Energy Realists Win Economist Online Debate Over Renewables Versus Fossil Fuels


What's there to debate about?

Yesterday, I blogged the Economist's online debate over the question: This house believes that subsidising renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.

The proponent of of the resolution, Matthias Frippe, a Research fellow, Environmental Change Institute and Exeter College, Oxford University, asserted: 

We must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 in order to avoid dangerous risks to the environment and ourselves. Meanwhile, electricity demand is rising worldwide: even if the world converges at half the OECD's current electricity intensity, total demand will still be 2.7 times higher by 2050. To meet this demand while reducing total emissions by 80%, we must replace current coal and natural-gas plants with something more than 90% cleaner. This can only be renewables.

The opponent Robert Bradley, founder of the free market think tank the Institute for Energy Research, countered:

Governments should end subsidies to renewable energies and let consumers determine winners and losers. Wind and solar, in particular, cannot power a modern society and require fossil-fuel blending to play even a limited role. Additionally, the alleged market failure of fossil fuels should be revisited in the light of the economic failure and government failure associated with coercive energy planning.

The results are in: 52 percent of those voting do not believe that subsidizing renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels. 

NEXT: Slouching Toward the Inevitable Failure of the Super Committee

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  1. Fifty two percent? That’s it? Our educators have failed us.

    1. I actually think that’s a pretty good result, what with public schools teaching AGW and the media constantly promoting ‘green’ energy. I’m surprised that many people see through the noise.

    2. Ummm, a “poll” where the participants self-select is mostly meaningless, since the numbers got a bump up after the article on H&R yesterday (when I went and voted). I never would have even seen the poll without that article.

    3. We won!

  2. I’ll fuckin option the shit out of the renewable energy debate!*

    *[bows down]”Forgive me father, for I have cussed….”

    1. Renewable energy subsidies > Tebow

    2. Kneel before the Bipod!*

      * I’ve been reading the Tripod books lately.

      1. The Cities of Gold and Lead have renewable energy.

        1. And slaves! Obey the Bipod!

    3. Make all the fun you want. I keep buying myself another start every week!

      1. Unbelievable, but true. I’m blaming my alcoholism on you, Tim. Sure it began years before I ever heard of you, but that was just prep for the inevitable. It’s not a coincidence that the Einstein model is unraveling at the same time as a quarterback who can’t throw is on a winning streak.

      2. And lose that see saw emphatic accent that makes your generation sound like twinks.

  3. They are both wrong. The solution is the third option, Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors.

    1. Seriously, how the fuck is this not the number one priority for anyone worried about CO2 emissions?

      Anyone who is that alarmed about greenhouse gas emissions and doesn’t even mention nuclear is an unserious dickhead. (Weird, my spellchek doesn’t know “unserious” or “dickhead”)

      1. Your “spellchek” doesn’t know spellcheck either.

        1. All the red lines were just too much to process.

          1. I have no time for your excuses!

  4. We must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 in order to avoid dangerous risks to the environment and ourselves.


    Don’t these buffoons get dizzy from running in circles yelling, “THE SKY IS FAAAAAALLING! THE SKY IS FAAAAAALLING!”?

    1. The most dangerous risk to us is having our economy crater by having worldwide production fall by 80%, causing several billion people to die.

      Anyone who utters the above statement is advocating essentially murdering most of humanity.

      1. Do not summon the albino indigenous!

  5. Yesterday, I blogged the Economist’s online debate over the question: This house believes that subsidising renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.

    How is that a question!? I feel like Goldwater is taking crazy pills.

  6. This house believes that subsidising renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.

    This is what that menacing black guy in the Under Armour commercials was concerned about?

    1. I would hate you, but if I’m dropping 690 on a gun, it’ll fire actual bullets.

      1. Missed the sale on this one, did you?

        Besides, teh whole point of the thing is that it doesn’t fire bullets. “Atom Ray” – get it?

        1. So what kind of atom rays does it fire?

          1. Its variable. From the instruction manual:

            “Adjust the dial to teh atmoic number of the element of which your target is mainly composed. For instances, the atmic number of marshmallow is 33 (probably).”

            1. sounds like the purchase might be justified by the manual alone.

            2. Typos mine.

    2. You lucky son of a bitch. However, I got one of these over the summer:…..f-arduino/

      Absolutely fabulous!

    3. Well, I now have a better idea of who makes productive use of resources and is well prepared for catastrophe type emergencies.

      (Its not you)

      1. C’mon, Colonel. The safe is jammed with ammo, guns, and gold and silver coins. Oh, I could probably lever a couple more boxes of .308 in there, but I don’t want the door to jam at an opportune moment.

        1. Who needs a safe? Go fill some more walmart bags and keep them in the closet or something.

  7. Hey Bailey – whaddyou make of Thomas Gold-ish/deep hot biosphere theories on petro origins and likely (ginormous) quantities of deposits? Have you ever written on it?

  8. Don’t these buffoons get dizzy from running in circles yelling, “THE SKY IS FAAAAAALLING! THE SKY IS FAAAAAALLING!”?

    No, their painful levels of self-unawareness prevents insulates them from the vestibular interference.

  9. The proponent of of the resolution, Matthias Frippe, a Research fellow, Environmental Change Institute and Exeter College, Oxford University,

    Between his name, title and the picture on the linked site, you’d swear it was ripped from The Onion.

  10. What percent did the write in votes for “fix you fucking labels” get?

  11. I’m afraid that I have a problem right up front with the assumption that the need “to wean the world off fossil fuels” has been demonstrated.

    Sure, eventually the price of fossil fuels will become prohibitive due to depletion. But it’s not like humans have never changed fuel sources in the past.

    What government program was required to “wean the world off wood” or to “wean the world off whale oil”?

    And the assumption I mentioned in my first paragraph is not the only one that gets bandied about as a given in any discussion of either energy use or climate policy.

    1. Seriously. The government could just drop the whole matter, but unless they manage to achieve their goal of pushing our economy back to 19th century levels, I doubt seriously that we’ll be relying on fossil fuels for a whole lot longer. By 2050 or so, and maybe much earlier, we’ll be doing something else.

      1. By 2050, miniature sun production will be in full swing. Undoubtedly the first generation will have some minor kinks with super novae and black holes, but those issues will be ironed out quickly.

        1. China can play around with that if they want to, then.

    2. Why do you hate the electric car producers? They need to eat too, you know.

      1. Let ’em eat lithium.

    3. I reject out of hand the notion there is any need to “wean the world off fossil fuels” when the supply of fossil fuels is being intentionally and artificially restricted by dickheads like Barack Obama.

      1. There’s like a thousand year supply of fossil fuels discovered so far, and more coming in all the time. The coal supplies in the U.S. are huge.

        Between fracking and oil sands alone, that’s like a century of useable fuel recently discovered.

        1. Yeah and if the enviropussies weren’t blocking nuclear as well we would have more electricty then we know what to do with. The problem isn’t fossil fuels, the problem is government.

          1. The limiting factor with nuclear is cooling. You have to be near a body of water for proper cooling. And, you’re going to warm up that body of water leading to some environmental disruption. So you can only have so many nuke plants in the world, or build them all on the coast, which is potentially dangerous.

            1. That’s not necessarily true. There are designs, some in use, that use alternate cooling methods.

            2. Um. All large power plants not named hydroelectric require cooling. Nat gas, coal, crude oil, nuclear: they all require a cold reservoir in which to dump their waste heat and their only difference is how they boil water.

              1. Blame Dr. Carnot, if you like.

              2. I didn’t say there were reactors without cooling. Wait, no…I just read it again…I wrote “alternate cooling methods”.

                Yes, nearly all, or possibly even all currently running nuclear power plants rely on water cooling to varying levels, but that doesn’t mean that a reactor that doesn’t use water, isn’t possible.

                We use water almost exclusively because it’s cheap, abundant, and usually readily available. There are still alternatives.

              3. Natural gas turbines don’t need water cooling and don’t boil water.

                1. Aelhues, IceTrey;

                  My comment was more directed at Juice’s statement that the limiting factor for nuclear was cooling. I pointed out that all large heat engine power plants, not just nuclear, required cooling. And currently, cooling = the use of water, either circulated through a heat exchanger or lost to evaporation in a cooling tower. The specific heat and heat of vaporization for water is just incredibly useful.

                  I am not aware of, again, large (so excluding microturbines) fossil fuel electric power generating plants relying on simply radiating their waste heat to the air. Combined cycle plants with gas turbines are nifty, and incredibly efficient, (large too, see this press release for a 340 MW unit from Siemens) but they too require water cooling for their downstream steam condensers, don’t they?

                  AIUI, this is one of the reasons that it’s a PITA to have a sizable nuclear power plant in space. How do you get rid of the heat? I didn’t think you could get there through radiation alone. All of this was to say that I don’t agree with Juice’s comment that cooling is going to be the limiting variable in the growth of either nuclear or fossil fuel power plants. But if it is going to be, it’s inappropriate to think that it’ll only limit nuclear power plants.

                  Though, from playing around with the numbers, cooling requirements are non-trivial. If 1/2 of Bailey’s 12 TW worldwide is to come from Carnot-cycle power generation in large power plants, it’d be sufficient energy to bring to boil about the order of magnitude of the Mississippi River at average flow past Baton Rouge. Assuming I haven’t misplaced a decimal point.

                  1. I think that smaller, scalable, modular power generation is the way to go. Allows different types of energy production to be used where appropriate and gets rid of the problems of having a huge, aging power grid with its obvious weaknesses. Every small town or neighborhood should have its own mini-nuke.

                  2. There are a number of medium sized fossil units in the american west that use air cooled condensers. The largest is, i believe, 600 MW or so. So, direct air coolingfor power plant waste heat rejection is quite possible and very much in use on a lrge industrial scale.

                  3. There is no “carnot cycle” power plant. The Carnot cycle is an ideal cycle. Most steam units are modified rankine cycles. Gas turbines generally use the Brayton cycle.

        2. More proven reserves in the ground than have been extracted at every point in history. Peak Oil is not yet.

      2. “the supply of fossil fuels is being intentionally and artificially restricted by dickheads like Barack Obama.”


        He’s trying to do all he can to restict our own oil and gas development in North America, the gulf and off our own coasts.

        As for fossil fuels running out, there are enormous quantities of methane locked up on the floor of the oceans that cover 76% of the planet’s surface.

        1. The worst part about it is that we still have a significant unemployment problem in this country, but this piece of shit president would rather flush billions of dollars on bullshit solar panel jobs down the toilet, or force them to remain unemployed, rather than allow proven productive jobs to get created in the energy sector.

    4. “What government program was required to “wean the world off wood””

      Timber restrictions, by the King’s Navy.

      1. retarded monarchs, using naval forces to enforce lumber rights. Lots of forest on the high seas.

        1. Exactly. I also remember something going on about glass.

  12. The best choice is of course a net zero carbon tax, and then let the market sort it out.

    This is a good idea whether you are worrying about global warming, or just the fact that oil will inevitably shoot up to $200+ a barrel, and you want to give the American economy time to adjust.

    1. The best choice is for the government to get the fuck out the way and let the market decide.

      Taxing carbon is fucking retarded.

    2. “and you want to give the American economy time to adjust.”

      Uh, how much time does it take to “adjust”? And why should the government be involved in choosing that time?

    3. Massively raising taxes and thus allowing even more money to be siphoned out of the productive sector and into boondoggles, thus killing the economy, is not what I would consider “the best choice”.

    4. Two things I don’t understand. Peoples obsession with wanting government to tax anything they don’t like, and their blindness to the results of handing them that power. Stop trying to manage my life through taxation!

      Carbon tax is only a good idea to those who believe government should tax us into better behavior, and who also believe that carbon is bad.

      1. Please note the words “net zero” IE there would be no increase in taxes. Instead you would switch taxes from labor to carbon based energy. This would have the dual benefits of increasing the amount of labor provided, and encouraging the efficient uses of energy. Plus of course you would be removing some of the exteranlities from carbon based fuels.

        Even if you don’t believe there is any chance of global warming, there would still be billions in savings from reduced healthcare costs related to asthma etc.

        Finally, one only has to look at the problems $140 a barrel oil caused in 2008, to know that we need to start structuring our economy to be less dependent on it.

        Yes EVENTUALLY the market will move us in that direction, but the economic problems along the way strongly suggest it would be better to move that way now, instead of later.

        Market prices are VERY focused on short term supply. A net zero carbon tax would ensure that producers and consumers got the right price signals to avoid much bigger problems in the future.

        1. “look at the problems $140 a barrel oil caused in 2008”

          People lived.

          Its not the government’s job to shield people from resource demands THAT THEY CHOOSE TO RELY ON.

        2. Does it bother you at all, Kroneborg, that your proposed tax scheme:

          (a) Makes government dependent on, and partners with, the fossil fuel industry?

          (b) If it works as planned, is unsustainable as the tax base is eradicated?

        3. How about government charge out it’s functions on a user fee basis with any activity that cannot be sustained on that basis being eliminated (i.e. transfer payment entitlement programs)?

          And keep government out of the energy choosing business – or the business of choosing anything else either.

          1. @ RC, agreed it’s not a permanenet solution. But in the short term, I would gladly trade some income taxes for carbon taxes.

  13. Wow perfect. The 53% who pay taxes minus the 1% who get the subsidies.

  14. The best choice is of course a net zero carbon tax, and then let the market sort it out.

    If you assume the conclusion it is.

  15. just the fact that oil will inevitably shoot up to $200+ a barrel,

    And the basis for this assertion is…what…exactly?

    I won’t dispute that the price of oil could easily rise to $200 in time and that it will fluctuate on the way there. Hell, the very fact of price inflation guarantees it.

    But you’re just full of it to make the bald faced assertion that “oil will inevitably shoot up to $200+ a barrel”.

    1. A 5 minute study of oil consumption patterns and supply problems will result in that being the only conclusion. Look at the growth in oil consumption in the developing world, in particular China. Not only am I 99.99% sure that we will hit $200 a barrel, I think it’s quite likely it will be within 10 years, and quite possibly within 5.…..Q&dur=4040

      1. Rising to $200 in ten years is not exactly “shoot[ing] up to $200+ a barrel”, is it now?

        I would expect most of that through inflation alone. All this money that the fed is churning out is going to have an affect on prices eventually. And that’s got nothing to do with the oil market.

        So, $200+ a barrel, big deal.

        Besides, you act like nobody’s working on any research into alternative energy or fuels.

        It’s just that the ones who are doing it that aren’t political cronies or enviro whackjobs actually understand the science and the economics involved.

        When pricing tips to the point where alternatives are viable (either thru rises in the cost of fossil fuels or the lowering of the cost of alternatives or both) people will make the jump. Oh, providing the government hasn’t put insurmountable roadblocks in the way, that is.

        1. The problem is the long term nature of these capital investments. Sure when oil was at $140, you started to see more fuel efficient cars etc, but it will still take many years to change out the fleet. Far better to give consumers and manufactors the pricing signals now then let the economy tank later.

          Personally, I think the economy has enough head winds without adding more to it.

          1. In case you haven’t noticed, most of the folks here are entirely in favor of removing the “head winds”, most of which blow from the direction or Washington , DC or your state capital.

  16. Plus we got so much natural gas in the US alone that we could barbeque every cow, pig, and goat in the world at a massive national beer blast. Be there. And bring red cups in case we run out.

    1. What if someone brings in a clear cup, or some other opposite colored cup?

      1. you have to fill up at a separate but equal keg.

        1. Of course most of our cars run on oil, not gas. It will take many years and billions of dollars to change America’s capital structure and how we get around.

          Again, that’s why I suggest starting now, and avoiding the rush.

          1. “Of course most of our cars run on oil, not gas. It will take many years and billions of dollars to change America’s capital structure and how we get around.”

            Synthetic gasoline can be made from both natural gas and coal.

            We have plenty of both.

            The Germans were making gas from coal back in WW2.

            1. Yes, but they were Nazis then, using slave labor. Why do you want us to be Nazis using slave labor?

              1. What, you want us to stop?

              2. I’m all in favor of slave labor – as long as the slaves are the eco-socialist wackos.

                Put them to work making the fuel sources they claim to hate the most.

                I see no downside to that.

          2. Maybe if the government has to intervene it would make sense to promote the use of LNG or CNG as motor fuel which is already proven than pouring money into this “green jobs” sinkhole.

            Even without government promotion anyone can convert to either NG or propane right now. There are filling stations for both in most metropolitan areas.

            Not real practical for long distance travel, though, it’s a long way between big cties and not many places to fill up in between. Although the right pricing signals could change that.

            1. Just put a hook up for 20 lb. LP cylinders in the trunk and you are good to go.

  17. Energy Realists: “Duh! #WINNING!”

  18. thank you a lotssssssssssssssssss

  19. I’d like another option: small subsidies for research and development, and some small-scale test projects.

    I’ll justify that as being necessary to National Defense. We don’t have to fight wars for access to uninterrupted oil if we have alternative supplies of power, including possibly a sufficient number of electric cars that are less sensitive to original fuel source.

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