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Unforced Varations: Aug 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 August 2012

Once more with feeling…

571 Responses to “Unforced Varations: Aug 2012”

  1. 401
    wili says:

    @375 re feedbacks:

    I’m not sure what blog that was or which positive feedbacks I mentioned, but here is my current list, for what it’s worth (unedited, with some rather speculative items included). I’d be interested in any additions or emendations from any corner.

    Feedback list


    charney = “fast” feedbacks:
    –albedo change with loss of land and sea ice and snow (stops when all snow and ice gone)
    –water vapor
    –cloud (both ways?)
    –“lapse rate”

    (negative feedback in tropics and overall)
    I need better knowledge here.

    non-charney “slow” feedbacks:
    carbon feedbacks
    –forests and grasslands dry up and burn/die>CO2
    –“ “ get bugs/diseases, die>termites>methane
    –soils, already weakened from above, wash away with increasingly extreme downpours, leaving no medium for plant that could absorb CO2 to grow
    –terrestrial soils dry up>CO2 methane

    “If the bank of carbon held in the world’s soils were to drop by just 0.3 percent, the release would equal a year’s worth of fossil fuel emissions.” (from first comment to cp article below)’s_Hidden_Secrets

    –permafrost melts—release CO2&methane from new bacterial activity/ free methane from deeper reservoirs
    –melting Greenland icecap uncovers same?
    –sea bed permafrost, clathrates, free methane
    –sea surface increased activity of methanogens
    –newly flooded areas from sea level rise become new swamps—more methane
    –Rising CO2 In Atmosphere Also Speeds Carbon Loss From Forest Soils


    –drought, an expected outcome of GW, can increase intensity of heatwaves

    –end of change of state–when all ice gone in a region, no more heat sucked up by its melting

    –newly open Arctic Ocean evaporates more H2O (a GHG) (but open ocean can also absorb more CO2)

    –warmer ocean absorbs less CO2

    –warmer (and more acidic?) oceans kill phytoplankton that sequester CO2

    –melting permafrost releases NOX

    ((within glacier/snow/ice dynamics:
    –accelerating albedo shift with black carbon (soot) consentrating on surface as melt goes on

    –accelerating albedo shift with more trees growing in the tundra; now happening faster than once thought, since many ‘shrubs’ native to and widespread throughout the tundra grow into trees as conditions warm

    –uplift from isostatic rebound as Gr icesheet melts changes angle to greater slope down which ice slides faster

    –similar activity could cause local earthquakes (?) which may increase collapse of fragile ice

    –Loss of GIS accelerating as highest areas melt down to lower, warmer areas, not only increasing sea level (see above), but also hastening the time when there will be no more ice cap to absorb hundreds of quintillions of joules of energy as it melts (see above)

    –More wild fires also means more soot in the air which further changes albedo of ice and snow, leading further to the effects mentioned immediately above

    –as tundra and GIS melt, they also allow deeper pools of free methane to be released into the atmosphere (find article on this—june ’12)

    — Bigger storms from GW cause updrafts to carry moisture all the way into the stratosphere, reducing ozone and creating more ghg (water vapor) into part of the atmosphere that has very little of it.

    –“ If the Hadley cells do shift so that air is being pulled along the earths surface from mid latitudes towards the Arctic, then one would expect that more soot and dust will accumulate on the remaining ice including on Greenland.”

    –“ Reversal of the Polar Vortex
    Putting together the above information, we see what powers the polar vortex. As the Arctic air radiates heat into space, it sinks, sucking high altitude air toward the poles. Coriolis effect skews this flow of air to the right so at high latitudes, on the surface of the earth there are North East winds (flowing towards the South West) With more and more heat being absorbed by an ice free Arctic ocean and transmitted to the air, this circulation pattern should reverse. This would be expected to bring a huge flux of warm air from the south which would exacerbate the effect and cause sudden extremely warmer conditions in the Arctic for the months in question. These will be South West winds (flowing toward the North East)”

    (2 previous from: )

    –As beetles and other diseases move north aided by GW, the number of sick trees increases rapidly. The levels of methane these emit can be high enough to ignite:

    From Neven Arctic Ice Blog

    Wayne Kernochan wrote regarding the saturation of the atmosphere by methane:
    The saturation point applies to whether there’s enough O and H around in the atmosphere around the methane so that methane can be split apart that way. At any rate, that’s my best guess as to why scientists say that if methane reaches a big enough level in the atmosphere, its average time aloft starts going up — and I think what I read did use the phrase saturation point.
    The main pathway for the destruction of methane is by the hydroxyl radical. Eli goes into it a bit here:
    Passing Gas
    Eli Rabett, Thursday, 2010-02-04
    However, at a somewhat more technical level, there was a paper a while back that suggested that during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum methane may have had an oversized effect due to it largely depleting hydroxyl radical in the atmosphere. Specifically, increasing levels of methane from 1X to 200X industrial levels increases the half-life of methane from 8.4 years to 42.5.
    Please see table 1 on page 4-4 of:
    Schmidt, G.A., and D.T. Shindell, 2003: Atmospheric composition, radiative forcing, and climate change as a consequence of a massive methane release from gas hydrates. Paleoceanography, 18, no. 1, 1004, doi:10.1029/2002PA000757.
    There is a link to the open access pdf on the other side.
    In any case, the hydroxyl radical is highly reactive, and it has sometimes been referred to as “scrubbing” the atmosphere of various pollutants. One of the products of this scrubbing includes reflective sulfate aerosols, thus increasing the amount of methane in the atmosphere can decrease the “masking” of warming by greenhouse gases, resulting in more global warming.
    For something nontechnical along these lines, please see the press release:
    Interactions with Aerosols Boost Warming Potential of Some Gases (2009-10-29)
    The technical article it refers to is:
    Shindell, D.T., G. Faluvegi, D.M. Koch, G.A. Schmidt, N. Unger, and S.E. Bauer, 2009: Improved attribution of climate forcing to emissions. Science, 326, 716-718, doi:10.1126/science.1174760.
    Posted by: Timothy Chase | August 12, 2012 at 20:39

    Human responses:
    –geo—engineering attempts gone bad
    –meat based diets
    –more and more people moving to avoid consequences of GW–refugees
    –aerosol—see below
    –rush to ever dirtier sources with lower EROEI—tar sands, low grade coal, deepwater oil…
    –Rivers dry, barges can’t haul material—more sent by more ff intensive truck and rail

    Non-feedback (?)
    –Trees damaged by ground level ozone do a worse job of sequestering CO2

  2. 402
    Patrick 027 says:

    cont. from
    tentative outline (note a part B has been added since then)
    non-internet sources
    beginning of PART A

    PART A cont.

    CORRECTION: CONIC SECTIONS in (x,y) coordinates, centered at (0,0)

    An ellipse with semiaxes a and b, centered at the origin, is given by the equation

    x^2/a^2 + y^2/b^2 = 1 (A.12)

    This ellipse can be graphed parametrically as:

    x = a*cos(φ) , y = b*sin(φ) (A.13)

    where φ is the angle corresponding to the point on the circle that the ellipse could form if stretched or compressed,

    This works because, substituting (A.13) into (A.12), we get

    cos^2(φ) + sin^2(φ) = 1 (A.14)


    If b is an imaginary number, then b^2 is negative, and (A.12) describes a hyperbola

    The same hyperbola can be described with a real b as:

    x^2/a^2 – y^2/b^2 = 1 (A.15)

    This hyperbola can be graphed parametrically, using a hyperbolic sine and cosine, as:

    x = a*cosh(φ) , y = b*sinh(φ) (A.16)

    this works because

    cosh^2(φ) – sinh^2(φ) = 1 (A.17)

    There isn’t a simple meaning for φ in this case, that I know of, unless (A.18) (I’ll refer back to that later).




    i is used as an index, along with j and k; these can be used in subscripts (implied; I don’t want to try to format this so much that I can’t follow what I’m reading until I see the preview)

    except if I need it to refer to i = √(-1).

    It should be clear from the context which usage of i is intended.

    CM = center of mass, also barycenter (same thing).

    time derivatives in inertial and non-inertial reference frames:

    dA/dt = time derivative (velocity if that applies) of r in an inertial frame/coordinate system

    δA/δt = time derivative in a rotating and/or otherwise accelerating frame/coordinate system (following the format used in (1))

    PS The key to understanding exponential, trigonometric, and hyperbolic functions (helpful in determining some other relationships, including some already stated; also helpful to become a ‘Zen master’ of math :) – I think you need calculus in order to prove (A.19))

    e^n = exp(n) (definition of exp())

    exp(i*φ) = cos(φ) + i*sin(φ) (A.19)


    2*cos(φ) = exp(i*φ) + exp(-i*φ) , 2*i*sin(φ) = exp(i*φ) – exp(-i*φ) (A.20)


    2*cosh(φ) = exp(φ) + exp(-φ) , 2*sinh(φ) = exp(φ) – exp(-φ) (A.21)


    sin is symmetric about π/2, which is the average of θ and π – θ; therefore

    sin(π – θ) = sin(θ) (A.22a)


    sin[2*(π/2 – θ)] = sin(2*θ) (A.22b)

    r typically refers to a position vector; its first and second derivatives with respect to time and velocity and acceleration.
    r can refer to a position of one object relative to another if so specified.

    Polar coordinates (A.23)

    φ is an angle from the x axis, going counterclockwise about the origin

    r is determined from r and φ ; x = r*cos(φ) , y = r*sin(φ) ;

    r = √(x^2 + y^2) , tan(φ) = y/x , etc.

    Spherical coordinates (PS I’m specifying the notation I’ll typically use, so this is a little important) (A.24):

    Let ø be latitude
    Let θ be colatitude; ø = π/2 – θ , cos(θ) = sin(ø) , sin(θ) = cos(ø)
    Let λ be longitude

    r = [x,y,z] = r*[ sin(θ)*cos(λ) , sin(θ)*sin(λ) , cos(θ) ]

    A Rotation, counterclockwise about the x axis (going from y to z), by an angle β, to a different coordinate system x’,y’,z’ associated with θ’, λ’ (I’m not going through all three rotations in that website, just the one about the line of nodes, which is the x axis in this case.

    sin(θ)*cos(λ) = x = x’ = sin(θ’)*cos(λ’) (A.25a)

    sin(θ)*sin(λ) = y = y’*cos(β) – z’*sin(β) = etc. (A.25.b)

    .. … cos(θ) = z = y’*sin(β) + z’*cos(β)

    = sin(θ’)*sin(λ’)*sin(β) + cos(θ’)*cos(β) (A.25c)

    THAT’S IT FOR PART A!!!! (PS in case it wasn’t clear, this is just for reference.)

  3. 403
    Ron R. says:

    One last point re: Chris Korda # 360.

    Hunting and gathering as practiced by our ancestors is no longer an option, not on a wholesale national or global scale, the flora and especially the fauna would be decimated in no time.

    Ethically, we’re stuck with farming until (and if) we can solve these issues and reduce our numbers. If civilization collapses the environment would be put under severe strain likely leading to rapid mass extinction. IOW, societal crash would be an ELE, so pray it doesn’t before we can fix things.

  4. 404
    Ron R. says:

    Patrick 027 #397:

    Thanks. Tornado chasing, it’s on my “to do” list.

  5. 405
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Aug 2012 @ 2:54 PM:

    The reason that prices go down on any product that is expanding rapidly is due to increased demand which results in growth of the industry which, in turn, results in improved prices from economy of scale and increased competition. What Dbostrom told you was that if everybody took your advice about buying photovoltaic (PV) Solar the price would never go down.

    What you should be doing is encouraging as many people as you can to buy PV in order to make the boot strap work faster. This is especially attractive for PV because small scale local installations can be quite attractive, they don’t require any fancy new grid infrastructure, and PV panels keep working without very much attention from 25 to 50 years (no need to replace them when new ones get cheaper).

    For example, all of the K through 12 schools in my county are getting large PV arrays. This is perfect because they can make credits on the summer sun when nobody is present but many local business and households are running air conditioners, and then spend their credits with PG&E in the dead of winter. Steve

  6. 406
    dbostrom says:

    Jim, what struck me was your remark:

    Wind? Well, half the price in 8 years means that if we banked the money today and bought in 8 years, we could build more than twice as much megawattage…

    Meanwhile the SA article’s prognostications were based on price virtues realized down the road thanks to a continuously growing market, with attendant benefits of revenue available for manufacturing and research investments.

    How is the market going to produce reductions in price based on increasing production scale and money available for product improvement if there’s no market for 8 years?

    Perhaps I simply misunderstand the thrust of your argument.

  7. 407
    Jim Larsen says:

    397 Patrick said, “part of the reason prices will come down is the the ongoing and increasing rate of production and installation.”

    We’ll get economy of scale benefits regardless of the path we take. We couldn’t avoid them other than by taking perhaps two hundred years to convert. I think the opposite is the bigger risk. The whole supply chain has to be orchestrated or bottlenecks spike prices. Try to do it too quickly and Major Fails occur. Wind increased in cost over the last decade. Lots of A123’s batteries became trash. The Chinese solar industry is feeling a bit like Solyndra lately.

    The learning curve is a risk but also an opportunity. Had they only produced a few thousand Volts or Leafs and then concentrated on the next iteration, might the learning curve have been helped? The resulting pseudo-prototypes would need higher subsidies apiece, but the total subsidy would be lower, and the project wouldn’t have had to be done with such expert finish. A science experiment vehicle would have been just fine. Even the extreme of one color, no options, and most everything except the drivetrain scavenged from another car would have served the purpose. And lease them as taxis. Data needs high-mileage cars ASAP.

    And there isn’t a rational reason for not putting at least a 3HP generator in an electric car. Hmm, the Yamaha weighs 44 lbs. Add 18 lbs for 3 gallons of fuel and, well, you carry a spare tire, don’t you? Plus, 2000 watts of free heat, and any battery capacity included solely for “just in case” can be deleted. Finally, allowing a car to choose its fuel in real time allows you to minimize carbon. Sunny and windy? The car chooses electrons. Coal-powered day? It drinks diesel. Ethics was appropriate in the vegan discussion, but driving a pure electric car has no moral benefit.

    The reason I originally said a 20HP Diesel is that’s close to the long-term average a vehicle uses on a trip. This configuration’s shortcomings show up during long trips with few stops while at high speeds (one reason for the speeding-prevention feature) or pulling a trailer. Fortunately, you can just bump it to 50HP.

    Patrick, I haven’t read anything about relative losses due to the Pacific NW storms, nor any analysis of overall historical or projected loss rates, but surely they’re well under 20%. I dunno, 5-10%? However, included in such an analysis should also be the cost represented by the risk of damage and blackout, and not just physical. Even as it was, wind took a huge reputational hit. A 5% loss can be quite expensive, eh?

  8. 408
    Edward Greisch says:

    Jim Larsen: BATTERIES ARE NOT INCLUDED in renewable systems.
    See: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner –
    “GVEA s Fairbanks battery bank keeps lights on”

    Fairbanks, AK spent $35 million in 2003 for a battery backup that can keep the power on in Fairbanks for 7 or 15 minutes, depending on how bad the blackout is. That is enough time to start up their diesel backup. Diesel fuel is fossil fuel.

    To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world. How much does that cost? Hint: You run out of the things you need to make batteries very quickly. BraveNewClimate addressed that question for 2 kinds of batteries.

  9. 409
    Jim Larsen says:

    405 Steve Fish said, “The reason that prices go down on any product that is expanding rapidly is due to increased demand which results in growth of the industry which, in turn, results in improved prices from economy of scale and increased competition. What Dbostrom told you was that if everybody took your advice about buying photovoltaic (PV) Solar the price would never go down.”

    “If everybody took your advice…” is usually an empty argument. Can you give a single example where the threat had any possibility of manifesting? And even if everybody did take my advice, they would subsidize R&D way more than today and would purchase all of the solar panels and wind turbines needed to ensure the learning curve is optimized, and furthermore, would prioritize the learning curve above current production issues. Further purchases, and only further purchases, would be largely curtailed until they made carbon and financial sense. Now, I could see exploring how much production is enough to optimize the learning curve in such a plan, but to equate “All that is needed” with “zero”, well, yes, I suppose I didn’t convey myself clearly.

    Wind cost has risen over the past decade. “prices go down on any product that is expanding rapidly” is demonstrably non-universal, and the example is specific to the situation, and even during a period of significant technological advance.

  10. 410
    dbostrom says:


    And there isn’t a rational reason for not putting at least a 3HP generator in an electric car.

    Jim, have you noticed the auto industry trend, from real spare tyre/wheels to “mini” spares, then to aerosol cans of “fixa-flat?” That wasn’t about cost savings, it was about increasing fleet MPG. The same mass times velocity constraints apply to electric vehicles; manufacturers are not going to shave miles off range of pure electric vehicles in order to tote around a 60lb energy reserve mechanism that goes largely unused. Useless weight penalties work better as bling, in the real world as it’s shaped for consumers by automotive marketing engines.

    Anyway– as you point out– consumers can already buy the type of vehicle you’re speaking of. It’s called the Chevrolet “Volt.” GM engineers found a 40hp IC engine was necessary in order for the idea to work, that much more gasoline was also required. A big weight penalty, but it makes the car work for an important market segment, a different market than what pure electric vehicles serve.

    Example: if I lived in Issaquah, WA and commuted to Seattle, a Volt would be great. I don’t live in Issaquah; I live in Seattle. There’s no requirement for my daily hauling around several hundred pounds of IC engine components.

  11. 411
    Edward Greisch says:

    Jim Larsen: The deal was: You don’t mention wind and solar energy and I don’t mention the word that starts with “nu.”

    I would be very happy for your home town to disconnect itself from the grid and try to get along with wind and solar power only. Send us a power report a year later on your experiences, expenses, disasters, blackouts, how much you charge for electricity now, and so forth. The rules are: no connection to outside electricity power grids. No power from the fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, or petroleum in any form may be used to power your local electric grid. Tar sands are included in fossil fuels. Fossil fuel may be used for trucks and equipment. Burning wood and the like is off limits.
    You may use any kind of battery or flywheel for electricity storage. But you have to tell us the price.

  12. 412
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    Patrick 027 @399 > “PS re 392 Unsettled Scientist (tangentially) and myself earlier – artists and scientists, etc. – attention to detail could be a commonality.”

    Yes, attention to detail is definitely a common trait that brings success in all fields of work. Understanding Div, Grad, Curl and all that is another matter. A familiarity with the language of science is something many lack, regardless their success and ability to focus on important details in their own work.

    PS – sorry if this dupes, got recaptcha wrong

  13. 413
    SecularAnimist says:

    My recollection is that “debates” about various non-fossil fuel technologies for generating electricity were declared off-topic by the moderators around the time when one particular commenter began accusing anyone who advocated wind or solar technology — including myself, more than once — of being a PAID propagandist for the coal industry. It wasn’t necessarily the topic itself that was regarded as inappropriate — but rather the offensive, belligerent, derogatory behavior of that sort, which inevitably seemed to accompany it.

    Edward Greisch: your entire comment #411 is a strawman fallacy. Which has been pointed out to you, pretty much every time you recite it.

  14. 414
    SecularAnimist says:

    Wow, there is sure a lot of nonsense about wind and solar above.

    I’m not going to try to rebut it point by point since I don’t have all day, and it seems pointless to take the time to post links to accurate information that is then, judging by the ensuing comments, assiduously ignored.

    I’ll just say again, that I see a lot of ill-informed assumptions, breezy assertions that are factually incorrect, back-of-the-envelope guesswork “calculations” — and perhaps most importantly, what seems like a grim determination to avoid actually looking at what is actually happening in the real world with the real wind and solar industries today.

    For example:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “Wind cost has risen over the past decade.”

    That’s just plain wrong:

  15. 415
    Susan Anderson says:

    Simon Abington, I should not waste time responding to your nonsense, but:

    The only thing stupider than somebody endlessly spending time with solitaire or the like is the one on the sidelines kibitzing, like you. Suggest you do a bit of research yourself, and don’t ignore the majority view or the fascinating tentacles.

    Neven appears to have a short way with distractionalists, so you might learn something about how good amateur science conversations can get there.

  16. 416
    Radge Havers says:

    Erm, the whole (visual) art/science thing,  perhaps the simplest approach here is from the point of view of aims. Exclude for example architects and certified medical illustrators, and look at your basic college level studio arts program; then in simple terms you’re talking about either learning cool ways to present products for clients or learning what amounts to self-expression — often the more eccentric the better. This is pretty much what scientists are trained NOT to do.

    Look by and large, people don’t major in the visual arts because they love classification schemes and just can’t get enough of numbers and logic.

  17. 417
    Edward Greisch says:

    414 SecularAnimist: The cleantechnica article does not mention the cost of batteries or the limited range of battery only vehicles or the conversion of electricity to liquid fuel.

    413 SecularAnimist: What strawman? If you are so sure renewables are the answer, prove it. You are using the grid as a battery. Using the grid as a battery doesn’t work in a 100% renewable system unless you have a super-conductor that works in all climates. You need a worldwide grid. Are you going to cool your transmission line with liquid nitrogen as it crosses oceans?

  18. 418
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 417 E.G. – some possible answers to your questions (the last time ‘we all’ got into this, it was a list like this that I kept meaning to compile but just never go around to it). – I want to highlight specifically this – some of the links there I chose to place in the list I gave; there are many others. But note also the “skeptical science” links (near the end) and the “Solar Grand Plan” (first 2).

    Should be no need for me to say more here; they’ll speak for themselves.

  19. 419
    Patrick 027 says:

    Me again (LCA, potential new tech, hybrid systems), in part adding to/re Hank Roberts (hybrid systems;, see also some info from Secular Animist. But I’m not going to comb through all such comments so that’s it. PS I went on a little about potential of future technology in PV; this shouldn’t take too much attentiaon away from the completely present or near present commercial technology.

  20. 420
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 417 – well I will say this one more thing: weather anomalies tend not to be identical over sufficiently large areas. If you aggregate over larger spaces, I think there can be less variability. And there is some short-term weather predictability. And in some cases it tends to be windier when it is colder and darker; I don’t know offhand about the magnitude of this since you can have clouds without rain, but I’d guess there is some positive correlation between sunshine and dry weather. ‘nough said.

  21. 421
    Edward Greisch says:

    413 SecularAnimist: The game is this: Eliminate fossil fuels from the production of electricity. My plan cuts fossil fuels for the production of electricity by at least 97%. Your plan cuts fossil fuels for the production of electricity by 30%. I win. You loose.

    We must keep the CO2 level below 350 ppm. We are already over 392 ppm CO2 only and over 450 ppm equivalent if you add in other greenhouse gasses. Cutting CO2 production by 30% of 40% = 12% doesn’t gain us anything. 97% of 40% = 38.8%. 38.8% at least pushes the CO2 production curve downward.

    Your plan is a plan to continue burning fossil fuels to make electricity. Did I say it OK this time?

  22. 422
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comments by Edward Greisch — 19 Aug 2012 @ 2:08 AM and 19 Aug 2012 @ 2:49 PM:

    I think the straw man is setting up an illustrative problem that is completely impossible. Right now the strengths of solar and wind is that they can easily take on a big chunk of the peak power needs during the day and early evening so that many coal plants can idle like they do now at night, and eventually be shut down. As the potential problems of solar and wind, due to regional weather, begin to show, the load can be picked up by natural gas turbine plants that can be started and run at max very quickly, a strategy that is becoming more prevalent now where they are turned on to handle peak loads.

    This sort of development will provide incentive to start working on the smart grid, which is really needed for wind and will be needed no matter what overall strategy is adopted. Solar can be much more regional. Both solar and wind can be implemented right now one panel or turbine at a time, which also promotes an incremental approach, and each unit immediately reduces CO2 production, there is no other technology that can do that. Hopefully more strategies will become available as technology progresses. I am particularly interested in hot rock geothermal which has been successful in California. Steve

  23. 423
    Patrick 027 says:

    re my 420 (aside from complementary relationships among some different types of energy resources at the same location) – shorter version: when individuals use the grid as a battery, this doesn’t add up linearly over the whole grid. The battery power, and capacity, needed for the whole grid is less than would be needed by all the individuals on the grid because they are using and producing electricity at different times. (And CSP can come with storage.)

    re 422 Steve Fish – thanks, good points.

  24. 424
    Jim Larsen says:

    I’ll close up and sign off on the subject, more or less:

    Wind cost depends on who’s calculating what, and folks publish wildly differing claims, so I chose wind turbine cost as my metric. Since Steve Fish was specifically discussing the cost of a product during increasing production, I think the choice is ideal:

    “After hitting a low of roughly $750/kW from 2000 to 2002, average wind turbine prices doubled through 2008, rising to an average of roughly $1,500/kW. Wind turbine prices have since declined substantially, with price quotes for transactions executed in 2010 and to date in 2011 ranging from $900-$1,400/kW depending on the manufacturer and turbine model.”

    410 dbostrom said, “in order to tote around a 60lb energy reserve mechanism that goes largely unused”

    Now that’s just silly. Those 60 pounds would be used constantly. Any time the temperature dips below 40-70F, depending on customer, that pure EV is paying kilowatts for its purity – or its owner is thrust back into the 19th century, when one bundled up for travel. I read a review of the Leaf. The guy turned on the heater and the range display went from 50 something to 30 something. He was crestfallen and felt both guilt for desiring comfort, and fear as he had to refigure whether he’d end up stranded. Just the emotional trauma in that is unacceptable. A great way to invite backlash! And every time coal dominates the local grid (or is the marginal producer, I suppose), the pure EV is a filthy vehicle.

    You’re accepting significant flaws, inefficiencies, and risks (all three!) which could be mitigated with 60+ pounds that would probably be at least partially offset by a reduction in battery weight – is it for the 60 pounds, or the concept? Remember, running out of charge is a symptom of efficient use of the battery pack. A Leaf that normally goes 11 miles is carrying around as dead weight 90% of its batteries most of the time. 10% utilization of the car’s most expensive component? Add an ICE and the utilization of the battery goes up because the battery size can be appropriate for usual use as opposed to occasional use. And in the spare tire analogy, you must provide the power to resolve the problem. So the 60 pounds must also be offset by a second battery and its systems.

    Yeah, the Volt is a cool concept car. BTW, its engine is 80HP, not 40. Are you saying 40 was needed but they bumped it up to 80? Well, “needed” is nebulous, of course, but that gels well with my personal estimate of 20, which was arrived at with the mindset of getting as low as practical. Slow the battery drain, recover during stops, and if you do run out, it’s a minor inconvenience as you’re just limited to maybe 45-50MPH.

    And variable-speed premium gas engines are incredibly inefficient compared to constant-output diesels. That decision increased cost and complexity and dropped MPG by what? 40%?

    They also missed out by not including at least some capacitoresque capability. It’s a feature which will probably be a part of the “final” solution, so including it in even a rudimentary way is productive. And, they blew bucks by making it sweet. It’s not like the first attempt is going to be the configuration you want to mass produce. Hmm, back to lots more R&D, much less production. How about Volt1 thru Volt4, with 1000 of each slapped into an existing design? Pretty efficient experiment and probably far more productive to the learning curve than the path we’re taking. In some ways, large scale production slows R&D. Just ask A123.

    An engineer judged by how much he advances the team’s knowledge provides a different product than the one judged on whether 50,000 customers’ cars died.

    And the proof is in the pudding. The Volt is rated 37MPG/94MPGe, but the MPGe figures are off by a factor of about 3 (they don’t count inefficiency in electrical production and transmission), so on either gas or electricity, 37 MPG is generous, which isn’t good even when compared to the ancient and inherently cheaper Prius. We spent too much and didn’t get enough information for the money. Got a spiffy Concept Car, though, which we can churn out at high prices…

    Ultimately, I think customers will choose their components based on their needs. A 10 mile battery with a 50HP ICE might suit someone who drives short distances but occasionally visits family in another state. Kind of like ordering a Value Meal…

    This all goes to prove that the peanut gallery always has an opinion. Thanks for the indulgence, mods.

  25. 425
    Jim Larsen says:

    EdG, yeah, 413 is by Secular, but other than that? 413 just notes that civility and productive discourse are primary goals for the Mods, and that your comments about me were, well, as far as I can tell, based on LSD. And Secular’s the Decade Man. (It would be nice to have it all done and over, eh? And it’s the lowest risk solution.) More LSD?

  26. 426
    Jim Larsen says:

    423 Patrick said, ” when individuals use the grid as a battery”

    Your comment is spot on for consumption on a smart grid, but individuals only use the grid as a battery for excess wind and solar, and those are left on 24/7, even when not producing. That individuals are involved isn’t too relevant, and many of the benefits of having lots of local nodes disappear, since they act mostly in tandem. When a place is sunny/windy, you have to use, store, or ship the excess to a place that is cloudy/calm.

    Pseudoquotes cobbled from graphs:

    A 765 kV Single Circuit costs $2.6 – 4.0 Million per mile.
    A 765 kV line can reliably transmit 2200-2400 MW for distances up to 300 miles … and has a reach of 550 miles… with a loss at 1000 MW of 0.6% per 100 miles

    Has a neat bit on AC VS DC transmission, too.

    Wiki says the US consumes about 3,000,000 MW on average (all energy, not electricity), and there’s going to be days when a lot of that has to be stored, transferred, or curtailed. “They” say it can be done. I believe them, but it’s not an add-on item. And since it won’t be getting much cheaper, let’s do it more firstly than afterwardsly.

  27. 427
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Larsen –

    @ 425 – you provide a good justification for the PHEV – summing it up, for some combination of battery and engine, many people could shift a significant fraction of transportation energy consumption to power plant from gasoline/other fuel, while saving on batteries (and you can use waste heat in the winter, etc.)

    Makes great sense to me.

    There are some parts of the world where waste heat would hardly ever be used, though. And some people might take public transportation for one kind of trip… and maybe some families have two cars, etc, so they might have an EV for … etc. (or maybe that would defeat the purpose of two cars in some cases…).

    I don’t understand the ‘constant output diesel’ – wouldn’t it be a problem to have an engine with only constant output (or would that charge up the battery when not using full power? Okay then. PS I’m not really a ‘car guy’ so I’m not going to know some things here.)

    (Of course, if you could get a bacterial fuel cell that you fill with (sugar? …) and the bacteria pump out electricity…)

    Sorry for a disorganized comment with so many loose ends.

    One selling point about the pure EV is it’s supposed to be low maintanence. Such low maintenance that, according to at least one/some people (this may have been discussed in “Who Killed the Electric Car” – I never actually got around to seeing that), auto companies were reluctant to do EV’s because it strained their business models. If the engine only runs some fraction of the time, is the additional maintenance proportional to that?

    but the MPGe figures – I’ve heard funny stuff about that too. If you’re going to compare electricity to fuel, put one in fuel equivalent (according to standard power plant and transmission/distribution) or the other in electrical equivalent (car engine, generator – but here’s the thing about that – what if the EROEI’s of the car engine fuel and power plant fuel are different. Isn’t gasoline somewhere down around 5?).

    About And every time coal dominates the local grid (or is the marginal producer, I suppose), the pure EV is a filthy vehicle

    Since aggregate emissions are ultimately the target, if some of the economic savings from using the EV (or the P part of a PHEV) were diverted to paying (or simply made up for) costs for adding more solar, etc, then overall it may be cleaner.

    Presently the U.S. spends ~ $1 Trillion on energy per year (see EIA for exact values; I’m going by memory right now). If some mix of wind cost $10/ average W (wind figures you cite are ~ $1/W and wind capacity factors tend to be somewhere around 0.3 (from memory) so that’s ~ $3.33/W; solar power… etc.), and needed replacing every 40 years, that’s $0.25/W, or $0.25 trillion per year for 1 TWe, which I think is a bit under the electrical equivalent of U.S. power consumption. There are some siginificant nits to pick in that back-of-the-envelope estimate (add transmission, CAES or other storage; some energy needs will still be for fuel form) – I think the big issue is probably that costs initially must be paid up front so there’s interest. The other large issue, I think, is this (looks like it) works out so well because we’re replacing petroleum (and natural gas) as well as coal. But I haven’t gone through the numbers in detail.

  28. 428
    Patrick 027 says:

    PS $1 Trillion vs $0.25 trillion – the capitalized T on the first was because I was thinking of metric prefixes at that point. Not trying to play mind games by making one of the trillions seem larger. :)

  29. 429
    Patrick 027 says:

    started “part B”, got delayed… it’s coming. (PS it should start going faster after that because I already have all the math for part 3 and a lot for part 3 done first (and it’s going to be easier to read because after part B it’s going to much more verbal, except spots here and there).

  30. 430
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Larsen @ 426 – I’m curious what you meant by “but individuals only use the grid as a battery for excess wind and solar, and those are left on 24/7, even when not producing.“? (PS when I refered to ‘individual’s’ of course I meant any power consumers and producers on the grid.)

  31. 431
    Edward Greisch says:

    418 Patrick 027 “By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions”
    STICK TO THE REAL PROBLEM: We don’t have until 2050 to do that. See 421. We should have done it in the 1960s.

    If you don’t believe Bart Levenson, believe Aiguo Dai.

    By 2050 it will be too late to do anything at all. Except die. Come out to the farm belt more often. See dead corn and dead cows.

    422 Steve Fish: “I think the straw man is setting up an illustrative problem that is completely impossible.” That is correct for renewables, and that is the point.
    An “incremental approach” is exactly what we no longer have time for.
    As “technology progresses”: We already have all the technology we need. We can quit burning fossil fuels to make electricity by the end of 2015.

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] has certified 4 reactors for factory production.
    “Design Certification Applications for New Reactors”

    “By issuing a design certification, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves a nuclear power plant design, independent of an application to construct or operate a plant. A design certification is valid for 15 years from the date of issuance, but can be renewed for an additional 10 to 15 years.
    The links below provide information on the design certifications that the NRC has issued to date, as well as the applications that are currently under review.
    Issued Design Certifications
    The NRC staff has issued the following design certifications:
    Design Applicant
    Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) General Electric (GE)
    System 80+ Westinghouse Electric Company
    Advanced Passive 600 (AP600) Westinghouse Electric Company
    Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000) Westinghouse Electric Company”
    Which means: If you want a nuclear power plant in a short time, like under 3 years from signing to turn on, you can get it. The price should be ~ 1/4 of what you expect.

    Again: I do not own stock in any company. My only income is from my retirement from the federal government. I have nothing financial to gain. I am not working for anybody. But I have children.

  32. 432
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Edward Greisch — 20 Aug 2012 @ 12:46 AM:

    Just another too slow incremental approach.


  33. 433
    Jim Larsen says:

    I was reading about Germany’s tremendous 20% year-on-year renewable increase, and wondering about the implications for the USA in an all-renewable world. We’re going to have seasonal and annual shortfalls or surpluses of a similar magnitude, meaning we’re going to be dumping energy (or curtailing production) in some seasons/years, while getting by on restricted supplies in others.

    Assuming getting by on less is unacceptable except in minor doses, the US will end up with an excess 600,000 MW in some not-uncommon years. What to do with it? Well, is there a really inefficient but otherwise really cheap way to scrub carbon from the atmosphere?

  34. 434
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “Your plan is a plan to continue burning fossil fuels to make electricity.”

    And why exactly would that be? Are you saying that nuclear power is incapable of generating electricity at night when there is no wind? That only fossil fuels can do that?

    With all due respect, it is belligerent nonsense like that — accusing anyone who advocates maximizing solar and wind generation of “planning” to continue burning fossil fuels — that got this whole subject banned. I guess you want to keep it that way.

  35. 435

    Those readers here who have been kind enough to take an interest in my articles over the last few years might want to dip into yet another one, a personal (but not science-free) comment on the sea-ice crash:

  36. 436
    Jim Larsen says:

    Patrick, ICEs have become incredibly complex in their physics. Burn timing (I’ve read of fuel injectors that squirt three times), gas transfer… well, you can make some things adapt to different speeds/power, like variable valves, but you’re adding complexity and imperfection, and you can’t morph everything. You’ll still end up with a sweet spot. By not fighting physics, the engine becomes cleaner, more reliable, cheaper, and more efficient. An alternative would be to tune the engine for constant output but allow higher output for occasional use.

    But, as you noted, cars don’t use constant power. Here’s how it works: The ICE’s constant power floats across the battery to the motor, as needed, and into the battery as not. Any shortfall is made up by the battery. Adding capacitance keeps you from spiking the battery but allows you to spike the motor for braking and acceleration. The ICE can’t be sized larger than the battery’s maximum charge rate, but otherwise, it’s mix and match.

    You mentioned reliability. Much of the stuff that tends to break on a car, such as the starter, is eliminated, and you’re treating the engine like a baby – no pedal, let alone pedal-stomping, warm-up is done optimally (electrons are available), etc. Plus, diesels are simple and reliable to begin with. Add it all together and repairs should be ~zero for a 25 year car-life. Maybe an oxygen sensor or something. A small part on a small engine. A battery, on the other hand, would start worrying me when the warranty expired. The occasional-use Prius NiMH has held up superbly over a decade, but a constant-use Lithium? Dunno.

    Yeah, your suspicions were correct. When I read “individuals”, I mistakenly thought “residential”. Commercial renewable producers do make decisions, mostly related to technical limits and energy storage, and can be forced to curtail.

  37. 437
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Larsen 436 – thanks for the car information.

    On the last part – I think I’m still missing something, because it sounds like you’re saying that wind and solar are left ‘on’ when they needn’t be or shouldn’t be.

    Of course, setting CSP aside, solar PV and wind (and wave, run-of-river type hydro, etc.) should always be left on when possible, or else we’re just wasting opportunity to get whatever energy they may be producing. It would be the CSP, hydro, (bio/other)fuel, and CAES, etc, that should be turned off (to build up or keep stored energy) sometimes.

    As far as usage goes – I agree with the idea of using energy surpluses for C sequestration – either grinding up dunite/etc, taking CO2 out of the air for in situ carbonate production or producing biochar, etc, or something like this.

    Al production may also be an area to help match demand and supply. I think H2O production could be added to that – I would imagine better than average solar resource would tend to correspond to lower than average hydroelectric resource as well as greater need to desalinate and pump and transport H2O (I’m picturing aquaducts being built, running from the Gulf Coast (cat-5 proof facilities) perhaps into Canada along the higher elevation of the Great Plains – some put into drying rivers thus going to whoever and whatever is served by them, and maybe some branches along the divides between the rivers. Then maybe a northern branch goes around the Great Lakes area and connects to another supply coming from the St. Lawrence Seaway… and two branches down along either side of the Appalachians, one back to the Gulf and the other recieving supplies from the East Coast ??? maybe – watch out for those earthquakes, though (PS not to forget building holding ponds, cisterns, and taking advantage of wetlands to even out floud-drought variations). Better than an oil pipeline right now, IMO – although I did read once that maybe existing natural gas pipelines could carry solar-produced fuel out of the Southwest). … there ought to be a study done on to what extent solar resources increase in a drought. (Also, on the risks of soil salination (which I don’t know much about) – maybe the aquaduct should run along a ‘dry line’ – a boundary between where it is (will be) too dry for irrigation to be sustainable and where it is not (with lower elevation on the wet side).

    Another area for demand-supply matching is heating and cooling. Some buildings do this now (or did it recently) by making ice at night to keep cool in the day. With solar power it might sometimes be the other way around. It would be neat if certain household appliances could recieve signals from satellites, etc, telling them when clouds are going to cross over local PV installations, so they can turn on a little early ahead of regular cycle time…

  38. 438
    Jim Larsen says:

    Patrick, sorry to mislead, your initial impression is correct. Solar and wind are left on because there’s no harm in doing so.

    Load levelling will become so much more powerful with batteries in every garage. Tonight’s windy? Cars hit home drained. Calm? They arrive fully charged and then feed the grid. The next morning, drivers start off with the minimum charge, if any. Unfortunately, pure EVs can’t handle the “calm night” half of the equation. No solar, no wind, and you want to charge a city’s worth of cars? The grid works best with hybrid cars.

  39. 439
    Patrick 027 says:

    not to argue against PHEV’s – plug in could presumably also occur during the day at the office/etc. When forecasts are for calm or windy conditions plans might be made about when to charge or discharge. I have wondered how that would work out if you needed your car when you didn’t plan on it, though. But I haven’t actually read through everything in my own links yet.

  40. 440
    David B. Benson says:

    Edward Greisch @431 — Even a cfombined cycle gas turbine requires 4 years from start to finish. For large nuclear power plants one had better plan on about 56+ months.

  41. 441
    Edward Greisch says:

    440 David B. Benson: is now Gen4 Energy. They claim to be able to install a npp in a total of 2 weeks. They plan a production run of 4000 units.

    From: Jim Jones at

    Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 2:27 PM
    Subject: Re: $.05 to .06 per KWh

    Assume HPM costs $30M and plant side doubles it:

    $60M divided by 25,000kw = $2,400/kw
    $2,400/kw divided by 5 years = $480/KWyr
    $480/KWyr divided by 8760 hours = $.0547945/KWhr (Call it 5 and half cents per KWhr)


    $60M divided by 20,000 homes = $3,000/home
    $3,000/home divided by 5 years = $600/home/year
    $600/home/year divided by 12 months = $50/home/month (How’s that for an electric bill?)


  42. 442
    Edward Greisch says:

    436 Jim Larsen: Cars are designed to meet a specific reliability standard. The Society of Automotive Engineers [SAE] sets the standards. Cars are in SAE Class 1. Cars don’t get better every year. I wrote a book about it once.

    Look what happened to Dodge pickup. They had a Diesel that would go 400,000 [four hundred thousand] miles. So Mercedes bought Chrysler and gave the customers a choice of the same engine with bigger injectors. Of course the customers were so stupid that they fell for it. Now that engine will only go 100,000 miles. Don’t get uppity in the auto business.

    Some big truck [SAE class 8] engines have a one half million mile warranty. I know of one that went 1.7 Million miles, and counting, without an overhaul.

  43. 443
    Edward Greisch says:

    434 SecularAnimist: SecularAnimist’s plan is a plan to continue burning fossil fuels to make electricity. How you could possibly think that “nuclear power is incapable of generating electricity at night when there is no wind” is beyond me. Obviously, it is wind and solar that don’t work on calm nights.

    I suspect that you are trying to get me upset. You failed. I found your comment humorous.

    WHO is being belligerent? I would say the person who is departing from reality. Indeed, anyone who advocates maximizing solar and wind generation is actually planning to continue burning fossil fuels. Renewables ALWAYS need “backup” power from fossil fuels or some kind of energy storage. The “backup” fossil fuel power winds up taking at least 60% of the load. If the “backup” fossil fuel power happens to be coal, you may as well use coal 100% of the time because it takes so long to turn on a coal fire. The coal fired turbine has to be kept spinning. That is called spinning reserve.
    Energy storage is possible in the small, but as Fairbanks found out, 7 minutes of battery costs $34 Million. You need a whole week of battery power. That would cost Fairbanks $48,960 Million, about $49 Billion. If you try to do it for the whole USA, you run out of materials or geography or whatever very quickly.

    Should energy be banned on RealClimate? Sure. Then I wouldn’t have to explain how absurd it is to expect Fairbanks to spend $49 Billion on a battery. And I wouldn’t have to explain how absurd it is to interchange wind with nuclear. Everybody should know that it is wind that is sometimes calm, and that clear sky is blue, etc..

  44. 444
    David B. Benson says:

    Edward Greisch @441 — Realistically one will need 2+ years for ppp (planning, permitting and site preparation) before the so-called nuclear battery is trucked in and hooked up.

  45. 445
    flxible says:

    Edward @ 441 – In the 3.5 years since you received this costing information, how many of those 4000 planned units have been built and sold? How long before those 4000 units are in action and how many coal fired plants will be replaced thereby? I note that Gen4 now sees one of it’s primary markets as oil production sites, such as the tar sands and remote arctic fields, won’t that make petro extraction more attractive and lucrative? Will that allow oil and gas to displace coal? Additionally, they appear to be focusing on other “off grid” applications, particularly military, how does that help “baseload grid power”?

    Wind and solar are being deployed currently and continuously – considering the Hyperion/Gen4 deployment in the past half decade, it’s insisting on nukes as salvation that’s continuing to burn fossil fuels.
    CAPTCHA: icthein Hydroxy-

  46. 446
    Hank Roberts says:

    … the apologists and deniers are trying to blind us to the massive problem

    Remember the problem has many faces. That’s from a story about corporate fraud: “… A plutocracy that almost destroyed our economy cannot admit its sins, cannot own up to its own grievous failures.”

    So, sometimes talking about energy, or money, or climate, are entangled.

  47. 447
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jim: This all goes to prove that the peanut gallery always has an opinion. Thanks for the indulgence, mods.

    Yeah, the two of us, versus GM & Toyota engineers. Easy to spot the difference: GM and Toyota manufacture and sell cars, we don’t. :-)

  48. 448
    Jim Larsen says:

    In an interesting juxtaposition to the Keystone pipeline, “they” are trying to build a DC link from Quebec to bring renewable (hydro) power to NYC. No public money, the line is buried under rivers and lakes, and over $100 million is going to spruce up the areas sorta affected, with control partially in environmental groups’ hands. NYC wouldn’t be obligated to buy any electricity, they’d just have the choice to do so if the price was right.

    Sounds great! Like Keystone, more energy from a trusted ally. More US jobs for construction. All of the benefits and none of the risks and harm.

    But it’s not oil, so instead of displacing the bad guys’ oil, it’s displacing the good guys’ electrons.

    439 Patrick, car owners will be faced with constant choices. When to rent capacity to the grid, when to buy charge, and when to sell charge. Only going 11 miles in your Leaf tomorrow, and only went 11 today? The price is predicted to be sweet, so play The Mile is Right and sell 60 or 70 miles. Guessing wrong isn’t critical with a hybrid (and would probably be handled without much user input) but the pure EV doesn’t have any flexibility. If you said you weren’t going to use your car tomorrow, you won’t use it beyond what happens to be onboard plus what a quick charge can provide once you change your mind, and changing your mind will probably carry a fee.

    And the seasonal swings in electrical price are going to be monumental. An unlikely threat to a small fraction of our oil supply can send prices up significantly. What if we knew our entire energy supply was going to be off by 20% next month? And just physically consuming a “good harvest” will be daunting. A windy and sunny May. Little AC or heat used, lots of solar and wind. What’s the wholesale price for electricity? A frigid, overcast, calm January. Lots of houses to keep warm and cars’ MPGe plummets as heaters and defrosters chew electrons. Now what’s the wholesale price?

    442 Edward said, “Cars don’t get better every year. I wrote a book about it once.”

    “Once” you were right. Cars were made by people, and each new model was a start-over in the QA regime. Many people avoided new models for good reason. Then the Japanese came in and started targeting their new models to start at the quality level their last model had achieved. And then robots took over. Nowadays, your claim is ludicrous.

    ” In the United Kingdom, for example, the average cost of maintaining a car declined by 13 percent between 1997 and 2009 [source: Savage].”

  49. 449
    Jim Larsen says:

    “Should energy be banned on RealClimate? Sure. Then I wouldn’t have to explain how absurd it is to expect Fairbanks to spend $49 Billion on a battery.”

    Interesting. You see some folks chatting and having a good time. You know of a special case where you think their plan will not be economically reasonable. So you are “required” to point out the special case repeatedly. Friction builds and it is obvious even to yourself that your posts, and your posts alone are threatening to cause a shutdown for everyone. Your conclusion doesn’t switch to disengage and leave them be, but to insist that you have no choice but to again pound that special case.

    So, since you never learned the lesson that it is at least as important to be socially right as to be technically right:

    Fairbanks pipes in biodiesel. There. Solved the Fairbanks Problem.

    And it’s kinda like “ice free”. If there’s just remnants in sheltered bays, it’s close enough. Similarly, if we cut 95% of fossils, wouldn’t you call the plan a functional success?

  50. 450
    Edward Greisch says:

    444 David B. Benson & 445 flxible: Site preparation is 1 of the 2 weeks. Planning & permitting are social problems, not engineering problems. NRC Design Certification is a social problem, not an engineering problem.

    The fact remains that nuclear power can be installed as fast as the nation wants it to happen. Wind and solar have not yet shut down a single fossil fueled power plant, but there are 104 fossil fueled power plants that were never built because of the 104 nuclear power plants in operation in this country. The 104 nuclear power plants are not burning fossil fuels.

    It’s insisting on wind and solar as salvation that’s continuing to burn fossil fuels. We can shut down the remaining fossil fueled power plants any time there is enough will to replace them with nuclear.