Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Renewable Energy Technology

Model T energy tech is no way to address climate change.

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Are Americans really willing to shell out that much cash for zero-carbon energy? The ITIF report observes that a 2011 poll found that Americans were willing to pay just under $10 per month ($120 per year) more for electricity generated by renewable sources. In addition, half of Americans can choose to pay about 10 percent more to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources, but only 1 percent actually do so.

These calculations are just for the United States. Somewhere around 1.3 billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity. Taking the Jacobson and Delucchi figures for the world, the total cost to completely eliminate fossil fuels by 2030 would amount to $100 trillion, i.e., eight percent of global annual GDP. The global cost per household per year would amount to $3,571. The nearly three billion people who live on less than $2,000 per year simply cannot pay the prices needed to deploy current versions of renewable power technologies.

The ITIF researchers conclude, “The key to mitigating climate change is to make clean energy cheap enough to replace conventional energy without mandates, subsidies, or carbon taxes.” That’s entirely correct. But how to do that? Chiefly they advocate boosting federally-funded energy research and development from $5 billion to $15 billion per year in search of technological breakthroughs aiming to achieve dramatic cost reductions.

That overstates the efficacy federal energy R&D. But it does make a lot more sense than trying to force everybody into the equivalent of a Model T Ford.

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  • tarran||

    Anybody who advocates using wind to produce electricity is either

    a) a dangerously ill-informed ignoramus
    b) an evil person bent on destroying the stability of the electric grid
    c) a sociopath bent on getting rich quick before fleeing the town one step ahead of the pitchforks.

    We don't control wind. Since grid operators have to precisely balance production with the electricity being consumed, the variations in wind speed and direction introduce instability to the grid. A conventional power plant has to be operating at a low power level ready to surge or reduce output in order to smooth out the wind induced transients.

    The variable wind speeds lead to a very high rate of broken equipment such as shattered transmissions.

    The man-power required to operate and maintain the grid is increased.

    Capital costs go up.

    It's like replacing your home cooked food made from fresh, wholesome ingredients with an all Twinkie diet.

    Stupid from every perspective.

  • Sevo||

    I thought the link was Pickens scam.

  • ||

    Either? How about all three.

  • Zeb||

    Inclusive either.

  • waffles||

    Look it's better than digging holes and filling them in again, but only barely.

    No sane person is advocating for any reliance on wind power. It will always be supplemental. No community will ever have no lights because the wind isn't blowing. No one would tolerate that.

    There is a place for wind just like there are places for natural gas, nuclear, and solar. I'm less big on hydro as damming has it's own problems. But a smart energy policy is one that lets every technology find it's place in a competitive market.

    When we subsidize the shit out of these things we get Lionel Hutz putting up wind farms where they don't belong. Stop that shit.

  • LynchPin1477||

    When we subsidize the shit out of these things we get Lionel Hutz putting up wind farms where they don't belong.

    That is until NIMBY kicks in.

  • tarran||

    No sane person is advocating for any reliance on wind power. It will always be supplemental.

    You are missing the point. Wind power as a supplemental power source is stupid. It destabilizes the grid. It has no more business being used for electricity generation than a team of horses turning a generator.

  • waffles||

    If I live in Wyoming in the high plains why shouldn't I put a wind turbine on my house? I wouldn't be destabilizing anything.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    You can do that but don't even think about connecting it to the grid. As soon as you do that we are subsidizing your experiment.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Yeah, electricity suppliers should not be forced to pay for that shit. But, they should be allowed to, in the hypothetical case that they would actually want to...

  • tarran||

    Why would you waste money buying a wind turbine when you could spend it more usefully on blackjack and hookers?

    If you want an alternative to your grid power, a diesel generator and a huge fuel tank are far more economical and reliable.

    The unreliability and the wear and tear on the equipment from the varying loads makes wind one of the dumbest ways to do work known to man. And it will always be thus.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Anybody with a wind farm or solar panel array on their property is subsidize by the rest of us by them using the grid as their battery. Luckily the grid is quite robust in its current form so it can handle the onslaught these power sources serve it. Set up a wind tower and rely on your own batteries you need to purchase to absorb the load. Then tell us how great wind is and how economical it is.

    If renewables reach 20% or more, the grid will start to show cracks.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    tarran, I wasn't addressing you here but adding to your comment.

  • Jquip||

    There's nothing at all wrong with localized sources of power for localized need. That is, in fact, the entire argument behind the internal combustion engine used in the Model T.

    And, of interest, the Model T was designed so that you could put it on blocks and replace a drive wheel with a pulley. Which let you use your car as a replacement power source for stationiary donkey engines.

    Every thing has its place. Not everyone has a place for any given thing. And there's a missing question about which thing to force on every one.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    That wasn't Lionel Hutz. But if I recall, it was another character voiced by Phil Hartman.

    Respect.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Not to mention that the energy density of wind (and wave/tide) is very low. The scale of these types of plants is huge.

  • rts||

    1,500,000 kettles

    How the national grid copes with 1,500,000 Britons simultaneously making a cup of tea!

    Watch this video, and now imagine the operator trying to balance the load with just wind and solar.

    "OK... everyone go outside and blow! And get the sun back up!"

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Wind seriously ends up being very expensive natural gas power. NG is basically required to balance out the erratic power production from these things so you pay for the wind farm and all the costs associated, than you pay for the NG turbine, than you pay even more because the NG turbine has to be run all the time in a highly inefficient manor for quick response to erratic wind.

    I said it in a thread yesterday, this is a scheme only government could cook up.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You basically end up with twice the capacity you need, and the costs associated with paying for assets to sit idle or be used needlessly. Fossil fuels require some redundant capacity, but not as much as is needed to cover the ass of wind and solar.

  • Barry Williams||

    A very interesting perspective! I think the reasoning is spot on.

  • Sevo||

    Even the lefty SF city government isn't dumb enough to think people will willingly sign up for over-priced 'feel-good' crapola.
    When the 'clean energy' program is introduced, you'll have to opt -out to avoid the wasted money.
    http://sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=581
    BTW, you can check that web site for as long as it takes to sign up for O'care and you won't find what they're going to charge.
    "Once we finalize rates, please check back here for updated information."
    http://sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=582

  • Rhywun||

    What kind of monster would reject CLEAN ENERGY?

  • Brett L||

    Numerate ones?

  • Barry Williams||

    The entire lifecycle of solar cell and other "clean" energy production methods may not prove as environmentally benign as you might think.

  • GILMORE||

    deploying current renewable energy technologies would be akin to forcing everybody to drive Model T Fords.

    Yes, but what the CarbonIndustryShill Bailey fails to recognize is that if EVERYONE were forced to drive Model T fords, then costs would come down and technology improve and soon those model t's would be breaking the sound barrier while running on dead leaves and salt water. People just don't know whats good for them so sometimes you need to help them make the right choices.

    JUST LIKE HOW HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM IS WORKING

  • Swiss Servator, Burn a Böögg||

    "soon those model t's would be breaking the sound barrier while running on dead leaves and salt water."

    I actually laughed aloud at that.

  • B.P.||

    Dude, like, some guy invented an engine back in the 1950s that ran on nothing but good feelings, but the oil korporations eliminated it.

  • Atillahn||

    Sorry, there are these laws... Thermodynamics you see. The thecnology in alt energy is about as good as it ever will be. It ain't microelectronics. There ain't no Moore's Law here. Ain't no big breakthrough coming, nothing to see here, move it along.

  • Jordan||

    Sorry, there are these laws... Thermodynamics you see.

    Why hasn't anybody thought to repeal these laws?

    /progderp

  • waffles||

    Thermodynamics is extremely few people outside of physics and engineering truly understand.

    But it really is quite basic.

    You're right though. Gains in efficiency are small, fractions of fractions of percentages. But we all need energy. So they're worth it.

  • LynchPin1477||

    No, they aren't. Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air was a great book for this. I liked this line: "Every little bit helps a little". But for renewable to truly replace fossil fuels, a little bit of help just doesn't cut it.

  • waffles||

    You're thick. I'm talking about the gradual improvements in turbine efficiency. Yes they abso-fucking-lutely are worth it.

  • LynchPin1477||

    To power the planet off of renewables, we need to generate orders of magnitude more energy from them. "Fractions of fractions of percentages" simply don't get us there.

  • waffles||

    Ah gee, here I thought I was talking about all energy production, not just wind. I don't give a damn about whether the thing spinning the turbine is renewable or not. There are gains to be had.

  • Zeb||

    I didn't think you were that hard to understand. Increasing the efficiency of any kind of power generation is obviously important and useful. I assumed you were probably mostly thinking of steam turbines.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Of course efficiency gains are good. I'm not arguing against that. My point is that even if renewable energy achieved 100% efficiency, the cost of powering the planet off of only renewables would still be huge, because the energy density of most renewables is very low, so adding capacity is very expensive. I'm not counting nuclear in this. Small efficiency gains don't solve that underlying problem.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Nuclear power has the potential for an order of magnitude gain in efficiency of energy extraction from a given mass of uranium/plutonium. Currently we only utilize U-235, 0.7% of natural uranium. U-238 comprises basically the rest of natural uranium. Fast reactors with reprocessing will tap this energy source.

    We have a thousand years of energy available from already mined U-238.

  • waffles||

    I'm in the nuclear business myself. It seems the industry was really feeling quite high on the nuclear renaissance until Fuckyoushima. Now everyone seems kinda glum and schedules are being blown and costs busted.

    I'd love to see some SMR installed, but everyone is holding their breath for the the 1000mW old school plants.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    As am I. The lower capital cost makes it a much less risky move for investors.

    The larger plants still carry an advantage due to economics of size. The smaller plants are getting screwed because they must still abide by the NRC's safety regulations made for the larger plants, even though most SMR's are designed to be melt-down proof.

  • Libertarius||

    Are you a fan of Terra Power's Traveling Wave Reactor, or is there a better machine in development?

  • Barry Williams||

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

    Read up on this amazing very safe, very clean and highly efficient reactor tech.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I'm not sure why you thought that. This thread is specifically about the ability of non-fossil fuel energy sources (commonly referred to as renewable, sustainable, alternative, green, etc.) to replace fossil fuels.

  • waffles||

    Renewables can't replace fossil or fission. I think anyone serious about meeting energy demand would agree with that.

    If only we could make a miniature sun and trap it in a cage that made it stable. That would be sweet.

  • LynchPin1477||

    We obviously weren't on the same page. Sorry if I came off as snarky.

    I agree wholeheartedly that nuclear would be awesome. Of course fusion would be even better, and I do think it will be done eventually, but who knows when. As others have pointed out, though, greens will find a reason to hate fusion, too.

  • Barry Williams||

    "miniature sun"

    That would be fusion.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    A wind turbine is basically a propeller. The Wright Brothers got something like 85% of the potential efficiency out of their first design. There are no more improvements to be realized from wind turbines.

  • sarcasmic||

    Law of diminishing returns.

  • Barry Williams||

    Ahh, diminishing returns.

    Lost on most people. When someone is talking about incremental gains that are small as being meaningful, they don't understand this simple principle of business.

    What will make the difference is new material technologies applied to older principles to get large gains. Maybe lighter and stronger materials that allow for larger-scale and lowered rotating inertia would benefit turbine technology for instance.

    But the real gains will come from new materials that enable moving from older models such as making steam to turn rotating machinery to direct generation.

    Some yet-to-be-discovered technology will revolutionize power generation and technology. I say we live with what we have for now and not spend financial and intellectual capital on small improvements to the old model.

    Instead, lets invest in basic research to find ground-breaking and game-changing technology that renders everything else obsolete.

    It is kind of like the theory of space travel where we set out for deep space on a fifty year mission with fraction-of-light-speed technology only to be passed up by newer technology developed after the mission began.

  • Tman||

    Sort of on topic, but more of a reminder, is the following:

    Jeffery Zients is the guy who was just put in charge to "fix" the Obamacare website mess. For those keeping score at home this is the same Jeffery Zients that completely bungled the Solyndra bankruptcy when he was sent in to fix that as well.

    Here's Congressman Mike Pompeo destroying Zients for using taxpayer money to bail out Solyndra when it was already well known that they were unsustainable.

    Part 1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grPTJMQh9sU

    Part 2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GERlRQdkjgE

    Zients is the guy that supposed to be cleaning up all of the messes that Obama keeps making. I do not envy his job, but apparently he's not very good at, if the "clean up" at Solyndra is any indication.

  • Sevo||

    ..."he's not very good at, if the "clean up" at Solyndra is any indication."

    Well, he made the story disappear from the news, so as far as Obo is concerned, the guy's a champ.
    Solyndra? That's so last year! And companies make mistakes, too!

  • Barry Williams||

    But the Solyndra "mistake" was made by the government.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Are Americans really willing to shell out that much cash for zero-carbon energy?

    The answer is obviously no, because it isn't happening now.

    IF people valued zero-emission enough, then everything Ron describes would happen on its own. I totally believe the market could do something like this if there was sufficient return on investment.

  • rts||

    This is all I needed to read:

    We have the technology we need [to address climate change] and we know what needs to happen. We just need to get politicians to do it.

    In other words, force is required.

  • Sevo||

    Exactly.
    Like O'care, if it was so good, no one would have to be forced to buy it.

  • JidaKida||

    The dude seems to know whats going on man.

    www.PlanetAnon.tk

  • Barry Williams||

    SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The latest meme that Al Gore and other watermelons are peddling is that investors should pull all their money out of fossil fuel investments (such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, etc.) because all of their proven reserves of oil and gas are going to become "stranded costs" and they will be wiped out.

    You see, the global warming crowd will prevail in shifting us all to the great alternative energy sources.

    It is all a crock of shit.

  • Zeb||

    Even supposing we did switch to renewables or nuclear or some other non-fossil fuel thing for electricity and cars, oil is still tremendously useful stuff and would still be in demand.

  • montana mike||

    The dolt just penned an opinion piece in the WSJ to this effect....utter bullshit.

  • Barry Williams||

    Gore went from $5 million to somewhere north of $100 million on the whole global warming scheme. If the carbon exchanges go into effect, AlGore will fairly quickly become a billionaire.

  • GILMORE||

    Its stories like this that truly highlight how out of touch Right-Wingers are and how much they truly hate Women, The Poor, and Minorities.
    (tm)

  • OneOut||

    And children.

    Don't forget the children.

  • GILMORE||

    Its Children like this that truly highlight how out of touch Right-Wingers are and how much they truly hate Women, The Poor, and Minorities.
    (tm)

  • Barry Williams||

    Obama said he wants to make fossil fuels so expensive that it will be painful to continue to use them. Whom do you think will suffer most from high energy prices? The rich Obama or the poor?

    Lefties that think government forced "solutions" will move us forward haven't been paying attention. Look through history and you will find that central planning by the government (the Soviet Union model) has failed or is failing.

    Market-driven solutions will trump central planning every time.

  • Zeb||

    Also, anyone who thinks it is really really important to stop burning stuff for energy and rejects nuclear power should not be taken seriously.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Also known as: the majority of "environmentalists". I mean even if we look at nuclear accidents, nature seems to not mind them. The Chernobyl exclusion zone is flourishing with life. It's almost like our radiation standards are far more conservative than they should be....

    But the sheer energy density of heavy actinides coupled with the fact that nuclear "waste" is completely contained and kept from the environment after going through a reactor (and is a very small volume, relatively speaking) should have greens jumping for joy. Instead, like always, their true goal of energy-poverty-for-all shines through in the face of a power source which addresses all of their grievances.

  • Zeb||

    I'm always amazed by the level of irrational fear about nuclear stuff. Radioactivity is mysterious and invisible and can kill you, sure. But so are particulate emissions from coal or biomass plants. And with nuclear, none of the bad stuff gets out except in very rare and usually quite minor accidents.

  • LynchPin1477||

    People don't understand what is and isn't dangerous about nuclear. They hear the word "radiation" and its game over. Tell someone that you can go swimming in the pools where they store hot spent fuel (just don't go too deep). When I do this people refuse to believe me.

  • Zeb||

    And even after you explain why, people still won't believe it.

  • Barry Williams||

    Kinda like the unfounded hysteria over cobalt irradiation to sterilize food. what they don't know is that cobalt has been used for 5 decades to sterilize spices. We'd be able to address much of the pain, suffering and death associated with food-borne illness if it weren't for the unfounded histrionics.

  • Mercutio||

    Maybe Hiroshima and Nagasaki have something to to with that.

  • Rasilio||

    "The world’s largest solar photovoltaic plant has just come online in Arizona at Agua Caliente. That facility, rated at 250 megwatts of generation capacity, cost $1.8 billion to build. Achieving the zero-carbon repowering goal implies constructing 155 of these each year for the next 16 years"

    There is another problem here

    Agua Caliente occupies 2400 acres of land in Yuma Arizona, in a desert and located just about as close to the equator as you can get in the CONUS (more direct sunlight is more efficient) and is only 250 MW.

    Agua Caliente occupies 2400 acres or 3.75 Sq Miles. Increase that by 20% so you reach 300 MW and you get to 4.5 Sq Miles.

    The average one of these plants however could never be this efficient because putting them all in Southern Arizona isn't going to do any good in Seattle, Charlotte, or Boston. If we assume an average of 10 sq miles for each plant (it will be close to that) to reach 300 MW you're talking about land 1550 sq miles of land area covered in Solar Panels, Or an area just about the size of Delaware.

    That's for the Photovoltaic, Concentrated Solar Thermal is actually a little less efficient for land use and so you'd be looking at around 2500 sq miles.

    Net result: Over 4000 square miles of land covered in solar panels, basically the entire state of Connecticut.

    Now, what is the ecological impact of covering 4000 square miles with solar panels?

  • waffles||

    Less room for mah dirtbikes.

  • OneOut||

    Those are just details and they don't make me feel good, so shutty.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    You must factor in that the 250 MW output is assuming sunlight 24/7 hitting these panels perfectly. Obviously that will not be the case (night time, cloud cover, etc.) so the land area required for say 100 MW of power is insane.

    One nuclear reactor (AP1000 for example) taking up 30 acres of land could produce 10 times the electricity at a baseload rate.

  • waffles||

    Well, South Carolina and Georgia are getting their AP1000s. We'll talk again in 2018 when they are finally (maybe) ready to turn on.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Maybe? The only reason they wouldn't would be political. The nuclear industries weakness is how chained it is to the current political winds through the NRC.

  • Rasilio||

    Well in this case I based in on real world facilities rated at near the stated 300 MW capacities, however in both cases they are located in deserts far to the South. I am assuming that they are accounting for night time in the rating of those facilities but to account for cloud cover and decreased angle of incidence from higher latitudes I applied a multiplier to come up with those numbers but in the end there is no way around the fact that paving flat and covering huge swathes of land with solar panels is going to be required to meet even the modest goals Ron talks about

  • mtrueman||

    "One nuclear reactor (AP1000 for example) taking up 30 acres of land"

    Only 30 acres? You don't appear to be taking the area of land mined to extract the fuel, or the milling facilities, or the disposal facilities. Or the roads that connect them all together. All necessary and without them nuclear power would not be possible. That would require more than 30 acres.

  • JWatts||

    Sure, because solar and wind plants don't require any of those. (Rolls eyes)

  • mtrueman||

    They do. That's really my point. The notion that nuclear, solar and wind are somehow carbon neutral loses its meaning when you look at the whole fuel cycle.

    This is a common mistake. People do it with bicycles too - zero environmental impact. What they don't take into account is that bikes require roads and road contruction has an extremely high environmental impact. Can't really get much higher.

  • LynchPin1477||

    This may be a little outdate but it gets the point across. There is no way in hell this would ever happen. Greens wouldn't accept the environmental impact, Native American tribes would sue to protect sacred lands, the people living there would sue to protect their houses, and it would go on, and on, and on...

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    And again, I doubt that square is considering the fact that solar is not always producing 100% of its nameplate capacity. So at least double the land area to begin with. And then you have to deal with the times when you are producing at least twice the amount of power that the grid is demanding when the sun is shining full on all of the panels.

    It is a complete fantasy facilitated by those who do not understand grid operation or basic thermodynamics.

  • Rasilio||

    Another thing he misses in his calculation...

    Transmission losses.

    The majority of the country lives in far northern states or states along the coast where cloud cover is common.

    Basing 100% of your power generation thousands of miles away in the Southern Deserts would create transmission losses several times what they are today where power generation is mostly decentralized and generated relatively close to where it is consumed (no more than a few hundred miles typically).

    Breaking things up into a bunch of smaller squares would of course help that situation but result in moving a good chunk of those solar panels well north and outside of the dry deserts causing the total size to grow even further.

    We also won't mention what happens when a tornado blows through and shatters a few square miles worth of panels leaving several cities without power for an extended period of time

  • mtrueman||

    "Now, what is the ecological impact of covering 4000 square miles with solar panels?"

    This is a silly and tendentious question in ways but it does have the merit of leading to the more interesting question - what is the ecological impact of covering 1 square mile with solar panels?

    I suspect it's higher than most people realize. I think it's telurium that is key in some panels. It's one of the rarest metals on earth and is also poisonous.

  • Barry Williams||

    Density. That is the what is lost on the alternative energy crowd. Another thing they don't get is suitability. As in, solar doesn't work so well in areas that have many rainy days such as Seattle.

    Wind works in more places if the inhabitants can tolerate the noise. Birds, though, suffer greatly from wind turbines and environmentalists are, ironically, finding wind a lot less attractive.

  • Murgatroyd||

    I think that the comparison between renewable energy and the Ford Model T is misplaced. The Model T was successful because is was affordable, convenient and reliable given the state of technology at the time. The market that Ford created by introducing the Model T permitted increased investment in automobile technology and the continued refinement of what constituted a commercially successful car. This commercial success is what Greens want for renewable energy, but the technology has not yet reached the threshold level where it can meet basic consumer needs. In this sense, renewable energy is more like the hulking, steam-powered horseless carriages of the 1880s.

  • Ron Bailey||

    M: Nice.

  • damonzgp640||

    just before I saw the bank draft four $8209, I didn't believe ...that...my father in law woz actualey earning money part time from there labtop.. there great aunt had bean doing this 4 only 13 months and resantly cleared the loans on their mini mansion and bought a great new Volkswagen Golf GTI. go ............ http://www.BAM21.CoM

  • Barry Williams||

    SPAM! From an idiot no less! SHEESH!

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    "deploying current renewable energy technologies would be akin to forcing everybody to drive Model T Fords"

    ...when the goal is for everyone to drive Model S Teslas. How ironic. (And I say this as a huge Tesla fan.)

  • bassjoe||

    The number of humans on this planet is increasing at a frantic pace. The number of humans expecting to have constant electrical power for day-to-day life is increasing even faster.

    Considering both of those things, it is financially and technologically impossible to replace the grid we have now with one that completely relies on new sources of power. We HAVE to rely on non-renewables unless we want to deny hundreds of millions of people a better standard of living. Denying people a higher standard of living is a great way to start wars and civil unrest.

    Is the grid we have now unsustainable long-term? Yes, as we don't have infinite supplies of coal and natural gas. If we don't convert to renewables and nuclear before that happens, that'll be problematic.

  • Rasilio||

    "The number of humans on this planet is increasing at a frantic pace."

    Actually this is not true.

    The rate of global population growth has been slowing dramatically for the last several decades and global birthrates are rapidly approaching replenishment level.

    Basically the majority of the population growth that we will see over the next 50 years will come from extending life spans (mostly in the developing world but to a lesser extent in the developed world as well) at which point unless current trends reverse themselves our population will peak at somewhere below 10 billion and begin to slowly decline

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    The problem is even worse. That silly Jacobson paper completely handwaved over the materials requirements. Sure, they take a stab at the easy stuff: concrete, steel, etc. Then they spend one line stating something along the lines of "...and obtaining sufficient quantities of certain critical materials (e.g. rare earths) would be challenging." Yes, they are challenging. I did a back of the envelope calculation looking at how much rare earth production would be required to completely replace all fossil fuel use in the US alone. It amounted to tripling the world's current production capacity, devoting it solely to this conversion (no more ipads, cell phone, harddrives, computers, industrial motors, and so on) for 20 years. And that's just the US. On the plus side there are sufficient reserves to actually accomplish this.

    Even if you assume that manufacturing efficiencies improve and that cost comes down, the input materials costs are going to skyrocket. On the plus side there are sufficient rare earth reserves to actually accomplish this. Oh, and rare earth mining is usually in the form of monzanite which has this pesky little radioactive tailing we call thorium. If only we could do something with that thorium...

  • Barry Williams||

    LFTR's are a technology that will change everything but likely only after the investment on all of the current nuclear infrastructure is "used up".

    Clean. Efficient. Safe. And big industry hates it because it won't require nearly as much money to implement. And there's the rub. The more expensive the device, the more money to be made making it.

    Further, the lower cost means more players can get into the game and thus competition drives down price. They are so safe and easy to operate that they could go very close to the load thereby getting rid of a lot of transmission infrastructure and inefficiency.

  • Jackand Ace||

    I'm not sure what your conclusion is here, Ronald. The technology might not be ready to effect change in a cost effective manner...but that is only "yet." Batteries get better all the time, with increased capacity, and longer life. Surely you are not looking to put the kibosh on all that.

    I am intrigued though that you post that report from ITIF as the basis for your conclusions. You do know I am sure, if they are a good source, that they also say this:

    "While Deployment Consensus advocates are correct to assume climate change is one of the most significant challenges of this century and action is needed now,"

    And given how the Tea Party actually views with skepticism that sentence, it seems to me you have a lot of work to do internally at Reason. Only 25% say there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. I think your source at ITIF would find that incredible.
    http://www.people-press.org/20.....te-change/

  • Sevo||

    "And given how the Tea Party actually views with skepticism that sentence, it seems to me you have a lot of work to do internally at Reason. Only 25% say there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. I think your source at ITIF would find that incredible."

    I'm sure you actually thought there was a point to that blabber, didn't you?

  • Libertarius||

    Sure there was. The Tea Party types are often religious, so they cannot understand the scientific truth of rationalistic, pie-in-the-sky global warming theories.

  • Sevo||

    Gee, and here I thought it was more along the lines of:
    'I'm an educated lefty who looks down on stupid people in the GOP and here's a survey I like!'

  • Sevo||

    And why not kick our educated lefty in the nuts?
    "Batteries get better all the time, with increased capacity, and longer life. Surely you are not looking to put the kibosh on all that."

    Yeah, they've gotten better at a rate of something close to, oh, .01% per year when we need a 3-400% improvement, dipshit.
    Now, what were you saying?

  • mtrueman||

    There is a very good part of Ian McEwan's book 'Solar' which points out that a kilogramme of gasoline contains about 13,000 watthours while a kilo of the best batteries available contains 300 watthours.

    You may think you need a massive improvement, but I very much doubt you'll get it.

  • Sevo||

    "You may think you need a massive improvement, but I very much doubt you'll get it."

    Pretty sure you mean 'You [no "may"] think you need...'
    And then, the "You" in your comment is not Sevo; Sevo is pointing out to Jackandace that batteries are going nowhere fast.
    Got it, mtrueman?

  • mtrueman||

    "Sevo is pointing out to Jackandace that batteries are going nowhere fast."

    True enough, but truth be told, sometimes going nowhere is the correct course of action. Better to go nowhere than downhill - I wouldn't be surprised if fossil fuel dependence were entering on a downhill trajectory. That seems to be the upshot of all this climate change business.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    What an amazingly dense statement. Going "renewable" would be going downhill as we'd have to ration energy usage and still have lots of lovely blackouts. Some progress.

  • mtrueman||

    Dense? Maybe, but all the 'climate solutions' I'm familiar with call for less fossil fuel, more alternative fuel. That will result in rationed use and less access to energy. Sorry if that doesn't square well with the pretty promises of progress, but science is science.

  • Sevo||

    "- I wouldn't be surprised if fossil fuel dependence were entering on a downhill trajectory. That seems to be the upshot of all this climate change business."

    Opinions from ignorant greenies! Wonderful.

  • Barry Williams||

    Funny thing about batteries (and all other energy storage schemes actually). They eventually run into that stone wall known as the laws of physics. I don't care how much money is spent improving battery technology in the future, all of the biggest gains have already been made.

    However, unobtainium offers hope! With unobtainium, we'll be able to build better and faster batteries that will eclipse all of today's technology and for a fraction of the cost.

  • Sigivald||

    to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years

    I'll jump on the bandwagon and point out that if only Ol' Al had included nuclear power in his renewable and truly clean sources list (as is absolutely justified!), it would have been possible, or close enough to it to count for a political statement.

    (Close enough because I'm not sure that the permitting process could have been reformed enough to make it that fast, with construction, and I'm not sure the nuclear support infrastructure to build that many plants that fast existed.

    But we could make a good start, and get to 100% in a sensible amount of time, and it would work and be cost effective.

    But of course the "environmentalists" aren't rational here.)

  • mtrueman||

    I've seen a number of similar articles in the past, pointing out the costs of a 'climate solution' and this one, and like the others, puts a figure to the cost - $US 13 trillion. But I've never seen a figure put to the cost of doing nothing toward a climate solution. Surely, without knowing this second figure, the 13 trillion is close to meaningless. I question the value of pursuing this line of inquiry unless it is coupled with the costs of not seeking a climate solution.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman|11.1.13 @ 10:18PM|#
    "I've seen a number of similar articles in the past, pointing out the costs of a 'climate solution' and this one, and like the others, puts a figure to the cost - $US 13 trillion. But I've never seen a figure put to the cost of doing nothing toward a climate solution"

    First, what do you mean 'doing nothing'? Is this not turning over the entire economy to the government? Is that 'doing nothing'? Let's be specific here.
    And then, given you're already lying about 'doing nothing', let's hear the lies about what this 'doing nothing' is going to cost.
    Somehow, I'll bet you are clueically challenged on the issue.

  • Barry Williams||

    "clueically"

    Really? Maybe ignorance is part of the problem here. Or maybe it is just that you lack a good spell checker, I don't know.

    I opine that doing nothing includes waiting for future technological advancements that will solve the problems that we perceive to exist.

    By the time we get through "solving" the global warming "problem", new technology will come along and make all of the solutions obsolete. Count on it.

  • Sevo||

    Barry Williams|11.2.13 @ 4:26AM|#
    "I opine that doing nothing includes waiting for future technological advancements that will solve the problems that we perceive to exist."

    I opine you don't know what you're talking about.
    Have you noticed the reduced CO^2 emmissions? The lower energy consumption?
    I further opine you would much prefer the gov't to screw things up in this regard; am I correct?

  • Barry Williams||

    "CO^2 emmissions"

    Lower emissions of CO2 are basically unimportant as more CO2 leads to more robust plant life: plants love the stuff you know. The most abundant and important greenhouse gas is water vapor.

    Lower energy consumption has always been a winner with consumers and will come naturally as technology advances and the cost of the technology comes down relative to the cost of energy.

    Believe it or not, gas mileage has always been important to consumers. When I was a teenager (lo those many years ago) I regularly kept a very accurate fuel mileage log. When my mileage went down, I tuned up my car and modified my driving habits.

    As far as the government goes, it does little well and usually only creates an artificial market. Remove the subsidies for electric cars, solar panels and ethanol and watch how quickly they dry up. Germany is ending its generous solar subsidies and the solar market there has crashed.

  • mtrueman||

    "First, what do you mean 'doing nothing'?"

    Doing nothing, I suppose would mean not allocating any money to a 'climate solution.' That's my off the cuff definition. If you have something better to offer, I'm happy to hear it.

    As to the cost of doing nothing I imagine it's more than nothing. Is it more than $US 13 trillion? Haven't a clue. Find someone else to ask.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/fea.....n-warming/

    http://www.epw.senate.gov/publ.....19921798ef

    The American public and policymakers alike have been led to believe that the social cost of carbon is an objective scientific concept akin to the mass of the moon or the radius of the sun. However, although there are inputs from the physical sciences into the calculation, estimates of the social cost of carbon are heavily depen
    dent on modeling assumptions. In particular, if the White House Working Group had followed OMB guidance on either the choice of discount rate or reporting from a domestic perspective, then the official estimates of the current SCC would probably be close to zero, or possibly even negative—a situation meaning that (within this context) the federal government should be subsidizing coal-fired power plants because their activities confer external benefits on humanity.
  • Sevo||

    mtrueman|11.2.13 @ 1:34AM|#
    "Doing nothing, I suppose would mean not allocating any money to a 'climate solution.' That's my off the cuff definition. If you have something better to offer, I'm happy to hear it."
    Much better:
    Fuck off, slaver.

    "As to the cost of doing nothing I imagine it's more than nothing. Is it more than $US 13 trillion? Haven't a clue. Find someone else to ask."
    In which case, STFU

  • mtrueman||

    "In which case, STFU"

    You appear to attempt to engage me in conversation, asking me several questions that I attempt to answer. Then you respond with STFU. I think this is rude and not conducive to interesting conversation.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman|11.2.13 @ 9:46PM|#
    "You appear to attempt to engage me in conversation, asking me several questions that I attempt to answer."

    Yes, I do. And your "answer" is worthy of nothing other than STFU.
    You whined that someone offered data, griped that *they* didn't support your claims and then didn't bother to so much as look for anything that does.
    Do you understand that?
    Support you whines or STFU.

  • mtrueman||

    You're not really making yourself clear. Put aside all the bluster and name calling and resist the temptation to ask me questions you know I can't answer and other your other rhetorical games. Give me a sincere effort and I will appreciate it.

    My point is simple. Is $US 13 trillion cheap or expensive. We have no way to gauge unless we can compare to alternative strategies such as doing nothing, however you want to define it. It's a simple point and you appear to agree.

  • ReadyKilowatt||

    And every one of those intermittent power sources are backed up by gas turbine stations. You know, natural gas... slightly less CO2 from burning it, but in no way is it clean. Right now thanks to tech advances in drilling it is the cheapest thing going, but for how long? The industry is finding out that wells they expected to produce for 5 years are having to be redrilled and refraked again after a year or so in some cases.

    As for politicians solving the CO2 and electric grid problems, I've never known a politician who could solve anything. It's an engineering problem, let the engineers fix it. I'll bet the solution will be to simply drop in nuclear to replace coal base load... and with solutions like pumped water storage a good bit of the peak demand too. And I'll bet they'd say put the natural gas in our cars instead of the power grid.

  • Jackand Ace||

    You see now, I hope, Ronald how much work you have to do with your fellow Tea Partiers in regard to science, and technology...given some of the responses above to my comment.

    Other than the sophomoric crude language (hopefully that's not a libertarian trait), some may want to look at just two recent news items about recent trends in battery development. You should try to help some of the folks here to keep up.

    http://www.extremetech.com/com.....mes-faster

    http://futurepredictions.com/tag/israel/

    While the rest of you are waiting at the gas station, we will be "re-fueling" at home, while we watch TV.

  • Sevo||

    Jackand Ace|11.2.13 @ 10:10AM|#
    "You see now, I hope, Ronald how much work you have to do with your fellow Tea Partiers in regard to science, and technology...given some of the responses above to my comment."

    You're called on your bullshit and someone else has work to do?
    A truly arrogant imbecile!

  • Jackand Ace||

    Thanks for the intelligent response...enjoy your weekend, Sevo.

  • Sevo||

    Jackand Ace|11.2.13 @ 10:35AM|#
    "Thanks for the intelligent response...enjoy your weekend, Sevo."

    Oh, no. Thank you for the strawmen!
    Enjoy your weekend, slaver.

  • Barry Williams||

    You'll be refueling at home on electricity mostly generated by burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the prime mover right now.

    I'll also point out to you that batteries are limited by fundamental laws of physics and these limits are close to being reached. Most of the gains have been made. Look at a plot of gains made VS the cost and you'll see the curve is asymptotic: very little gain is now coming for large costs.

    About those new batteries from Urbana-Champaign this, from the cited article, sums it up:

    "In real-world use, this tech will probably be used to equip consumer devices with batteries that are much smaller and lighter — imagine a smartphone with a battery the thickness of a credit card, which can be recharged in a few seconds. There will also be plenty of applications outside the consumer space, in high-powered settings such as lasers and medical devices, and other areas that normally use supercapacitors, such as Formula 1 cars and fast-recharge power tools. For this to occur, though, the University of Illinois will first have to prove that their technology scales to larger battery sizes, and that the production process isn't prohibitively expensive for commercial production."

    Hasn't been proven to scale and might be too expensive to produce. Also, while they can deliver power they lack high energy density which is needed to provide range when it comes to electric cars. They charge fast but they also discharge fast.

  • Russell||

    Why doesn't Al Gore insist on 100% alternative energy to power his annual anti-carbon telethon ?

  • BenMayhem||

    Don't we already have a carbon-free power generation technology that provides consistent, cost- effective energy? Nuclear?

  • Web Design Quote||

    great post!

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