Energy

Al Gore's Curiously Cost-Free Plan to Re-Power America

Calculating the costs of 100 percent renewable carbon-free energy in ten years.

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On July 17, Nobelist and Academy Award winner Al Gore issued a stirring challenge to our nation to produce 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and carbon-free sources within 10 years. Gore asserted, "The quickest, cheapest and best way to start using all this renewable energy is in the production of electricity. In fact, we can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses." This massive push for no-carbon electricity production would help prevent climate change and cut our dependence on foreign oil. Of course, great-souled visionaries such as Gore do not concern themselves with piddling and mundane issues such as who will pay for this marvelous no-carbon energy future and how much it will cost. Not being burdened with a great soul, I decided to don my green eyeshade and make a preliminary stab at figuring out how much Gore's scheme might cost us.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the existing capacity of U.S. coal, gas, and oil generating plants totals around 850,000 megawatts. So how much would it cost to replace those facilities with solar electric power? Let's use the recent announcement of a 280-megawatt thermal solar power plant in Arizona for $1 billion as the starting point for an admittedly rough calculation. Combined with a molten salt heat storage systems, solar thermal might be able to provide base load power. Crunching the numbers (850,000 megawatts/280 megawatts x $1 billion) produces a total capital cost of just over $3 trillion over the next ten years.

What about wind power? Oilman T. Boone Pickens is building the world's biggest wind energy project with an installed capacity of 4,000 megawatts at a cost of $10 billion, or about $2.5 billion per 1,000 megawatts. For purposes of illustration, this implies a total cost of around $2.1 trillion over the next ten years to replace current carbon-emitting electricity generation capacity with wind power. That's assuming that the wind projects generate electricity at their rated capacity at or near 100 percent of the time. Making the heroic assumption that in fact wind projects will generate power at about one-third of their rated capacity (due to wind variability), this would imply tripling the number of wind power generators. This boosts the total overall cost to more than $6 trillion over the next ten years.

What's the potential for geothermal electricity generation? Geothermal power taps the heat of the Earth itself to make steam to drive turbines to generate electricity. For instance, superhot water erupting from the Geysers in northern California fuel power plants with a generation capacity of 725 megawatts. But such geothermal sites are relatively rare. However, an unconventional geothermal source—hot dry rocks—might supply us with no-carbon electricity. In lots of places, rocks several kilometers down are quite hot. To get at this heat, engineers drill at least two boreholes and inject cool water in one. The injected water flows around fractured hot rocks and rises through the other borehole as steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. Some very preliminary figures suggest that it would cost around $3 billion for build a 1000 megawatt geothermal plant. Replacing 850 gigawatts of carbon-emitting power generation capacity with geothermal electricity would cost around $2.5 trillion over ten years.

Curiously, nowhere does the "N-word"—nuclear—appear in Gore's speech. Currently, 104 nuclear power plants generate about 20 percent of America's electricity. Once a nuclear plant is up and running, it is essentially carbon-free. Westinghouse claims that it can build a third generation 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant for around $1.4 billion. Assuming this estimate is right, all U.S. carbon-emitting electricity generation plants could be replaced with nuclear power at a cost of about $1.2 trillion by 2018.

One other issue: Just how does using renewable sources of energy to generate electricity free us from dependence on foreign oil when only a tiny bit of crude is burned to produce electricity? The vast majority of petroleum is turned into transportation fuels, while home heating accounts for around two percent of total U.S. petroleum consumption. The answer, evidently, is a vehicle fleet powered by electricity. Although Gore doesn't dwell on it, he does mention that we should help "our struggling auto giants switch to the manufacture of plug-in electric cars."

In 2006, a U.S. Department of Energy study concluded that if 84 percent of all cars and light trucks were plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), fueling them would not require any additional electric generation capacity. The study assumes that the PHEVs would travel an average of 33 miles per day solely on electric power and could be charged using off-peak power at night. PHEVs would cost between $6,000 and $10,000 more than conventional cars. Such a PHEV fleet could reduce oil consumption by 6.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 52 percent of our oil imports.

While the capital costs for current versions of renewable no-carbon electricity generation are high, one big advantage is that their fuel costs are low to non-existent. Gore is also probably right that the prices for renewable energy production technologies will fall in the future. However, his proposed crash program would put an immediate steep upward price pressure on the commodities—steel, concrete, silicon, copper—that go into building energy infrastructure. All of the rough calculations above are for generating capacity alone and do not include the costs of a $1 trillion smart grid upgrade for our creaky electric power distribution system. And does Gore plan to compensate the shareholders of conventional power generation companies when their assets are forcibly scrapped?

As a very rough low estimate, Gore's 10-year no-carbon energy plan would cost about $300 billion per year for the next ten years. According to the Brattle Group consultancy, "new and replacement generating plants will cost about $560 billon through 2030, absent a significant expansion of energy efficiency programs or new climate initiatives." That comes to an average of about $25 billion per year over the next 22 years. Gore's proposal is a "new climate initiative" that aims to spend twelve times more than the utility industry would otherwise annually invest in new and replacement generating capacity. Gore explicitly likens his scheme to NASA's Apollo program, but reaching the moon cost only $150 billion (in current dollars) spent over eight years. In other words, getting to the moon cost half of what Gore wants to spend annually to realize his no-carbon energy vision.

"Of course there are those who will tell us this can't be done," warned Gore. I am not one of those people. I am sure it can be done. But before embarking on his "generational challenge to re-power America," I would like the former vice-president to sketch out a few more details on how it's going to be paid for and who's going to be stuck with the bill. Without those answers, Gore's bold challenge amounts to little more than hot air.

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. Whatever the answer, it will involve Manbearpig.

    Excelsior!

  2. Al Gore recently challenged America to produce 100 percent renewable carbon-free energy in ten years.

    We have it now. It shines from the sky and powers the wind and the sea.

    Can’t Mr. Gore move on?

    Now, about that organic renewable automobile fuel that has a little carbon in it . . .

  3. Or it could cost $6B to build a nuke plant. Not to mention the subsidized disposal costs.

    Nuclear power (check that, almost all new power installations) remain a pipedream in our NIMBY dominated culture.

    There is no financial will to do anything about GW. But that doesn’t stop people from passing dumb-ass referendums stating we have to do something.

  4. Solar and wind both have the same problems.They do not produce in a constant flow and they need large areas of land.The up keep is also quite costly.When the grid is at peak you can’t make the sun shine longer or brighter or the wind blow harder or at all.

  5. I’ve said this a couple other places.
    The biggest stumbling block to the various Al Gore / T Boone Pickens / DOE-AEP 20% wind energy plans that nobody is considering is the opposition to new and/or enhanced high voltage power lines that will be necessary in regions that are to become net exporters of electricity.

  6. If earth’s internal temperature were to rise, what would happen to its skin?
    If the sun’s external temperature were to rise, what happens to its kin?
    If the atmosphere is clogged with particles and traps us all within,
    will our exhaust and collective farts smother life,
    or create pimples on Gaia’s chin?

  7. Gore’s goal is, of course, laughably unobtainable, but there a few more cost factors to consider.

    Environmentalists will fight much of this, increasing costs and delaying everything for years. They’ll fight against solar power to protect deserts. They’ll fight against new power lines. They’ll oppose wind power for the sake of the birds or because it might spoil some rich liberal’s view. They already want to tear down hydroelectric dams for the sake of rivers. Etc.

    Regarding plug-in electric vehicles, one huge problem is that the ideal place for them (cities) are the very places it’s hard to plug them in. There are many car owners without garages, and creating curbside charging spots would be hugely expensive.

  8. “little more than hot air”! Ha, ha! Ha, ha! When you try to be funny, Ron, you’re about as funny as Al Gore! Was that the point? The rest of the article was great.

  9. Guy Montag,

    Solar power isn’t carbon-free…from the Sun’s Wikipedia article:

    Photospheric composition (by mass)
    Hydrogen 73.46 %[8]
    Helium 24.85 %
    Oxygen 0.77 %
    Carbon 0.29 %
    Iron 0.16 %
    Sulfur 0.12 %
    Neon 0.12 %
    Nitrogen 0.09 %
    Silicon 0.07 %
    Magnesium 0.05 %

  10. Ot,

    Solar power isn’t carbon-free…

    Oh yea, forgot about that. And neither are those wind turbines.

    So, I say again, Move On Al Gore and leave us alone, k?

  11. I do love these articles. They remind me that I need to save my nickles and add about 200 HP to the 1972 Charger so it can be a real hybrid.

  12. The estimates that Bailey comes up with are a bit more than the Iraq war has cost.

  13. Regarding plug-in electric vehicles, one huge problem is that the ideal place for them (cities) are the very places it’s hard to plug them in. There are many car owners without garages, and creating curbside charging spots would be hugely expensive.

    In addition to these obvious logistical problems which would require massive infrastructure work and expense, this claim that the need for recharging hundreds of millions of automobiles every night doesn’t require additional electrical generating capacity is deceptive at best.

    It might not require new plants, but it will require the generation of significantly more electricity. The “off-peak” hours will be burning at a much higher rate than they are now.

    Hopefully, controllable, containable fusion will be up and operational within the next 40-50 years and make a lot of this moot. The U.S. should be funding the ITER project a lot more than we are right now.

  14. In addition to these obvious logistical problems which would require massive infrastructure work and expense, this claim that the need for recharging hundreds of millions of automobiles every night doesn’t require additional electrical generating capacity is deceptive at best.

    Power to the people!

    All we need to do is install electrical outlets one every lamp post.

    See, that is every bit a bright idea as anything Mr. Gore has ofered.

  15. Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey has two questions: How much will it cost? And who’ll be footing the bill?

    I’ve a third. Is it possible? I’ve an answer as well. No way in Hell.

  16. They remind me that I need to save my nickles and add about 200 HP to the 1972 Charger so it can be a real hybrid.

    Hmm. I didn’t know adding nitrous made it a hybrid.

  17. Gore is no Berliner. He doesn’t have a sexy wife who looks good in pillbox hats, and he’s not the president. His power stops at the receiving end of an awards banquet. Shallow people adore him. Working people, well, work. His decrees are impotent.

  18. What would it take to have him committed? Or at the very least, charged with conspiracy to defraud?

  19. Papaya and Mike M,

    I don’t know that many people who have gas pumps where they park their cars at night, yet somehow they manage.

  20. RCD,

    Hmm. I didn’t know adding nitrous made it a hybrid.

    BAH! None of that stuff for me. There is no replacement for displacement.

    A total of 400 HP should put it in “burns gas and rubber” range.

  21. I don’t know that many people who have gas pumps where they park their cars at night, yet somehow they manage.

    So, you have some method of pumping electrons into ions that is as fast as a standard fuel station pump?

  22. I don’t know that many people who have gas pumps where they park their cars at night, yet somehow they manage.

    Now your non-sequiturs in the other thread suddenly make sense.

  23. I don’t know that many people who have gas pumps where they park their cars at night, yet somehow they manage.

    Congratulations, because this is the stupidest comment I’ve read in weeks.

  24. Com on you guys! That is some of the best envirofundie logic I have heard all day.

  25. Can you come up with $3,000,000,000,000 carbon-free? That’s a lot of trees to plant.

  26. All right, I hadn’t considered the time it takes to charge. No need to get snippy about it. But I think you’re overestimating the difficulty of delivering curbside electricity. It would be an intense undertaking, but if the demand were there it would be feasible.

    Now your non-sequiturs in the other thread suddenly make sense.

    You mean the one where you said the feds would stand idly by and watch a state or region secede?

  27. Mike M. wrote, “Hopefully, controllable, containable fusion will be up and operational within the next 40-50 years and make a lot of this moot. The U.S. should be funding the ITER project a lot more than we are right now.”

    Then again, considerably less money invested in Polywell reactor fusion (hundreds of billions of dollars, vs. ITER’s multi-billions) might yield much more satisfying benefits:

    http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/06/12/1136887.aspx

  28. Or we could just attach a turbine to Al Gore’s mouth. There’s got to be enough hot air coming out of that hole to power the whole country.

    Ba-dump-dump.

  29. Capital cost is nice, but we need $/MW including capital, life-cycle, replacement, and environmental costs (mining/storing uranium, battery/heavy metals disposal) including GWG emissions associated with each.

    Seems to me like geothermal and wind stack up better if full costs are allocated.

    T. Boone Pickens – one greedy sum bitch, God love ’em.

  30. Almost forgot, AND government subsidy cost.

  31. You mean the one where you said the feds would stand idly by and watch a state or region secede?

    Yeah. The one where you implied an armed invasion would necessarily follow a declaration of independence by the elected government of a state. Past performance is no predictor of future results, and the circumstances under which a state would secede today would be very different from the south prior to the Civil WarWar of Northern Aggression. Lincoln was a tyrant in many ways that Dubya could only dream of.

  32. # Guy Montag | July 29, 2008, 4:21pm | #
    ## I don’t know that many people who
    ## have gas pumps where they park their
    ## cars at night, yet somehow they manage.

    # So, you have some method of pumping
    # electrons into ions that is as fast
    # as a standard fuel station pump?

    Many who have grappled with the fundamental physics of the problem have concluded that the wiser idea would be to establish “service stations” that could swap depleted batteries for fully-charged ones. The model would be the very ubiquitous and practical distribution network for propane tanks.

    EVs or Plug-in hybrids would have to be designed to use standard battery modules, whose condition could be checked and verified by both the persons using and the persons recharging them. Energy system controllers in these cars would need to be able to accommodate multiple modules of various quality and charge state, and discharge them one after another, so that you could “top off the tank” by replacing only two or three modules in five minutes or so, or get a complete “fill up” by replacing them all at once (for instance, during a long-haul trip).

    This is all very doable, and would obviate the need to establish a pervasive, expensive “quick-charging” infrastructure that involved high voltages and large currents, which are tricky to handle safely, even when you know how.

    From everything I am seeing, it seems as if we can expect durable, relatively light-weight (high energy-to-weight ratio), high capacity batteries in just a few years: the products of perhaps several of many now-ongoing R&D projects. Already, Toshiba is marketing first-generation products from such a project, and has declared their intention to keep increasing capacity and reducing cost until it is possible to assemble a high-capacity, cost-effective energy storage system for an EV, which should provide gasoline-like vehicle range (300-400 miles per full, 8-hour “regular-speed” recharge, maybe more) and last the reasonable lifetime of the vehicle. At that point, the need for “quick-charge” facilities will dwindle to minimum. So the “battery swap” stations can likewise gradually fade away, having provided an easily retired temporary solution to a temporary problem. Even once the batteries are light, cheap, long-lived, and high-capacity, however, the swap approach and reliance on modular, standard battery packs in EV design would still be good as a way to deal with problems of vehicle maintenance, repair, and upgrade. So going the modular-battery and swap-charge station route would provide cascading, ongoing benefits for minimal cost and economic risk, whereas replacement of gasoline service stations with “quick charge” electrical substations would very likely yield a nationwide network of very expensive “white elephants.”

    Entrepreneur Shai Agassi has embraced the battery-swap paradigm for EVs and is trying to promote it via his project “Project Better Place.” Renault-Nissan has apparently been a Project collaborator, which is encouraging, as a major auto manufacturer will be biased toward designing for standardized modules, which is key.

    http://www.betterplace.com/

  33. Yes, it is going to be expensive, but there is a way to pay for it, or at least most of it. This is something for which I have been calling for years, and to me, it seems stupidly simple and a beautiful compromise between left and right:

    Step 1: Drill, drill, drill. There are TENS OF BILLIONS of barrels of oil in ANWR and the restricted off-shore areas. Keep sure that we put the screws to whichever oil companies we hire to drill OUR oil. They were profitably drilling in those areas 10 years ago at $15/barrel. Even allowing for inflation, there is no reason they should be getting more than $25/barrel to drill, and the rest of the $100+ windfall should go to us. What is tens of billions times $100? Trillions.

    2: Use EVERY DROP of that money to fund renewable energy and mass transit infrastructure, related R&D, etc.

    In other words, use the profits from the medium-term mitigation strategy to solve the long-term problem (there is no short-term solution).

  34. All we need to do is install electrical outlets one every lamp post.

    Parking meters make more sense, because it would probably be easy to design one that could deliver a set amount of (amps? joules? btus? what’s the proper measurement?) for the price of depositing a token.

  35. The costs Ron quotes in this excellent article are in the $ 1 – 3 trillion dollar range. A lot of money, no doubt: on the other hand, we have spent $ 1 trillion in Iraq in a mis-guided hope of securing oil for our future, and are anticipate to spend $ 1 – 2 trillion more to get out of Iraq. We fail to account for the externalities of imported oil: maintaining our military to secure this oil is one of those externalities. I found the numbers quoted in this article quite encouraging – perhaps Al is right after all !

  36. Past performance is no predictor of future results

    It’s not a guarantee of future results, you mean, if you’re quoting the disclaimer from the mutual fund commercials. Even so, past experience is useful in predicting future events.

    Seriously, you just keep saying that the federal govt doesn’t have to react the same way to future secessions. They have to react somehow, and you’ve failed to give any plausible alternatives for how they would react.

  37. You are hearing me talk.

  38. But I think you’re overestimating the difficulty of delivering curbside electricity.

    Typically city dwellers would charge their cars while they were parked in parking garages during work.

    Just saying.

    Or battery swap stations could be used (see above) or quick capacitor charging solutions may make electricity stations feasible at some point.

  39. Many who have grappled with the fundamental physics of the problem have concluded that the wiser idea would be to establish “service stations” that could swap depleted batteries for fully-charged ones. The model would be the very ubiquitous and practical distribution network for propane tanks.

    You must not have owned many cars. If you think for a minute that car manufacturers will standardize a common part to allow inter-brand usage, then I’ll have some of what you’re having.

  40. There are lots of common parts among cars, e.g. the common car battery.

    And car dealerships will not likely want to play the part of a Service Station of batteries anyway; it’s logistical headache which has little to do with selling more cars.

    Lampost/parking meter chargers could also be a valuable base revenue source for cities.

  41. Step 1: Drill, drill, drill. There are TENS OF BILLIONS of barrels of oil in ANWR and the restricted off-shore areas. Keep sure that we put the screws to whichever oil companies we hire to drill OUR oil. They were profitably drilling in those areas 10 years ago at $15/barrel. Even allowing for inflation, there is no reason they should be getting more than $25/barrel to drill, and the rest of the $100+ windfall should go to us. What is tens of billions times $100? Trillions.

    First off, prices don’t work that way. The oil industry isn’t just establishing a standard of cost and laughing at you for paying “more than you should”, prices are set by much larger market forces. Production & storage costs, drilling expenses, dealing with incredibly unstable middle eastern & south american governments… If we open up ANWR and other oil options, then of course some of those costs: shipping, transporting, dealing with crazy governments, wars, etc. are going to go down… BUT… that will mean that we pay less at the pump (assuming it’s in the various oil & gas companies’ interest to get competitive with prices to encourage customers to buy from them instead of an alternative company). And as for your assertion that the oil is “our” oil as a nation… well… if we respect private property rights (which we absolutely should), then the oil ISN’T “ours”, but whoever owns the property that that resource is found on.

    And MORE to the point… the oil industry at large may deal in gigantic numbers, but their actual profit margin (8-10% typically) hardly qualifies as a “windfall”. Compared to say the 90% that software developers enjoy.

    But ya know what companies DO with large profits?

    RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT!! (And give bonuses to their investors, their employees, expand their business and invest in more wealth generating assets).

    Sooo yeah. Bad call Chad.

    2: Use EVERY DROP of that money to fund renewable energy and mass transit infrastructure, related R&D, etc.

    And WHO, precisely decides what renewable energy gets funded, what makes you think that mass transit is actually viable or wanted, and who oversees what the appropriate distribution of these “windfall” profits should be?

    Sounds like a job for 1st Emperor of the Moon, Al Gore to me…

    Wait…

    no… I think I’d prefer a system where property rights are more tightly respected, more competition is allowed and the companies who *know* energy are in a more actionable position to meet demand to safe-guard their companies’ futures. In the meantime… the public keeps clamoring for more environmentally friendly energy AND people who care (like, I’m sure yourself and many others on this board) invest in companies with renewable energy research goals.

    How’s that sound?

    Oh yeah… and start building some damn nuclear plants.

  42. Neu Mejican…

    I have lived in New York City, and now live in Los Angeles. And I know very, very few people who park their cars in garages at work.

    I park on the street or in lots, and the few people who do actually “park” their cars in the city in NYC do lots or the multi-level quasi-garages that have lifts with valets. Not exactly viable…

    And btw, what about taxi cabs? Those guys are going to charge their cabs where exactly? On the side of the street in Long Island City where those guys live?

  43. There are lots of common parts among cars, e.g. the common car battery.

    Wrong. The battery itself is a common technology, but nearly every car requires a different size and amperage and then some have top terminals and others have side terminals. There might be some cross compatability just through dumb luck, but the battery for your 4 cylinder econo-box is going to struggle mightly to start a larger 6-banger SUV with more options.

    There is common technology between auto mfrs, but each and every one implements its differently and uniquely. You can’t take a fuel tank off a Toyota and put it in a Ford.

    And car dealerships will not likely want to play the part of a Service Station of batteries anyway; it’s logistical headache which has little to do with selling more cars.

    Car dealerships already do play service station. It’s the bulk of their profit margin, after selling parts for their models that is.

  44. We have it now. It shines from the sky and powers the wind and the sea.
    Gore thinks it shines out of his ass.

  45. John-David, you would measure in watt-hours or KW/Hrs at the output of the parking meter.

    I see a day coming when no one leaves an outdoor outlet live and unmetered. But early electric car adopters will be cashing in on all the free energy people foolishly leave lying around. Car running low? Unplug that pop machine.

  46. You must not have owned many cars. If you think for a minute that car manufacturers will standardize a common part to allow inter-brand usage, then I’ll have some of what you’re having.

    They did it for PC’s.

    Those that did not (IBM w/ their PS-2 Micro-Channel line, Mac for most of it’s existence) wound up not doing so well with their proprietary architecture.

    because it would probably be easy to design one that could deliver a set amount of (amps? joules? btus? what’s the proper measurement?)

    Amp-Hours (A-h), a unit of energy dimensionally the same as Joules.

  47. And JW, a general trend in manufacturing is to try to get away from uniquely designed parts and try to use more spec parts, to reduce costs.

  48. Amp-Hours (A-h), a unit of energy dimensionally the same as Joules.

    Whoops. A-h is a unit of charge, dimensionally equivalent to the coulomb.

    It is, however, the most common measure of battery capacity.

  49. i’m commenting as an outsider (non-US and not living in the US).

    in the UK they calculated that the government had spent more than 3 trillion pounds (6 trillion USD) on creating a society that is car-dependent since the end of WWII (roads etc).

    we all know how much money is spent on military efforts by all governments to save our freedom – way more over the past 10 years than the author purports creating a renewable energy economy in the US over the next 10 years.

    sitting back and waiting for technology to miraculously save us is not good enough – we all have to make drastic changes

    we should embrace Al Gore’s challenge, globally, and wean ourselves off the petrol addiction we have managed to create over the past short 120 years or so, or we’ll surely kill any future we have as remaining a viable species on this planet.

    WHY IS THIS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?

  50. Sean W. Malone,

    I have lived in New York City, and now live in Los Angeles. And I know very, very few people who park their cars in garages at work.

    I have lived in NYC also, and I think most people who live in the city get to work by some means other than their car (who are the idiots with cars in living in NYC anyway?) Those who drive in from the suburbs have a garage at home for charging it up…but have to park somewhere while in the city.

    I think among those that drive to work, the number of people who opt for sidewalk parking is smaller than those who store their cars in a garages/lots/or your “quasi-garages.” Those that offered plug-in while you park would quickly out-perform those that didn’t. Hence, it isn’t a real issue to get the infra-structure up and running.

    Now things are different in LA.
    Parking garages and lots still account for a big chunk of available parking, but as a more car friendly city, there is a lot more street parking. And, of course, “only nobody’s walk in LA.”

    Anywho…not really a big challenge. Even with our current electric generation modalities, a fully plug-in electric gets the equivalent of about 100 to 200 mpg. So it is worth the switch to electric cars no matter what.

  51. As for Ron’s article.

    He seems to assume that we would replace our current infrastructure with a monolithic replacement.

    Replacing fossil fuel with solar cost this much…replacing fossil fuel with geothermal cost this much…

    When, of course, we will replace the centralized, monolithic system we have with a more decentralized, multi-source system.

    Geothermal where it works, wave where it works, wind where it works, nuclear where none of the others work…

    Wind and solar have the feature that they can produce power on-site pretty easily. If you factory has a solar power plant, a nice benefit they can offer their workers is charging up the car while it is parked in the lot at work.

    What this all means is that Ron’s back of the napkin math is certainly wrong.

  52. First off, prices don’t work that way. The oil industry isn’t just establishing a standard of cost and laughing at you for paying “more than you should”, prices are set by much larger market forces.

    Where did I claim that market forces were not setting the price? The reality is, the price IS $125/barrel, and will in all likelyhood be as high or higher as we drill the oil offshore and in ANWR. Even if it dropped, the oil industry can drill this oil at a fair ROI for a tiny fraction of the value of this oil. This IS our oil, on public lands. We would be absolutely stupid to sell it for anything less than the most we can get for it. Indeed, it would be gross negligence on the part of any government official who did anything less. Before the current price run-up, many governments (ours included) were stupid and sold oil rights for far less than they were worth, resulting in the huge windfalls that the oil companies were now making. Now, the Russians, Arabs, Venezualans, etc are driving hard bargains…and so should we.

    Profit margins are nice little statistical oddity but are meaningless to the debate. ROI is what matters, and the ROI that the oil companies have gotten on their oil-rights purchasing are astronomical. We made bad deals, they won. That is no reason to repeat the mistake in the future.

    And no, oil companies aren’t investing much at all in R&D or capital…most are buying back their stock instead.

    I can’t believe you want to sell OUR oil cheap to the oil companies, so they can continue to make absurd profits….all so that they might spend a little bit on something useful. Are you insane?

    And WHO, precisely decides what renewable energy gets funded, what makes you think that mass transit is actually viable or wanted, and who oversees what the appropriate distribution of these “windfall” profits should be?

    Geese, sounds like what we hire politicians to do, now doesn’t it? As for choosing which R&D to fund, there is no reason the normal agencies for funding research, such as DOD, NSF, NIST, etc wouldn’t be appropriate. There are plenty of ways to use market-based mechanisms (carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, etc) to “choose” which things get produced in an economically-sensible way.

    no… I think I’d prefer a system where property rights are more tightly respected

    Great! I DEMAND that you keep your freaking CO2 off my property. Go carbon neutral immediately or expect a letter from my attorney.

    As long as CO2-emitters get a free-public-garbage-dumb subsidy, the market cannot work. This is like, oh, chapter 2 of your Econ101 textbook. I am sure you made it that far, right?

    Oh yeah… and start building some damn nuclear plants.

    Strange, you are so worried about just WHO would pick which technology wins, and now you are doing it? Nuclear is more expensive than wind, with far more downsides and hidden subsidies. Why bother?

    In a no-subsidies market, nuclear and coal cannot win. Why are you afraid to test this theory out?

  53. Wave Power seems to have been unmentioned by Ron Bailey. I wonder how that compares.

    Also ignored has the ‘resource’ of expanded efficiency efforts…which have been lauded by the greens as our best renewable resource.

  54. John-David, you would measure in watt-hours or KW/Hrs at the output of the parking meter.

    Once we build this new infrastructure, can we all please agree to stop measuring energy in watt-hours or kilowatt*hours? Otherwise I’m going to start measuring distances in (mile-per-hour)-hours.

  55. “Typically city dwellers would charge their cars while they were parked in parking garages during work.”

    Who do you expect to be paying for the electricity under that scenario?

  56. Watt-hours is the correct unit if you want to measure energy consumption. Measuring amps only gives half the picture. No problem if voltage is always the same, but in a distribution system it isn’t going to be. There will always be voltage drop along the line and differences in voltage due to infrastructure.

    Would the cord lock in place? Besides firearms, what’s to prevent somebody from unplugging your car when you are not looking and plugging theirs in?

    Alright cbmclean, what’s with your watt-hour bigotry? What did the watt-hour ever do to you anyway? Would you prefer a watt-second?

  57. Great! I DEMAND that you keep your freaking CO2 off my property. Go carbon neutral immediately or expect a letter from my attorney.

    Then prove your damages. Part of property rights means that you generally have to suffer some kind of problem to file a complaint. Can you prove that?

    Ohh… no… you can’t.

    In a no-subsidies market, nuclear and coal cannot win. Why are you afraid to test this theory out?

    I’m not afraid to test it out – I would choose nuclear over wind any day of the week… not coal, but certainly nuclear – as Bailey’s article actually talks about it’s far less expensive per mWh. I guess you missed that part though.

    And thanks for the straw-man btw. I never said “subsidize” or “force” nuclear.

    $125/barrel, and will in all likelyhood be as high or higher as we drill the oil offshore and in ANWR.

    Right… because lower political risk for companies, lower physical risk to company employees, increased supply and lower storage & shipping costs (what with the not shipping the crude halfway around the world to reach customers)…. doesn’t??? lead to lower prices??

    What market operates that way. Market forces are going to CHANGE if you open up more drilling. Risks decrease, and competition will inevitably lower the price like it does for everything else.

    And btw… profit margin IS pretty crucial to this argument – and many oil companise, notably Shell & BP are sinking billions into R&D, perhaps you missed that too.

    When you have a low profit margin, you don’t have quite as much (relatively) to work with.

    In fact, if you care, I expound on this and other points as to why a “windfall profits” tax is retarded in my blog last week:
    http://www.sean-malone.com/2008/07/windfall-profits-taxes-and-why-barbara.html

    Major point there in addition to what I’ve already said – any tax on a business comes directly back to the consumer…

    Annnyway… I welcome the letter from your attorney because maybe we can get the ball rolling on establishing REAL damages (as opposed to the imagined ones in Al Gore’s head) to individuals from CO2 emissions. Or wait… did we determine conclusively that the earth’s moderate warming trend is officially catastrophic? Hmmm…

  58. we should embrace Al Gore’s challenge, globally, and wean ourselves off the petrol addiction we have managed to create over the past short 120 years or so, or we’ll surely kill any future we have as remaining a viable species on this planet.

    WHY IS THIS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?

    Because….. your extraordinary claims have no extraordinary supporting evidence? What’s so hard to understand about that?

    *Let’s assume that the Earth is warming to a significant degree. (Not much debate there)
    *Let’s assume that it’s man-made. (Still some debate on this point)
    *Let’s assume that it’s the human release of CO2 into the atmosphere that is the major cause. (Still some debate there too, considering humanity barely produces enough CO2 to account for even 3% of the total found in the air…)

    Ok… based on all those assumptions, some questions for you:

    1. How do we know that the earth’s temperature increase is catastrophic, much less even harmful? (Last major warming period caused unprecedented growth of the plant and animal life…)
    2. How do we know it’s correctable by reducing CO2 emissions – or any of the other methods Gore suggests?
    3. How do we justify forcing lifestyle changes on people who aren’t overtly harming anyone? Especially if you can’t answer questions 1 & 2…
    4. IF you can determine that governmental force is appropriate to make this change. You still have to answer the question Bailey put out in the first place: How do you pay for it?? The costs in his article were extremely conservative and didn’t even include the infrastructure change you’d have to make.

    Just some stuff to consider before waving your finger at other people for being reluctant to fuck up their economies and standard of living so haphazardly.

    I think I’ll wait for private individuals & corporations to develop the tech thanks… What about that is so hard to understand?

  59. ok seriously… I swear I closed the italics on both the last two posts. Sorry about the text guys.

  60. hmmm
    get your tags in order please.

    Anyway, the Earth Policy Institute believes we can reach 200 Gigawatts of installed baseload round-the-clock capacity of Solar Thermal plants in the US by 2020. Or about a fifth of the Gore-Goal.
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/7/28/122640/513

  61. Sean W. Malone | July 30, 2008, 12:09am | #

    Then prove your damages. Part of property rights means that you generally have to suffer some kind of problem to file a complaint. Can you prove that?

    I will just refer you to the most recent IPCC report, which has conclued that you are very likely to be the source the damages. This is well beyond the level of certainty required by tort law. Boy, that took all of 30 seconds….got a tough question?

    I’m not afraid to test it out – I would choose nuclear over wind any day of the week… not coal, but certainly nuclear – as Bailey’s article actually talks about it’s far less expensive per mWh. I guess you missed that part though.

    A number of plans for nuclear plants have been abandoned recently because the capital costs have gotten out of control….and that is with all the hidden subsidies. New nuclear is DOA now, but should not be banned as long as the nuke-plant builders can insure themselves and demonstrate an ability to store their garbage safely for the relevant time frames without government help.

    What market operates that way. Market forces are going to CHANGE if you open up more drilling. Risks decrease, and competition will inevitably lower the price like it does for everything else.

    Yes, and increases in demand will easily out-strip this new supply. It seems you forgot half of the whole “supply and demand” concept.

    And btw… profit margin IS pretty crucial to this argument – and many oil companise, notably Shell & BP are sinking billions into R&D, perhaps you missed that too.

    Relative to the size of their organizations, it is chump change. Again, margins are trivia and cannot be used to do anything other than measure how a business is changing over time or compare it with very similar competitors. Profits are what matter, and you can have businesses with 90% margins while losing money, and business with just a few percent margin drowing in cash. Oil companies are an example of the latter.

    In fact, if you care, I expound on this and other points as to why a “windfall profits” tax is retarded in my blog last week:
    http://www.sean-malone.com/2008/07/windfall-profits-taxes-and-why-barbara.html

    I have no called for a windfall profit tax in any way. I have called for them to never be given another windfall again. It is OUR oil, we should keep the money.

    did we determine conclusively that the earth’s moderate warming trend is officially catastrophic? Hmmm…

    1. How do we know that the earth’s temperature increase is catastrophic, much less even harmful? (Last major warming period caused unprecedented growth of the plant and animal life…)

    Here is where you are truly wrong. If global warming had just a 1% chance of being catastrophic, that could justify action. Or, if it had a 25% chance of being very bad, but zero chance of being catastrophic, that could also justify action. All that matters is that the net probability indicates that it is a negative…and this is overwhelmingly the case.

    2. How do we know it’s correctable by reducing CO2 emissions – or any of the other methods Gore suggests?

    19th-century physics.

  62. They did it for PC’s.

    And the response there is, “Yeah, so?” Computers aren’t cars, other than being a commodity.

    And JW, a general trend in manufacturing is to try to get away from uniquely designed parts and try to use more spec parts, to reduce costs.

    This is true, but that is only within a company, not across manufacturers. Ford is big on this, but I seriously doubt they’re going to start talking to Hyundai about how to make things more standard bewteen their companies.

  63. Anywho…not really a big challenge. Even with our current electric generation modalities, a fully plug-in electric gets the equivalent of about 100 to 200 mpg. So it is worth the switch to electric cars no matter what.

    Not if electric cars don’t have the same day-to-day utility as a conventional car does. Everyone keeps raving about “Smart” cars and I couldn’t think of a car I need less. Great if you are a single, childless city dweller, but beyond that, fairly useless to the bulk of the population.

  64. “Al Gore recently challenged America to produce 100 percent renewable carbon-free energy in ten years. Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey has two questions: How much will it cost? And who’ll be footing the bill?”

    I only have one question:

    Why should we do anything based on what Al Gore says?

    Let’s see some actual proof that we need to do anything at all in the first place.

    No one on earth is capable of actually proving that man-made global warming exists at all.

  65. “I will just refer you to the most recent IPCC report…”

    Which is a political document and does not constitute proof of anything.

  66. They did it for PC’s.

    Those that did not (IBM w/ their PS-2 Micro-Channel line, Mac for most of it’s existence) wound up not doing so well with their proprietary architecture.

    To expand on this further, yes, there is a considerable amount of standardization wthiin the x86/x64 architecture, but that has it’s limitations.

    You can’t plug an AMD CPU into an Intel mobo and vice-versa. DDR3 RAM won’t fit in a DDR memory socket. Even then, DDR2 memory for an Asus mobo won’t necessarily have the same voltage as will a FIC mobo of a different chipset and probably won’t work. Even within the same company, different CPUs have different power and pin-out requirements and can’t be interchanged.

    Does your BIOS support that CPU? Will that 250-watt power supply work in your quad-core system? Sorry, but that SLI video card setup won’t work on this motherboard; you need another PCI-e slot. Bridge ATI and Nvidia cards? Take that mobo from an HP system and install into a Dell, even if they are the same spec? Fugendaboudit.

    Then there is the proprietary paranoia of Apple, which won’t even allow their OS to be virtualized, let alone installed outright, on any hardware platform other than their own.

    So, even when there is a system of standardization, that’s no guarantee of interoperability. Swapping car batteries won’t be simply asking for regular or hi-test.

  67. Parking meters make more sense, because it would probably be easy to design one that could deliver a set amount of (amps? joules? btus? what’s the proper measurement?) for the price of depositing a token.

    Actually, I was kidding. I hope you are too. Something I have noticed from the “just add outlets” crowd is that they typically don’t know or ignore the fact that a bunch of wiring is required behind outlets.

    For the wave power commentor, let’s try this. Add wave power gear to an oil platform and see which one produces more energy? My guess is that the natural gas burnoff from the rig contains more energy than the wave action hitting the rig.

    For you folks who think there is/will be standardization in vehicle manufacture? HA!

    Some things get standardized when, say, Ford buys Astin Martin, but not a great lot of things. Yes, it was worse years ago (speaking as a veteran of a MOPAR restoration project), but not seeing it as much worse. I guess a good example would be the old Jeep Wagoneer. Lots of interchangable parts from year to year, some interchangable parts with Ford/GM when AMC was using competators parts too, but good luck in swapping that hood with anything else.

  68. LEAP – LOCALIZED ENERGY ADVANCEMENT PLAN

    (1) Southern California Edison (SCE) is leasing commercial rooftops and installing solar panels on them to feed the local grid in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. This is the very best bang for the buck. Look at the advantages: No land is used. No transmission lines need to be built. No waiting 4 to 5 years to build them. No power loss to transmit electricity long distances to where it is consumed. The power is fed directly into neighborhood grids. No need to shell out big bucks to upgrade the National Grid which would drive your electric bill higher. Take every city where there is enough cost effective sunshine, and do the same. Cover all commercial rooftops with solar panels. Then do schools, colleges, hospitals, government buildings, and residential rooftops, either leased by the local power company or installed by the owner. This is LOCALIZED electric power generation.

    (2) Pass a “Uniform Net Metering Act” to guarantee that anyone generating surplus electric power will be paid at least the going wholesale rate for it by local power companies. Some power companies already have variations of net metering, but many do not. The impact will be that solar, wind, biogas to electric, and other home and business power systems will be installed larger than they need to be, thus adding peak load and generating surplus power to the local grid and also creating quarterly revenue for the private owner.

    (3) Massive installation of solar roof panels on plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, cars and trucks, including long haul trailer roofs. Theses would interface with localized V2G parking systems that would either charge the vehicle or produce peak load power for the grid while parked. The vehicle owners local electric power account would be electronically debited or credited accordingly. Solar roofed vehicles in mass, parked in the sun all day long, would generate a sizeable amount of peak load power, which would generate energy credits or even revenue for the vehicle owner. This combined with the rapid development of next generation translucent solarvoltaic window panels and entire vehicle bodies covered with hi-tech solar paint, with long haul trailers generating a significant amount of solar power. Again, no land or transmission lines needed and no National Grid needed. (Cost per mile: ELECTRIC way is cheaper: 7 to 1 over gasoline and 7 to 2 over natural gas as auto fuel.)

    (4) Advanced, super-organized recycling systems to channel all local organic waste from homes, commercial buildings, restaurants, institutions, government offices, agricultural, food processing, wood working, building industry, municipal sewage and landfill, etc. into forms of localized energy production, such as biogas methane. With the fuel burned as natural gas for the local grid, and the exhaust and the nitrogen-phosphorous liquid effluent mitigated and fed to adjacent Algae production systems. With the oil in the algae made into locally produced biodeisel; the byproduct algae starch made into locally consumed ethanol; and the protein made into locally consumed animal feeds.

    (5) The mitigation and exploitation of all sources of sewage and manure from septic systems, dairy farms, poultry, and livestock operations into biogas digesters producing methane to generate electric power for local grids and surplus regional transmission. With the effluent again being used to feed adjacent algae production for additional power, liquid fuels, or animal feed.

    (6) The mitigation and exploitation of all existing fossil fuel and biomass burn power plants by the cycling of CO2 rich exhaust to feed adjacent algae production, with the potential to co-fire all or part of the algae as onsite power plant fuel, in the form of combustible ultrasound fractionated oil-rich algae slurry, to replace a portion of the conventional fuel being consumed by the power plants.

    (7) The mitigation and exploitation of all existing corn ethanol refineries, by leveraging the waste products of CO2, waste heat, waste water effluent, natural gas exhaust (or other onsite exhaust), to feed adjacent algae production: To create feedstock for biodeisel, providing localized fuel for agriculture. To generate biogas to replace natural gas or to replace whatever fuel was being used for plant production power. To cogenerate electric power for the local grid. Thereby generating additional waste heat for the algae. With the option to produce additional ethanol from algae starch, and or high protein algae animal feed, to parallel and enhance the existing distillers grains market. These algae products, produced in whatever proportion would be advantageous to supply local and regional markets.

    Again, the emphasis is on localized electric power production, localized liquid fuel production, and localized animal feed production, mitigating and exploiting waste products into value added algae based fuels and feeds.

    (8) Consistent long term tax credits for renewables such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, biomass and biogas to electric, and hydrogen and clean fuels to electric, etc.

    (9) Fast Tracking the award winning clean burning multi-fueled GREEN REVOLUTION ENGINE. This engine can burn any liquid or gaseous fuel, including hydrous ethanol, powdered biomass, and ultrasound fractionated oil-rich algae slurry (with any exhaust recycled to grow more algae).

    (10) Fast Tracking hydrogen on demand water splitting, onboard the moving vehicle, using Ultrasound and or Pulsed Width Modulation current, generated by conventional vehicle electric systems and vehicle solar roof panels. QuantumSphere recently announced a breakthrough that increases hydrogen gas output in electrolysis systems by 300%, at 85% efficiency.

    (11) Fast Tracking the ultra clean GEET Fuel Processor that runs existing internal combustion engines and gensets on vaporized mixtures of 75% water and any combustible fuel. This includes oil rich ultrasound fractionated algae slurry and powdered biomass slurry. Search: GEET Fuel Processor. Search: BingoFuel (one word).

  69. Not if electric cars don’t have the same day-to-day utility as a conventional car does.

    I reasonable observation, but, of course, an electric car can be made so as to be indistinguishable from your gas-powered car in terms of utility (just as large, just as fast, etc…)… except for the power source…

    Range is currently an issue but is not unsolvable…(see above). Of course, plug-in hybrids don’t have the range restriction at all.

  70. The point you missed is that the new fuelless power sources will pay for themselves over time by eliminating fuel costs. Both coal and Uranium prices are rising dramatically. The saved fuel will pay for the cost of building the plants.

  71. I see this as the old story about a frog in a pot of water. If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water it will jump out. If you slowly heat the water up it will never jump out and eventually die.

    So its obvious that if you replace all the energy plant in the US would cost an amazing amount of money, but then our electrical energy would not be effected by coal/gas/oil/etc. markets.

    Now some say coal should stay since the US has a bunch, but like oil its a global commodity and the price will rise as demand grows (China, India, etc).

    Plus if you look into previous technologies, such as sulfur scrubbers (helps to prevent coal plants from producing acid rain) they were every expensive to start. But once the government demanded them to be installed, the price dropped 90% in less than 8 years.

    If we invest in both the infrastructure and know-how, the world will come to the US to buy this technology. Which is better than waiting till China or Europe invent better technology and we buy from them… losing even more money.

  72. For the wave power commentor, let’s try this. Add wave power gear to an oil platform and see which one produces more energy? My guess is that the natural gas burnoff from the rig contains more energy than the wave action hitting the rig.

    So why not capture both the wave energy and the energy from the natural gas burnoff?

    Wave energy basics…
    http://ocsenergy.anl.gov/guide/wave/index.cfm

  73. The Westinghouse claim of $1400/KW is wildly out of line with current and projected costs for nuclear power. Costs have recently been around $4000-6000/KW and observers including MIT are now saying $8000/KW.
    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/06/02/nuclear_power_price/index.html has an excellent review of the economics.

    False premises lead to wrong conclusions.

  74. More on nuclear costs
    http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/16/amory_lovins_expanding_nuclear_power_makes

    Wonder how many will dismiss the information because the interview is from Democracy Now! ?

  75. Chad… The IPCC report is a series of PREDICTIONS (based on often poorly gathered and incomplete data I might add… http://www.surfacestations.org/) , so I’m pretty sure that – no – it’s not really going to be enough to prove damages.

    It’d be like me saying, “There’s a statistical likelihood of me being hit by a car at some point between now and the end of my life” and then suing you for owning an automobile. And actually, it’s not like that, because the statistics on car accidents are far better understood, the data gathered far more accurately and there are only a small number of factors that one has to consider…

    Yah, I don’t think you passed the test there.

    You can’t even prove that there’s malicious intent and thus sue someone else for threatening harm… since I’m not saying something like “I know that my CO2 emissions are going to destroy the earth and I’m going to do it anyway just to screw with you”.

    I also am pretty greatly annoyed with your use of the term “our” oil, btw. If you want to look at it that way… cool… that means government maintains control of all oilfields and I suppose just leases it out to various companies (inviting alllll sorts of corruption and monopolizing). However, in either case, when you don’t let a company keep the profits they make on their investment, I’m not exactly sure why that company would be in business or do what you want them to in the first place.

    There are really a lot of holes in your thinking…

  76. My car has a bumper sticker “This Vehicle is Solar Powered”.

    Of course…the petroleum in the tank is releasing energy at a much higher rate than the solar energy was absorbed to create it…but that’s just one of those pesky details that the nay-sayers are so enamoured with.

    The TRUTH will set you free!

  77. I love comparisons to the moon landing. Throwing money at a project of dubious benefit…the results of which were somewhat successful but of so little value that after only a few efforts we abandoned the whole thing.

    Or did we do it to beat the Ruskies…I forget.

  78. Kurt,

    Love that sticker!

    I was planning to use a “Go Green” right below the C8H18 license plate on the green Charger, if I ever get to finish that project.

  79. I reasonable observation, but, of course, an electric car can be made so as to be indistinguishable from your gas-powered car in terms of utility (just as large, just as fast, etc…)… except for the power source…

    Fine by me. That’s 100% torque at 0 RPM. I likee!

    But, like the solar boys and their economical electrical generation, the practical and affordable electric car is just around the corner. For 30 years and counting.

  80. If we invest in both the infrastructure and know-how, the world will come to the US to buy this technology.

    This is the engineer’s mantra: There’s no reason why we can’t do this today.

    I prefer the cold, harsh reality that “investment” doesn’t mean anything unless there is a practical and economic reason for the average person to use it. Investment could also mean sinking billions/trillions of $$$ into a dead-end technology, but being afraid to abandon it from all the sunk costs or for political considerations **cough** ethanol **cough**.

    I prefer that the early adopters absorb all the beta problems and opportunity costs for me (suck it 2007 iPhone buyers!). Saves much time and money in the long run.

    If there were only a away we could gauge the potential effectiveness of an unsubsidized technology by seeing how well the public adopts it…if only….

  81. But, like the solar boys and their economical electrical generation, the practical and affordable electric car is just around the corner. For 30 years and counting.

    Yea, but Big Detroit keeps destroying the dream. Along with the 100 MPG carb. and 100 MPG EFI and water powered cars and . . .

  82. JW,

    I wonder why China is not banging on our doors for all of this “clean coal” technology that has been imposed on our coal burning facilities for decades?

    Heard some politician complaining that “we should be exporting clean coal technology to China instead of [x y or z]”.

    I suspect that China buys what it wants, but that’s just me, you know, Mr. Free Market and all where the buyer calls the tune.

  83. Addressing the actual article, this seems to be a reasonable and thoughtful assessment of what are undoubtedly huge costs associated with implementing the “Repower America” plan proposed by Gore. It sure seems expensive.

    But I suspect that the costs are far greater than estimated here, in some respects. This analysis uses a perfectly reasonable approach to estimating cost, which is to assume that all other things remain the same.

    That some variables don’t vary is a necessary assumption in most economic analysis, but it results in inherently inaccurate outcomes. Things change; predicting how is an even more slippery slope.

    For example, if oil prices were to continue their current trajectory, many aspects of cost would change. For example manufacturing and installing new transmission lines would become more expensive. One way or the other we would paying for the social and political costs to several large segments of the population, and the businesses that support them (e.g. coal, and perhaps auto). And so on.

    Likewise, other costs are possibly over-estimated due to potential benefits being realized during the course of the implementation.

    So this is a reasonable first order analysis of costs.

    The conslusion, implementing such a plan would be outrageously costly. I salute the author for taking a stab at costs, based on the very thin plan as presented by Mr. Gore.

    But now, let’s consider the cost of inaction. This is an equally incalculable problem.

    As has been pointed out more than several times in the comments so far, it’s quite difficult to predict what, exactly, would happen if we took the position that climate change was either something that doesn’t exist, or perhaps the more reasonable position that while it may exist, there’s nothing we can do to affect it.

    So let’s say climate change is not in play.

    In this case, the main problem is our dependence on oil (right?). I am aware of only one immediate solution to this problem, already being deployed, which is to decide to use less of it. Consumption is down about 7% in the last few months. I am sure we can find a few more ways to conserve.

    By all means, let’s drill as much as we can get, and be happy that prices are going up to a point where formerly uneconomical means of getting oil become cost-effective. We should be able to shift more load to coal. Ethanol, and various hydrogen technologies are nascent, but not there yet, but are coming. Heck, even wind and solar power may help a little if Boone Pickens has his way.

    So what are the costs of a “forget about climate change” scenario? Certainly a lot less in infrastructure. But we still need to invest a lot to get ourselves out of our current oil bind.

    But climate change or not, I think all of this cost analysis fails to account for something important: when inspired (or cornered) the will of people to make change happen, regardless of the cost, seems almost limitless.

    After 9/11, we were and still are willing to sink a good deal of money into several wars. Without arguing their merits, it was clearly the will of our leaders and the people who followed that managed to find the huge sums of money needed to fund those efforts. The argument in such cases are that we simply cannot afford not to spend the money.

    In the case of the wars, and particularly the Iraq war, the threat, and more important the means to address it, was also very abstract, as are our issues with climate change and energy today. The 9/11 attack had the advantage of making the abstract problems we had been ignoring for many years far more concrete, and certainly immediate.

    (I do wonder how much we would have spent if the attacks had been thwarted).

    Many have argued that we should have paid more attention to the obvious reality of terrorism for the 10 or 15 years prior to 9/11. But we didn’t, because it wasn’t the will of our leaders and therefore of the people. It was still abstract.

    So back to costs. If we are attacked, we change our lives as needed to defend ourselves. If a hurricane wipes out a city, we do our best to respond. If fires burn, we fight them. In crisis, we figure out how to respond.

    Like it or not, some people believe that climate change is real. Some people believe that we need to figure out how to reduce our dependence on foreign energy.

    Some, including myself, believe that there is adequate evidence to consider these problems a crisis. These people (and I) could be wrong.

    This could be some conspiracy of the left (or perhaps right). We could be getting duped. This could be mass hysteria, or the kind of group-think that lead to the rise of Hitler and Stalin. Or, it could just be the result of a process that we’re beginning to understand with greater clarity using our wits and reason.

    So what if these people whining about climate change and so on are not wrong? What if there is a crisis, and we have a chance to do something about it? Why would a plan that unifies the country around a mission that has a chance of success at solving oe large part of the problem be so laughable?

    Would the plan not launch several new industries? An outcome of the equally laughable “man on the moon” 10-year plan was a great deal of progress in computers (and, of course Tang).

    There are certainly other options than the plan Gore presented. Many are more based in reason than in the emotional call Gore made to rally the will of the people.

    I doubt many of the group reading this will respond to the emotional call; there are more reasonable, rational, measurable solutions, to be sure.

    But I do think it is arguable that there’s some reasonable concurrence of opinion that our oil woes, and climate change are both real. Even if the facts are murky, the world is also driven by opinion and beliefs. Reason does not dictate that we ignore the possibly irrational behaviors of humanity.

    Thus, we must also be willing to add up the cost of inaction.

    If this is the course of analysis worth taking, let’s do the same analysis of the cost of not taking action both with and without the assumptions of our ability to affect climate change.

    Respectfully,

    Tom Harrison

  84. Guy

    I wonder why China is not banging on our doors for all of this “clean coal” technology that has been imposed on our coal burning facilities for decades?

    You are right, they don’t want it. They are spending their money elsewhere…

    China, which has the world’s most ambitious nuclear program, by the end of 2006 had seven times that much capacity [1.4 billion watts]in distributed renewables, and they were growing it seven times faster. Take a look at 2007, in which the US or Spain or China added more wind capacity than the world added nuclear capacity. The US added more wind capacity last year than we’ve added coal capacity in the past five years put together.

    (From the link above)

  85. I prefer that the early adopters absorb all the beta problems and opportunity costs for me (suck it 2007 iPhone buyers!). Saves much time and money in the long run.

    But who tends to be the early adopters?

    In most cases it is those with more money who are more capable of absorbing the risk.

    Adoption presents a lower risk for the US economy than it does for, say, China, so it is more likely we will be the early adopters and sell them the technology than the other way around.

    When did we become such a risk aversive culture that we were not willing to take a risk to make a buck?


  86. Sean W. Malone | July 30, 2008, 12:22pm | #

    It’d be like me saying, “There’s a statistical likelihood of me being hit by a car at some point between now and the end of my life” and then suing you for owning an automobile. And actually, it’s not like that, because the statistics on car accidents are far better understood, the data gathered far more accurately and there are only a small number of factors that one has to consider…

    Talk about undermining your own argument. The government requires you to buy auto insurance precisely BECAUSE of the risk involved. Unfortunately, you want to spew CO2 without buying such insurance.

    You can’t even prove that there’s malicious intent and thus sue someone else for threatening harm… since I’m not saying something like “I know that my CO2 emissions are going to destroy the earth and I’m going to do it anyway just to screw with you”.

    You should be 90% or more certain that you are, and that is threatening enough for me. Of course, you don’t believe the IPCC or any of the other professional scientific organizations…you put your faith in the crackpot echo chambers that bounce around the same oft-refuted garbage again and again until it amplifies itself into a “side” of the debate.

    I also am pretty greatly annoyed with your use of the term “our” oil, btw. If you want to look at it that way… cool… that means government maintains control of all oilfields and I suppose just leases it out to various companies (inviting alllll sorts of corruption and monopolizing).

    Why do you keep suggesting that we give oil companies all this oil for free? My god, you are insane. You really are. It is on public property. It is OURS. We should get every penny out of it that we can.

    However, in either case, when you don’t let a company keep the profits they make on their investment, I’m not exactly sure why that company would be in business or do what you want them to in the first place.

    Didn’t I say in my very first post that we should pay them enough to drill to make a fair return on investment? Since they can make a fair, steady profit at ~$20/barrel, there is no reason to pay them more.

  87. Adoption presents a lower risk for the US economy than it does for, say, China, so it is more likely we will be the early adopters and sell them the technology than the other way around.

    There is no way to say who has a lower risk from early adopting. Suffice it to say, it will be polluted (no pun) enough with so much political finger-pulling that whomever gets saddled with this project, will pay far more than they would were they to just purchase the technology outright.

    When did we become such a risk aversive culture that we were not willing to take a risk to make a buck?

    This is going to be a private venture? Fine by me if a corporation wants to invest and take the risk for their shareholders. I’ve had enough of the guvmint gmabling my hard earned dough on questionable military actions and budget-stuffing, crony rewarding projects for this lifetime.


  88. This is going to be a private venture? Fine by me if a corporation wants to invest and take the risk for their shareholders. I’ve had enough of the guvmint gmabling my hard earned dough on questionable military actions and budget-stuffing, crony rewarding projects for this lifetime.

    Doing little or nothing about climate change is a far more dangerous gamble than doing something. In the latter case, the worse that could happen is we waste a couple trillion dollars. In the former, it is environmental catastrophy and complete economic collapse.
    Any risk-adverse person should be pushing hard for action on this front.

  89. Whatever Chad. I stopped listening to Apocolyptics a while back. They’re worse than the Watch Tower people.

  90. Why should you stop listening? Only out of ignorance. Several times in the past, climate change has caused mass extinctions, including the largest extinction known, which wiped out 90% of the life on earth. There are numerous feedbacks in the climate system that could send it spiraling out of control and drastically changing the composition of the atmosphere which we are so dependant on. While the odds of this are small, perhaps around one percent or so, that still stands as a significant risk.

    In all likelyhood, though, it will just be bad, not catastrophic. Either way, it deserves a response.

  91. Chad,

    To be fair, the catastrophic scenario you hint at is unlikely unless we ignore the issue for something on the order of 200 more years (at current rates of increase we can expect to heat the oceans enough to make them anoxic by about 2200).

    As for the “it will just be bad” assessment, it depends upon who you are. The effects of global warming are likely to be quite moderate in the US given our geographic location.

    The reason this is a moral issue is because the actions of one group have negative consequences on another. We are literally gambling on someone else’s future.

    Luckily, the solutions to this problem make good business sense and should be done whether or not AGW is a direct threat.

  92. JW,

    There is no way to say who has a lower risk from early adopting.

    Yes there is.

    There is no way to tell what the outcome will be, but the risk can be assessed ahead of time.

    For a given risk costing, say, $10,000, if you make $100,000 a year your risk is lower than someone who only makes $20,000 a year. If you lose the $10,000 for no benefit, you still have $90,000. If the other person losses $10,000, they have taken a pretty devastating hit on their income.

  93. You note the reduced/eliminated fuel costs for renewables, and then immediately discount them from your cost considerations. In addition, the total amount spent on something should not be the only factor. I would much rather pay for an American worker to build and install wind tubines/solar panels etc, then send my money to the Middle East to support IED’s to blow up our troops.

    Of course in the short run it’s always cheaper to do nothing instead of invest in the future. But long term investing is what makes a society better off. I think 10 years might be pretty fast to ramp up production, but 20 would probably be pretty reasonable.

    Two places with pretty good plans.

    http://www.20percentwind.org/20p.aspx?page=Overview

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    I think if you mixed the two you would be in pretty good shape.

  94. Neu Mejican | July 30, 2008, 6:20pm | #

    To be fair, the catastrophic scenario you hint at is unlikely unless we ignore the issue for something on the order of 200 more years (at current rates of increase we can expect to heat the oceans enough to make them anoxic by about 2200).

    Anoxic oceans could happen faster than that. Have you ever read “Under a Green Sky”, which discusses one of the leading theories as to what caused the Permian extinction (the one that eliminated over 90% of all life and species)? The basic gist of what is believed to have happened is that the ocean currents stopped due to volcanic-related climate change, allowing the deep ocean to become anoxic. Deep-water hydrogen-sulfide producing bacteria then essentially choked off the whole planet with their poisonous and ozone-depleting fumes. This happened in a geological instant. Of course, this is not the only theory as to what caused this extinction, but it does not appear to be an asteroid, which is only suspected as the cause of one of the great extinctions (famously ending the dinosaurs).

    We are really rolling the dice with our behavior right now.

  95. There is no way to tell what the outcome will be, but the risk can be assessed ahead of time.

    You assume, erroniously, that all outcomes are equal. I submit that they are not.

    See Chad, Neu Mejican knows how to get through to people. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but him, I’ll talk to. He understands that people are rational and need concrete reasons to change. He understands that carrots and ROI are much more effective (and moral) change agents for long term shifts behavior and culture.

    You, OTOH, are a screaming hysteric pants-wetter, waving a stick around to beat everyone into nationalized submission, who deserves to be ignored. Anyone who claims to *know* what the state of a chaotic system will be in n years and what the most likely outcomes will be as a result of that is A) unbelievably arrogant, B) incredibly dishonest, or C) a True Believer?. I’ll let you pick. I’m leaning towards C.

  96. Chad… play with your own money and your own dice and leave mine alone. That’s all I’m asking…

    I can think of a dozen reasons I’d like to be entirely off-grid and a dozen more why it’d be great to be using energy supplied by efficient, renewable means. And I will invest in the projects I think have merit on my own.

    But none of those reasons have anything to do with the world coming to an end. I don’t see even the remotest likelihood of that happening within the next 200 years, or the next 1000. You can be a doom-sayer all you wish – but forcing other people to go along with your pessimism is not acceptable.

    Your beliefs are yours to have… quit conscripting the rest of us into paying for them.

    It seems that the only argument people come back to is, “well, if we’re wrong, then we’ve wasted a trillion dollars – big deal, if we’re right and you do nothing, the planet will die”.

    Well, I’m sorry Chad, I just watched my country waste a trillion dollars (on a major banking industry bailout), and the aftermath ain’t gonna be pretty. At some point, you and everyone else who wants to use force to solve these problems, is going to have to realize that you’re killing us all bit by bit. The US doesn’t have a trillion dollars to spend… our government is already in the hole by $7 Trillion! And that means that each and every one of us bears that burden with a dollar that is becoming increasingly useless around the world. And what do we get for it? Cronyism? Corruption? Politicians who promise “stuff” while limiting our freedom to choose and do what we think is best…

    And this whole breed of environmentalism is the worst kind of extension of this.

    The thing that blows my mind completely is how often I’ve had to sit through blathering “liberals” talk about how terrible Bush is because he’s using *fear* to force people into going along with bad ideas… Iraq has wasted a trillion dollars needlessly – and then these same people turn on the panic button with even less tangible threats!

    And for me, that’s all this comes down to in the end. People who can’t predict the future (who, not to mention have a TERRIBLE track record of accurate positions in the past), are trying to invoke incredibly nebulous science to say that we’re on the verge of global apocalypse and the only thing we can do about it is to expand government to control people’s behavior, take their money and redistribute it to companies that claim to be solving a problem and in the process crush people’s freedoms to decide how they live their own lives and destroy economies through these same policies… CONVENIENTLY conforming to the *exact* model of guilt-based hysteria, environmentalists have been preaching since the 60s.

    Does this not set off anyone’s bullshit detector but my own? I mean come on…

    Hate to break this to you btw, but Al Gore buys carbon-offsets from a company HE OWNS. But of course, he’s a modern day “prophet” and I’m just too stupid to see it… or perhaps I’m just a paid oil-industry stooge.

    Ugh.

    Bottom-line… if you know what’s the best for everyone – start trying to influence people. Buy an ad slot during the Superbowl. Put up posters, make your case and invest in the things you think will save us all… or hell – start your own company to do all those things!

    There are obviously more than enough people with deep-pockets out there to help you out. Start with Hollywood… PETA has had access to the idiots’ money out here for long enough – maybe you can do better with it than compare chicken coops to concentration camps.

    BUT DO THAT!

    …and ffs, quit using force to make everyone conform to your misanthropic vision of Armageddon. Call me whatever names you want, but I do not now and will probably never believe that the time is nigh.

  97. You assume, erroniously, that all outcomes are equal. I submit that they are not.

    OK, I went back and looked at that again (after submitting the post, of course. d’oh) and realized how little sense that made.

    Yes, you can assess some of the risk factors prior to starting a project, but you can’t assess the risk factors associated with the outcome without basic assumptions of what the outcome will be.

    If you don’t know what the outcome of your project is going to be, you shouldn’t be embarking on it. That’s a recipe for disaster.

    See municipal wi-fi as an example.

  98. Alright cbmclean, what’s with your watt-hour bigotry? What did the watt-hour ever do to you anyway? Would you prefer a watt-second?

    No, I would prefer the joule. A watt is defined as one joule per second. A watt-hour is 3600 watt-seconds, and a watt second is just a joule. The thing I have against watt-hours is that it’s just a complicated way of saying joule. the same with amp-hour being a complicated way of saying coulomb. (And yes I do know that technically speaking, the coulomb s defined in terms of the amp as opposed to the other way around. I think that that is just because the amp is easier to measure precisely).

  99. Sean W. Malone | July 30, 2008, 8:15pm | #

    Chad… play with your own money and your own dice and leave mine alone. That’s all I’m asking…I can think of a dozen reasons I’d like to be entirely off-grid and a dozen more why it’d be great to be using energy supplied by efficient, renewable means. And I will invest in the projects I think have merit on my own.

    Therein lies the problem: our dice our not seperate. This is a classic tragedy of the commons problem. Because you can dump some of your costs on to me and everyone else, many things which are beneficial to us as a group will not be beneficial to you as an individual. The same holds true for me and all our neighbors…our personal interests are to screw everyone else over. If we all leave the “market” to solve the problem, it will simply fail, as it has countless times before in similar situations.

    But none of those reasons have anything to do with the world coming to an end. I don’t see even the remotest likelihood of that happening within the next 200 years, or the next 1000. You can be a doom-sayer all you wish – but forcing other people to go along with your pessimism is not acceptable.

    We must make group decisions based on the best data avaiable, which indicates that this problem is serious, potentially very serious, and that acting in order to solve or mitigate it is a good long-term investment. My belief in the data trumps your belief that the market will magically solve a commons problem involving over six billion people.

    It seems that the only argument people come back to is, “well, if we’re wrong, then we’ve wasted a trillion dollars – big deal, if we’re right and you do nothing, the planet will die”.

    Here is another argument: the benefits of action out-weigh the costs. This was found true by Nordhaus, Stern, and the Copenhagen Consensus, though each concluded that different levels of action were justified. The different conclusions largely stemmed from philosophical differences over economics than from scientific ones. Also, I could argue all of them were under-estimating the damages, as they tended to exclude things that were difficult to quantify, such as species loss.

    The US doesn’t have a trillion dollars to spend… our government is already in the hole by $7 Trillion!

    Isn’t it nine trillion now? Anyway, I just told you where to find trillions of dollars. If you would quit insisting that we should just give it all to the oil companies, we wouldn’t have such a big problem.

    The thing that blows my mind completely is how often I’ve had to sit through blathering “liberals” talk about how terrible Bush is because he’s using *fear* to force people into going along with bad ideas… Iraq has wasted a trillion dollars needlessly – and then these same people turn on the panic button with even less tangible threats!

    Don’t pin other peoples’ bad arguments on me. Btw, nobody that knows me would ever label me a liberal. I’m just as much a pita when I play with the freepers and the treehuggers as well.

    And for me, that’s all this comes down to in the end. People who can’t predict the future (who, not to mention have a TERRIBLE track record of accurate positions in the past)…

    If it were a matter of whacky claims from the wingnut treehugger fringe, you would have a point. When it is the IPCC, National Academy of Science, the American Physical, Chemical, Geological and Astronomical Societies, NASA and their foreign equivalents, etc, it is another matter entirely. Even the CEO’s of the big oil and chemical companies have largely come around…even Exxon is cracking. Indeed, in the chemical industry (where I work) we just see this as a big “mega-trend” to make a profit from…and boy, are we. And of course, we love making a buck while doing the right thing even more.

    Bottom-line… if you know what’s the best for everyone – start trying to influence people. Buy an ad slot during the Superbowl. Put up posters, make your case and invest in the things you think will save us all… or hell – start your own company to do all those things!

    I’ll have to leave the super bowl add to T. Boone or Gore, but don’t worry, I am working on the rest of it.

    …and ffs, quit using force to make everyone conform to your misanthropic vision of Armageddon. Call me whatever names you want, but I do not now and will probably never believe that the time is nigh.

    Even if you believe the chance of apocalypse is vanishingly small, you can’t escape the conclusion that it will likely be just plain old bad. That would also justify action.

  100. Excellent article but Mr. Bailey didn’t go far enough to expose the con.

    In the spring of this year, there was an article in the Idaho Statesman that said that the government wanted to use eminent domain for a 3500 ft wide energy corridor clear across the United States. That’s about 10 football fields end to end. Obviously that’s absurd – but not if that 3500 foot right of way is for windmills.

    Another tidbit is that they want a new energy grid and they want it to be DC current. My understanding is that the reason is because DC current can be stored – but that’s not the real reason anyway.

    Here’s the scam. Since obviously the costs of conversion and the randomness of wind to power the windmills makes the investment ridiculous. However, that 3500 foot swath across our country is going to be very, very valuable after T. Boone Pickens – silly man that he is.. figures out that wind power is just not practical and abandons the project. He will still own the property. Nice payback wouldn’t you say?

    On the new DC energy grid, they want that for a ‘Smart Grid’ so that they can control your energy use remotely. Of course, again, we don’t know who is going to pay for all the new appliances that will respond to a remote control system.

    They’ll set your room temperature, turn on your dishwasher in off hours, etc. So it may be that the numbers they are using for conversion don’t start with current usage – but rather start with their model of your allocated usage – which is severely constricted. (All you middle class people don’t need air conditioning in the summer – and your homes are too warm and toasty in the winter – they’ll fix that whether you like it or not).

  101. How much will it cost if we don’t go green?

    What makes you think Al Gore is the best person to give advice on technology?

    How much would it cost to replace coal with wood? (It is being done today over the strenuous objections of some (anti)environmentalists.)

    What makes you think conventional geothermal power is so rare? (Alaska with the largest geothermal resources of any state gets its only power from very tepid geothermal waters at Chena Hot Spring Spa. A single geothermal resource in California in the Salton Sea area might provide all the electricity thatCalifornia uses today if the objections to that power source were removed. Hot rock technology may not be available this century or even this millenia.)

    Can’t we use intelligence instead of competitive sloganeering in designing energy policy?

    Best, Terry

  102. JW,

    I was gonna correct you, but you corrected yourself.

    I would like to answer Ron’s questions.

    How much will it cost?

    Hard to say, but less than your estimate.

    And who’ll be footing the bill?

    Energy consumers.

  103. “…the benefits of action out-weigh the costs.”

    Yeah… that isn’t “another” argument, that’s exactly the argument I was talking about in the first place.

    Hey everybody… contradictions are fun!

    Chad says:
    “If we all leave the “market” to solve the problem, it will simply fail, as it has countless times before in similar situations.”

    Then he says…

    “Even the CEO’s of the big oil and chemical companies have largely come around…even Exxon is cracking. Indeed, in the chemical industry (where I work) we just see this as a big “mega-trend” to make a profit from…and boy, are we. And of course, we love making a buck while doing the right thing even more.”

    Yeah…. sure does seem like the market is “failing” you, Chad. By the way – what are these “countless times” of failure that you’re referring to?

    Anyway, I’ve always though that the whole tragedy of the commons argument is pretty shallow – here’s why: WE ALL LIVE ON THE SAME PLANET.

    You, me, CEOs of major corporations, inventors, scientists, McDonald’s employees… all of us. So the idea that somehow a free-market approach – that is to say, a bottom-up (as opposed to dictated from above) solution – fails to address these sorts of problems is asinine. You just admitted yourself that your company/industry is already looking for solutions, privately. We ALL have a vested interest in “commons” problems if they are truly in the commons. Now, in most cases I’d say that whole conundrum is solved by doing away with the “commons” and establishing more private property – obviously that doesn’t necessarily work with air… but as I said, if it IS a commons problem, then there are obviously going to be a lot of people who care about the issue and who will use their time, money and intellect to come up with solutions – rewarding people for those solutions is easily the best way to get the ball rolling faster. What WON’T work, is nagging and sending out Al Gore’s special forces elite environmental compliance squad to force people into one solution agreed upon by politicians and government bureaucrats. If you want scientists to lead the way on this – then get the force out of the equation and LET people be rewarded by a market-system.

    Besides which, those private solutions, will ultimately be BETTER, and much more cost effective if they are checked and balanced against market forces – which test for cost, ease of use, and even more irrational factors like what people are or are not comfortable with – than any government forced solutions. Why is it so hard for you to be ok with that? Why must you try to force people to do what you think is right at gunpoint?

    Again, your extraordinary claims really don’t have any extraordinary supporting evidence. And the fact that you find it easy to use fear-mongering to get large-scale support from a populace who doesn’t really know what they’re looking at and doesn’t have the time or interest to sift through the BS doesn’t make you right.

    As for the predictions… well… I think you’re conflating a bunch of organizations all agreeing that the Earth is undergoing a warming trend – which is something that I’ve never argued against – with those organizations having a crystal ball that they don’t have.

    “Even if you believe the chance of apocalypse is vanishingly small, you can’t escape the conclusion that it will likely be just plain old bad. That would also justify action.”

    Actually… yes I can. Historically, warming-trends have (as I said earlier) led to an INCREASE of life on Earth, more fertile land, more species diversity and more easily livable conditions for our soft pink mammalian skins. So to say that you *know* what the outcome is going to be and that outcome is inherently to be measured on a scale of “bad” to “it’s the end of the world as we know it” seems a little more than preposterous.

    You got any other tricks in the bag beyond telling us that we’re all going to die unless we do what you say?

  104. Mejican…

    “Hard to say, but less than your estimate.”

    How do you figure? Imo, Bailey omitted billions or trillions of dollars in cost based on his lack of discussion of infrastructure changes and , not to mention other social costs depending on which solution you want to go with. A “solution” like Chad’s for example would generally give government the power to establish criminal behavior based on predicted effects over a 100+ year period… There’s a pretty high cost to that.

  105. Sean W. Malone | July 31, 2008, 1:28pm | #

    Yeah…. sure does seem like the market is “failing” you, Chad. By the way – what are these “countless times” of failure that you’re referring to?

    The market doing something and the market doing enough are entirely different concepts. We are walking when we need to sprint.

    Anyway, I’ve always though that the whole tragedy of the commons argument is pretty shallow – here’s why: WE ALL LIVE ON THE SAME PLANET.

    Yeah, it never happens. Econ101 is wrong, because Sean says so!

    We ALL have a vested interest in “commons” problems if they are truly in the commons.

    Yes, and we all have a “vested interest” in being a free-rider and letting everyone else solve the problem. What is it about this concept that lies beyond you?

    Now, in most cases I’d say that whole conundrum is solved by doing away with the “commons” and establishing more private property – obviously that doesn’t necessarily work with air…

    Uhh, exactly. While “privatizing” is good in theory and sometimes in practice (say, fishing rights), sometimes it is obviously impossible.

    Besides which, those private solutions, will ultimately be BETTER, and much more cost effective if they are checked and balanced against market forces – which test for cost, ease of use, and even more irrational factors like what people are or are not comfortable with – than any government forced solutions.

    Here is where you are wrong. We can use market-based methods to solve the problem, just as we have with a number of other pollutants.

    Again, your extraordinary claims really don’t have any extraordinary supporting evidence.

    Over a hundred years of evidence that is fully vetted by every major scientific organization on earth? Ummm, what higher bar are you going to try to set?

    Actually… yes I can. Historically, warming-trends have (as I said earlier) led to an INCREASE of life on Earth

    Yes, and climate change is associated with mass death and extinctions.

  106. Ok Chad, now you’ve just gone off the deep end.

    “Over a hundred years of evidence that is fully vetted by every major scientific organization on earth?”

    100 years of inconsistently measured, poorly collected data which is but an infinitesimal speck of time in the history of the world, isn’t really very convincing, since we’re talking about analyzing trends that span hundreds of years. When you don’t even have the good data NOW, when we actually DO have good technology, you want me to also “sprint” based on data collected 100 years ago with mercury thermometers with hand-painted measurement markings? Good choice…

    So yeah, strangely, I do expect a higher standard than that… While we’re on that topic – you’re setting up a fake argument anyway. I’m not even trying to debate whether or not the climate is changing. I’m debating whether or not we know how to fix it and whether or not there’s convincing evidence to show that we can… But thanks for side-stepping that and instead talking about a point I’ve already let you presume as true.

    “Econ101 is wrong, because Sean says so!”

    Yeah – again, thanks for not even remotely addressing what I said and instead acting like a little child. In case you weren’t paying attention, I actually made an argument as to why the “tragedy of the commons” problem seems suspect to me… Econ101 CAN be wrong, btw. Just citing a class one can take in college doesn’t prove anything.

    Whenever someone (presumably like yourself, Chad) asks “Yeah, but who will take care of ___ problem??” – in this case ___ = global-warming/CO2/etc – my response is typically “YOU will.”

    You care about it. You’re part of the commons. You’re also not alone. Thousands… Millions of people share your concern. It’s not like people are (by and large) releasing CO2 in to the air just for kicks… we’re driving to work, or school, or soccer-practice or shipping much needed goods from one part of the country to the other – and around the world. No one’s really even being a “free-rider” here! At least not in any malicious sense.

    The tragedy of the commons concept is bunk, imo, precisely because of people like yourself… and the wide spectrum of people in between. You care about this stuff to an immense degree, and so do a lot of people – plus, fortunately for you, there are a lot of people who don’t know that much that can be motivated by fear pretty easily, and thus, everyone “buys green” and creates the mega-trend you were talking about in the previous post. That mega-trend changes the face of how everyone does everything (including business) and suddenly the walk becomes a jog… and it happens NATURALLY, without force, and develops with the cost vs. benefit checks that a competitive marketplace can provide, which put the burden of cost actually on the consumer and weed out bad or non-implementable ideas. Alternatively, government solutions DON’T have any concept or even the faintest idea of cost vs. benefit, because their cost comes from an infinite supply produced at gun point from a willing (or unwilling) populace. They develop based on political affiliations because that’s inevitably how government controlled money gets distributed. Not a good plan.

    The fact that you think we should be “sprinting” when we are “walking” says a lot about your own state of hysteria – but if that’s what you believe, again, feel free to try to convince. Just quit trying to force it on people.

    FINALLY… (and I do mean finally since I’m getting tired of all this):

    “warming-trends” ARE “climate change”. You could argue micro vs. macro terminologies… but umm… yeah… the sky really isn’t falling.

    Try to relax a bit, ok?


  107. 100 years of inconsistently measured, poorly collected data which is but an infinitesimal speck of time in the history of the world, isn’t really very convincing

    Thank God we have 400,000 years of ice cores and a few hundred million years of radio-isotope data that indicate the same things: high temperatures and high CO2 go together in a positive feedback, and changes in temperature lead to massive ecosystem upheaval and extinctions.

    I’m debating whether or not we know how to fix it and whether or not there’s convincing evidence to show that we can…

    We do know how to fix it – stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The only thing stopping us from doing this is ourselves, and the tragedy of the commons.

    Yeah – again, thanks for not even remotely addressing what I said and instead acting like a little child. In case you weren’t paying attention, I actually made an argument as to why the “tragedy of the commons” problem seems suspect to me…

    Your argument boiled down to “Well, a few people will buck their own self-interest and do the right thing anyway, so I don’t need to do jack diddly”. I don’t count that as much of an argument. The one percent or so of people who are going above and beyond what is good for their own pocketbook may eventually get us to the goal, but only long after a truly effective market would have.

    Whenever someone (presumably like yourself, Chad) asks “Yeah, but who will take care of ___ problem??” – in this case ___ = global-warming/CO2/etc – my response is typically “YOU will.”

    Sure, we MIGHT be able to take care of the problem in time, but with our limited numbers we may fail. And now you are setting up a classic free-rider problem, and to what end? To screw people like me over?

    You care about it. You’re part of the commons. You’re also not alone. Thousands… Millions of people share your concern

    You are right. Millions. Out of Billions. That is the problem right there. This problem is not going to be solved by the 1% of us that are actually making sacrifices to solve it.

    No one’s really even being a “free-rider” here! At least not in any malicious sense.

    It is irrelevant if it is malicious…it is still a free-rider issue either way.

    That mega-trend changes the face of how everyone does everything (including business) and suddenly the walk becomes a jog… and it happens NATURALLY, without force, and develops with the cost vs. benefit checks that a competitive marketplace can provide

    Ahh, again, you are wrong. For example, what happens if solar never matches the price of coal, because coal is just too darned cheap as long as it gets its huge free-public-garbage-dump subsidy? Renewables will not take off running until they can pass coal in price, and as long as coal is heavily subsidized, that may not happen at all. You keep talking about markets where one side gets a subsidy on the order of hundreds of billions per year. How on earth is that “competitive”?

    Alternatively, government solutions DON’T have any concept or even the faintest idea of cost vs. benefit

    Both a carbon tax or a cap and trade solve that problem.

    You keep telling me to quit “forcing my opinion” on people who are quite obviously forcing their pollution on me. I think you completely misunderstand the libertarian ethic system if you think I can’t retaliate with force when someone attacks my property.

    “warming-trends” ARE “climate change”. You could argue micro vs. macro terminologies…

    But not all climate change is a warming trend. Climate changes kill. In the aftermath, life re-evolves, with a greater degree of bio-diversity and biomass during warmer periods. Are you saying we should wipe out half the life on earth and run a serious threat of wiping out the human race or civilization just so that a few million years later, there will be a bit more life on the hotter earth that we leave behind?

  108. Wow Chad… Wow.

    Foil hats for everybody!

  109. I don’t have much energy for this discussion, but I could not help nswer something:

    “Anyone who claims to *know* what the state of a chaotic system will be in n years and what the most likely outcomes will be as a result of that is A) unbelievably arrogant, B) incredibly dishonest, or C) a True Believer?. I’ll let you pick. I’m leaning towards C.”

    I like answer A.

    Though I like better if it were to say instead, “Anyone who claims to confidently predict within reasonable margins of error, what the state of a chaotic system will be in n years…”

    This is of course just what the IPCC process has yielded. Reasonable predictions which come true with reasonable margins of error. At least not when being misinterpreted by misanthropes.

    A. Believably arrogant.

  110. I found an interesting blog about energy and its costs politics et.

    http://scienceblogs.com/energy/

    enjoy

  111. “The basic gist of what is believed to have happened is that the ocean currents stopped due to volcanic-related climate change, allowing the deep ocean to become anoxic.”

    Chad, the basic gist of pollution being responsible for stopping the worlds oceanic currents is flawed at best.

    Short of stopping the entire planet from spinning, stopping it’s orbit around the Sun, or freezing/drying the all of the liquid within the oceanic basins, the oceanic currents can not be stopped.

    This is mainly due to the combined influences of both the Coriolis and the E?tv?s effects upon the oceans, which have both been scientifically proven.

  112. Thank God we have 400,000 years of ice cores and a few hundred million years of radio-isotope data that indicate the same things: high temperatures and high CO2 go together in a positive feedback, and changes in temperature lead to massive ecosystem upheaval and extinctions.

    Correlation does not imply causation. Infact, most studies and even raw data suggest an increase in CO2 follows a warming trend. Yes CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as is any gas that absorbs thermal radiation. Water vapor retains heat at a rate 13 times CO2s retention ability, why don’t you call for its banning or taxing? Because CO2 is an easy, politically correct scapegoat that politicians a special interest groups can make money on. On the other hand, warming trends seem to match up almost perfectly with changes in solar radiation. Funny how we don’t hear much about natural causes of climate change (as if its ever been stable), probably because the news won’t cover anything so non-sensational (it’s a word now) and scientists who show these findings often lose their funding.

    Oh, and the whole mass extinction stories that occured with serious climate change happened long before the advent of humanity, so it really doesn’t help your case for AGW. It kind of just says some catastrophic event is just inevitable. Is there really anything we could have done about the continental shift that caused the changes in the oceanic currents that caused the freezing that was the ELE?

  113. Kolohe said, “nobody is considering is the opposition to new and/or enhanced high voltage power lines that will be necessary in regions that are to become net exporters of electricity.”

    Nanosolar (nanosolar.com) offers an approach (already in production) that would eliminate this need. They offer building municipal solar power plants where needed that can be easily integrated into existing lines. And they’ve built a tool that is capable of producing 1 gigawatt worth of solar panel annually. Check out their blog: http://www.nanosolar.com/blog3/ They plan to sell their panels at about $1 per watt.

  114. What should be kept in mind that fuel for solar and wind power plants is free, so with time, cost of electricity production goes down.

  115. Words of Wisdom,

    http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=8150

    “How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming
    By Gene Callahan

    (snipity)

    For these reasons, I believe it is crucial to accept provisionally, for the sake of argument, the scientific claims behind the case for manmade global warming. In the present article I will demonstrate that it still would not follow that the taxes and other regulations typically proposed by greens are the best way to address the problem. Just as the free market is still the optimal economic arrangement, regardless of how many citizens are angels or devils, so too does the free market outperform government intervention, regardless of the fragility of Earth’s ecosystems.”

    I strongly recommend that you Inactionistas help solve the very real problem of AGW, instead of futily trying to wish it away….before the anti-capitalists solve it.

    If you don’t act with good ideas that work, they eventually will and with evil ideas.

  116. One again into the filth…

    “Correlation does not imply causation.”

    Plenty of physics provides adequate expectation of a causation.

    “Infact, most studies and even raw data suggest an increase in CO2 follows a warming trend.”

    Which does not prevent the sudden unnatural release of otherwise sequestered CO2 from being a cause of a warming.

    “Yes CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as is any gas that absorbs thermal radiation.”

    No problems here.

    “Water vapor retains heat at a rate 13 times CO2s retention ability, why don’t you call for its banning or taxing? Because CO2 is an easy, politically correct scapegoat that politicians a special interest groups can make money on.”

    No, water vapor precipitates out on average with in 7 days. CO2 imbalances take at least decades to go away. Also otherwise sequestered fossil carbon burned to make energy+ CO2 has a distinct isotope signature which cannot be mistaken for any natural release, volcanic or otherwise. And this signature is on the rise.

    “On the other hand, warming trends seem to match up almost perfectly with changes in solar radiation.”

    Not in the past few decades it hasn’t.

    “Funny how we don’t hear much about natural causes of climate change (as if its ever been stable), probably because the news won’t cover anything so non-sensational (it’s a word now) and scientists who show these findings often lose their funding.”

    …or there is no reason to make such a claim as it is unsupportable in terms of hard evidence. Thus no reason for it to be in the news.

    “Oh, and the whole mass extinction stories that occured with serious climate change happened long before the advent of humanity, so it really doesn’t help your case for AGW.”

    That statement doesn’t make any sense. It is already known now that species are disappearing NOW at rates similar to major extinctions, and the climate hasn’t even gotten all that extreme. In the long run, if we can just keep civilization from collapsing, I will be happy.

    “It kind of just says some catastrophic event is just inevitable.”

    It’s not inevitable, it’s a choice. Continue to choose to blast CO2 into the air will eventually result in major catastrophe for civilization and then potentially human life…the roaches will live on fine without us.

    We are at the cusp of triggering effects which will result in major challenges to our civilization, we will have to burn more to actually destroy it. At best we could with drastic effort minimize those challenges before the worst ones appear. But there will still be challenges.

    “Is there really anything we could have done about the continental shift that caused the changes in the oceanic currents that caused the freezing that was the ELE?”

    This is highly irrelevant.

    Anyway, ONWARD to a Free and Prosperous Level 1 Civilization (kardashev scale)!!!

  117. Oh yeah…

    “…and scientists who show these findings often lose their funding.”

    Exactly which scientists have stated these findings in peer reviewed articles, and directly lost funding as a direct result of it?

    Please be exact and complete, I really want to know.

  118. First off…
    I’m going to ignore the comments by lunatics who still think that humans are not effecting climate change. Even if you dwindling weirdos think that global warming is not an issue and not caused by fossil fuel consumption, a push for implementing widespread environmental technology to replace our current utilities is still extremely useful for separating ourselves from business with dictators, rebels and otherwise unpleasant partners. It will stimulate the national economy and make our country self-reliant and more proud of its accomplishments as we become a leader in the world once again. Dare to dream, people. Nobody is saying that cap and trade is a bad thing. By all accounts it has been a successful way of reducing emissions, but not enough, and there is the problem of states that simply don’t care because of the cheapness of labor or domestic oil. Problems like China, Russia and India are only problems because we are both defining and trying to run the playing field, where we should be leading by example.

    Now onto Mr. Bailey’s interesting article. ..

    Your arguments against Gore’s wild and visionary plan have some problems, for instance you note that the push to build vast fields of solar panels and wind energy would drive up the cost of building supplies (concrete and steel), without taking into consideration in your estimate that everyone buying a new hybrid car would not only keep us addicted (albeit only 48% addicted) to foreign oil but would drive up the costs of steel and many other commodities as well.

    How do you propose to manufacture 250,000,000 new cars within ten years, or twenty years, or even thirty years? Hybrids, while extremely useful, are like taking aspirin for a terrible illness. They may relieve a bit of the pain in the short term but are not viable in the long run.

    You also do not factor in the savings that Americans receive when they install solar panels on their homes. Many states have tax credits for such projects, and Bush, under enormous pressure from Congress, passed a one year tax credit for homeowners who install panels in 2007. The cost savings of such panels to the consumer are immediate, and they pay for themselves after 15 years.

    As for nuclear energy, I concur that we should begin building new nuclear energy plants immediately. Oddly enough and contrary to what many Republicans think, it is not the environmental lobby keeping the nuclear reactors from being built, but the coal and hydropower lobbies that have funded efforts to clamp down on nuclear reactors. Why? Because nuclear floods the grid with cheap energy and outperforms coal and hydro considerably.

    Many environmentalists are actually pro-nuclear, believe it or not. Despite this, nuclear is not a long term solution either, though it’s far better than hydro, for its devastating effect on ecosystems, and coal, which sucks for so many reasons its not worth mentioning. One problem with nuclear is the difficulties in acquiring a good grade of uranium. We have maybe 50-75 years of the good stuff left, and it isn’t easy to get to.

    Mining uranium itself is a messy, dangerous and often politically bumpy process, as we have to go further and further into troubled regions to get the most lucrative grade of uranium. Remember that part of our goal is to cut off our dependence on difficult and troubled regions. We should really only use nuclear sparingly, as a crutch to our eventual energy independence.

    And here’s something for you folks who are plugged into the Republican (not libertarian) energy policy isolation tank and think I’m full of it. David Fleming, creator of tradeable energy quotas (i.e. cap and trade), hailed by many, mainly on the right, as the wave of the future, wrote
    this book saying that nuclear is not a good idea
    for the reasons I’ve stated.

    When Gore compared his intentionally wild energy plan to the Apollo program, what he was getting at was that Americans need to participate in a spirit of change and newness. We need to start thinking of new ways of being American. The new GOP, the neo-conservatives that engineered the Iraq war, felt the same way, only instead of using our trillion dollar surplus to change the country and address serious security threats they sent us back to a world outlook belonging more to 1962 than 2002, where military might is the only way to motivate and unite a nation against adversity, where force and pillage is the only way to prosperity.

  119. I believe the David Fleming link I posted is dead. Here is a better link.

  120. Some thoughts on the other renewable energy source: Efficiency
    http://tinyurl.com/6ngd9n

    How the world should invest in energy efficiency

    Boosting energy efficiency will help stretch energy resources and slow down the increase in carbon emissions. It will also create opportunities for businesses and consumers to invest $170 billion a year from now until 2020, at a 17 percent average internal rate of return.”

    17%pa equals a doubling of value every 4ish years. WOW.

  121. argh dang tags!

  122. Also want to point out that I agree with the Cato Institute’s asserton that the SPR should be dissolved.

    Slowly draining this petrol into the market as we hastily step away from our oil dependency would help American families deal with the blow of increasingly devastating gas prices.

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