The tragedy of climate commons

A translation in swedish is available here

1,401 comments on this post.
  1. Chip Knappenberger:

    Gavin,

    Waxman-Markey only mandate U.S. actions, so that’s what I looked at.

    But, just in case the world wanted to play along, I looked at that too. Please see my Climate Analysis Waxman-Markey Part II.

    Perhaps you could put the GISS model on the effort, instead of me having to rely on “Excel-type” models.

    -Chip

    [Response: I look forward to the day when you and your boss start giving presentations that stress the need for coordinated action lead by the developed countries in order to tackle emissions rather than giving the bottom-feeders talking points to support making no efforts at all. Until then, forgive me if remain a tad cynical. - gavin]

  2. Zeke Hausfather:

    Chip’s point is still well taken that domestic action in absence of any international action will not have a enormous impact on long-term climate forcings. That said, he doesn’t address the essential connection between taking actions domestically and furthering international agreements for reductions abroad. The fact that America alone cannot avert “dangerous” warming is a justification for coordinating international action, not inaction.

    It is also important to note that domestic action would have various technological spillover effects, as our development of sustainable technologies as a result of market incentives that correctly price carbon would allow us to export these technologies to the developing world, reducing both the impacts of local air pollution and carbon emissions in places like China and India.

  3. donald moore:

    A very good point \The love of money sure is the root of all evil\ we must all guard against it.

  4. Alexandre:

    There are a number of studies made by Elinor Ostrom that are quite useful on this issue.

    One of them is the book “Rules, Games and Common-pool resources”, written by Ostrom with others. They make lab behavioural experiments and compare them with field studies.

    It´s very academical, and no light reading. But very good to understand the complexity of the issue as well as the possible ways out of it.

  5. Dean:

    Your graphic has 2% annual growth as the worst case. Aren’t we above 3% in recent years? Is business-as-usual beyond the scope of the models?

  6. Mark:

    Also the US likes to be considered the leader of the free world.

    OK, nowadays the leader is the one at the back saying “Charge!” whilst everyone else charges forward, but it used to be the person in front or at least near the front, inspiring their people to greater feats by taking on their risks their dangers and showing no fear.

    Maybe the US could start leading like the old leaders used to.

  7. Hank Roberts:

    See also:

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=arguments+against+public+health

    > Prometheus: Less than A Quarter Inch by 2100 Archives ….. Roger, you asked what possible difference a quarter inch average rise in sea level …
    sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/001004less_than_a_quarter_.html
    (also posted at

  8. Chip Knappenberger:

    Zeke,

    I agree. We will not significantly alter the course of future climate through the emissions reductions achieved in the U.S.—that is the point of my MasterResource.org articles. But, perhaps through technological innovation, we’ll be able to take something we developed and distribute it around the world. But rather than imposing an artificial energy crisis on all Americans, it is not possible to spur innovation through other methods?

    -Chip

    [Response: "An artificial energy crisis"? Give me a break. -gavin]

  9. John Atkeison:

    Practical and moral reasons for action by the United States abound. It is true that “we” have dallied so long that we must now do the most effective things rapidly. We must also do the most important things.

    If it is true that we must change how our society approaches this issue in order to survive, then that must become a prominent point of discussion in adition to promoting the physical solutions. If we cannot adjust ourselves to the needs of the times, we will fail, as other civilizations have in the past. Unfortunately, we will be taking everyone down with us.

    So perhaps it is most conservative and responsible to address the solution of fairly radical social change to amend our social norms to put the selfish interests of individual groups in the back seat instead of the driver’s seat where thay have been for so long.

    In other words, we need to shake off the 30 years of acceptance of Reaganite worship of capitalists and decisively put the interests of the society and the planet first. If we don’t do so in a timely fashion, we might lose it all.

  10. Jim Roland:

    It’s a dog eat world world out there.

    At least that’s what many dogs seem to think.

  11. Wilmot McCutchen:

    This is the most motivating call to action I’ve seen so far. I hope it gets wide distribution. I especially like that it’s a true story, and as it unfolds you recognize how apposite each event and player is to the global commons which is our atmosphere.

  12. pete best:

    We think that science is going to save us but our technology and culture is potentially going to kill us. Its just so against our way of life to cut back and to not indulge and aim for profit and hence material wealth.

    Time to change the culture, of community, of economics, of poitics, of science even (its very reductionist in nature even now and hence has killed the spirit in many ways).

  13. Mike Amundsen:

    you know, this would make a great role-play for teaching folks about the issues.

  14. John Atkeison:

    We who are citizens of the United States should accept that we own moral responsibility for creating the Global Warming problem even more surely than China and India own its future.

    No other people or government will act sufficiently if we don’t. Our action is the prerequisite for other action. We have to go first, whether you call it leadership or something else.

  15. MikeN:

    So if we don’t cut back on carbon emissions now by 80%, we won’t be able to cut carbon in the future? The largest fish catcher will continue to catch his fish, but everyone else should cut back? Even when there was a plan in place to restrict fish catching, it didn’t work?

  16. Richard Pauli:

    I just heard a radio piece about Peter Ward’s notion of the Medea Hypothesis.. interview at http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=17474
    Described as: “We like to think that life on earth is self–sustaining. If people hadn’t upset the balance of renewal, everything would be in perfect harmony. But what if that isn’t the case at all? What if the earth is naturally self–destructive? Paleontologist Peter Ward argues that Mother Earth is like the character Medea who killed her own children not the nurturing mother we like to imagine. What is the future of the earth and what does the human race have to do with it?”

  17. Mark:

    Jim, #7, but I prefer chicken!

  18. Chip Knappenberger:

    Gavin,

    You tell a (fish) tale about limited resources.

    If Waxman-Markey were about limited resources, I wouldn’t be chiming in. I agree with you 100% that fossil fuels will not always be mankind’s primary energy source—and that we’ll have to develop some other energy technologies for us to carry on in the future.

    The issue is whether or not we have reached the crisis stage in terms of how much fossil fuels we have left. But, that is out of my field, and that is not really the issue is it?

    Instead, Congressional hearings after Congressional hearings are held to discuss climate change and how the potential for climate change compels us to seek alternative energy sources.

    This is where I, as a climatologist, come in. My analysis, using accepted emissions scenarios and accepted modeling tools, shows that Waxman-Markey will not address the issue of mitigating projected climate change. We need significant contributions from the rest of the world—actually, not just significant, but we need the vast majority of the emissions reductions to come from the developing nations of the world.

    So, the issue before us today is not really the same as you describe about cod fishing. If it were, neither of us would likely be involved. Instead, it is about reasons why we should stop using the resources we currently have. And one of those reasons (climate change) turns out to be something that you and I know a little about—and thus our contributions.

    -Chip

    [Response: Metaphors are never perfect, and you know perfectly well the point that is being made. Blaming the poor of the world for not stepping up to the plate when the rich won't make the smallest first step is immoral. Focusing on the negligible effects of individually small actions (either at a personal, city, state or federal level) is designed purely and simply to prevent any actions being taken at all. That too is immoral and if you think you are absolved from the consequences of your actions because you used standard models you are sorely mistaken. No-one is hiding the extent of the challenge here, but you have a choice about what you campaign for - Easter Island anyone? - gavin]

  19. MikeN:

    >We who are citizens of the United States should accept that we own moral responsibility for creating the Global Warming problem even more surely than China and India own its future.

    So, because 30, 40 years ago, someone else did the same thing unawares, people who are aware of the problem have no moral responsibility to prevent it?

    [Response: No. But per-capita emissions are ~4 times smaller in China than in the US - they do not have the same responsibility just because they have a larger population. - gavin]

  20. Mark:

    “Paleontologist Peter Ward argues that Mother Earth is like the character Medea who killed her own children not the nurturing mother we like to imagine.”

    So would Medea’s kids have lived longer if they’d stabbed each other in the heart before she did it?

    I don’t think so, do you?

  21. SecularAnimist:

    Gavin wrote: “And the connection to climate? Here.”

    Not sure why the link to the “MasterResource” site. As far as I can tell it seems to be a run-of-the-mill denialist site with content provided by industry-funded phony “think tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute, devoted to preaching pseudo-ideological “Climate Science According To Exxon-Mobil” denialism to a choir of so-called “conservative” Ditto-Heads.

    And Knappenberger’s article seems to be a long-winded way of saying that if the Waxman-Markey bill is the be-all and end-all of emissions reductions, and nothing more than what’s in that bill is ever done by anyone anywhere, it won’t be enough.

    Well, duh. Waxman-Markey is at best just a start towards moving in the right direction.

  22. Rene Cheront:

    In general, a Tragedy of the Commons is where property rights are not in place. And one averts a Tragedy of the Commons, by ensuring property rights are clearly defined. In the case of fish this would mean ownership of the fish; no such problem would exist if fishermen could own, buy and sell the fish in the ocean. Resources would gravitate to the most efficient use thereof.
    But of course there is no such simple solution where the property in question is the atmosphere.

  23. Sukiho:

    its the alarmists that have the arrogance to think that humans could catch all the fish in the sea, theres no proof and that theory is rapidly collapsing, its really to do with the moon going around the sun, thats why its gets worse every day, theres nothing that can be done about it, in fact its good for the fish that humans eat them

  24. Aaron:

    Of course, if you extend the “fishery” analogy the following happens:

    The most efficient fishermen make a unilateral move to reduce their catches thus driving down demand for the fish and the technologies to catch them. This results in there being a greater number of fish for the least efficient fishermen to catch and a cheaper material cost to catch them.

    Presented with this unearned competitive advantage, the least efficient fisherman start to enjoy greater comparative success and become wealthier than their more efficient counterparts who made unilateral sacrifices.

    Of course, the end result is the same (no more fish) but the least efficient fisherman (now wealthier than their more efficient counterparts) are better capitalized and equipped to deal with the collapse of the fishery.

    After moving unilaterally, the wealth of the most efficient fishermen is steadily transferred to the least efficient leaving the efficient fisherman prostrate to the whim and fancy of the wealthier, less efficient lot.

    Just sayin’

  25. Hank Roberts:

    I posted over there at the mastermaster page the same links I posted here at the same time, 7 May 2009 at 10:24 AM. Waiting to see if they show up.

    I’d have thought that “master resource” meant the whole biosphere, not just the burnable fossil carbon portion thereof.

  26. Mark:

    Aaron, how do you know that it will be cheaper to catch them?

    If you aren’t rich (the lower 50% were subsisting, IIRC) then you need to take a lo an out. That loa n accrues in terest. Which increases the cost of owning the expensive kit.

  27. Jim Bouldin:

    He thinks to himself…should I read the piece by this Knappenberger guy…nah time’s precious, just do a brief scan to get the gestalt. So within the first 1/4 of the piece I read:
    “…we are barraged daily with the horrors of what the climate will become if we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere…”, followed by: “The one thing, above all others, that they don’t want you to know is this….[insert conspiracy theory of the moment here]“, and a bit later:
    “…save the earth from human-caused climate apocalypse…”

    Where do these people come from? And why is anyone with a brain or a conscience giving a rat’s ass or 5 milliseconds of attention to what they say?

  28. JBL:

    @ Rene Cheront: this is precisely the point of emissions trading plans (a.k.a. cap and trade). Such plans have worked very well in the past, e.g., in the case of sulfur emissions. So, in fact, there is a simple solution in this instance.

  29. Jim Bouldin:

    Outstanding piece of scholarship Sukiho (21). You should publish that.

  30. Hank Roberts:

    > property rights
    > no such problem would exist if fishermen could own, buy and sell
    > the fish in the ocean. Resources would gravitate to the most
    > efficient use thereof.

    Whales aren’t fish, but this rings of the proposal some decades back that the best use of the whaling fleet was to harvest all the whales, turn that whole resource into money, and invest it in the markets because the markets were going up much faster than the average 3% per year rate, on average, at which nature increases. And scrap the fleet because the price of scrap iron was so high.

    Economically, it made perfect sense.

    What’s the problem?

    Markets don’t give any ownership to the future, they assume someone _now_living_ owns everything and can make rational decisions about its use.

    It’s nonsense applied to life on Earth. No brief human lifespan can appropriate ownership of everything alive — because that takes ownership of the entire future over which life can extend.

    If we aren’t any smarter than that, our planet is going to end up as silent as the rest of the observable universe is, and rather soon.

    Fermi Paradox? What paradox? Intelligence doesn’t emerge if mercantilism emerges first, maybe that’s the answer.

  31. Chip Knappenberger:

    Re 27:

    Jim, sorry that the strong rhetoric turned you off.

    Let’s just cut to the chase then.

    Do the analysis yourself and tell me what you get.

    -Chip

  32. SecularAnimist:

    Chip Knappenberger wrote: “But, perhaps through technological innovation, we’ll be able to take something we developed and distribute it around the world.”

    Well, that mission has already been accomplished. Thanks to the death-grip of the fossil fuel corporations on US energy policy, the USA has long since lost its leadership role in clean energy technology, and technologies originally developed in the USA are now being manufactured and exported by other countries. China, for example, will this year become the word’s leading exporter of wind turbines and is on its way to becoming the world’s leading exporter of photovoltaic systems.

    The simple fact is that the “MasterResource” site has a very clear agenda, which is to ensure business-as-usual consumption of fossil fuels for as long as possible, in order to enrich the fossil fuel corporations who fund the pseudo-scientific, pseudo-ideological, phony “think tank” propaganda that makes up most of the site’s content.

  33. SecularAnimist:

    Along with denial of anthropogenic global warming goes denial of the potential of clean renewable energy technologies to not only meet our energy “needs” but to provide abundant clean energy forever.

    Part of the denialist litany, touched upon in Chip Knappenberger’s comments here, is to assert that phasing out fossil fuels requires “technological innovation” before we can turn to other sources of energy.

    What these folks do NOT want you to know “above all else” is that today’s clean energy and efficiency technologies can already do the job — we need to get busy deploying them as quickly, and as far and wide, as possible. Not wait around for “technological innovations”, meanwhile consuming ever-increasing quantities of fossil fuels.

    The insistence that we need “technological innovations” before we can move forward to phase out fossil fuels and shift to clean renewable energy sources is just another stalling tactic, to keep business-as-usual consumption of fossil fuels going as long as possible.

  34. Doug Bostrom:

    #30 Hank Roberts:

    Ouch, that’s a parable worth repeating over and over. Is there an article available covering that “rational man” scenario?

  35. Richard Ordway:

    Re #1 Waxman-Markey only mandate U.S. actions, so that’s what I looked at….just in case the world wanted to play along.”

    Mainstream published science is moving along. I know that only three major recent published studies (to my recollection) have really taken up the possibility that business as usual carbon-reduction policies might not be enough, but have you read these?

    Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions, Solomon et al, PNAS
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/01/28/0812721106.full.pdf+html

    Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne, Allen et. al, Nature
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08019.html

    Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C, Meinshausen et al. Nature
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08017.html

  36. Jim Bouldin:

    “This is where I, as a climatologist, come in. My analysis, using accepted emissions scenarios and accepted modeling tools, shows that Waxman-Markey will not address the issue of mitigating projected climate change. We need significant contributions from the rest of the world—actually, not just significant, but we need the vast majority of the emissions reductions to come from the developing nations of the world.”

    I’m sorry, but do please give me an absolute freaking break Chip. You put up an utter straw man argument that nobody with any credence is making, and then purport to tear it down with “accepted modeling tools”. It’s plainly obvious to anyone who ponders the issue for 5 seconds that it’s a global problem, that the carbon balance of all nations needs to be addressed in solving it. This does not obviate in any way the fact that the larger emitters have a larger obligation based on both current and historical emissions. Your “accepted tools” are worthless incorporating the scientific and political dynamic by which a collaborative global response will likely, and must, emerge.

  37. Hank Roberts:

    Remember, the title should have been: Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons.
    Look it up.

  38. Jim Bouldin:

    should be (34, end): Your “accepted tools” are worthless without incorporating the scientific and political dynamic by which a collaborative global response will likely, and must, emerge.

  39. Doug McKeever:

    #27 Jim Bouldin:
    “Where do these people come from? And why is anyone with a brain or a conscience giving a rat’s ass or 5 milliseconds of attention to what they say?”
    Jim, if you mean questioners of AGW, “these people” come from various educational backgrounds, such as mine as a geologist, and although I have been occasionally accused of having a brain, I know I have a conscience. Although I am amused by those who are insulting, sarcastic, and arrogant in their comments about those who hold different views and come to different conclusions using the same data, I am saddened because their good points are greatly reduced in effectiveness when delivered with rancor.
    Go ahead, insult me, I am only a lowly community college instructor, not an eminent researcher. I can take it!

  40. Paul:

    The comment thread at Master Resource is scary. the data shows significant global warming even if we (the US0 undertakes a politically unimaginable mitigation program….and they applaud because it gives them an excuse to stay the course? Nauseating.

  41. SecularAnimist:

    Joe Romm at ClimateProgress.org has a comment today about scripted denialist/obstructionist talking points that seems relevant (emphasis added):

    Global warming deniers like Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) have long opposed U.S. participation in collective international action on global warming. And yet they have the chutzpah to now offer this absurd argument for why this country should do nothing to prevent catastrophic global warming: If we act by ourselves, it won’t solve the problem!

    And indeed, here’s what Rep. Barton himself says:

    I would like to draw your attention to a recent analysis of the actual climate benefits of Waxman-Markey. According to the analysis, should the American people be forced to accept the crippling emission reduction requirement of 83 percent by 2050, our citizens and people around the world can expect to see a reduction in the projected 2050 temperature of approximately nine hundredths, or 0.09, of a degree. Putting aside momentarily the vigorous debate about the reliability of IPCC’s predictions, as well as the fact that the Earth has actually been cooling for the last 7 or 8 years, this does not seem like much of a benefit. In exchange, the American people will be forced to pay the Federal Government hundreds of billions of dollars. Given the huge price tag for the taxpayer, the cost to our economy, and the negligible effects on the climate, it’s hard to imagine Waxman-Markey can stand up to any cost-benefit analysis.

    And guess what? The “recent analysis” to which Rep. Barton refers is Chip Knappenberger’s article, published on the ExxonMobil-supported MasterResource blog, and promoted by former Rush Limbaugh producer and Sen. James Inhofe staffer, professional climate change denier Marc Morano.

    Does Chip Knappenberger’s article really amount to anything but pseudoscientific propaganda, coordinated to support the latest scripted talking points of the fossil fuel corporations’ bought-and-paid-for denialists and obstructionists?

  42. Jim Bouldin:

    Agreed Hank (30). Repeated ad nauseum over and over again, e.g. Maxam logging the coastal redwoods in the 80s (or actually much of historical logging in general for that matter).

  43. Zeke Hausfather:

    Chip,

    Assuming for a moment the conclusions of the AR4 are largely correct, carbon emissions will have an economic cost to the U.S. over the coming century. Pricing carbon emissions at a level that internalizes this social cost is hardly “imposing an artificial energy crisis”, but rather correcting for externalities that lead to market failures and a tragedy of the global atmospheric commons. There is an undeniably strong connection between the price and use rates of energy, and it is one of the primary reasons why Europe uses 33% less energy per unit of GDP and Japan 50% less vis-a-vis the U.S. None of the carbon price ranges discussed in various cap-and-trade or tax proposals that put a price on carbon would bring up energy prices higher than current European prices in the near-term (and long-term price impacts would be mitigated by technological development and innovation).

    While there is a lively debate on the merits of a cap-and-trade versus a carbon tax (and I tend to be rather sympathetic to the idea of a largely revenue neutral carbon tax), you would be hard pressed to find an economist who would argue against internalizing carbon externalities in market prices if what the current consensus in climate science tells us is correct. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, Bill Nordhaus here at Yale has an excellent new book on the economic aspects of climate policy: http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300137486

    The real thorny question is this: given that the social cost of emissions will be lower for the U.S. (given our location, climate, and adaptive capacity) than many poorer countries, should we price carbon at a level that results in the optimal mitigation for the harms facing our country, or for the harms facing the world as a whole? Self-interest alone can go a long way toward mitigation, but since those most impacted by climate change will likely be those least responsible for emissions, we cannot rely on self-interest alone to lead to the global Pareto-optimal outcome assuming that individual utility is wealth-independent.

    -Zeke

  44. Alexandre:

    Rene #22

    “Resources would gravitate to the most efficient use thereof.”

    That rationale works well for products directly tradeable, but not for externalities (especially diffuse ones) or common-pool resources.

  45. Darryl Roy:

    This article obviously makes reference to Garrett Hardin’s 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons”, Science, Vol. 162, No. 3859 (PDF reprint). The commons in Hardin’s title are pre-Enclosure village common pastures, overgrazed by herders. While many in the climate science and environmental action communities are undoubtedly familiar with the article, I thought others researching this material should have easy access to the original, seminal article.

    Hardin was in all of his writings, and perhaps his final action, a population activist. The original subtitle of the linked essay, “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality,” highlights the problem posed by aligning too closely with the original article and its concerns when writing for broader audiences (at least at present).

  46. sidd:

    I agree with Mr. McCutchen. This should be seen as a call to arms. This bill is only the first step. More action is needed. And more action will follow. Indeed, could even such a small step have been taken in the USA in the last eight years ?

    I see hope in the announcements from China of large expansions in wind energy to 100 GW by 2020, as well as talk of a carbon tax.

    These are small beginnings, and they will grow as the fossil carbon lobby is exposed and shamed.

  47. Ike Solem:

    “Chip’s point is still well taken that domestic action in absence of any international action will not have a enormous impact on long-term climate forcings.”

    The U.S., Canada, Australia, and Britain are among the leading laggers on producing domestic climate and energy legislation, as well as being the main promoters of nonsensical carbon capture/greenwashing programs. The
    conclusion of the recent U.S. climate meeting didn’t get a whole lot of coverage:

    German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel praised the US climate policy shift under President Barack Obama, but stressed that US goals were still not ambitious enough.

    The Miami Herald had some good coverage, including the German minister’s comments:
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/AP/story/1022658.html

    “What happens when the Chinese close their biggest cities to the old kind of cars, those that aren’t electric? Then you have to ask yourself, do you want these cars only coming out of Korea and Japan?” Gabriel said, speaking to reporters after the meeting…”

    The Washington Post neglected to reprint those comments in any detail.

    The NYT had no coverage of the meeting’s conclusion at all, instead opting to go with this story:
    http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/04/28/28climatewire-climate-law-poses-trade-risks-lawmakers-unsu-10705.html

    But another Republican, Oregon’s Rep. Greg Walden, said he is concerned that such a move would be challenged under the World Trade Organization. Indeed, many analysts fear a carbon tariff would spark a trade war.

    What they neglect to mention is that we already engage in trade wars over energy – for example, we lock out Brazilian ethanol using huge trade tariffs, and that was recently amplified in California by tagging vague “land-use change estimates” onto all biofuels – while quietly ignoring all similar issues with fossil fuels. Likewise, the government regularly intervenes in fossil fuel markets since it is a ‘national security issue’ – for example, in the 1990s Congress blocked the sale of Unocal to China and instead ensured that it went to Chevron.

    Essentially, what California’s Air Resources Board just did, under prodding by industry and academic leaders, is to tie local fuel use to global carbon emission estimates – but only for biofuels:

    But in the case of ethanol, and no other fuels, CARB’s staff tried to estimate the indirect effects of carbon dioxide that’s released when new cropland is brought into production somewhere else to offset acres of corn grown for ethanol.

    No such carbon estimates were attached to tar sand oil imports from Canada. If once compares Canadian tar sand oil to light Middle East crudes, one finds a minimum ratio of ~3:1 in terms of carbon emissions per gallon of gasoline produced, tar sands:light crudes.

    Thus, Canadian tar sand’s carbon costs per gallon of gasoline produced must be at least three times those for conventional gasoline – so why didn’t the Air Resources Board take that into account, Chip? Why did they instead pick a single number for all gasolines, regardless of source?

    If they want to be consistent, they’ll have to now take into account the carbon budget estimates for ALL California energy imports, right?

  48. Daniel C. Goodwin:

    It’s only a figure of speech, but if “so fast it would impress Najinsky” means to reference the great Russian dancer and choreographer, his name is commonly transcribed “Vaslav Nijinsky”. At any rate, Nijinsky was not noted for quickness so much as defiance of gravity. Some musicians are good for quickness: “so fast it would impress Paganini” – now that’s fast!

  49. Hank Roberts:

    Doug, I wasn’t giving you a parable. It’s straight Chicago School economic calculation. I don’t recall who I readstated it in terms of the whaling fleet, decades ago — it was before 300 baud modems — but the calculation is routine, it’s a choice about how to value the future of a resource that yields 3% a year, and assumptions about whether converting resources into money and letting the money increase makes sense. Same applies to “energy” as a master resource, it’s like money that way.

    One example at random from Googling:

    e http://teacher.buet.ac.bd/akmsaifulislam/env107/lecture-18.pdf

    —-excerpt—
    Whale harvest and the commons
    The harvesting of whales is an example of the
    economics of the commons. ….
    The blue whale was reduced to an estimated few
    hundred individuals before harvesting was stopped in
    the 1960s….

    How is the future valued?
    “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”
    That is profit now is much more than a profit in the
    future. Future value compared with the present value is an
    important idea for environmental science.
    The value of some elements of the environment may
    increase, decrease or remain same.
    Economic values as a function of time.
    A negative value means that there is more value
    attached to having something in the present than
    having it in the future.
    A positive value means that there is more value
    attached to having something in the future than having
    it today.
    We might attach a positive value for endangered species
    (its survival in the future is worth more than its existence
    today)
    ——–end excerpt——

    The value of the cod in the ocean was far greater than their value at the time they were fished out, but that’s not accounted for in nearsighted economics, only in ecological economics.

    The value of unburned carbon is far greater than the value of carbon as fuel, considering its normal course through the biosphere.

    “Carbon is life — don’t get burned.”

    Nearsighted economics has proved it can’t go more than a few decades without falling down and backsliding. For those who win and hold on that’s a positive ratchet, if you ignore the ongoing degradation of the natural world, and they do, “not in my lifetime” is the motto.

    This is well studied. It’s just like public health, you won’t find it mentioned in the industry PR sites, where they’re selling you to their sponsors.

    Look for the science, it’s easy to find.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=fishery+investment+decisions+have+occurred

    Fisheries Economics, a useless science? Wim Davidse … Investment decisions of the entrepreneurs. Several investment waves occurred in the seventies and …
    http://www.eafe-fish.org/conferences/salerno/papers/paper2_wimdavidse.doc

    “What do you think of western civilization, Mr. Gandhi?”
    “I think that it would be a good idea.”

  50. Jim Bouldin:

    OK Doug (39). I call ‘em as I see ‘em. And no, I don’t mean questioners of AGW. I mean the attitude of someone who, at one site, caters to its readers’ preference for inflammatory lingo and oblique and faulty arguments for doing nothing whatsoever on a serious global problem, and then comes here and talks differently and believes he’s performed some sort of objective and meaningful analysis of the problem. Not a real good idea to wander onto someone else’s turf and play objective scientist after you just called them names elsewhere and thought nobody was listening.

  51. MikeN:

    >But per-capita emissions are ~4 times smaller in China than in the US – they do not have the same responsibility just because they have a larger population

    So an 80% reduction by the US makes even this number bigger in China, plus the growth rate of emissions is such that even this number will converge. China currently has more than 20% of emissions(where is a good source of up-to-date data?), so an 80% reduction is not achievable without them, and Russia and India have another 10%.

  52. Richard Ordway:

    Unlike some who say the USA should not do anything because no one else will, I have never personally heard one mainstream currently publishing climatologist (including many IPCC people) say this yet to my face(Lovelock does not to my knowlege publish anymore and I’ve never met him). There could obviously be some, however.

    Instead, what I have heard, is, “Don’t even ask/answer the question, ‘is it too late. That is a useless question.’

    Instead the answer is “that we have to do all we can with whatever we have so that we can lessen the impacts.”

    Of course, I don’t speak for everyone. However, it’s an interesting useful attitude in my own personal opinion.

  53. Mark:

    MikeN, China has mandated actions that will reduce the number of people.

    When is your government going to tell people to stop banging?

    NOTE: you haven’t even STARTED saving 80%. So to complain about how someone else is better off when you do is kind of idiotic.

  54. Chip Knappenberger:

    Re:41

    SecularAlarmist,

    Like I posed previously to Jim Bouldin, do the analysis yourself (presumably free of the entanglements heaped on me), and come back with your own answer. And let’s see if it is any different than mine.

    Why is only the economics of the legislation analyzed and not the climate impact–especially given that the impetus is altering the climate, and its ability to so is severely limited?

    Why do you think the American people think that it is acceptable to subject themselves to a certain degree of economic risk, when there is no potential reward unless 6.5 billion (and growing) other people do the same thing (something that the growing majority of which are neither committed to, nor are particularly interested in)?

    -Chip

    [Response: Because in the absence of any action really bad things are likely to happen. Why not fish the last fish, cut down the last tree and burn the last lump of coal? Your philosophy is the same as the one that leads to Easter Island, or the collapse of the cod fishery - if no-one looks beyond their nose, they all crash into the wall. - gavin]

  55. Rene Cheront:

    JBL @ 28
    Yes, good point, tradable emissions rights are in principle a rational way to avoid a tragedy of unowned common air. We could give every person on the planet one right, and let the trading begin.

  56. Marc:

    This is an interesting post that raises interesting questions to ponder, but like Chip, I’m a bit reluctant to follow all the conclusions of an imperfect analogy (after all, every analogy is imperfect).

    As I see it, here’s the crux of the matter: I can certainly see merit in the general idea that the people who created a problem should be the first to step up to the plate with solutions for that problem, but the real question is, “What is the best way to solve the problem?” People who oppose Waxman-Markey and other similar measures often believe that the costs of these plans would greatly outweigh the benefits, and I think that’s a legitimate viewpoint that deserves rational analysis.

    Some commenters have argued that renewable energy technology is sufficiently developed to provide for the world’s needs, and strictly speaking, this is probably true. The problem is, though, that renewable technologies are much more costly at the present time than fossil fuel technologies. If they weren’t, we would be seeing much more market share for wind, solar, and similar power plants. Thus, I see no way to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions without incurring tremendous costs that we CANNOT ignore.

    Furthermore, I know that many experts have talked about the potential disproportionate effects of climate change on third world countries, but what about the effects of taking strong action to reduce carbon emissions? Maybe I’m way off base here, but it seems to me that Chip makes a convincing point that the developing economies of the world (China and India primarily) will be responsible for considerable emissions growth over the coming decades as they develop much better electricity infrastructure and industries. If we require these countries to make large cuts in fossil fuel use (which we will need to do if we want to reduce the future effects of climate change), their economic development will be severely hampered because they can’t afford large scale implementation of expensive power technologies. Thus, I’m not sure if it’s fair to talk about the potential devastating effects of climate change without also talking about the tremendous price that many people (including very poor people in third world countries) will need to pay to mitigate that change.

    Maybe a deep analysis of these issues will still reveal that it is less costly to mitigate climate change than it is to adapt to its effects (I’m thinking of the Stern Review here, for example, which advocated this view), but I don’t see an overtly clear solution to the cost/benefit problem. A few years ago, I read a chapter in the book: “Public Policies for Environmental Protection (2nd Edition)” which found that even the Kyoto Protocol, which seemed to entail relatively modest emissions targets in comparison to some of the policies that we’re now discussing, may well be more costly than a business as usual scenario. If that’s true, I have to wonder if we’re in a situation where the necessary policies to mitigate climate change are far too costly, and the cheaper policies are ineffective for mitigating environmental problems.

    In any event, don’t we need to have a reasonable discussion of these issues? I may be wrong, but it seems to me that it would be far more constructive to discuss the merits of these ideas rather than simply labelling anyone who believes them as “greedy,” “immoral,” “heartless,” or the like.

  57. MikeN:

    Why not link to Chip’s analysis so people can decide for themselves?
    His numbers don’t match up with your probabilities in ‘hit the brakes hard’ I think.

    [Response: It is linked - and he doesn't include any uncertainties at all. - gavin]

  58. Rene Cheront:

    Hank Roberts @ 30
    You are mistaken that markets don’t give ownership of the future. Many do – forests are one example; and many corporations live longer than humans too. The key is tradability – people invest in such long term schemes, in the knowledge they can sell them on later should they then wish to spend on consumption.

    The principle applies as much to natural resources as to man-made ones. The only issue is whether the property rights in question – eg of whales or fish – are sufficiently clearly delineated.

  59. Rene Cheront:

    Alexandre @ 44 : That rationale (“Resources would gravitate to the most efficient use thereof.”) works well for products directly tradeable, but not for externalities (especially diffuse ones) or common-pool resources.

    The whole idea is to MAKE the products tradeable. Once this happens, it does not matter who owns them at any given point.
    And externality problems are neither better nor worse.

  60. Kevin McKinney:

    Bravo. The general outlines of this “do-nothing” argument are unfortunately widespread on blogsites; just this morning I was asked “Why should we give China a free pass on pollution? What is the advantage of letting Asian-made pollution pile up?”

    Of course it’s a straw man, not to mention a “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” pseudo-question.

    I find much of the denialist opposition’s emotional motivation somewhat similar to that of some of the opposition to Darwin: it would be “just too awful if it were true.”

    But though we are in a daunting position, we are not helpless. We need to assert this fact forcibly and often.

  61. SecularAnimist:

    Marc wrote: “The problem is, though, that renewable technologies are much more costly at the present time than fossil fuel technologies.”

    No, they are not. Renewable technologies are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels. And that’s even now when fossil fuel technologies are artificially low-priced because the costs of carbon pollution are not internalized. That’s the whole point of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade: to end the free ride for polluters who are now able to foist the cost of their pollution onto everyone else.

    Marc wrote: “If they weren’t, we would be seeing much more market share for wind, solar, and similar power plants.”

    Wind turbines accounted for 42 percent of all newly installed electrical generating capacity in the USA in 2008, second only to natural gas for the fourth year in a row. Current market shares reflect many decades of a very uneven playing field that favored fossil fuel (and nuclear) technologies with all sorts of subsidies. But with wind and solar energy growing at record-breaking, double-digit rates every year, that will soon change. Within a few years, wind power will probably account for the majority of all new electrical generating capacity in the USA.

  62. Hank Roberts:

    Rene, nope.
    Pacific Lumber did longterm responsible management of the California redwoods.
    Maxxam, the people who brought us the Sav ings and Lo an bail outs, brought their profits, bought out Pacific Lumber, and started clearcutting.

    Markets don’t protect the future. They simply allow someone to gather the future up in a convenient and purchasable fashion.

    Yes, some people do that with the intent of protecting the future.
    Thoreau: “The measure of a man’s wealth is what he can afford to leave alone.”
    And then you die. But markets don’t and corporations don’t — they accumulate deathlessly.
    Many of us are trying to protect little bits of the world within the market system.
    It’s ultimately hopeless unless someone finds a way we can give our little chunks of the world back to the world to keep going at its plodding 3 percent growth per year, and protect them from the gatherers.

    But markets offer no protection for biological timescales.

    I’m not saying anything does.

    I’m saying the universe, as far as we know, is silent but for one ecosystem that’s had a couple hundred years of high-tech market-driven extraction.

    If we continue as we’re going this planet goes silent too.
    You can’t take it with you.

    For a lot of us, the best we can hope for is to keep it away from the Knappenbergers for a while. Maybe someone will have a better idea.

  63. Chip Knappenberger:

    Gavin,

    Re: 54.

    You are back to your diminishing resources argument again. This is not the issue and you know it—efforts like Waxman-Markey are aimed at making resources seem to be more diminishing than they actually are.

    [Response: Perhaps you are purposely being obtuse? The issue is not the diminishing resources but the difference between individual short term profit at the expense of great collective loss. Fishery, climate change and forestry are classic cases of economic activity that reduces overall welfare while profiting a select few. The fisheries example is dramatic, but your kind of analysis would lead to exactly the same kind of irrational behaviour. Go ahead and make an argument that the expected costs are exaggerated - that would at least justify a policy of inaction to the extent that it could be supported, but by accepting the likely estimates of costs, your analysis and the conclusions being drawn from it are the height of irresponsibility. That extreme cynicism appalls me. - gavin]

    Re: #57

    True, I don’t provide any uncertainties, but I do provide links to the tools and assumptions that I used and invite people to fiddle with them as they see fit—they are not difficult to use or understand. I have twice invited commentors here to try their hand at their own analysis, and I extend that invitation to everyone else (as I did in my articles).

    -Chip

  64. Maiken Winter:

    Great article, Gavin! It reminds me of a sustainability course with the Cloud Institute, where we did a fish game similar to what you described. We – very committed considerate people – managed to kill our fish population 5 times before figuring out that we need to coordinate our efforts and set up certain rules to make sure that our fish population will survive.
    It was amazing and scary to realize how hard it was to
    1) Even realize the need to communicate even though we of course understood the problem, and
    2) To come up with a rule that everybody agrees and sticks to.
    It seems to me sometimes that we need to coordinate ourselves a lot better, agree on specific targets and on concrete ways to get there, before we can expect the politicians to do so.
    One case in point: why not combine the separate guidelines of

  65. Milan:

    There are certainly tensions between developing world states who want the rich world to cut first and most deeply and developed states concerned about seeing any emissions reductions they produce overwhelmed by growth in developing states.

    Both positions have validity, and the mechanisms for resolving the views remain under debate. That being said, the outlines are clear. Every significant emitter will have to take action. Rich states need to start doing so first and more sharply. They also need to provide assistance to developing states, in the form of technology and funding. Through coordinated global action, dangerous climate change can be avoided, and the world economy can be set on a path where it maintains climatic stabiity in the long term.

  66. SecularAnimist:

    Chip Knappenberger wrote: “You are back to your diminishing resources argument again. This is not the issue and you know it—efforts like Waxman-Markey are aimed at making resources seem to be more diminishing than they actually are.”

    Wrong. Efforts like Waxman-Markey are aimed at forcing markets to accurately reflect the fact that the capacity of the Earth system to absorb carbon pollution without disastrous warming and climate change is, in fact, rapidly diminishing.

    The “resource” in question is not the supply of fossil fuels. The “resource” in question — the “commons” that is at risk — is the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere and its capacity to absorb anthropogenic GHG emissions without severe harm. And that resource is rapidly being exhausted by our accelerating emissions.

    What you seem to want to do is preserve a system aimed at making fossil fuels seem less costly than they really are.

    What you seem to be overwhelming concerned with is protecting the ability of polluters to pollute with impunity, and to profit from their polluting activities while forcing the rest of us to bear the costs of their pollution.

    Oddly enough, people who go on about cost-benefit analysis of reducing emissions are often those who expect to reap all the benefits and bear none of the costs of doing nothing.

  67. Alastair McDonald:

    Well Chip,

    I must congratulate you. You have done one thing that I could not achieve. You have persuaded Gavin that if we stay on the current course we are heading for disaster, just like the Easter Islanders.

    The first thing we must do is abondon the idea of return to growth after this recession is over. Growth means burning more fossil fuels and we are already burning too many.

    Here in the UK we are planning to cut our fossil fuel burning by 80%. Why can’t the US match us? But that is a waste of time because our total fuel consumption is less than the growth in the US during the last ten years. The US burns 25% of the worls annual production of oil. Unless it cuts back it is useless the rest of the world taking action.

  68. Chip Knappenberger:

    Gavin (re: #63)

    I am not very comfortable arguing about the expected economic costs, but I do frequently argue about the expected climate costs, which I think are overestimated. But that topic was not the point of my articles. I showed that even under scenarios with high climate cost, the benefit of U.S. emissions reductions (absent the development of readily transferable and accepted new technologies) was extremely low—and thus focusing effort on U.S. emissions is grossly misplaced. If we are looking for innovation, lets support research efforts aimed at innovating, but in the meantime, why make Americans make energy sacrifices when, in and of themselves, they will not produce any (climate) good? Can’t we innovate without sacrifice?

    -Chip

    [Response: As long as it is free to emit CO2, no innovation to prevent CO2 emissions can possibly compete (with the sole exception of efficiency gains, but that is insufficient). Demanding 'innovation' without giving it any economic incentive is like demanding ice cream without being bothered to go to the freezer. Nice in theory, but non-existent in practice. - gavin]

  69. Jim Bouldin:

    “SecularAlarmist, Like I posed previously to Jim Bouldin, do the analysis yourself (presumably free of the entanglements heaped on me), and come back with your own answer. And let’s see if it is any different than mine.

    Yes Chip, we would get the same answer if we did the same thing you did. Computers are predictable that way. And it would be, I’m sorry, GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) if we did. Because your conceptual model excludes some of the most fundamental points that you should have asked before crunching numbers, viz: (1) what socio-political dynamics are possible/likely to occur if important nations take responsibility with decisive actions, (2) how will the increasing certainty of the science at smaller and smaller scales influence nations’ self-interested climate mitigation behavior as they see what’s in store for them (3) how will the economic value of carbon injected into the atmosphere change in response to same, etc. etc.

    Always remember to line up the nail before you hit it with the hammer. Otherwise you just end up hurting yourself.

  70. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Marc writes:

    renewable technologies are much more costly at the present time than fossil fuel technologies.

    Only if you don’t count the economic damage caused by fossil fuel technologies. Once you internalize those costs — e.g. via a cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax — renewable suddenly looks a lot better.

  71. Chip Knappenberger:

    Well, Alastair,

    Here in the UK we are planning to cut our fossil fuel burning by 80%. Why can’t the US match us? But that is a waste of time because our total fuel consumption is less than the growth in the US during the last ten years.

    Join the club.

    During the past 5 years (2001-2006), growth in China’s CO2 emissions have amounted to about 50% of our (the U.S.) total emissions (which have grown by only 2-3% over that time) (data on international emissions from the EIA). So, China is on course to do to us, what we are doing to you—that is fully replacing our national emissions by their new emissions alone in only a decade.

    Thus the problem…

    -Chip

  72. Lawrence Brown:

    It looks more and more like Malthus might be vindicated after all.

  73. Ike Solem:

    Alastair says: “Growth means burning more fossil fuels”.

    I think we can leave it at that. This is the standard PR mantra that the fossil fuel industry has been pumping out ever since the 1970s, and it is demonstrably false. Real economic growth, the kind that is consistent with ecological stability, requires abandoning fossil fuel combustion in favor of renewable energy development.

    In any case, Chip’s comments are distortions of basic economic theories, but that goes for much 20th century economic propaganda. For example, the “Tragedy of the Commons” theme is just a simplistic ripoff of the complex economic themes described by Adam Smith, but as seen through the distorting lens of social Darwinism, another non-scientific theory of economics, from the linked 1968 article (#45):

    In nature the criterion is survival. Is it better for a species to be small and hideable, or large and powerful? Natural selection commensurates the incommensurables. The compromise achieved depends on a natural weighting of the values of the variables. Man must imitate this process.

    First, that’s a 19th-century view of evolutionary theory, applied out of context at that. This is the “tragedy of the commons”, all about greedy short-sighted people being unable to share any common goods, thus necessitating private ownership of everything. It’s nonsense cooked up by some mathematician in 1833 – and to prove it, here are some direct quotes from The Wealth of Nations on the issue, which Smith delved into in detail:

    “On enclosure: In an open country too, of which the principal produce is corn, a well-enclosed piece of grass will frequently rent higher than any corn field in its neighbourhood. It is convenient for the maintenance of the cattle employed in the cultivation of the corn, and its high rent is, in this case, not so properly paid from the value of its own produce as from that of the corn lands which are cultivated by means of it. It is likely to fall, if ever the neighbouring lands are completely enclosed. The present high rent of enclosed land in Scotland seems owing to the scarcity of enclosure, and will probably last no longer than that scarcity. The advantage of enclosure is greater for pasture than for corn. It saves the labour of guarding the cattle, which feed better, too, when they are not liable to be disturbed by their keeper or his dog.“

    Italics added – but notice that the tragedy of the commons assumes that the only possible use of pastureland is for grazing meat animals. Smith tackled this in earnest:

    book 1 wealth of nations

    “A cornfield of moderate fertility produces a much greater quantity of food for man than the best pasture of equal extent. Though its cultivation requires much more labour, yet the surplus which remains after replacing the seed and maintaining all that labour, is likewise much greater. If a pound of butcher’s meat, therefore, was never supposed to be worth more than a pound of bread, this greater surplus would everywhere be of greater value, and constitute a greater fund both for the profit of the farmer and the rent of the landlord…”

    So, if there is such high demand for pasture, a shift towards corn production will likely occur.

    “But the relative values of those two different species of food, bread and butcher’s meat, are very different in the different periods of agriculture. In its rude beginnings, the unimproved wilds, which then occupy the far greater part of the country, are all abandoned to cattle. There is more butcher’s meat than bread, and bread, therefore, is the food for which there is the greatest competition, and which consequently brings the greatest price.”

    There, Smith introduces supply-demand concepts in a more complex frame – and notice how that frame progresses naturally towards ecological concepts (why could the ‘unimproved wilds’ support cattle? or fish?).

    “It is thus that in the progress of improvement the rent and profit of unimproved pasture come to be regulated in some measure by the rent and profit of what is improved, and these again by the rent and profit of corn. Corn is an annual crop. Butcher’s meat, a crop which requires four or five years to grow.”

    Now, let’s apply this Adam Smith reasoning to fossil fuels vs. renewable energy – what is the better use of limited land and material, the construction of renewable energy platforms that require only sun and wind, or the construction of fossil fuel platforms that require a constant stream of mined raw material?

    Do the analysis yourself, Chip, and see what you come up with – no matter which way you look at it, fossil fuels are economic losers.

    “As an acre of land, therefore, will produce a much smaller quantity of the one species of food than of the other, the inferiority of the quantity must be compensated by the superiority of the price. If it was more than compensated, more corn land would be turned into pasture; and if it was not compensated, part of what was in pasture would be brought back into corn.”

    If we were to strip away all government subsidies from fossil fuel and include the full cost of fossil fuel use in the price, it would quickly become clear that renewables are the winning economic option.

    Sorry for the length of the post, but the Adam Smith quotes are needed – The Wealth of Nations must be one of the most-distorted texts in history.

  74. Jim Eager:

    Chip Knappenberger wrote @54: “Why do you think the American people think that it is acceptable to subject themselves to a certain degree of economic risk, when there is no potential reward unless 6.5 billion (and growing) other people do the same thing (something that the growing majority of which are neither committed to, nor are particularly interested in)?”

    You need to update your talking points:

    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/

  75. Miguelito:

    “Friends of Fish”?

    Troy McClure unavailable for comment.

  76. MikeN:

    >what is the better use of limited land and material, the construction of renewable energy platforms that require only sun and wind, or the construction of fossil fuel platforms that require a constant stream of mined raw material?

    Don’t coal and nuclear power plants occupy less land than equivalent amount of solar and wind generation?

  77. Ray Ladbury:

    I suspect the denialists would be quite happy if the nations of the world continued to view this as a zero-sum game. However, I would contend that is not the right game model. It is rather more like the repeated trials of The Prisoner’s dilemma. The atmosphere doesn’t give a rat’s posterior whether a CO2 molecule comes from the US or China or Africa. What matters is the total amount of CO2 emitted.
    The US, Europe and Japan find themselves with a fossil fuel intensive legacy economy. It is unlikely that we can shift to renewables as quickly as a country where the energy infrastructure is still being built. By all means, we must worry about emissions from the developing world, but if we wish them to limit carbon emissions, we will have to help them develop alternatives. Reducing carbon emissions is not optional. It has to happen. We had best figure out a way to do so.

  78. Nicolas Nierenberg:

    Seriously, you just “discovered” the tragedy of the commons?

  79. sidd:

    Mr Knappenberger wrote:

    “Why do you think the American people think that it is acceptable to subject themselves to a certain degree of economic risk, when there is no potential reward unless 6.5 billion (and growing) other people do the same thing (something that the growing majority of which are neither committed to, nor are particularly interested in)?”

    As others have pointed out, China is acting to encourage renewables and limit fossil carbon emission.

    But, sadder yet, Mr. Knappenberger has failed Rabbi Hillel’s moral test. Let us hope that the rest of us do better.

    “And if I am only for myself, what am I? If not
    you, who? And if not now, when?”"

  80. Chip Knappenberger:

    Re: #68

    Gavin,

    We sent people to the moon with concentrated, directed effort and without sacrifice from the general population. It seems like we came up a large-scale nuclear reaction with the same type of program…sure we were stressed at the time, but not for the purpose of creating the bomb. The populace at large was not operating under forced economic incentives to aid in the success of those programs.

    Nor were they, for that matter, when the freezer was invented to keep their ice cream in. :^)

    -Chip

  81. Chip Knappenberger:

    Re: #69

    Jim,

    Where was the “line up the nail before you hit it” comment when Wigley published his analysis of the impacts of the Kyoto Protocol using similar methodology as I used?

    Wigley, T.M.L., 1998. The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and climate implications. Geophysical Research Letters, 25, 2285-2288.

    Or when the IPCC was drawing up their SRES scenarios? All I did was take an SRES scenario (drawn up by people far more knowledgeable than myself on that issue), and modified the U.S. assumptions to account for Waxman-Markey’s proposed programs. And, I did the same analysis with the whole world doing the same thing! So I covered the entire range of actions applied to the most extreme SRES scenario (A1FI).

    I think if you think about it, it is my analysis that you don’t like, but my interpretation of the results.

    -Chip

  82. Jeffrey Davis:

    It looks more and more like Malthus might be vindicated after all.

    It’s so long ago that I read the terrible line, “Malthus waits” that I can’t remember where I first saw it.

  83. JBL:

    @ Nicolas Nierenberg: The word “discover” doesn’t appear anywhere in the article or in the comments — who are you talking to?

  84. Peter Wood:

    Ray is correct. Climate change is a multi-player repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is why we need an international environmental agreement, to transform the Prisoner’s Dilemma into a different game. To do this, there will need to be some credible penalties for non-participation and non-compliance — to prevent countries doing things like the US, where they agreed to a target at Kyoto, and then refused to ratify.

    The Montreal Protocol on reducing ozone depleting substance succeeded in doing this. One of the reasons was that it also regulated the trade of ozone depleting substances, so countries that did not comply or participate were unable to trade in them.

  85. David B. Benson:

    “Die, Humans! Is Mother Nature Sick of Us?”:
    http://www.livescience.com/environment/090507-earth-fed-up.html

    Lovelock gloomy; Peter Ward gloomier still.

  86. R Cliff:

    Chip,

    I suggest you and the fossil fuel industry invest heavily in building a time machine so that when this planet’s fossil fuel stocks are thoroughly depleted, the oceans acidified, and the atmosphere overheated, you can take all your oil revenue back to a cleaner, simpler time… say 1946?

    For clues on how to build such a device, I suggest you watch re-runs of “The Time Tunnel” on Hulu.com

  87. dhogaza:

    We sent people to the moon with concentrated, directed effort and without sacrifice from the general population. It seems like we came up a large-scale nuclear reaction with the same type of program…sure we were stressed at the time, but not for the purpose of creating the bomb. The populace at large was not operating under forced economic incentives to aid in the success of those programs.

    You’re seriously saying that my parents weren’t taxed, or the deficit increased therefore taxing me, to fund the Manhattan Project?

    Please.

    Don’t visit your stupid on us.

    The populace at large was not operating under forced economic incentives to aid in the success of those programs.

    So let’s see … in Chip’s world there were no forced rationing on the American public, the draft didn’t exist (a huge percentage of those involved in the industrial side of building the infrastructure making the bomb possible were drafted into the Army), etc etc.

    Comments …

  88. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Marc #56 and Chip Knappenberger #68 wonder in good faith about the scale of the enterprise and the willingness of China and others to work as hard as we do at reducing CO2 emissions. Many others are wondering the same thing. Now that the tragedy of the commons has been so powerfully been brought to bear in the rhetorical battle, maybe it’s time to plan what is to be done.

    Clearly formulating a problem often suggests the solution. Coal emissions are the problem, but that’s still too vague a formulation. The solution can’t be to ban coal (as we did CFCs) because coal is indispensable in the next 20 years for power generation in the US, and especially in China. Intermittent sources, such as wind and solar, are not a satisfactory replacement for coal as baseload power, and they have unsolved storage problems. The conclusion is that we are stuck for now with the pulverized coal fleet on which our grid depends. Plug-in cars will mean even more dependency on coal power.

    So, more specifically formulating the problem: post-combustion CO2 capture and disposal retrofittable to existing pulverized coal plants. Let’s focus on the two elements: capture and disposal.

    Presently, we have chemical capture (amine or chilled ammonia scrubbing) which has worked for natural gas but will probably not work with flue gas because of the large (75% of volume) N2 fraction (“nitrogen ballast”) which complicates makes mixing the chemicals in. Heat-stable salts scale the heat exchange surfaces. Fly ash sludge is another problem. Compressing the huge volumes of hot and dirty flue gas, with its nitrogen ballast, to liquefy the CO2 is obviously out of the question. Here is an alternative capture method: vortex gas separation by mechanically forced von Karman swirling flow in an open system. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2009/0013867.pdf

    Disposal of the captured CO2 by underground dumping (“sequestration” to the snobs) is used deep under the ocean by natural gas producers, and it is being studied for use in the continental US. Sequestration would require an enormous pipeline infrastructure, and the liability issues for lethal gas storage are still unresolved. The GAO report on sequestration is not encouraging:

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081080.pdf

    Other than sequestration, there is mineralization, such as the Calera process which turns CO2 into CaCO3 for cement. But mineralization is slow, and the volumes of CO2 to be processed are huge, to say nothing of the nitrogen ballast mixed with the CO2. Remember, we are talking about a dilute and dirty stream of CO2, not a pure stream in a laboratory.

    An alternative to sequestration and mineralization is cracking the CO2 to make CO. The bond dissociation energy for taking off the first oxygen is 5.5 eV — in the same neighborhood as water electrolysis. Simultaneous CO2 and water electrolysis (“syntrolysis”) produces syngas (CO + H2) which can be burned or processed into vehicle fuel. So there is a way to make CO2 into a resource instead of a waste product. The difficulty is the energy required, which cannot come from fossil fuels because they emit more CO2 than they can crack.

    The solution is to use wind and solar energy to crack coal CO2. They could also crack the NOx and SOx at the same time. This gets solar and wind widely deployed while preserving the baseload power of coal. CO2 becomes the longed-for energy storage medium for renewables. Wind and solar are too intermittent to be relied on for baseload power, and wind is abundant at night, when there is already plenty of spinning reserve from coal and nuclear, so it would go to waste if not used for cracking. Hybrid power generation is how to reduce CO2 emissions while deploying wind and solar as fast as possible, without compromising the grid.

    So, Chip, there’s a way to innovate without sacrifice — turn CO2 into a resource. Then China and everyone will rush to adopt the solution that Americans have shown.

    [edit - no advertising]

  89. Oakden Wolf:

    Chip Knappenberger quoth here:
    “So, the issue before us today is not really the same as you describe about cod fishing. If it were, neither of us would likely be involved. Instead, it is about reasons why we should stop using the resources we currently have.”

    Stop using them? Why not go the Biblical route?

    42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

  90. Rene Cheront:

    Hank Roberts @ 49
    > Whale harvest and the commons The harvesting of whales is an
    > example of the economics of the commons. …. The blue whale was
    > reduced to an estimated few hundred individuals before harvesting
    > was stopped in the 1960s….

    This is because the whales were not owned. If they became farm animals like any other, they would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle are.

  91. James:

    Chip Knappenberger Says (7 May 2009 at 15:14)

    “Why do you think the American people think that it is acceptable to subject themselves to a certain degree of economic risk, when there is no potential reward unless 6.5 billion (and growing) other people do the same thing…”

    Why do you think there is no reward other than the CO2 reduction? Take an example from my own experience. I drive a car that gets a bit over 70 mpg, while the stereotypical US SUV gets about 14 mpg – almost exactly that 80% reduction in CO2 footprint. Apart from that, I derive immediate and ongoing rewards. My car costs less than half as much to buy as the SUV, and far less to run, which rewards my wallet. There’s time saved: I visit gas stations less frequently, it’s easier to find parking, etc. There are less tangible rewards, too. Increased security, since I don’t have to worry nearly as much about gasoline price increases; the fun of driving a zippy two-seater rather than a lumbering SUV, and more.

  92. Rene Cheront:

    Hank Roberts @ 62
    > Pacific Lumber did longterm responsible management of the
    > California redwoods. Maxxam…bought out Pacific Lumber, and
    > started clearcutting.

    Harvesting trees is not necessarily irresponsible.

    > Markets don’t protect the future. They simply allow someone to
    > gather the future up in a convenient and purchasable fashion.

    They offer as much protection of the future as people want and are prepared to pay for.

  93. Rene Cheront:

    > Ike Solem @ 73
    Contrary to your claims, the tragedy of an unowned commons is very real, not just PR or a corruption of Adam Smith. This is simply because, while there IS an incentive to preserve owned resources, there ISN’T an incentive to preserve unowned ones.

  94. MikeN:

    >China is acting to encourage renewables and limit fossil carbon emission.

    They are building solar and wind, true, but they are also building 2 coal plants a week. Total added capacity in coal, 80 GW in one year.

    If they keep growing at 10 percent a year, then by 2025, they will have passed the US in per capita numbers as well.

  95. John Monro:

    Hello everyone,

    I have four daughters, they’re lovely girls. My eldest though, when she was about ten years old, changed from being a neat and tidy person, to having a bedroom that looked like the local tip. Indeed, at one time there were mice nesting in the debris. That was annoying, but even more so when it was one my own jackets that had been “borrowed” in which these mice had made their home.

    When her parents regained their sense of proportion and control we decided that a dirty bedroom is not to be tolerated, it’s not a matter of individual freedom, but of family (i.e. community) responsibility to keep our home habitable. When we tried to deal with the matter, this daughter pointed to the sign she had written and placed on the door, which stated “Why should I keep my bedroom tidy, when the world’s in such a mess?”

    Which, superficially at least, seems like a fair point. But of course, we weren’t the only parents to face such an argument, indeed one could buy such signs to place on the door. Fortunately, even parents with the meanest intellect, like us, eventually sort that one out.

    The answer is quite simple. And it’s this. If one makes a mess, then it’s the responsibility of the person making the mess to clean it up. It’s not always a welcome reply, but it’s the only one that makes any intellectual, emotional and ethical sense. Because there’s no injunction on anyone to tidy up, clean up, or otherwise accommodate anyone else who isn’t responsible for their own actions. The only exception to this rule is dealing with the mentally disturbed or the intellectually disabled.

    Millions of parents around the world worked this all out years ago, and the logic is understood by millions of children with equal force.

    So what ails the intellects of all those around those around the world who still cannot understand this?

  96. Mark:

    re 76: people don’t want their homes, their places of work or their food being grown near a nuclear plant. Likewise, they won’t put their homes next to a coal power station and farmers will have to spend money undoing the damage done by the effluvium if the food for human consumption is grown there.

    So these power plants have a lot of ground that is unusable unless you demand people go there.

  97. Ike Solem:

    Re#76, MikeN. For the actual land use estimate of a coal plant, you first have to include the coal mine, coal mine, mountaintop removal, etc. Pulverized coal power plants burn on the order of 10 million tons of coal per year. You also have to include the emissions – particulate aerosols, mercury, and sulfur, and the effects – acid rain, persistent mercury accumulation in fish, acid rain across the Northeast, and air pollution all across the western deserts and the Rockies. Then, there is the sheer volume of fly ash to deal with,

    If you take 10 million tons of coal, how many rail car loads is that? At 100 tons/load, that is 100,000 car loads – now, do that for 30 years, the expected lifetime of silicon solar panels. How much land does that cover? Now, add on the pollution blanket.

    Now, we can do a side-by-side lifetime cycle comparison for similar coal and renewable energy projects in gigawatt-hours or joules, or anything convenient.

    On one side you have a solar and/or wind plant that covers a large area, but which can coexist with residential/industrial land (solar) and agricultural land (wind). On the other, you have the coal plant, the cooling water/steam supply (2-4 billion gallons per year), and 300 million tons of coal.

    For solar, the necessary area would depend on two major factors – the efficiency of the panels in converting sunlight to electricity (pushing 20% for affordable commercial silicon, twice that for expensive satellite technology), and one’s location on the planet:

    http://www.mg.co.za/article/2007-11-28-worlds-sunniest-spots-hint-at-energy-bonanza

    Unlike a coal plant, the with a solar plant the whole fuel cycle is provided for free by the sun, as modulated by local climate conditions, and there is no waste stream to deal with under daily operation – only during initial manufacturing.

  98. Ike Solem:

    The ability of renewables to co-exist with agriculture has also been demonstrated:

    French farmer is new sun king
    Tue Feb 24, 2009 Reuters

    The 20 million euro ($26 million) investment means constructing five enormous sheds covered by 36,000 square meters of solar panels with a capacity to generate 4.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 4,000 homes.

    For the above 4,000 homes, that is just nine square meters per home. That ratio alone indicates that solar is easily capable of meeting residential electricity needs across a vast swathe of the world. On the large scale, 5 square kilometers of solar, using current technology, would generate as much as a typical 500 MW coal-fired plant. So, if we consider the land use issues, pollution issues, and energy issues, it is clear that renewables can replace solar with clear benefits – but can it meet financial requirements? Can large investments for big solar projects be paid back to banks, in other words?

    This is addressed in the French farmer’s plan:

    The size, combined with a government guarantee of long-term electricity contracts at an inflation-linked “feed-in” tariff, helped win the scheme bank support.

    In California, we’ve seen long-term electricity contracts signed by political leaders – not to promote renewable energy, but rather to promote the efficiency of the newly deregulated energy markets, in which Enron was playing a large and manipulative role.

    A Lost Opportunity That Worsened Crisis: Utilities and federal regulators shut the door on renewable power in California
    Susan Sward, Chronicle Staff Writer, Monday, February 12, 2001

    By not developing more renewable sources, the state lost a potentially powerful hedge against its heavy dependence on natural gas and out-of-state producers. Almost one-third of the state’s electricity is generated using natural gas.

    Notice that the crisis was as much about bad economic choices made by government leaders as it was about market manipulation by energy traders. The manipulation was only made possible by the deregulation of Samuel Insull’s ‘natural monopolies’ – but if renewables had been developed, market gaming would not have been possible. In the end, the market manipulation ended up driving several PG&E and Southern Edison subsidiaries into bankruptcy – as well as driving the entire state into debt, thanks in part to those long-term energy contracts for natural gas and electricity.

    Consider an analogous ‘tragedy of the commons situation’: As pressure for herding on limited land grows, corn farmers point out that they can grow more food per acre – but the herders band together with local government officialdom to prevent farmers from taking over any land (and possibly crashing the price of beef). The engineered lack of competition then allows a deliberate run-up in the price of beef – and the market has no choice but to pay or starve. Regardless, say several economists, the problem is that the deregulation didn’t go far enough…

    Is there a relevant Adam Smith quote? Yes, we just have to replace the word “clergy” with the modern analogue:

    “But if we consider the matter more closely, we shall find that this interested diligence of the [academic economist] is what every wise legislator will study to prevent; because in every religion except the true it is highly pernicious, and it has even a natural tendency to pervert the true, by infusing into it a strong mixture of superstition, folly, and delusion.”

    “Each ghostly practitioner, in order to render himself more precious and sacred in the eyes of his retainers, will inspire them with the most violent abhorrence of all other sects, and continually endeavour, by some novelty, to excite the languid devotion of his audience. No regard will be paid to truth, morals, or decency in the doctrines inculcated.”

    Not to end there, Smith continues:

    “And in the end, the civil magistrate will find… that in reality the most decent and advantageous composition which he can make with the spiritual guides, is to bribe their indolence by assigning stated salaries to their profession, and rendering it superfluous for them to be farther active than merely to prevent their flock from straying in quest of new pastures.”

  99. Theo Hopkins:

    The UK only produces 2% of global emmissions.
    So there is no point in us in the UK doing anything – is there?

  100. Barton Paul Levenson:

    MikeN writes:

    Don’t coal and nuclear power plants occupy less land than equivalent amount of solar and wind generation?

    True for solar. For wind, you can still use the land in a windfarm, and there are increasing numbers of wind sites that are being used to grow crops right under the wind turbines.

  101. pete best:

    Re #73, Fossil fuel is intensive today, the demand for all three is growing outside of a recession which will not last that much longer until BAU is resumed. If only the idea that fossil fuels could be replaced simply and cost effectively in a mitigating climate change time frame was even known and understood then fine but is it not is it? When you look at a graph of energy usage you can see the playing field is distorted by fossil fuels which provide over 80% of our present energy needs globally and of which the USA is a primary user (and waster of such fuels). The economic and political landscape is awash with it, lobbyists and public sentiment as reliant on it, our culture of prosperity and progress and capatalism means of bettering yourself which is ingrained in western thinking is increasing their usage, their is no plan for renewable energy as yet, no grand plan at all as yet. We are all awaiting this years meeting for a post kyoto treaty but regardless its a long haul even if they all agree to mitigate carbon emissions but do not expect politicians to point out to the electorate that our present standards of living are up for negotiation. The USA has been to war and still is some say for that expression of its cultural lifestyle.

    The present rate by which low carbon energy is being deployed in just far too low to have any 2 ppmv effect on AGW. Its needs to be a lot bigger, probably 3x as much as it is now. Electricity we can generate by low emissions means I am sure of it but gas and oil usage is a different ball game and its doubtful it can be done in time to stop us from using it all so its 450 ppmv minimum over a longer period of time as we have to target coal.

    Difficult decisions to be made globally.

  102. Jürgen Hubert:

    CO2 emissions are a problem for the entire world. Thus, barring truly effective international agreements, each nation should strive to work out an incentive scheme which fines CO2 emissions and rewards reducing such emissions.

    And the nations who come up with the best schemes will be rewarded – not only will they be more energy-efficient (thus saving a lot of money in the long run), but they will also be able to sell their technology and expertise to other nations who are lagging behind in this field – such as large swathes of the United States.

  103. Jan Williams:

    I’m not sure I understand all this talk about how much it’s going to cost to cut carbon emissions. I’ve been working on saving mine for some years, and I’m saving a LOAD of cash!

    For instance:
    Not insisting that the house be a steady 70 degrees all year round, resetting the thermostat just a few degrees every now and then to reflect the outside temperature.
    Cutting travel miles by combining trips: this saves a surprising amount of time as well!
    Car sharing to and from work. A bit bothersome to set up, but I now enjoy the company. The rush hour doesn’t seem nearly so bad when you have somebody to rant with.

    And a lot more stuff. There’s nothing that impacts on the quality of my life except to make it better, yet I’m saving shedloads of money! So who are these people who are going to be so much poorer from cutting emissions?

  104. Mark:

    “The UK only produces 2% of global emmissions.
    So there is no point in us in the UK doing anything – is there?”

    We have only 1% of the people.

    And if that 2% is so insignificant, it should be easy to forego, shouldn’t it!

  105. Rene Cheront:

    > 98 Ike Solem
    > Can large investments for big solar projects be paid back to banks

    Bottom line question is : how much more will it cost? Five times now? Ten? Twenty?

    > Consider an analogous ‘tragedy of the commons situation’: As
    > pressure for herding on limited land grows, corn farmers point
    > out that they can grow more food per acre – but the herders band
    > together with local government officialdom to prevent farmers
    > from taking over any land The engineered lack of competition
    > then allows a deliberate run-up in the price of beef – and the
    > market has no choice but to pay or starve.

    The root problem here is the officialdom that obstructs rather than facilitates tradeable ownership of the land, thereby engineering a lack of competition.

  106. Bruce Tabor:

    Well done again Gavin. I admire your tenacity. I have begun wondering whether it’s time to start writing the eulogy for much of human civilisation. We are facing a slowly evolving catastrophe of our own making and a person with the IQ of a moron would be better at tackling it than than all the people on the planet combined!

    Re. Zeke Hausfather at #2 and Chip Knappenberger at #1
    As there is considerable determination among large European nations to address climate change, the US will be going it alone. A genuine determination to shoulder “more than their fair share” (if you choose to define it as such) of the burden and aim for equal per capita emissions in the long run will bring enormous moral force to the table to fully involve India and China in the medium term.

    These two nations each have more people dependent on land within 1-2 metres of sea level than Bangladesh. They have far more to lose than the Western powers than are responsible for this mess. they cannot afford to let their own pollution drown their citizens.

    I wish my own nation would come to the party! Hint: It starts with Aus and it isn’t Austria.

  107. Mark:

    “They are building solar and wind, true, but they are also building 2 coal plants a week. Total added capacity in coal, 80 GW in one year.”

    And china per capita is HOW MUCH less than USian or even British per-capita?

    If we all go for a “fair share” of fossil fuel burning, we in the developed world will use LESS because we use more than our fair share and those using less than their fair share will go UP.

    Now, if we reduce the “fair share” to 80% of the average, those above the average will make a GREATER THAN 80% cut and those at 1/5th the average will still “have to” increase their production to reach that same level.

  108. Mark:

    Renee, #90: “This is because the whales were not owned. If they became farm animals like any other, they would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle are.”

    Uh, may I point you to Mad Cow Disease and Salmonella Chicken (and H5N1!)?

    That which is owned is abused by its owner if they can get short-term gain from it.

    Just look at the “killer” CEO’s who come in to a company, fire staff and run out while the stock price is high. The problem is that here (as with vast pooling of any other “ownership” of resources) is that the renumeration they get is so large that even critical damage will not remduce the benefit to pauper status. The Shareholder in the company loses $10,000 from his $100,000 investment portfolio, but the company worker loses his livelihood and the CEO gets a new contract with another company.

  109. Bruce Tabor:

    Mr Knappenberger at 18:

    “This is where I, as a climatologist, come in. My analysis, using accepted emissions scenarios and accepted modeling tools, shows that Waxman-Markey will not address the issue of mitigating projected climate change. We need significant contributions from the rest of the world—actually, not just significant, but we need the vast majority of the emissions reductions to come from the developing nations of the world.”

    That’s pretty much “Tragedy of the Commons” in a nut shell.

    In Australia the argument made by the mining lobby is that domestic action without international action will make no difference. If every major polluter takes this approach we are all but guaranteed a catastrophe.

    Look at the impeccable logic:
    IF I act and no one else acts, THEN it will make no difference AND there will be a catastrophe. HENCE I will not act.

    There is simply nothing more to this insanity.

  110. Bruce Tabor:

    This underlying self-interested rationality of (one side of) this debate reminds me of a two line cartoon, which paraphrased would go:

    “We simply can’t afford to save the planet.”

    “But we can afford to destroy it.”

  111. Nicolas Nierenberg:

    #83, This was a figure of speach. I didn’t think I had to be that subtle. What Gavin wrote about has been understood about the issue for at least 30 years. There is no “we” to fix the problem.

  112. Rene Cheront:

    >> Renee, #90: If [whales] became farm animals like any other, they
    >> would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle
    >> are.”

    > #108 Mark : Uh, may I point you to Mad Cow Disease and
    > Salmonella Chicken (and H5N1!)? That which is owned is abused by
    > its owner if they can get short-term gain from it.

    Neither cows nor chickens face extinction, these mishaps notwithstanding. With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own own property, since this is self-defeating. Do you knowingly or deliberately abuse your own property? Surely not.

    > Just look at the “killer” CEO’s who come in to a company, fire
    > staff and run out while the stock price is high. The problem is
    > that here (as with vast pooling of any other “ownership” of
    > resources) is that the renumeration they get is so large that
    > even critical damage will not remduce the benefit to pauper
    > status. The Shareholder in the company loses $10,000 from his
    > $100,000 investment portfolio, but the company worker loses his
    > livelihood and the CEO gets a new contract with another company.

    This simply ignores viability and efficiency. If the company was healthy, there would be no need to fire anyone in the first place, and shareholders would not be losing out. Doing nothing in these situations would typically mean EVERYONE eventually loses their job, and shareholders lose EVERYTHING. It’s a damage limitation exercise, that’s what the killer CEO is there to carry out.

  113. Geoff Wexler:

    “Here in the UK we are planning to cut our fossil fuel burning by 80%.”

    The fact that this promise does not appear to be made in good faith, may not make it useless. Perhaps following #67, the UK should wave its (originally bogus) target around in order to apply pressure to the US to persuade it to follow our example. In return our American and Chinese colleagues might try to make the UK keep its word. This would be a beneficial many body effect. Up till now the opposite has been happening. Multilateral decarbonisation is like multilateral nuclear disarmament. It can have either sign.

    Here is a possible analogue. An announcement of a conference is circulated containing the names of several distinguished contributors. This is completely new to the individuals concerned, but they are attracted by seeing the other names on the list. With luck the project is a success.

  114. Bruce Tabor:

    Chip at 80

    “The populace at large was not operating under forced economic incentives to aid in the success of those programs.”

    In fact they were. Neither program paid for itself. Both required public funding which was ultimately derived through taxation from the populace at large. Taxation is another word for “forced economic incentives”, as in “carbon tax” or “pollution permit cost” – passed on to the consumer.

  115. Bruce Tabor:

    Re: Lawrence at 72 and Jeffrey at 82:
    “It looks more and more like Malthus might be vindicated after all.”

    Actually I think it will be Meadows et al’s Limits to Growth that will ultimately be vindicated.

    We are certainly on track:
    http://www.csiro.au/files/files/plje.pdf

    The fundamental difference with Malthus is that it is not a single problem that overwhelmes us but a simultaneous confluence of problems that together overwhelm society’s adaptive & technological prowess. Climate change is just one of those problems.

  116. pete best:

    Re #104, UK historical emissions are high regardless of present emission levels. The USA is historically higher and presently high so they know they have to do more than us, a lot more. UK consumes 1.7 Mbpd of oil and the USA 20. 5x the population but 10x the oil. They use it for all sort of things though to be fair, heating, making stuff (lots of it) etc.

    The true significance of climate change lies in the wests culture driven way of life. China for example is making stuff for global markets but a lot of it for us in the west. 1.3 billion population means cheaper goods and services in line with the global economic system even though they are shipped a long way. India with its 1.1 billion occupants can also produce cheaply and hence western investment continues unabated. If the fuel is available they will continue to grow at 3% per annum for the forseeable future, decades.

    Its not our fuels that are the problem, more the rate of consumption of everything it mines, extracts and makes. 70 million vehicles go onto world roads every year, thats close to a billion more every decade and they are presently coming out as diesel and petrol. How long before we see 850 million vehicles presently out there growing by 70 million per year in this format. Alternative energy cars will not impact 50% of car both present and future for many decades. Its like electric cars have to fight for market share with carbon cars?!! How daft is that is climate change is a concern. They are not going to be that much better are they ?

  117. Mark:

    “Neither cows nor chickens face extinction,”

    So? It certainly cause several farmers to lose their livelihoods and many more would have been made penniless if it weren’t for government schemes to bail them out.

  118. Mark:

    “This simply ignores viability and efficiency. ”

    Yup, it does.

    But the average number of directorship and similar posts held by a board of the directors of Nortel Networks is five.

    So if Nortel go belly-up (like John Ross made it do), the directors are AT WORST 20% down on their salary. What did JR get? a $6M bonus payment. Why? Because it wasn’t the Board’s money.

    Neither cared about efficiency or viability.

    See also Darl Mc Bride in SCO (in fact any spinoff branch from a company Ray Noorda owns).

  119. Bruce Tabor:

    Sorry in 106 that should be, “As there is considerable determination among large European nations to address climate change, the US will NOT be going it alone.”

  120. MikeN:

    Ike those rail cars aren’t piling up across the landscape, so you can’t use that as an estimate of land usage for a coal plant. The coal mines
    are fixed, and serve multiple plants. I don’t see what acid rain has to do with land area. BY that logic I should complain about mercury from CFLs poisoning Chinese workers or that the Prius battery factory is an environmental disaster in Canada.

    If one makes a mess, then it’s the responsibility of the person making the mess to clean it up.
    Now, if we reduce the “fair share” to 80% of the average, those above the average will make a GREATER THAN 80% cut and those at 1/5th the average will still “have to” increase their production to reach that same level.

  121. MikeN:

    China’s coal electricity sector is about 80% of the US, and growing.
    With its current growth rates her per capita numbers may surpass the US by 2025.

    This would be like the largest fisherman having a large family, and if he doesn’t cut back significantly the fish will go extinct.

  122. Mark:

    And their population 400% of the US and shrinking.

  123. Mark:

    “Ike those rail cars aren’t piling up across the landscape, so you can’t use that as an estimate of land usage for a coal plant.”

    then include the space taken up by the rail link. After all, it NEEDS the link and if it wasn’t there, there would be no power station.

    I think you’ll find that a much larger area.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  124. Ike Solem:

    I wish people would stop throwing around the phrase “the need to decarbonize the economy” – carbon being a rather important element in all life forms. What we need to do is switch the economy from a fossil fueled basis to a renewable energy basis, and stop pumping carbon out of stable geological reservoirs and into the atmosphere.

    Decarbonizing the economy would require the elimination of all food production, for example, as all food is carbon-based.

    Where did this language come from, anyway? It’s most evident in Congress, where calls for emissions cuts are popular, but calls for a transition to renewable energy and an end to coal and oil combustion are pretty rare, and renewable energy generation targets are unheard of.

    Rene says “Bottom line question is : how much more will it cost?”

    Well, it will actually cost a lot less over the lifetime of the solar power plant, because no fuel needs to be imported and burned to generate power. It’s this lower cost that makes banks who have seen high returns from coal-rail-utility deals uneasy.

    Low costs for the consumer translate into low profits for the supplier, and also towards a large-scale economic shift in the energy business, one that leaves coal mines and major railroads out in the cold. To avoid this scenario, they pay various PR organizations, front groups and anonymous bloggers millions of dollars a year to spread propaganda aimed at preventing that from happening. It has to be done in secret and anonymously because it flies in the face of the other propaganda lines promoted by the industry, such as “We believe in free markets and competition, not in exclusive cartels run with government assistance”.

    Essentially, the banks are still firmly refusing to finance any large-scale transitions to renewable energy because that would do serious damage to their existing holdings in fossil fuels. Something like half of the major bank’s underwriting is in the fossil fuel area, so we actually just made a $350 billion investment in fossil fuels, and if we agree that Iraq expenditures are mainly aimed at securing access to the oilfields (as per Alan Greenspan), then we can add another trillion on top of that. That would be a cartel run with government assistance, more or less.

    The problem is not just to replace our fossil fueled system with renewable energy sources, but also to replace large financial cartels with a competitive energy market that promotes innovation and fair prices. It seems impossible to one without the other, if past behavior is any guide.

  125. Ike Solem:

    MikeN: “BY that logic I should complain about mercury from CFLs poisoning Chinese workers or that the Prius battery factory is an environmental disaster in Canada.”

    Yes, that’s the approach used by people who come up with EROEI estimates for biofuels and land-use change as well – I’m just applying the same approach without bias to all energy generation schemes.

    For example, David Pimental and Tad Patzek have won accolades from the oil industry for using similar approaches to estimate energy budgets for ethanol:

    Ethanol production using corn grain required 29% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.
    Ethanol production using switchgrass required 50% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.
    Ethanol production using wood biomass required 57% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.

    For their calculations, they include things like the energy needed to grow the food for the workers at the ethanol factory – it’s garbage, and anyone can see it is garbage because they give a single number, not a range of possibilities. If you do this for solar-powered vs. coal-powered ethanol production, then the fossil energy estimates would be very different – but no mention of that at all?

    The right way to do this is to use lifecycle analysis of energy and pollution costs – and that means including raw materials and wastes, like coal ash:

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/67753.html
    “Coal ash is damaging water, health in 34 states, groups say.”

    For an ethanol production system, you have to include the land used to grow the crops and the fertilizer inputs, but you also have to distinguish between energy sources. See the French farmer’s solar setup – with that, I’m sure you could power a good-sized ethanol refinery.

    Likewise, it is far easier to clean up dirty manufacturing processes than it is to remove CO2 from either exhaust streams or the atmosphere. It is interesting to see that the industry now views electric cars as a big enough threat to start running a PR campaign against them, however. As far as CFLs, mercury from coal is a ridiculously larger source – and CFLs will be replaced by low energy LEDs with better light, hopefully soon.

    The worst current performers under lifecycle analysis are tar sand oil and coal, but coal with carbon capture and sequestration would be an order of magnitude worse – the only way it could work is if you set up nuclear, wind or solar power plants for no other purpose than to provide energy for carbon capture – but if you did that, you could just shut down the coal plant and use your new sources.

  126. dhogaza:

    the Prius battery factory is an environmental disaster in Canada.

    Sigh, so many lies, so little time to spend debunking them.

  127. EL:

    [Response: As long as it is free to emit CO2, no innovation to prevent CO2 emissions can possibly compete (with the sole exception of efficiency gains, but that is insufficient). Demanding ‘innovation’ without giving it any economic incentive is like demanding ice cream without being bothered to go to the freezer. Nice in theory, but non-existent in practice. - gavin]

    Explain the economic theory of reduction of CO2 please. There is every economic incentive to continue the production of CO2 based technology. The solution being presented right now is bogus. The idea that people are going to switch to more costly technologies to save a future people is absurd. In a basic nutshell, it’s trading a future disaster for a disaster in the immediate future.

    Right now, there are some computer scientists tossing around ideas for global warming. One effort is to get an idea of the CO2 footprint from computer based technology. Another effort is to developed computerized methods to control energy consumption, so Less energy is wasted.

    Innovation is the way out of this problem. Computer scientists know that they will make money by saving people money, and they will reduce emissions at the same time. That plan is economically viable, but the call of sacrifice is not; as a result, the effort by some scientist to push that agenda will fail.

  128. Alastair McDonald:

    # Chip Knappenberger Says:
    So, China is on course to do to us, what we are doing to you—that is fully replacing our national emissions by their new emissions alone in only a decade.

    Well in that case you had better start negotiating with them to prevent it. If you start cutting your emissions, not only will that have an effect, but it will also encourage China to do the same, so your cuts will be geared up.

    What infuriates me is that you seem to think that the Chinese are as selfish, greedy, and stupid as you are. They are already facing up to the main problem, which is over population, with their one child policy. (If global population was a tenth of its current size, then the current per head emissions would not be causing a problem.) But the oil companies arranged for China and India to be left out of Kyoto, knowing that it would set the American people against it.

    But thanks to Obama, the Chinese are now negotiating. See China ready for post-Kyoto deal on climate change. So, Chip, it is only red-necks like you who would rather see the world destroyed, than stop driving their SUV and Monster Trucks.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  129. Phillip Shaw:

    Since this is a thread full of analogies and metaphors I’ll offer one more for consideration. Picture the nations of the world crammed into a large, but leaky, lifeboat. If the lifeboat sinks, everyone suffers. Does it make any sense for the US to say we’re not going to waste effort bailing our end of the lifeboat until everyone else does? Or does it make more sense to lead by example and bail as hard as we can while encouraging other to bail too?

  130. Doug Bostrom:

    #126 dhogaza:

    Off topic, but I love this snippet: “HUMMER has, for example, established a new national network of new, standalone Quonset hut, hangar-style dedicated dealership facilities over the past several years,..”

    Hummer=military cross-dressing for civilians. Amazing how our fashion accessories have mushroomed to several tons in mass; Transvestite costumes with engines.

  131. Rene Cheront:

    > #117 Mark
    > So? [Mad cow] certainly cause several farmers to lose
    > their livelihoods and many more would have been made penniless if
    > it weren’t for government schemes to bail them out.

    The point at issue, which still stands, is that farmed animals are the least likely of all animals to face extinction. This is because although mistakes may be made from time to time, people attempt to look after their own property. This is the opposite of a tragedy of the commons scenario, where unowned property is abused.

    > #118 Mark
    > the average number of directorship and similar posts held by
    > a board of the directors of Nortel Networks is five.
    > So if Nortel go belly-up (like John Ross made it do), the
    > directors are AT WORST 20% down on their salary. What did JR get?
    > a $6M bonus payment. Why? Because it wasn’t the Board’s money.
    > Neither cared about efficiency or viability.

    That directors don’t subsequently become unemployed is quite irrelevant. And you still ignore that if the company was viable, there would be no incentive to shut it down in the first place, hence no need to pay ‘killer’ execs to do the ‘killing’. Simply ignoring bankruptcy won’t make it go away.
    Efficiency stems from the fact that the Board/shareholders have no need to pay execs more than they need to, to secure their services.

  132. Ike Solem:

    Please, Alastair, lay off the language. You’ve been loading up this blog with disingenuous commentary for quite a while now – are you going to tell us again how the climate models don’t handle radiation correctly, a theme you’ve posted on dozens of times? Yes, climate science is all wrong…

    Then, you promote the theme that economic growth is reliant on fossil fuels, another standard industry PR line.

    Finally, you engage in the equivalent of hate speech, as in calling people “selfish, greedy, and stupid” – just another irrational angry environmentalist, is it? Or are we doing a little side work for Edelman and Burson-Marstellar?

    You might think you’re fooling your audience, but you are really just demonstrating that Adam Smith was right: “No regard will be paid to truth, morals, or decency in the doctrines inculcated.”

  133. SecularAnimist:

    Chip Knappenberger wrote: “I showed that even under scenarios with high climate cost, the benefit of U.S. emissions reductions (absent the development of readily transferable and accepted new technologies) was extremely low …”

    Your scenario contains a false premise, since “readily transferable and accepted new technologies” to replace fossil fuels already exist.

    According to WorldWatch Institute, 27 Gigawatts of new wind energy capacity was installed in 2008 alone. Wind accounted for 42 percent of all new electrical generation capacity in the USA in 2008, second only to natural gas for the fourth year in a row, and within a few years will account for the majority of newly installed generating capacity. Wind is already the leading source of new generating capacity in the EU. China has already surpassed its 2010 wind target of 10,000 MW and ended 2008 with 12,200 MW in place.

    Solar energy — including both photovoltaics and concentrating solar thermal power plants — is experiencing similar record-breaking growth.

    The fact is that alternatives to fossil fuels are not only already available, they are already being deployed at a large scale all over the world, and deployment is accelerating.

    Your claim that some unspecified, pie-in-the-sky “innovation” is needed before we can begin a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is simply false.

    It seems pretty clear that you are interested in one thing only: to continue the use of fossil fuels, and the trillion dollar profits therefrom, as long as possible.

  134. TokyoTom:

    Gavin, thanks for a thoughtful post that I hope will be brought to the attention of every so-called “skeptic” – none of whom has any basis to deny that there are simply NO property rights protecting the atmosphere (or the oceans).

    As a result, to prevent a continuing “tragedy of the commons” the nations of the world, need to make a collective effort to manage what is, after all, a shared resource.

    It`s nice to see that others see that where there are no formal or informal property rights or similar mechanisms, all incentives point to ruin.

  135. Mark:

    “The point at issue, which still stands, is that farmed animals are the least likely of all animals to face extinction.”

    WHO CARES!!! The animal with the rotting brain falling all over the floor doesn’t care.

    It is an illustration of how people WILL abuse their property if they think they can get away with it and get money or power or prestige from it in the short term.

    Look what happened to the bloody fish stocks when Canada owned the Norfolk grounds again. Did they look after it?

    NO.

  136. Jim Eager:

    Rene wrote @90: “This is because the whales were not owned. If they became farm animals like any other, they would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle are.”

    And this is why those advocating private ownership of everything on Earth are regarded as lunatics.

  137. Jim Eager:

    MikeN wrote @76: “Don’t coal and nuclear power plants occupy less land than equivalent amount of solar and wind generation?”

    I take it you have never even seen a photograph of a wind farm, let alone visited one. The footprint of each individual pylon is quite small, even including an access road. The surrounding ground between pylons is fully capable of being plowed and sowed with crops or grazed, and indeed is, even directly under the blades.

    As for solar, again, you might want to actually look at some examples of solar installations, such as those on the roof of residential and commercial buildings, those over parking lots, those along the otherwise vacant right of way of highways and rail lines, and even those above grazing land.

    True, base-load solar-thermal plants do have larger dedicated footprints, but by necessity they tend to be located where the sun shines most steadily, as in deserts where population density is very low and not at all suitable for agriculture and grazing.

    As for your coal and nuclear plants, be sure to include the land occupied by the mines and spoil piles, the prep and refining plants, the rail lines needed to get the continuous stream of coal from mine to plant–the rail line built to access the Powder River Basin coal field only carries coal, and the storage and reprocessing facilities that handle the nuclear and fly-ash waste streams.

    And if you want to talk about generation with a truly large footprint, take a look at hydro-electric. True, dams and their impoundments can also offer the benefits of flood control and irrigation and drinking water supply, but not always. Neither is a benefit of Hydro Quebec’s truly massive James Bay scheme, for example.

  138. pete best:

    Re #133, it may impressive put project that out and it is not enough for several reasons. 50% more energy required come 2030 and hence all that new renewable energy currently being deployed is just going into leaving fossil fuels static in usage at around 88% of current demand.

    We have to ramp it up by around 3x its present deployment rate. It could happen but its a race against time ultimately and fossil fuel usage is not going to tail off soon enough.

  139. Wilmot McCutchen:

    SecularAnimist #133 — I agree with you that wind and solar deployment should go as fast as possible, but there is such a long way to go (due to the huge predominance of coal in power generation) that in the next 20 years the wind and solar growth probably can’t be enough to make a difference in CO2 emissions. Also, the demand for power is increasing as the world adopts the energy-intensive American way of life, especially now with plug-in cars, so just keeping up with demand will require even more coal plants. Taking coal plants offline in China, crippling their new-found prosperity to please the Yankee imperialists, is not going to happen. For the foreseeable future, coal will remain indispensable for power generation in China and in the rest of the world. If you disagree with my conclusion, I’d be interested in hearing why.

    You say: “Your [Chip's] claim that some unspecified, pie-in-the-sky “innovation” is needed before we can begin a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is simply false.” This is because you believe that wind and solar can substitute for coal without disrupting power generation. I wish I had sufficient reason to believe this, but presently I don’t.

  140. James:

    Ike Solem Says (8 May 2009 at 3:11)

    “On one side you have a solar and/or wind plant that covers a large area, but which can coexist with residential/industrial land (solar) and agricultural land…”

    Except that this is not true for large-scale solar power – dedicated solar plants, rather than e.g. putting solar panels on your roof. Look at plans for the Mojave &c solar projects, where the land is first scraped bare, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off anything that might possibly survive.

  141. Rene Cheront:

    #135 Mark
    >> Rene : farmed animals are the least likely of all animals to face extinction.

    > WHO CARES!!! The animal with the rotting brain falling all over the floor doesn’t care.

    The people who are about extinction would care. Which includes everyone who either sells or eats, and/or just admires the animals in question.

    > It is an illustration of how people WILL abuse their property if they think they can get away with it and get money or power or prestige from it in the short term.

    Compared to no ownership? And the more some people abuse their property, the greater incentive there is for other people to replace it.

    > Look what happened to the bloody fish stocks when Canada owned the Norfolk grounds again. Did they look after it? NO.

    Public ownership was it? Private owners in general would have no interest in depleting their stocks and killing off their golden geese.

  142. TGO'D:

    As a first poster on this, or any other, climate site but one who frequently visits appreciates and learns much from RC and other sites, I found this thread fascinating, particularly in terms of the range of responses.

    While Chip appears to me merely to have presented data demonstrating the modest impact that any realistic emission control efforts are likely to have, many responses appear to have concentrated on the question of his motivation for doing so, rather than attempting any rebuttal of his analysis. If the facts are as he states them and are presented without distortion, then, in my view, both facts and presenter should be treated with respect. When faced with uncomfortable facts it is not justifiable to resort to querying the motivation and intentions of the presenter as a means of diminishing their argument, no matter how passionately one may feel about the practical and ethical issues involved.

    Ultimately the questions surrounding AGW and the appropriate response of individuals and societies must be resolved on the basis of incontrovertible science not moral outrage.
    TGO’D

  143. Alexandre:

    Rene #59

    “The whole idea is to MAKE the products tradeable. Once this happens, it does not matter who owns them at any given point.”

    Yes, this is the basic idea. Sometimes it´s feasible, although it depends on regulation to artificially allocate it, as some (as far as I know) success stories of “privatized” fisheries in Alaska, for instance. How these rules are made can make all the difference between success and failure of the whole thing. It´s not as automatic as “once it´s on the hands of the market, the problem´s solved”.

    Farms are already privatized, and that does not prevent their owners to make some choices with bad externalities, like using processes that will deteriorate the land in the long run, if that means good productivity for some decades.

    “And externality problems are neither better nor worse.”

    Now that´s something very different. For example: you cannot define property rights to a big citie´s air, and I don´t see how it would help even if you could. Without emmission regulations, people are individually faced with a choice like this: they can spend some money to avoid emmissions and do a very tiny contribuition (individually) to the air of the city, or they can save that money a do a very tiny deterioration to that air. Since the agents, alone, won´t make much of a difference, they tend to do the latter. This tipically leads to the tragedy of the commons and the resource is depleted (or lost to pollution).

    Economically, it only makes sense if you can make that decision together with the other users of the resource: do we all want to have a clean air and spend some money for it, or do we prefer to save some and live in a polluted city? In a big population, this joint decision is usually done through the law, or regulation.

    For world CO2 emmisions, that´s even more complicated because you have to sew a world-wide treaty among sovereign states, who will in principle have an incentive to free-ride, pretend that they “don´t agree with the necessity of it” and emit freely, leaving costs of mitigation and externalities for others. They can even become more competitive because of that.

    That´s true for direct regulations (like present automotive emmision regulations) and for cap-and-trade limits too.

    The usefulness of Coase´s Theorem is nihil in pratice, when externalities are this diffuse.

  144. Rene Cheront:

    #136 Jim Eager

    >> Rene : If [whales] became farm animals like any other, they would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle are.

    > And this is why those advocating private ownership of everything on Earth are regarded as lunatics.

    Is there any rationale behind this attitude?

  145. Jim Bouldin:

    Rene Cheront says:

    “This is because the whales were not owned. If they became farm animals like any other, they would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle are.”

    The point at issue, which still stands, is that farmed animals are the least likely of all animals to face extinction. This is because although mistakes may be made from time to time, people attempt to look after their own property. This is the opposite of a tragedy of the commons scenario, where unowned property is abused.

    Yeah, let’s just domesticate and privatize everything, that’ll solve it! You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, either with regard to endangered species protection, management of a commons, or the interaction between the two. Zip.

  146. Chip Knappenberger:

    Re: #133

    SecularAlarmist,

    So, what’s your point? I started with the wrong SRES scenario?

    It seems that currently, despite your list of renewable installations, the rate of global emissions growth thus far this century is exceeding A1FI (primarily on account of China).

    And that this trajectory is only temporary? And that, without legislation, we’ll eventually settle on a different trajectory, say A1B?

    OK. Well, the impact of the U.S. emissions reduction legislation like Waxman-Markey is even smaller assuming A1B than assuming A1FI.

    No matter how you slice it, the role that the U.S. has to play in mitigating projected climate change is through innovation, not through its own reductions–no matter how large or small they are. So why keep pushing this course of action?

    Efforts like Waxman-Markey are aimed at causing an artificial crisis (a diminishing supply of fossil fuels) to stimulate innovation.

    Perhaps there are other, more direct ways (I understand that Gavin doesn’t think so), but maybe others can come up with some?

    -Chip

  147. MarkB:

    Zeke’s post (#2) covers the essentials. The “the U.S. acting without international agreement won’t help” is indeed a fallacious argument. If the U.S. doesn’t act, few others will. We’ve already seen that. If the U.S. acts, it’s not a guarantee that others will but the likelihood is increased. At the very least, the world’s strongest power taking action will create strong market incentives that will accelerate technological development which will all for quicker adoption by other nations.

  148. MarkB:

    CBO has a useful graphic on their homepage:

    http://www.cbo.gov/

  149. SecularAnimist:

    Rene Cheront wrote: “With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own property, since this is self-defeating. Do you knowingly or deliberately abuse your own property? Surely not.”

    Owners of factory-farmed animals systematically abuse their property for the simple reason that it is profitable to do so.

    When animals such as chickens are raised in unhealthful conditions of brutal, filthy confinement, and transported to slaughter under even worse conditions, they suffer enormously and some of them die as a result. Their death is an economic loss to the owner. But if that loss is less than the cost of treating the animals better so as to reduce the number who die, then it is to the owner’s economic benefit to continue to abuse the animals.

  150. Jim Bouldin:

    TGOD says:

    While Chip appears to me merely to have presented data demonstrating the modest impact that any realistic emission control efforts are likely to have, many responses appear to have concentrated on the question of his motivation for doing so, rather than attempting any rebuttal of his analysis.

    You need to go back and read the responses again, because there have been numerous rebuttals. His argument is either one of two things: (1) a self-apparent triviality if it is meant to be interpreted strictly as stated, as argued by SecularAnimist in #21 or (2) a subtle attempt to imply that, since U.S. actions will do little to affect future temperatures, nobody should do anything, which was picked apart by a whole bunch of people in numerous posts.

    He’s aligned with a group that wants no part of anything that involves economic sacrifices, and if you think that doesn’t raise questions about his motives, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  151. SecularAnimist:

    You know, the reason that poor people suffer so much is that no one owns them. If someone owned poor people, the owners would have an incentive to take care of them so as to protect the value of their property. Thus, the solution to the problem of poverty is to reinstitute chattel slavery.

  152. dhogaza:

    You know, the reason that poor people suffer so much is that no one owns them. If someone owned poor people, the owners would have an incentive to take care of them so as to protect the value of their property. Thus, the solution to the problem of poverty is to reinstitute chattel slavery.

    Slave owners in the South actually used a variant this argument during the great antebellum debate on slavery in the US.

  153. SecularAnimist:

    Chip Knappenberger wrote: “… the role that the U.S. has to play in mitigating projected climate change is through innovation, not through its own reductions …”

    The ONLY way to mitigate projected climate change is by reducing emissions, period.

    The ONLY “innovations” that are relevant are innovations that reduce emissions.

    Those “innovations” — clean renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency technologies — already exist, and are already being deployed on a large scale. They are already helping to reduce the growth in emissions, by displacing fossil fuels that would otherwise be burned to provide new energy. For example, the new wind energy capacity added worldwide in 2008 alone is the equivalent of around 27 new coal-fired power plants.

    What is urgently needed right now is measures to accelerate the deployment of existing renewable energy and efficiency technologies, so they can quickly reach the point where they not only account for 100 percent of all new energy sources, but start to replace existing fossil fuel use.

    Putting a price on carbon pollution, whether through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, so that the market reflects the true cost of carbon pollution, is an important measure to accelerate the deployment of alternatives.

    You keep using the word “innovation” but you have yet to say exactly what you mean by it.

    Based on the context, it appears that you are using it as a euphemism for “continue burning fossil fuels at business-as-usual, accelerating rates, no matter what”.

  154. Chip Knappenberger:

    Why is it that several of you think that it is perfectly OK, to use a certain set of tools—in this case climate models run under a set of potential emissions scenarios—to tell you what the future climate may be like and conclude that we need to do something to alter those emissions scenarios, but then are beside yourself and full of indignation that I would use the same set of tools to examine what the impact of future climate would be if you actually did those things to reduce emissions? Wigley did this analysis for Kyoto. I did this analysis for Waxman-Markey. Waxman-Markey only applies to U.S. emissions. What else did you want me to do? A global analysis of Waxman-Markey? I did that, too!

    Conclude from it what you want. Clearly, the folks here conclude something different than folks elsewhere. But, at least the numbers are out on the table for all to see and make their own conclusions. Prior to this, the results weren’t being so well advertised.

    -Chip

  155. Alastair McDonald:

    Ike,

    “The Tragedy of the Commons” in not about common land, it is about all shared resources. It is an essay that appeared in Science in 1968 by Garrett Hardin. It is true that over exploitation of common land was used as a reason for the “Enclosures” in England, but Gavin gave another example where lack of enclosure led to the destruction of the Newfoundland fishing grounds. So Hardin was asking “for a strict management of global common goods via increased government involvement or/and international regulation bodies.” See “Wikipedia.

    This is of course anathema to many Americans such as Chip. They regard it as communism by the back door and most would rather be dead than red. I would not mind that, but for the fact that it would mean my death too! Now can you understand why I get very angry? Chip is quite happy to kill me, my family, and my friends all in the name of freedom. It is not freedom for me, and it is “selfish, greedy, and stupid” of him.

    BTW with regard to “how the climate models don’t handle radiation correctly” the following paper has just been published in Quart. J. R. Met. Soc,:
    An evaluation of the long-wave radiative transfer code used in the Met Office Unified Model; C. Goldblatt, T. M. Lenton, A. J. Watson; (p 619-633)Published Online: Apr 9 2009 8:32AM DOI: 10.1002/qj.403

    The abstract contains the sentence “Errors for surface and top-of-atmosphere fluxes for CO2 are similar to those from the mean of the general circulation model (GCM) codes submitted to the inter comparison of radiation codes for IPCC AR4, implying that errors as found here may not be uncommon in [all] climate models.”

  156. Jim Eager:

    Rene asked @144: “Is there any rationale behind this attitude?”

    Why, yes, there is, and SecularAnimist and dhogaza expressed it quite nicely in 151 & 152.

    I’ll give another example: that of Bechtel in Bolivia, where even rainwater was privatised with a law that made it illegal for citizens to collect rainwater for domestic use.

    Fortunately, your extreme market view is on the far fringe and in all likelihood is destined to remain so.

  157. Wilmot McCutchen:

    TGO’D #142 — I agree with you. Civility is a worthy goal. Ad hominem sniping, questioning motivation, does not add to the strength of a position. Feelings run high on an issue as important as saving the planet, so I hope you will indulge some occasional outbursts, which I find add some spice to the discussion.

  158. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Waxman-Markey, the giant cap-and-trade bill still stuck in subcommittee, is going through some disturbing changes in order to emerge. One is that over half of CO2 emissions will be excused by grandfathered pollution allowances. Polluters get a free pass, which would moot EPA enforcement of CO2 regulation. Cap-and-trade has not been successful at significantly reducing CO2 emissions in Europe.

  159. Aaron Lewis:

    Possibly the best analysis of the problem posted on RC.

    However, it is almost impossible to “sell” a problem to the public and policy makers. It is much easier to sell a solution. Great fortunes have been made selling solutions to problems that were hardly noticed before the solution was marketed. No problem was ever solved by selling the problem. Problems are always solved by selling solutions.

    We have a real problem. Global warming in its worst form will put a stop to science as a past-time. If you want the fun of doing science, you need to go out and sell the solutions to AGW.

    Selling solutions may not feel like “science”, but it is what needs to happen to save science.

  160. James:

    Jim Eager Says (8 May 2009 at 12:47):

    “True, base-load solar-thermal plants do have larger dedicated footprints, but by necessity they tend to be located where the sun shines most steadily, as in deserts where population density is very low and not at all suitable for agriculture and grazing.”

    So that makes it OK to destroy that particular piece of environment? Could you please explain the difference between that and the attitude that sees the value of whales as only the money you get from the oil & meat?

  161. Pat N:

    Good timing on this, with the Minnesota fishing opener tomorrow, so I posted it for comments at the Chanhassen, MN blog:
    http://www.chanvillager.com/news/schools/climate-change-open-discussion-minnetonka-101#comment-1921

  162. Jim Bouldin:

    Why is it that several of you think that it is perfectly OK, to use a certain set of tools—in this case climate models run under a set of potential emissions scenarios—to tell you what the future climate may be like and conclude that we need to do something to alter those emissions scenarios, but then are beside yourself and full of indignation that I would use the same set of tools to examine what the impact of future climate would be if you actually did those things to reduce emissions?

    If we buy into the legitimacy of your analysis Chip, then the only logical conclusion is that we have to do a LOT more than Waxman and Markey are proposing, and that is sure to set MasterResource into a conniption. If your results are as significant as you say, then you need to submit them for publication. And please stop justifying what you’ve done just because Tom Wigley did something similar wrt Kyoto decisions, with a different model, over a decade ago. It’s irrelevant; you have to show that what YOU are saying is solid science. And you also have to know that your association with a group having a definite pro-economic agenda places the onus of demonstrating strict impartiality with regard to the science squarely on YOU. There are MANY questions that could be asked which you would have to explain

  163. EL:

    RE 139 Wilmot McCutchen – I have done everything but write a poem, and I still haven’t managed to get some of these people to see why these technologies will not work. None of these technologies are new, and there is reasons why they never made it into mainstream energy production. Krystal Goodwind invented wind power technology over one hundred years ago. The technology has been made more efficient over the last century; however, it still has the same fundamental problems.

    I’m also fascinated by the pro Chinese arguments. Some people support the proposition that totalitarian governments care about global warming and its impact on mankind. China recently ordered some 250,000 people to begin smoking so that they could benefit the suffering tobacco companies. If the people refuse to smoke, they are fined.

    [Response: This was a local govt and they backed down immediately in the face of protests. China is not a well governed state, and the central govt controls less than is commonly assumed but they aren't completely helpless either. - gavin]

    Actions betray lies. Recently, China said development will come before global warming concerns. China also calls on developed nations to divert 1 percent of their GDP to developing nations like china for a climate change effort.

    People see what they want to see; indeed, there is so much disinformation coming from the fossil fuel industry and the renewable industry that people can easily find information to ‘believe in’. But the problem of global warming still remains. I just worry that we are creating new problems on top of it, Dangerous problems.

  164. Mark:

    “So that makes it OK to destroy that particular piece of environment? ”

    Because we’d be killing them off with killer temperatures?

    Just a wild stab in the dark.

    Of course, it’s BETTER to not need so much energy. So go ahead and do it.

  165. Mark:

    “Ad hominem sniping, questioning motivation, does not add to the strength of a position. ”

    Ad hom requires that you go “you are an idiot therefore your arguments are wrong”.

    It is not “your arguments are idiotic and therefore you’re an idiot”.

    By your works shall ye be known.

    And some people really ARE idiots. But useful ones for people who want no change because in a new world they may have reserves no other has access to, but being at the top means they can only go down.

    So ignore the evidence, ride the train as fast as you can and hope that some other sucker gets it in the shorts when you’ve left.

    Sounds rather like most killer CEO’s, doesn’t it.

  166. Lawrence Brown:

    Another scarce resource,oil,is dealt with in an op-ed in the NY Times by Evar D. Nering some years ago, illustrating the false sense of security that discovery of new supplies would have under a growing rate of annual consumption:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/04/opinion/the-mirage-of-a-growing-fuel-supply.html?scp=1&sq=Op-Ed,%20%22The%20Mirage%20of%20a%20Growing%20Fuel%20Supply%22%20by%20Evar%20D.%20Nering&st=cse

    I worked up the numbers here:
    http://www.livejournal.com/update.bml

    The author rightly points out that reducing the growth rate would be far more effective than doubling the size of the reserve. Halfing the rate of consumption will double the life expectancy of the supply,whereas doubling the reserve will add at most 14 years to the live expectancy of the resource under the conditions he specifies.

  167. Ray Ladbury:

    Chip Knappenberger, I’m just curious, how would your results have been different if you had started with a serious CO2 reduction program–roughly equivalent to the one you assumed. That was before growth really took off in China and India. Russia’s economy was in the toilet. It probably would have been easier at that point to get them to go along. Instead, we argued about established physics for 10 years. That seems like a pretty interesting pair of scenarios–where we are now vs. where we could have been had we had a reality-based policy.

  168. Timothy Chase:

    From my inbox: an abuse of a different sort of commons which nevertheless may seem awefully familiar…

    The plot thickens: More fake journals in the Elsevier/Merck story
    Posted by ouroboros under Journals
    May 7, 2009
    http://oroboros.wordpress.com/..

    Pardon me while I turn up my NIN…

  169. Konstantin:

    Re: #158
    “Cap-and-trade has not been successful at significantly reducing CO2 emissions in Europe”

    That is because the EU commission, pressured by some countries (mostly Germany -at the behest of its industrialists- and the new Eastern members who still run some very polluting Soviet-era factories) issued way too many CO2 permits with the result that their price dropped to practically zero, so there is no significant incentive to reduce emissions, you can buy all the permits you want for a pittance. Picking the right method is only good if you also implement it right.

  170. James:

    Mark Says (8 May 2009 at 17:05):

    “Because we’d be killing them off with killer temperatures?”

    You’d have an argument if those desert-destroying solar arrays were the only possible source of non-fossil-fuel energy, or perhaps even if they were significantly less expensive than the many possible alternatives. But they’re not: there are many better choices.

    I guess it’s just another tragedy of the commons. Because that desert is “public land”, it can be used as a free dumping ground, just like the atmosphere is for CO2.

  171. TokyoTom:

    Property rights are not an end-all or be-all, but they are a linchpin in understanding the dynamics of the tragedy of the commons problem. Resources that are owned – formally or informally, in common or privately – are husbanded, at least much better that when they are not.

    This is a key point to keep hammering home with “conservatives”, “skeptics” and ordinary people, whom can all recognize that market demands produce a tragedy of the commons whenever valuable resources are not owned (or cannot be protected) by those who use them.

    When there is ownership, (1) users have incentives to invest in protecting what, after all, supports their own livelihoods and, even further, (2) those who also care about the resource have an ability to also protect the resource – by investing it themselves, or by making other private, market decisions, such as to boycott particular owners and to favor others.

    When there is no ownership, there is very limited ability by anyone to protect the resource directly, and what we are left with is a battle of words.

    Of course a corollary problem that requires attention is that when resources are “publicly” owned, such resources may in fact be treated as a commons, or something that politicians and bureaucrats dole out to whomever is in favor – witness the environmental destruction in communist states, the logging of “public” tropical forests, and our own continued mismanagement of public lands.

    In that case of fisheries, this is so readily apparent that even the mainline environmental groups are now calling for giving fishermen property rights in the fish they catch in order to end the destructive race to catch them:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/01/15/for-crashing-fisheries-coalition-of-mainline-us-enviro-groups-calls-for-property-rights.aspx

    Meanwhile, concerned citizens continue to misunderstand the key dynamics of environmental problems, and to miss opportunities to rub the faces of “market” fundamentalists and “conservatives” in the obvious lack of property rights in the atmosphere (and a related inability of those adversely affected by using the atmosphere as a dumping ground to seek redress from those who profit from using it as one):

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/03/12/overlooked-by-those-warmed-by-climate-rhetoric-quot-alarmist-quot-or-quot-skeptic-quot-the-fact-that-our-most-important-commons-have-no-property-rights-rules.aspx

  172. Doug Bostrom:

    #170 James:

    Ignoring for a moment the existence of an ample supply of desecrated desert suitable for PV arrays, we’ve structured our population size and consequent economy in a way that makes choosing between bad and ugly a mandatory requirement. Once the cuteness/gee-whiz factor of windfarms wears off I’m sure we’ll be thinking about something better, but in the meantime windfarms are better than the anachronisms we’re leaning on. Same deal with PV arrays; maybe we’ll end up hating them but they’re going to be part of a mix we’re forced to deal with.

    We don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfection here.

    Now, we –could– be discussing the ultimate AGW curative, namely more and better birth control, but that seems to be off the table. “Growth” is what allows slackers to make capital work for them, after all, so it seems the fix of simply letting our population shrink is not on.

  173. Ike Solem:

    No, Alastair, the tragedy of the commons is a piece of bogus 20th century economic handwaving aimed at justifying private ownership of everything under the sun, and the classic example of this is those pundits who claim that only “privatization of the atmosphere” will save us – because people only care about what they own, and by the very act of caring they can solve the problem… Idee fixe in action, aka “triumph of the will”.

    Consider the Easter Island case – the locals eventually cut down all the trees which they had used to build their deep-sea canoes, critical for capturing larger ocean fish and mammals. They probably wanted the trees to come back, very much so – but all that demand for trees didn’t magically create new trees, did it? Their enclosures were only ‘enclosed’ by their sea-going canoes, and for canoes they were dependent on their local ecosystems.

    The same goes for herders who exist on the edge where grasslands meet desert. If the desert expands after a few years of drought, there isn’t any commons to graze on, and the only choice is to leave the region or perish from thirst. Those are obvious ecological factors – but economists don’t believe they have to learn anything about ecology, or thermodynamics, or modern science – other than a little bit of semi-complex mathematics, which they can use to impress and intimidate their audiences – mummery.

    [edit] Inhofe always says that he is opposed to “the false notion that man-made greenhouse gases threaten our very existence” – but that’s a straw man argument. No scientist says that, they just point to the predicted effects under business-as-usual – sea level rise, drought, etc. – but you certainly provide a nice example of that argument for Inhofe to point to, don’t you? You would agree that “our very existence” is threatened, you’ve said it multiple times… [edit]

    Chip, your argument is just silly; everyone knows that global agreements are intended to be updated and improved every five years (or less) – first, you get everyone to sign on to an agreement aimed at replacing fossil fuels with renewables, then you work at it for five years, then you have a meeting and set new timetables.

    Your argument is identical to the one that “Kyoto would do little to reduce emissions, so why bother?” It’s just a political tactic aimed at halting the first stage in the process, the global agreement. Blocking any U.S. climate legislation is thus a critical part of the agenda of the coal lobby, isn’t it?

    That does seem to be the goal – because if the U.S. doesn’t agree to some level of legislation after China has already made large commitments to renewable energy generation, China will most likely not agree to any U.S. demands.

    You can’t keep rolling out the same stupid pet tricks year after year and expect no one to notice.

    http://www.martinot.info/china.htm#law

    In February 2005, China passed a groundbreaking law to promote renewable energy. The law provides a feed-in tariff for some technologies and establishes grid feed-in requirements and standard procedures. It establishes cost-sharing mechanisms so the incremental cost will be shared among utility consumers. It also creates new financing mechanisms and supports rural uses of renewable energy. The law also provides for a long-term development plan, R&D, geographic resource surveys, technology standards, and building codes for integrating solar hot water into new construction.

    I hadn’t heard about that – had you? You can count on the trusty U.S. media to not report on anything related to international renewable energy development…

  174. Stephen Berg:

    Absolutely excellent article, Gavin! You have done a great service to the world in writing this piece of incredible common sense!

    Thank you for all your hard work!

  175. Hannah:

    Enjoyed your perspective. Agreed with the comment above: we must sell a solution, not a plan. Here’s another good environmental site I stumbled upon: http://buildakinderearth.com

  176. Jim Eager:

    James (160), you will get very little sympathy from me if 1) you continue to act as if there is a proposal to cover the entire southwest of the United States with solar thermal power plants, and 2) you dig in your heals in the exact same way that the sceptics/deniers have done and stand in the way of working our way out of our current dilemma. The inconvenient fact is that solar works best where there is steady sunshine, wind works best where there is steady wind, hydro works best where water falls. Get over it or get out of the way, because business as usual is not an option.

  177. Craig Allen:

    Rene Cheront wrote: “With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own property, since this is self-defeating. Do you knowingly or deliberately abuse your own property? Surely not.”

    Happens quite often in the agricultural sector >> Activist raid finds pigs ‘eaten alive’ by maggots.

  178. Peter T:

    On the supposed Tragedy of the Commons, the original authors later actually looked at the history, and realised that is in, in fact, the tragedy of the unmanaged commons. Lots of commons have been managed for hundreds of years entirely sustainably – they keys are good management and, as Joachim Radkau observed, a high degree of local control (see his “Nature and Power”).

    On The US debate, we have a similar one here in Australia. I find this amusing, coming from people who have spent much of the last three decades forecfully persuading the rest of the world to adopt US policies on trade, copyright and so on. I find it hard to believe that China, India and Latin America would be hard to convince given the right combinations of incentives and pressure – carbon tariffs anyone?

  179. dhogaza:

    I guess it’s just another tragedy of the commons. Because that desert is “public land”, it can be used as a free dumping ground, just like the atmosphere is for CO2.

    No. It could be a tragedy of the conservative-appointee SCOTUS which might not enforce the various laws which would force intelligent siting of solar projects. But this commons is managed, and actually the laws are sufficient (if enforced).

    Ignoring for a moment the existence of an ample supply of desecrated desert suitable for PV arrays

    Exactly. We haven’t exactly worshiped the desert we have.

  180. Rene Cheront:

    #144 Alexandre

    Yes, as I said in #22, since tradeable rights in air are not feasible, a climate tragedy of the commons cannot be cured like a grazing one can. But, as JBL says in #28, tradable rights in CO2 emissions can substitute.

  181. Rene Cheront:

    #156 Jim Eager
    >> Rene asked @144: Is there any rationale behind this attitude? (referring to fanatical opposition to privatisation, eg of whales)

    > Why, yes, there is, and SecularAnimist and dhogaza expressed it quite nicely in 151 & 152.

    That ‘rationale’ requires us to lump animals, grazing lands etc, together with humans.

    > I’ll give another example: that of Bechtel in Bolivia, where even rainwater was privatised with a law that made it illegal for citizens to collect rainwater for domestic use.

    Hardly comparable to privatising whales.

    > Fortunately, your extreme market view is on the far fringe and in all likelihood is destined to remain so.

    Yes, increasing totalitarianism is very much the political fashion of the time.

  182. Jacob Mack:

    I think that countries like China and India have equal stakes in this global issue. Certainly the US with such a high per capita output of emissions and money/technology to make changes has a legitimate responsibility, but to state that China’s larger population (and until recently its enormous exponential growth rate) does not make it more and in relation to the US responisble is just categorically false in my analysis. I do believe that the US has a great duty to lead the way and perpetuate chnages which great;y reduce emissions; to lead by example even…this cannot be solved by any one country, region or continent. I, of course am not assuming you were saying so, either, Gavin and others, however, China is responsible more so than one country’s state or province for exactly the reason of such an overwhelming population and adoption of western technology;still we have a responsibility to work with China, India, Japan, Korea etc… to make available more green technologies in a fashion that is affordable; the economics on this are enormous, this I know too.

  183. CM:

    Gavin, I’m impressed you did not fall for the temptation of titling your excellent parable “Fish and Chip.” I would have. The linked argument is so greasy, and so clearly meant to be wrapped up in right-wing tabloids, it naturally suggests itself.

    [Response: I might have, if I'd thought of it.... ;) - gavin]

  184. James Wine:

    I am devoted reader of RC and there is no site like it for insight and debate and I want to take some time to respond to Gavin’s eloquent piece.

    There is a remarkable centuries old custom concerning the commons in Sweden. It is called “allemansrätten” literally “everyone’s right.” It is not a law but protected by their Constitution. It gives to everyone, Swede and visitor alike, the right to access nature. You can walk almost anywhere, cross properties, fence lines, pick berries and mushrooms, and if out of earshot and eyesight, pitch a tent for the night. One rule: don’t disturb, don’t destroy. “No trespassing” signs are not allowed.

    Imagine the level of cooperation and trust this tradition demands of a society. I can’t imagine it in my home state of Virginia.

    Swedes grow up with it, it’s like mother’s milk. Allemansrätten is the Swedes’ “ubuntu.” As an outsider, the principle and practice of this right to access nature is clearly a fundamental experience that brings them closer to nature. They are more concerned because they have access to it. It seeds openness and transparency in their democracy. The right is intensely individual but with collective responsibilities. The whole country is a commons beneath the property lines.

    And so it is no wonder Sweden has already surpassed its Kyoto obligations. Every house and business in Stockholm received a booklet on Earth day explaining how “we” will reduce emissions 10% in 2010, 25% by 2015 and be fossil fuel free latest 2050.

    Another city, Örebro, is about to launch their effort, 30% by 2015. The town of Växjö is famous for its almost 40% reduction. And so on.

    This not some sudden rush to act. Stockholm, then under Social Democratic leadership, began in 1995 – I guess they actually took the UN climate treaty seriously – and are already 25% below 1990 levels of emissions. The new aggressive targets are under a Conservative city council. It’s not a party thing.

    The carbon tax has worked since the early 90’s. But their European Union Cap & Trade system is a disaster and this is a huge chunk of Swedish emissions. And they are well aware of their share of production outsourced to say, China. Now the Environmental minister is calling for an EU CO2 tax. A newcomer to the field, he caught on fast. Sweden’s Climate Science Panel (politicians incredibly listen to scientists and follow their recommendations) set the long term GHG target back in September 2007: 400 CO2e by 2100. Remarkably close to 350 CO2 by 2100. No hoopla, no fanfare, no alarm bells. No screaming headlines.

    Finally, the Swedish development agency has shifted its focus and other than acute emergencies, all aid and investment will fund climate measures in developing countries – and as far as I know Sweden is the only country to allocate 1% of the nation’s budget to development.

    And personally, my wife and I reside in a new part of town, Hammaby Sjöstad. Developed as a model of Swedish sustainable practices when they sought the 2004 Olympics, it is now a world leading urban design that almost met its goal of a 40% reduction in environmental impact – and now enters Phase II with a doubling of that goal. Our personal Earth footprint is one; our carbon per capita is equal to India.

    You get my point. It ain’t a perfect country, it has its downsides like we all do, but on the whole Swedes are getting it done. They don’t shout and pout and go off on diatribes. They don’t wait for everyone else. They don’t wring their hands. They don’t brag (but maybe they should). They just do it. And for me, I see a clear connection between their individual right of access to nature as a blessed commons with collective responsibility and their common sense approach to tackling the greatest threat humanity has faced.

    As luck would have it, Sweden takes over the EU Presidency July 1 and rides it into Copenhagen. This is their shot to make a difference. I am not sure their quiet consensus-building sense of the whole manner will do the trick in a world of self-interested nation-states. But if the world just took a closer look at their results, economic and ecologic, we might just believe that yes we can do it.

  185. Jim Eaton:

    Re: 171 Doug Bostrom Says:

    “Ignoring for a moment the existence of an ample supply of desecrated desert suitable for PV arrays, we’ve structured our population size and consequent economy in a way that makes choosing between bad and ugly a mandatory requirement.”

    Yesterday I received a fund appeal letter from Environment California which included the following paragraph:

    “Placing concentrating solar power facilities, also known as solar thermal power, on just 9% of the land area of Nevada could produce enough electricity to power the entire United States.”

    Somehow I don’t think the citizens of my next door state will think that they should sacrifice “just” nearly a tenth of their state to satisfy the energy needs of the other 49 states. And as a native Californian, I believe my state should not require that other states provide us will all our energy needs.

    Nevertheless, there is no need to destroy sensitive parts of our deserts and mountains to site solar and wind energy projects. There are plenty of disturbed areas that could be converted to renewable energy projects, as well as countless rooftops that could have PVs added to soak up “the warm California sun.”

  186. Eric Smith:

    Mike Hulme professor of Climate Change at East Anglia University reckons we are heading up a “dead end” by putting climate change science at the top of the political agenda.

    “It is rather hubristic to think we can actually control climate. Climate change is the new human condition we have to live with. Let’s accept this is the new reality.

    “Don’t construct the problem in a way which means we cannot have a solution which is the way I think we have got it constructed at the moment.”

    http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/science/2009/04/we-cant-solve-global-warming-s.html

  187. kd:

    Congratulations, what a nice piece of work. For your next step, please can I suggest that you find two people, firsly a jobbing philosopher and secondly a political “scientist” (eww) to help with fleshing out the arguments in this rather nice bit of writing.

  188. Neal J. King:

    I’m surprised that no one seems to have mentioned another true fish story that’s relevant to the discussion: The story of the Icelandic cod fishery.

    Originally, this had the same “tragedy of the commons” problem as described in the original posting; as well as depredation from other countries. Eventually, the Icelanders kicked others out of their territorial waters, and imposed a system of enforceable and tradeable quotas on the fishermen. The less efficient fishermen sold their quotas to the more efficient, and the Icelandic fishery supports a sustainable industry to this date. Everybody made money; and this money was the starting point for Iceland’s economic rise.

    (And then the “financial geniuses” went to work to turn this rise into a bank-pumping scheme, leading to the financial meltdown of Iceland – but that had nothing to do with the fishing industry.)

    Enforceable, tradeable quotas: Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    (I actually still like straight-forward carbon taxes better.)

  189. Bruce Tabor:

    Re: TGO’D at 142
    “If the facts are as he states them and are presented without distortion…”

    The issue is not Chip’s facts so much as his interpretation. Take this line from his conclusion to part II, “…the only truly effective course of action we have available to us in attempting to control the future course of global climate is to tell the rest of the world what to do and how to do it.”

    Now change “…tell the rest of the world what to do…” to “…SHOW the rest of the world what to do and how to do it”, surely a much more appropriate conclusion. It could even be improved with “SHOW and HELP”. Another word would be “LEADERSHIP”.
    (See: http://masterresource.org/?p=2367 for Chip’s original.)

    It is not logic that leads from Chip’s “facts” to his conclusion, but his underlying “motivation and intentions”, and it is difficult to avoid questioning the underlying ethical basis under the circumstances.

    “Ultimately the questions surrounding AGW and the appropriate response of individuals and societies must be resolved on the basis of incontrovertible science not moral outrage.”

    Unfortunatley the incontrovertible science has been around for 10 years or more now and has made absolutely no difference, to the point where the effort required to control the problem is truly gargantuan, and the US is no longer in such a strong position to take that control (how convenient!). Genuine sceptics (& I was once one) who carefully evaluated the evidence would have been pursuaded long ago.

    But those who can make a difference refuse to do so. Why? The only reason that makes sense is that they are in fact in denial. And denial requires a psychological explanation, a motivation, an addiction – something beyond a dispassionate evaluation of the evidence. What makes lifelong smokers refuse to quit, or company executives to continue to take bonuses as their companies fall into bankruptcy?

  190. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Rene Charont writes:

    With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own own property, since this is self-defeating.

    Are you familiar with the history of slavery, especially in the US and Brazil?

  191. Barton Paul Levenson:

    TGO’D posts:

    While Chip appears to me merely to have presented data demonstrating the modest impact that any realistic emission control efforts are likely to have, many responses appear to have concentrated on the question of his motivation for doing so, rather than attempting any rebuttal of his analysis.

    Maybe you missed the rebuttal because it was so brief. Chip assumes the US does something and nobody else does anything. His analysis and conclusions are just fine if you accept that idiotic premise, but the premise is still idiotic.

  192. Barton Paul Levenson:

    EL writes:

    I have done everything but write a poem, and I still haven’t managed to get some of these people to see why these technologies will not work. None of these technologies are new, and there is reasons why they never made it into mainstream energy production. Krystal Goodwind invented wind power technology over one hundred years ago. The technology has been made more efficient over the last century; however, it still has the same fundamental problems.

    How do you explain the fact that wind power electricity costs nine cents per kilowatt hour in California (not the eleven cents I had been assuming), while coal costs ten and nuclear fifteen?

  193. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Note, also, that China is undergoing explosive growth mainly for the same reason the Soviet Union did in the ’30s — because their previous economy was so grossly inefficient that practically any new capital investment will significantly increase production. As their economy modernizes, their growth rate will slow down.

  194. TokyoTom:

    Chip, the last time we chatted, you were going to look into why Rob Bradley had decided – in the middle of an exchange of comments with you on a previous post at his supposedly “free market” Master Resource blog – to block a libertarian like me from commenting, even taking that decision away from you:
    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/03/11/rot-at-the-core-rob-bradley-at-quot-free-market-quot-masterresource-blog-shows-his-true-colors-as-a-rent-seeker-for-fossil-fuels.aspx

    Do you fail to understand that the fact that Master Resource is a soapbox for the coal industry, which has up to know had the political establishment in its pocket (a small investment that has created great profits while shifting costs to the public and future generations)? Or that this affects the willingness of people to listen to you?

    Your hope for a deus ex machina government investment program to somehow save us further illustrates your lack of understand how markets malfunction with respect to unowned resources.

    Far better for the government to simply impose rebated carbon taxes, as both Exxon (which no longer funds Rob Bradley`s ventures, BTW; see link above) and Jim Hansen have called for, than to have government itself try to guess what technologies to invest in.

  195. naught101:

    Heh. The tragedy of the commons isn’t actually a tragedy of the commons – it’s a tragedy of the free-for-all. There are any number of ways to overcome the tragedy of the commons – from Mutually Assured Destruction, to consensual co-operation – (and in many societies around the world, the latter has worked for centuries to millenia), but the free market ain’t one of them.

  196. tamino:

    Chip Knappenberger’s oily propaganda illustrates the danger of “free market capitalism.” When adopted as an ideology, it enables ludicrous rationalization justifying doing nothing when the fate of the world is literally in the balance.

    Capitalism is a good thing, it’s one of the best strategies for progress ever devised! But when worshipped as an ideological absolute, elevated to the status of God-given right with no restrictions whatever, free market capitalism becomes, literally, the motive and justification for nightmares like child labor and slavery. We no longer tolerate those sins. We can no longer tolerate the sin of destroying the environment in the name of “free markets.”

  197. Jim Eager:

    Rene wrote @173: “referring to fanatical opposition to privatisation, eg of whales”
    and
    “Yes, increasing totalitarianism is very much the political fashion of the time.”

    Being against the privatisation of whales is “fanatical”?

    Rene, you amply demonstrate that your grip on reality is slim to nonexistant.

    And those who recognise the all too real potential dangers of climate change are called “alarmists”?

  198. Howard Silverman:

    How might collaborative behavior arise? Here is Joseph Henrich from 2006, “Cooperation, Punishment, and the Evolution of Human Institutions.”

    Three broad theoretical approaches confront the problem of equilibrium selection. The first, and perhaps the most intuitive, is that rational, forward-looking individuals recognize the long-term payoffs available at stable cooperative equilibria, assume others are similarly sensible, and choose the cooperative state (7). The second approach is based on the stochasticity inherent in any interaction. Different stable equilibria are more or less susceptible to this stochasticity, meaning that in the long-run, some equilibria will be substantially more common than others (8). The third mechanism, cultural group selection, gives priority to the competition among social groups who have arrived at different culturally evolved equilibria. …

    Gürerk et al. address the issue of equilibrium selection with an elegant addition to the existing experimental work on public goods. In their experiment, individuals (the “players”) choose between two different “institutions.” …

    Here is how Gürerk et al. summarize their findings.

    Despite initial aversion, the entire population migrates successively to the sanctioning institution and strongly cooperates, whereas the sanction-free society becomes fully depopulated. The findings demonstrate the competitive advantage of sanctioning institutions and exemplify the emergence and manifestation of social order driven by institutional selection.

    And here is Henrich’s conclusion.

    The course charted by Gürerk et al. should spur more empirical work on how processes of equilibrium selection influence the evolution of institutional forms. Many questions remain to be tackled: for example, what happens if switching institutions is costly, or if information about the payoffs in the other institution is poor? Or, what happens if individuals cannot migrate between institutions, but instead can vote on adopting alternative institutional modifications?

  199. Ike Solem:

    I’m guessing Rene is an economist:

    “Yes, as I said in #22, since tradeable rights in air are not feasible, a climate tragedy of the commons cannot be cured like a grazing one can.”

    First of all, bad science. The CO2 we pump into the air equilibrates with the oceans and soils and the biosphere, which was the basic point behind the recent ‘carbon pie’ studies.

    Second, you need to use science to assign realistic economic-ecological costs to the use of the global commons.

    That’s an approach that Adam Smith would understand. He discusses raising cattle in the ‘unimproved wilds’, but he would not have a problem understanding that drought would reduce the grazing area of the commons, regardless of how it was parcelled up and ‘owned’ – and traditionally, this is how herd animal-based cultures survived. In dry years, herders pick up and head for wetter regions – which often led to conflict with settled agriculturalists.

    Since we are talking about fish, see this recent story:

    Shrimp tuned to ocean temperature, BBC, May 7 2009

    As Dr Koeller pointed out, an explosion in the northern shrimp population in the 1980s and 1990s was linked to a drop in [local] sea temperatures at that time.

    He said it was feasible that the opposite could happen “as the climate changes”.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/324/5928/733

    How would an economist take this into account when predicting the future of the fishing industry? Would they break out the econometric models, analyze patterns of supply and demand, and conclude that people’s desire to eat fish would eventually lead to ‘novel technological approaches’ that would solve the problem?

    In other words, why do academic economists believe that they can ignore science yet make useful economic predictions? Do they really believe that economic growth has nothing to do with ecological stability? That’s irrational.

  200. Rod B:

    Excuse: anyone know any reason why my Internet Explorer “cannot open” Welcome to the Fray?

  201. Geoff Wexler:

    Re: #124

    Decarbonising…

    I usually find your comments particularly interesting so perhaps I should reply. I am guilty as charged. But when it comes to terminology, I judge it by the trouble it causes. One example is ambiguity and that depends on the context. I didn’t think that Realclimate readers would think I was referring to the biosphere, to old motor-cycles or be ignorant of the two oxygen atoms in the molecule.

    What about global warming (GW) vs climate change (CC) then?

    Forgetting about the existence of stratospheric cooling, which might favour the use of CC, and the political advice of spin-doctor Frank Luntz who also favoured CC I have come to see that there is something else involved. Only the second option automatically rules out the seven year trenders because it refers explictly to the concept of climate. So you can’t be accused of some new underhand trick when you demand that the discussion relates to climate.

    What about the greenhouse effect ?
    This terminology is a slight nuisance, because it so often needs to be accompanied by a disclaimer or even a longer description of experiments done with rock salt and wooden boxes. But what is the alternative?

  202. Eric Smith:

    “Chip assumes the US does something and nobody else does anything. His analysis and conclusions are just fine if you accept that idiotic premise, but the premise is still idiotic.”

    The Chinese are about to make public token gestures precisely to counter exactly that argument. However the big idea is to move manufacturing to the cheap labour markets of the third world. Sustainable energy in the west will accelerate that process considerably. The end result of this process will be considerably more CO2 in the world as billions of new consumers are created.

  203. EL:

    Barton Paul Levenson

    “Some experts not aligned with either camp estimate that wind power is currently more than 50 percent more expensive than power generated by a traditional coal plant. Built into the calculation is the need for utilities that rely heavily on wind power to build backup plants fired by natural gas to meet electricity demand when winds are calm.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/business/energy-environment/29renew.html

    As I have said before, wind power has huge problems that nobody seems to want to account for it in their numbers.

  204. MikeN:

    Chip, what happens if you give the top regions 100% emissions reduction?

  205. Dick Veldkamp:

    203 (EL) Alleged problems of wind power

    As long as wind power penetration in the grid is under 20% there is no problem whatsoever with back up, because total variation in (power supply minus demand) does not change much compared to the situation without wind power.

    People have worked out what the cost is for the back up – and it is not large (a couple of cents per kWh). This has of course to do with the fact that -even if you needed 100% backup- you would still save the fuel.

    Even larger penetration is possible (especially of the grid is large in a geographical sense), but you have to think carefully about grid reinforcement in critical places.

  206. J.S. McIntyre:

    re 112

    “Neither cows nor chickens face extinction, these mishaps notwithstanding. With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own own property, since this is self-defeating. Do you knowingly or deliberately abuse your own property? Surely not.”

    Aside from the fact you are essentially ignoring what was actually said to you, I would point out your representation is in error. The example of the Newfoundland Cod Fisheries is a classic exaple. While the Cod were not the fishermen’s ‘property’ per se, they were the commodity upon which their livelihoods were built.

    And they decimated it.

    Fact is, your premise is specious on its face – we OWN our mistakes, and we pay for them regardless of our attempts to pretend we don’t. It was once remarked that ignorance of the law is no excuse. It has also been remarked that natural laws have no pity. In the case of sustainability, this is a lesson the Eastern Islanders and many other peoples through history never learned, until it was far too late.

  207. Jim Bouldin:

    Chip, thought you might be interested in what Warren Washington and others have just published a paper in GRL* titled “How much climate change can be avoided by mitigation?”:

    From the Abstract:
    “A new low emission scenario is simulated in a global climate model to show how some of the impacts from climate change can be averted through mitigation. Compared to a non-intervention reference scenario, emission reductions of about 70% by 2100 are required to prevent roughly half the change in temperature and precipitation that would otherwise occur. By 2100, the resulting stabilized global climate would ensure preservation of considerable Arctic sea ice and permafrost areas. Future heat waves would be 55% less intense, and sea level rise from thermal expansion would be about 57% lower than if a non-mitigation scenario was followed.”

    From the paper:
    “To explore the global and regional distributions of future climate change that could be avoided with aggressive mitigation policies such as increased use of conservation, renewables and CO2 capture and storage, simulations with a comprehensive climate model are performed here with a new low emission mitigation scenario compared to a business-as-usual non-mitigation scenario. These scenarios were prepared by United States Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) scientists as part of a series of assessment reports. The CCSP report 2.1 [Clarke et al., 2007] provides scenarios in which carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and radiative forcings can be substantially reduced if new energy technologies and strategies are put into place….The reference non-mitigated CCSP scenario was based upon emission estimates several years before the data were published. Because of large recent emissions in China, the reference level estimates are generally believed to be lower than actual emissions (Figure 1). Thus, the magnitudes of climate change that can be avoided by following the low emission mitigation scenario should be considered conservative estimates. Actual avoided climate change in the mitigation scenario could be greater if business-as-usual emissions continue to increase at rates observed over the past few years.

    Two sets of simulations were performed with a state-of-the-art global coupled climate model, the Community Climate System Model (CCSM3) [Collins et al., 2006; Meehl et al., 2005]… This model has a relatively low climate sensitivity of 2.7°C for a doubling of CO2. For future climate, we performed a non-mitigated reference case for comparison to a low emission mitigation scenario (four ensemble members each) which stabilizes atmospheric CO2 concentration at roughly 450 ppm by the end of year 2100 without an overshoot. CO2 and other greenhouse gas concentrations are calculated from the emissions specified in the two scenarios by the globally averaged gas-cycle/climate model MAGICC (Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change) that drives a spatial climate-change Scenario Generator (SCENGEN) [Wigley, 2008].

    The 1900 to 2100 time series of CO2 emissions shows, for the mitigation emissions scenario, a rise over the next decade and then a peak followed by a gradual decline for a net decrease of about 70% of present-day values by the year 2100 … This corresponds to a stabilized CO2 concentration of about 450 ppm in 2100…The globally averaged surface air temperature increases by about 2.2°C (2080-2099 relative to 1980–1999) in the non-mitigated case, and about 0.6°C in the mitigation scenario (Figure 1c). The range of ensemble members is ±0.1°C…Thus, by following the mitigation scenario, a potential increase of global temperature of 1.6°C is averted, i.e., in the future we can avoid about twice the warming we have already observed since 1900.

    …the regional warming that is averted in the mitigation case is roughly 3°C in the Arctic region and 1–2°C over land areas (Figure 2). Note that despite a 70% reduction in emissions over the 21st century, there is virtually no cooling. This is consistent with recent results that find similar behavior even for a 1000 yr timescale and a zero emission CO2 case [Solomon et al., 2009]. The reason is that the decrease in atmospheric CO2 that would occur in the long term is compensated by the commitment warming.

    Clearly, the impacts of climate change with a mitigation scenario are substantially less than with a non-intervention emission strategy, and the amount of climate change that can be averted with mitigation is considerable.”

    *[GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L08703, doi:10.1029/2008GL037074, 2009]

    Looks like some folks using some of the same tools you use disagree pretty strongly with your conclusions about what’s possible Chip.

  208. J.S. McIntyre:

    “The point at issue, which still stands, is that farmed animals are the least likely of all animals to face extinction.”

    You’re entire premise is a straw man.

    Or are you seriously proposing that if we just domesticated the biosphere, everything would be fine?

    You can’t “farm” whales, as you suggested when you first brought up this empty analogy. And, as I pointed out, we own the problems we create, intended or not. And farmed animals bear little resemblance to the stock from which they were derived, anyway. They are actually more susceptible to disease, they tend to spread contagion, they are pumped up with drugs that in turn contribute to growing pollution problems and contamination of water supplies.

  209. Douglas Wise:

    re #192 Barton Paul Levenson

    I respect your posts and appreciate the answers you gave me on earlier threads that were instrumental in converting me from being a sceptic to a believer in AGW. Since my “conversion”, I have spent a great deal of time, in my amateur way, reading about solutions.

    With respect to nuclear power, my initial reaction was to be anti- not because of safety or proliferation risks which I regarded as trivial relative to those of peak oil and global warming but because of finite uranium resources (lack of sustainability) and the time and heavy costs of construction. I thus focussed initially on wind, solar power and CCS coal. Onshore wind seemed to win on cost grounds, albeit with problems of intermittency which don’t appear to matter till we get to 20%. As we are well short of that, I am absolutely in favour of riding roughshod over NIMBYs and getting on with it. I came to believe that a totally renewable energy future (incorporating currently relatively expensive solar solutions plus wind) might be our only hope. However, it would, it seemed to me, require a precipitate drop in living standards for populations in the developed world and a quashing of aspirations of those in the developing world to get through the emergency with this so-called blend of solutions. The political feasibility of this appeared remote. I next began to speculate whether a massive disaster (eg a war of previously unimagined proportions) might be the best hope for at least a proportion of human civilisation and other animals to survive. It was at about this stage in my musings that I started to read about 4th generation fission power. If all I read was correct, it would provide a “get out of jail” card. It might be possible to treble our power supplies in an affordable way, thus making possible international agreements on controlling CO2 and sustaining a population (already in the pipeline) of 9 billion by 2050. The only downside would be continuing population growth rather than reduction thereafter.

    Having cheered myself up with these thoughts, I decided to test my new found hope by inviting more expert opinions on the subject from correspondents on the RealClimate site. All I got tended to be an anti nuclear rant with no differentiation made between 3rd generation (unsustainable) and 4th generation (sustainable) technologies.

    Barton, you have supported wind and criticised nuclear on cost grounds, citing California. Might I ask you to read the cite given by Sidd (#558 “Hit the brakes hard”) which I repeat: http:// http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2009/5/1/174635/6513 . The author is a wind enthusiast. Please appreciate from Figure 6.8 that the USA is atypical with respect to the rest of the world as regards relative power costs. In Europe, for example, the kWh cost of nuclear is much cheaper than that of wind and even coal (with or without a carbon levy). The article also makes clear that the cost of wind and nuclear power (due to absent and minimal fuel costs in the former and latter case respectively) are primarily attributable to construction costs and interest charges. The latter, in turn, are enormously influenced by discount rates. Construction costs of conventional (3rd generation) nuclear power are stated as being about half those of wind power per kWh generated. I suspect that nuclear power costs in the States are so high because of unnecessary delays and bureaucracy created by the anti nuclear lobby and NIMBYs and possibly also by power companies which will demand much higher profits for being prepared to face up to them. However, India, Russia and China are pressing ahead and the two former are well down the road top 4th generation nuclear power. This promises to be safer, have lower fuel costs, be quicker to construct (lower interest charges)and to have load following capabilities.

    It seems to me (as a total non expert) that 4th generation nuclear technology should at least be given a fair chance to compete with other sustainable and CO2 free technologies.

  210. Doug Bostrom:

    #205 Dick Veldkamp:

    That rebuttal is way too specific and factual, not vague enough. Remember, you’re not having a rational argument here; EL’s discussion is centered on nebulous fears and generalized anxiety about change of any kind. In order to engage, you ideally need to respond without citing any real world empirical data and preferably without any numbers at all.

  211. EL:

    205 – We are not talking about a supporting role anymore, but the replacement of fossil fuel technology with wind power. In other words, wind power to become the dominate method of energy generation. When your in Texas on a nice hot summers day, what are you going to do when wind power drops to 4% capacity with all those air conditioners running? You can’t just flip on the old nuclear reactor like a light switch. You have to have a second infrastructure in place to kick in with the other 96% of that power. When the wind blows… your going to have a infrastructure just sitting there… No matter how you want to tease the books… when you figure this in, it is expensive. Wind power is just not viable for a dominate role.

    We need a solution that can play the dominate role in order to phase out fossil fuels. Until we find one, we are going to have fossil fuels burning. I hope for the best that wind power will at least knock the edge off the CO2 emissions; however, I wouldn’t hold my breath on replacing fossil fuels with this technology.

  212. Chip Knappenberger:

    Re: #207

    Jim,

    You continue to act as if you haven’t read Part II of my analysis, in which I found that:

    And, of course, the biggest impact, nearly as large as everyone else combined, comes from the ASIA countries. If they alone reduce emissions in line with Waxman-Markey suggestions, they will produce a 1.129ºC decline, and when acting along with everyone else they bring the total temperature reduction to 2.37ºC—a rise that is more than 50% smaller than projected under the original A1FI scenario. Nothing to sneeze at.

    My results are right in line with Washington et al.

    -Chip

  213. Jim Bouldin:

    “It has also been remarked that natural laws have no pity”

    Paraphrased on bumper stickers as “Nature bats last”, which being a baseball fan, I much enjoy.

  214. Rick Brown:

    The paper by Washington and others that Jim Bouldin cites in #207 is available without subscription at
    http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/washington09grl.pdf

  215. RichardC:

    211 EL, the current fleet of power plants won’t magically disappear once renewable generation is built. Thus, the required backup is ALREADY THERE AND THERE IS NO NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IT.

    This fish analogy fails in one important respect: fish caught is a positive indicator while CO2 emitted is a negative one. Suppose we add fish farms, which would be analogous to renewable energy. Now, the questions become more realistic.

    Captcha says: opposing land

  216. Jim Bouldin:

    Chip (212):

    Then why do you say there:
    “If the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, Europe, and former Soviet countries all limited their emissions of greenhouse gases according to the schedule laid out under Waxman-Markey…it would, at most, avoid only a bit more than one-half of a °C of projected global warming (out of 4.5°C—or only about 10%).

    Including what you quote in 212, then emission reductions by Central and South America, and Africa (the only remaining un-named areas), are responsible for 2.37 – (1.13 + 0.5) = 0.74 degrees of mitigated warming, or about 150% that from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan combined? Is that right?

  217. Ike Solem:

    Chip, are you completely unfamiliar with China’s renewable energy law?

    If you only get your news from a small number of national outlets, it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t have heard of it:

    http://www.worldwatch.org/node/3874

    Based on the “feed-in laws” that have been successful in advancing renewables in Germany and other European nations, one new regulation addresses the core issues of pricing and fee sharing for on-grid renewable energy. According to Xinhua News, the ruling stipulates two forms of renewables pricing: a government-set price and a government-”guided” price. For example, for biopower—energy derived from biomass, or plants—the government will set the price based on the provincial or local on-grid price of desulfurized coal, plus a government subsidy of 0.25 yuan (US $0.03) per kilowatt-hour. This subsidy will no longer be available once a biomass project has been in operation for 15 years.

    Thus, I’m sure you are an advocate of replacing cap-and-trade with feed-in tariffs for renewables, yes?

    Of course, cap-and-trade is just a cosmetic effort which gives the fossil fuel industry and politicians what they want: business-as-usual and the appearance of diligence in the public interest, respectively.

    After all, wasn’t Duke Energy able to rewrite the law to their liking?

    I don’t really see what the coal & oil industry is all upset about – you’ve got Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pushing for more oil drilling in California, as well as promoting the bogus ‘clean coal’ myth on the Daily Show the other night.

    Similarly, the second-in-command at DOE, Steve Koonin, was BP’s chief scientist while they were getting into Canadian tar sand oil – yes, read his words in 2008:

    BP researchers are exploring under-ice drilling in the Arctic, building more robust drilling platforms, more environmentally benign methods to extract oil from tar sands, and hydrogen production.

    “Technically, there are lots of opportunities in conventional fossil fuels,” he said.

    Likewise, Chu himself has voiced support for ‘carbon capture’ and FutureGen, although there is no prototype and the entire concept is as implausible as a Ford SUV that captures its own emissions.

    “We’re very devoted to delivering solutions — not just science papers, but solutions — but it will require some basic science,” Dr. Chu, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in physics, said at a news conference.

    He said he would probably reverse another Bush administration decision and restore funds for FutureGen, a program to build a power plant prototype.

    I don’t see what the fuss is – aren’t the coal and oil lobbies getting everything they wished for from this Administration, same as the last one? So, the Republicans have been abandoned by the fossil fuel lobby, who are now throwing all their weight behind coal-state Democrats – not really any different, is it? Or am I missing something?

    I’m starting to be reminded of Bush’s ardent calls for a ‘hydrogen economy’ in 2003 – I don’t see any hydrogen cars, do you? Bush also called for clean coal and carbon sequestration, same as Ken Salazar. What I want to know is, what does Barak Obama have to say, and do his words match with his appointments and budget decisions? Or are all pronouncements on energy policy going to be fed out through people like David Chu, Ken Salazar and Steve Koonin? Is the promised ARPA-E energy program anything other than smoke and mirrors, or will they be providing billions per year in federal grants to renewable energy researchers at public and private universities, the way the NIH and the NSF do?

    It doesn’t look too good for anyone but fossil fuel interests, does it? Now, Obama is threatening to slash California’s federal stimulus package over some silly labor dispute – and we actually will use the money to build renewables. I don’t see any massive stimulus package flowing to the leading electric vehicle manufacturer, either (which is Tesla) – but I do see the Republican governor giving a lot of support to electric vehicles. Obama gives $30 billion to GM, one of the worst climate offenders, and ignores Tesla’s wildly popular electric vehicles – is this for real?

    If this kind of two-faced nonsense continues, California citizens should just start delivering 75% of their federal income taxes to the state, and tell Washington to keep their stimulus packages.

  218. EL:

    215 – The entire idea is to make the current fleet disappear. If the goal isn’t to make them disappear then what is the point? Quite frankly, we have to get rid of the fleet… it’s doing a lot of damage. It’s just not going to be done with wind power…

  219. JVandas:

    If I was one of the 50 worst fishermen, I would be looking for a new line of work or hope I live in a comunist society. If I can only catch 10% of the top fishermen, I’m not good enough to compete in a capitalistic society.

  220. RichardC:

    218 EL, NO, the entire idea is to reduce the USE of the current fleet by 80%.

  221. JVandas:

    After the worst 50 fisherman find a more rewarding line of work.are out of the picture, you have reduced the catch by 20% already.

  222. MikeN:

    Jim Bouldin, you forgot Asia.

    >and CFLs will be replaced by low energy LEDs with better light, hopefully soon.

    This replacement happens sooner if people don’t invest in ten-year CFLs in the meantime.

  223. Jim Norvell:

    As a Mechanical engineer I have used computers to model systems since I graduated in 1963. I never lost sight of the fact that my predicted results were never better than the assumptions I had to make to simplify the problem so that it was solvable on the computers that I had available at the time. I guess that if you can delude yourself into believing that, with today’s computing power, you can predict the future climate then you can also believe that the world’s population will come together and solve the “climate commons” problem.

  224. RichardC:

    222 MikeN – true. It is better to invest each dollar you would have spent on CFLs on LEDs instead to promote the technology. Each year replace a bulb or two and help save the planet. LEDs last forever. CFLs suck.

  225. Jim Bouldin:

    Jim Bouldin, you forgot Asia

    No, that’s included in the 1.129 value (see 212, from Chip’s Figure 5). However, I may have excluded Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

  226. Jim Norvell:

    I have never gotten more than 1 to 2 years from CFL’s. My standard florescents last for years.

  227. John Mashey:

    re: #223 Jim Norvell

    Please read about models and why people over-generalize.

    Quite often, people who have long used one class of computer models think that all models have the same properties.

    They don’t.

  228. MikeN:

    Jim, yes Eastern Europe and Middle East is what’s missed. The first number is with OECD90, and the all in number includes REF, ALM, and ASIA. I do think there is one flaw in Chip’s paper, not his doing. The IPCC emissions scenarios show a dropoff in later decades for ‘developed’ countries.

  229. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Jim Bouldin #225 — According to the latest issue of POWER, India is planning an increase in coal-fired capacity in the range of 200 GW to 400 GW by 2030, up from the 77 GW today. Coal provides 52% of India’s electricity. India is a representative example of the other atmospheric commons users: they are desperate for more power.

    http://www.powermag.com/issues/features/Powering-the-People-Indias-Capacity-Expansion-Plans_1858.html

    For India, and China as well, capacity must be increased just to keep up with anticipated growth in the economy. If plug-in cars are added, the need for more coal power will explode. In terms of electricity use, per capita consumption was only 480 kWh in 2005 — a quarter of China’s and 1/20th that of developed countries.

    EL has been patiently trying to bring some sense of scale and some technical realism to the discussion of wind power. The intermittency of wind and solar power can’t be ignored. One major reason that wind is not more widely deployed is that it is most abundant at night, and scarce on still hot days when you need it most. You can’t just switch on a coal or nuclear plant when the wind dies down — they take days to get up to speed. At night, there is already enough power in the “spinning reserve” of coal and nuclear to meet demand, so wind goes to waste. Please don’t give up, EL.

  230. Doug Bostrom:

    #223 Jim Norvell:

    You’re more than a day late and more than a dollar short.

    As a MechE, do you think you’re qualified to make important judgments and form sweeping conclusions about the state of the art of machine computation?

    As a MechE, do you consider yourself qualified to critique the science of climate modeling and find it lacking?

    As a MechE, do you you believe yourself qualified to insult people working in fields other than your own?

    As a MechE, do you imagine anyone credits that being a MechE gives you any particular useful insight into this topic?

    As a MechE, do you assume your omniscience to be sufficiently reliable that we can all rely on you as the first and only one of thousands repeating exactly the same dull, tired talking points who happens finally to be correct?

    Sorry, friend, but we’re both working on a childishly low level compared to the proprietors of this site and indeed many of the folks who regularly post here. You’re going to have to try a lot harder, or at least read enough of the topic to understand that unsupported assertions of the sort you made are the lowest form of sediment found on RC.

  231. Rene Cheront:

    SecularAnimist often claims that renewable-energy electricity generation is already competitive with fossil fuels, even without any type of pollution tax. Yet China, Britain and others continue to build coal-fired stations. Doesn’t seem to add up.

  232. Bruce Tabor:

    Re 212 Chip:
    A major assumption underlying your conclusions is that US actions serve little if China & India (mainly) refuse to act. Strangely, a major reason China cites for not doing more on AGW is the lack of action from the Western nations and our double standards (Australia gets a swipe too).

    China and India have more at stake from the consequences of climate change than the US, Australia, and indeed most Western nations. You as a climate scientist should know this. Both have huge populations within 1-2 metres of sea level and both have vast areas of productive agricultural land predicted to suffer as a result of higher temperatures and less rainfall.

    Their incentive to act – once there is an end to the stone-walling and pig-headedness from the nations primarily responsible extra CO2 in the atmosphere at the moment – is enormous. To assume, as you implicitly do, that they will not contribute to emissions reductions is disingenuous, to say the very least.

  233. Rene Cheront:

    173 Ike Solem
    the tragedy of the commons is a piece of bogus 20th century economic handwaving aimed at justifying private ownership of everything under the sun,

    It isn’t bogus handwaving, it refers to the often observed phenomenon of unowned resources being needlessly run down.
    Like farmers grazing their cattle on common ground, who have no incentive to not overgraze, since if they hold back they risk other farmers overgrazing. Noone can stop anyone else overgrazing, since noone has property rights over the grazing.

    and the classic example of this is those pundits who claim that only “privatization of the atmosphere” will save us

    I must say I have never encountered any such pundits. Have you?

    Consider the Easter Island case – the locals eventually cut down all the trees which they had used to build their deep-sea canoes

    In all likelihood this was also a tragedy of the commons – nobody owned the trees.

    [Response: It's tempting to speculate how the Easter Islander's managed (or didn't) their resources, but there are many more ways that they could have got it all wrong - unpriced externalities related to erosion, warfare, etc. So while it is an example of a society collapsing, one can't know the exact path it took. - gavin]

  234. pete best:

    Re #226, cheap ones abound, they last no time. Good ones are more expensive. Capatalism always finds a way of making stuff cheap and crap.

  235. Phil Scadden:

    Worrying about CFLs and LEDs is concentrating on trivia. You probably only burn 1-2 kWh per day on lighting. Depending on where you live, if you drive a car you are spending between 14 and 40 kWh on petrol, and maybe 30-40 on heating if you have cold winters. These are the areas to address.

  236. Martin Hedberg:

    #99 Theo Hopkins Says:
    “The UK only produces 2% of global emissions. So there is no point in us in the UK doing anything – is there?”

    If you divide the world in 50 parts, each part has 2%. Following your argumentation there would be no point for each part, i.e. the total world population, to do anything.

  237. Anne van der Bom:

    Jim Norvell
    9 May 2009 at 9:30 PM

    I have never gotten more than 1 to 2 years from CFL’s. My standard florescents last for years.

    Then you must be the unluckiest man on the planet, having bought all duds out there.

    I have a house full of CFL’s, and every single one of them is more than 5 years old, the majority more than 10 years old. I even have a 3 w bulb serving as a night light in the bedroom of my 12-year old son that was one of a pair I bought when he was 3. The first one blew out after 1,5 years, the other one has been burning since then every night for a total of 8 yrs * 365 days * 10 hrs ≈ 30.000 hrs.

    Be careful when writing a reply, you might spill your coffee in your laptop ;-)

  238. Anne van der Bom:

    SecularAnimist
    8 May 2009 at 3:02 PM

    For example, the new wind energy capacity added worldwide in 2008 alone is the equivalent of around 27 new coal-fired power plants.

    You should take the average capacity factor into consideration when making these kind of comparisons. That means you need ~3 GW of wind to replace 1 GW of coal (assuming you meant 27 new 1G coal-fired power plants, since 1 GW is a typical capacity for a coal plant).

  239. Ray Ladbury:

    Gavin,
    It is becoming very clear that there is another post (or series) on how climate models work and how their results are interpreted, as well as how the models and results are validated. Denialists are talking as if all computer models are the same–confusing even dynamical and statistical modeling. They also seem to think that whatever the computer spits out is taken as Gospel writ in stone.

    Perhaps a series of posts might discourage the use of such straw men.

  240. TokyoTom:

    #195: “The tragedy of the commons isn’t actually a tragedy of the commons – it’s a tragedy of the free-for-all. There are any number of ways to overcome the tragedy of the commons – from Mutually Assured Destruction, to consensual co-operation – (and in many societies around the world, the latter has worked for centuries to millenia), but the free market ain’t one of them.”

    This is confused. The “free market” certainly pulls on the chain of destruction where resources are not owned or managed, and may, by introducing new technologies, even accelerate the destruction of commons and to the breakdown of communal systems. But broadly speaking, where there are adequately defined and protected “property rights”, the free market does not itself generate the destruction of commons.

    And property rights, broadly speaking, are simply instituitions that societies have gradually developed to side-step tragedy of the commons situations.

  241. TokyoTom:

    #196 Tamino, I share your sentiments.

    Many of those who profess to be interested in protecting “free market capitalism” really have no clue themselves as to how it works, and why it DOESN’T work in the case of environmental problems.

    By likewise, many “environmentalists” have very little understanding of how and why markets can go wrong.

    A little discussed aspect of the problem is that there is also a rather apparent tragedy of the GOVERNMENT commons, as governments both tend to do a poor job of managing assets and frequently end up either serving special deal to special interests or as public battlegrounds (since different people can`t simply do independent deals to accommodate their differing perspectives).

    It`s the battle to influence and win favors from government that leads to partisanship (and “ludicrous rationalization”), which is often hijacked by special interests.

    It`s not clear to me how much Chip Knappenberger understands markets, or understands how his posts provide cover for fossil fuel firms/investors who profit while shifting risks to all of us.

    But there`s plenty all around. I note that even Jim Hansen strongly favors taxes over cap and trade bureaucracy and green pork.

  242. EL:

    227 I looked through some of his opinions.

    “d) Models that are “wrong”, but very useful.”

    All models are wrong, but some are useful. No model can be complete and consistent at the same time. If anyone tells you differently, they are very wrong.

    [Response: You are thinking about a pure mathematical construct (cf. Godel) that isn't quite the same as the models we are talking about in climate. Physical models are consistent, and strive to be complete (though still have some ways to go). There are no complete but inconsistent models in climate. - gavin]

    He is correct that people take different views depending upon their background. Sometimes they are correct, and they may be expressing a side of the story you don’t normally see in another profession.

    It reminds me of a joke.

    A biologist, a physicist and a mathematician were sitting in a street cafe watching the crowd. Across the street they saw a man and a woman entering a building. Ten minutes later they reappeared together with a third person.
    - They have multiplied, said the biologist.
    - Oh no, an error in measurement, the physicist sighed.
    - If exactly one person enters the building now, it will be empty again, the mathematician concluded.

  243. Anne van der Bom:

    I have read nearly all replies to this post and what some people realise, but not enough imo, is that humans base their decisions almost entirely on emotions. How much we like to flatter ourselves thinking we are rational life forms, when it comes to the point of choosing a or b, it is done on gut feeling and the logic is applied afterwards to justify that decision.

    Imo the kind of reasoning that Chip Knappenberger stands for is: “We (the western world) must not do anything unless we can be sure they (the developing nations) will do their part as well” (justified afterwards by some numerical analysis that shows that doing something unilaterally would not make a difference).

    That would make the developing nations feel like they are as responsible for the problem as we are. But they don’t feel that way, and with good reason I might say. Ignoring that feeling is a recipe for failure. No matter how much ‘scientific evidence’ and ‘economic analyses’ you throw at it, they will not be convinced. If we want to get the job done, we must get them on board. If we want to get them on board, we must convince them. If we want to convince them, we must deal with their emotions.

    What they want to see is us admitting that it is a problem that we created. The only convincing way to do so is to start unilateral emission reductions. Then you can be sure they will do their share. Or can’t you be sure? You see, essentially it is a question of TRUST.

  244. Anne van der Bom:

    Wilmot McCutchen
    10 May 2009 at 12:41 AM

    I hope you don’t mind me doing some education too.

    The intermittency of wind and solar power can’t be ignored.

    It is more accurate to call it ‘variability’ instead of ‘intermittancy’. The latter makes it sound as if one moment there is wind and the other moment there is not. Wind power fluctuates over time. Wind is not binary.

    One major reason that wind is not more widely deployed is that it is most abundant at night, and scarce on still hot days when you need it most. You can’t just switch on a coal or nuclear plant when the wind dies down — they take days to get up to speed.

    Variability does not equate to unpredictability. Wind can be predicted quite accurately on an hourly basis 1 day ahead. REISI (the German grid operator) does so routinely with an error of 6%. That gives them ample time for planning any necessary additional power. Also, the better complement for renewables are combined cycle gas turbines, not coal and nuclear.

    And do not forget solar. Especially the solar thermal with molten salt storage variety that can easily follow demand and get you through those relatively calm summer periods.

    At night, there is already enough power in the “spinning reserve” of coal and nuclear to meet demand, so wind goes to waste.

    I could easily turn that around: “At night, there is already enough wind power so the inflexible coal and nuclear power goes to waste”. In the energy industry, nuclear and coal are generally used as ‘baseload’ as their inflexible nature makes them hardly suitable for spinning reserve.

    Night time surpluses do not need to go to waste, there is enough pumped hydro available around the world to deal with that. It is also not unrealistic to predict large amounts of electric vehicles charging overnight. And nobody is advocating 100% wind, so don’t make the error of discarding any energy source that can not on its own provide for 100% of our energy needs in todays world.

  245. Jim Galasyn:

    An interesting approach:

    How to Save Fish
    By John Tierney

    There’s great news for both fish and fishermen in the forthcoming issue of Science, as my colleague Cory Dean reports. A global survey of more than 11,000 fisheries points to a profitable system to protect fisheries from collapsing. The bad news is that this system, called catch shares, is used in only 1 percent of the world’s fisheries and is still controversial, but the researchers hope the new evidence of its success will win over some opponents — a group has included both local fishermen and some environmentalists.

    Under this system, a fisherman owns the right to a certain percentage of the annual allowable catch in a fishery. These shares, sometimes called individual transferable quotas, can be bought and sold on the market, and their price goes down if the fish population declines. So fishermen have a direct incentive to protect the fishery along with their investment: that way their share will be worth more when they retire and sell it to someone else. This system has long appealed to economists, and it’s been shown to make work easier and more profitable for fishermen (like the Australian lobstermen and tuna fishermen whom I observed). …

    Contrast with:

    Almost 90% of European fish stocks declining; 30% ‘beyond biological limits’; European fisheries commission admits failure

    Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy has failed and a completely new fishing management system is needed, the European Commission has admitted. …

  246. Hank Roberts:

    http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_extension_tragedy_commons.html

    Extension of The Tragedy of the Commons
    by Garrett Hardin, 1998, published by The American Association for the Advancement of Science

    “… the weightiest mistake in my synthesizing paper was the omission of the modifying adjective “unmanaged.” In correcting this omission, one can generalize the practical conclusion in this way: “A ‘managed commons’ describes either so cia lism or the privatism of free enterprise. Either one may work; either one may fail: ‘The devil is in the details.’ But with an unmanaged commons, you can forget about the devil: As overuse of resources reduces carrying capacity, ruin is inevitable.” With this modification firmly in place, “The Tragedy of the Commons” is well tailored for further interdisciplinary syntheses.

    A final word about interdisciplinary work–do not underestimate its difficulties. The more specialties we try to stitch together, the greater are our opportunities to make mistakes–and the more numerous are our willing critics. Science has been defined as a self-correcting system. In this struggle, our primary adversary should be “the nature of things.” As a matter of policy, we must not reply in kind to those critics who love to indulge in name-calling. (They are all too numerous in interdisciplinary undertakings.) But critics who, ignoring personalities, focus on the underlying nature of things are the true friends of science.”

    ————-

    It’s sadly ironic that Hardin long ago answered most of the complaints and opinions and political rants posted in the comment thread above, correcting the misapprehensions people grab onto.

    Read his summary, folks. He long ago spoke to the misunderstanding Ike and Tierney and everyone in between is demonstrating.

    ________
    “A ‘managed commons’ describes either soc iali sm or the privatism of free enterprise. Either one may work; either one may fail: ‘The devil is in the details.’ But with an unmanaged commons, you can forget about the devil: As overuse of resources reduces carrying capacity, ruin is inevitable.” — Garrett Hardin

    _________
    Mangling of the word s oc i al i sm courtesy of the spam filter

  247. Jim Bouldin:

    In all likelihood this was also a tragedy of the commons – nobody owned the trees.

    Ownership didn’t stop Maxxam from slaughtering the redwoods on the California coast as fast as they possibly could 25 years ago, or numerous companies from doing the same in the Great Lakes states 125 years ago, or same in the Pacific Northwest shortly after that, or…

    Your propositions are ludicrous and have no basis in reality. Has nothing to do with “ownership” unless by that term you denote a shared sense of responsibility and right of influence (which you do not).

  248. James:

    Anne van der Bom Says (10 May 2009 at 8:58):

    “Also, the better complement for renewables are combined cycle gas turbines, not coal and nuclear.”

    Err… Don’t those combined-cycle gas turbines generally run on natural gas? Isn’t natural gas a fossil fuel? So how does using them in combination with wind get to zero CO2?

    “And do not forget solar. Especially the solar thermal with molten salt storage variety…”

    Which can’t be built in sufficient numbers without causing unacceptable (to me, at least) environmental destruction?

    “Night time surpluses do not need to go to waste, there is enough pumped hydro available around the world to deal with that.”

    This is not the case. There is in fact very little pumped hydro storage, and few suitable sites. There’s also a large energy loss (15-30%) due to inefficiency. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

  249. James:

    Phil Scadden Says (10 May 2009 at 4:26):

    “Worrying about CFLs and LEDs is concentrating on trivia. You probably only burn 1-2 kWh per day on lighting.”

    But as the saying goes, “many a mickle makes a muckle”. Add up all the little bits of saving, that can be done with little or no effort, and you get a respectable total. Here you can get better quality light, save money & time over the long term, and reduce energy use.

    “Depending on where you live, if you drive a car you are spending between 14 and 40 kWh on petrol, and maybe 30-40 on heating if you have cold winters.”

    Again, easy enough to reduce that. There’s at least a factor of 5 spread in energy efficiency even between current car models. At a rough estimate, I use about half your 14 KWh minimum, and when the Aptera & similar electric/hybrid models reach the market, that’ll be cut at least in half. Likewise with home heating: small investments on insulation &c can reduce your estimated energy use by quite a bit, while in much of the country solar heating could reduce use still further.

  250. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote:

    “You’d have an argument if those desert-destroying solar arrays were the only possible source of non-fossil-fuel energy, or perhaps even if they were significantly less expensive than the many possible alternatives. But they’re not: there are many better choices.”

    Where is the evidence to support your assertion that there are “many better choices” than concentrating solar thermal when it comes to environmental impacts?

    Let me refer you to a study that I have cited before:

    Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security
    Mark Z. Jacobson, Stanford University
    Energy and Environmental Sciences, 2009, 2, 148 – 173.

    From Stanford University’s press release describing this study (emphasis added):

    Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford … has conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed, major, energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability

    The raw energy sources that Jacobson found to be the most promising are, in order, wind, concentrated solar (the use of mirrors to heat a fluid), geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics (rooftop solar panels), wave and hydroelectric. He recommends against nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, which is made of prairie grass.

    So, Jacobson’s quantitative, detailed study found that concentrating solar thermal was the second best solution after wind power, considering its overall impacts, including water, land use and wildlife.

    By the way, Jacobson’s study found that nuclear power tied with coal (with carbon capture & sequestration) as the worst in their overall impact.

    And as ClimateProgress notes:

    A study by Ausra, a solar energy company based in California, indicates that over 90 percent of fossil fuel–generated electricity in the United States and the majority of US oil usage for transportation could be eliminated using solar thermal power plants – and for less than it would cost to continue importing oil. The land requirement for the CSP plants would be roughly 15,000 square miles (38,850 square kilometers, the equivalent of 15 percent of the land area of Nevada). While this may sound like a large tract, CSP plants use less land per equivalent electrical output than large hydroelectric dams when flooded land is included, or than coal plants when factoring in land used for coal mining.

    So again, where is the evidence to support your assertion that “there are many better choices” than concentrating solar thermal?

    Wilmot McCutchen wrote: “The intermittency of wind and solar power can’t be ignored.”

    Anne van der Bom replied: “It is more accurate to call it ‘variability’ instead of ‘intermittancy’.”

    Anne is correct that the accurate term is variability, and it has neither been ignored nor is it the huge problem that some commenters suggest.

    Jacobson’s study also addressed this issue. From the Stanford press release:

    Jacobson said that while some people are under the impression that wind and wave power are too variable to provide steady amounts of electricity, his research group has already shown in previous research that by properly coordinating the energy output from wind farms in different locations, the potential problem with variability can be overcome and a steady supply of baseline power delivered to users.

    The same applies to solar — and of course concentrating solar thermal with thermal storage is 24×7 baseload power.

    Multiple studies in Germany and the USA have found that a diversified regional portfolio of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, geothermal, biomass — can produce 24×7 baseload power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear.

  251. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Anne van der Bom #244 — I’m all for rapid deployment of wind, and I appreciate your comments. Although, as you point out, it is possible to integrate a variable power source such as wind, there are also times when the output of a particular turbine goes to zero.

    Wind must be in a certain speed range to operate, and when the wind is too weak or too strong there is no wind power. So replacing coal with wind for baseload power will be impossible unless some means for energy storage of wind (e.g. improved batteries, pumped hydro) can be developed.

    My proposal, stated above at #88, is that wind when not used for grid power be used to crack coal CO2. Thus the grid stays reliable, and emissions are reduced at least partially. CO2 becomes, in effect, the storage medium for wind. The more wind turbines, the better for the coal plants — there would be no antagonism, no choice between one and the other. Carbon recycling could also produce vehicle fuel from coal CO2, by syntrolysis. To me that seems better than trying to substitute wind for coal as baseload power while countries like India and China are massively increasing coal capacity.

  252. SecularAnimist:

    By the way, returning to the original topic of this thread:

    I think that if Chip Knappenberger has demonstrated anything, it is that the emissions reduction proposals now before Congress are wholly inadequate, and that we need much stronger legislation, which puts a far greater price on carbon pollution than is now being considered.

    Moreover, we need even stronger action than that — arguably the government should begin seizing and shutting down coal-fired power plants, and banning the manufacture of gasoline-fueled automobiles.

    The USA, being by far the largest cumulative contributor to the anthropogenic excess of CO2, and being a world leader as well, should undertake such “innovations” to set an example for other nations.

    I hope that Chip Knappenberger will be gratified when his study is cited in support of such measures.

  253. Hank Roberts:

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2007.04.005

    Overfish an area, you get population declines, changes in species ratios, the sort of thing politics can’t cope with although the scientists can point out the process as it’s happening. A classic current example is the industrial overfishing of the Red Sea, taking out the resource that individuals and families rely on for survival.
    And so people turn to piracy. Google “Red Sea” fishery
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2007.04.005

  254. Neal J. King:

    #245, Jim Galasyn:

    Yes, I mentioned this approach with regards to the Icelandic cod fishery in #188.

  255. Ike Solem:

    Could the inhabitants of Easter Island have used cap and trade to solve their deforestation problem? Or would they just have fought it out over the last remaining trees, the way the world is doing with conventional oil today?

  256. Jim Bouldin:

    “Or are you seriously proposing that if we just domesticated the biosphere, everything would be fine?”

    There would probably be some issues with recruiting the necessary domesticators

  257. Ike Solem:

    Wind and solar and batteries. That’s been the approach for a hundred years, so please, lay off the disingenuous claims.

    EDISON’S LATEST MARVEL — THE ELECTRIC COUNTRY HOUSE (NYT Sunday Sept 15 1912)

    …For Mr. Edison has perfected a combination of gasoline engine, generator and storage batteries by which, for a modest expense, every man can make his own electricity in his own cellar, utterly and for all time independent of the nearness or farness of the big electical companies.

    Replace the gasoline generator with solar photovoltaic panels and an inverter and voltage regulator, and you have the fossil fuel-free version of the same thing.

    It is odd to see how the New York Times has changed… and look, they even talk about energy technology and science, instead of just quoting the EPRI PR guy:

    Half an eye will suffice to see that with the batteries newly charged, and the engine working at high speed, the volatage pressure on the lamps would blow them to smithereens. How to insure an even distribution of the current, which would be invariable whether the pressure was high or low, was the difficulty which has delayed the arrival of the “twentieth century suburban residence”.

    The automatic regulator is a nest of resisting wires, controlled by a small resisting coil similar to the one which cuts off the batteries from the engine. Through this, a perfect balance is established between the pressure of the voltage from the batteries and the resistance of the coils plus the amount of current that is required.

    Speaking generally, it works much like the retina of the eye, automatically controlling the flow of light and impeding its strength where that is too great for convenience or comfort.”

    Gosh, all that science makes my head spin – readers don’t want to hear about that, they just want to hear what the coal lobby’s economic analysts have to say, i.e. the Electric Power Research Institute

    “Wind and biomass, meanwhile, will supply about a quarter of the electricity, while solar power will not play a significant role, the study predicts. “It just doesn’t enter into our equation,” said Revis W. James, the director of the institute’s Energy Technology Assessment Center.”

    Who needs science when you have an expert to tell you what you need to know? It’s so much easier that way, isn’t it?

  258. Dick Veldkamp:

    Re: Renewable energy

    No one denies it will be quite a job to power the world with renewables only. However:
    - we will have to do it anyway. Conventional fuels will run out in any case.
    - one should not try to generate all energy that is used now, since most of it is wasted. To give an example, there is no real need to drive an SUV; you can use a small (electric?) car, or public transport. Another example: it is really necessary to air condition all of Texas the conventional way? Why not (say) use thick walled buildings (large thermal inertia + good insulation), with solar panels and solar collectors on top?

    And yes, I am aware that the current situation cannot be changed overnight, and that change will cost money.

  259. Hank Roberts:

    Neal, 9 May 2009 at 5:23, to check whether a word has appeared, use the “find” function in your browser while the comments page is open — e.g. search for ” cod ” — Gavin used that as his example to begin this.

  260. MikeN:

    >You probably only burn 1-2 kWh per day on lighting.”

    Then why did they make such a fuss and ban conventional light bulbs?

  261. CTG:

    Wilmot says: “So replacing coal with wind for baseload power will be impossible unless some means for energy storage of wind (e.g. improved batteries, pumped hydro) can be developed.”

    Which is precisely what is already happening in countries that are not in the iron grip of Big Oil and Coal. You need to understand some things, Wilmot:

    1) The USA is not the whole world
    2) The US grid is not the only way a grid can work
    3) Things are allowed to change

    Nobody, but nobody, says that you can just build a load of wind farms and the problem is solved.

    A diversified portfolio of renewables, on the other hand, does exactly what you say:

    * Wind, solar and hydro together can provide baseload power
    * Excess wind at night can be used to pump hydro
    * Excess solar in daytime can be used to pump hydro
    * Small-scale solar (e.g. solar-powered water heaters) can reduce domestic demand significantly

    None of these things are technically impossible with today’s technology. The only obstacles are political.


    reCaptcha understands wind power: revenue rentfree :-)

  262. Cardin Drake:

    I always worry when somebody tells me we have to do something now, especially if they acknowledge that the solution will have no measurable effect on the problem.

    Any solutions should certainly be subject to a cost/benefit analysis. Even if everyone agrees there is a problem, we have finite resources, and they should be spent wisely.
    If the U.S. caps emissions independently of the rest of the world, we only succeed in spending hundreds of billions of dollars, without anything to show for it. It may not even lower total world-wide CO2 emissions, because as we make our own industries uncompetitive, they may just relocate and create more demand for 3 cent per watt coal-generated electricity in China and elsewhere. I realize that is frustrating for some to hear, but it is not necessarily an argument for doing nothing, just an argument for doing something else.
    To use your analogy, why would any nation voluntarily reduce their catch, if they could be certain that another nation would simply increase their own catch and the total catch would remain the same.
    You have to look for another way–perhaps spending money on increased fishery systems that would benefit all.

    Would it be wise in 1970 for the government to mandate desktop computers on every desk in every school?
    Sure, eventually it would have worked, but would the cost/benefit made any sense given the direction technology was evolving anyway.
    If you look at the long-term, say 100 years, I think it is clear that the world will burn a lot of coal and oil in that time span.
    It is also clear that 100 years from now (probably much sooner) batteries and solar cells will be dirt cheap, fossil fuels will get more expensive, and there will be a major shift away from them. How much money should we spend now, and how much should we hurt our economy to accelerate the process a few months or a few years? These are all fair questions.
    If the political decision is made now in the U.S to spend hundreds of billions of dollars, where can you get the most bang for your buck? We may not know the right answer to that question, but it is pretty clear what the answer is not.

  263. dhogaza:

    Ownership didn’t stop Maxxam from slaughtering the redwoods on the California coast as fast as they possibly could 25 years ago, or numerous companies from doing the same in the Great Lakes states 125 years ago, or same in the Pacific Northwest shortly after that…

    A history lesson …

    Until about the time of WWII, the logging industry largely opposed large-scale harvest on PNW national forests. They worried that doing so would lower the price of timber and therefore the value of timberland. After liquidating their old-growth, they changed their tune and the US Forest Service became the clearcutting machine those of us my age grew up with, fought, and continue to fight.

    The end result is that due to laws passed during the early 70s (ESA, NEPA, NFMA, CWA and others), logging on federal lands has been FAR less intense than on privately-held forests in western Oregon. By any measure other than volume of timber produced, federal public forests rate higher than their private counterparts. The only exception to this would be the Olympic National Forest, which is exempt from the aforementioned “alphabet soup” laws due to harvest agreements made when Olympic National Park was created back in the 1930s over howls of protest in the PNW (on the other hand, there’s no logging at all in Oly NP).

    Just as has been mentioned regarding privately owned redwoods in California, we’ve had sparse examples of enlightened management in the PNW, too. Gilchrist Timber in central Oregon managed its old-growth ponderosa forest holdings extremely responsibly, and Old Man Gilchrist got himself an award from Oregon conservation organizations in recognition of his dedication to not destroying the forest lands he owned. They were logged, but carefully and minimally. Unfortunately, like all old men, he died, and his family sold the company. The new owners weren’t nearly as bad as Maxxum but did immediately put forward plans to double the cut – insisting that it wouldn’t cause any noticable changes in non-timber forest values. B***. But at least they didn’t go for immediate liquidation of the entire holding, as Maxxum tried to do.

    Rene’s faith in privatization reminds me of our libertarians here in the US in the way that he’s either totally ignorant of, or ignores, facts on the ground (or in the sea).

    Private ownership of natural resources in the US, at least, has led to degradation far beyond what we see on federally managed public lands (as bad as that management has been).

  264. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (10 May 2009 at 11:43):

    “Where is the evidence to support your assertion that there are “many better choices” than concentrating solar thermal when it comes to environmental impacts?”

    In a fairly trivial observation of the world around you? In typing something like “mojave solar environmental impact” into Google’s search box?

    “Let me refer you to a study that I have cited before:”

    Yes, I know you’ve cited that study before, and therefore I will be considerably blunter in expressing my opinion of it, which comes down to four words: garbage in, garbage out. Start with a set of assumptions, and the results you you get will be the product of those assumptions, regardless of whether those assumptions have any relationship at all with the physical world.

    As an example, if you start by assuming that scraping all the vegetation off a large area of land and treating it with herbicide has a negligible impact on the environment, then your study will naturally find that solar thermal is a low-cost option.

    Or consider this quote from the press release: “CSP plants use less land per equivalent electrical output than large hydroelectric dams when flooded land is included”. Now isn’t that a classic piece of garbage going in? Hydroelectric dams convert land to lakes, which (whatever one may think of them), are still available as habitat for aquatic life, among other uses. CSP plants scrape the land bare and treat it with herbicides, just in case life should somehow manage to survive. How can anyone reasonably compare the two?

  265. James:

    MikeN Says (10 May 2009 at 14:11):

    “>You probably only burn 1-2 kWh per day on lighting.”

    Then why did they make such a fuss and ban conventional light bulbs?”

    Do the arithmetic: assume 1 KWh/day per household, 100 million households in the US, that’s 100 GWh for lighting. Assuming that the lights are on an average of 10 hours/day, that’s 10 1-GWatt power plants needed just to run the lights.

    Little things multiplied by a hundred million or so tend to add up :-)

    [Response: But I'm sure Chip would be happy to provide you with an analysis demonstrating that changing an individual bulb would only delay global warming at 2100 by a micro-second or two. - gavin]

  266. James:

    dhogaza Says (10 May 2009 at 14:40):

    “Private ownership of natural resources in the US, at least, has led to degradation far beyond what we see on federally managed public lands (as bad as that management has been).”

    For a counterexample, consider the effects of off-road vehicle riding on public vs private lands.

  267. Anne van der Bom:

    James
    10 May 2009 at 11:13 AM

    “Also, the better complement for renewables are combined cycle gas turbines, not coal and nuclear.”

    Err… Don’t those combined-cycle gas turbines generally run on natural gas? Isn’t natural gas a fossil fuel? So how does using them in combination with wind get to zero CO2?

    Renewables can not replace our current fossil plants overnight. We’re forced to leave them running for some time. I meant that if you have a choice of what to shut down, the last ones to go will be the ccgt.

    “Night time surpluses do not need to go to waste, there is enough pumped hydro available around the world to deal with that.”

    This is not the case.

    You are right. I should not have phrased it in such a simplistic way. I was not trying to argue that pumped hydro alone can deal with all peaks that renewable energy can conceivably produce. Apart from pumped hydro, we will have more means at our disposal to deal with variability (Diversification, geographic spreading, biomass, electric cars, (non-pumped) hydro).

    There is currently more conventional generating capacity installed than is strictly needed to deal with outages and maintenance. If we decide to go down the renewables path, there will also be more installed capacity than is strictly needed. So we can even afford to dump some of those surpluses.

  268. Dick Veldkamp:

    Re: 265: Exchanging light bulbs?

    Yes, much energy goes into lighting, to me 10,000 MW seems a reasonable estimate for the US. Still, it would have made more sense to go for changing refrigerators, (deep) freezers and clothes driers first, rather than light bulbs.

    But by all means, let’s use every opportunity for saving we have.

  269. Anne van der Bom:

    Wilmot McCutchen
    10 May 2009 at 11:45 AM

    there are also times when the output of a particular turbine goes to zero

    Yes. But you’ll agree that that is hardly an issue. Over a whole country the size of Spain or Germany, wind power never goes to 0. RED Espanha has this sleek looking web page showing their wind power generation in real time, and how it fits into their total generation mix. It can give you a good impression about the variability of wind.

    To me that seems better than trying to substitute wind for coal as baseload power while countries like India and China are massively increasing coal capacity.

    I don’t understand. What is the relation between those? How do the new powerplants in India and China affect the decision on what the smartest replacement for ff derived electricity in the USA is?

  270. Hank Roberts:

    James, it doesn’t matter who owns property, to the OHV riders who make trouble. If they can climb it they’ll go across it and they’re getting able to handle steeper hills every year.

    I had four of them on my restoration site yesterday, trashing the one little spring-fed puddle that reliably lasts long enough into the dry season for the yellow-legged frogs to reproduce. You think a sheriff cares? Try doing anything in wildland to protect it and you’ll learn.

    You want to try owning fish in the ocean? A government-enforced ban on fishing is possible. An ownership scheme only benefits those owners who are rich enough to own a government or private police force to enforce their “property rights.”

    Same for a little parcel of wildland. The owners rich enough to fence and guard and floodlight get fast police protection — and no wildlife. Anyone trying to do restoration with native plants gets crapped on. It’s the best we can do, try to keep a little of the wildland in shape until society gets smart, if it ever does.

  271. Ike Solem:

    Interesting, Hank – where is your restoration project taking place? Somewhere in the Sierras, I presume… a funny thing about the yellow legged frog program – the only restoration programs for yellow-legged frogs I’ve heard of are as follows:

    http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu/news/2008/10/03-ylf-habitat-restoration.shtml

    http://www.mylfrog.info/pdfs/SEKI_fishremoval_EA.pdf

    At one time, these frogs were the most abundant amphibian in the high mountain lakes of the Sierra Nevada. Populations of mountain yellow-legged frogs have declined approximately 95 percent in the Sierra Nevada, including in Yosemite National Park, and more populations are lost every year. The ecological effects of the loss of this species have been tremendous, as their former abundance made them a keystone predator and prey; a crucial agent of nutrient and energy cycling in Sierran aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

    Yosemite is starting a project to restore native fishless ecological conditions to a small number of remote lakes. Such actions may include removal of introduced, non-native fish. Proposed actions would allow re-colonization by hundreds of native species, either naturally or through further management actions. This restoration would be most critical for the mountain yellow-legged frog.

    [edit - stick to discussing valid points, not the commenters]

  272. Ike Solem:

    #252, Secular animist.

    I think you misunderstand. What has happened with the climate legislation in the House is that it has been watered down in committee by the paid employees of the coal lobby, largely an alliance of coal-state Democrats and Republicans. This was done by various lobbyists who applied pressure on behalf of Duke Energy, Southern and so on.

    Then, the coal lobby hires people like Chip to attack the bill on the basis of it being too watered down to do much good – thereby heading off any domestic legislation at all. That way, when Copenhagen rolls around in the fall, they can look forward to China and other nations that have already made significant steps towards renewables to balk over anything further, because the U.S. has not done so.

    That’s the political play here, is my guess. It’s not new, the same approach was used to defeat Kyoto accords.

  273. Phil Scadden:

    I am not saying that CFLs or LED dont make a difference – just not even remotely enough. Its too easy for people say ‘well I have replaced all my bulbs with CFLs, turn off all my electrics at night, grow my own vegetables so I am doing my bit’. Well all that helps – just not that much and it most certainly does not offset say commuting between your lifestyle block where you graze your kids horses on otherwise arable farmland in an SUV which you justify because you are now a “farmer”. I’m becoming more convinced that electric cars plus some biofuels for heavy lifting are way forward. And that generating the required electricity is doable as well. I very much doubt that the change would damage an economy that much overall, though there would certainly be local losers (eg coal).

  274. Wilmot McCutchen:

    anne van der Bom #269 — I was trying to say that whatever solution we might come up with in the US should also be a solution for China and India and the rest of the world. The plight of the polar bears and the effects of non-linear dynamics years in the future have so far not caused any change in course or even a slowing down. Human nature, as illustrated by Gavin’s parable, tends toward a bad result.

    Hybrid power generation for carbon recycling could turn CO2 from a waste product into a resource and thereby make it profitable to solve the weird world weather problem within the short time (20 years) we have for taking effective action. A profit motive might succeed, whereas we must admit that scolding and shaming and even threatening to punish are bound to fail. Maybe it’s a Hail Mary play, but it seems like our only chance.

    ReCaptcha: implore neighbourhood

  275. dhogaza:

    Hydroelectric dams convert land to lakes, which (whatever one may think of them), are still available as habitat for aquatic life, among other uses.

    Ah, so *that* explains why wild salmon are thriving in the Columbia Basin.

    capcha must be an american football fan: “clone Unitas”

  276. Ammonite:

    I empathise with the difficulties faced by Chip. In my state bodies are disposed of directly into the river – a long running, sanctioned tradition. There are some (down-river types) who now raise the contentious claim that this has health drawbacks and further suggest punitive economic measures such as interment in wooden coffins as a ‘solution’.

    I have provided a detailed analysis showing that if my town adopts such measures the body count in the river will drop by less than 2%, a negligible amount. What is more, the proposed ‘solution’ promulgates uninvestigated changes in land use, deforestation and an unfair imposition of cost on the poor – all in the name of environmental protection and equity! The response I receive on presenting this logic is the unsusbstantiated claim that other towns will shift their burial practices to uneconomic methods at some unspecified point in future. Extraordinary!

    My thoughts are with you.
    Ammonite

  277. MikeN:

    All these jokes and mockery, but not really addressing the substance of Chip’s analysis.
    It doesn’t help that the post starts with a bad analogy, easily avoidable. The top 5 don’t catch 50% of the fish, they have more than 60%, and China is the leading emitter, with more than 20%.

    [Response: Do pay attention. The number of fisherfolk is analogous to population - do the math again. - gavin]

  278. TokyoTom:

    #188 / 245: Neal & Jim, thanks for the references to the successful experiments in Iceland, NZ and the Alaskan pollock fishery to replace the tragedy of the government commons with property rights approaches that gives the fishermen a stake in protecting the resources they harvest, instead of simply an incentive to invest in a mad race to catch fish before others do in a continually shrinking fishery with shorter and shorter seasons.

    I continue to have problems with the spam filter (links and bad words?), so I have excised most of this post and put it up separately at my blog, linked at my name above (with links to some of my other posts on fisheries)

  279. Blackdog:

    So I come to the RealClimate website, click on the “About” section and read: “RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”

    Then I read the first post on the header regarding the tragedy of the commons. So much for the science mission. When the scientists reveal their bias it becomes difficult to trust their science. True or not, because of the obvious political leanings of the author the science just seems like a cover for a social engineering project. It would lend credence to your mission if you stuck to the science and left the politics to other sites.

    [Response: We write about what we want to write about. You have no obligation to read. - gavin]

  280. dhogaza:

    Interesting, Hank – where is your restoration project taking place? Somewhere in the Sierras, I presume… a funny thing about the yellow legged frog program – the only restoration programs for yellow-legged frogs I’ve heard of are as follows

    In the past, Hank has revealed the fact that he’s a small landholder trying to, on an individual basis, do some habitat restoration.

    Maybe you can’t find it on the web because he hasn’t bothered to put his stuff on the web.

    Maybe this isn’t proof that he’s not doing what he claims to be doing.

  281. James:

    dhogaza Says (10 May 2009 at 19:50):

    “Ah, so *that* explains why wild salmon are thriving in the Columbia Basin.”

    A question, then: are you under the impression that salmon are the only species of fish that lives in the Columbia drainage? (Though strictly speaking “lives in” is an inaccuracy, since the salmon spends much of its life in the ocean, swimming upstream to spawn.) That’s not the case: there are many other kinds of non-andromanous fish that live there, plus reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates of all sorts, and vegetation. The river and the lakes behind those hydroelectric dams are still a living ecosystem, even though the dams have had a disastrous effect on a few species.

    But look at your comment from the other side: if the effect on a few species gives you reason to question the existence of those dams, how can you justify the far greater effect of solar thermal?

  282. TokyoTom:

    #262 Cardin, do you seriously think that there is ANY possibility of “the U.S. cap[ping] emissions independently of the rest of the world”?

    US legislators (and presidents from Bush Sr through Clinton and Dubya) have made it crystal clear that we won`t act alone.

    Rather, we face classic collective action problem with respect to a shared resource – like fishermen regulating a fisheries, ranchers agreeing on how to manage a range or farmers managing streamflows – with respect to which we have long been the major user (and remain so by far on a per capita basis), and very few are willing to act (other than to posture) unless we are.

    We have long recognized that there are shared gains (in the form of avoided losses to ecosystems and economies) to acting to limit human-induced climate change and ocean acidification, and to improved environmental management in the third world – real costs that your “cost-benefit” analysis neatly ignores), and we have ample carrots and sticks to persuade others to follow.

    The problem is that the wheel of our own government has long been captured by the investors and industries that reap short-term profits while shifting costs to all of us and future generations.

    IOW, the supposedly cool and rational approach is, at its core, a mask by which particular interests continue to hijack the rest of society.

    It`s this fact that drives others – frequently wealthy – who are not invested in fossil fuels to support the PR campaigns of Gore and others (not enviro-facists out to destroy capitalism).

  283. James:

    Anne van der Bom Says (10 May 2009 at 16:01):

    “But you’ll agree that that is hardly an issue. Over a whole country the size of Spain or Germany, wind power never goes to 0. RED Espanha has this sleek looking web page showing their wind power generation in real time…”

    Sleek perhaps, but does not display on my system. Still, it would be very interesting to see their actual generation, graphed as say hourly MW generated over a year, because I would be very surprised if it didn’t show significant variation. After all, wind is not random: it’s generated by weather systems operating on continental scales. Perhaps the total never goes to zero, but the question is whether it goes significantly below demand for long enough to exhaust whatever storage is on the system.

  284. TokyoTom:

    270: Hank, what you`re bemoaning is the “property” is only as good as one`s ability to defend it. The battle we all face with spam is another example.

    The rest of creation has long confronted the same, unending battle over resources; unfortunately nature is relatively defenseless before mankind, and our continuing technological/organizational innovation continues to ramp up our assault on “wild” nature.

    The flip side is that progress also makes it easier for us to identify polluters and to protect assets.

  285. Bruce Tabor:

    Re 262 Ammonite:
    Sometimes the best answer is satire. Well said!

  286. Rene Cheront:

    dhogaza argues that since private forests are harvested faster than government ones, that MEANS they they are being harvested too quickly. His idea seems to be that state judgements should be accepted without a second thought, a la the USSR.
    In markets such as lumber, resource depletion by some operators, creates incentives for other operators to replace the depleted resources. Governments have no comparable rationale to work on, and do not stand or fall on the soundness of their lumber judgements.

  287. oakwood:

    What’s up at the BBC? Last night they showed a one hour programme about the marvels and beauty of South Pacific Islands – of the many unique and unusual species, and the precarious lifestyles of some human inhabitants (BBC2, 9th May 20:30 hrs, ‘South Pacific’). But absolutely no reference to climate change or rising sea levels! Some of the islands were tiny with just a couple of palm tress. There’s one of just 0.6 square miles and 300 inhabitants, and remote from any neighbours – living in peace and harmony. How could the BBC fail to mention the terrible threats facing these islands?

  288. TokyoTom:

    #145: Jim, it seems to me that you and others have misunderstood Rene and are attacking strawmen rather than his points, which are fairly general – and fully acknowledge the undeniable point that resources that are unowned or unmanaged are abused.

    Rather than seeing common ground or exploring how to address these classes of problems, you ll prefer to offer what are essentially red-herrings about how private property is itself imperfect, which is not a point that Rene has at all contested.

    “Yeah, let’s just domesticate and privatize everything, that’ll solve it! You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, either with regard to endangered species protection, management of a commons, or the interaction between the two. Zip.”

    Is Rene or anyone saying that we have to privatize all resources? Rather, he is giving you a great talking point for all those supposed “free-market” “skeptics” out there, who fail to recognize that markets don`t work with respect to resources that nobody owns or are not collectively protected/managed.

    You are all so ready to fight that you are having great difficulty distinguishing friend from foe.

  289. Mark:

    Tokyo, Rene is making up a strawman. His ideal of ownership only works when you take humans out of the picture. His theory is unrealisable without overwhelming control of the short-sightedness of humans and the capitalist consequence of conflating wealth with power: the power gains wealth, which garners more power, which gains yet more wealth…

    So someone who plays for the short term will gain power over others.

    And so short-sighted goals are rewarded in capitalism.

  290. Mark:

    in 284: “The flip side is that progress also makes it easier for us to identify polluters and to protect assets.”

    But those with the greatest power to pollute have the greatest power to avoid the consequences.

    Something you have realised but not taken to its inevitable conclusion and something Rene shows no sign of acknowledging.

  291. Nigel Williams:

    OT HERE I know, but worth keeping an eye on; the Artic ice appears to be thawing from the pole this year!

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/NEWIMAGES/arctic.seaice.color.000.png

  292. CliveB:

    Seems we may have to add south-east asia’s rainforests to the list of tragically lost commons.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/green-power-plants-may-burn-palm-oil-1682650.html

    Unfortunately this is being proposed in order to “help the UK meet its target of generating 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020″. The palm plants may be renewable, but as for the rainforest…

  293. Nick Gotts:

    Rene Cheront wrote: “With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own property, since this is self-defeating. Do you knowingly or deliberately abuse your own property? Surely not.”

    Pity you weren’t around to argue the slaveowners’ case, Rene. After all, they would surely never have abused their property, would they?

    When a company owns a piece of tropical forest, the most profitable thing to do with it is generally to harvest the saleable trees, and either just sell the remains and move the capital on to the next privatization-generated opportunity, or use the land for cattle grazing or oil palm plantations, destroying its biodiversity and destroying the livelihood of local people in the process. So that’s what they do.

  294. Rene Cheront:

    #289 Mark
    “Rene is making up a strawman”
    I understand a strawman to be a caricature of an opponent’s position, created so as to be easily demolishable. Please explain which ideas you feel I have given such treatment to.

    “His ideal of ownership only works when you take humans out of the picture”
    I have absolutely no idea what this might mean. Are you thinking of property rights in the animal kingdom perhaps?

    Nor do I see any argument as such in the comments on alleged short-termism. Nor the vagaries on power in #290 either for that matter. Am I to understand your primary agenda is ideological?

  295. Barton Paul Levenson:

    EL writes:

    “Some experts not aligned with either camp estimate that wind power is currently more than 50 percent more expensive than power generated by a traditional coal plant. Built into the calculation is the need for utilities that rely heavily on wind power to build backup plants fired by natural gas to meet electricity demand when winds are calm.”

    It wasn’t an estimate, pal, I was quoting the price the utilities in California actually charge. Nine cents per kilowatt-hour for wind. No need to guess.

  296. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Douglas Wise writes:

    I came to believe that a totally renewable energy future (incorporating currently relatively expensive solar solutions plus wind) might be our only hope. However, it would, it seemed to me, require a precipitate drop in living standards for populations in the developed world and a quashing of aspirations of those in the developing world to get through the emergency with this so-called blend of solutions.

    Why do you think that?

    It seems to me (as a total non expert) that 4th generation nuclear technology should at least be given a fair chance to compete with other sustainable and CO2 free technologies.

    Fine with me–just let them do it with the Price-Andersen Act repealed.

  297. Barton Paul Levenson:

    EL writes:

    When your in Texas on a nice hot summers day, what are you going to do when wind power drops to 4% capacity with all those air conditioners running?

    Draw power from solar thermal, photovoltaic, geothermal, and biomass power plants?

  298. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Wilmot McCutcheon writes:

    The intermittency of wind and solar power can’t be ignored. One major reason that wind is not more widely deployed is that it is most abundant at night, and scarce on still hot days when you need it most. You can’t just switch on a coal or nuclear plant when the wind dies down — they take days to get up to speed. At night, there is already enough power in the “spinning reserve” of coal and nuclear to meet demand, so wind goes to waste.

    Has it escaped your attention that while wind is most abundant at night, sunlight is most abundant during the day?

  299. Kevin McKinney:

    Re #297–

    Yeah, “Texas on a nice hot summers (sic) day” sounds perfect for solar thermal or PV, doesn’t it?

  300. Nick Gotts:

    Mr. Knappenberger might like to reflect that if the USA refuses to take action to reduce its emissions, this is likely to have costs. First, as I think has already been noted, this will greatly reduce the chances of other countries reducing emissions – after all, what could be a greater political gift to those in China, India, or Europe who oppose emissions reduction measures in their own countries? Second, if Americans as a whole demonstrate the kind of selfish nationalism Knappenberger displays so proudly, sooner or later some state or substate organisation is going to build up sufficient resentment and hatred to say it with a nuke in a shipping container, or perhaps a genetically modified virus.

  301. Rene Cheront:

    #290 Nick Gotts
    “Pity you weren’t around to argue the slaveowners’ case, Rene. After all, they would surely never have abused their property, would they?”

    I do not share this view that people and trees can be lumped into the same category.

    “When a company owns a piece of tropical forest, the most profitable thing to do with it is generally to harvest the saleable trees, and …use the land for cattle grazing or oil palm plantations, destroying its biodiversity and destroying the livelihood of local people in the process. So that’s what they do.”

    Some value, jobs etc, are created by harvesting the trees, while others are destroyed. You are implicitly assuming the latter is greater than the former, or that rights have been walked over. But can you actually show it?
    For example, are the local peoples’ ownerships of the forests routinely being violated? And do you have a calculation showing that the value of biodiversity is always greater than that of what is being farmed?

  302. Nick Gotts:

    Rene Cheront,

    You were arguing that owners do not abuse their property. I showed conclusively with the example of slavery that you are wrong. If owners even of people are willing to abuse them for profit, is it likely that owners of animals and forests will not? Of course to you “abuse” means “reduce the potential to generate profit for the owner”, but even on this narrow definition, as has already been pointed out, it can be economically quite rational to “mine” an animal population or environment destructively, then reinvest the profit elsewhere. But of course to you, maximising profit can never be wrong, can it?

    “For example, are the local peoples’ ownerships of the forests routinely being violated?”

    Yes. If you had any real interest in their welfare, you would already know that. If you decide to educate yourself, you could start at http://www.survival-international.org/.

    “And do you have a calculation showing that the value of biodiversity is always greater than that of what is being farmed?”

    Value to whom? Value of what kind? Over what timescale? I am sure the irreplaceable loss of species means nothing to you and your fellow market-worshippers – and of course under your favoured system, it will be those who care for money above all else who get to make the decisions.

  303. Phillip Shaw:

    Re #299:

    Kevin,

    I know that you were being sarcastic, but Texas on a hot summer’s day truly is perfect for solar thermal and PV energy generation. Living in Austin I see thousands of acres of rooftops, parking lots and city streets suitable for PV installations. And there are former gravel and rock quarry sites in the area that may be suitable for solar thermal plants and/or pumped storage. In aggregate many megawatts of potential power. Utilizing these potential sites has the benefits of generating power near where it is consumed, avoiding the need for additional transmission infrastructure, and the peak generation will occur at the same time as the peak consumption.

    One of the most attractive sites is right downtown where highway I-35 splits into elevated north and south lanes for several miles. I would love to see the area between the elevated roadways roofed with architectural glass PV modules mounted on lightweight trusses. The array would be roughly 50 meters wide by 4 kilometers long. At 100 watts per square meter it would generate about 20 MW, plus it would shade and cool the roadway below it. Also I feel it would be a great symbol of Austin’s commitment to renewable energy.

    I do wish that you and the other neo-Luddites would put your creative energies towards solutions rather than to trying to impede the needed changes to BAU here in the US. If you don’t succeed in impeding the switch to renewable energy then you’ve wasted your time and the time of many other people. If you do succeed in impeding progress then you’ve condemned future generations to a likely disasterous climate. Is that really how you want to spend the finite days of your life?

  304. dhogaza:

    In markets such as lumber, resource depletion by some operators, creates incentives for other operators to replace the depleted resources.

    The timber industry in the PNW fought replanting laws intended to force them to practice something close to sustained yield management, back in the 1970s.

    You have nothing but ideology backing your view. I have mud on my boots and first-hand experience which tells me that in practice, your ideology is not reflected by real-world practice.

  305. Mike G:

    I doubt there are many disciplines that deal with the tragedy of the commons more than marine resource management, so as a marine biologist it’s kind of puzzling to me to see Rene catch so much heat as some clueless, out of touch economist and even to see the tragedy of the commons called a bogus concept. That’s certainly news to me since privatization of overexploited, shared resources is a method that is widely and successfully used in marine management. It’s been used in some form (and worked) for cod, pollock, giant clams, corals, and even whole coral reefs. Outside of the marine realm it’s also worked for alligators, bison, elephants, and rhinos.

    As Tom already pointed out, most of the criticism has been of straw men. I have not seen any call from Rene for privatization of everything, nor does privatization of one resource imply some slippery slope. Privatization is just ONE method for dealing with the tragedy of the commons and it definitely does work, but only when applied to appropriate cases. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution and I haven’t seen anyone suggesting it is.

    It’s only an appropriate answer when:
    1)There is an overused, common resource that is unmanaged.
    2)The effective unit of conservation is a unit that can be encompassed by the ownership agreement.
    3)There is competition between several owners (not a single owner or just a few large owners).
    4)There are not comparable common resources available outside of the ownership deal (i.e. you can’t just opt out of the agreement without negative consequences).

    The examples of water rights in Bolivia, logging in the PNW, whaling, and CO2 rights don’t meet these criteria, so showing that they don’t work isn’t very strong criticism of privatization as a method of conservation.

    Also, privatization does not necessarily mean farming a resource. In the examples of elephants, rhinos, and coral reefs, it has meant earning revenue from eco-tourism. In each of these cases, private ownership has succeeded where government regulation and enforcement failed previously.

    Re James (281)-
    I think dhogaza’s point, which I agree with, is that the reservoirs and streams with altered flow are valid inclusions in the land use of hydro power whether they create new habitat for some species or not. In my former home state of Alabama we used to lead the world in diversity of freshwater fish, mollusks, and amphibians. Now, due mainly to the impacts of dams, we also rank near the top of the list for extinctions of those same groups. Their habitat has been destroyed completely by dam building (not to mention the numerous towns that were also flooded). How is their case different than spraying herbicide in the desert and why should it not be included in land-use figures? By similar logic one might argue that building a city is 0 land use because while it might displace some species, it provides habitat for others like rats, pigeons, and cockroaches.

  306. yourmommycalled:

    Blackdog (#279) No you didn’t come to realclimate to learn, you came looking for a reason to go back to your friends and crow about how “dem bad librul eggheds gonna tak everytin frum us”. The tragedy of the commons is not an allegory or made up story, but rather the history of how a few large corporations nearly/may have destroyed the Grand Banks and the livelihood of tens of thousands northeast fisherman. The efforts of a few to continue to make a profit at the expense of the common good is at issue. The Newfoundland/New England fisheries is merely one more example of how science has been ignored

  307. dhogaza:

    By similar logic one might argue that building a city is 0 land use because while it might displace some species, it provides habitat for others like rats, pigeons, and cockroaches.

    Actually the timber industry in the PNW used to argue quite seriously that liquidation of old-growth forest by clearcutting was preferable to preservation, because the shrubby plant growth that first repopulates clearcuts lead to an increase in deer. More deer means “better habitat” even if significant biodiversity is lost.

    . I have not seen any call from Rene for privatization of everything, nor does privatization of one resource imply some slippery slope. Privatization is just ONE method for dealing with the tragedy of the commons and it definitely does work, but only when applied to appropriate cases.

    My (limited) knowledge regarding the cases when it works leads me to believe the successful schemes have been due to partial privatization under management goals set by a government regulatory structure.

    I don’t see any evidence that rene is discussing this kind of mixed strategy.

    Likewise, here in the PNW, the timber industry today advertises its sustainable practices on TV, telling everyone that when they log their lands, they replant them, ensuring that the forest tree farm will yield timber products for future generations. They advertise that they don’t liquidate their holdings, then run. They also point proudly to streamside buffers, etc.

    And it’s true, they don’t. Forest practices on private land here are considerably better than they were forty years ago.

    What they’re not saying, though, is that they bitterly fought Oregon’s replanting law back forty years ago, and they have also bitterly fought laws limiting clearcut sizes, streamside buffers, etc.

    What we’ve seen is, despite their screaming, is that they can make money even when forced to do take better care of their land than they would if left to their own means. The regulatory framework keeps the playing field more level for those who *want* to treat their land responsibly, and look at its long rather than short term value.

  308. Nick Gotts:

    I suggest you reread Rene Cheront’s contributions. In particular, @144:

    “> And this is why those advocating private ownership of everything on Earth are regarded as lunatics. – Jim Eager

    Is there any rationale behind this attitude?” – Rene Cheront

    Of course, if Cheront does not advocate private ownership of everything that can possibly be privatised he can say so, but I’d be surprised. I think I know “libertarian” rhetoric when I see it.

    On the “Tragedy of the Commons”, as Hardin himself later admitted, this was a misnomer. He claimed he had simply omitted “unmanaged”, but historically, all the “commons” in England (where the term originates) were managed – the term implied a certain form of collective management. George Monbiot has argued that Hardin’s article played a “tragic” role in justifying the state seizure and subsequent privatization of communally managed lands across the world. See
    The Tragedy of Enclosure.

  309. Nick Gotts:

    Sorry, #307 is addressed to Mike G.

  310. Hank Roberts:

    > restoration

    People are doing that working on whatever little bit they have or take responsibility for. The best how-to book I know is:

    The Earth Manual: How to Work on Wild Land Without Taming It
    Malcolm Margolin (1997) Heyday Books ISBN 0930588185

    Using Firefox and the BookBurro extension, it’s easy to find.

    Except, if you’re cutting limbs, and _don’t_ want to produce a nice big hole in the tree for wildlife to enlarge, don’t use Margolin’s method, use Shigo’s cuts so it heals over quickly and cleanly instead:
    http://forestry.about.com/od/biographies/p/alex_shigo.htm

    Start with your back yard.

  311. Jim Eager:

    Ah, Nigel (291), you are aware that there is no satellite coverage over that central black disc and are just joking, right?

  312. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Yes, I know you’ve cited that study before, and therefore I will be considerably blunter in expressing my opinion of it, which comes down to four words: garbage in, garbage out.”

    Yes, I know that you have off-handedly dismissed Jacobson’s detailed, quantitative, peer-reviewed study before, because it doesn’t support your opinions, for which you have never provided any factual basis whatsoever.

    You have given no substantive criticism of Jacobson’s data, methods or results. You just dismiss them.

    Again: Jacobson looked at a range of impacts, including environmental, land use and wildlife impacts, of various technologies for generating electricity, as well as for biofuels. His detailed, quantitative analysis — not “assumptions” as you assert — found that wind was best, and concentrating solar thermal was second best.

    On the other hand, you assert that there are “many” solutions that are better than concentrating solar thermal when it comes to environmental impacts.

    But you don’t say what these “many” solutions are (although you do advocate nuclear power, which Jacobson’s study ranked as worst, tied with coal-with-CCS).

    Nor do you give any substantive evidence to support any claim that these unspecified “many” solutions are better in terms of environmental impacts than concentrating solar thermal power.

    This looks to me like a case where genuine research, and detailed quantitative analysis of a question, are running up against the immovable object of an entrenched opinion.

  313. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (11 May 2009 at 7:24)

    “EL writes:

    When your in Texas on a nice hot summers day, what are you going to do when wind power drops to 4% capacity with all those air conditioners running?

    Draw power from solar thermal, photovoltaic, geothermal, and biomass power plants?”

    Please do think about this a bit. If you’ve invested money to build a geothermal power plant (which by nature has constant output), are you going to keep it idle most of the time, just so it can provide power to run air conditioners when the wind’s not blowing? Or are you instead going to sell your power to that industrial complex down the road that needs power 24/7, and will be SO happy to shut down on hot, windless days?

    There seems to be a common belief that all this other generation is just going to be sitting around idle, waiting for the wind to drop. If wind’s a major fraction of the generation on the grid, that other generation is either going to be committed elsewhere, or will be shut down because the owners can’t make enough profit to cover maintenance. For wind to be viable as major generation, it has to provide its own backup. That’s not impossible, but it will significantly increase the cost.

    “Has it escaped your attention that while wind is most abundant at night, sunlight is most abundant during the day?”

    Has it escaped your attention that neither hot, cloudy & calm days nor hot & calm nights are at all unusual?

  314. Ike Solem:

    Rene, here is an example of the general philosophy that I’m talking about, courtesy of the following source:

    Professor Christopher Miller, University of Salford
    “Environmental Rights”, 1998.

    1) On the need for ownership of everything:

    “If the impossibility of ‘owning’ the atmosphere gives it the characteristics of a ‘common property resource’, it is tempting to assume that the oceans, rivers and lakes are similarly definitive examples. But oceans can be owned in the sense that any maritime state possessing, and willing to use, a sufficiently powerful navy can control access to, trade within, and the exploitation of marine resources in, the seas within the geographical limits of its influence.”

    By this logic, we could also exert ownership of the atmosphere by putting a lot of space-based weaponry, such as lasers, projectiles and nuclear weapons, in orbit. But why would we want to do this? Never mind the fact that pollutants that go into the air end up in the lakes, rivers and oceans, either… we are not talking about science, we are talking about marketing – but here is why we need to militarize space:

    2) On the right to breathe clean air, or the right to prevent your neighbor from polluting the air you breathe:

    “When considering this notion of a ‘right to breathe clean air’, the distinction which Dworkin has drawn between rights and goals seems particularly relevant. . . . Clean air, like other welfare aspirations, is best understood as a goal. Given that the atmosphere is a common property resource, history suggests however that the achievement of that goal entails the extinction, rather than the extension, of individual rights.”

    You see, if we have ‘common property resources’ that are not privately owned, this will then give communists (or is it fascists?) a foothold which they will use to eliminate individual rights. At the very least, the commons will be abused. That’s modern neoclassical socio-economic theory. The inverse argument is that anything that is privately owned will be abused, and only ‘common property resources’ will be protected . That’s Marxist socio-economic theory. Both are simplistic nonsense in isolation, and both notions were lifted from Adam Smith, out of context at that. In neoclassical and Marxist economic theory, there is no room for climate science, or any kind of science – they both seem to be primarily concerned with marketing a political ideology, not with rational analysis.

    3) On species extinction – make sure you have finished your coffee before reading the following, or you might ruin your keyboard:

    “If a species is defined by its genetic code, once we have broken that code the less important it becomes to have a reservoir of those genes existing in the natural world (whatever this phrase now means). Provided that a sufficient stock of those genes exists in laboratories (including zoological and botanical gardens) to sustain research, further erosion of natural habitats need no longer be such a cause for anthropocentric concern.”

    Someone prepare a padded cell, please. Adam Smith was right…
    “No regard will be paid to truth, morals, or decency in the doctrines inculcated.”

  315. Douglas Wise:

    re#296 Barton Paul Levenson

    You ask why I think that a renewable only solution is not politically feasible. My response as follows: 1) many nations (eg India) are already committed to expanding use of nuclear power, 2) some regions (eg Europe) lack sufficient renewable potential to energise themselves and 3) 4th generation nuclear power will (in my possibly naive view) offer the cheapest option for CO2 free energy. I am not suggesting that pursuit of renewables is in any way misplaced where appropriate.

    I regard Price-Anderson Act as a way of maximising the profits of insurance companies rather than as a subsidy to the nuclear industry. The US taxpayer has never had to bail out the nuclear industry for nuclear accidents which have occurred in the past and it seems that the economic magnitude of any conceiveable civil nuclear accident has been greatly exaggerated (a judgement easier to make in retrospect). Be that as it may, I concur with Tom Blees (Presription for the Planet) in recommending that operation of fast breeders should be under direct government control and this would make the P-A Act irrelevant. I would also suggest that The Nuclear Waste Fund uses some of the money that it collects from the nuclear industry to pay for the licensing and commissioning of a decent sized IFR which could start producing energy from “waste”. If the waste was paid for, it would fund the insurance payments of existing nuclear operators and, ultimately, Yucca Mountain would become redundant.

    Obviously, if fast breeders are to make an important and timely contribution, matters will have to be expedited by a strong political leader (whom I hope you might have)

  316. Wilmot McCutchen:

    The tragedy of the commons is a shared-resource story, and the human dynamics are certainly relevant to climate. However, the atmosphere is more of a dump than a resource. The American way of life is to dump thoughtlessly and move on, and the rest of the world has found that short-term prosperity is helped by avoiding the cost of proper waste disposal. A good example of this way of thinking is the coal ash ponds in Tennessee, which burst their containment last December and created the George W. Bush National Park.

    But now the atmospheric dump is getting full, and the dumpers are insisting on free dumping allowances (cap-and-trade as envisioned by the Waxman-Markey bill, and as practiced in Europe). A low dumping fee (cost per ton of CO2), in addition to free permits, is said to be vital to American prosperity. So maybe we need a parable illustrating a Tragedy of the Dump.

  317. Ike Solem:

    Secular Animist: Mark Jacobson’s study has some serious problems, from numerous angles.

    Big oil undermining biofuel research, warns watchdog
    April 27, 2007 – Exclusive
    By Dana Childs, inside greentech

    …It’s the most recent example of a university’s credibility being undermined by the money it receives from big oil, says the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

    Mark Z. Jacobson, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, recently published that “a blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater [environmental health] risk than gasoline, which already causes significant health damage.”

    His paper, based on computer models, appeared in the online edition of Environmental Science and Technology….

    In an interview with Inside Greentech, the FTCR consumer group highlighted the fact that ExxonMobil has given $100 million to fund Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Program (GCEP).

    Though the ethanol study was not funded by that program, Jacobson had a three-year grant from GCEP to study the impact of replacing fossil-fuel motor vehicles and electric power plants with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and power plants, the group said.

    That was followed up by a false claim by the PR section:

    ExxonMobil, as well as the other program sponsors Toyota, Schlumberger and GE, has no control over the research conducted by Stanford and we scrupulously follow our agreement,” said spokesperson Dave Gardner to Inside Greentech.

    The agreement is that Exxon, Schlumberger, Toyota and Stanford all get a representative on the 5-person review panel that signs off on which projects get funded – it’s in the agreement. Plus a 5-year extendable exlusive license on any intellectual property generated at GCEP. As far as the paper goes, see the conclusions:

    Tier 3 includes hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs. Tier 4 includes corn- and cellulosic-E85.

    Are biofuels really worse than coal carbon capture and sequestration? Notice that biofuels were the only fuels used by humans for thousands of years – and yet the atmospheric CO2 levels stayed constant.

    Notice also that a rapid increase in biofuel production (coupled with the elimination of corn-fed confined-animal swine and poultry farms, as well as subsidized corn exports) would send demand for petroleum down by as much as 25%, thereby cutting the oil price to even lower lows, which would be a nightmare for all the investors who bought in at $140 a barrel. Sometimes, when you gamble, you lose – but that doesn’t give you the right to manipulate energy markets, does it?

    Notice also that confined animal feeding lots (the destination of ~50% of the U.S. corn crop) are point sources of methane, ammonia and other noxious gases, especially due to the high concentration of manure. While eliminating them might raise the price of meat slightly, it would vastly improve the safety of the food supply.

    Granted, biofuel production in the U.S. needs to be made fossil fuel-free over the entire lifecycle, or it won’t actually be a replacement for fossil fuels – but Jacobson’s analysis is not a valid life-cycle assessment for biofuels. For example, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is pretty close to the zero-fossil-fuel ideal – but not Kansas coal-fired corn ethanol.

  318. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (11 May 2009 at 11:16):

    “Yes, I know that you have off-handedly dismissed Jacobson’s detailed, quantitative, peer-reviewed study before, because it doesn’t support your opinions, for which you have never provided any factual basis whatsoever.”

    No? Then I have to acknowledge my amazement at your selective reading skills :-)

    “You have given no substantive criticism of Jacobson’s data, methods or results. You just dismiss them.”

    Perhaps because what I’m dismissing is the assumptions being input to the study? Just to hit a few of those assumptions (references to paper sections, and apoloties for any slight misquotings, since I have to retype since I can’t cut & paste from a pdf.):

    4b) Nuclear power plant construction time – he uses 10-19 years, while admitting the actual numbers from Japan & Europe are in the 4-9 year range – and lifetime, an artifically low 40 years.

    4d) States “Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occuring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs…” This is false, both in the present (North Korea & Iran), and historically (USA & USSR for certain, possibly Britain, France & China, developed nuclear weapons prior to a civilian power program.

    5) Adds possible effects of nuclear war as impact of nuclear power, when (as above) this is a purely political matter, as logical as assuming that WWII was caused by fossil fuel proliferation. Indeed, if we want to get into speculation, we could consider the effects of the major conventional wars that didn’t happen because one or both sides had nuclear weapons :-)

    6.4) Includes “buffer space” around nuclear plants as a significant land use impact, even though the “…regions are generally left as open space…”, and thus have zero impact.

    The study does not (as far as I can tell) explicitly set out its criteria for environmental impacts, but it seems to implicitly devalue open, non-human-used space. The closest I find to consideration of the environmental impact of solar power plants is in section 8: “…impacts are proportional to the footprint area in Fig. 5… but less proportional to footprint than other energy sources since much of PV in the near future will be located in arid regions…”.

    Now that seems to me to be an explicit devaluation of arid land – it’s worthless, so cover it with solar panels – and one that might well have been inserted in order to force the study outcome.

    Also, as pointed out in an earlier post, impact is emphatically NOT proportional to land area alone, but to what is done to that area. The area used by a hydro dam is still a living ecosystem, albeit a changed one. Wind turbines may kill birds & bats, but the plants & ground-dwelling animals are little affected. The buffer zones around nuclear plants can be valuable wildlife reserves. Land scraped bare, covered, and dosed with herbicides is DEAD.

  319. Doug Bostrom:

    #279 Blackdog:

    “When the scientists reveal their bias it becomes difficult to trust their science. True or not, because of the obvious political leanings of the author the science just seems like a cover for a social engineering project. It would lend credence to your mission if you stuck to the science and left the politics to other sites.”

    Such a thoughtless demand. Surely you can do better.

    You’re a little behind the curve here, fella. There are several kinds of science involved with this topic, including social and political science. Meanwhile, history tells us that in cases such as this scientist are inevitably required to be involved with policy debates.

    How about a little example of how wrong you are, from history?

    In times gone by, ignorant as we were, illnesses were attributed to various causes– “miasma”, “imbalances of the bodily humours”, etc. Methodical investigation (aka “science”) eventually removed doubt and ambiguity about the root cause of many sicknesses.

    Even as our increasing skill with the scientific method increased, leading us to steady progress in clinical medicine, many of us (and here I’m talking about the You of We) clung to and promoted outmoded, dangerous ideas and practices due to intellectual laziness, vested interests or just plain dilettante affection for pointless “debate”.

    As fundamental knowledge and consequent practice improves, it’s not at all uncommon to see scientific activity collide directly with the world of politics. In the area of microbiological pathogens, medical activity became less dominated by the need to prove the existence of microorganisms, shifting instead to public policy outcomes.

    You for instance may not believe in microorganisms because you can’t see them with your naked eye but the preponderance of evidences says you’re wrong, something that inevitably leads to policy changes and, for the recalcitrant (You, again), temporary frustration. In the area of microbiological pathogens much time, effort and discussion was needed to move our habits out of the Dark Ages and bring them into synchronization with recently discovered facts. In the middle of this time there were a lot of guys wearing funny hats and pointy shoes (You, again) staunchly defending the existence of demons, cats sucking our breath away in the night, etc., arrayed against people with microscopes and test tubes. Guess who was right?

    That’s where we are today with regard to climate science. Akin to transitional days of medicine, you’ll find climate scientists becoming involved in public policy debates. Staying silent is irresponsible and attempting to pay respect to ideas known to be wrong is counterproductive to human progress.

    When London was been decimated by cholera, newly enlightened medical investigators and practitioners were key members of the effort needed to modernize the potable water supply and sewer systems of the city. Their repeated intervention into what was by then mostly a political effort was required to overcome public resistance to change. They found themselves naturally aligned with public spirited politicians in the effort to put down entrenched interests, in the case of London operators of urban wells, Thames water carriers and night soil haulers. If these scientists and medical practitioners had remained silent many more deaths from cholera would have ensued, needlessly.

    How about making a little effort to see the big picture, ok? That way you won’t be an unwitting member of the latter day equivalent of the s___t shoveler’s union.

  320. Jim Bouldin:

    TokyoTom and Mike G, you need to go back and read Rene’s posts before making comments about knocking down a strawman, where he/she says (among other things):

    (22) In general, a Tragedy of the Commons is where property rights are not in place. And one averts a Tragedy of the Commons, by ensuring property rights are clearly defined.

    (58) Hank Roberts @ 30: You are mistaken that markets don’t give ownership of the future. Many do – forests are one example…The only issue is whether the property rights in question – eg of whales or fish – are sufficiently clearly delineated.

    (90) This is because the whales were not owned. If they became farm animals like any other, they would be as unlikely to face extinction as chickens and cattle are.

    (92) Harvesting trees is not necessarily irresponsible. (in response to Hank Roberts’ example of a private landowner that was aggressively trying to cut redwoods as fast as possible.

    (105) The root problem here is the officialdom that obstructs rather than facilitates tradeable ownership of the land, thereby engineering a lack of competition.

    (112) Neither cows nor chickens face extinction, these mishaps notwithstanding. With the odd exception, people do not knowingly or deliberately abuse their own own property, since this is self-defeating.

    (131) The point at issue, which still stands, is that farmed animals are the least likely of all animals to face extinction. This is because although mistakes may be made from time to time, people attempt to look after their own property. This is the opposite of a tragedy of the commons scenario, where unowned property is abused.

    And you say I’m taking down strawmen. Please. Rene Cheront has done nothing but make sweeping assertions, without any sort of backing evidence or defense, while several of us have provided specific examples demonstrating these to be false based on our knowledge of resource management (and with no response).

    But if that’s not enough, here’s another. Did the plains Indians in N. America “own” the bison? Did they nearly destroy them in a tragedy of the commons (no)? Then who did? The Euro-American market hunters with their new transcontinental railroad and repeating rifles. And what was instrumental in the bison not being driven to extinction? None other than the herd that survived due to their federal protection on public land (in Yellowstone NP). So who “owned” those bison? And yet you’re going to tell me it was a “lack of ownership” that nearly wiped them out? Yeah OK.

    Who “owns” the trees on state and federal lands? How are they valued and managed there, in comparison to private lands? Go up to the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan and tell me that there’s any comparison between the forest structure (and carbon storage, and wildlife habitat, and micro-climate) of the forests in the Porcupine Mountain State Park (state) or Sylvania wilderness area (federal) compared to the private timber lands around them. Or pick your own location if you don’t like that one.

    As for the whole “domestication” argument, it doesn’t even deserve a reply it’s so breathtakingly stupid. Only an economist or businessman could think in such terms.

  321. Jim Bouldin:

    In neoclassical and Marxist economic theory, there is no room for climate science, or any kind of science – they both seem to be primarily concerned with marketing a political ideology, not with rational analysis.

    Science is such a big party pooper. Intrudes on all kinds of fun ideas.

  322. TokyoTom:

    I`ll let Rene correct me if I`m wrong, but I don`t think that Rene has asserted that all resources MUST be privatized (as opposed to being owned and managed by communities or subject to some public regulation) or that private ownership is perfect, but that he`s simply pointing out that resources that are un-owned and are subject to open-access commons exploitation get trashed.

    There is ample room for disagreement over the best approaches to such resource problems, as corruption, favoritism and incompetence are inescapably linked to government action. I think Rene was referring to this in connection to tropical deforestation, where what others call “commons” are in fact either lands held by indigenous peoples and stolen by government, or otherwise government-held “parks” and “reserves” that are liquidated by elites (look at the the Amazon, Kalimantan and the sources of the Marcos family wealth, for example).

    But Rene is clearly on the side of those who want to see resources protected, and he should be credited for trying to give you guys tools to fight your real enemies – the so-called “skeptics” and “conservatives” (like George Will) who think that “markets” will magically solve problems relating to un-owned (and un-managed) resources (and who serve as deliberate or unwitting fronts for those who are happy to take profits now but leave costs for others).

    I keep trying to make this point – see the post linked at my name – but some of you seem to be in “full hackles” mode, certain that you see an enemy, and single-mindedly dedicated to chasing your own tails.

  323. Anne van der Bom:

    James
    11 mai 2009 at 12:27 AM

    Sleek perhaps, but does not display on my system

    It’s Adobe Flex, so you’ll need a fairly recent version of the Flash plugin, I believe version 9 or higher.

    Still, it would be very interesting to see their actual generation, graphed as say hourly MW generated over a year, because I would be very surprised if it didn’t show significant variation.

    Define ‘significant variation’.

    As an alternative, I can recommend this simple graphic from REISI. Alas, there is no English translation available for the accompanying text. I’ll try to explain. It shows the number of hours per year that the power is above a certain value, given as a fraction of installed capacity. The fraction is displayed on the vertical axis, the number of hours is on the horizontal.There are three lines: one for an individual turbine, one for a windfarm and one for Germany. Hope this helps.

  324. Jim Bouldin:

    “…corruption, favoritism and incompetence are inescapably linked to government action”

    Oh really? Thanks for yet another in the continuing series of assertions stated as laws. Very informative.

  325. TokyoTom:

    #320: Jim, I think I just answered you in a pending post – the REAL point is that the REAL enemy in the climate change struggle are people ((VERY DIFFERENT from Rene) who think that modern markets work great but forget to note that they undeniably produce destruction where resources are either UNOWNED or UNMANAGED.

    On bison and whales, I invite you to a quick read of my own writings:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/12/16/bison-markets-the-tragedy-of-the-commons-and-the-indian-war.aspx

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/02/15/whales-and-fisheries-quot-standing-up-to-japan-quot-or-enclosing-the-commons.aspx

    I think I have provided links upthread on fisheries, but the people who understand these issues best are the free market environmentalists at PERC who have documented how Indians used to own and manage fisheries and other resources. If the tribes` treaty rights and traditional rights to salmon, etc. had been respected, then there would be a resource owner that would have every incentive and right to sue landowners for destruction of watershed habitat; instead, the resource became a state-owned free-for-all, subject to further federal mismanagement.

    As Mike G has noted, the successes in marine resource management have all come by restoring some measure of private ownership to “public” resources, which is the reason, as I have already noted, the even the mainline environmental community is united in calling for more property rights-related approaches to crashing fisheries.

  326. Hank Roberts:

    > the successes in marine resource management
    Blue whales

    And how do you plan to assign ownership to a seamount and keep the trawlers off of it?

  327. Nick Gotts:

    TokyoTom,

    You completely ignore the numerous examples that have been given of property owners trashing natural resources for a quick profit. You are also wrong about all successes in marine resource management being due to privatisation: no-catch zones have had significant success, and have the advantage of being relatively easy to monitor. See for example:
    Science 3 November 2006:
    Vol. 314. no. 5800, pp. 787 – 790
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1132294
    Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services
    Boris Worm, Edward B. Barbier et al.

  328. TokyoTom:

    Let me link to a post that makes my point – and I think that of Gavin`s extended metaphor – fairly clear:

    “Overlooked by those warmed by climate rhetoric (“alarmist” or “denialist”) – the fact that our most important commons have NO property rights rules”

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/03/12/overlooked-by-those-warmed-by-climate-rhetoric-quot-alarmist-quot-or-quot-skeptic-quot-the-fact-that-our-most-important-commons-have-no-property-rights-rules.aspx

    The point is not that “property” is an easy panacea to every problem, but that the biggest problems lie where there are no property rights (or other mechanisms that give users incentives to invest in sustainability) in place.

    Why don`t you guys see that using this as an argument on climate change is what like throwing holy water in the face of almost every climate change vampire?

    #326: Hank, who say there IS a purely private solution to every problem? Certainly not me.

  329. MikeN:

    >The number of fisherfolk is analogous to population – do the math again. – gavin]

    I haven’t done all the math, but it still isn’t quite right, as China can’t be in any of those groups.
    top 5%=US with 20% emissions
    top 20%=75% emissions
    21-50=15%emissions
    bottom 50% = 10% emissions
    Where do China and India go?

    [Response: Umm... let's see. China is 20% of the people, and roughly 20% of emissions. Which splits them between the lower half of the top 20% and the top of the next 30%. - gavin]

  330. MikeN:

    >Pity you weren’t around to argue the slaveowners’ case, Rene. After all, they would surely never have abused their property, would they?

    Off topic, but you should read Race and Economics, or Conquests and Cultures by Thomas Sowell. The history of slavery is much more complicated than you say. The abuse of slaves was dependent on many factors like ease of escape, and ease of replacement.

  331. Martin Vermeer:

    TokyoTom:

    You are all so ready to fight that you are having great difficulty distinguishing friend from foe.

    Nah… it’s the same gut reaction I have when folks are asserting that Jesus loves me, or giving me free links to mises.org… not my religion, and I’m beyond redemption thank you very much. I like to live on the reality side of things.

  332. Hank Roberts:

    Oh, trust me, I don’t believe there’s an answer to every problem. I just hope we get past the one-planet limitation and take most of the biosphere with us.

    There’s a lot of rock, dust, and raw materials out there.

    My personal religious fantasy, when I have one:

    the diety comes back from a long vacation, looks at us, and thunders:

    “You idiots, I gave you an empty galaxy around you to fill, and enough varieties of life to take with you to suit any possible planet you’d find out there, all of them waiting for you to bring them life. And you’ve eaten most of it and burned or trashed the rest. Now where’s that damned Reset button ….”

  333. Silk:

    Boy, this is the most [edit] discussion I’ve ever seen on here, and I’ve seen a few.

    Trying to argue that the US can’t do anything to reduce emissions is a bit like trying to argue [edit-lets avoid the inflammatory analogies-thanks] Still, I see a few people are willing to take the Exxon dollar and sell their soul.

    OK. I agree! Unconstrained increases in emissions in China are the problem.

    Fine.

    So contraction and convergence is acceptable to Chip, since it is the only ‘fair’ solution?

    http://www.gci.org.uk/contconv/cc.html

    Somehow I doubt it.

    (In next week’s episode, Chip explains how future Chinese emissions are damaging the US economy, and proposes a financial compensation mechanism for US farmers bankrupted by drought, paid in Yaun)

  334. James:

    Anne van der Bom Says (11 May 2009 at 14:10)

    “As an alternative, I can recommend this simple graphic from REISI. Alas, there is no English translation available for the accompanying text. I’ll try to explain. It shows the number of hours per year that the power is above a certain value, given as a fraction of installed capacity. The fraction is displayed on the vertical axis, the number of hours is on the horizontal.There are three lines: one for an individual turbine, one for a windfarm and one for Germany. Hope this helps.”

    If I understand it correctly, that graph is actually a pretty good illustration of the point I was trying to make. (However poor the implementation: WHY can’t web designers seem to understand that not everyone uses a black on white color scheme?) Does it not show that for roughly half the hours in the year, the actual wind generation is 20% or less of the maximum even for all the wind farms combined? And that it’s more than half the maximum for only about 20% of hours?

    So imagine trying to design a system with a large fraction of wind generation: either you have to overbuild your generation and waste power when the winds are strong, or build some sort of storage to save that excess for when it’s calm. (Or, of course, a combination.) Either one significantly increases the cost over the simplistic “build one turbine and hook it up” cost model favored by wind power fans.

  335. James:

    Jim Bouldin Says (11 May 2009 at 13:42):

    “(92) Harvesting trees is not necessarily irresponsible. (in response to Hank Roberts’ example of a private landowner that was aggressively trying to cut redwoods as fast as possible.”

    But of course, as with the whole thread of argument re forests, this is making the implicit assumption that the only use for a forest is as a source of lumber. If instead one sees it first as an ecosystem that provides many other benefits (besides existing for its own self), and incidentally allows occasional timber harvesting, one reaches different conclusions as to utility.

    “But if that’s not enough, here’s another. Did the plains Indians in N. America “own” the bison?”

    Off-topic, but would you please maintain consistency in your political correctness, or the lack thereof? Plains Indians hunting buffalo works for me, while “Native Americans” hunting “bison” probably gives the lovers of PC-speak a warm fuzzy feeling. Mixing the two idioms just grates :-)

  336. TokyoTom:

    #333: Yes, Silk, there are still “a few people are willing to take the Exxon dollar and sell their soul.”

    However, as I noted upthread, Desmog Blog has shown that Exxon no longer funds Robert Bradley or his blog where Chip appears:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/03/11/rot-at-the-core-rob-bradley-at-quot-free-market-quot-masterresource-blog-shows-his-true-colors-as-a-rent-seeker-for-fossil-fuels.aspx.

    It wouldn`t surprise me if Exxon is joining others in pushing for oil & gas development at home, but for now they`re no longer funding climate denial shops – and like Jim Hansen actually calling for carbon taxes!

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/03/08/exxon-rex-tillerson-no-longer-willing-to-be-quot-conservative-quot-on-climate-risks-advocates-carbon-taxes-and-invests-in-carbon-lite-tech.aspx

    So where is their money going? How about the Stanford University-centered Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), the world`s largest privately-funded effort to conduct basic research on energy technologies to reduce GHG emissions, which they are funding over 10 years to the tune of $100 million?

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/03/08/exxon-rex-tillerson-no-longer-willing-to-be-quot-conservative-quot-on-climate-risks-advocates-carbon-taxes-and-invests-in-carbon-lite-tech.aspx

    Exxon is now a climate change story that the right no longer wants to hear, and is one of the reasons I`ve been banned from the “MasterResource” blog.

  337. TokyoTom:

    #328: “You completely ignore the numerous examples that have been given of property owners trashing natural resources for a quick profit.”

    Nick, no I haven`t. Rather, as I note in 327, I`m making a different point, that as Gavin points out with his metaphor, one of the best arguments to make to denialists and skeptics is that, as their OWN principles tell them, the “market” reality is that the worst cases of resources abuse are where there are no property rights at all.

    Unchecked by property rights (and consumer pressure, regulation, trade agreements), markets are very effective machines of destruction, as I have tried to explain elsewhere:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2007/09/27/too-many-or-too-few-people-does-the-market-provide-an-answer.aspx

    It`s a lack of understanding of this that makes market conservatives right / enviros wrong on SMALL issues (such as Ehrlich`s bet with Julian Simon on commodity prices), but wrong on the BIG ones. Those ranting about “neo-Malthusians seeking to destroy civilization” are simply not ignoring or are blind to how consumer and other markets are destroying unowned, unmanaged Nature around the world.

    This partisan blindness is readily understandable; after all, we see the same thing here among enviros!

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/07/06/mind-games-how-an-absence-of-functioning-markets-means-that-i-m-right-but-you-re-a-delusional-neurotic-quot-zealot-quot.aspx

  338. Ike Solem:

    Tokyo Tom: “The biggest problems lie where there are no property rights (or other mechanisms that give users incentives to invest in sustainability.”

    By your argument, plantation-based slavery was a perfect economic system. It was sustainable, and persisted for hundreds of years. Everything – land & people – was under control via property rights. It was 100% organic, as well, and fossil fuel free. In the case of the Soviet Union, their agricultural system was also essentially based on slave labor, with the proceeds under the control of the Central Committee – not really much different, as they exerted their property rights much as any other autocratic ruler would.

    Instead, we can think of economic productivity much as we think of ecological productivity. For example, the ratio of production to consumption is rather like the ratio of photosynthesis to respiration. At a very basic level, production must be greater than consumption in order for the system to be sustainable – you have to grow a bit more food than you eat, as some will be lost. With trees, if you cut them down faster than they grow, soon you have no trees. That’s the point at which Adam Smith begins his “Wealth of Nations”:

    “But this proportion [production to consumption] must in every nation be regulated by two different circumstances; first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which its labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by the proportion between the number of those who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed.

    That’s for the ecologically stable case – and please see the very next line in the text:

    Whatever be the soil, climate, or extent of territory of any particular nation, the abundance or scantiness of its annual supply must, in that particular situation, depend upon those two circumstances.”

    So, right in the very first paragraphs of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith points out that overall economic productivity is primarily limited by natural variables – and the study of those natural variables is what later generations would come to call ecology. This actually applies to the debate over the colonization and subsequent deforestation and depopulation of Easter Island – but not just Easter Island.

    It turns out a similar fate befell a good number of small islands in central – eastern Polynesia, as described by University of Hawaii anthropologist Barry Rolette. Here is the article, c. 2002 (pdf)- it’s actually much more comprehensive than anything written by Jared Diamond or Brian Fagan, as it puts Eastern Island in context with Mangareva and the Pitcairns, all of which suffered from deforestation and the resulting lack of open-ocean fishing and trading:

    A more discernible environmental factor is the role of human-influenced deforestation, which affected voyaging by limiting the availability of timber suitable for canoe construction…the effects of deforestation as a limiting factor probably intensified through time, even though the rate and ultimate extent of deforestation varied among islands. The influence of density-dependent social factors including chiefly competition and intergroup hostility would also have intensified through time.”

    The main point seems to be that although deforestation was the root cause of the islander’s isolation, the actual collapse of trade was due to conflict over scarcer resources.

    Adam Smith would point out that as climate changed, or as forests were destroyed, the same economic factors would still be in play – year-to-year production and consumption – but there would be new limiting factors, such as a shortage of trees for boats. In the absence of such limiting factors, Adam Smith was saying, the economic level of the society will be determined by the improvements that people make, which allow them to increase the ratio of production to consumption – thus supporting a more complex civilization. If their ecological base is pulled out from under them by climate change or resource mismanagement, everything must readjust to those new limits.

    The modern globalization proponent would point out that today, trees could be obtained by trade – ignoring the fact that the trees were the physical vehicle that allowed trade to take place.

    However, the most interesting lesson from the East Polynesian trade collapse and species extinction is that many islands escaped that fate – and they all had similar features: relatively large land area, high relief with remote areas, and orographic rain-trapping (due to their height, such islands generated rain via uplift to cooler levels). In many cases, the flat low-lying regions of the bigger islands did suffer deforestation – but the remote regions acted as refuge for large numbers of plant and animal species.

    If nothing else, that’s a good argument in favor of setting up wildlife refuges as a means of preserving species biodiversity.

  339. CTG:

    re #334 James

    “the simplistic “build one turbine and hook it up” cost model favored by wind power fans.”

    I don’t know of any wind power fans who say that all power generation can be met solely by wind, so your argument is a strawman. Anne has consistently pointed out that wind is just one component of the diversified profile of renewable energy that is required to replace fossil fuels. Will there be some over-capacity required? Yes. Will energy storage be required? Yes.

    None of that means that it would be impossible to have the vast majority of electricity production from renewables.

  340. Jim Bouldin:

    But of course, as with the whole thread of argument re forests, this is making the implicit assumption that the only use for a forest is as a source of lumber.

    You mean it’s not?

    And sorry, but ‘bison’ is the biologically correct term (as in Bison bison, regardless of PC-ness or not.

  341. ldavidcooke:

    Hey All,

    My apologies for being late to the party. Personally, looking over the options for the reduction of fossil fuels and who has the rights to public goods and the responsibility for localized pollution, I think that continuing on the same path is very wrong headed.

    I have to say that of the technologies the US has explored (Fusion to Dry Ice (compressed air)) that solar and wind would be selected is beneficial mainly because there is no combustion involved. Whether we are talking about 3rd gen Nuclear or 1st gen cellulose ethanol anything moving us towards a higher hydrogen to carbon ratio for a given BTU would be welcome. If there are issues there are clear solutions that could be implemented to reduce them. The distribution channels do not necessarily need to change, only the dispenser and the mobile container.

    So why is there so much push back? Only because the infrastructure as built, reduces the current net margin. Change the technology and you reduce the margin while increasing the cost. Had we not abandoned the progress we had made up to the 1990′s we would be far ahead of today. (The discovery of a bit of oil in the Great NW Terr. (Alaska) seemed the likely salvation.) In short, remove the “heat” and the technology reverts. Until you remove the old technology by changing the taxation associated with it so that the tax provides the direct replacement of it, change will never be completed. Cap and Trade will not drive the change unless the proceeds go directly to a renewable or high hydrogen alternative.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

  342. James:

    CTG Says (11 May 2009 at 21:56):

    “I don’t know of any wind power fans who say that all power generation can be met solely by wind, so your argument is a strawman. Anne has consistently pointed out that wind is just one component…”

    Refer back to her message #269, where she writes “Over a whole country the size of Spain or Germany, wind power never goes to 0. RED Espanha has this sleek looking web page…” (which I couldn’t view, unfortunately). Perhaps I misunderstood, but I read that as putting her in the camp that believes that if you just build enough wind turbines, and scatter them over a wide geographic area, the variability problems magically solve themselves.

    “None of that means that it would be impossible to have the vast majority of electricity production from renewables.”

    Of course it wouldn’t be impossible: that’s not the issue. The issue is whether there are better/cheaper/faster/more reliable/less impact on the environment solutions to the problem of how to get CO2-free energy.

  343. James:

    Jim Bouldin Says (11 May 2009 at 22:01):

    “And sorry, but ‘bison’ is the biologically correct term (as in Bison bison, regardless of PC-ness or not.”

    Sorry, but no. The English name of that creature is buffalo. Otherwise, and by the same logic, you need to start referring to this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Robin red-breasted harbinger of spring as the turdus :-)

  344. Rene Cheront:

    #302 Nick Gotts:
    You persist in glossing over the underlying problem with slavery, which is that it gives humans the same status as farmed trees or cattle. The difference being the latter are intended to be consumed, or “destroyed”, as unpalatable as that may be to some.

    To make a profit – with a forest as with anything else – means to create more wealth or value than one consumes or destroys in the process. In general this is to be applauded surely. The process only goes wrong when property rights are not fully defined, leading to the possibiity of costs not being taken into account.

    You say you have knowledge that local peoples’ rightful ownership of the forests has routinely been violated.

    If so, I would certainly support the restoration of their rights.

    “I am sure the irreplaceable loss of species means nothing to you and your fellow market-worshippers – and of course under your favoured system, it will be those who care for money above all else who get to make the decisions”.

    A market is essentially a mechanism for voluntary social interaction. I see no reason for people who support such a system to value bio-diversity any differently to anyone else. Through markets, consumers can decide for themselves how much they value bio-diversity versus say the products produced from trees. Those who value bio-diversity can band together and purchase such forests to keep them from being harvested, for example.

  345. Rene Cheront:

    Rene: In markets such as lumber, resource depletion by some operators, creates incentives for other operators to replace the depleted resources.

    #304 dhogaza Says:
    “The timber industry in the PNW fought replanting laws intended to force them to practice something close to sustained yield management, back in the 1970s.

    You have nothing but ideology backing your view. I have mud on my boots and first-hand experience which tells me that in practice, your ideology is not reflected by real-world practice”.

    Mud is no argument; you have not addressed my point above. And what makes you think the laws you mention are worthy? The framers of those laws probably had no answer to my point above either.

  346. Rene Cheront:

    #307 dhogaza Says:
    “My (limited) knowledge regarding the cases when it works leads me to believe the successful schemes have been due to partial privatization under management goals set by a government regulatory structure.”

    That’s just because you define “works” as “doing what the goverment wants people to do with their own property” (which also happens to be what you want them to do with their own property).

  347. Mark:

    rene a strawman is making up something that doesn’t exist and then arguing about that rather than what is really there.

    Usually it’s a way of arguing that makes up what someone didn’t say so you can easily call them down on it and hoping that nobody notices that what you’re arguing against isn’t what was said.

    However, it can also work if you make up something like your “perfect owner” and then argue from that perfect owner that ownership of nature would solve the problems of damage. If such a creature was commonplace, maybe your theories would work, but all we got are the humans we have and they aren’t going to make your theory work.

  348. Rene Cheront:

    #314 Ike Solem
    As part of your attempted dismissal of the tragedy of the commons problem, iow depletion of unowned resources, you cite some prof saying it is possible to own oceans, such ownership being policable by a navy. You present this under the heading ‘On the need for ownership of everything’.
    Your logic here eludes me; how does the fact that the oceans can be owned, imply they must be owned?

    You go on to say this means the atmosphere too could be owned, by putting polluting space-based weaponry into it.
    Why do you think space-based weaponry would be needed, given that any pollution would most likely emanate from ground level?

    “On the right to breathe clean air, or the right to prevent your neighbor from polluting the air you breathe….the distinction which Dworkin has drawn between rights and goals ”

    Yes, the goal of clean air rests on the right to own the air, which, since it cannot be parcelled up, can only be owned in common. And yes, this is an (unavoidable) communist/fascist arrangement.

  349. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Rene Cheront,
    TokyoTom (glad to see again),

    My apologies if I miss some key context, I just am catching up and did a cursory review of the whole thread.

    I have been considering some new ideas for the past 30 years or so. I would like to present something of a challenge to the standard views on objectivity and ownership given a new context.

    I would say that modern monetary economic theories are not suitable with regard to ownership of resources. It is a difficult transition to accept the possibility that such grand and logical theories such as Austrian school and Mises are flawed in the new context of which I allude to, but in the grand scheme of things and in the economy of resource and reason, given circumstance, all economic theories have flaws that are inherent to their own shortcomings. I mean this in the sense that all such theories of classical and objective measure by means defined of any type are imperfect for various reasons and evolved in a limited scope understanding based on a different scenario than we are now in. Please bear with me.

    Example: Mankind did not create the resources so by what right has he to own them? People own oil, but oil is being drilled and used to its inevitable extinction of the resource. It might be better to think of the global resources as being lent to us by the mere fact of the existence of such resources, so what right of ownership should exist?

    These are important questions and should not be cast aside lightly. I believe TokyoTom has pondered this from time to time if I recall some of his work correctly. The question of owning air for example, though extreme, challenges the Austrian view as an ideal in all resources.

    Mans ingenuity pertaining to what to do with resources may have more rights to claim as property than the resources themselves. The invention of use is still a rental of a sort though, we need resources for our invention to be able to apply such ingenuity. So the resources is rented and the application of invention is the property?

    I am certainly an objectivist but maybe not so in the classical sense of the commonly known meaning. My own views are morphing with the changes. I contend that objective values are not necessarily at the expense of the exploitation of a resource as not all values are monetary or resource. I also contend that ownership does not translate immutably to protection of resource. I further contend that the human race is still relatively immature in its understanding of the global economy all inclusive, the economy of systems and methods in relative balance pertaining to nature, resource, value and artificial value. We seem to not place quite enough value on the smiles and dance of life itself. Are we merely exploiters of resource? Is that really a valid purpose in a world of limited constraint and interaction of resource.

    Should we stress the system to such extreme?

    It is true that an owner of a resource does not necessarily respect or protect said resource. Many owners have exploited a resource wile abusing it and destroying its capacity to survive simply to finish with it and move on to another resource to exploit.

    There are considerations I wish you to apply to your ratiocination. The concept of paradigm shift. That the concept of resource ownership is merely a product of and Epochal mentality, call it Epoch A, that was based on expansionism and seemingly unlimited resources. that the new Epoch, lets call it Epoch B is the antithesis to Epoch A, a world of limits and stressors.

    Reason and motive of motor function in Epoch B has yet to be assimilated in the world brain. But nonetheless is the import of the reality of the new paradigm.

    I believe the main question to be not how to exploit the remaining resources through innovation, ownership and privatization, but, to the chagrin of my uncle George, rather how to discover the new wisdom required to maintain quality of life and sustainability in a world of the limited resources and gross over-exploitation courtesy of Epoch A.

    Ownership may not be the key in Epoch B, in fact in may prove to be more bane than boon. I’ll not pretend to know what the economy will look like in this new Epoch, but rather be a part of the evolution of understanding in hopes to achieve a balanced economy that has justice, objectivity and morality in its premise.

    #322 TokyoTom

    There is also ample room to see that corruption, favoritism and incompetence are inescapably linked to corporate greed through over manipulation of markets.

    The users and the looters are not always the government and the belief systems, they are also corporations.

    The true producers are now so few and far between as they have been swallowed by the legal manipulation and exploitation of a government that has been blinded through corporate manipulation, they are now one and the same. So the producers are now users and looters. It’s a lose/lose scenario. Unfortunate that Rands grand idea of Galts Gulch is merely that… we are going to have to think our way into a new reality of potential to achieve but by no means to I see this as simple.

    If we are to be idealistic that is one thing, but the point of discussion has become academic, unfortunately.

  350. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “Draw power from solar thermal, photovoltaic, geothermal, and biomass power plants?”

    Please do think about this a bit. If you’ve invested money to build a geothermal power plant (which by nature has constant output), are you going to keep it idle most of the time, just so it can provide power to run air conditioners when the wind’s not blowing? Or are you instead going to sell your power to that industrial complex down the road that needs power 24/7, and will be SO happy to shut down on hot, windless days?

    James, your usual argument is that, due to “intermittency,” renewables don’t provide ENOUGH power. In fact, lower down in the same post, you write:

    For wind to be viable as major generation, it has to provide its own backup.

    But in the first paragraph above, you’re worried that renewables might provide TOO MUCH power. You treat renewables the way the police treat a suspect they’re arresting–anything they do will be used against them.

    The answer to the problem you pose is that excess power can be stored and used for times for insufficient power, or transported to areas where they current have insufficient power, or even used to desalinate water or crack it to provide hydrogen for hydrogen-fuel-cell cars.

    But I don’t think you want an answer. You’ve just decided that renewables are evil, probably because you know damn well they’re the major rival to your preferred solution of more nuclear power.

    If you think I object to this kind of inconsistency, though, I don’t. Please do go on posting this way. I think the more you do so, the more credibility you lose. With any luck, I think people are going to see it and stop listening to you.

  351. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    Land scraped bare, covered, and dosed with herbicides is DEAD.

    Let’s try a thought experiment here, James. If the big PV arrays could be put up without scraping the land bare, covering it, and using herbicides, would you be for putting them up?

  352. Barton Paul Levenson:

    MikeN writes:

    Off topic, but you should read Race and Economics, or Conquests and Cultures by Thomas Sowell. The history of slavery is much more complicated than you say. The abuse of slaves was dependent on many factors like ease of escape, and ease of replacement.

    I’m sure that explains the tendency of slaveowners to rape their female slaves.

    The abuse of slaves was dependent on the fact that human beings are fallen, and cannot be trusted with that kind of power over other human beings. Period.

  353. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    So imagine trying to design a system with a large fraction of wind generation: either you have to overbuild your generation and waste power when the winds are strong, or build some sort of storage to save that excess for when it’s calm. (Or, of course, a combination.) Either one significantly increases the cost over the simplistic “build one turbine and hook it up” cost model favored by wind power fans.

    Fallacy of bifurcation. There’s another solution–have other power sources available to kick in when the wind is low. You continue to envision wind power in isolation, as if Gavin or me or somebody wanted 100% of our power to come from wind. Not correct.

  354. Mark:

    rene, there are two ways to own a resource.

    1) Kill anyone trying to take it from you
    2) Kill the resource if someone tries to take it

    How else do you force ownership? An electric fence around your property may keep me out, but if I get some wirecutters and good wellies, I can get in. You use the socially funded police to enact a force on me by arresting me and charging me with trespass and criminal damage. Absent those government forces, you are left trying to take the law into your own hands.

    But if I can beat you, I can take your property.

    So the protection of your property DEMANDS an overwhelming force and a force that no other power can bring against you.

    If you have another way, let me know. If you also put your address here so we can see how effective your ownership of the property is without the overwhelming force of government power protecting it, then we can place your money where your mouth is.

  355. Rene Cheront:

    #320 Jim Bouldin
    “And what was instrumental in the bison not being driven to extinction? None other than the herd that survived due to their federal protection on public land (in Yellowstone NP). So who “owned” those bison?”

    Buy your account, the federal government, eventually.

    “Who “owns” the trees on state and federal lands?”

    Those respective arms of government do.

    “How are they valued and managed there, in comparison to private lands?”

    By political whim.

  356. Nigel Williams:

    re Artic Ice concentration:

    311 Jim Eager Says: Ah, Nigel (291), you are aware that there is no satellite coverage over that central black disc and are just joking, right?

    Nah Jim, I though that was a dollop of PBear dodoos! :)

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/index.new.html

    The salient feature in the high contrast images is the light red to yellow stuff either side of that data-hole representing 80 to 90% concentration which would seem to extrapolate very clearly through the data-hole at 90North. When I use the Compare function to check older maps for the same period I believe what we are seeing is pretty unusual for this early stage in the melt season.

    Compare images for previous years at:
    http://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh

  357. Rene Cheront:

    “In neoclassical and Marxist economic theory, there is no room for climate science, or any kind of science”

    That statement is utterly devoid of meaning. Might perhaps emanate from scientists who resent an economic analysis of their activities?

    ” – they both seem to be primarily concerned with marketing a political ideology, not with rational analysis”

    Economists market economic ideology, just as scientists market scientific ideology. And science can be every bit as political as economics, climatology being a good example. He who pays the piper…

    [Response: This last point is nonsense. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas regardless of what administration is paying for the spectrometer. -gavin]

  358. Rene Cheront:

    #335 James:
    11 May 2009 at 7:40 PM
    “…the implicit assumption that the only use for a forest is as a source of lumber. If instead one sees it first as an ecosystem that provides many other benefits (besides existing for its own self), and incidentally allows occasional timber harvesting, one reaches different conclusions as to utility.”

    And a market takes these into account. Those who own a forest are not compelled to harvest it against their wishes.

  359. Rene Cheront:

    #347 Mark:
    “However, it can also work if you make up something like your “perfect owner” and then argue from that perfect owner that ownership of nature would solve the problems of damage. If such a creature was commonplace, maybe your theories would work, but all we got are the humans we have and they aren’t going to make your theory work.”

    The tragedy of the commons is an observation of how humans actually do and are likely to behave with regards to unowned versus owned property. It is not something that requires humans to be changed in some way in order to fit in with it.

  360. Rene Cheront:

    #354 Mark:
    “…the protection of your property DEMANDS an overwhelming force and a force that no other power can bring against you.”

    Yes. What of it?

  361. J.S. McIntyre:

    233

    Ike S. – Consider the Easter Island case – the locals eventually cut down all the trees which they had used to build their deep-sea canoes

    Rene – In all likelihood this was also a tragedy of the commons – nobody owned the trees.
    ===========

    But they ended up OWNING the problems they created by cutting down the trees, now didn’t they?

  362. Mark:

    PS on 359, the government power is not a free market. And you accept the need of governmnent but not the consequences.

  363. walter crain:

    hi guys,
    sorry if off topic. sorry if covered elsewhere. can you give me two or three specific reasons why this is wrong?
    http://climatesci.org/2009/05/05/have-changes-in-ocean-heat-falsified-the-global-warming-hypothesis-a-guest-weblog-by-william-dipuccio/
    thanks (hopefully)

    [Response: Too short trends with unknown degree of natural variability with a brand new measuring system. - gavin]

  364. Craig Allen:

    Re 233:

    I’ll give you an example of private ownership leading to environmental degradation: In the arid and semi-arid range lands of inland Australia pastoralists have made their millions over the years by grazing sheep on ecosystems that are dominated by low shrubs known as saltbush and bluebush. After rain (which is intermittent and unpredictable) annual and perennial grasses sprout. The saltbush and blue bush species are long lived species and are highly drought tolerant, reaching peak production one to two years after decent rain events. They tolerate light grazing. But if over grazed are killed off. The range productivity then drops considerably and becomes totally dependant on the grasses and therefore on the unpredictable rains. This has happened through vast areas of the Australian interior, although the situation has improved in recent decades with improved management. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are easy to degrade and take a very long time to recover, and then only if destocked for decades.

    I’ll give you an example of how easy it is for greedy capitalists tendencies to wreak havock. Buckleboo station is on the Eyre Peninsular in the State of South Australia, judiciously grazed for a century since settlement and therefore retained high quality shrub and herblands. It’s a big place, perhaps 200 or 400 square miles. It was sold, and the new managers massively overstocked it, bringing in flocks from other stations that they owned, fattening them in preparation for sale. The landscape was gutted within just a few years, grazed to dust. But it made economic sense to the new owners. They made a handsome profit over that period, far more than the land had cost them. The profitability of the property over the long term would have been far higher had it been managed judiciously, but that clearly didn’t fit with the new owners business model.

    If strip-mining ecosystems, landscapes or the atmosphere is more profitable to the individual with short term concerns than taking a longer term approach then there will always be people willing to do it.

  365. J.S. McIntyre:

    Oh, one quick PS to 361.

    Rene wrote “In all likelihood this was also a tragedy of the commons – nobody owned the trees.” in 233.

    Actually, the elites ‘owned’ the trees and directed their decimation, and were likely blind to the consequences.

    (There’s a chapter on it in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” – you might want to check it out.)

    Just as the Newfoundland fisherman remained blind to the consequences of their actions. In both cases, what was happening was obvious, yet in spite of the evidence of diminishing resources, they cut/fished as if there were no problem whatsoever.

    Interesting how compulsively the human animal is willing to make the same mistakes, over and over.

  366. walter crain:

    thanks, gavin. i’ll reread that article. funny how we used to hear, “20 years of warming isn’t a trend”, and now we hear “it’s cooling lately”… i love tamino’s article where he shows the last century’s temperature graph, then below it shows the same graph at the same scale, but only the last few years of data.” he’s a clever debunker – i’m glad he uses his power for good.

  367. SecularAnimist:

    James and others repeatedly raise the issue of the variability of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar as though it were (1) an insurmountable problem and/or (2) a problem that has not been considered.

    In reality, the variability of renewables has neither been ignored nor is it difficult to solve.

    Consider the following example from Germany, Combined Power Plant project:

    The companies Enercon GmbH, SolarWorld AG and Schmack
    Biogas AG today presented the Combined Power Plant. Together
    with the Institute for Solar Energy Supply Systems (ISET) at the
    University of Kassel, these three companies have proved with this
    project that renewable energy can secure 100 per cent of energy
    supplies in accordance with demand
    . “The Combined Power Plant
    shows that renewable energy sources can supply sufficient
    electricity, can be controlled at any time, function in combination
    and can be balanced out across the grid,” says Ulrich Schmack,
    Board Spokesman of Schmack Biogas AG.

    The joint project from Schmack Biogas, SolarWorld and Enercon
    links 36 decentralized power plants based on wind, hydropower,
    solar and biogas energy so that they can supply electricity around
    the clock regardless of weather conditions and electricity demand.
    It takes advantage of the unequally distributed energy potential
    across Germany.

    Studies in the USA have also found that an integrated, diversified regional portfolio of renewable energy sources can provide 24×7 baseload power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear generated electricity.

    The Jacobson study that I cited above discusses the issue of “intermittency”:

    … when intermittent energy sources are combined with each other or over large geographical regions, they are much less intermittent than at one location. When combined with storage media, such as batteries or hydrogen, the effect of their intermittency is reduced further or eliminated … Five
    methods of reducing intermittency or its effects are (a) interconnecting geographically-disperse naturally-intermittent energy sources (e.g., wind, solar, wave, tidal), (b) using a reliable energy source, such as hydroelectric power, to smooth out supply or match demand, (c) using smart meters to provide electric power to vehicles in such a way as to smooth out electricity supply, (d) storing the electric power for later use, and (e) forecasting the weather to plan for energy supply needs better.

    When energy storage is added to an integrated, regional renewables-based system, the problem of intermittency basically goes away.

    And like renewable technologies themselves — wind, concentrating solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, geothermal and biomass — technologies for efficiently and cost-effectively storing energy already exist and just need to be commercialized and deployed. These include not only batteries, but thermal storage, compressed air, pumped water and flywheel systems.

  368. Kevin McKinney:

    It would seem that a free market (meaning “reasonably free,” as “perfectly free” has AFAIK never been observed) must always exist within some reasonably equilibrated power structure, or else the strong will simply appropriate what they want. The favored option for providing same over time has been some form of “legitimate” government which more or less monopolizes, and can thus regulate, the use of force to resolve disputes. This implies that politics and economics will be interdependent, which leads me to suspect that extended discussion of the primacy of one versus the other is probably not the most fruitful way one could spend one’s time.

    rene thinks, if I understand him correctly, that the best way to avoid tragedies of the commons would be maximal extension of ownership in order to avoid “externalities.” Others either distrust the efficacy of this indirect approach, or, perhaps, worry that the dispossessed will become human “externalities” themselves.

    I worry that pragmatically, economic power can be allowed to dominate political power excessively–the problem of oligarchies. It’s arguable that that is exactly what we see today in the climate “debate”, where concentration of economic power in the energy and media sectors appears to allow, enable or facilitate a dysfunctional cultural epistemology. That is, the Heartland Institute et al., and their petrodollars, are successfully clouding our societal perception of how the world’s systems are actually behaving, and what the consequences will be over time.

    Whether you wish to avoid disasters of the commons by fiat–the direct application of governmental power, as in regulations or treaties–or by rationalizing economic structures–as by accounting for externalities, via ownership reform or some other mechanism, such as cap and trade–you still need a clear vision of the reality you wish to affect.

  369. SecularAnimist:

    Rene Cheront wrote: “It is not something that requires humans to be changed in some way in order to fit in with it.”

    You seem to think that the Earth’s climate, hydrosphere and biosphere will change to accommodate your concept of “human nature”.

    The concepts of “property” and “ownership” are human social adaptations. Like other human social adapations — such as, for example, “government” — they have proven utility for organizing human affairs, as well as proven limitations and flaws.

    But they are not laws of physics. And the natural world is not going to reshape itself to accord with some Ayn Randian notion of the primacy of “private property” over all else.

  370. dhogaza:

    If strip-mining ecosystems, landscapes or the atmosphere is more profitable to the individual with short term concerns than taking a longer term approach then there will always be people willing to do it.

    But that’s OK, because as Rene says

    I see no reason for people who support such a system to value bio-diversity any differently to anyone else. Through markets, consumers can decide for themselves how much they value bio-diversity versus say the products produced from trees. Those who value bio-diversity can band together and purchase such forests to keep them from being harvested, for example.

    This is the classic libertarian response.

    Of course, this assumes that biodiversity is only of value to those willing to pay to preserve it.

    Totally ignores the value of biodiversity that traditional economics doesn’t capture, which is the entire point, of course. The fact that many people don’t value biodiversity doesn’t change the fact that biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided by the biosphere are crucial to sustaining human civilization.

    Just as the fact that people don’t value the atmosphere doesn’t change the fact that dumping ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into it threatens the well-being of every human on the planet.

  371. dhogaza:

    rene thinks, if I understand him correctly, that the best way to avoid tragedies of the commons would be maximal extension of ownership in order to avoid “externalities.” Others either distrust the efficacy of this indirect approach

    As I said above, rene backs his argument with ideology, while I (and several others posting here, apparently) have real-world on-the-ground experience.

    I don’t distrust the efficacy of his ideology. I know it doesn’t work because it’s been demonstrated not to work ’round the world.

  372. Jim Bouldin:

    Otherwise, and by the same logic, you need to start referring to this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Robin red-breasted harbinger of spring as the turdus

    Good point! However, remember that common names can suffer from imprecision, sometimes greatly. For example, I’ve many times heard humans being referred to as jackasses.

  373. Ike Solem:

    Rene, this is silly:

    James said: “…the implicit assumption that the only use for a forest is as a source of lumber. If instead one sees it first as an ecosystem that provides many other benefits (besides existing for its own self), and incidentally allows occasional timber harvesting, one reaches different conclusions as to utility.”

    Rene said: “And a market takes these into account. Those who own a forest are not compelled to harvest it against their wishes.”

    Consider the case of old-growth forest in Northern California and Oregon, which was bought up by various Wall Street junk bond dealers in the 1980s. From the perspective of a Wall Street trader, unharvested old growth forest is a stranded asset – a full size redwood can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, but only if cut down and processed into lumber. When faced with large losses in their other deals, those junk bond dealers demanded that the forests be cut down as fast as possible so that they could pay off their debts. This led to years of protests and conflict over the issue.

    The increased logging clogged many salmon streams, in many cases permanently degrading them. This has been a large factor in the collapse of West Coast salmon fisheries (along with increasing diversions of water to agriculture and rising river water temps).

    Now, if the salmon fishermen owned the redwood forests that surrounded all the salmon streams, they might have had a very different take on what the best thing to do was – a very different view from Wall Street bond traders. Which one is right?

    Wall Street will take a short-term profit on the deal and destroy long-term economic health, while the salmon fishermen would likely do the opposite – until Wall Street offered them a few million for the trees, and a few of them would take the money and head for Malibu – so local ownership is not really a solution.

    That’s why you need government regulations and laws, Rene. Without that, civilization reverts to tribalism, rule-by-warlords and the like. I would bet that on Easter Island, tribalism and inter-clan conflicte preceded the total destruction of the tree stock.

    However, we can’t simply say that this is “greedy capitalism in action” – because what would we then say about the Aral Sea disaster – “greedy communism”?

    The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan was once one of the largest inland seas – think Mono Lake, only much larger. After the rivers Amu Darya and Syr Darya that fed it were diverted by Soviet Union agricultural planners, it shrank rapidly, destroying the local fishing communities. From the Soviet Central Committee perspective, it was a good deal – they were getting more grain out of their colony in Kazakhstan, so their economic picture was rosy – the local ecosystem and the local economy were not a concern. As a result, the sea shrank into sections and the salinity rose so high that most of the fish died, thereby wiping out the local communities (and also creating huge toxic dust storms).

    If you know about Mono Lake and the Owens Valley, you can see that something similar happened there, with the Los Angeles Water Department being the political force behind water diversions. Unlike in the Soviet Union, political action by citizens opposed to the plan halted it, and Mono Lake was largely restored. The Owens Valley dust storms are still a problem, but one that is being reduced. “Ownership” was not the issue – responsiveness of government to citizen concerns was the issue, i.e. the democratic process.

    Has the democratic process failed with respect to the U.S. energy supply? James Hansen says so, and he has a point. 75% of the public supports rapid development of renewable energy and action on climate and pollution issues – but the fossil fuel industry seems to control well over 50% of both House and Senate votes on energy issues.

    In the larger picture, what we can see here is that neoclassical and Marxist economic theories both revolve around the notion of ownership as the central issue.

    Adam Smith, on the other hand, first stated the ecological and physical limitations (climate, soil, land area, natural abundance) and then went on to discuss how human economic activity could act to improve the quality of life for all citizens of a nation.

    From that, it is pretty clear that economics is a rare field of study – one that has actually regressed over the years, rather than progressed… and did you know that J.D. Rockefeller played large roles in the establishment of the UChicago school of economics, and in the establishment of the Nobel Prize in economics? Or that Stalin relied heavily on Marxist economic ideology to justify his grip on power? The comment element? Greed – the basic inability to override the food/hunger stimulus/response pathway when one’s needs have been met. Some people eat a full meal, see more food, and feel hungry, and eat more – and then they get sick. It’s a bit pathological.

    In the old days, the kind of authoritarian power that could support greedy habits was often justified by religious arguments and supported by the clergy, who benefited thereby – the prince bishops of Old England were the ones who started the coal monopoly, before the Queen took over with assistance from Newcastle.

    In the modern secular world, the religious justification for rule and ‘ownership’ comes not from the clergy, but from the Marxist and neoclassical economic theorists, who are given lucrative public perches from which to proclaim their true creeds to a compliant and unquestioning press corps – and yes, Marxist theories (not labeled as such) are often trotted out – to justify the ‘natural monopoly’ of coal-fired electric utilities, for example.

  374. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (12 May 2009 at 5:23):

    “James, your usual argument is that, due to “intermittency,” renewables don’t provide ENOUGH power… But in the first paragraph above, you’re worried that renewables might provide TOO MUCH power.”

    I suppose I must (in charity) attribute your failure to understand my point to my own lack of writing skill. I’ll try once more, just because to me the basic problem seems perfectly obvious. It’s that “renewables” (wind and solar) produce power when and in such amounts as nature allows, which is not usually when you want to use it.

    Take for an example a number of wind turbines that over the course of a year will produce 100% of the power used in a year. The simplistic renewable power advocate (got a mirror handy?) will jump up and down, cheering “Our power problems are solved!” But a look at what that system actually produces, as here http://reisi.iset.uni-kassel.de/pls/w3reisiwebdad/www_reisi_page_new.show_page?page_nr=155&lang=ger&owa=&owa_own_header=0 shows that some times we have far too much power, and most of the time not enough,

    “The answer to the problem you pose is that excess power can be stored and used for times for insufficient power, or transported to areas where they current have insufficient power, or even used to desalinate water or crack it to provide hydrogen for hydrogen-fuel-cell cars.”

    As I have said, repeatedly, this can be done, but it adds considerably to the cost of a system, Your simplistic renewable power advocates never wants to look at this cost (or the technical problems), preferring to think that just building X number of turbines or solar arrays is sufficient. Even when they do admit the need for some storage, they usually invoke some hand-waving “magic” solution such as (got that mirror handy?) cracking hydrogen for fuel cell cars.

    I think it’d be good idea to abjure the hand waving, and not plan to bet the farm on a particular technology until you at least have a good working prototype, and a reasonable cost analysis.

    “f the big PV arrays could be put up without scraping the land bare, covering it, and using herbicides, would you be for putting them up?”

    Haven’t I said so many times? My objections would be in inverse proportion to the impact. I think it would be a great idea to spread PV arrays out so that they’re on existing rooftops, perhaps with each house or business having its own high-speed flywheel storage system. I’d be less enthusiastic about spreading arrays over currently undisturbed land.

    “Fallacy of bifurcation. There’s another solution–have other power sources available to kick in when the wind is low. You continue to envision wind power in isolation, as if Gavin or me or somebody wanted 100% of our power to come from wind. Not correct.”

    Yes, correct. That is precisely what some people here argue for. (Though not Gavin, as far as I’ve ever seen.) You’re just back-tracking, trying to take over my position, which has always been that wind & solar work fine on a grid up to roughly 20% of total generation, precisely because those other sources ARE available to pick up the slack. Beyond that, you need to build in some sort of storage, which increases cost.

  375. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #344 Rene Cheront

    We seem to be sold on the idea that making a forest into profit should be applauded. While that may have been impressive in the past we now see the result of such attitudes and the destruction of many forests which were carbon sinks. In other words, one economy being sacrificed for another.

    I don’t think anyone is glossing over the problem that likens humans with the same status of farmed trees or cattle. I think that was a problem in and of itself.

    You point being that you see no reason to support biodiversity. But that point ignores the fact that humans generally don’t have the wisdom of prescience. Foresight proves to be lacking and that is our bane.

    We need new wisdom… a more considerate world brain if you will.

    #357 Rene Cheront

    I have to agree with Gavin here. Don’t buy into the pre-constructed straw-man just because it is convenient. It is wise to avoid laziness in this forum as best one can. I took the easy way out on an argument recently by talking about oxygen depletion irresponsibly and was properly called on it. The more important point was CO2 benefits or lack thereof when considered in economic case, and I was too tired to address the argument.

    #358 Rene Cheront

    Not true, I’m not sure you are aware of the sheer size of forest destruction now and over the past few hundred years.

    Heck, I lived in Iceland in the early 80′s and they needed wood for heat and homes, so they used all the trees. People do what they feel expedient in the moment, typically, which is not always wise. We need more long term thinking.

    You argument would have better context if it were more considerate of the global economy of resources, systems and methods.

    #359 Rene Cheront

    You are negating the fact that ownership is idealized in certain economic views. Same as social-ism, or what was perceived as communism.

    #360 Rene Cheront

    Force requires energy, motor and motive. Check your premise, does it have morality, justice, reason? I’m not saying that ownership is not helpful but rather the fact that we are humans in a mixed economy and we have over exploited our mechanisms to achieve a weaker overall economy. Many corporations became owners and over exploited the resources of the planet and our oceans and atmosphere. DOn’t forget that a corporation is a human construct, not an individual. Rockafellers of the world were no Hank Reardon nor John Galt.

    In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand idealized the characters to make a point. I don’t think she was supporting the idea of companies that did not have the qualities of honor, integrity and individualism, but she did not see the wall ahead of resource scarcity either.

  376. TokyoTom:

    #338 Ike, thanks for the interesting link on Polynesia.

    But spare me the slave economy argument, not only because slavery is hardly something libertarians would find at all morally justifiable, but because it`s unrelated from my point – and, I think, Gavin`s – which is not that there is an ideal form of ownership/management, but simply that, where resources are unowned or unmanaged, they tend to get trashed.

    This is a long, tragic and continuing story. The primary point is that we need to start better managing our commons, including our shared atmosphere. The ancillary point, for the purpose of political jousting, is that it is highly effective to ask skeptics to show you where the property rights (or other management mechanisms) are in the air that ensure there is is no tragedy of the commons. This is a show stopper, because you`re talking a language
    is familiar to them, but they are forced to realize that the market system does NOT work for the atmosphere, because it is a commons and without property rights.

    Are you with me?

    [I responded to this before, but it apparently didn`t post.]

  377. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (12 May 2009 at 10:42):

    “Consider the following example from Germany, Combined Power Plant project:”

    Now really, isn’t this almost exactly what I have often said, that wind/solar can be matched with hydropower to smooth out the variability in the wind & solar? Works just fine, up to the amount of hydro available. And really no more than an extension of the fact that a small fraction of variable generation is easy to integrate into a power grid.

    “…technologies for efficiently and cost-effectively storing energy already exist and just need to be commercialized and deployed. These include not only batteries, but thermal storage, compressed air, pumped water and flywheel systems.”

    Great. Get some real-world implementations and some reasonable ballpark estimates for cost, and then we can discuss numbers rather than hand-waving.

  378. TokyoTom:

    #331 : “Nah… it’s the same gut reaction I have when folks are asserting that Jesus loves me, or giving me free links to mises.org… not my religion, and I’m beyond redemption thank you very much. I like to live on the reality side of things.”

    I can understand your “gut” reaction, but it`s rather obviously getting in the way of your higher faculties. I am barely tolerated by many at Mises (to whom I come off as a commie left enviro Nazi fascist) and offer links only to my own thoughts there, and similarly have been shown the door by RedState, Freepers, NewsBusters and now the place that Chip Knappenberger blogs from. And I`ve spent many a comment thread at Mises battling similar nonsense that people concerned about climate change have drunk the the Koolaid of some religion or another; e.g, http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/07/06/mind-games-bret-stephens-of-the-wall-street-journal-panders-to-quot-skeptics-quot-by-abjuring-science-and-declaring-himself-an-expert-on-quot-mass-neurosis-quot.aspx

    Feel free read further or test me.

  379. John H.:

    I find it troubling that simple conversations and discussion cannot be held to addressing the substance of many issues.

    For instance it would be beneficial to all if this report were thoroughly responded to by RC loyalists.

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/april_09_co2_report.pdf

    But for invalid reasons there is little cross over to generate the needed progress.

    [Response: How can you make progress by mixing sense and nonsense? - gavin]

  380. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #369 SecularAnimist

    Well said.

    I agree and I would like this perspective to also be considered mine. The corruptibility of a system also does not negate a systems management capacity. There is utility in governance, as is the nature of complex systems (all systems have governors of various types, natural or human).

    I merely am suggesting that the new circumstance will yield a new view of our interaction with the natural economy inter-dynamic with the human needs economy that we may work towards needed sustainability and greater system health.

    http://www.uscentrist.org/platform/docs/defining-health

  381. Doug Bostrom:

    #374 James:

    Kind of late for me to pipe up now, but the existing grid has a lot of extra cost built-in for generation capacity that is idle for many hours of the day. The economics seem to work just fine. So why is a scenario where the more crude thermal generation capacity is gradually replaced with generation by and buffering of intermittent sources not possible?

    Clearly we’ve accepted that it’s not possible to generate electricity with anything approaching 100% utilization of capacity, so how is changing sources is going to break new economic ground?

  382. TokyoTom:

    #349: John, George Reisman is your uncle? I`ve had the nerve to joust with him on the LvMI pages and my own blog over the past few years on environmental matters, where he is simply emotional and not reasonable:
    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=reisman
    http://blog.mises.org/archives/005916.asp

    Thanks for your various questions and observations. I don`t think that we are actually that far apart, but we are drifting a bit off-thread. Let me make a few specific responses.

    “Mankind did not create the resources so by what right has he to own them? People own oil, but oil is being drilled and used to its inevitable extinction of the resource. It might be better to think of the global resources as being lent to us by the mere fact of the existence of such resources, so what right of ownership should exist?”

    My own view is that “ownership” is chiefly not so much about our individual relationships to “property” (can we really “own” any other life form? aren`t we just as much owned by the bacteria in our gut, parasites, diseases and predators that use us for food?), but more humbly about our relationships with each other regarding relative priority of claims to make use of particular things we find valuable. What those things depends upon place, time, culture and individual.

    “Many owners have exploited a resource wile abusing it and destroying its capacity to survive simply to finish with it and move on to another resource to exploit.”

    I don`t disagree. In fact, I think that this is endemic whenever there are open-access commons remaining for such exploiters to move on to. (In this regard, we differ from the rest of nature only in the leverage that technologies give us to wreak devastation.) While we have developed property rights institutions (communal and private, informal and formal) precisely to get a handle over tragedies of the commons (and even evolved possessive and cooperative behaviors) only a blind ideologue would assert that creating property has somehow changed human nature. But it is worth noting that property IS helpful, as it makes it possible for others to acquire and manage more beneficially resources that others mistreat.

    “There is also ample room to see that corruption, favoritism and incompetence are inescapably linked to corporate greed through over manipulation of markets. The users and the looters are not always the government and the belief systems, they are also corporations.”

    Again, I agree; my point is not that all use of government should be avoided (indeed, it might even be needed), but simply that use of government itself no panacea, but fraught with danger – as corporations and their owners are far more effective in Washington than the citizens who continually have to organize to do battle with them. Some corporations (not all, by any means) are looters, and use government to achieve their ends.

    This goes back a long way, with the chief roots in the grant of limited liability to shareholders for bad acts by corporations: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=limited+liability

    Sorry, but I need to wind this up.

  383. TokyoTom:

    #354: “So the protection of your property DEMANDS an overwhelming force and a force that no other power can bring against you.”

    Mark, this is too simplistic. What is “property” and how it can be defended depends on context. In close communities, people don`t lock their doors, do deals based on handshakes and reputation, and little resort is made to law, police or courts. In other cases, weapons – or thick contracts or physical or technological locks – and constant vigilance are required.

    Maine lobstermnen have an easier task defending their resources than do indigenous fishermen or forest-dwellers.

    So what will work in the case of climate depends on available technology and the level of trust (and enforcement) that can be established.

  384. Anne van der Bom:

    James
    11 may 2009 at 7:26 PM

    So imagine trying to design a system with a large fraction of wind generation: either you have to overbuild your generation and waste power when the winds are strong, or build some sort of storage to save that excess for when it’s calm. (Or, of course, a combination.)

    Don’t treat that picture as the Truth. It is only the variability in onshore wind in Germany, 1 medium sized country. By coupling grids on a European scale, the variability drops further. Offshore wind (which is where most of the capacity will eventually be installed) is more constant too.

    Furthermore, the picture is limited in that doesn’t show the frequency of variations. If you have 3000 hours per year below 10%, it makes quite a difference if that came in 3 1000-hour periods or 300 10-hour periods.

    Yes, part of the solution will be to overbuild. But think again. We already do that to deal with incidents and maintenance.

    Either one significantly increases the cost over the simplistic “build one turbine and hook it up” cost model favored by wind power fans.

    Please stay away from the stereotypes, it spoils a good discussion.

  385. TokyoTom:

    #365: “Just as the Newfoundland fisherman remained blind to the consequences of their actions. In both cases, what was happening was obvious, yet in spite of the evidence of diminishing resources, they cut/fished as if there were no problem whatsoever.”

    JSM, thanks for bring us back the tragedy of the unmanaged/government commons. Who owned the fishery, the government or the fishermen? Except in places where fishermen are being given transferable harvesting rights (or being completely locked our – very rare) government-management fisheries are all crashing, which is why mainline environmental groups are calling for more property rights in fisheries.

    Ironic captcha: bickers Salmon!

  386. RichardC:

    333 Silk ponders, “So contraction and convergence is acceptable to Chip, since it is the only ‘fair’ solution?”

    There’s an awful lot of embedded CO2 emissions in the past and on to 2045 (Convergent date in link). The truly fair way would be to equalize TOTAL CO2 emissions. The USA and Europe have already emitted more than their total allotment, though, so some scheme of trading allowances needs to be enacted so those countries can “pay back” their carbon debt to the rest of the world.

  387. Doug Bostrom:

    Further to my last post (#376) it seems possible that surmounting demand peaks with buffered intermittent sources would be more desirable than continuing to use complex and costly thermal plants for that purpose. The more complex and costly the more true that’s likely to be. Ignoring or slighting intermittent sources because they do not appear to be a panacea will doom us to continuing the maintenance of a fleet of underutilized and thus horribly inefficient thermal plants. Idle nuclear reactors are probably the last choice we’d want to make in terms of wasting money, followed by coal plants, followed by gas turbines; all of these systems are complex and in the case of the former two are inherently unfriendly to intermittent use or underutilization in terms of cost and operational factors.

  388. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #375 John P. Reisman

    A correction to the last sentence in post #375

    I don’t think she was supporting the idea of companies that did not have the qualities of honor, integrity and individualism, but she did not see the wall ahead of resource scarcity either.

    should read

    I don’t think she was supporting the idea of companies, that did not have the qualities of honor, integrity and individualism, are committed to the purpose of value, sustainability and morality, but she did not see the wall ahead of resource scarcity either.

    In other words, there is value in sustainability and over over-exploitation which is now pro forma. Ownership by fictitious business names has proven disastrous. Individual ownership of the profit stream has like problems.

    Private ownership (individual v. corporate) has only fared a little better, but still has a terrible record over time.

    We should not be lulled into the illusion of safe harbor in an ideal, especially when it really is merely an ideal and has proven not to be considerate of economy in/through time.

  389. Anne van der Bom:

    James
    11 mai 2009 at 11:22 PM

    Refer back to her message #269, where she writes “Over a whole country the size of Spain or Germany, wind power never goes to 0. RED Espanha has this sleek looking web page…” (which I couldn’t view, unfortunately). Perhaps I misunderstood, but I read that as putting her in the camp that believes that if you just build enough wind turbines, and scatter them over a wide geographic area, the variability problems magically solve themselves.

    By saying that the wind never goes to 0 over a whole country, how am I exactly proposing we should do it by 100% wind? This is what you get from ‘putting people in camps’: you make things up that people actually never said.

  390. Craig:

    Climate science has advanced a lot on the last 50 years. Political institutions may have improved a bit in the last 50 years. Human nature has changed very little in the last 500 years. Based on that last reality, I give short odds to the Tragedy of the Commons, and long odds to the Triumph of the Rational. Unless you plan on suspending democracy, and installing an environmentally friendly Ceasar, I expect the wisdom of the mob, which favors short term self interest, to prevail.

  391. RichardC:

    358 Rene claims, “Those who own a forest are not compelled to harvest it against their wishes.”

    Wrong. Hostile takeovers are designed specifically for that situation. A corporation which takes other factors than money into account can be taken over with money when their book value gets too high for their stock value. You forget that some resources are too large for a single owner (and single owners eventually die), and so crowd theory takes over. In a sense, corporations are a tragedy of the commons for everything they own.

  392. cougar_w:

    The solution to the “problem” of unpredictable power output by wind and solar alternatives is… adjust your expectations. The planet having to get you all the power you want when you want it is the problem. You don’t anymore get what you want when you want it once your want threatens to destroy the rest of us. You and your unquenchable want can go live on another planet. Leave this planet for people with a more realistic appraisal of what they need, and a demonstrated willingness to preserve what is left for future generations whose need, need it be said, is at least equal to our own and is perhaps the more sacred of the two.

    Problem solved.

  393. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    Re Edmund Burke,

    Ok so doing a little is better than doing nothing.

    But maybe it is only a little better than nothing.

    Doing a little and basking in self satisfaction is also a mistake. This can be a hindrance to real action.

    Maybe it would be better to do some significant things, even if significant adaptations are needed. The little stuff is fine if it does not mislead us into complacency.

  394. CTG:

    #374 James

    Are we reading the same website? I’ve looked through all the recent threads where renewables have been discussed, and I can’t find anyone saying that wind can or should provide 100% of electricity generation. Please tell us who said that.

    What I can find is lots of discussion about the role wind can play in a diversified portfolio of renewables, although I can’t find any instances where you accept that is a possibility. Why are you so resistant to this idea?

    It’s nice that you now at least recognise that solar is a renewable, but why do you continue to exclude hydro and geothermal from this category? It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion about renewables without including those – especially as pumped storage hydro is one of the easiest ways to harvest excess wind production.

    You also continue to focus on the grid as it is now in the US, without considering the possibility that there are other ways to construct a grid. A comprehensive renewable strategy also includes more localized generation/consumption, which mitigates the impact of renewables on the traditional grid. For example, fitting solar-powered water heaters to every house could reduce domestic consumption by up to 25%. Some local wind generation schemes put indicators into the houses they supply, to show when the turbines are running, and guess what? People started using washing machines only when the wind was generating, because it was cheaper. Fancy that!

    So don’t give me that 20% figure again. As I’ve pointed out before, New Zealand already gets up to 75% of its electricity from renewables. There is absolutely no theoretical reason why the US could not do the same.

  395. SecularAnimist:

    You know, it becomes really frustrating to discuss the issue of the variability of renewable electricity generation from wind and solar, when people ignore the facts: the issue has been extensively studied, and solutions have been identified and implemented. The bottom line is that it is not an insurmountable problem, nor are the solutions prohibitively expensive.

    As for the suggestion that some proponents of renewable electricity generation “simplistically” suggest that we can have a 100 percent wind powered, or 100 percent solar powered, electric grid, let me be clear:

    The commercially exploitable onshore and offshore wind energy resources of the USA are far more than sufficient to provide 100 percent of the USA’s electricity.

    The commercially exploitable solar energy resources of a very small part of the USA’s southwestern deserts are more than sufficient to provide 100 percent of the USA’s electricity.

    The commercially exploitable geothermal energy resources of the USA are more than sufficient to provide 100 percent of the USA’s electricity.

    The commercially exploitable solar energy falling on existing commercial rooftops alone is sufficient to provide as much as 180 gigawatts of electricity using today’s photovoltaic technology.

    Co-generation powered by industrial waste heat (note, that’s energy that is currently wasted) is sufficient to provide as much electricity as is now generated by all the nuclear power plants in the USA.

    Does this mean I am suggesting a 100 percent wind-powered grid? Or a 100 percent solar thermal powered grid? Or a 100 percent geothermal powered grid? Or a 100 percent photovoltaic grid? Or a 100 percent co-generation grid? No.

    What it means is that we have vast amounts of clean renewable energy at our disposal and can get all the electricity we need — more than enough to provide for all current uses and to electrify ground transport — from a diversified portfolio of renewable energy sources including wind, solar thermal, solar PV, geothermal, biomass, hydropower, etc., integrated and managed through regional smart grids.

    And that’s before we even address efficiency. Consider that 40 percent of the USA’s CO2 emissions come from producing energy to heat and cool buildings — and consider that with today’s technology it is possible to have buildings that are net producers of energy, rather than net consumers.

  396. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #269 Anne van der Bom

    Your link to the Spanish wind site is good, but it only works for today and a few hours yesterday. However, there is great variability even for today. It looks like there would be a good chance for pumped hydro storage to level things out today, as long as there was not a lot of wind power being produced. I can’t read the chart scales so I can not tell if the curve for today is a national average or just one example.

    I would like to see some evidence of a reliable plan for wind. Is it really something we can rely on year after year, that weather systems as large as Spain and Germany will not cause general widespread wind failure? If we have to continue to maintain backup generators, that is ok, but please keep the cost of that in mind.

    I think #283 James is getting at a similar point. But I emphasize in my question that the magnitude of the energy that we rely on wind to produce determines the storage capacity, obvious as this is.

    At least I was not the only one to pursue the link.

    In the USA the whole problem of coal comes down to the vast amount of that fuel that we use. We seem a long way from the point that the marginal response to any new load will not be coal.

    Thus, when we add a good renewable source it goes into the hopper and is fully use. When we add a new load it is a separate action, and the response is to burn more coal. How could it be otherwise?

    We are even a long way from shifting over to natural gas, and if we do that we will very likely find that resource in scarce supply.

    So in the USA, the electric plug-in car seems like a very foolish thing to pursue, unless that car is also a very low energy car.

  397. CTG:

    OK, so tying together the two main themes of this discussion – energy production and the tragedy of the commons.

    There are many sources of energy on this planet (coal, oil, gas, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, nuclear etc). All of them require conversion to electricity. All of them have some environmental impact at the point of extraction and/or the point of generation.

    The costs of the environmental impact have in the past been assumed to be fairly represented in the end cost of each energy source. But we now know that the environmental impact of fossil fuels is devastating, and yet the costs of that impact are not yet reflected in the cost of fossil fuel energy.

    Going back to the original tragedy of the commons, imagine you have several farmers who all graze their cattle on some common land, and each farmer has a different breed. One of the farmers has a breed that matures quicker than the other breeds, and so he gets a better market price for his cattle. More and more people want his cattle, so his herd grows until it is the dominant breed on the land. However, his breed has a genetic flaw that means the dung his cattle produce leaches nitrogen from the soil. Over the years, the quality of the grass declines, until there is a catastrophic failure of the grass, and all the cattle die.

    Now, as an alternate scenario, imagine that a soil scientist had discovered the problem with the dung before it was too late to do something about it. What might the outcome be?

    Remember, as was pointed out earlier, it is really the tragedy of the unmanaged commons. If there is no management or regulation of the commons, then the polluting farmer does not have to pay for the cost of the damage he is creating, and so the market will keep on buying his cattle because his are the cheapest. Collapse is inevitable.

    If the commons was regulated, on the other hand, then the farmer could be made to pay for the damage his cattle have caused, by spreading nitrogen fertilizer (although he would insist that he was well on the way to inventing “Clean Dung”). Now, his costs would go up, and so his market price would also go up. The regulators might think that it really would be best if his breed just disappeared altogether, so they raise the price of nitrogen fertiliser sufficiently that his market price is the highest of all. In the meantime, all of the other farmers benefit, because the grass is now so healthy that their breeds are doing better and better. The Dirty Dung farmer goes out of business, and the last of his breed is removed from the land. The price of nitrogen fertilizer is returned to normal, and everyone is happy. Well, apart from the Dirty Dung farmer.

    What we need to do is recognise the true environmental costs of fossil fuel energy, and then reflect that in the price of the fuel. The only way that can happen is through regulation. The market will take care of the rest.

  398. RichardC:

    392 Cougar, a device can be placed on your AC unit which disables it for short periods during peak demand. In exchange, you get electricity at a cheaper rate. Charging variable rates for electricity based on supply brings lots of ingenuity to the table. Everyone loves a bargain, and if that means not running a clothes dryer when it’s 100F outside, it will happen. Variable supply is solved via diversity of type and geography for supplies and by market incentives for consumption.

  399. Jim Bouldin:

    I am barely tolerated by many at Mises (to whom I come off as a commie left enviro Nazi fascist)

    Just FYI, the proper term for believers in AGW has been discussed at length elsewhere.

  400. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    398# RichardC

    Isn’t peak demand time the same as peak need for air conditioning?

    If you can turn the air conditioner off then, why not just not buy an air conditioner? That action might actually amount to something.

    But I would be the last to say that we should sit around in discomfort. The whole thing about energy is to make our lives better, not to find ways to inconvenience ourselves.

    Why not adapt to ways to air condition our houses efficiently. One way would be to revert to absorption chillers that actually use heat to cool a room. This fits into the cogeneration scheme based on small engine-generators in efficient automobiles shown at the Miastrada site.

  401. SJ:

    I would like to own a whale, or several. I would just let them swim free, but they would be my whales and no-one would be allowed to touch them. So how much does a whale cost? I want one of those big blue ones. And more to the point, who do I buy it from?

    Good post Gavin, thanks.

  402. SecularAnimist:

    Jim Bullis wrote: “Why not adapt to ways to air condition our houses efficiently.”

    It’s called insulation.

  403. RichardC:

    400 Jim, the devices don’t turn the AC off for long periods. There’s peak demand, and then there’s PEAK demand. Would you mind if for 10 minutes your AC didn’t run? I lived down south for a number of years with such a device on my AC and I never noticed. There’s lots of smarts that can be built into appliances. What if you “told” your dryer to start when rates go down? Your car to “feed” the grid when rates were high? The idea is to load-level, not reduce consumption overall. It gives the utility company wiggle room to manage the grid.

  404. Jim Bouldin:

    couger_w (392): Could not possibly have stated it any better. Thank you.

  405. Jim Galasyn:

    Re Jim’s comment on proper terminology, here’s a taste of “Denial Depot”:

    …the sandal-wearing, prius-driving, NPR-listening, Gore-worshipping, tax-hugging, university-attending, bed-wetting pinko-hippie, uber-Nazi, temperature freakout wizards…

  406. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #402 Secular,

    That is also a good way, but if you had read the next sentence you would see another that would work very well with good insulation. Absorption chillers have long been used in industrial air conditioning, and they also were a method of household refrigeration. As refrigerators, this method got banned accidentally in California because the California Energy Commission forgot to include the inefficiency of electric power generation at central power plants when it rated the competitive electric driven refrigerators. Thus they thought heat driven refrigerators were not as good as electric ones.

    Of course, what I am getting at is that a cogeneration system where both heat and electric power are generated in the same place so as to allow us to use the heat would more than double or even triple the efficiency of power generation compared to our USA system of central power plants. Note however, according to the link by Anne van der Bom, Denmark already does much the same thing through their district heating system. If this is representative of European ways, those countries are nowhere near as effective at wasting energy as we are here in the USA.

  407. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #403 RichardC,

    I am puzzled why they would do this for only ten minutes. Truly, it would not matter that much to people’s comfort. But then, it would not help the utility loading very much either, since when the air conditioners were allowed to come back on, they would indeed come back on, all of them, as their thermostats called for cooling and all the air conditioners would labor to catch up.

    If the air conditioners had adequate capacity to then return the temperature to the desired setting, everything would be fine for the electricity customers. For those air conditioners that were laboring to keep up anyway, turning them off for ten minutes would be a noticeable failure.

    Pardon the cynicism, but it sounds like something that utility companies like to tell customers to make it sound like those companies are on the job, but in fact makes no real difference at all.

  408. Alexandre:

    Tokyo Tom

    “thanks for bring us back the tragedy of the unmanaged/government commons”

    According to Ostrom, the managed commons include:
    - means to limit users
    - rules that respect the carrying capacity of the resource (or any other parameter that ensures its sustanability)
    - means to enforce these rules

    If you want to call that state intervenience, privatization, free market, new ethics paradigm, it´s fine by me. All of these have worked somewhere sometime, as those conditions above can be met under different ideologic frameworks.

    The “climate commons” are the biggest ones of all. They cannot be contained, users cannot be easily left out. Even market-based solutions demand an international enforceable regulation to forbid, tax or at least know who´s emmitting how much, and who has to pay to whom for what.

    Where the solution comes from is the least important. The important thing is that it works, and fast.

  409. Gina Maranto:

    Re: #110 and #111: As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean ‘we’ White Man?”

    Feeny et al. in “The tragedy of the commons: 22 years later,” (Human Ecology 18 (1990), showed the incompleteness of Hardin’s analysis due to his reification of property regimes.

    Aren’t our arguments vis-a-vis climate similarly incomplete? For example, why use national emissions as our unit of measure? EDGAR data are given on a country by country basis, but how does such a categorization account for multinational corporations, which have no allegiance to place, only to a disembodied concept of profit? Transnational corporations, in effect, have succeeded in opting out of Earthly concerns for some 400 years by (pace Engels) moving the problem around. Degrade one region, move on to another.

    There are, now, no more frontiers (forget it, Terraformers).

    Suppose we parsed the categories differently: could we then move forward, enacting different policies for different sectors? Cap-and-trade parses on a global scale. Could it be that we need to implement a multi-scalar approach?

  410. James:

    RichardC Says (12 May 2009 at 16:37)

    “Everyone loves a bargain, and if that means not running a clothes dryer when it’s 100F outside…”

    Strange. My bargain clothes dryer (maybe $10, including clothespins) actually works much better when it’s 100F outside, yet a lot of people seem reluctant to avail themselves of this bargain, preferring to spend several hundred on a mechanical device that runs up their electric bill…

    SecularAnimist Says (12 May 2009 at 17:23):

    ” Jim Bullis wrote: “Why not adapt to ways to air condition our houses efficiently.”

    It’s called insulation.”

    Omigawd, I think the end of the world is nigh: we agree on something!

    But even beyond insulation, letting indoor temperatures vary somewhat with the seasons, so your body adapts.

  411. James:

    CTG Says (12 May 2009 at 15:46)

    “Are we reading the same website? I’ve looked through all the recent threads where renewables have been discussed, and I can’t find anyone saying that wind can or should provide 100% of electricity generation. Please tell us who said that.”

    172: Doug Bostrom, 8 May 2009 at 20:24
    192: Barton Paul Levenson, 9 May 2009 at 6:41
    244: Anne van der Bom, 10 May 2009 at 8:58
    250: SecularAnimist, 10 May 2009 at 11:43
    269: Anne van der Bom, 10 May 2009 at 16:01
    297: Barton Paul Levenson, 11 May 2009 at 7:24
    367: SecularAnimist, 12 May 2009 at 10:42

    For a few examples, and to the same extent that I’ve ever said that wind CAN’T play a role in a diversified portfolio of energy sources.

    “What I can find is lots of discussion about the role wind can play in a diversified portfolio of renewables, although I can’t find any instances where you accept that is a possibility. Why are you so resistant to this idea?”

    In fact I have said so, recently in for instance

    374: James, 12 May 2009 at 11:50
    377: James, 12 May 2009 at 12:16

    I’m not at all resistant to the idea of using renewables. What I object to is first, the idea that they ought to be built regardless of their environmental cost (as with CSP destroying great areas of desert), second, the simplistic linear cost for the whole system model that seems to inform the thinking of many renewable advocates; and third, their outright rejection, on quasi-religious grounds, of a proven technology with known costs and minimal environmental impact.

    “It’s nice that you now at least recognise that solar is a renewable, but why do you continue to exclude hydro and geothermal from this category?”

    Language, mainly. I don’t know an appropriate word to make the distinction, which is not really between renewable and not renewable, but between generation when you want it, and generation depending on nature’s whims. What I’m trying to get at is that if you build a geothermal plant, you get X MWatts of generation pretty much 24/7. With hydro, you get generation when you decide to open the tap. But with wind and solar, you get generation when the wind blows or the sun shines.

    “…pumped storage hydro is one of the easiest ways to harvest excess wind production.”

    If you have suitable topography for a pumped storage facility, are willing to invest the money needed to build it, and consider the energy losses acceptable. If pumped storage is indeed easiest, that doesn’t say much for the others :-)

    “As I’ve pointed out before, New Zealand already gets up to 75% of its electricity from renewables. There is absolutely no theoretical reason why the US could not do the same.”

    No? Let me point out a few things you may have missed. New Zealand’s North Island has abundant geothermal resources, unlike much of the US. The South Island has high mountains and considerable rainfall, making it ideal for hydroelectric power, while the mountainous parts of the US are largely arid. Most importantly, New Zealand has about 4.2 million people in roughly the same land area as California, population 37 million. I think if you looked at the amount of hydro & geothermal energy generated within California, you would find that it’s as much or more than New Zealand generates.

  412. James:

    Ike Solem Says (12 May 2009 at 11:45):

    “Rene said: “And a market takes these into account. Those who own a forest are not compelled to harvest it against their wishes.”

    Consider the case of old-growth forest in Northern California and Oregon, which was bought up by various Wall Street junk bond dealers…”

    Maybe the problem here is not the idea of ownership per se, but the somewhat artificial restriction of ownership to human beings. Suppose instead that the forest owns itself…

  413. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #394 CTG and others

    Ontario Canada tries very hard to reduce CO2.

    But when wind discussions get blowing hard, I check their actual reports. If anyone wants to know what really happened on May 11 (yesterday) look at:

    http://reports.ieso.ca/public/GenOutputCapability/PUB_GenOutputCapability_20090511_v25.xml

    It is certainly true that on some days the wind power resources were useful. (I have been checking these for some time.) On May 11 things did not go so well. So clearly in this situation, something else had to come up to the job.

  414. RichardC:

    407 Jim, good points. The utility company is dancing on the edge of grid failure. They want to keep production *EXACTLY* equal to consumption + 1 watt. They don’t turn off all the AC units, just enough to keep the grid from crashing. It’s kind of like a rolling brown-out. They need *time* to bring resources online to handle the increased demand. If it takes a couple hours to bring a unit online, by switching off various units for 10 minutes each they can buy enough time to do the job. I’m not an expert on this, merely a customer who got reduced rates for participating, but the theory works in practice.

  415. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #382 TokyoTom

    George is a Reisman. Reisman’s are known to be stubborn (I’m trying to start a new trend there ;) and he tends to put things into terms of us against them, which I feel is overly simplistic. The many nuances of dynamic interaction (health, unhealth, relative health) are less considered in his work based on what I have observed. I believe that is an error.

    “aren`t we just as much owned by the bacteria in our gut, parasites, diseases and predators that use us for food?), but more humbly about our relationships with each other regarding relative priority of claims to make use of particular things we find valuable. What those things depends upon place, time, culture and individual.”

    I would not characterize that as ownership but rather symbiosis, with the occasional parasitic, or mutually beneficial relationship. nature/economy is a complex web of inter-dynamic systems.

    There are natural laws of sort that regulate and manage. The main complication with civilization is human ego. I tend to consider rights v. ownership and include dynamic equilibrium and human system needs as they are or have been created which is intertwined with non utilitarian market aspects which are part of an artificial inflation infrastructure born of greed rather than economic balance or even economic reality in the natural system.

    What I see is that the the natural system is subject to both ‘the tragedy of the commons’ and ‘the tragedy of ownership’. It always seems to boil down to good king, bad king. We either manage it well or we don’t, individually or collectively.

    I don’t think any economic ideology can prevent the human ego from it’s more spontaneous propensities that occur based on short term rather than long term consideration. But ideology is not what I rely on in my assumptions. I tend toward the reasonability of the nature of nature itself that systems have a seemingly built in desire to survive and I believe that applies even to the human system.

    The management paradigm of Epoch A is less considerate of the long term, while I project the management principle of Epoch B is long term.

    The world brain should evolve on these lines if it follows the course of nature, which is to survive if able.

    I would argue that the development of property rights institutions that were designed to help us with the tragedy of the commons are similar to the property rights institutions designed to protect us from the tragedy of ownership.

    Though not a perfect world, the legislation process is a part of the dynamic equilibrium mechanism.

    Property is helpful in some circumstance, and bane in other circumstance. It falls to the world brain to determine the objective value method that can be reasonably applied to maintain the quality of said value over the degradation of said value.

    I also certainly agree with you that government is no panacea and I believe you know my perspectives on this at least fairly well. It is a system we utilize for better or for worse. Inter-dynamic systems require management mechanisms be they natural or human established. The dangers are evident and it is sad that we are not better guarded against the misuse and abuse of the mechanism. I have always felt that education is the key to better management but that is not a choice we seem yet wiling to make.

    I maintain that the long term will become dominant in Epoch B as short term becomes sub-dominant.

    I continue to explore the holistic in consideration to find direction as we transition from A to B.

    I would also note that the tragedy of the commons and ownership have not manifested in all cases. There have been periods of success. I imagine there was some reasonability in certain cultures that recognized the limits of resource and instilled self management. But leadership changes and cultures shift through war and revolution so short lived are the good examples.

    We are entering new paradigms, so older rules become less relevant. New rules are needed. The onus of responsibility of the health of such rules lies with us.

    ‘Some corporations’ is appropriate, more or less but likely more, based on my examinations. But certainly not all, and some unwittingly, while others deliberate.

  416. TokyoTom:

    #391: “A corporation which takes other factors than money into account can be taken over with money when their book value gets too high for their stock value. You forget that some resources are too large for a single owner (and single owners eventually die), and so crowd theory takes over. In a sense, corporations are a tragedy of the commons for everything they own.”

    Richard, these are extremely important nuances, to be sure, but it is still helpful for Rene to generalize by saying that “Those who own a forest are not compelled to harvest it against their wishes.”

    Rene was talking about what ownership of a forest (or a transferrable fishing permit, first use water rights, etc.) implies – and was surely correct – while what you are talking about what we mean by ownership of a public corporation, which is also an important area of inquiry.

    Starting with the first state grant of limited liability to investors/owners for damages that corporations do to third parties, to other extensions of unlimited life, unlimited purposes and the Consitutional right as a “legal person” to lie and to purchase influence, moral hazard and risk-shifting has become rampant in the businesses closest to government:
    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=limited

    Back to resources, what we typically mean by “ownership” is the right, vis-a-vis non-owners, is to determine who has access to the resource and the terms under which they can use it. The nature and preference of the individuals, community or government that owns the resource may make all the difference between how well a resource is used and protected, but markets do allow people and groups with differing preferences to make deals regarding ownership and management.

    It`s where there is NO ownership, or where ownership is in the hands of a kleptocracy or poorly-run bureaucracy that either the “tragedy of the commons” takes place, or deals cannot be done and everyone is stuck in a struggle for control over the wheel of government: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=wheel

    “Private” and “community” property systems that put control in the hands of users are by no means perfect, but they avoid the worst of the tragedy of the commons, which is why mainline environmental groups are now together calling for property rights in fisheries (as linked above).

  417. TokyoTom:

    #373: “The increased logging clogged many salmon streams, in many cases permanently degrading them. This has been a large factor in the collapse of West Coast salmon fisheries (along with increasing diversions of water to agriculture and rising river water temps).

    Now, if the salmon fishermen owned the redwood forests that surrounded all the salmon streams, they might have had a very different take on what the best thing to do was – a very different view from Wall Street bond traders. Which one is right?”

    Good questions, but you`ve missed an important one – what would the result be if salmon fishermen actually owned rights in their FISHERY (as opposed to land, as you query), instead of just being allowed to catch fish when the government allows?

    Wouldn`t they have an ability to sue landowners for messing up streams, and to make deals with then to enhance and maintain habitat? This (and water rights) in fact underpin river and stream fisheries in various parts of the world and US. It`s mainly the government ownership of the resource – after stealing it from the Indians – and the fact that users have no rights that they can protect or trade that is the reason why the great salmon fisheries are surely dying:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/07/23/destroying-the-salmon-the-socialized-commons-and-climate-change-part-ii.aspx
    http://www.perc.org/articles/article249.php
    http://www.perc.org/articles/article884.php

  418. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Rene Cheront writes:

    Through markets, consumers can decide for themselves how much they value bio-diversity versus say the products produced from trees. Those who value bio-diversity can band together and purchase such forests to keep them from being harvested, for example.

    The point is, they shouldn’t have to! How DARE anyone make the world’s biodiversity a commodity to be lessened at the whim of some private owner?! It belongs to us all and no one has a “right” to diminish it!

  419. Barton Paul Levenson:

    TokyoTom writes:

    But spare me the slave economy argument, not only because slavery is hardly something libertarians would find at all morally justifiable, but because it`s unrelated from my point – and, I think, Gavin`s – which is not that there is an ideal form of ownership/management, but simply that, where resources are unowned or unmanaged, they tend to get trashed.

    Slavery was brought up because of the idiotic contention posted that owning something means you take good care of it. And, BTW, some Libertarian philosophers have touted “voluntary slavery” as a solution to unemployment. You see, you have a property right in yourself, so you also have the right to sell it.

  420. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Craig writes:

    Unless you plan on suspending democracy, and installing an environmentally friendly Ceasar, I expect the wisdom of the mob, which favors short term self interest, to prevail.

    Caesar. I agree. The bad guys are going to win this one. But let’s go down fighting.

  421. ziusudra:

    Hi Gavin : your analysis applies to renewable bioresources in general.
    As with all of them, everybody agrees, except those concerned. Take whale killing, tree logging, biofuel production etc. Those with an economic self-interest go against the mainstream and so cancel the common effort.
    There are plenty of bloggers that deny climatic change, create confusion with false data and say we have global cooling. The tactic comes from the GOP field and it aims at denying our responsibility for a responsible exploitation and sustainable econonomy. It is difficult to find articles that don’t spread disinformation on purpose or that just make empty statements.
    To bring about change we need a worldwide consensus regarding the actions to take to preserve natural resources, then go to the UN, because this is the only organisation with power to impose measures. NGO’s are just there to prevent the worst, no power for a system change.

  422. Kevin McKinney:

    James, I enjoy your posts, as they are generally well-written and thought-provoking; however, I feel compelled to point out that not one of the posts you list as advocating 100% wind power actually does so, and indeed several of them explicitly advocate a mix of renewables. (Secular’s #367 comes closest, where he states that there is enough potential wind capacity to supply 100% of current demand, but he doesn’t say that that would be a practical solution, and he does specifically call for a mix of generation types: “When energy storage is added to an integrated, regional renewables-based system, the problem of intermittency basically goes away.”) (My italics.)

    OK, you qualify it with “to the same extent that I’ve ever said that wind CAN’T play a role in a diversified portfolio of energy sources.” But if others misrepresent or misunderstand you, please clarify what you said, or meant. Please don’t spread confusion about what others wrote.

  423. Kevin McKinney:

    “The bad guys are going to win this one.”

    The hell they are. (Pun intentional.)

  424. Nick Gotts:

    “where resources are unowned or unmanaged, they tend to get trashed.” – TokyoTom

    Can you show me where anyone in this discussion has asserted otherwise?

    “thanks for bring us back the tragedy of the unmanaged/government commons” – TokyoTom

    The coupling of “unmanaged” and “government” here is unjustified, since governments have sometimes (e.g. the USA’s national park system) done a good job in conservation of resources they own.

    “markets do allow people and groups with differing preferences to make deals regarding ownership and management.” – TokyoTom

    Markets have their place, but they give individuals and corporations influence in proportion to their wealth – thus in practice, giving only corporations and very rich individuals any influence at all. This is why “libertarians” love them so much. “Propertarians” would be a far more accurate term for their views.

    “How DARE anyone make the world’s biodiversity a commodity to be lessened at the whim of some private owner?! It belongs to us all and no one has a “right” to diminish it!” – BPL

    Well said! Biodiversity, like the atmosphere and oceans, is part of the “global commons”, to be preserved in the interests of all, and of future generations. I get the distinct impression that the likes of Rene would a thousand times rather the whole biosphere collapses than that the sacred rights of private property be infringed.

  425. Nick Gotts:

    #422 – an inaccuracy I have fallen into through the influence of “libertarian” rhetoric: governments of course do not own property – states do. If the government owned property, it would in democratic states take the property with it when voted out.

  426. FurryCatHerder:

    Jim @ 400:

    If you can turn the air conditioner off then, why not just not buy an air conditioner? That action might actually amount to something.

    But I would be the last to say that we should sit around in discomfort. The whole thing about energy is to make our lives better, not to find ways to inconvenience ourselves.

    Why not adapt to ways to air condition our houses efficiently. One way would be to revert to absorption chillers that actually use heat to cool a room. This fits into the cogeneration scheme based on small engine-generators in efficient automobiles shown at the Miastrada site.

    If you looked at a daily load profile and understood what “Peak” versus “Base” is all about, this would be a pretty trivial matter.

    Thermal load — giant ball of fire in the sky — does not match peak power demand. This is actually one of the “solar power” problems I did a bit of invention in. The daily high temperature is skewed a few hours from solar noon. Real simple — sun is still high enough that heating continues into the afternoon. The maximum dwelling temperature is then skewed from that, based on the amount of time it takes for the heat outside a dwelling to make it inside. This means that peak A/C demand is skewed quite a bit from solar noon, which tends to be the center of the demand curve for commercial / industrial uses — 8AM to 5PM being such a common set of working hours.

    A later post:

    I am puzzled why they would do this for only ten minutes. Truly, it would not matter that much to people’s comfort. But then, it would not help the utility loading very much either, since when the air conditioners were allowed to come back on, they would indeed come back on, all of them, as their thermostats called for cooling and all the air conditioners would labor to catch up.

    As I said in the other thread, your are ignorant of how the grid works. There are reserves that must respond within 15 minutes of being called for. Ten minutes gives the transient time to work itself out, or those other resources to be called into service.

    Your ignorance is not nearly as total, however, as RichardC’s is in #414 –

    407 Jim, good points. The utility company is dancing on the edge of grid failure. They want to keep production *EXACTLY* equal to consumption + 1 watt. They don’t turn off all the AC units, just enough to keep the grid from crashing. It’s kind of like a rolling brown-out. They need *time* to bring resources online to handle the increased demand. If it takes a couple hours to bring a unit online, by switching off various units for 10 minutes each they can buy enough time to do the job. I’m not an expert on this, merely a customer who got reduced rates for participating, but the theory works in practice.

    That’s nothing at all like “dancing on the edge of grid failure”. The electric grid MUST, at all times, be operated in complete balance between supply and demand. It’s that balance that, among other things, keeps voltage and frequency where they belong.

    The “secret” of renewable energy — especially taking storage into consideration to handle intermittency — is that it isn’t generated like those other forms: using giant machines that have huge gobs of inertia to handle. Solar and wind AC output can be “turned up” or “turned down” on a dime. If I get up right now, walk to the bathroom and turn on the 1,500 watt space heater sitting in there, I don’t have to wait 15 minutes for the generators to get brought on-line. The electricity is there immediately. And that’s a pretty huge advantage over those coal and natural gas plants that can’t do that …

  427. Kevin McKinney:

    Jim Bullis, your data for May 11 is illustrative, though probably a bit of a statistical outlier.

    For locations of these farms, see:

    http://www.canwea.ca/farms/wind-farms_e.php

    (You can zoom in on Ontario and click on individual sites.)

    According to one analysis I found (and subsequently lost, unfortunately), you need greater than 400 km dispersion to avoid the worst effects of intermittency. Ontario probably isn’t there yet; the Prince Wind Farm is more than that distance from almost all the other sites, but most of the wind sites can be circumscribed within a 400-km diameter circle. (And Prince’s output was pretty low on the 11th, regardless of the theory.)

    Of course, this gets us back to the problems of the transmission grid, as well as the desirability (indeed, the necessity) of a mix of renewables. Ontario is helped a bit on the second count by possession of good hydro resources.

  428. Mike G:

    Jim, at least in Rene’s earlier posts you quoted, I think you’re reading what you want to see rather than what’s necessarily there. I read exactly the same excerpts and see comments generally in line with mainstream management practice. No, I don’t agree 100% with every comment, especially many made after my first post (as I said before, North American forests are not a good example of an unmanaged commons), but I also don’t see a claim that privatization is a panacea, which seems to be the central point of contention for a large part of the criticism against Rene. Numerous posters have presented examples of private ownership destroying resources or cases where it’s simply impractical as evidence that it is not a valid management approach in any case.

    As for bison, go back and look at how they were managed. Their collapse came when they were an unowned, shared resource. Anyone with a gun could go out to the plains and shoot as many as they wanted and get paid by the railroads and then sell the hides to tanneries. They had no investment in the resource, so almost no incentive to protect it rather than try to out-hunt their competitors. That’s about the best example of a tragedy of the commons as you’ll find.

    The bison didn’t just miraculously recover on their own from the refuge of Yellowstone. They came back because of private ranching. Almost 95% of the bison population today is still privately owned. Ted Turner’s herd alone is about 2 and a half times the size of the entire wild population. Of that wild population, only 5 existing herds aren’t descended from privately held stock. Even a large part of the current Yellowstone population is descended from ranched animals- not the other way around.

    Mark (354), what exactly are you trying to argue? Regulations are only as good as their enforcement? Well, yeah that’s obvious.

    In the case of bison, fences and brands mark your property rights and the police and government enforce the penalties for violations. In Africa, the tribesmen that own the rhinos and elephants act as armed guards, again with the government providing the penalties to captured poachers if the guards don’t shoot them on site. There are similar situations in many parts of the Pacific with reef fisheries, where poachers are subject to tribal sanctions, government prosecution, or even death- enforceable by the property owners and/or tribal leadership.

    Sure, there are also plenty of cases when self-enforcement by owners won’t work (e.g. large, industrial fishing operations working offshore of poor, isolated areas) but those are the same cases where ownership is not an appropriate management strategy to begin with.

    Dhogaza (371)- I also have real-world, on-the-ground (or under-the-water) experience, so it seems pretty silly to me that you continue to insist that Rene is completely wrong and that ownership cannot work as a management strategy when there are numerous examples (some of which I listed earlier) where it has. The key, as with any management strategy, is that is to apply it only to appropriate cases. I don’t know of any climate or forestry related books on the topic since that’s not what I work on, but Reef Fisheries edited by Polunin and Roberts has several chapters which discuss real-world examples of tragedies of the commons and management solutions on coral reefs. It’s not light reading, but you might learn something from it instead of insisting that ownership of common resources is failed ideology.

  429. Jim Galasyn:

    Then there are those who turn their backs on the rules:

    Turkey ignores bluefin tuna quotas, further imperiling critically-endangered species

    A few weeks into the bluefin tuna fishing season and Turkey has decided to go it alone. Breaking international agreements, the Turkish government has announced that it will ignore agreed-upon bluefin tuna quotas. The news is not good for the survival of the critically-endangered fish species, since Turkey operates the largest Mediterranean fleet for bluefin tuna.

    “Ignoring quota limits means that Turkey will simply bring an end to the bluefin tuna business even faster and once and for all, through the commercial extinction of the species,” said Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean Oceans Campaigner, in Turkey. …

  430. Hank Roberts:

    Thus the need for Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and Captain Nemo.

  431. truth:

    Secular animist [367]
    Many of the renewables claims that come out of Germany are not exactly as they seem—the most concrete thing they contribute being the sale of wind turbines to the rest of the world.
    Meanwhile, renewables still p;rovide only a very small part of their energy need, and their own energy security without coal and nuclear is very uncertain.

    http://ensec.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=153:germanysenergyinsecurity&catid=81:europe&Itemid=324
    They import 75% of their energy needs, and most of it is fossil fuel and nuclear.

    http://www.tepu.org.tw/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/gu.ppt#4
    Most of Europe is planning to increase nuclear generation—and Germany is reconsidering its phase-out plan for nuclear power.
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,605957,00.html

    The success of the climate change ‘consensus’ movement is pushing the world towards ever-burgeoning nuclear proliferation, with the alarmism convincing governments that it’s the only way to bridge the gap to the distant prospect of energy security via renewables.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/05/sweden-nuclear-power

  432. truth:

    Dhogaza[87]
    The Manhattan Project was in the face of a certain threat.
    The impacts and social engineering being asked of us now are against a threat that may or may not be real—we’re not allowed to know, because we’re not allowed to question the ‘consensus’, and dissenting scientists are deprived of data and information on methodologies that might help to clarify matters.
    Meanwhile we’re asked to submit to a complete upheaval of our energy industries, with no new system ready to fill the gaps—– causing very large economic impacts and dislocation in the Western democracies, while China, India et al are to be allowed to leap-frog over us simply because they have the lever of huge and unsustainable populations, and massive poverty generated by the heinous [ and in the case of China, murderous] actions of past and present Feudal and Communist regimes.
    We can and should have sympathy for their downtrodden populations, but that doesn’t mean we should have to subvert and diminish the countries that honoured human rights, and gave their populations freedom.

  433. TokyoTom:

    #424 “Markets have their place, but they give individuals and corporations influence in proportion to their wealth – thus in practice, giving only corporations and very rich individuals any influence at all. This is why “libertarians” love them so much. “Propertarians” would be a far more accurate term for their views.”

    Well said, but with more bark than bite. Consumer preferences on green issues – expressed by individual purchases and by group action – have done a great job of influencing markets and products provided, and there is ample room for more.

    See Walmart working with fishermen and a sustainability certification group re: Copper River salmon:
    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/12/09/save-wild-fisheries-buy-your-certified-sustainable-salmon-from-walmart.aspx

    What we desperately need right now re: bluefin and other fisheries are consumer boycotts and demands for sustainability labelling.

  434. SecularAnimist:

    Asked by commenter CTG to give examples of “anyone saying that wind can or should provide 100% of electricity generation”, James (in comment #411) cites two of my comments as examples:

    250: SecularAnimist, 10 May 2009 at 11:43
    367: SecularAnimist, 12 May 2009 at 10:42

    In comment #250, I said nothing whatsoever about wind providing any particular percentage of electricity generation. Rather, I addressed the question of the variability of renewable energy sources, referring to Stanford University’s press release about the Mark Jacobson study of the impacts of various alternative energy sources:

    “… [Jacobson's] research group has already shown in previous research that by properly coordinating the energy output from wind farms in different locations, the potential problem with variability can be overcome and a steady supply of baseline power delivered to users.”

    I added my own comment that “studies in Germany and the USA have found that a diversified regional portfolio of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, geothermal, biomass — can produce 24×7 baseload power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear.”

    In the second comment that James cites, I gave an example of one such study, the Combined Power Plant project in Germany, and again quoted the Jacobson report addressing the issue of variability of renewables.

    In both of those comments, I wrote about the issue of the variability of renewables, and how that problem can be mitigated or entirely overcome by integrating a diverse regional portfolio of renewable energy sources to provide reliable baseload generation.

    In neither comment did I say anything whatsoever about wind providing 100 percent — or any percent — of electricity generation.

    So, James is very plainly claiming that I said things in those comments that I did not say.

    In other comments, on this thread and others, I have indeed mentioned data from the American Wind Energy Association, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, showing that the gross, commercially-exploitable onshore and offshore wind energy resources of the USA exceed the total electricity consumption of the entire country.

    I cite this data not to assert or argue that the USA can or should have a 100 percent wind-powered grid, but simply to show the potential of renewable energy to meet our needs, if we harvest even a portion of the available wind, solar and geothermal energy resources at our disposal.

  435. SecularAnimist:

    truth wrote: “… against a threat that may or may not be real—we’re not allowed to know, because we’re not allowed to question the ‘consensus’, and dissenting scientists are deprived of data and information on methodologies that might help to clarify matters.”

    With all due respect, that is the most blatantly dishonest rubbish I have ever read on any subject, and you should be ashamed of yourself for posting it.

  436. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “… their outright rejection, on quasi-religious grounds, of a proven technology with known costs and minimal environmental impact.”

    With all due respect, the “quasi-religious grounds” rhetoric is nothing but a boilerplate ad hominem that is routinely deployed by proponents of nuclear power when they are unable or unwilling to substantively address the very real problems of nuclear power. Indeed it barely rises to the level of an ad hominem, being little more than name-calling.

  437. dhogaza:

    Wouldn`t they have an ability to sue landowners for messing up streams, and to make deals with then to enhance and maintain habitat?

    Not likely, it would be impossible to prove that logging one particular plot of land hurt one particular fisherman’s fish. Similar to the problem cigarette smokers have in proving that their individual case of cancer is due to smoking a manufacturer’s cigarettes.

    Also, even if you could win the suit, it would not resurrect the destroyed habitat and fishery. This is one huge problem with the libertarian point of view – that suing for damages after destruction is better than preventing it in the first place.

  438. dhogaza:

    I also have real-world, on-the-ground (or under-the-water) experience, so it seems pretty silly to me that you continue to insist that Rene is completely wrong and that ownership cannot work as a management strategy when there are numerous examples (some of which I listed earlier) where it has.

    But Rene isn’t talking about incorporating private ownership as part of a management strategy, but rather selling off the resources and getting rid of any collective from-above management strategy altogether, from forbidding government managers from setting goals (for instance, sustainability) at all.

    When these schemes work it is typically due to some sort of collective mechanism above and beyond the whim of the individual owner of a fishery or other stock.

    We have exceptions where individual owners put long-term sustainabiliity and non-economic values as a priority (I mentioned Gilchrist lumber here in Oregon as an example).

    But these are notable precisely because they’re *exceptions*.

  439. TokyoTom:

    #429 Jim, people turn their backs on the rules because the rules create incentives for destruction and no incentives for compliance.

    See what Defying Ocean’s End (cofounded by Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Ocean Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, The World Conservation Union, and World Wildlife Fund) says about protecting fish:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/01/14/for-crashing-fisheries-coalition-of-mainline-us-enviro-groups-calls-for-property-rights.aspx

    These crazy, dedicated cionservation groups are all pushing for poerty rights approaches to end the tragedy of this government-mis-managed commons.

    [this is a short repost as it seems my initial post has been lost]

  440. Mark:

    Son of Mulder, sorry, truth thinks:

    “we’re not allowed to know, because we’re not allowed to question the ‘consensus’”

    Not if you don’t know what the consensus or how to test it arrives.

    Do you complain you don’t have the right to question the consensus that engineers use to determine stress loads of their constructions?

    No.

    Because you let engineers work that out.

    Do you complain about geologists consensus that dinosaurs died out ~65million years ago or do you let geologists work that one out?

    etc.

    You can question with your MP whether the actions they wish to undertake are going to work of have a more seriously deleterious effect. Because you may be able to know what you’re saying there.

    You don’t in science.

  441. Mark:

    re 428: “As for bison, go back and look at how they were managed. Their collapse came when they were an unowned, shared resource. ”

    Please show that they would have survived if they’d been owned.

    E.g. start by saying who would have owned them. Amerindians? Well, they owned the land. Didn’t mean they kept it.

  442. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #426

    Hi Furry,

    Here is old ignernt Jim again, trying to make a pest of himself.

    If I am using that ‘paste’ thing right, you say, “Solar and wind AC output can be “turned up” or “turned down” on a dime. If I get up right now, walk to the bathroom and turn on the 1,500 watt space heater sitting in there, I don’t have to wait 15 minutes for the generators to get brought on-line. The electricity is there immediately. And that’s a pretty huge advantage over those coal and natural gas plants that can’t do that …”

    Actually there might be something worth talking about here. Thanks for the illustration.

    I think you will find that your solar array is putting out all it can whether you turn on the space heater or not. I hope so. Thus, when you are not running the space heater, you are selling the power back to the utility. That is the way they tell me it works around here.

    Think of this as a stable state of the system.

    Now, you come along and turn on the space heater. Your solar array has no way of changing its output since it is already running full on. So out there something has to happen when you draw the extra 12 amps, assuming a 120 volt heater.

    The incremental increase is barely noticed at the generator stations already on line, but ever so slightly the voltage drops due to the system impedance. This is quickly counteracted by a control system that adjusts the field in the generator. Though slowed down by the inertia of the machine, a slight phase error will begin to grow. The control system will sense that, and increase the fuel to whatever heat engine is involved. The slight phase error will then be corrected. No one will notice a frequency shift.

    Notice, that the response turned out to be more fuel use.

    At first this would probably a natural gas peaking plant, that would be the most sensitive to the added load. But then a lot of other people get cold and gradually the load grows. Fairly soon, this will be noticed since the dollar meter starts to run faster for expensive natural gas flowing into that relatively inefficient peaking generator. Probably a computer will determine where and how much, but somewhere a larger generator will be caused to increase output voltage, ever so slightly, and it will begin contributing more to the current drain. More than likely that computer will have picked from coal fired generator stations, since the power company is supposed to not waste money. I am ignoring how planning would anticipate some of this process.

    Wind will be working whether or not you use the space heater. And both your solar panels and the wind turbines will lessen the fossil fuel needed. But like the solar operation, the wind turbines will be fully used in the initial state conditions. That is, before you turn on the heater.

    So even though you might think that space heater is running off your solar array, the actual source of energy responding will probably turn out to be coal. Power production from solar and wind systems can not “turn on a dime” since they are already turned hard on.

    Sometimes things are not as they seem. Hopefully I haven’t made too much of a pest of myself with the details. I skipped all that stuff about inefficiencies of central power plants.

    The story about your space heater applies to plug-in cars, only now the impact could be much more serious.

  443. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (13 May 2009 at 10:35)

    “So, James is very plainly claiming that I said things in those comments that I did not say.”

    Just as you & others have claimed I say things I do not say. If you get to apply your selective reading to what I write, why shouldn’t I return the favor? Tit for tat :-)

    SecularAnimist Says (13 May 2009 at 10:43):

    “With all due respect, the “quasi-religious grounds” rhetoric is nothing but a boilerplate ad hominem…”

    No. Of course I can’t read your mind, but the external evidence of your writings leads me to conclude that your position must be based on something other than fact, because you manage to completely ignore anything that conflicts with your beliefs. Consider as an example the Jacobsen paper that you frequently bring up. I’ve pointed out (most recently in post #318) a number of serious flaws in his analysis WRT nuclear power, including one – the implication that civilian nuclear power always preceeds nuclear weaponry – that is so blatantly at odds with known history that I can only suppose it to be a deliberate lie. You completely ignore these flaws, and continue citing Jacobsen as though your copy is graven on stone tablets. What other explanation is there?

  444. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (13 May 2009 at 7:44):

    “The electric grid MUST, at all times, be operated in complete balance between supply and demand. It’s that balance that, among other things, keeps voltage and frequency where they belong.”

    I’d qualify that a bit, because there is a good bit of “inertia” in the grid, both the mechanical inertia of all those rotating generators, and the electrical equivalent of inductance/capacitance. So what happens is that you get ongoing small variations in the voltage as loads are added to and removed from the grid. If more load is added than can be handled, you get drastic voltage drops – brownouts – and parts of the grid can lose frequency synchronization and fall apart (electrically, of course), and you have blackouts.

    “Solar and wind AC output can be “turned up” or “turned down” on a dime. If I get up right now, walk to the bathroom and turn on the 1,500 watt space heater sitting in there, I don’t have to wait 15 minutes for the generators to get brought on-line. The electricity is there immediately.”

    I think you’ve got it just backwards. The inertia is critical to allowing the grid to operate. In your example, where’s the power going before you turn on your space heater? After you turn it on, what happens if a cloud passes over, and your solar panels suddenly generate less than 1500 watts?

  445. Wilmot McCutchen:

    FurryCatHerder #426 — Great post. You bring up the important consideration of dispatchability and grid reliability. And you also bring a little realism to temper the furious discussion of “renewables” — which is a term that should be abandoned.

    Wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, hydro, and biofuels are all classed under the rubric of “renewables” but they have very different important characteristics. Biofuels (such as methane from anaerobic digesters, biochar, and ethanol) should not be lumped in with wind and solar because they produce CO2 on combustion. They are not zero carbon sources, no matter what they pretend. Hydro and geothermal are zero carbon sources and are also steady sources for baseload power, and should not be lumped in with wind and solar, which are intermittent. Wind and solar are very valuable zero carbon sources and should be rapidly deployed while we search for a storage solution.

    An example of fruitless quibbling over the use of the term “renewables” can be found above in the discussion of NX power generation. I agree with James #411 that we need to break out separate classes from the vague term “renewables.”

    Dealing with wind and solar on their own merits, without invoking the benefits of “renewables” such as biofuels, hydro and geothermal, will be a necessary condition for intelligent and civil discussion. Thanks for clearing up some common confusion.

  446. Ike Solem:

    TomT says: “where resources are unowned or unmanaged, they tend to get trashed.”

    What’s the difference between trashing a resource and exploiting a resource?

    For example, trees. If you harvest at a rate that allows trees to regrow, and you leave big ones standing (for seeds, biodiversity, etc.), then you are exploiting the resource. If your logging company gets subjected to a hostile takeover on Wall Street and the new management is bent on asset liquidation, clear-cutting ensues and the resource is trashed within ten years – but the owners just walk away with a pile of money. How did ownership protect anything?

    On the other hand, if state laws mandate that logging on privately owned lands not exceed a sustainable rate, and that the ‘public interest’ of watershed protection takes precedence over the ‘private interest’ of selling off all the trees on one’s land to a sawmill – well, then you get Wall Street screaming about communism and the betrayal of the free market.

    However, if you then go to Wall Street and ask pointed questions about the ‘natural monopolies’ of electricity generation in the U.S., and why it is that only a few giant corporations are allowed access to the electricity market (based on Marxist economic arguments), and also about the cartel-based opposition to competition from renewable energy sources – well, they suddenly don’t want to talk about free-market theory at all, do they? Keep in mind that at least 50% of underwriting on Wall Street has been in diversified deals involving electricity generation & fossil fuels, historically speaking.

    Ignoring the free-market and state-run ideologues is a critical first step in trying to understand how Easter Islanders might have been able to maintain the natural biological diversity and abundance which they encountered, while also enjoying a decent quality of life.

    Take it from Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations:
    “The produce of land, mines, and fisheries, when their natural fertility is equal, is in proportion to the extent and proper application of the capitals employed about them. When the capitals are equal and equally well applied, it is in proportion to their natural fertility.”

    Here Adam Smith states the fundamental point again: given ecological stability, you have the potential for productive and sustainable economic activity. A fishery has a long-term productivity – at the physical level, sunlight is the energy source at the base of the food chain that supports fisheries – as well as agriculture. A mine that follows a rich ore deposit, on the other hand, eventually becomes exhausted. Thus, in Adam Smith’s time, iron was more valuable than fish on an equal weight basis.

    Today, gasoline is cheaper than milk. Odd, isn’t it? How did we come up with an economic system that sets the value of exhaustible resources lower than that of resources that are indefinitely sustainable?

    In the case of fossil fuels, it seems that the sheer abundance – ‘oceans of oil’ gave the illusion of an indefinitely sustainable resource. However, the decade-scale writing is on the wall – light crude oils that are cheap to process are at maximum production and will soon become scarce (though a century’s worth of dirty tar sand, shale oil and sour crudes remain to be mined).

    Did the early Easter Islanders see their island with its trees and imagine a similar future of abundance? What if they had developed a culture of tree worship, instead of ancestor worship – as did the Druidic sects of ancient Britain? In the case of Easter Island, it might very well be that social mistakes were the real problem.

    However, if the climate had drastically changed, such that all the trees died, no amount of economic maneuvering could have altered the eventual outcome. In that respect, Easter Island is a poor analogy for the current warming.

    By the way, living organisms have faced the problem of resource limitation for billions of years, and have solved it by recycling and scavenging trace elements using elaborate biochemical strategies that operate at very high specificity – but also by developing alternatives, new proteins, etc. as the global atmosphere gradually shifted towards an oxygen-rich state.

    Within 100 years, as current trends continue, most accessible ore deposits will be largely mined out, and you will see human industrial activity looking a lot more like biological activity – heavy reliance on carbon as a building block, with conversion of sunlight to stored chemical/electrical energy being the basis of industrial activity. The sooner we do this, the better.

  447. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Barton Paul Levenson #350 — You offer hydrogen as a storage solution for excess wind power, to be used for fuel cells in cars. Cracking water for H2 (and O2 for oxyfuel combustion) would certainly be good, but the H2 storage issue remains unsolved, and fuel cell cars face what appear to be insuperable technical obstacles, detailed by Joe Romm’s book “The Hype About Hydrogen”. Recently DOE decided to cut research in hydrogen cars, another Bush dry hole.

    So how else could that H2 be used, if not in fuel cell cars? By combining it with carbon monoxide to make synfuel, diesel which can be vehicle fuel. And where do we get the carbon monoxide (other than by biomass or coal gasification) — by cracking CO2. Se while deploying wind and solar in excess of 20% there can always be a use for their excess power in cracking coal emissions to make synfuel.

  448. Doug Bostrom:

    #411 James:

    Just a small comment. It turns out pumped hydro is remarkably efficient, something like 85% overall for modern systems. Thinking it through however you’ll realize that efficency does really enter into the equation, or at least not long term. Since the energy going into pumped hydro from windo or PV is purely renewable, we largely pay only once for the loss of efficiency, by initial upsizing of the associated generation plant.

    Anyway, pumped hydro is alrady used in conjunction with the anchronistic combustion thermal system, so looks as though it already has the Industry Seal of Approval. Note that in the case of combustion thermal plants we have to pay for extraction and cleanup of energy inputs, making that 15% loss of efficiency a significant factor

    Parenthetically if we’re going to obsess about efficiency we might better look to improvement by upsizing our grid thus lowering resistance losses which are quite high when the system is running at or near capacity.

  449. KevinB:

    The problem with the analogy is that fish stocks are actually increasing. This site is more about global cooling denial than science. The facts are clear. Global surface temps have been falling for years. Ocean heat content is declining. Sea ice is at all- time highs. Glaciers are expanding. Sea level rise has stopped. Will you guys at least acknowledge these scientific facts? Your models predicted none of this, yet you can tell me to reduce my catch when stocks are up for 10+ years?

    [Response: Every single statement here is wrong. And if you think that fisheries are in good shape, you are seriously deluded. - gavin]

  450. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Often it is the words we use that limit understanding of a problem. We use “ownership” as if it were clearly defined and applicable to the atmosphere. Economic modeling must stumble if “ownership” is misused or misunderstood.

    Property is defined as the right to exclude others from use. So we can own airspace above the ground we own, and property rights in that airspace are enforceable by legal action — for example, to prevent adjacent property owners from building into it. But we don’t own the atmosphere that passes through that airspace, and we can’t exclude airplanes from flying above us. So a coal plant does not own any atmosphere at all, and it has no legally enforceable right to pollute — unless Waxman-Markey passes. Cap-and-trade is an attempt to create property rights in the atmosphere, and thereby to moot the jusrisdiction of the EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act to prevent pollution by CO2 emissions.

    Nuisance is another legal term, which should be more applicable than property or ownership to the climate change problem. When you create a condition on your property which interferes with the enjoyment of other property owners, there is a remedy at law to interfere with your ownership to abate the nuisance.

    Another legal concept to bear in mind is the trust. A trust imposes an obligation on a fiduciary, known as the trustee, to manage the trust property for the benefit of some other, called a beneficiary. When the fiduciary diverts the benefit to himself, that is called embezzlement, or breach of fiduciary duty.

    You can see how this applies to corporate governance, CEO compensation, and to the management of the atmosphere. “Free enterprise” as an excuse for self-enrichment by fiduciaries has never been tolerated.

    A “free market” in pollution allowances should not be tolerated either. The beneficiaries are the public who will be affected by CO2 emissions. The polluters are the trustees both with respect to their shareholders and to the public which permits the creation of the corporate fiction.

    So here’s an idea for discussion: strictly enforced fees for CO2 emissions, with no grandfathering, no indulgences, no offsets for tree planting, etc. — just a straight fine for each ton of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. But isntead of paying that fine in money, pay it in stock of the emitter. The public, i.e. the beneficiaries of the atmosphere trust, thereby gradually takes control of the trustee, i.e. the emitter, unless the emitter can come up with a solution to CO2 emissions.

  451. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    If you really want to see how the “Commons” of public sentiment supporting “green” efforts is getting abused, see:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/05/better-place/#more-6104

    Does anyone think when the false hope of this scheme is exposed, there will be much fertile ground of public patience left.

  452. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “I’ve pointed out (most recently in post #318) a number of serious flaws in [Jacobson's] analysis WRT nuclear power, including one – the implication that civilian nuclear power always preceeds nuclear weaponry – that is so blatantly at odds with known history that I can only suppose it to be a deliberate lie.”

    I wouldn’t say that you have “pointed out a number of serious flaws”.

    I would say that you have simply dismissed and waved away the very real problems with nuclear power that Jacobson’s study discussed.

    Nor is Jacobson the only one to discuss these problems — others, including advocates of expanding nuclear power, have recognized that these problems represent real obstacles to any expansion of nuclear.

    Specifically regarding the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation, Jacobson wrote:

    Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear exchange between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide … Among the 42 countries with fissionable material, 22 have facilities as part of their civilian nuclear energy program, either to produce highly-enriched uranium or to separate plutonium, and facilities in 13 countries are active. Thus, the ability of states to produce nuclear weapons today follows directly from their ability to produce nuclear power.

    Just as you have “creatively” interpreted my comments to assert that I claimed the USA could or should have a 100 percent wind-powered grid when I said no such thing, in your comment #318 you say that Jacobson claims that “civilian nuclear power always precedes nuclear weaponry” when he in fact did not say that.

    To refute the assertion that you attribute to Jacobson (which is not what he actually said), you cited North Korea & Iran, as well as the USA, USSR and “possibly” Britain, France & China as countries which “developed nuclear weapons prior to a civilian power program.”

    First of all, Jacobson is talking about the present day — note the use of present tense in the excerpt above. What the USA, the USSR, China and other countries did at the dawn of the nuclear era some 50-60 years ago is not relevant.

    That leaves your examples of North Korea and Iran. In fact, North Korea’s first nuclear reactors in the 1980s were represented as being for civilian energy generation. And as is well known, Iran to this day maintains that its nuclear program is entirely for civilian energy generation.

    Indeed, the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program strongly underscores Jacobson’s actual point that the “risk” of nuclear weapons use “has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide”. The problem with Iran’s nuclear program is precisely that the technologies that Iran is developing, which have legitimate application to civilian nuclear power, are essentially indistinguishable from the technologies needed to develop weapons.

    That’s why, even with international monitoring, there remains uncertainty and ambiguity about what Iran is really up to. Which is exactly the problem that Jacobson is talking about: that the proliferation of nuclear power technology makes it easier for nations that so desire to develop nuclear weapons technology under the guise of a civilian nuclear power program.

    And again, Jacobson is certainly not the only analyst to identify the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation as a serious obstacle to expanding nuclear power.

    For example, a 2003 MIT study entitled “The Future Of Nuclear Power” — which advocated a large-scale expansion of nuclear power — said this:

    “Nuclear power entails potential security risks, notably the possible misuse of commercial or associated nuclear facilities and operations to acquire technology or materials as a precursor to the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability … The current international safeguards regime is inadequate to meet the security challenges of the expanded nuclear deployment contemplated in the global growth scenario … Nuclear power should not expand unless the risk of proliferation from operation of the commercial nuclear fuel cycle is made acceptably small.”

    Likewise, the MIT study identified some of the same issues that Jacobson’s study noted as obstacles to any expansion of nuclear power, including the safety and cost of nuclear power plants and the unsolved problem of nuclear waste.

    Serious advocates of nuclear power, like the authors of the MIT study, recognize the reality of these problems, and make proposals for addressing them. Unserious nuclear “enthusiasts” simply pretend these problems don’t exist or are trivial (compared to the supposed “vast environmental destruction” that renewables will cause).

    Finally, as I have said before, my opposition to the expansion of nuclear is neither “religious” nor is it primarily because of these well-known, very real problems and risks of nuclear. It is simply because nuclear power is not, and cannot be, a timely and effective way to reduce GHG emissions from the generation of electricity. Renewables and efficiency can do the job faster, better, cheaper and without the very serious problems of nuclear power.

  453. Doug Bostrom:

    #449 KevinB: Relax, Gavin. He’s obviously pulling your leg, heh! If KevinB were so ignorant, gullible and stupid as to have made that post in good faith he’d not be able to put words together into sentences, let alone manage to find the Internet.

    Anyway, a fun article for JIR would be one explaining how the oceans are expanding even as they’re “cooling”. Perhaps the seafloor is rising? Or Earth is shrinking? KevinB, your sense of humor is needed at JIR!

  454. FurryCatHerder:

    In re Jim Bullis @ 442:

    No, all of the power I’m consuming inside my house is from solar, and that includes handling all transients of both supply and demand. It also includes the ability to respond instantly to significant load transients without voltage or frequency collapse. Or more plainly, I’m producing 2.5KW, consuming 0.3KW and storing the rest.

    The difference between non-rotating mass based generation and rotating mass based generation is the ability to respond very, very rapidly. You can see this on a small scale with small emergency standby generators — gasoline models you buy in a hardware store, for example — compared to the inverters used for off-grid generation or large solar farms. The lag time between changes in throttle settings on those rotating mass generators causes both frequency and voltage sags last many dozens to hundreds of cycles. At the grid scale, when demand rapidly outstrips generation, the same thing happens — rotational energy is converted to electrical energy, frequency declines, and voltage may (or may not …) collapses. It’s just the physics of power generation — not a lot you can do about turbine-based power.

    For digitally controlled inverters, response is measured in fractions of cycles to a handful or so of cycles. Frequency collapse doesn’t occur, and typically voltage collapse is tied more to inrush current and I*R voltage drop than the inability of the inverter to handle the load as there is no “inertia” to overcome, though for pumped air or water, there is obviously going to be some inertia to deal with, but that can be addressed mechanically in ways that rotating mass generators can’t.

    Rotating mass and high thermal inertia generation is SO 19th century.

  455. Lawrence Brown:

    Re #449: “……… Ocean heat content is declining. Sea ice is at all- time highs. Glaciers are expanding. Sea level rise has stopped………”

    Where is all this happening,Neptune, Uranus? What planet is this? It sure isn’t here on Earth!

  456. KevinB:

    Gavin,

    I have no idea about the state of the fisheries, I was talking about the analogy. I would say it like this. Fishing stocks go up and down over time. They were dropping fast 10 years ago, but since then they have been recovering nicely even though though amount of fish taken continues to rise every year. Is this now the time to take drastic action? Either we do not understand fisheries or the problem does not exist. The last 10 years of data say that the fishing stock is in a growing trend. I am not cherry picking a 1998 start date. Temperatures have been in a down trend for at least 7 years now. Are you denying this? By analogy fishing stocks are up. Now, I already know you are going to point to the GISS ship that makes manual catch measurements with huge errors and leaves out huge portions of the ocean. They even sample in “Ocean Fish Islands” were local measurements are distorted. Let me point you to a technology called satelites where fish are measured everywhere in an automatic way with much smaller errors. They all keep finding more fish every year. If you don’t believe that satelite technology works, I would take that up with NASA.

  457. FurryCatHerder:

    Jim Bullis writes in 451:

    If you really want to see how the “Commons” of public sentiment supporting “green” efforts is getting abused, see:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/05/better-place/#more-6104

    Does anyone think when the false hope of this scheme is exposed, there will be much fertile ground of public patience left.

    I’m not seeing any “false hope”. I already go hunting for electrical outlets when I take my electric bike out for a long ride. I’d LOVE to see charging stations strewn around Austin. I make it a point to keep a mental list of places I can mooch electricity if the need arrives.

    Battery swapping is no more far-fetched than any form of rental. People rent cars, no? Why not “rent” car batteries? And people lease cars, so why not “lease” car batteries?

    You know, for someone advancing a radical idea — that a vehicle with a low-slung drive mechanics and aerodynamic passenger cockpit mounted well above the roadway can be energy efficient — to be so completely attacking not-so-radical ideas is really weird for me. How about you put a cork in the complaining about other peoples radical ideas until you get a manufacturer to start producing your radical idea? Wire frame models and unimplemented patents don’t impress me. Go build your car and come back and tell us how it works. And while you’re at it, spend a few years working on smart grid and green power technologies before telling people who’ve done that how it all works. Because I’ve been there, done that, and it does work. Very well, even.

  458. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Well, all I can say is I guesst we’ll need to reduce our GHG emissions by 80% by 2025, and even more by 2050. And for heaven’s sake, stop eating fish.

    Actually what we need more than the Waxman-Markey bill is the Van Hollen bill (Ways & Means) of “Cap & Dividend” (a very simple & quite sensible bill).

    Just take away all subsidies from oil and coal, put a fee (that grows over the years) on fossil fuels, give that fee back equally to everyone with a SSNumber. Maybe a small % to be given to the poorest of the poor in the world who are suffering from climate change-related harms.

    Maybe the rich will still live profligate energy/resource lives, but the rest of us will start thinking about turning off lights not in use, or turning off engines in drive-thrus. Or, even getting our electricity from Green Mountain 100% wind — which already IS cheaper than dirty electricity, at least in Texas. And, for sure, moving closer to work/shops on our next move.

    Then we’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, while those who haven’t quite figured out how to turn off their lights not in use (or stop the wattage vampires around their homes) pay thru the nose for the harm they are doing — that is, give the money back to us wise folk, who can invest it in electric cars and solar panels, etc.

  459. SecularAnimist:

    KevinB wrote: “Fishing stocks go up and down over time. They were dropping fast 10 years ago, but since then they have been recovering nicely …”

    That is just plain false.

    KevinB wrote: “… The last 10 years of data say that the fishing stock is in a growing trend.”

    That is just plain false.

    KevinB wrote: “Temperatures have been in a down trend for at least 7 years now.”

    That is just plain false.

    Do you have anything to contribute except blatant falsehoods?

  460. Jim Bouldin:

    “Let me point you to a technology called satelites where fish are measured everywhere in an automatic way with much smaller errors.

    Positively fascinating…tell more.

  461. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #454 Hi Furry,

    I clearly was incorrect in assuming you sold your surplus power back to the utility system. You might be getting cheated.

    But you do indeed control your source. But there must come a point when you could produce more power than you can store. Ok. And you can live confidently that you are not using coal.

    However, most of us are linked and most of our power is still generated in SO 19th century machines, and they have managed to live with physics all that time. Frequency has never declined, at least not where multiple machines are tied together. That would be a significant event since phase lock would have been lost; without intervention the currents would tend to get rather large. Even us 19th century folks worried about that. I might have misled by saying that the generator field strength would be varied to controlled the voltage. A higher priority loop would exist to vary the generator field to maintain rotor phase lock, and therefore, maintain nearly absolute frequency control.

    Observing gasoline standby generators could lead to incorrect imaginings about large power generating systems, SO 19th century that they are.

  462. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    This is a bit OT, but there’s been some discussion of biofuels. Here’s an abstract for a recent article in SCIENCE:

    “Greater Transportation Energy and GHG Offsets from Bioelectricity Than Ethanol”

    J. E. Campbell, D. B. Lobell, C. B. Field

    Published Online May 7, 2009
    Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1168885

    The quantity of land available to grow biofuel crops without impacting food prices or greenhouse gas emissions from land conversion is limited. Therefore, bioenergy should maximize land-use efficiency when addressing transportation and climate change goals. Biomass could power either internal combustion or electric vehicles, but the relative land-use efficiency of these two energy pathways is not well quantified. Here, we show that bioelectricity outperforms ethanol across a range of feedstocks, conversion technologies, and vehicle classes. Bioelectricity produces an average 81% more transportation kilometers and 108% more emissions offsets per unit area cropland than cellulosic ethanol. These results suggest that alternative bioenergy pathways have large differences in how efficiently they use the available land to achieve transportation and climate goals.

  463. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #457 Hi Furry,

    To understand why the battery rental scheme is a bad idea, go back and read my #442, but pretending your space heater is tied to the grid, as well as your solar system.

    At least I got you to look at my car concept!!! Hooray. It doesn’t seem so radical to me. And the airship is indeed SO 19th century; the basic Fuhrman airship shape was described in 1906.

    Trouble is, it will be a lot harder to sell than build, as your reaction suggests. And a 19th century guy is a little old to build something without also preparing the way, at least a little. Just the task of getting people to accept the idea of riding in tandem is daunting. Would you agree to that if it really mattered for CO2?

    But you are surely right about the need for a cork, here it goes, glug.

  464. Mark:

    re 463, well someone thinks that renting batteries out for cars so instead of topping up electricity by charging a fixed battery, you change the battery for a charged one will be profitable.

    Since they’re creating the company, one would think they have done more homework than you on the subject.

    I believe I posted a link to it on this page. Maybe another thread.

  465. Mark:

    I bet Doug Bostrom is feeling silly now…

  466. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #449 KevinB

    Unless you are worried about losing your job or being stalked, or have some important reason to remain anonymous would you share your full name.

    I have this thing about people taking responsibility for what they say. Hey, call me a conservative that still believes in honor and integrity.

    #456

    1. Any increases in particular zones would only be realized by controls but still be far below reasonable levels that would be considered natural or sustainable based on multiple factors.

    2. 10 years is too short weather is not climate (30 years+). Natural variability explains… natural variability. But this is natural variability on a different path: http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/natural-variability

    3. Sea Ice Mass loss is huge. You unfortunately are basing your assumption on sea ice extent which is a measure of surface ice, not ice thickness.

    4. Glaciers are diminishing all around the world. Maybe you are referring to the snowfall increase in Antarctica, which is expected in the climate models due to increased moisture in the atmosphere and regional thermal inertia (it is still quite cold in Antarctica, but slowly warming)?

  467. Doug Bostrom:

    #456 KevinB:

    Twang! The straps holding up your analogy just snapped. How embarrassing for you.

  468. FurryCatHerder:

    Jim writes:

    However, most of us are linked and most of our power is still generated in SO 19th century machines, and they have managed to live with physics all that time. Frequency has never declined, at least not where multiple machines are tied together. That would be a significant event since phase lock would have been lost; without intervention the currents would tend to get rather large. Even us 19th century folks worried about that. I might have misled by saying that the generator field strength would be varied to controlled the voltage. A higher priority loop would exist to vary the generator field to maintain rotor phase lock, and therefore, maintain nearly absolute frequency control.

    I’d strongly suggest that if, or when, the urge to comment again on grid management strikes, that you learn what keeps the giant mess working, how “not working” is handled, and what really does happen instant by instant on the grid.

    The existing grid is downright dumb compared to what can be done for tiny amounts of money per consumer. I’ve not even looked into the cost of the Carrier ComfortChoice thermostat, but they are CHEAP and very effective at preventing brownouts. One mass-producible device that is itself dumber than dirt.

  469. FurryCatHerder:

    “Solar and wind AC output can be “turned up” or “turned down” on a dime. If I get up right now, walk to the bathroom and turn on the 1,500 watt space heater sitting in there, I don’t have to wait 15 minutes for the generators to get brought on-line. The electricity is there immediately.”

    I think you’ve got it just backwards. The inertia is critical to allowing the grid to operate. In your example, where’s the power going before you turn on your space heater? After you turn it on, what happens if a cloud passes over, and your solar panels suddenly generate less than 1500 watts?

    I think you got my backwards-backwards ;)

    What I’m saying is that the lack of inertia in certain renewable forms of power production is an advantage over rotating mass thermal power producers.

    Yes, the inertia in the rotating masses is what presently keeps the grid going. No, it isn’t a requirement of a “smart” grid that produces power that’s faster responding than the frequency regulating generators in use today. Frequency linking the throttles on those generators is still going to be slower than digital. That’s where I’d be putting my renewable power dollars — bidding on balancing energy and other high value services.

    Here’s a little light reading for the very curious — http://www.ercot.com/content/mktinfo/services/bal/2009/2009-05_BES.xls

  470. pete best:

    http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/denialmachine/video.html

    The USA needs to be able to combat the lobbying and all that. This is the real issue in the USA.

  471. Jim Eager:

    Come on folks, after reading comment 456 KevinB must be pulling everyone’s leg.

  472. EL:

    [Response: You are thinking about a pure mathematical construct (cf. Godel) that isn’t quite the same as the models we are talking about in climate. Physical models are consistent, and strive to be complete (though still have some ways to go). There are no complete but inconsistent models in climate. - gavin]

    I know this is a bit off topic from climate science (at least in a fashion), but it’s so damn interesting.

    The physical models are bound to the rules of mathematical constructs because the physical models are described mathematically. So Godel’s theorem of incompleteness applies to physical models / theories. Unless climate scientists are not describing their models with mathematics (of course you are), the models are either incomplete or inconsistent. I think it’s incomplete; however, the models can never be complete and consistent at the same time.

    The idea of completeness in physics is a remaining Newton ideology, which is almost as old as physics itself, and I think there is going to be a lot of broken hearts when people begin to realize it’s not possible. We want all of our profound questions to have answers, but mathematics has completely broken that hope. Before Godel, mathematicians shared the same dream. Honestly, I should say before Georg Cantor who ripped opened that great can of worms. Cantor dicked with infinity until he broke mathematics and his mind with it. He was extremely unpopular during his life amongst other mathematicians for what he did. Godel attempted to fix the problem, but he ended up making it much worse with his incompleteness theorem, and it broke his mind as well. Alan Turing who broke the enigma encryption simplified the problem (Continuum Hypothesis) by inventing the computer. So computer scientist see it often in their work.

    Eventually physicists will drop the old classical idea like everyone else, but it will likely be a slow process from what I have seen. Stephen Hawking recently gave up on TOE because he finally accepted the mathematical implications. If you have read any of his books (brief history of time for example), you have to admit that he has come a very long way because he was a “Know the mind of God” man. I have to give him credit because he goes out on a limb in his field. I thought he may actually ignite the big fire because he accepted the math, but scientists of the day must not be ready for it.

    I think there is an obvious disconnect between physicists and mathematicians because physicists should have realized how it applies to their theories. Physics may be based upon observation, but it is described in mathematics.

    [Response: It's been a while since I've looked at this, but I think you have a major misconception about the relevance of what Godel showed. His incompleteness theorem was based on creating mathematical statements that could be demonstrated to be unprovable using a finite set of axioms. This is fundamentally different from 'incompleteness' of a physical model because it doesn't contain a certain set of aerosol micro-physics. I see no connection to Godel's notion that is relevant to this. - gavin]

  473. Ike Solem:

    KevinB, consider some examples of areas where fish stocks have clearly collapsed due to human activity –

    1) the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan – due to water diversions by Soviet agricultural planners.

    2) The rivers in the Sucumbios region in the Ecuadorian Amazon – due to the practices of Texaco drillers in Ecuador, who used unlined open pits to store billions of barrels of oil drilling waste.

    In each case, the local resource that sustained the fishery was trashed by bad economic decision making.

    In Ecuador, foreign oil companies saw profit in the remote oil fields and maximized that profit by cutting all environmental cleanup costs. They’re now facing estimated cleanup costs of $27 billion, which they would of course like to pass on to someone else.

    This is fairly similar to the behavior of some power utilities, who would like to pass their old dirty plants onto someone else before having to account for the decommissioning costs (this applies to both old coal and old nuclear power plants). Set up a shell company, sell the plant to the shell company, which then goes bankrupt, leaving the state and the taxpayer holding the bag – or variations on that theme.

    As far as Chevron claims that it was the local’s decision to use dirty practices, and they were not involved, see this Bloomberg report:

    PetroEcuador bought the majority stake of the oil venture in 1977, leaving Texaco to work the wells. The state-owned company needed Texaco then because it lacked experience in oil drilling. Texaco ran the fields until June 1990, when PetroEcuador took over. Texaco kept a 37.5 percent stake in the oil fields until 1992, when PetroEcuador bought all of it.

    The same goes for the Aral Sea – no long-term ecological costs were considered during the initial planning, since the Marxist economic experts advising the Soviet Central Committee didn’t believe that such factors mattered, any more than did the neoclassical economic experts who advised the Ecuadorian military dictatorship on the need to bring in Texaco to work their wells. The Soviet approach to colonialism in Kazakhstan was very similar to that of the British before them:

    In the early 1960′s, the Soviet central government decided to make the Soviet Union self-sufficient in cotton and increase rice production. Government officials ordered the additional amount of needed water to be taken from the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea.

    If you want to argue that the net increase in Ecuadorian oil wealth and Soviet agricultural wealth was ‘worth it’, consider that the wealth also supported military dictatorships, and that most of it was exported from the country in question. It certainly wasn’t worth it to the local inhabitants – and should there livelihoods be sacrificed ‘for the greater good’? That’s one of the arguments that was used to support slavery, by the way… but in both cases, an honest ecological economic analysis would have shown that preserving those ecosystem from water diversion and oil pollution would have been the best thing for the local inhabitants.

  474. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Jim Eager

    It is a sad situation, but I don’t think he is joking.

    Maybe he spent that last few years in denialist web sites and then accidentally stumbled on all the crazy climate science over here that contradicts his indoctrination.

    If I read him right, he figures that it’s like shooting ducks in a pond. All he has to do is enlighten us by corrective statements such as in post #449

    We will then see the error of the established and well understood science and all will be good in the world again.

    The world will not be warming, there will be no more wars, and the earth will be flat again (making it easier to make paper maps) and all the gods will dance while we eat mango’s and watch the hula dancers as the sun sets :)

  475. MarkB:

    Re: #471

    I’m not so sure of that. Have you seen the zoo that makes up the contrarian blogosphere?

  476. James:

    Doug Bostrom Says (13 May 2009 at 12:55):

    “Just a small comment. It turns out pumped hydro is remarkably efficient, something like 85% overall for modern systems.”

    I guess we look at this differently, because I think 85% is quite inefficent.

    “Thinking it through however you’ll realize that efficency does really enter into the equation, or at least not long term.”

    No? Seems to me that it means you have to build 15% more generating capacity to supply the same amount of power to the grid.

    “Anyway, pumped hydro is alrady used in conjunction with the anchronistic combustion thermal system, so looks as though it already has the Industry Seal of Approval.”

    If you read a bit, though, I think you’ll discover that the problem with pumped storage (aside from the cost) is that there are not all that many suitable sites. Just for instance, consider all those wind turbines being built in places like Texas & the midwest. If you’ve ever driven through these places, you may have noticed that they’re rather flat.

    Now of course all these problems can be overcome, by spending enough money and being willing to live with the environmental effects. But why resort to this sort of Rube Goldberg solution, when there are better alternatives?

  477. Rene Cheront:

    #401 SJ
    I would like to own a whale, or several. I would just let them swim free, but they would be my whales and no-one would be allowed to touch them. So how much does a whale cost? I want one of those big blue ones. And more to the point, who do I buy it from?

    I problem, I suspect, is that as things stand you cannot buy one, since they are still unowned, ie in the commons.
    There have though been (are?) international political treaties limiting their being hunted, which implies political onwership. If so, they would first need to be denationalised.

  478. Rene Cheront:

    #401 SJ
    I would like to own a whale, or several. I would just let them swim free, but they would be my whales and no-one would be allowed to touch them. So how much does a whale cost? I want one of those big blue ones. And more to the point, who do I buy it from?

    I problem, I suspect, is that as things stand you cannot buy one, since they are still unowned, ie in the commons (and thus susceptable to its tragedy).
    There have though been (are?) international political treaties limiting their being hunted, which implies political onwership. If so, they would first need to be privatized.

  479. Rene Cheront:

    #362 Mark. Re: property

    Mark: …the protection of your property DEMANDS an overwhelming force and a force that no other power can bring against you.
    Rene: Yes. What of it?
    Mark: the government power is not a free market. And you accept the need of governmnent but not the consequences.

    Acceptance of the state’s monopoly on legal violence, and its application to the upholding of property rights, does not imply or require acceptance of its application elsewhere. Certainly not anywhere and everywhere, as you appear to imply.

  480. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (13 May 2009 at 13:57):

    “First of all, Jacobson is talking about the present day — note the use of present tense in the excerpt above. What the USA, the USSR, China and other countries did at the dawn of the nuclear era some 50-60 years ago is not relevant.”

    Certainly it is: his clear implication is that nuclear weapons development derives from civilian power programs, which is clearly false historically as well as in the present. It also ignores the fact that some dozens of countries that really do have civilian nuclear power programs have not used them to develop nuclear weapons.

    “That leaves your examples of North Korea and Iran. In fact, North Korea’s first nuclear reactors in the 1980s were represented as being for civilian energy generation. And as is well known, Iran to this day maintains that its nuclear program is entirely for civilian energy generation.”

    Oh, dear. You mean dictators and religious fundamentalists have actually been telling fibs? Seems like you just can’t trust anyone these days :-)

    In any case, you and Jacobsen still have a pretty basic problem. The US, just for example, has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, and a hundred civilian power reactors. How does changing that number to two or three hundred, or even more, significantly change the risk of nuclear proliferation?

  481. Rene Cheront:

    #364 Craig Allen
    …example[s] of private ownership leading to environmental degradation….
    If [it] is more profitable to the individual with short term concerns than taking a longer term approach then there will always be people willing to do it…
    …profitability…over the long term would have been far higher had it been managed judiciously, but that clearly didn’t fit with the new owners business model.

    By and large, investors will go for maximum profit over the longer term. But Yes, clearly it can happen that different people take different approaches to returns, some shorter-term than others. But who is to say which ones are objectively right, which behaviors are judicious and which not? Do we simply wish to define longer term as always better than short-term, no matter what, dispensing with any discussion, and impose this view on everyone, regardless of their acceptance thereof?
    Where such differences of opinion DO exist, those with longer-term views can always buy up resources and insist they are operated according to their preferences, and thereby avoid imposing the costs of their own preferences onto others.

  482. Mark:

    Jim, 471, have you forgotten the website that shows T-Rex and Adam and Eve sitting together in perfect harmony in Eden?

    What makes you certain he’s pulling our leg?

    He may just be trolling, but that isn’t the same thing.

  483. Jacob Mack:

    I just wanted to make 2 little recommendations: Ted.com and the
    M I T OpenCourseWare site,ocw.mit.edu/ – 23k have excellent video and audio lectures, presentations and transcripts/class notes pertaining to the subject matter of this;many other RC subject matter.The Ted.com has excellent, but brief seminar speakers presenting cutting edge propositions for the environmentr as well as many other science topics. M I T has 1800 different courses and – math–physics–chemistry–climate lectures.

  484. Nick Gotts:

    “Consumer preferences on green issues – expressed by individual purchases and by group action – have done a great job of influencing markets and products provided, and there is ample room for more.” – TokyoTom

    Tosh, to put it bluntly. The ratio of greenwash to real change is vast. Moreover, only retail businesses are subject to any significant consumer pressure even to undertake greenwashing. It has been legislation and in some cases international agreements that have mitigated damage from food adulteration, lead in fuel and paint, acid rain, and ozone-destroying chemicals.

  485. Nick Gotts:

    Further to my last comment, responding to TokyoTom, “group action” is of course not consumer pressure; it is political pressure – which may of course aim at generating consumer pressure, but generally also includes other methods, such as pressing for legislation, and direct action.

    I think several people have misunderstood Kevin B – not surprising, he has been unclear as well as absurd in his statements. He’s not actually claiming anything about fish stocks; whenever he says “fish stocks are decreasing/increasing” you are supposed to read “temperatures are rising/falling”.

  486. Mark:

    Rene thinks this is true! “By and large, investors will go for maximum profit over the longer term.”

    No.

    Investors now demand not reliable returns but an increasing share price so that they can but low sell high on stocks. This is why we have had several housing booms and stock-market boom-and-bust cycles.

    It is why MS is in trouble: their share price was based on continuing growth. Well, when you’ve taken 95% of the market, there’s little room for growth. And so, despite having at that time a cash cow that was bringing in a LOT of profit (long term viability), stock prices dropped because they weren’t INCREASING profits.

    Try living in the real world, not the utopian dreamland of the free market theorists.

  487. walter crain:

    gavin, (and others),
    i asked above (#363) about a paper by william dipuccio that appeared on roger pielke’s website. thanks for your concise answer. i was asking because it was posted as a link by one of my comment nemeses over on capitalweather (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2009/05/climate_scientists_have_begun.html#comments ). this is the very same commenter, “mr.q”, who inspired me to come to you with my request that you start PROJECT JIM. a few month ago we were having a discussion and got totally sidetracked when brought up the senate minority report’s list of “dissenting scientists” and the oregon petition. anyway, someone linked to your response and mr.q responded,

    [edit]

    do you care to comment on this? or can you point be to a more thorough analysis of the paper?

    [Response: Whether I give a long exposition on the trends in heat content or a short summary of the problems in a blog post will make absolutely no difference to "mr q.". We've discussed ocean heat content trends and uncertainties dozens of times and nothing particular has changed - that "mr. q" can't find those discussions is a commentary on his sincerity or competence, not my understanding. - gavin]

  488. Brian Dodge:

    According to Ecological Internet(I haven’t bothered to check their sources) “Relatively rich countries in Asia and the Middle East, short of food and water at home, have leased or purchased more than 20 million hectares of land in Africa and Latin America, equal to 25 percent of Europe’s farmland.”
    “China leases land in Cuba, Mexico and has extensive holdings in Africa. The huge Korean company Daewoo Logistics Corporation signed a deal to lease 1.3 million hectares in Madagascar to grow maize and oil palm, which caused political conflicts that led to the overthrow of the government in 2009. A group of Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, holds the largest foreign ownership or control of African farmland in Sudan.”

    Rene Cheront – do you think they are going to protect those resources they now control, or do you think they are going to clearcut, burn, and bulldoze the rainforests for oil palm plantations? What do you think will happen when the price of synthetic fertilizer(currently fossil fuel derived) rises to a level that makes oil palm uneconomic – do you think these international megaconglomerates will restore the rain forest ecosystem and its formerly sequestered carbon before abandoning the land?

  489. paulina:

    Lancet and University College London:
    “Climate change: The biggest global-health threat of the 21st century”

  490. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    New Zealand’s North Island has abundant geothermal resources, unlike much of the US.

    The US has sparse surface-geothermal resources. Hot Dry Rock geothermal can be put in almost anywhere and exists in abundance.

  491. Jim Galasyn:

    KevinB, to add to the discussion on fisheries, you might want to check out my slide deck, State of the Oceans, 12 MB pptx.

  492. Wilmot McCutchen:

    EL #472 — I believe that the uncertainty of non-linear dynamics in modeling turbulence is more relevant to climate science than the Incompleteness Theorem, which deals only with formal logic systems.

    There is a mathematical reason why the weather is unpredictable, no matter how much data you have. As you know, the Navier-Stokes equations, a relic from the steam age, govern fluid dynamics. Although Navier-Stokes gives fairly accurate modeling when viscosity is high or speed is low, for most real world situations in three dimensions there are unpredictable anomalies, such as the butterfly effect. Weather is therefore unpredictable, to say nothing of the hoped-for deterministic impact of the Theory of Everything.

    The existence and smoothness of the Navier-Stokes equations in three dimensions is one of the seven Millennium Problems in mathematics. There is a prize of a million dollars for anyone who succeeds in proving or disproving it. http://www.claymath.org/millennium/Navier-Stokes_Equations/ Atmospheric dynamics may or may not be fundamentally unpredictable — so there is cause for hope.

  493. dhogaza:

    I think several people have misunderstood Kevin B – not surprising, he has been unclear as well as absurd in his statements. He’s not actually claiming anything about fish stocks; whenever he says “fish stocks are decreasing/increasing” you are supposed to read “temperatures are rising/falling”.

    Right. He’s trying to work the analogy in the original post … his statements are absurd regardless of whether you take them literally to be about fish or as an analogue for climate, that’s the problem.

  494. Lennart van der Linde:

    Gavin and others,

    OT, but still: you probably know the ‘Medieval Warm Period Project’? See:
    http://www.co2science.org/data/mwp/mwpp.php

    So far I haven’t found a clear commentary on their claim that most studies show the MWP to be warmer than the Current Warm Period, other than that IPCC disagrees with that claim. It seems to be a Idso-family project financed by the oil industry, but I would like the comments of more knowledgable than I about the content and quality of the studies they say support their claim.

    [Response: Start by keeping track of when all these "medieval warm periods" are supposed to have occurred. The basic issue that has been known for over a decade is that they don't occur at the same time in different places. So when you try and put records together in any sensible way to get a hemispheric or global average, the peaks get smeared out and overall don't stand out particularly. - gavin]

  495. walter crain:

    gavin, thanks for that “trends” link. that does address part of mr.q’s criticisms (which you diplomatically edited). i was not even obliquely questioning your understanding, and appreciate any and all comments/responses you have the time to make. no doubt, mr.q is an excellent web surfer/searcher etc… so he could easily have found your “trends” post had he wanted or tried. and he probably would chalk it up to the “global warming alarmist conspiracy”. i know i should turn my back on zealots like mr.q, but, somehow i just can’t…and his kind of views via spencer, pielke, watts et. al. are gaining traction out here in the layman world. anyway, thanks as always.

  496. Doug Bostrom:

    #476 James:

    Not flat enough, though I’ll concede a reliable supply of water is an issue. Evaporation control apparently becomes a problem when topography is not friendly to high head storage, or so my instant Google expertise informs me.

    Anyway, you seem to making the error of assuming I’m neurotically monomaniacal about a particular energy generation and/or storage source Nope, I’m just pointing out that all the fallibilities you find in specific “alternative” systems such as wind coupled with pumped hydro are already found in abundance in our existing grid and do not seem to be deal breakers.

    The current system is necessarily and inherently inefficient in some significant ways, because of physics and operational considerations. More, it is rationally inefficient in other ways in terms of cost/benefit choices about how it is constructed; we often choose to make our grid less efficient than possible. Clearly efficiency is not a paramount issue or our choices would be different.

    We know by experience with the existing system that we can easily afford loads of inefficiency. Knowing this as we do, it’s tempting to begin moving further capital deployment into the system toward technological methods that minimize mutating the planet in undesirable ways, without becoming paralyzed by dread of inefficiency. There are a slew of options to choose from, including crude thermal methods such as nuclear reactors. The exact mix is going to depend on many things, but we know it’s going to be inefficient so let’s get over it already.

    I do suspect we’ll become a bit more concerned about efficiency when we fully come to grips with how much we’ve been leaning on poor choices for thermal inputs to the anachronistic part of our electrical generation plant.

  497. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (14 May 2009 at 9:31)

    “The US has sparse surface-geothermal resources. Hot Dry Rock geothermal can be put in almost anywhere and exists in abundance.”

    Maybe, but AFAIK no one has actually build a working power plant, and you generally need to build a least a couple of demo units, if not a whole set of first (and sometimes second or third) generation plants, to work out the bugs and get a handle on the real-world costs. See for instance the experience of the first generation wind turbines at Altamont.

    In any case, that wasn’t at issue in the post I was replying to. The question was why the US couldn’t derive a similar percentage of energy from particular sources. The answer is that it’s hard to get energy from sources that you don’t have. California would be a better comparison: with similar land area, geography, and geology, it generates more megawatts from geothermal and from hydroelectricity. It just has 8 or 9 times the population, so the percentages are smaller.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/hydroelectric/index.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_New_Zealand

  498. James:

    Doug Bostrom Says (14 May 2009 at 11:39):

    “Not flat enough…”

    ?!?! Maybe my parochial world view, but it’s hard to see how those places could be significant;y flatter :-) Also I would think elevation change is significant in efficiency: power stored = volume of water * elevation change, losses would be roughly volume of water * pipe length.

    “The current system is necessarily and inherently inefficient in some significant ways, because of physics and operational considerations. More, it is rationally inefficient in other ways in terms of cost/benefit choices about how it is constructed…”

    I wouldn’t disagree at all. The point I’ve been trying to make all along is that you can’t really make rational decisions about costs & efficiencies unless you have some idea of what those costs are. Saying “Oh, we’ll just store excess energy from our wind turbines in a pumped storage system” is just hand-waving unless you account for the extra cost – both in dollars and in environmental impacts.

    I’m not monomaniacal about these things, either. I’d honestly be thrilled to discover that we really could supply all our energy needs from renewables at reasonable cost, and without unacceptable environmental impacts. (Though I do admit that my criteria for acceptabilty seems to be lower than most people’s are.) I just don’t think the numbers add up.

  499. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “The US, just for example, has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, and a hundred civilian power reactors. How does changing that number to two or three hundred, or even more, significantly change the risk of nuclear proliferation?”

    The MIT “Future of Nuclear Power” study that I cited above envisioned a scenario in which “the present deployment of 360 GWe of nuclear capacity worldwide is expanded to 1000 GWe in mid-century”. In other words, worldwide nuclear capacity would approximately triple by 2050 or so.

    The result of this tripling of worldwide nuclear capacity would be “keeping nuclear’s share of the electricity market about constant” (currently about 16 percent of the world’s electricity according to the World Nuclear Association).

    For nuclear power to make a significant contribution to reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation would require a massive expansion of nuclear power, not only in the USA but worldwide — including in nations that do not have the sort of control over nuclear technology that the USA does. India and Pakistan come to mind. And in the volatile mid-East, not only is Iran developing nuclear technology that can be used either for electricity generation or weapons, but Saudi Arabia has also talked of beginning a nuclear technology program.

    The MIT study, which advocates tripling the world’s nuclear capacity, itself acknowledges that “the current international safeguards regime is inadequate to meet the security challenges of the expanded nuclear deployment contemplated in the global growth scenario.”

    And as I understand it, your response to concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation from such an expansion is simply to wave them away, or even to characterize such concerns as “a deliberate lie”.

    The bottom line is that (1) there is no need for expanding nuclear power and (2) nuclear power is not a timely or effective way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation. Therefore, there is simply no need to accept the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation or any of the other very real problems and dangers that would follow from a massive worldwide expansion of nuclear power.

  500. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #477 Rene Cheront

    Consider this in your context. Economic philosophy is somewhat, if not always, ideological. Natural economy is more pragmatic. In this I am separating humans from nature in order to identify the difference.

    We are and always will be, from a human perspective, in some degree of a mixed economy.

    I think it is important to examine the tragedy of the commons and consider the tragedy of ownership.

    Ownership can be healthy or unhealthy for the commodity. What is now manifest is the tragedy of consumption.

    So the question becomes, by what mechanism will the system re-balance, the nature of a system to survive, as in the human system identifying its long term needs in the commons (owned or unowned), or the parent system deciding the human system is a failed experiment and the environment toxifying to such a degree as to reboot the system?

    In other words, ownership may not be as relevant as some might assume. The planet is the commons whether it is owned or unowned. The simple fact remains this is where we all live, and we all breath and eat from this source.

    In this case, what is the objective view that is relevant? From the parent systems view? Or, from the human systems view?

    We need to parse out the subtlety if to achieve considered capacity/potential of health for the human system.

    My main thesis is that a single economic ideology is not a panacea either. We’re going to have to be smarter than that. I realize I am still oversimplifying but I hope to give the considerations better context.

    There simply is no best economic ideology here. A true objective economic philosophy must reach beyond the bounds of the ideal itself. Ideals are like religions, and religions institute myopia.

    I guess the best way to view that statement is to say that objective value is contextually relevant to the moment based on the system/systems that are inter-dynamically interdependent on the values involved in order to maintain survivability or relative health internally or relationally.

    I guess my main point is we (humans) are going to have to become educated to these new realities in our new epoch B, to the degree this does or does not occur, may determine the degree of survivability of our system vs. the parents systems propensity to re-balance.

  501. EL:

    [Response: It’s been a while since I’ve looked at this, but I think you have a major misconception about the relevance of what Godel showed. His incompleteness theorem was based on creating mathematical statements that could be demonstrated to be unprovable using a finite set of axioms. This is fundamentally different from ‘incompleteness’ of a physical model because it doesn’t contain a certain set of aerosol micro-physics. I see no connection to Godel’s notion that is relevant to this. - gavin]

    The connection is that mathematics is either incomplete or inconsistent. In a nutshell, some problems cannot be solved mathematically. If good physical theories are mathematical models, physics has problems that it can not solve as well. To make matters worse, mathematicians cannot tell if a problem is unsolvable or just really difficult to solve. Physics inherits all the problems of mathematics because it uses mathematics to describe observation. While it can be disappointing, mathematicians and physicists will always have work to do and great discoveries to make.

    Allan Turing had a very interesting philosophy because he felt Godel’s theorem applied to human beings. Turing believed human beings were the same as computers, and he couldn’t see a distinction between the two. The philosophy causes many mathematicians to believe in a divine intuition that exists outside of mathematics. For example, Godel argued for intuition until the day he died because he couldn’t accept mankind as incomplete, and he believed mankind was more then machines.

  502. Ike Solem:

    If you can agree that ecological and climate factors play important roles in the ‘natural fertility’ of a region, then you have to include those factors in your economic modeling attempts. The question is how to do this consistently, so that side-by-side comparisons of different energy sources become something more than marketing tools for proponents of various technologies.

    Take the recent decision by the California Air Resources Board to take ecological/climate factors into account in setting costs for biofuels – a very political decision, based on bad accounting, but it was the first time that an economic cost was calculated based on climate and ecological factors – probably a step in the right direction, but their main flaw was the failure to look at full life cycles for different sources of energy – for example, natural gas from Louisiana vs. natural gas from Alaska are not the same with respect to energy production costs.

    If the California Air Resources Board wants to conduct an even-handed assessment of fossil fuel costs, they can’t treat all biofuels the same, nor can they treat all gasoline the same.

    They’ll have to conduct a complete review of all energy imports. That includes:

    1) Electrical grid imports – we have to tag on the costs of any southwestern coal-fired generation transmissions across state borders, and that also means the cost of the sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and arsenic emissions from pulverized coal power plants.

    2) Natural gas imports – if Transcanada & Sempra want to import liquified natural gas from all around the Pacific, via Mexico, then the energy/carbon cost of converting gas to liquid will have to be included, and a 30% tariff must be placed on those imports relative to the market cost of gas from the central-northern gas fields.

    3) Conventional petroleum imports – here, a wide variety of tariffs must be employed if you want a fair and balanced carbon cost program. If we take the lowest-carbon oil (in terms of production energy/carbon costs), that is mostly gone, with some deposits in the Middle East – such oils are low in sulfur, and made up of more light-chain hydrocarbons. At the other end of the scale are sulfur-rich heavy oils from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, which require large carbon/energy investments.

    4) Unconventional shale oils, tar sands, and coal-to-liquid programs. Here, the tariffs will not be 30%, more like 300%. Ridiculous amounts of carbon/energy must be invested upfront, along with millions of gallons of water per truckload of fuel, with a side dish of massive environmental pollution. In fact, an outright ban on this sector makes a lot of sense.

    5) More comprehensive biofuel carbon estimates – for example, biofuel from the new Sunflower Bioenergy program in Kansas must be given a big fat tariff, because they run their ethanol factories on coal-fired power. If Brazil is using bagasse (woody sugarcane residues) as the fuel source for distillation, their tariffs must be reduced – but bagasse produces biomass black carbon aerosols, so the best approach is to use solar or wind to power the biofuel factory.

    The bottom line is that realistic analysis of path-dependent energy production processes produces a range of possibilities, not a single number. Ethanol production’s fossil fuel footprint can range from a 0:1 ratio to a 10:1 ratio (fossil fuel used:ethanol produced), for example, and the same goes for most technologies.

  503. FurryCatHerder:

    James in 498:

    I wouldn’t disagree at all. The point I’ve been trying to make all along is that you can’t really make rational decisions about costs & efficiencies unless you have some idea of what those costs are. Saying “Oh, we’ll just store excess energy from our wind turbines in a pumped storage system” is just hand-waving unless you account for the extra cost – both in dollars and in environmental impacts.

    This gets back to my points to Jim Bullis, in regards to things like balancing energy and regulation — the current system of thermal generation is grossly inefficient above and beyond the energy losses associated with turning a fuel into heat into steam into electricity. Keeping the grid properly balanced is its own form of inefficiency, and as I explained to Jim (and others) it is one area where the “smart grid” and “stored energy” technologies in the pipeline beat the pants off the existing technologies.

    As regards the 15% energy lost to something like pumped hydro, even if that were applied to coal fired power plants it would be a huge win as it would provide a way for converting bulk coal generation to something more suitable for fast-response load following as well as frequency regulation.

    As regards flatness, water, hills and other such things, there’s also compressed air storage, which is another technology. In short, lots of technologies being looked at presently.

  504. John McCormick:

    Gavin,

    The summer meltback of the Artic ice cap is certain to bring tragedy to the climate commons. We do not know where, when and how.

    The Catlin Arctic Survey finished a gruelling 10-week expedition to measure the thickness of sea ice.

    The team revealed that over the length of the survey the average thickness of the sea ice was 1.774m.

    Peter Wadhams, at the University of Cambridge, has brought forward his estimate for the demise of summer sea-ice in the Arctic.

    He believes the ice, which has been a permanent feature for at least 100,000 years, is now so thin that almost all of it will disappear in about a decade. He says it will become seasonal, forming only during the winter.

    Now that we have evidence of what we have been observing over the past decade, it is time we understand what the summer meltback will mean for timing and intensity of the Asian Monsoon and the temp and precip in Western North America.

    Gavin, is there any attempt ongoing to find answers to the impact of the meltback on Asian monsoon and North American weather? These are critical questions and there may not be time to adapt to their likely ominous answers.

    John McCormick

  505. Barton Paul Levenson:

    truth writes:

    The impacts and social engineering being asked of us now are against a threat that may or may not be real—we’re not allowed to know, because we’re not allowed to question the ‘consensus’, and dissenting scientists are deprived of data and information on methodologies that might help to clarify matters.

    The knowledge is available to anybody willing to study the subject, and those who aren’t willing to study, a group which apparently includes you, are stuck having to listen to the scientists. Meanwhile, the idea that AGW deniers are somehow being suppressed is ludicrous. They chatter all day long on the internet, publish books, and own right-wing talk radio.

  506. Barton Paul Levenson:

    KevinB writes:

    Temperatures have been in a down trend for at least 7 years now. Are you denying this?

    I’m denying it. To be a “trend” it has to be statistically significant. Do you understand what that term means?

  507. pete best:

    Re #506, Lol, how many times has real climate and others explained this to everyone who has challenged this via articles in the media and them sites we do not name (WUWT and climateprogress and others). It takes 17 years (hope I am right about that) to be a trend and not since 2000/2001 (anyone get the millenium date right)etc.

    I mean this argument is going around in circles and more circles. Its just like Gavins article in the UK newspaper the Guardian today which now has a number of people on their who have commented on Gavin being a climate alarmist (please!!) of all things. He only wanted toi state that a picture of science being done by scientists is worth a lot of words in the science on climate change. Its a sound article available online in the environment section of the newspaper.

  508. CTG:

    #498 James

    “I’d honestly be thrilled to discover that we really could supply all our energy needs from renewables at reasonable cost, and without unacceptable environmental impacts.”

    The cost and environmental impact of not moving to zero-emission energy greatly exceeds the costs of doing so.

  509. Jeffrey Davis:

    According to NASA, 2005 was the warmest year on record. The last 12 months have been warmer than the previous 12 months.

    What kind of “down” trend is that?

  510. Sukiho:

    I wonder with nuclear power, the reason that private companies dont want to invest in it but would like governments to subsidize building them, the profit is in the building, by the time they are built there may be cheaper alternatives for generating electricity and they could be mothballed, so no one wants to invest but they would happily build them if someone else wants to pay. I could be wrong, just the way it appears to me.

  511. Hank Roberts:

    > Blue whale

    Support your local government in protecting them, not the nitwits who think people working together to improve the world is immoral and we should all sit back as solitary individuals and buy what we need.

    http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/recovery/whale_blue.pdf

    “The goals and objectives of the Plan can be achieved only if a long-term commitment is made to support the actions recommended here. Achievement of these goals and objectives will require the continued cooperation of the governments of the United States and other nations. Within the United States, the shared resources and cooperative involvement of federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, non-governmental organizations and individuals will be required throughout the recovery period.”

  512. dhogaza:

    The connection is that mathematics is either incomplete or inconsistent. In a nutshell, some problems cannot be solved mathematically. If good physical theories are mathematical models, physics has problems that it can not solve as well.

    Well, mathematics as in number theory, i.e. a theoretical edifice built from a set of consistent axioms must contain undecidable propositions.

    This has nothing to do with a finite set of mathematical expressions and relationships such as form a physical model. These aren’t statements about the underlying mathematics that one is trying to prove. They’re built from that set of things in the underlying system of mathematics that we *can* prove to be true.

    Like “2+2=4″. Writ large.

    Gavin’s right.

  513. dhogaza:

    Of course, models of climate will always be incomplete in the physical sense, we’ll never have a model that works from the quantum mechanics level for every molecule in the earth-atmosphere system all the way up to climate-scale “stuff”.

    This isn’t what incompleteness in mathematics means.

  514. SecularAnimist:

    An interesting question to contemplate:

    Which of the following energy technologies would you most WANT to see proliferated indiscriminately and without restriction to all nations and peoples around the world, without regard to their system of government or the stability thereof, or their ideology, or their military ambitions:

    Nuclear
    Solar
    Wind

  515. Doug Bostrom:

    #498 James:

    You’d be amazed at how flat hydropower can be. Think hydro and the Hoover Dam springs to mind, but turbines can be installed adjacent to locks (Allegheny River for instance) or in the case of my direct experience in places where you’d swear there was no useful topography at all (bits of central Texas). Yes, for pumped hydro there are tradeoffs regarding PE of the stored mass, we have to be careful about environmental impacts and in fact it is not a panacea. Nothing new there.

    “The point I’ve been trying to make all along is that you can’t really make rational decisions about costs & efficiencies unless you have some idea of what those costs are.”

    I don’t see insurmountable problems with necessary calculations. How many kilowatts are needed? How is that demand arranged over time? What do we have in the way of regional resources to make a contribution? We’ve done all that for the current grid so we’re not really looking at anything new. We have an array of resources to choose from, all of which are amenable to arithmetic.

    “I’d honestly be thrilled to discover that we really could supply all our energy needs from renewables at reasonable cost…I just don’t think the numbers add up.”

    Well, we have not done the math so it’s a little premature to write an obituary. In any case someone living a thousand years from now is probably going to have an entirely different take on that; ultimately “we” will be squaring up to the actual long term cost of energy capture.

    My proclivity as a person partly concerned with maintaining engineered artifacts is to head as quickly as possible in the direction of whatever “solution” fulfills the objectives of my application and has the following list of features:

    Ignore only if absolutely necessary and at own peril:

    –Does not exceed or stretch our envelope of reasonable fabrication and operational abilities utilizing known-to-be-fallible human resources;

    –Fails reasonably gracefully and reasonably safely when constructed or operated defectively or incompetently;

    –Does not involve exceptionally rare or difficult to handle resources;

    –Does not make a permanent or extremely expensive to mitigate or acutely dangerous mess.

    –Is not fatally expensive.

    After that, preferably:

    –Has no moving or wearing parts or failing that involves the smallest possible number of moving or wearing parts;

    –Such moving or wearing parts as are involved can be produced with manufacturing scaling benefits (are cheap to buy) and can be replaced without substantial production interruptions (are cheap to replace).

    For what I work with this means we’ve gravitated toward PV for power generation but that’s strictly a matter of context. It’s not appropriate in other places, or only partly. We could also use wind but it fails the moving/wearing parts test compared to PV. Either solution is better in our context than running a diesel generator. An RTG pretty much fails when evaluated against my personal list even though strictly speaking it would “work”. My desire is to stay as far to the non-Rube Goldberg end of the continuum of engineering hubris as possible.

    I’ve gotta say, nuclear plants are definitely Rube Goldberg contraptions. The level of redundancy provided is a tip-off, not to mention our valiant but futile efforts to maintain stringent design, construction and operation standards. Any engineering artifact that requires us to walk around on tiptoes and makes us always practice utmost, inhuman levels of vigilance has got to be looked upon as a stopgap measure, a waypoint to someplace better. Nuclear generating plants miserably flunk the basic complexity test. Even so, I think we’re going to find ourselves increasingly using them for a period because we’ve boxed ourselves in. I’d be really happy if we didn’t put them away in a forgotten mental box for 100 years as we did with coal generation systems.

  516. EL:

    Gavin – I found a link that may explain it better for scientist.

    “In the standard positivist approach to the philosophy of science, physical theories live rent free in a Platonic heaven of ideal mathematical models. That is, a model can be arbitrarily detailed, and can contain an arbitrary amount of information, without affecting the universes they describe. But we are not angels, who view the universe from the outside. Instead, we and our models, are both part of the universe we are describing. Thus a physical theory, is self referencing, like in Goedel’s theorem.”

    http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/strings02/dirac/hawking/

  517. Barton Paul Levenson:

    EL writes:

    The connection is that mathematics is either incomplete or inconsistent.

    Mathematics is probably infinite. A given mathematical system always includes at least one lemma which cannot be proved to be either true or false from the system’s other premises. That’s what Godel showed. That’s all incompleteness means. If you want to prove the lemma in question, you expand the set a bit, and then you’ve proved that one but have another one that isn’t proved.

    In a nutshell, some problems cannot be solved mathematically.

    No, some problems cannot be solved analytically, which is a different thing. You might want to read an introductory textbook on numerical methods. The Planck equation can’t be integrated, but you can get as close as you want with numerical integration to solve a specific problem with it.

    If good physical theories are mathematical models, physics has problems that it can not solve as well. To make matters worse, mathematicians cannot tell if a problem is unsolvable or just really difficult to solve.

    They can certainly tell whether a specific problem is unsolvable or not. X + 3 = 5 is definitely solvable for X, for instance.

  518. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (14 May 2009 at 12:40 PM)

    “The MIT “Future of Nuclear Power” study that I cited above envisioned a scenario in which “the present deployment of 360 GWe of nuclear capacity worldwide is expanded to 1000 GWe in mid-century”. In other words, worldwide nuclear capacity would approximately triple by 2050 or so.”

    I see that we may be discussing, if not apples and oranges, at least Red Delicious versus Cox’s Orange Pippin. I am not talking about a WORLDWIDE expansion of nuclear power, but increasing its use in the US & Europe. Getting into the whats, whys, and hows of that gets us off into discussing geopolitics, which is probably unacceptable here.

    “And as I understand it, your response to concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation from such an expansion is simply to wave them away, or even to characterize such concerns as “a deliberate lie”.”

    No, my response is that these entities already have nuclear weapons, or soon will if no action is taken. It’s pointless not to use the barn because there’s a risk the horse might be stolen, because that horse is already gone.

    “The bottom line is that (1) there is no need for expanding nuclear power and (2) nuclear power is not a timely or effective way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation.”

    You simply refuse to do the math, to consider the mistaken assumptions that go into studies such as Jacobsen, or to think about the environmental impacts of your preferred technologies.

  519. James:

    CTG Says (14 May 2009 at 2:54 PM):

    “The cost and environmental impact of not moving to zero-emission energy greatly exceeds the costs of doing so.”

    Evidence? Facts, figures, even back-of-the envelope ballpark calculations? Unless you at least TRY to provide something of the sort, you’re doing nothing more than chanting the response to the catachism: “Credo in potentia viridis…” (If you’ll forgive some VERY rusty Latin.)

  520. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (14 May 2009 at 3:12 PM):

    “Which of the following energy technologies would you most WANT to see proliferated indiscriminately and without restriction to all nations and peoples around the world, without regard to their system of government or the stability thereof, or their ideology, or their military ambitions:”

    Once again, who is suggesting spreading ANY technology indiscriminately? Not me, for sure.

  521. pete best:

    Re #519, Lets put it this way the James, All three fossil fuels will peak this century, probably within 20 years for all three making them very expensive. Secondly we can call in the big guns and start extracting and using up second order fossil fuels, tar sands, oil sands, high carbon coal (we already do) etc. It will be more expensive to mine and extract making other power sources viable and needed as our energy needs will be growing by around 50% come 2030.

    it aint really a brain teaser is it?

  522. Hank Roberts:

    > Evidence? Facts, figures, even back-of-the
    > envelope ballpark calculations?

    You looked?

    http://books.google.com/books?id=U-VmIrGGZgAC&dq=Stern+Report&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=9bqW2rmvjc&sig=1tBUTa0CRFX14i-DkyRvB8fNgrM&hl=en&ei=9pUMSujkJ4yItAPFoZX8Ag&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2

    http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521700801

  523. James:

    Doug Bostrom Says (14 May 2009 at 3:23 PM):

    “I don’t see insurmountable problems with necessary calculations.”

    Nor do I. The problem is, nobody seems to bother to actually do them. The few attempts – for instance that Jacobsen study again – are front-loaded with assumptions (e.g. desert land is worthless) that force the outcomes. That’s one of the reasons I keep sticking in those (probably terminally boring to most readers) back-of-the-envelope calculations, in hopes that someday I’ll irritate someone into doing better.

    “…someone living a thousand years from now is probably going to have an entirely different take on that; ultimately “we” will be squaring up to the actual long term cost of energy capture.”

    On the other hand, if we diddle around trying to get a perfectly “green” energy supply, those coal-fired power plants may dump so much CO2 into the atmosphere that people won’t be living a thousand years from now.

  524. CTG:

    For goodness sake, James, have you read anything on this site at all?

    What will happen to sea levels if we continue with BAU emissions levels? Hint: they won’t go down.

    Let’s pretend that is the only impact of warming (which it wouldn’t be). If the Greenland Ice Sheet melts, we would be looking at a 6m sea level rise. What proportion of the world’s population lives within 6m of current sea levels? How much do you think it would cost to relocate them?

    There might be uncertainty as to when that would happen, but it certainly would happen sooner or later.

    Even if it happens 100 years from now, and we started moving all the cities that are within 6m of sea level over the course of that 100 years, do you really think that would be cheaper than changing the way we produce electricity?

    The only scenario that makes any sense is to drastically reduce (worldwide) CO2 emissions over the next 2 or 3 decades. Please do tell us how that is achievable without using wind, solar, hydro etc?

  525. SecularAnimist:

    You prefer your “back-of-the-envelope calculations” which are never substantiated with any actual facts, to Jacobson’s detailed, quantitative, peer-reviewed study, and call the actual real-world data that he uses for — for example — planning, licensing and construction times for nuclear power plants, “assumptions”.

    OK.

    James wrote: “… in hopes that someday I’ll irritate someone into doing better.”

    In fact, other commenters here have done better, and when you don’t like their conclusions, you dismiss them and return to your back-of-the-envelope guesstimates.

    James wrote: “On the other hand, if we diddle around trying to get a perfectly ‘green’ energy supply, those coal-fired power plants may dump so much CO2 into the atmosphere that people won’t be living a thousand years from now.”

    I’d say that’s a good characterization of your attitude towards concentrating solar thermal power plants.

  526. EL:

    517 – “Mathematics is probably infinite. A given mathematical system always includes at least one lemma which cannot be proved to be either true or false from the system’s other premises. That’s what Godel showed. That’s all incompleteness means. If you want to prove the lemma in question, you expand the set a bit, and then you’ve proved that one but have another one that isn’t proved.”

    In a basic nutshell, any axiom cannot prove consistency within itself. You can use any axiom you want, but you will not prove consistency. All systems of mathematics fall under this restriction period. Physical theories are mathematical models, and they are subject to this limitation.

    “No, some problems cannot be solved analytically, which is a different thing. You might want to read an introductory textbook on numerical methods. The Planck equation can’t be integrated, but you can get as close as you want with numerical integration to solve a specific problem with it.”

    Godel proved an unprovable theorem in arithmetic. He proved a proposition of whole numbers to be undecidable.

  527. Steve Reynolds:

    HR2380 looks like a carbon tax people (but not most politicians) might support:

    http://flake.house.gov/UploadedFiles/revenue-neutral-carbon-tax.pdf

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/what-a-carbon-tax-proposal-looks-like-5215

  528. EL:

    In a basic nutshell, incompleteness explicitly implies that no physical theory can guarantee completeness. In other words, An observation may be made outside the scope of the model. Since the observation is new, scientist would have to create a new model. The new model would again have the same problem. Scientists cannot make guarantees of a complete and consistent theory. It’s mathematically impossible to do.

  529. Hank Roberts:

    Imagine what would have happened if the accounting profession had been regulated early on, like say medical doctors, instead of agreeing to self-regulation within the broad limits of “generally accepted accounting practices” — why we might know what the world costs and what it’s worth.

    “… I would argue that a majority of the horrors we face would not have happened if the accounting profession developed and enforced better accounting. They are way too liberal in providing the kind of accounting the financial promoters want. They’ve sold out, and they do not even realize that they’ve sold out. ….”

    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2009/05/interview-with-charlie-munger.html

  530. Doug Bostrom:

    #523 James:

    “…in hopes that someday I’ll irritate someone into doing better.”

    You’re doing fine, heh! Almost there, I’d say.

    “On the other hand, if we diddle around trying to get a perfectly “green” energy supply, those coal-fired power plants may dump so much CO2 into the atmosphere that people won’t be living a thousand years from now.”

    Something upon which I’m sure you’ll find lots of agreement.

    As long as we don’t lose sight of the big picture, dig in our heels and arrest progress by preference of whatever emotional or financial attachment we have to one scheme or another progress is possible. That’s going to be very difficult, however, because human nature says we can expect more than one group or another find it irresistible to see things as a zero sum game where some “win” and some “lose”.

    Look at what the distorting effect of our temporary endowment of hydrocarbons has done to our energy portfolio, and to our capability to respond to emerging need for change. It’s currently almost a monoculture and it has developed a set of entrenched players who feel very threatened when confronted with the possibility that consumers may have a choice about where to plug in their toasters. This has seriously retarded us in terms of developing any diversity of appropriate energy generation or capture systems to occupy different niches. It’s also trained most of us to expect the emergence of some new king technology to slip neatly into place, something that can’t happen.

    One gauge of a healthy response to this challenge is witnessing the emergence of a diverse and reasonable array of combustion replacements. There are a plethora of options available to us, each with varying degrees of suitability to different requirements. The extent to which we see niches for these occupied will in part tell us the chances of our collective success in escaping our predicament

    I’ll remain leery of the motives of anybody who takes an absolute stance regarding suitability of one relatively benign technology over another without theirr supplying powerful and exact justifications that are compelling in the face of an enormous threat.

  531. dhogaza:

    In a basic nutshell, incompleteness explicitly implies that no physical theory can guarantee completeness.

    But you don’t need a complete theory of life, the universe, and everything in order to build a model describing a small part of it.

    That’s the point, and equating the two is your mistake.

    Just like the fact that I can’t devise an algorithm that solves the Halting Problem doesn’t mean that I can’t create an algorithm that returns “true” if asked “does the turing machine consisting of the single instruction “Halt”, halt?”.

  532. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #515 Doug
    #498 James

    Occassionally there are some actions that seem to make sense. I am not sure that low head hydro, as it has been called some times in the past, is scalable to the degree needed. It might still be economically sensible.

    One observation, subject to more authoritative information, is that a way to get the effect of pumped hydro is to simply hold the water power when other sources are strong, and release it for hydro electric production at other times. I realize that some hydro is cescribed as “run of the river” and there is no management possible. However, in California it appears that we produce hydro power on a continuous basis throughout the 24 hour day. It seems reasonable that the reservoirs could be trusted to hold water for part of the day to enable greater release at other times.

    James, I think you should get credit for picking out the weak points in the quantitative arguments, and though calculations might be “back of the envelope” they still can be very important in providing perception of the real situation. Doing a complete analysis is quite a task, but it is still valid to be a good critic.

    Doug, I think you might on first glance junk the Miastrada car concept (click my name) as Rube Goldberg, but on a second look you might find it quite simple. It certainly has very low cost implications. Generally, I have convinced myself that this and the accompanying cogeneration concept meet standards, similar to yours for practicality. Your comment about 100 years of power plant history suggests you would also appreciate the disaster, not only of coal, but also the fact that the very concept of centralized power plants incurred a cost in inefficiency of an extra 200%. That is, compared to a system of power plants located in ways that would enable the discharged heat to fill a useful purpose.

    I don’t expect anyone to get excited about the appearance of the Miastrada car. It is widely recognized to be a very funny looking vehicle.

  533. FurryCatHerder:

    James @ 523:

    On the other hand, if we diddle around trying to get a perfectly “green” energy supply, those coal-fired power plants may dump so much CO2 into the atmosphere that people won’t be living a thousand years from now.

    What ever are you talking about?!? An imperfect “green” energy supply isn’t going to cause coal-fired plants to dump massive amounts of CO2 anywhere.

    Do you know what “Balancing Energy” means? Do you understand that “Balancing Energy” is one of the critical problems which needs to be solved for renewables to work, and that “Balancing Energy” is a net-zero energy process if done properly? I’m glossing over a lot of details because this is a blog, but that’s this real problem that the storage technologies you attack can be used to solve to make the grid MUCH more green and much more tolerable of wind and solar.

    Here — this is 16 hours of solar power. No added CO2 emitted due to all the spikes and imperfections.

    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y57/FurryCatHerder/CloudyDay.jpg

    Kindly explain where all this extra CO2 was emitted.

  534. Doug Bostrom:

    #527 EL:

    You’re wandering off into the weeds; Godel’s work does not have any practical effects in this arena. Your earlier remarks on population control were a lot more germane.

  535. Mark:

    EL gets it TOO basic: “In a basic nutshell, incompleteness explicitly implies that no physical theory can guarantee completeness”

    Nope.

    1) It’s mathematics, not physics. All processes stop at some point.
    2) The definition of completeness is a mathematical one, not a lexical one. Your completeness in a nutshell is misleading since it will often be taken as the everyday version. Which is incorrect.

  536. Mark:

    And in 526 EL shows where he goes wrong.

    “In a basic nutshell, any axiom cannot prove consistency within itself. You can use any axiom you want, but you will not prove consistency. All systems of mathematics fall under this restriction period. Physical theories are mathematical models, and they are subject to this limitation.”

    Axiomatic completeness: correct.
    Applies to a Physical theory: incorrect.

    Why incorrect? Because physics uses as its basic axiom: every process seen can be explained. Where it cannot hold (religion, spirituality, “why are we here”, etc) it isn’t physics.

    This is because although physics USES maths, it isn’t maths.

    And that’s where EL goes wrong.

  537. Chris S.:

    I’d be interested in comments about this article:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2009/may/09/green-your-home-solar-panels

    The rewards of solar panels

    Ashley Seager spent £8,500 on solar roof panels and is now reaping the rewards

    (exerpt): “We have a 3kW peak system (about 4m by 3m) on the roof. It produced 2,703kW hours (kWh) in its second full year (to 5 April), only 1% lower than the 2,730 kWh it produced in the first year, and that in spite of a lousy 2008 summer.

    That was about 80% of the 3,500 kWh we used, and our usage was up because we had builders do some underpinning, which meant lots of kettles and cement mixers on.

    The previous year we – a family of four – used 3,000 kWh, so the solar system produced 92% of our needs, a figure we expect to return to in the coming 12 months.

    The panels, made by Kyocera of Japan, come with a 25-year guarantee and should last a lot longer than that. What you effectively do when you buy a solar PV system is pre-buy decades of electricity at today’s price, thus shielding you from price rises. One great thing about a PV system is that it is “fit and forget” with little or no maintenance or noise. And they don’t have to go on a directly south-facing roof – ours points south-east and works very well.

    So how do the figures work out? Well, buying 3,000 kWh of electricity normally would cost around £420, based on 14 pence/kWh with npower, our supplier. We end up saving almost £400 of that by producing nearly all our own.

    On top of that, we were getting payments under the government’s Renewable Obligation Certification (ROC) scheme of around £35 per megawatt/hour, rounded to the nearest whole one. So that is £105, putting us about £70 in the black for the year.

    Since 1 April, that ROC payment has doubled to £210, putting us about £175 in the black. That compares with £420 in the red without the panels – a gain of almost £600 a year.”

  538. Lennart van der Linde:

    Gavin (494), thanks for the tip. I will look into it some more.

  539. EL:

    dhogaza
    “But you don’t need a complete theory of life, the universe, and everything in order to build a model describing a small part of it.

    That’s the point, and equating the two is your mistake.”

    You can still build a model that describes the entire universe; however, you cannot guarantee the completeness and consistency at the same time. So your model is not necessarily true. If you try to model a small part of the universe, you still cannot guarantee completeness of the small part. If you can guarantee the small part, you can guarantee the whole.

  540. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “The cost and environmental impact of not moving to zero-emission energy greatly exceeds the costs of doing so.”

    Evidence? Facts, figures, even back-of-the envelope ballpark calculations?

    James, there’s this environmental problem called “global warming” which is very serious and which is caused primarily by burning fossil fuels. It’s so serious that the environmental degradation associated with wind or solar is trivial by comparison. Want numbers? Do the math. What’s the monetarized cost of losing, say, the Mojave Desert to photovoltaic, compared to the monetarized cost of losing the trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure tied up in dozens of coastal cities, a billion people in Asia and Latin America losing their fresh water supply due to glacier retreat, and the collapse of human agriculture due to out-of-control drought in continental interiors?

  541. Ray Ladbury:

    EL, Know any positivist philosophers of science? Neither do I. Positivism has kind of gone the way of the dodo. Philosophy of science has come a long way since Popper and Wittgenstein and Kuhn. You really ought to look into it.

  542. Nigel Williams:

    504 John McCormick re Wadhams and the Arctic ice.
    One of the Tragedy of the Climate Commons is the combination of imperfect information/knowledge mixed with the time lag entailed in matters of ‘fairness’ and giving people time to be ‘included’ in the process. This is OK if the response to the event is in serial with the consultation process, as the activity of the response can wait until a consensus has been reached.

    But this is a one-dimensional view. In the case of AGW and its children the tragedy is that while we fiddle, Rome is burning regardless.

    While we chat here, have a look at the recent days in:

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/CT/animate.arctic.color.0.html

    I don’t know what combination of warming and winds is causing this bizarre melt through 90N (roughly on the 180-0 longitude line), but its not reflected in earlier years as far as I can see. Wadams’ pronouncements are in a similarly conservative vein as IPCC, and thats a sensible scientific style, but it does not make us duck the ‘spear’ of his opinion.

    The climate commons are stuck considering a problem that does not generate any adrenalin. Standing in a food-queue with the lights out might.

  543. PedroK:

    On our small planet, environment depends as much on how we treat our world as how we treat each other. Climate change is a serious challenge that requires immediate action. We have the power – working collectively and individually at all levels of society – to take serious action to reduce the threats posed by climate change. It is a good idea to think of new ways to repair credit with the planet on Earth Day.
    Read more http://personalmoneystore.com/moneyblog/2009/04/22/pay-earth-day/

  544. TokyoTom:

    530: “our temporary endowment of hydrocarbons … [is] currently almost a monoculture and it has developed a set of entrenched players who feel very threatened when confronted with the possibility that consumers may have a choice about where to plug in their toasters.”

    Doug, you`ve correctly identified that SOMEONE feels threatened about where people plug in their toasters, but it ain`t the fossil fuel industry. but the so-called “public utilties”, which are NOT owned by fossil fuel producers, and have persuaded states to give them local monopolies and to wall them off from competition, in exchange for regulation of how rates are set.

    Consumers get screwed all around, since they can`t purchase power from whom they want, by type of generating source, by time of day (peak v. off-peak), largely can`t easily monitor their own use, have limited ability to put back power to the utility, and because the utilities have no incentive to invest in long-range transmission (which would allow greater competition among generators) unless the local regulator is willing to allow cost recovery.

    As the whole pent up demand for green energy is caused by the state/local grants of monopoly, perhaps environmentalists, rather than pushing for more government involvement, might consider asking for and end to public utility monopolies:

    http://mises.org/story/2264

  545. TokyoTom:

    #438: “But Rene isn’t talking about incorporating private ownership as part of a management strategy, but rather selling off the resources and getting rid of any collective from-above management strategy altogether, from forbidding government managers from setting goals (for instance, sustainability) at all.

    When these schemes work it is typically due to some sort of collective mechanism above and beyond the whim of the individual owner of a fishery or other stock.”

    dhogaza, you persist in finding an enemy in every friend. Nowhere has Rene (or I) advocated ANY form of privatization scheme, much less insisted on one that eliminates all government oversight (which of course, for as long as governments exist, is impossible anyway). In any case, in all of the cases where open-access-type resources are centrally managed, we can only expect gradual steps away from that, as politicians like to maintain their positions as gatekeepers for favors and we rarely see bureaucrats volunteer to lighten their own oversight purview.

    “We have exceptions where individual owners put long-term sustainabiliity and non-economic values as a priority (I mentioned Gilchrist lumber here in Oregon as an example). But these are notable precisely because they’re *exceptions*.”

    I understand your concern about the timeframes in which humans act, but there is an irreducible difficulty in fashioning institutions with longer-term views, as they are all populated by people. Even resources in the hands of governments are subject to human whim, such as Cheney`s allocation of scarce water in Oregon in ways that favored Republican farmers over salmon, Native Americans and fishermen, and Bush`s widescale gas leasing in the Front Range, against the opposition of ranchers and hunters.

    Further, you and others keep forgetting that many private owners lead the way in environmental protection; many state parks have their roots in privately preserved land that, in order to avoid the tax man, were subsequently handed over to the state. The Nature Conservancy (which represents its individual members) protects valuable parcels not by seeking government regulation, but by buying them (or conservation easements) outright.

    Another problem you point to is that of conflicts between community interests and the interests of individual owner and interloping buyers (individuals or firms). It seems to me that the greatest problem relates not to the ownership of property, but to the willingness of giant corporations to listen to the communities in which they operate. Some do a better job than others, but I do think that the problems with corporations also has its roots in gifts by governments to relatively wealthy investors: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=limited. Many large firms are run in order to put money first in the pockets of executives, with employees and investors next, under circumstances that encourage risk-taking rather than truly conservative behavior (as can be seen from the financial crisis).

  546. Jacob Mack:

    Every theory and model in science is constrained and necessarily so. Mathematics is a powerful tool which is of utmost importance as quantitative analysis must be cojoined at the hip with qualitative. Falsifiabilty is not even an issue for most of us; we accept it and look forward to making theories which explain and predict more effectively. Weather and climate are in real ways non-linear systems with climate trends being easier to graph and predict than weather, though climate stll has it own twizzles and puzzles. Saying that a scientific model of any type or definition is useless because they fail to explain everything or account for an uncertain future with 100% accuracy is just bad faith to coin Jean Paul Sartre. No one denies humans do things which humans do…scientists are human and we make errors, have prejudices, goof up data,amend theorirs, change hypotheses, and review what we did wrong. This is why there are basic tenents like: repeatability, validity of experiments-observations,error analyses,peer review,ethics overviews, and statistical tools to analyze the weight of a finding.
    We can throw around Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Betrand Russell, David Hume,Immanuel Kant, Einstein’s personal beliefs, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics,John Locke, George Berkely, and any number of current theorists all we wish. These musings do not change that we understand climate and weather quite well and that there is more we can and should be doing to reduce grenhouse gas emissions.
    Debating about whether math is a Platonic idea, a man made metaphor relating to reality and logic,a unifying principle, or some blended tool of all the aforementioned maybe fun, but how does this change what must be done? You may ask, well, what must be done? Well, a serious overhaul of accounting procedures and economic theories for one. I for one love democracy or this republic and can appreciate the beauty of democracy.I think, however, under the circumstances in order to achieve what we are talking about there needs to be major investing in a new infrastructure, and not just in energy, but in how the US conducts business and promotes energy alternatives. Adam Smith was not completely wrong and neither was Ayn Rand or Alan Greenspan, however, there needs to be stricter government regulation to accomplish these goals. I am not a Marxist or promoting some sort of scoialsim per se, but there is a need for subsidies in addition to Government partnerships with corporate America to make green energy more profitable,and sustainable with proper controls. Get an independent energy/climatology/geology panel to oversee the implementation of such a huge project. Without getting too far off the beaten path into partsian politics, I do believe that the current president has begun this necessary process.
    Wind energy can be very efficient and suplemental at first. It can grow into a true profitable industry and the engineering is available for those who utilize it correctly. I can see how it works and some iof you can to, judging from your posts and repective backgrounds. Rational self interest, however, depletes the money that could be better placed into proper design and placement of such machines. The economy is not doing well…Frank the truck driver wants the extra driving gigs and to get the most miles he can so he can support his wife and kids. Bill the mechanic who works on engines makes more money fixing internal combustion engines; if he were to be phased out by those who are better at working with electric motors and such he suffers a loss. There will be people left behind, there’s no doubt about it, however, many people can adapt and learn to work with newer technology.

    Reality is what it is. We all anthropomorphize and analogize. There are not positive or negative charges in nature a wave/partcile duality describes behavior, but the wave is not really a wave. there is no photon like an ocean wave or atom in a literal sense as we imagine it or draw it in textbooks. Get off the model versus what actually is, or the isness. Of course that is true, but science and math gives us the best observable and measurable truths we can find with a certain margin of error and uncertainties.If US involvement is not enough to curtail global warming then we need to give avenues and incentives for other countries to join in this gloabl plight. India has an enormously well funded program to clean up the Ganges river and yet it has failed miserably. Corn based ethanol gasoline is a dismal failure; so too is beet sugar based fuel and other crop based alternatives. We need to target the plants for significant change. China needs a reason to make the transition…altruism does not apply and neither does a dim hope to save the planet with very difficult to understand climate models. (for most people)RC certainly does educate the masses who are willing to read and learn, but this activism we seek to do and currently do needs to become far more ambitious. There are many smart people who are educated who are still “denialists.” There are brilliant philosophers and even some physical scientists who are in the dark. We need to find ways to reahc them with more accessible data and compelling arguments than is the cat alive and dead or alive or dead. Look whether you consider your self a Logical Positivist, Democrat, Republican, or a giant sea otter, we should work together on this issue in more proactive ways. I am open to all suggestions…how do we combine these resources and minds with actions to affect change now?

  547. TokyoTom:

    #408: “The “climate commons” are the biggest ones of all. They cannot be contained, users cannot be easily left out. Even market-based solutions demand an international enforceable regulation to forbid, tax or at least know who´s emmitting how much, and who has to pay to whom for what.”

    Alexandre, thanks for your comments; I largely agree.

    The fact that the atmosphere is a global commons means no government can act effectively alone; that`s why Gavin`s metaphor of the multi-party international negotiations as a tragedy of the commons is apt. It`s also why fear of government “fiat” is rather misdirected, as in essence all major emmitting governments (and their chief constitutencies) have to reach a COMMON agreement. The situation is much like ranchers reaching terms of use on a range, and fishermen agreeing how to manage a fishery:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2008/07/14/are-pigovian-taxes-coasean-if-they-are-not-fixed-by-one-government-but-rather-the-product-of-negotiations-among-many.aspx

  548. Jacob Mack:

    # 529 Hank Roberts…good point.# 528, what is your point in this discussion?

  549. Jaydee:

    El,

    Godel’s theorem makes no comment on physical systems or producing approximate models of physical systems, it applies to the limits and provability of mathematical systems.

    “Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true,[1] but not provable in the theory.”

    I think the last bit “…there is an arithmetical statement that is true,[1] but not provable in the theory.” is where you argument falls down. An empirically demonstrated physical phenomena may not be provable.

  550. TokyoTom:

    #484: “Tosh, to put it bluntly. The ratio of greenwash to real change is vast. Moreover, only retail businesses are subject to any significant consumer pressure even to undertake greenwashing. It has been legislation and in some cases international agreements that have mitigated damage from food adulteration, lead in fuel and paint, acid rain, and ozone-destroying chemicals.”

    Nick, “tosh”? Now I`m really offended! ;)

    I never argued that consumer pressure was by itself adequate in all cases. Presumably you agree that consumer pressure has proven to be useful, even as you downplay it. The fact of greenwashing is itself an indication that consumer opinion matters, even as people remain susceptibly to deception – which is why there remain entrepreneurial opportunities for certification organizations. consumer reporting, etc.

    I would love to see some consumer boycotts of unsustainbly caught bluefin, in order to lead the way for regulatory/treaty changes that I certainly agree are needed, and the role of moral suasion and struggle for the moral high ground is not to be denied on the climate change issue (which is why Gore in some ways is a self-hamstrung figure – the man wouldn`t know a hairshirt if it hit him in the face).

  551. Mark:

    re 550: “I never argued that consumer pressure was by itself adequate in all cases”

    And this is one case where it is entirely inadequate.

  552. Ike Solem:

    Recall this thread was initially about the need to limit exhaustion of a sustainable resource – something humans have not always managed to do, even against a background of stable climate. In the case of Easter Island, there were plenty of fish in the sea, just no means to catch them after all the trees were cut down. In the case of the Monterey Bay sardine fishery (1905-1964), they began pumping fish out of the bay so fast that they could not recover (mainly driven by the fishmeal and fish oil industries, not for food). In the Monterey Bay case, greed was the driving factor – and scientists who predicted the collapse were ignored and had no say in policy.

    Today , fishmeal is often contaminated with persistent organic pollutants, such as PCBs and the like, plus mercury. Not only have we removed so many fish that numbers are falling, we’ve also dumped so many pollutants into the atmosphere and ocean that everything is getting contaminated. If we continue in this way, it is pretty certain that human beings will face the loss of wild fish protein as a food source, as did the Easter Islanders.

    Adam Smith also touched on the matter of population growth, but here he assumes ecological and climatic stability – but his argument fits with the modern view, which is that if you work to raise the overall standard of living and make sure women have equal economic and political rights, population stabilizes because fewer children are born, but more is invested in their care – assuming climatic and ecological stability:

    “Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the means of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply beyond it. But in civilised society it is only among the inferior ranks of people that the scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further multiplication of the human species; and it can do so in no other way than by destroying a great part of the children which their fruitful marriages produce.”

    Notice, however, that this did not work for the Easter Islanders, who in the end were subject to the same fundamental ecological and physical limits, regardless of social standing. When food and fuel runs out, civilizations collapse – and then populations either plummet or migrate, as nomadic herdsmen did when their grazing lands were struck by drought.

    How many national crisis have started off as food and fuel riots, after all? If you accept this reality, then you would want to ensure food and fuel supplies. To do that, you would be best served by choosing ecological economic analysts to help draft an economic plan for future solvency – not Marxists or neoclassicals.

  553. dhogaza:

    Mark sez:

    Axiomatic completeness: correct.
    Applies to a Physical theory: incorrect.

    Why incorrect? Because physics uses as its basic axiom: every process seen can be explained. Where it cannot hold (religion, spirituality, “why are we here”, etc) it isn’t physics.

    This is because although physics USES maths, it isn’t maths.

    And that’s where EL goes wrong.

    Stephen Hawkings apparently disagrees with you.

    But, that doesn’t make EL right. EL’s saying the equivalent of “since mathematical systems must be either incomplete or inconsistent, we can’t prove 2+2=4″:

    If you try to model a small part of the universe, you still cannot guarantee completeness of the small part. If you can guarantee the small part, you can guarantee the whole.

    This is just … wrong.

    The implications of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is more philosophical than practical. The fact that we can’t prove everything or know everything doesn’t place a practical upper bounds on how many things there are left to learn or prove. The knowable unknowns out there will keep humanity busy learning for awhile …

  554. FurryCatHerder:

    Chris @ 537:

    The article is pretty typical — I have a 2.8KW peak array and it can produce upwards of 100% of my power. We’ve had an unusually cool, cloudy and rainy spring, though it has been warmer of late. So long as the clouds don’t dominate the day, and the temperatures stay in the low 90′s, I leave the electric company turned off.

    The finances were fairly simple, though I didn’t receive any rebate money from the state or electric company. I’ve been using the invention disclosure award money from the Three Letter Computer company I used to work for to pay off the 2nd m0rtgage I took out to pay for the system. Federal income tax credits took off a fair bit, and will again this year, and if I expand the array (which I plan to do to help keep the motorcycle charged) I’ll receive still more tax credits.

    The biggest issue at the moment is that TXU Energy refuses to pay the money they owe me for the electricity I export (“sell”). My solution has been to leave the electric company turned off as much as possible, rather than selling by day and buying by night. With the differences in cost for them to buy the power in the first place, they are losing money on the deal. Not that I care …

    I have toyed with the idea of installing solar thermal collectors, but I’d prefer to bury the storage tank and the thought of digging in the limestone-mixed-with-hard-clay soil I live on is not appealing.

    There are ways to design a system so it expands very easily, and that’s a great way to save money — some of the components can be oversized fairly cheaply, and that saves on upgrade costs and installation down the road. I started with 2.1KW, have 2.8KW now, and plan to expand to 5KW or more over time.

    Tokyo Tom @ 544:

    The “billing” problem you described is not a ‘real’ problem, in that it isn’t breaking things. While the technology exists, to some degree (electric meters with wireless reporting capabilities exist), I suspect deploying what you’ve described is fraught with problems as it means the “Retail Electric Providers” in deregulated areas (where “generation”, “transmission” and “sales” are all split apart) would find themselves in a real-time book keeping nightmare. That administrative cost would have to be added in and I’m not convinced it would benefit anyone, besides full-employment for bookkeepers, in the long run.

    There are some other errors in your post, mostly about long-range transmission lines, but most of the post is spot-on.

  555. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Once again, who is suggesting spreading ANY technology indiscriminately?”

    Well, I certainly advocate spreading wind turbine technology, and concentrating solar thermal technology, and solar photovoltaic technology, and solar space & water heating technology for buildings, indiscriminately to all nations and peoples of the world.

    I’d be happy to see all nations — including North Korea and Iran, including oppressive regimes with militaristic ambitions — building and using these technologies to harvest clean, endless, free wind and solar energy. I’d be happy to see the developed nations who are advanced with such technologies giving them away indiscriminately to the developing world where many people are in desperate need of clean energy, especially electricity.

    Why not? There is no reason on Earth to restrict access to these technologies because they are inherently benign.

    On the other hand, an expansion of nuclear power large enough to have any significant impact on reducing GHG emissions will necessarily involve spreading nuclear technology all over the world. Remember that the scenario suggested by the MIT study involved tripling the world’s nuclear generation capacity just to keep nuclear’s share of electricity generation constant at around 16 percent.

    And since that technology can be directly applied to making the most destructive weapons the world has ever known, such an expansion would require constant, pervasive, intrusive monitoring and controls to keep it out of malicious hands — the very sort of monitoring and controls that have already repeatedly failed to prevent nuclear power technology being used to facilitate the development of nuclear weapons under the cover of civilian nuclear power programs.

    You say that you are only talking about expanding nuclear power in a small number of countries, e.g. the USA and the UK. There are two problems with this. First of all, such a limited expansion will not have much impact on reducing the world’s total GHG emissions. Secondly, there is the problem of somehow preventing other nations — including oppressive regimes with militaristic ambitions — from doing the same.

  556. Mark:

    Re 539 “You can still build a model that describes the entire universe;”

    We aren’t trying to build a model that describes the entire universe.

  557. Hank Roberts:

    > solar thermal
    > storage tank
    I wish I knew of better storage options. It’s hard to store “warmth” — Marathon’s finally offering their tanks available without any heating element (plastic with a long warranty, not thin enameled steel). That lets you put a solar thermal heat exchanger in the bottom port, and use the as storage to feed prewarmed water to a gas-heated tank or tankless system. Or of course you can leave the upper electric element in and boost it with excess electricity when available. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put all that summer heat into something (sigh).

    The old “basement full of gravel” thermal mass notion didn’t work. Nor has anyone come up with a better material than plain water to store heat longterm. Something that would hold a lot of heat with a phase change at warm temperatures (like paraffin or lard) but be as harmless as water — not available yet.

    Pushing excess heat into the ground under the house with a geothermal loop using the mass under the house — nice idea if you’re building a new house.

    Wait for supercapacitors, or nanomech — masses of tiny little coil-spring-on-a-chip energy storage devices that will wind up all summer then unwind and stay warm with frictional heating through the winter…..

  558. James:

    CTG Says (14 May 2009 at 5:33 PM):

    “What will happen to sea levels if we continue with BAU emissions levels? Hint: they won’t go down.”

    Gee, you’ve actually noticed that? So, given the long list of serious effects from BAU CO2 emissions, why do you reject as PART of a solution, technology that has been proven to work reliably, has known costs, very little environmental footprint, etc?

    “The only scenario that makes any sense is to drastically reduce (worldwide) CO2 emissions over the next 2 or 3 decades. Please do tell us how that is achievable without using wind, solar, hydro etc?”

    Build nuclear power plants. Not, you understand, that I think we should do that exclusively: it’s just one of the many “wedges”, most if not all of which will need to be used if we’re to achieve that goal.

  559. Doug Bostrom:

    Paul Krugman has a very incisive column up this morning speaking directly to the topic of this thread and hinging on China’s responsibilities as producers versus our obligations as consumers to account for our collective carbon output.

    He’s not optimistic.

    Gavin, I think Krugman’s article would make an excellent top level post showing how your science steers us inexorably into public policy.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/opinion/15krugman.html?_r=2&hpw

  560. SecularAnimist:

    CTG wrote: “The only scenario that makes any sense is to drastically reduce (worldwide) CO2 emissions over the next 2 or 3 decades. Please do tell us how that is achievable without using wind, solar, hydro etc?”

    James replied: “Build nuclear power plants.”

    The MIT study I cited above — which advocates expanding nuclear electricity generation — says that we need to approximately triple the world’s nuclear generating capacity by 2050 just to keep nuclear power’s share of electricity generation constant, at around 16 percent.

    Specifically, what’s the scale of nuclear power expansion that you advocate, that will have a significant impact on reducing worldwide CO2 emissions over the “next 2 or 3 decades”?

  561. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (14 May 2009 at 10:37 PM):

    “What ever are you talking about?!? An imperfect “green” energy supply isn’t going to cause coal-fired plants to dump massive amounts of CO2 anywhere.”

    It is if it’s not able to meet demand, so that the fossil fuel plants have to be run to make up the difference. Or if halfway through the process of building, you go broke from the extra costs of the storage that you never though about when you started.

    “Do you understand that “Balancing Energy” is one of the critical problems which needs to be solved for renewables to work, and that “Balancing Energy” is a net-zero energy process if done properly?”

    Err… Yes? Haven’t I been hammering away trying to get people to understand that it’s a real (and costly) problem with intermittent generation? But it’s not net-zero energy, as there are always losses. (Except maybe for using hydro – there you might even gain a bit.)

    “Here — this is 16 hours of solar power. No added CO2 emitted due to all the spikes and imperfections.

    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y57/FurryCatHerder/CloudyDay.jpg

    Kindly explain where all this extra CO2 was emitted.”

    Where did your power come from when the PV arrays didn’t supply enough to meet your demand? Where does it come from at night?

  562. pete best:

    Re #537, Yes I read that article and then I realised that his 3500 KWhrs he uses each year are low for a family in the UK.

    http://www.home-save.co.uk/energy/why_switch_supplier/average_energy_usage/

    It is usually around 5,500 for a 3 bedroom house. I mean we can all give up our flat screen TV(s), PC(s), Laptop(s), stereo(s) etc or turn them off at the plug but his average use is very low and he does not mention when he generated the electricity in relation to when he used it, ie the Winter when you generate little but use more.

    Its a good idea he has but it aint the norm now is it?

  563. FurryCatHerder:

    James @ 558:

    Build nuclear power plants. Not, you understand, that I think we should do that exclusively: it’s just one of the many “wedges”, most if not all of which will need to be used if we’re to achieve that goal.

    Texas would need about 60 new nukes, assuming 1GW per nuke. Do you have a realistic plan to produce all these nukes?

  564. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (15 May 2009 at 4:21 AM):

    “What’s the monetarized cost of losing, say, the Mojave Desert to photovoltaic, compared to the monetarized cost of losing the trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure tied up in dozens of coastal cities…”

    You could pose that as a philosophical question, I suppose: what’s the worth of a unique ecosystem compared to that of cities, which we have in great plenty? But that’s a question we don’t need to ask, because it’s not a case of building PV arrays in the Mojave vs losing coastal cities, but of building PV arrays in the desert vs putting them on all the south-facing rooftops in California, or building a couple of nuclear plants, or turning down the airconditioners that keep most buildings uncomfortably cold in summer*, or doing any of a large number of other things that would provide a greadter reducion in CO2 emissions at less cost, and without major environmental impacts.

    *Seriously. I worked at a lab in the Bay Area for a couple of years, and had to keep sweaters & fleece jackets in the office to wear inside in the summer.

  565. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #558 James

    If you extrapolate context into the future you can see that in a more largely populated world with resource scarcity problems the likelihood of nuclear war becomes more viable on an escalating scale in relation to the latitudinal shift (droughts, human migration, etc.). So just saying ‘nuclear’ presents the expected introduction of new problems.

    Report to the Pentagon:
    The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change
    http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2008/the-age-of-consequences/

    Case 2 – Severe Climate Change
    An average increase in global temperature of 2.6°C by 2040 (or 20XX?)

    “Massive nonlinear events in the global environment give rise to massive nonlinear societal events. Nations around the world will be overwhelmed by the scale of change and pernicious challenges, such as pandemic disease. The internal cohesion of nations will be under great stress, including in the United States, both as a result of a dramatic rise in migration and changes in agricultural patterns and water availability. The flooding of coastal communities around the world, especially in the Netherlands, the United States, South Asia, and China, has the potential to challenge regional and even national identities. Armed conflict between nations over resources, such as the Nile and its tributaries, is likely and nuclear war is possible. The social consequences range from increased religious fervor to outright chaos. In this scenario, climate change provokes a permanent shift in the relationship of humankind to nature.”

    What is working now has a different context in the future. As things progress, do you really want more weapons grade plutonium available as more and more people need money and would trade plutonium for wealth.

    The risk/reward gets dicey.

    On the other hand, 4th gen. nuclear does not produce weapons grade plutonium. That is a safer option for the future compared to current technology in that field.

    And yes, we are going to need a lot of wedges in the plan.

  566. FurryCatHerder:

    James @ 561:

    Where did your power come from when the PV arrays didn’t supply enough to meet your demand? Where does it come from at night?

    Wind or batteries. My life is carbon negative and I work very hard to keep it that way. Mostly because I save a ton of money being carbon negative …

  567. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (15 May 2009 at 11:44 AM):

    “Texas would need about 60 new nukes, assuming 1GW per nuke. Do you have a realistic plan to produce all these nukes?”

    Do you have a realistic plan to produce the same amount of power (including reliability) with solar or wind? You do realize that that’s a good part of what I’ve been arguing about? When you expand solar/wind to that scale, the construction costs &c appear to be just as great, if not greater, than building nuclear power.

    In relation to which, I came across a site for what looks like an interesting book that addresses some of the issues: I’ve only skimmed a bit of the on-line version so far, but here’s a link for the curious: http://www.withouthotair.com/

  568. Ike Solem:

    FurryCatHerder, SecularAnimist, TokyoTom, Hank Roberts:

    If you want to talk about the use of technology in the modern world, you have to talk about intellectual property law, which can either promote or restrict the adoption of renewable energy technologies, depending on how it is applied.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/11/science-research-business

    You also have to talk about the difference between what investors call ‘emerging technology’ and ‘disruptive technology’, and also of the foundational role that independent basic science plays in technological development. Generally speaking, venture capitalists want to get behind emerging technology, while established economic cartels want to suppress disruptive technology. The extent to which cartels are able to do so is typically proportional to their influence over government decision-making processes.

    You also have to consider whether academic institutions are supporting the venture capitalist approach, as was the case in the growth of the computer industry in Silicon Valley, or the investor-controlled cartel approach, as is currently the case in the energy and pharmaceutical sectors of major U.S. universities.

    The concept of “disruptive technology” applies to solar energy. If you read George Monbiot’s article in the Guardian, he addresses the issue, but misses a major point in the subtitle:

    “Science research in Britain is now all about turning knowledge into business, rather than the beauty of exploration”

    What is he missing? It has to do with the specific example he uses:

    “The research councils, which provide 90% of the funding for acad­em­ic research, introduced a requirement for those seeking grants: they must describe the economic impact of the work they want to conduct.”

    This doesn’t apply only to the professor who studies nothing but “the fuzz on bumblebees” (Edison). Let’s say a university research group has a project centered around fast-growing algae that live in high salt, high temperature environments. On one hand, this is an ideal biofuel source, as fresh water is not required. On the other, this is a perfect source of robust photosynthetic proteins for physical analysis – and the more you learn about photosynthesis, the more chance you have of developing better solar photovoltaic systems, even completely artificial photosynthesis – a Haber nitrogen fixation process for CO2 (CO2 + H2 -> CH4 + H2O, vs. H2 + N2 -> NH3).

    You could easily imagine five or six PIs, and a raft of postdocs, grad students and professional techs working on that project at one university alone – the standard situation for pharmaceutical research in a breast cancer group, for example. What kind of “economic impact report” will they have to write?

    To be honest, they will have to point to the disruptive economic impact of revolutions in electricity generation and hydrocarbon production. What if they work in a country that is heavily reliant on the global trade in fossil fuels for income? They will have to include possible damage to trade income in their analysis, won’t they?

    Take another example – a research group that specializes in the study of persistent organic pollutants in marine mammals, fish and birds from all over the Pacific Ocean. This kind of research revealed bioaccumulation and global transport – chemicals like toxaphene were showing up in remote Arctic lakes (the cold temperature precipitation effect), and whale and sea otter blubber was loaded up with PCBs and diesel fuel residues, among many others. Now, when this group writes their economic impact report, do they have to include the potential costs of lawsuits against polluting industries in their report? To be honest, they would have to.

    Sometimes, it’s not just the technology that’s disruptive to the established economic cartels – it’s the knowledge itself. How to manage the “intellectual property commons” is thus something you have to address.

  569. SecularAnimist:

    John Reisman wrote: “On the other hand, 4th gen. nuclear does not produce weapons grade plutonium.”

    On the other hand, 4th generation nuclear power plants don’t produce any electricity either, because they don’t exist, and are unlikely to be developed, commercialized and deployed on any scale where they could make a significant reduction in CO2 emissions within the relevant time frame.

    Nuclear power plants — either the actual designs that actually exist and can actually be built today, or the science-fiction ones that won’t be buildable (let alone tested and proven) for decades or longer — simply cannot be built fast enough, in sufficient quantity, to make any significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions within the time that such reductions need to occur.

    Wind and solar can be, and are already being, built very quickly, and are already being deployed in quantity, both as large centralized power plants and small-to-medium distributed generation, all over the world. There is a reason that billions of dollars of private venture capital are going to these technologies every year, and there is a reason that they are growing at record-breaking double-digit rates every year.

    And one of the reason that private investors are extremely wary of nuclear power is the very strong likelihood that new nuclear power plants that are started now, may very well be unneeded and obsolete by the time they are operational, unable to profitably sell their electricity in a market flooded with cheap wind and solar generated power.

    And indeed, if the ultra-cheap high-efficiency thin-film photovoltaics being developed and manufactured today by companies like Nanosolar really take off, then in the not too distant future most electricity may be generated locally from small-scale, distributed PV, and large centralized power plants of any sort may be a risky investment.

    John Reisman wrote: “And yes, we are going to need a lot of wedges in the plan.”

    The problem is that we don’t have infinite resources, and resources that are invested in less effective solutions are not available to be invested in more-effective solutions. Nuclear power is among the least effective and most expensive solutions — apart from its very serious problems and risks. By diverting resources from more effective solutions, it hinders rather than helps the effort to reduce emissions.

  570. FurryCatHerder:

    James @ 567:

    Do you have a realistic plan to produce the same amount of power (including reliability) with solar or wind? You do realize that that’s a good part of what I’ve been arguing about? When you expand solar/wind to that scale, the construction costs &c appear to be just as great, if not greater, than building nuclear power.

    It’s already being done. You do realize that more wind, solar and hydro are in the process of being deployed, or planned to be deployed than what could realistically be done with nukes in the same time frame?

    Several gigawatt-per-year solar fabs have either recently come on-line or are under construction now. Each of those fabs will output the equivalent of 5 of those 1GW nukes a year — more if tracking equipment is used, rather than fixed collectors. Thin film integrated with building products is a hot technology as well, and one I’m trying to get into myself.

    In the area of reliability, as I’ve said, in the past two years I’ve produced (with others, wasn’t just me) something on the order of 30 patentable ideas which are at various stages of filing and examination that will solve, to some degree or another, the problems of “reliability” and “stability” that have been raised. I just checked the USPTO and sadly none have published yet. Those “ideas” are more advanced that what’s presently out there (wireless pager-based demand response management being the most common), as well as what’s in the pipeline that I know of (Internet active managed demand response from companies such as GridWise). Some have been published out on http://www.ip.com, but I lost access to that site when I was invited to leave the Three Letter Computer company.

    The short answer is that the train is leaving the station. The people who will benefit are the ones who adopt early — green power programs have been running close to 100% subscription. Meaning, late adopters will be stuck on dirty power with it’s current upward price pressure. Sucks being them.

  571. SecularAnimist:

    FurryCatHerder wrote: “Texas would need about 60 new nukes, assuming 1GW per nuke. Do you have a realistic plan to produce all these nukes?”

    James replied: “Do you have a realistic plan to produce the same amount of power (including reliability) with solar or wind?”

    I guess that means that no, you do not have a realistic plan to produce all those nukes. Well, neither does anyone else.

    On the other hand, multiple realistic plans for deploying large-scale wind and solar power generation have been put forth.

    For just one example see the article “A Solar Grand Plan” in the January 2008 issue of Scientific American:

    The U.S. is lucky to be endowed with a vast resource; at least 250,000 square miles of land in the Southwest alone are suitable for constructing solar power plants, and that land receives more than 4,500 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of solar radiation a year. Converting only 2.5 percent of that radiation into electricity would match the nation’s total energy consumption in 2006.

    To convert the country to solar power, huge tracts of land would have to be covered with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs. A direct-current (DC) transmission backbone would also have to be erected to send that energy efficiently across the nation.

    The technology is ready. On the following pages we present a grand plan that could provide 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy (which includes transportation) with solar power by 2050. We project that this energy could be sold to consumers at rates equivalent to today’s rates for conventional power sources, about five cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). If wind, biomass and geothermal sources were also developed, renewable energy could provide 100 percent of the nation’s electricity and 90 percent of its energy by 2100.

    Where is the comparably detailed and specific plan for nuclear power expansion to accomplish similar goals?

    And that’s only one such plan for a renewables-based energy supply. Ausra, a developer of utility-scale CSP technology, published a peer-reviewed study in March 2008 showing that over 90 percent of the U.S. electric grid and auto fleet’s energy needs could be met by solar thermal power with thermal storage. And DOE data cited by the American Wind Energy Association show that the wind energy resources of only four midwestern states exceed total US electricity consumption.

    James replied: “When you expand solar/wind to that scale, the construction costs &c appear to be just as great, if not greater, than building nuclear power.”

    You’ve said that repeatedly, but where are the actual numbers — not back of the envelope guesstimates based on assumptions but actual real-world numbers — to back it up?

  572. EL:

    Ray Ladbury – Stephen Hawking is a recent convert who has accepted the implications of Godel’s theorem. Although I disagree with him on one basic point, this information has been around a lot longer then he has been letting on. He almost comes across as admitting it grudgingly.

    Jacob Mack – I’m not really referring to usefulness. Mathematics is incomplete and will always be incomplete, but I don’t know of one person who would consider it useless. I’m simply referring to the idea of completeness. Will a day come when a physical theory is complete? Obviously, I am arguing no; however, I believe physics is very useful and can accomplish great things. Only a fool would believe otherwise.

    553 “The implications of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is more philosophical than practical. The fact that we can’t prove everything or know everything doesn’t place a practical upper bounds on how many things there are left to learn or prove. The knowable unknowns out there will keep humanity busy learning for awhile …”

    The implication implies that there is no upper bounds all together, and humanity will be learning forever.

    People knew long before Cantor that the problem existed. Galileo even took a look at the problem. He drew a circle on a piece of paper and made the assumption that it had infinite sides. Galileo drew lines from the center of the circle to each infinite side, and he was able to fill the circle; however, he tried making the circle larger, and he ran into a very large problem: Gaps between the lines. (try it yourself) So he decided that physics would use infinity, but it’s something we cannot understand. Newton pretty much the said same thing, and he decided it was in God’s hands.

    While Cantor wasn’t the first to see it, he was the first to press it, and Cantor earned a large number of enemies. After his death, Godel set out to fix what cantor had done, but he actually sealed the deal. Incompleteness theorem is the last nail in the coffin.

    You cannot set any kind of bounds because you will be inconsistent.

  573. Michael:

    SecularAnimist do you know of an unbiased, objective study comparing the costs of coal vs wind? By objective and unbiased I mean a study not done or financed by advocates of coal or wind. I’m finding a lot of data out there is useless – like asking a preacher if prayer works.

  574. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Do you have a realistic plan to produce the same amount of power (including reliability) with solar or wind?”

    Please don’t confuse variability with unreliability. Both solar and wind are extremely reliable. They are variable, which is a completely different matter. And their variability is to a great extent predictable, and manageable.

    Nor is energy storage the intractable or costly problem that some suggest. We already have multiple scalable options for energy storage, including chemical (batteries & fuel cells), thermal (molten salts with CSP) and kinetic (compressed air, pumped hyrdo, flywheels).

    Indeed, you yourself have mentioned the idea of combining residential-scale flywheel power storage with rooftop PV as a solution for widely deploying distributed energy generation, which could potentially reduce the need for large-scale, centralized electricity generation of any kind.

  575. SecularAnimist:

    EL, if you think there is any actual specific practical relevance of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem to climate models, I wish you would say what it is.

    I’m as bad as anyone and probably worse than most when it comes to prolonged off-topic digressions, and personally, I’m fascinated by subjects like Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, but in all honesty I don’t see how it’s relevant to climate models.

  576. Kevin McKinney:

    Doug, it seems upon reading the Krugman op-ed that consumer pressure could potentially play a role, since China’s growth has been driven by exports of consumer goods.

    What would be needed, I suppose, would be competing products that were reliably certified to have been produced with relatively lower emission intensities. Is there any prospect of–well, let’s call it “carbon transparency?” (Though I’m inviting all sorts of quips about diamonds here, I suppose.)

    A lot of folks will preferentially buy fairly traded coffee; I’d think the same would apply to, say, electronics, clothing and toys with smaller carbon footprints.

  577. dhogaza:

    The implication implies that there is no upper bounds all together, and humanity will be learning forever.

    Duh. I guess the sarcasm tag should’ve been made explicit.

    You cannot set any kind of bounds because you will be inconsistent.

    Oh, sure, I can set bounds like “I’m going to model the length of time it takes a baseball to drop 60 feet at sea level to within the accuracy of my stopwatch” and get it right. The fact that I can’t create a physical theory that encompass the universe, life, and everything (despite knowing the answer is “42″) doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.

    You can repeat your claim endlessly, won’t change it.

    Again, the problem is really philosophical, not practical.

  578. SecularAnimist:

    Michael wrote: “SecularAnimist do you know of an unbiased, objective study comparing the costs of coal vs wind? By objective and unbiased I mean a study not done or financed by advocates of coal or wind.”

    I think the study by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, which I cited above, is objective and unbiased, and as far as I know it was not financed by advocates of coal or wind. It addresses a wider range of impacts than just the dollar costs, including environmental and national security impacts.

  579. dhogaza:

    EL, if you think there is any actual specific practical relevance of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem to climate models, I wish you would say what it is.

    I’ll say it :)

    Climate models will never be able to model everything in the multiverse, if EL and Hawking’s are right about the implications of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem …

    Oh, that’s not really a practical implication, oh well.

  580. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #569 SecularAnimist

    I’m with you on what works. I know 4th gen. is still not there. I was only using it as a contrast.

    My plan is ranked this way:

    1. Awareness (this has the best chance at better policy direction and energy use reduction).
    2. Energy efficiency and consumption reduction (this is connected to awareness of course)
    3. Electrical Grid improvements & Renewables: Solar, Wind, Hydro etc.
    4. Carbon Capture and Use technology
    5. Then the back up plans like 4th gen. nuclear (maybe only 10 years away though, but still not sustainable… eventually you run out of thorium also)

    I understand the limited resource capacity. The wedges I am referring to are the points above as in reduce consumption, and increase solar, wind, hydro, (and possibly thorium) etc.

    Thorium reactors are potentionally/predictably less expensive that current nuclear and easier to maintain, it’s a good back up plan as far as I can tell, but I have no problem with dropping it if it really is not needed, I’m still looking at the pragmatics.

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/energy

    Thorium reactors: http://www.dauvergne.com

  581. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    potentionally? Oops :)

  582. EL:

    Doug Bostrom – I agree with him on China’s emissions. The projections on China’s emissions are huge.

    However, I disagree with him on:

    “As the United States and other advanced countries finally move to confront climate change, they will also be morally empowered to confront those nations that refuse to act. Sooner than most people think, countries that refuse to limit their greenhouse gas emissions will face sanctions, probably in the form of taxes on their exports. ”

    China is the banker of the USA. If china wants to refuse, the USA can do very little.

    577 – “Oh, sure, I can set bounds like “I’m going to model the length of time it takes a baseball to drop 60 feet at sea level to within the accuracy of my stopwatch” and get it right”

    If you can get it right, prove it. Construct a mathematical proof illustrating that every outcome is predicted by your model. What you mean to say is that you can get close enough to be useful with your model. Being useful and being complete is two different beasts.

  583. Doug Bostrom:

    #576 Kevin McKinney Says:

    “What would be needed, I suppose, would be competing products that were reliably certified to have been produced with relatively lower emission intensities.”

    10 years ago I had bit of exposure to electronics manufacturing in China. One of the factors guiding our decision making was that if one were not careful one could be promoting corner-cutting when it came to treatment of workers, disposal of waste, fulfillment of contracts, the whole responsibility polygon.

    It was actually possible with a good deal of due diligence and the help of a factor working in China to make this possible but our confidence in the process was never high. We ended up building in Canada. The main difference for us is that Canada sports a legal system that can provide the necessary governmental and judicial backstop to transparency and honesty. If there’s no price for deceit, we will end up being deceived. China can’t supply that, or not with sufficient certainty to deter ethical shortcuts.

    That choice cost money but we were in a market that was not too viciously sensitive to price for our product.

    It does seem that having a real government with real rule of law always seems to entail costs that consumers are reluctant to bear if they have any choice. Think of Walmart as a microcosm for that concept. They cut corners so they cost less and consumers flock to them.

    I completely agree with one of Krugman’s central tenets: government is necessary, government is good. This goes from the bottom all the way to the top. We have building codes because we know people will be killed if we don’t– human nature is that way. China does not have a handle on that and one result is a lot of tragically two-dimensional schoolchildren. We need oversight and the threat of real harm to malefactors wherever there is a chance to make a reckless and dangerous buck.

    I don’t see any solid evidence that acting as individuals looking out for own interests we can be trusted to make choices that are good for our collective well being, or not in enough numbers. History tells us so, the present moment tells us so and it is folly to imagine we might suddenly enter an exceptional and permanent era of Goodness.

    In my humble opinion, heh!

  584. CTG:

    Good one James, you’re funny. Oh wait, you were being serious?

    Remember that we are talking about global warming, so the solution must be a global solution. How much nuclear power would be needed to make a difference?

    Look at China – only 2% of China’s power is nuclear. They have plans to build 100 new plants. By the time they come online, that will still only be enough for 5% of their projected energy requirements.

    How about India? 30 plants in the pipelines, which will leave nuclear still producing less than 10% of their energy.

    Clearly, for nuclear to be a significant part of the mix, you are talking about building thousands of new reactors all over the world. What would the cost of that be, James? And what about the environmental impact of nuclear?

    Besides, it’s not just about what fuel is used. Part of the problem is the centralised generation model of electricity generation. How does nuclear fix that? Oh, it can’t. Whereas the technologies you are so reluctant to embrace can. In fact, for renewables to work most effectively, distributed generation has to be part of the solution.

    I know that the electricity companies are not keen on people generating electricity on the roofs of their houses, and things like that, for obvious reasons. Why do you object?

  585. Jacob Mack:

    El, # 582 you are simply mistaken. As for your comment response to me, that is also dodging the bullet. You are making vague over generalizations. You should read more Hawking and evidence how incomplete math and science are. We can use Newtonian mechanics ot make exact predictions about locations of bodies in space and calculus to ge very close to an exact rate of change; saying that not all math or science gives us a perfectly correct value is really very elementary and obvious. For example in quantum mechanics the measurements are often approximations, but how does that support you contention that math is all incomplete? This would make an interesting philosophical discussion on infinite space or regression between 2 points, but hardly does climate science any justice. Yes there are many approximations made and probabilities estimated regarding future climate and even the trends are not 100% exact, but they need not be for accurate measurements and plausible predictions. Infromation philosophy and various theorems are great dinner conversation.Math alone is not very useful here, but it is an indisipensable too; perhaps it is out application of it that is limited and not the math itself.

  586. Ike Solem:

    SecularAnimist: “I think the study by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, which I cited above, is objective and unbiased”

    Did you ignore everything I posted on the issue on the need to include path-dependent analysis? Jacobson lumps kansas coal-fired ethanol in with Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, for example – that’s a huge bias right there.

    Second, Jacobson has no coal fired carbon capture projects from which to draw real-life energy consumption estimates from – it’s the equivalent of claiming that we don’t need to worry, because ‘one day’ fusion will save us all.

  587. Ike Solem:

    John P. Reisman:

    “4. Carbon Capture and Use technology”

    Can you describe even a single plausible instance of the use of such technology in a coal-fired electricity generation system, one that has publicly available performance data? If you can, please let me know – the closest thing I’ve found is a computer based performance model from 2005, and I think the model is proprietary – I’ve been trying to get all the outraged climate model transparency people to contact DOE and Battelle and the FutureGen Alliance on this, but to no avail…

    Perhaps your foundation could file a FOIA request to the above parties with respect to FutureGen ‘carbon capture’ data – neither the NYT or the WP is at all interested. How about the OSS Foundation? Would they be interested in investigating the matter?

    It is relevant to the “intellectual property commons”, because the DOE Secretary was talking about sharing such property with China – but does it even exist? If so, why have no new patents been filed on any FutureGen process?

    If we could burn coal without producing any emissions, that would be fantastic – like a magical smokeless light that provides heat and warmth… in the sky. It’s called the sun, and collecting photons and using them to energize electrons doesn’t involve and mass transfer – thus, no emissions.

    Of course, I realize you may have been talking about the fossil fuel-free photosynthetic production of hydrocarbon fuel, i.e. solar and wind powered agriculture, which is a very different issue from coal carbon capture.

    All in all, I think this shows that the phrases “carbon emissions” and “carbon capture” are just too vague to convey much useful information.

  588. Doug Bostrom:

    #582 EL:

    We’re locked in a peculiar embrace with China. They do hold a lot of our debt. However there is well-grounded speculation they can neither afford to collapse us as an export market nor serve themselves well by destroying our currency. They’re trying to develop other markets but progress there is slow and has even been arrested of late.

    Meanwhile indications are that the drop in growth rate from astronomical to merely stellar China’s ecomomy has recently suffered is revealing what a metastable system the despots running the country have created for themselves. Necessarily they’ve created a highly educated middle class to run and grow the country as well as an aspiring underclass who have quickly become accustomed to steady improvements in material well being. A powderkeg for social unrest. I suspect if push came to shove the present masters of China would prove more amenable to playing grownup than we think. I also suspect we have a chronic drout of political courage so we may well never know for sure.

  589. SecularAnimist:

    Ike Solem wrote: “Did you ignore everything I posted on the issue on the need to include path-dependent analysis? Jacobson lumps kansas coal-fired ethanol in with Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, for example – that’s a huge bias right there.”

    Jacobson states in the introduction to the study that “The two liquid fuel options considered are corn-E85 (85% ethanol; 15% gasoline) and cellulosic-E85 … other fuel options, such as … sugar-cane ethanol … were not examined”, “simply due to the additional effort required and since the options examined are the most commonly discussed.”

    Since Jacobson did not even include sugar-cane ethanol in the study, and thus had nothing to say about it, I don’t see how you can say that he “lumps it in” with “kansas coal-fired ethanol”.

    Ike Solem wrote: “Second, Jacobson has no coal fired carbon capture projects from which to draw real-life energy consumption estimates from – it’s the equivalent of claiming that we don’t need to worry, because ‘one day’ fusion will save us all.”

    I’m not sure what point you are making. It’s true that no coal-fired electric power plants with carbon capture and sequestration exist, so there are no real-world examples whose impacts can be studied. Jacobson’s footnotes indicate that he used information from the IPCC working group III for coal with CCS.

    I’m not sure why you think this reflects a “no need to worry” attitude towards coal with CCS, or suggests that Jacobson is suggesting that it will “save us all”.

    While Jacobson did rank the two forms of ethanol fuel that he considered in the lowest tier, he ranked coal with CCS along with nuclear power in the second lowest tier, and concluded that “diversion to less-efficient (nuclear, coal with carbon capture) or non-efficient (corn- and cellulosic E85) options represents an opportunity cost that will delay solutions to global warming and air pollution mortality.”

    So, I’m sorry but I really don’t understand your complaint.

  590. Ike Solem:

    And in case you’re wondering why FutureGen data might be something the public has a right to see:

    http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/05/doe-stimulus-dumps-24-billion-on-carbon-sequestration.ars
    “Friday, in a speech to the National Coal Council, Steven Chu, head of the Department of Energy, announced that the stimulus package will also fund major work towards carbon capture and storage, which could allow us to avoid many of the consequences of continued burning of fossil fuels. The planned spending, which includes $800 million specifically for cleaning pollutants out of coal plant exhaust will total $2.4 billion, which should provide the nascent field a significant boost.

    Not even Samuel Bodman, Bush’s DOE secretary, could reconcile reality and hope in order to support this nonsense:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9861073-54.html

    In December, the FuturGen Alliance, which includes participation of oil and coal companies, announced plans to build its first facility in Matoon, Ill.

    But ballooning costs and a dispute over the location prompted the Department of Energy to pull its support, according to an Associated Press article citing lawmakers who were briefed by the agency. An announcement is expected in the coming days.

    A Department of Energy representative issued a statement saying only that the agency needs to reassess the project because of rising prices and technological advances.

    This is an example of a tragedy of the commons brought on by restricted knowledge – billions to be wasted on bogus technology that will never be implemented in any commercial coal plant – and why? Capturing even 90% of the CO2 emitted from any large coal fired plant would suck up most of the energy from the coal, leaving little to send to the consumer – and then there is the issue of removing all the sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, arsenic, etc. from the CO2 stream. Plus, the 30 million tons a year of CO2 to dispose of. There’s only one word for it – ludicrous. (10 million tons of coal per year produces 30 million tons of CO2).

    By comparison, a nuclear power plant of similar scale uses 200 tons of fuel per year, and a solar or wind plant of similar scale uses 0 tons of fuel per year.

    Likewise, that much coal-fired generation will still require billions of gallons of water per year. The same is true for nuclear, with nuclear requiring a bit more water (this is why, for the engineer, the central issues with nuclear reactors have always been about heat transfer – and poor heat transfer design is what did Chernobyl in).

    So, if coal is worst, and nuclear is better, and solar and wind are best (in terms of a complete ecological-economic analysis), then rational policy would be to leave existing nuclear capacity as is, dump a lot of money into wind and solar, and to start shutting down coal plants each time a new wind or solar plant is completed.

    It’s not really about “nuclear vs. solar” – or about ownership ideologies – it’s about not dumping 30 million tons of fossil CO2 into the air above a power plant each year, while also keeping the lights on at night – and doing that for all coal plants as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible.

  591. JohnLopresti:

    There is some interesting work on supplemental data which needs to be added to the anecdotal example in the post, commercial fishing interests trying to develop a sustainable regulatory regime. Namely, at Florida State University, professor Coleman has developed a new way to measure accuracy in maritime sport fishing reported catch data, and actual catch, with impacts. FSU’s Mote chair also conducts yearly symposia at which international experts present scientific papers.

  592. JohnLopresti:

    There seems to be some filter about html links, here is the link @589:
    http://www.marinelab.fsu.edu/faculty/coleman.aspx

  593. JohnLopresti:

    Sample of the winter 2008 Mote symposium schedule:
    http://www.bio.fsu.edu/mote/Full%20schedule.rtf

  594. EL:

    Doug Bostrom – I look for China to eventually turn towards domestic production as opposed to exports. Some of the Asian economic meetings have indicated a desire to do that. It could cause a lot of trouble if China made progress on the domestic front. I’m concerned with our postion with China for more reasons then climate change.

    Jacob Mack – You can use Newton’s work for pratical applications; however, it starts breaking down in certain situations. Einsteins relativity works until you attempt to use it in the quantum world. Relativity has a few other issues as well, but it has very been useful to mankind.

    People keep saying incompleteness is not pratical because it’s not useful for building a house, but it’s still interesting.

  595. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Ike Solem #590 — You say: “It’s not really about “nuclear vs. solar” – or about ownership ideologies – it’s about not dumping 30 million tons of fossil CO2 into the air above a power plant each year, while also keeping the lights on at night – and doing that for all coal plants as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible.” I completely agree.

    That is the problem in a nutshell. We are stuck with our fleet of pulverized coal plants, and India and China are quickly building even more to meet their increasing power demands. Yes, it is good to deploy solar and wind, and even nuclear, as quickly as possible, but what most people don’t appreciate is the scale of the problem. Wind is just a drop in the bucket.

    Coal IGCC projects like FutureGen, which does carbon capture out of an oxygen-blown gasifier (avoiding nitrogen ballast), might be the next generation of coal power, but the real problem now is post-combustion CO2 capture out of hot and dirty pulverized coal plant flue gas having a 75% nitrogen ballast. And once we capture it, then what? Sequestration is not going to work. Neither will chemical capture (amine or chilled ammonia).

    Above, at #88, I proposed a solution. Your thoughts?

  596. dhogaza:

    People keep saying incompleteness is not pratical because it’s not useful for building a house, but it’s still interesting.

    No, we say it’s not a practical concern because it doesn’t STOP US from building a house.

    Yes, it’s interesting. You draw some ‘interesting” conclusions from it, too. It’s actually interesting enough without the inaccuracies IMO but hey, whatever.

    You can use Newton’s work for pratical applications; however, it starts breaking down in certain situations.

    Yet if we set the appropriate bounds it actually is 100% accurate within those bounds and within that model it doesn’t break down.

  597. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Ike Solem #568 — You bring up an important issue: the tension between pure and applied science. What we need is mission-driven applied science directed to scalable and realistic solutions to the CO2 problem. What we’ve had in the past for the money given to academic researchers at universities and national laboratories is hot fusion, hydrogen cars, particle physics, string theory, sequestration, and other money-pit projects that have starved alternative innovation and have borne no fruit for clean tech.

    The venture capital model does not work for disruptive technology research and development in the clean tech sector. Maybe it used to, but it doesn’t now. Unless you can show a working model, you can’t get a hearing. VCs and angel investors are not interested unless you are already shipping product and can show them how you will give them 20 times their money back in 3 years.

    So “free enterprise” does nothing to develop innovation in clean tech, and it is foolish to believe what “free market” zealots often preach: that the American system will innovate us out of problems. The “free market” of corporate giants will stomp on a startup, and not by accident, unless that startup has some intellectual property.

    Inventors these days are accused of killing jobs and being “trolls” impeding corporate prosperity. There is no government support for incubating and developing new clean technology ideas. The inventor has to find all the money himself to build his prototype, in a depressed economy. So although there will now be a big research push with more federal dollars, the money will go to the usual pure science dry holes.

  598. Doug Bostrom:

    #595 Wilmot:

    Your post #88:

    “An alternative to sequestration and mineralization is cracking the CO2 to make CO. The bond dissociation energy for taking off the first oxygen is 5.5 eV — in the same neighborhood as water electrolysis. Simultaneous CO2 and water electrolysis (”syntrolysis”) produces syngas (CO + H2) which can be burned or processed into vehicle fuel. So there is a way to make CO2 into a resource instead of a waste product.”

    I bet you’re tired of answering the reply “yes, but if you synthesize hydrocarbons from a waste CO2 stream and then burn them, you’re only briefly delaying the arrival of the CO2 into atmosphere and using -more- energy to do so”?

    You go on to suggest use of renewable energy sources to pump up the “syntrolysis” hydrocarbon energy storage system. Presumably that is not completely efficient, so why would we not use the renewables in conjunction with storage methods where the energy is not stuffed into hydrocarbons, ultimately passing the CO2 into the air in an expensive way?

    I must be missing something; I think you’re talking about using this as a transitional technology to wean us off hydrocarbons but it seems like a pretty indirect way to arrive at a renewable capture system as our primary source of juice.

  599. Ray Ladbury:

    EL says “People keep saying incompleteness is not pratical because it’s not useful for building a house, but it’s still interesting.”

    Actually, Godel didn’t want it to be useful. He hated applied math. No he hated the very idea of applying math. It was supposed to exist for its own sake like beauty. Odd duck, Godel. BTW, although he was mostly a recluse, he and Einstein did spend a lot of time together in the last years of the former’s life. That’s a wall I would have loved to be a fly on.

  600. Doug Bostrom:

    #595 Wilmot –>#88 Wilmot:

    On the other hand, maybe you should work out what would happen if you made polyethylene instead of fuel? Maybe the total energy vs. mess budget would work out?

    “Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

  601. Ray Ladbury:

    Wilmot McCutchen says: “What we’ve had in the past for the money given to academic researchers at universities and national laboratories is hot fusion, hydrogen cars, particle physics, string theory, sequestration, and other money-pit projects that have starved alternative innovation and have borne no fruit for clean tech.”

    OK, now you’ve struck a nerve! Research at national labs and universities has been key to producing many of the gains we’ve seen in energy efficiency and renewables. Ever hear of Art Rosenfeld? Did his main work at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. Look him up if you haven’t. High Tc Superconductivity–university research. Solar cells–a lot of the research was done through NASA and DOD for space. Digital cameras? Ditto. Believe me, I could go on all night, but hopefully you get the idea. National Labs and Universities produce some very practical, useful and profitable work. Personally, I think that if you turn loose the creativity of these institutions on the problems we face, you’ll see tremendous progress–and you’ll produce the next generation of researchers in the bargain.

  602. Jacob Mack:

    # 594 El, you are certainly correct about Newton and Einstein in that context. Loop quantum gravity and quantum entanglement may in fact pave the way to greater insights and some sort of paradigm shift. The quantum computer may be developed in the next 10-15 years and quantum effects upon gravity and singularities may lead to a new elegant and well evidenced working theory. Still we can never just abolish Newton or Einstein’s calulations or fundamental premises. Now, I am not suggesting that you are implying that either. I am merely reminding you that these facts aside these theories work extremely well under the circumstances for which they are applied. I have no doubt that in the future quantum mechanics and other important sciences will lead to better approximations of truth, or the isness of reality. There is always a looking glas, but if you look at through good and clean glass, the perception of reality is far more clear.Your name reminds me of the character from Death Note.

  603. Jacob Mack:

    # 596…absolutely!

  604. Nigel Williams:

    And for all the well-meaning ethanol-freaks out there in the climate-commons, the news is out that eliminating ethanol from the bio-fuel cycle gives over 80% gains in kilometres travelled for a given area of field growing your biomass.

    Its too simple, and certainly not good for share prices in the ethanol industry: Grow a biomass, harvest it, store it (there’s your energy storage system), burn it in a maximum-efficiency system and use the recovered heat to drive an electricity generator, charge up the vehicle battery and away you go.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;1168885/DC2
    http://gas2.org/2009/05/08/bioelectricity-more-efficient-than-ethanol-for-transportation-study-shows/

    In regard to agriculture – how to feed us – we will rapidly approach the point where it is uneconomic to use oil-fueled vehicles for farming.
    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/SEFnews/message/8077

    To help with the manual farming effort there are lots of great examples of electric farm machinery in operation. The evening job of stoking up the boiler on the tractor recharger unit with biomass from the farm should become the chore of every farm boy – same as feeding the horses once was.
    http://www.econogics.com/ev/evtools.htm

    But be quick!

    (Captcha: prophecy carryover)

  605. Ray Ladbury:

    EL, OK, this is going way, way off topic, but I think you are misinterpreting Godel’s incompleteness theorems. In reality, Godel was trying to support his argument that mathematics is an empirical science–that is you can’t prove everything from self-consistency alone as the positivists sought to do.

    However, science is by nature empirical. We aren’t really “proving” things so much as trying to elucidate how they work. So I’m not sure what we can learn from these particular results of Godel.

  606. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #587 Ike Solem

    I’m not talking about coal at all. When I refer to ‘Carbon Capture and Use’ I am referring to biomass and pyrolysis.

    There are lots of experiments in process around the world. The output is energy positive and carbon negative. Plus you can extract byproducts that can be burned into the electricity grid.

    Another great byproduct is fertilizer that enhances microbial growth and water retention in the soil. This in turn increases nutritive value of food products and also increases crop output.

  607. Séretur:

    Off topic:

    This new paper from Bowyer et al. (Nature 459, 243-247; http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7244/full/nature07979.html) has become another scrap of food for the trolls around. With respectable (well, they get a lot of attention) sites like Slashdot making quotes like “This confirms suspicions that have been around since the 1990′s, and likely plays havoc with global models of climate change.”, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of it for a good while. It’d be helpful if someone at RC has the time to do a writeup about this one.

  608. TokyoTom:

    #419: Missed this:

    “Slavery was brought up because of the idiotic contention posted that owning something means you take good care of it. And, BTW, some Libertarian philosophers have touted “voluntary slavery” as a solution to unemployment. You see, you have a property right in yourself, so you also have the right to sell it.”

    Barton, I don`t speak for Rene, but I think the chief point is the largely uncontroversial contention that people are more likely to take better care of things that they own, relative to the possessions of others or things that nobody owns. Feel free to quibble about the failures of property rights, but are we completely disagreeing on the big picture and what drives the “tragedy of the commons”?

    As for slavery, surely you can recognize that what those libertarians are discussing are still voluntary transactions between consenting person, not the theft and enslavement of others by violence and force. They are just not the same.

    As to the former, do you have any idea about the ways that many of our forefathers funded their expensive passage to the young colonies/US? Ever hear of “indentured servitude”?

  609. Jacob Mack:

    Ray Ladbury,
    well put.

  610. dhogaza:

    EL, OK, this is going way, way off topic, but I think you are misinterpreting Godel’s incompleteness theorems. In reality, Godel was trying to support his argument that mathematics is an empirical science–that is you can’t prove everything from self-consistency alone as the positivists sought to do.

    Yes, he’s not only arguing from proof but making a philosophical argument

    However, science is by nature empirical. We aren’t really “proving” things so much as trying to elucidate how they work. So I’m not sure what we can learn from these particular results of Godel.

    The argument is that you can’t measure everything about the box if you’re in the box, because you’re part of the box.

    At least, that’s what EL argues.

    Irrelevant to determining if climate models work well enough to support conclusions that lead to particular policy decisions.

    That’s the best response to EL, I think: irrelevant to the discussion.

  611. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (15 May 2009 at 12:57 PM):

    “You do realize that more wind, solar and hydro are in the process of being deployed, or planned to be deployed than what could realistically be done with nukes in the same time frame?”

    No, I don’t realize that at all. This recent news report http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/us-wind-energy-industry-under,811555.shtml puts wind current construction at 4.4 GWatts. This is nameplate rating: using an optimistic 40% capacity factor gives 1.76 GWatts of actual generation. Do you think it’s unrealistic to construct two nuclear reactors per year?

    For solar, this article http://www.prlog.org/10201627-solar-photovoltaic-industry-trends-in-the-us.html puts US solar installation last year at about 1.1 GWatt. With a very optimistic 0.5 capacity factor, that’s 0.55 GWatt actual generation. So wind and solar together add up to the construction of 3 1-GWatt nuclear reactors per year.

    Now you may have sources that say differently. If so, I’d like to see them. Mine are just the first things returned by a Google search.

    As for hydro, I don’t think you will find a lot being constructed in the US. Indeed, there are dams being removed, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, in order to restore river flow & allow salmon to spawn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dam_removal

    “Several gigawatt-per-year solar fabs have either recently come on-line or are under construction now. Each of those fabs will output the equivalent of 5 of those 1GW nukes a year…”

    Source? And how does 1 GWatt of solar cell production per year equate to 5 1GW nuclear plants? I think your math is backwards: it will output at most (with tracking equipment) 0.5 GW.

    “In the area of reliability, as I’ve said, in the past two years I’ve produced (with others, wasn’t just me) something on the order of 30 patentable ideas which are at various stages of filing and examination that will solve, to some degree or another, the problems of “reliability” and “stability” that have been raised.”

    As I’m sure you realize from your comments, there’s a large gap between patent and working product. To take an example, consider the idea of storing the excess power in the batteries of electric cars. Not that bad an idea* in principle, but not really practical when there are only a few thousand such cars on the road.

    *Though it does have its potential problems. Consider using them with a mix of wind & solar power. The wind blows hardest in the evening & early night, charging all those cars. Around dawn the wind drops off – and before the sun rises high enough to bring the solar on-line, all those cars are out on the highway, using up that stored electricty for their daily commute :-)

    “…green power programs have been running close to 100% subscription.”

    Is it possible that this is more a reflection of the limited amount of “green” power than anything else?

  612. EL:

    Ray Ladbury – “However, science is by nature empirical. We aren’t really “proving” things so much as trying to elucidate how they work. So I’m not sure what we can learn from these particular results of Godel.”

    I’m speaking of rigorously proving a physical theory by showing no other discovery can be made, and the theory is complete and consistent.

    “It was supposed to exist for its own sake like beauty. Odd duck, Godel. ”

    I think it had more to do with a mixture of philosophy and Cantor’s work. Example explanation of incompleteness by Godel:

    “A completely unfree society (i.e., one proceeding in everything by strict rules of “conformity”) will, in its behavior, be either inconsistent or incomplete, i.e., unable to solve certain problems, perhaps of vital importance. Both, of course, may jeopardize its survival in a difficult situation. A similar remark would also apply to individual human beings”

    “BTW, although he was mostly a recluse, he and Einstein did spend a lot of time together in the last years of the former’s life.”

    I believe Einstein was consulting Godel on his attempt at a Unified Theory.

  613. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (15 May 2009 at 1:07 PM):

    “I guess that means that no, you do not have a realistic plan to produce all those nukes. Well, neither does anyone else.”

    OK, here’s the basis of my realistic plan: http://www.mnes-us.com/ Call Mitsubishi, ask them how much and when can they start?

    “On the other hand, multiple realistic plans for deploying large-scale wind and solar power generation have been put forth.”

    See my previous post with regards to how much is actually being done.

    “For just one example see the article “A Solar Grand Plan” in the January 2008 issue of Scientific American:”

    Yes, and so we come full circle. Though at least the authors are honest about what their plan requires: “To convert the country to solar power, huge tracts of land would have to be covered with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs.” In other words, the total environmental destruction of that land. Personally, I’ll take the nuclear war – at least most of life outside the targeted cities would survive.

    “…but where are the actual numbers — not back of the envelope guesstimates based on assumptions but actual real-world numbers — to back it up?”

    As you folks are always advising me to do, I used Google. Typed in “wind farm construction cost”, and got these back on the first page.

    http://www.greendaily.com/2008/06/11/price-tag-of-the-worlds-largest-wind-farm-spirals/
    http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/522095/soaring_cost_threat_to_wind_farm_plan/
    http://www.caller.com/news/2009/apr/22/taft_wind_farm/

  614. Hank Roberts:

    > Grow a biomass, harvest it, store it …

    http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/2007/10/fuelish-fantasies.html

    Brief excerpt follows, from a long thoughtful cautionary essay:

    “… I’m sorry. I really am. But just as ethanol from corn was never going to work-

    Ethanol from switchgrass IS NEVER GOING TO WORK.

    Or Butanol, or “bio-crude”, or whatever; from miscanthus, or hybrid willow, or “cellulose”.

    The systems required do not work; and cannot be made to work; this is a blind alley; a waste of resources needed to find real solutions….”

    “… The whole process of harvesting, stockpiling, storing- is very far from trivial. What we already know about storing grass, learned from experiences with hay, indicates that scaling it all up to the huge levels envisioned is not at all straightforward. And may just not be economic; ever….

    “… My point – is not that all research on cellulosic ethanol should cease. My point is- we had really better be looking for other answers to our problems. This one is very very far from being a sure thing. ….

    My plea is for hard, hard thinking, before we commit our hope and precious resources to blind fantasies. We don’t have time or resources to waste. We need more discipline in our projections for the future. Does this work? Does this fit in place? What happens next? And next?

    And next?
    ————–end excerpts—————

    Don’t argue with excerpts. Read the article. Please.

  615. James:

    Nigel Williams Says (15 May 2009 at 8:44 PM):

    “And for all the well-meaning ethanol-freaks out there in the climate-commons, the news is out that eliminating ethanol from the bio-fuel cycle gives over 80% gains in kilometres travelled for a given area of field growing your biomass.”

    Misses an important point, though, which is that the ethanol, biodiesel, or other biofuel provides an energy-dense fuel for those applications where electric power won’t serve – as for example when you need to drive your plug-in hybrid farther than its battery range.

  616. Hank Roberts:

    Interesting news is coming out about another commons, the airwaves, and the people who try to own them. Bottom line — when someone says “smart grid” look very carefully into what his company was trying to sell last time. It might be one of these:
    http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/New-Docs-Show-FCC-Glossed-Over-BPL-Flaws-102422

  617. Mark:

    in 582 this dribbled out of EL: “Being useful and being complete is two different beasts.”

    And if it isn’t “right enough”, it’s completely useless.

    Completeness isn’t a DEMAND of any theory.

    There are answers that may well be complete, but when we come to modelling the climate we don’t have to model in the complete theory of gravitation that includes the ability of spontaneous creation of black holes and wormhole production, do we.

    So “being complete” is completely worthless.

  618. Hugh Laue:

    #606 John P Reisman
    “I am referring to biomass and pyrolysis.”
    Yes – namely Biochar put back into soil. First book on the subject “Biochar Environmental Management – Science & Technology” ed Lehmann & Joseph just published by Earthscan. Gives the most up to date story including economic analyses. Biochar is not a fertilizer as such but helps in developing a “living soil” but providing surface area for microbial growth, reduces leaching of fertilizer and thus further energy reduction in terms of fertilizer usage, with increase in crop yields up to 30%.
    Because of the relatively short term photosynthetic carbon flux between plant and atmosphere, and since this is 58 Gt pa vs anthropgenic emissions of 7 Gt pa (according to Lehmann & Joseph) just 1% of the net annual photosynthetic flux into long lived (> 100 yrs) biochar would mitigate almost 10% of current anthropogenic emissions.
    Although not a complete solution, and economics still not quite there it seems, algal capture of CO2 and NOx from fossil fueled power stations holds promise. Presently the technology envisages extracting the algal oil for biodiesel and using the resdidual biomass for biogas production. But this just improves the overall efficiency of energy gained per ton fossil fuel used. Direct pyrolysis to generate electricity and biochar would, I expect, be more efficient (see # 604 wrt bioethanol) and actually sequester some of the carbon.

    By the way – has anyone calculated the present global number of people per sq m of “livable” land area compared with maximum population density of Easter Island before it collapsed? Have we exceeded it or a way to go yet?

    Gavin, thanks for starting this thread – some useful debate happening.

    captcha: effort blacken

    Biochar could give a new meaning to having a black outlook on life.

  619. Peter T:

    The economic arguments seems to go round and round, but not get too far – at least as far as they are cast in “what’s the least cost way of addressing this problem”. I wondered if this is actually an economic problem at all – that is, one of resopurce distribtion as measured by money.

    The history supports the contention that commons are fine if well-managed, but not if they are not. If this is a global management issue (and a very serious one at that – comparable to the threat of a serious pandemic or a major war) then the issue is essentially political – and the economic choices boil down to which methods are the most effective in mobilising resources and in meeting the threat – money cost is a second order issue. Rationing, embargos, tariffs, crash programs and heavy diplomacy have all proved effective: why should they not all be on the menu?

    I am not sure that the assumptions underlying the more pure economic analysis are not at odds with the reality – eg that we can have some version of business as usual, and can reckon the costs of various courses of action and still radically reduce global emissions.

    I notice, for instance, that the argument does not take in various forms of international coercion – why not?

    Peter T

  620. dhogaza:

    Wilmot McCutchen says: “What we’ve had in the past for the money given to academic researchers at universities and national laboratories is hot fusion, hydrogen cars, particle physics, string theory, sequestration, and other money-pit projects that have starved alternative innovation and have borne no fruit for clean tech.”

    Adding to Ray’s response, remember that a lot of research done in private industry doesn’t pan out, either. Explorers don’t *always* find the New World, sometime they get lost, or sink. Same with research. Research isn’t funded with an expectation of universal success, just as capitalization of the exploitation of innovation by venture capitalists etc isn’t done with an expectation of universal success.

    Progress comes because a percentage of fundamental research and exploitation of results by applied science and engineering succeeds. We don’t need 100% success.

    The money that you claim is “wasted” is just part of the cost of advancing our knowledge in a world where we don’t have the ability to predict what will, and what will not, pan out.

  621. Ike Solem:

    “And for all the well-meaning ethanol-freaks out there in the climate-commons, the news is out that eliminating ethanol from the bio-fuel cycle gives over 80% gains in kilometres travelled for a given area of field growing your biomass.”

    Again, this is an example of bad accounting – what is the best and worst method of making biomass? The best is algal biofuel, by about a factor of ten, if you include water and land use issues. The worst is coal-fired industrial corn ethanol grown with an abundance of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Even before you start the ethanol conversion process, there is a huge range in the amount of fossil fuel needed to grow an acre of crops – and remember, we used to use no fossil fuels at all in agriculture, for thousands of years. Intensive industrial fossil-fuel based agriculture has only been around since the 1940s or so.

    As far as type of biofuel (all hydrocarbons, like fossil fuels), that ranges from gases to liquids to solids – with the gases (biomethane) burning the cleanest, followed by ethanol, biodiesel, and particulate biomass – wood chips, etc. So, the “80%” number is nonsense – it all depends on whether or not you use fossil fuel in the production process.

    In Kansas and the Midwest, coal power is regularly used to distill ethanol. In Brazil, this is not the case – so an honest accounting would thus treat Brazilian biofuel from sugarcane differently than Kansas coal-ethanol – but people like Jacobson and Pimental and Patzek lump them all together – which looks like a conclusion in search of evidence, not objective research.

    Keep in mind that with oil prices far off their $140 peak, oil companies and financiers are working hard to lift the price of oil back to its old high so they can recoup their losses from the price crash. Their main enemy is declining international demand for oil.

    Let’s say we increase ethanol production using fossil fuel agriculture techniques – that’s represents an even bigger decline in the demand for oil. Toyota and others are introducing plug-in hybrids that get 100+ mpg, and electric cars are also taking off, despite government interventions that boost old fossil fueled cars like GM (they get $30 billion, Tesla gets nothing – not too surprising, since fossil energy interests seem to control all branches of the U.S. federal government).

    What does all that mean? Well, farmers will have a new hedge against falling corn prices – ethanol conversion – and that will lead to a new and more robust agriculture sector – one that doesn’t rely on subsidies and foreign exports for viability. Consumers will have more fuel choices – and fossil fuel demand will drop to new lows.

    That’s the way the future looks – and remember, the stone age didn’t end for lack of stones.

    (Thanks John for the clarification – that’s why phrases like ‘carbon footprint’ are so ambiguous… but $3 billion for FutureGen is still a fraudulent ripoff of the taxpayer, and the people who are promoting it know it.)

  622. Ike Solem:

    #5978 Wilmot: “So although there will now be a big research push with more federal dollars, the money will go to the usual pure science dry holes”

    This is really a problem, in that there is no independent federal organizing agency in charge of energy research, just the DOE, which is highly politicized – it should never have been made a Cabinet position, but should have been set up along an NIH or NSF model. Thus, coal and oil interests are still calling the shots at the DOE. It’s not too surprising, in that Obama is a coal state Democrat (Bush was an oil state Republican). Bush gave lip service to renewables, so does Obama – just look at the DOE funding decisions:

    $3 billion for FutureGen ‘carbon capture’.

    $50 billion for a ‘Nuclear Research University Program” to expand nuclear engineering departments.

    $0 for solar R&D, solar research university programs, and solar demonstration projects.

    Our government was run by oil interests for the past eight years, and now it appears to be run by coal interests – just based on the monetary outlays, which seem to me to be more important indicators of real intentions than all the speeches and statements combined.

  623. EL:

    Mark – If we could have completed theories and physics, we could have done some very powerful things at least in theory. Some physicist refer to it as knowing the mind of God or Old One. As far as climate science goes, imagine being able to predict where a tornado will touch down in 100000 years, how strong it will be, how many people will die, and what their last words will be.

    I don’t see how people still hope for that after Godel. Forget Godel, uncertainty principle was suggestive enough about quantum physics. It’s just not going to happen.

    I’m dropping this conversation to crawl back on topic.

  624. Mark:

    Further to #620, apparently the success rate of VC ventures is around the 10% level.

    To be honest, a stunned chipmunk could do as well.

    But that’s hardly a reliable ROI, is it.

  625. Mark:

    632: we aren’t TRYING to be complete. We’re trying to explain what’s going on and use that knowledge to predict likely outcome.

    Just because you have no complete biological theory, that lion in the Serengeti walking up to you licking their chops will have you thinking “I’ll get in the car” rather than “I wonder if the lion has eaten sufficiently?”.

    So Goedel and your obsession about completeness (which as MANY have pointed out has naff all to do with physics) is irrelevant.

  626. Ike Solem:

    Hank, ethanol is just CH3-CH2-OH – and it is formed via the fermentation of sugar by yeast, a process that was most likely discovered in fermenting fresh fruit. The specific application of the technology for some goal has to be stated before one can say that “it works”.

    Are we talking economics? In that case, a farmer can take a perishable crop and convert it to ethanol, if market prices are low. If food prices are low, we can assume that famine or shortages are not a problem, so “food vs. fuel” is not an issue. “Fuel vs. rotting food” is the issue. Ethanol can be stored in a tank for a long time, but that’s not true for most crops.

    Are we talking health? Currently, half of U.S. corn production goes to animal feed, i.e. confined animal feeding operations – such as the swine facility in Perote, Veracruz that produces a million hogs a year, and is 13 miles from the little village of La Gloria, where the first H1N1 swine/avian/human hybrid flu virus appeared. Just a coincidence? A ban on factory farms would lead to a reduction in demand for corn, but ethanol can easily make up that demand.

    Are we talking about the energy supply? It’s likely that only a limited amount of fuel will come from photosynthetic biomass – but if we only produce 10% as much biofuel as fossil fuel, we can still use it to provide a lot of transportation power, especially in remote rural areas (EVs are best for cities). If ethanol plug-ins can get 100 mpg, and they should be able to, then ethanol does work well as a major sustainable fuel source.

    Are we talking about the atmospheric content of long-lived greenhouse gases? Photosynthesis takes CO2 out of the air and converts it to sugars, fatty acids, proteins, etc. If the sugars are converted to ethanol or methane or gasoline and burned, the CO2 goes right back into the atmosphere. Sum zero – unless the farms and ethanol stills are all powered by coal.

    Are we talking about ethanol as an end-all, or as a part of a steadily progressing photosynthetic carbon fuel industry? You can also convert biomass to methane, methanol (a key chemical feedstock), gasoline-like hydrocarbons, and biodiesel (esterified fatty acids). The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the molecule, the cleaner it burns (methane > ethanol > biodiesel > wood chips). Ultimately, algal biodiesel & ethanol have the highest production efficiency (by a factor of ten), but that needs more technological investment than corn ethanol. Beyond that lie non-biological artificial photosynthesis strategies using silicon PV, fuel cells, and similar gadgets.

    The main issues are really about reforming agriculture across the board, and throwing out much of the ‘advances’ of the Green Revolution – i.e. the intensive use of fossil fuels on farms – in favor of farms based on solar and wind power, that involve no fossil fuels at all.

    For those who claim fossil fuels are critical to large-scale agriculture: Take the history of rum in the Caribbean, for example. First, it was produced on slave plantations in the era of sailing ships. Then, it was produced using fossil fuel powered industrial agriculture (the Cuba-Soviet sugarcane program, for example, was a deliberate attempt to mimic the “green revolution” in a communist guise). Both approaches involved immense human and ecological costs, respectively. Today, Brazil has a sugarcane production system that is very close to being fossil fuel free – and unlike cattle and soy, it doesn’t result in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

    Slavery was deemed immoral, but polluting the global atmosphere and oceans and degrading the biosphere is still deemed a matter of economic necessity, as was slavery in its day.

    If you want to stop polluting the global atmosphere and oceans and land surfaces (which are not all ‘commons’, by any means), you have to eliminate fossil fuel combustion from the energy mix, and yes, it is technically feasible. That’s all there is to it – and I’m sure Hank agrees with that?

  627. dhogaza:

    As far as climate science goes, imagine being able to predict where a tornado will touch down in 100000 years, how strong it will be, how many people will die, and what their last words will be.

    I don’t see how people still hope for that after Godel

    It’s not Gödel standing in the way of being able to do this…that’s a lost cause without Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.

    The practical limitations on what’s possible tend to be far more mundane.

  628. Brian Brademeyer:

    #623 >crawl

    Without a leg to stand on, that would be advisable.

  629. Hank Roberts:

    Ike, I often can’t figure out who you’re arguing with. Not the guy I pointed to, I hope. I see nothing on his page you could disagree with.

  630. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Ray Ladbury #601 — Thanks for your thoughtful response to my #597 regarding applied vs. pure science. The NASA research (solar panels and digital cameras) is an example of what I mean by mission-driven research, which I would like to see much more of relating to clean tech. I would class Paul Chu’s discovery of high Tc superconductivity another example of applied science. I share your hope that the national laboratories will pioneer scalable solutions and that a new generation of innovators will turn their talents in this direction.

    Lee Smolin’s recent book, “The Trouble with Physics” is the source of my angst. He says that the mandarins of string theory get all of the money and all of the students want to work in that field, instead of grubby old applied science.

    I will be researching the work of Art Rosenfeld of LBNL as you suggest. Thanks again.

  631. Wilmot McCutchen:

    dhogaza #620 — I never said “wasted” in my #597 as you accuse. You get my point, that pure science has its place, but now that we have an emergency it is time to redirect our money and attention to applied science, whatever its chances of success. Let’s look at lots of things, without being limited by theoretical fetters. Let’s look in areas where there is some likelihood of practical progress, instead of particle physics and The Theory of Everything. We’re desperate, no?

  632. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    I have been trying to suggest caution in measures to control CO2. The heart of my concern is the economic impact. However, there may be a way to make that impact manageable, as I try to explain below:

    Long term, significant CO2 reduction will not happen with a “tricks and traps” energy policy. Cap and trade, with whatever machinations about allowances, is a trick and trap system until the cost of an effective version of that effort to reduce emissions is appropriately acknowledged. The trick of rebates to the public to pay for increased electricity costs does not work for me. It is a trap to set a plan that will inevitably be a pit of high expense. Then will be the deeper trap of triggering further economic crisis, which if anyone has noticed, is already extreme and precarious.

    Watch out, here comes Third World Economy of America.

    There has to be a law of physics-economics that says that banning use of the only low cost and abundant fuel will lead to economic repercussions.

    However, there could be a way to deal with the expected cost question which would be to make certain that natural gas supplies would be made sufficient. Thus we could be reasonably assured that the cost of reduced coal usage would be manageable.

    Somehow we have to pay. Will it be nuclear? Not my choice. Are renewable systems of the appropriate scale affordable? Not that I can see in a reasonable time frame.

    Why not try to write a cap and trade with teeth that is tied to development of natural gas supplies. With an assured source of affordable, cleaner fuel, we could reasonably plan to eliminate coal. I need more than Boone Pickens to reassure me that such supplies are in place.

    Perhaps environmentalists would be willing to compromise to allow strictly controlled drilling wherever necessary to assure adequate natural gas sources. That might be a worthwhild environmental trade.

    Looking ahead, we should probably get seriously working on using the natural gas a lot more effectively than we do now in electric power generation. My limited studies of natural gas reserves leave me somewhat less optimistic than Boone Pickens, so even with a major national effort to develop natural gas supplies, it seems likely that a program to greatly improve efficiency of that fuel use will also be needed.

    Fix the natural gas supply question and it will go a long way to getting enthusiasm for a cap and trade law. It might even be written to be effective.

  633. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Doug Bostrom #598, 600 — You ask what good it is to crack fossil fuel CO2 only to dump it into the atmosphere by burning the synfuel you make by carbon recycling. You suggest that making polymers might be a better use for the syngas from syntrolysis, rather than synfuel. These are reasonable questions.

    I agree that polymers might be a better use for syngas. However, only hydrocarbons have the energy density to use for vehicle fuel, so we will need synfuel as we transition to plug-ins. I hope you agree that the Hydrogen Highway will not happen.

    As I discussed incompletely in my #88, what wind and solar need is a reason to be deployed so they are producing much more than the 20% limit for integrating variable power sources on the grid. The excess wind and solar capacity has to be either stored or used for something. Cracking CO2 is a way to use solar and wind power that would otherwise go to waste.

    For example, at night, when there is lots of wind, there is already the spinning reserve (inertia) from coal and nuclear to meet demand, so what do you do with the wind turbine output? One storage solution that has been proposed is using the wind power to pump water uphill into a reservoir.

    CO2 cracking is another storage solution, which directly reduces the emissions of a coal-fired power plant by working on the CO2 itself.

  634. James:

    Ike Solem Says (16 May 2009 at 10:03 AM)

    “Ethanol can be stored in a tank for a long time…”

    But improves if you store it in say an oak cask :-)

    “If ethanol plug-ins can get 100 mpg, and they should be able to, then ethanol does work well as a major sustainable fuel source.”

    Should be able to get way better than that, if you’re just considering fuel, not electric use. I’ve averaged better than 70 mpg over the last 6 years (from a car built in 2000). If I had a battery big enough to drive even the first 10 miles of each trip, or to hold say the braking energy from a 4000 ft descent, I’d easily be over that 100 mpg.

    “The main issues are really about reforming agriculture across the board, and throwing out much of the ‘advances’ of the Green Revolution – i.e. the intensive use of fossil fuels on farms – in favor of farms based on solar and wind power, that involve no fossil fuels at all.”

    Or take your ethanol production to the logical limit, and do no “farming” at all. Given that research http://www1.umn.edu/urelate/newsservice/NS_details.php?release=061207_3059 shows that a mixed prairie produces more biomass per unit area than any crop (and doesn’t require annual planting, fertilizer, weed control, etc), you just grow your prairie, run a mower over it occasionally (simulating the effect of grazing by buffalo &c), and convert the result to ethanol. You produce ethanol at low cost, and have a nice, healthy ecosystem instead of a factory farm.

    You could even take the process quite a bit further, if you’re the farmer. Allow a few buffalo to graze, then you have meat production and can even get city types to pay for the privilege of doing your “harvesting” for you: http://www.rockin7ranch.com/buffalo_hunting.html

  635. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #626 Ike Solem,

    The idea of long term storage that ethanol enables rings a bell of practicality. That seems like a possible path to a rational system.

    A long felt discomfort with using feed grain or anything that is produced on cropland can be somewhat eased by the idea that surplus agriculture production during abundant years could be made into ethanol and stored.

    Cellulosic ethanol seems dangerous, either because it will turn out to motivate use of land that otherwise might be used for food production, or that it will end with us mowing down our forests.

    If algae can be grown fast enough to matter as a fuel supply, even that might end displacing food production capacity of some sort.

    Ethanol production tied to a storage system concept could have a leveling effect on agriculture markets. That is interesting, though whether it will work on a meaningful scale is a remaining question.

  636. John Mashey:

    re: #624 Mark

    Stunned chipmunks: this comment is not very useful, and to put it mildly, does not enhance credibility.

    What you seem to think is trivial is actually very difficult. The people who are good at it are very, very good and even they know that most things won’t be very successful, even with a lot of work.

    Even the best ones screw up (John Doerr & Segway come to mind), but if it’s so easy to do better, you should become a VC. In any case, the 10% success rate idea just confuses people, as it’s not the primary metric VCs think about.

    See R2-D2 over at Dot Earth for a short discussion of real R&D portfolio management and processes, who does R&D these days, and what VCs do and don’t do.

  637. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #621 Ike Solem

    You say, “Toyota and others are introducing plug-in hybrids that get 100+ mpg, and electric cars are also taking off, despite government interventions that boost old fossil fueled cars like GM (they get $30 billion, Tesla gets nothing – not too surprising, since fossil energy interests seem to control all branches of the U.S. federal government).”

    I respond: Do not blame Toyota yet for the “100+ mpg” hybrid. That nearly fraudulent, if not entirely fraudulent claim is from US promoters who are adding batteries to Prius cars, in spite of Toyota’s saying it voids their warranty. Some of the “100+ mpg” claims are being hammered back by myself and others who find this kind of gibberish in guise of a performance specification to be intellectually insulting as well as damaging as a distraction from real efforts to improve car performance.

    The “100+ MPG” turns out to be entirely arbitrary depending on the ratio of the car miles driven on electricity and the car miles driven on gasoline as a gasoline hybrid.

    This only begins my tirade against phony plug-in stuff. The short version is that the inevitable response to such plugged in charging is coal fired power generation, regardless of the imagined “power generation mix.”

  638. Doug Bostrom:

    #633 Wilmot:

    I see portable storage of hydrogen rapidly poking into and beyond the bleeding edge of our materials science and still failing to produce a generally practical result once all the accounting is done. Hydrogen ends up looking less attractive than plain old batteries, icky though batteries still are. Unless the main objective is flogging a proprietary technology licensing scheme I don’t see hydrogen as much more than a special solution for special applications.

    Turning back to compounding stack gas into useful substances while simultaneously capturing carbon and coming out ahead on the energy budget, is the reject heat from a thermal plant of sufficient quality to help with this? I have no intuition on that, I’m not a chemical engineer, but even the very best combustion thermal plants are rejecting something like 30% of their input, a lot of energy when you’re looking at gigawatts of generation capacity. There’s no such thing as perpetual motion so I’m supposing a few hundred megawatts would go only a little way toward boosting the process you describe; do you have any better idea of that?

  639. David B. Benson:

    Biofuels, including algae, require NPKS nutrients, typically supplied as fertilizers. P is in somewhat short supply, currently being mined at 0.8% per year of minable reserves. At that rate it runs out in about 120 years and the so-called reserve base is not economically recoverable.

    Of course upping the rate of consumption shortens the time until gone. It is as essential plant nutrient and not replaeable with a substitute.

  640. Hank Roberts:

    > phosphorous

    Fortunately that bioaccumulates, so if we quit burning it up, it would be smart. One of many articles on where to find phosphorous:

    “… 59–89% of deposited STP [soluble total phosphorous] was derived from fossil fuel combustion. Elemental composition of fossil fuels and airmass backward trajectories suggested that a large part of anthropogenic P originates from coal combustion in China….”
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2004.10.028

  641. Brian Dodge:

    I did a google search for “wind power construction cost” and “nuclear power construction cost”, limiting the results to the last month to eliminate stale information, and found the following:

    “China’s offshore wind farm is ongoing construction near the Shanghai East China Sea Bridge, the China Business News reported. The new wind farm is comprised of 34 wind-driven generators, each with a capability of 3,000 kilowatt (kW). The constriction cost of the wind farm is CNY2.4 billion ($351 million) and has an installed capacity of 100,000 kW.”
    “building of the wind farm is going on well since the first turbine was installed on March 20, 2009. Shanghai citizens will have access to electricity generated from the East China Sea by the time the 2010 World Expo opens in the city.”
    http://www.energy-business-review.com/news/china_updates_on_offshore_wind_farm_construction_at_shanghai_east_china_sea_bridge_090417

    “Officials with E.ON Climate & Renewables began pouring the foundations for the towers on March 1, said company spokesman Bobby Blount. The first tower went up April 4 and the estimated date of operation is early October…”
    “The $200 million Papalote Creek Wind Farm will have 109 turbines, 397 feet tall. They will generate 179.85 megawatts of power,”
    http://www.caller.com/news/2009/apr/22/taft_wind_farm/

    “As for Duke Energy, it has filed an application with the NRC to build two new reactors at its facility in Gaffney, S.C., about an hour southwest of Charlotte. The cost for this project, according to Duke Energy spokesperson Rita Sipe, is estimated at $11 billion, but it could increase due to inflation over the project’s long timetable—at least nine years.”
    “However, nuclear fuel costs are lower compared to coal, peat, wood and natural gas—but not renewable energy sources. Nor do the overall costs include disposal or recycling (also known as reprocessing) of the radioactive waste. In the 1990s, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences studied the feasibility of recycling plutonium; a report concluded that 62,000 tons of spent fuel would cost $50 billion to $100 billion.”
    “What’s more, the Government Accountability Office, the investigational arm of Congress, estimates half of all U.S. Department of Energy lo an guarantees to nuclear power providers are defaulted on.”
    “There is no long-term solution to the problem of what to do with nuclear-generated waste, merely the hope that something will be worked out. Those hopes may dwindle further in the face of what has happened to France, once vaunted as the nation that did nuclear “right.” First, French attempts to build new reactors in France and Finland has been financially disastrous, much like that of the American nuclear industry in the 1980s. The Finnish Olkiluoto reactor is now 55 percent over budget, while the Flamanville project in France has exceeded its budget by $1 billion less than a year into construction.”
    http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A393820

    A significant portion of the increase in cost for wind power in mid 2008 was the inflationary spike in oil prices, which fed into increases in energy and goods prices across the board. The cost of nuclear isn’t immune to these forces; I’m not an economist, but I suspect that due to the 9+ fold differences in lead time, nuclear is probably more vulnerable.
    I would also qualify the “no long term solution to the waste problem” with the word DEMONSTRATED. I am in favor of pursuing liquid metal(lead) cooled metal fuel fast breeder/actinide burner technology; most of the underlying technology required has been demonstrated: the Soviets used lead cooling in submarine reactors and have a lot of knowledge of alloys, construction, and operation; various scale demos of fast breeders, metal fuels & reprocessing, and core stability to upsets including scram failure have been made; given a choice of burying the thousands of tons of spent fuel currently in “temporary” storage and hoping it stays safe for thousands of years, or reprocessing/burning it up with a net gain in power produced, I vote for the latter, but it isn’t going to be cheap or quick; my ill informed gut feeling is 15-20 years and 2X current PWR nuclear costs, with faster being more expensive and vice versa.

    Another point I would like to make is that the low cost of nuclear power is based on 24/7 full output calculations. When it’s a hot day in Texas, and everyones air conditioner starts running full tilt, more power has to come from somewhere; if that somewhere is a nuke that has been running at 75% output, then the cost of power from that nuke should be adjusted upward for the idle factor. If it comes from some other standby power source, then that should be included in the cost of power for the nuclear base, but usually isn’t when someone is arguing how cheap nuclear really is. Of course, this cost is included in your power bill; in NC, “Under the new Construction Work in Progress guidelines signed into state law in 2007 as part of Senate Bill 3, the bulk of the costs for these proposed plants will be passed on to consumers—even if the plants are never completed.”, so the economic risks of nuclear power won’t be born by the managers who make the decisions, or the investors who stand to gain if nuclear is profitable, but the public. Yet another example of big business externalizing costs (into the “Commons”) and internalizing profits.

  642. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #618 Hugh Laue

    Right. I forgot to mention the microbial enrichment (which I believe is connected to the moisture retention in part, some experiments are dealing with temperature to establish best carbon structure). One process a friend of mine developed increased crop yields 49%! Pretty good.

    I think the algal work shows some promise but I also think fast growers in other areas may prove out, but there are still questions in need of answering.

    There is a group in Germany testing pyrolysis in the sewage treatment process also and that shows promise.

    your captcha: effort blacken

    How apropos :)

    Mine is more odd:

    captcha: relive Nixon

  643. Ike Solem:

    In another example of bizarre accounting practices, the EPA is now weighing in on renewable fuels:

    The Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed new renewable fuel standards that, for the first time, would factor things like worldwide deforestation when calculating the environment impacts of biofuel production. The proposal was hailed by environmentalsist who have long argued that production of ethanol, for example, has depleted global food supplies, forcing farmers elsewhere to clear forests — a major source of carbon emissions — to make up the difference. – The Washington Independent

    The funny thing is, for decades rainforest conservationists have argued that the clearing of land for cattle and soy production was the number one culprit in deforestation – because global sugar demand has held steady. Now, you have the fossil fuel industry trying as hard as possible to stifle the growth of both fossil fuel-free agriculture as well as fossil fuel-free ethanol – and using environmental front groups to do so.

    What is also remarkable is that these EPA moves do not include the environmental costs of tar sand oil from Canada, or heavy sour crude from Venezuela, or shale oil from the Midwest – just biofuels. Odd, isn’t it? This is happening at the very same moment that David Chu is proclaiming a $2.3 billion grant program for FutureGen.

    The fossil fuel industry is not willing to give up any market share at all to competition – and the federal government has been going along with that agenda, by all indications. If not, where is the $2.3 billion federally financed solar energy project?

    No, we just have a $2.3 billion federally financed coal project, $18 billion in guarantees for a Alaska-to-Alberta natural gas pipeline for tar sand production, and so on – and take a look at what Obama’s new ambassador to China has to say about coal:

    Coal is one of our State’s most abundant resources and has long served as an anchor to some of Utah’s rural economies. As exciting new coal technologies are developed and implemented, Utah’s energy policy team will monitor these activities and formulate policies for the most economically and environmentally responsible uses of Utah coal.

    http://energy.utah.gov/energy/governors_priorities/coal.html

    Sending a coal advocate to be ambassador to the world’s biggest coal consumer is not really going to be seen as a push for renewable energy – although, it’s no longer a push for renewable energy, it’s a push for freedom from imported oil…

    Can we look forward to a $2.3 billion grant for a coal-to-gasoline demonstration project as well, to go alongside FutureGen?

  644. Ike Solem:

    Doug Bostrom: “I don’t see hydrogen as much more than a special solution for special applications.”

    That’s probably not true. Unless you want to rely on fishmeal as a nitrogen source, synthetic production of nitrogen fertilizer is going to be a must – but it can be done without fossil fuels. You simply need a non-fossil source of H2, and that can be achieved using water-splitting via electric current (which is what green plants do, as well).

    The most likely use for renewable hydrogen generation is thus in the chemical industries, and eventually, as part of artificial photosynthesis – add H2 to CO2 using solar power and you get fossil fuel free methane from the atmosphere, a completely renewable fuel that avoids any intermittency issues – the ideal ‘biofuel’, as it would require little agricultural land. (Notice, however, that biofuel crops are perfect for cleaning up contaminated soils.)

  645. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #621 Ike Solem

    I agree, there is a terrible amount of fraud going on right now. As Tony Curtis once said in the movie ‘Operation Petticoat’ – “Where there is confusion, there is profit”

    I have not examined FutureGen but it would not surprise that it, and/or others like it, is a facade or a distraction, or a misappropriation or sort, just by the odds.

    This is an unfortunate reality. The guys that have the great ideas/methods are losing money to the corporations that are more experienced at spitting out formatted proposals with all the right rhetoric.

    Such antics will likely delay some of the best development methods and/or directions, imo. Losing resource capital to inefficient processes are not so affordable in the grand scheme of things.

  646. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Doug Bostrom #638 –

    I presume the reject heat is the heat rejection into the atmosphere from the cooling towers, in the form of vapor, which is necessary for the Rankine cycle. The internal energy, or heat, in the flue gas does indeed help get to the cracking energy for turning CO2 into CO, but not much.

    The enthalpy of carbon dioxide at 900 K is 37,405 kJ/kmol of which the internal energy (heat) is 29,922 kJ/kmol. Since there are 22,727 moles per ton, the internal energy in a ton of CO2 at 900 K is 22,727 mol/ton x 29,922 J/mol = 0.68 GJ/ton. Cracking a ton of carbon dioxide (22,727 moles) takes a total energy input of 12.08 GJ (5.5 eV per molecule = 531.4 kJ/mole, x 22,727 = 12.08 GJ), and the internal energy is 0.68 GJ/ton, so 11.4 GJ/ton is the net energy input required for cracking a ton of carbon dioxide. That is what wind and solar would have to provide, because fossil fuels produce more CO2 than they crack.

    Removing the second oxygen atom, to produce bare carbon atoms for nanotubes or other forms of solid carbon, requires 257 kcal/mol, or an additional 1075 kJ/mol.

    The cracking energy for CO2 -> CO (531.4 kJ/mol) is comparable to the cracking energy (493 kJ/mol) required for water electrolysis.

    For each mole of CO2 cracked, a mole of O2 is produced. Oxygen is used for oxygen-blown gasifiers and for oxyfuel combustion, to save the trouble of stripping the nitrogen ballast attendant on using air instead. The air separation unit uses 43.78 kJ per mole of O2 so cracking a ton (22,727 moles) of CO2 to yield 22,727 moles of O2, saves 0.99 GJ. For each metric ton of oxygen (31,250 moles) the energy saved is therefore 1.368 GJ. You can take that benefit as a deduction from the required cracking energy of 11.4 GJ/ton of carbon dioxide.

  647. Doug Bostrom:

    #644 Ike Solem:

    I think you misread what I wrote, or I wrote it poorly. I don’t think hydrogen is viable as a energy source for for –transportation– applications due to our inability to create a practical portable storage technology suitable for that context.

  648. Brian Dodge:

    re bioethanol

    “A new study by researchers at North Carolina State University has found that growing duckweed on hog wastewater can produce five to six times more starch per acre than corn.”
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1702767/superplant_produces_ethanol_eliminates.html

    http://www.claytonnews-star.com/default.asp?sourceid=&smenu=106&twindow=Default&mad=No&sdetail=836&wpage=&skeyword=&sidate=&ccat=&ccatm=&restate=&restatus=&reoption=&retype=&repmin=&repmax=&rebed=&rebath=&subname=&pform=&sc=2111&hn=claytonnews-star&he=.com

    google “cheng stomp duckweed ethanol” for more references. Duckweed is used to treat municipal(human) wastewater as well, and efficiently recovers phosphorus (plus N, K, micronutrients, and, a double edged sword, heavy metals – e.g. chromium, cadmium; it can be used to clean contaminated water, but the resultant crop can’t be used as feed)

  649. James:

    Brian Dodge Says (16 May 2009 at 4:50 PM):

    “China’s offshore wind farm is ongoing construction near the Shanghai East China Sea Bridge, the China Business News reported. The new wind farm is comprised of 34 wind-driven generators, each with a capability of 3,000 kilowatt (kW). The constriction cost of the wind farm is CNY2.4 billion ($351 million) and has an installed capacity of 100,000 kW.”

    Perhaps putting things on a common scale would clarify things a bit. 100,000 kW = 100 MW = 0.1 GW. Actual generation from a wind turbine (capacity factor) is about 0.3, so unless I’ve dropped a decimal point or something, the Chinese are paying $10.5 billion for 1 GW of wind generation. (And that’s at Chinese wage rates for construction workers!)

    I didn’t find the size of those Duke reactors in a quick search, but 1 GW/reactor is fairly typical. That would mean that Duke’s paying $5.5 billion per GW – and that in a country where wages are high, and the regulatory environment is designed to make nuclear power uneconomic.

    “The $200 million Papalote Creek Wind Farm will have 109 turbines, 397 feet tall. They will generate 179.85 megawatts of power…”

    Well, that’s better than China, only $1.1 billion per GW, though the linked article doesn’t say whether that figure is nameplate rating. If it is, divide the price per GW by the capacity factor…

  650. Doug Bostrom:

    #646 Wilmot:

    No such thing as free lunch, but your answer goes through the budget really nicely. Thank you.

    I still find the idea of sequestering carbon into a nice friendly polymer such as polyethylene very attractive. Think of all the bathtub toys we could make.

  651. James:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (16 May 2009 at 1:16 PM):

    “The “100+ MPG” turns out to be entirely arbitrary depending on the ratio of the car miles driven on electricity and the car miles driven on gasoline as a gasoline hybrid.”

    Isn’t that sort of obvious? You figure the number on the average person’s typical driving cycle. However, the now 71 mpg (the fuel economy goes up a bit as the weather warms) non-plug-in hybrid is sitting in my driveway right now…

    “This only begins my tirade against phony plug-in stuff. The short version is that the inevitable response to such plugged in charging is coal fired power generation, regardless of the imagined “power generation mix.””

    Not at all, as for instance if I had a plug-in hybrid, I’d have a good reason to install some PV solar. (Something that doesn’t make a lot of economic sense, given that my typical power bill runs around $50/month.) Even if it did use 100% coal-sourced electricity, it’d still emit less CO2 than burning gasoline directly in an IC engine.

  652. Ike Solem:

    Jim Bulls: consider that a new Tesla EV has an optimal range of 250 – 300 miles on one single charge, and the electric motor operates at 85-95% efficiency.

    For the Tesla, “A fully charged ESS stores approximately 53 kWh of electrical energy at a nominal 375 volts and weighs 992 lb (450 kg).”

    53 kWh is the same as 1.91 X 10^8 joules, and that’s the fully charged battery.

    One gallon of gasoline is the same as 1.3 X 10^8 joules, so if your gasoline engine was anywhere near as efficient as an electrical motor, you would get roughly 160 mpg in a similar size car.

    However, gasoline engines are lucky to hit 20% efficiency in energy conversion – most of the energy is just wasted. You can see, however, that the combination of an electrical motor and a gasoline engine can easily hit 100+ mpg – but it still is not as efficient as a purely electrical system.

    That’s another example of how utility is not the same thing as energy – the electrical vehicle provides the same utility as a gasoline vehicle, but at much lower energy consumption.

    Wilmot:

    Any kind of CO2 capture and fixation strategy would probably follow the photosynthetic route, in which CO2 is first incorporated into an organic molecule (via formation of a carbon-carbon bond with a reactive product).

    To be concise, plants make a kind of chemical hot potato using solar power, and when that hot potato (a 5-carbon molecule) encounters a CO2 molecule, a reaction takes place and suddenly you have a 6-carbon molecule, which rapidly decomposes into two 3-carbon molecules.

    That’s where hydrogen comes in, as it is needed to reduce the carbon atoms and remove oxygen. At the end of the process, the plant ends up with sugars, starting out with CO2 and hydrogen from water.

    In thermodynamic terms, it requires 479 kilojoules of energy to reduce one mole of CO2 molecules (a mole is a lot of molecules, 6.022 * 10^23) to the level of sugar. To produce ethanol from sugar, you use fermentation, in which yeast convert sugars to ethanol and CO2, yielding energy for growth from the process.

    So, let’s compare now compare octane produced via petroleum distillation to ethanol produced by a photosynthetic/fermentation process.

    Octane combustion produces -5430 KJ/mol, or -678 KJ/mol of CO2 produced.

    Ethanol combustion produces -1370 KJ/mol, or -685 KJ/mol of CO2 produced.

    Thus, the energy yield of these hydrocarbons is independent of the source – fossil fuels or photosynthesis, it’s the same. In the case of fossil fuels, slow heat and pressure cooked off the oxygen over millions of years, while with ethanol and biomass gasification, we are simply speeding up the process using an external energy source.

    So, what is the difference in energy costs involved in exploring for oil, drilling wells, pumping the oil, shipping the oil, and finally refining the oil – vs. the cost for ethanol – growing the crops, harvesting the raw material, processing and fermenting it, and then distilling off the ethanol?

    How is that cost comparison changed if we attach high costs to fossil CO2 emission to the atmosphere, as science tells us we should? Obviously, it all depends on how much fossil fuel was used to grow the crops and produce the ethanol. In Kansas, they use coal – although it would be just as easy to use concentrated solar power.

  653. Lawrence Brown:

    An alternative approach that hasn’t gotten much mention here, is reducing energy use through energy efficiency. Buying cars that get relatively high gas mileage, appliances that are use less energy per unit of of output, and installing better home insulation,could go a long way toward mitigating the effects of AGW if adopted on a large scale.

    BTW,since it has come up several times in this thread, there’s an original and amusing take in an essay on Godel’s Theorem by Jeremy Bernstein “Inovators: Godel’s Theorem” which appears in his book, “Experiencing Science- Profiles in Discovery”(Basic Books,Inc. 1978).
    Bertrand Russell’s barber,Barrett, has a sign that reads “Barrett is willing to shave all, and only,men unwilling to shave themselves.” Of course Russell inevitably asks Barrett if he’s willing to shave himself.

  654. opit:

    ‘Getting anything done’ means working past a number of situations which are concurrent and daunting.

    Peak Oil
    Peak Minerals
    Economic Chaos and Monopoly Control
    An international monetary system used as a tool for factional advantage
    International trade systemic imbalance
    Groundwater pollution and decaying sewage/water treatment infrastructure.
    Climate change, food shortage, water shortage
    Use of chemicals based on the idea we can use anything that hasn’t been proven harmful : rather than conservative restrictions on adventurism

    It’s a kludge doomed to failure : if only because limitless growth violates the boundary of a closed system.

    It doesn’t look likely that disaster will be averted. One energy blog that had too short a life included a proposed national energy model to deal with some of these problems as an example of the kind of thinking that would be necessary to even simulate going forward. It unhappily perpetuated a model ignoring robber baron activities all too likely to destroy us all : the impotence of media to convey accurate and useful information an accessory by providing distraction when focus is necessary.

    http://ergosphere.blogspot.com/
    November 2006 archives include ‘Sustainability, energy independence and agricultural policy. What, me worry ?’

    It at least expands on http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/2007/10/fuelish-fantasies.html cited earlier in this thread : and has a deconstruction analysis of ethanol too – plus a link to another http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/2006/07/vinod-khosla-debunked.html

  655. pete best:

    Re #654, We are a long way from climate disaster, maybe some trouble at 2C but thats 30 years away etc.

  656. Wilmot McCutchen:

    Ike Solem #652 — That’s very interesting about photosynthesis energy input (494 kJ/mol) being less than the energy input for cracking CO2 (531 kJ/mol) or water (493 kJ/mol).

    Making sugar from CO2 is … sweet! Plants get that cracking energy from sunlight, so the process in a natural setting must be limited by the amount of sunlight on the green area. It is slow, but with a large enough area you could have a good carbon sink. But then we run into the other problem: fresh water to grow those plants is quickly becoming scarce all over the world. The forests we have are working as hard as they can, and we are still falling behind faster and faster. The dry forests are withering and burning. New forests — assuming there is water for them — won’t come online for 20 years, past the time for taking effective action to avoid climate catastrophe.

    The bogus CO2 offsets in the House legislation for “cap-and-trade” (Waxman-Markey) mostly have to do with trees. The idea is that coal plants continue to emit CO2 as usual, but they buy indulgences in some scheme where someone else claims the has planted some trees which will be a sink for those emissions. The potential for fraud in phantom tree offsets is even worse than took place in origination that led to the recent crash. Who will actually walk through those saplings and certify that they are thriving? The same government inspectors and rating agencies which have just failed so outrageously? And then there is the market in these phantom tree offsets, which past experience with Wall Street suggests will be an orgy of fraud and greed concealed by incomprehensible complexity.

    With a cheap price for the indulgences — less than $20 per ton of CO2 is like coins in a parking meter for utilities, who will just get a rate hike to cover the increased cost — and with 90% of coal CO2 emissions given free indulgences, there will be no incentive to deploy technology.

    The EPA’s jurisdiction to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act, which the Supreme Court recently upheld, will be mooted by this legislative end run, so there will be no effective pressure to do something real.

  657. James:

    Ike Solem Says (17 May 2009 at 12:42 AM):

    “To produce ethanol from sugar, you use fermentation, in which yeast convert sugars to ethanol and CO2, yielding energy for growth from the process.”

    This is omething that has puzzled me from time to time. On the one hand, we’ve seen piles of research money spent on hydrogen fuel cells, even though hydrogen’s energy-expensive to produce, and a nightmare to transport & store. On the other hand, significant money gets spent finding better ways to convert plant sugars to ethanol (which contains less energy) so it can be burnt in inefficient internal combustion engines.

    Why not instead spend the money on improving a fuel cell that runs on sugar? Such things do exist: http://www.slu.edu/x14605.xml

  658. Ike Solem:

    Lawrence Brown: “An alternative approach that hasn’t gotten much mention here, is reducing energy use through energy efficiency.”

    Isn’t that what the entire discussion of electric vehicles vs. fossil fueled vehicles is all about? Clearly, electric transportation is about five times more energy efficient than fossil fueled transportation, per mass transported. Power delivery (acceleration, etc.) in electric and gasoline engines is also similar.

    The big difference is in onboard energy storage – even though a gasoline or ethanol engine is only 20% efficient, the energy density of hydrocarbons is much greater than that of any plausible battery.

    You can see that from the above blurb on the Tesla Motors vehicle: “For the Tesla, a fully charged ESS stores approximately 53 kWh of electrical energy at a nominal 375 volts and weighs 992 lb (450 kg).”

    The equivalent theoretical energy storage of gasoline is about 1.5 gallons, around 4 kg – about a factor of 100 difference compared to electric vehicles. If we include the lower efficiency of hydrocarbon engines (20% vs. 90% for electric), the factor is still around 20 (that assumes you had 160 gallons of gasoline in the car – that’s the mass of the battery – and since you don’t, the normal range of a gasoline car is similar to that of an electric car).

    Energy efficiency should be a main goal, for both cars and house – but how to go about it? It seems that the best way to reduce energy use is to have real-time displays that calculate people’s bills for them, or against some other benchmark. For cars, the Toyota hybrid energy monitoring system is a good start. For homes, that requires a meter that has a digital output – which the utilities have resisted installing in homes:

    http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/08/an-energy-dashboard-for-buildings/#comment-59247

    However, energy efficiency alone won’t solve the fossil CO2 problem, which requires replacing fossil fuel combustion with renewable energy sources. For renewable energy sources to provide enough utility to keep civilization operating, energy efficiency will be key – and it is being engineered in at the outset.

    This is because with renewable energy (particularly solar PV) still costing quite a bit, every increase in energy efficiency means larger savings in energy production. This is why solar-roof EVs might be a good idea, as well – to meet the ‘gadget demand’.

    On the other hand, with coal – railroad – utility holding companies, energy efficiency limits demand for coal, and thus causes the holding company to have net losses in the coal and rail sectors, even if the utility is showing a steady profit by meeting demand. In other words, investor-owned coal-fired utilities have very clear economic reasons for working against energy efficiency, as does the petroleum industry, which relies heavily on wildly inefficient vehicles for the bulk of their sales.

    It’s just like the older ethanol industry – the serious alcoholics provide the majority of the sales, just based on consumption rates.

  659. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Though at least the authors [of the "Solar Grand Plan" article in the January 2008 Scientific American] are honest about what their plan requires: “To convert the country to solar power, huge tracts of land would have to be covered with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs.” In other words, the total environmental destruction of that land. Personally, I’ll take the nuclear war – at least most of life outside the targeted cities would survive.”

    Well, let’s look at the article and see what the authors say about those “huge tracts of land”:

    Some 30,000 square miles of photovoltaic arrays would have to be erected. Although this area may sound enormous, installations already in place indicate that the land required for each gigawatt-hour of solar energy produced in the Southwest is less than that needed for a coal-powered plant when factoring in land for coal mining.

    So, when compared to the land required for coal-fired electricity, including the land impacted by mountaintop removal strip mining and other destructive practices, solar requires less land per GW-hour of output. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, and it’s a relevant comparison, since what we are trying to accomplish is to phase out coal.

    So, how about that “total environmental destruction” you mention?

    Studies by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., show that more than enough land in the Southwest is available without requiring use of environmentally sensitive areas … The benign nature of photovoltaic plants (including no water consumption) should keep environmental concerns to a minimum.

    That doesn’t sound like “total environmental destruction” to me.

    Now, let’s look at another proposal, a March 2008 peer-reviewed study from Ausra, a company that develops utility-scale solar thermal power technology. They project that over 90 percent of the USA’s electric grid and auto fleet’s energy needs could be met by solar thermal power, thereby eliminating 40 percent of the USA’s GHG emissions.

    And how much land would be required to produce 90 percent of the USA’s electricity from solar thermal alone? Ausra estimates that it would take “a land footprint of 9,600 square miles” which is “less than one percent of America’s deserts, less land than currently in use in the U.S. for coal mines, and a tiny fraction of the land currently in agricultural use.”

    Now let’s put that in perspective with some land use figures from SourceWatch:

    9,000 square miles for coal mining
    20,000 square miles for roads
    3,750 square mines for airports
    4,800 miles for railroads
    93,000 square miles for urban areas
    20,000 square miles for defense installations

    So concentrating solar thermal on a land area that is roughly one percent of the USA’s deserts, roughly comparable to the land disturbed by coal mines, or to the land now used for railroads and airports, or to half the land now used for roads, or to half the land now used for defense installations, or around one-tenth of the land in “urban use”, could provide 90 percent of the nation’s electricity supply and eliminate 40 percent of the nation’s GHG emissions.

    And you would prefer to have a nuclear war, rather than do that.

    I think that says a lot about your point of view.

  660. Richard C:

    They say a picture is worth a thousand worlds. So look at the picture on this page.
    http://www.desertec.org/
    Looks to me like solar could do the job.

  661. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #652 Ike Solem

    You state, “One gallon of gasoline is the same as 1.3 X 10^8 Joules.” And you compare efficiency of an electric motor directly to that of a gasoline engine.

    Thus you demonstrate a widespread incorrect perception about energy equivalence.

    It is absolutely true that a gallon of gasoline will produce 1.3 X 10^8 Joules of heat. You can also be quite sure that 1.3 X 10^8 Joules of electrical energy will produce 1.3 X 10^8 Joules of heat.

    It is a strange fact, but true however, that 1.3 X 10^8 Joules of heat will not produce anything close to 1.3 X 10^8 Joules of electrical energy. The fact that heat energy and electrical energy can be measured in Joules simply does not mean they are equivalent. It depends on the process and that is subject to an enormous effect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics where the conversion is from heat to mechanical and then to electrical energy.

    One of the reasons we still use BTU for heat in this country is that engineers like to reserve that unit for heat measurment to help keep the distinction that is lost if kWhr or joules are the units for both heat and electrical energy or mechanical energy.

    If a comparison is to be made between internal combustion engines and electric motors, it is essential that the heat engine that is used to generate the electric energy also be included in the calculation. If the comparison is properly made it will be from comparable points of heat production, namely where fuel is burned.

    So if you want to talk about efficiency of electric motors, the electrical to mechanical energy conversion causes only a minor part of the loss. The important loss is in the heat engine that is available capacity for electricity generation. Economic laws dictate that the heat engine offering power at the lowest cost will be chosen to fill the demand for electric power. Thus, the electric motor you speak of is unavoidably tied to coal combustion. The only way this can be avoided is if the car was tied to a captive renewable source, but that kind of a system has its own special disadvantages, not the least of which is total system cost.

    So if you are interested in making a fair and meaningful comparison the automobile internal combustion engine must be compared with the central power plant heat engine. Then the machinery that couples energy to car wheels can be included as respective modifications. On one hand, there is mechanical couplings; on the other hand, there is the electric power generator at the central power plant, the transmission line system, battery storage with charging processes, motor controllers, and finally the electric motor. The efficiency of the electric motor is clearly not a meaningful basis by itself.

    In spite of all this, if the internal combustion engine efficiency is indeed 20% as it typically is, the electric motor system can still come out ahead, though nowhere near with as much margin as you indicated.

    Internal combustion engines can be better. Kubota and Yanmar industrial diesels produce mechanical energy from heat energy at about 35% efficiency. They could probably be tuned to do better if the rpm was fixed. But here is the big surprise, the Prius engine measured by Argonne came out at 38% on the UDDS driving cycle.

    This 38% came about for several reasons, but one was that the hybrid system as programmed by Toyota optimizes the engine operation amazingly well. In contrast, when the car was measured with the battery additions to make that Prius into a plug-in the engine efficiency dropped to 33%. (I give a shortcut to the Argonne report on this through the References page on my site. Just click my name.)

    But as to the “100+ MPG”, yes even the range extended, battery powered Hummer can deliver 100 MPG. This should give you a clue that this is a meaningless claim, though it is disguised as a specification. Even though the Plug-In Prius conversions are not so energy wasteful as the plug-in Hummer the real mpg statement should be something like, “It can get any MPG you want between about 35 MPG and an MPG that approaches infinite MPG.” No, the gasoline will evaporate in the tank before it comes very close to infinity.

  662. Doug Bostrom:

    #659 SecularAnimist:

    “And you would prefer to have a nuclear war, rather than do that.”

    That does sound a trifle immoderate. James, what’s up with your don’t-or-die attitude concerning energy sources that don’t involve fissioning atoms? By process of elimination, all you’re leaving on the table is a spray of particles. You say you’re interested in practical alternatives, but when confronted with that possibility your final position is that nuclear war is better? (jumping from fission to fusion, no less).

    Acres of figures have been thrown back and forth in this discussion and while nothing’s conclusive it’s clear that direct solar or thermal generation offers an excellent contribution for displacing combustion yet you’re stubbornly opposed.

    What gives?

  663. Ike Solem:

    James, if all fossil fuels vanished from the earth overnight, do you really think civilization would collapse? What if we include all uranium?

    Under such circumstances, you would have to rely on the big ball of fire in the sky, and subsidiary effects like winds, waves, tides, and also on your local ecology – farms and fisheries and forests, etc. Fossil fuels are literally fossils of photosynthetically captured carbon molecules – marine algae and peat, so there is no reason we can’t come up with a way to manufacture them using the same tactics that plants do – is there? It is just solar-powered biochemistry, after all.

    You can complain that solar has low-energy density relative to nuclear, but isn’t that an advantage, particularly for the U.S. Southwest, who will need every drop of water they can get over the next 50 years? The whole heat exchange problem with nuclear is due to the energy density being too high, isn’t it?

    For a practical example, a one-gigawatt solar panel installation in the Four Corners could easily replace the entire coal-fired Four Corners Power Station, a joint ownership deal between California’s Southern Edison and Arizona/Texas utilities – and it would bring many construction jobs to the region, as well as preserve their scarce water. It would cover a fair amount of land – but would it destroy the local ecology? Would it pump toxins into the surrounding air and soil year in, year out, all while depleting scarce water supplies? No. Thus, it’s the best option.

    If the California Air Resources Board had an unbiased approach, they’d have had to assign a huge pollution cost to all Four Corners coal electricity imports – but no, that was only for biofuel ‘land use’ estimates – you see, cattle and soy production in the Brazilian Amazon is due to the demand for biofuels… it has nothing to do with America’s desire for cheap beef, or Europe’s desire for GMO-free soybeans. It’s getting to be as if every day was April Fool’s Day…

    As far as this statement: On the other hand, significant money gets spent finding better ways to convert plant sugars to ethanol (which contains less energy) so it can be burnt in inefficient internal combustion engines

    Recall everything Adam Smith said about supply, demand, farming and so on? Ethanol keeps, but fresh corn doesn’t. Say you are a skilled farmer and you grow twice as much corn per acre as your neighbors do – but then, nobody wants to buy it because you grew too much. You can then convert the corn to ethanol, and not leave it to rot on the ground. Economically, this is good for the farmer – but if coal is used to refine the ethanol, it does nothing to reduce fossil CO2 emissions. Likewise, the farmer would have to set up wind and solar on farms to provide power for electric farm equipment in order really be carbon-neutral.

    The bottom line is that ethanol as a solution to fossil CO2 emissions only makes sense if no fossil fuels are involved in growing or refining the fuel. Kansas just approved a 800 MW coal plant to fire the ethanol stills, and apparently didn’t even consider wind or solar.

    A far better deal for Kansas and Arizona would be for Arizona to sell solar power to Kansas, and then buy ethanol in return. David Ricardo’s comparative advantage in action – but this would be opposed by all the coal-fired utilities, wouldn’t it?

    I don’t see how you can argue for nuclear in Arizona – what would they do for water in the future?

  664. Doug Bostrom:

    #653 Lawrence Brown:

    “An alternative approach that hasn’t gotten much mention here, is reducing energy use through energy efficiency.”

    Unfortunately we’re -planning- on having another 3 billion persons arrive on the planet during the same period when we’re scrambling to get our energy supply cleaned up. We can and absolutely should wring the last iota of waste out of our habits. If we’re really good at it we can come out ready to supply our next 3 billion companions with juice, with little additional filth to manage.

    A bittersweet improvement but you’re so right.

  665. Hank Roberts:

    James, most of the available energy in plants is tied up in compounds other than sugar — cellulose, lignin. Plants are well defended.

    “… Granted, when the plant dies, the cellulose will eventually break down. But very very slowly, and usually it’s the last molecule to go. Ever see a dead tree suddenly turn liquid? That’s what they’re saying they’ll be able to do, in 5 years. Believe me, the fungi and bacteria would do it now, if they could. The biotech boys are already aware of some of the difficulties ….”

    http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/search?q=switchgrass

  666. pete best:

    Re #664, fortunately those 3 billion people are going to be born in places where their energy use it modest or little relative to the wests energy usage. If we take North America, Australasia, Europe and Russia alone then that will make up most of the worlds energy usage. Lets not start blaming global population for carbon emissions, the first 100 ppmv is down to industrial society and the next 100 ppmv (50 years worth) is also down to present industrial society and China and India plus some from South America but its not as much even when projected out. China and india make our goods now and we still consume vast amounts of energy.

    Therefore energy efficiency is a good idea, americans need to be driving 50 MPG vehicles as of yesterday (not likely just yet until the cost of oil rockets again) and so does the rest of the industrial world just for starters. However therein lies a problem with efficiency, it makes people do more and hence use more. Its a known problem!

    Re #663, Lets get really real Ike about this issue and look at the fact of energy use. Oil, coal and gas dominate world energy usage and if they are approaching their respectve peaks then global warming might just be a side issues unless we go a bit mental about the not sdo easy to extract oils and burn a lot more brown coal to, then it could get nasty.

    it is going to take decades to get renewables deployed to a level where it halves fossil fuel emissions, let alone the 80% required. Oil usage (recession not included) grows at 2% per annum, seems nothing at all but its a lot as that 2% becomes a doubling in 35 years (70/2=35). Nasty.

  667. Wilmot McCutchen:

    pete best #666 — Good point about conservation. Experience has shown that voluntary conservation in the US gets little public support. It’s a great idea for other people, though.

    No amount of pious posturing will get India and China to give up their aspirations to burn as much fuel per capita as the developed countries. We’ve got to deal with the reality that worldwide CO2 emissions will be accelerating, and we’d better get busy soon doing something real about it.

    Cap-and-trade is not something real, but a junk market scheme to benefit Wall Street and pretend we’re getting serious.

  668. Mark:

    “No amount of pious posturing will get India and China to give up their aspirations to burn as much fuel per capita as the developed countries”

    Except that they have the most to lose: more people and more dependence on natural resources like, oh, glaciers in the mountains meaning that winter rain is released slowly rather than in some massive flood.

    Apart from that..?

  669. Doug Bostrom:

    #667 Wilmot:

    “Experience has shown that voluntary conservation in the US gets little public support.”

    Except when price is allowed to work its magic. Volunteers line up around the block when consumers are confronted with a sharp shock. I miss the days of $4.00 gasoline here in the US and I’m eagerly awaiting another price rise to help us quickly evolve less stupid behaviors.

    #666 Pete:

    “Lets not start blaming global population for carbon emissions…”

    I’ll happily and I think with ample justification blame global population for nearly every environmental problem we face, and for much strife besides.

    Supplying 2 billion people with electrical transformers while pouring PCB waste into the nearest river is way less dangerous than supplying 6 billions. Providing the copper for the windings for transformers to supply 2 billion is less environmentally costly than doing it for 6 billion. Providing 50% of electrical demand from coal for 200 million Americans releases less CO2 than for 350 million. The list of examples goes on and on.

    Regarding our next 3 billion compadres, they’re all going to be equipped with bowls waiting to be filled with food, regardless of if they’re reclining in a Barcalounger up in a highrise or squatting on a dirt floor in a grass shack. The “Green Revolution” which allowed us to balloon our population to absurd levels was substantially fueled not just by improved crop varieties but also by the Haber process and related energy-intensive fertilizer production schemes. We got around the first excess few billions by unleashing hydrocarbons to fix our fertilizer requirement. We can’t do that again.

    “Oil usage (recession not included) grows at 2% per annum, seems nothing at all but its a lot as that 2% becomes a doubling in 35 years”

    And why is that happening?

  670. pete best:

    Re #668, its not going to be easy Mark and whether its glaciers going ot rivers drying up some otherway it will effect us all, although maybe some more than others. Is that what we in the west reckon, its the poor first and then we can stop it to save us ?

  671. Ike Solem:

    Wilmot: “No amount of pious posturing will get India and China to give up their aspirations to burn as much fuel per capita as the developed countries.”

    David Chu, current DOE secretary: “China and India would not turn their back on coal.”

    I don’t know why it is that so many commentators insist that China and India have no renewable energy goals:

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/05/china-to-focus-on-renewable-energy

    May 8, 2009
    China To Focus on Renewable Energy

    China is battling air pollution and high costs for imported energy with an aggressive focus on renewable energy. The Chinese government says it will have 100 gigawatts of wind-power capacity by 2020 — enough to power more than 60 million homes. That figure is more than three times the target the government laid out just 18 months ago.

    Or, see this:
    http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20090515/renewable-energy-sector-grew-120b-investments.htm

    Likewise, Australia just announced their own solar PV project:
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-05/17/content_11389840.htm

    CANBERRA, May 17 (Xinhua) — The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Sunday his government’s 1.4 billion-Australian-dollar (1.05 billion U.S. dollars) investment in large solar power farms would help make the country a leader in solar energy.

    While touring the Liddell power station in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, Rudd outline how the 1.4 billion, announced in last week’s budget, would be spent.

    Up to four solar power plants, with a combined power output of one coal-fired power station, will then be constructed, and the solar power plants will have to be built close to the electricity grid and in areas with plenty of sunshine, Rudd said.

    So, is this being matched by any similar U.S. proposals? No, we put aside $2.3 billion for FutureGen, which will likely never produce power as advertised – a shocking waste of taxpayer money not backed up by any prototypes at all – nothing. No venture capitalist or angel investor would dream of putting money into the scheme – but the DOE is dropping $2.3 billion on it. Truly amazing – listen to this:

    “This funding will both create jobs now and help position the United States to lead the world in CCS technologies, which will be in increasing demand in the years ahead,” Chu said.

    Yes, everyone is just lining up to get 1/10th the power per ton of coal that current power plants deliver – because you can guarantee that if all emissions are captured, that will suck up about 90% of the power output of the coal-fired plant – and burial isn’t even possible, at 30 million tons of CO2 per coal plant per year. Yet, with no working prototype or evidence that it’s anything but a scam, the DOE is going to drop another $2.3 billion on it.

    If it’s such a great idea, why don’t the coal-fired utility holding companies finance it themselves? Why isn’t Bill Gates or Warren Buffet stepping up to position themselves at the base of the “CCS economic miracle”?

    Simple – the entire project is a fraud. Any independent analyst would tell you the same thing – but coal-state politicians don’t count as independent analysts, and neither do the administrators of our national DOE labs, who have far too many political pressures on them to ever produce independent scientific assessments of politically sensitive matters – and let’s not forget that the new second-in-command at the DOE was also BP’s chief scientist while they were expanding their Canadian tar sands operations.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30766806/

    Meanwhile, I see that Michelle Obama, Richard Blum and Mark Yudof all attended the UC Merced graduation – funny thing about Merced, not that the papers mentioned it – they were the first UC to have a dedicated renewable energy program, but it never took off due to lack of federal funding for renewable energy research… so, as an indication of some level of sincerity, how about pushing for a real federal renewable energy research budget for universities, so they don’t have to keep scraping by on private donations?

    http://www.ucmerced.edu/news_articles/08032007_donation_brings_uc_merced.asp

  672. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #664 Doug Bostrom

    Before you spend too much time on the “last iotas” of waste, why not consider the first monstrosities of waste. Iotas don’t get the job done in the face of the real problems.

    Check out the big monstrosities at the latest Annual Energy Outlook 2009 from the EIA,and look at Figure 81. (They returned to this silly but still very useful format this year, which they had made more scientific but less informative last year. I say silly because the bar graphs count electricity production of CO2 twice. Thus, the bars add up to a lot more than the totals of the inset.)

    I can’t show the chart of Figure 81 on this comment block, so I summarize the quantities:

    Of the USA total, the 40% monster is electricity generation, mostly due to coal. The 33% monster is transportation where about 22% of that USA total is light cars and trucks and about 11% heavy transport. Industrial CO2 emissions are about 19% of the total, commercial are about 3% and residential are about 5%. You have to know to exclude the CO2 from electrical use that is the respective allocations of the 40% from electrical generation. But by showing the bar twice, at least they tell us the important information about where the efficiency leverage can be found.

    CO2 from electric generation could be cut in half by switching to natural gas. It could be cut to about half of that by converting from central power plants to distributed cogeneration using natural gas. If we use natural gas in cogeneration, we can double or triple the efficiency of use of that resource, and maybe there will be enough to last a while. We just have to get rid of some of the lessons Westinghouse, and subsequently GE, taught us about central power plants.

    Now lets whack transportation. Most of the energy losses for light trucks and cars are due to churning air. About half the losses for heavy transport are for churning air and the other half for heating rubber. Engines have to supply 3 to 5 times this energy loss. But a 75% cut in the aerodynamic and rolling resistance means the overall emissions would be cut 75%. We just have to get rid of some of the lessons Henry Ford taught us about cars.

    Insulation can be seen to have a rather weak potential, but ok, it could be worth doing, if reasonably affordable.

    Real solutions have to support life approximately as we would like to live at a reasonable cost.

    Maybe the way to influence the rest of the world is to start showing how things can be done right, so as they advance to a life style following our example, they can see some reasonable options.

    Now that we have taken care of the big stuff, bring out the last iota list. If you bring it out now, we will waste a lot of time on money and do a lot of silly stuff that could get in the way. Like plug-in cars that are not efficient, almost useless “smart grids”, and wind mills having a primary purpose of sucking money out of the public.

  673. Hank Roberts:

    Wilmot says:
    > experience has shown

    Says who? You’re being misled. Where do you get your disinformation?

    You can look it up. California, Alaska, Sarajevo. When there’s been an energy crisis for whatever reason, voluntary action by individuals has astonished the talking heads. Yet they continue to fool people like they fooled you. Experience has shown they can fool most people, most of the time. You’ve been fooled. Don’t be fooled again.

    http://static.uspirg.org/newsletters/winter06/story4.html

    “Conservation Lowers Prices
    Remember the energy crisis in California during the winter of 2000-2001? To avoid another season of rolling
    blackouts and skyrocketing prices, California embarked on a PIRGbacked emergency energy conservation blitz, slashing its consumption by 6 percent within a single year, saving the economy billions of dollars.

    How significant is a 6 percent reduction in energy use? According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a 2 percent reduction in electricity and natural gas demand could trigger a 25 percent reduction in wholesale prices within a single year…..’

    ———–
    The Electricity Journal : California Overcomes an Electricity …
    What emerged in 2001 was the most successful statewide energy conservation campaign ever conducted.
    http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1040619001002615

  674. Doug Bostrom:

    #672 Jim:

    By definition every last iota includes the big things, yes? And it’s fairly self-obvious that we’ll start with the low hanging fruit.

    “CO2 from electric generation could be cut in half by switching to natural gas.”

    Briefly, then the lights will extinguish as the last of the pathetically small and inadequate-for-the-task global resource of natural gas hisses through our combustion chambers. Sadly we’ll also have lost our option to use this excellent resource for other purposes, having burnt it like cavemen.

    You keep coming back to natural gas. Why? It’s balloon that would pop as soon as the weight of present demand were dropped on it.

    “Now that we have taken care of the big stuff, bring out the last iota list. ”

    Surely you’re not advocating –ignoring– free, easy steps we can take this instant to reduce energy consumption?

    I don’t think you’re really suggesting that we get really linear and not save where we could do it for free, right now. Why wouldn’t we insist that electronic manufacturers seeking to duck the cost of UL certification cease taking money out of our pockets by passing 19th century technology and costs along to us in the form of external power supplies using ferrous transformers that often dissipate more energy as heat than they manage to pass along to the connected device? The list of effortless savings is quite large, enough to eliminate many combustion power plants right now, for nothing. Why wouldn’t we avail ourselves of the savings in money and filth right now?

    Actually, I have an answer to that last question. Our legislators are as butter under the thin edge of the knife of organized constituencies, while by comparison rest of us are as cutting as a zephyr of wind.

  675. James:

    Doug Bostrom Says (17 May 2009 at 2:10 PM):

    “James, what’s up with your don’t-or-die attitude concerning energy sources that don’t involve fissioning atoms?”

    I think you completely misunderstand my position. I could tell you in two words, if they hadn’t been pre-empted by an organization whose tactics (and no few positions) I disagree with. It’s the opposite of the statement quoted by SecularAnimist in #659: “…more than enough land in the Southwest is available without requiring use of environmentally sensitive areas…”. To me, ALL land (and ocean) is valuable, especially those part of it that haven’t been plowed up & paved over by humans.

    So we all agree (I hope) that we have a CO2 problem. The question is how to deal with it without our attempts to fix it doing as much or more damage as the problem we’re trying to fix. Solar farms do damage far beyond the value of the power they produce, therefore I’m against them. Nuclear plants have minimal effect on the Earth – even when they fail, as at Chernobyl, there’s considerable evidence that the effects are a net improvement – therefore I am not against them.

    The rest just comes down to discussions of technology & economics.

    “By process of elimination, all you’re leaving on the table is a spray of particles.”

    Not at all. As I’ve said repeatedly, I think solar on existing rooftops is a good idea. Improved efficiency – including just plain not doing some things, like lighting vacant buildings & parking lots – is great. Wind turbines are fine for areas, such as Great Plains farmlands, that’s already significantly impacted, not necessarily in others.

    “You say you’re interested in practical alternatives, but when confronted with that possibility your final position is that nuclear war is better?”

    For the Earth, yes. Consider the extremes: at one end, humanity industrializes all the Earth to run its (for want of a better word) civilization; at the other a small portion of the land area (most of which is urbanized already) is sacrificed, but the human population & its environmental burden is reduced to a level the Earth can support.

  676. Lawrence Brown:

    Ike Solem- If the electric vehicle recharges its battery using a fossil fired power plant then it isn’t carbon free,which defeats the purpose of the whole experiment, though as we change to more alternatively powered electrical plants, this will become less of a problem.

    A consideration which should be accounted for is if the battery is recharged from a fossil powered plant operating at 35 to 40 percent efficiency.This ought to be taken into account for the final efficiency of an electric car under these conditions. Jim Bullis also addresses this point in #661 above, and he includes other factors, as well.

  677. Marion Delgado:

    Since I am not sure it’s clear from gavin’s response, Chip Knappenberger is shilling for Patrick Michaels fake-environmental, fake-science, denialism web site, World Climate Report and his PR firm, New Hope Environmental Services. Michaels is notorious for several reasons*, but perhaps most so for doctoring James Hansen’s climate projection charts – similarly to the way the other notorious anti-science denialist Martin Durkin did with temperatures and sun cycles.

    *Including extreme dishonesty about his funding – which shows him to be a cats-paw for the Western Fuels Association, Edison Electric, and other anti-environmental interests and New Horizons as a flack for auto and coal companies, and dishonesty about his status and title in Virginia. and about his relationship to environmentalism.

  678. James:

    Ike Solem Says (17 May 2009 at 2:15 PM):

    “James, if all fossil fuels vanished from the earth overnight, do you really think civilization would collapse?”

    Yes. In better words than I can manage:

    “It wasn’t a city, it was a process, a weight on the world that distorted that land for hundred of miles around. People who’d never see it in their whole life nevertheless spent that life working for it. Thousands and thousands of green acres were part of it, forests were part of it. It drew in and consumed…” (Terry Pratchett, Night Watch)

    And in this world, most of that consumption runs on oil & coal. Shut it off, even for a day, and the urbanites start getting hungry. Within a week, they’ll have boiled out of their hives, and will be eating the land bare within walking distance. Of course their numbers will be considerably reduced, as the more ruthless discover that their neighbors are a ready source of food.

    “You can complain that solar has low-energy density relative to nuclear…”

    No, that’s not my complaint (or at least only indirectly). My complaint is that converting unoccupied land to solar farms destroys whatver ecosystem occupies that land.

    “For a practical example, a one-gigawatt solar panel installation in the Four Corners could easily replace the entire coal-fired Four Corners Power Station…”

    And how much area is this going to cover?

    “It would cover a fair amount of land – but would it destroy the local ecology?”

    Seems pretty obvious that it would, doesn’t it? What drives the ecology, if not sunlight? So what’s better, poisoning (and not at at lethal level) or starvation?

    “If the California Air Resources Board had an unbiased approach, they’d have had to assign a huge pollution cost to all Four Corners coal electricity imports…”

    And they’d have to assign a similar, but even higher, cost for a Four Corners solar plant, because it’s not just a change of land use, but the total elimination of the ecosystem in the area the plant covers.

    And another question: why not put that same 1 GW worth of solar cells on roofs in Phoenix and Los Angeles, and save yourself the cost of several hundred miles of high-voltage transmission line?

    “I don’t see how you can argue for nuclear in Arizona – what would they do for water in the future?”

    Why do you think nuclear power requires using water? Like any heat engine (including those solar thermal plants), it requires a temperature difference. Most plants (coal & nuclear) do use a once-through flow of cooling water, but that’s because they’re located where water’s readily available. It’s quite possible to use closed-loop coolers (like your car’s radiator), that reject heat to the air. Better still, instead of building the plant in Arizona & exporting most of the power to Southern California, you build the plants next to the Pacific Ocean, and send power the other way.

    As for water use, have you ever spent time in the Four Corners area? If you have, you will have undoubtedly noticed that things left outside for long get rather dusty. When that happens to the PV panels, the efficiency will drop (see for instance the experience of the Mars Rovers with dust). What do you suppose the plant operators will do then? Something roughly equivalent to getting out the garden hose & washing them?

  679. James:

    Hank Roberts Says (17 May 2009 at 3:14 PM):

    “…most of the available energy in plants is tied up in compounds other than sugar — cellulose, lignin. Plants are well defended.”

    Sure. But you have the same problems in the pathway(s) of breaking those things down to ethanol, no? In fact, sugars are just one step before ethanol, so if you can do e.g. cellulistic ethanol, you should be able to do cellulistic sugar.

    Indeed, it’s fairly easy to get at least some sugar from plants: easy enough so that it’s well under $0.50/lbs at my supermarket (bulk prices seem to be in the $0.20/lb range), while even fairly dilute aqueous solutions of ethanol cost a LOT more than that :-)

    If ethanol supplies are produced from sugar (or from the starches in e.g. corn converted to sugar), & requires fermentation & distillation to extract (both taking energy) then surely you’re better off stopping at sugar?

  680. Hank Roberts:

    > Annual Energy Outlook 2009 from the EIA
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/index.html
    > fig. 81
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/images/figure_81.gif

  681. Doug Bostrom:

    #675 James:

    “As I’ve said repeatedly, I think solar on existing rooftops is a good idea. ”

    Bingo, ok I understand. We could argue all day about how much intact desert ecosystem would be obliterated by PV plants, but true enough there’s a lot of roof area available. We’d probably have to install something like 50-100% more active PV surface area and a colletively massive amount of additional ancillary gear to get the same amount of energy conditioned for distribution compared to more ideal sites, but that’s a tradeoff worth looking.

    I still can’t quite agree on the nuclear obliteration angle, though. Call me an old softy, but so be it. :-P

  682. Rene Cheront:

    320 Jim Bouldin
    Rene Cheront has done nothing but make sweeping assertions, without any sort of backing evidence or defense, while several of us have provided specific examples demonstrating these to be false based on our knowledge of resource management (and with no response).

    Every last bit of the above is utterly false.
    - I have supported each point made
    - the claimed counter-examples have been flawed to a greater or lesser extent
    - I have responded to them (been too busy last week or so though)
    - your ‘knowledge’ of resource management speaks mainly of ideological predisposition

  683. James:

    Doug Bostrom Says (17 May 2009 at 10:55 PM):

    “…true enough there’s a lot of roof area available. We’d probably have to install something like 50-100% more active PV surface area and a colletively massive amount of additional ancillary gear to get the same amount of energy conditioned for distribution compared to more ideal sites, but that’s a tradeoff worth looking.”

    Maybe not. There are benefits to putting the panels at point of use, starting with eliminating the need for building long transmission lines, and the associated transmission loss. Then the gear: might it not be cheaper to make millions of house-sized control units, and even high-speed flywheel storage (or other technology, depending on what works best), rather than a few utility-sized ones. And of course the intangibles that come from a more-distributed energy system.

    “I still can’t quite agree on the nuclear obliteration angle, though. Call me an old softy, but so be it.”

    Can’t say that it’s something I’d really enjoy, either. But my considered opinion is that reasonable use of nuclear power wouldn’t raise the risk at all, and might even lessen it. Ever stop to think about how many WWII-sized wars have been prevented because one or more of the parties had nuclear weapons? Just off the top of my head, 4 US/Europe vs USSR, USSR vs China in late ’60s, Chinese invasion of Taiwan, India/Pakistan. after the Mumbai attacks if not earlier…

  684. Rene Cheront:

    #370 dhogaza
    …assumes that biodiversity is only of value to those willing to pay to preserve it
    …ignores the value of biodiversity that traditional economics doesn’t capture…The fact that many people don’t value biodiversity doesn’t change the fact that biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided by the biosphere are crucial to sustaining human civilization.

    Just as the fact that people don’t value the atmosphere doesn’t change the fact that dumping ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into it threatens the well-being of every human on the planet.

    The market captures what people think, right or wrong. If there are differences of opinion – such as with biodiversity and the atmosphere – this too is captured.

    And let us not forget here the problem of lack of ownership of both of those, the tragedy of the commons issue.

  685. James:

    Lawrence Brown Says (17 May 2009 at 7:06 PM)

    “…if the battery is recharged from a fossil powered plant operating at 35 to 40 percent efficiency.This ought to be taken into account for the final efficiency of an electric car…”

    But if you do that, it’s only fair to include all the energy costs of producing oil and getting it into the gas tank as well. Seems like you have two places (maybe more?) to start from, either of which will give you a meaningful answer. One is the vehicle’s efficiency, for which you start from a full tank or charged battery. The other is the efficiency of the full path from source – oil well, coal mine, or whatever – to miles driven.

  686. Rene Cheront:

    #391 RichardC Says:
    Rene claims, “Those who own a forest are not compelled to harvest it against their wishes.”

    Wrong. Hostile takeovers are designed specifically for that situation. A corporation which takes other factors than money into account can be taken over with money when their book value gets too high for their stock value.

    If a takeover occurs, the people who formerly owned it no longer do, so cannot be said to be compelled to be doing anything with it. And noone is compelled to sell what they do not choose to sell.

    The hostility in so-called ‘hostile’ takeovers is directed at bungling management, not owners.

  687. Doug Bostrom:

    #683 James:

    “…might it not be cheaper to make millions of house-sized control units, and even high-speed flywheel storage…”

    Made in China, presumably. Or someplace that’ll still take our scrip, heh!

    I dunno. The attraction of decentralization is big, but golly what a lot of components. I guess the only thing that makes me truly squeamish about the idea is the idea of so many millions of square meters of PV cells -not- optimally pointed; I suppose that’s because PV cells are so relatively precious right now it flys against all my experience to use them so.

    I guess when we can get PV production technology squared away better it’d be ok, particularly if we can make the switch to fully organic PV cells.

    Organic PV is yet another reason not to burn all our petroleum as though we were still dressed in skins and chipping flint. What a bunch of schmucks we’re going to look to our descendants: “They –burned– it all? What!?”

  688. Mark:

    re 684, it captures what marketing and control let people think.

    Why did Nestle buy rowntree but not change the name (similarly with many other companies)? Because Nestle were in a bit of a consumer backlash over their milk supplements to the third world relief (requiring water which is pretty dangerous for a young child there, unlike the purified breast milk…). Their bottom line was shot for a while, so they bought up other companies and kept their name.

    Many people didn’t know so they bought the items, ensuring Nestle had money coming in.

    Or for a geek version, look at all “anti-piracy” works. Especially Macrovision. Touted with the tagline something along the lines of “Keeping the picture quality high” (with the lie that pirated content would always be low quality) yet macrovision’s protective mechanism is one that degrades the signal recorded to confuse tape copiers.

    CDs do the same: “anti-piracy” that puts deliberately bad data on the track and uses the error correction mechanisms to undo it. Error correction that is no longer available to correct any errors that DO turn up. Why do you think CD’s so much more often skip in cars and old players? Error correction is no longer error correction.

    How many people know that?

    The market works on what people know. PR and marketing try to ensure that people know only what the company or organisation wants them to know. Distorting the free market.

    See another example in the UK’s MP expenses row.

  689. Mark:

    re 682. No you haven’t explained. You’ve got an axiom that ownership will make people take care of what they own.

    ANYTHING that doesn’t support that axiom (being an axiom, you don’t think it needs explanation, we don’t think it is an axiom) is ignored.

    The entire story of this thread is where the fish were owned and yet were exploited even worse (since they knew at that point the problem with fish stocks and sustainability).

    And you still merely say, as if it were self-evident truth: “the problem of lack of ownership of both of those”.

    Your axiom doesn’t work. Many examples have been given. Yet you still hold to that idea as if it were axiomatic.

  690. pete best:

    Re #669, The world can support 9 billion but not if they all want to live at the energy consumption of industrial westerners which brings up the entire edifice of western life. Our medical science has increased our lives by 2.5 years for every decade that passes right to the point where the balance between birth and death has long been driven far from equilibrium.

    This it could be argued is all down to the energy inbalance that humans have stumbled upon and now exploit. However few people ask how much is left and how suatainable it is but its not what has caused the population explosion per se. In the west the populations are relatively stable, hence immigration to bring in the workers as an economic necessity. 2 billion people are living on next to nothing which 1 billion in the western contries live on 100′s of times more consumtpion than they do, the other 3.9 billion live somewhere in between, mainly China and India (2.4 billion with many in poverty and 700 million in Africa). Some of South America live well but not the majority in energy terms.

    The answer is relatively simple, the USA was the first to exploit oil for the masses and now 150 years later exploit along with other western societies coal and gas as well and at present have little need or answer to their growing energy needs. For some reason we want to blame China, well the USA does anyway but at 20 tonnes of carbon per head of the population the USA needs to reign itself in, develop its own alternative energy infrastructure and show the world it can be done. At present China just craves what we have and in a very short time span will run into issues with supply which will effect us all.

    Its 30,000,000,000 barrels of oil per annuum and counting or if you drivide that by 7 its around 4.5 billion tonnes of oil consumed every year. The USA consumes just over 1 billion tonnes of that or 25% with 4% of the worlds population. So lets get really real about it shall we please.

    Begtging bowls are not the main issues.

  691. François Marchand:

    Sorry, I know it’s totally off topic, but the French radio apparently announced this evening that Mr. Claudre Allègre (a reknowned member of “Ze Noble Order of ze Chevaliers de la Terre plate”) is tipped to become a Minister in the Sarkozy-Fillon government.

  692. Barton Paul Levenson:

    TokyoTom writes:

    As for slavery, surely you can recognize that what those libertarians are discussing are still voluntary transactions between consenting person, not the theft and enslavement of others by violence and force. They are just not the same.

    Fry: You know what the worst thing about being a slave is? You have to do hard work all the time, they don’t pay you, and you can’t quit!

    Leela: Fry, that’s the only thing about being a slave.

    How the arrangement comes into being really doesn’t interest me. Nor would it interest any sane person.

  693. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “To convert the country to solar power, huge tracts of land would have to be covered with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs.” In other words, the total environmental destruction of that land. Personally, I’ll take the nuclear war – at least most of life outside the targeted cities would survive.

    Google “nuclear winter.”

    [Response: Forget nuclear winter, the quoted statement is simply insane. It is not worth giving a moment's thought. - gavin]

  694. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    Nuclear plants have minimal effect on the Earth – even when they fail, as at Chernobyl, there’s considerable evidence that the effects are a net improvement

    How many thousands of Ukrainian kids got thyroid cancer?

  695. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    Ever stop to think about how many WWII-sized wars have been prevented because one or more of the parties had nuclear weapons? Just off the top of my head, 4 US/Europe vs USSR, USSR vs China in late ’60s, Chinese invasion of Taiwan, India/Pakistan. after the Mumbai attacks if not earlier…

    Then again, we nearly had global nuclear wars three times, and any one of those occasions could have gone the other way if things had broken a little differently. The last of the three incidents (1962, 1971, 1983) depended on one man (Lieutenant Aleksandr “Sasha” Petrov, Strategic Rocket Forces of the USSR) deciding that the US launch information he had been given was a false alarm.

  696. BJ_Chippindale:

    Lest any of you think that this is speculative, the mood in New Zealand shifted over the span of the past 8 years, from support of doing everything we can to doing as little as we can get away with, with a resulting change in government because “nothing WE do will matter anyway” and “why should we cripple ourselves when the US does nothing at all”. Amateur analysis and professional white-anting are the norm now.

    Gavin… taking into account human nature, I suspect we’d better prepare ourselves for at least 4 degrees. The catastrophe will be completely locked in before the citizenry becomes outraged and informed enough to do anything sensible. It will be too late then… and the even worse consequences dictated by other aspects of human nature will prevail. The HUMAN side is so pronounced a problem that democratic processes will, in the end, fail.

    BJ

  697. Martin Vermeer:

    #691 François Marchand: that was an April Fool’s joke:

    http://www.scienceblogs.de/primaklima/2009/04/ein-aprilscherz-wird-zum-welterfolg.php

    Seems hard to kill off…

    [Response: Might not be so funny any more....Georg, qu'est-ce que tu as fait!? - gavin]

  698. Kevin McKinney:

    James, did you really write the stuff Barton responded to? (I don’t have time just now to look back on the thread.) If so, I think you just lost me–seems like a huge detour into lala land. (Chernobyl a “net improvement?” Solar requiring “total environmental destruction?”) As Ray once wrote, “wow–just wow.”

    BJ, I don’t think that the credibility of the denialists is going to last as long as you fear. They are continually asserting the contrafactual, and there are a lot of people who know that now–this will become increasingly obvious generally in the next few years. Yes, it should have been obvious to all before now, and yes, we really do need to “hit the brakes hard” now, so this is far less than optimal. But I think you are more pessimistic than necessary.

  699. lucia:

    Ike Solem

    “I don’t see how you can argue for nuclear in Arizona – what would they do for water in the future?”

    Whether or not you can see how one could argue for nuclear in Arizona, the argument was advanced long ago. The largest nuclear power facility in the US has been operating just outside Phoenix for many years. Palo Verde use waste water (i.e. sewage) from local communities; it won’t run out unless the communities run out of sewage first.

    At one point, additional plants were proposed; those would have used dry cooling towers.

    Palo Verde– Wikipedia

    Arizona is well situated for solar too. However, you are more likely to convince people to reduce the number of carbon fueled plants if you avoid circulating implausible reasons why we should not use nuclear power to replace coal.

  700. Ike Solem:

    Rene, repetition is a propaganda tool. Saying the same thing over and over without acknowledging any other arguments – that’s repetition, not discussion, and shows that you are unable to debate your point – so why bother?

    Take a practical examples: the desire of Peru’s government to expand oil exploration in the ancestral lands of Peruvian Indians – who owns the resource? On one hand, you have the land and rivers and forests that sit above the oil fields, and that will be seriously degraded by oil exploration – don’t the Indians ‘own’ their own land?

    However, the Peruvian government, which has recently signed NAFTA-style free trade agreements with the U.S. and China, wants to gain revenue by allowing in IOCs, much as Ecuador did with Texaco in the 1970s when it was run by a military dictatorship. They’ve just sent in the military to crush the protestors, that’s our allies for you:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8054043.stm

    Likewise, in Ecuador ChevronTexaco is the subject of a multibillion dollar lawsuit for the damaging methods introduced by Texaco drillers in the 1970s and 1980s – methods that would never be allowed within the U.S., such as dumping drilling oil and fluids into open pits and abandoning them, thereby poisoning the entire watershed and groundwater with toxic residues, and also wiping out the fishing.

    In any case, it’s not about ownership. For a good refutation of that ideology, see Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

    A good book, but not a single mention of ecological or thermodynamic principles, or of how they ultimately set the limits on economic activity. He does show that it’s not about ownership:

    “So the case against state-owned enterprises, or public ownership, seems very powerful. The citizens, despite being the legal owners of public enterprises, have neither the incentive nor the ability to monitor their agents, who have been hired to run their enterprises. The agents (managers) do not maximize enterprise profits, while it is impossible for the principles (citizens) to make them do so, because of the inherent deficiency in information they possess about the agent’s behavior and the free-rider problem amongst the principles themselves. On top of this, state ownership makes it possible for political lobbying rather than through raising productivity.”

    Is the Peruvian state oil extraction program and example of state-owned enterprises? Is the Peruvian military also a state-owned enterprise that is supporting the state agenda by violently crushing protests by local stakeholders? Obviously, the state ownership problems apply to Peru and the oil that lies under ancestral native lands.

    However, what about ChevronTexaco in Ecuador? Did they behave any differently? Not really – as Chang notes:

    “But all three arguments against state ownership of enterprises actually apply to large private-sector firms as well. The principal-agent problem and the free-rider problem affect many large private-sector firms as well…. if a private enterprise is run by hired managers and there are numerous shareholders owning only small fractions of the company, it will suffer from the same problems as state-owned enterprises.

    Nowhere is this seen as clearly as in the U.S. auto industry, whose shareholders have historically been also invested in petroleum drilling and refining. Those shareholders pressured the CEOs to make gas guzzlers, not fuel efficient cars, because it kept oil demand high. More independent auto companies were responsive to customer demand, and thus starting making fuel efficient cars.

    So, that’s a cartel-based economy, not a free-market system. You can also see this in the holding companies that own coal, railroad and electric utility companies – Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, for example, is probably largest owner of commercial rail in the U.S., and they rely heavily on coal shipments for their profits. Buffet also owns Constellation Energy, a utility that owns 12 coal-fired power plants.

    Replacing those coal plants would mean an end to rail deliveries – which is why there is no political pressure within the the U.S. government to replace coal plants with renewable energy sources.

    That’s not about free markets, is it? 75% of the public favors rapid development of renewable energy – but they’re locked into a cartel electricity system that operates as a legal monopoly and maintains itself via bribery of politicians – it’s a lot like communism, isn’t it? No consumer choice allowed – really, the state-corporate combo knows what is best for us, say the electricity dealers – and isn’t that a communist argument?

    Getting a free-market enthusiast to look at the electricity “market” in the U.S. is very hard to do – they just don’t want to talk about it, even if that is where 50% of Wall Street underwriting lies.

  701. Martin Vermeer:

    > Georg, qu’est-ce que tu as fait!? – gavin

    Pas drôle :-(

  702. Hank Roberts:

    James, you think Chernobyl was a net improvement?

    How many more Chernobyls would it take to achieve utter perfection?
    Is there a red heifer in this future you’re looking forward to, maybe?

    And you failed to read the list of problems with switchgrass, did you even click the link to understand what the man’s saying there?

    I suppose once I’ve noticed the first, the second should be no surprise.

  703. Hank Roberts:

    > Sarkozy
    I commend the Babelfish translation of that article on Sarkozy’s prospects, apparently, for joining the French government. It says in part:

    “… Here, one fears to see it cutting down on his prerogatives, there, to sow the storm, him which s’ was put at back the teachers, ten years ago, while calling with ” to degrease the mammouth”. L’ former minister of l’ education of Lionel Jospin takes down its telephone on a tone bougon: ” I n’ have anything to say. I am in my laboratory in the train d’ to write a scientific article. The remainder, c’ is of l’ agitation.”…

  704. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Solar farms do damage far beyond the value of the power they produce, therefore I’m against them. Nuclear plants have minimal effect on the Earth – even when they fail, as at Chernobyl, there’s considerable evidence that the effects are a net improvement …”

    So according to you, solar thermal power stations cause unacceptable environmental damage — even though they have zero GHG emissions, require no mining for fuel ever, and could produce nearly 100 percent of the USA’s electricity supply from one percent of the USA’s desert lands, which is less than half the land that is currently used by roads, less land than is used by railroads and airports, and less land than has been despoiled by the ongoing environmental catastrophe of coal mining — and in contrast, the meltdown of Chernobyl was a “net improvement” to the environment.

    Oh yes, and destroying every major city in the USA with nuclear weapons would be preferable to deploying solar thermal power stations on one percent of the USA’s deserts.

    And to think, I had mistaken you for a serious person.

    I would mention the ongoing, severe environmental damage inflicted on fragile desert ecosystems by uranium mining — which would worsen dramatically with the need to mine enough uranium to fuel the hundreds of new nuclear power plants you want to build in the USA alone — but given that you are OK with the environmental damage that would ensue from a large-scale nuclear war, that probably wouldn’t trouble you very much.

  705. Fred Magyar:

    I know that promoting sustainable fisheries wasn’t exactly the point of this post but something might be learned by taking the analogy a step further and looking at how one person is thinking outside the box, literally when it comes to open ocean fish farming.

    Even more interesting is that he gave up trying to make it work in the US because there was too much red tape. This, interestingly enough, at the same time that the red tape surrounding renewed off shore drilling for oil and natural gas was being cut. So Drill baby drill but don’t try environmentally sound fish farming…

    http://openblueseafarms.com/

  706. FurryCatHerder:

    In re James @616 (and others)

    Yes, and so we come full circle. Though at least the authors are honest about what their plan requires: “To convert the country to solar power, huge tracts of land would have to be covered with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs.” In other words, the total environmental destruction of that land. Personally, I’ll take the nuclear war – at least most of life outside the targeted cities would survive.

    Many of those “huge tracts of land” can be the roofs of various buildings and car parks. One plan for solar that I’ve discussed with potential investors is purpose building covered parking as solar farms — with the added benefit that it creates premium parking that can then be charged for, creating a dual revenue property.

    So, it’s not carved in stone that all this “land” is actually “Land”. I’m on holiday at the moment so I don’t have the site plans from the last farm I considered, but my recollection is that 7 acres is about a megawatt, and 7 acres is also about 300,000 sqft. The number of warehouses / warehouse complexes of that size in most cities is fairly substantial. Adding solar to the rooftop of a warehouse produces two benefits — reduced thermal load and energy. You’re now free to use your imagination to figure out another area where I’m heading.

    My company is looking into some interesting wind generating concepts, which I’m going to spare you, because I’m supposed to be enjoying myself today.

    As regards your other comments, the observation that Picken’s wind plans became more expensive because … oil became more expensive … is a JUSTIFICATION for his plan, not a repudiation of it. Were his plan in place, those who are benefitting from green power would have had a significant advantage over those who were stuck in the old ways. My own experience was that while my neighbors saw their electric bills skyrocket, mine didn’t. But I have solar power for much of my needs. Do the math.

  707. Doug Bostrom:

    #690 Pete:

    The world can sustain 9 billion? Ignoring for moment that you’re indulging in speculation, why should it? Is there some compelling requirement to add another 3 billion to our population? Why would we choose to make all of our diffculties a third more intractable, impossible as they already appear?

    The world’s not “sustaining” 6 billion. We’re only awakening to a nightmare of unsustainability for the present load of passengers. We’re not only rapidly exhausting one our prime energy inputs but also discovering that it is actively toxic; it has to go, along with an enormous chain of dependencies that in parts allow the illusion of sustainability. Meanwhile, in the food department we’re required to produce another agricultural miracle while coming to grips with what is becoming increasingly obviously a nitrogen and phosphorous eutrophication crisis coupled with what threatens to shortly be a significant net loss of productivity. We’ve depleted native and secondary supplies of many vital metals and are now using increasingly absurd chemistry and ever larger amounts of energy to wring a few useful atoms out of tons of dross rock. Ironically, attempting to ameliorate many of these problems requires large amounts of fresh water, meaning that we’re confronted with choosing between drinking, feeding industrial plant or irrigating crops.

    All of these things can be “fixed”, but the repairs will be ever so much easier if we don’t rut ourselves into folding another 3 billion into the equation. I think a real fix is going to involve the dawning recognition that even 6 billion makes the heap of problems we face essentially intractable in the long term.

    We’re like a car that’s had the lights left on and now the battery is dying. Increasing the load is really stupid and in fact the headlights ought to be turned off.

    You mention China. China has been roundly criticized for their one child rule. The application of the law is cruel, wrenching to see. Yet China’s government is attempting to directly address the issue of what upper bound their population can attain without drastic collapse or presumably a sustained misery index. It’s politically ugly, but arguably less ugly than trying to ignore the issue.

  708. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #685 James

    You say, “Seems like you have two places (maybe more?) to start from, either of which will give you a meaningful answer. One is the vehicle’s efficiency, for which you start from a full tank or charged battery. The other is the efficiency of the full path from source – oil well, coal mine, or whatever – to miles driven.”

    I reply: If you have a right answer and a very wrong answer, does that mean you have two meaningful answers? However, for starters there are two meaningful questions:

    First question: What is the energy efficiency of the motor propulsion system? For that you can get a fairly good answer by determining the efficiency from the input heat quantity and the mechanical energy out of the rotating machine in the car. You can reasonably include about 10% loss for transportation, mining, etc. for coal, maybe about 20% for gasoline.

    Second question: What is the quantity of CO2 emissions associated with operating that car?

    There does not seem to be much argument against including all the effects here. However, it seems to be a common error of people thinking that coal will not be the source of the energy. There is substantial reserve capacity in coal systems and it is the least cost way to meet any new demand for energy, as from a car as a particular example.

    It is not reasonable to expect a power company to choose natural gas as its source as long as it costs three to ten times as much to use that fuel as it does to use coal. California likes to believe progress was made by banning coal, which forces the choice to be the high priced option. This government action over-rides reasonable business operation, but the cost penalty is immediately shifted to the public. The cost has not been extreme for the California public since the extra demand for natural gas caused by this government action is relatively small in the national natural gas market, and any marginal increase in price that California might have caused is countered on the energy market by the effect of the out of state operators shifting to more coal. Thus the natural gas price is more or less anchored by the coal market price.

    My main point is that the action of California should be judged as to its effect were the whole country to do the same. (I did not make up that rule of ethics. I think Aristotle said something like that, a few years ago.)

    #676 Lawrence Brown

    You say, “A consideration which should be accounted for is if the battery is recharged from a fossil powered plant operating at 35 to 40 percent efficiency.”

    I reply: We just need to adjust to the actual efficiency for coal fired power plants conversion from heat to electric energy which is 33% in the USA. Then thrown on a 93% efficiency for the average USA distribution line path to get a 30.7% efficiency for the heat to electrical energy availability point.
    I think I made the case above that the actual response to new loads, whatever they might be, will be burning of coal.

    Attempting to get ahead of the argument, it should not be imagined that bringing on of new renewable sources will reduce the use of coal. Rather, such new sources will reduce the use of the most expensive fuel option.

    The BIG FINAL TWIST:

    The real output is not at the rotating shaft. Service to human activity should be thought of as the real output.

    Thus the system efficiency should include effectiveness of the vehicle. Mostly this can be simplified to mean to effectiveness in transporting a single person. Now the inefficiencies of aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance of tires, and effectiveness of energy retention through the acceleration and deceleration process. If we could get these things right, the effect would ripple back through the chain of effects to greatly reduce coal use.

    There are enormous quantitative opportunities here. I would prefer not to have to go to nuclear power as the solution. Fixing what we have now seems possible, so maybe we can defer the nuclear power argument until it is proven to be unavoidable.

  709. Doug Bostrom:

    #690 Pete:

    Fred’s post (#705) reminds me of part of the depressing litany of disaster I forgot to mention. Namely, we’ve mined the oceans to create a temporary ballooning of our population. Now more and more we’re down to “whitefish”. It’s the same deal as mineral resources, except we’re talking about foodstuffs. When the last of of the “whitefish” have been snarfed up it looks as though there’ll be plenty of jellyfish available, if we can turn it into something resembling food using chemistry.

    That’s with the current population.

  710. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    Re mine #706 and James #685

    I did not address the wrong answer which comes about if you start with a “full fuel tank or a fully charged battery.”

    That is like having a three mile race where some have to go three full miles and others get a two mile head start.

    This widespread misconception seems to have come about from belief that heat energy and electrical energy can be equated. Probably this arises from the fact that the same units can be used in measuring each type of energy.

    Please excuse my harshness in this, but this was taught in freshman physics which had to be taken by anyone with a degree in engineering or the hard sciences. I have to confess, my memory was a bit fuzzy on this as well, so I bought a used text by Sears, Mechanics Heat and Sound, Addison Wesley, 1950 since this was the closest I could get to my old Sears and Zemansky text that disappeared after about forty years of dragging it around.

    Maybe people should be allowed to keep their college degrees if they at least go back and read the chapter on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. (By the way, that law hasn’t changed since 1950.)

    Why do I have to be so mean about this? Failure to get this right is now causing some very badly misguided work to get inappropriate priority. Federal and state laws are being passed as we speak that inappropriately favor electric vehicles. Being nice does not seem to work.

  711. Mark:

    re 708, nope calculate the stored energy that can be released by your engine.

    If that is a petrol engine, that would be the chemical energy POSSIBLE to get out of petrol. Diesel likewise, and so on for all the other chemical stores.

    And do the same with the energy stored in a battery.

    Heat energy isn’t what you want. Stored energy.

    And to be fair, either you include all the costs of energy to get that gallon of petrol/whatever to your car with the costs to get that battery full. Or forget it.

    Forgetting it will, one hopes, be a slight downer for electric cars since it doesn’t have to use non-local energy sources to the degree currently in practice.

  712. Doug Bostrom:

    In other news, after years of insistint that any changes were not only impossible but potentially fatal, free-marketeers begging for government handouts find no problems with California-izing U.S. automobile emissions and mileage standards:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/19emissions.html?hp

  713. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    Re #711 Mark,

    Stored energy in a battery had to be come from heat through a process. The heat engine in the car corresponds to the heat engine in the electric power plant. For fossil fuels, economic laws dictate that coal will be the choice.

    I will leave it to others to explain how we get from heat of the sun to solar, wind, or hydro power. There must be plenty of expertise here from the climate physicists on that subject. It is a good thing that the sun is free, but we are a long way from having enough systems in place to put these in the reserve capacity category.

  714. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #711 Mark,

    Yes, the cost of getting the gasoline to the tank is relevant. I threw in the 20% loss for this. I would be interested in a better number if a documented source for this was available.

  715. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #713 #711
    Mark,

    The problem with analyses of the efficiency of getting from crude oil at the well is that it becomes an endless debate.

    At the core of this is that all fossil fuels have huge overheads. Coal can fairly be charged for having the greatest of future consequences. Oil can be charged with military expense for foreign operations. Natural gas is also not free of entanglements.

    On top of that, the oil refining operations are not simply analyzed. A problem here is that gasoline and many other products are made from crude oil, and the proper allocation of energy and emissions needs to assign some of the damages to the other products.

    I would be glad to have some better numbers for this last part.

    As for the far reaching implications, those are out of my department, and debates on these are not likely to ever yield consensus numbers. So I am willing to settle for comparison starting with the heat point, with a correction factors as I have mentioned. We should be able to make progress on that basis.

  716. pete best:

    Re #707, You are talking about western life but that is not the lifestyle that we need to live now is it. What we need to live is the same as it was in Europe 5000 years ago in the Neolithic where we consumed zero net carbon. Farming was adequate and the population was small and could never grow much more.

    The billions presently on the planet will be curbed if the energy begins to run out but even so we will do enough to sustain a global population of many billions just not all watching wide screen TV’s and driving around in cars eating hamburgers for entertainment. China’s and Indias population have been large evne before coal, oil and gas were used.

  717. EL:

    James – “Personally, I’ll take the nuclear war – at least most of life outside the targeted cities would survive.“

    When a nuclear attack happens, the target cities are completely wiped out; however, nuclear detonations put up huge amounts of smoke, and the smoke blocks sunlight, and everyone else dies from starvation. Even a very small exchange of modern nuclear weapons can be quite deadly for people on the opposite side of the world.

    Mark – I posted about godel, and now your saying axiom a lot LOL.

    Doug Bostrom – I really agree with their one child rue. Other countries need to have a similar policy because overpopulation is out of control. I know people may think I’m crazy or cruel, but it’s very very very very very very very very very very dangerous. If we collapse the food chain, we are in so much deep sh*t. The problem is only worsen by global warming because global warming depletes resources. I personally see two clocks ticking down.

    Gavin – I have an idea for a topic. “What are you going to do about global warming?”

    I’d like to see a post directed at the individual level. Quite frankly, I could compare and contrast wind power all day long, but those problems are now in the hands of engineers. I think it would be interesting for people to comment on how they are going to help reduce emissions as a person. Are people considering ideas for reducing emissions in their own profession? Just a suggestion =P

  718. Kevin McKinney:

    Belated response to Philip: no, I wasn’t being sarcastic at all. (Perhaps you confused me with someone else? I often post on the desirability of renewables to dig us out of the hole which we have dug for ourselves.)

    I completely agree with you about the suitability of Texas summer days for solar, and thank you for the informed elaboration on the idea. That I-35 4-km array sounds good to me!

  719. Doug Bostrom:

    #717 EL:

    “What are you going to do about global warming?”

    I should probably spend less time reading the comments on RC. Laptop=27W. I don’t care to think about the amount of time I’m spending here just now, hopefully it’s just a phase.

    My son and I are (oh too slowly) assembling a pair of hot water panels for the roof. Even here in the NW they can help. We’re attaching them to a moderator tank to feed the “main” hot water tank. Lines are in place for a demand heater but that involves natural gas which I’d rather not bring into play. I say go for the low quality, cheap-to-obtain heat first, if you can use it. What requires less intelligence and technology than heating water, yet it presently consumes 20% of my household’s electricity.

    #707 Pete:

    “What we need to live is the same as it was in Europe 5000 years ago in the Neolithic where we consumed zero net carbon. Farming was adequate and the population was small and could never grow much more.”

    In other words, you agree that population control is a problem. Yeah, the population would -try- to grow, back then, but then starvation and attendant pathologies would take care of the situation. Happily we’ve since learned that we don’t -have- to behave like jackrabbits.

    Even better, it turns out there’s a happy medium between the point where we behave like dumb beasts and the other end of the continuum where we -again- behave like dumb beasts.

    Properly managed we can enjoy more or less poetic lives where we get to look back in time through big telescopes, see inside the Earth with seismic waves, make beautiful paintings, create abodes that are more than a box with a roof and breathing holes, the list goes on. We can do this on a fairly sizable scale as long as we keep our genes or magical thinking under control.

  720. RichardC:

    708 Jim says, ” We just need to adjust to the actual efficiency for coal fired power plants conversion from heat to electric energy which is 33% in the USA. Then thrown on a 93% efficiency for the average USA distribution line path to get a 30.7% efficiency for the heat to electrical energy availability point.”

    You forgot the batteries! There’s a 25% immediate loss PLUS an equivalent delayed loss (costwise) from battery degradation. Now you have to add a capacity factor to account for battery weight and size and electric vehicles drop to perhaps 10% efficient. That’s using lead acid numbers. NiMH might be a tad better (anyone seen the numbers?), so say 15% efficient. Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are seriously bad ideas as long as fossil fuels are used for electrical production.

  721. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (18 May 2009 at 11:39 AM):

    “Many of those “huge tracts of land” can be the roofs of various buildings and car parks.”

    You do realize that that’s pretty much what I’ve been arguing against all along? Not putting solar panels on existing roofs (or covering existing parking lots), which in my opinion is a good thing, but about the sort of solar farm that takes existing wild land and builds over it.

    Your comment does bring up a point that might make my position a bit clearer. It’s not about solar, really, but about the destruction of wild land. I’d be just as opposed if that land was to be covered with parking lots, warehouses, shopping malls, or anything else.

    “As regards your other comments, the observation that Picken’s wind plans became more expensive because…”

    I honestly don’t think that was my observation, I was just trying to find some costs for building wind farms, and that’s what Google came back with.

  722. Mark:

    re 720, and there’s a reduction in partial combustion clogging up the engine if it’s an ICE.

  723. Mark:

    “Mark – I posted about godel, and now your saying axiom a lot LOL. ”

    Why the laughing out loud, El?

    Axiom was to Rene, not you.

    Godel doesn’t apply.

    I fail to see the humour.

  724. Doug Bostrom:

    #720 RichardC:

    Battery energy dissipation during charging varies according to initial state-of-charge but 25% loss falls solidly in the “hyperbolic exaggeration for rhetorical impact” bracket for EV applications, as well as being a gross oversimplification. With regard to heat and vapor liberation (which is what you’ll see w/lead acid batteries) it’s intuitively obvious letting alone doing the figures that 25% of the juice going into a cell is -not- lost during bulk charge.

    In point of fact, during the bulk charge phase a lead-acid battery is over 90% efficient at absorbing charge. If the battery is used only at the extreme low end of its capacity (ie, very small use of total capacity) the overall efficiency is lower. This condition would only rarely apply to an EV application.

    Other battery chemistries are similar.

    All that that being said, extremely high rates of charge or discharge are less efficient but again for a pure EV that’s not really an issue, or won’t be where they’re deployed in a sane fashion.

    Now why should I believe anything else you say? I could remark on your oversimplification of the mass comparison between IC and EV systems but you’ve already struck out with just one swing of the bat so why should I go into any detail there?

    Battery charging information:

    http://photovoltaics.sandia.gov/docs/PDF/batpapsteve.pdf

  725. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (18 May 2009 at 7:08 AM):

    “How many thousands of Ukrainian kids got thyroid cancer?”

    Seems to be considerable disagreement on that. My synopsis is that the usual anti-nuclear sources say “lots”, others say “few, and most of those could have been prevented by prompt administration of iodine”. I don’t have sufficient knowledge to form a sound opinion either way.

    Whatever the merits of those conflicting claims, however, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the effects of Chernobyl on the Earth, or on the local ecosystem.

    Kevin McKinney Says (18 May 2009 at 8:23 AM):

    “Chernobyl a “net improvement?” Solar requiring “total environmental destruction?””

    Yes. The so-called “Dead Zone” around Chernobyl seems to be teeming with life, including species not seen in the area for decades or centuries before the zone was established. How is this not an improvement for the Earth? WRT solar farms, just read the plans. The land would be scraped bare, and regularly treated with herbicides to kill off any plants that somehow managed to survive despite having most of their sunlight blocked.

    Doug Bostrom Says (18 May 2009 at 11:41 AM):

    “The world’s not “sustaining” 6 billion. We’re only awakening to a nightmare of unsustainability for the present load of passengers…”

    That’s really what it’s all about. Worse, of that 6 billion, about half have to live crammed into cities, while the infrastructure that provides them with bare sustenance eats up an ever-growing fraction of the landscape and only a small fraction ever have a real chance at any sort of decent life.

    Sure, it’d be nice to believe that the world might suddenly come to its senses and voluntarily copy China’s one child policy until the population declines to a sustainable level. (I think the phrase “a snowball’s chance…” applies here.) The best reality can do is offer a choice of which of the those Four Horsemen we’ll ride with.

  726. EL:

    Doug Bostrom – There is a lot of power consumed by computer technology, but the technology may also help reduce wasted energy. I may do a little research in that area.

    I think it’s going to take every profession to deal with global warming. Unless people on the mechanical, nuclear, or electrical engineering side pull something out of their rear end, every professional needs to come up with ideas in his or her own profession to deal with emissions and global warming.

    I just don’t think the current ideas are going to be enough. I believe they are going to fall short by a large margin. There are too many complexities involved with global warming. I’m fully convinced that it is going to take a collaborated effort across multiple professions to deal with this problem. Renewable energy technology is not viable on its own to deal with our energy consumption. Renewable energy can help slow down some of the emissions, but it’s not going to solve the problem.

    I believe some discussion on the individual level is warranted.

  727. James:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (18 May 2009 at 11:45 AM)

    “I reply: If you have a right answer and a very wrong answer, does that mean you have two meaningful answers?”

    No, you have two right answers, but the answers are to different questions.

    “First question: What is the energy efficiency of the motor propulsion system?”

    This tells you whether your Hummer is a more or less efficient vehicle than for instance my Lotus Elise. And would give you the same answer if for instance you stuffed either the Hummer or the Lotus full of batteries and made an EV of it.

    Here you don’t include anything for mining, supply chain losses, etc.

    “Second question: What is the quantity of CO2 emissions associated with operating that car?”

    Which of course answers the question for the whole supply chain.

    Where these two answers, both correct in their own domain, is when someone claims that his electric Hummer is more efficient than your gasoline Lotus – something that might even be true if he’s getting all his electricity from his PV panels. Then understanding the answer to the first question provokes you into converting the Lotus into an EV, and you’re ahead again…

  728. Doug Bostrom:

    #725 James:

    “WRT solar farms, just read the plans. The land would be scraped bare, and regularly treated with herbicides to kill off any plants that somehow managed to survive despite having most of their sunlight blocked.”

    Just to keep the scales of fanaticism even, it’s mandatory for me to mention once again that there are gajillions (a technical term for “plenty”) of acres of land already denuded and saturated with various agricultural chemicals and just begging to be coated with PV panels, solar troughs, hamster wheels, whatever. Treatment w/herbicides won’t be needed; vegetation can be kept down w/electrically powered mechanical devices (lawnboys aka “Solar Efficiency Maintenance Groundskeepers” w/electric string trimmers). Dusting could be a problem where these devices are deployed in areas of little or no rainfall but I sort of doubt it would be a completely insurmountable technical challenge to arrange mechanical dusters to do that.

    Ok James, your turn to say the opposite!

  729. Lawrence Brown:

    Re Jim ,#708. I was too optimistic in my 35% to 40% efficiency for large coal electric plants. It looks like your 33 percent is closer to the mark.I hope we do phase these climate changers out for the planet’s sake. If the cost of emitting carbon is enacted, alternative renewable fuels will stand on a more level playing field. Fouling our nest, ought to entail costs.

    Gas powered cars are woefully inefficient,by any standard. Heat and frictional losses leave only about 15 percent of the chemical energy stored in gasoline,remaining to deliver kinetic energy to the wheels. All the more reason to strive for significantly better fuel economy standards.

  730. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #727 James

    Your comment to my comments which were to other comments leave me lost completely.

    Trying to set a few things straight:

    (1) I do not have a Hummer. The last time I did anything that stupid was in 1968 when I bought a Ford Country Squire. I had a shred of justification in family size at the time. However, I pull back from actually criticizing anyone who buys what they decide that they need. My approach is only to give people positive options.

    (2) RichardC of #720 gets the right idea, except maybe his statement is a little strong. If there was a way to force the supply of electricity to be from natural gas, a given vehicle could be somewhat better as an electric vehicle than it would be as a hybrid. But it would not be a lot better. Put another way, making a conventional vehicle into a hybrid can be a good thing. For the most part it would be better to stop there and not to do the next step of converting it to electric plug-in capability.

    However, electric propulsion methods can be very useful in reconfiguring cars into a form that have very low aerodynamic drag. Now the balance shifts hard in favor of the electric system, even though it will be driven by coal fired power generation systems.

    And another however, go one step further and put in a small heat engine and generator in the highly efficient body to get a longer range of operation while keeping the battery load modest.

    And again, another step could be to turn the small heat engine and generator into a cogeneration system when parked next to your house, doing this only when the household can use the heat. Use natural gas since to run the engine in this mode, and now you have doubled or tripled the amount of electricity to be had from that natural gas, compared to what central power plants can do. That would almost make natural gas competitive.

    Much as I resist the concept, a little help might now be reasonable to expect from government where a mild cap and trade or whatever would be enough to swing the balance away from coal to natural gas. This would, in the end, be a massive improvement in the whold CO2 emission situation.

    Complicated, yes. Worth it all, very much so.

  731. Doug Bostrom:

    #726 EL:

    It’s a massive problem, no doubt, unprecedented in scope and size and intricacy. I believe a lot of us are subject to the same sort of innumeracy that makes AGW so difficult to believe for the slower uptake crowd; we fail to understand the magnitude of the replacement problem. Our brains are not really set up to deal with something so deep and so broad.

    I think innumeracy somewhat explains why we hear a lot of back-and-forth on pet technologies here on RC, as well as attempts to rope off one or another impact of replacement. Proponents of narrow solutions fail to fully comprehend we’re on the horns of a dilemma the magnitude of which does not permit the luxury of parochialism, or mutual exclusivity.

    What you say about the requirement to fully integrate different disciplines seems completely true. While scrutinizing energy replacement alternatives we tend to overlook how all the bits and pieces fit together.

    For instance, (sounding like a stuck record here), feeding 3 billion more people is not going to work like the previous multitude’s addition.

    Agronomists assume that all the inputs that were available to the first green revolution will be ready for duty as we undertake a radical expansion of our food supply. That’s not true. The ocean is done, finito, collapsing; we’ll be extremely lucky if we can husband it back to something approaching what it was 100 years ago. Engineers will struggling and quite likely failing to maintain our current energy dissipation via the fixed production network, meaning that expanding thermally intensive fertilizer production is not something we can assume will happen. Simultaneously petroleum powered agricultural machinery will have to be made much more efficient and then eliminated, to be replace by an entirely new fleet. Even while all that is going on, we’re apparently going to be losing a lot of arable land, including submergence or dessication of some of the richest (deltaic) acreage available.

    Are we really going to manage that? As well as the work requirement to perform a swap-out of hydrocarbons?

    We’re missing demographers in the climate-fix mix. We’re missing public health agencies. We’re missing the Pope. We’re missing a lot of experts that are needed to slow down our reproductive rate. They’re not integrated into the portfolio of expertise being brought to bear We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we can engineer and innovate our way out of any sort of mad trouble we’re capable of causing. Nope, instead we’re going to literally eff up part of the solution we need; engineers are going to be 5 thumbs in a dam with 10 leaking holes.

  732. Doug Bostrom:

    #730 Jim:

    You’ve mentioned your affinity and suggested uses for natural gas over two dozen times on this thread.

    Leaving aside the question of how burning hydrocarbons is going to solve a CO2 emissions problem, let’s look at the practicality of being cavemen and burning up our natural gas even faster than we’re aleady managing.

    “We” (U.S.) appear to be using about 10TCF/year of natural gas. “Our” (U.S.) proven reserves are about 240TCF. The absolute best-case natural gas resource estimate, throwing in every last wildcatter’s pipe dreams, are that “we” have about 1200TCF available.

    So what we’ve actually got in hand, stamped and approved by reservoir engineers working under the lash of extremely pushy industry executives, is 24 years’ supply of natural gas. Less, actually; DOE prognosticates that we’ll be sucking from the ground harder, very soon. We -may- have 100 years’ supply but given what we all know of the wild optimism of the petroleum industry let’s say it’s more like 50 years.

    If we were to substitute transportation fuel requirements with natural gas we’d see those time estimates plunge. Why would we do that? Especially, why would we do that while spewing out the same problem molecules as before?

    I still don’t get the case for trading one source of CO2 for another. Call me dense if you like, then straighten me out.

  733. John Sarette:

    re 698:—BJ, I don’t think that the credibility of the denialists is going to last as long as you fear. They are continually asserting the contrafactual, and there are a lot of people who know that now–this will become increasingly obvious generally in the next few years—-

    Perhaps here where you will get a more informed class of troll, but in the world where I work it will take far longer. I remarked to a co-worker, who is sure global warming, let alone human triggered global warming does not exist because a radio talk show host tells her so, that my little hobby the old philosophy shoppe was releasing the next in its series of “secular humorism” magnets: An Autumn scene with the motto Entropy Wins!
    Entropy Wins!
    She asked “What’s entropy?”

    Need I say more?

  734. EL:

    Doug Bostrom – In a basic nutshell, you can summarize the problem of global warming as follows. If you put a frog in a frying pan, and you crank up the heat quickly. The frog will jump out of the frying pan; however, if you put a frog in a frying pan, and you slowly increase the heat. The frog will lie there until it cooks to death. Ours is a world of frogs, basking in the slowly increasing warmth of a frying pan. While the old frog story may sound like a childish saying from grade school, it summarizes the complexities involved into a neat little package. People do not see the urgency of the problem.

    The people who see the problem are not fully comprehending the complexity of it. At first glance, some people may think they only need to alert others about the frying pan; however, people generally do not respond to the threat of disaster; instead, they react to disaster. Observer the coastlines in America when a hurricane is predicted to make landfall. Some people who have never experienced a hurricane think they can just ride it out. When the hurricane makes landfall, they want out. Global warming has the same problem, and nobody has experienced the disaster.

    While people don’t see the urgency of global warming, they do see the potential sacrifices being requested by scientist. Nations see the potential to lose their ability to compete with other nations. Rich and powerful people see lost revenues and control. The list is endless.

    The problem only gets worse when you add another frying pan: Overpopulation. We are rapidly depleting our resources to the point that we may collapse the entire food chain. While some people may refer to me as inhumane, we need to place caps on childbirth world wide. If our overpopulation problem continues, the world will slip into war over resources, and averting global warming will likely be completely off the table at that point.

    I believe we need to have every single profession taking a hard look at global warming. We especially need very good artist. Many people cannot read or write, but art can reach them. Augustus once united the entire roman empire with art.

  735. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #732 Doug Bostrom

    How the heck could I call you dense when you and I agree almost completely on every point you make? My study of natural gas reserves bears out your statements.

    All I hope for is that we squeeze all the electricity we can out of natural gas. The best we can hope for is that we stretch out natural gas as much as possible and that renewables will truly get affordable in the meantime. Maybe even fusion will get possible, or at least the French way of doing nuclear will help us out. How about that for foolish optimism?

    If it turns out that Boone Pickens is right, and I trust him not at all, maybe things will go better. I am not counting on that.

    I do not see any practical possibility that we can abruptly cancel coal. There is far less chance that China will do that. They double our rate of coal use even today.

    Truly, we seem to be in trouble.

    My perception of the future is that the best we can do is to cut demand for energy. I do not feel comfortable that this will be enough, but I do think there are some big improvement that we can make.

    I just heard on the news that the present Waxman Markey legislation is being written to give away emissions allowances. What a joke. But it shows the political impossibility of government action that amounts to anything.

  736. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #675 James

    I feel compelled to comment on your statement:

    Nuclear plants have minimal effect on the Earth – even when they fail, as at Chernobyl, there’s considerable evidence that the effects are a net improvement – therefore I am not against them.

    What the hell are you talking about? Net improvement? Please don’t say that the net improvement is that wildlife and really poor people are residing in the exclusion zone.

    A friend of mine was in Chernobyl when the accident happened, most of her friends are dead from cancer already. She gets anxiety every time she gets a stomach ache, wondering if this is it for her too.

    I’m not sure how it is possible to be more irresponsible or callous in a remark; other than making such a statement anonymously.

    Oh and there is that little problem of radiation, and the concrete cap they put over the hot spot is disintegrating.

  737. Doug Bostrom:

    Pursuant to my #732 post on natural gas, it’s worth mentioning that combined cycle natural gas generating plants are capable of something like 60% efficiency. If waste heat is captured for other purposes that figure can increase slightly. The same gas deployed in a massive fleet of automobiles forced to rotate a myriad of redundant parts, retarded by air drag and rolling resistance, steered by friction and recovering only a fraction of available kinetic energy when forced to change velocity and even worse involving wretchedly crude IC engines will quite obviously result in vastly poorer overall efficiency.

    So if we’re absolutely bent on burning our natural gas endowment in a feckless bonfire, let’s do so where the party will last a little longer and get us a little more drunk on hubris.

    But surely I’m missing something.

  738. Doug Bostrom:

    Holy Carbon Capture, Batman! Secret negotiations between China and U.S. on combating climate change:

    Read it here, then dissect all the imperfections:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/18/secret-us-china-emissions-talks

  739. Jacob Mack:

    # 703,731.The electric powered car predates the internal combustion engine. I cannot fathom that had we stayed on course and rejected Ford’s mass production techniques which put the elcetric car out of business,then this conversation would not be occurring. Also no engine is as powerful as the electric motor. We can make an affordable and effient electric car; it is industry which prevents this from happening. Still, I just do not see cogeneration as a feasible option. Also we do need to produce more electricity independent of coal and with the burning of coal in conjunction with capture techniques.

  740. pete best:

    Re #719, Oh now we come to the crux of the matter don’t we, controlling ourselves. Well you can forget that for every generation wants to improve on the last and thats the problem. Each new generation does in many material ways improve on the last and in law and in how we can act but it requires lot of hydrocarbons to do that.

    Hoever the earth only gave us all of this hydrocarbon energy once and we have burnt it, soon to be all of it. Funnily enough we discovered science before it but until that time we had only managed modest energy gains from water wheels and burning peat and wood to keep warm. Once thermodynamics was established and the nature of heat engines the floodgates opened to oue new industrial future.

    The problems lie in the west and in westernising other cultures of which we have encouraged the largest blocks of population on the planet to make all of our things for us. Modest growth is enough to overwhelm us, in the early days of oil, gas and coal discovery and usage growth was strong but it has stagnated in recent decades but still now that we encourage global growth its groes again and this time its global.

    We can develop alternative energy sources but it will still limit us unless we crack fusion and therefore until we throw away the mantra of progress and prosperity through growth (now called sustainable growth I believe) and adopt one of steady state economics then we will be looking down the barrel of a less than happy future.

    Virgin Galactic wants to take people into space, we put more cars on the road globally every year, replace existsing ones every year, build new things every year (China in building projects unprecedented in their history to solve their economic growth issues) and so it goes on.

    What is this happy state we can live in ?

  741. Jacob Mack:

    That last post was rushed. What I meant to say is that I cannot fathom we would be having this discussion over electric vehicles or coal plants if we had moved forward with electric production technology. We need the electric car to make a real comeback which is still a better alternative to hybrid vehicles.

  742. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “How many thousands of Ukrainian kids got thyroid cancer?”

    Seems to be considerable disagreement on that. My synopsis is that the usual anti-nuclear sources say “lots”, others say “few, and most of those could have been prevented by prompt administration of iodine”.

    And my impression is that you haven’t read any of the relevant literature on the subject. That, or perhaps you consider the WHO and the authors of the journal articles in Environmental Science and Technology and so on to be “the usual anti-nuclear sources.”

    Chernobyl was a disaster. 31 people died immediately, another two dozen later, thousands of people got cancer, a multi-billion-ruble plant was shuttered. The wildlife the pro-nuclear psychos keep lauding is there because the humans who usually wipe it out are afraid to go near the plant; there’s no evidence–zero–that that lush wildlife is especially healthy.

    You just don’t want to admit that there are any serious problems with nuclear power. Like every pro-nuclear crackpot on the internet, your approach is not “the problems are controllable,” but rather, “There are no problems.” That kind of idiocy is why the propaganda from your side has failed so abysmally.

  743. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “WRT solar farms, just read the plans. The land would be scraped bare, and regularly treated with herbicides to kill off any plants that somehow managed to survive despite having most of their sunlight blocked.”

    Perhaps you would like to explain to us how uranium mining is a “net improvement” to sensitive desert ecosystems.

    In particular, perhaps you would like to explain how the vastly expanded uranium mining in areas like the immediate vicinity of the Grand Canyon, which will be needed to fuel the hundreds of new reactors you advocate building in the USA alone, will be a “net improvement” to the environment.

  744. Paul:

    One for Gavin…

    I received a copy of Climate Change: Picturing the Science yesterday and started reading it.

    But i also noticed that it was published in China. Now I live in the South of England, which means that the book has a higher carbon footprint than i would really like.
    Being a member of a local environmental group (click on name/link) it is a bit disappointing to find that the book has been printed by a mainstream publishing company that may take less care about environmental issues.

    Would it not be a good idea if mainstream climate scientists like yourself got together and agreed to set a higher standard when publishing your material?

    Maybe the various institutions could get together and create a new publishing company that carefully audits its carbon footprint and has clearly defined policies when it comes to publishing.

    Alternatively maybe you can find an existing publisher that would satisfy these conditions?

    [Response: Thanks for buying a copy! The issues in publishing - particularly for full colour glossy pages - are tricky. Getting good quality at a reasonable price is very hard, and had it been printed elsewhere the costs would have been much greater. The difference between printing in North America vs. China doesn't make that much difference for the copies shipped to the UK however. You might also bear in mind that first time authors don't have a huge amount of leverage on these kinds of issues and are generally grateful that any publisher is even willing to talk to them... ;) Let us know if you like it though. - gavin]

  745. truth:

    James Wine [184]
    That ‘No hoopla, no fanfare, no alarm bells. No screaming headlines’ comment seems to me to add up to ‘no debate’—just government decree.
    But the success you claim for Sweden comes with nuclear power as well as the hydro, does it not—much of the nuclear power from Norway?
    And Sweden is now moving to end their phase-out policy for nuclear power, by replacing existing reactors.
    Almost a half of Sweden’s electricity is from their ten nuclear power stations , and there have been times when five out of the ten were shut down due to a variety of safety concerns.
    You have a big hydro capacity , but that’s not environmental virtue—that’s just the luck of the draw.
    Sweden enjoys and fosters this view that the world has of it—the one you describe—of pristine and gentle democracy—but it’s not the true picture.
    There’s any amount of commentary from a wide variety of sources, that tell a different story—that far from being the ideal society, Sweden is much more suffocated by the heavy hand of government and Leftist and ethnically biased political correctness, than most of us would want to see in our own countries —– the Left wing parties in my country have certainly aspired to reconstructing Australia in the image of the Swedish Social democracy, but have thankfully so far only managed to implement a small part of their plan, due to the commonsense of Australians and their innate resistance to big government.
    It’s changing though—thanks to the AGW issue, which the Left sees as their Trojan horse—their big opportunity to force their policies on a frightened populace.

    [edit - ridiculously off-topic]

  746. Ray Ladbury:

    EL @ 734, This post is your most insightful to date. Indeed, in organisms who evolved in an environment full of immediate threate (e.g. leopards, snakes hyenas…) it is perhaps understandable that our alarm responses are not ideally suited to long-term threats. Humans, do, however, have the ability to overcome their base natures and work together for the common good against long-term threats. Small pox has been eradicated, malaria confined to tropical areas where it is endemic, and we now build buildings that can withstand earthquakes–rather than rebuilding each time one occurs.

    The thing I find interesting in my travels is that the rest of the world mostly gets it. I’ve had quite sophisticated discussions of climate change with villagers in Brazil and Madagascar. Even back in 1991, I remember having a converstion with a very old man in a mango grove in Togo about how much the climate had changed. Most of my colleagues in Europe understand the threat and the imperative. It is only in the English-speaking world–Aus, NZ, the US, the UK–where idiocy prevails. One has to wonder why this is so.

    Damn, ReCAPTCHA is gettting spooky: paid casandra

  747. Kevin McKinney:

    Regarding the population problem, it is serious, but we are in much better shape than we would have believed possible in 1970:

    “Globally, the growth rate of the human population has been steadily declining since peaking in 1962 and 1963 at 2.20% per annum. In 2007 the growth rate was 1.19% per annum.” (Wikipedia)

    The trend in growth rate is still downward, and significant areas will soon experience negative growth–Western Europe is one. Indeed, Japan has had negative population growth since 2005.

    James, the fact that wildlife isn’t equipped to recognize slow radiation poisoning doesn’t make Chernobyl an environmental success story. You have no obligation to care, of course, but your credibility is taking a real beating with me at least, and this last response didn’t help.

    John, my comment was actually based not on my experience here–you are right, this is a unique forum–but that on a general news site that I frequent. Already there it is pretty consistent that denialist comments get a “thumbs down” by about 2 to 1, if made early in a thread, where there are enough responses to represent the general readership. (Later on in a thread it’s just a shouting match between habitual debaters on each side–few regular readers bother at that point.)

    Moreover, the denialist claims being made by posters on these fora are such that a high percentage are likey to be falsified in reasonably short order. It doesn’t take any understanding of entropy to recognize that the fifth-warmest April in 129 years does not much resemble an incipient Ice Age, to take one current example. Ordinary readers will (and do) notice.

    [Captcha gets adamant: "Boston cindered."]

  748. MikeN:

    Boston managed sea level rise just fine.

    captcha ‘potful Use’ What the enviros have in mind.

  749. Mark:

    Care to explain what the heck you’re talking abou tin 748, Mike?

    Did throwing tea in the harbour absorb the seawater and solve the rising tide issue?

  750. Mark:

    Heyyy wacht that!!!!
    You know something???

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KA8AaGA9e0

  751. Rod B:

    Jim Bullis, Doug, et al: A question kinda on topic: T. Boone Pickin’s plan is not to build wind farms to recharge electric (more or less) vehicles, but to free up natural gas from electricity generation to power converted ICE vehicles with LNG. Attacking potential global warming is #2 of his goals; using (his?) natural gas to reduce dependency on foreign oil is #1. What’s the upside and downside in your opinions?

  752. Rod B:

    Open question: I too have seen conflicting reports on Chernobyl from total disaster to some that said for example that other than immediate sickness and death, the cancer rate was no where near what the Russians anticipated (and relocated thousands because of it) and not epidemiologically significant (or barely so). In any case I assume nuclear power has some difficulties, a few maybe “dangerous.”

    I’m not sure if I’m a proponent or an antagonist for nuclear power, though I think it possesses clear benefits, at least in the short term. My curiosity question is why the aginers absolutely reject the viable solutions and work-arounds to the dangers and difficulties of implementing nuclear power, but dismiss with a simple wave of a hand the difficulties and define away the current uncertainties with implementing things like wind and solar? Almost like, ‘no problem,’ ‘done deal,’ ‘ready to go,’ ‘just place a web order and charge it to AmEx.’ Some sound like they would clearly favor global warming over nuclear power.

  753. Mark:

    750 was written by someone not me (who wrote 749).

  754. James:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (18 mai 2009 at 7:23 PM):

    “(1) I do not have a Hummer.”

    Fair enough, since I don’t have a Lotus :-) It was an example, that’s all. Try to focus on the relevant part – a 2000 pound car with a small frontal area and low Cd is likely to be more efficient than something weighing 6000 pounds, and with aerodynamics that make a barn door look streamlined.

  755. dhogaza:

    Boston managed sea level rise just fine.

    MikeN, you should spend less time at WUWT. Boston didn’t manage sea level rise just fine. Boston reclaimed shallow waters such as the Back Bay by dumping fill into it, then built on it. This provides a positive economic benefit (ignoring environmental issues). Coping with sea level rise is something else altogether because the “stuff” that needs protecting, or needs to be moved, are high-value buildings and infrastructure, not empty shallow waters available for free (in the context of the time when it was done).

    That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen at WUWT, equating the filling of shallow waters with the protection and/or relocation of (say) downtown Boston.

  756. James:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) Says (19 mai 2009 at 12:14 AM):

    “Please don’t say that the net improvement is that wildlife and really poor people are residing in the exclusion zone.”

    Why should I not say this? It is exactly what I meant – aside from the bit about “really poor people”, which I suppose depends on one’s definition of poverty.

    “A friend of mine was in Chernobyl when the accident happened, most of her friends are dead from cancer already.”

    This seems to be a case of straining at gnats but swallowing camels, given for instance the typical European attitude towards smoking & the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke. So why not try this: find the most generous estimates of the number of cancers thought to have been caused by the Chernobyl accident. Compare them to the number of smoking caused cancers for the same period. Then explain why so many people are opposed to the one, but not the other.

    (When I lived in Europe, I would sometimes encounter people who’d talk about the dangers of nuclear power &c while puffing away. In retrospect I find this amusing; at the time I was only concerned with getting away from their fumes.)

  757. Jim Galasyn:

    Barton writes:

    Chernobyl was a disaster. 31 people died immediately, another two dozen later, thousands of people got cancer, a multi-billion-ruble plant was shuttered. The wildlife the pro-nuclear psychos keep lauding is there because the humans who usually wipe it out are afraid to go near the plant; there’s no evidence–zero–that that lush wildlife is especially healthy.

    There’s even evidence that the region is a net wildlife sink:

    Chernobyl ‘not a wildlife haven’

    …”Species richness, abundance and population density of breeding birds decreased with increasing levels of radiation.”

    The study, which recorded 1,570 birds from 57 species, found that the number of birds in the most contaminated areas declined by 66% compared with sites that had normal background radiation levels.

    It also reported a decline of more than 50% in the range of species as radiation levels increase. …

    Radiation-induced illnesses continue to appear:


    Russian television reports huge post-Chernobyl thyroid cancer rates and urges medical check ups

    Russian state Channel One’s programme “Health” has warned that in the wake of the Chernobyl accident 22 years ago, doctors are seeing an increase in thyroid disease and are recommending that Russians between the ages of 20 and 40 turn to health care professionals to have their thyroids checked. …

    In addition, people often forget the fate of the million “rectifiers” who were shipped to the Chernobyl site to clean up. Most received lifetime doses of radiation in a few minutes. Subsequent claims of radiation-induced illnesses were dismissed by the Soviet Union, and their fates remain largely unknown. For grim details, see Chernousenko, Chernobyl: Insight from the Inside.

  758. Mark:

    re 752. Animals are under threat from humans. They die quite a bit.

    The death rate from deformities (a deformed animal is not going to last long) is such that they don’t appear often.

    Both cases are things we humans will not accept amongst ourselves.

  759. Jim Galasyn:

    Er, Chernobyl ‘not a wildlife haven’

  760. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (19 mai 2009 at 6:34 AM):

    “Perhaps you would like to explain to us how uranium mining is a “net improvement” to sensitive desert ecosystems.”

    First, let’s (once again) try to clear up a point about “sensitive desert ecosystems”. It’s not the fact that they’re deserts that matters: forests, grasslands, or whatever, what matters is that they’re WILD lands.

    Then what you need to do is to add up the total surface area affected, not forgetting to include the surface area impacted by mining all the materials that go into making solar cells or wind turbines, and compare.

  761. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “First, let’s (once again) try to clear up a point about ‘sensitive desert ecosystems’. It’s not the fact that they’re deserts that matters: forests, grasslands, or whatever, what matters is that they’re WILD lands.”

    You are absolutely, categorically opposed to building ANY solar thermal power plants on “wild” desert lands.

    Are you also absolutely, categorically opposed to ANY uranium mining on “wild” desert lands?

    If not why not?

    And if you are opposed to uranium mining on “wild” desert lands, then how do you propose to fuel the hundreds of new nuclear reactors that you want to build in the USA alone?

    And just to clear up a point, I am specifically talking about deserts because it so happens that deserts are where people are proposing to build solar thermal power plants, and deserts are also where people are proposing vastly expanded uranium mining.

  762. FurryCatHerder:

    Rod B @ 752:

    I’m not sure if I’m a proponent or an antagonist for nuclear power, though I think it possesses clear benefits, at least in the short term. My curiosity question is why the aginers absolutely reject the viable solutions and work-arounds to the dangers and difficulties of implementing nuclear power, but dismiss with a simple wave of a hand the difficulties and define away the current uncertainties with implementing things like wind and solar? Almost like, ‘no problem,’ ‘done deal,’ ‘ready to go,’ ‘just place a web order and charge it to AmEx.’ Some sound like they would clearly favor global warming over nuclear power.

    Well, it pretty much is a done deal and you pretty much can place a web order and charge it on your AmEx card, though my supplier may prefer that you use a card with a lower handling fee. Or pay by check. I think he takes checks. I’d be happy to handle the site survey and installation, but I don’t have all of my tax paperwork done and I’m not sure I can get a licensed electrician and the appropriate construction trades out to your house. Let me know — I’ll see what I can do to fix you right up.

    When I talk about the state of the technology, I don’t avoid the details because I’m into hand waving, I avoid them because they are currently somewhere in the “not yet able to have ‘Patent Pending’ stamped on them.” stage of business development. I assure you that once they are published on the US PTO website, I’ll be more than happy to discuss them and explain why deploying those technologies (as well as ones I’m aware of that were invented by others) completely removes the 20% barrier that had existed 7 or 8 years ago. The barrier is GONE. It has left the building. It is an ex-barrier.

    What I understand on the generating side of the industry is that the generators now understand how disruptive renewable energy is going to be. So long as capital can be recovered long term (and time is a very good friend to the patient), the renewable generators will always be able to undercut the non-renewable guys on price. I have another 5 or 6 KWH to produce today — if I had a big enough array to play with the big boys, I could undercut all of them on price because the sun isn’t costing me anything to use. I either produce those 5 or 6KWH or they are gone. So, I’m going to produce them and I’m going to sell them (I’m actually going to do laundry and recharge my motorcyle …) And they know it, and they are PISSED, and they are out spreading lies about how evil renewables are because folks like me are gunning for their business.

  763. Paul:

    Re: comment 744

    Yes, I intend to do a review of the book when i have finished.
    It’s good so far (still on chapter 1).

  764. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (19 mai 2009 at 6:02 AM):

    “The wildlife the pro-nuclear psychos keep lauding is there because the humans who usually wipe it out are afraid to go near the plant…”

    You’re trying to use this as an argument against my position. when in fact it’s exactly the point I’ve been trying to make all along? That whatever the effects of the Chernobyl accident may have been, they are less bad for the wildlife than merely living with the previous human population.

    “…there’s no evidence–zero–that that lush wildlife is especially healthy.”

    Humm… You know, I just can’t follow the logic there. Perhaps you’d care to explain how e.g. killing off a large fraction of that wildlife would be healthier.

    “You just don’t want to admit that there are any serious problems with nuclear power. Like every pro-nuclear crackpot on the internet, your approach is not “the problems are controllable,” but rather, “There are no problems.””

    No, my position is hardly as absolute as you try to make out. It’s that when you make a fair attempt at adding up all the problems, you find that nuclear power is LESS BAD than most of the more popular alternatives.

    I will concede that there’s a subjective factor in the values one assigns to things. I happen to place a higher value on having “barren” deserts, sparsely-populated forests, and the ecosystems that go along with them, than on the continued ability of urbanites to run their SUVs & big-screen TVs.

  765. Doug Bostrom:

    #740 Pete:

    “…until we throw away the mantra of progress and prosperity through growth (now called sustainable growth I believe) and adopt one of steady state economics then we will be looking down the barrel of a less than happy future.”

    True enough, and this circles back to what EL said about full integration.

    We’ve developed yet another bad habit while filling what we’ve been fooled into thinking is boundless empty space on Earth. We imagine that any of us can amass a certain amount of capital, invest it in “the market” (of whatever kind) then sit back and reap endless rewards, forever, without doing any commensurate work.

    In the world of physics this sort of fantasy is called “perpetual motion” and does not actually perform as we’d like. Physicists long ago deduced that this is actually impossible in the material world, economists apparently have not, or don’t want to admit it. More energy from “somewhere” is required to keep things moving. In economics we call that energy input “growth” and it does indeed imply growing markets and hence growing demand, meaning either a few of us endlessly expand our consumption or we make more people and disperse the increased consumption. Either way you slice it, it does not scale in the long term.

    Another little challenge to surmount. We’re murdering ourselves with our 401K plans. Oops.

  766. Doug Bostrom:

    #751 RodB”

    “T. Boone Pickin’s plan is not to build wind farms to recharge electric (more or less) vehicles, but to free up natural gas from electricity generation to power converted ICE vehicles with LNG. Attacking potential global warming is #2 of his goals; using (his?) natural gas to reduce dependency on foreign oil is #1. What’s the upside and downside in your opinions?”

    One helpful thing to remember is, the things you mention are not really T. Boone Pickens’ main objective. The main plan -behind- these details is for T. Boone Pickens to make money. That’s not to say he’s not slightly motivated by altruism, just that his altruism rides in the trunk, hogtied and gagged with duct tape.

    Diverting natural gas from electrical generation to vehicle motive power will have a horrible effect on the overall efficiency of the use of the gas. If Pickens’ plan is to use wind to recharge cars that’s a much better idea. Assuming we accept that we absolutely must behave as though we’re still living in the 19th century and find it irresistible to burn every last scrap of hydrocarbons we can clutch in our thoughtless hands, that is.

    Our natural gas resource is paltry even viewed through the rose tinted glasses of natural gas boosters. Scroll up the thread and you can see the statistics I pulled from the DOE natural gas fanboy assessment as well as cheerleader naturalgas.org. I rounded the numbers up, by the way.

    Wind farms: great. Reduce foreign oil dependency: fantasy. Reduce CO2 emissions by burning natural gas: what do you think?

  767. Doug Bostrom:

    #760 James:

    “It’s not the fact that they’re deserts that matters: forests, grasslands, or whatever, what matters is that they’re WILD lands.”

    And what about when they’re not? Since you’re asserting that depredation of intact ecosystems is necessary for the purpose of industrialized solar power capture, how about some statistics on how many square miles we have of previously altered land?

    “Then what you need to do is to add up the total surface area affected, not forgetting to include the surface area impacted by mining all the materials that go into making solar cells or wind turbines, and compare.”

    Sand. Rare-earth metals. Copper. A number of other things, all of which are necessary for any energy plan. And of course- even as we bicker here- increasingly polymers which we produce using an existing extraction and and refinery infrastructure which could be vastly downsized if the raw materials were diverted from archaic burning into the production of organic photocells.

  768. Mark:

    James, 264, this is the first time you’ve done anything that could indicate you aren’t dead set against any solution that isn’t nuclear, so please forgive if we don’t really see it that way.

  769. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    #751 Rod B

    You are absolutely correct that this is what Pickins says, but he goes on to say, “Natural gas is plentiful and its ours.”

    You also assess correctly that his top priority is to reduce dependence on foreign oil. I see very little to indicate global warming is even on his list of concerns. Other powerful folks seem to think like this, Andy Grove being the main example. Andy Grove promotes putting batteries in the “most fuel inefficient vehicles” to make them plug-ins to get “energy resiliency.” It is my reading of the GM plan by Savagian from about a year ago that shows that same intent. It seems that this crowd has their eye on US coal reserves.

    But back to natural gas, I really do not know whether there is sufficient natural gas that would enable much expansion of the use of that fuel without causing a real crisis in that market.

    #737 Doug Bostrom
    You say, “—– it’s worth mentioning that combined cycle natural gas generating plants are capable of something like 60% efficiency.”

    Reply: Yup, that is what they say. However, natural gas peaking power plants seem to get more like 30%, so the actual average efficiency is a lot lower. I have a lot of confidence that the USA average can be about 42% efficiency depending on how much the combined cycle plants are used. The peaking plants have to be used to cover the big afternoon loads, at least that is the case in California. Calpine was commissioned to build some additional peaking plants fairly recently, not on their own investment, but directly paid for by the State. But the combined cycle plants seem to be more optional. Where the price of natural gas makes it practical, more of these are used. Thus, the average USA efficiency for natural gas plants can and has varied from around 29.8% in 1999 to 42.1% in 2005 which seems like more than can be accounted for by additional installations. From what I can tell, new installations were quite few in wake of the natural gas crisis. Calpine went bankrupt during this time owning a large installed base of quite fine natural gas facilities that were planned when natural gas was $2 or less. (Their annual report is a good resource for understanding these things.)”

    You say, “If waste heat is captured for other purposes that figure can increase slightly.”

    I reply: If waste heat is completely captured and used as effectively as heat from natural gas that would not have to be burned as a consequence, the efficiency figure can increase by a factor of two or three. That will squeeze a lot more electricity out of natural gas. This is possible on a distributed generation basis that will only sell if we “Throw out most of what Westinghouse and GE taught us about central power plants.”

    You say, “The same gas deployed in a massive fleet of automobiles forced to rotate a myriad of redundant parts, retarded by air drag and rolling resistance, steered by friction and recovering only a fraction of available kinetic energy when forced to change velocity and even worse involving wretchedly crude IC engines will quite obviously result in vastly poorer overall efficiency.”

    I reply: Yup, you describe the present monstrosity of the automobile. But as I have said elsewhere, “we have to throw out everything Henry Ford taught us about cars, except how to do mass