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Second CRU inquiry reports

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 April 2010

The Oxburgh report on the science done at the CRU has now been published and….. as in the first inquiry, they find no scientific misconduct, no impropriety and no tailoring of the results to a preconceived agenda, though they do suggest more statisticians should have been involved. They have also some choice words to describe the critics.

Carry on…

1,421 Responses to “Second CRU inquiry reports”

  1. 1301
  2. 1302
    Patrick 027 says:

    … PS one way to think of this is in terms of production possibilities curves. They may tend to be convex in general but with exceptions. If the PPC is convex in value-scaled space, then there is a point of maximum value, which is an attractor for the market. In a value-scaled space that excludes the externality, an externality tax would shift the attractor toward a different point on the PPC that probably has less value (not counting the externality). However, the PPC may have sharper curvature on shorter timescales, because on longer timescales, investment can shift toward different activities and increase the value that can be produced for a given directional location on the PPC (direction from the origin, for example) (That’s what I was refering to regarding how increased demand for clean energy (pushing the price up by increasing quantity) would pull investment toward that economic activity, increasing the supply of clean energy (in the sense of reducing the price at a given quantity) – coming at the expense of decreased investment elsewhere, in particular from supplying the dirtier energy).

  3. 1303
    Frank Giger says:

    Y’all have confused what I wrote.

    1) No way they’ll give a flat rebate – it’s too politically tempting to make rebates “progressive.”

    That was my point about Income Tax rebates to people who hadn’t paid taxes. A guy living in a hut without electricity and subsistance farming who also happens to have a million dollars in the bank is going to get soaked. The “poor,” which is now defined as up to 400% above the poverty level for some purposes, will get a fat check regardless of how they live.

    The poor can’t afford a hybrid – why are they being penalized for it in a carbon tax on the clunker they drive? It’s just not “fair.”

    2) The fund itself would probably be robbed the second it reached a billion dollars for use in the general fund, like Social Security’s.

    You know, the pension fund that is supposed to be a pool for paying out pensions? If a corporation robbed their pension funds in order to pay normal operating costs (writing IOU’s as they went), someone would be going to jail.

    But this is not the case with the Federal Government. There is no fund that is inviolate.

    3) Think there wouldn’t be special exemptions? In a law our Congress would write? First off, trucking companies would have to get one. Any additional tax on them would have an amplified effect on everything from groceries to lightbulbs.

    Even then, one would see this magical shift of shipping from overseas into Mexico and Canada and then trucked into the USA. No tariff (NAFTA), and they can range pretty far into the lower 48 for shorter hauls from centralized warehouses. Manufactured goods in the USA would get yet another hit, as it is even more cheap to avoid the carbon tax and truck in from outside the country. Ditto food. Why grow strawberries in California when it’s a third cheaper from somewhere else?

    Every special interest group with a lobbyist worth his pay will find a way not to have to pay the carbon tax.

    4) The crux of the whole program:

    Aren’t the median income folks the ones who are most likely to needlessly consume the most carbon? Maybe they can better afford to change behavior fastest? I can’t afford a new electric vehicle, but I know middle income folks who easily could and don’t bother, cutting their carbon expenses with a dividend would just encourage that.

    It’s about lowering standards of living until everyone is “equal.” We know what happens when a government does that – everyone winds up dirt poor.

    The only thing needed is a much more overt statement like “each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” to make things more clear.

  4. 1304
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “BPL (1280), you should review Sandbox-1, “supply and demand” before moving on to Sandbox-2, ”

    Translation: flim flam.

  5. 1305

    AC 1287: MV=PQ is a truism which uses ad-hoc variables that can’t be measured.

    BPL: The Federal Reserve Board measures M every month. The BEA does pretty well with P and Q. V follows by definition, and there is a great deal of research into what independently affects V. You’re just wrong.

  6. 1306

    SA 1288: In short, it seems that if parapsychology were to successfully demonstrate that psi phenomena are natural phenomena, and therefore subject to the same methods of empirical investigation (and ultimately, natural explanation) as any other natural phenomena, that would challenge your deeply held belief about the nature of such experiences (which your comments suggest you may regard as “supernatural”, whatever that term means to you). This may influence your assessment of the evidence.

    BPL: Ad hominem. Either I’m right or I’m wrong. My alleged motives don’t enter into it, and neither do my alleged reasons for holding various beliefs.

    Have I said, “You accept psi because at heart you’re a New Age flake who desperately wants to believe cool stuff is true?” No. I said the evidence was bad. You’re probably one of the people who accepts the results of the PEAR experiments, but independent reviewers don’t. The mere fact that positive results inevitably appear when it’s believers doing the evaluating is enough to show that there’s a problem there. Deal with it. Deal with the problem. Not with me. I’m just the messenger.

  7. 1307

    RodB 1298,

    You know nothing about my reading, pal.

    RodB 1299,

    Let me take it in stages so you can understand.

    Let’s assume we have two sectors in the US: Sector 1 produces energy, Sector 2 produces everything else. We then have

    P1Q1 + P2Q2 = PQ = MV

    or
    P1Q1 + P2Q2 = MV

    Now, let’s assign some numbers. Let’s say:

    P1Q1 = $1 x 10^12
    P2Q2 = $3 x 10^12

    This gives us P1Q1 + P2Q2 = PQ = MV = $4 x 10^12. You with me so far?

    Now, let’s break up the components in P1Q1 + P2Q2 = MV:

    P1 = $100 unit^-1
    Q1 = $1 x 10^10 units

    P2 = $100 unit^-1
    Q2 = $3 x 10^20 units

    M = $8 x 10^11
    V = 5

    Now, let’s assume that P1 doubles to $200 unit^-1. P1Q1 is now $2 x 10^12. If M and V hold steady, we have

    $200 unit^-1 Q1 + P2Q2 = $4 x 10^12

    What happens next? Tell me what happens to Q1, P2, and Q2 if M and V remain the same. (Not what can happen according to the math–but what does happen in a free market economy. Show your work.)

  8. 1308
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 1303 Frank Giger – I think I share some of your cynicism about congress, but … I missed how this started: Are you arguing that we need to be careful about how we do this, or are you arguing that we should avoid the idea of a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade or fee-and-dividend) altogether?

    It does matter how the government spends money, but as long as it is not positively correlated with the economic activity that is targeted by the tax, various different spending patterns would still leave the price signal intact.

    The idea of subsidizing truckers would be a problem. However, a temporary subsidy with a phase out schedule would be okay, though it would be more simple to phase in the tax (so as to not shock the economy; activity now that is affected by planning for the future would still be motivated by the expected tax in the future, so having a predictable schedule for phasing in the tax would help).

    But subsidizing the trucking industry would just reduce the price signal of the fossil fuel use. However, for the purposes of helping adapt to the new policy, subsidies might be offered for emissions-efficiency improvements (and for job retraining, etc…).

    If the prices in general go up because of increased shipping costs, that will be partly offset by the increased demand for ___ via spending of the revenue – ie people will either directly or indirectly have some more money available to spend (relative to what they have after the tax but before the revenue) – It won’t come out equal, of course, because the economy as a whole will be less efficient from a point of view that is blind to the externality that justified the tax (but it will be more efficient from a point of view that includes that). If the government spends that money without increasing total spending, then the deficit will shrink; or if it just increases total spending, the deficit won’t shrink but the spending will go out into the economy. Some of these are better than others, of course, but they don’t ruin the intended effect of the tax.

    The prices of goods and services will come down somewhat, though, if shipping distances are shortenned (on the balance – we can still get cholcolate if we want to) or if shipping is more emissions-efficient, which are exactly what should happen.

    If the U.S. is willing to take climate issues seriously (and with real fairness to the world, not the fake fairness wherein it’s fair if I like it and unfair if I don’t), I think some of our trade partners would be willing to work out justified climate policy applications for trade; if they aren’t, then quite frankly, S#$# them (which is the attitude I’d expect them to have toward us if we don’t get this done by ten years ago).

  9. 1309

    BPL @ 1278:

    BPL: Who the hell said I wanted to do that? The point of a wide-area smart grid is that there would be a lot of local power sources all tied together–not a distribution web for a single, centralized source. It’s clear you’ve never investigated the literature on this.

    You’re a hoot. I don’t know anyone besides me on this blog who can actually speak to how electric grids work, and who’s actively been engaged in making the grid a lot smarter (the current “Smart Grid” proposals vary from “Stupid” to “Unworkable”).

    The notion that there can be some kind of “distributed web” of sources — “Distributed Renewable Generation” is the term, and I suspect I’m one of the few people here who is a “Distributed Renewable Generator” and almost certainly the only person here who designs such things and their controls — without HVAC distribution lines is lunacy. Sooner or later, like, at the edge of a town, all of those distributed sources have to come together and get onto a HVAC line so they can head off to the next town or control boundary.

    The concept of low voltage “webs” covering a million square miles is truly a sign of not having a clue what you’re talking about. But hey — it’s fun to pretend you know how this stuff works. Reminds me of talking to people about computers 30 years ago whenever people “knew” how they worked, even though they also hadn’t a clue.

  10. 1310

    Ric Merrit @ 1290:

    Your energy (both principal senses) is admirable. You have done a better job than most of us in showing how to use renewable sources within the current economy. I wish you, and others, would pay more attention to how all that may change as use of nonrenewables is forced down, one way or another. Economic feedbacks will be enormous. Renewables are perking along and growing independently of nonrenewables only insofar as the infrastructure is, well, independent.

    I really could care less how the less financially efficient and environmentally viable forms of power production fare as renewable power production ramps up. The lifetimes of many of the non-renewable production facilities isn’t “infinite”, so it isn’t like a 500MW wind farm is causing some brand new 500MW coal plant to be a wasted investment. What seems to be happening is that orders for new equipment of the non-renewable kind are being replaced by orders for the renewable gear, and large companies like Seimens, GE and others are switching production. That’s how Free Market Capitalism — the finest economic system in the entire Universe — works. Adapt or Die.

    The other thing is that many of the economic opportunities are easily going to swap places with existing economic activities in a 1-for-1 or better kind of ratio. For example, one of my clients is =desperately= looking for qualified solar power electricians, but can’t find them because Journeyman and Master Electricians aren’t in such abundant supply that they can just pick them up on a street corner, and the skills don’t line up completely.

    My prediction — and I have a pretty good crystal ball — is that “Renewable Energy Engineering” is going to be the next “Software Engineering”. Unlike “Software Engineering” where jobs get sent to Bangalore, Pune and Shanghai (IBM sent my job to Shanghai — something IBM loves to do with engineers who are past their “Sell By” date …), those of us who’ve decided to plant our flag on “Renewable Energy” can’t just go away to some other country. As in, I’m going to be on a roof Tuesday looking over a 40KW system and playing with 480VDC circuits. I have another 20 to 30KW worth of systems to look over next week as well, and my “dance card” is getting full enough that my billing rate =will= rival what I could bill as a “Software Engineer”.

    So … I should be worried about “economic feedback” why? I’m unaware of secret reserve Secretarial Pools where touch typists and IBM Selectric typewriters are being warehoused because of “economic feedback”.

  11. 1311
    Rod B says:

    Bob (Sphaerica) (1296), then certainly pay me no mind…

  12. 1312

    Frank Giger @ 1303:

    4) The crux of the whole program:

    Aren’t the median income folks the ones who are most likely to needlessly consume the most carbon? Maybe they can better afford to change behavior fastest? I can’t afford a new electric vehicle, but I know middle income folks who easily could and don’t bother, cutting their carbon expenses with a dividend would just encourage that.

    Some of that is education, some more is availability. I’ve got a client who is looking for dimable CFL bulbs before moving on with further WASTED energy reductions.

    When my clients get below a certain level of waste I warn them — “Now, you’ll reach a point where air infiltration will be so reduced due to energy efficiency that you’re going to have to open your windows and get some fresh air, or else normal household odors will build up and make your house stink. So when you notice that different rooms are smelling like what goes on in them, just open the windows and let in some fresh air.”

    It’s about lowering standards of living until everyone is “equal.” We know what happens when a government does that – everyone winds up dirt poor.

    That’s why I offer a money-back guarantee on my services — I’ll save you more than you pay me, or I give you your money back. Everyone knows that saving money results in poverty. NOT!

    The only thing needed is a much more overt statement like “each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” to make things more clear.

    In my personal life I’m a Marxist and I really hate to see statements like that abused. Switching from non-renewables to renewables has squat to do with Marxist philosophy.

    My take on Marxism and changing the energy economy is that we need to create the =ability= for people to change from non-renewables to renewables, and that means engaging in the research and development so that people have a viable choice. As we change the energy equations, we will create some very interesting abundances that will enable people to have their =needs= met, using the technologies that must be created for renewable energy sources to be exploited.

    I know working class people who pay =hundreds= of dollars each month on energy because their landlords refuse to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Since “energy efficiency” has a healthy Return On Investment, we know that if those landlords were =required= to make the efficiency improvements need to reduce their tenant’s energy bills, the landlords could raise the rents to recover those costs =and= the tenant’s overall expenses would decline. It might seem all Marxist and icky to do that, but it would free up Capital for other uses. And my Capitalist side loves it when there is more available Capital since Capital is the energy that makes Capitalism and economic growth work.

    And that’s why Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy are going to result in massive economic growth — “waste” is a drag on the economy. As people begin to benefit from reducing “waste”, the economy will naturally grow as a result. Entire new industries will be created, and prosperity will result.

  13. 1313
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 1307 Barton Paul Levenson – mind if I add to that:

    Sum(Pj*Qj) = M*V

    where

    P0 = 0
    but more of other Qj can be produced if less Q0 is produced

    (and example of Q0 is free time)

    and

    P1 = 0
    but less of several other Qj, and more of a few other Qj, can be produced if less Q1 is produced

    (and example of Q1 is climate goods/services)

    And define a real value VAL which varies as a function of all Qj; VAL can be seperated into components VAL j which are proportional to Qj for small changes in Qj, but in general the relationship of VALk to Qk depends on all other Qj (many Qj are worthless if either Q0 or Q1 is zero).

    Will have to continue later…

  14. 1314
    RichardC says:

    1280 BPL said, “Even if the money supply stays the same? And the velocity of money? Are you familiar with MV = PQ?”

    Name one period of time where M or V remained constant. Your Even If translates to So What?

  15. 1315

    #1303 Frank Giger

    It’s easy to be dismayed at the current reality of the body politic. That does not mean that we should not try. If I am reading your argument correctly, you are concerned apparently with the slippery slope, but that is often more a political argument that a pragmatic one. We do need to deal with short and long term simultaneously in our current reality.

    To add context to your arguments consider this: The fact that we are on the Keynesian economic model and that resource scarcity is an issue affected by population growth, global warming, overuse, artificial inflation, non-utilitarian markets, non-transparent markets and myriad other issues reveals that the confluence of events, including the immediate threat of peak oil, reveals the high risk potentials for discretionary spending and non utilitarian markets to be eviscerated in the coming years to various degrees depending on reliance on fossil fuels and in relation to latitudinal shift of the jet-stream and climate impacts on natural systems.

    Most economists would agree that keeping monetary economies functioning if not vibrant is a win/win for the overall system. As the confluence of events unfold, it actually becomes more important to keep some money flowing.

    The Fee & Dividend’ policy is probably the best method to cope with multiple threats in an ameliorative fashion that reduces negative impacts. While my opinion is that everything relies and revolves or should revolve around maximum productivity, though managed in different ways, and with a different energy mix (renewable/sustainable), the reality is that we will need to slay multiple dragons with as few swords as possible.

    Efficiency and effectiveness in a different mix of government policy and function will be required to maintain best possible function.

    Therefore, one can see the reasoning behind the fee distribution in the context of its benefits. Without such we might expect higher crimes rates which would be a tax on society in general.

    In other words caution must be exercised in order to maintain relative higher standards of living for the aggregate society. This is not unreasonable and has been the battle of governance since systems began to organize. In fact it is a general rule of general and living systems through osmotic, symbiotic and commensal systems in the order and evolution of nature itself, let alone human civilization and systems of governance.

    Balance is key.
    Context is key.

    These are good keys to have on your keychain.


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

    ‘Fee & Dividend’ Our best chance for a better future – climatelobby.com
    Learn the Issue & Sign the Petition

  16. 1316
    Hank Roberts says:

    > FCH

    Thank you. Clear and blunt and informative on the ‘smart grid’ stuff.

  17. 1317
    Rod B says:

    BPL (1307), this is likely going to quickly bore everyone to tears, but what the hey.

    What happens in your scenario is highly dependent on assumptions, like what is the elasticity of #1, and is #2 a partial replacement for #1 or maybe the price for #2 depends in part on the price for #1, ad infinitum.

    Let’s assume the elasticity of #1 is directly linear so when the price doubles to $200 the number of purchases drop by half a trillion; P1xQ1 stays the same. But what do the guys who earlier bought the half a trillion do now? If product #2 is a partial replacement they try to buy some of that, but for a complete replacement probably have to buy more than the half a trillion #2s. Or if #1 is used for #2 (say #1 is jet fuel and #2 is airline tickets – which would likely mean my elasticity assumption is faulty but I’ll stick with it for discussion purposes) they’re now buying only half as much jet fuel so they have to cancel some flights, say all of Company A’s flights to Las Vegas. After laying off all of their Las Vegas employees, Airline B, not being an idiot, sees the reduced competition and immediately raises fares (their #2) into Las Vegas. This is shortly after firing their Ivy League accountant who told him he couldn’t because it would mess up the national PQ = MV theory.

    In some unique situations with just the right elasticity, demand, and product differentiation the price for #2 will rise and the MV will stay constant. In most scenarios, as RichardC points out, MV does not stay constant because the overall velocity changes just a teensy-tiny bit from the original 5. But in general if less money is chasing product #1, more money will now go after product #2 and raise its price. The principles will let the Fed sort out the PQ=MV dilemma.

  18. 1318
    Ric Merritt says:

    SecularAnimist @ 30 April 2010 at 1:18 PM

    asked for clarification of my “Renewables are perking along and growing independently of nonrenewables only insofar as the infrastructure is, well, independent.”

    And FCH @ 1 May 2010 at 12:44 PM

    has a somewhat similar reaction.

    Yes, renewables are growing quite perkily lately, which we hope is a good thing. The problem is that the way we build the infrastructure these days, including all the nice clean windmills etc, is based right down to the ground (literally and figuratively) upon fossil fuels.

    If the renewables are to succeed over several generations, that will have to change pretty fast. We’ll have to build windmills etc with less and less fossil energy consumption. Right now we can’t do that. Can’t fly a plane, can’t run any really big equipment or transport.

    There are ways to move things without burning fossils, even ways to make liquid fuel from non-fossil feedstock (uses plenty of energy though). What we don’t know is how that will integrate into the wealthy and vibrant (till lately) modern economy. If the expensive infrastructure transformation gets just a little behind as fossil consumption dwindles, the economy will contract and investment in renewable infrastructure, measured financially or however you like, will suffer. Depending on how hard it is to build renewable infrastructure with ever-diminishing fossil input, this could lead to a downward spiral. That’s the feedback I am talking about. Needless to say, climate bad news, if that’s what we get, and continued failure to curb population growth would not help.

    Most commenters here need to reexamine assumptions. FCH is “unaware of secret reserve Secretarial Pools where touch typists and IBM Selectric typewriters are being warehoused because of “economic feedback”.”

    But look at the example you chose. Suppose we wanted to change from Selectrics to some later technology. PC + Msoft Word or voice recognition software + printer, doesn’t really matter what. The parallel is roughly: Selectric is to PC as oil is to wind. To be parallel with our energy subject here, the only known way to make PC’s would have to be by using up Selectrics!! And the Selectrics are in ever greater demand, but are slowly evaporating for some reason. And there are some cool ideas about how to make PC’s without using Selectrics, but no one has actually done it in quantity, and we have little idea whether it will succeed before most of the Selectrics are gone. And, truthfully, no one has even tested no-Selectric PC manufacturing method without using Selectrics, they just hope, or claim, that once they get it down, it will work fine. In the meantime, they are using Selectrics hand over fist. They point to the ever-growing pile of PC’s, and someone points out that they aren’t actually making PC’s without using Selectrics, which is obvious to everyone, and then they ask for clarification as to why PC manufacturing is not independent of Selectric supply. Well, all I can say is that it remains dependent until you make PC’s without using Selectrics. How can I put it any plainer?

    The fact that FCH chose that example, when it is so silly to think that PC manufacturing depends on using Selectrics, reveals a failure to think about what it would mean to make renewable infrastructure without fossils. I’m not jumping up and down proclaiming it’s completely impossible, but neither can you, or anyone, just assume without demonstration that it can be done well enough to sustain or improve our current culture.

    I’m afraid this subthread is getting old and way OT. As I have said before, there is a lot about this on The Oil Drum and its references. Many of you are in roughly the same position as the folks who get jumped on here because they obviously need to Start Here.

  19. 1319

    Hank Roberts @ 1316:

    Thank you. Clear and blunt and informative on the ’smart grid’ stuff.

    You’re welcome!

    My first of a zillion “Smart Grid” patent applications recently published. It takes 18 months before an application gets published, and IBM kicked me out the door 14 months ago with a dozen or so unfiled applications, so the next 15 to 18 months should see them all publish. THEN we can start talking about the difference between a “smoke and mirrors” Smart Grid and one that has some intelligence.

  20. 1320
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 1318 Ric Merritt –

    I don’t know much about Selectrics.

    But I fail to see a big problem with what you’re talking about – at least not one with a solution available.

    Solar PV – the whole lifecycle and infrastructure associated with it – has, for a lifecycle of 30 years, somewhere around under 1 to 4 years worth of the same power input, depending on technology and location (stay tuned for references – but in case I don’t get to it, try searching publications by the authors of references cited in the PV materials article in the link I posted here http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/04/second-cru-inquiry-reports/comment-page-26/#comment-172892, or, for example:
    Zweibel, K.
    Mason, J.
    Fthenakis, V.
    Alsema, E. A.
    Cyrus Wadia
    A. Paul Alivisatos
    Daniel M. Kammen
    Mark Z. Jacobson
    Mark A. Delucchi
    Sovacool ); some fraction of that energy (and economic) investment is into components whose useful life could considerably exceed 30 years. So the energy out/energy in could be somewhere from near 8 to over 30. Most of that energy is not involved in mining, so dependence on lower grade ores in the future shouldn’t kick the ratio down to much (in the longer term, there’s recycling); technology and experience should tend to increase it. I think wind energy is in a similar situation. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that fossil fuel energy use requires it’s own energy investment.

    Initially, production of a new category of infrastructure, without decreasing production of anything else, will require additional energy input – is that what you might be thinking of? Fossil fuel usage might be higher than otherwise for a few years. But that’s a pretty good use of fossil fuels. And an emissions tax would encourage such use (even if it is ramped up over a schedule such that the costs are not fully imposed until after the additional fossil fuel usage has peaked and the displacement of fossil fuel usage by efficiency and clean energy begins to outpace the increase in energy used to produce the new infrastructure). It seems unlikely to me that any short-term slight economic slowdown resulting from the taxation could overwhelm the effect of the price signal and bring investment in clean energy and efficiency way down – how large would the tax have to be to slow the economy so much, and how strong would the resulting pull be of any remaining investment into clean energy and efficiency infrastructure?

  21. 1321
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re BPL, Rod B – it might be helpful to discern between price and cost, where cost is the actual value that must be sacrificed for something (ie the amount of work, effort of learning, sacrifice of time, etc, that you need to put in to make the money to pay for it).

  22. 1322
    Joseph says:

    Coal in the ground, buried in mines, is free the same way that sunlight is free. Nobody had to pay to put coal or uranium in the ground. It’s just there.

    What’s not free about coal, is the fact that it costs a lot of money to turn coal into electricity, which involves digging it out of the ground, trucking it somewhere, refining it, and then burning it. The second thing that’s not free about coal is that coal in the ground, unlike sunlight, is finite in quantity and therefore subject to supply and demand.

    There’s three parts to the cost of an energy source:
    – raw “fuel” itself, so to speak
    – the cost of turning a new batch of fuel into a new batch of electricity
    – the cost of the capital investment required to perform the above process

    For sunlight, the cost of “raw” fuel is nothing, the cost of conversion is low, and the capital investment cost is high. For coal, the cost of “raw” fuel is nonzero (only due to the fact that coal is a finite resource,) the cost of conversion is high, and the capital investment cost is comparatively lower.

    But if the amount of coal was unlimited (say it fell from the sky,) like sunlight, the raw “fuel” cost would be zero. The fact that it is not, however, and the fact that the cost of its *conversion* into electricity is (much) higher than sunlight, are to completely separate issues that I think are being conflated.

  23. 1323

    FG 1303: It’s about lowering standards of living until everyone is “equal.”

    BPL: Only in the minds of far-right conspiracy freaks.

  24. 1324

    Furry 1309: The notion that there can be some kind of “distributed web” of sources — “Distributed Renewable Generation” is the term, and I suspect I’m one of the few people here who is a “Distributed Renewable Generator” and almost certainly the only person here who designs such things and their controls — without HVAC distribution lines is lunacy. Sooner or later, like, at the edge of a town, all of those distributed sources have to come together and get onto a HVAC line so they can head off to the next town or control boundary.

    The concept of low voltage “webs” covering a million square miles is truly a sign of not having a clue what you’re talking about.

    BPL: Who the HELL said I wanted the webs to be low-voltage? You’re making that up. Respond to what I said, not to what you would like me to have said.

    I didn’t say the existing distribution network would work for a series of national renewables grids. I said if we had such grids renewables could work. Pay attention.

  25. 1325

    Richard C: Name one period of time where M or V remained constant. Your Even If translates to So What?

    BPL: In what way does the equation require M or V to remain constant? What I said was that if they remain constant, increasing the price of one commodity doesn’t increase the general price level. And that’s true if the PRODUCT of M and V remains constant, too. Try a few examples and you’ll see what I mean. And in periods of stable prices, the product almost always IS constant.

  26. 1326

    RodB 1317: But in general if less money is chasing product #1, more money will now go after product #2 and raise its price.

    BPL: Which will result in what? Think it through.

  27. 1327

    RM 1318: reveals a failure to think about what it would mean to make renewable infrastructure without fossils. I’m not jumping up and down proclaiming it’s completely impossible, but neither can you, or anyone, just assume without demonstration that it can be done well enough to sustain or improve our current culture.

    BPL: The more renewable energy is produce, the more the energy to manufacture and transport things COMES FROM renewables and not from fossil fuels. Duh. The more you build, the better the ratio gets. This happens to be an incredibly stupid argument against switching to renewables. The way to solve the problem is to do exactly that. It really is that painfully simple.

  28. 1328

    BPL @ 1324:

    BPL: Who the HELL said I wanted the webs to be low-voltage? You’re making that up. Respond to what I said, not to what you would like me to have said.

    I didn’t say the existing distribution network would work for a series of national renewables grids. I said if we had such grids renewables could work. Pay attention.

    Okay, I’ll amend my comments, not that the net message is changed …

    The concept of low / medium / high voltage “webs” covering a million square miles is truly a sign of not having a clue what you’re talking about.

    The “web” concept does not, will not, and cannot work. I’m sorry that you’ve been mislead / made it up / guessed incorrectly. Physics works best when its laws are followed. You might want, just for starters, to bone up on Kirchoff. The other applicable ones are all secrets :)

  29. 1329

    BPL @ 1327:

    BPL: The more renewable energy is produce, the more the energy to manufacture and transport things COMES FROM renewables and not from fossil fuels. Duh. The more you build, the better the ratio gets. This happens to be an incredibly stupid argument against switching to renewables. The way to solve the problem is to do exactly that. It really is that painfully simple.

    To give an example, many of the solar panel plants out there today produce more “power potential” in the panels they manufacture than they consume. The proof that renewables “work”, from an energy invested versus energy consumed perspective, is that renewable energy has a positive ROI. If it didn’t, it would be cheaper to do something else.

    As a simple example, if it cost more money to drive to work than what work paid, working would be stupid. Likewise, if it cost more money to make solar panels than they could be sold for, making solar panels would be stupid.

    Eventually everything is denominated in “energy” (I’ve explained this before and can do so again) and the cost of something =generally= reflects the amount of energy required to produce and/or maintain it. What this comes down to is that as non-renewable energy forms rise in price (scarcity of non-renewable resources), and renewable energy forms fall in price (technological advancement and economies of scale), there will be a tipping point where one is cheaper than the other. When =that= happens, economic growth will explode as capital is liberated from energy costs. And right now, we’re not very far away from that happening.

  30. 1330
    Jim Eager says:

    Joseph @1322, here’s a rational way to compare coal and solar/wind/wave:

    Coal:
    1- Coal exists in the ground for “free”
    2- Capital must be expended to secure the land or mineral rights.
    3- To put it to use it must be dug out of the ground, cleaned, and transported to the site of combustion, requiring capital expense plus continuing operating expense.
    4- At the point of generation it must be burned to turn water into steam to drive a turbine to turn a generator, and combustion waste products must be disposed of, requiring capital expense plus continuing operating expense.
    5- The generated electricity must be distributed through the grid.

    Solar/wind/wave:
    1- The sun/wind/wave action exist for “free”
    2- Capital must be expended to secure the land or siting rights.
    3- Simply does not apply
    4- At the point of generation the solar/wind/wave energy must be converted to electrical energy, requiring capital expense plus continuing operating expense.
    5- The generated electricity must be distributed through the grid.

    Note that an entire category does not exist for solar/wind/wave, plus there are no combustion waste products to dispose of.

  31. 1331
    Patrick 027 says:

    “The “web” concept does not, will not, and cannot work. ”

    What would/will/does work?

  32. 1332
    Gilles says:

    FCH :” What this comes down to is that as non-renewable energy forms rise in price (scarcity of non-renewable resources), and renewable energy forms fall in price (technological advancement and economies of scale), there will be a tipping point where one is cheaper than the other. When =that= happens, economic growth will explode as capital is liberated from energy costs. And right now, we’re not very far away from that happening.”

    Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. As Jim points out, there is no fundamental difference in the economy of renewables and fossil fuels (actually if fossil fuels were generated in situ by abiotic processes in the Earth, they would be renewable but this would make no difference in economy, as far as they are not exhausted). First the cost is not related to the needed energy but to the needed manpower – energy itself is just a way of increasing the efficiency of manpower but it costs only the manpower to produce it. They are proportional only if the ratio energy needed/work hour is constant (which is not unreasonable at first approximation). A more expensive energy means only that you need more work hours to produce a given amount of energy, or in other words : that the equivalent human work saved by the produced energy , by unit human work invested, is lower. This can in no way make you richer !

    Now if non renewable energy becomes more expensive, this won’t make renewable cheaper. Of course technical improvements can lower the price, but the prices of all commodities will rise , including steel and concrete that need a lot of energy. I’m not sure that EROEI would be positive if you had to build a windmill without FF – steel, copper, insulators and so on are cheap ONLY with cheap FF and cannot be produced cheaply without, meaning again that you need much more work to produce them. Then the final budget may not be positive.

  33. 1333
    Frank Giger says:

    ” If I am reading your argument correctly, you are concerned apparently with the slippery slope, but that is often more a political argument that a pragmatic one. ”

    It is purely a political topic. Pragmatism is another way of saying compromise in a bill or policy, and nothing more.

  34. 1334

    Furry: The concept of low / medium / high voltage “webs” covering a million square miles is truly a sign of not having a clue what you’re talking about.

    BPL: When the great blackouts hit the northeast, I seem to remember lights going out in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ottawa. Was the area affected less than a thousand miles across? What was its actual extent? I sure wouldn’t like to get the limits wrong.

  35. 1335
    RichardC says:

    1325 BPL said, ” And in periods of stable prices, the product almost always IS constant.”

    I love the way you caveat. This whole schtick is about unstable prices and you caveat with the opposite!

  36. 1336

    Hmm. I don’t know much about economics.

    However, though everything CAN be denominated in terms of either (FCH) energy, or (Gilles) labor, does it really follow that either is “the” way to denominate?

    Right now, of course, things are customarily denominated in terms of cash value. Is that likely to change any time soon?

    As stated, both arguments seem to me rather circular and not very well-defined. (Though I’d sure like it a lot if FCH were right.)

  37. 1337
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ric Merritt,
    Ultimately, a sustainable economy must be built on renewable resources–not just energy, but everything else as well. It goes without saying that since our economy is not currently sustainable that developing a sustainable economy will take nonrenewable resources. The question is how we get from here to there. It is not a question of whether doing so will raise or lower our standard of living. If we don’t get there, we will have no standard of living to speak of–both because we will lack resources and because we will have damaged Earth’s capacity to support us. It is not a question of whether it is desirable or how much it will cost. There is simply no choice.

  38. 1338
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 1333 Frank Giger –

    Well, the term politics is sometimes used to denigrate the more vacuous of arguments (that’s just politics) but in another sense, politics certainly includes the important things.

    Compromise is pragmatic in the sense that it may sometimes or often be better than pursuing an ideal whose success its opponents will never allow.

    But I think what was meant by ‘slippery slope’ arguments being ‘just politics’ (I paraphrase a bit) is that someone could use such an argument to say that a person should never drive over 30 mph because of the risks associated with driving at 100 mph.

  39. 1339
    Frank Giger says:

    Well, the politics is everything, and they’re ugly.

    In addition to the current examples I gave, the very syntax of legislation is disappointing.

    For example, if one has in an original budget plan increasing the funding of a project by ten million dollars over the previous year and a compromise is offered to increase spending to eight, the rhetoric (and headline) is “Project X spending to be cut by two million dollars.”

    It’s a specious attack line that is used by both parties, in that no cuts were actually made on the original program. The increase in spending was reduced, but one could never tell it by the press releases or the actual reporting.

  40. 1340
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 1339 Frank Giger – I have heard of that kind of ‘framing’, and I’m not happy with it either.

    I’m still not sure what you’re conclusion is, though, regarding climate policy. I’m not one to let pessimism about the legislative process preclude my support for a good concept. Otherwise, what would get done?

    Re 1332 Gilles –

    I agree that labor is important. Any money paid must ultimately go to someone, who is doing or has done something (or has a relative or friend or benefactor who did something) (regarding money paid to own or rent land, for the rights of mineral resources, etc, that money would be paid to someone who presumably did something that enabled him/her to have the right to charge that money). (And those people then spend that money on just about everything, ultimately including labor.)

    I’m not sure, though, that the differences in price of energy among various energy technologies is fully attributable ultimately to labor costs. (??)

    But for EROEI:
    Including the labor force (or that portion of it) which uses (directly or indirectly) the energy produced, if the fraction of their labor that goes into the energy supply is small, then the energy use by that labor should tend to be a small factor in determining EROEI (so EROEI could be approximated without including energy use in the off-work lives of workers and their dependents). While EROEI is not everything, it is of particular importance to an industry whose purpose is to produce E; If ‘too much’ labor went towards producing energy, then an EROEI that includes energy use by the labor force would tend to be ‘not so great’.

    When a tax is collected on activity A1, the profit margin for A1 is reduced; the demand A1 places on it’s supporters/suppliers A2 is reduced and the the supply to dependent activities A3 is reduced. This propagates up and down the economic chain of supply-demand so that the tax is distributed among the benificiaries of the activity. Including all of this as AA1, AA1’s products’ prices increase while it’s profits decrease, thus driving both consumers and investors away, and towards where both tend to go, such as a set of activities AA2 that provides similar products/services; AA2 profits increase and prices rise because of the increased demand for AA2; AA2 profits and prices then fall back because of increased investment (assuming decreasing returns – this may not be the case in the beginning due to mass market advantage (distributing overhead, R&D costs) and the learning curve), but both the changes in demand and supply result in increased Q(AA2), as Q(AA1) decreases – but not necessarily by the same amount (on a related point, Q(AA2) may include energy efficiency products/services, but not lifestyle choices that involve just using less). All other activities AAj in general will tend to have their profits reduced and prices increased from the changes in AA1 supply in general, to the extent that they are dependent on AA1 or, depending on the evolution of AA2, AA2. Notice, however, that AA1 was defined to include all such dependencies. An activity that is partially dependent on AA1 might be mathematically seperated into an AA1 component and a seperate AAj component that does not by itself directly follow the AA1 trend, where A11 is the activity whose price and profit are proportional to A1 (it might just be A1, then). Does this AAj component ultimately have to have it’s price rise by the same fraction due to indirect dependencies? The changes in A1 prices and profits ripple through the economy, but in at least a first iteration it is diffused as it propagates, in the sense that not all other Aj depend on A1 to the same extent, and the increased price and decreased profit of A1 is distributed among the steps in the supply-demand chain. Looping around, the prices might increase and the profits might decrease farther, but that should affect A1 as well (right?), so the effect on other Aj should tend to be less than on A1 (?)… or could it be shown that in order for the effect to the same on all A1-linked Aj, the iterations would have to sum to infinity? (I need to think about that some more, but see below about the implications of large EROEI).

    AA2 would have some price increase and profit decrease from the A1 changes, but if the dependence on AA2 is not too large, Q(AA2) would still increase due to the effects of shifting demand and investment.

    Meanwhile, coproducts and byproducts of A1 would also tend to have Q declines. Coproducts and byproducts of AA2 would also tend to have Q increases. There may be some overall shrinkage of the economy, but some Aj that are less dependent on either A1 or AA2, or are otherwise byproducts or coproducts of AA2, or benifit from AA1’s shrinkage (such as climate/ecosystem services – the externality that was the purpose for this), might see growth (or reduced decline).

    The tax revenue meanwhile is still in the system so there is still in effect the same total (?)buying power in monetary terms(I’m not using the term precisely if it has a precise meaning; I haven’t studied economic jargon).

    If fossil fuels are taxed, this should hurt, in terms of prices and profits, the fossil fuels energy supply more than an energy supply that uses 1/10 the fossil fuel input per unit energy output. The extent to which the price changes propagate from fossil fuels to the clean energy and efficiency industries should overall tend to be proportional to the inverse of EROEI AND to the fraction of the energy sector that is fossil fuels. 3 possibilities:

    1.both energy supplies shrink, but the fraction of the energy supply that is fossil fuel energy shrinks more;

    2.the energy supply in total shrinks, but the cleaner energy industry grows;

    3.total energy supply grows, but the fossil fuel usage shrinks

    these can be amended to included energy efficiency products/services as part of the energy supply (tending to shift the description of the same reality from 1 toward 3), and to be the relative difference between two trajectories (tending to shift the description of the same reality from 3 toward 1), as opposed to conditions at one time.

    Well, maybe we should levy the tax and let the market figure out the best path (except for a few additional policies/programs to guide the market towards solutions that it might resist due to being stuck in a rut or being non-ideal (R&D/subsidies for emerging technologies, building codes, very long term lo-ans with reasonably low inflation-adjusted interest rates (but not unreasonably low, because there is a real justification for inflation-adjusted interest rates etc.). (PS why can’t they issue a lo-an with an inflation adjusted interest rate – the interest rate automatically changes if inflation does something – everybody can be affected by inflation so that should be a win-win for cre-ditor and le-nder, I’d think; oh, maybe they do this already and I just haven’t heard about it).

    Assuming a convex PPC, the overall economic value (in terms of real value) will tend to shrink (on a trajectory-relative basis) due to the tax, if the effects of the externality that justifies the tax is not included; that is because, absent the externality, the market is supposed to tend towards the maximum value on the PPC, and a tax would push it to another location. But the tax, if properly formulated, pushes it toward the location on the PPC that has greatest real value including the effects of the externality.

    If the PPC is not convex? If it is not convex at the location the market occupies, then the market might be unstable, or perhaps would have tended to go elsewhere in the firstplace. But it may be concave somewhere else, and if the shift crosses through such a region, the resulting value might possibly increase even excluding the externality.

    Of course, real free markets are not ideal, and the markets we have now are already affected by government action, at least some of which is less elegant and sensible than the climate policy I support.

  41. 1341
    Patrick 027 says:

    … interesting point – EROEI for fossil fuels is not 1/0; it is finite. A price increase for oil should then lead to farther price increases for oil, but presumably each iteration’s change is reduced by 1/EROEI * fraction of EI that is oil, and the series should converge. Otherwise the price of oil should be infinite.

    Similar for clean energy EROEI and fractio of EI that is fossil fuel, except there is one less iteration (the first one, the biggest one), because the ER is not fossil fuel.

  42. 1342

    Patrick 027 @ 1331:

    What would/will/does work?

    Cut to the chase much?

    Understanding how the grid =works= is essential to understanding what will and what won’t work.

    That, unfortunately, is about as detailed as I can get.

    But to address why “webs” won’t work, you have to look at how power moves in an electric grid.

    The blackout that BPL mentioned is actually a case study in why “webs” don’t work. As the power failure that led to that blackout developed, the loops in the distribution network began to carry very large amounts of power that was swinging wildly both in quantity and direction. Various segments were overloaded and tripped out. That shifted the load to other overloaded segments which then also tripped out. Eventually the entire grid collapsed and nine months later a lot of babies were born.

    The problem is that these things develop very rapidly, with hundreds and thousands of megawatts of production and consumption being added or removed in a span of seconds as automatic control systems act to protect the equipment.

  43. 1343

    Gilles @ 1332:

    It’s an established fact that the cost of building a kilowatt-hour of renewable generation is falling while the cost of building a kilowatt-hour of non-renewable generation is rising.

    Three years ago when I was pricing out my system, it was just over $10 / watt DC. Right now I have vendors who are quoting $6 / watt DC. At something on the order of $4 to $5 / watt DC net cost to the buyer it becomes stupid not to have ones home built with solar power and financed into a 20 or 30 year mort-gage (most power production warranties are on the order of 20 to 25 years).

  44. 1344

    Kevin @ 1336:

    Everything eventually comes down to how much energy it takes to do a thing and the cost of that energy.

    Raw minerals / ores / etc? It takes energy to run the earth moving equipment. It takes energy to transport the workers and the raw materials. It takes energy at the refining plant to run that equipment, to transport the workers, and to transport those finished products. The workers buy food that was transported (energy), processed (energy), prepared (energy), harvested (energy), and planted (energy) on land that was tilled (energy). Over and over the answer is “energy”. Doing “stuff” takes energy — it’s just Physics, nothing any of us can do anything about.

    The “check” on the logic is this — tomorrow there is no more electricity or fossil fuels. The instant giant energy “crunch”. How many more days can this go on before society grinds to a screeching halt? The counter argument is “Well, we can’t last long without water!”, to which I reply, “With energy we can drill new wells, make new pipes, build desalinators, etc.”.

    Now, what if all those “energy” terms above become cheaper (see earlier response to Gilles)? Production costs go down, capital is liberated, investments increase, the nice ROI on renewable energy attracts capital, the process accelerates. Companies and nations that can and do switch will greatly benefit while those that can’t or don’t are in big poopy trouble. And that is just Economics — and the denialosphere can’t do a thing about it.

  45. 1345
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “However, though everything CAN be denominated in terms of either (FCH) energy, or (Gilles) labor, does it really follow that either is “the” way to denominate?”

    Well the average american CEO has a renumeration 400x the average worker below board level.

    This would seem to cause the idea of “labour” to be the productivity wrong.

    The problem with that is that labour doesn’t require fossil fuels either. In fact most humans I know digest renewables.

  46. 1346
    Gilles says:

    RL :” The question is how we get from here to there. It is not a question of whether doing so will raise or lower our standard of living.”

    ray, I disagree. First that’s not that we MUST, but we WILL switch to renewables anyway- no other possibility. Then the ONLY question is : which standard of living can be insured, for how many people. The last point is important because you cannot define a sustainable way of life per inhabitant without specifying how much people live on the Earth. It’s all a question of carrying capacity. Unfortunately, the natural way of regulating that in the history is not particularly encouraging. The usual regulation mechanism is that , as long as the situation is fine, the population tends to grow, and when the limits are reached, there is a crash because of war ,epidemics, or famine. The modern epoch, with its enormous energy consumption, has protected us for centuries against these events (for the richest people at least), explaining the huge recent demographic growth. I’m not sure at all that we won’t be submitted again to these natural regulations in the future.

  47. 1347

    Gilles 1332: …the prices of all commodities will rise…

    BPL: Boy, that old ’70s pop theory of cost-push inflation is still really popular! At least among denialists…

  48. 1348

    BPL: ”And in periods of stable prices, the product almost always IS constant.”

    Richard 1335: I love the way you caveat. This whole schtick is about unstable prices and you caveat with the opposite!

    BPL: My original question to RodB was, “even if the money supply and velocity of money remain constant?” Read for context.

  49. 1349
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “As Jim points out, there is no fundamental difference in the economy of renewables and fossil fuels”

    This isn’t what you’ve ever said before.

    ” steel, copper, insulators and so on are cheap ONLY with cheap FF”

    Oh, and you’re not saying it now, either.

    Amnesiac.

    “Okay, I’ll amend my comments, not that the net message is changed …”

    Except now you’re pretense of generic validity has been shown to be invalid.

    Oh, and since you didn’t say what the message was and your comment removal on that point then changes a message that is quite visible even if you didn’t intend that one (how would we know?), your message has changed.

  50. 1350
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles,
    It’s a given that our current population exceeds global carrying capacity. The question is whether we can reduce it before inflicting irreparable damage to the global environment–and that includes climate. The limiting factor is more likely agriculture and aquaculture than it is energy infrastructure.

    I am not sufficiently deluded to say that it will be easy or that it won’t be painful. It simply has to be done. It isn’t optional.