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Can planting trees save our climate?

Filed under: — stefan @ 16 July 2019

In recent weeks, a new study by researchers at ETH Zurich has hit the headlines worldwide (Bastin et al. 2019). It is about trees. The researchers asked themselves the question: how much carbon could we store if we planted trees everywhere in the world where the land is not already used for agriculture or cities? Since the leaves of trees extract carbon in the form of carbon dioxide – CO2 – from the air and then release the oxygen – O2 – again, this is a great climate protection measure. The researchers estimated 200 billion tons of carbon could be stored in this way – provided we plant over a trillion trees.

The media impact of the new study was mainly based on the statement in the ETH press release that planting trees could offset two thirds of the man-made CO2 increase in the atmosphere to date. To be able to largely compensate for the consequences of more than two centuries of industrial development with such a simple and hardly controversial measure – that sounds like a dream! And it was immediately welcomed by those who still dream of climate mitigation that doesn’t hurt anyone.

Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true. Because apples are compared to oranges and important feedbacks in the Earth system are forgotten. With a few basic facts about the CO2 increase in our atmosphere this is easy to understand. Mankind is currently blowing 11 billion tonnes of carbon (gigatonnes C, abbreviated GtC) into the air every year in the form of CO2 – and the trend is rising. These 11 GtC correspond to 40 gigatons of CO2, because the CO2molecule is 3.7 times heavier than only the C atom. Since 1850, the total has been 640 GtC – of which 31 % is land use (mostly deforestation), 67 % fossil energy and 2 % other sources. All these figures are from the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium dedicated to the monitoring of greenhouse gases.

The result is that the amount of CO2 in our air has risen by half and is thus higher than it has been for at least 3 million years (Willeit et al. 2019). This is the main reason for the ongoing global warming. The greenhouse effect of CO2 has been known since the 19th century; it is physically understood and completely undisputed in science.

Room for more trees? Sheep grazing on deforested land in New Zealand. (Photo S.R.)

But: this CO2 increase in the air is only equivalent to a total of just under 300 GtC, although we emitted 640 GtC! This means that, fortunately, only less than half of our emissions remained in the atmosphere, the rest was absorbed by oceans and forests. Which incidentally proves that the CO2 increase in the atmosphere was caused entirely by humans. The additional CO2 does not come from the ocean or anywhere else from nature. The opposite is true: the natural Earth system absorbs part of our CO2 burden from the atmosphere.

Conversely, this also means that if we extract 200 GtC from the atmosphere, the amount in the atmosphere does not decrease by 200 GtC, but by much less, because oceans and forests also buffer this. This, too, has already been examined in more detail in the scientific literature. Jones et al. 2016 found that the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere amounts to only 60% or less of the negative emissions, when these are implemented on the background of a mitigation scenario (RCP2.6).

We can also compare the “negative emissions” from tree planting to our other emissions. The 200 GtC would be less than one third of the 640 GtC total emissions, not two thirds. And the authors of the new study say that it would take fifty to one hundred years for the thousand billion trees to store 200 GtC – an average of 2 to 4 GtC per year, compared to our current emissions of 11 GtC per year. That’s about one-fifth to one-third – and this proportion will decrease if emissions continue to grow. This sounds quite different from the prospect of solving two-thirds of the climate problem with trees. And precisely because reforestation takes a very long time, it should be taboo today to cut down mature, species-rich forests, which are large carbon reservoirs and a valuable treasure trove of biological diversity.

There is another problem that the authors do not mention: a considerable part of the lands eligible for planting are in the far north in Alaska, Canada, Finland and Siberia. Although it is possible to store carbon there with trees, albeit very slowly, this would be counterproductive for the climate. For in snowy regions, forests are much darker than snow-covered unwooded areas. While the latter reflect a lot of solar radiation back into space, the forests absorb it and thus increase global warming instead of reducing it (Bala et al. 2007, Perugini et al. 2017). And increased regional warming of the Arctic permafrost areas in particular would be a terrible mistake: permafrost contains more carbon than all trees on earth together, around 1,400 GtC. We’d be fools to wake this sleeping giant.

And there are other question marks. Using high-resolution satellite maps and Google Earth, the researchers have analyzed where there is a suitable place for forests where none is currently growing, leaving out farmland and cities. With the help of machine learning technology, natural areas around the world were evaluated to determine the climate and soil conditions under which forests can thrive. The free and suitable land areas found in this way amount to 1.8 billion hectares – as much as the combined area of China and the USA.

But for many of these areas, there are probably good reasons why there is currently no forest. Often they are simply grazing lands – the authors respond that they have only assumed loose tree cover there, which could even be beneficial for grazing animals. The Dutch or Irish pastures would then resemble a savannah. Nevertheless, there are likely to be considerable obstacles of very different kinds on many of these areas, which are not apparent from the bird’s-eye view of the satellites. The authors of the study also write that it is unclear how much of the areas found would actually be available for planting.

Therefore, I’d still consider it optimistic to assume that half of the calculated theoretical planting potential can be realized in practice. Then we’re talking of 1-2 GtC of negative emissions per year. But that is precisely what we will need urgently in the future. The current global CO2 emissions can be reduced by 80-90 % through transforming our energy, heating and transport systems – but there will remain a rest that will be hard get rid of (e.g. from agriculture, industrial processes and long-haul flights) and that we will have to offset in order to stabilize the global climate.

The study by the ETH researchers has another important result that has hardly been reported. Without effective climate protection, progressive warming will lead to a massive loss of existing forest cover, especially in the tropics. At the same time, the models are not yet able to make reliable statements on how forests can cope with new extremes, fire, thawing permafrost, insects, fungi and diseases in a changing climate.

Global warming threatens massive forest losses (red), especially in the tropics. Fig. 3 from Bastin et al., Science 2019

The massive planting of trees worldwide is therefore a project that we should tackle quickly. We should not do that with monocultures but carefully, close to nature and sustainably, in order to reap various additional benefits of forests on local climate, biodiversity, water cycle and even as a food source. But we must not fall for illusions about how many billions of tons of CO2 this will take out of the atmosphere. And certainly not for the illusion that this will buy us time before abandoning fossil fuel use. On the contrary, we need a rapid end to fossil energy use precisely because we want to preserve the world’s existing forests.

Links

Would a large-scale tree restoration effort stop climate change? Forest expert Marcus Lindner from EFI points to the fires in Russia and the success story in China.

How to erase 100 years of carbon emissions? Plant trees-lots of them. National Geographic shows the importance of indigenous peoples as guardians of the forest.

Restoring forests as a means to many ends The commentary in Science on the Bastin study revolves around the question of how sustainable reforestation can be designed with multiple benefits beyond mere carbon storage.

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis Guardian

Analysis: How ‘natural climate solutions’ can reduce the need for BECCS Last year Carbon Brief prepared this analysis of how much carbon mitigation potential may be expected from “green” solutions like tree planting or biochar.

223 Responses to “Can planting trees save our climate?”

  1. 101
    David B. Benson says:

    A clickable link to the BNC Discussion Forum for those who wish to use that site:

    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/

  2. 102
    Killian says:

    No, racist, you are the fool. While I spoke of the U.S., it was as proxy. The U.S. is the only country that sucks resources out of Africa? Get a freaking clue. I specifically contextualized by adding in OECD and G20 consumption. And it’s not just food, which you know and are lying about by pretending that is all it is.

    Those 3 billion are perfectly capable of feeding themselves if their farming for themselves isn’t altered for export, by unfair trade, by land being subdivided, indigenous aren’t removed from their lands or had them greatly reduced, and on and on. You think Africans need shitloads of palm oil? https://ensia.com/features/sustainable-palm-oil-production-west-central-africa/

    Even if it were sustainable – it is not – why in the name of all that is holy and unholy do Africans need palm oil plantations?

    Just one small example.

    Even if we assume exporting is not a huge issue, the protectionism and flooding of markets from, e.g., the U.S. depresses production in Africa and disrupts the forces there for local food production and consumption. And that’s just agriculture. It is all connected. You aren’t worth a treatise, so didn’t get one, but Africa is impoverished because we (Europeans and their ugly step-children) made it so. You can’t go into a garden, plow it up, walk away and say the resulting mess of weeds is the fault of the ground.

    But what was truly atrocious was your blaming of Africa for the future state of the world. And, yes, they can feed themselves – and citing corn as a useful exemplar is just stupid – and, yes, we can easily feed 12 billion. It doesn’t get hard till after that. Africans are hungry because corporations, gov’ts and OECD/G20 citizens make it that way.

    Bugger off.

    This is not the thread for this and you should be banned from any and all discourse where the forum is not literally public space.

  3. 103
    Killian says:

    I seriously have NO CLUE what you are complaining about with regard to Jan.

    Yet, you opened your damned mouth on an issue that did not concern you, did not involve you, and about which you are clueless.

    Par.

    Note that nobody agreed with you

    Logically bullshit.

    Russell responded with, “RC might contemplate…

    Logically bullshit.

    Two fools speak and I should listen?

    And if you think I pick on you

    You’re a childish person who jumps into things just to troll aka stir up shit and entertain yourself by screwing with people. Troll. I have never said you only do this with me. However, you only rarely jump in to other conversations that literally have zero reason for you to engage. General issues, anyone is welcome. If you have no clue why one person responds to another, keep your damned keyboard locked up.

  4. 104
  5. 105

    EP, #87–

    Failing to restrict births means warfare or at least invasion (they’re invading Europe in hordes).

    Which is shortly followed by:

    We have sunk a long, long way if facts can be declared “racist” and banished from rational discussions.

    Uh, dude, it ain’t the ‘facts’ in this comment that give the impression of racism. (And “rational” is kind of raising my eyebrows a bit, too.)

  6. 106
    Ray Ladbury says:

    EP

    An American consumes as much energy as 307 Tanzanians or 370 Ethiopians. Now given that fact, which continent has the overpopulation problem? Westerners are quite eager to blame the tragedy of the commons on overpopulation, because it makes it someone else’s problem.

    What is more, I have lived in Africa, and I found that most people there want to have fewer children. They want more education. They want to marry later with more financial security. Shocking, I know. They want the same things ambitious young people want here.

    So, maybe it isn’t racism that motivates your ignorant condemnation of Africa. But it is laziness. It is complacency. It is ignorance. And if you are not careful, those can develop into a nasty case of racism.

  7. 107
    nigelj says:

    Killian says “And that’s just agriculture. It is all connected. You aren’t worth a treatise, so didn’t get one, but Africa is impoverished because we (Europeans and their ugly step-children) made it so. You can’t go into a garden, plow it up, walk away and say the resulting mess of weeds is the fault of the ground.”

    Yes colonial exploitation certainly contributed to screwing up Africa, and the majority of their exports are still raw materials (look at the map I posted previously) and this is a bit narrow, and western countries have been “manipulative” at times but how long are you going to keep on blaming Western countries for all this? Time has moved on. There is nothing stopping Africa broadening its export base to include more manufactured goods , and to make their farming more productive, and get their population growth down, except their own incompetence.

    Have you looked at the disgraceful, corrupt nature of Africas political and private sector institutions and their leaders? How is that our fault?

    I have nothing against us giving aid to Africa etc. I donate a lot of money to various causes, but africa need to start fixing some of their own problems as well.

  8. 108
    Michael D Sweet. says:

    Linear response no threshold is the accepted method of assessing the hazards of radiation and chemicals worldwide. The National Academy of Science BIER VII report (the most recent relevant report)here: http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/beir_vii_final.pdf
    very strongly supports LRNT. All the health organizations in the world, the US EPA the all Nuclear Regulatory Agencies use LRNT. Please document any agencies worldwide that do not use LRNT.

    Only the nuclear industry and its shills object to LRNT. You have to choose: go with all the National Health Organizations in the world or go with the Nuclear shills. There is really no controversy, it is a matter of denial to increase the nuclear industry profit.

  9. 109
    Russell says:

    Make that a Really Crashing Borehole.

    Cue all caps response in Comic Sans.

  10. 110
    nigelj says:

    Dan Hughes @104, very interesting reading indeed, however this particular science review below suggests low levels of radiation can be harmful, and supports the linear model as below, and this is based on quite a few different lines of evidence:

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11340

    There is clearly still a lot of disagreement when you read the wikipedia article.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model#Controversy

    I suspect what really happens is that below a certain threshold the risk drops off noticeably but doesn’t reach zero. It probably depends on the state of people immune systems and a whole lot of things.

  11. 111
    Al Bundy says:

    EP, when I ponder the nature/nurture IQ issue with regard to populations I tend to be drawn to Semites. You see, when scientists want to do a study of Semites they have been known to use Palestinians as the control group. Apparently there is no more Jewish Jew than a Palestinian.

    Yet Palestinians score an average of 85, which is slightly dumber than the average GOPper (and yes, GOPpers’ stupidity been just as “scientifically proven”).
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289614001093

    So it seems that epigenetics is busy, eh?

    ——

    Killian,

    When I see somebody being unfairly attacked it is my DUTY to try to protect them. Your contention that bystanders should just gawk is the standard stance of an abuser.

    And learn to count. You’re having “disagreements” with at least four people at this very moment on this single thread.

  12. 112
    Nemesis says:

    @nigelj, #107

    ” Have you looked at the disgraceful, corrupt nature of Africas political and private sector institutions and their leaders? How is that our fault?”

    Yeah, since western, white colonialism took over Africa, western vampires make bloody vampire business with african vampires (chinese vampires make good business in Africa as well nowadays).

    Don’t worry, making vampire business will be over as soon as the global vampire system collapses, I see it comin right around the corner. Man I will Love and Enjoy seeing the global vampire system roasted in real Hell, I’m waiting my whole life to see that happen and I will see it happen I swear, the fulfillment of my most urgent desire.

  13. 113
    Calyptorhynchus says:

    I’m sure someone has already said this, but worth saying again.

    Wouldn’t it be easier to stop destroying forests in the first place. And rather than planting vast acreages of what are likely to be the wrong trees in the wrong places why not acquire buffer zones around the edges of existing forests and allow these areas to revert naturally to forest?

  14. 114

    Rey attempts sarcasm:

    Yes, planning for safety is sooo inconvenient for business.

    Yes, demanding ever-more “safety” from the safest option and pricing it out of the market, while far more dangerous options are scarcely regulated, is just the thing for the public interest. /sarc

    Can’t let an intelligent, whistle-blowing, non-industry lackey within the secret chambers of the NRC.

    Jaczko is a saboteur.  He sabotaged the US Navy’s assistance to Japan after the Tohoku quake and tsunami by keeping ships way too far offshore to be of use.  There’s no telling how many people might have died because of him and the people who put him on on the NRC (Ed Markey chief among them).

    Who says you, an obviously Industry biased individual, should get to decide my or my family’s, or anybody else’s family exposures because it would be beneficial to your business model?

    I am pro-clean air and anti-climate change.  I do not work in the nuclear industry and never have.  My degree is not in nuclear engineering or anything directly related.  I have no financial interest in anything nuclear; I have promoted FLIBE Energy but I am not invested in them.  I have no conflicts here.

    While we’re at it, let’s stop those propagandists spreading misinformation about lots of other health, or potentially risky behaviors and policies. We can start with climate change. Can you think of a single death that can be positively and directly attributed to it?

    Would you care to discuss the ~15,000 excess deaths from the 2003 heat wave in France?  I live at 45° North, where people historically retreated from summer heat.  It hit 90°F here maybe a week ago, and it’s not even the dog days of summer yet.  Note that we are supposedly heading into a solar minimum.  How can this NOT be climate change?!

    Right, don’t want to report those inconvenient (and biologically cumulative) releases under 10 mSv/day do we?

    Not talking about “releases”.  Talking about exposures to workers inside the plant itself.  You know, people PAID and INFORMED?

    Sorry dude. Your distortions and hand waving are easily seen through by most people.

    Hypocrisy is so passé.

    What’s next? Advocation for “radiation hormesis”?

    Excuse me, did you miss me noting the 1958 UNSCEAR report which confirmed a radical INCREASE in lifespan of Sprague-Dawley rats exposed to 0.8 rad/day of Co-60 gamma radiation?  How about multiple different studies finding health IMPROVEMENTS in the lesser-exposed survivors of the 1945 Japanese atomic bombings?

    There’s a whole organization of industry professionals devoted to removing the propaganda and basing radiation exposure standards on science:  Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information.  On the local level, I spotted the attitude in practice.  I had a root canal done and the endodontist had a very cavalier attitude about shooting X-rays to check his progress; he didn’t even bother with the lead apron.  He must have snapped 10 X-rays during my visit.  Goodness knows how many he does in a day.  He KNOWS that such minor radiation exposures are harmless and proves it by being the one most affected.

    Thing is, most thinking people don’t think it’s a great trade off: A few years of electricity for the potential of radiological contamination of wide swaths of the earth for 1,000 years and more.

    The whole blame universe is radioactive, chum.  You live with a sleet of cosmic ray muons coming at you from above.  You have gamma rays and radon coming from below.  You have potassium-40 and carbon-14 decaying and irradiating you from inside your very cells.

    Your body is EVOLVED to deal with this.  It has repair mechanisms, which are stepped up in response to radiation.  There’s substantial evidence to suggest that we don’t get too much radiation, we don’t get ENOUGH—we don’t get sufficient radiation to stimulate repair to its optimum level to repair oxidative and chemical damage.

    Heaven forbid that we all have the cancer rate of radiation-drenched Coloradans.

  15. 115

    Quoth Scott E Strough:

    Finally somebody gets it. I have waited years for someone else to say this. I felt like the lone voice calling in the wilderness for years.

    I can’t claim credit for that insight, though I have forgotten who enlightened me.  But do feel free to put The Ergosphere in your list of RSS feeds.  I post seldom but try to make it pithy.  Or write if you like.

    It has nothing to do with food, nothing to do with efficiency, nothing to do with energy, nothing to do with climate mitigation.

    It does have something to do with petroleum imports.  10% of gasoline volume is a much larger fraction of what we get from the Middle East.  The problem is the inefficiency; corn requires huge amounts of nitrogen which ultimately comes from natural gas (reformed to hydrogen, used to fix nitrogen as ammonia).  Direct substitution of petroleum with natural gas would be better, but wouldn’t get farm-lobby dollars.  It’s all about who can win that Iowa caucus, isn’t it?

    It’s a simple subsidy plan to subsidize the overproduction of grains, mostly corn, and then subsidize those industries that can use up that over production. Then the subsidies act as a sort of buffer stock scheme for price-support.

    I would much rather pay farmers to keep a whole lot of buffer in grain bins (well out of flood plains) than pay for ethanol from corn, but I don’t get a vote in this.  Once we had sanity about food security, which ignored minor things like pecans and pistachios.  Now we have gone totally nuts.

  16. 116

    Quoth nigelj:

    I would say Abbots work appears to be published research

    The IEEE publication is not peer-reviewed, and I have personally found multiple errors of fact in that piece.

    The trouble is right now nuclear power is too slow to build in western countries to be useful for the climate issue.

    We used to be able to build things much faster, in a handful of years.  It was the “safety advocates” who put a stop to that.

    When the whole climate of the earth threatens to turn hostile to our civilization and species, is delay safe any more?  Dare we build fossil-plant replacements in ones and twos instead of hundreds and thousands?

    Technically nuclear power is as safe as wind power per mwatt hour, but the public are understandably suspicious, you cant really blame them.

    The public should be suspicious of the “common wisdom” coming out of government.  That includes the “food pyramid” which lays on the carbohydrates which have caused rampant obesity, and the “all radiation is dangerous” mantra which has co-existed with increasing cancer rates.  Need I mention “diversity is our strength”?

    You nuclear enthusiasts need to get something like liquid salt reactors viable because they are safer and something different from water cooled reactors and it may change public perceptions.

    Nuclear enthusiasts aren’t in control here (yet).  We will have huge difficulty arguing for a new generation of reactors if we can’t even claim that the current generation is an asset to humanity.  They certainly are, but we have huge amounts of propaganda to overcome to get that into the public mind.  THAT is the vast bulk of the problem.

    We probably need a mix of nuclear power and solar and wind power

    The problem with solar and wind is their fundamental unreliability.  To use very much of them, we need some kind of storage system which can save their output for weeks or months or make major contributions to carbon capture.  This is a tall order.  I’ve seen hints at possible applications but nothing that truly fits the requirements of our industrial civilization and the planet.

  17. 117
    James Charles says:

    “Most Americans still believe that their nation’s foreign aid programs supply poorer countries with needed resources as outright gifts or on easy credit terms at very low prices. Even those who are aware of the link between food aid and U.S. farm surpluses do not widely recognize the ways in which the United States has used food aid as a lever to dissuade foreign governments from achieving self-sufficiency in food to feed their populations. Yet what started out as a system of benevolent grants and loans to underdeveloped economies, at a real but moderate cost to the ample resources of America, has evolved into a strategy of international client patronage and dependency based on U.S. political and military control over aid recipients. Not only the incidental effect of U.S. aid but its stated purpose has been to restrict rather than enlarge the capacity for evolution of aid dependent countries toward greater self-reliance. ”
    ‘A few years ago I sought to update my breakdown of the balance of payments to update the impact of U.S. military spending and foreign aid. But the Commerce Department’s Table 5 from its balance of payments data had been changed in such a way it no longer reveals the extent to which foreign aid generates a transfer of dollars from foreign countries to the United States, as it did in the 1960s and 1970s. I phoned the statistical division responsible for collecting these statistics and in due course reached the technician responsible for the numbers. “We used to publish that data,” he explained, “but some joker published a report showing that the United States actually made money off the countries we were aiding. It caused such a stir that we changed the accounting format so that nobody can embarrass us like that again.” I realized that I was the joker who had been responsible for the present-day statistical concealment, and that it would take a Congressional request to get the Commerce and State Departments to replicate the analysis that still was being made public in the years in which I wrote Super Imperialism. ‘
    https://www.soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/0303critic/030317hudson/superimperialism.pdf

  18. 118
    David B. Benson says:

    This seems related to the topic:

    As the Chinese Cut Down Siberia’s Forests, Tensions with Russians Rise
    Andrew E. Kramer
    2019 Jul 25
    TNYT
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/world/europe/russia-china-siberia-logging.amp.html

    So just how bad is this?

  19. 119
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sigh! When I see people taking a metric as unreliable and uninformative as IQ and seizing on statistically insignificant variations among groups to argue for the superiority or inferiority of said groups, it tells me nothing about those groups and yet speaks volumes about the person making the argument. It tells me they don’t understand statistics in general; that they don’t understand intelligence, which IQ purports but fails to measure; that they are lazy and willing to accept any just-so story, particularly if it affirms their entrenched biases and that they will resist any attempt to introduce new information.

    And where such arguments used to be made soto voce and tentatively in an attempt to find other like-minded bigots, they are increasingly being made in full-throated, proud ignorance, cloaked in the boast that the speaker is “courageous” enough to challenge “political correctness”. If for no other reason than this, I deplore the current administration for the coarsening and dumbing down of American discourse.

    I met plenty of smart Africans when I lived there and in my subsequent travels. The first long conversation I had in French in Togo consisted of me explaining to a very bright guy why his perpetual motion machine wouldn’t work. It wasn’t easy. His ideas were fairly sophisticated. I met plenty of smart kids who would never have any opportunity to be anything but a dirt farmer. I was in awe of the African women in the markets, who would hold up to 7 conversations in 7 different languages simultaneously.

    Anyone who tries to apply arguments to an individual based on the statistics for a subgroup is an innumerate imbecile. Anyone who bases assertions about intelligence on IQ statistics is a dumbass. And anyone who dismisses an entire continent as diverse as Africa, especially without ever having set foot on said continent is simply too stupid to bother with.

  20. 120

    Quoth Kevin McKinney:

    Just which nations comprise “everywhere?” I wondered.

    Don’t forget the Finnish interest in a new VVER, the un-fulfilled UK interest in more nuclear replacements than they have signed agreements for, and Indonesia’s relationship with Thorcon going on some years now.  Radiophobia still outweighs consideration of climate weirding, dammit.

    That seems to me curiously irrelevant to the real problems of nuclear power: high levels of risk to financiers, and also high LCOE compared to both RE and fossil fuels.

    Just where does this risk to financiers come from?  Politics.  If fossil-fuel interests can kill non-fossil projects through government influence, smart money will stay away.

    Lesson:  We need to kill the political influence of fossil fuel interests.  Kill ’em dead.

    subsidies on wind and solar are being removed because they are no longer needed.

    You think so, but you’re wrong.  When wind and solar no longer have production tax credits or mandated portfolio standards, they are subject to the minute-by-minute discipline of the spot supply and demand market, and the reliable contractable demand of the base-load market.  When wind and solar are producing very much, they drive their market price to or below zero.  When they are not producing much, they have negligible revenue.  In short, without subsidies or mandates they go out of business.

    nuclear has hardly gone without direct and indirect subsidies of its own over the years:

    https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/economic-aspects/energy-subsidies.aspx

    https://www.taxpayer.net/energy-natural-resources/nuclear-power-subsidies/

    Did you notice that the “subsidies” listed started before the first commercial nuclear power plant even existed?  Did you notice that “subsidies” were counted when uranium enrichment was the exclusive business of government, which was also making weapons materials?  There was NO market operating at the time and government was selling the product of excess military production capacity.

    I would suggest that blaming nuclear’s troubles on “radiophobia” and “propaganda” is going to do very little to change the political and economic obstacles this technology faces.

    Radiophobia has little to do with technological problems, but everything to do with political problems.  When people are willing to live downstream from coal-ash dumps to avoid nuclear energy, that’s radiophobia.  Coal ash is not only more radioactive than the maximum permitted emissions from NPPs, it’s chemically toxic as well.

    wind and solar are surpassing the nuclear contribution and forcing coal off the grid.

    That’s not wind and solar.  That’s (Clean Water Act-exempt) fracked natural gas with a bit of “renewable” assistance.

    It isn’t yet fast enough, despite the amazing acceleration in uptake we’ve seen over the last decade plus, but it’s a lot easier to imagine increasing that rate than it is to imagine nuclear power pulling off a much more dramatic acceleration.

    Fracked gas can AT MOST cut GHG emissions by 50% versus coal.  We need a MINIMUM of 80% reduction over current levels, and likely NEGATIVE net emissions to restore the climate to anything we would recognize.  So-called “renewables” cannot get us there; they are UNFIT FOR PURPOSE.  Yet several countries/provinces have gotten there.  They did it with hydro and nuclear.

    by “easier to imagine” I mean “more realistic.”

    If you want “realistic” you would go with “what got done totally by accident in France”, not “what’s never been done anywhere, by anyone, and we have good reason to believe is not possible.”

  21. 121

    it sounds like “Engineer Poet” might be benefited by a reading of Stephen Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man

    I used to enjoy reading Gould’s monthly columns in a magazine my girlfriend received.  Then I learned that Gould had slandered Samuel Morton over Morton’s careful measurements of internal skull volumes… without ever examining them himself.  Recent re-measurement of the skulls (which remain in the collection and available for study) has proven Morton right and Gould wrong.

    Stephen Jay Gould was a high-status liar; what he wrote was disinformation.  Jared Diamond is the same (yes, “Guns, Germs and Steel” is on my bookshelf).

    The real irony is that these “evolutionary biologists” come down to denying that evolution can have any effect above the neck and inside the skin.  Isn’t that a highly suspicious thing to say?  There are things they do not want people to understand properly, and the motive ultimately comes down to guilt.  If they can make you feel guilty over the condition of the Africans or Papuans, they can get power over you.  If you understand that the condition of Africans and Papuans is the product of impersonal evolutionary forces and they just are what they are, you cannot be guilt-tripped into doing things as a consequence.

    then familiarizing him/herself with the works of Margaret Mead and the nature vs nurture argument.

    Margaret Mead was cut from the same cloth.  Doesn’t this consistent stream of disinformation make you even a bit suspicious?

    You should be just as suspicious about the last 50 years of claims about “danger” from low-level radiation.  People have been bathing in hot springs full of radium and radon for centuries… for their health.  If it was dangerous they would not have benefited from it.

  22. 122

    Well, sure, since you don’t actually answer them. I asked you for a plan “to get from where we are now to where you want to be”.

    First I have to understand exactly where “there” is, in terms of specific types of energy supply.  THEN I can work on how to get there.

    Nothing you have said addresses that. The “sketch” you claim to be working on is where you want to be, not a plan for how to achieve that construct.

    I can fill out part of that picture right now, in broad strokes.  The USA consumes about 8.5 trillion cubic feet per year (about 8.8 quadrillion BTU) of natural gas in the residential and commercial sectors.  A substantial fraction of this is for cooking but the majority is for space heating and DHW.  Where settlement is large and dense enough, all the space heat and DHW can be supplied by district heating systems.  If supplied by carbon-free sources, that sector will be fully decarbonized.

    The electric power sector consumed 10.626 trillion scf of gas in 2018 (11 quadrillion BTU).  This caused direct emission of roughly 640 million metric tons of CO2.  Fully nuclearizing the electric sector would eliminate that, as well as the upstream GHG emissions from things like methane leaks.

    So, as for “how to get there” (blast it, list tags aren’t are accepted and I hope the funny font size and spurious spacing go away after posting):

    * Come up with a set of standard nuclear reactor modules in various sizes which are walk-away safe and can be factory built and shipped to installation sites ready for fuel loading and operation.  NuScale is designed for this and Fermi 1 was the same thermal output and even smaller than NuScale.  Dunno about S-PRISM, haven’t done that digging yet.
    * Use them as the heat source for most electric generation, most urban space heat and DHW via CHP district heating, and most ground transport energy via near-universal conversion of vehicles to plug-in hybrids.
    * Use electric power on a demand-side managed basis to supply heat etc. where district heating networks can’t reach.
    * Use biofuels to fill the remaining gaps in supply; we have enough biomass to make perhaps 20 quads worth of storable fuels per year.

    Total US primary energy demand is running about 3.3 TW.  CHP operation at 20% electric efficiency would generate some 660 GW(e), well in excess of average US electric demand which runs about 450 GW(e).  It would also supply some 2.6 TW(th) of heat, about 6.7 quads over the course of January.  Total US natural gas consumption last January only came to about 3.6 quads, and that includes electric generation.  I think this much is at least physically feasible.  Whether or not people are willing to do it to preserve a recognizeable planet is another thing.  I deal in the “how”; it’s what engineers do.

    In the US, fossil fuel plants (and even wind and solar) are a far better investment choice than nuclear, for all the reasons people have mentioned. The fact that CO2 has a negative effect on the climate doesn’t prevent anyone from making the investment decision that will give them the best return in a certain time.

    That’s because we don’t make gas plants pay for using the atmosphere as an open sewer.  Slap a $50/ton CO2 fee on them and they’ll get a lot less profitable.  $50/ton is about 2.5¢/kWh to an open-cycle gas turbine burning gas at 40% efficiency.  The difference between loss and profit for today’s marginal nuclear plants is a lot less than that.

    There are obvious examples: One of them would be to follow the Socialist model used by France, where the Federal government nationalizes electricity generation, and mandates the use of nuclear. Is that your plan for the USA?

    District heating systems are local monopolies and are pretty much made for municipal ownership and operation, but they don’t have to be.  The more favorable interest rate for municipal borrowers might drive that ownership model, though.

  23. 123
    Nick O. says:

    Somewhat off topic, but today is the 100th birthday of Professor James Lovelock.

    He has often been maligned over his ‘Gaia’ hypothesis, which has over the years been deliberately misunderstood and misrepresented by both the ultra environmentalists and the ultra climate change skeptics alike. His fundamental point remains valid, however, namely that human activities are damaging and reducing the effectiveness of the world’s negative feedback systems, including the role of the living systems, that help to prevent Earths’s climate from warming too much. Besides his writings on this, he has contributed to science through numerous ideas and inventions, not least the electron capture detector, which had a crucial role in discovering the effects of CFC’s on the upper atmosphere. He also performed valuable research at various universities, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Yale, and Harvard. Not bad for a man who could not afford to go to university to read for his first degree.

    Best wishes for a very Happy Birthday, Professor Lovelock.

  24. 124

    Quoth nigelj:

    we just dont know with any certainty whether low levels of radiation are harmless or not.

    Oh for pete’s sake.  If low-level radiation was a danger, yet all those Coloradans (and Guaraparians and Keralans) are healthier than controls, they must have some even more extreme compensation going on.  Yet nobody’s been able to find it.  How much evidence do you need to conclude that the “danger” doesn’t exist?

    This sounds like paranoid conspiratorial thinking! Its conjecture and you don’t present any real evidence

    Oh, come on.  Ending the nuclear industry has been the explicit goal of most “environmental” groups for the past half-century.  No conjecture required, they have been saying it in plain language all along.

    What’s a little harder to decode are all the calls for “more safety”.  Nuclear power is already the most highly (and expensively) regulated industry in the USA; the NRC has some 1500 employees while the NTSB, which covers a great deal more businesses, has only about 400.  Closing down nuclear power by making it too expensive to compete has also been an explicit goal of “environmentalists”.

    Per the list cited above, there have been all of 6 fatalities at operating US NPPs in all of history.  US NPPs generate on the order of 90 GW; over the period from 1980 through 2018 (39 years) that comes to roughly 0.0002 fatalities per TWh.  NOT building nuclear plants has killed far more people than our NPPs ever have.  We do NOT need “more nuclear safety”, period.  We have too much.  We would have done far better if we’d backed off the regulatory costs by at least 50% and replaced a whole bunch of fossil-fired power completely, instead of just switching from coal to gas.

    it doesn’t make sense. Its not logical that fossil fuel interests would undermine themselves by promoting wind and solar power to defeat nuclear power.

    On the contrary, “renewables” lock in fossil fuel sales as “backup fuel”.  The gas industry knows this only too well.  They’ve even said so while being recorded:  “The plants that we’re building… are gas plants.”

    I think its more likely that plenty of politicians do not like nuclear power, because they representing people who don’t like nuclear power, so politicians are not too friendly towards nuclear power, and so the nuclear industry doesn’t get many subsidies or other favours.

    Regulated utilities can’t spend money to buy favors or do PR unless regulators explicitly permit the expense.  Gas drillers, pipeline companies and miners face no such restrictions.  This means that the nuclear industry by and large cannot even defend its sterling safety record against libel.

    You also need to appreciate Nuclear Power has some serious risks, and as such it will be firmly regulated and rightly so.

    Those risks are enormously overblown, and anything at all related to proliferation is simply irrelevant in the US, Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan, China and India.  If we let fake “risks” stop us from halting climate change we’ll all wish we’d had a nuclear war instead.

  25. 125
    zebra says:

    #122 engineer-poet,

    I don’t know your IQ score, and perhaps you were above average before your issues developed, but at the moment it seems that your reading comprehension and coherent reasoning skills are pretty shaky. I asked you this really simple and direct question, and I gave an example of one possible approach to making the transition from fossil fuels to nuclear for generating electricity.

    Most people, even some Africans, would be able to comprehend that my example of France nationalizing the electrical sector dealt with government policies, not specific technology like co-generation or reactor types.

    The one government policy you did suggest, some version of which I and almost everyone here would agree with, is a disincentive for using fossil fuels. That’s great.

    But, everything else is just babbling about, again, some fantasy end result without any way to achieve it.

    Are you suggesting that the US Federal Government order cities to build nuclear plants within their boundaries to achieve your very efficient use of waste heat for space heating and hot water? If not, why would anyone do it rather than some other configuration of energy sources?

    I’ll repeat this one more time, but with little expectation that you can deal with the reasoning:

    You are doing what nuclear proponents always do, talking about some hypothetical technology, and talking about safety, when these issues are currently completely irrelevant, because of the option of using fossil fuels. If you really believe all the things you are saying about how great nuclear would be (in your suggested configuration or some other), then all that has to happen is:

    1. Establish a free market for electricity generation, where there are no monopolies and people can buy from any source. That’s something realistic the Feds could do, within existing law and with existing technology.

    2. Establish some disincentive for using fossil fuels, like a tax, or whatever you call it. Again, something doable, if politically difficult.

    If you guys really cared about climate change, you would be working to achieve something like that, and stop wasting everyone’s time. After those two steps happen, you can put your ideas out and compete for investment, just like the wind and solar and conservation and gas people will, and we’ll see who wins.

  26. 126

    Quoth Al Bundy:

    The steam needed for bitumen extraction is wet, low pressure, and cool.

    I’ll have to take your word for it; neither conventional sand mining nor SAGD are part of my area of study.

    A nuclear pile can burn up nuclear waste while producing the steam needed to extract bitumen.

    You are going to have to define “nuclear waste” far more precisely, but in general the answer to that is “no, that won’t work”.  Specifically, fast-neutron reactors can “burn” transuranics (neptunium, plutonium, americium and curium) and eliminate them as a waste stream, but thermal-spectrum reactors cannot as they absorb more neutrons than they yield in fission.  You cannot “burn” fission products at all, and there are some which soak up so many neutrons that they require fuel to be retired because you just can’t maintain a chain reaction any more.  I forget what the most troublesome FP is (I’m really not a nuclear engineer), but I recall that it’s a rare earth.

    Why build nuclear reactors when there’s so much utility for cheap and safe piles?

    “Pile” is a type of reactor using a moderator of graphite bricks, thus the name.  They’ve been deprecated because of a number of accidents, Chernobyl being the best-known.

    For example, a pile-based battery can provide district heat and a bit of electricity.

    China is aiming to do this but they’re using a 400 megawatt swimming-pool reactor, not a “pile” at all.  It’s unpressurized and thus meltdown-proof, and construction time is supposed to be 2 years.

    And your “instead of” motif, be it “yours” or “Others” (speaking of the impossibility of walking (wind and solar) and chewing gum (nukes) at the same time), hobbles your argument.

    It’s pretty obvious that the ruinables are not capable of filling the role that the Greens claim they can.  Absent lots of cheap storage, about all they can do is provide some savings in fuel for the must-run fossil-fired generators that the grid requires to stay up.  We may have found a way to store energy on a sufficiently large scale, but liquid air and hot/cold pellets are only suitable for short-term storage because heat leaks too much.  A day or a few days are about all we can expect.

    Until we have this storage, ruinables are literally worse than useless.  Their rapidly-changing generation prevents us from using combined-cycle gas turbines which would burn less fuel than the open-cycle turbines required to backstop the unreliable supplies.

    Nukes are good for base load. Nuclear peakers are Just Plain Stupid.

    Cal Abel has a proposal for a nuclear “everything plant” (including peaking) using molten-salt heat storage, but it requires a liquid-metal reactor to provide the heat.

    Don’t you think creating methanol and biodiesel and burning them in simultaneous-combined-cycle 3-stage combustion engines is much more logical for situations where shortages in wind, solar, hydro, pumped hydro, load curtailment, baseload nuclear, and batteries combined might inconvenience the Wealthy?

    I think methanol is great on a number of levels (save for being highly toxic) as it can be stored long-term.  Batteries are too costly for stationary storage; I like Cal Abel’s salt-based “heat battery” better because it’s a fraction of the cost and requires no scarce materials.  Save the electric batteries for decarbonizing transport.

    And natural gas can be turned into methanol instead of liquifying bitumen.

    Aside from Fiat’s recent experiments with “A20” fuel, I am aware of no one pushing methanol as motor fuel.  Unless you’re going to use it for that, you’re going to saturate the market rather quickly.  I admit I’m not following this closely.

  27. 127
    nigelj says:

    Engineer-Poet @124

    I’m going to summarise a couple of points you make to avoid copying and pasting a huge screed. You suggest low levels of radiation are harmless and would actually stimulate the immune system to improve resistance, and you use Colorado as an example where there are higher than normal levels of natural background radiation, but they have better than average health. There are so many obvious problems with this, because the differences in radiation are smallish, so not significant enough to conclude anything, and Coloradian’s good health could be due numerous aspects of lifestyle and environment. It’s meaningless without an in depth study. And obviously none of this proves that low level background radiation doesn’t damage health.

    That’s not to say I dismiss your mechanism, its appealing but looks unproven to me.

    There is good empirical evidence for the linear no threshold model, as below:

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11340

    Many key authorities subscribe to the linear model:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model#Controversy

    My guess is there may be a threshold effect below which risk drops significantly but doesn’t reach zero. A lot of people have weak immune systems etc.

    You mentioned environmentalists opposing nuclear power as if I didn’t know this. It’s obvious they do.

    My point was that for you to suggest fossil fuels interests are the one greatest force behind promoting renewable energy because it wont replace all fossil fuels seems far fetched to me. We have an active renewable energy industry in NZ, and no nuclear lobby of significance. We are also not perpetually reliant on gas backup power forever. Battery technology is improving fast, look at the Tesla instillation in southern Australia, and there are other storage options like pumped hydro and again Australia is planning and building this.

    You mention only 6 fatalities from nuclear problems in America and talk about over regulation of the industry. I have seen data suggesting nuclear power causes fewer fatalities than wind and solar power per mwatt hour, based on official death tolls, but the public will be fearful, so the nuclear industry’s best plan in America looks like it would be a fresh start with new generation technology that is not associated with melt downs. You are unlikely to sway public opinion on water cooled reactors.

    I grew up when Chernobyl exploded, and this made me sceptical about nuclear power, probably imprinted on me. With an effort of will I’m trying to be more open minded, but we have to be careful that we are very sure low level radiation is harmless before the industry is deregulated. If its harmless why doesn’t the industry write some peer reviewed science on it?

  28. 128
    nigelj says:

    EP @121

    “The real irony is that these “evolutionary biologists” come down to denying that evolution can have any effect above the neck and inside the skin. Isn’t that a highly suspicious thing to say? There are things they do not want people to understand properly, and the motive ultimately comes down to guilt. If they can make you feel guilty over the condition of the Africans or Papuans, they can get power over you. If you understand that the condition of Africans and Papuans is the product of impersonal evolutionary forces and they just are what they are, you cannot be guilt-tripped into doing things as a consequence.”

    Oh come on thats bizarre. Evolutionary biologists do not claim evolution might not make some races more intelligent, just that theres no good evidence it does. Differences in IQ scores are quite well explained by learning environments. In any event regardless of IQ levels in Africa common human decency and a bit of strategic economic thinking suggests we should help them develop.

    I fail to see why a meek and mild character like Jared Diamond would want power over me. You really are a conspiracy theorist! He has simply developed quite a compelling theory on why western countries pulled ahead of other countries as have other writers, based on institutions, geography etcetera. Please note the west pulled ahead of Asia for many centuries, and Asians appear to be very intelligent people. It’s more complicated than you think. However African leaders are often a bit of a disgrace and their people need to stop voting for corrupt fools, but that is a universal problem.

  29. 129
    David B. Benson says:

    Michael D Sweet @108 — There are manifold objections to LNT, Linear No Threshold. Some of the recent papers are referenced and linked towards the end of a thread on BNC Discussion Forum,
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/312/wade-allisons-radiation-critique

    While found on another thread,
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/698/nuclear-regulatory-commission-reform
    It appears that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may adopt a rule about radiation beneath regulatory significance. Finally.

  30. 130

    E-P 116: The problem with solar and wind is their fundamental unreliability.

    BPL: That’s why God made batteries, flywheels, pumped hydro, molten salt heat storage, capacitors, and wide-area smart grids.

  31. 131

    E-P shorter version: radiophobia radiophobia radiophobia RADIOPHOBIA radiophobia! And besides, black people really are inferior, and not to say so is political correctness.

  32. 132
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    The political system in the US has over the last decades gradually degenerated into a full-blown local and global dicatorship organized from the commanding centrals of financial capitalism. It has become impossible to anyone to win any election without enormous amounts of money and goodwill from the oligarchs. Attempts to really change the catastrophic course of homo sapiens which its socalled leaders today inflict upon us all, has therefore collapsed and instead we have now just the empty messages of purely symbolic and self-promoting “alternative” commercialism from emerging minor popstars who call themselves “leftwing”. In the meantime the ruling tyrants are just laughing all the way to their banks.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/25/amazonian-rainforest-near-unrecoverable-tipping-point?

  33. 133
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    The ongoing climate crisis look to be accelerating very fast these years. Almost everyone who are concerned about this, seems to despair and become completely overwhelmed by the breathtaking speed of developments. Most then hide their desperation behind a thin cover of “optimistic” but empty and undocumented proposals for “solutions” like the famous “Green New Deal”, which stands out for the complete lack of any precise language and frankly anything but hot air and throwing of ever more money after the energy corporations. They think that functioning proposals like Canadas and Jim Hansen’s carbon fee and dividend is not “politically sustainable” whatever that phrase means.

    I think they still don’t really get what the climate crisis is, and worse: they “haven’t got the time” to think carefully about the subject and try to understand. They are all too busy with their careers. So therefore all we get except for empty words and symbolistic declarations from socalled politicians is still more bad news from science:

    https://ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2019/04/simultaneous-heatwaves-caused-by-anthropogenic-climate-change.html

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-10924-4

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/07/extreme-heat-to-affect-millions-of-americans/?

    Etc. etc. etc.

  34. 134

    EP, #120–

    Just where does this risk to [would-be nuclear] financiers come from? Politics. If fossil-fuel interests can kill non-fossil projects through government influence, smart money will stay away.

    The collapse of Summer had nothing to do with politics; the political establishment was all in favor of the project, and suffered major embarassment as a consequence of its abandonment. (You yourself put it down to what you called “teething troubles.”) Nor did the decimation of TEPCO in the wake of Fukushima arise from politics. The risks appear to me to be inherent in the technological complexity and the risks that arise from high-energy processes applied to highly toxic materials.

    Lesson: We need to kill the political influence of fossil fuel interests. Kill ’em dead.

    Was that supposed to be a revelation? And just how do you propose to bell the cat?

    [Subsidies on wind and solar are not being removed…]

    …When wind and solar are producing very much, they drive their market price to or below zero. When they are not producing much, they have negligible revenue. In short, without subsidies or mandates they go out of business.

    Nice try, but the power purchase agreement addresses this, and is not reasonably termed a subsidy.

    Did you notice that the “subsidies” listed started before the first commercial nuclear power plant even existed? Did you notice that “subsidies” were counted when uranium enrichment was the exclusive business of government, which was also making weapons materials? There was NO market operating at the time and government was selling the product of excess military production capacity.

    Then similar incentives to the development of renewables can be similarly dismissed from our consideration.

    Me: I would suggest that blaming nuclear’s troubles on “radiophobia” and “propaganda” is going to do very little to change the political and economic obstacles this technology faces.

    EP: Radiophobia has little to do with technological problems, but everything to do with political problems. When people are willing to live downstream from coal-ash dumps to avoid nuclear energy, that’s radiophobia. Coal ash is not only more radioactive than the maximum permitted emissions from NPPs, it’s chemically toxic as well.

    A response that doesn’t address the comment. Let me try again: I don’t think that either radiophobia or propaganda caused the Summer collapse or the Fukushima disaster, yet both those events and others have caused enormous financial losses.

    And, FWIW, I’m well aware–and expect most here are, too–of the radiological hazards of coal ash. I’ve written about this more than once, and I decry with you the sometimes innumerate risk assessment people can exhibit.

    wind and solar are surpassing the nuclear contribution and forcing coal off the grid.

    That’s not wind and solar. That’s (Clean Water Act-exempt) fracked natural gas with a bit of “renewable” assistance.

    Again, nice try, but no: RE generation is surpassing nuclear generation on the grid, per estimates from the EIA. Clearly, that at least has nothing whatever to do with frackgas–which admittedly has done a lot tame coal in the past. Moreover, it is not mere speculation that renewables are explicitly being chosen in preference to fossil projects, including gas peakers:

    2017:
    https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/battery-storage-is-threatening-natural-gas-peaker-plants#gs.ruqlzc

    2018:
    https://cleantechnica.com/2019/01/13/solar-storage-half-the-cost-of-gas-peaker-plants-8minuteenergy/

    “I can beat a gas peaker anywhere in the country today with a solar-plus-storage power plant,” says Tom Buttgenbach, CEO of developer 8minutenergy Renewables. “Who in their right mind today would build a new gas peaker? We are a factor of two cheaper.”

    2019:

    https://www.pv-tech.org/news/major-gas-solar-and-storage-plans-unveiled-in-two-us-states
    “The New Mexico plan is.. linked to the closure of the San Juan coal power station in June 2022. The utility PNM… has suggested 280MW of gas peaker plants, 350MW of solar and 130MW of battery storage…

    “Meanwhile, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has filed its latest Integrated Resource Plan. The utility’s 20-year plan includes up to 2.4GW of energy storage by 2028 and up to 5.3GW by 2038. It suggests a range of 1.5-8.0GW of new solar capacity by 2028 and 14GW by 2038…

    “The combination of solar and storage is increasingly competitive with gas generation.”

    If you want “realistic” you would go with “what got done totally by accident in France”, not “what’s never been done anywhere, by anyone, and we have good reason to believe is not possible.”

    Well, France did have a plan to go 100% nuclear. But they abandoned that plan well short of its goals; even the electric grid never made it, let alone other aspects of energy use. Meanwhile, in today’s France, they plan on decreasing the proportion of nuclear power in the grid to 50% or so. Amazing how the “radiophobia” keeps seeping in everywhere, I guess.

    Query: Is there a cute term for “irrational fear of renewable energy?” I’d sure like to be able to have a one-word scapegoat for everybody who disagrees with me, too.

  35. 135
    mike says:

    what we do know about nuclear energy and radiation is that lands that have been the site of accidents are not very safe for human beings and they won’t be for a long time.

    My standard request to nuclear enthusiasts is to demonstrate the ability to clean up an accident site now. The poet/engineers are quite enamored about their abilities and know so much about energy and safety. Just show the technology/ability/interest to clean up a single bad storage site at Hanford, then let’s talk.

    Otherwise, let’s talk about how to stop destroying forests and how to reforest lands and what impact that might have on global warming.

    The risks are overblown, says PE. Hey, go conduct a month long study at Fukushima. Can you do that or are you all just talk? Take your kids with you, if you have any. The risks are overblown. Your kids will love it!

    Mike

  36. 136
    Rey says:

    114.

    “Yes, demanding ever-more “safety” from the safest option and pricing it out of the market, while far more dangerous options are scarcely regulated, is just the thing for the public interest.”

    Right. Installing solar is “far more dangerous“ because somebody might fall off a ladder. How stupid do you think people are? Thing is when that ladder falls there’s not the potential for thousands or millions of similar accidents. There’s not the potential for contamination of hundreds or thousands of miles of land for thousands or even millions in of years. But you’re trying to sell the risks as the same. Your, and the nuclear industry’s constant denigration of clean alternative energy is proof that you aren’t really concerned with climate change. Just promoting your particular model. Otherwise you’d be promoting them all equally.

    “Jaczko is a saboteur. He sabotaged the US Navy’s assistance to Japan after the Tohoku quake and tsunami by keeping ships way too far offshore to be of use.”

    Well I don’t know the details, but let me try to guess why he did that. Tsunami. There was likely a good chance of another and he wasn’t going to take a risk with other’s lives. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

    “Would you care to discuss the ~15,000 excess deaths from the 2003 heat wave in France? I live at 45° North, where people historically retreated from summer heat. It hit 90°F here maybe a week ago, and it’s not even the dog days of summer yet. Note that we are supposedly heading into a solar minimum. How can this NOT be climate change?!”

    Read closer. I’m not claiming those aren’t examples of CC. I said “can be positively and directly attributed to it”. Yes we can see the trend, but these cannot be positively and directly attributed to CC. Climate scientists have been very careful not to do that because there’s likely multiple factors involved, though CC is the main one. But it’s not “phobia” because there’s plenty of evidence for it. Neither is wariness of nuclear “phobia” because there’s plenty of evidence for the risks. Again though, it’s not phobia to fear any risk that is not crystal clear. Nuclear’s hazards are not lessened simply because it can take years or even decades for the exposed to get cancer and the difficulty of sifting through other possible causes.

    You’re dentist, by the way, was an arrogant jerk.

    “Your body is EVOLVED to deal with this. It has repair mechanisms, which are stepped up in response to radiation.”. Sure, normal, background radiation. But as the worlds scientific bodies have pointed out, there is no safe threshold. If you don’t like their conclusions then prove them wrong. Or you can stop fighting facts. What you want to do is ADD to that background radiation simply because it would suit your business model, and force people to accept it.

  37. 137
    Rey says:

    Hey everyone! I’m a farmer.Yes I know people feel they have legitimate issues with salmonella on their veggies but I propose a new standard. It’s hard for me to keep lettuce clean, well at least, it would cut into my profits too much, so I propose that we all just accept a certain level of contamination instead! First let me come out with some studies to prove it’s safety. What an idea!

  38. 138
    Al Bundy says:

    nigel: There is nothing stopping Africa broadening its export base to include more manufactured goods ,

    AB: Uh, maybe you should look at the data. The west promoted dictators and destruction while signing contracts that indebted Africa at usurious rates. As if Africa could climb out of that trap.

    Obviously you have NEVER had to concern yourself with debt.

  39. 139
    Al Bundy says:

    Ray L: it’s pointless to argue with morons like you.

    AB: Try to make your insults valid. EP is most definitely not a moron AND YOU KNOW IT. Thus, your comment is a load of crap AND A LIE. Please put a teensy bit of effort into your comments instead of taking the easy way by lying through your teeth.

  40. 140
    nigelj says:

    Zebra @125 says the following regarding promoting nuclear energy:

    “1. Establish a free market for electricity generation, where there are no monopolies and people can buy from any source. That’s something realistic the Feds could do, within existing law and with existing technology.”

    “2. Establish some disincentive for using fossil fuels, like a tax, or whatever you call it. Again, something doable, if politically difficult.”

    “If you guys really cared about climate change, you would be working to achieve something like that, and stop wasting everyone’s time. After those two steps happen, you can put your ideas out and compete for investment, just like the wind and solar and conservation and gas people will, and we’ll see who wins.”

    This makes sense on the whole although it will still be challenging politically. New Zealand has a system like this. The transmission lines grid Transpower is a state owned enterprise, while local transmission line grids are generally privately owned or in consumer trusts. The point is the law allows for anyone to start a generating company, and link into the transmission lines grid and the electricity retailers can buy energy from whatever generating companies they want. In fact many of the retailers are owned by generating companies.

    The public can pick and choose between retailers. Huge monopolies are not allowed to develop so it’s an electricity market. I thought California was like this, but maybe I’m wrong.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_electricity_market#Retail_companies

    In NZ there is no law forbidding nuclear power, coal power or anything else (as far as Im aware) although nuclear power would come up against environmental regulations and would have to go through the RMA procedure which is an evaluation of its impacts, and would probably have a tough time of it.

    There is an emissions trading scheme that effectively pushes renewable energy and discourages fossil fuels but its very light weight. NZ has built quite a lot of wind power recently as a result, and because its viewed by generating companies as cost competitive over things like coal power and nuclear power.

    It’s been tough making this market work because NZ is a small country to try to develop a market, but its fairly embedded now. The entire electricity system used to be owned and run by government, and was quite efficient, but this was ended in the 1980’s with all the craze for free market reforms.

    I admit I don’t love nuclear power, and NZ has a lot of other options anyway. But I don’t see a case for governments ruling out nuclear power either.

    I think Zebra needs to remember nuclear power is expensive partly because of the safety provisions, so EP has a point, but it seems to be that it would be a long time before those safety provisions are relaxed, so the nuclear industry are crazy putting all their efforts into just that, and should get in behind encouraging an energy market and carbon tax or cap and trade scheme. If nuclear power has merit there will be a place for it and one decided by the market.

  41. 141

    Quoth zebra:

    I don’t know your IQ score, and perhaps you were above average before your issues developed, but at the moment it seems that your reading comprehension and coherent reasoning skills are pretty shaky. I asked you this really simple and direct question, and I gave an example of one possible approach to making the transition from fossil fuels to nuclear for generating electricity.

    My IQ is more than 3 SD above the mean, and I had more or less assumed that we wouldn’t get to the point of acting on climate change until we had agreed that it was necessary.  That change in policy comes before any action to do something about it.

    Most people, even some Africans, would be able to comprehend that my example of France nationalizing the electrical sector dealt with government policies, not specific technology like co-generation or reactor types.

    You don’t deal with too many engineers.  Engineers are all about technical details.  By the time you get to engineering something, the question of whether to do it is already settled.  OTOH, engineers will let you pay them to build things that “work” but don’t accomplish your purported goal.  I spend a lot of time calling out “climate” measures that will not work as claimed; they are unfit for purpose.

    So far as government policy goes, a straight technology-agnostic preference for non-emitting vs. emitting energy and a rewrite of radiation exposure standards to line them up with the actual science would do the job.  Taxing emissions of CO2 from fossil carbon at $50/ton is probably enough; taxing CO2-equivalents such as methane leakage would help a lot.  That would probably wind up costing about $100/ton of CO2 from natural gas at the point of use, or upwards of 5¢/kWh from your bog-standard open cycle gas turbine.  Hardly crippling especially if it offset other taxes, but it would definitely tilt the playing field toward non-emitters regardless of type.

    some fantasy end result without any way to achieve it.

    I tend to concentrate on the physical things required to get X done, not the policy decision that X must be done.  I’m an engineer, remember?

    Are you suggesting that the US Federal Government order cities to build nuclear plants within their boundaries to achieve your very efficient use of waste heat for space heating and hot water?

    Nope.  I’m suggesting that there is no real public health argument against this (given the right nuclear technology), so the USFG should adopt rules which permit or even encourage it.  The USFG should assist decision-makers by paying for a number of prototype walk-away safe units and conducting tests to prove that they are indeed walk-away safe.  (This was actually done at EBR-2 a month before Chernobyl, but it got no press.)

    If not, why would anyone do it rather than some other configuration of energy sources?

    Because it requires far fewer resources and is thus much cheaper.  A $100/tCO2(eq) tax from total GHG effect of natural gas comes to about 19¢/therm as delivered to the consumer, hardly crippling either especially given a tax rebate.  But 19¢/therm tax on top of delivered cost is enough to make low-grade heat at even 2¢/kWh (58.4¢/therm) highly attractive.

    Thomas Edison had a vision of electrified America.  There would be a power plant every square mile or so and it would provide both electric power and heat to everything around it.  His vision failed because it relied on coal and people got fed up with coal burners inside cities, but the principle works if you have a non-emitting heat source.

    You are doing what nuclear proponents always do, talking about some hypothetical technology

    LWR and LMFBR technology is anything BUT hypothetical.  LMFBR was in service from before I was born up to 1994 in the USA, and is still in service elsewhere.  While I prefer to do a ground-up redesign using lessons learned and aiming for robotic construction of standardized units, we could push old proven designs into production right now if we were actually serious about dealing with our contribution to climate change.

    You’re still arguing over details and government policy to do what we should already have agreed MUST be done.  You are not serious.

    If you really believe all the things you are saying about how great nuclear would be (in your suggested configuration or some other), then all that has to happen is:

    1. Establish a free market for electricity generation

    Stop RIGHT THERE.  This is about WAY more than just electric generation.  This is about EVERYTHING that consumes fossil fuels:  ground transport, aviation, rail, space heat and DHW, industrial process heat, chemicals, EVERYTHING… and yes, electricity too.  If you fail to consider these AS SYSTEMS, you are going to miss synergies and will come up with a much more expensive solution than is necessary.

    If you guys really cared about climate change, you would be working to achieve something like that, and stop wasting everyone’s time.

    I’m thinking WAY ahead of you.  Schopenhaur nailed this one.

  42. 142
    David B. Benson says:

    nigelj, Rey, others — Already in comment #129 I provided a link which leads one to many papers at the end. One of those papers strongly indicates a hormetic effect of artificial ionizing radiation on unicellular organisms. Thus there presumably is a threshold below which the ionizing radiation is more helpful than harmful.

    There is also anecdotal evidence for hormesis in humans. Many Europeans make annual visits to radium hot springs; Marienbad and many others. In India there are the radioactive sands of Kerala where some come to bury themselves up to the neck, again for symptomatic relief.

    I point out that the papers opposing LNT as the basis for government regulation come from the health community, not the overly supine nuclear power industry.

    Once again, could we take this topic to appropriate threads on the BNC Discussion Forum and quit usurping this thread, presumably about the virtues or lack thereof of planting trillions of trees?

  43. 143
    David B. Benson says:

    I just noticed this link
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/569/low-dose-ionizing-radiation-information
    providing access to other resources about low dose ionizing radiation. Maybe the discussion of this topic on this Real Climate thread can now end?

  44. 144
    Adam Lea says:

    135: “The risks are overblown, says PE. Hey, go conduct a month long study at Fukushima. Can you do that or are you all just talk? Take your kids with you, if you have any. The risks are overblown. Your kids will love it!”

  45. 145
    Adam Lea says:

    135: “The risks are overblown, says PE. Hey, go conduct a month long study at Fukushima. Can you do that or are you all just talk? Take your kids with you, if you have any. The risks are overblown. Your kids will love it!”

    I detest these appeals to emotion non-arguments, and judging things by the absolute worst possible scenario, ignoring the probability of that scenario happening, or whether on average it is less destructive than the status quo over the long term.

    I use a bicycle for transport. Cycling on road is statistically a very safe activity, and has health and financial benefits. Four years ago, I was nearly killed by a careless driver when cycling to work, I barely made it and was in hospital for nearly two months in total. By an analogous argument to yours, I should hang the bicycle up and never use it again, because there is a small chance I might be killed. Of course, if I do that, my only practical alternative transport option is to drive, which is far worse for my health and externalises costs on society.

    It seems to happen on every fora or newsgroup when any controversial topic comes up, the discussion might start well, but ultimately descends into logical fallacies and point scoring. I always believed that this blog was different, being maintained by world class scientists trained in logical thinking, and contributions from similar, one could have a logical constructive debate. Alas, it is disappointing to see that even on here, a discussion will go down the toilet eventually, like matter falling into a black hole.

    *Rant over*

    When it comes to renewable energy, the issue is not fluctuation and storage, there are solutions to thoise issues. The main issue as I see it is that to power a country on 100% renewables, a huge surface area is required to build enough renewable energy generation facilities. Wind and solar are dilute energy sources (and solar is not the best method in a cloudy country like the UK), the energy you can extract per sq km is small relative to the energy demand of a country’s population, unless those in the wealthy countries voluntarily adopt huge lifestyle simplification measures (which I see no evidence of happening). If you read the book “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”, by David MacKay (free online), he uses current day figures to do the calculations and work out what it would require to power the UK, Europe, America and the world. He concludes that neither the UK nor Europe can live off its own renewables, and America can barely do it, assuming average current day levels of energy consumption per person.

    http://www.withouthotair.com/c18/page_103.shtml
    http://www.withouthotair.com/c30/page_231.shtml

    What is needed is for someone to come up with a roadmap showing how we get from out current situation, to the zero carbon future, using whatever methods are possible, and taking into account public cooperation (which nothing will happen without).

  46. 146
    Killian says:

    111 Al Bundy said When I see somebody being unfairly attacked it is my DUTY to try to protect them.

    Gaslighting. Ironic. Par: Racism gets spewed and addressing that is “attacking.” Right. Others have insulted this guy up and down this thread and you’ve not a word to say. You attack your betters, no? What point in bringing down those you perceive as less?

    Try to remember your 1st, 2nd, 3rd and on and on responses to me – and, again, you simply jumping in and started being insulting unprovoked – were personal attacks.

    Go gaslight elsewhere. You’re useless. Try harder: Go be a wheel chock somewhere.

  47. 147
    Michael D Sweet. says:

    David Benson:

    I can also get a list of papers against Global Warming from WUWT and Judith Curry. The definitive report is the National Academy of Sciences report linked above and found here:http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/beir_vii_final.pdf
    The NAS strongly supports Linear Response no Threshold. You argue against the consensus opinion. I note that you have cited exactly zero national organizations that support LRNT.

    I am not surprised that the Trump administration is taking a position against the consensus scientific opinion. This puts the lie to EngineerPoets claim that radiophobia is a problem for nuclear. Obviously those in power only care about money and not health. This was amply demonstrated at Georgia and South Carolina and the Hinkley plant in England.

    I note that you and EngineerPoet have a long conversation over at Brave New Climate. You account for over half the posts and EP half of the remainder. There have been no new OP’s at BNC that support nuclear for over two years. What a strong community of nuclear believers!!!(/sarc)

  48. 148
    Michael D Sweet. says:

    My precious post should read “zero national organizations that oppose LRNT”.

  49. 149
    mike says:

    tree planting seems to be working!

    Weekly CO2 numbers?

    Last Week

    July 21 – 27, 2019 410.87 ppm
    July 21 – 27, 2018 408.36 ppm

    2.51 ppm increase. Noisy number, source: CO2.earth

    Nice to see something/anything under 3 ppm.

    Cheers

    Mike

  50. 150
    Rey says:

    ‘EP’, “Your body is EVOLVED to deal with this. It has repair mechanisms, which are stepped up in response to radiation.”.

    You keep saying this. You are intentionally (it appears) misreading and distorting the facts here. The immune system’s stepped up response to radiation is not proof of its safety. Rather, it’s evidence the exact opposite.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370950/

    I recommend a class in basic biology.