Why fossil fuel corporations killed us

Sometimes, when I look at the things the Republicans and their leader, Donald Trump, are doing, I think of that poignant line in so many actual and fictional moments: “You have killed me.”

Someone says that because the killing is done, but they are not yet dead. The knife is driven deep, the car is heading for the cliff, the contract killer is closing in. Then the person dies, but not before they get to say, “You killed me.”

Today, I look at Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Rex Tillerson, the petroleum industry, the Heartland institute. They didn’t kill me, but they have killed my daughter, and they have killed my son.

And I wonder, why the hell did they do that?

Wondering leads to thoughts, and thoughts lead to blog commentary, so this:

ExxonMobil, to take one example, made a very significant mistake and essentially killed themselves as a corporation. They did this by choosing to not shift their corporate activities to follow, if not actually lead, in the energy transition that is absolutely required if our global civilization is expected to survive into the future, decades hence. ExxonMobil and the other petroleum corporations can not exist 100 years from now, though they could have made decisions over recent decades to ensure that they do.

I’m reminded of my deceased mentor’s comments (before he ceased) on patrilines. Irv Devore, when discussing patriliniality and kinship systems, would note that patrilines and corporations, unlike people, are expected to exist for all eternity, or at least, up until the day they stop existing. Once you grasp that idea, it is possible to understand why either does what they do. An elder man in a patrilineal kinship-based society will go to great lengths to preserve the patriline. The very strong often heinous preference for male over female children is part of this. Since only sons carry on the patriline, too many daughters are a threat. Infanticide of daughters is therefore significantly more common than infanticide of sons. And so on.

(Hell. My writing is interrupted by an Amber Alert. An ex-boyfriend stabbed the mother of his son, took off with the son. A male associate assisted. Long life the patriarchy. Fuck the patriarchy.

https://twitter.com/MnDPS_BCA/status/846712545322905600

But I ever so slightly digress…)

This should mean that decisions by corporations are made with very long term consequences in mind. When ExxonMobil and the other Big Oil corporations realized, in the 1980s, that continued use of fossil fuel would eventually a) be curtailed by regulation and/or b) cause the end of civilization and thus corporations, they should have started on plans to change what they do. A big energy company could have developed non-fossil fuel burnable materials, they could have muscled their way into the electricity industry, figuring that electric motors, already the preferred means of running a lot of machines that could have been run with IC engines, were part of the future. They could have done a lot of things to usher in a new age of reduced fossil fuel use and expanded use of other energy sources.

But no. They didn’t. Instead, they’ve killed us.

They, the big energy companies, the corporate sycophant-parasites known as Republicans, and their allies and puppets like the Heartland Institute and others chose to kill us all rather than do the right thing.

So why would someone like Rex Tillerson, when he was CEO of a major oil company, make decisions like this?

A lot of you will say: they do it for the short term profits, for the quarterly earnings report, because the corporation is beholden to the stockholder, etc. etc.

I do not disagree with any of that, all of that is true. But, there is another element that I think needs to be considered.

Even though all those reasons are true, there is something else that should be going on, and that in fact HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in other corporations. Not all corporations fail to consider the long term. Leaders of many corporations make decisions that positively affect the long term. They recognize that short term reduction in earnings can have long term positive effects on earnings. They choose sensible investment in the future, in all the future quarterly earnings.

But in some industries, I suggest, this is much less likely because of the interplay between risk and compensation.

If you run a company that makes shirts, nothing is going to happen in your corporation that causes the entire world to suddenly focus on you as the person in charge of a deadly disaster. Well, OK, in the past that did happen for shirt companies now and then, but not any longer. But if you run a company with offshore rigs, chemical factories, refineries, giant ships full of oil, a fleet of passenger carriers, and so on, then there is a risk of a sudden and singular disaster that will attract everyone’s attention, cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, and that may become truly notorious. Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Deep Water Horizon. Unforgettable disasters.

(I think we actually do forget about some of the disasters, if they are in a category with frequent events over decadal times scales. So, even if you don’t remember Tenerife, you know that plane crashes are bad.)

If you are a Rex Tillerson in charge of an ExxonMobil, or the CEO of any of these high risk corporations, there is a distinct possibility that you will wake up one morning to the news that a chemical leak in one of your factories just killed thousands of townspeople, with thousands more to have permanent debilitating injuries. You might be informed, just before picking up your bonus check, that one of your ships ran ashore and dumped 41 thousand cubic meters of crude oil on a formerly pristine natural coastline. You might get the news just before going to bet that one of your off shore rigs has exploded and is burning, eleven dead, three months of oil blowing into the sea, the worst environmental disaster ever, and on your watch. Or perhaps you’ll learn that one of your aircraft just colided with another at an obscure airport in the Canary Islands, and nearly 600 died in the fiery crash.

Most of us would be able to live for years off of a single year’s salary of any of the top CEOs in the oil industry. And, by years, I mean hundreds of years. But from the CEO’s point of view, the relevant balance is between getting a huge salary and bonus this year, allowing one to never have to work a day again, to cover high end living expenses for the whole family and their offspring, vs. the long term health of a corporation that might fire you at any day if something really terrible goes wrong.

Why would a corporate executive choose to stop earning an income forever? Well, if your company kills a few thousand people or destroys a major habitat under your watch, you might not be working for a while.*

The bottom line: In an industry that can spit out major career ending disasters, the foresight of corporate leaders becomes myopic, and long term prospects become invisible, much more easily than in most corporations. This strongly biases the already myopic focus on short term earnings reports. The result: corporate, or any, sustainability goes out the window.

It is ironic that the biggest petroleum related disaster ever was the sinking of a rig named Deepwater Horizon. There is nothing deep about the time horizon considered by Big Oil. Yes, that is because of the quarterly report fetish, but the mitigation of short term thinking is obviated by the grotesquely imbalanced comparison of likely disaster vs. outlandish salary and bonuses.

FYI: The top paid oil company execs get between 15 and 150 a year in salary, and between 4 and 10 extra in bonuses.

Million.


*Note: People in charge of major corporations when there is a major disaster don’t necessarily lose their jobs or become unhirable. But it does affect them. Lawrence Rawl was in charge of Exxon when the Exxon Valdez crashed into Alaska, and he was criticized for badly handling the response. He kept his job for four more years and retired, and I don’t know if he got very many more bonuses. But, he is officially “known for the Exxon Valdez spill.” That is his legacy. Warren Anderson was in charge of Union Carbide when Bhopal happened. He was charged with manslaughter. He remains a fugitive. Other higher ups in the Indian part of that company were tried and convicted of various charges. Tony Hayward, CEO of BE at the time of Deepwater Horizon, was not fired but then was replaced, and that disaster and his handling of it has left him a very controversial figure. He is dogged by protestors and companies and institutions that have anything to do with him find themselves shunned. So, no, this is not a simple formula: I will be fired if there is a disaster. But there are consequences, and I suspect, a perception of fear of consequences is very real.

Examples of “You killed me”:

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153 thoughts on “Why fossil fuel corporations killed us

  1. So it is the fault of fossil fuel companies because they should have invented non-fossil fuel alternatives, instead of just pumping stuff out of the ground.

    It is already invented.

    It is called nuclear.

    The green crowd and progressives reject it, even when it is cheaper than alternative energy like wind and solar.

    It would be fun to see what the world would be like if all fossil fuel companies stopped producing for one year.

    I wonder how many would die from that?

  2. Oil spills as disastrous as they are, do not have the half life that a nuclear accident has. They can be cleaned up. A moratorium on oil extraction has never been a serious proposal. Phasing out as better fuels and energy sources are phased in is the concept that we are referring to here. You are using the Absurdism fallacy, Ricky.

  3. Mike #2:

    I think it is absurd to fault fossil fuel companies for failing to invent their own replacement.

    Of course I am not serious about fossil fuel companies not producing for one year.

    But fossil fuels are critical and save many more lives than global warming harms.

    My comment was meant to get people thinking about that fact.

  4. Nuclear power never caught on in the US because it was never cost competitive. The upfront capital costs are much higher than for other kinds of power plants, and the operating lifetime is too short to make up the difference. And now costs for renewables are falling, so nuclear power never will be cost-competitive in the US.

    What ExxonMobil et al. could have done was to get in front of renewable technologies like solar, wind, and tidal generation. They could have been on the leading edge, selling that kind of energy as their oil and gas dropped in value. But they were too focused on this year’s profits–R&D costs money, and the payoff is long-term. So instead of buying rooftop solar panels from ExxonMobil, we’ll have to buy them from some Chinese company. Because while it’s not clear that there is intelligent life in Houston or Washington DC, there is definitely intelligent life in Beijing.

  5. @RickA:

    I think it is absurd to fault fossil fuel companies for failing to invent their own replacement.

    Seriously? Firstly, when the automobile started to become more common, many companies that had made horse buggies and coaches switched to manufacturing motorised vehicles.
    Secondly, biofuels were known about decades ago. In fact, I saw the Josh Tickell film “Fuel”, where he mentioned biofuels being made from algae.
    Thirdly, if fossil fuel companies had invested in renewable fuels in the 1970’s, we’d have little to no need for fossil fuels now.

    But fossil fuels are critical and save many more lives than global warming harms.

    Given the deaths caused by changing weather patters, including heatwaves, citation needed.

  6. Julian Frost #5:

    But did anybody expect the horse buggy and coach companies to invent automobiles?

    Of course once something more efficient is invented companies will switch over.

    That is what market forces do.

    If someone could invent a cheaper non-carbon producing power source, I am sure all the fossil fuel companies would switch over (or acquire) the new technology.

    But it has to be invented first – which has not been done.

    Nuclear is more expensive than fossil fuels – but I expect nuclear to be a big part of the solution – once people get over their primal fear of radiation.

    Nuclear is better than wind or solar, both as to price but more importantly nuclear is baseload and not intermittent.

    If we went 100% wind and/or solar, what would we use as a backup-energy source?

    Unless we invent grid-level power storage.

    I am in favor of working on inventing a cheaper power source than fossil fuels and also grid level storage to make intermittent power easier to use.

    But don’t blame the fossil fuel companies for not inventing it.

    Might as well blame yourself.

  7. Eric #4:

    Nuclear was 20% of USA power in 2015.

    Here is the data:

    Major energy sources and percent share of total U.S. electricity generation in 2015:

    Coal = 33%
    Natural gas = 33%
    Nuclear = 20%
    Hydropower = 6%
    Other renewables = 7%
    Biomass = 1.6%
    Geothermal = 0.4%
    Solar = 0.6%
    Wind = 4.7%
    Petroleum = 1%
    Other gases = <1%

    I would argue that nuclear is the third largest type of power in the USA, right after two types of fossil fuel power.

    Might as well say wind and solar never caught on.

    New nuclear has been shut down by politics – not because it isn't the safest way to generate power ever invented.

    People are afraid of radiation – even though mining for coal is much more dangerous.

    I believe nuclear will soon start to grow as a share of power generation in the USA and will double to 40% in the next 50 years.

    Why? Because it is baseload, fairly cheap (not as cheap as fossil fuels, but we are trying to wean ourselves off fossil fuels) and takes up so much less space than wind or solar.

    I don't get why so many of the green people and progressives are against it (some are in favor – like BBD).

    Over time, math and common sense will prevail and we will go nuclear.

  8. “Over time, math and common sense ”

    You’ve never demonstrated an understanding of math or any common sense.

    Arguing that areas that are still in relative infancy have never caught on is foolish.

    Dismissing the problem of safe long-term storage of nuclear waste – leaving it to the nonsensical “free market” to sort out is foolish, and bad.

    Locking onto a single option and refusing to look at all alternatives is the work of a narrow mind.

    Just usual behavior for you.

  9. @RickA: You blame the lack of new nuclear capacity on politics, but I was actually around in the 1980s, and I remember some of the things that happened.

    I’m not too far up the road from the nuclear plant in Seabrook, NH. Among the effects of its construction:

    The large debt involved led to the bankruptcy of Seabrook’s major utility owner, Public Service Company of New Hampshire. At the time, this was the fourth largest bankruptcy in United States corporate history.

    PSNH wasn’t the only utility to go bankrupt due to the high cost of constructing nuclear power plants: there was also Washington Public Power Supply System (whoops!).

    A second unit was planned at Seabrook. Here’s what happened to it:

    Two units (reactors) were planned, but the second unit was never completed due to construction delays, cost overruns and troubles obtaining financing… Unit 2 has been canceled and most of its major components sold to other plants.

    Note the “troubles obtaining financing.” The market has spoken: Nuclear power plants are not a cost-effective investment in the US.

  10. Dean writes of RickA

    Locking onto a single option and refusing to look at all alternatives is the work of a narrow mind.

    Just usual behavior for you.

    RickA tries to suck me into his bullshit yet again despite:

    1/ Being warned directly not to do this

    2/ Being told repeatedly that nuclear is not a silver bullet for CC as he implied every fucking time he brings it up.

    So yes, the usual dishonest trolling shite.

  11. But did anybody expect the horse buggy and coach companies to invent automobiles?

    Irrelevant, and not related to my point. Decades before 1970, biofuels were known about. In fact, Rudolf Diesel intended for his compression ignition engine to use peanut oil.

    If someone could invent a cheaper non-carbon producing power source, I am sure all the fossil fuel companies would switch over (or acquire) the new technology.

    But it has to be invented first – which has not been done.

    Yes it has. In South Africa, wind and solar are now cheaper than coal. I mentioned biofuels made from algae.
    The bottom line is, had the Petrochemical companies invested in researching biofuels in the 1970’s, they would have created successful ones by now.

  12. If we want to eliminate fossil fuel use, we will need a mix of all low carbon energy sources (they all have various pros and cons, but we need them all) http://www.thirdway.org/e-binder/we-need-a-mix
    Brad Plumer at Vox shows what an incredibly daunting task this will be http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/3/21/14998536/slowdown-co2-emissions
    “What will it take to cut electricity CO2 by 80 – 100%?” https://twitter.com/JesseJenkins/status/839550298590949376

  13. In addition by de-vertically integrating the power business the economics of nuclear power got far worse. In the non vertically integrated business you have those who generate power (and would build the nuclear plants), those who transmit power over high tension lines, the local distributor, and the electricity retailer. The retailer signs a contract with a generator to provide the power, which is delivered by the two intermediate levels. Now put your self in the shoes of the CEO of an electricity retailer, For nuclear you don’t really know when the plant will come on line because all nuclear plants seem to take longer than expected to complete, nor really what the power will cost. Thus you are unlikley to sign for nuclear generated power. Now as the generator, if you can’t get customers there is no financing available as the contracts are the security on which you can borrow money. Note that the only nuclear plants under construction are in areas that still have vertically integrated electric utilities where the utility can cram the price of the nuclear plant down on the rate payers. So if we want to blame someone blame Ken Lay of Enron who was all in favor of vertically de-integrated electric utilities.
    Of course bio-fuels are a back to the future kind of thing because 120 years ago local transport ran on 100% bio fuels with horses and oxen. (or perhaps human with bicycles)
    One of the problems is that some environmentalist pops up against almost any project including new pumped storage which helps the intermitency problem. (Some also oppose wind farms) It seems the environmental movement needs to agree on the most important issue and let things that stand in the way of this issue go.

  14. I don’t agree with Rick A. Nuclear waste for instance forms a long lasting problem. I agree with Julian Frost. Petrochemical companies bear a huge responsibility for not having invested sufficiently in nondamaging energy programs. See for their responsibilty: Royal Dutch Shell’srather forgotten film from 1991 ‘Climate of concern’, ca. 28 minutes. The commentary says: “Our numbers are many and infinitely different, but the problems and dilemma’s of climate change concern us all.”
    In 2017 the problems are skyhigh:
    We have to cooperate instead of fighting eachother out of the tent.

  15. And once again, it’s like a group of those wind-up dolls repeating the same stuff over and over.

    How about we set up a competitive, internalized, marketplace for the utilization of energy, and let that decide what is the best use of resources.

    But RickA, who is supposed to be for markets, isn’t really. And the people who are supposed to be for science aren’t interested in letting technologies compete on a level playing field. It has to be…[fill in your favorite]…or nothing, even though there is no mechanism for some centralized decision like that. Certainly not in the USA, with its diverse geography and resources.

    Fossil fuel companies are not about providing a service, by the way– they are about owning. It is owning the resource that makes them powerful, and willing to do anything to prevent its devaluation. You people probably also think the US Civil War was about having slaves to pick cotton for the plantation owners, but it wasn’t.

  16. How about we set up a competitive, internalized, marketplace for the utilization of energy, and let that decide what is the best use of resources.

    Who is going to plan, build and pay ($2tn) for the US grid that is a prerequisite for this to happen, zebra?

    And when?

  17. Nuclear waste is a problem with the current fleet of 1960’s designed light water nuclear power plants, but it is safely stored today http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/FAQ_on_radioactivity_and_nuclear_technology
    It is unfortunate that the Clinton administration killed the integral fast reactor project that could have used this “waste” as fuel, but there is potential for rejuvenation http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170313005622/en/GE-Hitachi-Nuclear-Energy-ARC-Nuclear-Announce

  18. Todd #17:

    Thanks for the links.

    I hope the advanced small modular reactor works out and is commercialized.

    It sounds like a good idea to me.

  19. BBD,

    You keep repeating the same bizarre assertion about a national grid. You have no explanation for why it is anything but a bizarre assertion; you just keep repeating it.

    When you come up with such an explanation, perhaps it will be worth answering you. Otherwise, I’m not wasting my time.

  20. zebra

    You keep repeating the same bizarre assertion about a national grid. You have no explanation for why it is anything but a bizarre assertion; you just keep repeating it.

    You cannot have the kind of energy pick-n-mix bazar you imagine without a fundamental evolution of the existing grid. Maybe you don’t *understand* this because you don’t really know what you are talking about, but I cannot help with that.

    When you come up with such an explanation, perhaps it will be worth answering you. Otherwise, I’m not wasting my time.

    I gave you these on the previous thread, but clearly you didn’t bother reading them:

    https://climatecrocks.com/2016/06/02/no-brainer-rebuild-the-grid/

    http://www.power-technology.com/features/featureupgrading-the-us-power-grid-for-the-21st-century-4866973/

    http://www.vox.com/2016/4/8/11376196/california-grid-expansion

  21. BBD,

    Someone in the other thread said that you had become just like the Denialists, and this sadly seems to be the case.

    There’s this mysterious “problem” with my suggestion that you can’t for some reason articulate in your own words, and you give references to completely unrelated articles to pretend that you are talking about something real.

    That’s apparently all you’ve got, and it isn’t very interesting.

  22. lyle #13,

    Let’s just remember that there is vertical integration and then there is vertical integration.

    Elon Musk wants to sell you a vertically integrated transportation paradigm. Solar panels+electric cars.

    Same idea when an electricity generator sells you thermal storage heaters and a contract for intermittent renewables.

    Or, a Tesla house battery and integral component-level LED lighting and renewables.

    And so on.

    Those are not necessarily anti-competitive.

  23. Greg #22,

    If they were anything but vaporware?

    Well, it might make sense in some remote locations. Or, as I have suggested many times, if you are in the aluminum smelter business and you can go in with some other similar industrial process businesses to buy one, and you aren’t near hydro, and there is a strong carbon pricing scheme in place….

    Well, but, that’s why they are still vaporware, eh.

  24. Greg, you state “modular reactors are less efficient”. Do have any evidence to support that claim? We would need them because we need all the help we can get to stop the use of fossil fuels and at the same time provide the electricity modern societies need (high density, reliable, on-demand around the clock) and sources that are dispatchable http://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Dispatchable_source_of_electricity and baseload https://thstlewpg.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/base-load-electricity/ Nuclear has plenty of large problems (too large being one, modular means viable in more locations), but whether we like it or not, we’re gonna need it http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/3/27/15043522/nuclear-power-future-innovation

  25. Todd De Ryck #26,

    As a rule, any kind of thermal generation loses efficiency as you reduce the scale.

    But how about letting the market decide where that becomes an issue? As I just pointed out to Greg, if you want to get together some investors, there could very well be a market for such reactors (or the electricity they can produce) in supplying industrial process businesses. Go for it.

  26. Re #24 in the case of the non integrated utility you don’t know and can’t find out who generated your power that is proprietary data of the retailer. So since the converse is actually true then there is no way for a generator to pay you to conserve. It would have to be the retailer or possibly the local distribution utility (which is still regulated but also bears the costs of roof top solar as well)
    One chooses a retailer on the lowest cost basis for electricity, plus or minus the desire for an all renewable package.
    The retailer might give you a breakdown of the energy mix they buy on the market but that is it.
    So in that model energy saving rebates etc have to be done by government because there is no monolithic utility to do so.

  27. Lyle #29,

    Yes, of course. That’s why I propose that we have a market where the grid operator is regulated as a common carrier, prohibited from generating or even retailing.

    You buy from the generator, so that there is a level playing field for supplying the actual function (transportation, HVACR, lighting, whatever) that you are purchasing.

    Some version of this exists in many locales already in various constrained forms. Make it universal, and it will work better.

    1. Walt: Very funny. Do read the post, though. I explain that part in the first few dozen words.

  28. I mention that we are not dead because I’ve heard the death knell tolled every three days for the last fifty years.
    It rang in the Sixties when seemingly intelligent folk declared that it was immoral to bring a child into such a depraved and dangerous world and it has rang steadily ever since.
    People cried Doom, even as the air improved (well before any EPA), through Democratic and Republican administrations, even during the amazing world-wide decline in poverty and the miracle of instant information and communication.
    War was going to kill us, or the Bomb, or race riots or pesticides. There will always be a reason to cry doom and it is all to easy to blame it on our current political enemies.
    As if one political gang is evil and the other pure of heart.

  29. Re #30 that is the model at least in Tx in areas that were served by utilities (not city owned), The distribution network is still a regulated utility, and they bill the retailers at a regulated rate for their services. The transmission system in most of Tx is ERCOT who is the Independent system operator. The difference in your model with what is implemented is that the generator sells at wholesale to the retailers, delivering power thru the transmission system to the distribution utility who moves the power to the customer.
    In this model there is no advantage for the generator to reduce demand the more the generator sells the more money the generator makes. To encourage conservation you would have to slap a per kwh fee on electricity to pay for it from the state government.
    The retailers concern is to get the lowest price for energy, so it can sell this most pure of commodities at a rate that attracts customers.
    (so your model has one fewer set of participants the retailers than the real world.) A retailer needs to set up a billing system, although the meter reading is done thru the distribution utility, as well as credit checks handling no payment issues, and notifying the distribution utility when to shut power off or turn it on.

  30. Note (regarding energy use data above). It is hard to get 2016 energy data comprehensively, and with the new DOE there won’t be any more data on renewables. But, last year (2016) the amount of energy produced by solar was about double (or a bit more) over 2015. Solar is the fastest growing source, and the rate of growth is increasing per year so far.

    One could estimate that in five or ten years it will be close to five to ten percent total if nothing interesting happens in the energy field. Or, if we get serious about it, solar can be much larger.

    It is possible for example to produce close to half (maybe more than half) the electricity used in residential (and probably many commercial) buildings by fully deploying rooftop solar on those buildings. Equalling that solar deployment in the form of high energy thermal solar plants and pv farms would take care of all of our electricity needs in buildings which is the largest single demand on energy. To do that with nuclear we would have to build about twice to three times the number of plants that current exist (because all the existing plants would have to be replaced for such long term use).

  31. zebra

    Someone in the other thread said that you had become just like the Denialists, and this sadly seems to be the case.

    Says the man who will not read the links nor acknowledge the infrastructural issues.

    There’s this mysterious “problem” with my suggestion that you can’t for some reason articulate in your own words, and you give references to completely unrelated articles

    Clearly, not read any of it then. Or perhaps there is a comprehension issue.

    That’s apparently all you’ve got, and it isn’t very interesting.

    Ironic.

  32. zebra

    Yes, of course. That’s why I propose that we have a market where the grid operator is regulated as a common carrier, prohibited from generating or even retailing.

    We have this in the UK, and it isn’t opening the gates to a free market nirvana of painless energy transition. Quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, we’re growing the diesel farm business to provide backup for intermittency.

  33. Lyle,

    Nice to discuss this with someone who understands how the system works now (and could work in the future.).

    Yes, there are administrative functions like billing to be taken care of, but we have various models and existing software to deal with that– no reason the grid operator (municipal or private) can’t do it.

    On conservation: I’m not suggesting that generators would be involved in consumption technology for that purpose– Tesla wants to sell you EV so you need solar panels, and sells you solar panels so you will buy an EV. They build charging stations by the same synergistic reasoning. The whole package of EV, panels, and eventually the house battery makes them money. Same idea in selling thermal storage (heating and cooling) + “intermittent” wind and solar.

    Conservation comes with internalization, e.g. a carbon tax. If energy costs more, people will figure out ways to reduce consumption and capture and store it when it is cheaper. EV are the perfect example of that.

  34. I see that RickA is once more resorting to the we-can’t-afford-to-end slavery fallacy. Class act, as always.

    And Walt G is going for the false induction fallacy. There’s a winner, not.

    Logic just doesn’t matter to denialists when they attempt to calm their cognitive dissonances with whatever tripe slides most easily down their gullets.

    And MikeN – don’t ever try for a career in clairvoyance. A twenty-sided die has better predicitive power than you.

    And speaking of “die”… Greg, you could include the premise of Code Red from the Mentalist in your list of “I’ve been done in” scenes.

  35. zebra

    We appear to be talking completely past each other. Let me try again to restate what I am saying…

    There’s this mysterious “problem” with my suggestion that you can’t for some reason articulate in your own words, and you give references to completely unrelated articles

    Here’s just one example from just one of those ‘unrelated’ links (emphasis added):

    Since the sun is shining or winds are blowing somewhere across the United States all of the time, MacDonald theorized that the key to resolving the dilemma of intermittent renewable generation might be to scale up the renewable energy generation system to match the scale of weather systems.

    That means ‘interconnections all over the USA’ in plain speech. Because at present, the US grid is balkanised and cannot unify the current W&S resources, let alone massively expanded future ones. So it is dysfunctional from the POV of the local level, which is the level at which the pick’n’mix free market energy bazaar needs to operate but cannot, because the wider infrastructure it needs does not exist. So unless the grid is rapidly and fundamentally evolved, what you propose will not happen.

    For the time-poor, here’s a pretty picture worth a thousand words. Why does China look so different to the US? Why did the US last build an HVDC interconnector in 1989?

    * * *

    Wind and solar are low energy density and inhomogeneous resources. The wind resource is not evenly distributed across geographical areas and solar improves towards the equator (eg. in the USA, wind is big in the middle and solar in the south west). Both W&S are also intermittent. So you need a continental-scale wide-area network both to get electricity from wherever W&S are most efficient to centres of demand (eg. cities; industry) *and* to help smooth for intermittency. Then you need utility scale storage to deal with the rest of the intermittency issue. Not primarily for the domestic market, which is only about 30% of the total, but for the other 60% (agriculture, industry, transport, services, infrastructure).

    This bears repeating: the domestic sector is only a subset of national demand. Domestic-scale patches will not work at a national level: you cannot run an industrialised economy on W&S by sticking some panels on the roof and a battery in the garage. Once you get out of the domestic bubble, localism doesn’t work with low energy density renewables. Homogenising via wide-area connections is necessary.

  36. “It can’t be done, I tells ya.”

    “We have it here in the UK.”

    Sigh.

    I was referring to your belief that only this was sufficient:

    That’s why I propose that we have a market where the grid operator is regulated as a common carrier, prohibited from generating or even retailing.

    You seem to have misinterpreted what I wrote.

  37. BBD,

    “talking past each other”

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying, you keep talking about something that has nothing to do with what I am talking about.

  38. Yes, that’s what I’m saying, you keep talking about something that has nothing to do with what I am talking about.

    I really don’t see that, as explained at #43 (and previously).

  39. I have to go out now, but to summarise my problem with your position:

    The meme that ‘free markets’ will magically propel the world (the US, whatever) through the fantastically challenging energy transition (ET) we face is exceptionally dangerous.

    It is dangerous because it suggests that we can sit back and ‘market forces’ will do the heavy lifting for us. That we don’t need to take urgent, aggressive, collective, large-scale action to make the ET happen.

    But in actual fact, we do, not least because the very infrastructural necessities for your argument even to operate don’t exist yet.

    If you remember, this all started out months ago as an argument about the necessity – or lack of it – for federal intervention in the US to evolve the grid so that it could actually integrate vast new W&S resources and *permit* an ET worthy of the name. You were flatly against the idea. We differed sharply.

  40. BBD,

    I have explained to you more than once that, in my paradigm, you are free to buy electricity, or meet whatever energy need you have, in any way you like. That applies to industries as well as homeowners and commercial enterprises.

    You and others are also free to invest in generating electricity, whether by installing solar panels or building a nuclear plant, and you can also build transmission lines if you like.

    Why you keep yammering on about these things is beyond me. You appear to be trapped in some kind of circular logic loop, but it is difficult to figure out just what is the cause.

  41. It’s not denial, it’s just ignoring something they feel isn’t germane: externalities cost.

    Put in a CO2 tarriff to go toward decarbonising and it could work.

    Just because the majority of freemarketers do not come up with their own alternative courses and instead deny there#s anything really to worry about does not mean they can’t be allowed their own solution proposals.

    If the cost of cleaning up CO2 was added in with a little extra to undo the past emissions, then his would be entirely plausible.

    Ask for what rates of CO2 tax, what timeline, and so on. And how much spent on alternatives to fossil fuels (and, yes, that does include nuke power research, including fusion, the problem with nukes is they require still a better class of operator than the free market will provide).

    There’s no denial there.

    Unless zebra starts denying externalities, but at the moment this is not evident.

  42. “It is possible for example to produce close to half (maybe more than half”

    You could do that with about a tenth of home rooftops covered. Further North would require steeper roofs.

  43. Wow,

    When have I ever denied externalities? What part of “internalized” and “fully internalized” market do you not understand?

    On the other hand, you guys engage in your absurd renewables v nuclear endlessly repetitive back and forth but never explain how either or both is supposed to get done.

    I’ve asked over and over: Are you planning on sending in the 82nd Airborne to force people to build nuclear plants or transmission lines? Is this going to be a project of the USA Socialist Republic that exists only in your fevered Brit imaginations?

    China has problems getting local cooperation, for heaven’s sake, and you think you can create a centralized energy policy in the USA?

    Sorry, I actually have to live here and deal with reality not fantasy.

  44. “When have I ever denied externalities?”

    As far as I know, never.

    But I was pointing out to BBD that there’s nothing “denial” about your post, and unless you HAD done that, it wasn’t right to refuse to listen to the proposition and argue for changes to make it work or just work better.

    I wasn’t going to tell you you cannot go and deny there’s unpaid externalities in fossil fuel use and that needs paying for (as does cleanup and insurance for nukes, or proper planning for renewables).

    “Are you planning on sending in the 82nd Airborne to force people to build nuclear plants or transmission lines?”

    Uh, given I think spending a dollar on nukes is worse than not spending a dollar on renewables as far as reversing the AGW problem goes, I think it rather ironically stupid for you to go and ask that.

    I don’t agree with BBD on things, I agree with him on others.

    “and you think you can create a centralized energy policy in the USA?”

    I think that any non-broken political system and country could do it. Whether that includes the USA remains to be seen. See Orangina.

  45. “Sorry, I actually have to live here and deal with reality not fantasy.”

    Irony.

    “When have I ever denied externalities?”
    then
    “force people to build nuclear plants or transmission lines?”

    Reality. Seems to apply patchily to you.

  46. It should be noted that James Watts invention of the separate condenser was an efficiency measure, as the Newcomen engine used so much coal that it was only profitable at coal mines using waste coal. To take a more recent example the efficency of power generation has increased by a factor of 12 since 1883 as we moved from steam engines to steam turbines and now to gas turbines combined with steam turbines.,
    If you examine industrial history you find that because there is a cost to energy cost effective efficiency efforts have always been occuring (another example in the Catechism of the Locomotive published in the 1870s you find instructions on the most efficient way to run a locomotive, and hints that engineers were rated on how much coal they used during runs)

  47. zebra

    China has problems getting local cooperation, for heaven’s sake,

    But in general succeeds.

    and you think you can create a centralized energy policy in the USA?

    And back to American exceptionalism, just like last time.

    Either you do it, or your free market stuff remains fantasy (see above for why).

    And if you fail, as the second largest emitter in the world, then we all suffer the consequences. If I sound a little impatient with your blend of self-serving free market rhetoric (bolstered by American exceptionalism), don’t be surprised. It’s risible.

  48. Is this going to be a project of the USA Socialist Republic that exists only in your fevered Brit imaginations?

    First China, now this.

    That’s what’s called a ‘tell’.

  49. On the front page of the NYT today:

    -Westinghouse Files For Bankruptcy due to nuclear investment.
    -A picture of a guy shoveling coal at an unauthorized steel factory in China.
    -The genius Brits, who like to tell others how to run their countries, officially withdraw from the EU.

    But carry on discussing “what does nameplate capacity really, really, really mean?”.

    The world is waiting for your answer so we can move ahead on climate change.

  50. While I disagree with you on the necessity(a word I think you misused above) of switching, I think I understand what you are saying BBD. You are talking past each other.

    >“It can’t be done, I tells ya.”
    >“We have it here in the UK.”
    >Sigh.

    Right after that, he said “and it isn’t…”

    BBD is saying there are technical difficulties to producing the paradigm you want, a paradigm I think he is OK with. The technical difficulties are so large that they will not be solved without large scale government intervention. Not just a carbon tax to boost prices of fossil fuels.

  51. MikeN,

    There are no “technical difficulties” that I am aware of.

    If the government or a highly regulated private company operates the grid so that all buyers and sellers have equal access, and all technologies are allowed to enter the overall energy utilization market (meaning EV, for example), then what “technical difficulty” would there be?

    You may not agree with the necessity of reducing CO2, but I think you would agree that a carbon tax type of intervention plus the market system I describe would result in the desired (by many of us) outcome.

  52. Lyle #55,

    As I recall, the steam engine operating pumps in the coal mines allowed more coal production, which made other applications more economically feasible.

    Kind of like Elon Musk running his battery factory on solar, and the other synergistic models I described earlier.

    But of course there are Luddites today, as we see, just as in the past, who fear change, and object to new ways of thinking.

  53. “the steam engine operating pumps in the coal mines allowed more coal production”

    It got rid of water, simple as that.

    But it was efficiency that made it worth using, if it takes 1 ton of coal to get 1 ton extracted at that depth because your steam pump burns a lot to keep water out, then it’s no possible to get the coal out.

    And then economies of scale made the machines cheaper to buy, meaning less risk in trying (for all the claims of “we are the risk takers”, industry and commerce REALLY don’t want to take any. See hollywood).

    And then better machinery to do the digging meant you didn’t take as long getting the coal out as when you used donkey cart, so you spent less coal pumping it clear to get that same ton of coal out.

  54. >then what “technical difficulty” would there be?

    I’m not really qualified to answer that. However, I note that Google essentially shuttered its renewable energy project over similar concerns.

    >think you would agree that a carbon tax type of intervention plus the market system I describe would result in the desired (by many of us) outcome.

    I used to think that, but now I am not so sure given what BBD has said. Plus you are begging the question. The existence of this market system is what BBD is saying is impossible, and you are saying implementing this market system would produce the outcome, when it is the production of that market system which is being disputed.

  55. MikeN,

    The market system already exists, in some form, so it makes no sense to say it is impossible to have a market system.

    In California, for example, there are lots of houses with solar panels selling electricity into the system. Also, in many locations, like the UK, people have a choice among a selection of generators.

    So, the only “technical” issue is some software that allows the seller (the owner of the house) to get payment from the buyer (someone who has an EV that needs a charge, for example) directly. This is not much of a “technical” challenge these days.

    And the same software lets you buy from a nuclear plant, if that happens to suit your needs.

    The only difference is that you don’t have a grid monopoly restricting your choices.

    And I have yet to hear any “technical” reason this is would be difficult to implement.

  56. “I’m not really qualified to answer that”

    Then you are not qualified or even informed enough to say it, and your assertion can be safely discarded as an issue.

  57. There are several communities who have gotten their own power supplies (in Scotland islands, where most of this started in the UK, it was wind power, obviously), where their power comes from the installation they bought and the excess is sent into the grid (not so much in the hebrides) in excess and bought as usual when lacking.

  58. Wow,

    In my part of the USA we have the first offshore wind project running, and that too involves an island. An interesting microcosm of the issues.

    Block Island had been operating on diesel generators– an expensive proposition– and was not connected to the mainland grid. As with all things like this, there was a lot of politicking and horse-trading and disagreement, but in the end they opted to have 5 large turbines erected offshore and got an underwater line to the mainland.

    This might have been a sales opportunity for one of those vaporware modular nukes, if they weren’t vaporware. But in the end, the prospect of business for the island from an expanded offshore wind industry made the choice simple.

    Had modular nukes been available, they would be in just about the correct capacity range for the island. But as you have pointed out previously, they would still have to keep the diesel generators for backup, whether in the case of nuke failure or simply for refueling. So, “the market” would almost certainly have resulted in the same choice, which was to establish a grid connection and be part of the new paradigm, rather than be stuck in the 20th Century model.

    We have lots of port cities here that would benefit from offshore wind, and it is really unlikely that even the Trump administration would be able to force us to abandon that option in favor of thermal plants. Even with the 82nd Airborne, if it came to that.

  59. What trump will do and what he’s allowed to get away with is rather unsafe to bet on.

    The Republicans haven’t a clue how to run government. The Democrats are too weak to talk to them, media either buried in incompetence after years of doing cheaper stenography than investigation, or so destroyed by rhetoric of partisanship they cannot control things. And Tiny Hands has demonstrated that he’s definitely not a stable sane human being.

    He could very easily punish the state by summarily not giving them any federal money and delaying the case to reinstate the payments until the state caves in.

    Who, frankly, will be able to stop him without actual open insurrection?

  60. >hard to get 2016 energy data comprehensively, and with the new DOE there won’t be any more data on renewables.

    Can you point link a specific dataset you do not expect the DOE to publish with 2016 or 2017 data?

  61. Interesting watching zebra play games on this thread.

    The whole argument is about the future.

    In the future, there will be very large scale W&S.

    Integrating this combined resource will require a major evolution of the grid.

    Without the major evolution of the grid, his pick’n’mix ‘free market’ proposal cannot exist at meaningful scale.

    This is a technical problem that invalidates the ‘free market’ scenario.

    So what does zebra do?

    Denialism.

    Repeated argument from assertion (‘it ain’t so’) without a single demonstration of why it ain’t so.

    Switch focus away from the future to the irrelevant mouse-nibbling at the problem that is going on *today* (#67; #70).

    Keep waving the strawman that this is about renewables vs nuclear when in fact it’s about the dangerous complacency engendered by pretending that invisible hands will waft us through the energy transition.

    TL/DR: denial, misdirection and argument from assertion. No substance.

    But always the ‘free market’ rhetoric behind it all. So read carefully, everyone.

  62. “That sums up your postings well.”

    And your ignorance of your own words to come up with that “comment” sums up your mental capacity well.

    Additionally, the fact you did not and gave no method for avoiding it, either implying it is being done when you clearly have not, or that you merely want it to be done, when clearly you do not, indicates yet more clearly your lack of intelligence or cognition.

    That stupidity is why you’re a denier.

  63. “The whole argument is about the future. ”

    OK, so stop claiming that the past or current state of the USA is relevant.

  64. OK, so stop claiming that the past or current state of the USA is relevant.

    It’s relevant insofar as it is what must *change* in order to have an energy transition that actually works.

    The crux of this argument is that the old, discredited ‘free market’ rhetoric is a recipe for complacent inaction, not radical change. And that is a *big* problem.

    Incidentally, did you notice how Zebra portrays himself as the radical, modern paradigm kind of guy? And me as stuck in the past?

    But who is advocating for the same old ideology that got us into this mess in the first place? And who is proposing radical, *new* action for change?

    You have to read Zebra very carefully.

  65. BBD,

    You have given yourself away… you are clearly a victim of the propaganda from the people you claim to oppose.

    I’ve explained this before, but it doesn’t get through because right-wing propaganda is designed to operate on the Authoritarian Personality, whichever “side” the target claims to be on.

    “What got us here” has been the antithesis of free markets. It is monopolies and “ownership” of natural resources; varieties of Mercantilism and Fascism.

    You are clearly attached to this kind of Authoritarian and simplistic paradigm, but can’t acknowledge it.

    And yes, you have to read me very carefully, and have some familiarity with history and technology and science.

  66. “” OK, so stop claiming that the past or current state of the USA is relevant.”

    It’s relevant”

    Then your claim

    “The whole argument is about the future. ”

    is irrelevant. If you’re going to continue to dredge up the past, you can’t shout down someone else by demanding THEY should be talking about the future.

  67. ““What got us here” has been the antithesis of free markets. It is monopolies and “ownership” of natural resources; varieties of Mercantilism and Fascism.”

    You have to admit, though, that free market ideology easily, VERY easily, leads to that result, though. There’s no way for the “free market” to weed out monopolies, mercantilism and facism.

    Moreover, the VAST majority of free marketeers WANT that state, they DO NOT want a free market, they want themselves to be free (indeed this is why so very VERY many free marketeers are libertarian: it’s an ideology that predicates on “I MUST BE FREE! FREE TO DO WHAT I WANT TO DO!”). The only way to stop such corruption of the free market ideology is government action to do so.

    But it is so very VERY easy to ape the mantras of free markets to stop government doing it. Or blaming every failure of the corruption of free markets by mercantilism, crony capitalism and facism on government interference, thereby leaving it open to yet more corruption by those parties.

    BBD’s problem at base is a blinkered assessment. Got an idea, even from somewhere else, that “fits” and everything will be assessed to fit that definition. Quite common among authoritarian personalities, so your theory has some weight. So having seen or heard thousands of free market espousers who were NOT there for a free market, just a market free of hindrance of them to profit by whatever method they care to apply, and it’s not *entirely* wrong for BBD to assume you are similar.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with the assumption based on the vast evidence for that conclusion.

    But, and here is where BBDs problems come in, if further evidence indicates there may be some error in that assessment on probabilities, he ignores it and insists that everything must be read so as to support that preconception.

    I would not bother to berate BBD for his ignorance of evidence against his assumption but just refute it and make your claim yet again, because trying to futilely refute BBD’s assessment derails your point.

    Just flat out tell him he has the wrong idea about you, then continue your proposal.

  68. You have given yourself away… you are clearly a victim of the propaganda from the people you claim to oppose.

    Nice try, but no cigar.

    One of us is advocating radical action.

    The other is advocating inaction in favour of ‘free market’ rhetoric and denying the need for radical action.

    One of us will be on the wrong side of history and I think even you know who it will be.

  69. “One of us is advocating radical action.”

    As is zebra.

    Indeed it’s why you’re so incredulous that it could work.

    Is the problem that without massive support from government and enforced eminent domain against the wishes of the locals to site plants, nuke power won’t happen?

  70. As is zebra.

    No he isn’t. He’s advocating doing nothing much at all except rely on ‘free market’ magic to fix it all for us all the while pretending to be the purveyor of a ‘new paradigm’.

    It’s an insult to the intelligence.

  71. Yes he is.

    Or are you now reneging on your earlier comment that described astonishment it could happen?

    The only difference i can see between the two ideas is that you made one and didn’t make the other, and you’re now making it the only difference that matters.

    Or as you put it:

    Yawn.

  72. “He’s advocating doing nothing much at all except rely on ‘free market’ magic to fix it all for us all ”

    Lets put it this way.

    All you have is “Without nuclear, it will be harder to decarbonise!”.

  73. Wow,

    BBD is advocating no action at all that I can see.

    I always ask people who advocate for nuclear like BBD:

    OK, what’s your plan?

    And never get an answer.

    I also do the same for people like you, who appear to advocate HVDC transmission lines, so I am an equal opportunity critic.

    Stuff doesn’t happen by wishful thinking. If you can’t describe a process by which you propose to achieve your goal, there is no point in telling us about it.

  74. BBD is advocating no action at all that I can see.

    I knew you had reading comprehension issues, but this is ridiculous. Or perhaps it’s just deliberate dishonesty.

    I always ask people who advocate for nuclear like BBD:

    Misrepresentation, and I’ve spoken to you once about this already so the obvious bad faith is duly noted.

    You are sliding into the shit, Zebra.

  75. I promote nuclear.

    My plan would be to advocate for the NRA to pre-approve several designs – so they could be built right away.

    I would also give permission to store on-site in casks (which they are doing anyway).

    I would also advocate for building a couple recycling plants to burn the waste being held onsite currently.

    Perhaps 8 ish regional recycling plants, so shipping would be over a limited distance (by rail probably).

    The NRA is the reason no nukes have been built since the NRA was created.

  76. “I would also give permission to store on-site in casks”

    And you’d have to insure them against accident. It’s one of many problems. You “give permission” but do not care about it being done properly and safely.

  77. ” I always ask people who advocate for nuclear like BBD:”

    Misrepresentation,”

    And you still failed to give a plan.

    like I said, all you’ve got is “It will be harder without nuclear”. You have no idea what to do, just complaints about renewables.

  78. #74 contains no plan. Just dire warnings about how bad it will be if we don’t do something different.

    What that is you do not say.

    Again.

  79. >The NRA is the reason no nukes have been built since the NRA was created.

    Because you need a missile to fire a nuke, not a rifle.

  80. like I said, all you’ve got is “It will be harder without nuclear”. You have no idea what to do, just complaints about renewables.

    Stop lying, wow. Read harder. It’s all on this thread, repeated over and over again. But just for you, yet another summary for the comprehensionally-challenged:

    I advocate for a massive build-out of W&S plus the necessary grid architecture upgrade to integrate them (read the fucking thread). Starting now (RTFT). Not in some carefully undefined future to be determined by ‘market forces’ we don’t have time to indulge any more (RTFT).

    Idiot.

  81. Magical Thinking:

    Here we observe a variation of this phenomenon, with both RickA and BBD unable to distinguish between

    “what I would like things to be” (an aspiration)

    and

    “this is how to achieve what I would like things to be” (a plan).

    Authoritarian Personality is really a combination of various human developmental stages (pre-adult) which carry on through chronological adulthood.

    Hence, the idea that “prayer” or simply stating the desired outcome will result in some higher authority (God, Daddy) “making it happen”.

  82. I think it more to do with BBD having once got a conclusion they can accept in their head will not read anything except to confirm that conclusion.

    See his “zebra has made no proposals” and his lack of any proposal any more involved than yours, yet his words were “plenty of detail”.

    Not authoritarian, intransigent.

    It’s identical to denier methods.

  83. Wow,

    I’m not sure there’s a difference there. AP is characterized by black-and-white, simplistic thinking. So, (extreme) resistance to ideas that involve complexity and nuance is to be expected, or to changing one’s worldview at all, is part of it. And they consider “ipse dixit” to be sufficient argument in all cases.

    Intransigence comes with the territory, in other words.

  84. zebra

    Magical Thinking = ‘free markets’

    PS: You need to learn about how energy tech works before bullshitting about it on the internet.

  85. “this is how to achieve what I would like things to be” (a plan).

    What you propose won’t get from here to where we need to be so it isn’t much of a plan. As I keep trying to explain to you, but you intransigently refuse to listen…

  86. … although this conversation has added to my conviction that America simply isn’t going to have an energy transition.

    Its transmission ‘system’ is hopelessly fucked, there’s too much cheap natural gas available and the cult of The Market is ascendant everywhere.

  87. Wow 51:

    ““It is possible for example to produce close to half (maybe more than half”

    You could do that with about a tenth of home rooftops covered. Further North would require steeper roofs.”

    I should clarify. When I mean “half” I mean half of what is possible on a given buildings, and given the existing buildings. If a building that is built to maximize solar PV use was compared to an equivalent building (in terms of interior space) that latter might produce something like a third of what the maximized building would produce if fully PV-ized.

    I’m going off a recent and carefully done study that looks at the entire nation, and the results are very encouraging.

    Putting this another way, if we had required all new structures to have a goodly number of PV panels built on and maintained, say, in 1990, we would already be producing some large percentage of non-C electricity today. If this had been done globally over the last thirty years or so, we would probably be a decade behind where we are right now in terms of global warming!

  88. I’m going off a recent and carefully done study that looks at the entire nation, and the results are very encouraging.

    Who are you referencing, Greg? What does the study say about seasonality and area power density (given this is a hard constraint on buildings)?

  89. Putting this another way, if we had required all new structures to have a goodly number of PV panels built on and maintained, say, in 1990,

    But that’s not free market thinking at all. So it didn’t happen. Only planning and intervention by central government can really achieve progress of that kind.

  90. re: 102.

    Aye, but there’s better ways too. Cut down on inefficient houses. There are a lot of zero-net-energy homes in the deomonstration stage and sold in limited numbers in the north of europe.

    But too it’s inefficient to swap light to electricity for heat when you can just go light to heat anyway, and use solar heating on the roof. And, yes, still works in winter. And in very snowy places works quite well, since snow is a good insulator.

    For the USA, the abhorrence for air drying could cut domestic power use by a large fraction with no building changes.

    “Without hot air” rather ignores the fact that currently we don’t use electric heating much in the UK and pads the figures beyond even that. And doesn’t try to make nuke power cover heating, either.

    It really is just a puff piece for fluffing nuke powers.

  91. “But that’s not free market thinking at all.”

    Well, that’s not ecological thinking at all.

    I can blast off at a tangent too.

  92. “What you propose won’t get from here to where we need to be”

    And going “that won’t work” isn’t a plan either. And it’s not even a valid argument as it has nothing to show it is supportable.

  93. “Its transmission ‘system’ is hopelessly fucked”

    No plan there either. And it’s not free market thinking. This, apparently, is a requirement for you to accept a claim…

  94. I can blast off at a tangent too.

    No tangent there. Bang on target. Why are you defending zebra’s shite, wow? Seriously? WTF are you playing at?

  95. “Wow,

    I’m not sure there’s a difference there.”

    It’s the same mental state, but not necessarily the same causation.

    It’s not totally impossible, since elsewhere BBD has avoided any claims of a working energy mix himeself but pointed to other sources and said “THEY say this…”, but will not defend its claims, crying off with “I’m not saying it, THEY are!”. And MacKay is another authority figure he trots out and cannot defend except with “But he’s an expert and those are the figures he got!”.

    He hasn’t done that here to my knowledge, though, so this is not evidenced here and therefore a claim unsupported at this time (he may have changed his appeal to authority and begging off supporting it with his own logical arguments).

  96. “” I can blast off at a tangent too.”

    No tangent there.”

    Ah, right, so you can tell me where Greg said he is only every going to propose free market ideas, right?

    Oh, wrong.

    Yours was a complete tangential ass-pull, BBD. And it was shit.

  97. Yours was a complete tangential ass-pull, BBD. And it was shit.

    No, this is just you getting it wrong again.

    The point is that *absent* central government planning and intervention, real progress towards decarbonisation is far too slow. Left to its own devices, the so-called free market doesn’t drive decarbonisation very fast at all. The evidence for this is all around you.

    Greg just gave you a really good example of why Zebra’s ‘plan’ isn’t much of a plan at all. As previously pointed out, many times.

  98. BBD @ ~ 94 wrote:

    I advocate for a massive build-out of W&S plus the necessary grid architecture upgrade to integrate them (read the fucking thread).

    Sounds like a plan. So he gave you all a starting point for a discussion on that — even though constanly demanding “A Plan! A Plan!” is a diversionary tactic used in climate denial.

    BBD, arguing with Zebra is a pointless exercise since anything he says on any given topic is just an elaborate circumlocution for “Get of my lawn!” He’s not lying. He really wants you off his lawn.

    As for Wow, it’s better to avoid him and let him feed his addiction by tangling up rightwing nutters, IMO.

  99. OA 113,

    The “common tactic in climate denial” is to make arguments like BBD is making– suggesting that there is some Nirvana state that must be achieved or nothing should be done.

    Greg’s point about “what might have been”, and Wow pointing out that there are numerous additional simple existing technologies, illustrates the problem.

    Had the federal government started 30 years ago by following my plan– eliminating the monopoly of the utilities, opening up the market to small producers, and disincentivizing FF burning, we would be far ahead of the game.

    Some of those things, in some form or other, have happened, but implementing it on the national level, which is doable in the existing legal, political, and economic, context, would move things along faster.

    And I repeat: A goal is not a plan. A plan tells us how things can be accomplished in the real world, by real governments, with real technology.

    “We should have a national grid.” is not a plan.

  100. OA

    BBD, arguing with Zebra is a pointless exercise since anything he says on any given topic is just an elaborate circumlocution for “Get of my lawn!”

    It does seem to be a waste of time and effort. I don’t even get the impression that he has learned anything, which is a shame.

    As for Wow, it’s better to avoid him and let him feed his addiction by tangling up rightwing nutters, IMO.

    God knows, I would if I could, but it’s hard to avoid ubiquitous, aggressive nutters in a confined space.

  101. For Greg, in case he is still reading now:

    If you want to know why Exxon didn’t get into other markets (given the enormous capital they could have invested), the answer is simple:

    It’s not what extraction people do. They own things, and can’t let go. Monopoly positions suit them. Perhaps it has to do with toilet training as children?

    This is about psychology. Elon Musk is an innovator– his sense of accomplishment comes from modifying or breaking paradigms. So, with all that money, he certainly could have made safe investments, and been comfortable or gotten even richer. But what would be the point; we like to do what we are good at. It defines our identity and self-worth. So, electric cars, a very big gamble. And then space.

    Why are the Koch brothers “true believers”? Because they need to justify their identities; they are wealthy because they hung on to inherited stuff.

    I think the executives you are talking about are invested in the paradigm because it is who they are.

  102. “Sounds like a plan. ”

    As much a plan as Zebra had. Build in the externalities as a charge to power generation, allow P2P electricity selling (as opposed to the currently broken in the USA where you as a customer have to see to your supplier and only your supplier, only at the rate they tell you and only if they let you.

    THAT IS STILL A PLAN.

    You can argue that it will need a lot of handholding by government to ensure that suppliers do not lie, that nobody skips out on the responsibilities (e.g. if you have a modular nuke that you hold the bag if it goes titsup, etc), but it doesn’t make it a non plan.

    Moreover, when you quote BBD as saying “Massive build out of W&S”, how do you square it with his one sided complaints about “how about when the sun stops shining?!?!?!?” and “how about when there’s no wind?!?!?!” and “Our demand in the UK is higher when there’s less power!!!!”?

    Or is his plan to complain bitterly that his plan won’t work?

  103. “As for Wow, it’s better to avoid him and let him feed his addiction ”

    Not too good at reading comprehension, are you, OA.

  104. “” Yours was a complete tangential ass-pull, BBD. And it was shit.”

    No, this is just you getting it wrong again. ”

    No, that was me pointing out the shit.

  105. Wow 117,

    “as much a plan”

    No, because I have specified actual things the government would do.

    This is what I was talking about with respect to RickA and others I have encountered:

    What does the government actually do in order for this NIrvana of either NPP or the “infinitely connective grid” to come into existence???

    RickA has provided us with pre-approved designs, (which we already have Rick duh) and permitting on-site storage, which we already have, and “building recycling plants”…but no explanation of who pays for or decides where to build them. And, the bankruptcy of the current projects has nothing to do with any of these suggestions.

    BBD actually has less concrete input than Rick, which is pitiful given his claims about being an expert.

    So at least give me a little more credit. I am suggesting actual legislation that could be passed.

  106. Money makes the world go round, so they say.

    Meanwhile, at the God Pod (culture of hubris):
    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/01/business/energy-environment/darren-woods-exxon-mobil-investors.html

    “Slow walking” conservatives:
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/21/oil-majors-investments-renewable-energy-solar-wind

    And we all know about pig-headed, beta-brained denialist lemmings.

    It’s not just oil companies, of course. There are all kinds of ways clumps of humans crash and burn — and pull others down with them.

  107. zebra

    BBD actually has less concrete input than Rick, which is pitiful given his claims about being an expert.

    And *another* misrepresentation from you. I did not claim to be an expert, only that I know what I am talking about.

    As for building grids, it’s not so hard and there is a historical precedent which was hated by libertarians at the time.
    You just get on and start doing it and finance it like a war.

  108. So at least give me a little more credit. I am suggesting actual legislation that could be passed.

    And I’m pointing out that it will not achieve the desired goal of large-scale energy transition fast enough, if indeed it does it at all.

  109. “No, because I have specified actual things the government would do. ”

    From BBD’s view, they have one too.

    Hence when they whined “zebra has no plan!” I came back with “YOU have no plan”, because you both have plans, at lest in the broad outline, and maybe you’d post some link to a group with the details you read and agree could work.

    But if that sort of level of plan is insufficient for BBD, then they didn’t have a plan either.

    I’m willing to either accept the strict requirements or that you both have plans, but I don’t accept that one has one and the other doesn’t.

  110. “And I’m pointing out that it will not achieve ”

    No, you’re claiming it won’t.

    But even if your claim were correct and supported, it STILL WOULD NOT make it not a plan. It’s just one you don’t think will work.

    It’s STILL a plan.

  111. Wow,

    I’m not going to argue the definition of “plan”.

    I suggest actual legislation. They do not.

    So, it is magical thinking. And it is also Nirvana fallacy, and it is Denialist tactics to delay doing anything.

  112. zebra

    and it is Denialist tactics to delay doing anything.

    Nope, that’s you, advocating against radical government intervention, which is the only thing that will get W&S up to the necessary (very) large scale fast enough to make a difference.

    Let me explain why I don’t think the free market is your friend – in fact why it is your enemy:

    You want to put everything in a free market energy bazaar where, inevitably, price becomes king. Now – this is important – there is an assumption implicit in this. It is that you think that W&S will be price-competitive with other generation technologies.

    I suspect that you’ve fallen for the ‘renewables just keep getting cheaper’ meme. It’s not true. In fact the opposite holds: renewables get *more* expensive at scale.

    This is really important – W&S costs are not just about the falling price of turbine / SPV / CSP arrays, for all that the industry and the media would have you think.

    In reality, W&S get more, not less, expensive at scale. Right now, W&S are at the lowest point in their cost curves. They are free riders on existing spare capacity so there’s no cost for new spinning reserve, no cost for a storage hedge against intermittency and nothing much for grid extensions either. But as you increase W&S in the energy mix, you rapidly start incurring very significant costs for all three (spinning reserve, utility-scale storage, large-scale grid extensions). This is the true total system cost and it increases with scale.

    So if you put W&S in the energy bazaar, they will do okay initially and then die a death. That’s why the free market is your enemy, not your friend.

    And that’s why government intervention will be necessary to get W&S to scale rapidly. The free market would stifle them both as soon as the true total system cost begins to emerge. Investors hate shit like that and energy customers are price-sensitive (especially in industry, which is >60% of the market).

  113. BBD,

    Two things:

    1. If you can’t tell us how to get the government to “radically intervene”, then you are, as I said, a toddler pulling on Daddy’s pant leg, expecting him to magically satisfy your demands..

    2. You keep talking about something I am not talking about. You are obviously caught in circular logic; you can’t think outside your own box, as Wow observed.

    I keep saying “let renewables compete with nuclear, and let the best technology win”.

    Your response is “but the best technology will win”!

    Seriously, dude, you need to go for a walk outside and clear your mind.

  114. Your response is “but the best technology will win”!

    You have – once again – not read my comment properly.

  115. 1. If you can’t tell us how to get the government to “radically intervene”,

    And you get the government to do your thing how, exactly? You didn’t say.

    Let’s stop pissing about, shall we? You are being disingenuous as a tactic for avoiding admitting the problems in your own position. We both know it.

  116. BBD 132,

    I have explained now over and over:

    The legislation I suggest is not radical in the US context.

    Some of it already exists in States, the concepts are established in US law, and the Federal government has the jurisdiction. It could be passed with a Democratic administration, although obviously there would be some opposition from particular States.

    Since you have offered zero in the way of legislation, we can’t exactly compare the relative viability, can we?

  117. zebra

    How have I not read your comment properly? You said renewables will “die a death”.

    Because your proposal will kill them, but they are vitally necessary for decarbonisation.

    I keep saying “let renewables compete with nuclear, and let the best technology win”.

    Mini-tutorial #5: Nobody thinks that we can decarbonise on nuclear alone.

    So your proposal would destroy W&S and leave us with a technology that nobody proposed for the whole job in the first place. So your proposal is fatally flawed.

    This is perfectly clear in #129, so you *still* haven’t read it properly.

    Or perhaps you simply won’t admit that your position is invalid. Even if it may be feasible to implement it per #134.

  118. BBD,

    If we can’t decarbonize on nuclear alone, then why would renewables “die a death” in my paradigm?

    It is becoming more and more obvious that you are engaging in some kind of circular reasoning. (Unconsciously, not as a debating tactic.)

  119. If we can’t decarbonize on nuclear alone, then why would renewables “die a death” in my paradigm?

    I explained this at #129. I think you are being deliberately obtuse rather than admit that this is over.

    In the free market, the uncompetitive go to the wall. Energy is price-sensitive. So you get fracked gas, maybe some nuclear and W&S never scale up to the size necessary for deep decarbonisation. God knows, this is simple enough. And there is no circular reasoning, so you can drop that evasion too.

  120. BBD,

    Why would there be “fracked gas and nuclear”?

    Decarbonizing requires having a price signal attached to fossil fuels. If not, then we go along with BAU.

    And currently, renewables and fossil fuels are sending nuclear “to the wall”. So wouldn’t we have “fracked gas and renewables”?

    Yes, I’m afraid you really are caught up in some strange (il)logical loop.

  121. Decarbonizing requires having a price signal attached to fossil fuels. If not, then we go along with BAU.

    Oh, so not a free market. You didn’t mean ‘free market’ when you said ‘free market’. Free in the sense of not free at all. Ah.

  122. And currently, renewables and fossil fuels are sending nuclear “to the wall”.

    I think FFs are the main cause of nuclear’s woes. And even if not, renewables are not currently costed correctly, as explained above. When they are, the apparent cost advantage relative to nuclear shrinks.

  123. BBD,

    “apparent cost advantage shrinks”

    And now we’re back to what I said before, which is…yes! exactly!… market forces will establish the correct balance.

    We may disagree on what that balance will turn out to be, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the validity of my approach.

    And please, don’t embarrass yourself with the “free market” definition nonsense— what I said is there in black and white, and everyone else got it just fine. I’ll get Wow to attest to that if you like.

  124. zebra

    And please, don’t embarrass yourself with the “free market” definition nonsense— what I said is there in black and white, and everyone else got it just fine.

    #15:

    How about we set up a competitive, internalized, marketplace for the utilization of energy, and let that decide what is the best use of resources.

    #27:

    But how about letting the market decide where that becomes an issue?

    #30:

    You buy from the generator, so that there is a level playing field for supplying the actual function (transportation, HVACR, lighting, whatever) that you are purchasing.

    So I took you to mean ‘free market’. But clearly you didn’t mean ‘free market’ and now this is my fault?

    * * *

    If it boils down to government intervention in the market (carbon tax) then proposals such as yours aren’t really necessary.

  125. BBD,

    Really, grow up. I’ve discussed this multiple times, on these two threads and in the past.

    Competitive, internalized market means exactly what it says– if there are massive externalities, then it isn’t a free market by definition, since the cost of the product is not correctly represented in the transaction.

    Wow even pointed the externality issue out to you earlier.

    Anyway, so now you are saying that a carbon tax qualifies as your “radical government intervention”.

    Forget circular logic, you are actually on some kind of degenerate elliptical death-spiral.

  126. zebra

    And now we’re back to what I said before, which is…yes! exactly!… market forces will establish the correct balance.

    I think this is an assertion too far. What I’m suggesting is that the free market will decide *against* W&S at higher penetrations and that this would be a disaster for decarbonisation. Therefore it is necessary for government to intervene to ensure that decarbonisation progresses as fast and as efficiently as possible. The claim that the market is always right is not true (or there would be no need for government market intervention in the form of a carbon tax in the first place). This is a prime example of why we cannot just sit back and leave it to the invisible hands to fix it for us.

    Anyway, so now you are saying that a carbon tax qualifies as your “radical government intervention”.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying.

    Really, grow up.

    Please, stop this. We can discuss this without snark and it’s easier for me to maintain a civil tone if you do as well.

  127. Competitive, internalized market means exactly what it says– if there are massive externalities, then it isn’t a free market by definition

    This feels like a shifting of the goal posts. Going back to your #15:

    How about we set up a competitive, internalized, marketplace for the utilization of energy, and let that decide what is the best use of resources.

    Here, I read your ‘internalised’ to mean ‘internal to the US’. Nothing more.

  128. That’s what I meant by you were talking past each other. I understood Zebra’s free market wasn’t quite free market, but I don’t think that changes your counterargument If I am understanding it correctly.

  129. BBD, MikeN,

    Competitive markets without externalities optimize the allocation of resources. That is fundamental traditional market theory.

    If you don’t agree, make a case why it isn’t true. Otherwise you are engaging in silly rhetoric, since what I am saying is a simple application of the principles.

    If you don’t even understand what an externality is, you are in no position to discuss this.

    Do you?

  130. zebra

    It’s humbling to consider the vast engineering project that would be required to deliver just 16kWh/day to 1bn people.

    Speaking of the DESERTEC proposal, it’s encouraging to see things like the Ouarzazate solar complex being constructed by goverment fiat but there is a very long way to go yet, and are you really sure it can be left to the markets?

    Teh Wiki:

    Ouarzazate was originally the location chosen in 2011 by the Desertec consortium for a solar plant which would be part of a €400bn project that would supply much of Europe with solar electricity through power lines under the Strait of Gibraltar.[5] However, in late 2012 many of the investors, including Spain, Bosch and Siemens pulled out, and Morocco found alternative support from the Africa Development Bank.[6]

    This sort of thing. And this just is baby steps.

  131. “It’s humbling to consider the vast engineering project that would be required to deliver just 16kWh/day to 1bn people. ”

    We already do it. Well much more.

    So what was the point of this humbling thought?

  132. “This sort of thing. And this just is baby steps.”

    It would be much much harder if they’d tried to use nuclear power, though.

  133. Putting this another way, if we had required all new structures to have a goodly number of PV panels built on and maintained, say, in 1990, we would already be producing some large percentage of non-C electricity today. If this had been done globally over the last thirty years or so, we would probably be a decade behind where we are right now in terms of global warming!

    Almost twenty years ago my sister and her husband built a mudbrick house, with solar hot water and photovoltaics. They had the choice to connect to grid power 100 m away, but worked out that the cost of connection and ongoing bills would would excede wthin about five years the cost of the PV.

    Today, getting on to two decades later, they’re still using their original 90s PV system (and, amazingly, the batteries!), and they’ve saved well in excess of $10,000 in power bills after the cost of the system. If the cost of the proposed grid connection is accounted for then their overall power cost-saving is closer to $15,000. And this is on top of the fact that their house cost about 75% that of the cost of nearby buildings that were constructed with conventional methods.

    When they decided to go off-grid they were derided by all and sundry for being hippies who had no understanding of the cost burden that they were putting on themselves, and that PV would not adequately provide their energy needs. Today, they’re way ahead in terms off financial benefit, they have all the power that they need, and they live rich and fulfilling lives. Danish friends walk in and immediatey say “hyggeligt“.

    The only resistance to building and powering as they did in the 90s was the attitudes of society, politicians, and fossil power companies. The technology, though new, was there. Fortunately local governments were sufficiently forward-thinking to permit their choics, and hindsight shows that they were right.

    If the naysaying attitudes of the mainstream had not existed then, we as a society would likely be in the place that Greg describes – far further advanced in our capacity to per with renewable technologies, and in a situation to still be able to prevent the worst ravages of global warming. Alas, we have neither result, and given the radically conservative attitudes of the US and Australian governments (and of their corporations, and of their media, and of half of each of their respective populations…) it’s obvious that the world is probably still another decade away from the social concensus that would see a different approach to power supply.

    By then it will be far too late. It’s already too late now, even though we still have the choice to be able to salvage something from the wreckage if we act immedately. Sadly though Homo sapiens [sic] will as a species always take the low road, right up to the moment that the bridge is washed out. The trouble is that by then we’ll be so far along the low road that there’ll be no time left double back and take the high road.

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