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The tragedy of climate commons

Filed under: — gavin @ 7 May 2009 - (Svenska)

Imagine a group of 100 fisherman faced with declining stocks and worried about the sustainability of their resource and their livelihoods. One of them works out that the total sustainable catch is about 20% of what everyone is catching now (with some uncertainty of course) but that if current trends of increasing catches (about 2% a year) continue the resource would be depleted in short order. Faced with that prospect, the fishermen gather to decide what to do. The problem is made more complicated because some groups of fishermen are much more efficient than the others. The top 5 catchers, catch 20% of the fish, and the top 20 catch almost 75% of the fish. Meanwhile the least efficient 50 catch only 10% of the fish and barely subsist. Clearly, fairness demands that the top catchers lead the way in moving towards a more sustainable future.

The top 5 do start discussing how to manage the transition. They realise that the continued growth in catches – driven by improved technology and increasing effort – is not sustainable, and make a plan to reduce their catch by 80% over a number of years. But there is opposition – manufacturers of fishing boats, tackle and fish processing plants are worried that this would imply less sales for them in the short term. Strangely, they don’t seem worried that a complete collapse of the fishery would mean no sales at all – preferring to think that the science can’t possibly be correct and that everything will be fine. These manufacturers set up a number of organisations to advocate against any decreases in catch sizes – with catchy names like the Fisherfolk for Sound Science, and Friends of Fish. They then hire people who own an Excel spreadsheet program do “science” for them – and why not? They live after all in a free society.

After spending much energy and money on trying to undermine the science – with claims that the pond is much deeper than it looks, that the fish are just hiding, that the records of fish catches were contaminated by being done near a supermarket – the continued declining stocks and smaller and smaller fish make it harder and harder to sound convincing. So, in a switch of tactics so fast it would impress Najinsky, the manufacturers’ lobby suddenly decides to accept all that science and declares that the ‘fish are hiding’ crowd are just fringe elements. No, they said, we want to help with this transition, but …. we need to be sure that the plans will make sense. So they ask their spreadsheet-wielding “advocacy scientists” to calculate exactly what would happen if the top 5 (and only the top 5) did cut their catches by 80%, but meanwhile everyone else kept increasing their catch at the current (unsustainable rate). Well, the answers were shocking – the total catch would be initially still be 84% of what it is now and would soon catch up with current levels. In fact, the exact same techniques that were used to project the fishery collapse imply that this would only delay the collapse by a few years! and what would be the point of that?

The fact that the other top fishermen are discussing very similar cuts and that the fisherfolk council was trying to coordinate these actions to minimise the problems that might emerge, are of course ignored and the cry goes out that nothing can be done. In reality of course, the correct lesson to draw is that everything must be done.

In case you think that no-one would be so stupid as to think this kind of analysis has any validity, I would ask that you look up the history of the Newfoundland cod fishery. It is indeed a tragedy.

And the connection to climate? Here.

I’ll finish with a quotation attributed to Edmund Burke, one the founders of the original conservative movement:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

See here for a much better picture of what coordinated action could achieve.


1,401 Responses to “The tragedy of climate commons”

  1. 1301

    Wilmot McCutchen writes:

    And the chemical capture that worked with SO2 scrubbers has not been developed for post-combustion CO2 capture at powdered coal power plants.

    So let them reduce their emissions by building more renewable energy generation instead of fossil fuel. Works for me.

    In addition, the SOx cap resulted in a switch to low-sulfur low grade coal from the Powder River Basin, which hurt the heartland coal industry just as manufacturing was being pushed offshore.

    I’m sorry for the workers, but in the long run it’s not a good idea to subsidize a harmful industry just to keep the people in it employed. Ending slavery abruptly really hurt the southern cotton industry, but that wasn’t a good reason to maintain slavery. Let’s give coal miners retraining and preference for jobs in the wind or solar or railroad or biofuel or insulation industries.

  2. 1302

    Rod B,

    There’s a link in one of the earlier threads right here. I’ll see if I can’t find it.

  3. 1303

    Rod B @ 1299:

    Barton (1283), the 9 cent and 10 cent figures have been mentioned many times; but I can’t find them anywhere. Can you reference them? Are they retail charges for wind and coal? Can a retail user order wind or coal and get those prices? How do they fit with the almost 13 cents per kWHr average overall for California?

    They certainly aren’t generating costs — the average wholesale electric cost in California is something like $7 / MWh off-peak and $19 / MWh on-peak. Obviously, divide by 1,000 to get wholesale cost per KWh.

    As regards ordering wind or coal, 100% of my electricity purchased from TXU Energy is “Wind”, with the result being that my monthly charges don’t include a fuel surcharge. So, if you wanted to do that, you’d need to find an electric plan that was 100% wind or whatever other renewables there are.

  4. 1304
    Hank Roberts says:

    New climate-PR-lobbying profiles from prwatch:

    http://www.prwatch.org/node/8382
    The Cato Institute’s Generous Funding

    http://www.prwatch.org/node/8377
    Climate Lobbying Heats Up
    ______________________
    “sulphite advance” says ReCaptcha

  5. 1305
    bobberger says:

    Yes, virtualization – welcome to the 20th century. We’ve been doing that since the 50s and the fact that it may take a couple of decades to trickle down to playstation level not withstanding, it would have happened even if computers would run on free air rather than electricity. Coming back to the original point of the argument – apart from the mathematically disabled SUV driver who supposedly goes through a sudden burst of menthal arithmetic triggered by the shock of unexpectedly risen energy taxes, I still have to hear a convincing example for how making energy more expensive makes us richer rather than poorer. “Us” not “I know a guy who is so stupid and sexually insecure that he bought a SUV to impress his girlfriend and the neighbors and now suddenly discovers, that he could save money by driving a smaller car”.

  6. 1306
    Mark says:

    1300: It was classed as a truck not a car and that meant tax breaks and a by on the emissions requirements, both making it cheaper to produce.

    Using a car chassis instead of a truck made it cheaper than a truck to make too.

  7. 1307
    Mark says:

    1296: does the sun not shine on the US too?

  8. 1308
    dhogaza says:

    It was classed as a truck not a car and that meant tax breaks and a by on the emissions requirements, both making it cheaper to produce.

    Also, at the time, at least, there was a relatively steep duty put on imported trucks that was levied in an attempt to secure this market for US companies from the Japanese.

    Getting SUVs classified as trucks made it initially more difficult for the Japanese to compete against this new class of vehicle.

    Since after not too many years Toyota entered the pickup market and they and others the SUV market (except Honda, who vowed not to for environmental reasons), I assume that duty went away? Maybe when they started manufacturing operations in the US? Anyone remember? I’m too lazy to track it down in Google (’cause it ain’t all that important).

  9. 1309
    Rod B says:

    FurryCatHerder, but something is askew when going from anecdote to general process. Is your TXU wind price per kWHr less than whatever? What happens then if every TXU customer and all Californians (say served by PGE) does the clearly logical thing and orders wind generation from their supplier?

  10. 1310
    Rod B says:

    Mark, I understand the price break from CAFE and truck frames and all, but I’m not familiar with what tax breaks the SUV gets over a sedan.

  11. 1311
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=what+tax+breaks+does+a+SUV+get+over+a+sedan%3F

    CONs of New SUV Tax Break – Reasons SUV Loophole is Bad
    Of those opposed to the new SUV tax break, the following reasons are …
    4wheeldrive.about.com/cs/drivingtipssafety/a/aa041603a_4.htm

    http://alternativefuels.about.com/od/flexfuelsffvs/a/08e85compatible.htm

  12. 1312

    Rod B @ 1309:

    That’s not anecdotal — those two values came off the CAISO website and showed daily projected costs for yesterday (6/6) as well as the load profile. So, a peak of $19 / MWh is a real number for wholesale power. A value of $0.08 / KWh equates to $80 / MWh, so as you can see there is markup for transmission, distribution, etc.

    My own personal electric bill is a mess because I make so much of my own power that the cost per KWh is skewed by fees — a $6.25 per month customer charge and a $2.81 per month “smart meter recovery charge.” I only used about 100 KWh in April, so more than $0.09 / KWh was added as “fees”. Also, TXU Energy has stolen about 600KWh from me since December, so I won’t have a clue what my real costs are until they pay me for what they took.

    What’s happened in this area — Texas — is that when “renewable energy” becomes fully-subscribed, they just stop offering it as a product. So, if there’s no more “wind power”, I’ve got mine and the next person is just out of luck. This is obviously a signal to the utilities that there is demand, so they go make more. And they have been “making more” for several years now.

    To give you an idea of the demand, I understand that Austin Energy, the City of Austin municipally owned utility, has “run out” several times and put people on waiting lists. A few years ago I tried to sign up with Green Mountain Energy, a wind power provider, and they were all sold out.

  13. 1313
    Rod B says:

    FurryCatHerder, I appreciate your analysis; but it’s missing my point. The statement was made that wind power costs 9 cents per kWHr and 10 cents for coal power in California and implied as being representative. I wanted to verify those numbers and if valid on average why would anyone pay 10 cents and presumably 14-15 cents for gas powered. Or if wind costs 9 cents but there isn’t any available what good are those numbers for making economic comparative purposes?

  14. 1314
    James says:

    bobberger Says (7 juin 2009 at 3:48 PM):

    “Yes, virtualization – welcome to the 20th century.”

    Huh? Where the heck does virtualization come into it? It’s a simple matter of optimizing performance against energy cost.

    “I still have to hear a convincing example for how making energy more expensive makes us richer rather than poorer.”

    Could be you’re suffering from the same basic problem as the climate denialists: you don’t want to be convinced, therefore you refuse to admit that any possible example is convincing. So turn it around, and show how & where that SUV example is false. Falsification is the basis of science, is it not?

  15. 1315
    James says:

    dhogaza Says (7 juin 2009 at 5:24 PM):

    “Since after not too many years Toyota entered the pickup market…”

    Just a minor point: Toyota had been in the pickup market for at least a couple of decades before the SUV was invented. At one time I owned a ’68 (IIRC) Toyota Stout pickup (aptly named, since I rescued it from an employer’s junk yard after he’d rolled it), and later an early ’70s “Sport Truck”.

  16. 1316

    James

    I note you have not responded to my recent posts (especially #1242). You said you wanted to have a reasonable discussion? Have you given up on that idea?

    Or is this one of those patience things, and you are still thinking?

  17. 1317
    Mark says:

    1313 RodB: They are genuine figures.

    If you have others, give them over.

    But, California uses those figures.

    You don’t need to see two white swans to come to a working conclusion that swans are white.

  18. 1318
    Mark says:

    1310.

    a) If CAFE standards do not cost to comply, why the complaints at it being brought in.
    b) If something is cheaper to make, the free market will have it cheaper to buy.

    Ah, I get it, you’re going “I don’t get it” like the bad guy from “Big”.

  19. 1319
    JCH says:

    There were a lot of these, including 4×4 versions, in the driveways of families in my hometown:

    http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/PickupTrucks/1960_International_Travelall-green-brochure.jpg

    And Toyota had the Land Cruiser at about the same time.

  20. 1320
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 1314

    Hey James,

    Your “Falsification is the basis of science, is it not?” statement appears to be in error. The basis of science is observation and then quantification… From there you develop the ability to begin to make predictions related to phenomena. A hypothesis, formed during observation, can become a theory once the quantification leads to an accurate prediction. Hopefully if the theory can be seen to occur during all possible examples of a phenomena a hypothesis can reach the level of principle or law.

    Regardless, falsification is not the basis of science; but, the attempt to discredit a theory, as it has been formed. If the theory can be discredited, then it can be modified so as to apply to a specific set of circumstances, or discarded. This is similar to Newtonian physics versus Einsteinian physics of motion, energy or matter… Both are accurate within certain parameters; however, when moving from large particle to atomic particle physics things begin to not work out to definite values with Newtonian physics.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  21. 1321
    Mark says:

    LDC, the falsification (or falsifiability) is what makes a hypothesis scientific.

    It is also the best guard against bias.

    It doesn’t matter if you WANT to believe that the earth is flat, but the shape of the sun’s shadow on the earth proves that the flat earth is incorrect. Libration of the moon shows that it is not flat either.

    Flat earth is at least falsifiable.

    Falsifiability is the basis of IMPROVEMENTS of science. Without it we have interesting theories and no way to find out whether we have it “right enough”.

  22. 1322
    Ike Solem says:

    James says:
    “US support, or lack of it, is irrelevant, because the US really has nothing to do with such projects.”

    Really? Nothing to do with the Nabucco pipeline, or the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, or the Alaskan pipeline to the tar sands? Nothing to do with?

    If you look at the numbers, you see that both domestically and internationally, the U.S. government is opposed to renewable replacements for fossil fuels. This is also true of the Iranian government, which just announced $200 billion in oil sector investments, with nothing for solar.

    It’s not true of the rest of the world, however:
    Surprising Green Energy Investment Trends Found Worldwide, ScienceDaily (June 7, 2009)

    These regions experienced a slow-down in the financing of new renewable energy projects due to the lack of project finance and the fact that tax credit-driven markets are mostly ineffective in a downturn.

    With developed country market growth stalled (down 1.7%), developing countries surged forward 27% over 2007 to $36.6 billion, accounting for nearly one third of global investments.

    China led new investment in Asia, with an 18% increase over 2007 to $15.6 billion, mostly in new wind projects, and some biomass plants.

    Investment in India grew 12% to $4.1 billion in 2008. Brazil accounted for almost all renewable energy investment in Latin America in 2008, with ethanol receiving $10.8 billion, up 76% from 2007. Africa achieved a modest increase by comparison, with investments up 10% to approximately $1.1 billion.

    What happened in the U.S.? We had hundreds of billions in bailouts. for private banks and car manufacturers (GM is among the worst on climate change), and nothing for renewable energy development. $30 billion to GM, they went bankrupt anyway, and nothing to Tesla, which could easily become a world leader in electric cars with a little suppport. The banks in question then took the bailout money and used it to buy up supertankers and fill them with oil; now you have more efforts to drive up prices on the oil futures market – all financed by the U.S. taxpayer, with the underlying theme being that high oil prices are the same thing as economic recovery.

    To the insane, insanity looks like normality.

  23. 1323
    bobberger says:

    >”“Yes, virtualization – welcome to the 20th century.”

    Huh? Where the heck does virtualization come into it? It’s a simple matter of optimizing performance against energy cost.”

    Yes, I agree 100%. My remark was in response to #1292.

    >”Could be you’re suffering from the same basic problem as the climate denialists: you don’t want to be convinced, therefore you refuse to admit that any possible example is convincing. So turn it around, and show how & where that SUV example is false. Falsification is the basis of science, is it not?”

    Not really. Falsification in science is relevant when it comes to hypothesis or theories. Examples of the “I know a guy” category are neither. And, seriously, regarding how easily you’re jumping to conclusions about “basic problems” of “climate denialists” and some other stuff you’ve written here, I don’t doubt for a second that you really happen to personally know the people you derive your strange examples from. No falsification required.

  24. 1324

    Rod B @ 1313:

    FurryCatHerder, I appreciate your analysis; but it’s missing my point. The statement was made that wind power costs 9 cents per kWHr and 10 cents for coal power in California and implied as being representative. I wanted to verify those numbers and if valid on average why would anyone pay 10 cents and presumably 14-15 cents for gas powered. Or if wind costs 9 cents but there isn’t any available what good are those numbers for making economic comparative purposes?

    No, it was answering the question — no one can say “such-and-such power costs $xxx” without understanding the basis for that. Unless Mark can show where his numbers for wind / gas / solar / whatever come from, my statement is that they are just marketing numbers someone made up. The market clearing prices for wholesale power are what I stated — that’s the real cost. The rest is transmission, distribution, regulation, profit, etc.

    Now, why would someone say “Wind is $0.09 / KWh” if there isn’t any for someone else to buy? Because it provides the incentive to build more. Utilities can’t just raise the rates because of demand. There are efforts, as part of the entire “smart grid” process, to add real-time pricing. How that would pan out, who knows — if my house can’t respond to real-time price signals, what good is that?

    – Julie.

  25. 1325
    Rod B says:

    Mark, et al, I guess I’m just not skilled at search ’cause I can not find those numbers (9 and 10 cents per kWh) anywhere. But beyond that minor point I still can’t comprehend why then every/most electric users in CA would order anything other than wind. (I assume the baseload/backup needed from gas or other would be included in the retail price.)

    Swans are white? Well, I’ll be!

  26. 1326
    bobberger says:

    > “You don’t need to see two white swans to come to a working conclusion that swans are white.”

    … and you’d be wrong.

  27. 1327
    Rod B says:

    Mark, you brought up emission/CAFE standards as allowing in part lower production costs for SUVs which I agree with but is insignificant and irrelevant to my question, which was RE tax breaks. The only thing that I’m aware of is faster depreciation allowed for the larger SUVs which is at best a fanciful “tax break.”

  28. 1328
    Rod B says:

    FurryCatHerder (1324), you said “…no one can say “such-and-such power costs $xxx” …” but that is precisely what Barton has said and which I was simply looking to clarify.

  29. 1329
    Mark says:

    re 1328, because it depends on where you’re making the power, the infrastructure already there, etc.

    But you CAN say “It costs xxx in California”. Mostly because that’s what it costs in California.

  30. 1330
    Mark says:

    “Mark, et al, I guess I’m just not skilled at search ’cause I can not find those numbers (9 and 10 cents per kWh) anywhere.”

    Well, what numbers DO you find?

    If you cant find any other numbers (hint: look at what company is producing solar/wind/gas/etc power. They will have how much power they produced and how much their operating costs were, which will give you the price per watt), then why the squark about “how do you know those numbers”?

  31. 1331
    James says:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) Says (8 juin 2009 at 12:19 AM):

    “I note you have not responded to my recent posts (especially #1242).”

    I did respond. The post seems not to have made it past the moderators. I’ll recap, briefly.

    The reasons why I’m offended by your choice of name: First, it’s the custom in every internet forum I’ve ever participated in to use screen names, and to respect others’ privacy. Second, that you add “OSS Foundation”

    “With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion
    Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
    As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle,
    And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’”

    (to add to the recent Shakespearean theme). You can’t be just one of the ordinary people here?

    As to the rest, I would respond if I could make some sort of sense out of it, but I can’t. Indeed, the Captcha oracle seems to have pinned it down: “vagued incoming” :-)

  32. 1332
    Rod B says:

    Mark, well, I found that the average retail price for electricity in CA is 12.8 cents/kWh for one. So?

    You think Barton did a full cost accounting audit for every public electricity provider in CA???

  33. 1333
    James says:

    Mark Says (8 juin 2009 at 3:05 AM):

    “You don’t need to see two white swans to come to a working conclusion that swans are white.”

    Depends. If your conclusion from that sample is “some swans are white”, fine. If instead it’s “all swans are white”, you’ve got a problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan

    Mark Says (8 juin 2009 at 1:13 PM):

    “But you CAN say “It costs xxx in California”. Mostly because that’s what it costs in California.”

    Though you still need to specify what is meant by cost. There’s the cost to produce (which includes capital cost, operating expenses, etc); the cost in an energy market, which depends on fluctuating demand; the cost to the consumer, which is set by the PUC, and which might be above or below production or market cost…

  34. 1334

    More to the point about this “cost” discussion — has Mark looked for wholesale clearing prices for energy? Because if he’d bothered to do that, he’d see that the wholesale clearing price — what it “costs” the generators to generate, because they can’t survive long at a loss — are nowhere near his quoted figures. And for people who can’t multiply, $0.08 / KWh is $80 / MWh. Wholesale prices from the generators are 1/5th to 1/10th that.

    So, I’d really like to see the source for Mark’s figures.

  35. 1335
    Ike Solem says:

    Rod B Says:7 June 2009 at 5:30 PM

    “What happens then if every TXU customer and all Californians (say served by PGE) does the clearly logical thing and orders wind generation from their supplier?”

    Well, you can’t order wind or sunshine – you can only buy the electric current that comes over the grid, or generate your own. The real question is for the electricity generator, which is usually a large power plant or utility – what is their preferred energy source for electricity generation? In other words, the ‘market decisions’ you are talking about take place at an entirely different level than the consumer level. End-user choices play little role in the whole question of pricing, unless they decide to become their own electricity generators, which is an expensive proposition.

    So, if you are a utility and are responsible for delivering electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes, do you invest in wind farms and energy storage facilities, or do you sign a long-term contract for natural gas deliveries for your existing gas-fired power plants? Many factors will come into play in such decisions, but government support for one or the other will certainly play a major role.

    That leads us to this:

    Federal bill gives edge to Alaska gas pipeline, June 6 2009

    U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced several provisions benefiting an Alaska gas pipeline that she’s secured in a comprehensive energy bill in Washington, D.C. She’s the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

    If approved by Congress, the bill would increase a federal lo-an guarantee for an Alaska gas pipeline project from $18 billion, set in 2004, to $30 billion plus inflation from 2004 values. In addition, a project could tap into super-low-interest lo-ans from the Federal Financing Bank, a federal corporation, and clarifies 2004 language to specify that the federal guarantee will cover a full 80 percent of the total project costs.

    So, does this qualify as a market-distorting subsidy? Ask the experts:

    All provisions are available to either TransCanada, licensed by the state under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or Denali — The Alaska Gas Pipeline, a joint venture between producers BP and ConocoPhillips. Joe Balash, intergovernmental coordinator for Gov. Sarah Palin, said the provisions “are huge” and essentially cover all debt associated with the pipeline projects. That could drive down tariffs charged by the pipeline owner to producers.

    In contrast, renewable energy firms are still out in the cold:

    Energy companies to Obama: Break lo-an logjam (May 21)

    That’s not even really the worst part of this whole story, as the fact is that the Alaska-to-Alberta gas pipeline was never intended for the Lower 48 electric utility market, but rather as a means to expand tar sand syncrude production in Alberta.

    It is worth noting that at least three pipeline projects are involved in this deal – the natural gas pipeline (Transcanada) from Alaskan North Slope gas fields through the Yukon and British Columbia to Alberta’s tar sands, and two syncrude oil export pipelines, one from the tar sands to the west coast (Enbridge) and the other from the tar sands to Midwestern refineries (Transcanada). The high cost of the natural gas pipeline means that private investors won’t put the money up without government guarantees.

    No such mega-billion guarantees for any large-scale solar or wind projects have been pushed through yet. Furthermore, it should raise at least a few eyebrows that the new second-in-command (Steve Koonin) at the DOE is fresh from a job as BP’s chief scientist – at a time when BP was moving full speed into tar sand projects. I’m not sure if that counts as much of an improvement over Sam Bodman.

    That kind of government stance toward energy development tends to push investors and utilities towards “safe” fossil fuel deals and away from renewable energy, doesn’t it?

    The text of the letter to the Congress, DOE and White House is here:

    http://www.seia.org/galleries/pdf/Clean_Energy_Associations_5_20_09.pdf

    P.S. What do you think of the idea of having the National Academy of Sciences conduct an independent scientific review of coal carbon capture technology prospects, as well as of “zero-carbon tar sands”.

  36. 1336

    Ike Solem @ 1335:

    Well, you can’t order wind or sunshine – you can only buy the electric current that comes over the grid, or generate your own.

    That would be incorrect. Here are the products Green Mountain Energy has to offer in Texas –

    http://www.greenmountainenergy.com/texas/products_rates.shtml

    You’ll see a “100% Wind” option.

  37. 1337
    James says:

    FurryCatHerder Says (8 juin 2009 at 2:53 PM):

    “You’ll see a “100% Wind” option.”

    Except that if you read a little deeper, you’ll see that “100% Wind” is not quite accurate. What they promise is that if you pay for X kWh of wind, they will in turn buy that much from wind generators and feed it into the grid when it’s available. The kilowatts you use won’t (even ignoring the fungible nature of grid power) be the same as the ones generated: your lights won’t go out next Tuesday if it happens to be dead calm.

  38. 1338
    Rod B says:

    Ike, that was a fairly good discourse on analyzing markets and meeting demand. But my question is far simpler. The assertion was made that 100% wind generated power costs 9 cents/kWh in CA. I inferred that to mean a customer could order it from his utility (or some utilities) and pay 9 cents. I simply asked for the source and reference to validate/clarify that.

    I think there should be a ton of scientific and economic studies made of CCS technology, including (especially at least for the science part) by the National Academy. I think there are major uncertainties over whether it is scientifically feasible and effective for the near- and long-term. Same for economics. But it is worth pursuing, up to some undefined point. I don’t get your drift with “zero carbon tar sands,” (which ain’t gonna happen)…

    Furry, it’s a minor point, but you have no assurance that your getting the electron movement that was physically generated by the turbine. It is equivalent, though, and it (inadvertently?) kinda answers my question. It’s not CA, but some people in TX can order 100% wind generated power, though at around 15 cents. Plus there are still holes in the extrapolating of that price since a limited number of people can subscribe. Might be ballpark indicative, though; I dunno… One can project that 15 cent figure as long-term viability; but you can not say it is the cost until everybody can, more or less, get it for that price.

  39. 1339
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 1321

    Hey Mark,

    Not to belabor the issue; however, a hypothesis that is testable is the difference between science and pseudo-science. I repeat, observation is the root of science and the ability to predict an outcome of a given phenomena is science. Testing of the prediction is validation of the science.

    (Pay attention to the new IPCC models that Dr. Schmidt and team are working on. As more data becomes available a finer definition of phenomena outcomes can be predicted. The largest issue is defining the range of the constraints and degrees of freedom of the variables.)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  40. 1340

    James @ 1337:

    Except that if you read a little deeper, you’ll see that “100% Wind” is not quite accurate. What they promise is that if you pay for X kWh of wind, they will in turn buy that much from wind generators and feed it into the grid when it’s available. The kilowatts you use won’t (even ignoring the fungible nature of grid power) be the same as the ones generated: your lights won’t go out next Tuesday if it happens to be dead calm.

    Yes, and I knew that already. However, a difference that makes no difference is no difference.

    When people talk about the source of power, it is often a legal description. For example, many utilities that subsidize renewable energy systems typically “own” the renewable energy aspects of those systems. So, if J. Q. Public gets a 3KW system with a subsidy from Green Power, Inc, it’s very likely that Green Power, Inc “owns” the legal right to the “green” aspects of that power, and J. Q. Public cannot, legally, say they are using renewable power, even though they are getting the electrons.

    If you then decide that you want “green” power, you can buy those legal rights and call your coal or gas powered electricity “green”, even though you didn’t get those electrons.

    This might sound bizarre, fraudulent, illegal, or something else, but it’s the fungible nature of electricity that makes all this possible. It’s why legitimate carbon credits make it possible for a project in one geography to capture CO2, and a project in another geography to release CO2, and the entire process nets to zero. The fungible nature of a molecule of CO2 makes it so it doesn’t matter where they get offset, only that they do.

  41. 1341
    Patrick 027 says:

    There was a great book summarizing, among other things, renewable energy prices and potential prices:

    “Cool Energy” by Michael Brower

    Unfortunately, my version is from 1993.

  42. 1342
    James says:

    FurryCatHerder Says (8 juin 2009 at 8:38 PM):

    “Yes, and I knew that already. However, a difference that makes no difference is no difference.”

    I know you know this, but it does make a real difference, as what you’re getting is not “100% wind”, but wind-generated power backed up by the electric grid, so your lights won’t go out next Tuesday. Not that I think this is a bad thing, you understand, but calling it “100% wind” gives a false impression to those with less technical knowledge than us.

  43. 1343

    #1331 James

    Your logic continues to elude me (and possibly others). On the name thing, you are offended by someone not being anonymous. My, my, maybe you have been in ‘La La Land’ to long (getting to used to the plastic and silicon)? Then, you are offended by an organization name. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much… There may be providence in the falling of a sparrow, but there is naught to be found in the boorish lack of profundity in your scrawl.

    As to your inability to follow the reasoning in my post, that’s simple:

    That’s because I used ‘YOUR’ reasoning.

    I posited the points ‘you’ made and created an argument based on ‘your’ reasoning, namely:

    - you do not hold humans exalted
    - the problem is overpopulation
    - Chernobyl was net positive because nature is flourishing and people died.

    So, by using your points of reasoning, I made the argument that wouldn’t it be net positive if you committed suicide, etc. (since the problem, as you mentioned, is overpopulation, inferring it is not exorbitant energy consumption that produces massive amounts of CO2 chiefly, over time, from a throw away society that holds fiat dollars above objective value and in your case human value.) that is the problem.

    Or, are you ready to admit that your points are/were not reasonable, i.e you made a foolish argument?

    Hmmm… maybe you should reread the post? Or maybe you really don’t know what you are talking about and therefore can not understand your own argument/perspective?

    Now, if you still can’t figure out what ‘you’ said, then I must accept other possibilities, chiefly myopia, religion in your bias of perspective, lack of intelligence and logic in your combined reasoning, various degrees of ignorance, or some interesting combination of these traits, and others, that would be synonymous with moronic abstruse (to some), certainly obtuse and misleading assumed logic (on your part), such as you have attempted.

    Listen, if you can’t stand the heat in ‘your’ own kitchen (basted in your own myopic reasoning), maybe you should head for McDonalds (icecap.us or heartland). Lot’s of yummy junk logic there for you I’m sure.

    And I am one of the ordinary people here. And I take responsibility for my mistakes. Conceited? I’m just an idiot trying to learn about things and make better decisions. I too would like to have reasonable discussions (as you have stated) but as I have heard in the past, ‘it is hard to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person’. And to paraphrase Clint Eastwood from Unforgiven, ‘You should arm yourself’.

    As far as your choice of Shakespeare and your projection on me, look in the mirror. I’m not a religious follower of Sigmund Freud, but in some instances he made good points.

    Lastly, the captcha was right on ‘by chance’, but I don’t believe it is an oracle, it seems to apply to the moment, when you hit submit. Your post was ‘vagued incoming’ befitting your modus operandi as illustrated in your applied points relating to your argument regarding Chernobyl being net positive in accord with your self proclaimed different morality.

  44. 1344
    Mark says:

    LDC: “I repeat, observation is the root of science and the ability to predict an outcome of a given phenomena is science. Testing of the prediction is validation of the science.”

    Observation is how you falsify your theory. It is how you test.

    What you say is a difference is no difference.

  45. 1345
    bobberger says:

    In Europe we distinguish between simultaneous and non-simultaneous renewable energy contracts. Mine, for example, is non-simultaneous, meaning my supplier puts as much electricity from water, wind, solar and bio into the net over a year as I take out. There are some companies offering “simultaneous” which means that they (for a premium) not only put as much electricity from renewables into the net as you consume, but also at exactly the time you consume it. There has been some outrage when two years ago a journalist found out, that not a single one of the companies charging for that kind of service could really provide it (but they all got away because they covered themselves with ambiguous fineprint about emergency kind of situations, when they are allowed to deliver whatever is available from the grid at the time. Fortunately “emergency” wasn’t defined clearly so “from time to time” went down well enough with the judges, apparently).

    Some figures for the european market as to what it all costs, including depreciation but before tax and pofit in us-cent per kWh:
    Water: 3-8
    Natural Gas: 8-13
    Coal: 3-5
    Nuclear: 4-5
    Wind: 8-25
    Solar: 70-150
    Geothermal: 10-22
    Depending on the source, there is a huge spread in the numbers but you get a general idea.

    As a private person, you’re paying at least around 24 $-ct per kWh, depending on your upfront payment, the usage pattern, the area you live in, whether or not you get natural gas from the same supplier etc. On average its probably more like 30-35 $-ct per kWh. From that, around 40% is various taxes (including “eco-tax”), 36% is for using the grid and only 24% is production. The eco-tax has to be payed on all electricity, no matter where it came from.

  46. 1346
    James says:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) Says (9 juin 2009 at 1:32 AM):

    “Your logic continues to elude me (and possibly others). ”

    If the logic eludes you, maybe it’s because you’re not really trying all that hard to catch it?

    “On the name thing, you are offended by someone not being anonymous.”

    It’s more a matter of community customs. You’re acting like someone who wears a bathing suit at the nude beach, and goes around insisting that everyone else should wear one too.

    “Then, you are offended by an organization name. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much…”

    So tell us why you feel the need to attach that organization name? I could, in the time I’ve participated here, have attached (Big Computer Company), a couple of (University Research Lab), or (My Consulting Business). I imagine most of the frequent posters could do much the same, but as I recall only one does. (And he’s trying to sell an idea.) So, is there any other reason, other than an attempt to inflate your self-importance, that you decide to go against custom?

    “- Chernobyl was net positive because nature is flourishing and people died.”

    Now here is a perfect example of how my reasoning eludes you because you don’t try. The population prior to the accident was about 120,000 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_alienation ). Most sources give the number of deaths from the accident as around 50. The positive changes to the ecosystem of the so-called Dead Zone came about because humans were (mostly) removed, not because they died.

    Now if it’s the fact of people dying because of industrial accidents that bothers you, why aren’t you campaigning against for instance jet airplanes? One accident – the recent Air France crash – killed more than four times as many as Chernobyl.

    “So, by using your points of reasoning, I made the argument that wouldn’t it be net positive if you committed suicide…”

    So because I won’t jump on your “humans are the pinnacle of creation, and their inherent superiority entitles them to destroy the ecosystem” bandwagon, you think I should either kill myself or commit mass murder? Once again, you’ve got to be trying really, really hard not to understand.

    “…inferring it is not exorbitant energy consumption that produces massive amounts of CO2 chiefly, over time, from a throw away society that holds fiat dollars above objective value…”

    First, if I infer that CO2 increase is not the simple “evil western consumerism” matter you make it out to be, it’s only simple fact. Test the boundaries: 1) If this energy was all generated from some non-fossil source, say nuclear power, it would not be generating CO2; 2) If a sufficiently small population used the same per-capita energy from fossil sources, the generated CO2 would be within the Earth’s capacity to absorb; 3) A large population using much less fossil energy per capita could still produce more CO2 than could be absorbed.

    Second, CO2 is hardly the only environmental problem. If a large population got all its energy from non-fossil sources, it’d still be overfishing the oceans, cutting down forests, overgrazing grasslands, &c.

    I have to admit that I can’t see how you get that “throwaway society” bit from anything I’ve written. Haven’t I been arguing in favor of sustaining ecosystems, rather than sacrificing them to human whims? That’s something that I think is about as close to an objective value as one can reasonably get.

    “Now, if you still can’t figure out what ‘you’ said, then I must accept other possibilities, chiefly myopia, religion in your bias of perspective, lack of intelligence and logic in your combined reasoning, various degrees of ignorance, or some interesting combination of these traits, and others, that would be synonymous with moronic abstruse (to some), certainly obtuse and misleading assumed logic (on your part), such as you have attempted.”

    Either you’ve got a real question buried in that muddle, or you’re trying – without, I must say, either success or much in the way of originality – for gratuitous insult. I can’t tell which: would you care to try again?

  47. 1347
    Hank Roberts says:

    James, do you believe the future will happen?

    If not, if you simply don’t believe that physics will work in the future the same way it works up til now, it’s pointless to try to get you past your stubborn insistence that what you see is all that will happen.

    But for anyone coming across this later: as with climate change, some of the future will happen according to the known physics.

    It’s misdirection to claim a plane crash has “… killed more than four times as many as Chernobyl”

    Airplanes crash once. Bioaccumulation works its way up the food chain while radioactive decay transmutes elements; some of the decay products are not radioactive, but others are more radioactive or bioaccumulate differently. This is known. You just won’t mention it when you post your assertions.

    Russia has baseline areas equally protected from human activity — people long have been excluded.
    These provide an opportunity for longterm study in comparison with the exclusion zone:

    http://www.joannamacy.net/BRYANSK.pdf
    … a chapter in the book: An Environmental History of the World:
    Humankind’s Changing Role in the Community of Life by J Donald Hughes; London and
    New York: Routledge, 2002 (available in paperback); used by permission of the author.

    “… In the Bryansk Region, biologists have carefully measured concentrations of cesium-137 in fish. There is an increase of radiation levels of about two to three times for every step up the food chain, so piscivorous fish such as pike and perch show more radioactivity per unit weight than bottom-feeders like roach and white bream. The highest levels of cesium-137 (up to 15,000-21,000 becquerels per kilogram of muscle tissue wet weight) were found in carp in the Kozhany reservoir, which is two to three times the maximum noted in fish of the Kiev reservoir, much nearer Chernobyl and downstream from the accident site. Since cesium behaves chemically like potassium, fish in water with low potassium concentrations will acc.umulate more cesium-137 and therefore more radioactivity….

    In order to understand those effects fully, it is important to look at other sections of the landscape that have not experienced extreme radiation in the same or similar ecosystems in order to make comparisons. These zones could serve as scientific controls. Fortunately, at least one such tract in the Bryansk Region, the Bryansk Forest Nature Reserve, 11,774 hectares (29,094 acres) on both sides of the largely unpolluted Nyerussa River was set aside by the Ministry of Culture in 1987. This reserve is in a fortunate area of very light radioactive fallout, and thus might well serve as a place for comparative studies with another forested area that has, in contrast, a high exposure, such as the Polesski Radiation-Ecological Nature Reserve mentioned above. Nature reserves (zapovedniki) had been created in Russia even in prerevolutionary times, and were renewed and expanded for their scientific value after the revolution with the approval of Lenin’s government. They were neglected and almost destroyed during the Stalinist period, but revived after 1953. One of the purposes of a nature reserve was to serve as anetalon, an undisturbed model of how nature works without human interference, a standard, a baseline or reference point. The zapovedniki were created specifically as scientific reserves, and were intended to be kept free of human interference. Thus a Russian nature reserve is an attempt to preserve intact a fragment of an ecosystem. Unlike a national park, it is closed to all entry except by its protection staff and by scientists for study. Hunting, cutting of trees, mushroom gathering, and all commercial activities are excluded …. they serve as an examples of the idea that representative areas, large enough for the survival of complex ecosystems, should be protected and used only for the purpose of trying to understand the other forms of life on Earth and the whole of which humans are only one, though frequently a damaging, part….”

  48. 1348

    #1345 bobberger

    Thank you for real numbers.

    But how much is the up front payment for simultaneous or non-simultaneous?

    What would the situation be if they had no such contracts?

    Let me guess: The same generating systems would be used and the same loads would be placed on the grid. Perhaps the rates for everybody would be slightly higher. It seems like the contracts are tricks to get some people to donate extra money to the system. In return, those making the donations get to brag about their green-ness.

    Please tell me if I am wrong.

  49. 1349
    bobberger says:

    The up front payment has (in case of my provider) nothing to do with renewables or not. Its merely a way for the supplier and the customers to speculate. They sell you say 5,000 kWh in advance for a fixed price and you get it at a rate which is normally somewhere around the current rate minus interest (fair deal). If you speculate that prices will rise and you have the money, its a sensible thing to do.
    My supplier put out the “green” electricity at a slightly lower price than the standard mix and that’s what got me onto that contract. It had the caveat, that I had to switch to that company for my natural gas at the same time. Since I wanted to do that anyway, it was a no-brainer. Mind you, retrospectively it was also a bad deal because I signed in the middle of the oil price peak and since gas prices are linked to oil prices over here, I lost (at least some) money.
    Overall the market in Europe (and especially in Germany) is so heavily over-regulated, taxed and subsidized, that the standard market mechanisms that could in theory lead to incentives, innovations and sunsequently to a truly market driven development, don’t really work anyway.

  50. 1350

    James @ 1342:

    I know you know this, but it does make a real difference, as what you’re getting is not “100% wind”, but wind-generated power backed up by the electric grid, so your lights won’t go out next Tuesday. Not that I think this is a bad thing, you understand, but calling it “100% wind” gives a false impression to those with less technical knowledge than us.

    No, it really just plain doesn’t make a bit of a difference. If I consume 300KWh / month from the grid, and next Tuesday the wind is dead calm in West Texas, that 10KWh will have been made up and the CO2 emissions produced by the coal plants that provided power next Tuesday will have been offset.

    What you’re trying to do, along with a few others here, is find some irrelevant technicality which makes renewable energy not work according to some irrelevant definition you’ve got. The goal of wind power producers is not making sure that somehow all the electrons in my wires in my house come from a wind turbine out in West Texas, but making sure that the electrons in my wires in my house aren’t associated with CO2 emissions.

    Back when I was still selling into the grid (and I’m getting ready to switch from TXU Energy to Green Mountain because I’m tired of being ripped off by TXU Energy), I’d tell the neighbors who share my transformer that they were running on “green power” at the peak of the day when I was selling 2KW or so into that transformer. That was accurate, in the sense that you mean, but completely and totally irrelevant, in the sense that renewable energy is bought and sold.

    Renewable energy is about CO2 emissions, not electrons. That’s what’s being promoted, and that’s why next Tuesday is just plain irrelevant.

    Now, there has been work in the area of making electricity less fungible. Right now most of it is smoke-and-mirrors, as a poster noted up-thread, but that’s part of the process with new technologies. Produce standards, which the cheaters cheat, produce new standards, lather, rinse, repeat.


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