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Forced Responses: Oct 2020

Filed under: — group @ 10 October 2020

Bimonthly open thread for discussing climate policy and solutions. Climate science discussion should go here.

353 Responses to “Forced Responses: Oct 2020”

  1. 251

    E-P 234: total up the costs of making solar power provide 24/7 electricity WITHOUT fossil backup.

    BPL: Backup doesn’t have to be fossil fuel.

  2. 252

    E-P 235: Third-worlders cannot generate prosperity

    BPL: Is that locked into their non-white genes, by any chance?

  3. 253

    E-P 237: A Chernobyl per year might not be an actual problem beyond the immediate vicinity.

    BPL: This is why, thank God, nobody listens to Engineer-Poet. His statements are so over-the-top insane.

  4. 254
    zebra says:

    Gosh, Wish I Had Figured This Out

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/opinion/solar-wind-natural-gas-climate-change.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

    In fact, the Rocky Mountain Institute recently reported that gas generation in two large electricity markets “is now attracting only a small fraction of investor interest compared to clean energy.”

    Alas, the situation is quite different in monopoly markets, where utilities face little or no competition. They recover their costs through rates set by state regulators, not by operation of a market.

    RC folk:

    “But zebra, letting a true free market decide which mix of generation best suits a locale would mean we couldn’t keep repeating the same stupid arguments, back and forth, endlessly, with all the memes and factoids we have worked so hard to memorize!”

  5. 255

    #235, E-P–

    The assertion was:

    Third-worlders cannot generate prosperity; if they could, they would do so on their own. We don’t owe them, especially not at the cost of ecocide.

    IMO, that is racist twaddle. But my opinion aside, it is objectively false. See, for example, Figure 1, here:

    https://www.oecd.org/dev/Overview_EN_web.pdf

    It shows clearly that the rate at which non-OECD nations have been “generating prosperity” has considerably exceeded that at which us “superior” First Worlders have been doing, for at least the last 28 years.

  6. 256
    Mal Adapted says:

    nigelj:

    What I was trying to say is this. I’m not sure the differences between ontological and consequentialist libertarians are genuine.

    Sigh. We don’t have a common vocabulary ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I’m trying to define ontological libertarianism as an illusion of Liberty as a universal moral imperative, independent of anyone’s preference,, in contrast to consequentialist “libertarianism” as the empirical or naturalistic stance: we are observed to practice liberty – do as we damn well please – until something, or somebody, stops us. It sounds tautological: consequentialist libertarians are whoever’s left after ontological Libertarians name themselves (Darwinian evolution has a similar image problem: the ‘fittest’ critter is simply the one that leaves copies of its DNA after all its conspecifics are selected out). I take any American individual or party who names themselves “Libertarian” to mean the ontological kind. I’m talking about the likes of Rand Paul, or Jerry Taylor before he acknowledged that the existential threat posed by AGW justifies collective intervention in energy markets:

    When we launched the Niskanen Center in January 2015, we happily identified ourselves as libertarians. Sure, we were heterodox libertarians, but there are many schools of libertarianism beyond those promoted by Charles Koch’s political operations. The school we identified with was a left-libertarianism concerned with social justice (a libertarian perspective that I’ve defended in debates with more orthodox libertarians here and here). That worldview lacked an institutional voice in 2015. Our ambition was to create a space for it and, in so doing, redefine what it meant to be libertarian in the 21st century.

    I have abandoned that libertarian project, however, because I have come to abandon ideology.

    Again, AFAICT membership in the US Libertarian Party signals adoption of its ideology. After his self-reported abandonment of it, Taylor called his prioritization of social justice over personal liberty “heterodox libertarianism”: one wonders how heterodox it must be before he stops calling it libertarianism altogether. I, OTOH, name myself a “consequentialist libertarian” only in contrast to the ontological (Taylor’s “orthodox”) kind. I believe “free will” exists within a very limited scope, but nonetheless creates a real role for personal responsibility in government by nominal popular sovereignty. Yet if vendors of goods and services don’t insist that I pay the full cost of my marginal fossil carbon emissions whenever I buy fuel, food, or toilet paper, I seldom volunteer. I like liberty a lot, but the difference between me and Rand Paul is that I’m willing to give up the liberty to socialize the full climate-change cost of my private energy consumption out my private tailpipe by internalizing it in the price I pay for it, for the sake of capping AGW short of mass casualties in the billions, which will all too probably include me, my sister, our brother, his daughter, and her young son. I name myself a patriot, and honor the US Constitution as much as anyone, but it’s not a suicide pact. So bring on the collective interference!

    Honestly, I don’t have any more to say about [Ll]ibertianism. The main reason I’m even thinking about this now, is that it’s slightly more likely than it was last month that realistic US government climate policies will be enacted in the next four years. I’ll grasp what quantum of hope I can reach.

  7. 257
    Al Bundy says:

    E-P 235: Third-worlders cannot generate prosperity

    BPL: Is that locked into their non-white genes, by any chance?

    AB: Fortunately the Great Trump has the cure: just inject bleach.

  8. 258
    nigelj says:

    Mike @232,

    you asked me what my ‘vision’ is and to provide some detail. Here’s a bit more. I don’t know if it can be categorised as a vision, but its my perspective on things. Its a bit wordy so Zebra can look away now :) If we are talking the climate problem, I adhere to the conventional approach of zero carbon energy (strictly speaking net zero), energy efficiency, commonsense lifesyle changes like eating less red meat and flying less, and negative emissions technologies including tree planting and possibly the use of fans to suck the stuff out of the air, etcetera. All this can make a difference and looks like it would gain at least some traction with the public. Ive changed my diet away from red meat for example.

    I don’t subscribe to ‘geoengineering’ because its way too risky, and I dont think its justified to expect people to turn thermostats right down low and go without cars etcetera, and no matter how much we plead it looks unlikely it would happen anyway. People are quite materialistic and that “curve” can probably only be bent down to a certain extent. In other words Im into a postive but ‘practical’ vision, not utopian idealism.

    If you are talking wider environmental problems, resource problems etcetera, I think the priorities are:

    1) Wasting as little as possible, using a wide definition of the term waste. Adopting the circular economy, recycling, not ot being too greedy, not dumping toxic waste, not wasting resources on wars. Because eliminating waste helps solve a wide range of problems, and is something that doesnt require people to endure a significant hardship. In other words it just makes sense and its got some chance of gaining momentum.

    2) Smaller global population, which reduces all environmental impacts, providing per capita consumption stays reasonably constant. Looks like we might be heading that way anyway given general fertility trends.

    3)We do need to change the way we farm to something that uses much less tilling and so causes less soil erosion, and is much less reliant on industrial pesticides.

    4) Obviously capitalism needs to change. But solutions have to steer clear of a return of failed policies of the past like collective ownership of the means of production. I think its a really challenging, complex issue and I don’t think we yet know exactly how it should change. There is no obvious consensus that I can see. A couple of things that at least seem doable could be requiring corporations to publish their CO2 fingerprint, and other environmental fingerprints, and to report on environmental outcomes as well as their profitability. Make it all transparent. More use could possibly be made of non for profit companies in areas that have the most environmental impacts. Not sure how you would ‘make’ that happen but it seems desirable.

    These things all indisputably improve sustainability, and they look doable and attractive options to me. I’m not a perfectionist and I’m wary of singular solutions, or simplistic solutions, grand visions, and philosophies, although clearly principles are important. I just think we have to so a range off things a bit like RL mentions. I’m less worried about economic growth, because its slowing down anyway. Reserve banks could obviously easily force economic growth to zero using monetary policy, if they wanted to. I’m less convinced by plans that suggest we adopt some form of shared ownership of the means of production, and deliberately go without technology most people take for granted these days. Its not clear that these sorts of things achieve anything useful. Obviously humans should prioritise needs, but life is dreary dull if we don’t also fulfill at least SOME wants do you think?

    It’s good in principle to build homes out of sustainable regenerating materials like timber, and to use it for carbon neutral fuel, but with 6.7 billion people and counting the world probably doesn’t have enough timber to do much of this. It seems we are stuck using metals to some extent, and just have to try not to waste them. Its inevitable that we will run out of at least some non renewables whatever our rates of use is, and it will probably drive us back one day to a “low tech” sort of society. I think what we should do is slow down the rate we use them by wasting as little as possible, while not ruining our own standard of living too much in the process.

  9. 259
    nigelj says:

    Killian @247 says “The only truly free societies on the planet are aboriginal: Absolute personal freedom. Yet, they do not (knowingly) destroy their environments. Show me ANY libertarian living truly sustainably and I will show you a lie or a failure to understand “sustainably.”

    I’m not convinced aboriginees have absolute personal freedom. For example surely they are expected to comply with the rules, practices, and customs set by the tribe and / or its leader or guiding person? Such things are not necessarily bad, but they all place limits on personal freedom. The only beings with absolute personal freedom are people who live entirely alone isolated from society, and lone hunters like wolves. Once people form groups decisions made by the group or their leader typically reduce some aspect of personal freedom to attain some other goal. But thats ok.

    “I cant help but feel that inside every consequentialist libertarian there lurks an ontological libertarian trying to get out. The history of our own libertarian party suggests this. FWIW, I really just don’t much like libertarianism, and its dog eat dog mentality. Ayn Rand is entertaining but shouldn’t be taken too literally.

    “Huh? That is exactly what you argue: We can’t do what we must to solve our problems because: People. Won’t. How is that not Ayn Randian?”

    I don’t argue people wont. I just observe that there’s not much evidence that many will. How is that Ayn Randian? Please provide evidence from her writings. You aren’t making much sense.

    “And this caps off the utter uselessness and, frankly, maladaptive stupidity of all philosophies. You think you have labeled something, intelligently, perhaps usefully, and are patting yourself silently on the back for your rhetorical brilliance, no? No matter either way. The point is you are playing word games with things that existed long before you lived or any city existed anywhere on the planet.”

    I’m suspicious of ‘philosophies’ as well, previously noted on this page, but isn’t ‘simplification’ a philosophy of living? because it certainly has all the characteristics. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck it probably is a duck (famous quote called the duck test.)

    “Intelligent people do not need philosophies: Politics, economics, psychology, et al., because they understand the old joke, in an inherent sense,Patient: “Doc, it hurts when I do this.Doc: Don’t do that.”

    Ok to a certain extent, but remember plenty of things that hurt are good for us. You over simplify things, and you do it with things that matter.

    “The consequential libertarians of the tribal societies don’t need your tortured philosophies because every person of a certain age knows what happens when you cut down all the zoomzoom plants for a short-term high: It disrupts the ecosystem in ever-widening disruptive circles of destruction till everything is bye-bye.”

    Fair comment, but modern humans have created a different situation by having 7.6 billion people to feed, house and clothe, and one of the results is rainforests and other natural habitats are disappearing. Some of this is due to overconsumption and greed and not thinking about the consequences, but I would contend much of its just due to providing for essentials for 7.6 billion frigging people! Of course it all has to stop right now, which means we have to put limits on how much of the biosphere we use up, which means we are stuck with being reliant on non renewable resources for the time being. All this problem will be improved if we just 1) waste less and 2) get the size of population down.

  10. 260
    nigelj says:

    Mal Adapted @256, I totally accept your definitions of the types of libertarianism. I’m not arguing against that, sorry if I gave that impression, and I’ve met people that fit in each category, more or less.

    I was just making the point that in my experience a lot of libertarians are untrustworthy. They take on the appearance of being consequentialist libertarians, or at least not opposed to some roles for the state, but once put under pressure quite a few seem to revert to a much harsher or extreme version of libertarianism, somewhat like your ontological description. But I don’t want to get into a never ending personal points scoring argument over this area of things! Its just good to share some ideas and information.

  11. 261
    mike says:

    at Nigel: At Nigel: so you think we need to move to a net zero carbon energy grid. Thanks for adding that detail. You did not answer my other question from 202:

    How soon do you think we need to accomplish this net zero carbon energy grid?

    You typed in a lot of words, but I didn’t see a time frame for moving to a net zero carbon energy grid.

    Cheers

    Mike

  12. 262

    Wrote nigelj @242:

    I agree with your sense of urgency, but its not a very realistic goal is it? We need a goal that has at least some chance of being met, or we will go crazy.

    I’m one of those people who can actually think at wicked problems without going crazy, so maybe I don’t cut the rest of the world enough slack.  We’re not going to solve this problem if we aren’t willing to think big enough to take it on.

    Here’s a for-instance:  short-term decarbonization of fossil energy by taking fossil methane, using carbon-free electricity from whatever source to drive steam-methane reforming, pipe the hydrogen off and dump the CO2 down other wells.  I recall news of a high-temperature electric membrane which is permeable only to hydrogen and can be used to drive the steam-methane reforming reaction essentially to completion by extracting the H2.  We might make this a carbon-negative process by e.g. adding gasified garbage and biomass to the methane feedstock.  This might pay for itself by getting rid of the garbage.

    Or are you saying we just start sucking CO2 out of the air right now as much as we can? Personally I think we should definitely do SOMETHING

    Agreed.  The hard job is figuring out what SOMETHINGs can do the job at the required scale, and then rank in order of increasing effort.  Spreading crushed dunite in intertidal zones seems like a pretty low-effort scheme; waves do most of the work.  You Kiwis have a major dunite intrusion on the south island, maybe you should try running some tests.  The crushers would be ideal dump loads for “renewables”.

  13. 263
    Ray Ladbury says:

    EP: “Third-worlders cannot generate prosperity; if they could, they would do so on their own. ”

    Dumbass, have you ever even been to a third-world country? How have you remained so completely, utterly ignorant of world history that you can sustain such reprehensible opinions.

    Dude, ignorance is curable. I’d be happy to recommend some reading. Stupidity is not. I guess we’ll have to wait and see which you suffer from.

  14. 264

    Ah, HERE’s what I was looking for!  The “protonic membrane reformer”.

    https://www.greencarcongress.com/2017/11/20171120-coorstek.html

    It takes methane plus steam and produces a stream of compressed H2 plus an off-gas stream of CO2, leftover steam and tramp hydrogen.  The cool thing about it is that you can turn 50 MJ LHV of methane into 60 MJ LHV of hydrogen, so it’s a way to convert surplus electric power to chemical energy.

    You could just as easily feed this cell with syngas plus steam.  Syngas can come from biomass, garbage, whatever.  There’s your route to BECCS.  This thing would recover the hydrogen from syngas, and convert the CO (14 kg @ 10.11 MJ/kg) plus steam to H2 (1 kg @ 145.8 MJ/kg, roughly breakeven).

  15. 265
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The best you can say about Ayn Rand is that she was a horrible person.

    And that presumes you haven’t read the attempts at sex scenes in her fiction.

  16. 266
    mike says:

    I don’t bother to read too much of what E-P has to say, but I think he mentioned hydrogen at 264. I have occasionally thought that hydrogen technology was a good way to extend solar power’s reach into the hours when the sun don’t shine.

    Cheers

    Mike

  17. 267
    nigelj says:

    mike @261

    “at Nigel: At Nigel: so you think we need to move to a net zero carbon energy grid. Thanks for adding that detail. You did not answer my other question from 202:How soon do you think we need to accomplish this net zero carbon energy grid? You typed in a lot of words, but I didn’t see a time frame for moving to a net zero carbon energy grid.”

    What is wrong with you Mike? I have already answered your question. I have already said at 243 “I agree with the paris accord timeframe of aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.” And yes that would include electricity generation. Some countries might want to do it sooner, I did mention (elsewhere) we in NZ are aiming to do it by 2040.”

    I would ideally like it all to be a lot quicker even than 2040, but Im a realist. I like goals that are ambitious but that also look achievable.

    Cheers, Nigel.

  18. 268
    nigelj says:

    Engineer poet @262, I didnt say having ambitious technical goals is a problem. Im fine with all that, but time frames do have to take into account all sorts of things, politics, availability of labour, possibility of causing inflation. They need to be realistic. That said, I do prefer reasonably ambitious time frames, otherwise the longer the time frame is, things just fill up space and still dont even meet the longer time frame!

    And a new energy grid completed by 2050 or before actually looks like a walk in the park, if we look at the rapid increase in economic output during WW2 as below. We could do it if we just emulated what was done during WW2, or even just half emulated it, and got our collective arses into gear, and also got the poison of money out of politics.

    A quick internet search: “The period between 1940- 1944 saw the greatest expansion of industrial production that the U.S. had ever experienced. The volume of output was increasing at an annual rate of over 15 percent between these years. … The average productivity of labor in industry was increased by about 25 percent between 1939 and 1944….”

  19. 269
    mike says:

    nigel at 267, lots of things wrong with me, I am old and breaking down in many regards. thanks for your answer at 243. I found it after my last post. your position is certainly mainstream. Good work on that. thanks for your understanding and compassion,

    Cheers

    Mike

  20. 270

    Wrote nigelj @268:

    I didnt say having ambitious technical goals is a problem.

    Imagine this.  A barge, carrying several AP1000 reactors with the cores below the waterline.  If the safety valves on the primary loops can’t dump heat to the waterside hull segments fast enough, other valves open to bathe the sides of the reactor vessel directly.  Meltdown-proof.

    The real problem, if you can call it a problem, is designing something to be constructed cheaply in serial production.  Given our technologies available, we could manage this by applying brainpower and testing hypotheses as we go.  Given war-footing seriousness, we could (should) have done this already.  Sadly, the greenwashers are the precise opposite of serious.

    Im fine with all that, but time frames do have to take into account all sorts of things, politics, availability of labour, possibility of causing inflation.

    Oh, PLEASE.  When has the possibility of causing inflation figured into anything?  And politics can change on a dime; look what Germany did pre-Fukushima and post-Fukushima.  There’s already the makings of a pro-nuclear preference cascade, driven by crazy weather and wildfires.

    Availability of labor would not be a problem if we truly got serious.  There are so many ways to automate construction it’s not funny.  We just have to commit to DOING it, and devoting the brainpower to make it happen.  (That means “meritocracy” not adjectivized “justice”, BTW.)

    They need to be realistic. That said, I do prefer reasonably ambitious time frames, otherwise the longer the time frame is, things just fill up space and still dont even meet the longer time frame!

    You should know me by now.  I want THE most ambitious time frame that we can find a way to make.  If better ideas can cut years off, DO IT!  The whole BIOSPHERE is at stake.

    And a new energy grid completed by 2050 or before actually looks like a walk in the park, if we look at the rapid increase in economic output during WW2 as below. We could do it if we just emulated what was done during WW2

    You are not the only one to notice this.  For instance, a NuScale module is on the order of 10% of the mass of a Liberty ship.  During WWII, the USA turned out Liberty ships at a peak rate of something like 3 per day.  3 NuScales per day should be NOTHING for us.

    The NuScale module was just up-rated to 77 MW(e) (gross), not sure about the net.  Let’s call it 74 MW(e) net.  The USA generated 4,118,051 GWh last year, for an average of 470.1 GW.  That would be met by 6353 NuScale units.  Building 3 per day 250 days per year, it would take only ~9 years to fully decarbonize 100% of average electric demand, assuming 0.93 capacity factor.  Let’s call it 700 GW(e) to account for electrification of most transport and things like space heat; that takes us to 13.5 years.

    Assuming 31% thermal efficiency, 700 GW(e) implies OTOO 1500 GW of waste heat.  That’s about 46 quads/yr, 3.9 quads/month.  The peak rate of natural gas consumption for space heat in the USA since 2015 (residential peak in Jan 2018, commercial in Jan 2019) is just 1.75 quads/month.  In other words, a fully nuclearized US electric grid would provide more than twice as much waste heat as required to heat all gas-heated residential and commercial buildings in the country even in the coldest month of the year.

    If the USA could build 2710 Liberty ships in 4 years, we can build OTOO 9000 NuScale modules in 13.5 years.  Nuclear’s got this.

  21. 271

    E-P, #270–

    If the USA could build 2710 Liberty ships in 4 years, we can build OTOO 9000 NuScale modules in 13.5 years. Nuclear’s got this.

    Uh-huh. Here’s what NuScale has to say:

    First module expected to be operational by mid-2029, with the remaining 11 modules to come online for full plant operation by 2030.

    And here’s what they have to say about the cost target:

    The target LCOE for our first 12-module power plant is $65 per megawatt hour. NuScale shares this target LCOE with confidence, since our plant cost estimate is based on a mature design, an extensive “bottom up” estimate, and actual quotes or pricing on over 14,000 components, materials or commodities.

    Pretty good. And I wish them luck. But at face value, and making the rather unrealistic assumption that the notional 3 modules/day starts Jan. 1, 2030, E-P’s “decarbonization accomplished” date becomes ~mid-2043. And that LCOE of $65/MWh must be compared with 2019 LCOEs of $32-42 for thin-film PV and $28-54 for wind.

    https://www.lazard.com/perspective/lcoe2019/

    In the 3rd quarter of this year, 1,934 MW of new wind capacity came online.

    https://www.awea.org/resources/news/2020/american-wind-power-posts-record-third-quarter

    If that pace were to be maintained, we’d see 80 GW more wind capacity online by 2030, and a further 104 by 2043, for a total of 184 GW. (There’s ~107 GW online now, for context.) But at this point, it seems more likely that we’ll see that pace increase markedly.

    And solar? At the end of last year, we had about 76 GW installed capacity; that represents about 13 GW added year-on-year. Maintain that, and we’d have 130 additional GW by 2030, plus 169 GW, for a total of 299. Again, it’s more likely that the pace of deployment will increase strongly.

    If not, though, the totals for both would be 210 MW of additional RE capacity by 2030, and 483 by 2043. That’s without any WW II-style commitment, without any policy change whatever. And it would be considerably cheaper. Yes, “capacity factor,” yes, “intermittency.” We’ve discussed those ad tedium.

    But it’s clear that by the time NuScales can solve the problem–even taking all of E-P’s assumptions at face value–a substantial part of the decarbonization problem would already have been addressed even at current RE deployment rates. (OK, we wouldn’t have the waste heat bonus–though I note that there would be a considerable cost in getting the waste heat to where it would need to be.) I doubt that, say, doubling deployment rates and adding significant storage to firm would require an effort, commitment, or investment comparable to what would really be requisite to realize E-P’s vision.

  22. 272
    Mal Adapted says:

    I thought these discussions should move from UV to FR, too. In response to a few comments over there, which I probably should’ve posted separately,

    Ray Ladbury:

    And while we are at it, how in the hell did capitalism ever become equated with free markets. Capitalism is all about maximizing the return from your assets–no matter what the cost to others. In fact, getting others to pay the costs–through rents, patents, barriers to entry, monopolies favorable regulation–is the name of the game…Capitalism fears truly free markets every bit as much if not more than socialism, communism or any other economic system.

    Ray, we lack a common vocabulary. In Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, he comically (i.e. graphically and humorously) depicts early Greek traders bargaining with remote locals who, unable to depend on a regulatory authority, were afraid even to show their faces. The traders would leave samples of their goods on the shore and retreat to their ships overnight. The next day they hoped to see a pile of local products next to theirs. They looked it over, and subtracted or added to their offering depending on what they saw; the locals did likewise. When the two piles stopped changing, the locals collected the trader’s goods and vice versa, each party better off from their PoV, and they’d do business again (sorry I can’t link to Gonick’s source, but I seem to have lost that volume in a recent move). That’s my abstract model of a basic free market.

    Early traders combined the surplus (to their own consumption) goods they had under their respective control, at risk of losing them, or even their lives, on the voyage; naturally, they’d only undertake it if they expected to profit, i.e. bring home more trade value under their control than they left with, though perhaps only after a market research trip or two. They were opportunistic and purely self-interested: if their customers liked, say, the sable pelts, they singled those out and incrementally upped their offer to the suppliers on the next voyage, not caring if the suppliers hunted the animals to economic or biological extinction; if they wanted slaves, they dealt with whichever local strongman could deliver them bound. Both parties bargained in “good faith” if they wanted to deal again. That’s what I’m calling capitalism, with a lower-case ‘c’, in the most basic abstract. Are you thinking of the modern, culturally elaborated, fundamentally plutocratic politico-economic system some call Capitalism with an upper-case ‘C’?

    In my model, the most successful capitalists are ruthless people, who want to profit any way they can, with as much freedom from social restraint as they can get. They cooperate with other capitalists out of mutual trust in each other’s selfish motives. Historically, they are quite willing to work with collectivist governments when it costs less than their potential profit, and will seek or resist regime change when either appears cost-effective. They cannily invest a tiny fraction of their profit stream in public disinformation strategies, paying top dollar for best-selling falsehoods. Regardless, capitalists make their investments on markets, regulated, corrupted or otherwise: they’ll keep their profits as high as they can for as long as they can, by any means they can get away with; but if nobody’s buying what they’re selling, they’ll cut their losses and reinvest in something else. That can result from collective intervention or “free” market forces. IMHO, all that’s implicit in the simple definition of capitalism. Discuss?

    MPassey:

    In their book Complexity and the Art of Public Policy, Colander and Kupers recognize the problem of top-downism and describe their idea of Laissez-Faire Activism. “The goal of policy in the complexity frame is not to implement government’s will, but to implement the people’s will through governmental institutions. Government is simply an institution built by people to help solve collective choice problems.”

    Anyhow, my main point was that when I scan this forum occasionally, a lot of the ideas for mitigation seem pretty top-downy to me and the chances of creating more suffering by mitigation attempts than is likely from climate change itself seems huge to me.

    IMHO this was a thoughtful comment. I agree, some of the top-downiest proposals posted on RC would almost certainly cause more suffering than they would ease, at least under modal ECS estimates. Per Colander and Kupers, I assume that collective decarbonization of the US economy will occur under the rule of law: That is, our government’s climate policy is agreed to by an effective plurality of voters, through our elected representatives. Of course, our elected representatives readily succumb to top-down influence, namely the immense power of concentrated fossil fuel wealth to protect its revenues; as well as bottom-up cultural forces, e.g. dominionist Christian AGW-denial on one hand, growing public unease at proliferating news reports of climate-related disaster on the other. Popular denialism is a major problem in the US, that can’t be wholly attributed to top-down forces, but can potentially be met by both top-down (i.e. government) and bottom-up (e.g. the international youth movement for climate action led by an unpredictably charismatic teenager) counter-forces. Any coercive decarbonization measure, whether fee-and-dividend legislation or anonymous terrorism, will feel top-downy to culturally-motivated deniers. And of course the petro-plutocracy, employing sophisticated bespoke disinformation, will co-opt or derail every bottom-up trend it can. I think we’ll find that leadership, arising from anywhere but always a rare cultural wildcard, is key to decarbonizing the global economy. Would you call that “top-downyism”?

    Kevin McKinney:

    There are indeed a fair few ‘top-downy’ proposals that get presented. But I think the danger of our deliberations here causing much harm is pretty remote. I’ve seen little evidence that we are collectively moving the levers of power. Or the teapots of power, for that matter.

    Kevin’s grasp of the mediocrity principle is superlative, y’all 8^D!

  23. 273
    nigelj says:

    mike @269, I had actually mentioned those timeframes twice, so I was wondering if you hadn’t seen it, or you were just playing games. It doesn’t seem your style to play games, but there’s so much of that on the internet that I get a bit suspicious. But yeah we all get old, and I’m getting old and sometimes I miss things as well.

    I have long thought that climate change will be worse than the mainstream predictions and I’ve said this several times here, but 1) I dont buy into the end of the world hype. Hype and exaggeration is not our friend, and 2) as a born pessimist Im aware I sometimes look for evidence of the worst and ignore evidence that the worst might not occur. It requires a lot of mental discipline to discern where the truth really is.

    I guess my attitude to mitigation is fairly mainstream. Its easy to say lets be more ambitious on time frames. Words come cheap. Lets all radically change our lives. But Im not sure that gets us anywhere. The best plans are realistic plans: Ambitious but also plausible and taking into account human nature.

  24. 274
    nigelj says:

    The thing that amuses and annoys me about Ayn Rand is she is into freedom of choice, but she insisted that her little in group all smoke tobacco. It was apparently quite a firm rule. No dissent allowed. Libertarians always end up with a lot of double standards like this.

    Her little group were also apparently a gloomy, humourless lot. And I cant remember or imagine Howard Roark in the Fountainhead cracking a joke.

  25. 275
    Mal Adapted says:

    Without yet seeing any responses to my post defining markets, capitalism, etc., I’m going to back away from naming simple investment of pooled private capital (i.e. surplus value) in expectation of profit, capitalism even with a lower-case ‘c’. This after reading further in Sapiens: a Brief History of Humanankind, by Yuval Noah Hariri (not Harris as I said previously). He calls my definition mercantilism. His definition of capitalism involves money, banks, credit, and leveraged investment in the expectation of expanding production and money supply, i.e. growth, backed up by ‘business-friendly’ government. He said it didn’t arise until the early modern era, and it’s what Adam Smith advocated in The Wealth of Nations. That is, in our common vocabulary, it’s more like Ray’s definition than mine. Mea culpa. I’ll stick with my other definitions for now, but will entertain sound contrary arguments ;^).

  26. 276
  27. 277
    zebra says:

    Just Sayin’,

    https://debate.uvm.edu/dcpdf/wsdcdefiningandcases.pdf

    Defining Motions & Constructing Cases:Guidelines for Competitors and Adjudicators by Andrew Stockley (New Zealand)

    For a debate to proceed, both teams need a clear understanding of what the motion means.This requires the motion to be ‘defined’ so that everyone (audience and adjudicators included)knows what is being debated. Problems arise if the two teams present different understandings of the meaning of the motion. This can result in a ‘definition debate’, where the focus of the debate becomes the meaning of the words in the motion, rather than the motion itself.Interaction and clash between the two teams concentrates on whose definition is correct, rather than the issues raised by the motion. Definition debates should be avoided wherever possible. They make a mockery of what debating seeks to achieve.

    (My bolds, of course.)

    The downside of avoiding them, of course, is that things might get resolved, like, say, in science. And then what would be the excuse for writing as many words as possible and having them ‘published’ here, for all the world to marvel at.

  28. 278
    Mal Adapted says:

    Now, here’s what I call a prosocial investment of capital: Jeff Bezos plays it safe on his $10 billion climate giveaway. I hope he’s requiring strict accounting.

  29. 279

    Uh-huh. Here’s what NuScale has to say:

    First module expected to be operational by mid-2029, with the remaining 11 modules to come online for full plant operation by 2030.

    That’s the effort of one company, not the USA on a war footing.

    But at face value, and making the rather unrealistic assumption that the notional 3 modules/day starts Jan. 1, 2030, E-P’s “decarbonization accomplished” date becomes ~mid-2043.

    Again, not assuming a war footing.  The USA went from first criticality of an “atomic pile” in December 1942 to ending the war in Japan with 2 atomic weapons in August 1945.

    And that LCOE of $65/MWh must be compared with 2019 LCOEs of $32-42 for thin-film PV and $28-54 for wind.

    LCOE is a fraudulent measure for unreliables.  LACE (levelized avoided cost of energy) is better, but still not perfect.  Ruinables still need 100% backup, and if ANY of that backup is fossil-fired you cannot fully decarbonize.

    In the 3rd quarter of this year, 1,934 MW of new wind capacity came online.

    Nameplate not de-rated for capacity factor and curtailment.  Yet another fraudulent measure.

  30. 280
    nigelj says:

    Ray Ladbury said “And while we are at it, how in the hell did capitalism ever become equated with free markets. Capitalism is all about maximizing the return from your assets–no matter what the cost to others. In fact, getting others to pay the costs–through rents, patents, barriers to entry, monopolies favorable regulation–is the name of the game…Capitalism fears truly free markets every bit as much if not more than socialism, communism or any other economic system.”

    Curiously enough our government has just announced an investigation into our food retail industry which is dominated by only two supermarket chains, so is a duopoly. People have been complaining about high prices compared to other countries for years, and its reached boiling point. Link below.

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/supermarket-inquiry-commerce-commission-to-look-at-food-prices-in-nz/NTNGFUQDW7WHU7IJAAYZUNA4DM/

    Its possible the supermarket chain could get broken up. Three players would make it harder to collude, and gives food suppliers real choice so they can’t be manipulated as much. Many of the big tech companies are now huge monopolies as well. The same principles apply to electricity markets, and having open markets with multiple providers make it easier for innovative forms of generation to gain traction.

    Where you have natural monopolies like transmission lines companies, they will inevitably abuse their power. Its just a matter of time. You need strong government regulations, mandatory codes of conduct and sometimes price controls. Sometimes the threat of this keeps them honest, but mostly you do actually do need it. This is not socialism. Its frigging commonsense. Thanx for the history MA.

  31. 281

    E-P, #279–

    Ruinables still need 100% backup…

    Untrue last time it was asserted. Still untrue this time.

  32. 282
    James Charles says:

    “energyskeptic says:
    March 24, 2015 at 3:47 pm
    The main issues with nuclear reactors are their capital cost and long time to build, the odds are good that since they’re all aging there will be more Fukushima’s and breakdowns, turning the public against their use, and above all, no where to store the waste. Plus nuclear is baseload power and doesn’t ramp or down quickly enough to match demand, which will bring on a blackout (no problem now but a big one when natural gas runs out). But that’s not the real issue – the real issue is that transportation depends nearly 100% on oil, and that transport that really matters, freight, runs on diesel fuel and their combustion engines can’t burn anything else, and coal and natural gas are near their peaks as well, and there isn’t enough biomass to make a significant amount of diesel from biomass. The thousands of suppliers for a nuclear generator won’t be able to ship, truck, fly, or send their components by rail to the building site, the workers won’t be able to get there without cars – civilization ends when transportation stops, especially trucks.”
    http://energyskeptic.com/about-energyskeptic/

  33. 283

    E-P 279: LCOE is a fraudulent measure for unreliables.

    BPL: By which he means, it doesn’t give him the answers he wants.

  34. 284
    Mal Adapted says:

    zebra:

    Just Sayin’,

    Definition debates should be avoided wherever possible. They make a mockery of what debating seeks to achieve.

    (My bolds, of course.)

    The downside of avoiding them, of course, is that things might get resolved, like, say, in science. And then what would be the excuse for writing as many words as possible and having them ‘published’ here, for all the world to marvel at.

    Paff! He smiteth my cheek in the third person 8^D! Heh, I’ve taught him well. Now it’s time for my morning nap.

  35. 285
    David B. Benson says:

    Barton Paul Levenson @283 — It is helpful to understand
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/705/lcoe-lace

  36. 286
    nigelj says:

    James Charles @282 while many of your criticisms of nuclear power are valid, the criticism that oil and gas will run out leaving it impossible to transport nuclear power plant components seems extremely odd. Would you not have electrified transport? Would that not be rather obvious?

    The same problem will affect renewables, but again the solution is electrified transport. Automobiles, trucks and trains and at least some ships can all be electrified. Some already are. Biofuels may also have some applications for example aircraft.

  37. 287
    mike says:

    Independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall’s bill for climate action by 2050 fits into the latter category. As climate campaigner David Spratt tweeted on November 8: “For Australia, zero #climate emissions by 2050 has NO basis in the science and is in complete disregard of ANY notion of climate justice.”

    If we set our goals low enought, it’s not that different from having no goals whatsoever.

    Netzero by 2050 is a very bad joke.

    https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/11/19/scientists-say-net-zero-2050-too-late

    Cheers

    Mike

  38. 288

    And here’s a modest but worthwhile mitigation proposal from the estimable Michael Bernard:

    https://cleantechnica.com/2020/11/19/one-change-to-the-worst-buildings-would-have-big-climate-benefits-cut-costs/

    Interesting analysis, too.

  39. 289

    @283:

    LCOE is a fraudulent measure for unreliables.

    BPL: By which he means, it doesn’t give him the answers he wants.

    Meaning it doesn’t give answers that have any relation to reality.  Price of energy goes down, while costs keap going UP?  The first few times might be error, but by now the excuses are gone. It’s deliberate fraud.

    Just like the skeptical projections of the ecological impact of “clean” solar were dead-nuts on.

    https://www.climatecentral.org/news/solar-study-sees-ecological-risks-19568

  40. 290
    mike says:

    https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6992851/net-zero-emissions-by-2050-leadership-or-climate-colonialism/

    “How fast does Australia need to reduce greenhouse emissions to play its fair part in responding to the global climate emergency?

    One answer jumps out: “net-zero emissions by 2050″. Suddenly almost everybody is clambering aboard this train: state governments, big business, investors, mining companies such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Shell, and community advocacy organisations.

    But there is a problem: what if this target is just another bit of the colonialism we rejected long ago? A sense of entitlement in this rich, developed country to keep on polluting for another three decades, a country whose leaders insist its wealth must continue to be built on a high output of greenhouse emissions, in the process denying some of the poorest and least developed nations their very survival? Particularly our neighbours in the Pacific.”

    Seems like a decent attempt by journalists to cover the questions that arise around a climate plan of net zero by 2050. My sense is that net zero by 2050 is very pedestrian and inadequate. This target will appeal to folks who want to feel like they have committed to something important, but don’t want to make significant changes in the way they live… which is to say, net zero by 2050 will appeal to a lot of people.

    Some significant changes may simply develop in a relatively unplanned manner, like EV expansion in the realm of private transportation, like the way that our transportation system converted from true horse power to combustion engines a century ago and those kind of changes may reduce global warming impact, but net zero by 2050 sounds like climate sloganeering to me.

    I am aware that people don’t like the idea, but we probably need to embrace a simpler, less consumptive way of living on the planet if we want to lessen the suffering of other beings on the planet and reduce the chance of collapses and calamities.

    You may see it differently. Here’s a prediction: 5 years from now (2025) the idea that net zero by 2050 is an adequate or even slightly ambitious plan to address global warming will not be considered serious. I think this idea doesn’t even have a 5 year life span before its inadequacy is apparent to almost everyone.

    Victor may embrace net zero by 2050 in five years because Victor is a remarkable person and sees things the rest of us cannot spot. But I think most of us will have moved on in 5 years.

    Cheers

    Mike

  41. 291
  42. 292

    E-P suggests that LCOE is somehow “fraudulent,” even though it is simple, transparent and widely-used. The calculation is out there for anyone with half a brain to understand, so “fraud” is a bit–strong.

    The EIA says of LCOE and LACE that, per Power Mag:

    Therefore, the EIA advised that the relative difference between LCOE and LACE is a better indicator of economic competitiveness than either metric alone.

    LCOE is:

    …a common measure used to evaluate the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the average revenue per unit of electricity generated that would be required to recover the costs of building and operating a generating plant during an assumed financial life and duty cycle.

    In other words, basically the *cost* of the technology in practice.

    LACE is:

    …a power plant’s value to the grid.

    Therefore:

    …a power plant is considered economically attractive when its projected LACE (value) exceeds its projected LCOE (cost).

    Hence the EIA summary statement above.

    It’s difficult not to suspect that E-P’s dislike of LCOE is indeed, as BPL suggested, due to its failure to give an attractive answer (from E-P’s perspective.)

  43. 293
    Al Bundy says:

    EP: Price of energy goes down, while costs keap going UP? The first few times might be error, but by now the excuses are gone. It’s deliberate fraud.

    AB: Morality aside, yes, the cost of renewables is kept low artificially by treating all kilowatts equally. The math doesn’t work because peaker plants sit around doing nothing for weeks or months at a time. Why would one build an asset that is dead weight most of the time if one isn’t compensated for sitting around? That’s coal’s new business model, to have ancient plants with a big pile of coal sit there, ready to be cranked up a few times a year when renewables aren’t cutting it and all the batteries are drained. Those shiny new natural gas plants will want in on that action as well. Decommissioning is expensive, so a dreaded cost is put off, hopefully forever via the spinoff of the plant to a going-to-go-bankrupt (oops!) entity.

    But you stridently avoid bio and synfuels here even though you personally are working with them in mind. That’s strange. You know that a fleet of hybrid vehicles powered with 60% efficient engines could easily keep the lights on throughout any rational lull in renewables’ generation. You know that nukes and renewables can generate plenty of synfuel and biofuels can pull plenty of weight, too.

    So the stance you take here seems far too strident and narrow. Putting a Nuclear Colony in Antarctica that utilizes the continent’s grand heat sinking ability to help generate all the non-fossil fuel the world can guzzle would be a rather easy lift that places essentially nobody in danger. Liquified methane can replace natural gas and methanol is a grand liquid-at-room-temperature fuel.

    Nuclear-generated fuel and hybrid vehicles beats batteries for long-term storage of energy.

  44. 294
    Piotr says:

    Kevin McKinney @ 281
    E-P: Ruinables still need 100% backup…
    Kevin: Untrue last time it was asserted. Still untrue this time.

    yeah, he tried in June, got his Engineering Ass handed to him repeatedly (e.g. in 1,13,14,28,48 Forced-Responses) and had to save himself with “GFY” (“ Go Fuck Yourself” for those not fluent in the engineering arguments).

    Then he returns, as if nothing happened, this time to crush the renewables with a devastating … pun (“Ruinables“, got it? Buuu hahaha!).

    Pun may be the lowest form of poetry, but still beats his earlier attempts at sounding like an Engineer (he couldn’t understand the difference between providing the base load and providing energy only in periods when the demand exceeds the supply :-) )^*.

    ^* posts 1,13,14,28,48 in http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2020/06/forced-responses-jun-2020/

  45. 295
    Al Bundy says:

    EP: Price of energy goes down, while costs keap going UP? The first few times might be error, but by now the excuses are gone. It’s deliberate fraud.

    AB: Morality aside, yes, the cost of renewables is kept low artificially by treating all kilowatts equally. The math doesn’t work because peaker plants sit around doing nothing for weeks or months at a time. Why would one build an asset that is dead weight most of the time if one isn’t compensated for sitting around? That’s coal’s new business model, to have ancient plants with a big pile of coal sit there, ready to be cranked up a few times a year when renewables aren’t cutting it and all the batteries are drained. Those shiny new natural gas plants will want in on that action as well. Decommissioning is expensive, so a dreaded cost is put off, hopefully forever via the spinoff of the plant to a going-to-go-bankrupt (oops!) entity.

    But you stridently avoid bio and synfuels here even though you personally are working with them in mind. That’s strange. You know that a fleet of hybrid vehicles powered with 60% efficient engines could easily keep the lights on throughout any rational lull in renewables’ generation. You know that nukes and renewables can generate plenty of synfuel and biofuels can pull plenty of weight, too.

    So the stance you take here seems far too strident and narrow. Putting a Nuclear Colony in Antarctica that utilizes the continent’s grand heat sinking ability to help generate all the non-fossil fuel the world can guzzle would be a rather easy lift that places essentially nobody in danger. Liquified methane can replace natural gas and methanol is a grand liquid-at-room-temperature fuel.

    Nuclear-generated fuel and hybrid vehicles beats batteries for long-term storage of energy. So your use of batteries as a whipping boy is disingenuous. Renewables do NOT require excessive amounts of battery backup and you know it. “But if you do it in the dumbest possible way it won’t work, and since I don’t like the technology I will only consider the dumbest possible way in my analysis” is, or should be beneath you.

  46. 296
    David B. Benson says:

    It would certainly help the level of discussion here if everyone studied
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/714/pjm-style-electricity-markets
    At least the first link thereof.

    It also helps to read about the ERCOT Texas grid to understand an energy-only grid in action.
    Note that despite the very low cost of natural gas Texas has lots of wind power and now increasing supply via solar panels. Yet each of these vendors has to compete in the day-ahead market.

    And by the way, the nuclear power plants in Texas continue to successfully compete.

  47. 297

    Kevin McKinney equivocates @292:

    LACE is:

    …a power plant’s value to the grid.

    Therefore:

    …a power plant is considered economically attractive when its projected LACE (value) exceeds its projected LCOE (cost).

    Hence the EIA summary statement above.

    You missed something big.  You missed that the wholesale cost of “renewable energy” on the grid has dropped BELOW ZERO on a number of occasions.  This is guaranteed to happen more often as ruinables expand under tax preferences and subsidies.

    It’s difficult not to suspect that E-P’s dislike of LCOE is indeed, as BPL suggested, due to its failure to give an attractive answer (from E-P’s perspective.)

    There is a fundamental difference between the where-needed, as-needed supply of energy required by industrial civilization with the where-available, as-available supply provided by so-called “renewables”.  Long-time blogger Meredith Angwin (of “Yes Vermont Yankee” fame) has published a book titled “Shorting The Grid” which goes into these devastating errors of policy.  (Yes, I have given her feedback.  I hope she has incorporated this into the e-book, though I don’t know if she has yet.)

  48. 298
    Killian says:

    291 Kevin McKinney:

    Stupid is stupid regardless how falsely branded and how well-funded. Implicit in the GND is the blithe, suicidal dismissal of resource limits, the role of Capitalism in destruction of the ecosystem and systemic inequality, and the risk of ever more rapid Climate Change.

    When you can address all of the above by emphasizing regenerative localization over ever-greater tech/complexity (Tainter) it is stupid to fund a massive, destructive, build out that solves nothing and creates additional problems.

    The intention of the GND isn’t anything close to drawing down carbon or preserving the ecosystem, and it does neither. It’s sole goal is BAU, electrified. The proponents and funders don’t even attempt to hide this.

  49. 299
    Killian says:

    287
    mike says:
    19 Nov 2020 at 7:35 PM

    Independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall’s bill for climate action by 2050 fits into the latter category. As climate campaigner David Spratt tweeted on November 8: “For Australia, zero #climate emissions by 2050 has NO basis in the science and is in complete disregard of ANY notion of climate justice.”

    If we set our goals low enought, it’s not that different from having no goals whatsoever.

    Netzero by 2050 is a very bad joke.

    https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/11/19/scientists-say-net-zero-2050-too-late

    Cheers

    Mike

    Hmmm… I’ve said it for a very long time, and for better reasons and with a model for getting to negative emissions, but I’m not worth your time. Also, 350 is a joke if you just look at the Arctic Sea Ice records for a full minute.

    You can keep waiting for scientists to finally figure out the obvious, or you can accept some of us are far ahead of the curve and have solutions.

  50. 300
    James Charles says:

    “Preface. Even a simple object like a pencil requires dozens of actions to make and dozens of objects that took energy to make. This is why it is unlikely wind, solar, or any other contraption that make electricity, have a positive return of energy, or energy returned on energy invested. If you look at all of the energy of the steps to create a wind turbine or solar panel, they don’t produce as much energy as it took to make them, and certainly not enough extra energy to replace themselves. Besides, electricity is only about 15% of overall energy use, with fossils providing the rest transportation, manufacturing, heating, and the half a million products made from fossils as feedstock as well as energy source.”
    http://energyskeptic.com/2020/invisible-oil-and-energy-payback-time/

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