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Unforced Variations: Feb 2015

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2015

This month’s open thread.

534 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Feb 2015”

  1. 501
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    BPL#478,

    ” BPL: A wind farm can be deployed in 9 months. And the more is deployed, the more the mix is non-fossil-fuel. The worst thing we could do would be to hold back on renewables now.”

    You conveniently avoided the transient problem, and ended your comment with the usual cheerleader speech for solar-fueled FOSSIL-ENABLED and wind-fueled FOSSIL-ENABLED energy SYSTEMS. You have not been able to contradict any of the points I quoted in #467.

    Here’s what’s happening on the ground. The article below shows how the exports of hydrocarbons from the USA are booming, and discusses the possibility of lifting restrictions on the exports of crude. Given recent trends, isn’t that rather likely? Additionally, the article identifies the construction of export terminal and other facilities from investments of billions of dollars. You think people are investing these amounts of money in a failing industry? Coupled with the article I linked a few days ago about the approval of myriad pipelines while everyone is mesmerized by the battle over Keystone XL, it is rather clear that long-lasting fossil transport infrastructure is being increased at a substantial rate. Add to that the President’s permitting of drilling off-shore and other previously disallowed areas, and the increasing public support for candidates who want to remove all barriers to fossil production and export, and an unsavory picture emerges. These are some Early Warning Indicators I have been requesting from the commenters; unfortunately, they are indicators of greatly ENHANCED fossil usage, not the decreased usage required to rescue the biosphere.

    Based on today’s perspective, the idea that fossil alternatives can replace fossil in time to prevent the most serious damage to the biosphere is as much science fiction as MalAdapted’s comments on my CDC postings.

    http://www.economist.com/news/business/21642179-exports-hydrocarbons-america-are-already-booming-lifting-ban-crude-oil-exports

  2. 502
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Ray#475,

    ” if you can’t even go to Snopes for a confirmation”

    On this issue, that’s equivalent to going to WUWT for your climate change information.

  3. 503
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JJ, To claim there was a “cover up” when the article that generated the controversy was retracted and based on a subset of a subset of a meta-study where data was sliced and diced to make mounds and mounds of Julien statistics ripe for cherrypicking is so far into tinfoil hat territory that it begs credulity that even you wouldn’t see the idiocy of it.

  4. 504
    alan2102 says:

    SA said:
    “the moderators of this site have repeatedly said that discussion of mitigation in general, and non-fossil-fuel energy technologies in particular, is off-topic for this site, and have repeatedly asked that commenters refrain from such discussions here.”

    When is everyone going to start cooperating?

    I started cooperating — which reduced me to total silence.

  5. 505
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Ray#503,

    For you to continue to attack when you know I’m not allowed to respond is beneath contempt!

  6. 506
    Killian says:

    Should have been: * There is no legitimacy to any claim renewables are **NOT** currently completely dependent on FFs. If this site had a “block” function, I’d use it on anyone who said otherwise because they have demonstrated a seriously diminished analytical ability. After all, this is not an issue that is in question.

  7. 507
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jasper (#501),

    You are mixed up. The “transient problem” is a doomer-peak oil dead end. If you are worried about new oil exploration, you can’t go all peak-oil-civilization-will-crash-before-the-transition-can-happen crazy on us.

  8. 508
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Chris#507,

    Let me spell it out for you. In the transient period between now and when ‘renewables’ have been (hypothetically) fully implemented, there are two relevant expenditures of fossil fuel. There is the fossil fuel REQUIRED for mining operations, fabrication plants, installation, backup, ongoing maintenance and decommissioning. Then, there is the fossil fuel used in legacy plants and new fossil plants. It is the integral of these two fossil fuel expenditures over time that destroys the biosphere. If it takes e.g. forty years for the full transition, we’re done, because of the enormous fossil expenditure over that period. And, I suspect forty years is extremely optimistic for a full transition. I suspect the transition would have to be done so rapidly it would not be feasible.

    But, this is all purely science fiction. There’s nothing resembling a full transition to renewables projected for forty years, or sixty years, or eighty years. All the credible projections I have seen from government and industry show annual growth in fossil consumption and emissions.

  9. 509
    Chris Dudley says:

    Killian (#506),

    There is no legitimacy to any claim agriculture is **NOT** currently completely dependent on FFs. Yet you claim if could be different. So, you seem to be in the midst of hypocrisy about now.

  10. 510
    SecularAnimist says:

    alan2012 wrote: “When is everyone going to start cooperating?”

    There will always be obnoxious egomaniacal boors who like to use this site as a soapbox for their off-topic rants, exploiting the moderators’ hospitality and taking advantage of the likelihood that they have little time for and even less interest in babysitting these comment pages.

  11. 511
    MartinJB says:

    Killian, which of these two scenarios do you think is a more likely to occur?

    1 – We mostly wean ourselves off fossil fuels and replace them with energy generated from an array of largely carbon-neutral power sources while keeping some semblance of the current structure of societies and economies (presumably with much higher resource efficiencies and for many in the developed world a decrease in their standards of living — as conventionally measured).

    2 – We go through the “simplification” process you appear to be espousing, which involves dramatically changing the expectations of billions of people (i.e. the developed world will have lives dramatically different that what they have and those in the developing world hoping to achieve something more like the developed world already has).

    Without any consideration of which is a BETTER scenario, which do you think is more likely to be realized?

  12. 512
    Mal Adapted says:

    Jasper Jaynes:

    This is the third attack on my CDC posting; two by you, and one by Ladbury. Somehow, the attacks on this subject are on-topic, but my attempted responses are off-topic, and not posted.

    It speaks to your credibility as a judge of reliable science. Andrew Wakefield’s involvement in the alleged cover-up should have been all you needed to know. Wakefield is a hero to anti-vaccine cranks, for publishing a fraudulent research paper in the British medical journal Lancet in 1998, claiming a link between MMR vaccine and autism. Lancet retracted Wakefield’s paper after he was exposed by investigative journalist Brian Deer, and he was subsequently barred from practicing medicine in the UK.

    While all that may be OT, that you gave it any credence suggests you are easy to fool, and undermines your assessment of Shakhova and Wadhams as “the key experts” on the artic methane issue.

  13. 513
    Thomas says:

    Current mainstream renewables have energy paybacks of roughly a year, and last twenty or thirty years. So even if 100% of their energy input is from fossil fuels, they avoid future emissions of twenty or more times the emissions that went into making them. At that rate, if one needs complete purity, some of the output -energy and money could be used to sequester some CO2. The main reason most input is currently fossil is that material inputs comes largely from the general industrial economy. While it would be possible to obtain those inputs (steel, cement, glass, copper, solar silicon etc.) from renewable inputs only, it simply doesn’t make economic sense today (we could obtain a faster overall decarbonization rate by sourcing stuff from the general economy, than restricting inputs to already decarbonized factories/mines etc).

    Note, that most heavy mining machinery is already hybrid diesel/electric (like train locomotives), and could without a great deal of trouble be fully electrified. General power supply for remote offgrid mines are already being switched from diesel generators to solar. Chile has become a hot market for solar.

  14. 514
    Hank Roberts says:

    Something for the young doomers:

    “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

    Brunner, in The Sheep Look Up, ends the book as a computer model that, rather belatedly and unnecessarily, advises the only way to save the rest of the planet is to “exterminate the two hundred million most extravagant and wasteful of our species”.

    That was written in 1969, and set in 2010.

    Spooky, eh?

  15. 515
    MartinJB says:

    JJ One thing you might be missing (honestly not sure if you’ve considered it) in your qualitative evaluation of this transition period is that the manufacture of those renewables and other carbon-neutral sources (and I’m including the full lifecycle here) is not really additive to projected fossil fuel use. That’s because BAU fossil fuel use already includes the replacement of existing fossil fuel infrastructure (i.e. power plants, extractive infrastructure, etc.), which is a continuous part of a steady-state economy. And as more carbon-neutral generation is constructed (increasingly IN PLACE of fossil fuels), the construction of further generation requires less and less carbon as more of the energy used to make it comes from earlier carbon-neutral generation.

    It’s not like there’s ANYONE who doesn’t know that renewables etc. (and our entire economy, really) are heavily reliant on fossil fuels at the moment. It’s just not that material to the problem. You can argue that the replacement still can’t be fast enough (have you considered trying to put numbers behind your assertion?), but I think the concept moves in the right direction.

    For what it’s worth, I think it will be REALLY difficult to keep temp increases below 2c, and I think some serious unpleasantness will ensue. But we humans never fail to surprise, and I think going down this route is our best chance. I think that more radical methods are doomed to failure because of non-adoption. (They kinda remind me of abstinence as a means of birth control. Sure, being abstinent pretty much guarantees no pregnancy, but in practice the concept doesn’t work because people aren’t abstinent.)

  16. 516
    Tony Weddle says:

    Chris,

    My point wasn’t about embedded energy (though I suspect “pay back” times are optimistic) but about renewables infrastructure probably not being able to be built, operated and maintained (and maybe decommissioned) only with renewable energy. This goes along with the question of whether the complexity of our society can be maintained with renewables.

    My guess is that we’ll never find out but it would be interesting to try.

  17. 517
    Tony Weddle says:

    Martin,

    I don’t think either of those options are remotely likely, in a managed way. The second option (in a chaotic way) is by far the most likely, eventually, IMO.

    “Carbon neutral power sources”? I wonder what they are going to be.

  18. 518
    Chris Dudley says:

    Tony (#516),

    Well, perhaps you should consider the decommissioning. For something made of refined silicon, recycling avoids the need to invest much new energy into making a replacement part. So, suppose the energy required is 10% of the initial investment. Then the energy returned tends to 10 times the original figure prior to recycling asymptotically. So, for a current ratio of about 30 energy returned compared to energy invested, similar to present day fossil fuels, the figure heads towards 300 in the limit. If ease of getting energy is responsible for the social complexity you are concerned about, then we can anticipate greater elaboration and you worries are unfounded.

    Of course, maintenance and operation of refined silicon is trivial. It just sits there with no moving parts.

  19. 519
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jasper (#508),

    Well, perhaps you don’t read credible sources. Here is an 80% transition in 35 years: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/smart-energy-solutions/increase-renewables/renewable-energy-80-percent-us-electricity.html#.VPlXbrbLJv8 The momentum of deployment makes that 100% shortly thereafter.

  20. 520
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JJ, The issue is not vaccination, but rather your credulity as a consumer of news related to science. The fact that you immediately assume a rumor of a conspiracy theory is valid without even looking into the facts surrounding it makes one wonder what you’ve overlooked wrt the climate “research” you post.

    And if you did look into it but the glaringly obvious shortcomings of the study (to start with, it had been retracted) didn’t jump out at you, that is even more damning.

    Any time you see “meta-analysis” beware. This may mean that the author doesn’t fully understand limitations of the data set.

    Any time you see a dataset sliced and diced (especially in a meta-analysis where the original data sets did not specifically strive for statistical significance along the lines of the cuts being made), beware.

    And any time you see an intriguing correlation presented with no plausible mechanism for why it should naturally apply to that dataset, beware.

    Statistics is an expert friendly discipline. That is as true in climate science as it is in epidemiology.

  21. 521
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Mal#512,

    [edit – seriously, this nonsense is just stupid and well off-topic. Get back to climate and stop making yourself look like a crank.]

  22. 522
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    MartinJB,

    Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    ” It’s not like there’s ANYONE who doesn’t know that renewables etc. (and our entire economy, really) are heavily reliant on fossil fuels at the moment. ”

    Unfortunately, that’s not the picture that’s presented by the renewable advocates on this site, or on many of the renewable advocacy sites.

    “have you considered trying to put numbers behind your assertion?”

    I’ve done some computations, but they are very limited. At some point in the transition period, the global mean temperature increases enter the regime where the carbon feedbacks MIGHT become important. I don’t have the models that can address that issue appropriately, and without such credible numbers, implementation rates that are physically feasible become meaningless relative to the larger objectives.

  23. 523

    K 498: As for cars… good god… if you think they are sustainable, you’re quite simply deluding yourself.

    BPL: Show your work. Try to avoid your usual insults and denigration.

  24. 524

    JJ 501: You conveniently avoided the transient problem, and ended your comment with the usual cheerleader speech for solar-fueled FOSSIL-ENABLED and wind-fueled FOSSIL-ENABLED energy SYSTEMS.

    BPL: No I did not. Try reading what I wrote, instead of what you would like me to have written.

  25. 525

    K 506: Should have been: * There is no legitimacy to any claim renewables are **NOT** currently completely dependent on FFs. If this site had a “block” function, I’d use it on anyone who said otherwise because they have demonstrated a seriously diminished analytical ability. After all, this is not an issue that is in question.

    BPL: Yes, it is in question. No matter how many times you simply assert that this is true, you haven’t demonstrated it. First of all, present global energy sources are already 1/8 renewable–hydro, biomass, solar/wind/geothermal. The more that fraction increases, the less renewables are “completely dependent on FFs.”

  26. 526

    JJ 508: There is the fossil fuel REQUIRED for mining operations, fabrication plants, installation, backup, ongoing maintenance and decommissioning. Then, there is the fossil fuel used in legacy plants and new fossil plants.

    BPL: Except it’s not REQUIRED for those things, because you can use biomass fuels instead of fossil fuels. And I, for one, am against building any new FF plants.

  27. 527
    alan2102 says:

    SA: “There will always be obnoxious egomaniacal boors who like to use this site as a soapbox for their off-topic rants, exploiting the moderators’ hospitality”

    1. Obnoxious Egomaniacal Boors (OEBs) are not the only ones posting on the forbidden subjects. Far from it. Just to take one example: Chris Dudley is not an OEB at all. (I really enjoy his posts. This forum would lose a lot if he dropped out, IMO.)

    1b. You make the discussion of mitigation and renewables (etc.) sound like a minor little thing happening on the side, perpetrated by a few unwelcome intruders — the OEBs. But it appears to be one of the major areas of interest of this forum, with numerous participants. On some of these RC pages, every other post, or even higher density than that, addresses mitigation/etc.

    2. Personally, I enjoy the ongoing and lively discussion of mitigation/etc. here, amongst other topics. I even enjoy the OEB posts, sometimes. I used to enjoy Diogenes’ posts, even though I disagreed. (I’m weird. I enjoy reading things that I disagree with.) Diogenes seems to have been reincarnated here under other handles.

    3. For now, I will continue to follow the rules and keep my mouth shut. It feels strange — following the rules when no one else seems to have the slightest hesitation in breaking them. But then, I am the beneficiary of that lack of hesitation. I love to read the discussion.

    4. THANKS, all, for the interesting and informative posts and stimulating discussion!

  28. 528
  29. 529
    Steve Fish says:

    For Jasper Jaynes: You consistently tear down ideas of others as being unrealistic, but you have never offered any alternative. Why would anyone be so impolite?

    Steve

  30. 530
    wili says:

    Chris wrote: ” a train load of solar panels transports more energy that 200 train loads of coal” I thought you were going to add, “and is not likely to suddenly burst into explosive flames!” Which would have been a nice added point.

    @511 Martin asked Killian about likely options. Neither of those seem likely to me, though I would and do work toward elements of both. The most probable path, the path we seem to be pretty much on, is the ‘all of the above’ plan: continue to produce ever more alternative energy, but at the same time produce ever more fossil-death-fuel energy.

    This, after all, is the horrific 8.5 RCP path that we have been following and seem to be steaming toward.

    See the bar chart of RCP options at figure 14 (about halfway down the page) here: https://www.skepticalscience.com/rcp.php?t=3

  31. 531
    wili says:

    hank @#497 raises an excellent (as usual) question about the cool are in the North Atlantic.

    My first thought is that this is the are where the ice that is transported out of the Fram goes to ‘die.’ Melting ice sucks up lots of heat.

    But it could have to do with shifts in ocean currents. I would be interested to hear what those who actually know what t.h. they’re talking about might have to say about this cool spot, though.

  32. 532
    Hank Roberts says:

    This is William Calvin’s extended discussion of his ideas (news to me, just found it; he’s been posting there for several months, primarily of interest to climate researchers and modelers and biologists, I would think.

    William Calvin’s climate blog:
    http://calvinclimate.blogspot.com/

    Critical essays on the more urgent aspects of climate change
    by William H. Calvin,
    author of Global Fever (University of Chicago Press).
    … here are some “second opinions” about the climate diagnosis, the prognosis if untreated, and what treatments might actually fix the climate problem—rather than merely delaying civilization’s collapse by a few decades.

  33. 533
    Hank Roberts says:

    An example of the transition, as MartinJB points out above to JJ:

    http://archive.onearth.org/print/1911

    AMP, an energy cooperative owned by its members — in this case, cities and towns across Ohio and neighboring states — wanted to finance the construction of the plant by locking member municipalities into long-term “take or pay” contracts. These contracts would require members not only to foot the bill for construction but also to commit to paying for the electricity the plant generated — no matter the cost. AMP assured its members that the plant would be relatively cheap to build and operate and provide an affordable source of electricity. But in reality, projected construction costs were rapidly rising and the expected operating costs were increasing significantly as well, thanks to the prospect of federal climate change legislation and new coal ash disposal rules, and a hike in the cost of coal.

    At the city council meetings, NRDC staffers made the case that the economics of building a new coal plant didn’t make as much sense in the long term as other available alternatives, such as wind and solar. Initially it looked like a losing battle, as city after city signed up with AMP despite NRDC’s advocacy efforts. “We knew we were up for a challenge in the heart of coal country,” Fisk says.

    But in the fall of 2009, as AMP was preparing to break ground, its contractors estimated that construction of the new plant would be more than 167 percent higher than the initial projection in 2005, rising from $1.5 billion to nearly $4 billion. At a committee meeting in November 2009, AMP’s Ohio members decided to cancel the plant.

    A lot of those ‘long-term “take or pay” contracts’ — like for 30 year periods — have been ending (or being renewed) in the past few years. You can be sure the industries that rely on money from mining and transporting coal have representatives tracking every single contract. That’s a case of commitment in the pipeline for decades — or not.

    http://webapps.icma.org/conference_Handouts/handouts2013/ICMA_Oberlin_Boston%2020131.pdf

  34. 534
    Chris Dudley says:

    Tony (#516),

    Perhaps you should consider the decommissioning. For something made of refined silicon, recycling avoids the need to invest much new energy into making a replacement part. So, suppose the energy required is 10% of the initial investment. Then the energy returned tends to 10 times the original figure prior to recycling asymptotically. So, for a current ratio of about 30 energy returned compared to energy invested, similar to present day fossil fuels, the figure heads towards 300 in the limit. If ease of getting energy is responsible for the social complexity you are concerned about, then we can anticipate greater elaboration and you worries are unfounded.

    Of course, maintenance and operation of refined silicon is trivial. It just sits there with no moving parts.

  35. 535
    Killian says:

    #511 MartinJB said Killian, which of these two scenarios do you think is a more likely to occur?… Without any consideration of which is a BETTER scenario, which do you think is more likely to be realized?

    This is something y’all gots to learn: “What if” only matters if it solves the problems. If it doesn’t, the scenario cannot possibly matter less WRT outcome.

    There’s what you want. what you wish, what you hope, then there’s what is *possible.* Deal with that by working to make the improbable possible our end point.

    #508 Jasper Jaynes said, …I suspect forty years is extremely optimistic for a full transition. I suspect the transition would have to be done so rapidly it would not be feasible.

    People really shoud read the Hirsch Report for a sense of how long infrastructure change takes.

    #509 Chris Dudley said, I am completely misrepresenting what Killian said. Again. I leave it to you to determine why.

    #513 Thomas said While it would be possible to obtain those inputs (steel, cement, glass, copper, solar silicon etc.) from renewable inputs only…

    Links?

    it simply doesn’t make economic sense

    Suigenocide does?

    515 MartinJB said, which is a continuous part of a steady-state economy. And as more carbon-neutral generation is constructed (increasingly IN PLACE of fossil fuels), the construction of further generation requires less and less carbon as more of the energy used to make it comes from earlier carbon-neutral generation.

    Does this matter if it doesn’t get to to the threshold of sustainability?

    It’s not like there’s ANYONE who doesn’t know that renewables etc. (and our entire economy, really) are heavily reliant on fossil fuels at the moment. It’s just not that material to the problem

    What problem are you trying to solve? Get this, PLEASE: It’s not just climate or EROEI or efficiency. A lot of resources are physically limited and *will* run out over time frame T. If solutions do not address this, they are not solutions, putting future generations at risk.