is a great compliment to other renewables, and once operational has no emission footprint. Since I am not involved in the energy market, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a renewable economy.

    Comment by Shauna — 30 Apr 2009 @ 4:57 PM

  155. #64 Anne. The book does the comparisons for “moderately affluent” but also states the average figure (24kWh/p/d). He also notes the difference between his “moderate affluent” 195kWh/p/d and the average which is 125kWh/p/d. The energy plans are on the basis of actual energy use. And electrical car efficiency was one place he noted that you can make big gains. The point of “affluent” I assume was to show where to make a BIG difference.

    And yes, I have studied the numbers VERY closely. I have done the numbers for New Zealand but on basis of the average NZer not the moderately affluent and used actual studies of potential where available. I have put the whole document up on http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/wiki/sustainable/en/index.php/NZ (MacKay’s wiki for country calculations). NZ is renewable rich but numbers are still cause for a big swallow. 50% of our consumer energy is from oil – we have to banish the nimbys to get off oil.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:02 PM

  156. In all this discussion, I’d like to explore one data point.

    Question: When/if the polar ice caps completely melt, how much higher will the oceans be?

    Paul Blanchen and three other researchers did an analysis of Xcerat Park in Mexico. The report (and an abstract and a short interview with Blanchen) are in NATURE, pages 803 and 881, V458 (4/16/09).

    Their focus was the sea rise change circa 121,000 years ago. They measured that change (presumably when all polar ice had melted) at about 7 feet.

    Elsewhere on this site I’ve seen statements that the rise might be as much as 35 feet. 7 feet MIGHT be sustainable; 35 feet clearly is not.

    Does 7 feet seem reasonably accurate, or will it be more (assuming the polar ice completely melts)?

    Comment by John Burgeson — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:07 PM

  157. On another part of the puzzle. John Holdren is quoted in the same issue of NATURE (on page 819) as saying a $100 tax on carbon will cause the price of gas to rise by 30c. That sounds affordable.

    Comment by John Burgeson — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:09 PM

  158. Bird deaths from wind turbines. Also from MacKay’s book.
    30,000 bird deaths in Denmark from windmills. Hmm – except that traffic kills 1 million in Denmark and cats in UK kill 55 million. A little perspective needed I think

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:16 PM

  159. I would like to take this discussion back to the themes in the title of this blog article and its final sentence:

    “Hit the brakes hard”

    … and …

    “We wonder why we were not advised to prepare to adapt to crash curtailing CO2 emissions which sounds to us considerably less frightening” (than the “train wreck” of 4oC warming).”

    Unfortunately, the only description of the meaning of hitting the brakes hard is a conclusion drawn from the Meinshausen et al. and Allen et al. papers that “put(ting) on the brakes very quickly and aggressively” means a reduction in global CO2 emissions of 80% by 2050. To me that seems to be not quick or aggressive, but a soft foot on the pedal. Especially so when a peak in emissions as late as 2020 is what many now advocate and is so far the best (but I think inadequate) policy being visibly advocated to go along with a 2050 reduction target.

    I am grateful that this article identifies the perils of even a 2oC global increase, calling it “a danger limit (that) seems to us pretty cavalier” and raising the predicament of the “the long tail of CO2 perturbation.” But these observations contradict the belief that an 80% reduction by 2050 is truly “put(ting) on the brakes quickly and aggressively.” I wish that this contradiction had been explored in the article.

    My belief is that “hitting the brakes hard” should mean an interim global cap at the present rate of fossil fuel production, as soon after conclusion of the December Copenhagen conference that national ratifications can be secured. End further growth in emissions from those sources, pronto. Why not a peak in emissions in 2010 if at all possible and 2012 at the latest, ten or eight years ahead of what is presently contemplated? Developed nations take an immediate small cut in imports, to allow developing ones some increased use. And from that point begin a steep annual reduction of fossil fuel production, year by year. That is hitting the brakes hard. That is quick and aggressive action. And I believe it is vital. Why not advocate this? Even if it may not ultimately be achieved politically, it would help change the political dynamic.

    In their commentary (“The Exit Strategy”) in the current Nature edition, Allen et al. (collectively most of the authors of both the above Allen et al. and Meinshausen et al. papers) say:

    ” … if total emission are limited, and we are not sure exactly what the limit is (but evidence suggests it may not be too far away), then there is a good chance we will find out too late that we have exceeded it.”

    We must take a pass on that so-called “good chance” at all costs, I believe.

    Finally, a question for David and Gavin: McNeil & Matear (2008, PNAS 2Dec08, “Southern Ocean acidification: A tipping at 450-ppm atmospheric CO2″) suggest that by 2030 and no later than 2038 seasonal aragonite undersaturation is likely to disrupt the Southern Ocean ecosystem, due to key forms of zooplankton being unable to form shells. These zooplankton are also a significant carbon sink. Has this possibility been taken into account in models generally, and the ones in the above paper in particular?

    Comment by Larry — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:29 PM

  160. #150 Doug Bostrom,

    I hear you and completely agree that we can and should dramatically reduce our consumption. (I also lived on an island, that being Bermuda, for two years. The only water we had was collected on our own roof, mostly in the winter. For a family from the USA, that changed things like you would never believe. Electric power was generated by using imported fuel, so it was also used very carefully. Yes it can be done.)

    But I think the right policy needs to include price pressure that would help balance the choices away from coal, where we would honestly admit that this cost would go to the public, not some imaginary evil coal guy. It must also include making available to the public the means to cut use of fossil fuel. I mean cut it dramatically, like 60% to 70%. My mix of cuts would focus on personal transportation, freight transportation, and power generation and it would meet more than half way the efforts of people that are trying to reduce waste.

    As I recall from visits to Hawaii, wasteful life practices are much reduced compared to the USA, and this is because fuel has always been a costly thing there.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:32 PM

  161. (Sigh) Seems that even here, scientific ignorance & innumeracy are rife. Just a few comments:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (30 April 2009 at 1:30 PM):

    “There is no such thing as an electric motor that is not coupled to a heat engine.”

    Photovoltaic cells are not heat engines. The turbines in a hydroelectric plant are not heat engines. I suppose wind turbines might be, in the sense that the whole atmosphere is a heat engine, but Carnot efficiency is not very relevant to them. There are people who live off-the-grid, yet run appliances having electric motors with no heat engine connected.

    Mark Cunnington Says (30 April 2009 at 1:45 PM):

    “Unless, through incentives, it becomes economical to install solar panels on your roof; then you’d have instantly opened up a workforce of 100 million homeowners who would each take care of installing solar panels on their own roof. Of course, you’d need contractors to do the work, and these could be the currently unemployed construction workers. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about all the hassles of opening up vast ares of deserts to make solar farms. The only tricky part would be supplying that many solar panels.”

    A bit of sloppy thinking there: 100 million homeowners to do the work, but it has to be done by contractors? Does not compute :-)

    Beyond that, where are all those solar panels going to come from? Fallacies of scale again. PV panels are currently around $2/watt (you can look this stuff up, you know). Price is the same whether they’re put on roofs, or some central power plant. How are those panels going to be made? Right now there’s a certain production capacity: so many watts per year. Ramping that up significantly requires years of lead time to build factories & equipment… I’ve never seen a study that didn’t betray an obvious bias, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the time & cost to do all this, and get say 100 GWatts of solar panels out there generating power, is going to be much different from that needed to build 100 nuclear plants. And again, my position is that we ought to start doing both right now.

    ccpo Says (30 April 2009 at 2:00 PM):

    “To my knowledge, not one privately funded nuclear plant currently in operation on the planet.”

    Huh? About 100 of them in the US alone.

    “Cost estimates rising towards 12 billion each, or 4.8 trillion for the US alone (assuming only 400 needed.”

    Whose cost estimates are those? The ones the anti-nuclear folks come up with, every time someone does a cost estimate on solar/wind power? It was only a few months ago that people were quoting $5 billion/plant – then I pointed out that equivalent solar would run at least $6 billion…

    “Time frame: decades. (I.e., too late.)”

    Why? Get rid of the legal road blocks, and the actual construction time is much less, especially since (as pointed out elsewhere) we happen to have a bunch of unemployed construction workers around.

    “$5,000 for every household in the US to retrofit and/or add solar and/or heat pumps and/or wind turbines in a community-based program using local materials…”

    Look, just go to Google, do a search on home solar power systems, and tell me you can find one for that price that generates close to what the average house uses. Here’s prices from a local to me dealer: http://www.nevadasolar.com/catalog.htm Double that $5000, and then some, for even a small 2KW system.

    SecularAnimist Says (30 April 2009 at 2:05 PM):

    “The same is true of the materials needed to build nuclear power plants.

    But Mark was talking about mining uranium.”

    I don’t quite see the point. Isn’t all mining pretty much the same, in terms of cost & environmental effects, regardless of what’s being mined? It’s the mass of ore that needs to be dug (and whether it’s surface or underground) that’s the major factor. The uranium needed to power the plant is going to be a small fraction of the mass of the plant, or the equivalent solar/wind equipment.

    Comment by James — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:39 PM

  162. Doug Bostrom Says (30 April 2009 at 4:07 PM):

    “I run a telecomms network out in Hawaii. This gives me an interesting perspective on affordability of electricity; perhaps I may even say doing business where we are located gives us a glimpse of the future in other places.”

    In that case, perhaps you could answer a couple of somewhat off-topic questions. First, there’s a geothermal plant just up the road from me that’s been cranking out 100 MWatts or so for years, from one not remarkably large geothermal area (haven’t been any active volcanos in the immediate neighborhood for 100K years at least), and selling it fairly competitively – certainly much less than your 30-40 cents per KWhr. So why in the world isn’t Hawai’i getting all of its electric power from geothermal?

    Second, why not electric cars (once you get the geothermal working), since there really aren’t may places where you can actually drive 100 miles at a stretch?

    Comment by James — 30 Apr 2009 @ 5:51 PM

  163. John Burgeson (154) — Ice caps, such as
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_Ice_Cap
    are too small for appreciable concern. It is the ice sheets, in particular
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenland_ice_sheet
    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Antarctic_Ice_Sheet
    which are at risk. During the previous interglacial, the Eemian, temperatures were about 2 K warmer than now and the sea highstand was 4–6 meters higher than the current level, depending upon location measured. The water is thought to be melt from both GIS and WAIS.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:17 PM

  164. “Catastrophic Climate Future: Are We That Stupid?”:
    http://www.livescience.com/environment/090429-total-carbon.html
    is another take on this story, one with several quotations from Gavin Schmidt.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:05 PM

  165. I’ve gained access to the current issue of Nature and I will be studying the relevant articles in detail.

    I am encouraged to note that there is robust R&D currently underway which has already yielded practical methods of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. At present, these methods output CO2 which must then be stored, but there is obviously reason to expect that the eventual outputs can be used again as fuels, for example, or perhaps turned into materials which will be easier to store. I envision a day when carbon rich liquid is used to fill in the holes from which oil was once extracted, for example, and of course for the foreseeable future there will be applications (air travel) where fossil fuels are the only viable option.

    So I say it’s quite foreseeable that we will learn how to manage atmospheric CO2 levels, perhaps within the next couple of generations.

    I think we are all agreed that the next 40 years will determine the arc of AGW as concerns the maintainability of the current ecosystem. By any measure we will need a broad array of solutions to get there.

    I am quite encouraged by what I am reading. We are looking at all options, and finding promising ideas worth pursuing.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:18 PM

  166. 63 Hopkins – “Sceptics say that computer models tell us nothing.”

    Mathematical models have been used in decision making for a very long time. If I was to be very technical, even physical theories can be referred to as mathematical models. Biology is also becoming very mathematical and uses models frequently. When skeptics refer to models as silly, they are going against mathematics itself. They could argue that their model is mathematically incorrect, but they would have to show the errors mathematically. They could also argue that the models are not in relation to what is being observed. When a skeptic attacks modeling itself as some do, he or she is going against mathematical knowledge.

    Mark – “Incorrect. Global warming is not a result of over population.”

    Do you actually read these post or use the force? I personally think you just like to argue and “find” reasons to do it. So fine, one could argue that over population of humans increases the effect of global warming. There is more demand on resources that come from forests, and there is more demand for fossil fuel technology.

    Comment by EL — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:32 PM

  167. Burgie, look here:

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs2-00/

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:35 PM

  168. An 80% reduction of CO2 emissions takes things back to the level of 1900 or so, when things were much dirtier. This doesn’t sound practical.

    [Response: Or relevant. - gavin]

    On top of that you have other countries increasing their emissions, and they are not going to stop.

    Under your different model scenarios, is there even one that has China not emitting more than the ‘danger limit’?

    On top of that, it looks like based on the IPCC assessment, the A1F1 warmest scenario is the best one.

    http://goklany.org/library/Richer-but-warmer%20RV.pdf

    [Response: How shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose Florida, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Shanghai, London, Venice, New York....? - gavin]

    Comment by MikeN — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:41 PM

  169. John,

    Re 154#

    The average temp of the south pole (bottom 15 degrees of latitude) is about -36C and the average for the next 15 degrees is -13C. The corresponding averages for the N pole are about -13C and -6C. The idea that all the ice can melt is preposterous because no amount of warming, natural or otherwise, will drop the average temperatures by enough to completely melt the poles. This is largely because they get little to no sunlight for half of the year. The poles will always freeze in the winter. Minimum ice is when the N pole ice mostly melts at the peak of the summer (about where we have been for thousands of years). BTW, the N pole average at the peak of summer is close to 0C, while the S pole summer average is closer to -20C. The temperature data can be found on the isccp,giss.nasa.gov site. Note how the temperature data is indicative of the asymmetric response of the Earth to energy.

    The reflectivity data is equally revealing. This shows how that even though at perihelion, the Sun is close enough that the average temperature should be about 4C warmer than at aphelion, it’s 4C colder instead. This is a result of dynamic N hemisphere reflectivity from fallen snow. In the S hemisphere, snow falls mostly on the water and doesn’t accumulate to reflect energy. The S polar region is intrinsically colder because the ice is over land and can not be melted from the bottom, thus is always reflecting energy. Note that if the N hemisphere snow becomes a permanent ice pack, the extra reflectivity provides all the ‘amplification’ needed to explain the ice core records, as forced from incident solar energy.

    Comment by co2isnotevil — 30 Apr 2009 @ 7:56 PM

  170. So I say it’s quite foreseeable that we will learn how to manage atmospheric CO2 levels, perhaps within the next couple of generations.

    We already know how to do that Walt–by not burning fossil fuels. It’s not a question of knowledge. It’s a question of human behavior, economics and politics.

    I am quite encouraged by what I am reading. We are looking at all options, and finding promising ideas worth pursuing.

    I’m not. In fact I’m quite disturbed by it. I see a bunch of people who’d rather pursue technological hail-mary passes than do the hard work of energy conservation, forest conservation, alternative energy development, and general lifestyle changes.

    Particularly disturbing is the commentary piece on the direct sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Supposing that ever gets implemented, what do you think that will do to the incentive to maximize terrestrial ecosystem carbon storage, with it’s many ancillary benefits, or to slowing the burning of fossil fuels? Not to mention the cost of the entire process, or that we have no idea on how to store the stuff.

    I’m starting to see a lot of copping out on the whole issue. Not that it should surprise me, because when push comes to shove, that’s what humans often tend to do when overwhelmed.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:02 PM

  171. 30,000 bird deaths in Denmark from windmills. Hmm – except that traffic kills 1 million in Denmark and cats in UK kill 55 million. A little perspective needed I think

    I hate the spam filter here, it ate my detailed response.

    I’ll try a shorter one.

    This argument is no different than arguing that since we kill millions of rats with poison each year, the shrinking arctic ice cap can’t endanger polar bears. After all, at most it will only kill a few tens of thousands of them if it disappears completely.

    Wind farms do impact sensitive species, such as the lesser prairie chicken. A recent paper in BioScience gave a very glum assessment of this impact on an already extremely endangered bird species. We don’t have 55 million lesser prairie chickens, the fact that cats in the UK kill 55 million house sparrows and starlings doesn’t mean that wind farms can’t harm lesser prairie chickens, ferruginous hawks, and other sensitive species.

    I am not arguing against wind power per se. I am arguing against naive arguments such as the one quoted above, which wind power advocates have been using since the early 1990s when they were bitterly opposing site species inventory and mortality monitoring requirements being proposed as part of the site licensing process.

    Comment by dhogaza — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:11 PM

  172. #158 Jim:

    Totally agree w/price pressure. What’s sort of perverse where I live (mainland) is that we can (and do) opt in to a billing feature for our electricity that allows us to pay –more– to “green up” our electrical consumption. How about flipping the equation and having customers deriving energy from coal pay more instead? Admittedly there’d have to be some sort of contorted redistribution of money to make that work but the point of course is to bring so-called external costs into view.

    #160 James:

    What I’ve heard is that environmentally sensitive persons have caused such friction on permitting that further development of geothermal has been massively delayed. Better to burn heavy oil for electricity than clear a few acres and poke some holes in the ground, right? What’s really odd about that attitude is the area in question sports little indigenous vegetation, having been previously devastated by the hand of man so it’s hard to make an honest despoliation argument. NIMBY is what’s going on there. It’s true the plant is audible if you’re downwind. I guess the recent and hopefully temporary demise of the interisland ferry is only the latest example of short-circuited reasoning. Thanks, kayakers, let’s keep those jets flying in their very most inefficient mode. I’m sure ExxonMobile thanks you, not to mention automakers who get to duplicate cars on every island. Rant-rant.

    Regarding EV range, seems to me this is largely a perfectionism problem, compounded by dreams of riches by folks with proprietary energy storage technologies. If we’d abandon our perfectionist tendencies and ditch the business plans of visionary technofinanciers, a very large fraction of us could stay in our cars if we insist and commute to work without touching gasoline. Have a commute of under 100 miles? Then why– especially if you have a second car that runs on gas for rare but more demanding trips– do you need an EV with 200+ mile range? On days when I commute via car my round trip distance is about 24 miles. I’m sure I’m hardly alone. Why can’t I buy an EV with a 50 mile range? Why do I have to wait until perfectionists at EPA and elsewhere get their dream car with horrendously expensive and exotic energy storage systems (read as “patented, w/rich royalties”) when I could be quite content with highly recyclable lead-acid batteries, unsexy and boring as they are?

    I’m really not sanguine about our chances of fixing this CO2 thing. CO2 is just being added to an existing atmosphere of unbounded avarice, habitual sloth, dogmatic ideology, intellectual laziness. Why must we be so –human–?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:14 PM

  173. Just for the fun of it:

    > I am encouraged to note
    > robust
    > already yielded practical method
    > there is obviously reason to expect
    > eventual
    > I envision a day
    > of course for the foreseeable future
    > the only viable option.
    > So I say it’s quite foreseeabl
    > perhaps within the next couple of generations.
    > I think we are all agreed
    > as concerns the maintainability
    > the current ecosystem.
    > By any measure
    > a broad array
    > I am quite encouraged
    > looking at all options
    > finding promising ideas worth pursuing.
    ____________________
    “reform waddled”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:15 PM

  174. from DOE pricing for utility sized electric generating plants http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/assumption/pdf/electricity.pdf#page=3

    costs……………….overnight……….variable…….fixed
    …………………….construction………O&M……….O&M
    ……………………..$/kW…………….$/kWh…….$/kW
    wind…………………1,923.00……….0.00………30.30
    Coal.New+CCS………….3,221.11……….6.17………35.28
    Advanced.nuclear………3,318.00……….0.49………90.02
    IGCC-CCS……………..3,496.00……….4.44………46.12

    solar.thermal…………5,021.00……….0.00………56.78
    photovoltaic………….6,038.00……….0.00………11.68

    Given that Kimberlina(solar thermal) cost about $3000 per kW, and Nanosolar and First Solar claim $1,000 per kW(for the panels), I think that their estimates for these rapidly changing technologies are inflated.
    According to http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/first-solar-panels-big-with-solarcity-customers-6053.html, Solarcity, “which claimed to be the largest residential installer in the country last year”installs a typical 5kW residential system (panels, controls, etc; no economies of scale) for about $30,000 retail.
    DOE also claims 6 years lead time for nuclear; at a round table discussion with utility CEOs (from a business site I didn’t bookmark and cant find), one of them said jestingly that a new nuclear plant takes 15 years – 5 for design & permitting, 5 for litigation, and 5 for construction.

    “At $1 per million BTU for coal, that is the choice.” Paying only $1/MBTU for coal is sorta like buying your house with an interest only ARM; looks good, but only if you’re pretty nearsighted.

    Obama has discovered steering the ship of state is like steering an ocean liner – things respond slowly but inexorably, and require a long view. Wait ’til he tries correcting our course on the environment.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:29 PM

  175. Jim Bouldin says in response to Walt: “I see a bunch of people who’d rather pursue technological hail-mary passes than do the hard work of energy conservation, forest conservation, alternative energy development, and general lifestyle changes.”

    It’s not either-or. We’re playing catch-up, and after 2 decades of very effective denialist propaganda, we’re deep in a hole. So, we’ll need to make a Hail Mary or two, and we’ll need to conserve like hell to steal back some of that time we’ve lost. I suspect that our best options are no longer options, and all of us are going to have to agree to unpalatable remedies. But, what choice is there? It is quite literally do or die.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:55 PM

  176. #160
    Ah sigh, my ignorance is deep and wide, but the atmosphere and indeed the sun are heat engines. The turbine and the PV are just part of the machinery. How do you think the EM waves get kicked off the sun? But really, you are right, who cares?

    My ignorance is that I let this academic point get in the way of the real point which is that every real electric motor when turned on or off will have the effect of causing coal to be burned or not burned.

    If a person owns his own solar array and uses power from it to directly charge his own batteries, there might be a case otherwise, though even here the atmosphere might be better off if the solar power was sold to the utility and the electric car was not purchased. If that person took subsidies or relies on the grid for the storage of daytime power for night time use, it is certain that person’s use of an electric motor ultimately connects to coal use.

    Perhaps I should clarify that in no way would that person continue to drive a conventional car. A well designed hybrid is the baseline assumption.

    One of the tricks of the misleaders is to ask, “Is the electric car is better than the conventional car?” That is the trick question. The straightforward question would be, “How does the electric car compare with the hybrid?” In other words, just stop with the hybrid and sell your solar power. That will be the superior action.

    There is a more superior action however, and that is to build the car to use very little energy. Electric methods can be very helpful in that endeavor. Now the plug-in is redeemable for credits in, uh well, lets just call it self satisfaction.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Apr 2009 @ 8:58 PM

  177. What about this?
    http://www.truthout.org/043009EA
    What do you people think? How important are HFC’s? Shouldn’t we concentrate on CO2? Is this good or bad news?

    Comment by Will Denayer — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:04 PM

  178. Wilmot, way back at the top, you asked about 2C difference, and got some useful paleoclimate links.

    Another perspective, a bit more mundane, that I recently figured out in response to a slightly different question:

    For an arbitrary location (Rome, GA) there are currently 72 days yearly for which a minimum temperature below freezing is normal. A 3.5C increase will eliminate all of them. To a farmer, that’s definitely a very big deal.

    (Of course, not all days are “average,” so it will still freeze there from time to time–just a lot less than in the past.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:49 PM

  179. Walt I agree the NIMBY syndrome is an obstacle that is going to be difficult to overcome. As far as long term solutions go I agree with Pete and see the utilization of wave and current energy as a very promising field. The wind may stop blowing and the clouds may hide the sun but the waves just keep going in and out.

    Comment by steve — 30 Apr 2009 @ 9:58 PM

  180. Will, that’s hardly even news any longer.
    http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/hcfc.html
    http://ozone.unep.org/Meeting_Documents/mop/19mop/

    There’s a clearly understood problem — China figured out they could claim carbon credits by building large new HCFC plants and destroying one of the byproducts, and selling the HCFCs for cheap third world air conditioners, and got away with that for some years. They’re busted.

    “Mr. McFarland. Yes. I would like to separate two things.
    One is under the current clean development mechanism, projects,
    HCFC-22 plants that were in operation as of January 1, 2001,
    are allowed to participate under CDM. The current debate is
    about HCFC-22 plants that have come online since then. There is
    a significant issue there. Because of the value of those carbon
    credits, it is possible that the HFC-23 destruction CDM project
    could become the product and the HCFC-22 could become the by-
    product, because the 23 credits would be worth more than the 22
    production.
    So there is a significant issue there, and it is currently
    being debated under the framework convention on climate change
    and how to manage it there, but it is also here is the
    opportunity under the Montreal Protocol to begin to deal with
    the issue by accelerating the phase-out of HCFCs in developing
    countries….

    … Mr. Thornton. Well, there is no law being broken, and that
    is the problem, because there is a disconnect between the
    Montreal Protocol regulating HCFC and the Kyoto regulating HFC,
    and what we are trying to do is to marry the two policies of
    the two treaties together to fast-track HCFC phase-out, at the
    same time cap, reduce, and stop the HFC.”
    http://fdsys.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110hhrg11044428/html/CHRG-110hhrg11044428.htm

    No one except, well, a senator and representative or two, are suggesting “global policeman” stuff will happen. Oh, and perhaps agreement from one “rouge” AI
    _________________
    “bring naval” says ReCaptcha

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Apr 2009 @ 10:14 PM

  181. It’s not either-or. We’re playing catch-up, and after 2 decades of very effective denialist propaganda, we’re deep in a hole. So, we’ll need to make a Hail Mary or two, and we’ll need to conserve like hell to steal back some of that time we’ve lost. I suspect that our best options are no longer options, and all of us are going to have to agree to unpalatable remedies. But, what choice is there? It is quite literally do or die.

    This is key, and ties in to what I’ve said about wind power above.

    One myth that seems to be propagated is that there are energy-generating options that are benign.

    It’s just not true. We have to look the problem in the eye and make educated decisions as to which is less destructive, rather than put forward pablum like “coal is evil, and wind farms don’t do any damage”.

    Wind farms *do* do damage, and indeed a proliferation of them is very likely to lead to the extinction of several species of bird here in the US.

    Maybe that’s a trade-off that’s worthwhile, but lying about the cost is not the right basis for making a decision (attention: Mark). All facts on the table, that’s what we need …

    Energy conservation is still the lowest hanging fruit when we look at the big picture … but it’s probably not enough.

    Anyone arguing for simplistic black-and-whiteness simply isn’t paying attention.

    Comment by dhogaza — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:04 PM

  182. 100 Mark: France recycles nuclear fuel. We recycled nuclear fuel until it was stolen and taken to Israel. I almost took a job designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker using spent fuel as a heat source in 1968. The workers never glowed. The heart pacemaker patients never glowed.

    Did you know that you are radioactive? How do you suppose we can use radioactive carbon to date egyptian mummies? The average natural background radiation in the US is 350 millirems per year. In some places in the US, the natural background radiation is 600 millirems per year. Did you know that coal contains uranium?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:21 PM

  183. 100 Mark: Power plants make the wrong isotope of plutonium for bombs. If you try to make a bomb out of the wrong isotope of plutonium, it doesn’t go boom. It won’t do anything. It takes a very specialized breeder reactor to make bomb plutonium. We are not going to discuss that kind of reactor.

    Yes, there are a lot of politicians who do not have degrees in either physics or nuclear engineering. But their irrational nuclear policies are probably driven by “campaign contributions” from the coal industry.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:33 PM

  184. Okay, so the bird argument is a bit naive, but there is always something for NIMBYs. I’m not saying give a blanket okay to every wind mill and hydro, regardless of bioversity cost, but want to consider the biodiversity losses if we DONT get off fossil fuels? You have to have alternative strategy with mixture of conservation and alternative generation that adds up. Just changing to CFL wont do it. Solar on roof tops wont deliver enough to drive your electric car. By all means give me a strategy for saving Prairie chickens but make sure it isnt at the cost of many others unable to adapt to climate changing this fast.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:46 PM

  185. Doug,

    Re #172

    The whole point of Obama’s carbon tax regime is to “make them go bankrupt” (his quote) referring to those dependent on coal. The first step in this is to make electricity from coal much more expensive because the utilities will need to generate the money to pay the carbon tax (or offsets or whatever you want to call them). This cost will be passed on to the consumer, so those who purchase coal generated electricity will definitely be paying more. Of course, so will those whose electricity comes from natural gas or oil.

    Relative to coal, what we need to address is cleaning it up to minimize acid rain and to minimize real pollutants. Obsessing about CO2 is counter productive, especially since modifying the climate via carbon regulation will surely fail to have any effect on the climate. We can only hope that the worlds economies can handle another multi trillion dollar hit.

    Comment by co2isnotevil — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:52 PM

  186. 105 Mark: We have nuclear fuel for 5000 years. We can get uranium from the coal ashes. Coal mining requires 100 MILLION times the amount because uranium contains 100 Million times as much energy for a given amount. Nuclear power is 30% CHEAPER than coal. Nuclear is the cheapest and safest way to get electricity. Mark, do you work for the coal industry? I DO NOT work for the nuclear industry.
    See:
    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/why.html

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Apr 2009 @ 11:58 PM

  187. Jim Bullis: “…but the atmosphere and indeed the sun are heat engines.”

    One totally non heat engine energy source is tidal.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 1 May 2009 @ 12:07 AM

  188. 168. First you say the world was much dirtier in 1900 than it is today, then you say the worst case scenario is the most likely. Now these are mutually contradictory statements. There was no interstate highway system in the United States in 1900, this by itself, would mean that it was a cleaner world back then. Most American’s worked on farms in 1900, there were no petrochemical based fertilizers or pesticides, which only create mountains of soil run-off and mutated insects, to produce the same amount of crop yield. Or actually diminishing crop yields, cropland productivity, as measured by kilograms of cereals per capita year, peaked in 1976, according to Lester R. Brown of the Worldwatch Institute. There was no Sears Building, one building that uses more energy than entire cities, how will “wind farms” meet that demand? Maybe if you gave all the land surface of Australia over to wind farms it would work, otherwise not.

    According to economist Herman Daly:

    “If it requires roughly one-third of the world’s annual production of mineral resources to support that 6% of the world’s population residing in the U.S. at the standard of consumption to which it is thought that the rest of world aspires, then it follows that present resource flows would allow the extension of the U.S. standard to at most 18% of the world’s population, with nothing left over for the other 82%. Without the services of the poor 82%, the “rich” 18% could not possibly maintain their wealth. A considerable share of world resources must be devoted to maintaining the poor 82% at at least subsistence. Consequently even the 18% figure is an overestimate.”

    In fact resource scarcity makes it impossible for even the U.S. to maintain its present level of energy flow.

    Comment by Thermodynamics Researcher — 1 May 2009 @ 12:14 AM

  189. “Where do you plan on putting those wind farms? A quick SWAG puts the land area of wind farms to replace the current coal facilities at something like 50,000 square miles.”

    I know others have responded to this, but there are parts of this country with plenty of wind energy that aren’t fragile eco-systems or out in the middle of the ocean. Texas has 268,000 square miles according to an earlier poster. Peak demand is about 60,000 MW, or 223KW per square mile. I live on 0.08 acres and make 1.9KW AC peak. That’s 15,200KW per square mile — and that’s just the residential roofs in a square mile with solar.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 1 May 2009 @ 12:16 AM

  190. Edward, re your “wrong isotope” claim — what’s your source for that?

    I looked, but everything I turned up says the mixture of isotopes gives unpredictable results, so isn’t favored for mass production because it won’t turn out consistent, standard yield, reliable bombs.

    Your home craftsman, though, doesn’t worry so much about this kind of predictability and economy of scale; one-offs work:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=plutonium+from+civil+reactors+could+be+used+to+make+bombs

    I’d be delighted to be convinced otherwise, but I have to ask sources.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 12:35 AM

  191. 154 Shauna: WRONG! Nuclear fission produces LESS CO2 that ANY other source. Nuclear produces LESS CO2 than wind or solar.
    Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 May 2009 @ 12:43 AM

  192. David MacKay has written a very valuable book on how we should do the calculations to work out what might happen if we hit the brakes hard. He seems to conclude that Britain will have to rely on renewables plus nuclear and or/imported renewables. For the world and North America I think he concludes that renewables alone could keep the system going after we have removed coal from the energy mix. Anne van der Bom, Phill Scadden, Douglas Wise, Jim Bullis and Mike F all comment above directly on MacKay’s results. Some weeks ago I conducted a similar conversation with inter alia Neil Howes and Barry Brook on bravenewclimate at:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/04/11/climbing-mount-improbable/

    Anne writes of MacKay’s treatment of electric cars: ‘Total result is a 12 fold overestimate of the electric energy required to drive Britain’s cars’. That was my conclusion as well (details are at #42 in the bnc discussion for details for Mike F.).

    The treatment of wind energy in the MacKay analysis also caused some concern. Most of MacKay’s conclusions are based on average wind speeds of 6m/s and a consequential on shore wind farm output of 2W/square meter. Using the more realistic wind speeds available the most suitable wind sites changes his results very significantly (because energy output is a function of wind speed cubed). As an example of the results I suggest that with a wind speed of 12 m/s on 3% of the UK surface area there is twice as much wind power available in the UK as calculated using MacKay’s 6m/s over the bulk of the UK land area. (Again there is a more detailed discussion of this issue at #42 in the bnc discussion).

    Uranium resources seem to be understated by MacKay. His calculations are based on known uranium reserves mineable at under $130/ton. As uranium is a very small part of the cost of running a nuclear reactor uranium at much higher prices is still economically usable. With other nuclear technologies and materials there is a very very large potential supply of energy from this source. (Again see #36, in the bnc discussion).

    Based purely on the physics of renewable resources it seems that MacKay’s method shows there is little reason to worry about hitting the brakes hard. The real problem in the MacKay analysis is NIMBYs and Naysayers. He sees them (chapter 18, figure 18.7) reducing potential energy from renewables by about ninety per cent. With that reduction the conclusion that Britain will have to rely on imported renewables and nuclear if it eliminates fossil fuels follows cannot be escaped. That does not mean it cannot hit the brakes – only that it will have to rely on international trade to eliminate fossil fuels from the energy mix.

    Comment by David Murray — 1 May 2009 @ 12:59 AM

  193. #182 Edward:

    Tangentially related to what James asked about geothermal power generation, you forgot to mention that radioactive decay is the source of most geothermal energy, something like 30 terawatts of flux these days according to my Google expertise.

    All the same, unless nuclear plants can be vastly simplified or the quality of assembly and operation enormously improved it’s only a matter of time until we have the next nuclear power generation PR fiasco emerge.

    Why do I say this? Read available incident reports on the relatively few current nuclear plant operating samples. Industry records show that our abilities are highly strained by the complex engineering and fastidious attention required for safe nuclear generating plant construction and operation. A reasonable conclusion from this record is that the way they’re built and run now is unlikely to scale without more big embarrassments.

    Developed nations are –just barely– able to build and maintain these devices with an acceptable (assuming the complete destruction of reactor units at Three Mile Island and Chernoybl are ok) level of catastrophic accidents using the quality of human resources available in the U.S. and Russia, two relatively advanced nations. In point of fact these human resources are lamentably fallible, as industry reports and conspicuous public mistakes indicate.

    To approximate our current coal generation capacity would require increasing the global complement of nuclear plants from some 500 to at least 4,000 units. Could we find a large enough cadre of sufficiently skilled builders and operators to do this? With 500 plants we’ve not quite achieved that feat; what evidence leads us to think we’ll do better with the next 3500 plants than we did with the first 500?

    Worse, global replacement of coal generation with nuclear power will require expanding the geographic range of nuclear power generation to places where human factors can be expected to lead to lower safety levels than we find in the current installation context, where empirical data shows we’re already at or even slightly beyond the limit of what we can expect in terms of consistent quality of construction and operation.

    While inevitably lowering the overall quality level of reactor installations and their operational conditions we will simultaneously expand their number rather enormously. Given the data we have on incident frequency the nearly inescapable conclusions is that we’re going to see more big messes.

    Please do also observe that operators at the time of these incidents large and small are always perfectly confident in their assertions of complete safety and reliability. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we’re entering some entirely novel, accident-and-incompetence-free permanent era of history– technology may advance but human nature does not seem to follow so quickly, if at all. Based on the results of the utmost skill and dedication we can muster devoted to the first 500 plants, another 3,500 would mean something like 16 additional roughly TMI/Chernoybl-scale problems over the lifespan of those hypothetical plants. Probably even more, given the installation context of many of the imaginary nuclear plants.

    I think a comprehensive (and honest) assessment of alternatives to coal generation will include not only the hypothetical scaling issues of wind and direct solar generation but also will address what we know of the operating record of nuclear plants and what we can expect as we attempt to further scale nuclear power.

    Mind you, I’m not saying I’m against nuclear power. I do however think that many nuclear power proponents have a habit of glossing over the complex and demanding nature of the technology. It’s likely we’ll find many places where reactor-based nuclear power generation is simply not feasible to deploy. Those places are going to require some other solutions.

    Which leads us back to the 30 terawatts of geothermal flux wafting past us right now. How about tapping into some of that? Everybody could enjoy nuclear power and waste disposal is already taken care of…

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 1:14 AM

  194. The price of brakes: Nobel laureate Paul Krugman writes about the costs of cap-and-trade in the NY Times. His conclusion is that it would be affordable and stimulative, though of course it would add to our cost for electricity. As we’ve seen in Hawaii, people still waste juice even when it’s $0.40/kWh so let’s get started:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/01/opinion/01krugman.html?_r=1

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 1:50 AM

  195. Hi, Someone made the comment above that it is very difficult to convince people of a problem in a world wide system. I think there is a bigger problem here. The philosopher Ken Wilber has suggested that different people have minds developed to different levels. It is only if on’s mind is developed to close to the top of our society that the problem of climate change can even be appreciated. For anyone below that level they just have to be told what to do. How do we get around that?

    There is a case in point – in New Zealand last year there was much interest in government in moving forward with schemes to start dealing with climate change. With the general election last year (2008), the government changed and one of the parties in the new coalition is at too low a level to appreciate the problem and so it has been agreed that the issue with be placed with a committee for the details to be further analysed yet again.

    Comment by John Bartlett — 1 May 2009 @ 1:54 AM

  196. Comment 81…..

    Response: I think these, what they would call carbon cycle feedbacks, are a major source of uncertainty. The CO2 slugs they’re talking about are the ones from human emissions only. David

    This is a serious oversight. It is clear to me that the impacts of these feedbacks have a very significant affect on the worst case outcome. If you scientists wish to influence the policy makers you MUST include at least an assessment of these impacts (perhaps as a second layer of information with the usual caveats). The policy makers will actually be expecting this information to be included.

    It seems to me that you are too tied up in what you can substantiate instead of what is a best educated estimate. As an engineer, I would have to include the possibility that a boat may strike the pylon of a bridge, even though it is an unlikely possibility (of course there are some things I would not design for, but I still have to think about them).

    For a bridge, the design philosophy has to be based on the likely worst case outcome tempered with practical economics. For our planet, it should be more conservative, we only have this one at present!

    If these feedbacks are included, what happens to the 1 terratonnes limit? Does this become the recipe for 4C-6C? If so, the worlds governments and the PUBLIC need to know this to make an informed decision about the degree of hardship to take on board now in order to avoid later disaster.

    [Response: These feedbacks are included! as are their uncertainties - gavin]

    Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 1 May 2009 @ 2:12 AM

  197. Just a minor request…could some of the overwhelming number of acronyms be fleshed out occasionally for those of us who don’t necessarily know what they stand for…NIMBY,MBTU,HCFC etc etc…although familiar to many who post, I would like to remind all that we are trying to educate a larger readership, and ultimately influence public policy. By a kind of wink/wink insider lingo, we might just do the opposite, looking a bit elitist or worse. Thanks…I otherwise am totally grateful for the contribution RealClimate and the many thoughtful people who post here to the tough job of educating on global warming and climatology in general.

    Comment by Steve Missal — 1 May 2009 @ 2:48 AM

  198. >How shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose Florida, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Shanghai, London, Venice, New York….?

    From the people who want to save the whole world, but lose large cars, spacious houses, comfortable living…

    [Response: No. Just carbon emissions. You can have as big a solar-powered house as you want. - gavin]

    Comment by MikeN — 1 May 2009 @ 3:11 AM

  199. RE-175

    I do not believe climate change is a do or die state of affairs. The impacts of global warming are certainly undesirable, but most solutions on the table can have undesirable impacts. Some people’s judgment is being clouded with fear, and they do not see the peril of these proposed solutions. When something is created in hurriedness, it bares the resemblance of low quality and ineffective utility; Therefore, we need to take our time to ensure that a proper solution is found and implemented.

    If the justification of fighting global warming is for the sake of humankind, the burden on the underprivileged should be considered before a solution is proclaimed. The concept of a solution, which disregards the impoverished, is completely unethical. Until a solution is found that can work harmoniously with all socio-economic classes, we should continue to research for a solution.

    Comment by EL — 1 May 2009 @ 3:12 AM

  200. Considering the possible risks of 5C rise, the proposed measures seem pretty feeble.
    We must take severe measures if the risk is so great.
    1) Rollback of private vehicular driving and flights (even by the leaders of nations)
    2) Reduction in heated or cooled living space per person.
    3) Reduction in the electricity usage eg vending machines that vend cold drinks, advertising lights, washing machines, computers
    4) Rollback of mechanized agriculture with monocultures of both plants and animals. Mixed farming using human and animal labor is superior and would emit less carbon among other advantages.

    Comment by Gian — 1 May 2009 @ 3:39 AM

  201. Re #64, He may have made some mistakes Anne in his book but as he is a physics lecturer at Cambridge university you can hardly ignore him and his work. The UK/EU average is 125 KWh/d per person which is a lot of energy to be using. The average US citizen uses twice that, 250 KWh/d.

    Electric motors are 90% efficient but it all depends on how the electricity is generated. Presently a electric car plugged into the grid is only around 40% efficient overall due to the generation of grid electricity from coal, nuclear and gas mainly (here in the UK)and that makes them a lot less efficient than you say. Now I would suggest you would say that they can be fueled by some other means from electricity generated via solar means on your house but thats not a global solution, only a local one for people living in suitable solar capable areas. Here in the UK solar is a lot less useful in our winter, very poor and would not power a electric car.

    The future wil have to be electric vehicles but aircraft and freight are not ideally suited as yet for electric transport (if they ever will be) so although it will one day be an effective solution it is as yet not an answer.

    One 2 MW wind turbine is around 32% efficient in electricity generation the windiest part of the UK so it can generate around 2 GWh per annum. In the UK we use 400 TWh per annum so lets ee how many turbines to produce 25% of that. To produce 1 TWh we need 500 turbines or 50,000 to produce 25%. Oh I am sure that wind turbines put out at sea in deep waters can one day generate 5 MW or lets say 5 GWh per annum but that just means more space between them and hence its a massive job.

    Comment by pete best — 1 May 2009 @ 4:22 AM

  202. Many thanks to Anne (64) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=677#comment-121209 for exposing one of the many problems with MacKay’s work. Anyone taking his figures at face value, without looking at the proper peer-reviewed research, and without questioning his motives, and without really thinking about what they’re being told, should take great care.

    Throughout the first 100 pages, MacKay systematically underestimates renewables and overstates demand. He then hugely overstates the potential for nuclear, and understates the risk; and although he makes a great deal about his own energy conservation, his estimates at the national level are very conservative.

    Britain has more than enough potential renewables to meet current demand, and enough renewable resource to meet demand several times over, once we’ve implemented sensible cost-effective energy efficiency measures. The same for Europe, and North America, and South America, and Africa, and Asia.

    Which is a good job, given the shortage of high-grade uranium ore, the huge unmanageable risks associated with nuclear plants and nuclear proliferation, the large amounts of embedded carbon in uranium refining and processing (and other GHG emissions from the nuclear industry), and the insanity of developing a huge strategic fuel dependence on countries such as Russia.

    Comment by LPF — 1 May 2009 @ 4:26 AM

  203. “100 Mark: Power plants make the wrong isotope of plutonium for bombs. ”

    Uh, how do you work that out?

    You have a fissionable material, it can engender a chain reaction, you have material for a bomb.

    If it cannot engender a chain reaction, how can you extract power from it by fissioning?

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 4:28 AM

  204. “100 Mark: France recycles nuclear fuel.”

    Yup, so? If we triple the fissioning going on, do they have enough to work with?

    There are many things that cannot be used as fuel but are radioactive (else what do you think we were talking about with the Yucca Mountain?). If we triple the number of power stations, where do we put the radioactive waste (such that teh terrists can’t get at it)?

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 4:30 AM

  205. dhgoza pronounces:

    “Wind farms *do* do damage, and indeed a proliferation of them is very likely to lead to the extinction of several species of bird here in the US.”

    Yes, they DO damage. Even breathing in does damage.

    But that’s not the point I want to probe you about. It’s the second half.

    Please show me the proof that leads you do think it very likely to lead to extinction of several species of bird in the US.

    I am all agog in anticipation.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 4:33 AM

  206. “We don’t have 55 million lesser prairie chickens, the fact that cats in the UK kill 55 million house sparrows and starlings doesn’t mean that wind farms can’t harm lesser prairie chickens, ferruginous hawks, and other sensitive species.”

    Well, given that the UK currently have NO lesser prairie chickens, it would be quite hard for windfarms to wipe them out.

    And skyscrapers harm lesser prairie chickens, ferruginous hawks and other sensitive species.

    Yet you keep building them and you don’t fix the problems with the multitude of skyscrapers you have to reduce their death rate contribution to those sensitive species.

    Maybe you ought to ask yourself: are these species in danger even if we DON’T build wind farms? I think they would be. They were endangered before there were more than a handful of windfarms to harm them, so you can hardly blame them for these birds troubles.

    Have you also checked what the death rate IS from windfarms per modern turbine? I don’t think you have. I think all your information is from the much smaller and therefore faster rotating (which means harder to fly past without getting creamed) wind turbines.

    Guess what? That’s been changed.

    This happens occasionally when people complain (as they rightly did) about the death toll on birds by the turbines being used at the time.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 4:42 AM

  207. “The idea that all the ice can melt is preposterous because no amount of warming, natural or otherwise, will drop the average temperatures by enough to completely melt the poles.”

    So why is it when I put my coffee in a thermos flask or my hot dinner in a thermal pack for traveling, the hot food stays hot and the hot coffee stays hot?

    After all, it can be away from the heating element for hours and hours, no heat going in. Surely keeping stuff hot is impossible without some heating element!!!

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 4:45 AM

  208. “An 80% reduction of CO2 emissions takes things back to the level of 1900 or so, when things were much dirtier. ”

    Wow.

    So they had photovoltaic cells in the 1900s? They used geothermal plants way back then? They had huge MW wind turbines with the technology they had back then?

    Cool.

    How come that never gets told in history lessons?

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 4:47 AM

  209. My questions in comment #65 received no answer. I’ll try again more succinctly:

    Several proposals for coal and petroleum replacements have been made that still don’t get much attention. (I listed some.) What are their relative merits and feasibility? By rational, dispassionate criteria, which of them are most deserving of our investments?

    Comment by Manu Phonic — 1 May 2009 @ 4:50 AM

  210. EL writes:

    China, for example, will be a developing nation burning fossil fuels for a long time to come. China is not going to switch over to a more expensive technology during the development process.

    And suppose renewable energy becomes cheaper than coal?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 5:24 AM

  211. Manu Phonic,

    Electricity from wind is already cheaper than from nuclear (11 centers per kwh compared to 15), and solar thermal power is rapidly dropping.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 5:31 AM

  212. Gavin, sorry, I saw that further down the comments. Think before open mouth—

    However, I do believe we must look harder at what the worst case might look like. Especially as over the years the predictions appear to be getting worse not better. As one person said above, ‘we are playing catch-up’.

    In my opinion, we will continue to play catch-up over the next 10-20 years wit outcomes becoming progressibvely worse. We have to cut through this with a jump to educated estimates rather than purely data based information. This is demanded by the potential impact we can already state is definately happening. We no longer have the luxury to avoid estimating.

    Policy settings are often based on a leaders vision of the future. We have to find that vision. Scientists such as yourselves have the best understanding of the true situation to interpret what you see and make the jump to that vision.

    Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 1 May 2009 @ 5:33 AM

  213. beyondtool — check out Tim Lambert’s Deltoid blog (http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/) for a thorough refutation of Plimer’s idiotic book.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 5:34 AM

  214. And further to BPL’s post #210, China are already building massive amounts of wind farm turbines and using them. China are also attacking what EL sees as “the number one problem” of overpopulation by forcing couples to have fewer children.

    So why don’t you get off their back until your government (I know the UK isn’t) attack the problems as comprehensively as the Chinese government does. Their government may be repressive (though I now hardly see the difference between what China did and what my NuLab government is doing) but they are taking AGW a lot more seriously than most of the developed first world.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 6:18 AM

  215. Pete best in #201 says
    “but as he is a physics lecturer at Cambridge university you can hardly ignore him and his work.”

    Yes you can.

    Here’s an example of how professors can get it wrong even when they AREN’T trying to hide a lie:

    One question for my final year exam was to prove the law of inertial induction and show that it has the following form (and then puts an equation that eventually boils down to F=a, rather than F=ma).

    They forgot a mass term.

    Now what makes you think you can’t ignore his work when he’s taken the best options for nuclear and the worst options for renewables and forgotten to say so?

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 6:25 AM

  216. “If the justification of fighting global warming is for the sake of humankind, the burden on the underprivileged should be considered before a solution is proclaimed.”

    Two problems. First: The second does not follow from the first. Since mankind also includes the privileged. Secondly: since the underprivileged are going to get it in the shorts well before the priviliged get theirs and that the costs for mitigation will come mainly from the privileged, avoiding climate change is a priori taking the underprivileged class into account and given highest billing.

    After all, someone who can’t afford a holiday to a foreign country each year will not be affected when such flights are banned, will they. And the privileged can afford to move whereas the poor cannot afford a new home unless some sucker buys the one underwater.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 6:30 AM

  217. Re #202, you are being overly cynical of his work and his motives. As he is a academic at Cambridge University he is not linked in any way to any fuel and he is indeed not pushing any technology. His motives are made clear, people talking nonsense (BBC, Politicians mainly) about the nature of energy and its sources.

    http://www.gwec.net/fileadmin/documents/Global%20Wind%202008%20Report.pdf

    This report by the GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council) for 2008 and 2009 says a lot and it says some things that are a major issue. First off is that the USA is powering up its wind capability and has installed 25 GW of it which sounds amazing to us here in the UK until you read its only equivilent to just over 1% of the USA energy requirement. 7 million homes of electricity to meet 1% of your needs. In energy terms the USA is a major user and yes the economics and politics of renewable energy are in place and hence the ability to expand from 1% to 25% come 2020 should be possible if you keep on ramping up production each year by around 50%. So if the USA can install another 25 GW next year (8 GW in 2008) then yes meeting 25% might be possible but its highly unlikely at the moment. You might increase capacity by 10 GW in 2009 and maybe 15 GW in 2010 etc but making 25% mark is a long way off. OK so the USA has CSP capacity too but its a long time coming.

    David Mackay might be making a few assumptions about his work but he has the pedigree to do it and he knows the extent of it all. For the UK, its another measure as well. We are at 3 GW installed based and we need to go to 6 GW and then 12 GW (around a 6th of peak demand of 75 GW). So that is double and double again come 2020. That is a huge amount of wind and all of these turbines have a very large fossil fuel footprint making them and deployng them especially when you have to deploy upwards of 20,000 here and hell knows how many in the USA (250,000 would not suprise me).

    And of course no one is mentioning oil use, UK uses 2 Mbpd and the USA closer to 20 Mbpd. Replacing that with electricity will be needed as well. Big issues and big scalable solutions required. We need to ramp up production and deployment is we are going to offset CO2 emissions in any significant way and then we need to sort out India and China too in the long term.

    Comment by pete best — 1 May 2009 @ 6:48 AM

  218. 210 – I would refer to the basic economics of supply and demand. Wind power for example is becoming more expensive due to the demand place upon it.

    Comment by EL — 1 May 2009 @ 6:50 AM

  219. RE #215, How do you know that he has given the best for nuclear and the worst for wind?

    http://www.gwec.net/fileadmin/documents/Global%20Wind%202008%20Report.pdf

    Says it all about wind. Its amazing stuff and some countries (Germany) has installed a lot of it but its still requires herculean investment and manufacturing and deployment.

    Nuclear is another option and a much needed one. Clean coal if it ever scales and the coal industry wants to pursue it is also needed. Wind can only supply around 20-30% of our electricity needs, we need others unless you want to spand a lot of money gearing up our energy efficiency by insulating and rendering all of the UK 26,000,000 homes for starters. How many is that is the parts of the USA that need it and how many cooling insulation in the houses and offices that need air conditioning. It a massive problem.

    Everyone needs to make assumptions and people do get things wrong. Even university guys. I am sure he is not that far away from the ideas of energy production and efficiency.

    Comment by pete best — 1 May 2009 @ 7:01 AM

  220. MikeN writes:

    Why are you suggesting wind power instead of nuclear power which clearly has a larger capacity?

    In what way does nuclear power “clearly [have] a larger capacity” than wind power?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:09 AM

  221. Wilmot McCutchen writes:

    Renewables — Solar and wind are presently only a tiny fraction of power supply. They are intermittent, so they are unreliable for baseload power over 20%, and connecting them to the existing grid is an unsolved problem.

    Solar thermal plants store excess heat from the day in molten salts, which they then use to run the turbines at night. Some achieve nearly 24/7 operation this way. And with a smart grid, the solar during the day and the wind at night can average out, especially over large areas. Then there’s geothermal, which is available 24/7, ocean thermal ditto, and biofuels, which can be burned at any time. What we need is to stop whining about how things haven’t been proven at scale, and just start building.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:13 AM

  222. Jim Bullis writes:

    Either we have to find a way for us and the Chinese and Indians to use a lot less energy, or nuclear has to get serious reconsideration.

    Or we have to switch to renewable sources of energy.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:16 AM

  223. [edit]

    The Guardian newspaper has a very sobering article on CO2 emissions.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/may/01/vacla-klaus-emissions-economy

    [edit]

    Comment by Stuart Harmon — 1 May 2009 @ 7:17 AM

  224. 210:”Wind power for example is becoming more expensive due to the demand place upon it.”

    And when there is more demand on nuclear fuel? And operationally, all it uses up is wind. That doesn’t follow the laws of supply and demand.

    In what sense is your point there a special consideration for wind power?

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 7:22 AM

  225. James writes:

    It was only a few months ago that people were quoting $5 billion/plant – then I pointed out that equivalent solar would run at least $6 billion…

    And it was only a few weeks ago when I pointed out that your single-minded reliance on comparing capital costs misses the fact that nukes need fuel and solar and wind don’t, and that goes into electricity costs as well. That’s one reason why wind is 11 cents per kilowatt hour in California and nuclear is 15.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:23 AM

  226. Edward Greisch writes:

    Power plants make the wrong isotope of plutonium for bombs

    Does that isotope not have a critical mass, even if it’s larger than the critical mass for the other isotope?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:40 AM

  227. co2isnotevil writes:

    Obsessing about CO2 is counter productive

    You’ve never taken a course in atmosphere physics, have you?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:41 AM

  228. Edward Greisch writes:

    Nuclear is the cheapest and safest way to get electricity.

    Wind already generates power for less than nuclear (11 cents per kwh versus 15 cents in California). And to say nuclear is the SAFEST is just bizarre. Safer than wind? Safer than solar? How many solar thermal plants have melted down and released huge amounts of radioactivity? How many wind turbines have had steam explosions and killed plant workers? How many geothermal plants have given kids thyroid cancer?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:43 AM

  229. re #219.

    And how herculean was getting 100GW of capacity from nuclear power?

    Pretty darn near 7-tasks worth.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 7:47 AM

  230. John Bartlett writes:

    There is a case in point – in New Zealand last year there was much interest in government in moving forward with schemes to start dealing with climate change. With the general election last year (2008), the government changed and one of the parties in the new coalition is at too low a level to appreciate the problem and so it has been agreed that the issue with be placed with a committee for the details to be further analysed yet again.

    It’s a bad sign that they just fired their top climate scientist, Jim Salinger, for talking to the press.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 May 2009 @ 7:49 AM

  231. There is a world of difference between realism and defeatism. Saying that sustainability will be difficult is realism. Saying it is impossible is saying that ultimately civilization is temporary. The defeatists are the true prophets of doom. They say we cannot change, even if we must. MacKay’s book is realistic about the challenges that face us. It does not say that those challenges are insurmountable. In any case, there simply is no choice if we wish to convey civilization to future generations. We have to develop a sustainable civilization. We will face unpalatable choices down the line. Personally, I don’t think we will be able to make it without resorting to nuclear power, geoengineering and serious reductions in consumption. (I will be more than happy if somebody proves me wrong.) Our options would have been more palatable had we not spent 20 years debating established physics, and they are much better now than they will be if we wait 20 years.

    We can take solace, though, that history remembers the visionaries more than the defeatists:

    “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”–JFK

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 May 2009 @ 7:59 AM

  232. Re #229, We need it all but its a daunting proposition. I have seen some other work that plents renewables on current deployment lines and its grim reading.

    http://www.courtfool.info/en_World_Energy_and_Population.htm

    Look under renewables and see what he is projecting. Read what he says in relation to the entire global energy contraints.

    Comment by pete best — 1 May 2009 @ 8:59 AM

  233. “You can have as big a solar-powered house as you want. – gavin”

    I imagine that to the people of India and China that sounds a lot like: “Let them eat cake.”

    [Response: Actually, I think you'd find a huge number of people in China and India who'd be happy to have cleaner sources of energy - and the potential for solar in India is huge. They'd also be pretty happy at the concomitant reduction in air pollution, indoor smoke, bronchial disorders, polluted water and smog which contribute to premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of their fellows. I don't think that the citizens of Delhi are keen to go back to the old polluting buses they just got rid of for instance. And frankly, I resent these continual suggestions that doing something about carbon emissions implies some anti-third world agenda - it's low rhetoric of a most despicable kind. - gavin]

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 1 May 2009 @ 9:11 AM

  234. The old axiom” Actions speak louder than words” is one my wife and I try to follow. I am not a scientist so I depend on groups like National Resource Defense Council and Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Inst. as our model of forward looking groups that are actualy doing something rather than just talking about it.
    I do not brag but inform when I say we donate $1,000/year to these groups and have for years. Do you out there feel these are good places to invest our environmental donation dollars? Or are there better ways to get bang for our bucks?

    Comment by Dean Flugstad — 1 May 2009 @ 9:19 AM

  235. Barton Paul Levenson writes:

    Solar thermal plants store excess heat from the day in molten salts, which they then use to run the turbines at night. Some achieve nearly 24/7 operation this way. And with a smart grid, the solar during the day and the wind at night can average out, especially over large areas. Then there’s geothermal, which is available 24/7, ocean thermal ditto, and biofuels, which can be burned at any time. What we need is to stop whining about how things haven’t been proven at scale, and just start building.

    We also need to start debunking the claims of why those things don’t work, because certain beliefs have legs that need to be cut off.

    1). With a “smart grid”, or even just “smart devices”, much of the trouble with intermittent sources can be removed. This was proven at the Pacific Northwest National Labs “GridWise” project, and has been in use in parts of New England, for quite some time. No massive grid upgrade, just smarter loads.

    2). Solar and wind are complementary because it tends to be windy when it is cloudy and / or rainy. During a recent cloudy stretch, I =wish= I’d had wind. Not sure where I put it, but if I’d had it, I would have stayed off the grid.

    3). The biggest problem continues to be “Not In My Backyard”, not “The technology is not mature enough.” I’m working on an invention that will make suburban wind (and solar, but mostly wind) more feasible for when energy self-sufficiency outweighs “that’s too ugly!”

    4). Gavin is absolutely right — anyone can have a huge and wasteful house if they make the renewable energy to pay for it. I was off-grid much of April (TXU Energy is ripping me off, so I turned them off and ran off solar.) I didn’t get rid of the 3 HD TVs, cable boxes, DVR, computers, stereos, landscape lighting or anything else — including the electric motorcycle. The future is energy ABUNDANT with renewable energy, not energy SCARCE as with fossil fuels.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 1 May 2009 @ 9:43 AM

  236. Re:#223 The author of this is Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president. He is both a known euro-sceptic and a conservative. He believes that capitalism can do no wrong, and that liberalism, environmentalism, social democracy and all that are but backdoor communism. It is an
    attitude common among older people from my part of the world (Ex-Warsaw Pact) who resent everything Left as reminiscent of their suffering under the communists, worship industrialization and development and are blind to information-age ideas such as interdependence, complexity, network cascades, sustainability etc.
    The man is so behind the times he’s not even wrong.

    Comment by Konstantin — 1 May 2009 @ 9:46 AM

  237. re: 185. “The first step in this is to make electricity from coal much more expensive because the utilities will need to generate the money to pay the carbon tax (or offsets or whatever you want to call them). This cost will be passed on to the consumer, so those who purchase coal generated electricity will definitely be paying more.”

    The exact same thing was said in the US in the 1980s about SO2 and NOx emission reductions to reduce acid deposition. Coal companies, fossil-fuel fired power plants and various industries whined and whined about costs and pending economic doom. They were 100% wrong in all their overblown cost estimates (the federal government estimates were correct, BTW). What followed was a decade of strong economic growth while SO2 and NOx emissions began to decline.

    Comment by Dan — 1 May 2009 @ 9:47 AM

  238. Ray writes:

    “There is a world of difference between realism and defeatism. Saying that sustainability will be difficult is realism.”

    No, saying that it will be DIFFICULT is also defeatism.

    I bought a pair of boat shoes recently. They included the amount of energy required to produce them — 3.1KWH. Intrigued, I sat down and computed the cost of making that 3.1KWH in a sustainable manner. The answer was about $1.40 or so. If that company were to do that — “We built 3.1KWH worth of production using the profits / add-on fees / whatever from the sale of these shoes” — they wouldn’t wondering where electricity comes from in the future.

    The only DIFFICULTY is just doing it.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 1 May 2009 @ 9:50 AM

  239. And skyscrapers harm lesser prairie chickens, ferruginous hawks and other sensitive species.

    No, they don’t, which just shows how ignorant of the subject you are.

    As to my claim that several species could be pushed to extinction if extensive wind farms are build in their diminished habitat, on my side regarding lesser prairie chicken I have a refereed paper in BioScience.

    On your side you have the ignorant misunderstanding that the lesser prairie chicken is a migratory species that flies into skyscrapers.

    Tch tch.

    I’ll take the opinion of researchers who’ve studied the problem over Mark’s “authoritative” personal opinion.

    The call for intelligent siting of windfarms is not a call to stop building them.

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 May 2009 @ 10:01 AM

  240. 221 – The intermittent problem with wind is huge. Electrical grids need a guaranteed peak capacity, and wind cannot assure it. California, for example, experienced a heat wave that caused wind power to drop to an average of 4% capacity for 7 days. Think about 7 days without power, and you will see why this will not be the main solution. Denmark is another great example of this problem. They export most of their wind energy because it’s so variable.

    Solar panels would be nice if you could put them in outer-space. Securing it would be extremely difficult considering the environment, and the technology to get the power back to earth would likely be difficult.

    Biofuel is snake oil because it impacts food production and pricing unless a non-food item was chosen.

    Geothermal technology brings goodies out of the ground such as mercury, antimony, and arsenic that can get into the water supply and kill you.

    Nuclear power is an effective solution, and some of the miniature plants prove to be very promising. BUT it’s so damn dangerous to export to other countries.

    I’m passing out —- * poof *

    Comment by EL — 1 May 2009 @ 10:06 AM

  241. I can’t counter specific criticisms of MacKay’s book but I find it deeply distasteful that some are questioning his motives. I attended a lecture course he gave a few months ago (indeed, will soon be examined upon it…) and it is clear he cares very deeply about the environment, is certainly not driven by any ideology and is a thoroughly decent bloke to boot. In his book he goes into great detail about his own efforts to save energy in his own home. If you have a problem with his figures why not be useful and point them out to him? Might make it into the 2nd edition, who knows? But in any case I think you are missing the point – a major purpose of the book is to give the reader the tools to make his own calculations, not about nailing energy consumption in the UK to 1% from first principles.

    Comment by Alex — 1 May 2009 @ 10:08 AM

  242. Well, given that the UK currently have NO lesser prairie chickens, it would be quite hard for windfarms to wipe them out.

    On the other hand, the UK does have a very small remnant population of golden eagles, and it would be quite easy to intentionally site windfarms in such a way as to wipe them out, if that were my goal.

    Or to do so accidently, if someone who chooses to pretend the potential doesn’t exist were in charge of siting.

    I challenge you to find a single documented case of a golden eagle in the UK killed by flying into a skyscraper.

    Now, of course, since golden eagles are sparse with an extremely limited modern range in the UK, it’s extremely easy to site windfarms away from them so as to cause them no harm whatsoever.

    That’s the point. With adequate information, siting can be done in such a way as to not harm sensitive species. Your attitude and insistent ignorance – typical of the industry 15-20 years ago, though here in the US at least they’ve been forced to acknowledge potential problems and to do pre-licensing species inventories and post-installation monitoring of mortality – is not helpful.

    When such issues first came up, the wind industry tried to label US conservationists as being “anti-environmental”. Whatta load of …

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 May 2009 @ 10:11 AM

  243. Someone had asked for costs of wind power. Here’s an analysis of wind power in the U.S.

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5291

    QUOTE:
    Turbines are now 1.5-3.5 MW and appear to have ERoEI of 30-200:1, with energy paybacks of a few months. Life-cycle analysis indicates that wind energy, is low FF use, and CO2 emissions (5-40 g/kWh) about 25 to 100 times less than coal-fired electricity…

    A UK study looked at sites up to 800km separation (North/South), and found a low correlation between distant sites, so that >80% of the time a wind grid would be producing >30% average output…
    UNQUOTE

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 1 May 2009 @ 10:20 AM

  244. Edward G., what’s your source, please? Why do you believe that?
    Did you try the suggested search?
    http://www.fas.org/rlg/980826-pu.htm
    http://www.scitizen.com/screens/blogPage/viewBlog/sw_viewBlog.php?idTheme=14&idContribution=2370

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 10:24 AM

  245. Gavin- I assume you mean temperature variability, and it looks like about 0.5 deg. Above the trend line. Which is not far from “computed global temp” variations above normal. What is interesting, is that it seems to be somewhat consistent to the shape of the global temp anomaly over the past 2-3 decades. While I admit, it is a simple analysis, just using EXCEL and VB option, on one spot on the globe, it does provide some interesting insight as to past temp variations over a 350+ year range. So if I were to go back to “Occum’s Razor” mythology between man causing recent temp rise, versus the sun, at this time I’ll go with the sun.

    [Response: actually no. You are claiming that 57 year periodicity in solar drives temperature change. What percentage of the variability in the solar input is in this frequency band? (Answer it's tiny). Yet you think this trivial variance controls temperature when all other frequencies are ineffective. Thanks, but that is not convincing. - gavin]

    [Response: and by the way, its "Occam", not "Occum". - mike]

    #129 – Part 2 – Is that a question or statement? I’m not sure what your getting at.

    #182 – Edward – If you had taken the job, you might have had a chance to see Moscow and the Kremlin.

    Comment by J. Bob — 1 May 2009 @ 10:28 AM

  246. http://realclimateeconomics.org/

    Hat tip to a response by Kristen Sheeran, Portland, Or., in
    http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2009/05/01/opinion/01krugman.html?permid=38#comment38
    ________________
    “presses dicier”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 10:31 AM

  247. James wrote: “Right now there’s a certain production capacity [for photovoltaic panels]: so many watts per year. Ramping that up significantly requires years of lead time to build factories & equipment … it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the time & cost to do all this, and get say 100 GWatts of solar panels out there generating power, is going to be much different from that needed to build 100 nuclear plants.”

    With all due respect, many of your comments on this subject are full of rough guesses and assumptions that you say “seem reasonable”, and short on empirical facts.

    Nanosolar has a thin-film PV production tool that “prints” PV panels by depositing nanopartical ink on rolls of flexible substrate. One of these machines currently costs $1.65 million, and has a production capacity of 1 Gigawatt of PV panels per year. Compare and contrast that with the cost of building a 1 GW nuclear power plant.

    Consider also the following obseration from Nanosolar’s CEO Martin Roscheisen:

    In our new solar cell technology, we use an active material called CIGS, a Copper based semiconductor. How does this stack up against enriched Uranium?

    Here’s a noteworthy fact, pointed out to me by one of our engineers: It turns out that 1kg of CIGS, embedded in a solar cell, produces 5 times as much electricity as 1kg of enriched Uranium, embedded in a nuclear power plant.

    Or said differently, 1kg of CIGS is equivalent to 5kg of enriched Uranium in terms of the energy the materials deliver in solar and nuclear respectively.

    The Uranium is burned and then stored in a nuclear waste facility; the CIGS material produces power for at least the warranty period of the solar cell product after which it can then be recycled and reused an indefinite number of times.

    James wrote: “And again, my position is that we ought to start doing both right now.”

    And again, my position is that (1) nuclear power is not needed, since we can get all the electricity we need, and more, from renewables; (2) nuclear cannot possibly be expanded enough, quickly enough to have any significant impact on reducing GHG emissions in the time frame that’s needed, while renewables can be (and already are); and (3) resources invested in expanding nuclear power would be far more effectively invested in renewables and/or efficiency, and the opportunity costs of nuclear therefore mean that putting resources into nuclear power hinders rather than helps the effort to quickly reduce CO2 emissions from generating electricity.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 May 2009 @ 10:43 AM

  248. Krugman’s getting interesting responses with links, which some may not already know about. This fellow posted his own relevant research:

    http://creutzig.berkeley.edu/
    Felix Creutzig, Dongquan He. Climate change mitigation and co-benefits of feasible transport demand policies in Beijing. Transportation Research D, Apr 2009. pdf.

    His page also leads also to links to:

    Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory
    http://rael.berkeley.edu/

    Interview with Dan Kammen on Renewable Energies
    Apr 21 2009 | California Climate Change Extension
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjrNkkOi8V4
    _____________________
    “negotiations group” says ReCaptcha

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 10:45 AM

  249. To the person who called my book (Sustainable Energy – without the hot air) “misleading”, please could I encourage you to actually read the book before telling people how “misleading” it is? All the points you make _are_ made in the book. For example, I devote a chapter to explaining how electric vehicles are more efficient than petrol cars; and at the end of the chapter on petrol cars http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c3/page_30.shtml the endnotes make perfectly clear the distinction between the average energy consumption of car-driving in the UK today, and the consumption of the typical person who chooses to drive. Why do people have this urge to be nasty, to snipe, and to accuse me of being an idiot? I am trying to help! David, http://www.withouthotair.com

    Comment by David MacKay — 1 May 2009 @ 11:20 AM

  250. Related, and a reminder the problem hasn’t been solved yet:

    http://www.theozonehole.com/rocket.htm
    University of Colorado March 31, 2009
    … according to a new study by researchers in California and Colorado.
    … “As the rocket launch market grows, so will ozone-destroying rocket emissions,” said Professor Darin Toohey of CU-Boulder’s atmospheric and oceanic sciences department. “If left unregulated, rocket launches by the year 2050 could result in more ozone destruction than was ever realized by CFCs.”

    ——–
    http://www.fire.tc.faa.gov/ppt/systems/Nov08Meeting/Cortina-1108-IASFPWGupdate08.ppt

    EU ODS Regulations
    * No change to halon critical use list but EC chaired regulatory committee given authority to change the list and/or set time limits
    * DG Environment proposal contains the following end dates for aviation critical uses
    o Cargo compartment fixed systems – cannot be installed on new aircraft after 2015, end of critical use exemption is 2030
    o Cabin/crew compartment portables – 2010, 2015
    o Engine nacelles and APU – 2010, 2030
    o Lavatory (potty bottles) – 2008, 2015
    o Dry bays – 2010, 2030; Inert fuel tanks – 2008, 2030

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  251. Good points, Ray, but I’m not sure about this: “Personally, I don’t think we will be able to make it without resorting to nuclear power, geoengineering and serious reductions in consumption.”

    Well, nuclear power is also a strictly limited resource, related to the amount of uranium ore, which is really not that limited over the next 50 years, any more than fossil fuels are, overall. Assuming a need for nuclear is also something of an argument against civilization, as is assuming a need for any limited resource. I don’t think too many people are proposing closing down nuclear power plants – the argument is rather than resources should go into wind and solar until they each equal nuclear’s current production (20% of total electric demand in the U.S. goes to nuclear).

    Regardless, plants have survived on the surface of the earth for hundreds of millions of years. How did plants and animals solve the resource limitation issue?

    Wind and solar and water energy. Solar for raw energy, and wind and water for the transport of raw materials and wastes (and seeds).

    With combinations of wind and solar coupled to advanced energy storage, plus agricultural biofuels produced without fossil fuels, you have truly independent energy systems with zero resource limitation issues. That’s the basis of zero carbon cities, fed by fossil fuel free agriculture – a very plausible concept.

    Also, geoengineering is an awfully vague term – haven’t we been doing geoengineering for the past 150 years by altering the atmospheric composition? What kind of geoengineering are you proposing?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 1 May 2009 @ 11:38 AM

  252. #199 EL:

    Was this some sort of trial balloon from the PR folks? If so it’s badly underinflated.

    The underprivileged and disadvantaged are going to be most affected by negative effects of climate change. Thus it is incumbent on we who are more fortunate to take the lead in fixing the problem. Why would we add to their burden of suffering if we have a choice?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 11:48 AM

  253. Amen, Ray Ladbury #231. The challenge should bring out the best in us. We’re tired of the worst, and sustainability is becoming the new fashion. Waste, greed, and obstinate stupidity have had their 8 years, and now it’s time for thrift and prudence and the sincere intelligence of those who truly believe that “yes, we can.”

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 1 May 2009 @ 11:50 AM

  254. #217 pete best:

    That is a huge amount of wind and all of these turbines have a very large fossil fuel footprint making them and deployng them

    Sorry Pete but simply not true. Wind turbines are huge structures, true, as are hydro or solar or nuclear installations, but they pay back the cost in CO2 of their own construction already very early in their useful life. As this is a common misconception, here is a link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_footprint

    and follow esp. the Vattenfall link (3) within, page 24.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 1 May 2009 @ 11:51 AM

  255. #185 “co2isnotevil”:

    Want to try again with that? The latter part of your post was completely incomprehensible. I think if you look carefully you’ll see that the wooden rifle you were handed before you were sent into the line of battle is too poorly carved to frighten any of us, brave-but-gullible volunteer.

    Also, let’s see the exact quote in Obama’s words (not a paraphrase) of the “Obama wants to bankrupt the coal industry” lie you swallowed and then vomited back up on this site. Care to produce it?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 11:57 AM

  256. Ray Ladbury says: “We will face unpalatable choices down the line. Personally, I don’t think we will be able to make it without resorting to nuclear power, geoengineering and serious reductions in consumption.”

    I’ve lost my knee-jerk response to nuclear power in our context, but geoengineering schemes usually strike me as reflecting an attitude insufficiently humble in the face of our evident incompetence at anything resembling this kind of engineering. Look at Biosphere, look at Greenland.

    But perhaps I misread your use of the term. Certainly humankind will need brilliant engineers to devise more sustainable systems in the infrastructure of the human/earth interface. Coping with perpetually unstable coastlines in a responsible way, for instance, will be an enormous challenge for that kind of geoengineer.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 1 May 2009 @ 11:59 AM

  257. David MaKay, why not snipe at someone who snipes themselves in the title of their book.

    “Without hot air” implies that you uniquely are not just a windbag and that “the others” are.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 12:04 PM

  258. Charles Munger said it is nearly demented to adopt cap and trade policies during this ecoinomic crisis.
    Along with many other experts.
    The underprivileged and disadvantaged are going to be most affected by negative effects of cap and trade. Thus it is incumbent on we who are more fortunate to take the lead in stopping this policy. Why would we add to their burden of suffering if we have a choice?

    Comment by John H. — 1 May 2009 @ 12:11 PM

  259. Barton Paul Levinson #222 et al.

    Pull that switch.

    Ok, but maybe its ok to ask what things will really cost. There is that sticky conservative (lower case c, no religious overtones) in me that likes to keep tabs on things. I realize this is out of fashion; conservatives of my sort might have, and should have, asked some hard questions as we headed into financial collapse as a result of deceitful practices in the financial world.

    So I think it is important to know how much things really cost. By that I mean something a little more definitive than “8 cents” etc.

    Concentrated solar truly sounds great, but there seems to be something missing. No one seems willing to answer why the big California desert CSP plant was shut down, even though it had already been built. So sorry, before building, I think a few questions are fair.

    The main question is whether any and all of the renewables in our dreams will actually displace coal as the marginal responding energy source to each incremental load. When the answer to that question is a knowledgeable yes, plug-in cars could transition from harmful deceptions to important solutions.

    To be specific, plug-in cars that use power from coal are generally worse for CO2 emissions than like sized hybrids. Don’t fall for the deceptive statement, “but plug-ins are better than conventional cars.” There is a reasonable accomplishment where conventional cars are well engineered as hybrids, but stop there until the coal is no longer the fuel involved.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 12:35 PM

  260. >No. Just carbon emissions. You can have as big a solar-powered house as you want.

    Just looking at the comments in this thread, we can see part of the agenda people have in mind. An 80% reduction in emissions is very substantial, basically remaking society at high cost. It’s not just a matter of switching to more expensive energy sources, which itself is a huge loss of comfort. I’ve seen estimates that 20% comes from livestock production. You say that the fact of an 80% reduction going back to the level of 1900 is irrelevant, but it is relevant since that’s the amount of reduction you want.

    Comment by MikeN — 1 May 2009 @ 12:36 PM

  261. Jim Bullis,

    30 April 2009 at 1:30 PM

    I understand your point, but did not make the common mistake as you suggest. I am perfectly aware of the conversion efficiencies of wind turbines, solar cells and power plants.

    I was trying to point out a flaw in the assumption made by prof MacKay, by suggesting that throwing 1 kWh of electric energy into an electric car would get you just as far as throwing 1 kWh of chemical energy into a petrol car.

    Renewable energy sources are usually measured in electric energy, which is a net value, with previous conversion losses already factored in. This electric energy can thus not be compared on a 1:1 basis with the chemical energy in fossil fuels without taking into account the conversion efficiency of both forms of energy into a useful form (kinetic energy in this case).

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  262. Jim Bullis,
    30 April 2009 at 1:38 PM

    It is $0.08 over market expectations.

    I think it is $0.08 including market expectations. According to the page I linked to, that is the total price these companies receive.

    What I would like to point out is that this is no final price, it is the current price. Offshore wind is relatively new and will benefit a lot from future development of larger wind turbines. Currently 3 MW is the norm, 15 MW turbines are already on the drawing board. Expect that price to drop.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 12:52 PM

  263. Re: #175

    Ray,

    It looks like you concur with me that realism and rationality have been sorely missing from the discussion. Nature Mag’s full frontal assault on the current belief structure puts the lie to the idea that this problem can be managed from emissions reduction alone.

    It’s nice to see the community starting to catch up with me.

    I will say that I am completely certain that we will overshoot the target, perhaps by 25% or more. So, it is clear that (a) there must be a smorgasbord of solutions and (b) we are going to warm anyway. I mean, 2*C OR MORE. No matter what we do.

    One thing I have been focused on is the thermal inertia of nature. We gave it a good kick in the pants, and nature has taken over from there. We continue to kick it, adding to the inertia, but even once we stop, the inertia will continue and will build. It is not clear that we have any way to reverse that course, other than to actually over-cool the planet to induce ice age-like conditions. Of course, that invites a scenario where we overshoot THAT target as well and cause epic disaster.

    Quite a fine mess, eh?

    So, I say that we are in for a much warmer world NO MATTER WHAT WE DO. We are going to have to adapt and that’s all there is to it. Our safest bet is to find a way to coast the warming to a stop at a new level, and let nature draw it down over the course of several centuries. It is conceivable that the climate of the past 10,000 years can return in the future if we learn to get out of the way.

    But I think we need to be clear here: the goal really should not be to AVOID the warming, because nature clearly has a foot on that pedal as well, thanks to the kick we gave it. The best we can hope for it to stop kicking it and let it find a new level that is not ridiculously higher than today.

    Your thoughts?

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 1 May 2009 @ 12:52 PM

  264. James,

    30 April 2009 at 1:12 PM

    Assume typical nuclear plant of 1 GWatt capacity, 1 Euro = 1.32 USD (today’s exchange rate), gives $2.97 billion cost. But that’s nameplate rating. Actual generation is typicallly about 1/3 nameplate, their numbers imply they expect 0.46 * nameplate, so I’ll use that, and assume the reactor has 90% uptime (recent US average is 91-92%). This gives $5.85 billion as the cost of wind generation equal to one nuclear plant, not all that far from the estimated cost of the nuclear plant.

    I can agree with your calculation, but would like to point out that this is only capital cost, there are also operating costs to consider. Your cost estimate for nuclear is on the low side in the real world. Actual costs are more like $ 6-10 billion per GW.

    Plus of course you need to add some cost for storage, because of the intermittent nature of wind.

    And you have to factor in the cost of fuel and decomissioning.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 12:59 PM

  265. David MacKay,
    I apologize for the sniping. Feelings run high, and this is a community that has endured concerted attacks for a couple of decades now. It doesn’t help that many in the denialosphere are misappropriating your arguments to claim that sustainable energy is impossible.
    Personally, I’ve been impressed with your work even when I haven’t agreed with it. I think that you do a good job of laying out the challenges we face on the way to sustainability. And certainly, there is every opportunity to get it wrong. Even so, I don’t see that we have much choice but to push for renewables. I fully appreciate that this will not be easy, and your work does an excellent job of showing just how hard it will be, but we certainly cannot continue on our current course.

    As to critics, I recommend the words of Leonardo: “As to my enemies, I pay no more attention to the wind that comes from their mouths than to the wind that comes from their anuses.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 May 2009 @ 1:00 PM

  266. Yes, MikeN, we CAN easily see your agenda.

    Cost of these alternative sources are cheaper than continuing to use irreplaceable fossil fuels or dangerous (both materially and policically) radioactive materials.

    That you state without proof that they are more expensive and then state that this is 100% proof of a loss of comfort.

    And it is WRONG, not irrelevant to say that an 80% reduction will take us back to the 1900′s because it doesn’t. It is the same CO2 output as we had in the 1900′s. But nothing else is the same.

    It doesn’t mean the same energy use levels.

    It doesn’t mean slave labour.

    It doesn’t mean loss of the modern comforts that we have today.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 1:04 PM

  267. Jim states:

    ” No one seems willing to answer why the big California desert CSP plant was shut down, even though it had already been built.”

    Um, the reason for closing it down will have been given in the speech saying it was being closed down.

    That’s what you do when you say something is closing down.

    You say why.

    Else there would be no point in saying something is closing down.

    What is happening is that you haven’t LOOKED to find the reason why it was closed down.

    This “I haven’t heard …” meme seems to be the next attack vector by denialists.

    Tiresome.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 1:07 PM

  268. John H proclaims:

    “The underprivileged and disadvantaged are going to be most affected by negative effects of cap and trade”

    It will? How do you figure that out?

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 1:08 PM

  269. Jim Bullis, I’m not sure what CSP project you are talking about – care to elaborate? Otherwise, try these:

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/SolFocus_And_Samaras_Expands_Solar_CPV_Project_In_Greece_999.html

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Two_50MW_CSP_Solar_Thermal_Powerplants_In_Andalucia_And_Extremadura_999.html

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Concentrating_Solar_Power_Could_Generate_200_Billion_Dollars_In_Investment_By_2020_999.html

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Abengoa_Solar_To_Build_World_Largest_Solar_Plant_999.html

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Groundbreaking_Of_North_America_Largest_Solar_Photovoltaic_Energy_Park_999.html

    http://www.solardaily.com/reports/The_Race_Is_On_For_1W_Solar_Power_999.html

    That one is well worth reading:

    “By 2012, companies not able to achieve $1/W through the module level, $2/W through the system level and $0.10/kWh to $.20/kWh for electricity are significantly at risk, because other companies will get there,” stated PHOTON Consulting’s Managing Director, Michael Rogol.”

    Comment by Ike Solem — 1 May 2009 @ 1:13 PM

  270. MikeN #243,

    After the expensive phony solutions are cleared away, we might get busy working on inexpensive ways to get close to that 80%.

    Cars can be built that go fast on about a fifth the energy now required for the kind of cars we now insist on driving. Trucks can be built that use about a third of the energy they now use. We can also get twice to three times the electric energy from natural gas as we now do. Throw in some really good building insulation projects and we might start to think hopefully.

    Even renewable electricity sources could start to look feasible if the demand for electricity was dramatically lowered.

    But we need to make sure a lot of silly fake stuff does not get in the way. Everything is in that category until serious cost analyses are brought forward.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 1:14 PM

  271. #241 JohnH:

    As I’m going to continue repeating each time I hear a repetition along the lines of “electrical demand is highly elastic, an increase in costs will bring the economy to its knees”, I do business in a place where residential costs are currently $0.30/kWh and are known to go quite a bit higher. Life continues, lights stay on in the poorest of households. More significantly, electricity continues to be wasted at levels that rather astounding even when costs are $0.40/kWh, solid evidence that even optional electrical consumption is strongly inelastic.

    If you’re going to fully explain how the costs associated with cap-and-trade would paralyze the economy and punish the poor, you need to include a convincing argument for why your hypothesis comports with $0.40/kWh electricity still leaving room for waste, even in poor households.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 1:15 PM

  272. In #191 this odd assertion appears:
    “Nuclear produces LESS CO2 than wind or solar.”

    It does? So how does the uranium get to the power station? Uranium-fueled trucks???

    How does the wind get to the turbine? Ah.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 1:16 PM

  273. Ike, I don’t see nukes as a longterm solution, nor even a desirable short-term solution if we can avoid it. I am not convinced that it is inherently unsafe, but the waste is a problem, and to argue that proliferation isn’t an issue is naive.

    However, I think we have two iron-clad goals:
    1)Keep the economy healthy enough to support a very large R&D effort for alternate energy, mitigations, etc.
    2)Reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere

    Increased nuclear power as a short-term solution is at least compatible with those goals. I also think we will have to do some geo-engineering, as much as I am worried that current models are not sufficiently developed to validate the effectiveness or safety of these solutions. We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing solutions anymore. We have to go with whatever works.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 May 2009 @ 1:21 PM

  274. #263 Mark,

    I have looked and I will keep looking. I have asked and I will keep asking. When I ask why, I am looking for a bit more than “it was not practical,” which was what the ‘speech’ said. I want to know why.

    Yeh, I am tiresome, guilty as charged.

    Denialist? Huh? Try not to make stuff up to help with name calling.

    I offer worthwhile solutions and have a faint hope of future financial gain in the process. Go with that if you want.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 1:25 PM

  275. John H. asks “Why would we add to their burden of suffering if we have a choice?”

    Answer: We don’t have a choice.

    Next!

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 May 2009 @ 1:25 PM

  276. Mike F
    30 April 2009 at 3:15 PM

    #64 Where in MacKay’s book do you find the claims and the calculations which you attribute to him? I can’t find them. On page 30 in the notes he calculates the average energy used for car driving per person in the UK based on UK DfT figures for total car travel per passenger km and average UK petrol consumption as 24 kWh per person per day. He uses a figure of 40 kWh for car energy use per average affluent Brit per day, which equates to about 50 km per day per car (occupancy average about 1.7) for the next few chapters in his energy balance, but I cannot find anywhere where he then scales this up, but I may be wrong, I haven’t re-read the whole book.

    See page 33. He actually doesn’t scale up, but scales down. He says that if we cover the windiest 10% of Britain with wind turbines, this will yield 20 kWh per person per day. That block of renewable energy is then suggestively stacked against the 40 kWh p.p.d. he reckons Britain needs to keep its cars rolling. Reverse that and you see that he is effectively suggesting that every person in Britain needs 40 kWh per day for driving a car.

    I do not see where your point about equivalence of chemical and electrical energy comes in.

    See also my comments above. A given amount of electric energy can be put to good use with far more efficiency than the same amount of chemical engergy. Prof. MacKay leaves that fact out of his calculations.

    The figures he uses are calculated from mileage and fuel energy content for IC engined cars, so 80 kWh per 100 km for average UK car. He has a variety of figures for electric cars and says he thinks 15 kWh per 100 km is attainable

    You can be sure this 15 kWh per 100 km is attainable. Real electric cars (like the Tesla Roadster) are close to that figure in the real world. Ask yourself why he is not using this 15 kWh in his calculations, but sticks the 40 kWh. (Answer: he needs to jack up demand to make renewables seem like a hopeless enterprise)

    (no allowance for how the electricity is generated, I assume).

    You seem to be missing the entire point of prof. MacKay’s book. The electricity is supposed to be generated by renewable sources.

    Toyota claim an average consumption of 4.3 l per 100 km which is 23.3 km per litre or 2.4 km per kWh assuming 9.7 kWh per litre, not 6.

    No. the 9.7 kWh chemical energy in petrol will be converted in to kinetic energy with an efficiency of roughly 20%. The electric energy that wind turbines and solar panels produce will be converted into kinetic energy in an electric car with an efficiency of >80%.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 1:27 PM

  277. Barton Paul Levenson Says (1 May 2009 at 7:13 AM):

    “Solar thermal plants store excess heat from the day in molten salts, which they then use to run the turbines at night. Some achieve nearly 24/7 operation this way.”

    But of course have significant storage losses if they do so, so less overall efficiency. In addition, those solar thermal plants, with their huge arrays of concentrating mirrors, are the very ones that have what are (in my mind) unacceptable environmental effects.

    “And with a smart grid, the solar during the day and the wind at night can average out, especially over large areas.”

    Ignoring the fact that in many (most?) areas winds blow most strongly in the afternoon and evening.

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (1 May 2009 at 7:23 AM):

    “And it was only a few weeks ago when I pointed out that your single-minded reliance on comparing capital costs misses the fact that nukes need fuel and solar and wind don’t, and that goes into electricity costs as well.”

    OK, so where’s your data on those fuel costs? And a comparison with e.g. the need to clean dust & bird crap off the solar mirrors every so often? Then we can add in your single-minded refusal to consider the costs of storage for a grid that has a large fraction of uncontrollably intermittent generation…

    The point you seem to miss is that I’m trying to make reasonable estimates from data that’s easily available, while remaining aware of the uncertainties. You, like some others, seem to regard nuclear power with the same certainty that Catholics show towards Original Sin.

    I’ll freely admit that there’s a bit of personal taste in my opinions too, though I do try to keep it separate. I’d far rather live with the aftereffects of a “worse than worse case” nuclear accident like this http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4923342.stm than what a few of those concentrating solar plants would do to the Mojave.

    Comment by James — 1 May 2009 @ 1:30 PM

  278. To be specific, plug-in cars that use power from coal are generally worse for CO2 emissions than like sized hybrids. Don’t fall for the deceptive statement, “but plug-ins are better than conventional cars.” There is a reasonable accomplishment where conventional cars are well engineered as hybrids, but stop there until the coal is no longer the fuel involved.

    Yes, but if over the next ten years we can get a large fleet of plugins on the road, and by then solar PV will have become so cheap that everyone will be putting it on their roofs, then the transition to that power source would be easy because everyone’s already got a plugin hybrid.

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 1 May 2009 @ 1:45 PM

  279. #269 Ike Solem,

    Thanks, I will look and read.

    I was talking about the California desert project which was described in Business Week, Fortune Mag, or something like that about 6 months ago. I forget the location name, but I thought the project name was “Solar One”.

    But getting on with a real discussion, I am suggesting a distributed cogeneration system where electric power from natural gas can be produced at a fuel cost low enough that displacing coal as the marginal responding fuel source is a reasonable possibility.

    I need convincing that the 10 cent to 20 cent electricity from CSP will be competitite as a market choice without major government assistance.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 1:49 PM

  280. Phil Scadden,
    30 April 2009 at 5:02 PM

    #64 Anne. The book does the comparisons for “moderately affluent” but also states the average figure (24kWh/p/d).

    Yes, but ask yourself why he doesn’t use this figure. Look at page 33 where he starts building his stacks of demand vs supply. Thats a 40 kWh block that he puts there. And ask yourself why he puts a block of chemical energy against a block of electric energy. The real figure that I calculated for Britain about a year ago when I first heard of this book was closer to 3 kWh p.p.d (for an electric car), not 40.

    There are I believe 30.000.000 cars in Britain, with an average mileage of 9000. That is 1 car for every 2 persons yielding 4500 car miles per person per year. Multiply by 1.6, divide by 365 and you get ~ 20 car km per person per day. With my previous figure of 6 km/kWh the result is 3.3 kWh p.p.d. for private motorized transport.

    Like I said above, it’s all about making the shift to renewables seem hopeless.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 1:53 PM

  281. Ray Ladbury wrote: “Increased nuclear power as a short-term solution is at least compatible with those goals.”

    My primary objection to nuclear power is precisely that, completely apart from its very real dangers and toxic pollution, it is not a short-term solution if “short-term solution” is defined as one that can make a significant contribution to reducing GHG emissions in the time frame within which such reductions are needed.

    Nuclear power plants take too long to build. As Marc Jacobson of Stanford University reported in a recent study that compared alternative sources of electricity:

    The time between planning and operation of a nuclear power
    plant includes the time to obtain a site and construction permit,
    the time between construction permit approval and issue, and the
    construction time of the plant.

    In March, 2007, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first request for a site permit in 30 yr. This process took 3.5 yr. The time to review and approve a construction permit is another 2 yr and the time between the construction permit approval and issue is about 0.5 yr. Thus, the minimum time for preconstruction approvals (and financing) is 6 yr. We estimate the maximum time as 10 yr.

    The time to construct a nuclear reactor depends significantly on
    regulatory requirements and costs. Because of inflation in the
    1970s and more stringent safety regulation on nuclear power
    plants placed shortly before and after the Three-Mile Island
    accident in 1979, US nuclear plant construction times increased
    from around 7 yr in 1971 to 12 yr in 1980. The median
    construction time for reactors in the US built since 1970 is 9 yr.
    US regulations have been streamlined somewhat, and nuclear
    power plant developers suggest that construction costs are now
    lower and construction times shorter than they have been
    historically. However, projected costs for new nuclear reactors have historically been underestimated and construction costs of
    all new energy facilities have recently risen. Nevertheless, based
    on the most optimistic future projections of nuclear power
    construction times of 4–5 yr and those times based on historic
    data, we assume future construction times due to nuclear power
    plants as 4–9 yr. Thus, the overall time between planning and
    operation of a nuclear power plant ranges from 10–19 yr.

    The new AREVA-designed EPR nuclear power plant being built at Olkiluoto, Finland is already three years behind schedule and 50 percent over budget, and the subject of lawsuits between the partners in the project (not lawsuits from “environmentalists”). This EPR plant represents the “new generation” of nuclear power plants that would supposedly be faster and cheaper to build, and free of the problems that plagued previous designs, and has been touted by the industry as the foundation of its “revival”.

    So, new nuclear power plants being proposed today are extremely unlikely to even begin producing any “carbon free” electricity for at least ten years, and probably closer to 20 years.

    In contrast, Jacobson’s study estimates the time between planning and operation for utility scale wind and solar power plants to be only 2 to 5 years.

    By the time that new nuclear power plants can even begin to generate any “carbon free” electricity, we can build and deploy hundreds of gigawatts of wind and solar generating capacity — and that’s with today’s mainstream, already commercialized technology, let alone the innovations like thin-film solar that are just beginning to enter the market.

    And meanwhile, resources directed to expanding nuclear power would be far more effectively directed towards expanding renewables and improving efficiency. Indeed, Jacobson estimates that the opportunity costs of nuclear — the CO2 emissions that result from not using the resources consumed by expanding nuclear to expand renewables and improve efficiency instead — exceed the total CO2 emissions from the entire nuclear power plant lifecycle.

    Whatever else may be said about nuclear, it is not a “short term” solution for reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation.

    Captcha says “1941 problem” — perhaps suggesting that we need a WWII-scale effort here …

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 May 2009 @ 2:07 PM

  282. #269 Ike Solem,

    Thanks, I will look and read. Your references seem to be future plans.

    I was talking about the California desert project which was described in Business Week, Fortune Mag, or something like that about 6 months ago. I forget the location name, but I thought the project name was “Solar One”. It was closed in the 1990s.

    But getting on with a real discussion, I am suggesting a distributed cogeneration system where electric power from natural gas can be produced at a fuel cost low enough that displacing coal as the marginal responding fuel source is a reasonable possibility.

    I need convincing that the 10 cent to 20 cent electricity that you quote from CSP will be competitite as a market choice without major government assistance. I just checked the wholesale electricity contracts out to June 2011: they range from 4 cents to 7 cents per kWhr. Where is the competitiveness?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 2:14 PM

  283. #260 MikeN:

    Scan this thread of comments and you can see you’ll do better at engagement if you bring more than vague fears of a “loss of comfort” to the table. Meanwhile, puzzling allusions to some sort of cabalistic “agenda” pursued by gratuitously comfort-robbing plotters leave you sounding faintly comical. I’d stay away from the word “agenda” if I were you. How about “plan for updating” or “course for modernization” or “abandonment of anachronistic, outmoded and increasingly dangerous methods”?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 2:18 PM

  284. #276 Anne van der Bom

    It clears up a lot when you say,

    “You seem to be missing the entire point of prof. MacKay’s book. The electricity is supposed to be generated by renewable sources.”

    I anticipate something much less idea.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 2:19 PM

  285. Research and development money will be increasing, but will that make a real difference? Some obstacles in the way of clean power include:

    1. Hostility to inventors and new energy technology. It used to be, back in the days of Edison, Tesla, et al., that innovators were admired. Now they are called “trolls” and accused of destroying American jobs. The courts and Congress have made patents subject to perpetual validity review and made it more profitable for big companies to steal than to innovate.

    2. Big business does not like change. The status quo is satisfactory for them, and change represents uncertainty, which is bad for business. Why should the utilities, cement producers, steel companies, oil companies, and other giant polluters welcome any progress in the science and technology of pollution abatement?

    3. Big science will probably get all of the research and development money for expansion of existing big budget projects, including hot fusion, CO2 sequestration, supercolliders for particle physics, and other pure science research which has so far proved of no utility. As Lee Smolin pointed out in his book, “The Problem with Physics,” applied science is sneered at, and only theoreticians get respect. String theory has starved research in other areas of physics.

    4. Small business creation in America is too hard. The new technology necessary to make clean energy cheap will have to be developed by small business, since, as noted in #2 above, big business will have to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Startups will have to be significantly incentivized, and these incentives should not be allowed to big business. Presently, under federal law, a “small business” is one with under 500 employees, which sounds like big business to me. A new category, microbusiness, needs to be created for federal incentives. Incentives should include exemption of microbusinesses (under 20 employees, and under $2 million annual revenue) from the more onerous reporting, environmental liability, minority quotas, employee liabilities, OSHA hassles, and taxation (including patent “maintenance fees”), imposed by the federal government. The reason that America’s industrial base is crumbling is that new businesses are treated by the federal government like established giants, instead of being protected and nurtured for the future.

    5. DOE has already given contracts for $80 billion in future spending to 16 favored contractors, which will absorb all available R&D in clean tech for the foreseeable future. This was a parting shot of the Bush administration in December 2008. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/news/news_detail.html?news_id=12150

    6. DOE is committed to unworkable solutions, namely chemical CO2 capture and underground dumping (“sequestration”). Chemical capture from flue gas is a much harder problem than capture from natural gas wells or IGCC gasification, due to the presence of a large 75% volume percentage of N2 (“nitrogen ballast”), fly ash, and acid-forming SOx and NOx. It has not been proven at scale. Sequestration is not a realistic hope, for reasons detailed in a scathing GAO report. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081080.pdf Summarizing the report: no one wants a lethal gas dump under their home, and no one wants to insure the risk that the CO2 won’t leak out, plus the transportation infrastructure to get CO2 to the injection sites will be enormous.

    Here is a scalable mechanical alternative for post-combustion CO2 capture (and flue gas scrubbing) which could be retrofitted to the existing fleet of pulverized coal plants: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2009/0013867.pdf

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 1 May 2009 @ 2:21 PM

  286. Manu Phonic (209) — One solution is to replace fossil coal by biocoal, usually called biochar these days, and also replace petroleum products by the biiofeul equivalent. For the latter, just now biodiesel is possible and competative with fosil diesel in some locations; there isn’t a biogasolene yet, but give it some time.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 May 2009 @ 2:22 PM

  287. Phil Scadden
    30 April 2009 at 11:46 PM

    Solar on roof tops wont deliver enough to drive your electric car.

    Where I live, a perfectly placed solar panel delivers 800 kWh per year per kWp (=kW peak rated capacity). Since my roof is east/west, it will deliver around 500 kWh per year per kWp. Solar cells are available up to 20% efficiency, meaning 200 W / m². So I could turn my roof into a 12 kWp solar installation which yields 6000 kWh / year. That is enough for 35,000 km/year. I drive 30,000 km/year. 35,000> 30,000.

    That was my calculation, now you show yours.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 2:36 PM

  288. By the way, I’d just like to mention that I am far happier to be arguing about the comparative benefits of nuclear power, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, conservation, efficiency, reforestation, organic agriculture, etc. for quickly reducing CO2 emissions and concentrations, than to be engaged in yet another argument with someone who doesn’t believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or that human activities are not causing warming, or that the Earth is cooling, or thinks that AGW is a “liberal” conspiracy to destroy capitalism, etc.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 May 2009 @ 2:45 PM

  289. David B. Benson #286 — Vehicle fuel might be made from the syngas (CO + H2) resulting from the simultaneous electrolysis of CO2 and H2O, followed by the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. The Idaho National Laboratory (Stoots, et al.) have demonstrated this, which they have dubbed “syntrolysis.” http://www.inl.gov/factsheets/docs/syntrolysis.pdf

    So CO2 might be a resource instead of a waste product, and carbon recycling might be possible. The O2 from CO2 cracking would save the cost of the air separation unit in IGCC and oxyfuel coal plants. The energy for the cracking would have to come from wind and solar and geothermal, since fossil fuels create more CO2 than they can crack.

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 1 May 2009 @ 2:53 PM

  290. Wilmot in point #1 of post #285 you’re so very, very wrong.

    Edison’s patents were avoided like the plague. That is why Holywood started in California, where they could make a film, sell enough to make a profit and close shop before the bailiffs got the orders to get the money for the patent.

    Patents are NOT up for perpetual review. They have spent the last thirty years being up for NO REVIEW WHATSOEVER.

    Case in point: The JPEG patents were given to IBM ***and*** Forgent. THE SAME FREAKING PATENT!

    Hardly proof of review, is it.

    Big companies can steal patents and outlawyer any smaller company. See what happened to Stacker when MS ground them into dust.

    Your post there is pure Neo-con Free Market Uber Alles claptrap made worse by patents and other “IP” laws being a government interference in the free market.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:02 PM

  291. pete best
    1 May 2009 at 4:22 AM

    Re #64, He may have made some mistakes Anne in his book

    That is quite an understatement for an overestimation by more than an order of magnitude for something that is so easy to verify.

    but as he is a physics lecturer at Cambridge university you can hardly ignore him and his work.

    Ignoring no, treating with skepticism, yes.

    The UK/EU average is 125 KWh/d per person which is a lot of energy to be using.

    That is primary energy. Or: the chemical energy contained in the fossil fuels we are burning. A large part of that is burnt in powerplants to generate electricity. According to Prof. MacKay’s twisted logic, we need 1 kWh of electricity to replace 1 kWh of coal that generates 400 Wh of ….. electricity.

    Electric motors are 90% efficient but it all depends on how the electricity is generated.

    That point is moot, since we’re talking about renewable energy here. This argument has been dealt with in other posts.

    Presently a electric car plugged into the grid is only around 40% efficient overall due to the generation of grid electricity from coal, nuclear and gas

    That then would make them twice as good as the 20% average conversion efficiency of the petrol car.

    and that makes them a lot less efficient than you say.

    You are suggesting things that I never said. I never compared a petrol car to an electric car, I was questioning the assumptions of prof. MacKay about how much electricity Britain needs to keep its cars running. That’s all. You are reading too much between the lines.

    Now I would suggest you would say that they can be fueled by some other means from electricity generated via solar means on your house but thats not a global solution, only a local one for people living in suitable solar capable areas. Here in the UK solar is a lot less useful in our winter, very poor and would not power a electric car.

    How about wind? Schotland has some excellent locations, largely unused.

    The future wil have to be electric vehicles but aircraft and freight are not ideally suited as yet for electric transport (if they ever will be) so although it will one day be an effective solution it is as yet not an answer.

    The classic “if it is not a definitive solution to all foreseeable problems, then it’s useless” fallacy.

    One 2 MW wind turbine is around 32% efficient in electricity generation the windiest part of the UK so it can generate around 2 GWh per annum.

    Wrong. A 2 MW wind turbine in a windy onshore location can produce an amount of electricity equivalent to 2500-3000 full load hours per year. Offshore it is 3000-3500 full load hours. That is 5-7 GWh/year. No re-do your calculation with that figure.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 3:05 PM

  292. Ray, #265.

    Your quote from Leonardo seems to be dual-purpose.

    Isn’t the whole thread you’re replying to “Please don’t ignore David”. So why are you quoting something that is basically saying “Ignore people. A lot”.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:10 PM

  293. David MacKay
    1 May 2009 at 11:20 AM

    I will gladly explain. What I find misleading is that this information is not used in your supply vs demand stacks. That stack very prominently shows a 40 kWh per day block for car use, when it acutally is 3.3 kWh.

    I remember some time ago that your book was also reviewed on ‘The Register’ and more or less the only message that got through was ‘we need to cover 10% of Britain in windmills to power half our cars’. Which is untrue. But somehow that was the message they took home from your book. The wrong message I might say.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 1 May 2009 @ 3:19 PM

  294. dhgoza preens: “On your side you have the ignorant misunderstanding that the lesser prairie chicken is a migratory species that flies into skyscrapers.”

    Well, they’re flying into wind turbines.

    Or are people putting them in places DELIBERATELY to kill the little prairie chicken?

    Go on, give us what it is about wind farms that is killing off the little prairie chicken.

    I’m still all agog.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:23 PM

  295. Mark #290 — I’m probably misunderstanding your point about patents being government interference in the free market. I certainly did not mean to post anything like the “pure Neo-con Free Market Uber Alles claptrap” you perceive. So to be clear, I agree with Abraham Lincoln (the only President to have received a patent) that the US patent system “adds the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” And I believe that is not a bad thing. Do you disagree?

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 1 May 2009 @ 3:24 PM

  296. He also states: “On the other hand, the UK does have a very small remnant population of golden eagles, and it would be quite easy to intentionally site windfarms in such a way as to wipe them out, if that were my goal.”

    Ah, I see.

    Your problem is you think that the only reason for building a wind farm is to turn birds into chopped pate.

    Do you think you may be just a little bit wrong there?

    NOTE you can also site skyscrapers in a place that will kill of your little prairie chicken if that is your goal. So ban skyscrapers!!!

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:25 PM

  297. “#240 EL Says:

    221 – The intermittent problem with wind is huge.”

    And the intermittent problem with coal power or oil or nuclear (you have to stop them to service them!) is huge.

    Guess what? Who said anything about replacing all our power needs with wind ALONE???

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:30 PM

  298. Maybe all this nuclear stuff should be considered as a medium-term stopgap. IF IT IS NEEDED.

    They can’t be built quick enough in numbers enough to make a short-term difference to our energy needs and drawbacks. They are not a viable long-term solution either.

    But one change IS both short, medium and long term solution:

    Waste less energy.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:36 PM

  299. Wilmot McCutchen (289) — Thank you for reminding me about syngas based solutions. AFAIK, there are none (yet) in commericial production. With peak oil here (already, just now, soon, take your pick) I certainly expect to see ventures being started in a few years.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 May 2009 @ 3:42 PM

  300. Wilmot, it was your diatribe against the patent review that is BADLY in need of being applied. For a generation and more the patent system has fallen from a useful ideas clearing house to a way for big business to kill off the little player and “monetise” ideas that are worthless (rather like the bundling of bad debt and selling it on).

    Small businesses benefit FAR, FAR more from a limited patent pool since they don’t have the revenue to pay for a batallion of patent lawyers to look for prior art or craft a worthless (since it doesn’t let those skilled in the art re-create the invention) patent that can be used as a stick to kill competition.

    In fact, it is completely the opposite of what you say should be happening.

    A blindness to reality that can only be from shilling or idealogical blinkers.

    I gave you the benefit of the doubt and picked the idealogical one.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:47 PM

  301. Wilmot, you say “I agree with Abraham Lincoln (the only President to have received a patent)”

    And according to Ben Franklin:
    “As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.”

    After all, it’s not money that is the root of all evil, it’s the *pursuit* of money.

    Comment by Mark — 1 May 2009 @ 3:59 PM

  302. When a renewable source is brought on line wherever you find it handy, then stop. This is time zero.

    Think about power production conditions at this time zero.

    Now decide what will happen if a car is plugged in to whatever grid it can reach. Answer, (now and for many years to come): Additional coal will be burned. Yes, there will be a transition time where sources are adjusted and planned for newly noted effects, but as long as the economic choice is coal, coal will be chosen. The renewable source was fully used immediately, so the plug-in car has a separate impact when it arrives. Its no good to try and pretend there is a connection.

    Later we can talk about the cost coupling effect which truly puts us all in the same boat, even where we think we have different “electric power regions.”

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 May 2009 @ 4:15 PM

  303. Mark wonders:
    > what it is about wind farms that is killing off
    > the little prairie chicken.
    > I’m still all agog.

    Seriously want to know? Well, someone will anyhow. It’s worth the exercise.

    Short answer: critically endangered species.

    Still interested?

    Longer answer:

    Watch* them:
    http://drawingthemotmot.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/the-fabulous-prairie-chicken-dance/

    Count them:
    http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_w7000_0018a_c.pdf

    “Suggested for Grades 6 and 7″
    See Table 1 in the PDF file
    “The numbers in the table above are actual population estimates for Attwater’s Chickens for the years shown. Using these census data, construct a line graph showing the population estimates by year….”
    ATTWATER’S PRAIRIE CHICKEN MATH ACTIVITY
    Table 1. Numbers of Attwater’s Prairie Chickens in Texas
    Year No. of Birds
    1937 8618
    1950 4200
    1963 1335
    1967 1070
    1971 2220
    1975 2254
    1979 1718
    1983 1438
    1987 1108
    1991 482
    1995 68
    1996 42
    1997 58
    1999 46
    2002 40
    2005 40

    Extra exercises suggested for RC blog commenters of the magnificent type:

    1) calculate the trend.
    2) find comparable numbers and trend for birdwatchers* there to see them dance.
    3) calculate the trend.

    Still curious?

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22wind+farm%22+%22prairie+chicken%22

    A few from the first page of hits:

    It’s Not Easy Being Green: Wind Energy and a Declining Grassland Bird
    CL Pruett, MA Patten, DH Wolfe – BioScience, 2009 – Univ California Press Keywords: lesser prairie-chicken. wind farm. habitat loss. connectivity. conservation …
    http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/bio.2009.59.3.10

    Candidate Conservation Agreement for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) … fws.gov … grassland habitats include the construction of the infrastructure associated with oil and gas extraction and wind farm development….
    http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/LPCandSDL_FINAL_CCA-CCAA_20081208_signed.pdf

    http://www.suttoncenter.org/chickens.html
    http://www.suttoncenter.org/LPCH.html
    http://www.suttoncenter.org/images/GPCHjs5s.jpg
    http://www.suttoncenter.org/newsletter%20Summer%202006.pdf

    “… We also know that a substantial number of prairie-chickens die from collisions with fences and power lines. Extrapolating what we do know about mortality causes and avoidance of structures leads to the assumption that prairie-chickens could suffer tremendously from these latest prairie invaders [oil, gas, and wind developers], but, to what extent is not yet known. The time to try to gather that information is now. Even so, if the worst-case scenarios come true, by the time we have determined the effect, it may be too late.

    Another extra credit question: what is a “substantial number” given the population size?
    Compare to other species with similar counts, e.g. the right whale.

    For more on wind power and Lesser Prairie-Chickens in Oklahoma, check out the interactive wind/wildlife map at:

    http://www2.ocgi.okstate.edu/website/wildwind/viewer.htm

    That latter interactive map is a wonderful example of how to do this.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 4:29 PM

  304. >It doesn’t mean loss of the modern comforts that we have today.

    Well global warming has been used as the justification for car mileage mandates, which produces smaller cars, and more expensive ones.

    Comment by MikeN — 1 May 2009 @ 4:35 PM

  305. >In what way does nuclear power “clearly [have] a larger capacity” than wind power?

    Bart, I am basing this on the fact that nuclear currently generates 20% of US electricity, with higher percentages in France and Japan. Solar and wind are somewhere around 2%. There are clear limitations to solar and wind in terms of continuous production. So unless there is some amount of non-negligible carbon being produced in nuclear that I don’t know about, I think it is ridiculous for people who are talking about SAVING THE PLANET, to leave out nuclear as a recommendation. Maybe wind and solar are better technologies, but when compared to a scale of SAVING THE PLANET, the differences strike me as minor.

    Comment by MikeN — 1 May 2009 @ 5:13 PM

  306. Thanks again to AvdB for more great contributions on the problems with David MacKay’s “Hot Air” book.

    Rejecting the contrived numbers at the start of Chapter 18 in the book, here’s the real story. Current UK power consumption is of the order of 98kWh/d/p (putting aside the 27kWh/d/p lost due to inefficient thermal plant), not the scary 195kWh/d/p presented at the start of Chapter 18, which claims to show that we can’t live on renewables alone. You’ll find that figure of 98hWh/d/p in the chart tucked away on p116, away from where one might start stacking it up against the renewable resources.

    And we waste a large part of that 98kWh/d/p. As AvDB says, our use of energy in cars is currently extremely energy inefficient. Our space heating is hopeless. 50kWh/d/p is a valid and reasonable forecast for an achievable average energy consumption which doesn’t harm our average lifestyle at all.

    And now to Britain’s technical potential for renewable resources. Onshore wind on its own, has greater potential than that 50kWh/d/p. As is the offshore wind resource alone; and so is the PV resource alone; each of those using currently available technologies. Other renewables can make significant contributions too. So, can Britain live on renewables? Yes, of course we can, easily: we already have many ways to smooth out variability of renewable power, and more are under development all the time.

    Comment by LPF — 1 May 2009 @ 5:22 PM

  307. Now decide what will happen if a car is plugged in to whatever grid it can reach. Answer, (now and for many years to come): Additional coal will be burned. Yes, there will be a transition time where sources are adjusted and planned for newly noted effects, but as long as the economic choice is coal, coal will be chosen. The renewable source was fully used immediately, so the plug-in car has a separate impact when it arrives. Its no good to try and pretend there is a connection.

    Actually, the medium-short term solution is solar powered hybrid cars. As I mentioned in a previous post, they could go 30 or 40 km a day simply from being parked in the sun, obviously depending on the weather. It requires no new technology, it all exists now. All it takes is someone to have the inclination to put the different technologies together in a novel way, and to mass produce them so the cost comes down. The problem is, as we all know, big business is very slow to innovate, out of both bureaucratic inefficiency and a desire to maintain the status quo. You can be sure that Tesla will be doing this on its cars in the next few years.

    The 2010 Prius has an option for a roof mounted, bolt-on type solar panel but this will only be used for running a ventilation fan, for some strange obscure reason about it giving off EM interference if it charges the batteries (?!). Anyways, the point is, this technology is here now and could be incorporated meaningfully in a new car within a couple years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_vehicle

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 1 May 2009 @ 6:03 PM

  308. > *pursuit* of money … the root …

    Well, no. The translations ( http://bible.cc/1_timothy/6-10.htm ) agree the original caution is against greedy love, hoarding, holding onto, taking out of circulation. C.f. the “credit freeze.”

    Catch-and-release pursuit is commendable. We badly need more people good at pursuing, earning, and managing the flow of money to make needed changes.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 6:30 PM

  309. Anne, I cannot reconcile your 20km/p/d with actual retail fuel in UK. Even with .8kWh/km it must be 30. In NZ it closer to 40km/p/d.

    As for solar. For NZ I am working on average of 185W/m2 over a day on optimially inclined collector. This is based actual flat surface figures on many sites averaged over many years. I convert to inclined plane no.s by Hottel model. For 10m2 I get 8-9kWh per day (.185*24*10*.2) I compared this to actual installed systems and they get about 5kWh/d but these are not 20% efficient panels. 10m2 per person looks feasible. Okay, they would power the car but nothing else. However, average household electricity usage here is 11kWh/p/d using census figures for population and persons per dwelling.

    I agree that I think MacKay would have been better to have done calcs for AVERAGE person – that is what I did when I repeated for NZ.

    Available wind. MacKay is accused of underestimating renewables but I note that he get far more than any engineering study has found.

    For wind in NZ, I used study commissioned for “Transition to renewables” study. It was only interested in land outside parks, buffered by 500km from urban and structures, below 1500m, less than 10 deg (from memory) slope, and only wind > 8m/s (NZ is in Roaring 40s after all). It also assumed only 50% of landowners were willing. Existing 2MW and 3MW turbine technology was assumed. It still only came to 33kWh/p/d for 4m people. If you are going to contest the figures, then you need to have some proper engineering studies to back efficiency and availability. Too much wind stops turbines too.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 1 May 2009 @ 6:35 PM

  310. Given the heated discussion taking place here about the pros/cons of nuclear power, here are two very useful sources of info on the subject:

    A very good article by a Caltech professor on the global energy needs:
    http://pr.caltech.edu/periodicals/EandS/articles/LXX2/powering.pdf

    A round table discussion organized by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to discuss the need for and pros/cons of increased reliance on nuclear power:
    http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/roundtables/nuclear-power-and-climate-change

    Both are highly recommended reading.

    Comment by Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg — 1 May 2009 @ 6:43 PM

  311. Hybrid cars generally cost thousands of dollars more than a non-hybrid, plus the largest maker of hybrids, GM, is going into bankruptcy/government receivership. Nevertheless we’ll see how these solar hybrids develop, and if they are practical cars or another tiny box like the Prius. I’m glad neither you or any of the other commenters here said anything about plugin cars sending power back to the grid.

    Comment by MikeN — 1 May 2009 @ 7:18 PM

  312. 252 – I’m not a PR person, thank you =P

    Some solutions could bring harm to the underprivileged as much or more as climate change. More expensive technologies become more challenging for common people to furnish. Renewable technology increases the price of energy, and the technology also effects the price of food, manufactured items, and other commodities because manufactures will pass the higher cost of energy to consumers; therefore, the impact could be quite severe for a majority of society. People, who are not considering the economic impacts, are being credulous.

    255 –Did a search at Google, first link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdi4onAQBWQ

    271 – Economic impacts of energy cannot be measured by utility bills alone because goods and services also increase in price. The role of energy in economics is well established and supported by most economist.

    273 – I believe the best solution for the time being is to promote science education and research.

    285 – Inventors called trolls? I think you are referring to software patents, and troll is a proper definition for them. Software patents are completely out of control, and they desperately need to be invalidated out of the system altogether. Hopefully, RE-Bilski will open up the doors for that process to occur. These people do not innovate, but they patent mathematics. If programmers write a program of modest size, they violate many patents. I’m sure real climate is violating a patent of some form, and every user here is likely infringing on someones patent as well.

    Anyway, research is the way out of this mess. We need science education promoted in colleges and high schools, and we need more funding in various science based research.

    295 – Only in regards to software.

    Comment by EL — 1 May 2009 @ 7:37 PM

  313. Mark #300 and EL #311 — Seems to me your beef with the US patent system is software patents being out of control. Business method patents are also an egregious abuse. I like the open source model for software, which is based on incentives other than money, but eating and rent, etc. can’t be ignored. It takes a lot of work and expense to develop new technology, even just to file a patent application.

    Those aggrieved by abusive monopolies can always make their case for compulsory licensing, but the solution should not be reaping where you have not sown, and especially not grinding the poor inventor into the dust with your team of litigators so you can buy a new boat instead of pay royalties.

    I hope there is some way to excise the diseased tissue and restore vigor to the patent system, at least as applied to innovation in clean power.

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 1 May 2009 @ 8:43 PM

  314. #311 EL:

    “Some solutions could bring harm to the underprivileged as much or more as climate change. More expensive technologies become more challenging for common people to furnish. Renewable technology increases the price of energy, and the technology also effects the price of food, manufactured items, and other commodities because manufactures will pass the higher cost of energy to consumers; therefore, the impact could be quite severe for a majority of society. People, who are not considering the economic impacts, are being credulous.”

    “Some”, “more expensive technologies”, “renewable”;.

    Excellent news here: actual nouns are free, no matter what they describe! Can you supply any specific examples of what you’re talking about?

    #304 MikeN:

    Not to get all personal but how large –are– you? Ever sat in a Prius? I’m 6’2″ and there are inches over my head in one of those, plenty of leg room front and back. Width might be a different issue; I only take up one horizontal space so I can’t comment on that.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 1 May 2009 @ 8:51 PM

  315. Mike N., Actually I am fairly well disposed toward nuclear power. However, it is naive to ignore the waste problem and the potential for proliferation. Nuclear power may be necessary, but it shouldn’t be a reluctant option unless we can resolve those two issues. Solar and wind are progressing at prodigious rates–maybe even fast enough to save our tuckuses. It is a mistake to look at a screen-capture and think you understand how the whole movie will play out.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 May 2009 @ 8:52 PM

  316. > patent troll
    It’s a technique, used with any kind of patent, not just software:
    http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1153299926232

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 May 2009 @ 9:01 PM

  317. “Some solutions will harm the underprivileged”. This has to worst reason for inaction known. Climate change will REALLY harm many of the world’s underprivileged. It already is. If you are so concerned about the world’s poor, then I think it would be only fair if the rich countries (who created the mess) went cold turkey on carbon so the poor still can use cheap fossil fuel.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 1 May 2009 @ 10:28 PM

  318. A basic question that confuses me (and I admit I haven’t read the referenced papers or the latest posts here): why is the total emitted carbon (CO2) the key parameter and not the atmospheric concentration? Is it because there is a direct relationship between the two? If so, why make the distinction? Or does it somehow relate to some tipping point as opposed to general warming? If we pump X gigatonnes into the air but for some reason the concentration changes little, are we still screwed? Am I missing something simple here? Or misreading it?

    Comment by Rod B — 1 May 2009 @ 10:29 PM

  319. >Ever sat in a Prius? I’m 6′2″ and there are inches over my head in one of those, plenty of leg room front and back

    I’ve actually never sat in one, so perhaps Toyota has made something deceptively good. However, the last part is mostly bogus as much larger cars do not provide plenty fo leg room front and back.

    Comment by MikeN — 1 May 2009 @ 10:41 PM

  320. Re closing solar power plants, I found this
    http://ludb.clui.org/ex/i/CA4965/

    “The remote Carrizo Plain’s status as one of the sunniest places in the state was exploited by the solar power industry from 1983 to 1994. This was by far the largest photovoltaic array in the world, with 100,000 1′x 4′ photovoltaic arrays producing 5.2 megawatts at its peak. The plant was originally constructed by the Atlantic Richfield oil company (ARCO) in 1983.”
    “The Carrizo Solar Corporation, based in Albuquerque, NM, bought the two facilities from ARCO in 1990. But the price of oil never rose as was predicted, so the solar plant never became competitive with fossil fuel-based energy production (Carrizo sold its electricity to the local utility for between three and four cents a kilowatt-hour, while a minimum price of eight to ten cents a kilowatt-hour would be necessary in order for Carrizo to make a profit).”
    “…the used panels are still being resold throughout the world.”And presumably still converting photons to electricity.

    Maybe things would have turned out better if they had Enron market their power…?

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 1 May 2009 @ 11:03 PM

  321. When people contemplate solutions to the problems of climate change, people need to analyze all facts before they consider institutionalizing a specific technology. Green technology is a very large business, and many people may attempt to sell snake oil to frightened people. Companies conceal weakness and deficiencies of their technology, and they attack critical analysis through disinformation and fear mongering. Some scientist only aggravate the problem because they exaggerate the abilities of models by proclaiming ties of global warming to a specific natural disaster; as a result, some people are accepting atrocious technology that proclaims the end of global warming. While climate change is important to address, people should take the time to analyze any proposition for a solution.

    Since wind turbine technology is often advocated by energy groups as a potential solution to global warming, people need to analyze the technology for downsides, so they can make educated decisions concerning the technology. The benefit of wind turbines is due to their carbon footprint. Wind turbines take kinetic energy from the wind and convert it into electricity, and so wind turbines do not produce carbon emissions. Wind technology has a very fast turnaround time, and it can generate power after a few months of construction. Wind technology also uses smaller portions of land than other technologies. While wind turbine technology has benefits for global warming, it’s very important to look at the downsides of this technology as well.

    Wind turbines may pose health risks to people who live nearby due to low wave sound generation during turbine operation. The former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, Robert McMurtry, has surveyed people who live nearby large wind turbines. The majority of the people surveyed suffered from a large variety of symptoms including headaches, depression, and sleeping disorders. Various effects have been reported from around the world by people who live close to large turbines.

    A good site for more information:
    http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/

    Study on health effects of low spectrum sound:
    http://web.arch.usyd.edu.au/~densil/DESC9137/Fernandez.pdf

    Note: While the health effects of wind turbine technology is being analyzed, the effects of low sound generation on other species is not. More research is needed to study the effects of low frequency noise on the natural world.

    Wind turbine technology has problems working in a power grid. Wind power is a intermittent technology that requires the wind to be blowing within a certain range. If the wind does not blow at all, the wind turbines do not generate any electricity. If the wind blows too hard, the wind turbines have to be shutdown to keep from damaging the machine or overloading the power grid. Wind turbines are also sensitive to temperature, and they produce more electricity during cold weather as opposed to hot. The unreliability of turbine technology inhibits it from becoming the most dominate power source.

    A good article highlighting this issue:
    http://www.energypulse.net/centers/article/article_display.cfm?a_id=1332

    Wind technology is also very expensive to build because good locations often have logistical and transmission difficulties. In a report from the German Energy Agency, it was stated that money would be better spent on other methods such as energy efficiency to combat global warming. The report also states that the goal of energy efficiency can be met by installing modern filters at fossil fuel plants, and the cost would be a lot cheaper then wind power technology. The royal academy of engineers have also released reports detailing the problems associated with wind technology. The report claims that wind energy cost several times more then fossil fuel technology.

    Royal Academy of Engineering, The Cost of Generating Electricity
    http://www.nowap.co.uk/docs/generation_costs_report.pdf

    Article on German report:
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/4527

    I think the bird issue is negligible with modern wind turbines; however, poor placement may effect some species.

    Comment by EL — 1 May 2009 @ 11:25 PM

  322. MikeN Says (1 May 2009 at 4:35 PM):

    “>It doesn’t mean loss of the modern comforts that we have today.

    Well global warming has been used as the justification for car mileage mandates, which produces smaller cars, and more expensive ones.”

    But of course this is mainly a psychological problem: people – Americans especially – have been conditioned through relentless advertising to think of big cars that handle like waterbeds (a description stolen from Donald Westlake) as comfortable. I’ve never paid this advertising attention beyond the occasional sneer, and so have been quite comfortable in my small cars – ranging from an Austin-Healey Sprite though the current Honda Insight – and motorycles, and I dare say have had lots more fun driving them :-)

    The same thinking applies to much else: smaller and more efficient is quite often more comfortable. Consider the anti-McMansion as described in Sarah Susanka’s “The Not-So-Big House” http://www.notsobighouse.com/ as a well-thought-out instance.

    Mark Cunnington Says (1 May 2009 at 6:03 PM):

    “Actually, the medium-short term solution is solar powered hybrid cars. As I mentioned in a previous post, they could go 30 or 40 km a day simply from being parked in the sun, obviously depending on the weather.”

    This oft-mentioned idea is an outstanding example of not troubling to think through the implications. Start with basics: solar cell production capacity is limited, the cells are expensive. So why do you want to put them on a car, where they will seldom be optimally oriented towards the sun (and so generate much less than their rated power), and will reduce the car’s efficiency by adding weight & drag? Far better to leave the cells at home, on the roof, generating power whenever the sun’s shining and feeding that power to the grid…

    Comment by James — 1 May 2009 @ 11:45 PM

  323. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (1 May 2009 at 4:15 PM):

    “Now decide what will happen if a car is plugged in to whatever grid it can reach. Answer, (now and for many years to come): Additional coal will be burned.”

    Only half the story, though. Assume I’ve replaced my car with a new plug-in hybrid, and to eliminate extraneous factors assume that they’re otherwise identical – same weight, CdA, rolling resistance, &c. I’ve replaced an energy path of oil well – oil tanker or pipeline – refinery – tank truck – gas pump – IC engine with one that’s 0.7 * (coal mine – railroad – power station – transmission line – battery charging – electric motor). (The 0.7 factor is because about 20% of US generation is nuclear, 10% hydro & other renewables. Something should be allowed for natural gas, but I don’t know what off the top of my head.)

    To calculate the effect, you need to compute efficiency and CO2 production of the entire path. From what I’ve read, those who’ve tried to do this show the hybrid coming out ahead even with a 100% coal generation, and much better given the current generating mix. Some additional coal will be burned, but it’s more than offset by the gasoline not burned.

    And to go further, with PHEV or full EV cars on the road, any improvements to the electric grid will immediately & automatically be reflected in the transportation sector…

    Comment by James — 2 May 2009 @ 12:14 AM

  324. 315 – Hank it’s way more frequent in software. You honestly cannot do anything without violating one. For example, there is several patents on browser popup windows. So if your web site uses popups, your most likely violating a patent.

    I think it will eventually be corrected. There is too many powerful companies being screwed by software patents for it to continue indefinitely.

    Comment by EL — 2 May 2009 @ 12:28 AM

  325. Another important downside to wind power generation is energy demand. Wind energy may pick up when demand for energy is at its lowest, and it may stall when demand for energy is at its peak. This downside can be witnessed at Denmark. They have to export most of their wind power due to this problem.

    Comment by EL — 2 May 2009 @ 12:36 AM

  326. Anne van der Bom, LMF and Phil Scadden, #293, 306 and 309 continue the discussion of David MacKay’s results.

    The summary of the analysis in the MacKay work is perhaps best represented by table 18.1 (downloadable from the web). The car (40kWh/d/p) figure is derived from the electrical equivalent of the petrol used by motorcars. If the cars were operated solely on electricity (hybrids are the transitional technology) the usage would be 7.5 KWh/d/p. This is an energy saving of 32.5 kWh/d/p. In #293 the suggestion is that the number should be even smaller.

    On the energy available side on shore wind is given a rating of 20kWh/d/p. The analysis for this number is given in Technical Chapter B. Using that analysis with wind speeds of 12 m/s and a standard windmill (54 meter diameter blade) with standard spacing (a five diameter, 270 meter square) the output is 17 W/square meter. With 3% of the UK surface area used for wind energy this would provide 46 kWh/d/p. This is very close to the 50kWh/d/p mentioned by MLF in #306. This is an increased energy availability of 26 kWh/d/p.

    I have played with the numbers on off shore wind – but in broad terms usage of only the best off shore resources should at least allow the number given by MacKay to be doubled. His figures for shallow and deep offshore are 16 and 32 kWh/d/p. So perhaps the recalculation of these resources gives us another 48 kWh/d/p.

    MacKay’s table 18 has a SHORTFALL of 15kWh/d/p. If we adjust his figure for the calculations above the SURPLUS is 91.5 kWh/d/p.

    Phill Scadden, # 309, argues that the New Zealand on shore wind figure should be 33 kWh/d/p. But this figure is more equivalent to the figures given in table 18.7 of MacKay – where the big red crosses of Nimbyism and Nay saying have reduced the physical potential by ninety per cent to get the actual.

    There may be an air of unreality to the sorts of calculations above. They rest very heavily on assumptions about wind power technology and costs. To me they suggest that renewables are in with more than a fighting chance, particularly in the vast majority of countries with a more favourable endowment of resources per head than the United Kingdom. It is right that Nimbyism and Nay saying and prairie chickens and pristine desert be considered. There seems to be sufficient leeway in the system to give them a fair go, but not a veto.

    Comment by David Murray — 2 May 2009 @ 1:14 AM

  327. re: 304: “Well global warming has been used as the justification for car mileage mandates, which produces smaller cars, and more expensive ones.”

    As has the price of fuel going up. As has clean-air acts (where the poor get all the deaths from smog but none of the driving-where-you-want from the cars making it).

    And please prove that smaller cars are more expensive and that their justification has been climate change.

    Smaller cars are cheaper and new technology is more expensive. Look at the price of DVD players 10 years ago compared to today.

    Comment by Mark — 2 May 2009 @ 2:50 AM

  328. Hank 303 speaks:

    “Mark wonders:
    > what it is about wind farms that is killing off
    > the little prairie chicken.
    > I’m still all agog.

    Seriously want to know? Well, someone will anyhow. It’s worth the exercise.

    Short answer: critically endangered species”

    Is this not cart-before-horse?

    What is it about wind farms that is killing off the little prairie chicken. That reason can’t be “it’s a critically endangered species”. That merely points to wind farms being a final straw. Yet what pushed them to being critically endangered? If they weren’t critically endangered, would wind farms be killing them off?

    Comment by Mark — 2 May 2009 @ 2:53 AM

  329. Re: #231 Ray Ladbury
    QUOTE:
    Saying it is impossible is saying that ultimately civilization is temporary.
    /UNQUOTE

    Fortunately or unfortunately, it is. We tend to preserve at least some of the advances of the previous civilizations, so it’s not as if we start from scratch each time. But civilizations do fall, and this one will. The only way around that is to deny that we are ultimately part of the natural system and are immune to the various laws that govern the universe.

    Being afraid of this, or in denial of it, is far worse than acknowledging it because it shapes our responses towards those that fight against the natural laws.

    QUOTE:
    The defeatists are the true prophets of doom. They say we cannot change, even if we must.
    /UNQUOTE

    See above. “Must” has never solved the problem before. Based on the work of Diamond, I’d say “must” leads to ever greater mistakes as attempts to re-balance a badly out of balance system lead to over-corrections, much like a driver who has gone off the road and ends up flipping trying to get back on rather than just slowing down to a speed safe enough to get back on the road.

    QUOTE:
    In any case, there simply is no choice if we wish to convey civilization to future generations.
    /UNQUOTE

    What civilization? I think too few appreciate various limits to growth. Even when using terms like “sustainable,” too often the descriptions show the person really just means for a generation or so, either because that’s all they care to consider sustainable to mean, or because they don’t understand that sustainable means maintainable over many generations.

    This is where the real problem lies, and why reducing consumption and moving to a non-growth paradigm are so important. Our expectations, however, have developed during periods of abundance. All previous falls were geographically limited by local constraints. Now, we face global sonctraints, and most people don’t seem able to wrap their heads around this.

    This last observation is at least in part due to complexity, and it is complexity that is the center of collapse. There is too much information from too many sources for anyone one person to be able to synthesize it all. We are beholden on “experts” to tell us what is what, but even they do not agree, and some are not honest in the first place, or are so driven by their ideologies that they cannot see reality.

    Consensus, then, is elusive and perhaps impossible absent an undeniable sign (rather, **more** undeniable), which will be a point that is likely too late to avoid catastrophic changes.

    QUOTE:
    We have to develop a sustainable civilization. We will face unpalatable choices down the line.
    /UNQUOTE

    I wonder if you really mean this. Not for any particular reason except that so many think we can keep what we have now, just using “renewable” energy. But it won’t work. Regardless of efforts at efficiency, they always fail in the long run due to the inexorable march of growth. It is the growth paradigm itself that makes any changes not including a non-growth paradigm meaningless in the long run.

    Might we reach and mine the heavens someday? Sure. But not in the next 20 – 50 years.

    QUOTE:
    Personally, I don’t think we will be able to make it without resorting to nuclear power, geoengineering and serious reductions in consumption.
    /UNQUOTE

    The last I agree with. The first I agree with to only the degree that there are places where wind, solar and other solutions simply aren’t enough. Korea might be an example, having very few natural resources, a strong monsoon season, typhoons and a population density of nearly 400. (Food is still a BIG problem if there are global food shortages or collapse.)

    As for geoengineering, I think we have done enough of that for now. The unintended consequences are obvious enough. I believe advanced nations – especially the US – can reduce energy usage by nearly 50% overnight. It would entail changes in lifestyle, but only lifestyle. Such things as every family growing some of their own foods, all travel being via pooling or public transport (until systems can be shifted to all-electric public transport), simply spending our time in our own neighborhoods, conserving EVERYTHING, recycling EVERYTHING, etc…

    We don’t need more energy. WE run the world on what we have and could run the same civilization with half of that.

    Using natural farming, permaculture, etc., even some seemingly barren areas could be made to produce some food.

    To sum up: those changes that are not changes, just BAU, are wastes of time.

    Cheers

    ReCAPTCHA sas it all: worlds crisply

    Comment by ccpo — 2 May 2009 @ 3:06 AM

  330. #67 Anne van der Bom

    Much appreciation for the wind cost analysis reference. The report is loaded with detail, but stops short on discussion about what incentives are required to get private investment to get into the business. You mentioned something about 8cents per kWhr for Denmark, which we are not sure about how that applies. But progress has been made in my level of understanding. (And I have not fully swallowed the entire reference at hand, yet.)

    Apologies for reacting to your statement to the effect that electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engines. I now realize that was in context of your critique of another analysis. And I appreciate you recognizing how the problem is mangled in both directions, sometimes favoring the mobile heat engine approach and sometimes favoring electric motors.

    I have confronted the unwarranted exuberance for plug-ins and the absurd claims for these far more often than errors in the other direction. Much of this is so silly it has to be seen as not worthy of discussion. However, there is something going very wrong and anyone concerned about CO2 should take notice. Most recently we have had the “100 MPG” plug-in Hummer being announced. Also we have Bright Automotive with a “100 MPG” plug-in delivery van and the “100 MPG” Fisker plug-in. Preposterous though it is, these 100 MPG numbers are all calculated by ignoring the electric energy part altogether. The deception is that since it is miles per “gallon” that is all that need be included in the calculation.

    Still on the absurdities, we have electric operation of cars being claimed to be “zero emission.”

    These have to be national embarrassments for literate people. No physics required here.

    On the proper evaluation of electric motors, we have our Argonne National Laboratory and our Society of Automotive Engineers on record as calculating miles per gallon equivalent based on heat equivalent of electric energy at the plug, without recognition of the heat energy needed to make the electricity. I don’t expect everyone in the USA to know that energy does not convert the same in both directions, heat to electric and electic to heat. But I do expect physicists to show some outrage over this as standard American practice. So far, the silence is deafening. I get the impression that the academic world does not believe things could get so very wrong.

    Why should they care enough to think outside their various disciplines? Well if they care about global warming they should, because we are poised for a world of plug-in SUVs running on coal. There are real forces moving in this direction who have not a care at all for global CO2 levels. Political action is now happening which subsidizes this trend.

    Falsely portrayed CO2 emission benefits of plug-ins is a cover for shifting our much loved cars over to operate on coal. They all but say, “Efficiency can go hang.”

    You mention that the plug-in is necessary for transition to electric cars running on renewable energy sources. Please consider the possibility that the process will get stuck with huge inefficient plug-in cars running on coal.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 3:21 AM

  331. Higher up the thread (#97), I tried to elicit informed criticism about fourth generation nuclear fission and failed. Instead, several respondents heaped abuse on the potential of nuclear power in general despite the fact that the great bulk of their criticisms related to the shortcomings of third generation reactors. I am already sufficiently persuaded that the latter are not sustainable but have been given the impression that, to all intents and purposes, IFRs and, possibly, LFTRs could provide us with very large amounts of energy for hundreds or even thousands of years.

    I agree with James (#277) that many here “seem to regard nuclear power with the same certainty that catholics show toward Original Sin”. For those who are unaware of the benefits claimed by Blees (P-resription For The Planet”), Brook (BraveNewClimate)and many others, I will attempt a brief summary and repeat my request for relevant informed criticism. My comments are confined to IFRs (S-Prism design by GE).

    1)Technology already developed.
    2)Can be powered with existing nuclear waste, sufficient to give hundreds of years of power with no further need for uranium mining.
    3)Solves existing nuclear waste problem, thus saving $ billions set aside for no longer needed storage facilities.
    4)Safer than current designs and includes passive safety features.
    5)Reasonably proliferation resistant as waste from reactor reprocessed on site without purifying plutonium (cf current Purex system).
    6)Could be factory built and rolled out in 3 years after regulatory approval of basic design.
    7)Would produce power more cheaply than coal and thus direct replacement for coal.

    I would suggest that, should these claims be valid (and they seem to have impressed Dr Hansen), it would seem irresponsible not to encourage the very rapid construction of a full scale demonstration reactor with its associated reprocessing facility so that the claims could either be validated or dismissed. Are the anti-nuclear respondents here so closed minded that they would campaign against even taking this first and cautious first step? Surely the theoretical risk of accidents (catastrophes if you like) associated with civil nuclear reactors are on an insignificant scale relative to the risks faced by humanity by running out of energy. I would recommend Paul Chefurka’s text cited by Pete Best (#232) should anyone have have trouble with my relative risk assessment.

    Comment by Douglas Wise — 2 May 2009 @ 5:09 AM

  332. Re #291, yes, that is very true (after reading more data) that its around 5-7 GWh per annum per turbine but the bigger they are the larger the space between them and hence the amount of land required yields not more energy (or a little more as the turbines are built higher.

    It looks like it requires between 660-1000 turbines per 2 GW of capacity. The USA is a massive place with lots of land to use up I am sure but here in the UK all of these 350 feet high turbines are causing issues onshore but offshore should not pose a problem. That 2 GW is 1.5% of electricity so its going to need to be 10x for 15% which is the target or around 15000 or 10000 turbines. Its no small number regardless of the arguments.

    http://www.bwea.com/pdf/briefings/ukwindstatusJan07.pdf

    No slack in the system for cars running on electricity either. I have spoken to physics guys about the electric motor argument and they have stated that in the UK we use around 2 mbpd of oil and a barrel contains around 42 gallons and hence at 40 KWh per gallon thats 1680 KWh per barrel x 2 million = 3.3 billion KWh per day of additional electricity or if we do as you say and lets say we need only 25% of that due to the efficiency of the electric motor that is around 750 million KWh a day or 750 GWh a day!

    I may have got by calculations wrong here because it seems like a unusual amount of energy, however I believe that oil is used in droves globally, 85 Mbpd which is not replaceable by anything.

    Its as I say from reading up on energy use, its a staggering issue in relation to switching energy types (petrol to electricity) and its extremely problematic. The USA uses 20 Mbpd of oil so go figure what they would need. A lot of coal, a lot of solar, a lot of wind and a lot of nuclear to keep their fleet of cars going even if the electric engine overall was 75% more efficient that petrol which it is not once it is generated at source and factored in.

    http://www.paulchefurka.ca/WEAP2/WEAP2.html

    This article tells it all about energy needs and out ability to expand it for all. Its a massive ask and a lot of turbines, millions required globally.

    Comment by pete best — 2 May 2009 @ 5:22 AM

  333. EL writes:

    California, for example, experienced a heat wave that caused wind power to drop to an average of 4% capacity for 7 days. Think about 7 days without power, and you will see why this will not be the main solution.

    By any chance was the sun out during that heat wave?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 May 2009 @ 5:41 AM

  334. John H. writes:

    Charles Munger said it is nearly demented to adopt cap and trade policies during this ecoinomic crisis.
    Along with many other experts.
    The underprivileged and disadvantaged are going to be most affected by negative effects of cap and trade. Thus it is incumbent on we who are more fortunate to take the lead in stopping this policy. Why would we add to their burden of suffering if we have a choice?

    Who is Munger and why should I care what he says? Didn’t they say the same thing about cap-and-trade during the ’80s when it was being proposed to deal with sulfate emissions? And yet it worked just fine. I don’t accept your belief that cap-and-trade will somehow hurt the economy. It won’t.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 May 2009 @ 5:49 AM

  335. James says:

    I’d far rather live with the aftereffects of a “worse than worse case” nuclear accident like this http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4923342.stm than what a few of those concentrating solar plants would do to the Mojave.

    That says it all about your point of view, I think.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 May 2009 @ 5:56 AM

  336. Phil Scadden
    1 May 2009 at 6:35 PM

    See the Department for Transport web site. The data is in this document.

    Table 9.4 states the number of vehicles registered in Great Britain in 2007 as slightly more than 30 million. Table 9.17 shows the average mileage to be 8,870 miles per year. The British population is, I believe, now counting 60 million souls. You can do the math.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 May 2009 @ 6:00 AM

  337. Anne van der Bom.

    Your conspiracy theory that Professor MacKay deliberately sets out to rubbish renewable energy is paranoid. (Read the Nathan Lewis paper cited by Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg (#310). In essence, he is saying much the same as MacKay.) You may not agree with everything in the book – FWIW I think he may have underestimated the potential of fast fission – but this doesn’t detract from the essential message, namely that we face huge but not necessarily insurmountable problems and that simplistic solutions which ignore scaling and economic realities are unhelpful.

    You suggest that renewables alone can solve the UK’s looming power problems. I am a great supporter of onshore wind but have misgivings over offshore wind, tide and wave energy, at least in the short term, on economic grounds. If wind can do it all, why do you think the UK government – like the German – has seen fit to authorise construction of new coal plants, attempting to maintain its green credentials by gambling that CCS will shortly become technologically possible and economically affordable? I would prefer, should gambling be necessary, to place my bet on 4th generation fission power. However, given the stakes, the sensible approach is to keep an open mind and give all competing technologies a chance to show their paces.

    I have initiated a wind farm proposal for a local site in England. In discussion with the potential developer – the largest in the UK – I was told that wind energy could not compete on a level playing field with energy from a newly built coal plant without CCS (despite what some have stated here). I would like to ask Anne why she thinks that electric power in France is cheaper than elsewhere in Europe and whether this may have anything to do with its 80% nuclear origin.

    Comment by Douglas Wise — 2 May 2009 @ 6:05 AM

  338. EL writes:

    Renewable technology increases the price of energy,

    By definition?

    How do you deal with the fact that wind electricity is competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear electricity NOW and is still coming down?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 May 2009 @ 6:24 AM

  339. Re: #306

    LPF says:
    “Rejecting the contrived numbers at the start of Chapter 18 in the book, here’s the real story. Current UK power consumption is of the order of 98kWh/d/p (putting aside the 27kWh/d/p lost due to inefficient thermal plant), not the scary 195kWh/d/p presented at the start of Chapter 18, which claims to show that we can’t live on renewables alone. You’ll find that figure of 98hWh/d/p in the chart tucked away on p116, away from where one might start stacking it up against the renewable resources.”

    The difference between the two totals (125kWhp/d/p and 195kWhp/d/p) is identified on p116 – for example the lower total excludes embodied energy in imported goods.

    I think it would be polite to read at least the pages you refer to, if not the whole book before criticising it.

    Comment by Andy Simpson — 2 May 2009 @ 7:57 AM

  340. Re #72, #80, and #108
    David, Thanks for your comment. I was just picking a few nits from your article. However to say, as you did, that less-rich countries will pay the cost of fossil energy decades from now and imply that rich countries won’t is very misleading. You are probably aware of the recent Gallup pole that found that while 90% of Americans felt that actions to lessen global warming were appropriate, only 32% thought that global warming would impact them personally. (See http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/04/how-many-americans-believe-tha.html for recent discussion of the poll results.)

    Alexandre, yes global warming is an equal opportunity destroyer and will eventually effect almost everyone on the planet.

    Theo Hopkins, yes my comment was very much tongue in cheek. A 1-2 m sea level rise this century, which sadly looks to already be built into the climate system, will be catastrophic for the US, regardless of its supposed wealth. Nevertheless, what we must work for now is to prevent a civilization-destroying 10 (or more) meters of sea level rise in the next few hundred years.

    Keep up the good work.

    Comment by David Stoney — 2 May 2009 @ 8:35 AM

  341. Phil Scadden
    1 May 2009 at 6:35 PM

    10m2 per person looks feasible. Okay, they would power the car but nothing else.

    Why is only 10m² feasible? What is the average number of people per house(hold) in NZ? What is the average roof area? I think in the not too distant future solar cells will be so cheap, you can easily use them on east and west facing roofs too, powering a lot of the other stuff besides the car.

    However, average household electricity usage here is 11kWh/p/d using census figures for population and persons per dwelling.

    The Netherlands is around 10 kWh/d per household, similar to NZ.

    Available wind. MacKay is accused of underestimating renewables but I note that he get far more than any engineering study has found.

    Last december locations were suggested for the realisation of 6 GW offshore wind in the North Sea, off the coast of Zeeland and Noord-Holland, totaling around 1500 km². For 4 kWh/d of offshore wind (MacKay’s estimate on page 109), Britain would need ~30 GW, or five times that area. If The Netherlands can find that area in their tiny patch of ocean, surely Great Britain can find it along their extensive coastline?

    Do you have a reference to such an engineering study?

    I think his estimate of 3 kWh/d onshore wind seems reasonable. That would require ~25 GW of capacity, a little less than Germany currently has. Onshore wind in Germany is saturating. Germany is bigger than Britain, but having a long coastline, I am sure Britain has more favourable locations.

    It still only came to 33kWh/p/d for 4m people.

    If I am not mistaken, total consumption in NZ is 40 TWh/year. 33 kWh/d * 4 million * 365 = 48 TWh/year. So even with those stringent limitations (sure about the 500 km buffer from urban areas??) that is more than NZ currently needs.

    Too much wind stops turbines too.

    That will very rarely happen with modern turbines. And when it happens, the chance of an entire country ‘going black’ is virtually zero. It will be more like some wind farms here and there going into safe mode and coming back online as the storm front passes over the country. There are also protocols for the windfarm operators to preventively and gradually shut off wind turbines in such a case, so no large amounts of power will be suddenly and unexpectedly lost.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 May 2009 @ 8:42 AM

  342. Re #293:
    Referring to “Sustainable Energy without the hot air”
    AvB Says:
    “I will gladly explain. What I find misleading is that this information is not used in your supply vs demand stacks. That stack very prominently shows a 40 kWh per day block for car use, when it acutally is 3.3 kWh.”

    In the demand side stack, the book shows what the current energy use is. The book also discusses (quoting from page 23) “how susceptible to modification it is”.

    Since the good people of the UK are not all driving round in electric vehicles, then your figure of 3.3 kWh isn’t the right figure to use.

    When the book moves on to discuss better transport options its clearly pointed out that electric vehicles use 1/5 the energy of their fossil-powered counterparts. Much of the remaining discrepancy could be down to the book’s use of mileage for a level of consumption that people aspire to, rather than the mathematical mean mileage. The rationale for this approach is detailed in the book.

    The sources for the numbers in the book are clearly identified, the book itself is great to read (really) – the only caution I’d give is that it may challenge some preconceptions.

    Comment by Andy Simpson — 2 May 2009 @ 8:45 AM

  343. 333 – What does the sun have to do with wind power?

    338 – Wind power competitive to fossil fuel technology? Perhaps after fossil fuels are taxed and taxed more then taxed again. You have to have backup technologies to kick in should the wind stop blowing. Are you going to factor that into the cost? How about the infrastructure or the lack of? I’ve been watching the Pickens wind farm cost estimate in Texas increase every other month. It was at 4 or 5 billion… then 7-8… now it’s 10. That price doesn’t include transmission costs. The price keeps going up on turbines because the demand is increasing faster then supply. A infrastructure has to be built just to make the wind turbines.

    Comment by EL — 2 May 2009 @ 8:59 AM

  344. For the nuclear engineers here: Is any significant industrial interest in Rubbia’s Accelerator Based Reactor ?

    Comment by sidd — 2 May 2009 @ 9:15 AM

  345. Douglas Wise
    2 May 2009 at 6:05 AM

    I thought a conspiracy theory requires more than one person. Prof. MacKay seems to be acting alone :-).

    Professor MacKay deliberately sets out to rubbish renewable energy…namely that we face huge but not necessarily insurmountable problems…

    I guess that is then what we disagree about, since the figure on page 109 pretty much eliminates all possible renewable sources without real arguments or thorough analysis, leaving the reader with the impression that renewables are only capable of generating 15 kWh/d of the necessary 125 kWh. I have tried to show that that is not a reasonable assumption. More because of the 125 figure than the 15.

    I was told that wind energy could not compete on a level playing field with energy from a newly built coal plant without CCS,

    You must ask yourself if in the current situation a coal plant without properly accounting for the externalized cost of its CO2 emissions is a level playing field.

    I would like to ask Anne why she thinks that electric power in France is cheaper than elsewhere in Europe and whether this may have anything to do with its 80% nuclear origin

    It might have something to do with the fact that the majority of those nuclear plants were built long time ago when nuclear power was still deemed of strategic importance. I suspect many billions of government subsidies have gone into building those.

    My position on nuclear is based on what I see NOW. I am not against nuclear, but looking at the plants currently under construction and their escalating cost and slipping schedules, I have pretty much lost faith in the nuclear industry to make any noticeable contribution towards solving this problem. As for the fast breeder reactors, where’s the meat? Can you give a realistic estimate of when the first one could start delivering its clean kWh’s?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 May 2009 @ 9:40 AM

  346. pete best
    2 May 2009 at 5:22 AM

    I have spoken to physics guys about the electric motor argument and they have stated that in the UK we use around 2 mbpd of oil and a barrel contains around 42 gallons and hence at 40 KWh per gallon thats 1680 KWh per barrel x 2 million = 3.3 billion KWh per day of additional electricity or if we do as you say and lets say we need only 25% of that due to the efficiency of the electric motor that is around 750 million KWh a day or 750 GWh a day!

    I think my calculation is more reliable. I start of with the amount of cars in Britain (30 million) and multiply that by the number of km traveled per day (8870*1.6/365 = 39). That gives me a number of vehicle miles traveled of 1.17 billion. Divide by 6 (real world mileage of an electric car in km/kWh) and the result is 200 million kWh = 200 GWh. There are a few things that might explain the difference:
    - Not all oil is used for cars.
    - Not all oil for road transport is for private motor vehicles. Trucks and buses and aviation are excluded. Off the top of my head: a rough estimate would be that the number would increase by 50% if all road transport were included.
    - There are losses when refining oil to produce petrol.

    To put it in perspective, and again off the top of my head, total electricity consumption in GB is around 500 TWh per year, or 1400 GWh per day.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 May 2009 @ 10:01 AM

  347. “My comments are confined to IFRs (S-Prism design by GE).

    1)Technology already developed.” – Douglas Wise

    Up to a point, Lord Copper. So far as I can discover, this technology has got no further than a prototype; the full fuel cycle has never been tested. Nuclear enthusiasts usually have a pet version of the technology which is going to solve all the problems and show those dirty hippies how wrong they have been – but taking any two nuclear enthusiasts at random, the chances of them favouring the same version are small.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 2 May 2009 @ 10:05 AM

  348. Mark, all true. Smaller cars are more expensive if equipped with hybrids, plus under a global warming regime, you would have to pay more money for the same size car. Higher fuel mandates would create even smaller cars like what Europe has. Just because other laws create incentives for buying smaller cars doesn’t excuse creating more laws.

    Comment by MikeN — 2 May 2009 @ 10:19 AM

  349. Andy Simpson
    2 May 2009 at 8:45 AM

    In the demand side stack, the book shows what the current energy use is. The book also discusses (quoting from page 23) “how susceptible to modification it is”.

    I think this has nothing to do with any modification, but all with an accurate assessment of the expected reality a few decades into the future.

    Since the good people of the UK are not all driving round in electric vehicles, then your figure of 3.3 kWh isn’t the right figure to use.

    Since the 20 kWh/d of wind power is also not currently there, that is not a problem. This book is tries to look into the future. Electric cars are being developed now and will come on to the market in the coming decade. Allow me to ask you a question in return: How would you suggest the good people of the UK are fill up their petrol cars with electricity from wind?

    The only way the renewable scenario is going to work is with an electrification of almost everything, including cars. Without properly accounting for that and honestly factoring in the real world consumption of such electric car, any scenario is useless.

    When the book moves on to discuss better transport options its clearly pointed out that electric vehicles use 1/5 the energy of their fossil-powered counterparts.

    Yes, later in the book he sort of accounts for the improvement in efficiency due to electrification. See page 204. But he only applies an improvement of 2x not the 5x he suggests (and I too) is realistic. Ask yourself why. He is not applying his own data to his calculations.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 2 May 2009 @ 10:29 AM

  350. Gavin- What the Fourier analysis gives you is what freq. are present in a data sample, and their strength. So if I look at the spectral graph of the sunspots and temp anomalies ( in my case East England) and I see spikes close to temp variations and sunspot activity, I think it would be reasonable to look if there was a correlation. And from the graphs I have posted, there appears to be a correlation in the ~10 & ~50 year periods. In fact your friends over at WUWT have a interesting debate on that very topic. Here is one graph from Leif Svalgaard
    http://www.leif.org/research/FFT-Power-Spectrum-SSN-1700-2008.png
    Note (from Leif): that there are many curves. Since the sunspot cycle observations do not extend infinitely long in time there are going to be ‘end-effects’. We can get a handle of how disturbing they are by computing the FFT over the full interval, then over the full interval minus one year, then minus two years, etc [up to 20 years for this example]

    Again the ~10 & ~50 years periods show up. Why the correlation is present, I don’t know, we are dealing with two huge non-linear systems (sun & earth). But after looking at my figure where the temp is filtered out above ~0.02 cycles/year, that shows a oscillation in the 50 year range, which we seem to be going through.
    http://www.imagenerd.com/uploads/t_est_05-NVRm1.gif

    I think it’s a better one then Tamino’s charts in his East England analysis. He cuts his off before 2000, while mine reflect the current peaking or downturn in global temperature.

    As far as solar variability in this frequency band, being “tiny”. Those are pretty good size sunspot magnitudes in those time periods, or freq. ( not freq. in the electromagnetic spectrum). Also we have just begun to get good data about solar radiation in the last 20 or so years.

    Comment by J. Bob — 2 May 2009 @ 10:35 AM

  351. What is it about wind farms that is killing off the little prairie chicken. That reason can’t be “it’s a critically endangered species”. That merely points to wind farms being a final straw. Yet what pushed them to being critically endangered? If they weren’t critically endangered, would wind farms be killing them off?

    The same logic can be used to justify “the final straw” action threatening *any* endangered species.

    We can’t undo the past. We can take sensitive species into consideration when siting wind farms in order to minimize future harm.

    Roughly 25% of bird species which breed in the US are on conservation watch lists. We’re in the midst of a major extinction event driven by human changes to the planet’s ecosystems. Maybe you think this is a trivial issue. Biologists don’t.

    Comment by dhogaza — 2 May 2009 @ 11:19 AM

  352. re EL, what does the sun have to do with wind power?

    Well

    a) the differential heating from the sun creates an energy imbalance which drives the air from the equator to the pole. This is the wind.

    b) you can also use solar power to run your electric grid when you have not enough wind

    And yes, wind power IS competitive to fossil fuels. How much did the US spend on securing the oil supplies? That’s costing.

    If your country doesn’t HAVE oil deposits (e.g. Japan), then your oil costs what you could have kept in trade balance and the loss of profit from your own country and given to a competitor.

    And wind power doesn’t cause global warming when operational.

    Comment by Mark — 2 May 2009 @ 11:22 AM

  353. Doug Wise, either it’s deliberate or he’s incompetent.

    Do we accept legal contract where there is small print buried on the third page of a 10-page contract?

    NO.

    The very best slant to put on it is he’s being over pessimistic.

    Then again, why is he doing so?

    Comment by Mark — 2 May 2009 @ 11:26 AM

  354. Hybrid cars generally cost thousands of dollars more than a non-hybrid, plus the largest maker of hybrids, GM, is going into bankruptcy/government receivership.

    The Oregon State motor pool has been keeping data on operating (fuel, repair, maintenance, etc) costs of hybrids in its fleet vs. non-hybrid equivalents (almost, if not entirely, Prius vs. equivalent 4-door compact sedans).

    Over 100,000 miles, total cost to the state of the hybrid cars has been significantly less – operating costs about 40% less, offset to some degree by the additional extra cost. Anyway, they’ve concluded that the state saves money by buying hybrids if the total cost of ownership is taken into account.

    This is based on real-world data.

    And the the costs of hybrids is coming down. The redesigned Honda Insight is coming out with a base price of about $20K in the US. It’s roughly the size of the Prius. The hybrid technology inside isn’t quite as sophisticated as the Prius and it won’t be quite as efficient but their intent is to outsell the Prius and other competitors combined.

    BTW I do believe that Toyota is both a) larger than GM and b) selling far more hybrid vehicles than GM.

    Comment by dhogaza — 2 May 2009 @ 11:26 AM

  355. Re #332, “yes, that is very true (after reading more data) that its around 5-7 GWh per annum per turbine but the bigger they are the larger the space between them and hence the amount of land required yields not more energy (or a little more as the turbines are built higher.”

    And the land underneath is either farmed or left fallow.

    Which a bigger gap makes more fallow or more farmable.

    Building more nuclear power stations will take more land too…

    Comment by Mark — 2 May 2009 @ 11:29 AM

  356. Renewable energy currently tends to have higher up-front costs than fossil fuel-based power systems do, but in the long run equipment depreciation is lower and the fuel (sunlight and wind) is free, thus any honest cost analysis over the lifetime of the power-generating equipment will conclude that solar is cheapest, wind second, nuclear third, and fossil fuels are unworkable in the long run due to the global warming issue.

    For solar, the main raw material is silicon, which is widely available. Production of silicon solar panels can be accomplished using power from solar panels; this would be the solar breeder facility approach.

    For wind, you have to rely on moving parts and steel. Unlike with solar, bigger wind turbines are usually better – the larger turbine towers and blades are more efficient (and safer) than small ones. With solar, the technology is modular, not size dependent. Turbine replacement costs are likely to be higher than solar PV panel costs, over system lifetime.

    With nuclear, upfront costs are high, but the end costs of decommissioning and of hot fuel rod treatment are even higher. Unlike with wind and solar, large volumes of cooling water are a necessity for nuclear power generation, which should also be factored into the costs. A 1 Gigawatt nuclear power plant converts 30 tons of low-enrichment uranium fuel per year, the waste products being a wide variety of fission products like cesium, strontium, etc. as well as about 1% plutonium, but the ‘emissions’ are solid and are not released (unless there is an accident).

    Solar, wind and nuclear all operate on fundamentally different principles, which is reflected in how power generation looks over time. Solar follows seasonal sunlight abundance, with uncertainties from clouds and weather. Wind follows peak wind periods, which are more spatially and temporally variable than solar is. Nuclear is best operated in constant baseline mode, with no increases or decreases in power generation.

    To make these three power sources work well together, you need smart grid concepts, such energy storage and distribution systems. For example, if nuclear is providing 20% of electric generation, it can be run at steady baseline, maximizing fuel efficiency, while all the other variable demand can be met with solar and wind based power that has been fed into storage systems during the peak periods.

    Keep in mind also, that the demand for utility, in economic terms, does not automatically translate into the demand for energy, in physical terms. Thus, a low-energy electric vehicle provides the same utility as a high-energy fossil fuel vehicle, so a switch to electric vehicles would reduce energy demand, but not utility demand.

    That’s the basis of one of the fundamental flaws in modern economic theory – energy does not equal utility.

    With coal, the plants are cheap to build, the coal is cheap to mine, and a “natural monopoly” system of electricity generation and distribution helps lock out any renewable competition, leading to further economic advantages over renewables. However, if you want to stop altering the atmospheric composition, you have to stop burning coal and other fossil fuels.

    For a very balanced overview of the energy cost picture, see the following:

    http://www.displaysearchblog.com/2009/03/whats-in-a-gigawatt/

    Comment by Ike Solem — 2 May 2009 @ 11:29 AM

  357. James, many of us take protection of habitat very seriously.
    But think like an ecologist, or at least a biologist, or you risk sounding like one of those “environ-mentalists” who know nothing except what they think is pretty nature.

    You point to Chernobyl, but that’s an old newspaper article and known wrong. The area is full of wildlife, because the animals move into the area where there are no people. The area is a reproductive sink — it’s not a place animals can successfully reproduce even replacement numbers.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%2BChernobyl+%2B%22population+sink%22

    Like the Korean DMZ or many other areas that are out of bounds to human incursion, it’s full of wildlife. But read the research.

    Yes, don’t let development into desert habitat.
    Your passion is correct.
    Use real facts.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 May 2009 @ 11:30 AM

  358. Douglas Wise #331 — That’s very interesting information about the new generation (4th) of nuclear power, which can run on waste heat. No proliferation issues, plus it provides a way to use the waste instead of trying to find an underground dump for it. It seems to me that this is like geothermal.

    Since I see your invitation for comment has not yet been taken up, I hope you will excuse my presumptive ignorance when I inquire about the working fluid and about the cooling system.

    The organic Rankine cycle, which uses a high molecular weight refrigerant as the working fluid, can get high mass flow through a turbine from a low temperature heat source. It is a good working fluid for waste heat power harvesting. Is that what is used in 4th generation nuclear power?

    One major issue with nuclear plants (as well as coal and all other thermal power plants) is the fresh water wasted in heat rejection. Turbine exhaust steam condensing (to renew the Rankine cycle) conventionally involves wet cooling, where cooling water from the shell-and-tube steam condensers is sprayed into cooling towers, and an updraft carries vapor from evaporative cooling into the atmosphere. Water availability is a major siting issue, and fresh water is getting scarce. Does 4th generation nuclear power use dry cooling, such as the Heller system?

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 2 May 2009 @ 11:39 AM

  359. 343 – Wind power competitive to fossil fuel technology?

    Did you factor in the long term costs re environmental damage, health, etc? Of course its expensive starting up. But it sounds like you are ignoring long-term in favor of short term.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 2 May 2009 @ 11:40 AM

  360. Hank Roberts #316 — I read that “patent troll” article; thanks for that. The original complaint was about “submarine patents” which manufacturers only became aware of after having tooled up to manufacture. But now we have publication after 18 months, so pending patents in the pipeline do not come as a surprise years and years after they are filed.

    The defense bar then adopted the “troll” smear so infringers could play the victim card. That article defines a “troll” as a patent holder who is not shipping product. In other words, your patent is worthless unless you are an established industrial player. Inventors must starve or be peons of corporations.

    So what is so evil about having a patent but no product yet? It is like saying that a prospector who is not already shipping gold bars has no right to his claim, and any big trespasser is welcome to open a mine on it? Getting to market with a new product is a long slog for a startup, and the only way to raise money is by means of intellectual property. Bravo for Niro and the others who bankroll new inventions. It is clear from the “troll” clamor that the real intent of this smear word is to stamp out the creation of new business and invention in America.

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 2 May 2009 @ 12:02 PM

  361. Carbon’s cap-and-trade system is no way comparable to the sulfates of the 70s-80s in substance, scope or degree. You guys should stop trying to prove its benign economics by making the comparison.

    Comment by Rod B — 2 May 2009 @ 12:06 PM

  362. “Abstract Due to their inherent safety features and waste transmutation potential, accelerator driven subcritical reactors (ADSRs) are the subject of research and development in almost all countries around the world….”
    ________________
    “banks spadeful” says ReCaptcha.
    Modify the above search accordingly:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=50&q=Rubbia+Accelerator+bank+%2Binvestment+development+Reactor

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 May 2009 @ 12:30 PM

  363. EL Says (2 May 2009 at 12:36 AM):

    “This downside can be witnessed at Denmark. They have to export most of their wind power due to this problem.”

    This is just wrong, though I most often see the mistake on the other side, from wind power advocates. There is, in fact, no “Danish” power system. There’s one integrated western European power grid. When the wind turbines in Denmark are producing more power than can be used locally (and indeed “locally” is an oversimplification of how an electric grid works), it flows through the rest of the grid; when they’re not meeting local demand, power flows in from France, Germany, Switzerland, or wherever.

    Comment by James — 2 May 2009 @ 12:35 PM

  364. 319 MikeN:

    “I’ve actually never sat in one, so perhaps Toyota has made something deceptively good. However, the last part is mostly bogus as much larger cars do not provide plenty fo leg room front and back.”

    Now those are remarkable admissions in light of your previous comments about “loss of comfort”. You’ve never bothered to try testing your hypothesis, and simultaneously you freely admit that the comfort you’re afraid of losing never existed in the first place?

    In light of that some folks might interpret your initial foray as purely reactionary. “I’m not going to bother trying anything new, I admit that what I’m advocating is pointlessly wasteful, yet I’m going to discourage anybody from trying something new.”

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 2 May 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  365. gavin: “They’d also be pretty happy at the concomitant reduction in air pollution, indoor smoke, bronchial disorders, polluted water and smog which contribute to premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of their fellows. …I resent these continual suggestions that doing something about carbon emissions implies some anti-third world agenda – it’s low rhetoric of a most despicable kind.”

    I don’t think my comment suggested anything of the kind (at least I did not mean to). I don’t think anyone in this discussion has an ‘anti-third world agenda’.

    But certainly the worst of the ‘indoor smoke, bronchial disorders, polluted water’ problems are caused by a lack of electricity and fossil fuels (hence burning dung indoors for heat). You will not get third world people on your side by telling them they can’t have electricity until it is solar generated.

    [Response: You are again making up policy positions that I have not stated nor endorsed. If you want to have a conversation on strategies go ahead, but don't make up stuff in order to make rhetorical points. Rural India and Africa require huge amounts of development and that development has bog all to do with developed world attempts to move to less carbon-intensive energy sources. If that development can be more efficient than not, then this is a plus, but it has nothing to do with the point that started this little thread where Mike suggested that reduced emissions was somehow automatically to be equated to reduced energy use. That was and remains false. - gavin]

    It seems to me that instead of putting efforts into restricting coal use in the third world, the efforts would be better spent on methods to encourage R&D to reduce the cost of cleaner energy generation to be competitive with coal.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 May 2009 @ 12:54 PM

  366. James says (322):

    This oft-mentioned idea is an outstanding example of not troubling to think through the implications. Start with basics: solar cell production capacity is limited, the cells are expensive. So why do you want to put them on a car, where they will seldom be optimally oriented towards the sun (and so generate much less than their rated power), and will reduce the car’s efficiency by adding weight & drag? Far better to leave the cells at home, on the roof, generating power whenever the sun’s shining and feeding that power to the grid…

    The only argument which I think is valid is that there will be a limitation to the production capacity of solar panels. But cells are getting cheaper and more efficient every year.

    Regarding the issue of non-optimal PV orientation on a car, if this was a major concern you could only put them on the more horizontal roof and trunk, and then you’d only be able to go 20-25 km a day for free instead of 40 km.

    They will not add drag if they are incorporated into the bodywork in manufacture, hence my point about the need for large mass production as the only way to do this economically.

    The extra weight is not really an issue, based on the weight of my backpacking solar panel, I’d be surprised if it came in over 100 pounds. And if it’s on a hybrid car with regenerative braking then you get a lot of that energy back.

    Regarding the comment that it would be better to put them on you roof, yes, technically, I agree, but converting your house to a grid-tied solar panel system is a moderately large undertaking for most people. A much smaller and easier way to incorporate solar panels into your energy life is to simply buy a car with them already installed on the car — maybe not as efficient, but more practical as a short term “solution” for most people.

    Comment by Mark Cunnington — 2 May 2009 @ 12:58 PM

  367. Rod B. says, “Carbon’s cap-and-trade system is no way comparable to the sulfates of the 70s-80s in substance, scope or degree.”

    Hmm, so you’re saying that they should have stopped with trading a hog for 25 chickens, huh? That this whole trading stocks and futures, etc was a big mistake because it’s so much bigger?

    It’s a market, Rod. It operates on the same principles as every other market. It can be manipulated, as can all markets. It can be unhealthy, as can all markets. It can make a few people quite rich, as can any market. The sulfate cap and trade system has been tremendously successful, despite the cries of impending doom from the power companies when it was started. I have yet to hear any substantive criticism of the idea that would not be covered under the general admonishment: “Don’t screw it up!”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 May 2009 @ 12:58 PM

  368. MikeN Says (2 May 2009 at 10:19 AM):

    “Mark, all true. Smaller cars are more expensive if equipped with hybrids, plus under a global warming regime, you would have to pay more money for the same size car.”

    False. Just for an example, the Honda Insight (the original, I should say) cost about $20K new, and is about the same size * shape as the Porsche 911, which costs around $60-80K new. (IIRC, as I was looking mostly at used prices.)

    “Higher fuel mandates would create even smaller cars like what Europe has.”

    There’s something wrong with this? Ever stop to think that if the US not-so-big-anymore 3 automakers had bothered to build the smaller cars that most Americans actually buy & drive, they might not be begging the government for taxpayer-funded bailouts?

    Comment by James — 2 May 2009 @ 12:59 PM

  369. Re: #191 Edward

    1. Thanks for not being considerate.

    2. I simply said it was my understanding, which I welcome corrections for, as is the point of scientific discourse…And I misspoke when I said it was equivalent to BURNING coal, when I was referring to the similar pre-production processes.

    3. In addition, you are incorrect. In fact, nuclear is greater than coal in terms of CO2 through pre-production life cycles stages. Life cycle analysis in terms of GHG from CRADLE TO GRAVE, in general (but varies between situational studies) puts nuclear substantially less than coal, natural gas, and biomass and marginally less than PV solar. In general, it is more than geothermal and wind and roughly equivalent to hydro. Thin film solar is not always included in this evaluation but life cycle analyses I’ve read rank TF solar far lower than PV solar. (Paul Meier, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Nuclear Energy Institute). Other studies put nuclear in terms of life cycle substantially less than natural gas, oil and coal, equivalent to wind and solar (but more in future scenarios with expansion of wind and solar efficiency technologies), and more than geothermal and hydro. (Hiroki Hondo, 2005 Energy Vol.30 p 2042-2056).

    5. Also, the enrichment process (not the fission-in-the-reactor process) whether by gaseous diffusion, centrifuge methods or laser techniques is energy intensive – I was merely noting that looking at that portion in the life cycle is important when evaluating the CO2 footprint of nuclear as the energy required can and in the case of the nuclear plant nearest my home, does, come from burning fossil fuels…The end footprint depends on the energy mix of the country enriching. (Daniel Weisser in 2006, Energy Vol. 32 p.1543-1549). Regretfully I was not specific enough for you, in noting that I was talking about only the enrichment stage of nuclear’s life cycle as a non-positive when evaluating overall GHG friendly energy. These studies address pre-production of all the listed sources, of which nuclear is generally greater.

    6. Finally, I did not, and would not, say that nuclear should be absent from the energy mix. But given the life cycle footprint (based only on GHG in this instance and not on hazardous waste, recycling, resource extraction and decommissioning issues) it is seemingly not the singular solution. Expanding renewable energy resources, in my opinion, is far more sustainable in complex human and natural systems over both the current life cycles and the future potential.

    Regards.

    Comment by Shauna — 2 May 2009 @ 1:03 PM

  370. Walt, sorry it’s taken awhile for me to reply. The thing about tipping points is we don’t know when they tip. We do know, however, that natural feedbacks pretty much all get worse with temperature. Conservation is needed to avoid tipping the system before we come up with effective mitigations and alternative energy solutions.
    I think there is no doubt we’re in for a warmer world. Our goal should be to limit the warming to levels where our global infrastructure continues to function at least somewhat until we can develop a truly sustainable infrastructure.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 May 2009 @ 1:04 PM

  371. ccpo,
    When I say sustainable, i mean sustainable into the far distant future. I don’t think this necessarily means growth, although it may mean we need to redefine growth as something along the lines of improved standard of living via improved technology, etc. The extractive, increased-consumption notion of growth certainly isn’t sustainable. Nor, beyond a certain level of consumption does in equate to increased wellbeing. Some notion of growth, however, is probably needed for any economic system conceived to date.

    As to our ability to decrease consumption, I agree there’s huge scope (and need) for savings in the US, Europe, Japan, etc., but you’ll face serious backlash given that shopping is considered a “leisure activity”. In Juneau, AK, energy consumption rapidly fell 30-40% when prices doubled after an avalanche cut off cheap hydroelectric power. This is an interesting case study, as it was done spontaneously, which little planning or preparation. It shows people can make rational decisions when they need to.

    When past civilizations fell, some civilization outside always lived on and could mop up the mess or take the spoils. When a global civilization trying to support 9 billion people on already failing infrastructure falls, I rather doubt there will be much worth picking up. It’s a scenario, I’d like to put off as long as possible.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 May 2009 @ 1:18 PM

  372. Hank Roberts Says (2 May 2009 at 11:30 AM):

    “You point to Chernobyl, but that’s an old newspaper article and known wrong.”

    I linked that particular article because it was the first thing that popped up with some good worth-a-thousand-words pictures. As to whether it’s wrong, read on.

    “The area is full of wildlife, because the animals move into the area where there are no people. The area is a reproductive sink — it’s not a place animals can successfully reproduce even replacement numbers.”

    That’s one hypothesis, but I think a little thought will show that the second half can’t be entirely correct. The Chernobyl “Dead Zone” is a preferred habitat because of the low human population, so animals which can migrate long distances do tend to migrate into it. But what of those animals whose typical travel range is much less than the size of the zone – “the coney you see dwell where she is kindled”? They must reproduce largely within the zone. This is even more true for plants, especially those whose seeds aren’t wind-dispersed. From the pictures, it’s apparent that they do exist & reproduce there.

    I can also think of a fairly obvious explanation for the “reproductive sink” effect. Predators tend to travel longer distances than prey, and are more likely to be subject to “control” in human-inhabited areas. Therefore predator population density will tend to be higher in the exclusion zone. More predators eat more prey, causing a net inward migration that is not at all a direct effect of radiation. I think you’d find a similar effect around any wildlife reserve. Have comparison studies been done?

    The point I want to make, though, is not that the radiation has had NO effect. It’s twofold: first, that whatever the effects may be, they’re a long way from the “Omigawd, it’s radioactive! We’re all gonna DIE!” hysteria of the more religious opponents of nuclear power; second, that the effects even seem to be less detrimental than just living around large numbers of humans.

    Comment by James — 2 May 2009 @ 1:39 PM

  373. “Omigawd, it’s radioactive! We’re all gonna DIE!”

    Unless you quantify that in SI units of omigawdons, it’s just more nonsense from the pro nuclear grandstand crowd.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 2 May 2009 @ 1:49 PM

  374. More predators eat more prey, causing a net inward migration that is not at all a direct effect of radiation. I think you’d find a similar effect around any wildlife reserve.

    Not at all true. Please do a little research.

    Comment by dhogaza — 2 May 2009 @ 2:00 PM

  375. Ray, a few points:

    “The sulfate cap and trade system has been tremendously successful, despite the cries of impending doom from the power companies when it was started.”

    This is the mantra, but an analysis of the fuel cycle shows that what has happened is that sulfur content in ship bunker fuel has increased as sulfur content in diesel fuel has decreased. This topic is usually avoided by cap-and-trade proponents:

    Last year, the United States and the European Union each took major steps to remove sulfur from diesel fuel and dramatically reduce emissions from diesel-fueled trucks, buses and cars — thereby leading the way to a cleaner, more sustainable transportation future. – NRDC

    For the other side of the story, see this:

    Ships use the tar-like, sulfur-concentrated remains of petroleum left once the gasoline, oil and all other products have been extracted. This high-sulfur fuel is responsible for the significant environmental impacts of ship sulfur emissions.

    From the perspective of inner city pollution by aging diesel buses, cap-and-trade reduced the local city-scale pollution problem, but at the cost of the open ocean pollution problem:

    Our results indicate that international shipping can be a non-negligible factor in determining the radiative forcing of aerosols over specific regions with intensive ship activities. These places include the European, eastern Asian, and American coastal regions. The global mean aerosol radiative forcing caused by the ship emissions ranges from -12.5 to -23 mW/m^2, depending on whether the mixing between black carbon and sulfate is included in the model.

    Other work shows that shipping is one of the most significant sources of aerosols to the Arctic, thus influencing climate there. From a global climate perspective, sulfur cap-and-trade has done very little – and this can also be seen in the sulfate aerosol ice core records from the Arctic, which show a peak mid-century, and flat after that.

    It didn’t really work for sulfur, and will surely not work for fossil CO2 and long-term climate change, because for that question, it doesn’t matter where on the planet you burn fossil fuels, as CO2 has a long lifetime in the atmosphere. Outsourcing the pollution to a Third World country is not an option, and neither is capturing it all and burying it in the ground.

    There is only one viable way to remove carbon from the atmosphere (over millenia-scale timeframes), which is to covert atmospheric CO2 to a stable solid material, such as charcoal or calcium carbonate, and bury it. However, why should burying one ton give you the right to emit another ton? I go pick up a bag of litter off the road, does that give me the right to dump it all in my neighbor’s yard? “Don’t worry, it’s all been offset…”

    Comment by Ike Solem — 2 May 2009 @ 2:08 PM

  376. Re #67 Anne van der Bom

    Thank you again for the links in this post.

    I repeat your reference regarding Europe
    (http://www.wind-energy-the-facts.org/en/home–about-the-project.html) because it is so very useful in understanding the whole picture.

    For Europe, including UK, the future is absolutely electric powered cars. There is no other viable long term choice.

    This realization is secondary to the startling revelation to me that European energy policy is only incidentally connected to global warming concerns. The issue that must grip the hearts, minds, and souls of Europeans is that without big action there is no energy in the future that does not set up Russia with the power to dominate Europe. France figured this out way ahead of the rest of us. Realizing that this would be a power shift of historical significance, it is easy to understand the imposition of cap and trade policies. Global warming was a convenient persuasive argument in support of what had to take place. Cap and trade, and whatever form of taxes that also are, and might be, imposed fit with long standing European policies of limiting use of energy through pricing. Anne’s references also show other tax based incentives against use of energy in Europe, in addition to the cap and trade penalties that are more focused on CO2 issues.

    The effect of long term European attitudes has been to create a degree of order in energy usage that we in USA have rarely imagined. Denmark’s system is described in the second of your (Anne’s) references, where it is notable that they have what they call “district heating” where much of the heat produced for residential heating is coproduced with electricity, that is cogeneration. It gets two or three times as much electric energy out of their natural gas, or whatever fuel, as we typically manage with our central power plant system. (#2 on my list of Magnificent Blunders by the USA magnificent because it has enabled much prosperity, blunder because regarding efficiency, a horrible blunder it is.)(#1 Magnificent Blunder is side-by-side seating in automobiles.)

    Americans might remember inconvenience and human loss of world war. Europeans have known it far differently. The best bet for peace in Europe has always been maintenance of balance of power. This had relatively little to do with whether any country had bad or good intentions. The primary issue was always whether any one country had the power to dominate others. While I have no believe that Russian leaders are especially worse or better than leaders of any other country, the only way to not hand Russia a chain hooked to an iron collar around each European country is to get independent of external energy supplies.

    In America, we have a different long term choice so we can easily escape all this. Continuation of our wasteful vehicle systems can be assured by simply shifting from oil to coal. To do otherwise, the global warming argument will have to carry the day on its own. That is an awesome responsibility.

    Good luck to us all.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 2:11 PM

  377. Re #349, Anne, An electric vehicle is not 5x more efficient than a ICE based one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle

    26% efficient ultimately.

    Comment by pete best — 2 May 2009 @ 2:14 PM

  378. Ray: “…natural feedbacks pretty much all get worse with temperature.”

    That is certainly not the case with one of the largest feedbacks: snow and ice albedo. As the area covered goes away, this positive feedback goes to zero.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 May 2009 @ 2:22 PM

  379. Rod B #318:

    A basic question that confuses me (and I admit I haven’t read the referenced papers or the latest posts here): why is the total emitted carbon (CO2) the key parameter and not the atmospheric concentration? Is it because there is a direct relationship between the two? If so, why make the distinction? Or does it somehow relate to some tipping point as opposed to general warming? If we pump X gigatonnes into the air but for some reason the concentration changes little, are we still screwed? Am I missing something simple here? Or misreading it?

    Good question. My take is that it has to do with the starting point chosen for these analyses: what does it take for the temperature anomaly at no point to exceed the “danger line” of +2 degrees Celcius. That is a different starting point from previous analyses, which typically answered the question, what will happen if we do this, or that, or that. It’s like reasoning backwards from acceptable consequences to what we can afford to do.

    When you use this kind of reasoning, you find immediately that the peak temperature occurs somewhere during the second half of this century, and peak emission somewhere in the first half. After that, emissions taper to zero — they must — CO2 concentrations go asymptotically to what corresponds to about half the total ever emitted — the other half going into the ocean and biosphere — and temps go asymptotically to the long-term equilibrium value for that concentration.

    So yes, the direct relationship exists. The reason why this is nevertheless useful is that the conclusions are insensitive to the timeline of emission: it is only to total that counts. This is in fact a very simple and straightforward way of thinking about this: anything we emit now, we cannot emit in the future. The more we postpone cutting emissions, the steeper the cuts will have to be when we find out the hard way that “doggie bites”. Or we may even have to engage in active CO2 drawdown, guaranteed to be pricier than not emitting the stuff in the first place.

    Hope this helps.
    .

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 2 May 2009 @ 2:41 PM

  380. #365 Mark Cunningham:

    If you don’t mind me inserting myself into the discussion, I can make a small contribution here. I’m modestly qualified to comment as I’ve been using PV for about 10 years in the arena of telemetry and telecommunications applications. I think I can supply some useful background information that will help move the conversation forward.

    First, let’s clarify that monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells of the type now seen on solar-powered racing cars are not really practical for application to production vehicles subject to the insults of daily driving. They’re inherently fragile both in the cell itself and the interconnects between cells. They are also relatively heavy once fully integrated into a functional array. Translation: a minor impact of the type frequently encountered by vehicles will likely cause noticeable degradation of an array’s output. Because of cell slicing and assembly constraints they’re also not friendly to aerodynamics without making the target vehicle unsuitable for normal road operations.

    Mono and polycrystalline cells do have the virtue of high efficiency which is why they’re a popular choice for competetive PV vehicle events.

    Mono and polycrystalline panel assembly requires lots of attention from either humans or robots during fabrication.

    Amorphous (often referred to as “thin film”) panels are eminently suitable for vehicular applications from a mechanical integration perspective. They are relatively light, they can easily be made to conform to fairly radical compound curves of the kind found on automobiles and they’re highly damage tolerant. In demonstrations for customers we’ve pounded on them with hammers, deformed and even punched holes in ‘em with continued functioning of the panels without the need for expensive, cumbersome, lossy and fragile bypass diodes and the like.

    Amorphous panels are very easy to fabricate compared to the other two type. Although the capital barriers to creating a fabrication plant are initially higher hte continuing input of human or robotic labor is much lower once production commences.

    An important note with regard to amorphous panels in vehicular applications is that they have the great virtue of continuing to function when partially shaded. From the perspective of a solar panel shading is exactly akin to damage (though only temporaray, of course), and the response of the various technologies is the same as when they’re damaged. Partially shaded mono and polycrystalline panels will entirely cease functioning when shaded unless bypass diodes are incorporated into the panel. Amorphous panels drop in output proportional to the loss of illuminated area, a big benefit in many applications.

    Amorphous panels also tend to produce more juice in cloudy or hazy conditions though this benefit is offset by lower efficiency (see below).

    The bad news about amorphous cells is that they lag in efficiency compared to mono and polycrystalline cells. They also tend to degrade over time a bit more than the former types (the degradation curve does tend to flatten). So for a given square meter, an amorphous cell does not produce as much juice as a mono our polycrystalline type. Degradation is typically handled by oversizing panels at the time of fabrication though this somewhat compounds the inherent efficiency deficit of amorphous cells. Improvements are in all of these areas are being made, however.

    The efficiency deficit of amorphous cells is really not an issue for many applications. For instance, most of us can afford to cover only a fraction of our roof area with any type of PV technology, so as long as there’s available area untapped due to cost constraints it’s foolish to obsess about efficiency. For industrial sized grid applications efficiency is a real choice point, though. An example is that in our application we’re moving to amorphous cells since we have lots of room at the immediate base of towers, where things dropped tend to land.

    Regarding alignment to the sun, this is a real problem. As the incident angle of light moves from 90 degrees to a panel the amount of electricity generated falls off very rapidly. For a given target output the result is that arrays of panels have to oversized, currently a significant expense. Jame’s point about where to best apply whatever inventory of cells we have is valid; it seems to me very likely (though I’m too lazy to try to work it out with numbers) that even after working out transfer inefficiencies we’d find the cells we have actually have available better applied in fixed installations.

    We’re approaching the point where we can discuss “painting” surfaces with amorphous PV compounds on a commercial basis. Seems to me that’s where we might find some real excitment regarding autonomous or semi-autonomous solar vehicles.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 2 May 2009 @ 2:42 PM

  381. #375 Ike Solem,

    Much appreciation to you for your statement about offsets.

    On your other point that “the only viable way to remove carbon from the atmosphere —,” I offer my approach which is, “The most viable way to reduce CO2 from the atmosphere is to put a lot less into it and then let nature work through our past excesses.”

    I am perplexed by suggestions that we might reform CO2 as carbon where we formed the CO2 from carbon to get heat. Wouldn’t it take something like the same amount of heat put back in to get back to the carbon? Chemists, please advise.

    And why ever can we not stop calling CO2 “carbon” which most decidedly it ain’t? Your statement demonstrates how this verbal idiocy turns sentences into gibberish. There is only so much shorthand that the world can tolerate. After all, isn’t our biggest world problem ignorance?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 2:44 PM

  382. Steve Reynolds #378:

    That is certainly not the case with one of the largest feedbacks: snow and ice albedo. As the area covered goes away, this positive feedback goes to zero.

    True Steve. Very true. When ALL of the snow and ice on the planet goes away.
    .

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 2 May 2009 @ 3:03 PM

  383. #377 pete best,

    Thanks for that reference to the sane statement in Wikipedia. I might add that the 26% number is found under the heading “Disadvantages” rather than under “Efficiency.”

    To avoid getting people too riled up however, we should make clear that this is thermal efficiency only, meaning the ratio of output energy at the engine or electric motor shaft relative to the basic heat energy, wherever it goes into a heat engine.

    Then we should point out that the electric motor enables regenerative braking, which is not possible with a car heat engine. That is a big advantage of the hybrid, especially where a lot of start and stop driving is involved. The other big advantage of an electric motor, and this only is relevant to hybrids, is that the electric motor and batteries enable speed and load tuning of the internal combustion engine to get far greater efficiency than can be obtained where the engine has to provide large speed variation and load variation. Note therefore that the hybrid is far more important than many realize. That is why converting these to plug-in operation to enable tapping into coal as a heat source, is indeed quite a foolish act.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 3:08 PM

  384. #336. Anne, built into your assumptions are passengers per car and fuel efficiency. Since your numbers dont add up to the retail energy sold in fuel, I suspect your numbers of being wrong – you have another explanation? Where is the missing petrol? Fuel sold at retail seems to me to be the most solid figure here.

    I’m struggling to get an unequivacol number for kWh/km for electric cars too. Can you point one out to me? I want one measures km in to terms of energy going into the car rather than energy going out the battery (so battery efficiency is considered). Performance no. that I find look suspiciously like motor efficiency. I am by the way all for electric. Cant come fast enough.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 2 May 2009 @ 3:30 PM

  385. #356 Ike Solem,

    Your anlysis seems very sound, but please read my #376 as you consider “the art of the possible.”

    This is the domain of engineers and, sorry to say, politicians. Science has established the requirement to cut CO2.

    Your conclusion that we must stop using coal and other fossil fuels needs to get the “possibility” test. What has been possible in Europe may not fare well in the USA where we have a 1000 year supply of coal. Much the same goes for China, and I think, India.

    My opinion is that we need to be more clever than to just demand that we stop using coal and other fossil fuels.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 3:31 PM

  386. This is interesting:

    The Politics of Climate Hacking
    What happens if one country decides to start geoengineering on its own?

    http://www.slate.com/id/2217230/?yahoo=y

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 2 May 2009 @ 4:29 PM

  387. Jim Bullis: “Science has established the requirement to cut CO2.”

    That is still a little too much for science. Science has established that there likely are some very significant consequences to not cutting CO2. Climate science does not provide the values and economic analysis to determine how much or whether to cut CO2 emissions.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 May 2009 @ 4:43 PM

  388. Martin: “…When ALL of the snow and ice on the planet goes away.”

    That need not happen for a significant reduction in the positive feedback. That feedback is much less now than during the last ice age.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 May 2009 @ 4:48 PM

  389. “I’ve actually never sat in one, so perhaps Toyota has made something deceptively good. However, the last part is mostly bogus as much larger cars do not provide plenty fo leg room front and back.”

    Now those are remarkable admissions in light of your previous comments about “loss of comfort”. You’ve never bothered to try testing your hypothesis, and simultaneously you freely admit that the comfort you’re afraid of losing never existed in the first place?

    I don’t know how that’s the conclusion you reach. I’ve sat in plenty of small cars front and back, just not the Prius. As for ‘comfort not existing’, I was disputing a specific point made about the Prius having plenty of leg room front and back.

    >Mike suggested that reduced emissions was somehow automatically to be equated to reduced energy use.

    Well switching to these other technologies makes electricity cost more, and this leads to reduced energy use. I would agree that the other countries are unlikely to switch to more expensive energy just to satisfy people in other countries.

    >the Honda Insight (the original, I should say) cost about $20K new, and is about the same size * shape as the Porsche 911, which costs around $60-80K new.

    I had no idea that these were comparable cars. I stand corrected.

    >stop to think that if the US not-so-big-anymore 3 automakers had bothered to build the smaller cars that most Americans actually buy & drive, they might not

    GM has more hybrid models than any other company. Toyota is building larger SUVs. If these are truly the cars Americans want, then there is no need for any mandates, higher CAFE limits, or gas taxes to push people in that direction.

    Comment by MikeN — 2 May 2009 @ 4:52 PM

  390. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (381) By 2nd law, reversing the chemical reaction
    C + O2 –> CO2
    requires more energy than is liberated in the favored direction. Once one has CO2 and various ultra-mafic rock, the conversion to carbonate is slightly favored, leading to various weathering schmes; links were posted earlier.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 May 2009 @ 4:58 PM

  391. #390 David B. Benson,

    Thanks. Now that we can forget about remaking coal from CO2, (That does indeed sound like a perpetual motion machine.) where should we place our bets; on oysters or Papua rocks?

    Can we get anything like those Papua rocks a bit closer to home?

    I recently spoke with a Los Alamos physicist who would quite confidently proceed to give underground regions a thorough thumping based on underground nuclear testing experience. (It scares the living – - – out of me.) Would this fracture local formations adequately?

    #387 Steve Reynolds,

    I think we need science to help quite a lot with some of the planning, but sooner or later engineers have to decide when to stop quibbling. Actually this has to be a general decision. Engineers are not always so good at knowing when to stop analyzing.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 6:04 PM

  392. #389 MikeN:

    “I don’t know how that’s the conclusion you reach. I’ve sat in plenty of small cars front and back, just not the Prius. As for ‘comfort not existing’, I was disputing a specific point made about the Prius having plenty of leg room front and back.”

    It’s not my conclusion, it’s yours.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 2 May 2009 @ 6:20 PM

  393. MikeN Says (2 May 2009 at 4:52 PM):

    “>the Honda Insight (the original, I should say) cost about $20K new, and is about the same size * shape as the Porsche 911, which costs around $60-80K new.

    I had no idea that these were comparable cars. I stand corrected.”

    All depends on your criteria for comparison. Yours was size, wasn’t it? The two are nearly the same size (the 911′s a bit wider & lower), close to the same shape, have about the same interior room… Or if you don’t like my choice, compare the Prius with say the BMW 3-series.

    “GM has more hybrid models than any other company.”

    Models, perhaps, thanks to its long-standing practice of selling what is essentially the same vehicle under many different model names. So you have for instance the Chevy Yukon, GMC something, Buick/Cadillac something else. Lots of different-nameplate models, each selling a few thousand units. So how do GM’s total hybrid sales stack up against those of Toyota or Honda?

    Comment by James — 2 May 2009 @ 6:23 PM

  394. dhogaza Says (2 May 2009 at 2:00 PM):

    “More predators eat more prey, causing a net inward migration that is not at all a direct effect of radiation. I think you’d find a similar effect around any wildlife reserve.

    Not at all true. Please do a little research.”

    I’d be more than happy to, if you can find some agency who’ll award a grant – say for three years – to someone with no publication record in the field :-)

    More to the point, why don’t you do the research? I offered what seems to me a plausible alternative hypothesis, carefully stating that it was only a hypothesis. Your response is a flat statement that it’s not at all true. Seems to me the burden of supporting your statement falls on you.

    Comment by James — 2 May 2009 @ 6:41 PM

  395. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (391) — Maybe shouldn’t count on oysters, as “Our analysis shows an intense wintertime minimum in CO32− south of the Antarctic Polar Front and when combined with anthropogenic CO2 uptake is likely to induce aragonite undersaturation when atmospheric CO2 levels reach ≈450 ppm. Under the IPCC IS92a scenario, Southern Ocean wintertime aragonite undersaturation is projected to occur by the year 2030 and no later than 2038.” from

    Southern Ocean acidification: A tipping point at 450-ppm atmospheric CO2

    Ben I. McNeil and Richard J. Matear

    PNAS December 2, 2008 vol. 105 no. 48 18860-18864:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/48/18860.abstract

    The USA has a fairly good supply of suitable near-surficial ultra-mafic rocks, mostly in the west and some elsewhere. Doesn’t require fracturing, just high pressure injection; will cause the formations to noticably swell up and surely will produce some micro-seisms.

    Could turn CO2 back into C using photosynthesis. To replace current use of fossil carbon I’ll want about 12 million km^2, well watered (Sahara Desert is close to 9 million km^2, could start there). For comparison, current arable lands appear to total about 1 million km^2 with another useable, but unused 0.3 million km^2.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 May 2009 @ 7:01 PM

  396. Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg (310) — Thank you for the links. I certainly recommend these to all, expecially the first.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 May 2009 @ 7:04 PM

  397. Correction: current arable lands total about 17.2 million km^2.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 May 2009 @ 7:59 PM

  398. More to the point, why don’t you do the research? I offered what seems to me a plausible alternative hypothesis, carefully stating that it was only a hypothesis. Your response is a flat statement that it’s not at all true. Seems to me the burden of supporting your statement falls on you.

    Why should I do this for you?

    Comment by dhogaza — 2 May 2009 @ 8:20 PM

  399. pete best, #332, Anne van der Bom, #346 and Phill Scadden, #383, try to reach a consensus number for the UK energy usage for motor vehicles. pete’s figure for the electrical equivalent of all UK oil use is 750 million kWh/day. With a UK population of 60 million the equivalent figure is 12.5 kWh/d/p.

    pete’s figure seems to include all oil consumption (i.e. cars, delivery vehicles and motorway monsters), and only allows a 25% conversion factor to go from oil to electricity.

    This is quite consistent with the 3.3 kWh/d/p number that Anne wishes to insert in David MacKay’s table 18.1 in lieu of his 40 kWh/d/p for private motor car usage.

    Comment by David Murray — 2 May 2009 @ 8:32 PM

  400. C’mon, James, it’s not that hard. We’re talking library research, what you can do by talking to the reference librarian at your local library.
    They’re there to help you, they know far more about how to figure out how to look thing up than most of us amateur blog commenters.

    You can fake it from right there in your chair, by taking key words from your own notion and pasting them into Scholar. People here can help you a little — we do that because we can presume you, or someone who sounds like you, might be a youngster who’s honestly asking for help learning. It doesn’t really matter if you are or not — we try to set a good example.

    ReCaptcha is suggesting “at windmill” — make of that what you will.

    http://www.africanbirdclub.org/resources/littsupp/ABC_Literature_2004.doc
    Yosef R. & Fornasari L. 2004. Simultaneous decline in Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) populations and Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes) reproductive success: coincidence or a Chernobyl legacy? Ostrich 75: 20-24. (ryosef@eilatcity.co.il; Eilat, Israel) — Steppe Eagles declined in numbers and Levant Sparrowhawk young:adult ratio declined sharply 1980s to 1990s suggesting Chernobyl had effects further east than previously thought.

    Applications of stable isotope analyses to avian ecology
    … Chernobyl as a population sink for Barn Swallows: …
    doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1474-919X.2008.00839.x -

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 May 2009 @ 10:21 PM

  401. Re #67 Anne van der Bom and lots of others,

    I just realized the ultimate problem with wind. It might blow most of the time, but at least occasionally it does not. This has to be true in England, and even in Denmark.

    Therefore there has to be a standby system capable of coming on line at fairly short notice that accompanies every wind power system. A simple solution could be peaking natural gas generators or hydro storage with enough reserve turbine capacity. In any case, the cost is significant. This gets added to the power transmission line costs. All of these things make up a forthright analysis.

    Nothing here is intended to discourage enthusiasm for wind where it is appropriately planned.

    I do not know about the windmills in Holland, but I can tell you with authority that in the 1950s many farms in Iowa had a windmill sitting idle over a well, where its intended water pumping function was left to either manual labor or an electric pump. As a kid that always wanted to know how things worked, I inspected many of these with very little satisfaction. I can also say with authority that one of the windiest places in California, called the Altamont Pass, is densely populated with wind turbines, and of the many dozens of times I have driven over that pass, wind turbines have been mostly sitting idle. Deep and abiding pessimism and distrust comes from being plagued with these memories.

    Now I realize that the farmers in Iowa probably did not care much about their windmills, since even though it would be good when they worked, if they came to rely on them the livestock would sooner or later die of thirst. So it was probably better to just forget about them and curse forever the guy that sold them the junk. There was not a lot of motivation for taking the things down, so they sat silent for many years as a monument to foolishness.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 2 May 2009 @ 10:43 PM

  402. Ray, certainly you can devise a cap-and-trade system that minimizes or mitigates screwing up and that would work better than some undersigned system without proper rules and regulations and enforcement. My point was more… a cap-and-trade that provides the federal government with significantly more revenues than the fuel tax, as one example, just strikes me as 1) not much of a market based system (you know – looks like a tax, feels like a tax, smells like a tax, IS TAX!), and 2) something in a whole other league from sulfates.

    Comment by Rod B — 2 May 2009 @ 11:23 PM

  403. Martin Vermeer (379), thanks. I think I can understand that logic.

    Comment by Rod B — 2 May 2009 @ 11:38 PM

  404. >Why is only 10m² feasible? What is the average number of people per >house(hold) in NZ? What is the average roof area?

    Good point. Average no. is 2.8. My house has 160m2 but only 40 facing close to north. We have 3 adults, 2 teenagers so more is tricky for us.

    I chose 10m2 because it was what was typically quoted for by sellers. Even crytalline silicone (10% efficienct) is incredibly expense for 10m2 so concentrated more on cheaper renewables. I think solar is way to go for future but maybe when you have concentrating solar or next generation panels. At moment it isnt economic at a rooftop level.

    > I think in the not too distant future solar cells will be so cheap, you >can easily use them on east and west facing roofs too, powering a lot of >the other stuff besides the car.

    I hope so too but finding ways to make them significantly cheaper remains elusive though certainly there is hope.

    >Last december locations were suggested for the realisation of 6 GW >offshore wind in the North Sea

    I hope you are right but were the estimates from people who would build them?

    >Do you have a reference to such an engineering study?

    As I said, see
    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/wiki/sustainable/en/index.php/NZ
    References included in there. I am extremely keen for critical inspection of this. I’d love someone to find more energy, though I think the situation is extremely hopeful. I am more than happy for further discussion via email. Are you doing a MacKay type study for Netherlands?
    I have done it for average person not affluent, and for consumer energy figures which exclude energy transform losses in converting to electricity, and exported energy but also exclude imported embodied energy which is important for people bleating about China’s emissions. My energy cost for cars in NZ is based on retail petrol and diesel sales, a very robust data set.

    >If I am not mistaken, total consumption in NZ is 40 TWh/year. 33 kWh/d * >4 million * 365 = 48 TWh/year. So even with those stringent limitations >(sure about the 500 km buffer from urban areas??) that is more than NZ >currently needs.

    Sorry, 500m! (from memory). However, I think you are only looking at electricity consumption. This is 67% renewable with target of 90% by 2025 before the new government came in. Total energy is 94kWh/p/d – much tougher. Our problem is that every windmill and hydro is opposed by NIMBYs who somehow believe that turning appliances off standby and using CFLs is enough. MacKay’s book brings realism that is badly needed.

    >That will very rarely happen with modern turbines.

    Well my experience limited to Wellington where this was listed as main cause of downtime. The point was that it limits generating time.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 2 May 2009 @ 11:54 PM

  405. PS, James, what you’re trying to get at may be what’s explained here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopredator_release_hypothesis

    But if you’re trying to argue for protecting the desert ecosystem from development — stick with the solid science, not the handwaving hypotheticals. The Endangered Species Act protections are solid, if you look at the sites carefully. Be convincing.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 May 2009 @ 11:57 PM

  406. >Much the same goes for China, and I think, India.

    My opinion is that we need to be more clever than to just demand that we stop using coal and other fossil fuels.

    India cancelled an Enron power plant when they didn’t use coal, and instead produced an expensive natural gas plant with fuel from Africa.

    Comment by MikeN — 3 May 2009 @ 12:46 AM

  407. #388 Steve:

    That need not happen for a significant reduction in the positive feedback. That feedback is much less now than during the last ice age.

    But still very much positive. Which was Ray’s point.
    .

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 3 May 2009 @ 1:30 AM

  408. Jim Bullis, #330, repying to Anne van der Bom,writes,

    ‘You mention that the plug-in is necessary for transition to electric cars running on renewable energy sources. Please consider the possibility that the process will get stuck with huge inefficient plug-in cars running on coal.’

    He also writes, #376,

    ‘For Europe, including UK, the future is absolutely electric powered cars. There is no other viable long term choice.’
    Plug ins will be transitional because battery improvements will make them obsolete. The four major contending battery technologies (lithium ion, NiMH, zinc air and hybrids) have not yet reached the technical dead end that lead acid batteries seemed to have. And blue sky (Eestor ?) is still out there.

    For Europe, North America and China the future is absolutely electric powered cars. North America has brought us the Tesla, China (and Nebraska) are bringing us BYD.

    Comment by David Murray — 3 May 2009 @ 2:49 AM

  409. Nick Gotts,

    It might surprise you to know that quite a lot of erstwhile “dirty little hippies”, having left their studies of Evelyn Waugh behind, have become sufficiently concerned about our long term prospects to feel the need to embrace 4th generation nuclear power.

    You could learn more about this whole subject by visiting http://www.bravenewclimate.com. Having done so, I would be delighted to hear back from you with an opinion – criticism, if you like – that it more informed.

    Comment by Douglas Wise — 3 May 2009 @ 2:50 AM

  410. Wilmot McCutchen #358

    I am no expert on the subject of the S-Prism. However, in my reading of the detailed discussion of the subject at http://www.bravenewclimate.com I have, possibly naively, been persuaded by its huge potential. It was for this reason that I invited informed criticism from possible authorities on this site. The lack thereof (to date) tends, possibly wrongly, to reinforce my initial conclusion.

    I am not an appropriate person to answer your specific points in any detail. However, the IFR is , I believe, cooled with liquid sodium, necessitating an extra heat exchange loop for safety. This adds to expense but I understand that other aspects of the design will be significantly less costly than those associated with existing 3rd generation plants. The basic S-Prism unit is small and is designed to be factory built. Units can be grouped together on single sites. I gather that these may include existing obsolescent coal power station sites so that the steam turbines thereon can continue to be used. Obviously, this would imply water cooling. However, I believe salt water to be as acceptable for the purpose as fresh. I also recall that air cooling would be feasible but more expensive.

    Comment by Douglas Wise — 3 May 2009 @ 3:09 AM

  411. Doug Bostrom, # 380, gives us a clear picture of the current situation in applied photovoltaics and sees exciting potential for the newer technologies:

    ‘We’re approaching the point where we can discuss “painting” surfaces with amorphous PV compounds on a commercial basis. Seems to me that’s where we might find some real excitement regarding autonomous or semi-autonomous solar vehicles.’

    Silicon cells have reached 20% plus efficiencies at a relatively high cost. Thin films have only recently reached commercial production but have much lower manufacturing costs which make them competitive with higher efficiency silicon cells.

    The next step (Martin A Green, ‘Third Generation Photovoltaics’ discusses this) is to marry the cheap manufacturing cost of thin films with the conversion efficiencies of silicon cells. A thin film with 20% plus efficiencies would change a lot of things.

    Anne van der Bom, #341, puts the same point clearly:

    ‘I think, in the not too distant future solar cells will be so cheap, you can easily use them on east and west facing roofs, powering a lot of other stuff besides cars”

    Comment by David Murray — 3 May 2009 @ 3:13 AM

  412. Question for Climate Scientists here:

    Globally, what is the ratio of human CO2 emission tonnage to natural CO2 emission tonnage annually? I.e. annually, what percent of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere is directly put there by human energy production? I’m not talking concentration in the atmosphere — rather, annual direct emissions from tailpipes, etc vs other sources (e.g. rotting vegetation, animals breathing).

    I’m looking for the current “scientifically accepted” number. I have seen various numbers for this at various sites and wonder which is correct. If there is a link to an authoritative article spelling this out, that would be great. Thanks in advance for a response.

    [Response: It's a meaningless number - which is precisely why it so beloved of the contrarians. Take a bathtub into which you are pouring an extra bucket of water a minute. Meanwhile the taps are putting a large amount at the same time the drain takes out the same quantity. The bathtub volume increases at a bucket of water a minute regardless of what the natural sink and source is. It could be 0.1 buckets, 1 bucket or 100 bucket, it doesn't change the math. So if someone tells you this is an important number to know precisely, you know they are trying to fool you. The number that is important is the human contribution to the atmospheric concentration - currently 27% of atmosphere CO2 (~106ppm out of 386 ppm). - gavin]

    Comment by Allen63 — 3 May 2009 @ 6:48 AM

  413. Jim Bullis
    2 May 2009 at 2:11 PM

    This realization is secondary to the startling revelation to me that European energy policy is only incidentally connected to global warming concerns.

    Reporting from inside Europe, I can assure you, that is rapidly changing.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 6:58 AM

  414. Re #399, The UK consumes 1.79 million barrels of oil per day. Some of it is probably used for heating homes etc but the vast majority of it is used for transport whatever the kind so when it comes to people its not that important.

    One barrel of oil contains 42 gallons of fuel and a gallon of petrol consists of 43 KWh of energy equivilent (so lets say 40 KWh). The numbers come in at around 3 billion KWh a day. Now here is the major problem, the UK uses 400 TWh of electricity per year but 2.5x that in oil!!

    Now how efficient can an electric car be, in order to offset all that oil energy. Scary!!

    Comment by pete best — 3 May 2009 @ 6:59 AM

  415. pete best
    2 May 2009 at 2:14 PM

    Re #349, Anne, An electric vehicle is not 5x more efficient than a ICE based one. 26% efficient ultimately.

    Please try harder to understand what I am trying to say: An electric vehicle is 5 x as efficient in converting electricity into kinetic energy than a petrol car is in converting the thermal energy in petrol.

    To all: I am not trying to do a well to wheel comparison of electric cars vs petrol cars. I am merely trying to set the record straight as to how much (carbon free) electricity we are going to need to replace our current fleet of petroleum powered cars.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 7:06 AM

  416. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/30/david-mckay-sustainable-energy

    A David Mackay interview with the UK newspaper the Guardian tels us about him and lets us know that its about a honest energy assessment and debate and a lot of peopl out there have to stop saying no to the technologies that are available.

    Comment by pete best — 3 May 2009 @ 7:17 AM

  417. Phil Scadden
    2 May 2009 at 3:30 PM

    built into your assumptions are passengers per car and fuel efficiency.

    No, I am merely looking at the total number of car-km traveled for Britain and then multiply that with a realistic estimate of how much kWh’s are needed on average for each those km’s. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

    Since your numbers dont add up to the retail energy sold in fuel, I suspect your numbers of being wrong – you have another explanation?

    Instead of suspecting my numbers are wrong you could try proving them wrong.

    I’m struggling to get an unequivacol number for kWh/km for electric cars too. Can you point one out to me? I want one measures km in to terms of energy going into the car rather than energy going out the battery (so battery efficiency is considered).

    There is no such unequivocal number. Remember, the consumption figures of petrol cars vary wildly between Priuses and Hummers. The Tesla roadster (a high performance sports car) is now sold with an EPA rated range of 244 miles. It has a 55 kWh battery. Look at http://www.teslamotors.com for more info. There is also a detailed analysis of the Roader’s consumption on the Tesla blog. They measured energy coming out of the battery, so indeed you’ll have to factor in losses for the battery and charger. As far as I know, Li-ion batteries are more than 90% efficient, as are chargers. So do not expect a very different result from factoring that in. Numbers cited for the Mitsubishi MIEV are as high as 10 km/kWh.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 8:00 AM

  418. David Murray
    2 May 2009 at 8:32 PM

    Actually it is quite simple. pete’s number is derived from the total end used of petroleum in the UK which, according to BERR data

    There you will find that total petroleum consumption is 70 m.t.o.e per year. Of that, 26.5 million is for passenger vehicles. That is 72,600 per day. 1 m.t.o.e ≈ 45 GJ ≈ 12500 kWh. 72600 * 12500 kWh ≈ 9e8 kWh = 900 GWh. Pretty close, but not exactly. I don’t know where pete’s got his numbers from, so that’s as far as my analysis can go.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 8:30 AM

  419. Hit the brakes – how hard?

    How much clean electricity are we going to need? Here is my simple calculation for Britain.

    I got my numbers from these BERR publications

    m.t.o.e. = millions of tonnes oil equivalent ≈ 45 GJ ≈ 12500 kWh.

    End users consume energy mainly in three forms: electricity, natural gas and petroleum. For simplicity I am going to assume that all natural gas is used for space & water heating and not much else (cooking for example).

    The consumption breakdown is as follows:
    - Electricity: 29 mtoe
    - Natural gas: 50 mtoe
    - Petroleum: 70 mtoe

    Leaving the electricity for what it is, the breakdown per type of energy is as follows:

    Natural gas
    - space heating: 38 mtoe
    - hot water: 12 mtoe

    Petroleum
    - road transport: 42 mtoe
    - air transport: 14 mtoe
    - other (transport & non-transport): 14

    Now we’re going to have to make an assumption of how much electricity is needed for replacing each of those.

    Space heating

    By more insulation and using heat pumps and storing summer heat under ground for use in the winter, a threefold increase in efficiency does not sound unrealistic. That gives us 13 mtoe of electricity to keep the Brits from freezing in the winter.

    Hot water

    A solar water heater must become sort of mandatory for each house. It can not give you warm water all year round though. We do not need to generate electricity for this, you just use the sun shining on your house. But in the winter it will not generate enough, assume we need 3 mtoe for the luxury of having warm showers in winter.

    Road transport

    As I have argued before, a 4x increase in efficiency (electricity –> motion as compared to heat –> motion) for an electric vehicle is not unrealistic, so we would need 10 mtoe to keep the traffic moving.

    Air transport

    No viable technology exists to replace this with electricity. The planes will remain on a hydrocarbon diet.

    Other

    This is a varied collection of all kinds of petroleum use, water transport, fertilizer and plastic production, etc. Let’s keep them on hydrocarbons too.

    The total extra electric energy that emerges from the above assumptions is 13 + 3 + 10 = 26 mtoe. The existing consumption is 29 mtoe, meaning an increase by 90%.

    British electricity consumption is now 380 TWh/year, so that would have to increase to 720 TWh per year. That comes to 33 kWh per person per day.

    How much of the British fossil fuel use will have been replaced then? Total primary use is 230 mtoe, of that only 28 will remain: the air transport & other categories above. That is 88%.

    Number crunchers checking my calculation might notice that 29 mtoe of electricity is only 362 TWh, not 380. I have used those figures from different organisations. The discrepancy is probably due to the in/exclusion of transport losses and energy use by the energy sector itself. It doesn’t change the overall picture though.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 9:18 AM

  420. re #401 rather than have a secondary system (you know there is already one there for peak demand, don’t you???) you could include energy storage.

    And please let me know the next time there is a high pressure the size of continental europe where there is no wind.

    I shall not be holding my breath…

    Comment by Mark — 3 May 2009 @ 9:27 AM

  421. Re #416, 1 Tonne of oil equivilent is 41 GJ Anne.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonne_of_oil_equivalent

    To think that 1 million tonnes of oil is equivilent to 1.1 billion KWhrs and not 12,500 KWhrs. Thats how much energy oil contains 1680 KWhrs per barrel and one tonne is 7 barrels so a single barrel is around 11,600 KWhrs.

    Comment by pete best — 3 May 2009 @ 9:59 AM

  422. Correction to my last post.

    In the ‘Other’ of petroleum I mentioned plastics/fertilizer production, but I now realize that the data I based my calculations on only show the energy use of petroleum. Non energy use of petroleum is 10 mtoe.

    That brings total petroleum consumption to 80 mtoe of which 24 mtoe ‘Other’ uses (energy & non-energy). I assume that 10 mtoe of non-energy use will end up in an garbage incinerator and thus will cause CO2 emissions, so that brings the percentage down to 83%.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 10:09 AM

  423. Re Anne 409 (and previous comments)

    Someone reading your comments on this thread might get the impression that Mackay’s book is all about dismissing the idea that a hypothetical massive expansion of renewable energy could ever be capable of supplying a hypothetical UK all-electric vehicle fleet. (I might be wrong, but l’ll speculate that you’re worried that people might therefore conclude that a hypothetical massive expansion of nuclear would be needed instead).

    If you think Mackay’s got some of his numbers wrong on electric vehicles, you may well be right. But if that’s your main issue with the book, I think you’re spectacularly missing the point, and your comments here risk fundamentally misleading people who haven’t read it yet about the nature of the work. That would be a shame, because I believe it’s one of the most important works published on energy and the environment to date, with or without any flaws in its analyses.

    You can quibble about the numbers (and have done so very capably), but this is exactly what he wants- discussion about numbers. It’s about recognising the scale of the energy challenge that faces us.

    The important comparisons are based on the energy consumption of a present-day moderately affluent Briton (not a hypothetical future electric car driving energy efficient Briton) across every aspect of modern living- transport, heating, food and the rest. He relates this to the best estimates of present-day non fossil fuel technologies to deliver this energy. He highlights and clearly explains a convenient unit that helps discussion by making comparisons meaningful- the kWh/day. He concludes that replacing this energy would take a truly massive investment and a widespread, potentially intrusive deployment of alternative technologies, be they renewables, nuclear, or desert solar power. He is very clear about his assumptions. He clearly states that energy efficiency measures are important and will greatly reduce the size of the challenge (and spends some time making comparisons between those that are likely to be helpful, and those that aren’t). He doesn’t explicitly state any preferences. He says you can plug your own numbers into the analyses, but please make meaningful comparisons, use numbers rather than words, and don’t be under any illusions as to the scale of the problem.

    Anne, I’m not qualified to comment on your specific criticisms, and I think it’s great that all this is being discussed. I hope you’re right because I love the idea of more electric vehicles and it would be great if we could supply them with renewables alone. But I’m worried that your comments somewhat mis-characterise Mackay’s book and its intentions.

    If you do have improvements on his figures, he welcomes improved analyses, and has an open-source wiki specifically for this purpose:
    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/wiki/sustainable/en/index.php/Extensions

    Comment by Matt — 3 May 2009 @ 10:15 AM

  424. Allen et al. (2009) in the current issue of Nature say:

    … policy targets based on limiting cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide are likely to be more robust to scientific uncertainty than emission-rate or concentration targets.

    Doug Wise in #331 and I in #159 commented that because the Southern Ocean acidity tipping point is likely to be reached at 450 ppm CO2, at which point a major global carbon sink begins to be affected, that concentration targets still remain important. We cited McNeil and Matear (2008), who believe the tipping point there will be reached between 2030 and 2038. It is unclear whether this tipping point has been considered in the Allen et al. (2009) and Meinshausen et al. (2009) studies. It would seem not – I hope someone here can clarify. Neither of those papers cites McNeil and Matear.

    Furthermore, ocean acidification is happening even more quickly in the Arctic, as shown in Stenacher et al. (2009, April), “Imminent ocean acidification in the Arctic projected with the NCAR global coupled carbon cycle-climate model,” http://www.biogeosciences.net/6/515/2009/bg-6-515-2009.pdf (open access):

    We highlight that the Arctic Ocean surface becomes undersaturated with respect to aragonite at even lower CO2 concentration (than the Southern Ocean). The combination of observation-based estimates … with NCAR CSM1.4-carbon model projection indicates that 10% of the surface water along the investigated Arctic transect will become undersaturated for at least one month of the year when atmospheric CO2 exceeds 409 ppm. This concentration is only 25 ppm higher than today’s value and projected to be reached within the next decade for all SRES scenarios (Plattner et al., 2008; Meehl et al., 2007) and within the next two decades for the recent set of multi-gas mitigation scenarios (Van Vuuren et al., 2008; Strassmann et al., 2008).

    The entire water column in the Arctic is projected to become undersaturated within this century if anthropogenic carbon emissions continue to grow along the SRES A2 business-as-usual trajectory. Even under the relatively low-CO2 scenario B1, more than 50% of the Arctic surface waters are projected to become undersaturated. These results are consistent with the study by (Orr et al., 2008) who analyzed Arctic acidification based on results from different AOGCMS, including the NCAR CSM1.4-carbon.

    Atmospheric CO2 will very likely exceed 400 ppm in the next one or two decades given current carbon emission trends and the inertia of the energy and the whole socio-economic system. The question is thus not whether undersaturation will occur in the Arctic, but how big its magnitude will be, how large an area will be affected by undersaturation, and over how many months of the year undersaturation will be prevalent. Our findings, combined with the emerging evidence on the impacts of aragonite undersaturation on marine organisms imply that not only radiative forcing or temperature, but also atmospheric CO2 concentration should be included as a target in climate policy analyses and in the development of mitigation scenarios with integrated assessment models. Our subjective assessment is that atmospheric CO2 should not exceed 450 ppm in order to avoid the risk of large changes in marine ecosystems.

    … Overall, the volume of water supersaturated with respect to aragonite decreases strongly in the A2 and B1 scenarios considered here, with potentially adverse effect also on species living on the ocean floor and in the deep (Guinotte et al., 2006).

    … In conclusion, human activities are perturbing the ocean and the habitats for marine organisms. The results of this study and of Feely et al. (2008) for the coastal North Pacific and Orr et al. (2008) for the Arctic show that undersaturation of surface waters with respect to aragonite is likely to become reality in a few years only.

    Again, the point is that in both the Arctic and the Southern Oceans this not only will affect significant marine ecosystems, but also major carbon sinks.

    This leads me to believe that we do indeed need to “hit the brakes hard”: that we need to arrest the CO2 concentration well before the trillionth ton is emitted and that many of the technological fixes discussed in this thread will be too little too late. For us in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia the necessity of “hitting the brakes hard” also needs to mean constraining our lifestyles — at least until sometime in the future when sufficient technological fixes are reality.

    Comment by Larry — 3 May 2009 @ 10:18 AM

  425. Steve Reynolds and Martin Vermeer, It is true that once all the snow and ice melt, you do not have the same sort of feedback. However, you do have a whole helluva lot of permafrost exposed to the sun. That ought to worry us as well. Just because feedbacks are not constant in time doesn’t mean feedbacks are decreasing. Note that ocean water has a lower albedo than most coastal terrains–rising sea levels mean more absorption.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 May 2009 @ 10:51 AM

  426. pete best
    3 May 2009 at 9:59 AM

    Thanks for pointing that out, I erroneously stated the value of 1 tonne oil equivalent. Actually, there is no exact value for 1 tonne oil equivalent. My source stated it as 42-45 GJ. I took the high end value of that.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 11:42 AM

  427. A couple of points, from an engineer, rather late than never. Firstly on the optimistic side, it is worth remembering that power generation and transport infrastructure all has a life of less than forty years, and less than twenty for private transport. Even buildings with a life of up to 100 years will receive a major refurbishment in less than forty; though I am writing this in a house built in the sixteenth century! This all means that anything being built now will have to be replaced before 2050 as will all current infrastructure. The cost of zero carbon replacement is only any additional cost compared to the high carbon option. This makes moving to a low carbon economy a much less costly option. The second point is that there is a very good treatment of the real options by Prof David MacKay of the University of Cambridge. It is available online at:

    http://www.withouthotair.com/Contents.html

    For anyone interested in the question of what we can do about all this, it is a must read. He is quite a lively writer as well!

    Comment by Forlornehope — 3 May 2009 @ 12:12 PM

  428. Matt
    3 May 2009 at 10:15 AM

    Thanks for your opinion. The main gripe I have with prof MacKay’s book is the picture on page 109 in which he shows a 125 kWh consumption stack and compares that to his (mostly opinion-based) estimate of how much renewables (mostly electric) are needed. Mind you, the 125 kWh/d includes conversion losses from fossils to electricity. He waits until page 204 to correct that. By that time, the damage has already been done. That image is burnt into the retina of the reader and no amount of foot notes and extra in-depth information is going to change that first impression. You can not count on people reading every word in his book and digesting it correctly. Most people skim the pages to look at the images and read a caption here and there.

    If you then go over to page 204, where he starts factoring in the efficiency gains, and hey, presto: his estimate of necessary energy shrinks to 56 kWh/d (I am not counting pumped heat since this does not need to be generated anywhere). May I ask you a question Matt? What do you think is the amount of clean electricity that Britain needs? 56 kWh/d or 125 kWh/d? If it is 56, then how do you explain the image on page 109, suggesting it is 125? If it is 125, then how come his suggested plans (renewables & nuclear) only account for 56?

    He highlights and clearly explains a convenient unit that helps discussion by making comparisons meaningful- the kWh/day,

    All I have been trying to do here is to show that that is not a meaningful comparison. It completely ignores the fact that you’re dealing with completely different types of energy. It is as suggesting your car can run on milk, because it is sold by the litre, just as petrol.

    He concludes that replacing this energy would take a truly massive investment and a widespread, potentially intrusive deployment of alternative technologies, be they renewables, nuclear, or desert solar power.

    Talking about desert solar power. The image on page 179 is another example of suggestive imagery that I have a problem with. Why show a big yellow square for all 1 billion people in all of Europe and North Africa? I thought the book was about Britain alone. And why show the square twice? Only one would be enough to represent 125 kWh/d for all those people. There is also a small red square for Britain, but be honest, how much of an impact would that square on its own make? And if you scale it down to the 56 kWh/d that he reckons we actually need, you’d hardly notice it. The same applies to the yellow square: it too should be scaled down to be in accordance with his own energy plans.

    A page before that he quotes someone as having said: “All the world’s power could be provided by a square 100km by 100km in the Sahara”. Who said it? When? He doesn’t say, but in the meantime leaves you with the subtle suggestion that renewables advocates are unrealistic dreamers that do not know what they’re talking about. There are more places where he uses other peoples erroneous claims to reinforce his own.

    I have talked before about the sound bite that made it to The Register: “we need to cover the windiest 10% of Britain in wind turbines to power half our cars”. How on earth are you going to move a car on wind energy, if it is not an electric car? If that is the level of in-depth reading from a site that claims to bring you the ‘Sci and Tech news for the world’, than what do you expect from the general public?

    That sound bite is why I sort of focused on the electric car, and the discussion got carried away into other directions. But don’t forget, road transport is responsible for about a fifth of CO2 emissions, it is a major part of the discussion. He has an extensive and informative chapter on electric cars, that is not my issue. It is that he fails to apply his own information, and when he does, it is already too late and the wrong impression has been given.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 1:07 PM

  429. Oops, correction,
    “…how much renewables (mostly electric) are needed. ”

    Should read:
    “…how much renewables (mostly electric) are available. “

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 1:09 PM

  430. Matt says :

    “If you think Mackay’s got some of his numbers wrong on electric vehicles, you may well be right. But if that’s your main issue with the book, I think you’re spectacularly missing the point,”

    Spectacularly hitting the point that he’s picked bad numbers and presented them as valid. Even if he later and in obscure fashion says so.

    Comment by Mark — 3 May 2009 @ 1:52 PM

  431. dhogaza Says (2 May 2009 at 8:20 PM):

    “Why should I do this for you?”

    A good question. The fundamental reason is, as I stated, because you’re the one stating a position as fact, and therefore, I think, have some obligation to support your position.

    But to go beyond that, you seem to have gotten the notion that Google is some sort of magic answer machine, that will always supply the correct answer to any question that you ask. This is not the case: it’s a useful tool for some sorts of queries, especially if the query can be pin down by some few keywords. It’s not very good at finding general overviews of some particular subject.

    Then to complicate things, you have the garbage problems – there are several. First is that there’s no way (that I know of – I’d be happy to learn otherwise) to exclude inaccessable sources. For instance, I can’t access material that’s behind scholarly journals’ paywalls, or a second hand reference to a book (“GoogleBooks”), yet maybe 8 or 9 of every 10 results will be something like these. Sure, if it’s something I really need, I can e.g. search on the authors of a paywalled paper to see if they’ve posted a copy, but that all takes time.

    Then there’s GA. You’ve of course heard of the GIGO principle – Garbage In, Garbage Out? On controversial subjects especially, Google is affected by the web’s Garbage Added principle, where “true believers” manage to drown out factual material. Consider some of the denialist websites as examples.

    Now some people do seem to have the knack of formulating queries, but I’m not one of them. Maybe you can formulate a query that will return some reasonable amount of relevant material, and give a considered overview of Chernobyl ecology. (That is, not just a few detailed papers supporting whatever point you want to make.) I simply don’t have that skill.

    Comment by James — 3 May 2009 @ 2:17 PM

  432. Re #411 Anne van der Bom

    Huh? My point was that European heads of state must be very concerned with the fact that their prosperity depends on Russia filling their needs for natural gas. Surely you are not telling me that this is rapidly changing.

    Maybe you just meant that concern for global warming is increasing in Europe. I can understand that, but there must also be a persisting, very strong desire to not be dependent on Russia for energy. Unless something very big has happened that got missed by American news reporting, the Russian power over the flow of natural gas still exists. The last Ukrainian natural gas crisis was not long ago, and it was only temporarily settled then, as I recall.

    A related point I have been trying to make is that there are strong forces for energy independence, or “resiliency” as some say, in the USA that are motivated to promote plug-in cars. The problem is that some of these folks have no concern for global warming, hence a plug-in to them could be a plug-in Hummer or a plug-in Fisker. The effect of a plug-in car is not what many think when it comes to global warming.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 2:25 PM

  433. Another follow-up question on the main post: One of the referenced articles implies (or at least I infer) that the maximum 1000Gt of our emissions is through 2050 and ends there. Implying (inferring?) that the anthropic emissions need to be zero after 2050. The other article speaks of the 1000Gt max by 2050, and also an emission limit for the year 2050 – but doesn’t say what that is (in the Summary). Does that imply constant but ongoing emissions after 2050?

    sidebar with apologizes to Gavin and David: I’m sure your referenced piece is good and I would like to read it, but in no way will I pay $18 to do it. ;-)

    Comment by Rod B — 3 May 2009 @ 2:31 PM

  434. Hank Roberts Says (2 May 2009 at 11:57 PM):

    “PS, James, what you’re trying to get at may be what’s explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopredator_release_hypothesis

    No, not exactly. It’s more like for instance the decline in Yellowstone elk populations after wolves were reintroduced. Simplistically, if humans do not “manage” predators – that is, kill off as many as possible – then there will be more of them, and sp they will kill more prey. If the unmanaged predator range is limited (by fiat rather than natural barriers), this will lead to a prey species deficit and probably inward migration.

    “But if you’re trying to argue for protecting the desert ecosystem from development — stick with the solid science, not the handwaving hypotheticals. The Endangered Species Act protections are solid, if you look at the sites carefully.”

    Which demonstrates that you’ve completely missed the point. I don’t really give a damn whether there are endangered species in those places or not. What I care about is keeping them as living ecosystems, not having them scraped bare, sprayed with herbicides, and covered with mirrors.

    Comment by James — 3 May 2009 @ 2:40 PM

  435. Jim Bullis
    3 May 2009 at 2:25 PM

    I can not talk for each and every european leader, but here in The Netherlands and the countries surrounding us, the main drive for investing in renewable energy is climate change. That is what you hear on television and read in the papers. Perhaps in Romania they have a different opinion, since last winter they suffered the consequences of Russia’s quarrel with the Ukraine, but that has not affected our energy supply nor that of our neighbours. I can however imagine that there is a(n unspoken) desire to be independent from Russia, but the talk is all about the climate.

    I am truly surprised by the seriousness and (relative) speed with which offshore wind on the North Sea is now being developed, mainly by Britain, The Netherlands and Germany. Britain now has 600 MW in operation and another 1500 MW under construction and another 5 GW in various planning stages. Same story for The Netherlands, but then properly scaled for the size of our country.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 3 May 2009 @ 2:57 PM

  436. >By more insulation and using heat pumps and storing summer heat under ground for use in the winter, a threefold increase in efficiency does not sound unrealistic.

    It sounds unrealistic to me that you will store heat generated in summer all the way till winter. Could you give us some more detail of how this works?

    Comment by MikeN — 3 May 2009 @ 3:14 PM

  437. James, you complain that you can’t get Google to work.

    Try this approach
    — use your own words as the search string:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=a+considered+overview+of+Chernobyl+ecology

    If you don’t like the results, try this:
    — talk to a reference librarian. They’re professionals. Their job is to listen to you and figure out how to help you find good information, and how to borrow it if they don’t have it in the library.

    Google is improving its natural language search — you can take your words, paste them in, and get a fair idea what’s available. You will get far more and much more help from a reference librarian.

    Meanwhile, though, from searching Google using exactly your words:

    http://cricket.biol.sc.edu/chernobyl/papers/Moller-Mousseau-TREE-2006-PR1.pdf

    That’s a review of the science, at the time it was put on the website it was in press for the journal TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution 2006.
    Look it up in Scholar to find the publication date and check citing papers to see who’s used it in later work.

    This isn’t brain surgery.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 May 2009 @ 3:27 PM

  438. Under the heading of “Mostly Likely to Completely Miss the Point”:

    To make these three power sources work well together, you need smart grid concepts, such energy storage and distribution systems. For example, if nuclear is providing 20% of electric generation, it can be run at steady baseline, maximizing fuel efficiency, while all the other variable demand can be met with solar and wind based power that has been fed into storage systems during the peak periods.

    The only difference between “peak demand” and “baseline demand” are their names. Both are “demands”. Once the storage problem has been solved (it has — compressed air, gyroscopes, pumped hydro, storage batteries, thermal salt storage, etc, ad alphabetum), it makes not one whit whether a KWH is “base” or “peak”. If it’s being produced, deliver that, it it isn’t being produced, draw from storage, if it isn’t being used, store it. “Base” and “peak” exist to describe problems with THERMAL generating systems that function most efficiently at thermal equilibrium — fuel in equals electricity out, minus efficiency losses. Changing the throttle setting, as it were, is costly or impractical, so the term “base” exists to describe those generators.

    reCaptcha is suggesting “phonying through” and that is what I see with the debates about “renewable energy” — the problem isn’t the technology, it’s the deployment of the technology (no massive deployment of power storage) that is the concern. Deployment of storage will happen when incentives exist. They do in some areas of the country — I’d love to get on time-of-day billing, I know some solar people who pay nothing for electricity because they time-shift their usage from the grid, and I have the software to do precisely that, just don’t have the incentive because TXU Energy ain’t paying. Likewise, demand-side responsive products (see Carrier ComfortChoice) will fill the market as more utilities offer those incentives. But it is absolutely NOT the case that wind and solar and … can’t do it all.

    Will it be more expensive? The answer to that is “When?” because right now, we have cheap fuel that just so happens to be creating all these problems. When I bought my electric bike, gasoline was $4/gallon and I figured out how much I needed to drive it in order to pay for it with fuel savings — 3 tanks of gas a month. And then gasoline prices dropped and I’d have to ride it a LOT MORE to pay for it. Will gasoline go back to $4/gallon? Sure — so the answer isn’t “No, it isn’t cost effective” it is “It will certainly be cost effective in the future.” And the same holds true for managed renewable energy as the sole source of power in the developed world.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 3 May 2009 @ 4:00 PM

  439. re 419 “No viable technology exists to replace this with electricity. The planes will remain on a hydrocarbon diet.”

    But the real question is: Do we need planes? If the argument is we need planes because they save time, then the answer is yes. But if you factor in telecoferencing and so forth, and realize that any change in energy use is probably going to need a serious eveluation of the pace at which we live our lives and do business, than the possibilities of alternatives are worth considering – like dirigibles instead of planes.

    Just a thought … but it seems, ultimately, most airplane travel as it exists needs to go away – and that this can happen.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 3 May 2009 @ 4:21 PM

  440. “It sounds unrealistic to me that you will store heat generated in summer all the way till winter. Could you give us some more detail of how this works?”

    Certainly, you generate energy in the summer and quite a bit of that isn’t needed.

    So you store it until Winter.

    That’s how it works.

    Now, this isn’t an answer you want, but you didn’t ask a question that could be answered. Try asking the question you want answered.

    Comment by Mark — 3 May 2009 @ 4:22 PM

  441. Okay Anne, I was working on 24kWh/p/d for real fuel use. You numbers did not square this. Uncharacteristically, MacKay does not source this no. The best I can find from retail fuel figures is more like 14-16 kWh/p/d of fuel. This DOES square with your numbers. Makes the NZ 30kWh/p/d for retail fuel look even worse. Brits are way better than us.

    Thanks for the electric car no.s. So long as battery efficiency over full life of a battery in normal use is around 90% then no issue though that data isnt easy to come by either.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 3 May 2009 @ 4:39 PM

  442. It’s more like for instance the decline in Yellowstone elk populations after wolves were reintroduced.

    There was no decline for the first several years.

    Simplistically, if humans do not “manage” predators – that is, kill off as many as possible – then there will be more of them, and sp they will kill more prey. If the unmanaged predator range is limited (by fiat rather than natural barriers), this will lead to a prey species deficit and probably inward migration.

    Yellowstone probably had an overpopulation of elk before wolves were reintroduced. (“probably” == “biologists largely but don’t universally agree”). The reduction has led to a “prey species deficit” only if you think that, say, depopulating manhattan would lead to a “human species deficit” compared to the natural carrying capacity of the island.

    Yellowstone had “inward migration” of elk every year before wolves were introduced, and “outward migration” as well. One of each in fall and spring. Still does. “Migration” isn’t the word you want for the concept you’re trying to describe, but is the proper word to use for the seasonal movements of elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

    And it’s not clear that declines that have been seen are due to wolves. Late last century, elk numbers rose dramatically. For the first several years post-reintroduction, the elk population had remained stable. More recently, it’s declined.

    However, biologists are not certain as to how much wolves have impacted the population. There’s been several years of drought (the rise came about during a string of wet years). Human harvest of elk still targets bulls thus has a greater impact on reproductive output per kill than wolves (who kill whatever they can catch).

    Here’s a reference.

    In general, predator populations tend to track prey populations, not the other way around. For instance, jackrabbits have a ten year boom-and-bust cycle. Golden eagle reproductive success tracks this cycle.

    Comment by dhogaza — 3 May 2009 @ 4:44 PM

  443. There is a technical method of mitigating this problem that is far less expensive than “hitting the brakes” as hard as would be required to keep the CO2 from breaking the budget.

    It requires two things. Cheap Access To Space, which has been blocked IMHO, by the interests of companies that are profiting handsomely from the Expensive access we now enjoy. The second of course, is willingness to build the climate controls we need to allow us NOT to be at the mercy of:

    A. The CO2 budget
    B. The Solar Cycle
    C. Cosmic rays

    A set of big and dead simple mirrors in space would do the trick. More complicated controls are possible. Energy collection is possible.

    It doesn’t solve ALL the problems (acid oceans for instance) but it beats by a wide margin the various proposals to alter the atmospheric chemistry still further. It also beats by several rows of apple-trees, the “we’re all doomed” philosophical approach.

    I wish that this would be kept in the forefront of everyone’s arguments about “what to do”… because there’s a different between a feasible and reversible solution and what comes from people who focus is SOLELY on atmospheric chemistry and exclude the Engineers.

    respectfully
    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 3 May 2009 @ 5:31 PM

  444. MikeN writes:

    Well switching to these other technologies makes electricity cost more,

    You’re just going to keep on repeating this no matter how many times it’s corrected, aren’t you?

    For the last time: wind power is CHEAPER than nuclear. And DROPPING. Solar is more expensive but is also DROPPING. A solar-wind future will create CHEAPER electricity, not MORE EXPENSIVE electricity.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 May 2009 @ 6:09 PM

  445. >the necessity of “hitting the brakes hard” also needs to mean constraining our lifestyles
    >Do we need planes?

    And people think I’m making stuff up about a loss of comfort.

    >Once the storage problem has been solved (it has

    It has? Then why do you write ‘once it has been solved?’
    Perhaps you should inform the wind energy operators of this breakthrough.

    Comment by MikeN — 3 May 2009 @ 6:15 PM

  446. FurryCatHerder: “Once the storage problem has been solved (it has — compressed air, gyroscopes, pumped hydro, storage batteries, thermal salt storage, etc, ad alphabetum), it makes not one whit whether a KWH is “base” or “peak”.

    Except for the issue you are overlooking – cost. Kind of important in the real world…

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 3 May 2009 @ 6:21 PM

  447. BJ Chippindale,

    You’ve got to be kidding, right? Tell me you don’t really think there’s a massive conspiracy to keep launch costs high. Pray, who would benefit from such a conspiracy? Satellite builders? Nope. Launch vehicle builders? Nope, one of their biggest problems is that their volume is too small. The government? Wrong again.

    Do you have even the first notion what is involved in building a launch vehicle that allows a satellite to reach Earth orbit? Do you have any idea what kind of environment your satellites would have to survive in orbit? Have you considered that fuel for attitude control would probably limit the life of your mirrors? Do you have any understanding of the difficulty of deploying large structures in space? Have you given any thought to what happens if your system fails? Where would you put your system? GEO, L1? How many mirrors would be needed and of what size?

    I commend to you the counsel of H. L. Mencken: “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 May 2009 @ 6:49 PM

  448. #435 Anne van der Bom

    Thanks for the discussion. I think we are making progress.

    I think you probably describe accurately what people are saying in Europe.

    But you also acknowledge, “I can however imagine that there is a(n unspoken) desire to be independent from Russia, but the talk is all about the climate.

    I am truly surprised by the seriousness and (relative) speed with which offshore wind on the North Sea is now being developed, mainly by Britain, The Netherlands and Germany.”

    Perhaps you would not be surprised at all if you were looking at things more from the military-economic historical perspective. In this field of knowledge, Britain, The Netherlands, and Germany, as well as Russia, have long lasting national memories. Russia is as full of bitter memories as any country. In the depths of the cold war we became immersed in the idea that an “evil empire” was being established; while there were some troubling signs of Soviet international ambitions, there were also signs that they remembered how it was to be invaded. That ingrained thinking goes back through history to days of Napoleon, and maybe long before.

    Many are convinced that Germany might have won WWII if they had not run out of oil. Public announcements do not always convey the real motivation of governments.

    In the USA the situation is dramatically different from that in Europe due to past oil abundance, and present coal abundance. In 1924 we began paying oil companies from government funds to pump oil out of the ground as fast as possible. We call it the oil depletion allowance. That took away any lingering motivation to be efficient. Now that oil is drying up, we must shift to coal to keep our inefficient ways in full swing.

    We can continue to drive as big and dumb as we like simply by shifting to electric power. We will call it “green” and “sustainable” and such, but efforts at real efficiency will be tolerated as long as they leave the basic systems in place. Maybe a little wind will power will get built but it seems highly unlikely that it will significantly impact the coal fired system. Thus, the “unspoken” objectives will very possibly not be aligned with the spoken ones.

    And the “smart grid” might help couple in the wind farms, but it will also perpetuate the USA system of central power plants, where much more energy is thrown away than is made into electricity.

    Your reference on Denmark’s energy system showed a very different sort of electricity generation. Clearly, attitudes are different in Europe.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if wind and solar do not develop as rapidly in the USA as they have in the European world.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 7:32 PM

  449. #420 Mark,

    Sure, an existing secondary system can be used as long as it is maintained in stand-by readiness. If such are natural gas peaking plants, great, it is just an added cost. I think I did include energy storage with similar stipulations.

    If wind fails over a large area, it does not have to be very often to be a problem if it is depended on exclusively. Rather large European weather systems are well fixed in my fairly recent memory. Usually these are reported as a heat wave but low wind is usually part of it.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 7:48 PM

  450. Hank Roberts Says:
    3 May 2009 at 3:27 PM

    “James, you complain that you can’t get Google to work.

    Try this approach
    — use your own words as the search string:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=a+considered+overview+of+Chernobyl+ecology

    OK, I did that. Using your linked search string, I got about 301K hits. The first 20 break down as follows:

    4 – link to paywalls or book reviews
    4 – links to news articles
    5 – are dated pre-2000, hence not recent research
    5 – are political opinion of one sort or another
    1 – appears to be notes for a course
    1 – is a page of links, lots in Russian or Ukranian, neither of which I read.

    For the sake of argument, I’ll grant that there may be quite a bit of useful information buried in the remaining 300,980 hits, but I just don’t have the time or patience to scan more than the first few pages of returns.

    “If you don’t like the results, try this:
    — talk to a reference librarian. They’re professionals.”

    Err… And on a Friday evening, I’m supposed to hop in the car, drive ~20 miles to the university library (which may or may not be open & have a reference librarian on duty), get the material, and come back & post here on Saturday? When I’ve got a Border Collie poking her head under my typing hand, insisting that it’s time for her walk? You seriously overestimate my capacity :-)

    Comment by James — 3 May 2009 @ 7:50 PM

  451. J.S. McIntyre Says (3 May 2009 at 4:21 PM)

    “But the real question is: Do we need planes? If the argument is we need planes because they save time, then the answer is yes.”

    But the question is, do airplanes actually save time? Not on short to medium distance flights, when compared to good rail service. For example, I worked in Lausanne, Switzerland for a while, and occasionally had to travel to Zurich. By air, it’s a 45-minute flight from Geneva to Zurich, but add time for travel to & from the airport, boarding, taxiing, & deplaning, and a couple hours in security lines, and I’d spend 4 hours or more. Or conversely, I can hop on a train and be in Zurich in 2:17, travelling in far greater comfort. If I happened to want to go to Paris, I could catch a TGV and do it in 4 hours – about the same actual time that a plane trip would take. See http://www.sbb.ch/en/

    All those trains, BTW, run on electricity, as does most of the Lausanne bus system.

    Comment by James — 3 May 2009 @ 8:10 PM

  452. #420 Mark

    Wind based power for the Province of Ontario, per todays report, varied from 8% to 43% of “capability” which means peak capacity.

    See
    http://reports.ieso.ca/public/GenOutputCapability/PUB_GenOutputCapability

    to understand something real about power production.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 8:11 PM

  453. MikeN Says (3 May 2009 at 6:15 PM):

    “>Do we need planes?

    And people think I’m making stuff up about a loss of comfort.”

    Err… And exactly when was the last time you took a commercial flight? Even pre-911, “comfort” was not even remotely to be counted in the list of words I might use to describe the experience. And that’s travelling 1st or business class. Economy? The best I can say is that they don’t actually include waterboarding as part of the ticket price.

    If I had a practical option of travel by rail or ocean liner, you’d never catch me on a commercial flight again.

    Comment by James — 3 May 2009 @ 8:23 PM

  454. Headline of April 20, on Autopia of Wired Magazine,

    Schwarzenegger Praises Green Hummer

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 8:30 PM

  455. Previous headline Wired Magazine, Autopia

    Hybrid Hummer Promises 100 Miles per Gallon

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 8:33 PM

  456. #446 Steve Reynolds:

    “Except for the issue you are overlooking – cost. Kind of important in the real world…”

    As I promised, like a parrot I’m going to point out yet again that electrical demand is highly inelastic against cost. I don’t have to speculate about that, I only have refer to a real world example.

    In Wyoming residential rates are around $0.06/kWh. In Hawaii, $0.26 (and on a shorter recent sample quite a bit more; $0.40/kWh only a few months ago, the price swinging wildly with the oh-so-inexpensive hydrocarbon market).

    Hawaii residents enjoy all the benefits of electricity as do people living in Wyoming. The Hawaiians find the means to pay for their electricity and at the same time find money to eat, drive automobiles, purchase televisions and variously behave as typical consumers.

    Perhaps even more significantly, while you’ll find less waste overall of electricity in Hawaii, lots of electricity there is still wasted pointlessly in all the same ways we find where electricity costs less.

    In the real world we find that with the highest costs by a long margin in the entire United States, residents of Hawaii have not approached the limit of what folks will pay for electricity. More, the price of electricity in Hawaii does not noticeably distort the economy there at the residential level or even for light industrial purposes. In fact, the high price of electricity in Hawaii apparently still leaves demand sufficiently inelastic that waste is tolerated.

    So next time we express vague fears about the high price of improved energy supply methods, let’s include an explanation of how places such as Hawaii that are not hypothetical somehow are exceptional in their inelastic electrical demand. How about including some real world facts to accompany the fretting?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 3 May 2009 @ 8:57 PM

  457. Fisker’s analysis proving “100 MPG”:

    A fully-charged Karma burns no fuel for the first 50 miles. Venture further and the gasoline engine turns a generator to charge the lithium ion battery. Once the 50-mile electric range has been exceeded, the car operates as a normal hybrid vehicle. This balance of electric and gas range makes it entirely possible that Karma drivers who charge their car overnight and commute less than 50 miles a day will achieve an average fuel economy of —100 mpg — (2.4L/100km) per year.

    I added the —- for emphasis.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 9:10 PM

  458. Just a mea culpa. All the talk about wind potential had sent me back to my sources. I discovered that I had put in the 1st economic tranche (wind power available at 8.5c/kWh) instead of total. Total is 83kWh/p/d. A much rosier position for NZ.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 3 May 2009 @ 9:16 PM

  459. Indiana’s Bright Automotive is set to turn Rocky Mountain Institute’s lightweight, hyper-efficient vehicle concept into reality.

    Today, the start-up vehicle company, which launched out of RMI last year, is unveiling the IDEA–a 100 mpg equivalent plug-in hybrid concept vehicle–in Washington DC. By 2012, Bright expects to begin producing 50,000 IDEAs a year, thereby creating over 5,000 jobs by 2013.

    To achieve such groundbreaking fuel efficiency, Bright Automotive is maximizing platform efficiency–incorporating lightweight materials, advanced aerodynamics and low-rolling resistance tires to use less combined energy.

    On a full charge, the IDEA will operate in all-electric mode for the first 30 miles before switching to hybrid mode for a full range of 400 miles. For a typical drive of 50 miles, the vehicle consumes ½ gallon of gasoline – equivalent to 100 mpg fuel efficiency.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 9:18 PM

  460. Quoting Andy Grove, retired CEO Intel, to demonstrate disinterest in CO2 emissions; where he is discussing his plan to develop batteries. Get the choice of vehicles:

    “To simplify the retrofitting task, we would limit the scope of the program to six to ten Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge models, selected on the basis of two criteria: low fuel efficiency and large numbers of vehicles on the road. Most of these vehicles would be SUVs, pick-ups, and vans.

    Further, we propose targeting fleets of automobiles owned by corporations or government entities. That way, many retrofits could be performed at just a few locations. Fleet owners may also be motivated by a desire to support corporate or governmental green initiatives.”

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 May 2009 @ 9:24 PM

  461. >A solar-wind future will create CHEAPER electricity, not MORE EXPENSIVE electricity.

    Great. Then there is no need for any renewable energy mandates or subsidies, as wind and solar will be cheaper, right? Noone would buy from a more expensive coal-powered plant?

    Comment by MikeN — 3 May 2009 @ 9:53 PM

  462. Jim Norvell 11. and steve 41.

    “Where do you plan on putting those wind farms? A quick SWAG puts the land area of wind farms to replace the current coal facilities at something like 50,000 square miles.”

    That comes to 223.6 miles x 223.6 miles, which might not seem so daunting when it’s spread all over the country. Believe it or not, wind has a low land footprint because turbines are well spread out, allowing them to coexist with agriculture or nature. If an area had adequate sunshine AND wind, it’s even conceivable that solar panels could fill in between windmills, although this would cancel what I just said about empty space.

    http://solveclimate.com/blog/20090211/wind-power-has-lightest-footprint-carbon-and-otherwise

    Wind’s lowest carbon footprint and land footprint.

    “Wind power’s ecological footprint is so small — a million times smaller than ethanol’s — that if all the cars driven in the United States were battery-electric, they could be fueled by wind turbines whose total land footprint, not counting spacing in between, takes up less than 1.2 square miles, Stanford University environmental engineering professor Mark Jacobson found.”

    “To fuel the same number of battery-electric vehicles with cellulose ethanol would require an amount of land equivalent to eight Californias – literally a million times more land and equivalent to the amount of land harvested in the U.S. in 2003.”

    Solar thermal (CSP) could power the whole country, it is said, using an area roughly 100 x 100 miles or 10,000 sq miles. If that’s divided by the 6 southwest states that are suitable, it comes to 1666 sq. miles, or about 40 miles x 40 miles average per state. But you are only talking about replacing coal, so divide by two for the 50% of power that coal generates.
    5,000 sq miles/6 = 833 sq miles per state.
    That would be about 28.8 miles x 28.8 miles per southwest state. That’s about 0.5% of our southwest desert areas and about 1% of suitable land, according to the authors of the Solar Grand Plan that Scientific American published.

    NREL says California alone has 661 GW potential for CSP, just considering land with no more than 1% slope, and avoiding environmentally sensitive areas. Up to 3% slope is seen as good enough. Compare 661 GW CSP potential with California’s present total generating capacity of 58 GW, from all types of energy sources.

    http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2009/04/why_csp_should_not_try_to_be_coal.html

    Why CSP should not try to be Coal
    dispatchable power verses base load. Better than baseload, as Joe Romm has said.

    In ten years, probably the minimum time frame for building a nuclear reactor, it and coal with CCS will produce power at twice the price of solar and wind energy. Wind is already cheap, and both PV and CSP solar will be in the low to mid single digit cents/kWh by then.
    New nuclear and CCS coal are estimated to be 12-17 cents and maybe more.

    Continue research on new nuclear like thorium and on CCS, but the big money should be spent on solar and wind that can be deployed much quicker.

    from the SciAm’s Solar Grand Plan article
    commenting on the estimated $420 billion in subsidies to build 69% solar grid by 2050.

    “Subsidies would be gradually deployed from 2011 to 2020. With a standard 30-year payoff interval, the subsidies would end from 2041 to 2050. The HVDC transmission companies would not have to be subsidized, because they would finance construction of lines and converter stations just as they now finance AC lines, earning revenues by delivering electricity.”

    “Although $420 billion is substantial, the annual expense would be less than the current U.S. Farm Price Support program. It is also less than the tax subsidies that have been levied to build the country’s high-speed telecommunications infrastructure over the past 35 years. And it frees the U.S. from policy and budget issues driven by international energy conflicts.”

    That’s only about $10 billion a year, far less than we now pay in oil industry subsidies.

    http://westcoastclimateequity.org/?p=2384
    Global Warming Solutions for Governments

    “Behind fossil fuels’ global dominance lies the shocking fact that governments still subsidize them with tax-breaks and price supports, some dating back to World War I. The total global give-away to fossil fuels comes to more than $210 billion a year.”

    “In 2006, Earth Track estimated that the US oil and gas industry received $39 billion in federal energy subsidies, and the coal industry a further $8 billion.”

    “Ask Sen. Feinstein or the enviromentalists who object to solar in the outbacks of California”

    I agree, they are being shortsighted. The effects on the desert ecosystem from runaway global warming would make solar plants’ environmental effects look pretty mild in comparison. Of course, care should be taken to minimize impact from solar.

    Steve
    We do need to build HVDC transmission lines, not only to deliver power from solar and wind but to beef up the grid and make it more efficient.

    Wilmot McCutchen
    “Renewables — Solar and wind are presently only a tiny fraction of power supply. They are intermittent, so they are unreliable for baseload power over 20%, and connecting them to the existing grid is an unsolved problem.”

    Wind energy grew by 8.3 Gw in the U.S. last year. Using 30% capacity factor for wind, that is the equivalent of building
    2 1/2 half nuclear plants of average 1 GW size, in one year. At the rate of 8.3 GW/year, we would have 100 GW wind by 2020. But that growth could increase greatly, so this might be conservative.

    Solar thermal (CSP) with heat storage is not intermittent energy. It’s steady dispatchable power even at night. Plants with 6 hour heat storage are now being built and 12 hours storage is feasable. The NREL says CSP with 6 hours storage has 40% capacity factor and that 70% capacity factor is possible with more storage. And the storage pays for itself because of having more valuable dispatchable power.
    They can be built in 3-5 years including planning.
    The NREL expects the first handful of plants to be expensive and for costs to fall rapidly after that.

    Has anyone else read the article linked at NREL about an alternative heat storage system using alumina pebbles with CO2 as heat transfer medium? It’s claim is that CSP plants could operate at much higher and more efficient temperatures and without the high melting point of molten salt. The result is a bigger heat differential, making the CSP plants much more efficient.
    http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/resources/SolarPatent_ExSumm_12-05-07.doc

    In the U.S. people keep arguing that intermittency and grid connection are obstacles to wind and solar. Why is it that other countries have much higher percentages of renewable energy? Denmark has 20% of capacity from wind. Spain has 12% and is building lots of solar. We’re arguing about intermittency with 1% or so.

    182. Edward Greisch

    France also has vast nuclear waste stockpiles. They also have had serious human error issues and leaks. If nuclear energy doesn’t lead to nuclear weapons then why are we so concerned about Iran? Now imagine the whole world going that way. Somehow the wrong isotope of plutonium hasn’t stopped the concerns there.
    What about the threat from dirty bombs?
    Yes, coal also spews radioactive materials. How does that make either one any better?

    “Nuclear is the cheapest and safest way to get electricity.”

    Not even close to true. The only time it is emissions free is when you actually place the fuel rods in the reactor. Everything leading up to that is carbon intensive. Wind is the cleanest form of energy. Nuclear is way down the list, though it has much less CO2 emissions than fossil fuels.

    The mining and milling of uranium leaves a radioactive mess, I can just imagine sifting through billions of gallons of coal ash to get the uranium out of it. That sounds like a real clean process. Some claim we can get uranium from sea water. What I’ve read is that we would have to filter 40,000 cubic miles of seawater/year to supply 100 reactors.

    “Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates total giveaways to nuclear power at half a trillion dollars compared to 1/10th that amount for renewable technologies”

    “Nuclear power got another $13 billion of federal support in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. An additional $20.5 billion in federal nuclear l..n guarantees were approved at the end of 2007, making U.S. taxpayers the co-signers on l…s for new reactors and uranium enrichment projects, half of which are predicted to default. Ratepayers and taxpayers have already paid over $11 billion on the fatally flawed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dumpsite, with another $80 billion to go.”
    http://www.beyondnuclear.org/

    Nuclear advocates often point to France as an example of how great nuclear is.

    “France’s decision to reprocess reactor fuel has contaminated the seas as far as the Artic Circle and may have led to leukemia clusters near the reprocessing plant. Its decision to try breeder reactors was an expensive failure. Its plutonium fuel program has not reduced its surplus stockpile of plutonium which is calculated at greater than 80 metric tons sitting in tens of thousands of vulnerable containers and with no disposal option. France has no radioactive waste repository.”

    “In the summer of 2008, France experienced a cascade of accidents at its nuclear facilities. While leaks and spills, including uranium that contaminated groundwater, caused a ban on drinking and bathing and local vintners to change the labels on their bottles, Areva downplayed the gravity of the releases. But the black summer of radioactive leaks and spills shed doubt on the nuclear industry’s – and in particular Areva’s – ability to uphold fundamental safety standards according to an article in the International Herald Tribune.”

    “A new video – Everything you always wanted to know about nuclear power…but were afraid to ask – found on the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility Web site, debunks various nuclear myths including the notion that France “recycles” its radioactive waste. ”
    view here:
    http://www.everythingnuclear.org/french.html

    Doug 193. Thanks for putting the reality of massive global nuclear development in perspective.

    ” It’s likely we’ll find many places where reactor-based nuclear power generation is simply not feasible to deploy. Those places are going to require some other solutions”

    I would put that the other way around.

    We’ll find places where solar and wind are not feasible. Those places may require nuclear solutions.

    185. Co2isnotevil

    No CO2 is not evil. The indiscriminate spewing of it into the atmosphere and trying to convince the public that it’s ok is evil. As is the propaganda that has fooled you into believing the denier claims that CO2 has no effect on climate.

    The costs from fossil fuels are real and we already pay for them. But the companies that are directly responsible pay nothing. That will change. The atmosphere should not be a free dumping ground.

    240. El

    “Denmark is another great example of this problem. They export most of their wind energy because it’s so variable.”

    They trade it for base load power from Germany. That is a storage and distribution and grid balancing problem, not a reason to give up on wind energy. They are a small country with what must be a simpler grid with less sources of energy in the mix, so I’m not sure you can draw parallels with the U.S.

    259 Jim Bullis
    “No one seems willing to answer why the big California desert CSP plant was shut down, even though it had already been built”

    Projects have been put on hold because of the credit squeeze, but I have not heard of any CSP plants being shut down. If it was Solar One as you suggested in later comment, that is a pilot plant, not a commercial plant. It’s in Nevada I think.

    “To be specific, plug-in cars that use power from coal are generally worse for CO2 emissions than like sized hybrids.”

    The cars and renewables will be, and are being developed in parallel. And coal only generates 50% of grid power now, not all of it.

    I agree that we can make better and more efficient use of NG as you say in 270. The CSP pilot plants in the Mojave that were built in the late 80s have worked well with primitive heat storage, and for the last decade have worked well with co-firing of NG. See the NREL report.

    282
    A study by the Western Governors Association projected electric prices from CSP to fall below 10 cents/kWh when there are 4 GW installed. Since there are already over 3 GW okayed or being built, that shouldn’t take long, maybe 4 years. They further projected prices to fall to 4-8 cents when the industry gets up to scale. This is in line with what the NREL says. And the NREL says lower construction costs will come quickly, as experience is gained in the first few plants, and economy of scale is reached. The study also said there was suitable land for 330 GW of CSP near existing power lines.

    from NREL

    “A comparison of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) revealed that the LCOE of
    $148 per MWh for the first CSP plants installed in 2009 is competitive with the simple
    cycle combustion turbine at an LCOE of $168 per MWh, assuming that the temporary
    30 percent Investment Tax Credit is extended. The LCOE for the CSP plant is higher
    than the $104 per MWh LCOE of the combined cycle combustion turbine plant.”

    “As shown in Table ES-2, CSP
    plants installed in 2015 are projected to exhibit a delivered LCOE of $115/MWh,2
    compared with $168/MWh for the simple cycle combustion turbine and $104/MWh for
    combined cycle plants. At a natural gas price of about $8 per MMBtu, the LCOE of CSP
    and the combined cycle plants at 40 percent capacity factor are equal.”

    Delivered Levelized Energy Cost and Economic Impacts for CSP
    and Gas Technologies in 2015 ($2005)

    Delivered Energy Cost
    Simple Cycle* $187/MWh
    Combined Cycle* $119/MWh
    CSP with 6 Hours Storage** $115/MWh

    *The 2015 MPR natural gas price of $8.00 per MMBtu escalating at 2.5 percent annually was
    used.
    **CSP assumes permanent 10 percent ITC.

    “Investment in CSP power plants delivers greater return to California in both economic activity and employment than corresponding investment in
    natural gas equipment:
    - Each dollar spent on CSP contributes approximately $1.40 to California’s Gross State Product; each dollar spent on natural gas plants contributes about $0.90 – $1.00 to Gross State Product.”

    In #302, you say that coal as the cheap alternative will end up fueling plug ins. What about when carbon is taxed or capped and traded?

    James 277

    You don’t need to worry about loss of heat in CSP heat storage. Molten salt holds about 99% of it’s heat for 24 hours. Storing energy as heat is also 20-100 times cheaper than storing electricity in batteries, according to Joseph Romm at Climate Progress.

    Energy sources that need no fuel ever will never ever have the following costs.

    Prospecting, mining, storing, transporting, refining, burning, cleaning up the mess from, fighting wars over, wild price fluctuations, huge military costs for protection, blowing the tops off thousands of mountains or billion gallon coal fly ash sludge spills, or oil spills or nuclear accidents or radioactive waste storage problems, or running out of fuel resources.

    What’s not to like?

    MikeN 304
    If you’re worried about mitigation cramping your lifestyle, consider that “lifestyle” will become a quaint notion from a bygone era without mitigation.

    Brian Dodge 320

    You are talking about a PV plant being closed, not CSP. And it’s old news based on very old prices for PV power, very old and low efficiencies for PV, and in an pretty cheap energy market if 8 cents/kWh was too high.

    331 Douglas Wise

    regarding IFR nuclear
    “it would seem irresponsible not to encourage the very rapid construction of a full scale demonstration reactor with its associated reprocessing facility so that the claims could either be validated or dismissed.”

    I’m one of those not crazy about nuclear, as you can see from my comments, but have no problem with pilot plants being built with new technology if what you say is true. That will still take time before commercialization though.

    El
    “California, for example, experienced a heat wave that caused wind power to drop to an average of 4% capacity for 7 days.”

    Yes, and last week Spain had strong winds, which allowed wind energy to briefly supply 40% of Spain’s power. It’s normally 12%.

    And you are not considering the true costs of fossil fuels when you compare them with wind etc. How about the cost of two wars in two decades for starters?

    Comment by Richard Mercer — 3 May 2009 @ 10:38 PM

  463. Doug Bostrom: “As I promised, like a parrot I’m going to point out yet again that electrical demand is highly inelastic against cost. I don’t have to speculate about that, I only have refer to a real world example.”

    Cherry picking a location where people are willing to pay a high cost to live is pretty unscientific. How about citing a peer reviewed publication on how elastic electrical demand is?

    But even if demand is somewhat inelastic (at least among wealthy people), how would that justify making foolish choices about capacity to store energy?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 3 May 2009 @ 10:39 PM

  464. #461 MikeN:

    Are you familiar with the concept of “external costs”?

    For us laymen, failure to account for “external costs” analogizes to arranging your sewer pipe to end in your neighbor’s yard, thus ignoring the real cost of flushing the toilet. For you, it’s cheaper. For your neighbors, they get to pay for your benefit. Coal-fired plants are another example, only the effluent is spewed in a finer dispersal pattern, making cleanup more difficult.

    “Mandate” is another term for “regulation”, only the “mandate” word is often used to connote some sort of unreasonable imposition. If we’re part of the developed world, we’re mandated to not allow our excrement to flow into our neighbor’s yards, thus not passing the full costs of our bowel movements over the fence while dodging our own responsibilities. Does that sound like a reasonable thing to you? If so, why do you apparently find the idea of full accounting and equitable distribution of coal generation costs to be unreasonable?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 3 May 2009 @ 11:55 PM

  465. Great. Then there is no need for any renewable energy mandates or subsidies, as wind and solar will be cheaper, right? Noone would buy from a more expensive coal-powered plant?

    As long as fossil fuel is subsidized by the government, alternatives will need to be.

    The other thing to look at is total cost, and of course fossil fuels fuel AGW. The fact that these costs aren’t captured should not be ignored by you …

    Comment by dhogaza — 4 May 2009 @ 12:07 AM

  466. re 461, just like there’s no need for oil subsidies (tax breaks too!) or nuclear subsidy (like not having to get them to pay insurance!). Still, without them, the lobby firms have said that there will be no new power stations since there is not enough profit to make it worthwhile.

    How about we halve the subsidy for oil/gas/coal/nuke and give that money instead to kick-start the renewables. And in five years, NO subsidy for oil/coal/gas/nukes and in 10 years no subsidy for renewables either.

    PS Stop saying half the issue: you’re always whinging on about how we’re only hearing “half the story” but you persist in giving half the truth. And half-truths can be worse than lies.

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:39 AM

  467. Jim, #460, so we’re all going to have to follow Intel CEO’s idea for how to proceed?

    Sheesh. We don’t even follow the 30 scientists that reviewed the IPCC report, to say nothing of the hundreds of scientists who wrote the papers that report was a synthesis of.

    Why do you insist that we are occasional sheeple?

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:42 AM

  468. Jim, when you say “Wind based power for the Province of Ontario, per todays report, varied from 8% to 43% of “capability” which means peak capacity.”

    How long did it stay at 8%? How long did it stay at 43%? Out of each installed 1000MW capacity, how many did they get out?

    Your quote lacks any context and that you spend so many more words than “averaged 40% capacity” indicates deception on your part.

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:46 AM

  469. re #449 “If such are natural gas peaking plants, great, it is just an added cost.”

    Uh, if they already have natural gas peaking plants, how can it be an added cost? They are already there, they are already used.

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:49 AM

  470. re 446: “Except for the issue you are overlooking – cost. Kind of important in the real world…”

    However, this is not necessarily a problem as you are implying by using it in a counter to FCH’s point.

    As others have said, there is a large inelasticity of demand for power where cost is the only factor. There is a large elasticity of demand for power where it is unavailable.

    So the first says that there is no problem paying for expensive electricity, EVEN IF THERE IS. The second says that payment for electricity may well go down even if the price per unit goes up, IF IT DOES SO.

    But nowhere do you say that the price will go up and remain higher than it would if we’d not moved to renewables.

    You seem to be forgetting that price of fossil fuels is not constant and that’s a big problem in the real world…

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:53 AM

  471. re #442. I note a lot of “probably”‘s and so on in there.

    Yet you act as if they are diamond hard truths when it comes to arguing about wind turbines.

    How many elk will die if global warming means that there’s no longer the right amount of rainfall in Yellowstone? Do you think that people in the US will accept being thrown out of “their own homes” to let some darned filthy animals in there because some “econazis” say that they need elk. Not enough to count, I reckon, because enough WILL think that way. So not using wind power will kill the elk.

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:57 AM

  472. MikeN — I’d certainly be willing to let renewables compete against coal if the cost of coal to the environment were factored in.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 May 2009 @ 4:49 AM

  473. We have to quickly implement power generation facilities appropriate for every region on earth, for some nuclear may be the best option, for others, wind, geothermal, hydro, photo voltaics..etc. In actuality every country will probably have a combination of several of these methods or they can pay a surcharge to neighbouring countries that have suplus to sell. It seems that a cap and trade system is the politicians favourite way of generating the funds needs to roll these schemes out; Not that Prof Jim Hansen would agree but he doesn’t think like a politician or have the pressures of politicians or huge vested interest groups breathing down his neck. If we are going to get this arbitary 80% reduction by 2050 then an agressive kick-ass cap and trade with no loopholes for corporate lawyers and/or accountants to wriggle through is essential. As long as these vested interest groups (you all know who they are) get compensated fairly they should comply without too much hostility. And tough federal stances with environmentally unfriendly occupations (eg. coal mining) and their associated unions to implement a phase out plan for the industry. Sure 10s of thousands of people will need to be retrianed in other fields..so be it! Saving the planet does have the occasional inconvenience attached.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 4 May 2009 @ 8:01 AM

  474. Great. Then there is no need for any renewable energy mandates or subsidies, as wind and solar will be cheaper, right? Noone would buy from a more expensive coal-powered plant?

    MAJOR non sequitor.

    Utilities must, under present law in most areas, purchase power from the lowest cost provider. That typically means coal and natural gas (and hydro and nuclear where available) because economies of scale keep those types of generation cheap while renewables are kept high due to the lack thereof.

    So, the market is already severely distorted in favor of non-renewable energy.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 4 May 2009 @ 9:04 AM

  475. How many elk will die if global warming means that there’s no longer the right amount of rainfall in Yellowstone?

    False dichotomy. Demanding that ecosystem impacts be considered when siting wind farms does not lead to there being no wind farms. We can both build wind farms and site them intelligently.

    Comment by dhogaza — 4 May 2009 @ 9:29 AM

  476. Steve, #463 , that’s what Doug did.

    If you say “there are no black swans” then I show you ONE black swan, your statement is proven false. There’s no need to prove that this swan is a mutant, the mere fact of its existence is enough.

    You state that if prices go up for electricity, people won’t use the power they need to. Well, Hawaii is one “black swan” for you.

    Either explain why Hawaii bucks the trend or accept it.

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 9:32 AM

  477. >Either explain why Hawaii bucks the trend or accept it.

    So if the price of power to drop in Hawaii, is it your contention that people would use as much power as they do now?

    Comment by MikeN — 4 May 2009 @ 11:17 AM

  478. #463 Steve Reynolds:

    That was a pretty incoherent and unserious response. Surely you can do better.

    If we’re going to stick with outmoded generation techniques and avoid capitalizing better methods more suitable for changing conditions, we need to have a solid justification for why we would choose to be anachronistic.

    One justification for anachronism is fear of increased cost for delivered electrical power.

    In the face of a concrete example of inelastic electrical demand, your rebuttal includes no explanation for why Hawaii should be an exception to expected economic behavior of a general population other than some rather ignorant implications about how you believe the Hawaiian demographic is constituted.

    As it happens, Hawaii falls squarely in the middle of the U.S. in terms of per capita income.

    Care to try again?

    .

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 4 May 2009 @ 11:58 AM

  479. Bart, Doug,
    You both speak of environmental costs of coal, currently not being paid. What that means is that in fact electricity will get more expensive. Renewables will not be cheaper to produce than coal, and perhaps also nuclear and natural gas.

    Comment by MikeN — 4 May 2009 @ 1:33 PM

  480. James, now you’re making progress (Google results may differ even with the same search, so perhaps the 2006 paper I recommended to you wasn’t on p1 for you).

    For our hypothetical naive kid who has no idea how to do this: Here’s how to handle that problem of more than one page of results:

    Look down at the bottom of the results.
    Where it says “Search within results” put in more keywords.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 May 2009 @ 1:42 PM

  481. Re 428

    Anne

    Thank you. That explanation does make your position a little clearer. I can see what you’re saying about the stacks on page 109- it’s made me realise just how difficult it is to make these comparisons. Though I still think you’re missing the point both about that image and the book as a whole.

    But to answer your question: no, I never thought from reading the book that Britain needs 125 KWh/person of clean electricity. Mackay makes it very clear, as I said in my initial comment, that the 125 KWh/person represents total energy- not electricity- consumption of an average present-day Briton. Fossil fuel conversion losses are part of that present-day total consumption figure, so I think it’s very reasonable to leave them on there- in fact it would be misleading if they weren’t. The problem, as you say, is that a hypothetical future ‘green powered’ Britain wouldn’t require that extra conversion energy. Furthermore, the first of the green, right hand stacks I imagine is full of uncertainties because it’s all hypothetical- to date, nobody has tried to roll out renewables on that scale. In Mackay’s defence, most (if not all) of his estimates seem to be well referenced, and as I said, he welcomes any corrections.

    For what it’s worth, he’s also very clear about the limitations of the kWh unit and problems with energy equivalence/interchangeability- see p27.

    I agree that the figure on page 109 is one of the most striking and important images in the book, but I don’t think most people will draw the conclusion from it that you seem to expect them to. This what I took away from it:

    1. Britain’s total present energy consumption is way too big. We need to reduce the left hand stack. As you say, getting off fossil fuels and electrifying all energy use will have the addes benefit of reducing fossil fuel conversion losses, shrinking the red stack further.

    2. We’d only have to reduce our consumption a bit, and renewables could theoretically just about meet our current energy requirements. Maybe shrink it a lot, and it would be more practically achievable (if you’re right, maybe much more achievable than he suggests elsewhere in that chapter. If so, that’s great.)

    3. Even so there would still need to be a massive deployment of renewables, potentially involving substantial cost, spoiling of pretty rural views, habitat loss in Severn estuary etc etc

    4. People don’t want a massive deployment of renewables, for the above reasons and more.

    The whole point of the diagram is ’4′. The two stacks on the right side of the diagram look daunting (maybe they’re a bit less daunting if you’re correct) but they are clearly labelled as representing the situation after the public consultation. People don’t don’t want a massive expansion of renewables- for that matter, they don’t want a massive expansion of nuclear either (and the desert solar idea is untested on a large scale and would be incredibly difficult politically, regardless of the numbers). People don’t understand the extent of our current dependence on fossil fuels or the scale of the challenge in getting off them. Maybe they’re starting to get a little worried about AGW and/or future energy supply, but maybe they think unplugging mobile phone chargers and putting a small windmill on their rooftop is going to suffice. I think the book makes these important issues clear in a lively and engaging manner. If more people read it, some political momentum might build up to get something useful done, and that’s when your concerns will become more relevant.

    Comment by Matt — 4 May 2009 @ 2:04 PM

  482. The reason Hawaii is the exception is because Hawaii isn’t some other state. Hawaii is no more “exceptional” than New York.

    When power rose where I live, people DID look for ways to reduce power. The same is true for gasoline prices. The price in California, relative to Texas, has no bearing on what people in TEXAS do. It’s the change in price, relative to where one IS.

    The same thing happens with a variety of other commodities — when cigarette prices rise in Texas, people in North Texas who can drive up to Cherokee Country do and bring back cheaper cigarettes. People in New York aren’t driving all the way to Oklahoma to buy their smokes any more than people in Hawaii are running extension cords to my back yard. Not that it would do any good — it’s cloudy and I’m keeping all my electricity to myself. Get your own solar panels, why don’t you.

    (reCaptcha sez: “lifelong stressed”. As a matter of fact, I am)

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 4 May 2009 @ 2:47 PM

  483. Doug (456), but, depending somewhat on the type of system used (both commercial and residential) for the two biggest sinks – heat and cooling, the average total electric usage in Hawaii, with little heating or air conditioning required, has to be much less than in Wyoming; in that event the difference in rates would not be felt as much in the pocketbook/budget.

    Comment by Rod B — 4 May 2009 @ 2:48 PM

  484. Richard M__ (462), what tax subsidies went to build the high-speed telecommunications infrastructure?

    Comment by Rod B — 4 May 2009 @ 2:55 PM

  485. Re #67
    I realize that Anne van der Bom had no intention of widening the discussion, her link to “subsidies in Denmark” showed a remarkable efficiency in power generation compared to standard practice here in the USA. This goes to the point about the “smart grid” that we are currently expanding.

    Denmark has a system of distric heating where heat to residences is produced on a district basis, where heat goes in steam pipes to housholds. The special thing about this is that they also produce electric power in cogeneration with that heat. Theoretically, this can achieve 100% system efficiency assuming similarity of effectiveness in heat capture and usage.

    If we were to use natural gas to produce electricity with cogeneration of heat we could displace that same amount of electricity from coal fired plants, but only a third as much energy would be allocated for that electricity. To the extent this can be arranged, the CO2 reduction for that electric energy would be 84%. That could be worth thinking about, especially if it could be done at low cost.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 4 May 2009 @ 3:29 PM

  486. RodB, get your fingers out of your ears sometime and you’ll have heard of the tax breaks given to telcos to pay to run out high speed fibre.

    Not being a USian I never bothered to note down the links to the Bills in senate for it.

    There is also the huge tax break of using private land to personal profit: easement.

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:30 PM

  487. “Hawaii, with little heating or air conditioning required, has to be much less than in Wyoming; in that event the difference in rates would not be felt as much in the pocketbook/budget.”

    It does?

    Why?

    There are a lot of tourists there. Tourists who want cool buildings, don’t pay the electric, etc.

    How many tourists per head of population does Wyoming get?

    PS With that assumption and 50p you’ll get yourself a mars bar…

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:32 PM

  488. MikeN, you’re beyond hope.

    I bet you’re still sore at the loss of slavery which meant that goods became more expensive because they had to pay their workers a living wage rather than keep slaves…

    Comment by Mark — 4 May 2009 @ 3:34 PM

  489. #387 Steve Reynolds

    There are several ways to interpret your argument here. To me it looks like a non sequitur. Climate science provides the basis for an economic argument to be established. It does not need to provide the economic values and analysis to which you refer, that is for those few on this planet that actually do understand the economy.

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say?

    It follows, in the aggregate view, that increased CO2 will be costly, CO2 reduction strategies have benefits. If we do a cost benefit analysis over time it is fairly easy to see the benefits of CO2 reduction strategies.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 4 May 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  490. MikeN
    3 May 2009 at 3:14 PM

    It sounds unrealistic to me that you will store heat generated in summer all the way till winter. Could you give us some more detail of how this works?

    See here

    Or google for “seasonal thermal storage” for lots more information.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 4 May 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  491. #479 MikeN:

    Yes, that’s correct– we have to pay our way regardless of the source, we don’t get to foist off our mess without paying or get some kind of clean, free ride.

    Back-of-the-envelope figures show that an $0.05/kWh rate increase for U.S. residential customers would produce something like $5,000,000,000/year to help clean up our mess without touching industrial rates. Not enough to completely capitalize a permanent fix in one year, but not chump change either and over the course of a few years a hell of a lot of money. That’s a large increase when we’re starting at about $0.10/kWh, but on the other hand we can see that triple that amount is tolerated without complete elimination of waste, a telling fact. As we we’re finally becoming aware, we’re paying a fantasy rate when we purchase electricity as cheaply as we do now and as a consequence we’re substantially oblivious of our consumption habits.

    My main point here is that monstrous, existential threats to our way of life from increases in the cost of electricity seem to be imaginary. Secondarily, it strikes me that we’re leaving a lot of money on the table when it comes to modernizing our plant.

    Can we stomach being grownups about this? That’s an open question.

    As far as cost comparisons between coal and renewables go, I’d say the jury has not even retired concerning what the real cost of coal is if we do full accounting. Sequestration schemes all appear to be costly in dollars and to entail a pretty large hit on the overall efficiency of coal generation. I’m not contradicting you on that, just saying that I don’t think we can make that prediction right now.

    #483 Rod B:

    A good point. Hawaii’s residential consumption is a little over 500kWh/month compared to a bit over 900 for the U.S. as a whole. A simplistic view of this is that the average U.S. consumer would see their bill triple if they paid what residents in Hawaii do, diverting something like $2,400 of annual household budget. More likely we’d see the final consumption figure fall in the middle as sources of waste are identified and eliminated according to any given household’s proclivity and ability to waste money.

    That being said, as I mentioned we could with a much smaller rate adjustment create a huge, ongoing capital fund for plant improvements. Some needless consumption would be eliminated as a result, though doubtful as much as we might think when we observe how tolerant we are of waste even where rates are extreme. We can also see that it does not appear such a rate increase would send us back into the stone age or drastically affect our enjoyment of living.

    So let’s not allow ourselves to be driven into panic over the idea of paying a bit more for residential power. It’s bloody cheap now and could easily stand some increases.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 4 May 2009 @ 4:03 PM

  492. That being said, as I mentioned we could with a much smaller rate adjustment create a huge, ongoing capital fund for plant improvements. Some needless consumption would be eliminated as a result, though doubtful as much as we might think when we observe how tolerant we are of waste even where rates are extreme. We can also see that it does not appear such a rate increase would send us back into the stone age or drastically affect our enjoyment of living.

    There is already capital running around looking for renewable projects. Having more would be great, but there is no need for a “rate increase”.

    The problem is that if Big Dirty Coal Generation can sell a MWH for even $0.01 less than Clean Solar Producers, the utility MUST buy from BDCG even if the utility knows that in 1 year the rise in the price of coal makes that a lousy decision. Future costs be damned — all that matters is who is selling cheaper today and that will always favor the status quo even if it is worse decision overall.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 4 May 2009 @ 5:12 PM

  493. Matt
    4 May 2009 at 2:04 PM

    I agree that the figure on page 109 is one of the most striking and important images in the book, but I don’t think most people will draw the conclusion from it that you seem to expect them to.

    In this regard I am more of a pessimist (fueled by the coverage on The Register). How many people will read the book as thoroughly as you and at the same time understand what the numbers mean?

    We can agree that the task is daunting, but what I often remember people of is that it is not a trip to the moon. If you do not have a material that can withstand the temperatures of the return in the atmosphere, then your astronauts will die and your entire plan falls to shambles, no matter how sophisticated your lunar lander might be.

    This is not so with combating climate change. The dangers of detailed projections is to postpone the start until all foreseeable issues have been analysed and dealt with. The hardest problems get the most attention. Why make it hard on ourselves? A tonne of CO2 is a tonne of CO2, it doesn’t matter how hard it is to prevent its emission. Let’s start with the easy stuff. If we have no storage solution, but the grid can cope with the variability of, say, 20% wind, fine, then lets get started and not wait until there is a storage solution.

    In forming your own opinion about how much renewables can contribute, this nice interactive map of British renewables might help. It shows there is currently 3 GW of wind in operation, 10 GW under construction and 8 GW planned. Combined that can deliver ~2.5 kWh/d.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 4 May 2009 @ 5:52 PM

  494. Another take on this thread’s subject, with several quotations from Reto Knutti, “Climate Change: Halving Carbon Dioxide Emissions By 2050 Could Stabilize Global Warming”:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090502092019.htm

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 May 2009 @ 6:16 PM

  495. John P. Reisman: “It follows, in the aggregate view, that increased CO2 will be costly, CO2 reduction strategies have benefits. If we do a cost benefit analysis over time it is fairly easy to see the benefits of CO2 reduction strategies.”

    I am not arguing that the above is untrue, but even the IPCC has not claimed to have shown it to be true (see the SPM).

    To illustrate my point about values: assume the only effect of AGW is the extinction of polar bears, but GHG reduction is still very costly. It is a value judgment of whether the benefit is worth the cost.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 4 May 2009 @ 8:08 PM

  496. FurryCatHerder Says: “The price in California, relative to Texas, has no bearing on what people in TEXAS do. It’s the change in price, relative to where one IS.”

    That is only true if you are not able to (or have other important reasons not to) move. Many people (including me) have left California at least partly because of the high cost of living there.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 4 May 2009 @ 8:19 PM

  497. Steve Reynolds (495) — Ocean acidification affects the base of the food chain. Worth the (unknown) risk?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 May 2009 @ 8:21 PM

  498. #495 Steve Reynolds

    It is important to know that the IPCC is in Switzerland, probably the most conservative nation on the planet. You simply won’t see them going beyond the science even though it may be reasonable to make certain assumptions.

    However, from a point of reasonability, it is simple to see the effects will be costly. Add the facts in trend: The oceans are acidifying, The climate has already shifted 4 degrees of latitude in the past 30 years; the Arctic will likely be virtually ice free during the summer melt within the decade, all the uncertainty ranges are positive and none of them are negative, CO2 is plant food, but what does that mean when the oxygen levels are dropping, the Hoover dam is supposed to shut down in 2023 due to no water (latitudinal shift), the Yangtze in China is getting very low, etc. etc. You don’t need to be psychic to see where this is going.

    What I would like you to consider is not merely the science but basic human reasoning and sensibility. We, the people, don’t need to wait for all the north pole is ice free. We of sound mind can see the writing on the wall and the reality that from an economic standpoint not acting will cost much more than acting on this issue. It makes sense.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 4 May 2009 @ 9:18 PM

  499. That is only true if you are not able to (or have other important reasons not to) move. Many people (including me) have left California at least partly because of the high cost of living there.

    Right, but people in California who stayed (and there is a joke in Austin about people from California wanting to know how life in Austin is — “Sorry, but we’re all full up. Try another state.”) aren’t using more or less electricity just because Texas has lower electric rates (we don’t — ours are pretty high. I paid $0.204 / KWH last month) or Hawaii has higher electric rates. As was shown, electric power consumption is lower in Hawaii (500 KWH / month, as I recall — see upthread) compared to the national average (900 KWH / month, again, from fuzzy memory upthread).

    People though gasoline demand was fairly inelastic until the prices peaked last year. Since then several OPEC states have discovered that perhaps people aren’t nearly as addicted to their product as they’d thought (see here.)

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 4 May 2009 @ 9:23 PM

  500. Mark (486), well, I was in the industry about 25 years and had not heard of such tax breaks. Though it’s after my time and I don’t know either way about local loop fiber installs – though the feds subsidizing Verizon and the now AT&T is beyond my wildest imagination. It normally goes the other way (long before income tax time); have you looked at your bill lately (though I’m not that versed on the Brits)? Here, if they itemized each franchise or service tax it would take up the whole bill page.

    There were subsidizes to support minority enterprises in the 90s or so. And there are billions allocated for high-speed facilities in Obama’s current cookie jar called the stimulus package. Are you sure you’re not thinking of almost any other country? (Though they mostly are the telephone company so giving themselves a non-tax break seems silly, I guess.)

    Utilities would be shocked to learn that their easements are “huge tax breaks”.

    Comment by Rod B — 4 May 2009 @ 10:21 PM

  501. Mark Says (4 May 2009 at 15:32):

    “How many tourists per head of population does Wyoming get?”

    Hawai’i gets about 5 million tourists per year. Yellowstone National Park, the great majority of which is in Wyoming, gets 2-3 million. Then off the top of my head, there’s Grand Teton NP, Flaming Gorge NRA, Devil’s Tower NM, parts of the Black Hills, the Wind River Mountains, several ski areas that draw winter visitors… Add to that two major east-west routes (I80 & I90, and north-south I25, and I think you might find Wyoming actually has more tourists than Hawai’i.

    Then figure Hawai’i's population is about 1.2 million, vs about 500K for Wyoming…

    Comment by James — 4 May 2009 @ 11:50 PM

  502. FurryCatHerder Says (4 May 2009 at 17:12):

    “The problem is that if Big Dirty Coal Generation can sell a MWH for even $0.01 less than Clean Solar Producers, the utility MUST buy from BDCG…”

    Not entirely true, depending of course on where you live. For instance, here (Northern Nevada) the local utility is required by law to try to buy a certain percentage of its power (currently 9%, IIRC) from renewable sources, regardless of whether it’s the lowest priced – and indeed, there was an article in the local news a few days ago noting that they’d actually met that 9% last year.

    Locally most of the renewable generation is actually geothermal, though a few people are starting to install grid-connected solar.

    Comment by James — 5 May 2009 @ 12:15 AM

  503. “Mark (486), well, I was in the industry about 25 years and had not heard of such tax breaks.”

    Ah, that’s why you deny their existence.

    “There were subsidizes to support minority enterprises in the 90s or so”

    Check those.

    These “minority enterprises” may have been fibre roll-out.

    Comment by Mark — 5 May 2009 @ 2:07 AM

  504. “To illustrate my point about values: assume the only effect of AGW is the extinction of polar bears, but GHG reduction is still very costly. It is a value judgment of whether the benefit is worth the cost.”

    Well, if you’re going to assume, assume that the extinction of the human race is the result and GHG reduction is cheap.

    Is it worth waiting around to find out how many will die?

    I take it you don’t bother with any insurance, then.

    Comment by Mark — 5 May 2009 @ 2:09 AM

  505. re #510.

    May.

    Ah.

    And resident population of Hawaii is what? Wyoming?

    Comment by Mark — 5 May 2009 @ 9:07 AM

  506. It might be time to consider genetically engineering a farmable insect specifically designed to be a human food source in the face of future runaway AGW (devastating to crop yields). IDK much about fish farming and greenhouses and mushroom protein and stem-cell meat…
    Whatever survives whatever cheap growth medium available. I’m thinking these morsels shouldn’t be a problem escaping in the wild; be easy target as long as they don’t breed too fast. Alternative would be to include insect catching and cuisine in future school curriculums. It might even require higher education if you wanna avoid everyone regressing to foraging for food.

    Comment by Phillip Huggan — 5 May 2009 @ 9:55 AM

  507. > genetically engineer

    Try _Caryatids_ (Bruce Sterling’s new novel). He contemplates improving gut bacteria, so people and their domestic animals all can eat grass and shit little dry crumbly charcoal pellets. Biochar done internally and economically.

    He also there has China producing a series of huge deep basins along the top of the Himalayas using underground thermonuclear explosions, ostensibly to increase capture of snowfall and make new glaciers.

    Remember Bradbury, who said he wrote not to predict the future but to prevent it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 May 2009 @ 10:23 AM

  508. MikeN (479), it’s about time you woke up and smelled the roses in the real world.

    In the very near future CO2 emissions are going to be regulated, either by legislation or by EPA regulation.
    As a result, the business-as-usual burning of coal for the production of electricity without CO2 capture and sequestration is going to come to a halt, and thanks to the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) CCS is going to add a very considerable cost to generating electricity by burning coal.

    Very soon, not only the fuel of wind and solar generation will be free, but so will the cost of capturing as sequestering non-existent CO2 emissions.

    Still think coal-fired electrical generation will remain cheaper than wind, solar, and other renewables?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 5 May 2009 @ 12:02 PM

  509. Has anyone any news since this 2007 story?
    If it’s working out, they should be well along

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/0407-possible_fix_for_global_warming.htm

    —-excerpts follow—-
    … to capture the CO2 created from a power plant, algae would have to fill a building the size of Wal-Mart.

    “The size of these things would be … about an acre worth of land space. … the flu[e] gases would run through this huge building and the algae would be growing on the suspended vertical surfaces.” … what makes it cost effective? The algae can be harvested and made into biodiesel fuel and feed for animals.

    … a full-scale reactor with 1.25 million square meters of algae screens could be up and running by 2010.

    There are already some test facilities working right now …. Note: This story and accompanying video were originally produced for the American Institute of Physics series Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 May 2009 @ 12:33 PM

  510. James, it sticks in my mind that Texas is also dictating a certain percentage of generation from renewables, regardless of cost. Though if push gets to shove I’ll have to yield to FurryCH — she’s usually much more up on the local power situation.

    Comment by Rod B — 5 May 2009 @ 12:43 PM

  511. Jim Eager, you’re right, of course, but a bit unfair to MikeN’s point. He was talking in the normal course of events. Clearly the governmnet can price coal-fired producers out of existance with tax policies, as Obama has promised.

    Comment by Rod B — 5 May 2009 @ 12:50 PM

  512. #511 Rod B:

    “Clearly the governmnet can price coal-fired producers out of existance with tax policies, as Obama has promised.”

    Still waiting for that Obama quote. MikeN, can you provide it or post a link?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 5 May 2009 @ 2:02 PM

  513. Rod, that’s just it, pricing carbon emissions is now (or soon will be) part of the normal course of events.

    That’s the roses that MikeN is not smelling.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 5 May 2009 @ 2:04 PM

  514. Jim Eager: “In the very near future CO2 emissions are going to be regulated, either by legislation or by EPA regulation.
    As a result, the business-as-usual burning of coal for the production of electricity without CO2 capture and sequestration is going to come to a halt…”

    While that may eventually be a good thing, I have little confidence our politicians will let it happen uniformly:

    “…one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition’s co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building.”

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/04/green-lobby-guides-democrats-on-climate-bill/

    If you want to stop the business-as-usual burning of coal, I suggest watching (and protesting if necessary) what they do here.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 5 May 2009 @ 2:16 PM

  515. John P. Reisman: “…CO2 is plant food, but what does that mean when the oxygen levels are dropping…

    We of sound mind…”

    Those statements do not seem to go together. Are you really concerned about oxygen levels dropping?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 5 May 2009 @ 2:26 PM

  516. Rod B: “Clearly the governmnet can price coal-fired producers out of existance with tax policies, as Obama has promised.”

    You are misrepresenting Obama’s stated position as you have done before, and you have been corrected before. What Obama said was once the true costs of coal were internalized through taxation or cap-and-trade, that it would be uneconomical to build new coal-fired power plants and therefore no one would do so.

    Obama said nothing about taxing existing coal-fired power plants out of existence. Unfortunately.

    The plain fact is that the coal-industry and its close ally, the coal-fired electric utility industry, have had a free ride for a long, long time. Their days of enriching themselves while forcing everyone else to pay the cost of their toxic pollution and environmental destruction are coming to an end. And the plain fact is that the industry will be unwilling and unable to pay the costs of the damage that it causes, and will go out of business as it is displaced by newer, cleaner, less expensive alternatives.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2009 @ 2:53 PM

  517. Hank Roberts Says (5 May 2009 at 12:33):

    “Has anyone any news since this 2007 story?
    If it’s working out, they should be well along

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/0407-possible_fix_for_global_warming.htm

    —-excerpts follow—-
    … to capture the CO2 created from a power plant, algae would have to fill a building the size of Wal-Mart…”

    I see this idea come up every now and then, and it’s always appeared to have a glaringly obvious flaw. The power plant runs the reaction C + O2 = CO2 + energy. To capture the CO2, the algae essentially have to run the reverse reaction, putting energy in. They have to capture that energy from sunlight. There’s about 0.7 KW available per square meter of land at 45 degrees latitude (at noon, much less at sunrise & sunset), photosynthesis is less than 10% efficient. The upshot is that a 100 MWatt coal-fired plant would need something like 10 Km^2 of algae to capture the CO2.

    Have I overlooked something?

    Comment by James — 5 May 2009 @ 3:03 PM

  518. James, what you may have missed out is that sun penetrates to a depth in water. Even with algae in it.

    Comment by Mark — 5 May 2009 @ 3:43 PM

  519. James #517 — Conversion of CO2 by photosynthesis may not be adequate to handle the emissions of coal-fired power plants. In addition to CO2, flue gas is mostly (75%) harmless N2, which vastly adds to the volume to be treated. Coal smoke is polluted with acid-forming NOx and SOx, which might kill the algae. Aerosols would become toxic sludge. And the time necessary to process the CO2, even if you could capture a pure stream of it, would probably be overwhelming.

    These are just first thoughts, without research, but they are my questions that have to be answered before I become a believer in photosynthetic coal smoke processing.

    However, CO2 conversion by cracking (electrolytic dissociation to form carbon monoxide) might be feasible. The energy required is 5.5 eV. Of course, using fossil fuels to supply the cracking energy would be foolish, because they emit more CO2 than they can possibly crack. But wind and solar and the other renewable intermittent energy sources could be used for cracking. They would otherwise go to waste because they are not suitable for baseload power. For example, wind is abundant at night, but there is already a lot of spinning reserve for the grid at night, so wind is not needed.

    Cracking CO2 could be a form of energy storage for renewables. Simultaneous cracking of CO2 and water would produce syngas (H2 + CO) which can be fuel itself or can be processed easily into vehicle fuel. The process is called “syntrolysis” and the Stoots team at Idaho National Lab has proved it.

    Comment by Wilmot McCutchen — 5 May 2009 @ 4:05 PM

  520. #515 Steve Reynolds

    C + O2 = CO2

    It’s the law of economics, nothing is free. This also follows a Newtonian rule, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, it seems to apply.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 5 May 2009 @ 4:32 PM

  521. Mark Says (5 May 2009 at 15:43):

    “James, what you may have missed out is that sun penetrates to a depth in water. Even with algae in it.”

    No, I didn’t overlook that. Depth is irrelevant, since incoming energy is per surface area. That is, there are X number of photons. Each photon captured by an alga subtracts one from that total, and so on until all are consumed. If your algae is densely concentrated, that happens within a few inches; if it’s less dense, it may take more depth (but then some photons are captured by water & sediment instead), but at best only that 700 or so watts/m^2 are there.

    What it amounts to is that this is not really any different in principle from growing crops for ethanol or biodiesel. Might be somewhat more efficient, or easier to scale up – I’m not familiar enough with the various technologies to have an opinion – but it’s not magic carbon-capture, as the reports I’ve seen make it out to be.

    Comment by James — 5 May 2009 @ 8:30 PM

  522. John P. Reisman: “C + O2 = CO2″

    How about the following math challenge:

    What increase in altitude will give the same reduction in O2 partial pressure as atmospheric CO2 increasing to 1000 ppm?

    Extra credit: Is it more or less that the change in sea level under those conditions?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 5 May 2009 @ 10:37 PM

  523. SecularAnimist(516), so you’ve parsed his syntax in excruciating detail and are completely assured that Obama is going to carbon tax the hell out of new coal-fired plants but not lay a glove on current ones. Right. I got this bridge….

    Comment by Rod B — 5 May 2009 @ 10:53 PM

  524. PS Oops. I spoke too soon. It seems in the first half of your post you solidly aver that Obama will not hurt current coal plants. But in the second half you say, “…the coal-industry and its close ally, the coal-fired electric utility industry’s… days… are coming to an end.” By what process and whose hand I wonder… Or, which is it?

    Comment by Rod B — 5 May 2009 @ 11:01 PM

  525. As someone who grows algae for experiments and measures its production in lakes, the notion that an area the size of a Walmart would take care of CO2 from a power plant seems many orders of magnitude off. You would need to produce a dry mass of algae on the same scale of the mass of coal that was burned. Production of algae would be on the scale of grams/m^2/day which does not seem like much compared to train loads of coal.

    Comment by Bill DeMott — 5 May 2009 @ 11:53 PM

  526. Oxygen?

    http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/papers/end_of_free_oxygen.html

    But we know better now. As long as primary productivity and photosynthesis works, oxygen’s no problem.

    Until Peter Ward comes back from that field trip anyhow.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 May 2009 @ 12:47 AM

  527. Extra credit: Is it more or less that the change in sea level under those conditions?

    On what time scale?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 6 May 2009 @ 1:21 AM

  528. #502 James,

    The concept that the power system responds to a new increment of load with the least cost option is lost in your statement.

    Whatever power source that the government requires the utility to use, that will be used. Once it is in use, the addition of a new load will be handled by available capacity. If that is coal and coal is not heavily handicapped by some government imposed penalty, coal will be burned in response.

    Whether there is a huge penalty or an outright ban on coal use, another fuel would have to be bought on the market. That action will indirectly result in price pressure on that other fuel which will be compensated for by greater coal use somewhere else.

    It will be a long time before new electric loads will not have this effect. In the meantime, it will be far better to simply not use so much energy.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 6 May 2009 @ 2:04 AM

  529. “Depth is irrelevant, since incoming energy is per surface area.”

    But efficiency is per algal entity.

    And a lower level recieving light will add to it.

    Now, what you have to ask yourself is is that 10% efficiency taking into account the depth factor? Or is it a thin film of algal bloom?

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 4:34 AM

  530. ““…the coal-industry and its close ally, the coal-fired electric utility industry’s… days… are coming to an end.” By what process and whose hand I wonder… Or, which is it?”

    By virtue of Peak Oil having been passed (where supply cannot raise in response to demand) and coal being a terrible source of energy.

    By greater intelligence about how to USE energy to attain the result we want reducing the need for power.

    By renewables being commercially exploitable and in a competitive market replacing some of the current fossil fuel techniques.

    For the last one, see the history of the Buggy Whip makers. No government edict banning them but they are now a niche market when once they were dominant.

    Do you see conspiracy theories everywhere you look?

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 6:29 AM

  531. ” That action will indirectly result in price pressure on that other fuel which will be compensated for by greater coal use somewhere else.”

    Please prove that assertion.

    The raw material for operating a Wind Turbine doesn’t respond to supply/demand curves. The wind blows.

    And have you seen the price of crude? It didn’t need alternative fuels to make it happen.

    And what happens in a competitive market? The price falls to ensure at least costs are made. If you lose sales to a competitor, you make no money.

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 6:33 AM

  532. Re: 447… I don’t actually know EVERYYTHING.. but do I know the people who know. SSPS has only been studied for what, half a century now? The only obstacle is the cost to orbit. No, you’d not position them at a LaGrange point and you might do better with a larger number of smaller units than a couple of giants. The point to cheap access to space is that it is then NOT hard to have people or robots up there fixing things, topping up attitude control systems and basically keeping the system stable.

    It beats the hell out of getting four degrees of change here, and it would, if there were actually cheap access available, open up a lot more than just cheap-fixing the warming part of the CO2 problem. Once you get cheap access you own the solar system, you can mine the asteroids and you can scoop methane off the atmosphere of Jupiter.

    I am only a former Engineer at NASA JPL, with a clear understanding of the margins that Lockheed-Martin gets on its disposable vehicles a reasonable understanding of what happened to the reusable program and a nasty cynical streak.

    In answer to your question, no I don’t BELIEVE it, incompetence is a far more likely explanation than massive conspiracy. However, there’s plenty of room for one or two profit-first managerial types to have done the deed. Or just one guy with some unknown motivation…

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2006/01/x-33venturestar-what-really-happened/

    However, with respect to your objections they are ENGINEERING problems and NOT hard compared to further altering our atmosphere, or seeding our oceans with iron and otherwise permanently and irrevocably committing us to a course that if it should go wrong is the equivalent of ecological seppuku.

    People who don’t understand space think that the problem is space is hostile. It is, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that we have to use the lightest and flimsiest possible materials to deal with the hostility… and we can’t go back up to fix stuff except at a price we can’t afford.

    I know this turf. It isn’t wishful thinking except the part where NASA and Congress figure out that this is a helluva a lot cheaper than bailing out Citibank, and in the long run pays us back at least 10000% Expecting them to do the smart thing, THAT is wishful thinking.

    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 6 May 2009 @ 7:10 AM

  533. There have been many investigations into present and future energy needs out to about 2030 from the IEA (Based in Europe).

    A quote from their 2008 Energy Outlook study states this:

    •The 2008 global credit crisis will slow energy demand but only temporarily. Fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) will still dominate the energy landscape through 2030. Fossil fuels will account for 80% of the energy mix, barely down from what it is today. Industrialized countries will continue to rely disproportionately on those fuels.

    from this site: http://middleeast.about.com/od/oilenergy/a/me081113a.htm

    The situation is grim for several scenarios could arise both of which require the same solution. Renewable energy and large scale energy efficiency gains and even then we might not be able to put off climate change, only the demand energy situation although if the programs are ramped up then anything is possible but $1 trillion per annum for 25 years globally is a lot to ask for.

    As the world seeks 50% more energy come 2030 then renewables can only be expected to fill this need unless energy efficiency gains are significant, 50% or more. 25% is relatively cheap to achieve but 50% is expensive. Your car needs to do 50% more MPG, thats achieveable if you want to drive a smaller car but can vans and HGV’s achieve double energy increase? Houses need 50% more efficent insulation, thats a lot an will require great expense to keep houses in keeping and achieve that. Massive program. Aircraft double MPG and cooking uses less gas, unlikely. Industry needs 50% gains to, how hard is that I wonder.

    The massive renewables program also required is replace existing demand but only coal is really feasible in terms of suitable replacement, nuclear, wind and solar. Oil and gas are unlikely to be reaplced but maybe usage will be lessened, oil more likely than gas due to transport gains.

    Its a scary future for the arguments over peak oil still rage although the IEA push out peak production to 2030 but not PEak reserves.

    Comment by pete best — 6 May 2009 @ 8:06 AM

  534. “Your car needs to do 50% more MPG, thats achieveable if you want to drive a smaller car ”

    The average trip distance of a car journey in the UK is 2 miles.

    Walking if it’s less than 1.5 miles would save half your petrol.

    When the truckers strike for petrol truck drivers, people drove slower and found:

    a) they got to work only a few minutes later
    b) they used MUCH less petrol (maybe not half, but at least a third off)

    Then again the UK uses road transport for haulage and took all that off the railways.

    Putting them back on trains at least for the well connected routes would save half or more for HGV bulk transport.

    Etc.

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 8:49 AM

  535. B. J Chippindale, I assume that it is safe to conclude that your duties at JPL didn’t include propulsion systems. If you understand anything about space, you know that high launch costs are one of the most significant barriers putting the desired number of satellites into orbit. If you have any insight into lauch systems, you will know that one of the biggest problems with the business model is proportion of nonrecurring expenses. A satellite launcher that cracked the cost barrier, would be in gravy. Do you seriously contend that Lockmart, Boeing, the Russians, and the Europeans don’t understand this?

    You are awfully eager to dismiss all the unsolved problems of your solution as “engineering problems”. Do you think that maybe you might be underestimating the difficulties just a wee bit? I mean, do you really think that nobody smart has ever thought, “Gee, it’d sure be nice if we could launch a satellite for $1 million rather than $15 million. I wonder if we could come up with a cheap launch vehicle?”

    YOu are also awfully dismissive of the hostility of the space environment. Depending on the orbit, radiation, atomic oxygen, micrometeors, UV, friction and extremes of temperature all limit useful life of assets in space.

    Sorry, you’d have to think this through a whole lot more carefully than you have for it to pass the straight-face test.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 May 2009 @ 8:54 AM

  536. BJ_C, thanks for the pointer. I recall watching that decision as it when it was reported in public. Doesn’t seem any smarter in hindsight.

    Ray, if you haven’t read more than just that one linked story, do look back into the history a bit. To me, an amateur reader, at the time, that engine-weight and fuel tank choice, as reported publicly, did seem like case of management-by-demand overruling design-with-reality.

    —-
    Those wanting to bang on tobacco issues can find plenty elsewhere.
    PRWatch.org does a good job of pointing out the manipulation going on.
    E.g. http://www.prwatch.org/node/8298

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 May 2009 @ 10:57 AM

  537. Re #534, Sure, but as people do not walk them at the moment what makes you think they (all of them) will walk?

    Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.

    Comment by pete best — 6 May 2009 @ 11:04 AM

  538. Mark (530), my mistake, I guess. When SecularAnimist said the coal industry was coming to an end, I assumed he meant this century.

    Comment by Rod B — 6 May 2009 @ 11:32 AM

  539. The point wasn’t to say people would walk but that saying that reduction to 50% demand would be expensive.

    People don’t decide not to walk the distance because it would be expensive to do so. It costs more to drive there than to walk.

    50% reduction IS NOT EXPENSIVE.

    It is just ignored.

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 11:41 AM

  540. “But the essential underlying requirement is a substantial rising carbon price. … The carbon price must be sufficient to affect lifestyle choices.”
    Jim Hansen
    Anyone still claiming this will be no major inconvenience?

    [Response: The fact of the matter is that business-as-usual will be a 'major inconvenience'. Why aren't you concerned about that? - gavin]

    Comment by MikeN — 6 May 2009 @ 11:53 AM

  541. Hank, You’re not telling me anything I don’t know when you say there is incompetence and corruption in aerospace. That is a given. The thing is that everybody who has ever been involved in space has been calling for lower-cost launch vehicles since Robert Goddard. The problem is that lowering costs in one dimension (e.g. fuel/propulsion) raises them in another (e.g. materials and engineering). It’s technological Whack-a-Mole on steroids! There are a lot of very smart cookies working on launch vehicles. If this were a tractable problem, they probably would have made progress on it. If some VP of marketing had blocked them at Lockmart, they could have gone to Boeing or the Europeans. And keep in mind that the Russians and now even the Chinese and Indians are in the Biz–nobody is going to hold back in the face of competition that could eat your lunch. Instead, launch costa have pretty much stayed where they were. The reason is that it’s a very hard problem with a lot of moving parts.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 May 2009 @ 11:59 AM

  542. >fact of the matter is that business-as-usual will be a ‘major inconvenience’. Why aren’t you concerned about that?

    I am concerned about that. It’s the reason I read your blog. I don’ like the general dishonesty about how easy solutions will be, pretending like it’s free or not a major inconvenience. My whole line of ‘loss of comfort’ started when you spoke of a richer world, but you’ve lost Florida and Bangladesh(I wouldn’t count global warming at tops of their list of concerns). I responded somewhat tongue-in-cheek that you lose a lot with the current proposals.

    Comment by MikeN — 6 May 2009 @ 2:20 PM

  543. “I don’ like the general dishonesty about how easy solutions will be, pretending like it’s free or not a major inconvenience.”

    How much of an inconvenience is it to be dead?

    If someone from a less law abiding area is driven out of their home, they’ll go looking for one. And they’ll not be in a good mood looking for it.

    And why the “Oh noes! I’m gonna haveta WALK!!!” how much money is spent and how much time in the gyms keeping fit.

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 2:43 PM

  544. RodB, why? And why will that not happen this century?

    Oil is up to near $100/barrel, Saudi Arabia refuse to prove their reserves (and the amount you are allowed to sell as a member of OPEC is a proportion of how much you say you have left) and oddly state that they have found yet more oil but aren’t deploying to those new areas.

    Renewables are and have been for a decade or so (so recently as far as the behemoth of bulk power generation is concerned) commercially viable.

    Why do you think they have 90 years left to go?

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 2:49 PM

  545. The cost of mitigating CO2 and CH4 would be substantially less than the amount we’re spending to prop up our benighted financial institutions. It wouldn’t require people to wear a barrel and sell apples on a street corner.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 6 May 2009 @ 3:33 PM

  546. Mark, then, out of curiosity, why do you, et al, care so much about taxing the hell out of new coal-fired plants? By your analysis, won’t they go down the chutes in 10-20 years anyway? Or what is your timeframe?

    Comment by Rod B — 6 May 2009 @ 3:58 PM

  547. Mark, Gavin, et al: if AGW will be a major disruption for people, why does it logically follow then that mitigation will be no disruption or inconvenience

    [Response: It doesn't, and I never claimed it would be. Neither is it the end of the world. - gavin]

    Comment by Rod B — 6 May 2009 @ 4:02 PM

  548. Rod B wrote: “Mark, then, out of curiosity, why do you, et al, care so much about taxing the hell out of new coal-fired plants? By your analysis, won’t they go down the chutes in 10-20 years anyway? Or what is your timeframe?”

    Not to answer for Mark, but the sooner we stop burning coal the better. My preferred time frame for ending the use of coal would be thirty years ago.

    Putting an appropriate price on carbon pollution will force the coal industry and the coal-fired electric utility industry to internalize the cost of that pollution, which they are now allowed to foist off on everyone else. Once the price of coal includes all of its true costs, it will no longer be economically competitive with clean sources of energy, and the market will do what it does, and coal will be phased out.

    Having said that, I think we should go beyond market mechanisms, and institute an immediate, outright ban on the construction of any new coal-fired power plants and any new coal mines, and also announce a deadline within no more than ten years at which time the burning of coal to generate electricity will be illegal and all coal-fired power plants, and coal mines, will be shut down.

    The coal industry does not have the “right” to profit by causing massive death and destruction to the rest of us. They have no more “right” to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 emissions than they do to dump toxic chemicals into our drinking water supply (which, of course, they also do).

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 May 2009 @ 4:18 PM

  549. re 546:

    Where did I say that coal fired plants should be taxed?

    Your demon on your left shoulder has been whispering in your ear again.

    DO NOT listen to the voices. They are only in your head. (which explains 547 too)

    Comment by Mark — 6 May 2009 @ 4:22 PM

  550. >but 50% is expensive. Your car needs to do 50% more MPG,

    How is efficiency defined? TO reduce fuel use by 50%, you have to do 100% more MPG. A 50%increase only reduces use by one third.

    Comment by MikeN — 6 May 2009 @ 4:35 PM

  551. No mention of tariffs on this post. So how do people plant to get China to reduce its emissions? Without that even an 80% US reduction would have no effect on climate.

    Comment by MikeN — 6 May 2009 @ 4:52 PM

  552. Re #539, its being ignored because it is the life people lead and if petrol is cheap enough then its the way of the west. As petrol becomes more expensive there will be many means of cutting waste a lot of it brought about by necessity. However if petrol becomes expensive again, it is either tax or by the amounts available and we do not want to visit peak oil do we ?

    Comment by pete best — 6 May 2009 @ 5:04 PM

  553. Efficiencies possible everywhere you look:

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/pdfs/mc-0382.pdf

    Got anything with an electric motor in it? 40-year-old furnace, maybe?

    If you can see the nameplate/identification on the motor, you can look it up and figure out what to do.
    This is just one of many tools on the page:

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/software.html#mm

    “MotorMaster+ Version 4.0.6
    Release Date: March 1, 2007
    An energy-efficient motor selection and management tool, MotorMaster+ software includes a catalog of over 20,000 AC motors. This tool features motor inventory management tools, maintenance log tracking, efficiency analysis, savings evaluation, energy accounting, and environmental reporting capabilities….”

    (Hat tip to someone on KQED Radio last night speaking at the World Affairs Council:

    05-0 Three challenges in one: the economy, energy, and the environment (check their Archive website in a week or so, it should be available online)
    http://www.itsyourworld.org/wac/Radio.asp

    Jane C.S. Long, Associate Director, Energy and Environment, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    Dan Reicher, Director for Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, Google.org
    David Victor, Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University

    Replacing one old motor in a furnace cut the house total electricity use by 40 percent overall.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 May 2009 @ 6:25 PM

  554. Another from the eere link:

    The Quick Plant Energy Profiler, Version 2.0

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/pdfs/quickpep_fs.pdf

    Release Date: November 5, 2008
    The Quick Plant Energy Profiler, or Quick PEP, is an online software tool that helps industrial plant personnel quickly diagnose how energy is being used at their plant and the largest opportunities to save energy and money. The tool gives an overview of the energy that a plant purchases and the major energy-consuming systems. Quick PEP tool is your first step in identifying areas for potential savings. Once those areas have been identified, Quick PEP provides a broad list of potential next steps to begin realizing energy and cost savings.

    Version 2.0 includes the addition of Chinese language support for the whole software tool. New features also include an Energy Intensity Spreadsheet for expanded baseline capabilities, and a CO2 Footprint Calculator…..

    ———
    If you haven’t heard of this and you’re a person in a job who makes these decisions, go look.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 May 2009 @ 6:28 PM

  555. MikeN – an 80% reduction in US GHG looks very effective to me. 80% from europe too and you are going somewhere fast. And whats more those cuts on the people who created the problem in the first place. Why do you think it would be ineffective?

    Reduce China’s emission? Easy stop buying chinese goods. A quick look at their export numbers would suggest that it is Western consumption that generates their emissions. More realistically, if China doesnt cap/tax/whatever carbon internally, then tax it at the border.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 6 May 2009 @ 7:16 PM

  556. The country that makes the technology work first will be selling it to those who weren’t as quick.
    Let’s look it up:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=china+goals+sustainable+solar+wind

    Here’s one:

    http://www.wbcsd.org/includes/getTarget.asp?type=DocDet&id=MzQyOTU

    Excerpt follows:
    —————-
    Reuters, 5 May 2009 – China is set to smash its target for a roll-out of solar power by 2020 more than fivefold and possibly even tenfold, a researcher with the National Development and Reform Commission, the economic planning ministry, said on Tuesday.

    The government is expected to unveil an economic stimulus package for renewable energy within the next few months.

    Shi Dinghuan, president of the Chinese Renewable Energy Society, said the 2020 goal for renewable energy would be revised under the new stimulus plan to more than double the 2007 plan.

    China has already more than tripled the 2020 target for wind to 100,000 MW and is expected to easily surpass its nuclear target.

    The revised target for wind could be 100-150 GW, Xinhua news agency quoted sources close to the plan as saying on Tuesday. …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 May 2009 @ 8:04 PM

  557. Martin Vermeer: “On what time scale?” [for sea level increase to compare to altitude change equivalent O2 depletion from 1000ppm CO2]

    How about the expected time to reach 1000 ppm under BAU? I think that is about 200 years.

    John P. Reisman, any response?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 6 May 2009 @ 8:54 PM

  558. Re: Impact of wind electricity on pricing

    I must recommend Mr. Guillet’s article at
    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2009/5/1/174635/6513

    Comment by sidd — 6 May 2009 @ 10:59 PM

  559. Rod B writes:

    James, it sticks in my mind that Texas is also dictating a certain percentage of generation from renewables, regardless of cost. Though if push gets to shove I’ll have to yield to FurryCH — she’s usually much more up on the local power situation.

    Texas also has renewable mandates, but all that does is set the amount that’s going to be purchased. If a utility felt that 20% renewable purchases was a better idea looking forward, they wouldn’t be able to because they’d be stuck buying the lowest price power at auction.

    My guess is that Texas is pretty full up on renewable energy as the farms out in West Texas pump out quite a bit of power.

    On the Really Good News front, I understand that Oncor (the guys who own a lot of distribution here) have a rebate program going and there is a bill in the legislature to to do state-wide rebates.

    On other Really Good News, I spent 5 hours yesterday with lawyers working on a few patents to make renewables more financially beneficial to all parties. Which is about as vague as “Patent Pending” ever gets …

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 7 May 2009 @ 12:18 AM

  560. MikeN Says (6 May 2009 at 11:53):

    ““The carbon price must be sufficient to affect lifestyle choices.” – Jim Hansen

    Anyone still claiming this will be no major inconvenience?”

    Is your last name Pangloss, perchance? I don’t know why else you’d automatically equate a change in lifestyle with inconvenience. My experience has been quite otherwise: over the years I’ve gradually, as circumstances permitted, adopted a lifestyle quite different from the mainstream, one that also (and initially by coincidence, as I’d not really heard of global warming then) gives me a considerably lower than average carbon footprint. Far from being inconvenient, these lifestyle changes were win-win-win: reduced carbon footprint, improved quality of life, and saved money.

    Comment by James — 7 May 2009 @ 12:28 AM

  561. pete best wrote:

    Houses need 50% more efficent insulation, thats a lot an will require great expense to keep houses in keeping and achieve that.

    Houses need to be 50% SMARTER. My A/C at my house runs a lot less than it might otherwise for a host of reasons –

    1). Less waste electricity producing less heat.
    2). More efficient A/C system.
    3). Increased use of layered draperies.
    4). Smarter programmable thermostat.

    The result? My bill was $24 last month, and $9 of that was stupid service charges. Oh — and don’t credit the solar too much. We’ve had a horrible time with clouds for the past several weeks. The real savings — more than what I produce — is from changes that have nothing to do with renewable energy.

    Do you know what device in my house now uses more power than the rest (ignoring A/C)? My laptop. More than the fridge, all the televisions combined, more than the other two computers that have to stay on 24/7. That doesn’t require some great change in insulation. It just requires that energy wasting devices be forced into non-existence by regulatory bodies.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 7 May 2009 @ 12:31 AM

  562. Sidd @ 558:

    That article is somewhat misleading as the actual balancing energy costs are understated, at least for power here in the States.

    Be that as it may, the trend, as I understand it, is to replace fuel-consuming reserves with demand management. Some of my co-inventors when I worked for the Three Letter Company were in New England where they have programs allowing the utility to turn your heat or A/C or water heater, or some other huge load, off for 15 minutes in exchange for a rate discount. Other utilities are experimenting with things like requiring businesses to pre-cool facilities during off-peak hours so that they warm to the correct temperature during peak hours, rather than allowing them to warm during off-peak and then hold during peak. Those strategies have $0.00 costs / MWH, which beats the Euros / MWH quoted in the article.

    Free market capitalism works, but sometimes it needs a swift kick in the butt.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 7 May 2009 @ 12:43 AM

  563. #557 Steve Reynolds

    I’m not a math guy.

    As far as being concerned about oxygen depletion, I’m not. At least not at this time. I have to admit I was too lazy to get into the FACE experiments in the original post you remarked about, so I painted a picture for contrast. But there are indications that increased CO2 may not be as advantageous as some seem to believe.

    In my own mind I seem to recall that larger oxygen concentrations net larger lifeforms on the planet like when dinosaurs walked around, or before then when there was evidence of 100 foot tall ferns. So the contrast still has some validity. I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect greater plant productivity for food with increased CO2 when the oxygen levels are not going up?

    Sorry for the slow reply, I’m on the road and only was able to reply to one item yesterday on another thread.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 7 May 2009 @ 11:33 AM

  564. MineN @551 asks: “So how do people plant to get China to reduce its emissions?”

    You might want to read this (and the linked sources):

    Is China ready to act on climate? Part 2: The green dragon is considering a carbon tax and a major carbon intensity target
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/05/06/china-carbon-tax-carbon-intensity-target/

    Comment by Jim Eager — 7 May 2009 @ 11:39 AM

  565. Joh, the ferns that grew to such massive size in the Triassic and so on were very poor in nutrition. That’s why the eaters were so massive. There’s naff all there, so you need a lot inside you to feed you.

    And who here wants to eat carrots that are more carbon than your pencil?

    Comment by Mark — 7 May 2009 @ 12:14 PM

  566. So it appears Chip has moved firmly from the “it isn’t happening” camp to the “we can’t stop it camp”.

    Has he already joined the “it will be good for us” camp, or will we have to wait awhile for that to happen?

    Comment by dhogaza — 7 May 2009 @ 12:56 PM

  567. FurryCatHerder Says (7 May 2009 at 0:31):

    “Houses need to be 50% SMARTER. My A/C at my house runs a lot less than it might otherwise for a host of reasons –”

    And with the benefit of a different climate (high desert, with typical 40F or more spread between daily high & low), insulation, shade trees, and a willingness to open & close windows means that I stay comfortable despite the fact that my A/C system hasn’t run for a decade.

    “Do you know what device in my house now uses more power than the rest (ignoring A/C)? My laptop.”

    http://www.lesswatts.org – In normal use – just coding, or running a web browser – I consistently run under 20 watts (on a Core2 Duo system). The occasional test runs will of course crank that up quite a bit, but still…

    Comment by James — 7 May 2009 @ 1:54 PM

  568. With reference to Stephen Schneider’s The worst-case scenario, my readings of recent geology research suggests that the actual worst case is a replay of the oceanic anoxic events (nice summary that extends the wiki article) that appear to be associated not only with most mass extinctions in the geologic record, but also with the conditions permitting the deposition of most petroleum source rocks.

    I was not entirely happy with Peter Ward’s Under a Green Sky, which was the first popular science book (that I’m aware of) to focus on the subject. But, I would welcome a review of the subject for popular audiences under RealClimate’s banner.

    Comment by Darryl Roy — 7 May 2009 @ 2:30 PM

  569. Our ship is being blown toward the rocks by a strong wind. The engines have failed.

    The passengers are holding up handkerchiefs to slow down the wind because they were told to “act locally.”

    I, Jim Bullis, says, “Fix the engines. Spare parts are —” I get cut off. Mark says, “That is too many words, he must be deceiving us.” A large group of passengers begins to dismantle the engines so they can reassemble them in a better way. Manuals are thrown overboard.

    Someone says, “Call the Navy.” There is no response to that, everyone thinking the Navy will find it inconvenient to come over and help.

    Gavin explains the inconvenience of going on the rocks.

    Captain Anne van der Bom says, “We have to start somewhere. Lower the anchor.”

    Anchor locker tender, Jim Bullis starts again, “Excuse me Captain, hm, bitter end of anchor chain not secured — ”

    Captain Anne growls at Bullis and restates order. The anchor is released. All agree to send Bullis to the brig on charges of “denialist.”

    Conversations about the wind speed and direction and whether the Navy should be bothered begin again. More handkerchiefs are deployed.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 7 May 2009 @ 2:53 PM

  570. You, Jim Bullis are ignoring that there are no spare parts and that there are enough life rafts for everyone and land is only three miles away.

    But you want EVERYONE to stay on the boat while you fix the engines.

    And then find out it’s too late for the engines to generate enough thrust to stop the ship slamming into the cliffs anyway.

    [Response: Metaphor overload occurring.... - gavin]

    Comment by Mark — 7 May 2009 @ 3:06 PM

  571. Jim, ignoring the ifs in ‘considering a carbon-intensity target’, a carbon intensity target only means that emissions will not grow as fast as the economy. So maybe China’s emissions by 2030 will not be equal to current world emissions. You still have a 20% share that is growing.
    Even if China were to reduce emissions by 30%, the other 80% would have to reduce emissions by 92.5%.

    Comment by MikeN — 7 May 2009 @ 3:30 PM

  572. If warming of 2.1C is reduced to 1.9C is that a major benefit?

    [Response: No. But the difference between 4 deg and 2 deg is. - gavin]

    Comment by MikeN — 7 May 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  573. #565 Mark

    Thanks for the perspective on that.

    Steve Reynolds, maybe you can share your math on the question you are presenting?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 7 May 2009 @ 4:27 PM

  574. John P. Reisman: “…maybe you can share your math on the question you are presenting?

    OK; from:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth's_atmosphere

    Nitrogen (N2) 780,840 ppmv (78.084%)
    Oxygen (O2) 209,460 ppmv (20.946%)
    Argon (Ar) 9,340 ppmv (0.9340%)
    Carbon dioxide (CO2) 383 ppmv (0.0383%)

    If CO2 were to increase to 1000 ppm (from 383 given above) burning carbon with all O2 coming from the atmosphere, then O2 would roughly decrease from 209,460 ppm to 208,843 ppm (since CO2 molecules require equal numbers of O2 molecules). That is a decrease of 0.29%.

    The equivalent altitude increase could be calculated directly, but it’s easier to use the table at:

    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/air-altitude-pressure-d_462.html

    which shows at 3.65% reduction at 1000 feet. So interpolating, the equivalent altitude change for 1000ppm is 80.7 feet or 24.6 m (if I did not make any errors).

    Interestingly, that is within the range of projected sea level increase for 1000ppm. So even if someone gets altitude sickness with an 80 foot increase in altitude, they will not need to move to a lower location; sea level increase will bring the O2 partial pressure back up for them.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 7 May 2009 @ 9:51 PM

  575. Steve R:

    24.6 m (if I did not make any errors).

    Seems about right, my back-of-the-envelope gives the same:

    (600 ppmv / 200,000 ppmv) * 8000 m = 24 m,

    where 600 ppmv is the change in O2 concentration (same as that in CO2 concentration… volumes correspond to molecule counts), 200,000 ppmv is oxygen concentration, and 8000 m the base-e scale height.

    That’s why I asked about the time scale: by 2209 we won’t have 24 m yet, but when Antarctica goes as it will, we’ll certainly exceed it.

    sea level increase will bring the O2 partial pressure back up for them.

    Eh, no… the air displaced by the rising sea will go into the space evacuated by the melting ice ;-)

    (Assuming that (1) all of the sea level rise is due to ice melt, and (2) the densities of sea water and ice are the same. Both assumptions are wrong, the wrongnesses working in opposite directions.)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 May 2009 @ 1:11 AM

  576. Jim @ 528:

    Whatever power source that the government requires the utility to use, that will be used. Once it is in use, the addition of a new load will be handled by available capacity. If that is coal and coal is not heavily handicapped by some government imposed penalty, coal will be burned in response.

    Whether there is a huge penalty or an outright ban on coal use, another fuel would have to be bought on the market. That action will indirectly result in price pressure on that other fuel which will be compensated for by greater coal use somewhere else.

    It will be a long time before new electric loads will not have this effect. In the meantime, it will be far better to simply not use so much energy.

    Ignoring that you’re ignorant of how the electric market works, coal is having problems at present. The energy content per ton is declining, and ignoring ups and downs, the cost is increasing right along with the environmental impacts of removing the tops off of entire mountains.

    Meanwhile, wind capacity is being added globally in the gigawatt range and coal plants — outside of China, pretty much — are facing greater resistance in being built.

    In short, the problem is being fixed. Not as fast as it possibly could, but we’re certainly not racing towards the rocks where some half-baked collection of ideas need to be tried. Wind works. Where wind doesn’t work, people are looking to solar, tidal, and other energy sources. Researchers are coming up with ways to solve the problems that are being caused by renewable energy, investors are putting capital to the task, and apparently the Chinese have discovered that sick people is a bigger problem than power generation.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 8 May 2009 @ 4:41 AM

  577. James @ 567 –

    Sadly, I’m stuck with Windows on the laptop.

    Do have a question — where the heck did you find a power supply that consumes 20 watts total system power in those configurations that will also deliver peak power?!? I’m asking here because I figure there are enough geeks who’d like to know the answer to that one. I’ve looked at a number of 80Plus certified supplies and can’t get total system power while active below 30 watts.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 8 May 2009 @ 4:44 AM

  578. “# MikeN Says:
    7 May 2009 at 3:57 PM

    If warming of 2.1C is reduced to 1.9C is that a major benefit?”

    Is it of no benefit?

    Comment by Mark — 8 May 2009 @ 6:35 AM

  579. Mike N. asks, “If warming of 2.1C is reduced to 1.9C is that a major benefit?”

    If CH4 and CO2 emissions from permafrost were to kick in in a major way at 2 degrees C, yeah, you betcha! It would seem to me that to answer this question, you might want to know a bit more about tipping points.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 May 2009 @ 8:20 AM

  580. >but when Antarctica goes as it will, we’ll certainly exceed it.

    How do yo know it will? What are the minimum temperatures in Antarctica, and how likely is it that warming will exceed that amount?

    Comment by MikeN — 8 May 2009 @ 9:18 AM

  581. “How do yo know it will?”

    Well, it’s been all gone before. And that was with little more (if any) CO2 than we have now. And the sun was a little cooler too.

    So how do you know that, unlike last time, there will be permanent ice in antartica?

    Comment by Mark — 8 May 2009 @ 9:38 AM

  582. Further to 579, is there any major difference between 0.1C and 0.0C? Well, if it’s ice, yes.

    Comment by Mark — 8 May 2009 @ 9:40 AM

  583. Re MikeN @571, Oh, I quite agree that “carbon-intensity targets” will not result in the reduction of a single gram of atmospheric CO2, but China is not the first nation to adopt the carbon-intensity ruse as it’s opening position, the US, Canada and Australia showed the way for them.

    The point is that the hue and cry has long been that China will make no effort towards reining in and reducing its CO2 emissions.
    The fact is they are now at least talking about heading in the right direction.
    The fact is only a few short moths ago “carbon-intensity targets” was the official position the US government as well. Things are changing rapidly.

    China is well aware of the potential harm a warming climate will present to the coastal infrastructure that has produced their economic advancement, and to their ability to feed their population. It is no longer a foregone conclusion that China will not accept CO2 reduction measures.

    Those sticking to the old talking point are being left behind by reality.
    As usual.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 8 May 2009 @ 10:05 AM

  584. FurryCatHerder Says (8 May 2009 at 4:44):

    “Do have a question — where the heck did you find a power supply that consumes 20 watts total system power in those configurations that will also deliver peak power?!?”

    You’re going a bit beyond my level of geekiness (or at least are out of my subject area). I probably should have been a bit more explicit, and said that the power use I quoted comes from the PowerTop program. It’s derived by looking at battery power consumption over a period (and so only works on laptops, though most of the power-saving pointers will work on any machine).

    The power supply I use is the standard “brick” A/C supply that comes with the machine (Lenovo T61), so strictly speaking my actual power use is a bit more than when running on battery due to AC/DC conversion loss. I don’t think that’s much, though: the brick is barely warm to the touch. Would be interesting to use one of those KillAWatt meters to find the total – but not interesting enough to justify buying one :-)

    PS: My objective – and it was a bit of work, messing around with compiling custom kernels and so on – wasn’t actually saving a few watts of power. I just wanted to get rid of the noise from the system fan. Which I suppose is yet another way in which energy efficiency pays off. Plus I can run on battery longer…

    Comment by James — 8 May 2009 @ 12:34 PM

  585. Martin: “the air displaced by the rising sea will go into the space evacuated by the melting ice ”

    OK, that is partly true, but assumes the ice was very close to sea level. For the high altitude ice in Greenland and Antartica that space is at lower pressure. So sea level rise will still partially ofset O2 depletion…

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 8 May 2009 @ 1:47 PM

  586. Re #585 Steve R. fair enough… but actually much of the ice is close to sea level. Antarctica goes up to 4.5 km, but most is lower, as is Greenland. And, even under a high ice surface much of the ice volume is close to sea level. Only a precise numerical computation can tell…

    #580 MikeN:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png

    All it takes is three degrees, and 1000 ppmv gives a lot more than that.

    True, the land masses geometry was different back then, but still…

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 May 2009 @ 3:12 PM

  587. So what are the maximum temperatures in Antarctica right now? Doesn’t it have to exceed -3C for a 3C warming to melt ice there?

    Comment by MikeN — 9 May 2009 @ 1:14 PM

  588. MikeN, Antarctica is a pretty big place. Parts of it regularly exceed -3C, including the underside of much of the grounded ice shelves.

    You might want to read:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/state-of-antarctica-red-or-blue/langswitch_lang/ww

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/warm-reception-to-antarctic-warming-story/langswitch_lang/ww

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/02/antarctic-warming-is-robust/langswitch_lang/ww

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 May 2009 @ 4:19 PM

  589. Furry at #576

    I realize this means me, Jim @ 528:

    You say, “Ignoring that you’re ignorant of how the electric market works,–”

    Response: I would be happy to hear where my description goes wrong.

    And you say, “– coal is having problems at present. The energy content per ton is declining,–”

    Response: Actually, coal is holding its energy content quite nicely. We have been shifting massively to use of coal of lower heat content from the Powder River Basin in particular. It is about a fifth as expensive and it is a lot lower in sulfur. About half the revenue of the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads is from hauling it.

    And you say regarding coal, “– the cost is increasing –”

    Response: The Powder River Basin coal that has become the backbone of the power generation world was sold and delivered last year at about $12 per ton, but contracts are now being written at around $21 per ton. At $21 per ton, it works out to about $1 per million BTU (compared to natural gas that averaged around $6 per million BTU, and varies wildly)

    And you say, “– right along with the environmental impacts of removing the tops off of entire mountains–”

    Response: Environmental impacts must be strongly controlled. Mining companies must be held responsible for damages. But the Powder River Basin coal operation has not much to do with problems in Appalachia. It is of course a massive open pit mine and they do indeed scrape off a lot of dirt to get the stuff, low grade that it is. And yes, the low grade coal is stable in the ground so it is subject to being estimated with confidence. The Powder River Basin field alone contains about a thousand years supply at current rates of consumption.

    A debate that addresses these points could be interesting. I think it would conclude with understanding that coal will be the primary fuel used to run electric cars, unless we find a very much more effective approach. When we consider the scale of the problem, reality is seriously lacking in the present set of actions under consideration.

    In this light, we should consider the implications of GM’s plan to shift to electric energy to drive cars. Also check Andy Grove’s plan for “energy resiliency.” And then look at the 100 MPG Hummer, the 100 MPG Fisker, the 100 MPG Bright van, and keep on looking into the 100+ MPG converted Prius cars. (References on request.) DO YOU THINK THEY CARE ABOUT CO2? Maybe there is some deceit going on here.

    As to the potential of wind, solar, etc. Great, but if the costs are not fully recognized, these represent “half baked plans.” The question is affordability on the scale required to actually impact the nature of the response of the electric grid to added loads, not to mention the scale required to actually displace coal as the primary fuel that it is due to its great abundance and low cost.

    I might add that any near term plan to curtail coal use will depend on availability of natural gas. It might be a very important bridge to future more ideal energy sources. I suggest we look carefully at the statement that this fuel is abundant. I give a clue: Natural gas does not exist stably in place, subject to simple measurement of its abundance. I have not come to a firm conclusion, but I am much concerned that the domestic supply of this fuel is not so abundant as we have heard, and so we need to be careful about how we propose to use it.

    I am concerned that impractical solutions, hastily implemented, could turn out to be ineffective with the resulting failure hard to rectify when the public has been disillusioned.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 May 2009 @ 4:34 PM

  590. Anne:

    Implying no comment on the rest of your discussion, one may wish to take The Register with a grain or two of salt.

    Try search for globalwarming. At least right now, the first item is:

    “2060: Humvee-sized, bulletproof meat-eating spiders attack”

    and there are many more fascinating articles.

    Comment by John Mashey — 11 May 2009 @ 1:25 AM

  591. Jim,

    I stand by my comments. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powder_River_Basin for a discussion of your favorite coal mining region. The reason that energy content per ton is falling is, as they say, “All the good ones are taken”. It doesn’t matter what the BTU content is for natural gas, compared to coal, only that the energy content per ton for coal is falling as poorer quality coal reserves are tapped to make up for declining higher quality reserves.

    There is a pilot project planned to put hydro power in the Mississippi. If I caught the news correctly, leases are being taken on every bend in the river south of the Louisiana border.

    Really — not sure why you’ve got this thing against renewable energy, or why you don’t see that the future is very bright, but the stuff works and the future is rather green. We just need the nay-sayers to get the heck out of the way.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 12 May 2009 @ 7:56 AM

  592. MikeN #587:

    So what are the maximum temperatures in Antarctica right now? Doesn’t it have to exceed -3C for a 3C warming to melt ice there?

    Ehm, it’s not like the ice cube in your whiskey glass ;-) . It doesn’t have to melt in place. Are you aware of the dynamics of continental ice sheets?

    It’s the shelves that go first. Then, the glaciers that they buttress speed up. And eventually, the mass balance of the whole ice sheet goes negative.

    There is a lot that is not yet understood in this, but the phenomenon is real enough.

    For starters:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_sheet_dynamics

    Usual caveats for Wikipedia content.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 12 May 2009 @ 8:45 AM

  593. > About half the revenue of the Union Pacific and Burlington
    > Northern Santa Fe railroads is from hauling it.

    Hmmm, anyone done scenarios for operating railroads with fewer coal trains in the system? Maintenance would change as well as accessibility for other uses. I recall one of the big Amtrak delays is to get out of the way of coal trains, and another is for the maintenance demanded by the heavy traffic.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 May 2009 @ 10:22 AM

  594. #592 Hank Roberts,

    It is immediately obvious that significant reduction of revenue of any business will be at the expense of the stockholders and employees of that business. That is true for any coal related businesses, whether it be railroads or coal mining. A study would be helpful in trying to phase in changes to mitigate the damage, but any significant limitation on coal use will be a burden to some. A strong economy could handle the transition, probably ok; where we lack competitive industrial activity, we will have serious problems.

    Of course that would have positive and negative impacts. Maybe the Amtrak trains would not have to sit so often on sidings, but also, maybe the tracks would not be maintained. A lot of time could be spent studying these things; I tend to think this could detract from looking at the major economic issues.

    It also seems clear that we are in for some serious trouble if our solutions are in the form of government regulation, where certain activities are banned or taxed away by whatever mechanism. I certainly agree that we have to find a way to not use coal. However, my orientation is to try to find new ways to meet our needs that will minimize our need to produce CO2. The goal should be the quantitative result, not any specific campaign against a target industry.

    For example, maybe a large reduction in oil usage could be accompanied by a small increase in coal usage. If the net outcome was a significant quantitative CO2 reduction, that should be allowed as a possibility.

    A bad course of action might be to assume large amounts of renewable energy or cleaner fuels, and massively shift to electric energy to drive our cars. And as a result we would make cars even bigger and more inefficient. Then if ensuing events failed to meet our assumptions, we could end up with a large increase in coal usage and a large net increase in CO2 emissions. I have tried to point out examples in previous comments here of the Plug-In Hummer, the Fisker, the Bright van, and the plan by Andy Grove to convert “the most inefficient” vehicles into plug-in operation since these seem to be signs of how to do things very badly.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 May 2009 @ 12:47 PM

  595. Correction of my #594, “I certainly agree that we have to find a way to not use coal.” I should have said, “We have to find ways to stop wasteful use of coal.”

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 May 2009 @ 12:53 PM

  596. #591
    Furry,

    I looked at your link to Wikipedia on Powder River Basin coal.

    But you said, “Ignoring that you’re ignorant of how the electric market works, coal is having problems at present. The energy content per ton is declining, and ignoring ups and downs, the cost is increasing right along with the environmental impacts of removing the tops off of entire mountains.”

    The Wikipedia article fails to mention my ignorance. Neither would it support any claim that the energy content is declining. It correctly shows the cost averages for that specific kind of coal to agree with my information. The average they use of $15 per ton agrees with my statement that it was $12 per ton and now it is being contracted at about $21 per ton. I made the conversions necessary to provide dollars per million BTU to show the overwhelming advantage that that coal at that price has relative to any other fuel choice. Thus, I tried to point out that it is the favored economic choice and any business entity will have great difficulty not choosing it as the most sensible means of filling demand.

    The Wikipedia article also makes clear that the mining operations in the Powder River Basin have nothing to do with and compare very favorably with the Appalachian operations that involved removing mountain tops. However, the article does not clarify that the Appalachian coal is much higher in heat content, much higher in sulphur content, and much higher in price per ton. And historically, a lot more people have been killed per ton mining coal in Appalachia. The Powder River Basin mining operations have remarkably good safety records, if I recall correctly.

    Please try to understand that by trying to bring factual understanding of the problem that I am advocating mindless, wasteful use of coal. Furthermore, natural gas produces about half as much CO2 for the same amount of heat energy. I see this as a very difficult problem, since it seems that this is the only thing that can step up to the necessary scale in the near time frame.

    Neither should the above be taken to mean I am against renewables in any way. I am against false information about renewables, and I find it hypocritical where some such “renewables” are misrepresented such that a lot of well intentioned effort is put into what could be analytically shown to be an ineffective pursuit. Also, much of the time I do not think it is hypocritical, but in zealous efforts to find good answers it is easy for people to overlook details. Only when people talk with real numbers do we have a chance of making fair evaluations. I have to say, I have been disappointed over many years of searching for better power systems. That gets to be a long story.

    I hope to not be seen as a “nay sayer” because I say no to bad ideas. I try to not say no lightly, rather I base my conclusions on significant thought. Often, I am only asking questions where it seems there is important information missing from the discussion. I also should say that I have quite a lot of background in these subject areas.

    But in the end, I agree that it is easy to be a critic and a lot harder to come up with real answers. So I have put a lot of effort into finding constructive alternatives. My set of answers is growing but it seems that there is always a need for some adaptation if they are to become meaningful. Such adaptation will not happen as long as false expectations are held out for easier solutions. Thus, I do sometimes have a vested interest in challenging things that seem like easy solutions which are actually false hopes that stand in the way of real progress.

    It may sound vain, but I think that rather than being in the way, I am way out ahead in finding real answers. Indeed it is vain, but you have to be a bit vain to think you can make big changes to the system.

    I see I missed discussing “how the market works” to the degree needed to explain the complete problem with coal, though I touched on it when I mentioned the cost advantage of coal. The economic coupling effects are a bit complicated, and that can wait for another time.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 12 May 2009 @ 1:44 PM

  597. Hank writes:

    Hmmm, anyone done scenarios for operating railroads with fewer coal trains in the system? Maintenance would change as well as accessibility for other uses. I recall one of the big Amtrak delays is to get out of the way of coal trains, and another is for the maintenance demanded by the heavy traffic.

    The future needs to include more freight by rail, not less. Yeah, some things are going to be taken off the rails (mile long coal trains, being one of them), but over the road freight needs to go ON the rails and more trucks pass any given busy interstate highway point than rail cars (other than coal trains …) of an equivalent capacity. And that means better, stronger rail systems capable of handling still more freight.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 12 May 2009 @ 7:07 PM

  598. Jim,

    I’ve not provided any false information about renewable energy. I’ve spent a number of years now trying to understand both the potential for renewable energy and the problems. Based on those two, and with a number of other engineers at Three Letter Computers, Inc, we looked at what technology was available, where the technology was going, and what problems were going to be created through several generations of grid and renewable energy management technology in the pipeline.

    I’m obviously very biased in favor of myself, but the problems that myself and my co-inventors have solved were the problems I spoke against (and I was aware of the limitation several years ago when I first started posting here) and they are some of the key limits to renewable energy penetration. Based on what we did, what research I’ve studied, and what technologies are out there tomorrow, there really just aren’t any limitations other than working capital and industrial capacity.

    There are those who can and do, and those who write about it and don’t. I produced 13.2KWH of electricity so far today. Thanks to earlier energy conservation measures, that’s going to cover 100% of the power consumption inside my house (my A/C compressor is outside …) for the entire day, with two full loads of laundry, recharging my electric motorcycle, and charging the dead battery in my Corvette because it’s an old Corvette and I’ve not bothered fixing the radio that causes the battery to die. I’ll no doubt watch a few hours of TV one of my 3 HD TVs, catch up on some programming on one of my 5 computers, and do power testing on a 3TB Network Attached Storage box I’m working on. All on the power from 16 solar panels.

    It’s just a fact, you can’t argue against it, and you and the rest of the “it can’t be done!” folks need to get over yourselves.

    As for the state of coal, by total BTUs mined, coal has now peaked. Coal isn’t and can’t be the answer, no matter how much you want it to be, the Chinese want it to be, or the Republican Party wants it to be. Needing a growing amount of a declining resource is a really bad idea.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 12 May 2009 @ 7:27 PM

  599. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (12 May 2009 at 12:47)

    “I have tried to point out examples in previous comments here of the Plug-In Hummer, the Fisker, the Bright van, and the plan by Andy Grove…”

    But you need to also consider a few examples at the other end of the spectrum, such as the Aptera, Tesla*, Mitsubishi’s (IIRC) iMiev… Electric vehicles that would use much less energy than the current average, even if they were powered by gasoline engines.

    *It’s worth noting that the Tesla is essentially a Lotus with electric propulsion. So guess which automaker had the highest US CAFE number last year? Lotus.

    Comment by James — 13 May 2009 @ 12:49 AM

  600. #598 Furry,

    When I spoke about false information I was referring to general and widespread practices, not you in particular. However, I think I disagree with some of your conclusions. A first hand example in your last: You say, “As for the state of coal, by total BTUs mined, coal has now peaked.” I think this is incorrect, but this is not something you are alone in thinking.

    Look at Fig. 66 of http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1202/pdf/ofr2008-1202.pdf This was before me a link from Joe Romm, so you need not add it to my list of sins. Check Joe Romm’s points at http://climateprogress.org/2009/01/06/are-we-approaching-peak-coal-part-1/#comments

    Joe Romm thought this figure told us that coal had peaked, as you seem to be saying, and would only last for another 35 years. I think he based that on an assumed price of $12 per ton, which is no longer relevant. As I recall it was the price example used by the USGS analyst. However, at current contracting prices around $21 per ton the reserves extend to about 75 years, and the curve is fairly low sloped out far beyond that. Note also that coal pricing is not open information; it is considered competitive data that is not for public knowledge.

    I insist however that I am providing information and making points about the serious implications of such. Is it really necessary to group me with the Republican Party? Even the Chinese might object to being grouped with that Republican Party.

    But perhaps we can get back to a quantitative discussion. What is the peak rating on your solar panel? What was its true real cost before rebates and other incentives? Do you think it represents an installation that we all can afford, such that it could be adopted on a large scale basis? If so, and only if so, that will have an impact on coal usage.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 13 May 2009 @ 12:59 AM

  601. re 595, no you had it right the first time.

    If some huge tragedy comes up where a pulse of energy is needed, there will still be easily available oil/coal/gas if we stop using it all up before it’s gone.

    Comment by Mark — 13 May 2009 @ 1:59 AM

  602. Seems we’re more likely to have some huge tragedy where a pulse of energy is the problem, though.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL037525.shtml

    McPhee, M. G., A. Proshutinsky, J. H. Morison, M. Steele, and M. B. Alkire (2009), Rapid change in freshwater content of the Arctic Ocean, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L10602, doi:10.1029/2009GL037525.

    “… The dramatic reduction in minimum Arctic sea ice extent in recent years has been accompanied by surprising changes in the thermohaline structure of the Arctic Ocean, with potentially important impact on convection in the North Atlantic and the meridional overturning circulation of the world ocean ….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 May 2009 @ 5:33 PM

  603. A late addition, and semi-off topic–I chose this thread because it’s under the “Greenhouse Gases” category–but I’ve got a “life and times” article up on Claude Pouillet, the protean–but too little remembered–French physicist credited with the first estimate of what we now call the solar constant, and in particular his 1838 paper Mémoire sur la chaleur solaire, sur les pouvoirs rayonnants et absorbants de l’air atmosphérique, et sur les températures de l’espace.

    Pouillet was an elegant experimentalist, and refined Fourier’s work on atmospheric heat transport. As with the Fourier article that preceded it, the present page is more focused on the life and times of the subject, and less on the scientific detail–I’m trying to supply context, not so much to elaborate or interpret the paper itself. Those looking for “human face” accounts of classic GW science may check it out at:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Science-of-Global-Warming-in-the-age-of-Napoleon-III

    Those interested in the original paper itself can find it here:

    http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/PALE:ClassicArticles/GlobalWarming/Article2

    Next up, Tyndall. . .

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 11 Jun 2009 @ 12:10 PM

  604. I am confused about one paragraph in the accompanying article “Climate crunch: A burden beyond bearing” by Richard Monasterksy in the same 29 April 2009 issue of Nature.

    Under the section “Slow Recovery” (p. 1093), Monastersky summarizes the accompanying Meinshausen et al. 2009 article, stating “For the period 2000 to 2050, they find that the world would have to limit emissions of all greenhouse gases to the equivalent of 400 gigatonnes of carbon in order to stand a 75% chance of avoiding more than 2°C of warming.”

    However, I can’t find the 400 GT figure in the Meinshausen et al. article. Instead, Meinshausen et al. say: “…we find that the probability of exceeding 2°C can be limited to below 25% (50%) by keeping 2000?49 cumulative CO2 emissions from fossil sources and land use change to below 1,000 (1,440) Gt CO2″

    Where does Monastersky’s 400 GT figure come from?

    Comment by Eric Rehm — 18 Jun 2009 @ 1:50 PM

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