on 02.22.12 @ 10:11 PM
Yep that is their desire and plan David. Except they forgot to calculate for one small little tiny problem with high energy costs, its affect on the poorest among us. You see, the poor and the middle class are the greatest beneficiaries of low energy prices, moving their standard of living up and making life more bearable. Ah, but the wealthy white liberal elite are not affected by higher energy costs. Oh, sure they may see a dip in their disposable income, but hey they are willing to make that sacrifice for the new AGW religion. They will still drive where they want, do what they want eat what they want and just spend a little less on the luxuries of life.
Unfortunately the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, you know the people the left always feigns compassion for, that bump in energy costs may mean the difference between living in a cold house or a warm one. It may mean fewer meals and no amenities at all. For the middle class it just might mean that mortgage payment sucking the life out of their existence is now unaffordable. Hello foreclosure, goodbye house.
No David, the president and the left, in their zeal to emulate Europe, now going broke, didn’t even think twice about those below them on the economic ladder. All they thought about was there religion, strict adherence to the doctrine of no carbon fuel.
on 02.23.12 @ 03:41 PM
“If the gas crunch starts hitting the economy, it’s doubtless that we will get an earful of populist hand-wringing and that we’ll hear the administration once again blame wealthy speculators and nasty oil companies.”
Oh, c’mon. Gas prices had barely risen before every GOP hand-puppet began blaming Obama. I remember when oil was $150/bbl, but David wasn’t wringing his hands then - because Bush was in office.
Yes, as Cardinal ANchove loves to point out, higher gas prices will hurt the poor the most. But what hurts them even more are cuts to education, cuts to the minimum wage, and artificial price hikes caused by futures speculation. And that stuff is all GOP bread and butter. Just try reining any of it in, and listen to the repubs scream “communism!”
And how about the issue of family planning, birth control, and access to women’s health care? The republicans want to nix all that. And if you are a poor woman whose education included very little about family planning and birth control (as is the case wherever republicans and the GOP have their way) you have too many children and too little money, and the price of gas is pretty far down on your list of worries. In the church of republican policy, the poor must be destroyed to be saved.
Yes Cardinal, do squeeze out those crocodile tears of fake compassion and try, with your convoluted reasoning, to project your own stink onto others.
on 02.23.12 @ 04:12 PM
And by the way, I hear that the shortage has more to do with U.S. oil companies taking obsolete refineries off-line - because they were no longer profitable to operate. This is limiting supply.
At the same time, fracking has provided an unexpected and abundant source of cheap natural gas, which is used by modern refineries to heat the cracking process in gasoline production. The modern refineries owned by U.S. oil companies are generating record profits.
And where does much of this profitably-produced gas go? To foreign markets willing to pay top dollar. So, between reduced supply (closing older refineries) and demand competition (foreign markets) the only conclusion you nitwits can reach is that Obama has really pulled an ingenious ploy to help encourage green energy.
It’s not hard to imagine poor folk struggling with higher gas prices as the local fracking operation poisons their water supply. But at least somebody is getting rich, and that’s really what it’s all about, eh Cardinal?
on 02.23.12 @ 04:13 PM
EIA projects that the US will soon overtake Saudia Arabia and Russia in oil production? Really?
No. The EIA has said no such thing and, in fact, US oil production is down by half from its peak in 1971. It has ticked up slightly in the last couple of years. But only slightly.
This whopping mistake characterizes this piece well.
on 02.23.12 @ 04:17 PM
One thing I do agree with is the author’s criticism of Democratic complaints about oil speculators driving up oil prices. While we can’t really know what the “right price” of oil is other than to look to the market, with surely some speculators, it is clearly the case that we are on a razor’s edge with respect to global supply and demand. This is why gas prices are at an all-time seasonal high now and why oil prices are well above $100 a barrel again. There’s just not a lof of excess. So as the global economy picks up again this year, we may well see another super price spike like in 2008…
on 02.23.12 @ 07:26 PM
Right now, retail oil prices are rising because the markets are being manipulated
both by spec investors on energy futures, and by the energy companies themselves
- U.S. economy recovery be damned.
Average domestic “demand” is still down. Average domestic “supply” is quite ample.
So why are pump prices rising? Obama? Not!
And please, don’t tell me investors are worried about Greece, or Iran, either.
To keep retail prices artificially high, way beyond the supply/demand curve,
energy companies have mothballed 4 major oil refineries, simultaneously. An
accident of bad timing? Don’t bet on it.
Also to keep retail prices artificially high, major American energy companies are
exporting large amounts of their production, to America’s foreign economic
If Obama cares about sustaining the economic recovery, he should tee up his
old friends, Exxon, Chevron, BP, et al., and start blasting them, non-stop, until
prices begin to fall.
He should also ask the SEC to start naming names of “investors” and “funds” that
are going long on oil futures on world-wide long-term and spot markets, and
driving futures prices up much faster than reliable supply, current demand, or
the international situation warrant.
Having “60 Minutes” or Anderson Cooper profiling these guys, w. their photos
next to their names, would pop their get-rich-quick-at-America’s expense
bubble real fast.
Amazing that Mitt “Mr. Business” Romney, Rick “Family Values” Santorum, Newt
“The Professor” Gingrich, and Ron “Just the Facts” Paul, could debate on tv for
60-90 minutes yesterday, and never once put their fingers on any of this, or say
what could be done, or what they would do about it ... except maybe API’s old
Bush mantra of “Drill Baby, Drill”?
on 02.23.12 @ 09:49 PM
Drilling would do far more damage to these greedy speculators than your stupid obstructionist government Publius, get a clue. It is Obama’s penchant for obstructing domestic production that allows the speculators to drive up prices based on insability of the global energy market, and as far as exporting to China, why the hell is that bad? We are actually making money for crying out loud. Are you people daft or what. What has us in deep pucky is that half trillion dollar a year trade deficit.
What really hurt the poor are cuts to education and minimum wage? Rambo put the crack pipe down! Sorry but when was the last time the minimum wage was cut? Uh, never. Cuts to education may hurt the teachers unions but it doesn’t mean a damned thing to somebody who now has to put grocery money in the gas tank. Get real. You live in a white, wealthy, liberal elitist atmosphere. Climb off your high horse and go see how the other 99% live DH.
Tam we are discovering we have far more carbon fuel than we ever thought possible. Yes recovery is expensive now, just like the first generation of oil was. But that and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas means we will have an abundance of carbon fuel well into the next century. The only thing standing in the way of that is this idiotic AGW religion. I know you don’t give a rip, so caught up in this “oh, CO2 is a poison, toxic, it will kill us” hysteria, but it, like carbon fuels, is part of the carbon cycle all life depends on. As catastrophic as you guys have painted the picture with AGW, it pales wildly in comparison to much greater shocks to the planet’s ecosystems by non human causes and guess what, life found a way and survived. Maybe you weak kneed liberals won’t and that is what scares you.
on 02.24.12 @ 01:29 AM
Well, AN50, you are firmly encamped with the o.2% of climate scientists who think AGW is not a threat. I can only guess where you got your wisdumb.
on 02.24.12 @ 02:58 PM
Rambler, science is not a popularity contest. Truth is not found by consensus. Einstein found that out the hard way. I have never refuted global warming or human contribution to it. I have never refuted the effects of global warming. What I have refuted is the scope of change, the scope of human contribution and the ability of humans to do anything about it. I have made it clear that GW will happen and that we as a species would fair much better if we consumed our time and resources adapting to it rather than trying to play God with it.
If you look at the AGW religion it is more motivated by policies of economic redistribution, crushing the American economy and instituting a new world government run by elites than actually doing anything credible about global warming.
on 02.24.12 @ 03:25 PM
AN50, science actually is entirely a popularity contest that works entirely by consensus. Data matters, of course, but interpretation of the data is as important as the data itself. Whatever is considered “mainstream science” is just that - the mainstream. There are always debates and there are occasionally paradigm shifts precipitated by a buildup of anomalous data that can no longer be ignored. Check out Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
on 02.24.12 @ 11:51 PM
Actually, most of the money you see as oil company revenue is passed on to the producing countries. Speculation (Iran, Hormuz, etc.) is a primary cause of rising oil prices.
Obama didn’t help at all by stopping drilling in the Gulf and pledging to buy oil from Brazil while subsidizing their drilling efforts. Nor did blocking the new trans US pipeline and thereby access to Canadian shale oil help either.
And BTW, the inflation corrected price of gasoline is about where it was in the 1980’s. ANd for you Bush-haters out there, let me remind you that all he did was THREATEN to drill and prices fell immediately. A little economic knowledge would go a long way…..
on 02.24.12 @ 11:54 PM
“Science is a popularity contest”? Tam, if you seriously believe that then you have wasted an entire education.
on 02.25.12 @ 12:33 AM
I don’t want to to dampen some of our posters’ enthusiasm for conspiracy theories and their animosity with Wall Street, but if you have an elementary understanding of economics, it comes down to supply/demand. World consumption of oil has increased and supply has not increased correspondingly.
In the United States, we had a moratorium on Gulf oil drilling and, consequently, total oil production from the Gulf is over 300,000 barrels less than in 2010. In addition, oil production from Alaska is off around 80,000 barrels from 2010. Although onshore oil production has increased somewhat (all these leases were granted during the Bush Administration), it is not enough to offset the decreased production from offshore sources. Regarding world supplies, OPEC has used quotas to restrain production and Iran has not been able to sell a 1/4 of their oil because of disputes with European countries. BTW, the resulting debasement of the dollar due to Federal Reserve polices over the last 4 years has also contributed to the oil price increase.
It is true that allowing more drilling in the US now cannot affect oil prices today, but if we had not imposed a moratorium on new drilling of Gulf oil, had opened up the Arctic refuge and did not impede oil companies from drilling in the past, our supplies would be much greater today and could have had a significant impact on today’s prices.
Also, a major refinery on the West Coast has closed down because of a fire. Interestingly, this is one of the newest refineries on the West Coast. It was built in 1973.
on 02.25.12 @ 02:34 PM
Well Tam you following Kuhn explains a lot. Don’t like the truth or find the truth elusive, well just make it what ever suits your fancy. Data not giving you the results you want? Ok, just reinterpret it until you get your answer. Truth may appear as though it is relative, but what you really see is part of the truth. It’s not relative but incomplete. We may not have the evolved computational or comprehension power to ever know the complete truth. But that doesn’t mean truth is some quasi transitional thing up for molding into our own imagination of what it is.
Kuhn was right about the paradigm shift of science, like most things we know about life it follows fits and jumps rather than smooth linear transitions. Like I said Einstein found that out the hard way. But the biggest impediment to smooth transition is human stubbornness more than anything else with a good dose of personal bias thrown in to thoroughly obfuscate things.
Climate science is in infancy right now. We have barely scratched the surface of how our complex interactive biosphere affects climate. We know transitional life forms created the oxygen rich atmosphere we now have. We know we had a lot more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere millions of years ago. And we know human activity is putting a small amount of that CO2 back where it came from, but we are not the only species releasing GHG. What we don’t know is why we have stopped heating up even though our crude models say we should be hotter. Life finds a way.
Bur your AGW religion seeks to squash the next paradigm shift in climate science. It wants nothing to do with the seemingly erratic behavior we see due to biosphere interaction. No, better to label humans as a cancer and continue this misanthropic delusion that all changes on our planet are bad and human caused. A freeway to you people is a horrible gash in the natural world, but to all other life it’s no different than a friggen termite mound.
I know this argument does not help you sell wind mills, to bad. But twisting Kuhn’s philosophy to suite the latest new religion will not save us from the climate change that will happen no matter what we do. We do not need to be dinosaurs. We can be like the species that survived the last climate catastrophe and adapt. But to do that we need now more than ever to stop being such a pathetic self hating stubborn myopic creatures that believes it is not part of the natural world and evolve. Carbon is not the enemy Tam, it is what life is all about.
on 02.26.12 @ 01:22 PM
I think it’s interesting how the discussion here temporarily veered off track because AN50 said “science isn’t a popularity contest”, which Tam then contradicted. My own opinion about that, having dealt with university research scientists in the midst of having their ideas published and approved is that there is an awful lot more features of a “popularity contest” involved in scientific consensus-making than most people realize.
The same thing is true, and quite a bit more so about economics. Read the article Wireless links to, which is one person’s opinion about the gold standard, and read the comments that readers made. Most appear to claim to be facts, yet differ widely on basic elements such as the definition of a “commodity”.
The scientific community as a whole is largely agreed on what AN50 derides as “the AGW religion”. There is *naturally* disagreement about many aspects, but quite a lot more agreement on the basics. Economic opinion, on the other hand, seems completely chaotic and not even close to consensus on many basic principles and their application to reality. Those among us who crave simply-stated objective truth aren’t going to find much of it reading opinions about economics.
on 02.26.12 @ 03:47 PM
Well if one believes that science is a popularity contest, then one must question whether global warming is scientifically factual or just a popular belief. Tam’s comments reflect just how dismal our education system has become. Goes back to the 60’s - believe what you want, not what is factual.
on 02.26.12 @ 07:48 PM
AN50, it is a fact that science is subjective. Science is always changing and theories in each area of science come in and out of fashion. There is a tendency toward improved knowledge and better theories, made most evident through technology - the fruits of science. But there are often culdesacs or backward steps in science. Read Brian Greene’s books to gain a good feeling regarding the history of physics and science more generally.
My feeling is that we are asymptotically approaching a better understanding of nature. But we’ll never know the full picture because we never know what we don’t know. And we’ll often make mistakes about various aspects of reality. Last, even if mathematically our theories do quite well (quantum mechanics, for example), the interpretation of the mathematics is as important as the math. And this is entirely up in the air with regards to quantum mechanics. Similarly for other aspects of physics and other fields.
As for climate science, as you know I gave up debating that some time ago. See my piece “The Good News on Climate Change” for my rationale.
I will say this, however: given up the silly statement about carbon being natural and not something bad for humanity or the planet. Arsenic is natural. But you wouldn’t want to eat it in any dose larger than a microgram. The poison is in the dose for any substance. Carbon dioxide is of course a natural part of our planet and atmospheric cycles. The problem is that we are putting far too much of it back into the atmosphere than would otherwise happen naturally.
on 02.26.12 @ 07:49 PM
John Locke, how do you what a fact is? How do you know what theories are valid? In science, these questions are answered purely by consensus. There is no objective way to determine these answers unless one simply refers to a divine arbiter of truth, which raises a whole other set of questions about epistemology and ontology.
on 02.27.12 @ 02:25 AM
Tam Hunt, a scientific fact is observable and repeatedly so by multiple independent observers, measurable with instruments, etc. The fact that you do not understand that is a truly terrifying indictment of the education system that produced you. But, hey, it lets you believe whatever you want without the need to admit to an objective reality, right?
on 02.27.12 @ 02:48 AM
John Locke, the “education system that produced me” is my reading and thinking on these topics for going on three decades now, so if there is an indictment to be handed out it belongs to me alone. I have a background in biology (B.S.), law (J.D.) and philosophy (independent study since a teenager), different perspectives that all hinge on various notions of truth and proper arguments.
I actually like your definition of a “fact,” but you must recognize that you supported my point in your definition: we consider “facts” to be those empirical phenomena that are replicated and verified by multiple independent observers. This was exactly my point: we view a fact to be a fact purely because it has support from those we trust. But what is considered a fact changes over time. In 500 AD it was a generally accepted “fact” that the sun orbited the earth. Remember Ptolemy? Copernicus came along and said “I have a better idea: we can create a simpler astronomical system if we instead view the earth as orbiting around the sun.”
But neither is actually more true in any objective sense: they both explained the phenomena quite well when Copernicus first developed his system, but Copernicus’ system was arguably a lot simpler. And under Occam’s Razor, we consider that of two theories that explain the same phenomena the simpler one is more likely to be right.
But now I’m discussing theories and not facts. You didn’t give me a definition of “theory.” Facts are not theories. Theories are not facts. Facts are verifiable snapshots of specific phenomena (consensually determined). Theories are about how facts came to be and about what facts we can expect in the future under specific conditions. Theories explain facts.
I’ve written recently in my columns about the debate between Einsteinian special relativity and Lorentz’s earlier version of relativity. Both are empirically equivalent, but each theorist attached different significance to the mathematical formalisms. In other words, they made different conclusions about reality based on their interpretations. And this is rather common in physics and other sciences, because there are many different interprations possible of given facts and mathematical formalisms.
Hence the debates go on, in perpetuity. And that’s half the fun: we’ll never know the full extent of what we don’t know, and therefore will never know the universe in all her glory.
on 02.27.12 @ 03:19 AM
“In other words, they made different conclusions about reality based on their interpretations. And this is rather common in physics and other sciences, because there are many different interprations possible of given facts and mathematical formalisms.”
Thank you Tam. Very well said. I wish more people realized that this is how things are on the cutting edge of science. It can take a great deal of time for us to accept and agree upon the proper interpretation of observed phenomena, and when technology is rapidly changing the very nature of those observations it’s even messier.
on 02.27.12 @ 03:37 AM
“And that’s half the fun: we’ll never know the full extent of what we don’t know, and therefore will never know the universe in all her glory.”
Tam, I am surprised at this stab of humility on your part. I like this new aspect of yourself that I haven’t seen in your writings before. You should apply it to all your political beliefs; who knows you might even see the validity of those who argue the opposite of what you believe.
on 02.27.12 @ 12:19 PM
Wireless, stay tuned. I’m writing a piece now on “energy literacy” and the way off-base conclusions about a boom in US oil production. It’s not real and we’re still at half of our peak in the early 1970s. We have managed to extend the tail of our production quite a ways, but we are still in terminal decline. And the rest of the world has been on a production plateau now for about 7 years, indicating we’re probably at a global peak in production also. Why are prices so high right now? Largely because of tightness in supply and the promise of a recovering global economy, as well as the fact that more and more people are recognizing an ongoing structural problem between supply and demand.
on 02.27.12 @ 04:01 PM
We’ll be here waiting with baited breath. In the meantime, since you have expounded on how relative science is, we’d all be fascinated with your analysis of this presentation to the British Parliament that concludes the whole AGW panic doesn’t warrant panic or even any significant action as there is little evidence that man has any significant impact on the climate:
Rambler, since you are a big AGW disciple we’d love to hear to your well informed scientific dismantlement of this PhD’s presentation.
on 02.27.12 @ 04:45 PM
Ok Tam, comparing arsenic to carbon is a bit of a stretch don’t you think? One element is the basis of life the other a metal. You contradict yourself so many times in this thread it has become absurd. You say facts are determined by a consensus from observers. Yet most of the paradigm shifts in science have come from individuals bucking the consensus point of view (Copernicus, Newton and Einstein, to name a few). These individuals were ridiculed, ostracized and sometimes jailed or killed by their peers of the time. It is not consensus that determines truth Tam, it is our enlightenment to our observational ignorance that usually reveals where we are wrong and what really is. We can all agree that my car is red, but if my car is really blue then that consensus doesn’t mean a damned thing.
on 02.27.12 @ 11:35 PM
Tam, thanks for the clarification. Glad you agree that facts are facts and theories are theories. Either I misinterpreted you earlier or you have modified your statement. Yes, theories are subject to discussion, disagreement, and hopefully eventually, proof. But to call science a popularity contest ain’t the same thing, dude.
Witness the recent discoveries on the faster-than-light neutrino - either it is or it isn’t. Several studies said yes and one said no. More tests will come and repeatability by peers is critically important. Maybe the one that said no was flawed, or not. Quality, peer-reviewed research will tell. Not a vote.
And, BTW, my car is gray. Not silver, not black, not white, gray. As in shades of gray.
on 02.28.12 @ 07:42 PM
Save your breath Wireless. I read through your presentation. There are a few things I disagree with but essentially this guy is saying the same things many of us have for a while now. When you look at the data objectively then it becomes clear how overblown and politicized this issue has become.
I love to give ole Tam a hard time, mainly because he is a true believer, but also because he chose a career path that will profit from the AGW religion. I don’t mind that he is pursuing renewable and alternative energy sources and actually encourage that pursuit. I don’t mind that he profits from his endeavors, I am a capitalist after all. But if the motivation is purely carbon fuel elimination then it puts those alternatives in a light that is economically catastrophic.
Our fossil fuel supplies are finite, we are mining them and when gone they will never be replaced. So it is essential that we have the next generation fuels ready to go when the peak hits and by ready I mean the bulk of the NRE out of the way. Carbon fuels are superior to any other energy sources now known for transportation fuels, something life already figured out. Battery powered cars are ridiculous. The only use a battery serves is for braking regeneration. And you will never fly using batteries. That means we will need to produce carbon fuel for transportation from other sources and to do that cheaply means having an over abundance of those alternative supplies, my favorites being nuclear and geothermal, followed by solar PV. I am not fond of biofuel because it competes with human food supplies and that sets us up for some really nasty politics down the road.
So all the esoteric rhetoric about truth and observation aside, the bottom line is the world’s poor benefit the most from cheap energy and they suffer the first and the hardest when energy costs go up. Whether you are a believer in AGW or not, a green energy promoter or a gas guzzler, the bottom line is cost, period. If you can’t do it cheaper and more abundant, then the less fortunate are the ones who suffer. I wish those who always spout off about how they and only they care about the poor would keep that in mind.
on 02.29.12 @ 06:13 PM
I find it amusing that noleta and Rambler and the rest of the lefties accept without question this hoax of man-made climate catastrophe. They can’t and won’t deal with conflicting, scientifically based information. Just stick their heads in the sand, or somewhere else.
They have this inordinate fear of religion and religious people yet they accept this increasingly shaky proposition with religious zeal. This whole AGW enterprise is faith based belief system at this point.
on 02.29.12 @ 06:36 PM
AN50, I have not contradicted myself. Read what I wrote again. Here’s the nutshell: science is entirely consensus-driven, and paradigm shifts occur when that consensus shifts, by definition. So, yes, every paradigm shift from Copernicus to Einstein occurred because people changed their minds. My main point is that the consensus is always shifting: this is what science is, a changing process of inquiry into the natural world.
As for comparing arsenic to carbon, this is entirely fair. You’ve repeatedly made the inane point that because we are carbon-based life forms that carbon dioxide can’t be bad for the planet. This is like saying that because cars are made of steel that slamming your car into a train couldn’t possibly be bad. Again, the point is that our planet and every natural process depends on maintaining the appropriate levels of ingredients. The amount of CO2 we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere is far beyond the rate of natural CO2 accumulation.
on 02.29.12 @ 06:40 PM
Wireless, as you know, I gave up debating climate science some time ago. It’s not a productive use of my time. Again, see my column “The Good News on Climate Change.” The bottomline: the trends necessary to mitigate climate change are already in play and all we need to do is to ensure that they continue as they have in recent years.
More generally, we can entirely ignore climate change as an issue and arrive at almost exactly the same conclusions about energy policy. We don’t want to continue to rely on fossil fuels because of concerns about energy independence, air pollution, species loss, health impacts on coal miners and other fossil fuel workers, safety impacts from mine collapse, natural gas explosions, nuclear accidents, etc.
See the Community Environmental Council’s A New Energy Direction blueprint for weaning our region off fossil fuels, which I wrote a few years ago, for more on these themes (in Chapter 1):
on 03.01.12 @ 02:25 PM
Tam, I agree we humans behave in a subjective manner, I have said as much. The point I keep trying to make is that science pursues truth and truth is absolute, not what we vote it is. We can agree on our collective observation, but that cannot change the truth. If that is hard for you to understand I suggest you take a philosophy of logic class or two and that will help.
I agree CO2 can be dangerous; I have come close to death being in a CO2 rich environment with little oxygen. The point I was making is that at 1% concentration in the atmosphere, CO2 is not only not dangerous but essential to life. Your religion chose to make this molecule a poison for political reasons. All I am asking you to do is have the open mind you preach about science in general in regards to climate. It is not “settled” and the truth about it is not up for vote. Pursue the truth, Tam, not popularity.
On the subject of fossil fuels we have some agreement here as well. We both agree it is a finite source. My argument is not against renewable sources, not for drill baby drill, but rather one more dire and serious to those not at your income level. Its cost Tam, plain and simple. You simply have billions of human lives who have benefitted greatly from cheap energy and they will suffer the most if it becomes more costly. The wealthy always have been able to purchase their living standard. They can afford to buy transportation, lighting and of course the time to pursue things more enlightening than mere subsistence or survival.
Those of us on the lower side of that socio-economic curve have for the last century been liberated from the drudgery of subsistence and be able to pursue the joy of intellectual endeavors once only reserved for the wealthy and elites. Cheap abundant fossil fuels and a democratic republic in conjunction with a free market economy brought that to us. High energy costs will not only rob the lower socio-economic strata of that time but force them back to a life of drudgery and subsistence. Do what you must but if cost is not the driver you are going the wrong direction.
on 03.01.12 @ 03:18 PM
I read your report and with all due respect it is nothing more than typical environmentalism wrapped up with some professional looking graphics. It is built on fantasy of all of these renewables somehow magically maturing to be cost effective.
The assertions of fossil fuels and AGW are dated and incorrect. The percentage of power generated by renewables is minimal today. Without subsidies nobody would use them as they are not cost effective. These subsidies are diverted from other more efficient economic uses. Europe tried going down this route and it has cost them dearly.
Fossil fuels are necessary for practical transportation and will be for the foreseeable future. This little thing known as energy density can’t be wished away.
Electric cars, even if they mature technologically by leaps and bounds to actually be practical, will require massive new electric generation. That means more coal, nuclear or natural gas plants as renewables are intermittent. There is a report I pointed to in one of our other exchanges that said we would need 250 more electric power plants just in CA to provide enough power to charge all the cars. Good luck with that. Most electricity is generated by coal in this country. So we will have coal powered cars. Brilliant.
In short, this report is wishful thinking and unrealistic fantasy.
on 03.02.12 @ 02:52 PM
AN50, there is no objective truth, if we define “truth” as the set of facts and theories that best describe reality. I do believe that there is an objective reality, independent of each of us, and that science has as its purpose figuring out what that objective reality is. What we call “truth” at any given point in time is our best estimate of objective reality. But, again, we never know what we don’t know, so we will never know the full extent of reality in all her glory. Never.
So there is no objective Truth. Science is an asymptotic search for better theories about reality and, because it is asymptotic (generally, though we can get caught in culdesacs), we’ll never arrive at Truth.
Here’s a recent column of mine on these topics, “On Logic”:
on 03.02.12 @ 04:06 PM
Surprise, surprise. Look what we have here, yet another one of Obama’s green energy gambles is on the ropes. No surprise it is another one of the solar companies, this time it is Colorado based Abound Solar who is the recipient of a $400 million federal loan guarantee to expand solar panel production said Tuesday it is laying off 280 workers and delaying a new factory in Indiana. That amounts to a 70% reduction in its workforce. They’re “restructuring”.
At least 12 clean energy companies are having trouble after collectively being approved for more than $6.5 billion in federal assistance. Five have filed for bankruptcy: the junk bond-rated Beacon, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, AES’ subsidiary Eastern Energy and the infamous Solyndra.
Solar industry darling First Solar was the biggest S&P 500 loser in 2011, and its CEO was fired. This is after taxpayers were forced to back a whopping $3 billion in company loans.
SunPower landed a deal linked to a $1.2 billion loan guarantee last fall after a French oil company took it over. On its last financial statement, SunPower owed more than it was worth.
The proverbial economic chickens are coming home to roost. This is what happens when the government tries to force a square peg in a round hole to pursue politically driven, and not economically driven, industrial policy.
I will repeat it again: these “green” renewables would never be used were it not for substantial government subsidies as they are not cost competitive.
So Tam, what is your explanation here? You are a big solar energy proponent. Are you going to defend this wasteful cronyism?
Then we look at the auto bailouts Obama constantly crows about. We put in $80B+, have written off $24B+ and waived $18B in taxes that would normally be paid. So over half of our “investment” is already lost. The market value of the car companies we just put $80B in? About $20B. Some investment.
on 03.04.12 @ 04:34 PM
Wireless, the loan guarantee program, which applies renewables and nuclear power, was created by Bush, not Obama. When Congress approved it, it allowed a default rate of up to $10 billion, far below what we have seen thus far. It’s unfortunate that some US companies are going bankrupt. But the bottom line is that solar, wind and other renewables are a major growth story in the 21st Century and we’re falling behind in these industries. We’re doing pretty well on installations compared to other countries, though China has lapped us, but we’re falling way behind on building these technologies. This recent history highlights the need to get ahead of the curve on manufacturing and not let China and Europe gain permanent market share in what will be a trillion dollar industry before too long.
Also, I’m curious what you think of the merits of the recently-approved Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, with an $8 billion (with a “b”) loan guarantee, plus ten year production tax credit (which is enshrined in law permanently, which is not the case with solar or wind tax credits), Price-Anderson socialized risk insurance, accelerated depreciation, and many other taxpayer-funded goodies. Hmmm.
on 03.05.12 @ 01:44 PM
Tam, I appreciate the intellectual conversation on science and truth, one which we could go on about until energy costs are so high that all we can think about is survival. I am more interested though in my bigger question, how do we morally deal with the suffering of the poorest among us when justifying higher energy costs? How do we comport higher energy costs with the loss of our intellectual freedom that cheap energy bought us? Why is it we are so comfortable in going back to the age when only the very wealthy had time to think?
on 03.05.12 @ 02:12 PM
AN50, your assumptions are inaccurate. As we’ve discussed before, shifting to a more efficient economy, enhanced conservation, and renewables will actually save a lot of money. Natural gas costs are quite low right now, but coal and oil are not - they’re at almost record prices. And as the fracking mirage disappears, natural gas will very likely go higher again. Energy efficiency is far cheaper than even natural gas, as is conservation. And the cost of renewable energy is generally locked in, eliminating volatility and allowing predictability of pricing. So shifting to a modern, efficient and renewable energy economy will help most those you claim to be concerned about.
on 03.05.12 @ 06:47 PM
Whether Bush originally approved this loan guarantee plan or not is not the issue I pointed out with all these solar companies. The issue is they are all going down in flames and they were all funded by the Obama administration. In fact, the Bush admin rejected Solyndra’s application as too risky. I guess the Bushies aren’t as dumb as Obama’s staff.
Nobody is making money in the solar industry. Even the Chinese are losing money. This industry would not survive were it not for generous government subsidies. If the Chinese want to dominate a money losing industry, let them. I have faith in our private sector to figure out which technologies we should be pursing and investing in. I have zero faith in government to pick winners, as we can see they have an abysmal track record. I have no problem funding basic research and the like but trying to create an industry based upon government largesse is stupid. It has cost the Europeans greatly. You seem to have terminal amnesia about their experience.
Regarding the nuclear plant. I have consistently said I don’t favor subsidies. However, if the government is going to be in the business of encouraging electricity generation, guaranteeing loans on proven technology that can actually and reliably produce electricity 24/7/365 for decades is a much better bet than going off trying to be Uncle Sam Venture Capitalist. We can have pretty much 100% confidence that the nuclear plant will pay back its loans. As we can see with our own two eyes, we have zero confidence that these solar companies will repay theirs. So if the government is going to be in the business of backing loans this is a no-brainer.
Let’s recall again why the costs of a nuclear plant are so high. It’s because of government regulatory and legal torment. I’ve pointed out before, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier cost less than a nuclear plant. There is absolutely no reason for that other than the government driving up the cost of construction.
on 03.06.12 @ 12:39 PM
Wireless great point about nukes. The navy has a very good track record and at much lower costs.
Tam please clarify your statement, “shifting to a more efficient economy”. This is a huge red flag in my book. It is usually uttered by statists who want government to own and control everything, “for the good of the people”.
You have not shown that a 100% renewable energy paradigm is cheaper or more efficient. I’m not saying it is or isn’t, just that cheaper and more abundant should be the goal, which from what I can read between your lines is not your goal or obtainable.
on 03.06.12 @ 03:12 PM
Here is a nice expose by that well-known far right media outlet known as ABC news about some of these wonderful and magical green investments you favor:
I can’t believe you defend flushing our money down the toilet like this. This is indefensible. It is corrupt. It is amateur hour 101 “investing”. So, if our government insists on guaranteeing loans for energy projects, nuclear is a much better bet.
on 03.06.12 @ 07:38 PM
Wireless, first, this Washington Post columnist is clearly a conservative - and not a very fair-minded one, at that. Kind of like you.
News flash: even “liberal” media outlets often publish conservative opinions.
He also clearly doesn’t know much about electric cars and hasn’t even seen a Chevy Volt in real life. It’s not an “itty bitty” car. It’s a luxury sedan. That’s primarily why it costs $40k.
It’s actually a really nice car. I’ve driven one. I suggest you do too. Why don’t you come down to Earth Day’s Green Car Show this April and do so?
Second, the fact that Chevy is temporarily suspending production for five weeks in order to work off their back log, plus the fact that the A123 Systems laid off 125 workers, does not entail the failure of the electric car industry. These are the two (literally) data points that Lane cites for the “flop” he decries.
This is farcical reasoning. It’s like saying the personal computer revolution was a flop because the Commodore 64 didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped in its first year. Or the cell phone industry was a flop because it wasn’t immediately successful in its first year.
The Chevy Volt has been available for one year in the US. It faced an undue dip in sales because of a couple of fires in its batteries - which, as various investigations have revealed, render it still far safer than traditional gas engine cars. The Volt’s sales doubled in February over January’s sales and I’m happy to wager you $20 that the Volt exceeds its sales projections of 45,000 in 2012.
The fact that gas prices are skyrocketing again all but assures that Volt sales, and other more efficient vehicle sales, will climb far higher than they have been in recent years. Prius sales are up 52% in Feburary year over year, and many US and other auto makers saw their Feb. numbers way higher due to the strength of small and more efficient car sales going much higher.
Lane compares the Chevy Cruze and the Volt. This is like comparing a Mercedes and a Yugo. If he knew a thing about cars, he would know this is apples to oranges. Again, the Volt is a luxury sedan, not a Yugo - or a Cruze.
He compares the 42 mile range per gallon of the Cruze to the 35 mile range of the Volt’s batteries, ignoring the fact that the Volt has an onboard generator that turns gasoline into electricity and gives the car a 400 mile range.
His math is way off on comparing the savings from using electricity to pay off the premium for the Volt. At $5 a gallon for gasoline, the Volt would pay off, let’s say a $5k premium (when we compare it apples to apples to its competitors), in four years, if the driver would otherwise spend an average of $150 or more a month on gasoline.
He’s also way wrong in arguing that powering cars with electricity from a fossil-fueled grid leads to no environmental improvements. As anyone who knows anything about EVs would know: EVs are about 2.5 times more efficient than ICEs in converting energy into motion (due to far less heat loss), so even if the grid is primarily fossil-fueled, there are still improvements in terms of air quality and climate change emissions. A student of mine wrote a paper on this issue a couple of years ago and found that in all but a couple of states there are net emissions savings from EVs charging off the grid. Moreover, many grids are becoming renewable or carbon free over time, so this trend will only become better and better. California, for example, only gets about 10% of its power from coal and another 40% or so from natural gas. The rest is hydro, nuclear and renewables.
Last, there are literally dozens of new electric car models coming out this year and next. Give it a few years and we’ll see who’s right with respect to this major transformation in how we get around.
For more than you ever wanted to know about EVs, see this article and discussion string of mine at a different website:
on 03.06.12 @ 08:51 PM
Do you own an electric vehicle? If yes, which one.
on 03.07.12 @ 12:46 PM
Tam you and the article you wrote supporting battery powered cars defies logic. You call for efficiency then throw it out the window because of your ridiculous insistence on demonizing carbon fuel. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best batteries today. There are limits to physics Tam that ideology cannot overcome. The best way to fuel transportation that we know of and have today is carbon based fuels. You cannot power transportation with a battery. This is a damned pipe dream. Sorry but it just isn’t there. Further by insisting on doing that you are actually making transportation less efficient and worse for the environment as a result. Now I have no qualms with electric motors. But they will be driven by generators that are powered by carbon fuel supplied engines, batteries will only be used to store energy scavenged from brakes and that’s about all they are useful for.
I know in your tiny elitist mind you see the unwashed masses crowded on mass transit, you see cars only driven by the very elite. I suspect this is true because you refuse to answer the question of cost and you still won’t say what you mean by “a more efficient economy.”
on 03.07.12 @ 02:38 PM
You really have been drinking your own bathwater. For far too long apparently. I’ll give you credit for being a true believer but its reaching delusional heights.
First off, the author Lane is actually from the left, not the right. He hammers the right all the time, in fact he did in the article I linked you to, he included a zinger about climate change.
Regardless, your points are weak as you are arguing from a position of demonstrable weakness. The Volt is a commercial failure. Period. Many of the anemic sales they did manage to muster came from government fleet sales.
Why do they have backlog and are suspending production? Because nobody is buying them and the dealers told GM to quit sending them. Good grief. They’d sell even fewer if it wasn’t for the taxpayer give away.
I’ve seen only one here in SB. If you can’t sell more than that with all these do-gooder environmentalists and wealth around here you’ve got a problem. Indeed they do.
This thing is the modern day Edsel subsidized with our tax money. BTW, did you buy one?
Your logic on the power grids is also quite fantastic, those magical renewables and green energy will arrive to save the day. Seems to me most cars will be charged at night, i.e. no sunlight, so your solar panels won’t do the trick. Wind is too intermittent. So, we are back to good old fashioned conventional energy sources. Coal, gas and nuclear. Ooops, can’t have that nuclear, we all might grow a second head or a third eye.
So, carbon fuels it is. Coal powered cars. Never mind all the electric conversion losses and transmission losses. We need like 250 new power plants in CA if everyone drove electric cars. Never mind how expensive our electricity is here in CA, 2x many parts of the country. Now with our smart meters it will be even more expensive.
If you want to buy this stuff, do it with your own money. You can make all the excuses you want but the fact of the matter is the market has spoken and they don’t like it. They would like it even less without the taxpayer give away.
on 03.07.12 @ 02:52 PM
You know, it is really fun to get into these little back and forth exchanges with Tam. Like clockwork, when he is off on his green energy fantasy trips, new news like this trickles in about what a uneconomic travesty all his dreams really are:
In this case wind energy, but its the same story for all this nonsense. Without subsidies renewables would be nowhere.
PS: call your Congresswoman and Senators and tell them to knock this crap off, we can’t afford it anymore. Off course with Capps, Boxer and Feinstein you’d be wasting your time…..
on 03.07.12 @ 02:56 PM
AN50, did you read the article I linked to? I state pretty clearly why I view electrification of transportation as our most promising long-term strategy. Writing about my thinking in CEC’s clean energy blueprint:
“[A]lternatives to driving, driving smaller vehicles, and relying on hybrid vehicles were the best short-term options for reducing fossil fuel use. However, in the longer term, electrification of our transportation infrastructure was the most promising path:
“To wean our region off fossil fuels, we will need additional options beyond driving smaller cars and hybrid vehicles, or using biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The next generation of vehicles will provide a sea change in how we transport ourselves and goods by allowing electricity to become the primary transportation energy instead of petroleum.
The idea is to “electrify” the transportation sector by actively transitioning to vehicles that run on electricity. This is advantageous even if we remain with today’s sources of electricity, because vehicles that use electricity as a fuel are two to three times more efficient than those that run on petroleum. However, the end goal is to change our electricity mix to all, or almost all, renewable electricity.
We realize that converting our primary supply of transportation fuel from oil to electricity may seem to be a radical program, but it is a tremendously promising path. If we follow this path nationally, we could reduce or [even] eliminate our dependence on foreign oil in just two or three decades and dramatically cut back on our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Back to the present. As I made clear in that article and here in this thread, EVs are more efficient from the outset because they have far less waste heat than ICEs - that’s why they are about 2.5 times more efficient than ICEs. They convert far more of the input energy into motion.
Energy density is a factor to consider, I agree, and fossil fuels are very energy dense. But energy density is not energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is primarily about how much energy is lost compared to how much energy is used for the intended purpose.
And under this criterion, EVs are far more efficient than ICEs.
More generally, as a techie guy, I would think you would appreciate the power of exponential growth and technological change. Did you see Kurzweil’s talk last week at UCSB? Have you read his book, The Singularity is Near? In both he surveys the “law of accelerating returns,” which is an almost inexorable law regarding exponential growth in technology once a certain level is reached. Solar panels have long been on this path, coming down in cost on a steadh curve and increasing in deployments on a similar steady curve. As Kurzweil stated in his talk, we are only 7 doublings away from reaching 100% solar power. Now, I don’t believe we’ll ever reach 100% solar power, so there are exceptions to his “law.” But his point is well-taken: the growth in solar power (and other renewables) is clearly on the same exponential growth curve he’s observed in numerous other fields. The growth in installations has been driven by the steady price declines, and vice versa.
EVs are not quite on this growth curve yet, but I think battery technology is almost there. Argonnne National Labs projected last year that battery costs would come down five-fold by 2016, observing that the Volt’s batteries had already declined from $12k to $8k in just two years. As production ramps up and research proceeds, it seems to me that we can expect battery technology to start growing in the same way very soon.
on 03.07.12 @ 07:16 PM
Here is a little more salt for the wound. Some more detail on just how subsidized all this green energy is relative to conventional energy.
The CBO released a report stating the obvious. They found that in 2011, federal subsidies for green energy totaled $24 billion. Also, between 2009 and 2012, the DOE provided $25 billion in loans “primarily to producers of advanced vehicles, generators of solar power, and manufacturers of solar equipment.” Fossil fuels, on the other hand, received $3.4 billion in “tax preferences.”
Those numbers don’t tell the full story. Tax preferences for fossil fuels go towards more universal deductions like expensing for exploration costs.
Green energy receives direct subsidies per kilowatt hour produced – benefits that are awarded solely to the wind and solar industries. Also, due to the inefficiency and cost of green energy, these companies fail to generate enough revenue to incur a tax liability. As such, many of these tax preferences are actually refundable. Fossil fuel companies pay millions in taxes. A Heritage study shows how wind companies receive 1,000 times the subsidy that is given to oil companies.
The most important distinction between the two industries is the fact that green energy benefits from a clean-energy mandate in more than half the states. One cannot possibly quantify the benefit of having government use the force of law to coerce consumers and producers into using your product, even though it is expensive and inefficient.
on 03.07.12 @ 09:54 PM
Tam, in transportation energy density is everything. It doesn’t matter if ICE’s are less efficient than electric motors. Its how much energy you can pack into a given volume and mass. If we could turn that energy in gasoline directly into electrical energy then you would have a winner. Fuel cells are heading in that direction but Tam they aren’t close and the best also emit CO2.
Here is a simple comparison:
Li/Cd 60 wh/Kg
Li/LixMn2O4 130 wh/Kg
The Best Research Now 280 wh/Kg
Current Best 560 wh/Kg
Best Research 1,000 wh/Kg
Gasoline 13,200 wh/Kg
Yes ICE’s produce a lot of waste heat but so do each of the above batteries and fuel cells. Lead acid batteries have a 90% efficiency compared to modern fuel cells at 45%.
But the weight factor makes lead acid batteries impractical as a storage medium. So your assumptions on efficiency are wrong, my friend. The most critical research being done today is on fuel cell technology, turning the enormous energy density of carbon fuels into electricity to drive electric motors. But unfortunately this research is taking a back seat to less efficient lower energy density batteries and all because of this idiotic obsession with CO2.
Tam we could have high efficiency electric driven vehicles that emit CO2 and water vapor if we would just get over the insanity of AGW.
on 03.08.12 @ 11:44 AM
Wireless I have been on Tam for this for a couple of years now, its cost, cost, cost, regardless of fuel or source. Bottom line is energy is the same as labor in that it does work. The more that work costs the less value we get out of it. The middleclass, Tam’s leisure time he spends indulging his intellectual pursuits, are all a result of abundant cheap energy. All cultures prior to the petroleum age were highly stratified with no middle classes. The rich/poor gap we see today tracks the rise in energy costs. It’s not magic, its logic. It’s not relative, its reality. It’s not what you want to think it is, it is. Make all your argument Tam, but if it costs more and produces less it will hurl you and the rest of us backward into a subsistence style life of drudgery. If it is cheaper and more abundant it will liberate even more of the poor from that enslaving life.
on 03.08.12 @ 01:12 PM
AN, yes this whole cost thing is something our friends on the left just can’t seem to get their heads around. If we have a higher cost basis than our competitors we are going to be at a disadvantage competitively. Seems straightforward enough to me but that logic goes out the window when we’re in pursuit of politically correct “green” energy.
Just look at what is happening here in CA. Our electricity costs twice what it does in other parts of the country. If you need electricity in your business, which any manufacturer does, you are starting out in a hole. So you move your business to someplace that doesn’t cost so much.
In 2010 we ranked last in business creation nationally when we have traditionally been first. Lost over 6000 net business. Part of that is regulation but its mostly a cost issue and electricity plays a large role in that.
on 03.08.12 @ 01:55 PM
Gents, I’m glad to see we agree on something: costs matter. But I’ve consistently argued that a more efficient AND green economy costs less. I devoted a whole chapter to this analysis in CEC’s energy blueprint. Read it, it’s the last chapter:
In fact, switching to a more efficient and green economy saves huge amounts of money - including the smart meter initiative, which forms the basis for much more freedom in how you use energy at home and at work.
As for California’s higher electricity rates, as usual, you have only part of the picture. CA’s average electricity bills - what actually matters - are LOWER than our competitors. Why? Because we’re more efficient! So even though our rates are indeed higher than most other states, we use far less energy than in other states, so our actual bills (the payments we make each month) are lower. Hmmm.
See this report from Next10 on this issue, which is a commonly misunderstood issue. Here’s an article that links to the actual report (which is updated each year):
CA has the most stringent energy efficiency standards in the nation, for appliances, homes, etc., as well as the most stringent renewable energy mandates. In the last twenty years, however, we’ve done far better on efficiency than renewables. We’re now finally starting to see the wind, solar and biomass markets come to life again in CA, adding significant new capacity for the first time in 20 years. And keep in mind that until just last year, our renewable energy mandates required cost-effectiveness, which meant that new contracts had to (with some caveats) be as cheap as new natural gas plants.
Another point Kurzweil made in his talk at UCSB on Tuesday night: fossil fuels are indeed finite, but energy is abundant. We have more than enough sunlight to run the entire planet many times over. We are now seeing exponential change in reductions in the costs of solar and increases in the installation of solar panels around the world.
As I’ve written, all we have to do (easier said than done) is ensure that these amazing growth rates continue and we’re golden. So as the end of the fossil fuel age is upon us, we are switching to the next phase of energy: a more efficient economy and far higher reliance on renewable energy.
Check out this new book by Kurzweil’s colleague, Abundance, by Peter Diamantis, making many of the same points I’ve made in my columns about our future energy prospects (if we keep good policies in place):
The bottom line is that history will prove you guys wrong. It doesn’t matter what we say here because the future history is already loud and clear, judging from the law of accelerating returns and the exponential growth track we’re already on.
on 03.08.12 @ 07:12 PM
You are so busy trying to tell us how great green energy is you aren’t listening to what we are saying and the key points we are making.
Nobody says we shouldn’t pursue green or any other form of energy. The more the merrier. What we are saying is that it is simply not cost effective at the moment and probably won’t be for some time. Subsidizing this to the level we subsidize it creates economic damage by diverting scarce resources to inefficient uses. That is not a formula for economic success.
I don’t doubt that someday solar will find a home that makes sense as the technology and efficiency and lifespan of the panels improve. But doing what you advocate is economically destructive. Again I point to the European’s experience, it has cost them dearly. Forcing the square peg in the round hole.
If you want to evangelize this stuff go ahead, more power to you, but stop picking the taxpayers and ratepayers pockets to do so. When the technology improves enough to be cost competitive it will find a way into the market through natural market forces, not through the coercive and economically destructive power of government. Get it?
on 03.08.12 @ 09:21 PM
Good point Wireless. Every thing you have written Tam has this silly GHG, anti carbon fuel mantra underlying the real motivation for your dogma. Wireless is absolutely right about scarce resources being diverted to less efficient technologies.
Case in point, fuel cells. Look at the data I provided earlier Tam. If we could use this exciting technology to unlock the tremendous energy locked up in an octane molecule imagine what kind of electric drive systems we could develop. Electric motors are vastly more efficient than ICE’s, but we don’t have an efficient method for storing electricity. If we could get half the energy out of gasoline and convert it directly to electricity we would increase drive efficiency at the wheel by 3 times the most efficient methods today. That would mean a hybrid car with a 400 mile range would have a range of 1200 miles for the same amount of fuel. So why don’t we research that? Because the type of fuel cells capable of doing that would produce CO2 and water vapor as a by product and oh no we can’t have that now can we?
It really is sickening the way research has been hijacked by the AGW religion. A lab here in town working on advanced fuel cell technology closed down recently because the research money dried up. I asked the lead scientist what happened and he said they want batteries not fuel cells. He said the research will continue but in Japan rather than here. God help us, we are such a stupid country.
on 03.10.12 @ 04:33 PM
Can you post the text of the FT article? It’s behind a pay wall.
on 03.10.12 @ 06:16 PM
Wireless and AN50, what you’re missing is the urgency of the issues we face. Again, we can entirely ignore climate change as an issue (as I’ve written about numerous times) and still see that there is a major energy problem on our hands.
Here’s a good summary of my views on the matter:
If we recognize the threats of peak oil and energy dependency, we come to generally the same conclusions about wise energy policy: we need to stress new forms of energy and dramatically increased energy efficiency and conservation. Obama himself has shifted from stressing renewables and efficiency to stressing in recent speeches and policies an “all of the above” strategy toward energy. I disagree with this shift but I can sort of understand why he would do this in an election year.
The bottom line, however, is that fossil fuels are finite and we’re already now in the second super price spike of the 21st Century, only four years after the last one BECAUSE OF AN ONGOING IMBALANCE BETWEEN OIL SUPPLY AND DEMAND THAT IS NOT GOING TO BE CORRECTED BY INCREASING DRILLING.
Read the article I just linked to for more information on the dramatic declines in existing fields (about 7% a year globally), which means that we’re having to run faster and faster to stay in the same place, let alone meet increased demand as Chindia and other countries continue to grow.
The only serious hope we have is to work rapidly to get off fossil fuels and switch our transportation of people and goods to non-petroleum sources. Electrification, while not a big part of that solution for the next decade or two, will become the primary transportation energy beyond 2030 - and we need to do everything we can now to make sure that this happens.
There is certainly a reasonable debate about the level of government support for renewables. But you need to be honest about your facts. Are you aware of the massive support for nuclear power throughout its history? This is why it produces approximately 20% of our power: it’s been subsidized more than any other form of energy. In fact, through 2000, nuclear power received 96% of federal subsidies bestowed upon all renewables and nuclear power.
Here’s a report (it’s a bit old but the points made are still generally valid, even though the reports you linked to are accurate in that subsidies for renewables have gone up a lot since 2000):
on 03.12.12 @ 07:06 PM
So, let me see if we understand. Prices are spiking because of a supply/demand imbalance but bringing on more supply by increasing drilling won’t help that imbalance?
Interesting economic theory, don’t think I’ve heard anything like that before. Balancing demand with more supply won’t impact prices. I guess our education system is in worse shape than I thought.
on 03.12.12 @ 07:51 PM
Wireless, as I’ve described many times before, and in my new article here at Noozhawk, is that we simply can’t bring on enough new supplies to make a big difference in the supply/demand imbalance, because we’re on a treadmill speeding up over time.
The far better alternative is to work on dramatic energy efficiency improvements, let price-induced conservation work its magic, and work hard to bring long-term solutions like electrification on line.
on 03.13.12 @ 01:01 AM
You are a zealot. You want to believe what you want to believe. It is faith based in many ways. The simple fact that “peak oil” keeps getting pushed off and off and the fact that our reserves now are bigger than our reserves were back when the peak oil predictions we made speaks volumes. If you lefties would let us go after the resources the market will stabilize. As long as there is a financial incentive to find oil and gas, we will. At least for many decades to come and probably longer.
Your wishful thinking about all these green energy unicorns magically materializing to save the day are a fantasy. They will mature over time as the technology slowly improves. Trying to force them into our lives in an uneconomic fashion is destructive and will hurt economic growth and living standards and damage our ability to be competitive. The simple fact of the matter is that these green technologies are not ready for prime time.
on 03.13.12 @ 02:03 AM
“Were California to shut down its entire manufacturing sector, turn off its power plants, idle its trucks and automobiles, and order its citizens to stop exhaling, the impact on the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would be immaterial. So California’s energy policies cannot be directed at singlehandedly saving the planet from cataclysmic global warming. Rather, its enlightened leaders must be hoping to persuade the rest of the world to follow their example.
Cultural leaders making headlines cursing the 1% have made it a virtue to force California taxpayers to help pay for electric cars purchased by millionaires. An unholy alliance of environmentalists, crony capitalists and their political enablers are still trying to build a high speed rail line to nowhere, even though cost estimates have ballooned to $100 billion. It’s as if the whole state has been driven insane after watching Al Gore’s movie.”
on 03.13.12 @ 02:56 AM
Wireless, time will tell whether I’m right or you’re right. But I’ll wager on me.
In the meantime, check out Diamantis’ new book, Abundance (see chapter 13 on the exponential growth in solar):
He makes it quite clear that renewables have already grown to the point that they will be the majority energy source in the next couple of decades, as I have shown in my articles in recent months.
Sit back and enjoy the ride. Maybe even invest wisely. Renewables stocks are extremely low right now, a good opportunity to snap up some cheap value.
on 03.13.12 @ 03:53 AM
Renewable stocks are cheap because they are mostly all losing money or in bankruptcy. Last time I checked it was a good idea to invest in companies that are actually growing. Even First Solar which was the industry darling is on the ropes. Chinese are all losing money despite massive government support. They are also cheap because investors know the subsidy gravy train is coming to a merciful end. Especially if Obama loses but are on the way out regardless. Without the subsidies they have no rational business case. Sorry.
Buy oil stocks, they actually pay a dividend and make lots of money. Free investment advice.
on 03.13.12 @ 04:25 AM
“Renewables stocks are extremely low right now, a good opportunity to snap up some cheap value.”
Were you recommending First Solar stock a year ago? The stock price has gone from $163 to $25 in less than 12 months. Not to be mean, but you’re the last person I am going to take advice from on how to invest my money.
on 03.13.12 @ 12:58 PM
Wireless, you’re an engineer who ignores relevant facts time and time again. Just in this discussion alone, I’ve demonstrated:
1) You claim that CA’s high electricity rates are harming our economy, and I showed that our actual bills are LOWER than other states because we’re more efficient.
2) You claim that renewables are being subsidized at rates far higher than warranted, and I showed that in fact when we combine subsidies for renewables and nuclear power over the last few decades, renewables subsidies are far higher.
3) You claim that renewables account for an insignificant portion of electricity where it matters, yet I’ve demonstrated here and elsewhere that renewables are in fact growing exponentially and, as Ray Kurzweil would put it, we’re only a few doublings away from being a majority or even all renewable.
Where is your command of the numbers Mr. Engineer? Who is the zealot here?
As for an R&D approach to renewables rather than subsidies, I do agree with you that we’re reaching the point (in a few years) where subsidies don’t make sense anymore. But we’re far beyond the R&D stage for wind, solar, biomass, energy efficiency and even electric cars. Rather, we’re at the stage of mass deployment and we’re now witnessing massive cost reductions as global production ramps up for these technologies. Last year alone, the world installed enough wind power to power about 15 million CA-sized homes and about 90 million Chinese homes. In one year. Wind power grew 21% globally and 27% here in the US. In a bad year. As I’ve written previously, wind power has grown an average of about 27% in the last ten years globally, so 2011 was in fact an off year.
Solar power is growing far faster, growing about 70% annually in the US in the last five years. Globally, solar power added about 25 GW in 2011, enough to power about 5 million CA-size homes and about 30 million Chinese homes. This was on top of the global cumulative installed capacity of 40 GW, up from only about a GW a decade ago. Insignificant, eh?
I read the Bloomberg piece you link to. It fails under its own arguments. It compares Moore’s Law in renewable energy (a term which I may have coined) to Moore’s Law in computing power. He says they’re not commensurable. But they are, and he misses the entire, point: renewable energy deployment is in fact doubling about every two years, just as computing power has doubled about every two years. The figures he cites re costs shows that he’s either math illiterate or simply trying to obfuscate the reality. The figures he uses are simply the result of these technologies being at different points in the exponential growth curve. As Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns suggests, once a technology is on this growth curve we can predicts its behavior fairly well. Renewables are on that curve, but still early in that curve.
Kurzweil described a good story about this issue at his talk last week: he predicted that the Human Genome Project would meet its 15 year goal of mapping the entire genome. Halfway through the process only 1% had been mapped and critics cited it as a failure. Kurzweil said “we’re almost done” and lo and behold the 15 year timeframe was actually met a bit early. Why? Because at 1%, you’re well on the exponential growth curve and it’s only 7 doublings to get to 100%. Math, Wireless, math.
Renewables are on that same curve.
I also suggest you stop reading AEI - they’re terrible on getting their facts straight.
on 03.13.12 @ 03:31 PM
PS. Wireless, on the issue of New York Times and other reporting about subsidies for solar and other renewables, it’s important to note that the loan guarantee and one-off grants for some projects go to a very few renewables projects. They’re not industry-wide. As far as I can tell, yes, some renewables developers of massive projects are getting far too much in the way of subsidies.
But most renewables developers get the following: a 30% tax credit (or grant for the same amount, which ends this year) and accelerated depreciation. That’s it at the federal level.
They benefit in some ways from state renewables mandates but these don’t come with an economic boost.
And, again, your favorite power source, nuclear: gets the same benefits as renewables and then some, including on top of the list I just mentioned socialized risk insurance. Hmmm.
on 03.13.12 @ 04:55 PM
Wow, you really are a zealot and it appears I’ve gotten under your skin. You want to believe then believe, all we’re saying is stop taking our money to satisfy your dreams. If these technologies are worthy they should be able to find a home without government jamming them down our throats.
For every piece of propaganda you put out or point to about how magical renewables are there are lots of anti-propaganda pieces that offer contrary evidence. You keep pointing to absolute growth rates which are interesting but not impressive when compared to the miniscule portion of energy they supply, particularly when you look at the cost.
Secretary of Subsidy:
Inconvenient Truths about Renewable Energy:
“Take wind power. Today, it represents a paltry 1.2 percent of total domestic energy production. Yes, that’s up from 0.5 percent in 2007. But only after spending billions in taxpayer resources.”
Solar is even less. In 2009 Solar and Wind together accounted for 1% of total US energy production according to the DOE. Growing from nearly zero isn’t that hard, especially when the government is footing the bill.
Let’s look at China. When measured in percentage terms, China’s growth in renewable energy from 2000 through 2010 certainly sounds impressive—up 1,545 percent! But when measured in terms of absolute energy output the numbers game being played here becomes apparent.
When viewed in terms of additional total energy output by source, measured in the common unit of million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE), we see that energy from non-hydro renewable sources (mainly wind and solar) grew by only 11.4 MTOE from 2000 to 2010, while new energy supply from coal grew 976.4 MTOE. That’s 85 times as much new energy that came from coal than from non-hydro renewables.
We’ve heard these predictions for years about renewables and peak oil and everything else, and they are always wrong:
“In 1976, famed energy analyst Amory Lovins predicted that 30 percent of American energy consumption would be delivered by renewables in 2000. Actual figure: 7 percent. The DOE in that same year projected that wind energy would generate 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 1995. Actual figure: 0.1 percent. In 1980, physicist Bent Sorenson predicted that 49 percent of American energy would be generated by renewables in 2005. Actual figure: 5.8 percent. One could go on and on.
What does the administration predict? Less than you might imagine. For all of President Obama’s soaring political rhetoric, his own Energy Department believes that renewables will move from 8.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption to 10.8 percent in 2035. And even that anemic growth comes not from improving economic competitiveness but from government consumption orders. That’s not much of a technological revolution, particularly when we total up the billions of federal dollars we’re putting into that energy basket.”
Bottom line: spend your own money on this stuff.
on 03.13.12 @ 10:42 PM
With the current run-up in gasoline prices, Obama’s approval ratings are dropping significantly. Lately, Romney is beating him in a two man race. It would be incredibly ironic if the hostile policies of this Administration to drilling and all fossil fuels results in his defeat and a loss of the Senate in Nov. Maybe then they will regret their decision to impose a moratorium of offshore drilling in the Gulf, the EPA regulations which inhibited onshore drilling and a myriad of other policies which discouraged the oil industry from exploring new sources of oil. The environmentalists are always pushing for higher prices to discourage oil consumption; it may also push their intrepid leader back to his Chicago ward.
on 03.13.12 @ 11:33 PM
Wireless, it’s funny that you cite nothing but right-wing media or think thanks, whose facts are almost always dubious or outright wrong, and you call my citations to mainstream sources propaganda.
It’s also interesting how you state that the problem you have with renewables is that you don’t want your tax money used to support renewables, but ignore nuclear’s history of subsidies As I’ve demonstrated numerous times, nuclear has received far higher subsidies over its history than renewables.
Lou, re offshore drilling, see my new piece here at Noozhawk where I describe EIA’s conclusion that opening up all offshore areas for drilling would have - wait for it - an impact of 3 c/gallon by 2030 on US gas prices. That is, insignificant. Also, domestic onshore drilling is actually up pretty significantly (about 600,000 barrels per day) in the last couple of years, due primarily to a dramatic increase in drilling rigs and due to increased use of fracking for oil.
I think I’m done with this thread.
on 03.14.12 @ 12:30 AM
Tam give me a break. I do include some sources that are generally skeptical of the renewables mandates but I also put articles from a number of mainstream publications as well. NY Times, Bloomberg, WSJ, Forbes, Der Speigel, etc. are not exactly right win think tanks. I quote government data frequently. Your sources are almost all people who have a vested, and probably financial, interest in pushing renewables. You constantly use yourself as a source so spare us the sanctimonious lecturing.
Just because you don’t like the source doesn’t mean they don’t have valid points. You didn’t like that AEI study? Instead of dismissing it like a spoiled child why don’t you tell us where they are wrong. It appeared to be well sourced.
Regarding nuclear, I don’t know how many times I have to say it: I don’t like any subsidies. But if the government insists on getting involved in the energy business, nuclear is way less subsidized than renewables if you look on a KW generated basis. I’ve posted the numbers before, renewables are highly subsidized relative to everything else. But just for fun I looked on some of these green blogs and they claimed that nuclear was subsidized 10X as much as renewables on a total dollar basis. Never mind we haven’t built a plant in 20 years or so but let’s accept that at face value for the purpose of this discussion. Nuclear produces 20% of the power in this country, solar and wind about 1%. So if nuclear is subsidized with 10x the money they are subsidized half of what renewables are for the equivalent power generation. Try again.
Where is this off base? You keep acting like peak oil is just around the corner and if we don’t subsidize your precious renewables that the world as we know it will end.
The more the evidence mounts against your case the more hysterical you seem to get.
on 03.14.12 @ 01:51 AM
Check this out, gas prices vs. Federal Reserve policy and money supply. If this is accurate it would seem our culprit has been found:
Gas (or gold) isn’t getting more valuable, the dollar is becoming less valuable. Obama could save himself by telling Bernanke to stop printing so much money. But then interest rates would have to rise. Such a conundrum our young President has constructed for himself.
On the lighter side, speaking of the “The Ben Bernanke” this video is hilarious:
Quantitative Easing Explained