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Forced Responses: Aug 2020

Filed under: — group @ 1 August 2020

This is the bimonthly thread on climate solutions. Climate Science discussions should go here.

336 Responses to “Forced Responses: Aug 2020”

  1. 151
    Al Bundy says:

    Nigel: profit is just an accounting entry that gives you a right to part of the physical world much like money does

    AB: Yep. Profit is “wages plus rent”, with the division between the two debatable. Is “sweat equity” “delayed wages”? Are patents by unpaid individuals the same?

  2. 152
    Al Bundy says:

    RayL: Cultures vary, but everyone wants the best for their children.

    AB: You’ve never met my dad

  3. 153
    Al Bundy says:

    109 Postkey,
    Wow. Thanks

  4. 154

    E-P, #131–

    The IEA report cites no source for the 620 Mt number.

    No, because they do their own research in-house.

    Duh.

  5. 155
    nigelj says:

    Ray Ladbury @150

    Agree about the stuff related to exponential growth, interest, retirement and education, but you say “Frankly, I have never seen or heard of a society in “equilibrium”. I don’t think humans could live in such a society.” Don’t hunter gatherers come very close to this? And there is no exponential growth, in fact there is almost no growth full stop. It was only with the discovery of farming that growth eventually gained traction.

    I’m not proposing we try to adopt a hunter gatherer model or even get as close as possible, its just an observation.

    ————————–

    Killian @136 mentioned that regenerative societies would help keep the size of families small, however I have my doubts it would happen easily. These societies are generally using less automation, industry and robotics and look like they would be more labour intensive than conventional society and this could push family size up. A case of needing as many hands on deck as possible. Almost like a reverse demographic transition in some respects, if degrowth applies so wealth decreases.

    They would face all the same problems we have of trying to encourage low fertility rates. I cant see it flowing naturally from the nature of their society.You would have to try to convince people that regenerative societies need to be small when conditions would be pushing them towards the opposite size.

  6. 156
    David B. Benson says:

    nigelj @145 — I suspect that the problem is in Asia where coal burners continue to be built. I’m not arguing the merits of nuclear power plants.

  7. 157
    zebra says:

    #150 Ray Ladbury,

    So you can’t (or choose not to) answer my direct question: “Assuming a stable population, how does me repaying my student loan result in an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere?”.

    That someone who “applies physics” is unwilling to offer a causal narrative to support his contention is disappointing.

  8. 158
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Zebra@157, Your entire line of questioning is absurd because the answer to the question depends on the activities you undertake to repay your student loan.

    Do you drive? If so, you are contributing CO2 to the atmosphere. Even if you have a fully electric car, the manufacture of the car consumes energy. The paving of the road consumes energy.

    Do you wear anything but homespun cloth made with locally derived materials? Then you are adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

    The basic problem is that your model is not sufficiently detailed that I can draw any conclusions whatsoever. It is not that I am unwilling to engage. Just give me jack shit that I can engage with!

  9. 159
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nigelj,
    Which hunter-gatherer societies? There are big differences between Aleuts and Congolese pygmies. Most of the constraints on growth are externally imposed–and they fluctuate. In many ways, because hunter-gatherer societies are so much at the mercy of a changing environment, they must be dynamic to survive.

  10. 160
    Ken Fabian says:

    There won’t be asteroid resources to help us. NASA’s Osiris-Rex will (hopefully) return 2 kg of samples of crude asteroid material to Earth at (best case) US$500M per tonne. Or 1 kg at $1 billion per tonne. Worst case is $1 billion for none. But at least it attempts to bring the stuff back to Earth; even the more optimistic of grand space optimists find it easier to bypass the intractable requirement to have return trade to Earth, along with that irritating need to be economically viable, preferring to imagine a separate and independent space economy – where taxpayers and investors on Earth are satisfied with having people working and living in space, as vicarious payment enough. I remain unconvinced. Doubly unconvinced that this would in any way improve our circumstances here on Earth.

    As long as the mire of conflicted mainstream politics persists whatever we do will be less than optimum – and that can make even Mars colonies start looking achievable. Back here on Earth I think the most significant near term benefit from the boom in solar and wind is political, not direct emissions reduction – by undermining the deliberately cultivated alarmist economic fear of taking action that prevents strong actions with enduring commitments.

    I don’t know how the zero emissions end game is likely to play out but wind and solar is taking us across a significant tipping point, where action exceeds inaction – and doing it within the de-facto bottom line that has emerged within conflicted politics… where taking action must not cost more than NOT taking action and calculations of those costs must not, not ever, include the externalised climate costs. Given that, I am even more impressed with RE’s achievements to date.

  11. 161
    Ken Fabian says:

    Correction to above – That should be US$500 billion per tonne for Osiris-Rex to return 2kg of asteroid samples to Earth.

  12. 162
    nigelj says:

    Ray Ladbury @159, ok I see where you are coming from better now. I can’t argue with that. I doubt there is an example in perfect equilibrium. I would be interested in your reaction to my unrelated comment @107, if you missed it.

  13. 163
    zebra says:

    #158 Ray Ladbury,

    Come on, do you not understand the point of an experiment, even if it is a thought experiment?

    We’re holding population stable, and at a certain level. That’s it; that’s the condition we are testing, compared to what exists/has existed. Otherwise, the process of getting a science degree, for example, hasn’t changed.

    But you keep making what to me is a bizarre claim, that the act of borrowing money itself necessitates increased consumption of energy and resources under the conditions of the experiment.

    It has nothing to do with vehicles or clothing. If I don’t take out a student loan, I would still exist.

  14. 164
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Zebra,
    Details matter. Do you pay compound interest on that loan? If so, then probably, somewhere in the system there has to be exponential growth. For instance, if you take a job as a quant on Wall Street, I would pretty much guarantee that you are making your boss money that increases at a greater than linear rate.

    How much of your salary does the loan payment eat up? How long will it take you to pay it off?

    And it does have to do with vehicles and clothing. Because of where you have to work in order to pay off your student loan, you may have to drive further than you would otherwise. You may have to wear “business atire”. You may work more hours and so dine out more in restaurants.

    And as to your work–do you have to travel? Has technology for virtual meetings advanced to the point where you don’t need to travel. Or do you need to go to a conference somewhere just to talk to other folks who are doing the same sort of work you are. Or do you live in a command economy where everybody who does the same sort of work is forced to live in the same compound?

    People love to posit a conterfactuals that differ from our own society in a single, critical detail. The thing is that it would be impossible to realize such a society–changing one detail would change many other details. For instance, decreasing human population by a factor of 10 or more automatically decreases the odds that you will find a suitable collaborator for a research project in your field. That necessitates increased interconnection with other institutions, other countries… How you do that has a huge influence on consumption and stability.

    Population stability is certainly a necessary condition for attaining sustainability, but it is not a sufficient condition. You cannot avoid the details merely because the devil lurks therein.

  15. 165

    Wrote Ken Fabian @160:

    There won’t be asteroid resources to help us. NASA’s Osiris-Rex will (hopefully) return 2 kg of samples of crude asteroid material to Earth at (best case) US$500M per tonne. Or 1 kg at $1 billion per tonne.

    Why do you think any of that matters?  The whole point of asteroidal resources is that they are already in space.  They do not have to be launched at great cost in money and energy.  They are (relatively) cheaply available for construction off-Earth.

    The near-term purpose of capturing asteroidal resources is to provide reliable energy to Earth.  Not materials.

    Worst case is $1 billion for none. But at least it attempts to bring the stuff back to Earth; even the more optimistic of grand space optimists find it easier to bypass the intractable requirement to have return trade to Earth, along with that irritating need to be economically viable, preferring to imagine a separate and independent space economy – where taxpayers and investors on Earth are satisfied with having people working and living in space, as vicarious payment enough. I remain unconvinced. Doubly unconvinced that this would in any way improve our circumstances here on Earth.

    Dude, if you seriously believe in solar energy you have to realize that the problem with it is that clouds and this 8000-mile piece of rock keep interrupting it.  The only realistic way to deal with those problems is to get AWAY from the rock and the clouds, and that means into space.  Peter Glaser realized this in the 70’s, and Gerard K. O’Neill came up with a way to execute a solar power plan using lunar rather than terrestrial materials.

  16. 166
    Killian says:

    Frankly, I have never seen or heard of a society in “equilibrium”.

    Frankly, I wonder what that means to you and whether you’re aware that during the 16th or 17th century even in “developed” economies inflation over the entire century was damned near zero.

    I wonder whether you are at all familiar with precontact Amazonia (seems a minimum of 10 million inhabitants), NA, Africa and Australia?

    E.g.: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/pre-colonial-australia-natural-wilderness-or-gentleman-s-park

    I hope you are all aware “equilibrium” in this case cannot mean unchanging, always the same production, etc. That’s insane. We must think in terms of stability over time, continuing to function within a fairly wide yearly range but a relatively, in comparison, narrower range over a decade or longer time frames, yet functioning through the high and low extremes.

    Australia has been people for over 50k years and over extremes of dry and wet, and, because of the way the First Nations there managed the land, it wa a relative paradise until “modern” invaders turned it into a far dryer space via ignorant land use.

    The Amazon was anything but untamed jungle.

    So, what do *you* mean by “equilibrium?” And, regardless of what it means to you, I’d encourage you to replace that term with “resilience.”

  17. 167

    E-P: The only realistic way to deal with those problems is to get AWAY from the rock and the clouds, and that means into space. Peter Glaser realized this in the 70’s, and Gerard K. O’Neill came up with a way to execute a solar power plan using lunar rather than terrestrial materials.

    BPL: Hate to tell you this, old fellow, but the L-5 Society went out of business many years ago. Let’s see if you can figure out why.

  18. 168
    zebra says:

    #164 Ray Ladbury,

    Ray, you are obviously a smart guy, and I’ve seen you use formal economic terms like “rent-seeking”, but you are apparently incapable of writing a few sentences to explain this endlessly repeated assertion??

    Do you pay compound interest on that loan? If so, then probably, somewhere in the system there has to be exponential growth.

    You’ve repeated this with very slight variations in language in multiple posts, like an obsessive mantra. Are you just trolling me, or what?? How is compound interest connected to an increase in consumption of resources??

    What economic principle am I missing?

  19. 169
    Ken Fabian says:

    @165 My cost estimates were way wrong – 1,000 times more expensive than what I said; 500 BILLION per tonne at best.

    The whole point of asteroidal resources is that they are already in space. They do not have to be launched at great cost in money and energy. They are (relatively) cheaply available for construction off-Earth.

    Sorry, I cannot take this statement seriously; the extensive and expensive infrastructures for in-space mining, refining and manufacture and transport are not already in space. High tech construction requires a whole range of materials and capabilities – getting almost fractal when each “easy” and “simple” requirement is examined closely. All that does have to be launched at great cost.

    The willingness of supposed techno-optimists to believe that the most improbable things like space solar power made from Moon or Asteroid resources will be cheap and world changing, on time scales that can get us back our climate stability… but insist better, lower cost clean energy technologies for that purpose is pie in the sky…. is puzzling.

    My encounters with proponents of grand space dreams leaves me thinking too many would willingly push ahead with Space Solar Power and use widespread concern about global warming to promote it irrespective of a convincing case that it is superior to Earth based options; their focus and objective is getting people into space and escaping the dilemmas Earth faces. Not sticking around and facing up to them. And they seem to expect the people who would be paying for it to take vicarious comfort in that presence in space in place of tangible economic returns on their investments. That kind of misuse of our climate concerns does not impress me.

    Not that it matters – we’ll have batteries that can power trucks and ships and planes before we even get to stage one of any space based solar power project.

    In any case I think that if beaming power between space solar arrays and Earth were cost effective and efficient we would still be better off having the solar arrays on Earth – beaming up where it is sunny, then back down somewhere else where it is not. But the beaming schemes are not efficient.

  20. 170
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Zebra,
    That ought to be obvious–compound interest grows exponentially. Therefore to pay off the loan, your production must rise exponentially as well. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need the loan.

    If an employer hires you at a good salary, it is because they expect you to increase their earnings. If it is a publicly traded company, it is expected that those earnings increase exponentially (earnings are almost always reported as a percent increase or decrease on the same quarter in the previous year). If the company does not see such an increase, its stock price collapses, and it either gets bought by vulture capitalists or goes bankrupt because it will not be able to finance debt.

    A lot of this activity is driven by pension funds, which again are expected to return a percentage of the growing principal amount every year–that is exponential growth. Pretty much everywhere you look in our economic system, exponential growth is hidden somewhere.

    Muslim banking might present a paradigm, as charging of interest is considered usury. However, they have found ways around that, that probably still translate to exponential growth.

  21. 171
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ken Fabian,
    Actually, there are schemes whereby you can get the desired asteroid into near-Earth space(discussed in my #103 above), and that considerably lowers the cost to the point where mining platinum group minerals and perhaps some other rare elements could be economical.
    And not only economical, but possibly game changing. We have no idea what we would do with a ton of iridium, because there has never been a ton of iridium on Earth!

  22. 172

    Wrote BPL @167:

    Hate to tell you this

    No you don’t.  You’re positively crowing.

    the L-5 Society went out of business many years ago.

    Merged to form the NSS, in no small part due to the cost of defeating the UN Moon Treaty.  I was there.  I know Keith Henson personally and lent a laser pointer to Bob Zubrin a while back, though I doubt he’d remember me.

    Let’s see if you can figure out why.

    It was ahead of its time and the cost of fossil fuels was and remains too low.  Something as trivial as a significant carbon tax could have reversed the economics.

  23. 173
    John Kelly says:

    Regarding space-based solar power:
    1. Of course don’t slow terrestrial RE efforts. Electrical generation is the low-hanging fruit of decarbonization. It’s relatively easy and cheap. Hurry up and get that done.
    2. The timeline of some space-based solution is likely beyond our lifetimes.
    3. It would, however, solve some of the problems with low-carbon energy, which are real. Nuclear with radioactivity and long-lived waste. Solar and wind with big footprints. Even hydro has wiped out ecosystems. If it ended up being feasible, it would be beneficial to eventually transition to that.

  24. 174

    #169, KF–

    But the beaming schemes are not efficient.

    No. And the higher the energy density gets (in search of more efficiency, say) the more dangerous they get.

  25. 175
  26. 176

    K 166: during the 16th or 17th century even in “developed” economies inflation over the entire century was damned near zero.

    BPL: Your history is as good as your economics, which is to say, completely incompetent.

    Spain and Portugal suffered terrible inflation in the 16th and 17th centuries due to all the gold they brought back from Latin America. Amory Lovins used that as his characteristic example of the problem of “catastrophic wealth.”

  27. 177
    David B. Benson says:

    Here’s what happened when a gigawatt of wind failed and the backups were unable to respond:

    https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/behind-the-scenes-maneuvering-averts-even-more-california-power-outages/2415748/
    Fortunately some 2nd tier generation resources were finally made available.

  28. 178
    zebra says:

    Ray Ladbury,

    Three problems:

    1. You keep referring to “our economic system”. But that exists in the current context, which involves growth in population and relatively limited resources. That’s useless…again, the purpose of the thought experiment is to examine fundamental principles under different circumstances. How does telling me about now refute my claim about the sustainability of my scenario??

    We can return to this, but your first paragraph makes no sense at all in any context:

    2. “Therefore to pay off the loan, your productivity must rise exponentially”

    But if I am more productive, I would be using less energy, and less resources, and, in a true market economy where externalities are prohibited, I would create less pollution.

    3. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t need the loan.” That’s just wacko…really wacko.

    I need a loan because I don’t have liquidity at a given point in time. You really are obsessed with this compound interest thing to the point that your basic reasoning about money is clearly impaired. This is basic math.

    -I could work for N years and save money for tuition, but if I choose not to,…

    a. I could borrow money from someone at zero interest…a relative, or the government, for example.

    b. I could borrow money with interest. (And it is perfectly possible that I could borrow under simple interest terms and it would cost more than with compound interest…it depends on the rate. So, please, stop with the freakin’ compound interest!)

    For b, whatever the form of the loan, it would mean that I would have to work more than N years (assume the same job). Or, I could live more frugally and still pay off the loan in an equivalent amount of time. If I live more frugally, that would mean, again, less consumption, not more, ceteris paribus.

    So you haven’t made your case even for current conditions, much less for my stable 300 million population scenario, where the number of incoming students and outgoing retirees doesn’t change appreciably over time.

  29. 179
    Ken Fabian says:

    I remain unconvinced about the commercial viability (therefore actual viability) of space resources. Many optimists believe otherwise – and I am not going to spend effort stopping them; if you can make a credible case to make it work, go for it.

    There are many energy tech possibilities that I would put ahead of space based power – from ongoing energy storage development (batteries that can run ships and trucks and planes) to more speculative ones like optical rectennas (just one significant technical challenge – better diodes – to get a way to harvest atmospheric back radiation, at night, as well as sunshine by day and waste heat and thermal storage anytime) or big picture possibilities like very long distance/intercontinental power transmission global power grids.

  30. 180
    Al Bundy says:

    RayL: Just give me jack shit that I can engage with!

    AB: Not his style. Remember how his “Just turn the power off for customers who chose the ‘wrong’ electrical provider”

    suddenly became identical to current accounting systems that provide cover to “those in charge” so they can avoid responsibility for making bad decisions about the mix of supply and demand?

  31. 181
    Killian says:

    176 Barton Paul Strawman K 166: during the 16th or 17th century even in “developed” economies inflation over the entire century was damned near zero.

    BPL: Your history is as good as your economics, which is to say, completely incompetent.

    Spain and Portugal suffered terrible inflation in the 16th and 17th centuries

    Straw Man idiocy. Two countries equal “economies?”

    Value of $100 from 1636 to 1800

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, prices in 1800 are 15.44% lower than average prices since 1636. The U.S. dollar experienced an average deflation rate of -0.10% per year during this period, causing the real value of a dollar to increase.

    While this is relative to the inflation rate at the beginning of the time, which was high, the trend was falling inflation and more stable prices.

    But I had the century wrong, which is not so odd given I had listed two as the caveat in the first place. To wit:

    Value of $100 from 1800 to 1900

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, prices in 1900 are 33.33% lower than average prices since 1800. The U.S. dollar experienced an average deflation rate of -0.40% per year during this period, causing the real value of a dollar to increase.

    In other words, $100 in 1800 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $66.67 in 1900, a difference of $-33.33 over 100 years.

    The 1800 inflation rate was 2.44%. The inflation rate in 1900 was 1.20%. The 1900 inflation rate is lower compared to the average inflation rate of 2.90% per year between 1900 and 2020.

    To be such an ass over something remembered from a single reading of some source or other years ago is just stupidly useless, Levenson. If you ever tried to actually converse… but, you love the shit at the bottom of the pig pen.

  32. 182
    Killian says:

    I love how this forum is suddenly so anxious to discuss issues I’ve raised for ten years, and pretend that conversation was your collective idea.

    However, you’re getting it all incredibly wrong.

    Mining the solar system? I listed that as the long-term solution to resource issues years ago, stating a period of 2 to 4 generations of regenerative simplicity would likely be necessary as the tech does not exist and will not be for a long time. Sure we can pick up a rock and bring it back, but the ability to move huge numbers of tons on and off Earth to enable a technical society without further despoiling the ecosystem.

    Why in the name of gods are you arguing the details of the impossible? It is in no way germane to the present except to be noted as an important effort for the R&D resources of the future.

    There are GERMANE issues to discuss!

    And energy. Utility-scale power is insane. What does it do now? Make people poorer. Kills people by cutting off their energy sources when they cannot pay. Why in the name of all that is holy and unholy would you not only condone by acceptance, but also actively SEEK to continue, that insanely inhumane practice? I wrote in 2008 of the need for localized energy, water, food. This is the only pathway to resilience. We “build in chunks” and avoid monocultures in food production for reasons: It’s FAR more resilient, it can be managed at the scale of the human being thus can be as simple or complex as the local community determines, is resistant to disease and pests.

    We can say the same for localized grids, water, etc. First, back to the first point: Nobody can take away that which the community provides for itself’ communities are unlikely to freeze, or let bake, their neighbors. Microgrids are resilient against failure, eliminating the possibility of widespread blackouts. Microgrids can be scaled to need. Microgrids can be DIY. Microgrids can be designed very specifically to conditions and needs.

    Tell me, who the hell is going to fund utilities for 5 billion-plus people so they can live like the richest 10% of humanity? Nobody.

    By keeping the systems, patterns, principles of today in place…. you keep the inequalities of today in place. Until it all falls down. Nothing really changes.

    I remind you: https://voiceofaction.org/collapse-of-civilisation-is-the-most-likely-outcome-top-climate-scientists/

    If all you have to say in response to this is “Can’t be done!”, let me preemptively say, “Shush.”

  33. 183

    Ken Fabian missed the point @169:

    The whole point of asteroidal resources is that they are already in space. They do not have to be launched at great cost in money and energy. They are (relatively) cheaply available for construction off-Earth.

    Sorry, I cannot take this statement seriously; the extensive and expensive infrastructures for in-space mining, refining and manufacture and transport are not already in space.

    And how much would that take?  Structures intended for service in vacuum and microgravity don’t require much.  A stony-iron asteroid could easily be processed by melting bits of its surface with a 2-meter solar mirror, spinning the silicates into basalt wires and the metal into heavy foils.  We’re already doing additive manufacturing by sintering metal and other powders.  This is more of the same.  Unless you are making pressure vessels or the like, you need minimal mechanical strength and can tolerate a lot of inefficiency.

    High tech construction requires a whole range of materials and capabilities

    Who says the manufacturing has to be high-tech?  A solar sail is essentially a huge expanse of thin metal foil.  It doesn’t even have to be particularly smooth if you don’t have major requirements for tacking and can tolerate more scattered light.  You can make lattice booms by sintering metal particles.  You’re going to want a lot more mass of “dumb” stuff than anything high-tech anyway.  You can do one hell of a lot with a billion tons of mass and a briefcase-worth of semiconductors.  Something I learned recently is that you can also do a hell of a lot with relatively little power with technologies like electron-beam welding.  An ISS-worth of solar panels would power quite a few.

    getting almost fractal when each “easy” and “simple” requirement is examined closely.

    The real issues come up when you need refined materials, like pure quartz or soda glass for windows or copper for wire.  Aluminum will only be found as oxides, but corundum makes good abrasives and windows too.  Native nickel-iron is very common in space, and rock can be melted and spun into fiber or rods fairly easily.  Dumb structures are going to cost MANY orders of magnitude less than $500 billion/ton.

    My encounters with proponents of grand space dreams leaves me thinking too many would willingly push ahead with Space Solar Power and use widespread concern about global warming to promote it irrespective of a convincing case that it is superior to Earth based options

    It IS superior to earth-based options; it (almost completely) gets rid of the unreliability issue, obviating storage.

    their focus and objective is getting people into space and escaping the dilemmas Earth faces. Not sticking around and facing up to them.

    Honest to Pete, don’t you realize that the biggest dilemma humanity faces is TOO MANY PEOPLE ON EARTH, and getting them into space where energy is abundant solves this problem?

    Not that it matters – we’ll have batteries that can power trucks and ships and planes before we even get to stage one of any space based solar power project.

    Oh, that matters.  It matters a lot, because the problem isn’t having batteries that can power trucks and the like on daily jobs.  The problem is having a sufficiently reliable supply of energy to CHARGE those batteries.  If you’ve got power available whenever you need it, those batteries can be sized to go for mere hours.  But if you have power that’s only available unreliably, those batteries may have to be sized to go for MONTHS.  Going with wind and solar increases the size of the problem by a couple orders of magnitude.

  34. 184
    nigelj says:

    Killian @182 says “And energy. Utility-scale power is insane. What does it do now? Make people poorer. Kills people by cutting off their energy sources when they cannot pay…..I wrote in 2008 of the need for localized energy, water, food…..We can say the same for localized grids, water, etc. First, back to the first point: Nobody can take away that which the community provides for itself’ communities are unlikely to freeze, or let bake, their neighbors. Microgrids are resilient against failure, eliminating the possibility of widespread blackouts. Microgrids can be scaled to need. Microgrids can be DIY. Microgrids can be designed very specifically to conditions and needs.”

    This microgrid idea might possibly work. The neighbours might help people out with their power bills, if they are in genuine need and bad circumstances, but they will soon get sick of the many people who squander money.

    But there’s a simpler solution without needing micro grids: The governmnet just pays part of peoples power bills automatically. We already do something similar with elderly people. This should be done anyway. Microgrids wont appear overnight, there will be a transition phase.

    Local grids are more resilient to wide area blackouts, but you loose the economies of scale, one of the main reasons for centralised grids. Wide area blackouts are rare in well designed systems.

    Microgrids can’t really work for large hydro dams and might struggle with wind farms which are dictated by suitable geography. Microgrids suit solar panels which can go almost anywhere.

    So whether microgrids are appropriate might itself depend on “local conditions” of various sorts. I can see it in places like Africa and its happening now as follows:

    https://medium.com/thebeammagazine/microgrids-are-building-a-better-future-for-populations-in-remote-areas-46d06b0c9966

    I doubt microgrids would happen in somewhere like America quickly and without substantial battery backup. Americans love their big screen televisions, bubble baths, and warm toasty rooms with a photo of Donald Trump on the wall, grinning away.

  35. 185
    nigelj says:

    Zebra, do you not think you are missing the point of what RL is saying and moving the goal posts just a tiny bit?

  36. 186
    nigelj says:

    I suggest we will mine the asteroids just because we can, but space travel is so fuel intensive and expensive it will probably be limited to a couple of tons of materials a year. It will probably be cheaper to extract iridium from sea water, so mining asteroids for actual profit is away in the future.

    We have to make the best of what resources the planet has by wasting as little as possible and not buying technology that we dont really need. I think its a mistake to over complicate it too much beyond that.

  37. 187
    Al Bundy says:

    Ken Fabian: Correction to above – That should be US$500 billion per tonne for Osiris-Rex to return 2kg of asteroid samples to Earth.

    AB: Do you have a point? Even when speaking engines instead of cutting edge science, one-offs are orders of magnitude more expensive than mass produced. As an inventor I know that a prototype for a “cheaper and more efficient widget” will be a financial nightmare compared to buying a good-enuf widget off the shelf.

    The payoff is in the learning. I recommend you try something similar.

  38. 188
    Al Bundy says:

    EP: “Hate to tell you this”

    No you don’t. You’re positively crowing.

    AB: uh, that’s what “hate to tell you this” means. Stop wasting bandwidth, doofus.

  39. 189
    Al Bundy says:

    Killian: but, you love the shit at the bottom of the pig pen.

    AB: LOL! Such an amazing lack of self-awareness!

    Zebra: How does telling me about now refute my claim about the sustainability of my scenario??

    AB: He’s simply saying that your scenario is too simplistic

  40. 190
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Zebra, Your fundamental misunderstanding is that there is exponential growth hidden in our system of economics in myriad places. Anywhere there is compound interest, there is an assumption of exponential growth. If someone is willing to pay you enough that you can pay off a loan with compound interest, it is because they have an expectation of your being able to increase their earnings in a nonlinear fashion–otherwise, why hire you?

    What I am saying is that we have to look for those things in our current system, understand the role they play and determine the extent to which analogs could exist in a sustainable system. At present, you are like the mathematician in the joke who wakes up to find his room on fire, and upon seeing the fire extinguisher, goes back to bed, saying, “A solution exists.”

  41. 191

    Killian doubles down on the stupidity:

    K 181: Value of $100 from 1636 to 1800

    BPL: The 16th and 17th centuries were 1501 to 1700.

  42. 192

    Kevin McKinney wrote @174:

    But the beaming schemes are not efficient.

    No. And the higher the energy density gets (in search of more efficiency, say) the more dangerous they get.

    The test done at Goldstone proved that the efficiency was high enough, even at the time.  And you don’t necessarily even want, let alone need, high power density.  Thermal blooming in the atmosphere limits your effective areal density of transmission down to the ground (though not necessarily to e.g. stratospheric altitudes where aircraft might cruise).  Power density is limited by factors like wavelength and the size of the transmitting antenna (first null for a circular plane radiator is at about 1.3λ/D radians if memory serves), and that’s set at the design stage.  It’s going to be obvious what’s a power source and what’s a weapon.  The original schemes used a power density of about 23 mW/cm² which just isn’t going to do much except mess with 2.4 GHz receivers.

    (Yes, this has been spoofed.  I particularly like this bit that Bill & Barry added later:

    The cattle are standing like statues
    The cattle are standing like statues
    They smell of roast beef every time I ride by
    And the hawks and the falcons are droppling like flies.)

  43. 193

    (of course I notice the typo just as I click Submit.)

    A couple other developments.

    Democrat party platform supports nuclear power for the first time since 1972:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertbryce/2020/08/23/after-48-years-democrats-endorse-nuclear-energy-in-platform/

    California has rolling blackouts for the first time since deregulation allowed Enron to game the market:

    https://www.energyindepth.org/californias-rolling-blackouts-is-the-result-of-a-constrained-supply/

    Note that the blackouts have come along when “renewables” only power about 30% of the California grid.  100% just isn’t gonna happen.

  44. 194
    nigelj says:

    Ray Ladbury, the problem we have is that the growth society (whether economic or population) and sustainability are poles apart. I take your point that indigenous cultures do grow and retract a bit in a cyclical fashion, however I say that’s not really a solution the the fundamental problem we humans face. We cant deliberately contrive a useful sustainable society to grow then retract, because any gain in exponential growth is cancelled by a retraction isn’t it?

    Instead the problems of a shrinking society and a stable society are going to have to be fixed in other ways. Old age and education costs may have to be met more by the state. This at least provides security.

    We might have to allow some small amount of economic growth in order to avoid a great stagnation, but channel it into the things that matter the most like medical technology. This would probably happen anyway because people value this. So the sustainable society is going to have to embrace some things like some limited growth that are strictly speaking not 100% sustainable forever. Another is at least some wind turbines and solar panels as K points out.

    So a sustainable society that is modern and high tech based is always going to be just a compromise. Its a case of how we define the best compromise.

  45. 195
    zebra says:

    #190 Ray Ladbury,

    we have to look for those things in our current system, understand the role they play and determine the extent to which analogs could exist in a sustainable system.

    Exactly what I did, Ray. In my sustainable scenario, with a stable population and a relative abundance of resources, there would be no exponential growth in consumption. The reason we have exponential growth in consumption (and “compound interest loans”, if you like) is because there is/has been a growing population and a relative scarcity of resources.

    If you disagree with my conclusion, you would have to show a mechanism for how exponential growth in consumption would occur in my scenario. You can’t say it’s because of “compound interest loans”, because you’ve already said that “compound interest loans” are the result of exponential growth. You do understand the difference between cause and effect, right?

    And then there’s:

    If someone is willing to pay you enough that you can pay off a loan with compound interest, it is because they have an expectation of your being able to increase their earnings in a nonlinear fashion–otherwise, why hire you?

    Now, I have a neighbor who is a janitor at the local school…and he is paid enough to pay off the mortgage on a nice suburban house, which involves compound interest, obviously. Are you saying that he “increased the earnings of the school in a non-linear fashion”?

  46. 196

    E-P 193: Democrat party platform supports nuclear power for the first time since 1972:

    BPL: Doesn’t matter. Nuclear is dying whatever party platforms say.

  47. 197
    Ken Fabian says:

    Engineer-Poet, Al Bundy –

    Asteroid resources can’t help us and Solar Power Satellites won’t do us no good. We can’t afford to wait for tech that doesn’t exist – and is not even in development – to make them cost effective. Let me know when there are any actual, credible plans for doing these things, where investing in them can be reasonably expected to deliver tangible returns and not be money sinks.

    Meanwhile back down here on Earth we, disappointingly, will have to make do with things that are real – with some looking to things that are in development. I suspect if we were collectively capable of doing projects like SPS we would be collectively capable of doing other more immediately useful – ie currently real – options a whole lot better, without needing SPS.

    It is clear that RE is something we can do, right now and it is clear we can push RE a lot further than it is now – even despite the bottom line that Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking has successfully forced on any replacement for fossil fuels, that it must not cost more than fossil fuels… that is, no more than FF’s with a perpetual amnesty on climate externalities, ie FF’s with cheating. Successes of RE in the face of the divisive and corrosive politics are heartening – especially so given it got its start with empty gesture politics, with a side serve of enough rope. I’d like to see how far they can go in the absence of spoiling politics, inadequate funding and forced compromises. More rope please!

    We have seen battery storage costs drop to a tenth of ten years ago. Clearly there is payoff from some kinds of learning – at least for those where the orders of magnitude for achieving cost effectiveness are not piled too deep. Long running power companies are increasingly turning to RE with large scale batteries, based on merit – having learned that they do work and are cost effective, with indications they are becoming preferred to gas backup.

    Where the limits to RE are and how the zero emissions end game play out are not clear – but the “renewables can never work” arguments fall flat in the here and now. If we reach a point of diminishing returns we can reassess our options – even legislated commitments to specific pathways are open to reassessment and change, in light of emerging technologies and actual experience.

    As for nuclear – the mired, divided politics hurts nuclear much worse than it hurts RE simply because the largest bloc of support for nuclear options has ended up locked up behind a Wall of Denial – no climate problem, no need. The captains of commerce and industry – that would have strongly supported nuclear if they had no choice but fix the climate problem – supported the (up front) cheaper option of NOT fixing the climate problem and lobbying hard to NOT have to.

    Now – if they had to fix the climate problem, if they were to give up on Doubt, Deny, Delay as climate policy (lots still back DDD) – many captains of industry are going to support RE over nuclear.

  48. 198
    Killian says:

    “The neighbours might help people out with their power bills, ”

    WHAT power bills? MICRO-grid.

    “but you loose the economies of scale”

    WHAT economies of scale? How do you still not understand SYSTEM change?

    The government is gonna pay our bills? We’re in the middle of freaking pandemic and the governments around the world, and especially the US, are telling people to stay home and then to basically chew on their furniture if they get hungry, but you think governments are gonna subsidize EVERYONE’S energy costs?

    There is nowhere in the world where microgrids are not a better solution. The only reason not to not have microgrids is economics, but economics is a useless and stupid concept and is one of those things that will no longer exist as it does today in a regenerative future. There are issues during transition because, well, people are really effing stupid, but the endgame is what it is because it can be no other way IF one wishes for a sustainable and fair future: Commons.

  49. 199
    nigelj says:

    Zebra @195, you just dont understand. You just Do Not Understand. Nobody is saying your scenario of a stable population has exponential growth in consumption. Nobody is saying your stable society is a bad, evil horrible thing, indeed it lookes inevitable to me.

    The issue is our current prosperity is a function of exponential growth, its all through our economy, and your zero growth society would lack this, and so would getting there.

    So how do we mitigate this problem within a stable or a shrinking society? I have already suggested a couple of the more obvious things.

  50. 200
    nigelj says:

    Ken Fabian @197, I agree with most of that, but the discussion on mining asteroids is just interesting chatter and related to a long discussion here about general resource scarcity. I suggest that renewables and mining asteroids are not mutually exclusive, indeed they might be mutually reinforcing, because renewables rely on microelectronics and solar panles, which relies on some rather rare minerals and you dont actually need large quantities of these. It may well be feasible to mine asteroids for these.

    Its not an issue relevant to first generation renewables and The Paris Accord but it will become an issue eventually. Indeed I suspect resource constraints around renewables might eventually reignite interest in nuclear power. If we are serious about the climate issue and meeting time frames we might find we need a range of generation options to spread the resource constraints load.