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Feb 29 2012

Tar Sands Oil is Really Bad Stuff

A former high school classmate of mine, Pam Bullock — who, unlike me, seems hardly to have aged at all in the 27 years since we graduated — writes on her blog about the Keystone XL pipeline. She writes, in part:

In addition to the risk of water contamination, another environmental controversy surrounding Keystone XL is the source of the oil itself: the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. Athabasca is largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world, containing over 1 trillion barrels of the sticky, viscous oil product. The problem is that extraction of crude oil from oil sands is more labor-intensive, more damaging to the land above the mine, and emits much more carbon dioxide than average crude oil production. Approximately two tons of oil sands are needed to produce one barrel – roughly 1/8 of a ton – of oil. Strip mining is the most common mining method used in Athabasca, which essentially scrapes the oil sands off the surface , damaging the land for future uses. Oil sands extraction emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude. Once extracted, the bitumen must then be thinned so that it can travel through a pipeline, and oil companies have not revealed exactly what chemicals are used to dilute it, or if there is potential for pollution from these chemicals…

TransCanada has responded to many of the criticisms of the Keystone XL project. It has insisted that new technology makes its pipelines closer than ever to being leak-free. As to the risk to the Ogallala Aquifer, TransCanada pointed out that fourteen different routes for Keystone XL are being studied, including one alternative route in Nebraska that would entirely avoid Ogallala aquifer, and six that would have reduced pipeline mileage crossing the aquifer. However, TransCanada is an energy storage company, not an oil company. It can make no guarantees regarding the environmental impact of the oil extraction, nor can it promise how the pipeline will affect the cost of oil in the United States.

I left a comment there, which I will reprint here:

TransCanada’s promise that modern pipeline technology makes spills far less likely is simply absurd. They said the same thing when they opened Keystone I, the first phase of the project. That pipeline has leaked more than 30 times since it went online almost two years ago.

We did a lot of reporting on this over the last couple years at the Michigan Messenger, in the wake of the spill of nearly a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River. That was the first major spill of tar sands oil in the United States and it revealed just how different that oil is from conventional crude. A few examples:

1. Because of its sludgy thickness, tar sands oil produces a huge number of false pressure alarms in pipelines. One expert who has worked in pipeline control rooms for decades told us that they would literally have hundreds of false pressure alarms every day from the stuff, making it impossible to know whether there’s a leak until someone on the ground actually sees oil. By that time, it’s too late. That’s why so much oil was released in Calhoun County in 2010 before they got it shut off — they went more than 12 hours between the first report of the smell of oil to the shutting off of the valves.

2. Tar sands oil reacts very differently than conventional crude when it hits water. Because it’s so thick, it sinks to the bottom. As it breaks down, it returns to the surface and recontaminates even after all the skimming is done. The EPA thought they had the Kalamazoo river mostly cleaned up and the spill contained until last spring, when the oil started coming to the surface. Then they found out it had been spreading along the bottom all along.

3. Tar sands oil is laden with heavy metals in higher concentration than conventional crude. After the Michigan spill, the EPA didn’t even know that it had to test for heavy metal contamination until one of my former reporters, Eartha Melzer, asked them whether they had done such testing. When they did perform those tests, they found significant amounts of heavy metals in water and soil samples as a result of the spill.

4. The process of extracting and refining tar sands oil into gasoline is far worse for the environment than conventional crude. It requires huge amounts of water and energy to separate the tar-like bitumen from the environment and the pollution from refining the stuff is significantly higher than even the usual pollution from oil refineries (which is bad enough already).

Tar sands oil is nasty stuff. I would much rather put resources into developing alternative fuels instead.

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  1. 1
    unbound

    I agree about the alternate fuels. We don’t spend any serious amount on getting them started. I can’t speak to the full accuracy of this infographic (http://1bog.org/blog/what-if-solar-power-had-fossil-fuel-like-subsidies-infographic-b/), but it seems pretty accurate based on the information I do know about subsidies in the energy bill.

  2. 2
    Tabby Lavalamp

    Having Conservative governments at both the provincial level here in Alberta and at the federal level, the environmental cost of extracting the stuff never comes up (except when they go into panic mode when hundreds of dead ducks are found as the result of tailing ponds). It’s all “JOBS! ECONOMY! COMPETITIVENESS!” and other right wing talking points.
    Of course, that doesn’t stop the energy companies from airing commercials showing how they are wonderful stewards of the environment, with lots of pretty shots of green trees, green grass, green green-ness…
    Then there is whole issue of cancer rates in neighbouring communities, especially First Nations peoples.

    (If they’re going to poison us, you’d think we should at least be getting a good price for our oil, but when talk of royalty increases came up, the corporations threw a shit fit and went into a PR frenzy threatening to pull out and kill jobs if such a thing were to happen, as if they would rather have no profits rather than very slightly decreased profits.)

  3. 3
    coragyps

    “Because it’s so thick, it sinks to the bottom.”

    That’s because it’s dense, not thick. The two tend to go together with tarry oils, but they aren’t the same. California has lots of similay oil that they cook out of the ground with steam at 500 degrees F.

    And besides, the Keystone pipeline would be supporting Canadians, who are prolly socialists and may even all be Moooslums.

  4. 4
    David C Brayton

    From a scientific standpoint, I ask why does tar sand have more heavy metal than regular crude?

  5. 5
    democommie

    Dear Ed & my fellow blograts:

    I have been struggling for some time to figure out a way to correctly identify the numerous (and proliferating) lying sacks-of-shit that bloviate on the various Infauxcommercials, such as “Meet the Press” and whatnot, about how the TeabagOP’s tireless lawmakers work tirelessly on MurKKKa’s problems. I admit that it’s just too damned hard to keep track of them all. So, if future, I will simply refer to any such personages as the DGOPBF*, saving both myself and the reader time better spent pointing and laughing (or weeping uncontrollably, your choice).

    For instance, this past Sunday on various “news” shows, several DOPBF’s were engaged in telling the credulous hosts that the instant cause of the run-up in gas prices IS the fact that the Obamandingo WH blocked the Keystone Pipeline.

    I thank you, in advance for your forebearance.

    * Designated GOP Braindead Fuck

  6. 6
    marcus

    There was also a point made at MSNBC that builing the pipeline might actually increase oil prices in the midwest insofar as there is now a glut in that region and the Rockies due to an inability to export that oil. Also (rant) Americans just don’t want to understand what “fungible” means. The reason that pipeline is going to Texas is so that it can be exported into the world markets and probably go to China, which is also where the oil from Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge would go. The chances that either of those events would have any effect on the price of domestic gasoline is slim to non-existent.

  7. 7
    Chiroptera

    Tar sands oil is nasty stuff. I would much rather put resources into developing alternative fuels instead.

    On the other hand, some people might be able to make huge, huge profits out of tar sands. Especially if they are heavily subsidized by the government.

    I say we go for it.

  8. 8
    eric

    @4: without any googling, offhand I’d say its because you’re extracting from sand and clay rather than a more liquid oil deposit. Its the sand and clay that have the heavy metals, and I guess the extraction process they use doesn’t do anything specifically to pull them out.

  9. 9
    erichoug

    I am an engineering professional and I have spent a lot of my life working in the oilfield. I can tell you that you are sure enough right about the tar sands. It is nasty, nasty stuff. Some of it comes out looking like a brick of coal they run high pressure steam over it to liquify it so they can send it along. Nasty.

    But, here is the real question: What alternative fuels?

    Nuclear? Everyone hates nuclear way more than they do fossil fuels. Honestly, this is what we’ll end up with after all the oil is gone. If handled properly it is way better than fossil fuels. The waste is definitely a problem but, it is a problem that can be solved.

    Wind? Good luck with that one. I remember a few years back, if one of the windmills on the big farms went down at 4AM on Christmas day they would have a crew out there. Now they just wait til the next maintenance cycle. Oh, and the big one out west here in Texas is at it’s lowest production during summer months when it is most needed. A common complaint with the wind, it’s unreliable

    Solar? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Fragile, wimpy, ridiculously expensive. Good luck with that one.

    Ethanol? When we replaced MTBE with corn ethanol it led to starvation in Africa and food riots in Haiti. Not to mention that for every BTU of energy you put into making ethanol you get about 0.85BTU’s worht of energy back. Oh, and you can’t send it down a pipeline so that trillion dollars of infrastructure…Hmmm.

    Truth is that we all love to talk about alternative fuels but there really aren’t any that are effective, practical and inexpensive. I know all the BS about subsidies and all but truth be told there is nothing that puts out the BTUs, dollar per dollar like fossil fuels. If you know of something I would love to hear it as it will make us the next billionaires but it is not bloody likely.

    And, if I say to you, why don’t you move out of that 3000Sqft house into a 1500Sqft house you start talking about how your kids don’t want to share a room and you need your man cave. and if I suggest that you carpool or take the bus to work you suddenly have other things to talk about.

    You really want to not use the tar sands fuel? Then convince 5-10 million people to stop driving their own cars every day.

    I hear a lot of this from people who aren’t familiar with the industry. But, other engineers I know, are preparing for a future of fossil fuels and nuclear powers.

  10. 10
    slc1

    Re erichoug @ #9

    How about natural gas? Natural gas produces 1/2 the CO(2) of coal per BTU of produced electricity. Currently, there is a surplus of natural gas in the world and new technology (e.g. fracking) has the potential to make the US an energy exporter. Yes, I know that there are environmental concerns about fracking but it appears that they pale in comparison to the problems with the tar sands.

  11. 11
    Reginald Selkirk

    I would much rather put resources into developing alternative fuels instead.

    Sounds great, and I think we should invest, particularly in research. But it’s just not that economically realistic at present. Most solar and wind installations could not compete without massive subsidization.

  12. 12
    eric

    @9: I took Ed’s “put money into developing alternative fuels” to be referring to putting the money in R&D, not to imply there was a COTS alternative fuel solution ready to go. Otherwise I mostly agree with you.

  13. 13
    erichoug

    slc1 says:

    How about natural gas?

    Not a bad idea, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Last I heard the price of LNG was down and a lot of companies I work with were losing interest. Used to be they would just burn it off in most places but it is getting worth their while to do it.

    Transportation, storage and use can be a real bitch and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live within 20 miles of an LNG terminal or storage facility.

    The panic about hydraulic fracking is overblown. They have been fracking for years and it is only when the lawyers started seeing a chance for a payday that this stuff starts popping up.

    BTW, LNG= Liquified Natural Gas.

  14. 14
    erichoug

    Eric @#12

    I have been hearing about alternative energy research since the 70s and I still see nothing coming out. Solar and wind haven’t really advanced all that much in the last 20 years. and aside from nuclear there really isn’t much else.

    I am not against R&D but I think the alternative fuel/energy research is largely a boondogle.

  15. 15
    Michael Heath

    re erichoug @ 9,

    I don’t think ‘everyone hates nuclear’. Certainly some areas don’t enjoy sufficient political support, but many areas do. In addition why not, “most of the above?”. No one argues wind only or solar only.

    slc1, there are concerns the marginal decrease in greenhouse gas emissions transforming from coal to natural gas was overestimated. This is a relatively new finding which I don’t think has yet been independently validated, but the original finding was legitimately concerning. Cite: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908124505.htm

    I read nearly every ScienceDaily article published tagged with ‘climate change’ and it’s one of the most disappointing articles I’ve ever read. Primarily because our continued inability to change our energy profile would have had us increasingly depending on natural gas as a transitional energy source, which doesn’t look as sweet as it did two years ago.

  16. 16
    erichoug

    Re Michael Heath @#15

    To be honest, I love nuclear but it poses certain risk. If you look at countries that use primarily nuclear (France, Japan) they tend to have low cost per kWh as well as a lot fewer environmental issues. The Fuel is a problem as well as the waste. But, some people have said you can actually reprocess some of the waste for re-use.

    I love when people point to the Fukishima plant as a reason why nuclear is not viable. A plant at the end of it’s life cycle gets hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever, survives no problem, but then gets swamped by a tidal wave that dwarfs anything previously seen. So, we should just abandon Nuclear and go back to coal.

    I hear what you’re saying about wind and solar but I think that both are pretty worthless from a grid point of view. Not bad to have but probably not worth the $$$$$ we sink into them.

    Smaller house, shorter commute, more public transpo, one car per household, more walking, not only would all of this help but they would probably make us a healthier and happier society. If gas keeps going the way it is, we may yet live to see it.

  17. 17
    rturpin

    It makes plenty of sense to oppose the XL Pipeline because you object to its own risks. People are fooling themselves if they think that rejection of that pipeline will slow the exploitation of tar sands. To do that, they need either a) to convince Canadians to stop exploiting the sands, or b) to convince the rest of the world to boycott the result. One pipeline more or less? There are plenty of other ways to market.

  18. 18
    erichoug

    rturpin says:

    It makes plenty of sense to oppose the XL Pipeline because you object to its own risks.

    You can certainly oppose it but it isn’t going to do any good. I have already quoted and even sold gear going into the pipeline. I predict the pipeline will be completed virtually as planned despite Mr. Obama’s rejection of it and all the objections.

  19. 19
    Area Man

    The reason that pipeline is going to Texas is so that it can be exported into the world markets and probably go to China, which is also where the oil from Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge would go. The chances that either of those events would have any effect on the price of domestic gasoline is slim to non-existent.

    Well, being fungible, it doesn’t much matter where the oil goes.

    In terms of the effect on prices, the last study I’m aware of suggested that drilling in ANWR would reduce oil prices by a high estimate of… $1.44 a barrel. With oil currently trading at $120 a barrel, this would have virtually no impact on gas prices.

    Of course, little things like studies, analyses, and facts have done nothing to deter the nonstop right-wing lie-fest about drill-baby-drill being the key to reducing oil prices.

  20. 20
    dobbshead

    Speaking as a scientist and an environmentalist, I actually support the pipeline.

    The world needs energy, and specifically oil. We’re going to get it, one way or another. Right now there exists no alternatives to chemical fuels for transportation. Electrochemical cells and fuel cells do not have the energy density (especially for boats and aircraft). Even if we convert to an all nuclear/wind/solar electrical grid, we will still need to either make or refine chemical fuels for air and sea shipping.

    Current alternative energy is not there yet. Companies like first solar are getting close to cost competitive in the southwest, and more power to them. I in fact plan to make my career in nanotech/alternative energy R&D startups. But the fact is we are squarely in the R&D phase.

    That oil being exported will make a real difference in quality of life around the globe, which is fundamentally the whole point of this who economy thing.

    So the question isn’t “will they mine and refine the oil sands?”, but “who will mine and refine the oil sands?” If we shut down this pipeline, they will find another way to export it and somebody else to refine it. That will move jobs out of the US, which is unacceptable when considering a lot of Americans are hurting right now.

    If we refine in the U.S., then the U.S. controls the environmental and worker regulations. We have stricter protocols than pretty much anywhere else that would do that refining. From an environmental standpoint, if its going to happen I’d rather have it happen here with a regulatory body we can leverage.

  21. 21
    Tabby Lavalamp

    The world needs energy, and specifically oil. We’re going to get it, one way or another.

    So screw the people and other animals who are being poisoned by the extraction process?

  22. 22
    Anthony K

    Then there is whole issue of cancer rates in neighbouring communities, especially First Nations peoples.

    It’s not as straightforward a thing to identify elevated cancer rates in small communities and to tie those rates to oilsands exposures as certain doctors and documentaries would have everyone believe.

  23. 23
    erichoug

    Area Man says:

    Of course, little things like studies, analyses, and facts have done nothing to deter the nonstop right-wing lie-fest about drill-baby-drill being the key to reducing oil prices.

    Did you drive yourself to work this morning?
    Were you the only one in the car?
    Does your family own more than one car?

    If you answered all of the above with ‘yes’ then you are the reason for the drilling.

  24. 24
    Area Man

    I have been hearing about alternative energy research since the 70s and I still see nothing coming out. Solar and wind haven’t really advanced all that much in the last 20 years.

    Huh? Both wind and solar are near or at grid parity, whereas they certainly weren’t 20 years ago. Twenty years ago the amount of installed power for either was virtually nil, and today they’re growing at a dramatic pace. The price of solar PV is less than half what it was just 10 years ago.

    People are starting to talk about a Moore’s law for solar. If prices keep falling at the rate they’ve been, pretty soon other forms of energy will be noncompetitive.

  25. 25
    Area Man

    Did you drive yourself to work this morning?
    Were you the only one in the car?
    Does your family own more than one car?

    If you answered all of the above with ‘yes’ then you are the reason for the drilling.

    Don’t be obtuse. The issue is over whether drilling in ANWR and other protected areas would significantly lower oil prices. They would not. This is not my opinion, this is the result of repeated studies by the EIA and independent energy economists.

    My personal driving habits have fuck all to do with this.

  26. 26
    erichoug

    Area Man says:

    Huh? Both wind and solar are near or at grid parity, whereas they certainly weren’t 20 years ago.

    Really? Where are you getting that and what do you mean by grid parity? You certainly don’t mean that wind and solar produce at the level of power that other sources do. Because they don’t All renewable fuels in the states produce around 3% of the total grid. Don’t believe me? Go look it up.

    I have been to a lot of the wind farms. The one out west of dallas produces about 5% of it’s total capacity during the summer months. Take a guess when the peak energy demand in Texas is(Think air conditioning).

    But, I would love to see whom it is that is telling you otherwise.

    As far as solar, the cost per kWh hasn’t changed in almost 20 years. You can get a $20,000 solar panel that will give yo enough power to run a 60Watt bulb for a few hours provided you have the lead acid batteries to store it.They have been telling me that bit about solar outpacing other sources since the 60′s and you still see solar used in very small scale applications. It simply doesn’t have the power for large scale or heavy power applications. not to mention the panels are extremely subject to damage and wear.

  27. 27
    eric

    Tabby @21: So screw the people and other animals who are being poisoned by the extraction process?

    The sad answer to this is: until you can offer a publicly acceptable alternative solution, yes, that’s what governments will do.

    Its not like this is a new policy, or even a specifically conservative one. Governments of all stripes have been preferring industrial power over human & environmental health concerns since the ‘pea-soupers’ in London in the late 1800s. If you want governments to stop polluting/degradation, you have to come up with an alternative that preserves their industrial capacity and power, and which voting populations will accept. Complaints in the absense of such alternatives are very very likely to be ignored, no matter how legitimate the complaint may be.

  28. 28
    Francisco Bacopa

    Well, being fungible, it doesn’t much matter where the oil goes.

    Which is exactly why it’s going to Texas. That’s where the closest major seaports are.

  29. 29
    erichoug

    Area Man says:

    My personal driving habits have fuck all to do with this.

    Demand drives supply, did you not study basic Economics?

    I have actually been to the tar sands and seen the operation, something I doubt any of you can say. Believe me when I say that if there were less of a demand that pipeline wouldn’t get built. Operations in the tar sands is a pain in the ass. It is difficult and expensive to operate in that area. If the price wasn’t drive to this point by demand, they wouldn’t bother with it.

    But, so long as you and I drive the way we do there will be a demand, there will be a higher price, and there will be oil coming from the tar sands to satisfy that demand.

  30. 30
    Area Man

    Really? Where are you getting that and what do you mean by grid parity?

    Grid parity. The google is your friend.

    The rest of the article answers your first question.

    As far as solar, the cost per kWh hasn’t changed in almost 20 years.

    That’s a stunningly ignorant statement. Costs are 1/10th what they were 20 years ago. Do you bother even trying to look it up, or are you just letting your prejudice do your thinking for you?

    It simply doesn’t have the power for large scale or heavy power applications.

    That’s why we have this thing called an electricity grid. Solar isn’t very good at delivering baseload power, but it’s perfectly good for delivering peak power.

  31. 31
    baal

    oil companies have not revealed exactly what chemicals are used to dilute it,

    This bugs the hell out of me.

    Seriously toxic stuff?
    The public (me!) has a right to know if they are mixing Olympic sized pools worth of benzene (or other solvents) into the oil to make it flow better or if teratogens are in fracking fluids (has anyone ever reported lighting their well water in the kitchen sink pre-fracking?).

    Physical removal of substrate has no impact on subterranean hydrological barriers?

    Towns in PA have collapse issues after coal mining and there are pits appearing around the Deadsea from loss of water. I’ve not seen anyone really address how hydrological fracturing, which relies on hydrocarbons and ground water being physically separated, may or may not create mixing between the zones.

    Further, the industry seems to have a problem of lying and covering up problems. (I leave this to your google-fu.)

  32. 32
    mishcakes

    Ugh, the idiocy surrounding oil is astounding. Somewhat related, I just got into an argument with a few men on FB over a picture I’ve seen circulating – a post-it note stuck on a $3.65/gal gas pump that says “Hey There, Voter! Do you remember that on Inauguration Day 2009 the national average for a gallon of gasoline was about $1.78? How’s that “Hope and Change” working out for you? Anyone but Obama 2012″. I pointed them to this graphic and explained that presidents don’t have much control over the price of gas, whereas the economy and global market do.

    Here are a few of the responses:

    The president clearly killed the oil pipline that would have run through our country, been built in our country by people from our country, and delivered oil from our country.


    “”Peak Oil” is a myth! The U.S. Department of Energy is a government bureaucracy created by Jimmy Carter in 1973. As with all such entities, they must continue to justify their existence in order to continue to milk the taxpayer and do the deeds required by the industry for which they were created. I know it is difficult for some to believe but there really is corruption in our government! It continues to grow with every administration since Teddy Roosevelt. It also has abounded in any administration that has supported all previous forms of a “Central Bank” most recently identified as “The Federal Reserve”. Chairman Barry has no more or less control of anything government related then anyone since J.F.K. as did Abe Lincoln, who paid the ultimate price for his attempt to circumvent the Federal Reserve Bank of their era.”


    “Mishcakes are you a bitch to everyone, or just those you don’t know?”


    “I’m sorry, I forgot they told me that oil comes from dinosaurs.
    The fact that they find oil in rock formations that preceded organic life is meaningless.
    It must have leaked through solid rock. Absolutely do not look at any alternate opinions, a closed mind is a happy mind.
    John, she is not a bitch, she just believes what she is told to believe. Probably also does not believe that 15,000 years ago, there was ice a mile or more thick over north America. If so, she would have to believe it was melted by Neanderthal operated S.U.V.’s. The cycles of the sun have no effect on earths climate, it is just a big bright ball of light in the sky.”

    I could never be a blogger and deal with people like this on a regular basis. Called a bitch for daring to point out they were wrong! Somehow I think if they thought I had a different set of genitals their responses would be different. Regardless, it is immensely sad to me that Fox News, among other right-wing outlets, feeds this nonsense to their stupid audience with no consideration to the long-term effects. Applies to oil, drilling, AGW, separation of religion/state, etc.

  33. 33
    Michael Heath

    dobbshead writes:

    So the question isn’t “will they mine and refine the oil sands?”, but “who will mine and refine the oil sands?” If we shut down this pipeline, they will find another way to export it and somebody else to refine it. That will move jobs out of the US, which is unacceptable when considering a lot of Americans are hurting right now.

    If we refine in the U.S., then the U.S. controls the environmental and worker regulations. We have stricter protocols than pretty much anywhere else that would do that refining. From an environmental standpoint, if its going to happen I’d rather have it happen here with a regulatory body we can leverage.

    You avoided confronting the only objections presented in the blog post and Ed’s cite. That we’ve failed to properly regulate this industry in a way that makes tar sands environmentally safe for us to allow pipe-lines. We’ve instead suffered a failure to do so. To make a compelling argument you need to articulate how we’ll somehow enjoy a sufficient transformation in regulations to eradicate or least greatly mitigate past failures and present concerns. Good luck with that given Republicans since Dick Cheney was 2000 demand no new regulatory oversight at all, e.g., the lack of federal regulations on fracking.

  34. 34
    Area Man

    Demand drives supply, did you not study basic Economics?

    Gosh, I’m so glad you’re here to tell us these things!

    Do you think the economists working for the EIA who put out the reports showing that ANWR drilling won’t reduce prices by much were unaware of this or something? Or are you just so dedicated to flogging a strawman that you can’t bother to read what I’ve said?

    Believe me when I say that if there were less of a demand that pipeline wouldn’t get built.

    No shit! And all this time I thought they were building it so they could sit on the oil unsold.

    Snarkiness aside, the project requires very high oil prices for its economic feasibility. Oil is, like, worth a lot and stuff. However, the Athabasca tar sands are not the only source of petroleum on Earth, much less the only source of energy. You could choose not to exploit them without consigning everyone to having to walk to work, or even having much of an impact on oil prices at all. (I do believe they account for less than 1% of global production.)

    So the idea that it must get built if Area Man doesn’t carpool to work is really quite insane. Energy policy can be formulated such that we actually put limits on the kind of environmental damage we’re willing to accept, and then let market forces take care of the rest. Including letting high gas prices encourage people to carpool.

  35. 35
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #15

    The issue of sulfates doesn’t apply in the US which has strict regulations on sulfate emissions (ever hear of scrubbers). I haven’t read the paper but, I suspect that most of the sulfate emissions are coming from China and India which have far more lenient environmental regulations then the US. There are other issues beside CO(2) emissions with coal burning (ever hear of Hg emissions). In addition to which, trading acid rain for global warming doesn’t seem like a productive approach to the problem. By the way, there have been discussions in the blogosphere and elsewhere about geo-engineering approaches which involve injecting sulfates into the upper atmosphere (Chris Mooney has written a number of articles on this subject).

    With respect to methane release, it is my information that methane in the atmosphere, although it is a more severe green house gas then CO(2) doesn’t last very long (5-7 years vs 80 years for CO(2)).

  36. 36
    erichoug

    Grid parity. The google is your friend.

    Yup, I read that. It doesn’t really explain why renewable sources account for 3% of the overall power grid. It also doesn’t account for why installation of wind farms has dropped off in the last 5 years. I have a distributor in Pewaukee, Wi who just installed a wind turnbine out front. He did so because he was a stocking distributor for the manufacturer and he said that he only reason anyone buys one is to make it look like they’re green. The estimaed payback on one is around 21 years, provided you don’t have any breakdowns. so basically there is no payback on it.

    That’s a stunningly ignorant statement. Costs are 1/10th what they were 20 years ago.

    Yes, they certainly agree with that but it is really not telling the whole story. I was out with Sandridge in Oklahoma last week and they had a stack of around 100 panels in their shop. They are using them for metering and monitoring gear on remote sites. They are not using them for lighting, heating, or other domestic power needs. Solar panels for home use are still prohibitiveley expensive, large, delicate and not especially powerful. Again, if you can point me to where I an get a home solar panel that will pay back it’s cost in less than 5 years, I am all ears.

    Do you bother even trying to look it up, or are you just letting your prejudice do your thinking for you

    It has nothing to do with prejudice it has to do with experience. I am an electrical engineer who spends a lot of time working in and around oil and gas, coal, power generation etc. From your quotes I can tell that you aren’t. There are a whole host of technical reasons why wind and solar, as well as other renewables aren’t more used. It is not just to do with my preference. Industry, like everone else tends to follow the path of least resistance. If wind and solar were better options they would be sprouting up like mushrooms. They aren’t.

    The reality is that Solar has a limited, though highly useful, functionality while Wind is expensive, and difficult to work with and has little payback.

    If you can show me otherwise, I am all ears.

  37. 37
    erichoug

    @Area Man

    I want to appologize if you feel I am being rude as it was (mostly) not my intention.

    I agree with you on the oilsands cost vs, benefit. But, I don’t think you really think it through. You yourself said that it would save around $1.44/barrel which doesn’t really seem like that much but NA oil consumption is around 19 million barrels per day or around 7Billion barrels a year. Time $1.44 is 10Billion dollars a year. That’s a lot of money.

    And despite what you say your, and my personal driving habits absolutely have an effect on it. If we drove less, lived in smaller homes, invested in energy efficient appliances, windows etc. That would have a HUGE impact on the demand and hence the price of oil.

    No-one is going to just decide not to make money. Especially not industrial outfits like the oil companies.

  38. 38
    marcus

    Area man @19 “Well, being fungible, it doesn’t much matter where the oil goes.” You are, of course, absolutely correct. My poorly expressed point being that there are huge markets willing to pay more for the resource than Americans, China being only one of those, hence no real reduction in at-the-pump availability or prices.
    dobbshead @ 20 I don’t think “environmentalist” means what you think it does. You should take a look at the pictures of the damage Athabasca Oil Sands has wrought. If we make the whole fucking planet uninhabitable on the way to the next century all this bullshit will be moot. I find the proffered “if we don’t do it then someone else will and really screw it up” argument less than compelling.

  39. 39
    davem

    As far as solar, the cost per kWh hasn’t changed in almost 20 years. You can get a $20,000 solar panel that will give yo enough power to run a 60Watt bulb for a few hours provided you have the lead acid batteries to store it

    Nonsense. My sister has just paid a small fraction of that, and runs the entire house, and even exports small amounts of electricity to the national grid. It does this at times of peak demand, in the winter.

  40. 40
    slc1

    Re erichoug @ #37

    The problem is that $1.44 per barrel is less then 2%. 2% of $4.00/gallon gas is 8 cents. Not exactly something to write home about.

  41. 41
    erichoug

    davem says:

    Nonsense. My sister has just paid a small fraction of that, and runs the entire house, and even exports small amounts of electricity to the national grid. It does this at times of peak demand, in the winter.

    That sounds fantastic, can you supply some details? Such as manufacturers name and the quantity,make and model of the equipment used. How many and of what cost? What ancillary equipment has to be installed, whether or not she got a rebate from the state or federal govt. Etc?

    Not trying to be difficult but I have heard a lot of this and when it all gets down to brass tacks it isn’t nearly as sweet as it sounds. A lot of time the supposed energy savings is minimal and the exported energy is slim to nil and only if you aren’t running a lot of the larger appliances. Also, the maintenance cost can also be a big headache for some of these systems.

    Would love to hear more about it, though.

  42. 42
    erichoug

    @ slc1

    I agree it isn’t a high percentage. But, keep in mind, my company got a $0.05 cost reduction on one part we use a lot of and it equaled out to about $60,000 a year in savings. As I pointed out above, that $1.44 equals to about $10B a year in cost. When you are talking to a large company, $10B is a lot of money.

  43. 43
    rturpin

    erichoug writes:

    I predict the pipeline will be completed virtually as planned despite Mr. Obama’s rejection of it and all the objections.

    To point out what should be plain, the Obama administration has not rejected the pipeline. And I agree, that the likelihood is that it will be approved, perhaps with some changes to routing.

    There’s a state case in Texas over the use of eminent domain for the pipeline. But state law favors that.

  44. 44
    slc1

    Re erichoug @ #42

    But that isn’t what the Rethuglicans are talking about. They are pandering to drivers all bent out of shape at $4.00/gallon gas. An 8 cent/gallon reduction wouldn’t straighten out their shapes much.

  45. 45
    erichoug

    rturpin says:

    There’s a state case in Texas over the use of eminent domain for the pipeline. But state law favors that.

    I think I heard last week about the Texas section going ahead despite the presidents rejection. Doesn’t surprise me, if I heard they weren’t building O&G infrastructure around here that would surprise me.

  46. 46
    erichoug

    @ slc1

    I agree with you but it is just political BS that is being used to beat up the president.

    Frankly, I love high gas prices. My business is up, there’s plenty of jobs and money around and everyone in Houston is pretty much poopin in tall cotton.

    And, if the high gas prices encourage a lot of us to get our fat asses out of our cars and walk, more so the better.

  47. 47
    dobbshead

    The problem is the way we are defining ‘properly’ in this context. When we start talking about the environment, people start invoking unreasonable safety levels in order to reach the conclusion that we shouldn’t do it. It’s like the linear no threshold model for radiation dosage: no relationship to reality, but it lets people go all freaky booga booga about risk.

    Extraction carries risk, but the risks are quantified and, frankly, manageable. Limited spills can in fact be cleaned and ecosystems do, in fact, recover. Standing in as an obstructionist to the pipeline itself is a loosing battle. Somehow, someway they are going to extract that oil. I’d rather have the oil (and the jobs) here than elsewhere. Here we have recourse to the US legal system in response to a spill, and the US regulatory system to prevent a spill. You might not think that is good enough, but it is a better deal than refining pretty much anywhere else.

    A better fight to push would be to require a tax on the pipeline which is earmarked for wind/solar/distributed grid R&D. Yeah the pipeline gets built, but some of the proceeds from transport go to making an alternative grid a reality.

  48. 48
    rturpin

    erichough:

    I think I heard last week about the Texas section going ahead despite the presidents rejection.

    There are different rules for crossing an international border. And to point out the obvious again: what the Obama administration rejected was a Republican deadline, not the pipeline itself. My prediction is that the pipeline will be approved. Though it may be routed differently.

  49. 49
    dobbshead

    I don’t think “environmentalist” means what you think it does.

    You’re right in a sense. Most people who call themselves an “environmentalist” really mean “I oppose all development and extraction, even though I benefit from it”. That position feels all high and mighty, but it doesn’t stand up to reality or humanistic values. Electricity saves lives, the Haber-Bosch process feeds billions of people, sanitation saves lives, plastics saves lives. Petroleum makes all of that possible and we don’t have viable alternatives yet, though we are working on it!

    When I say I’m an environmentalist, I mean that I support regulations and environmental measures necessary to balance long term use of the ecosystem with increasing standards of living. It’s why I whole heartily support nuclear power because it reduces our reliance on coal, whose extraction by the way is as bad or worse than oil sands.

    I find the proffered “if we don’t do it then someone else will and really screw it up” argument less than compelling.

    Well then, I hope you have nothing to do with regulatory decisions because that is in fact how risk analysis works. It turns out that we are fundamentally a species of consumers. We have to extract all of our means of sustenance from the environment around us. That by definition ‘destroys’ the native environment. Since we like having computers with LED backlights, and houses that don’t fall down, and a regular supply of food all year round, that means we need to extract raw materials and the energy to process them from somewhere. That means we physically need to dig up the ground, destroying what was there, and get the material to refine it.

    There is a whole section of humanity still dirt poor who want an industrial style of life. And let’s face it: industrial lifestyles are pretty darn nice. We have no right to stop them, and I’d argue a humanistic obligation to help them. If you stand against that, then I’d call you a monster.

    So the question comes down to: how do we manage the risks of global industrialization? Building the pipeline where there is a solid knowledge base and functional (if not perfect) regulatory climate manages that risk better any other alternative, given that it must be built for humanistic and economic reasons.

  50. 50
    dobbshead

    And I really should have hit that preview button one more time.

  51. 51
    dobbshead

    The following is a rewritten version of post #49, with better tagging. It is a followup to Marcus’ comment #38.

    I don’t think “environmentalist” means what you think it does.

    You’re right in a sense. Most people who call themselves an “environmentalist” really mean “I oppose all development and extraction, even though I benefit from it”. That position feels all high and mighty, but it doesn’t stand up to reality or humanistic values. Electricity saves lives, the Haber-Bosch process feeds billions of people, sanitation saves lives, plastics save lives. Petroleum makes all of that possible and we don’t have viable alternatives yet, though we are working on it! (As a side note, there are a lot of cool things going on with photolytic water redox using patterned microstructures to separate the oxidative and reductive environments that is really quite promising.)

    When I say I’m an environmentalist, I mean that I support regulations and environmental measures necessary to balance long term use of the ecosystem with increasing standards of living. It’s why I whole heartily support nuclear power because it reduces our reliance on coal, whose extraction by the way is as bad or worse than oil sands.

    I find the proffered “if we don’t do it then someone else will and really screw it up” argument less than compelling.

    Well then, I hope you have nothing to do with regulatory decisions because that is in fact how risk analysis works. We are fundamentally a species of consumers. We have to extract all of our means of sustenance from the environment around us. That by definition ‘destroys’ the native environment. If we like having computers with LED backlights, and houses that don’t fall down, and a regular supply of food all year round, then we need to extract raw materials and the energy to process them from somewhere. We physically need to dig up the ground, destroying what was there, and get the material to refine it. This will be true even in a wind/solar/distributed grid economy.

    There is a whole section of humanity still dirt poor who want an industrial style of life. And let’s face it: industrial lifestyles are pretty darn nice. We have no right to stop them, and I’d argue a humanistic obligation to help them. If you stand against that then I’d call you a monster.

    So the question comes down to: how do we manage the risks of global industrialization? Building the pipeline where there is a solid knowledge base and functional (if not perfect) regulatory climate manages that risk better any other alternative. Standing as an obstructionist to building the pipeline is an extreme stance, which lessens the impact of your voice when they decide to ignore you and build it anyway. Better to resist enough to force concessions (like a tax funding carbon neutral R&D).

  52. 52
    Area Man

    Yup, I read that. It doesn’t really explain why renewable sources account for 3% of the overall power grid.

    That number is too low, but it’s the rate of growth that matters. It is only very recently that wind and solar have approached grid parity (depending on what numbers you want to use, they’re not quite there yet), so barring major subsidies and/or taxes on dirty energy, you wouldn’t expect it to be that high yet.

    The whole point is, we are not doomed to either use dirty energy or live in caves. Renewables are cost competitive, even if they’re more expensive right now, so we can start phasing out the dirty stuff and using the clean stuff, if we have the political will.

    It also doesn’t account for why installation of wind farms has dropped off in the last 5 years.

    Don’t know where you get this. Wind generation in the US has increased by four-fold in the last 5 years.

    By the way, while I respect your expertise as an engineer, when you say stuff like this it makes it seem as if you haven’t spent much effort studying the subject.

    Again, if you can point me to where I an get a home solar panel that will pay back it’s cost in less than 5 years, I am all ears.

    I’m not sure I could point to any investment that will pay for itself in 5 years. That’s a 15% compound interest rate! I have not had much luck finding payback times using today’s numbers (even prices from 2 years ago are out of date), but you could probably install a roof-top system with a 10-15 year payback, which is a reasonable if not spectacular investment. And it will continue to get better.

    I want to appologize if you feel I am being rude as it was (mostly) not my intention.

    Fair enough, I too apologize for dickishness.

    I agree with you on the oilsands cost vs, benefit. But, I don’t think you really think it through. You yourself said that it would save around $1.44/barrel which doesn’t really seem like that much but NA oil consumption is around 19 million barrels per day or around 7Billion barrels a year. Time $1.44 is 10Billion dollars a year. That’s a lot of money.

    First, that estimate is for ANWR not the oil sands. Second, that’s a high end estimate. Low end is about $0.40. Third, while the cumulative savings is a lot, on a per person basis it’s peanuts. If drilling advocates want to use the total value of the oil as a reason for drilling it, then fine. But claiming that prices are so high because we’re not drilling in ANWR and every other protected area is a big fat lie.

    And despite what you say your, and my personal driving habits absolutely have an effect on it. If we drove less, lived in smaller homes, invested in energy efficient appliances, windows etc. That would have a HUGE impact on the demand and hence the price of oil.

    I’m pretty sure that my personal driving habits have no measurable effect. The cumulative effect of everyone’s habits obviously do, and I never implied otherwise. Curtailing demand is one of the few policy tools that we have to affect oil prices, and I’m all in favor of that. But first of all, you can’t get there by hoping that people will voluntarily carpool or buy energy efficient cars. There have to be price incentives and/or mandates. Second, it’s a long-term strategy, not something that will affect oil prices next week. Third, the drill-baby-drill crowd, not coincidentally, are the ones who are most hostile to energy efficiency mandates and conservation measures. Look at their inane reaction to harmless light bulb efficiency standards. It’s obvious that these people are tools of industry propaganda. They’re against the things that might help lower pain at the pump while favoring things that won’t, and then they have the nerve to blame Obama for high prices.

    No-one is going to just decide not to make money. Especially not industrial outfits like the oil companies.

    Oh, agreed. And there’s nothing wrong with them making money. But there is something wrong with them making money by foisting costs onto the rest of us against our will. If we tell them they can’t do that, and it results in them making less money, that’s their problem.

  53. 53
    erichoug

    @Area man

    Just a few points.

    You are correct, I don’t especially study this stuff. I deal a lot with certain industry sectors. So a lot of my knowledge is hit and miss. That said, I am always willing to learn and revise.

    Wind has picked up in the last few years but installation has dropped. I am not seeing the sort of projects we saw just last year and the year before. Watch the numbers, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a flattening of the line in the next year or two and a decline after that.

    The 5 year payback is typically what I am seeing industrial folks look for on capital expenditures. A 10-15 year payback is not really good sense. If you take into account the maintenance and possible repairs and then how close to the end of it’s service life it will be at that point. If I spend $15,000 on a solar panel and then it breaks even over 15 years that really isn’t a hot investment. IF I hit 15 years, it pays back, and then I never spend a dime on it or power again, now we’re talking. But, I haven’t seen that anywhere that I know of.

    Finally, I like the price incentives but not the mandates. Frankly, I think some smart developer could make a bundle doing the whole walking neighborhood/office/everything else development. I am not sure if there are any but I think you will likely see more stuff similar to that as the price of gas climbs. Frankly, I am looking forward to it.

  54. 54
    erichoug

    Oh, and one more thing. A lot of the oil people I know aren’t really interested in drilling in ANWAR. It is a long way up there and it, like the tar sands, is expensive, difficult and not especially rewarding to operate in. The people who are most interested in it are the politicians who are looking for yet another way to divide us.

  55. 55
    democommie

    “Yup, I read that. It doesn’t really explain why renewable sources account for 3% of the overall power grid.”

    Think Ronald Reagan, George Bush (both the original and bizarro version) and pretty much Clinton. No effort or expense has been spared to help out the boys in the oil bidneth. Now, to be fair, as soon as Exxon and some other major playas got involved in windsolar, the gummint money got pretty good–to them mostly.

    I worked in the power transmission supply business (gears, bearings and whatnot) back in the late 70′s and early 80′s. US Windpower and some other companies were going like gangbusters because they were getting subsidized until around 1/23/81. After that, not so much. Would continuing the subsidies have made windpower viable in five years time? I can’t say, but it’s pretty obvious that there’s a lot of it out there, now. The rich fucks don’t like big wind farms off of Martha’s Vineyard (or in my case, the shoreline of Lake Ontario in Oswego County) so they fight it. The people in Manhattan and other major cities don’t want it either, or nuclear power, so that stuff is built out in the sticks. Geothermal which IS expensive to install could heat a whole shitload of homes, schools and commercial buildings for a high installed cost and relatively low ongoing maintenance costs. Haven’t heard a word about that here, yet.

    “Yes, they certainly agree with that but it is really not telling the whole story. I was out with Sandridge in Oklahoma last week and they had a stack of around 100 panels in their shop. They are using them for metering and monitoring gear on remote sites. They are not using them for lighting, heating, or other domestic power needs. Solar panels for home use are still prohibitiveley expensive, large, delicate and not especially powerful.”

    What do you think it costs to either set up generators or run cable to those “remote sites”? How about refuelling, repairing equipment? Nuclear energy, courtesy of the sun, is quiet and a whole lot less likely to poison the planet than either fossil fuel or uranium derived power.

    This link:

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2099480,00.html

    is to only one of the several articles I got on the first page of hits about the cost of alternative power resources, their cost and efficacy.

    If we followed the lead of people like Mr. Houg and Mr. Dobbs, we would still be using the abacus instead of these nifty laptops.

  56. 56
    coragyps

    @ David in #4:

    A lot of the metals – vanadium and nickel are biggies – are found in many crude oils but are at higher concentration in “heavy” crudes and bitumens because all the attractive, liquidy parts of those oils have been cooked off over geologic time. This obviously leaves the non-volatile metals behind. There must be a good biochemical reason for vanadium staying with the asphalt…..but I’m too lazy to dig it out. Let’s just say “porphyrin complexes” and leave it at that.

  57. 57
    erichoug

    Democommie @#55

    What do you think it costs to either set up generators or run cable to those “remote sites”? How about refuelling, repairing equipment? Nuclear energy, courtesy of the sun, is quiet and a whole lot less likely to poison the planet than either fossil fuel or uranium derived power.

    I don’t think the argument against solar is one of cost but rather ability. I was down south of San Antonio a year ago looking at a beam pump running on a big Cat generator. I really doubt the solar panels could generate the kW to run the motor at that site. Again it was a while ago but I believe it was a 75Hp motor(around 55kW) and some hut lighting and metering gear. If they could I would bet that he oil company would use them. I am fairly sure the generator at the well site was a 500kVA or larger as they planned to use that for up to 5 wells sites until they could tie in to the grid about 5 miles away. How big would the solar panel have to be to generate that reliably? Also, the generator works in cloudy weather and at night. When you’re pumping 300barrels a day that makes it a lot more attractive.

    One interesting thing, I have heard of, though not seen, some gens that they set up at the pumping site that use the natural gas in the well to power everything.

    Oh and as far as poisoning the earth, what is the comparative effects of fossil fuels as opposed to a landfill full of lead-acid batteries?

  58. 58
    erichoug

    GAH! I need to remember to preview! Sorry Democommie. Cool name BTW.

  59. 59
    erichoug

    Oh, and that last line was uncalled for. I am not against progress. If we can find a reliable, workable, inexpensive alternative I am all for it.

  60. 60
    Marcus Ranum

    I would much rather put resources into developing alternative fuels instead.

    I would mich rather humans stopped breeding so damn much and let our population drop down to about 50 million or so, let most of the planet go fallow, and live like wasteful kings.

  61. 61
    Tobinius

    We are fundamentally a species of consumers. We have to extract all of our means of sustenance from the environment around us . That by definition ‘destroys’ the native environment.

    What life form on this planet doesn’t get its sustenance from the environment around it? And gaining this sustenance in no way implies destruction of that environment – yes, invasive species (like humans) can invade an environment and ‘destroy’ it, but that is not the norm. Of course removing a species from an environment is also likely to ‘destroy’ it, to one degree or another.

    Sorry, but I just cringe anytime I hear or read someone who refers to people as consumers.

  62. 62
    dobbshead

    yes, invasive species (like humans) can invade an environment and ‘destroy’ it, but that is not the norm.

    I’m just going to have to go ahead and disagree with you here. The ecosystem is filled with examples of species forcibly invading ecosystems and wreaking havoc. There is a reason why over 99.9% of all species which have ever existed are now extinct [1]. It isn’t because the ecosystem is full of friendly, cuddle creatures that just want to get along. Everything on this planet carves out its existence from the carcasses of the dead. In that sense there are only two types of species: invasive and extinct. (Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but the cuddly view of the environment annoys me.)

    You might cringe when I call us consumers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The day you show me how to get limestone without quarrying, and make quicklime without cracking out CO2 is the day you’ll convince me that we don’t need to damage ecosystem to survive.

  63. 63
    Tobinius

    The ecosystem is filled with examples of species forcibly invading ecosystems and wreaking havoc.

    Yes, and the vast majority of them are due to human influence. But just because a new species invades an new environment, does not mean that it will automatically prosper and become an invasive species that is able to wreak havoc.

    There is a reason why over 99.9% of all species which have ever existed are now extinct [1]. It isn’t because the ecosystem is full of friendly, cuddle creatures that just want to get along.

    Nice strawman there. I think that if you were to investigate the vast majority of these species, you would find that they went extinct because they were unable to adapt to changes in their environment, or another species was able to out compete them with regards to the resources available. It was not a matter of being hunted to extinction by all those non-cuddly creatures (although certainly humans appear to have hunted many species to extinction).

    The day you show me how to get limestone without quarrying, and make quicklime without cracking out CO2 is the day you’ll convince me that we don’t need to damage ecosystem to survive.

    Since when did humans need to do any of these things to survive?

  64. 64
    tristancroll

    @erichoug on the topic of solar and renewables:

    First up, when citing that “only” 3% of US electricity comes from renewable sources, you really have to come to terms with exponentials: they start slow, but once they get going they really get going. Once costs officially hit grid parity (and one could argue that they already have here in Australia) then things will seriously take off.

    A little case study from Oz: I installed a 1.5kW grid-connected solar array on my house this time last year. At the time, it was subsidized by the government to the tune of 5 times the renewable energy certificates (REC), or about $8k. My out-of-pocket was $1500. The government plan was to start rolling back the subsidy to 4x, then 3x, etc. each financial year starting from the coming one, to keep up with falling prices. As it turns out they had to start a year early because prices were dropping much faster than they expected – to the point where people were getting the damned things for free!

    When they reduced the subsidy last year prices bumped up to $2500-$3k from the company I went through… they’re now back to $1500. Not because of lack of demand (they’re worked off their feet) but because wholesale prices have come down by that much.

    Now, as for what it does for me economically: here in Brisbane we currently pay about 25 cents/kWh, and there’s a solar feed-in tariff paying 50 cents for every kWh exported back to the grid. You might call that a subsidy, but in many ways we’re actually being ripped off by that – on the wholesale electricity market, during peak demand times (middle of the day in Summer here, when the panels are producing at their best) wholesale prices from commercial producers can jump to a whopping $12.50/kWh.

    Anyway, since nobody is at home during the day and since we took a few other energy efficiency measures (LED lighting, heat pump hot water, etc.) a fair bit of what we generate gets that 50c price. The net saving off our electricity bill over 1 year is a little over $750 – so a payback period of under 2 years. Even without the subsidy payback would be in a decade or so (probably substantially less once you take into account the rising cost of grid electricity).

    It’s a win all round, really: homeowners get a nice little money earner, power companies get a cheap source of peak electricity, the government gets to bump their green credentials and create a bunch of jobs.

    … and fragile? On what planet? We went through a hailstorm last summer that carpeted the entire yard in golf ball sized hailstones. The panels didn’t even notice.

  65. 65
    Chiroptera

    Marcus Ranum, #60: I would mich rather humans stopped breeding so damn much and let our population drop down to about 50 million or so, let most of the planet go fallow, and live like wasteful kings.

    Well, if the global warming part is as bad as the pessimist in me thinks, then you’ll at least get the part about the population drop!

  66. 66
    dobbshead

    [A]nother species was able to out compete them with regards to the resources available.

    Uhhh, that was my point. We are edging other species out of the ecosystem by out-competing them for resources. Can’t be a strawman if we agree.

    It was not a matter of being hunted to extinction by all those non-cuddly creatures

    This is complete crap. Species being hunted to extinction by non-human predators has been observed. There is evidence in the fossil record that it has occurred many times to many species in the past. Humans are not the first predator that was too good at killing. We are just one of the few that decided to make nice with out meals before we kill them.

    Also I’d like to point out army ant. Great stewards of their environment they are. Also I’d like to remind you that the early earth had a reducing atmosphere and oxygen itself was an atmospheric pollutant. All life transforms (or damages, depending on your PoV) its environment to some extent, it’s kind of the definition of life.

    Since when did humans need to do any of these things to survive?

    For the past few million years apparently. As you pointed out, many species have been hunted to extinction by humans over the course of our evolution. Quarrying stone is itself a survival tactic for obtaining weapons and shelter and tools.

    Our current population can only be sustained by industrial measures like the Haber-Bosch process, combined with fairly large scale engineering. So drilling petroleum and cracking lime are in fact survival strategies, albeit unique to humans. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think those are good long term strategies (except cracking lime, we’re going to need to do that so long as we build with concrete). I work in alternative energy R&D specifically because I think we need better strategies.

    This all has been a digression from my main point: obstructionism as environmental policy isn’t a good starting place, especially for something like an oil pipeline that is a pretty sure deal. It’s better to get a seat at the table to a) craft the regulations and b) be able to divert the revenue toward developing and deploying alternatives.

  67. 67
    AJS

    Oh and as far as poisoning the earth, what is the comparative effects of fossil fuels as opposed to a landfill full of lead-acid batteries?

    Straw dummy. Since every part of a lead-acid battery is recyclable and it’s not economically viable not to do so, you don’t get “landfill[s] full of lead-acid batteries”.

  68. 68
    davidct

    “Tar sands oil is nasty stuff. I would much rather put resources into developing alternative fuels instead.”

    The tar sands are in a foreign country and will be mined whether Americans like it or not. The oil will be refined either in Houston or a different pipeline so that it can go to China and dirtier refineries. There is no clean trade off. There are also security issues involving having a supply from a friendly country which in the end will likely be more important than the mess in Canada.

    Here in Texas the big push now is to increase the use of natural gas to replace petroleum and coal. It is cleaner but still a “mined” resource. There is also a massive effort to increase wind power and, with prices coming down, solar. The situation with tar sands is that that oil is available now. Ultimately we will have no choice but to move to renewables but we need the old. Gas and tar sands are bridge technologies.

    We could make the transition cleaner with conservation. The fact is that about half the vehicles on the road are trucks with V8 engines or big SUVs. Since the price of gasoline is an election issue, I see little willingness to support that option. The tar sands are a long way off. Most people don’t care that much about a mess in someone else’s backyard.

  69. 69
    Michael Heath

    davidct:

    The tar sands are in a foreign country and will be mined whether Americans like it or not. The oil will be refined either in Houston or a different pipeline so that it can go to China and dirtier refineries. There is no clean trade off.

    There wasn’t any cogent arguments in opposition to this point. Instead Pam Bullock and Ed pointed out the harm that comes from transferring this product through pipelines. So even if pipeline opponents conceded your points, you still need to overcome their objections to make a compelling argument the U.S. is capable of wisely exploiting this energy supply.

  70. 70
    Sqrat

    Tar sands mining and processing is an arbitrage operation that, for all practical purposes, turns cheap natural gas into expensive oil. It will be financially viable as long as natural gas remains cheap, which might not be as long as some people think. It’s not viable from a net energy standpoint because of the energy consumed in the process of extracting the oil. It would be much better, from that standpoint, to use the natural gas directly instead of using it to produce oil. However, because very few cars now run it, natural gas currently has only limited use in transportation.

  71. 71
    dobbshead

    Tar sands mining and processing is an arbitrage operation that, for all practical purposes, turns cheap natural gas into expensive oil.

    This one confuses me, but I may just be ignorant. But how is bitumen, which is a set of long chain hydrocarbons most closely related to asphalt, at all related to natural gas?
    Natural gas being volatile hydrocarbons, short chains.

    Sure you can crack bitumen into natural gas, and sure there are probably natural gas deposits along with the bitumen. But the bitumen itself has a higher energy density per volume than the natural gas you’d crack out of it. And you’d have to mine the bitumen in the first place to crack it down to gas, if that was your goal.

  72. 72
    ArabiaTerra

    @ dobbshead

    As I understand it (and I’m no expert), to extract the tar from the sand you have to cook it. The heat used to do the cooking comes from burning natural gas.

  73. 73
    democommie

    “I love when people point to the Fukishima plant as a reason why nuclear is not viable. A plant at the end of it’s life cycle gets hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever, survives no problem, but then gets swamped by a tidal wave that dwarfs anything previously seen. So, we should just abandon Nuclear and go back to coal.”.

    That plant was 40 years old. The Calhoun Power Station in Nebraska, just north of Omaha is about the same age (only 1/10 the size, though). I grew up in Omaha and I lived there while the plant was being constructed. Power company execs and industry experts all assured a lot of suspicious locals that the plant was built to withstand anything that man or mother nature could hand out, short of a nuclear attack–a very real possibility, back in the days of MAD, because HQ SAC at Offutt, AFB was only about 30 miles south.

    During spring floods in 2011, the plant was completely surrounded by flood waters from the nearby Missouri River. It was touch and go for a longish period of time. This is also a plant that has over 350 tons of high level waste stored in pools and “dry casks” within its fences.

    I’m not afraid of nuclear power. I’m concerned about the safety of the plants and the strategies for dealing with waste. I do NOT trust that any of the current players in that industry have anything but their own narrow interests in mind.

    “I don’t think the argument against solar is one of cost but rather ability. I was down south of San Antonio a year ago looking at a beam pump running on a big Cat generator. I really doubt the solar panels could generate the kW to run the motor at that site.’

    Baloney, it’s exactly about money. It’s far cheaper for the oil/gas people to put in a fossil fuel burning generator then it is to set up a big enough array to generate the power. It’s also a shitton less money than stringing 5 FUCKING MILES of cable and the poles, insulators, condensers, transformers and the like to a remote site.

    Back when I worked for Verizon, in regulatory, one of the biggest gripes that they whined on was that their competitors could cherry pick the “consumers” in high density, already massively wired, areas–while Verizon was the “last mile” provider. They had to run lines into unprofitable areas, as part of their deal with the regulators. There’s a lot of stranded copper out there and putting more of it out there in the form of 26Kva lines or whatever is not cheap or low impact to the environment.

    I just got off the phone after talking to the business manager for a company that builds solar, wind and (IIRC) geothermal energy plants for residential, commercial and industrial applications. That company is currently working on a systems that will generate 5 MW. If it wasn’t economically feasible, it wouldn’t be happening.

    The TVA and other rural electrification projects cost many billions (in 2012 dollars) to construct. That work was seen as necessary to make large parts of the U.S. able to compete with the traditional industrial centers in the Northeast, Mid-west, Atlantic and Pacific and Gulf Coasts. What this nation needs now is to stop spending trillions to protect oil that belongs to U.S. oil companies or their middle eastern surrogates and start spending money–trillions, if necessary–to make this nation independent of external energy sources. Wind, solar, geo-thermal, nuclear, hydro AND fossil fuels are important. But to say that we should pump all of the oil we can find and THEN work on alternative energy strategies is not just follish; it’s stupid.

    ” Quarrying stone is itself a survival tactic for obtaining weapons and shelter and tools.”

    You can’t see the sites of some of the larger quarries on the planet from 200 miles up, unless you crank the magnification. Strip mines? some of those will be visible to the naked eye from the International Space Station if we keep going down that road.

    “There is no clean trade off. There are also security issues involving having a supply from a friendly country which in the end will likely be more important than the mess in Canada.”

    So, fuck Canada?

  74. 74
    Sqrat

    As I understand it (and I’m no expert), to extract the tar from the sand you have to cook it. The heat used to do the cooking comes from burning natural gas.

    Correct. The extraction of the oil from the sands is energy-intensive, so you’re taking a source of energy (natural gas) that happens to be relatively cheap, and using it to extract a source of energy (oil) that happens to be relatively expensive. A lot of net energy is inevitably lost in the process, but although it does not work ecologically it works financially as long as the price of natural gas remains low and the price of oil remains high.

    Only about 20% of the oil in the tar sands is accessible through mining; the rest is too deep. One of the techniques they are looking at going forward to deal with the deeply-buried oil is called “steam assisted gravity drainage,” or “SAGD”. That involves forcing steam down into a “steam chamber” to thin the oil to allow it to flow to the surface. Natural gas would be the likely fuel of choice to produce the steam.

  75. 75
    Sqrat

    But to say that we should pump all of the oil we can find and THEN work on alternative energy strategies is not just foolish; it’s stupid.

    One of the main reasons that it’s foolish and stupid is that the alternative energy infrastructure we will eventually and inevitably require will be truly massive and energy-intensive to build. If you don’t build it now while you still have cheap energy, you could fall into what has been called the “energy trap” where you might not have an adequate supply of energy to build it later. Imagine, for example, that all the energy needed to create and install a new wind farm had to be generated by existing wind farms, and the energy so used could not in the meantime be used for other purposes (like powering homes and businesses). Is that even feasible? I’m not sure, but I’m cynical enough to think that by default that’s likely to be the experiment we’re eventually going to try to perform.

  76. 76
    snafu

    Thank you all for a very engaging discussion.

  77. 77
    democommie

    Hydrofracking, the Keystone pipeline, NWAR drilling and nuclear power all share one trait. They are dependent upon the public absorbing the costs of their massively expensive fuck-ups. If BP gets skinned, as they should–and likely won’t–in the upcoming trial over the Deep Water fiasco, it will be a blip on the radar of otherwise smooth ice for the power industry’s decades of skating away from responsibility when the shit hits the fan.

    Absent Price-Anderson, no nukes would be built in this country. If I could start a company making, say, pesticides, knowing that my total liability would be controlled by an act of Congress to a pittance of my annual profits well, FUCK YEAH! BP woulda LOVED a deal like that.

    This:

    “The Price-Anderson fund, which is financed by the reactor companies themselves, is then used to make up the difference. Each reactor company is obliged to contribute up to $111.9 million per reactor in the event of an accident with claims that exceed the $375 million insurance limit. As of 2011[update], the maximum amount of the fund is approximately $12.22 billion ($111.9m X 104 reactors) if all of the reactor companies were required to pay their full obligation to the fund. This fund is not paid into unless an accident occurs.”

    is from Wiki, so it may well be lacking some specifics but I think it’s a fairly accurate statement of the facts.

    This link: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Price%20Anderson%20Factsheet.pdf

    is to a paper written almost a decade ago that has most of the important points re: how the taxpayers, once again, will get to bail out the brave, if foolhardy capitalists.

    There is a piece of “received knowledge” in the nuclear power community that says it is IMPOSSIBLE to buy adequate insurance to cover “unforeseen” eventualities. Both parts of that “fact” are incorrect. There is no such thing as “uninsurable”, granting that insurance for nuke plants costs a fuckton. Also, “unforeseen” eventualities (such as the Fukuhima event) are NOT unforeseeable, they are difficult to foresee and plan for–but hardly impossible.

    Pile on.

  78. 78
    gingerbaker

    No one has yet mentioned the most important reason why the Tar Sands project must not be completed:

    When burned, the tar sands will contribute enough incremental atmospheric CO2, all by itself, to virtually assure we destroy civilization as we know it in the next hundred years or so. (http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/06/05/236978/james-hansen-keystone-pipeline-tar-sands-climate/) It is a titanic amount of carbon, and it needs to stay in the ground.

    BTW, erichoug, most of your talking points are completely full of shit, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions above. Someone as clueless as you should hesitate before writing so copiously and authoritatively about things you know so little, unless, of course, you get paid to do so. Do you get paid to do so?

  79. 79
    democommie

    Gingerbaker:

    Wherubin? Hope it’s fun.

    As to whether Mr. Houg or Mr. Dobbs gets “paid” for writing, I think the answer is no. But I also think that both of them have a vested interest in believing that what they say is true.

  80. 80
    gingerbaker

    “Wherubin? Hope it’s fun.”

    ?

  81. 81
    interrobang

    Ethanol? When we replaced MTBE with corn ethanol it led to starvation in Africa and food riots in Haiti.

    This is emphatically not true. If you look at the numbers, there is no way that the corn ethanol production in one country adds up to creating an artificial scarcity. The single most important factor in food scarcity right now is speculation in food commodities. Biofuels (which, incidentally are also not synonymous with corn ethanol) are not taking the food out of the mouths of hungry people, bankstas are.

    Biofuels can be made with all kinds of neat stuff that requires basically no effort to grow or maintain (thus upping the energy-spent to energy-regained ratio considerably), like switchgrass, jatropha, algae, and camelina, none of which people eat, and which can be grown in otherwise “waste” areas in order not to use up land used for growing food. Also — remember when everyone said that car exhaust would “smell like french fries” in the future because they’d run off used fast-food grease? I do. But suddenly, it’s all corn ethanol all the time. Agribusiness loves you when you use corn ethanol as synonymous with biofuels!

    Incidentally, I’m Canadian and I was born in Alberta and remember what that area looked like before the Tar Sands project, and it’s totally appalling. Given that if the oil companies involved actually had to pay for all the externalities they’ve foisted on the rest of us, they’d give up the whole project as a waste of time, effort, and money, it’s disgusting that this is even up for discussion.

    Oh, also, too, since we are destroying half the province of Alberta to get this stuff out of the ground, why in hell (other than that there is no blowjob too large for Harper to give to an American government) are we selling it to you Americans, or to anyone else? Shouldn’t we at least be getting to benefit directly from our own ecological disaster?

    Disclosure: I don’t own a car, I don’t drive, and I live with 1 other person in a house of less than 1000 s.f. Put that in your smokestack and scrub it.

  82. 82
    dobbshead

    But I also think that both of them have a vested interest in believing that what they say is true.

    Except I work in alternative energy R&D, funded by grants from a variety of public and private sector interests including the DOE. Specifically I work on solar energy, light harvesting and exciton diffusion dynamics in poly-crystaline thin films. So I have pretty much no financial interest in the keystone pipeline, except in so far as it is taxed and that money is written into grants. Based on what I’ve read the issues people have been making with this pipeline seem more like booga booga hysteria than legitimate deal killers given that all industrial projects entail some level of risk.

    I can speak as somebody inside the solar industry. The tech is promising, but there is a long way to go as far as costs are concerned. Right now solar makes sense as additional capacity in the southwest United States, so long as there is adequate baseline capacity to run the night-time load. When that is a small percentage of the grid it’s no problem, when you start talking about solar as baseline load there are a set of hurdles to pass. Not insurmountable, but will take some fundamental research.

    The biggest two are the intermittent nature of the power supply. Solar, because the sun doesn’t shine at night, and wind, because sometimes the wind just doesn’t blow, add new variation onto the supply side. The only solution really is energy storage. A lot of ideas have been floated, including gravitational energy storage, thermal storage, and chemical storage. I’m a chemist, so I have a bias toward the chemical solution. It’s why I mentioned water redox earlier. But all of these solutions have one key flaw: they all loose energy through the transformations.

    That means that no matter how you cut it you need more wind/solar baseline capacity than you would in a conventional energy grid. It isn’t a deal killer, but it does mean we need to push efficiency and cost way down below grid parity. Personally I think it’s achievable, and people with money seem to agree. It’s going to take time though.

    I do think it’s funny how quick people in this column have been to accuse me of being a shill for disagreeing.

  83. 83
    democommie

    Nope. Not accusing you of being a shill for disagreeing. Not even accusing you of being a shill, re-read what I wrote.

    There are numerous solar, wind and geo-thermal projects currently being installed/built in upstate NY, hard by Lake Ontario.

    The new Sciences Center at SUNY Oswego has over 240 vertical bore geothermal wells, under the building.

    Syracuse and Cornell U both do a lot of alternative energy trials and design competitions.

    Someone who lives two blocks from my house has a big, ugly solar panel (PV) (at least 12′ x 12′) on the south facing sidewall of his house. The house was pretty ugly BEFORE the panel was installed about 20 years ago. No maintenance to speak of and it saves him at least $600 per annum on his electric bill.

    You say you work in Alternative energy R&D, but you don’t sound as if you believe in it. By that I don’t mean that you think it won’t work, but that you think it won’t work well enough. That is precisely because R&D has been underfunded since at least 1980. Energy independence/self-sufficiency is far more important than a trip to Mars at this point. If the resources were directed properly we would get there a whole lot faster.

  84. 84
    dobbshead

    By that I don’t mean that you think it won’t work, but that you think it won’t work well enough.

    No, I was just speaking as a scientist and observing the difficulties of the technology. Partly that’s because challenges get me money and are fun to work on, partly because the technology is fundamentally not settled.

    Again the issue is scale. Single-crystal silicon is practical in homes to reduce energy bills at peak, but cost prohibitive in large scale deployments. It’s why industry has move toward thin film amorphous silicon and polycrystaline cadmium telluride.

    Just because it is cost effective for your neighbor (with subsidies) to put up solar panels to reduce peak usage doesn’t mean we can run the baseload that way. Intermittent supply is a huge problem countries in Germany are fighting right now as they start using more wind. Since they shut down their nuke plants, the reliability of their power grid has dropped pretty badly. Read up on intermittent energy sources, the wikipedia article has a decent discussion of the challenges.

    The point is that there is still R&D lead time before we can use intermittent sources as baseload even if we pretend that solar technology is at grid parity right now. We still need steady baseload, and right now the choices are coal and nuclear. Coal is horrible, nuke is manageable. If that doesn’t fit your dream of an alternative energy future right now, too bad. Reality is harsh like that.

    Syracuse and Cornell U both do a lot of alternative energy trials and design competitions.

    When was the last time you heard about this being done for a steam turbine? Probably never, because we have that tech down. This is fruitful for alternative energy precisely because its not a settled technology.

    That is precisely because R&D has been underfunded since at least 1980.

    Which is why I’m working under a multi-million dollar grant? Which is why there are multi-billion dollar international thrusts that fund alternative energy research?

    But I also think that both of them have a vested interest in believing that what they say is true.

    How does this imply anything other than my ‘vested interest’ invalidates my point of view? It’s nothing more than an ad hominem.

  85. 85
    reynoldhall

    Anyone ever hear of thorium powered nuke plants?

  86. 86
    dobbshead

    Anyone ever hear of thorium powered nuke plants?

    Yeah, I’m not that well verse on nuclear power. But I remember thorium being a molten salt reactor system. Thorium is nice because the waste does not contribute to weapon proliferation, but the fact that it is in a molten salt reactor fluid means you have constraints on reactor design. Other than that I can’t tell you much.

    I do remember a few years ago that the Indians were making noise about researching thorium plants. India has a lot of thorium rich sand, so it makes sense as an energy resource for them.

  87. 87
    dobbshead

    why in hell (other than that there is no blowjob too large for Harper to give to an American government) are we selling it to you Americans, or to anyone else? Shouldn’t we at least be getting to benefit directly from our own ecological disaster?

    Because there are refineries here and they take a lot of capital to build one. Besides you are seeing benefit: money and jobs.

  88. 88
    dobbshead

    Hydrofracking, the Keystone pipeline, NWAR drilling and nuclear power all share one trait.

    Solar, wind, intermittent power storage all share one trait: that the public has to absorb to cost of R&D. Also they all have long roll-out times during which we have few alternatives. Choosing to eschew currently available energy supplies also has the public pay in the form of higher energy prices, which is itself regressive in that it affects the poor more than the wealthy.

    There is no free lunch here, no matter what choice our society makes somebody is going to pay the price. If we exploit active energy resources we pollute, while if we resist developing inexpensive energy resources the poor suffer. I think the former is manageable, while the latter is unforgivable.

    But then again, I’m a humanist first and an environmentalist second.

  89. 89
    gingerbaker

    “Solar, wind, intermittent power storage all share one trait: that the public has to absorb to cost of R&D”

    LOL. As if the public does not have to pick up the cost of industry R&D!

    As if the petrocarbon/nuclear industries don’t enjoy public subsidization that has been orders of magnitude larger than that given to alternative energy.

    My, my – how objectively you frame things.

    “Also they all have long roll-out times during which we have few alternatives.”

    Because they are not subsidized enough! Germany has 6000 per cent more solar installations than the U.S. How do you suppose that can be? Tell me it is at the expense of the poor!

    “Choosing to eschew currently available energy supplies also has the public pay in the form of higher energy prices, which is itself regressive in that it affects the poor more than the wealthy.”

    Funny how you call yourself a humanist and environmentalist while you sound just like a petrocarbon industry flack. As if anyone is doing any “eschewing” of available energy supplies. Was it you or erichoag who was just gloating that alternatives only amounted to a pittance of energy supply? Now it’s all about the human cost of “eschewing” “currently available energy supplies? That it is “regressive”! LOL.

    Solar is already cheaper than carbon in many markets around the country and the world. And that doesn’t even factor in that the true deferred cost of carbon fuels is NEVER taken into account.

    Maybe you missed the memo, but we need noncarbon energy supplies right fracking now, not down the road somewhere when the carbon industry allows them.

    “If we exploit active energy resources we pollute, while if we resist developing inexpensive energy resources the poor suffer. I think the former is manageable, while the latter is unforgivable.

    But then again, I’m a humanist first and an environmentalist second.:”

    If you actually cared about the poor, you would be doing everything you could to stop CO2 from accumulating in the atmosphere, instead of making lousy pro petrocarbon industry talking points based on false humanitarianism.

  90. 90
    democommie

    Gingerbaker:

    Where have you been? (whereubin)

    Anyhoo, I tend to pretty much agree with your take on the situation.

    There are $B’s being spent, NOW; that was not the case for most of the last 30 years.

    This nation’s scientific community developed a nuclear weapon when it had to, nuclear power, spacerace stuff–all with MASSIVE gummint $’s, start to finish.

  91. 91
    Rick Pikul

    “Germany has 6000 per cent more solar installations than the U.S.”

    Yes, but don’t forget how that has increased electricity prices in Germany by about -10%.

    Wait a second… doesn’t a negative increase have a more common way of being described?

    That’s right: Solar has reduced electricity prices in Germany by about 10%, (and had helped allow Germany to export power to France).

  92. 92
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    dobbshead,

    Germany hasn’t shut down all its nuclear plants yet, after shutting down 8 or so, 9 plants will still be in operation until 2022.

    A couple weeks ago, because of the cold, German energy suppliers were activating some reserve energy supplies, mostly outdated coal power plants in Germany and Austria. Some news sources misunderstood it and reported that Germany had been forced to restart nuclear power plants it had previously shut down…

  93. 93
    dobbshead

    Solar is already cheaper than carbon in many markets around the country and the world.

    Maybe you should actually read what I write. You’d see that I agree with that statement, but am pointing out the real challenges that the solar industry faces when trying to move from being supplemental power to base supply. Marginal supplementation of continuous power supplies at peak is a whole different game with very different energy pricing than continuous power supply.

    But no, you have this rosy image of a green economy which only doesn’t exist because of petroleum company conspiracies or something. Anybody who says any different must be an industry flak.

    As if anyone is doing any “eschewing” of available energy supplies.

    If people in this comment thread had their way we’d let all of our nuclear plants run out their lifetimes and extract no energy from any unconventional petroleum sources. That is your main point, isn’t it?

    Also we’d calculate the risks of global climate change as on the same order as nuclear war or a planet busting asteroids. Which means it is perfectly acceptable to increase global energy prices, despite the regressive impact that has on the poor.

    Now it’s all about the human cost of “eschewing” “currently available energy supplies? That it is “regressive”! LOL.

    I’ve been nothing but honest about my motivations and you’ve been nothing but dishonest, or stupid, about trying to represent them. Stop it.

    Yes, but don’t forget how that has increased electricity prices in Germany by about -10%.

    That number isn’t the trump card you seem to think it is, and is in fact consistent with the story I’ve been telling. It is an exercise for the reader to tell me exactly how they calculate that ten percent figure, and then explain why that figure is still consistent with Germany in 2011 being a net power importer. I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with when the power is being produced and neglecting some of the cost of installation.

    @Pelamun: That’s cool. It illustrates my general point about nuclear power: it has risks but it is way better than coal and fills a niche that solar can’t yet.

  94. 94
    democommie

    “There is no free lunch here, no matter what choice our society makes somebody is going to pay the price.”

    You’re right. What the petro/gas folks get is a 9 course dinner at Morton’s or some other high end jernt, while the rest of the planet gets to eat shitsoylent green.

    Fucking me, now, for a better tomorrow? Yeah, I’m down with that, just ease it in.

  95. 95
    dobbshead

    What the petro/gas folks get is a 9 course dinner at Morton’s or some other high end jernt, while the rest of the planet gets to eat shitsoylent green.

    You’ve got a conclusion there, and you’re sticking with it. Fossil fuels have been just a conspiracy, having transportation and electricity and cheap food hasn’t benefited anybody. They have just been forcing the power on people. It’s not like the standard of living has risen dramatically over the past two centuries everywhere we use fossil energy. It’s all been just a shell game to get a few people rich and fuck everybody else.

    Man living in that world has got to feel so self-righteous. It must be nice to be able to pretend that anybody who does anything you disagree with is an evil fuckwit who is trying to destroy the planet. Hell, you even lash out at the people who are working to solve the very problem you are complaining about because they disagree with the exact timeline of the solution.

  96. 96
    democommie

    There you go, putting words in my rant or knowing why I write what I write–again.

    The U.S. and multinational oil and gas folks have made billions upon billions of dollars over the last century by holding effective monopoly power over consumers. You can sugarcoat it any way that you like, you’re still getting a shit sandwich from big energy. Whether it’s fossil or nuclear, the boards and stockholders privatize the profit while socializing the losses.

    Environmental depradation is not the ONLY possible consequence of energy resource develpment.

    Price-Anderson, as I said earlier, is not the ONLY thing that makes building nuclear power stations possible–it’s the only thing that makes their construction possible without holding the owners and operators responsbible. The same sort of pass is given to the liquid, gas and solid petroleum extraction companies.

    If the people in this and other countries had to pay the true cost (with all the hidden external costs included) for nuclear and fossil fuel, they’d be screaming for change.

  97. 97
    dobbshead

    Price-Anderson

    Really? You’re complaining about a 12.6 billion dollar safety net that the nuclear power industry funds? A fund which, by the way, has never been tapped into, ever? A fund who’s cost, by definition, come from the consumers? Give me a break.

    The public at large backs and eats the cost of a lot of disasters, man made and natural. This is not a bad thing, it is in fact a good thing. It’s why we form into a society, to pool resources to absorb otherwise catastrophic costs.

    All infrastructure development is expensive, and very few single entities can absorb the entire cost. Our highway system, power infrastructure, the internet, have all needed public backing to expand. Solar is no different. If you actually read what I’ve been writing, you’ll see that I actually support subsidies for alternative infrastructure development. I have a job in part because of those subsidies, so I admit to a conflict of interest there.

    Nuclear power has risks, but those risks have proven to be less than coal dependence. Solar/wind power is in an incomplete R&D stage and cannot cover base supply right now. The public will need to back and cover the external costs if we want the benefits of electricity. We make that choice because electricity saves lives and benefits us all. That’s not a shit sandwich.

    If the people in this and other countries had to pay the true cost (with all the hidden external costs included) for nuclear and fossil fuel, they’d be screaming for change.

    First off, how do you calculate those hidden and external costs? Right now the nuclear power companies and the government estimate the maximum cost of a nuclear accident to be on the order of $12.6 billion, a cost which has been passed to consumers directly. How do you calculate the costs of global climate change? If you believe folks like Jim Hansen it’s larger than the value of the economy (a claim which I think if bullshit). If you actually read more plausible scenarios with appropriate rates of change you get much more reasonable numbers. Enough to justify subsidizing a transition to a nuclear/solar/wind economy, but not enough to justify “pull the plug on it all right now!” mentality.

    What about the external benefits from living in a society with abundant power? The benefit of having cheap food year round? The benefits of rapid communication (or long distance ranting)? You could trace much of our yearly growth to stimulation from cheap fossil fuels.

    Even if you could disentangle that whole mess, which it would take a lot to convince me that you could, I’m not convinced that people would be ‘screaming for change’ as you put it.

    There you go, putting words in my rant or knowing why I write what I write–again.

    I’m just directly quoting people in this thread and taking the logical conclusion of what I find. In my previous point I was responding to your claim that we are getting a raw deal from “big energy”, which I find ridiculous based on what I know of economic growth and the benefits of inexpensive power.

    Just because people are making lots of money doesn’t mean the rest of us are getting robbed, necessarily. Economics is not a zero sum game, especially when you talk about power production and infrastructure development.

  98. 98
    dobbshead

    If we followed the lead of people like Mr. Houg and Mr. Dobbs, we would still be using the abacus instead of these nifty laptops.

    Ha, funny. One of my projects relates to making better photon downconverters for LCD backlights.

    It’s more like if I had my way, we’d use slide-rulers until we had functional calculators. And still use slide-rulers when in and environment without power.

  99. 99
    democommie

    “First off, how do you calculate those hidden and external costs? Right now the nuclear power companies and the government estimate the maximum cost of a nuclear accident to be on the order of $12.6 billion, a cost which has been passed to consumers directly.”

    Citation to a peer reviewed or GAO study? I think not.

  100. 100
    dobbshead

    Citation to a peer reviewed or GAO study? I think not.

    Are you disputing the $12.6 Billion price tag? That’s just Price Anderson act money, that you brought up. Or are you disputing the claim that external costs are difficult to measure? Please be clear about what information you are disputing so I can, you know, actually respond semi-coherently.

    Unless you aren’t actually interested in having your ideas challenged.

  101. 101
    democommie

    “Are you disputing the $12.6 Billion price tag? That’s just Price Anderson act money, that you brought up. Or are you disputing the claim that external costs are difficult to measure? Please be clear about what information you are disputing so I can, you know, actually respond semi-coherently.

    Unless you aren’t actually interested in having your ideas challenged.”

    You’re being disingenuous?

    This:

    http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/nuclear-liability-the-market-based-post-fukushima-case-ending-price-anderson

    indicates that the $12.6B is a pisshole in a snowbank.

    I asked you, directly, to quote a peer reviewed or GAO study supporting your ridiculous assertion that the amonunts required by Price-Anderson Act would be sufficient to cover the costs of a nuclear catastrophe. If you can’t furnish substantiation, withdraw the assertion.

  102. 102
    gingerbaker

    “But no, you have this rosy image of a green economy which only doesn’t exist because of petroleum company conspiracies or something. Anybody who says any different must be an industry flak….

    and then –

    …Fossil fuels have been just a conspiracy, having transportation and electricity and cheap food hasn’t benefited anybody. They have just been forcing the power on people. It’s not like the standard of living has risen dramatically over the past two centuries everywhere we use fossil energy. It’s all been just a shell game to get a few people rich and fuck everybody else.

    Man living in that world has got to feel so self-righteous….”

    How creative of you to answer charges that you sound like an industry hack through the cunning use of arguments that make you sound just like an industry hack. LOL.

    Also we’d calculate the risks of global climate change as on the same order as nuclear war or a planet busting asteroids. Which means it is perfectly acceptable to increase global energy prices, despite the regressive impact that has on the poor.

    Petrocarbons are a limited-supply non renewable resource which have already reached peak supply, and have absolutely zero potential to satisfy the energy needs of an unsustainably skyrocketing human population. Petrocarbon prices will be going up whether we address global warming or not, so you can take your pseudo humanitarian concerns, stop laying them at the feet of people who are actually interested in saving the planet, and shove them up your drill hole.

    Here is the crux of the argument. You appear to not believe that global warming is as serious as a nuclear war or an asteroid strike. You are wrong.

    We are indeed looking at the end of our standard of life, most likely the end of civilization as we know it; almost certainly the loss of billions of (mostly poor!) people, at least half the species on the planet. And if we are really unlucky, we might even see the planet flip irretrievably into a runaway greenhouse, where temperature will approach that of Venus. Forever.

    So your talk about how alternative energy just won’t work, needs time, and must continue to be the poor sister to big oil until some unspecified time in the future, when, magically, market conditions will become favorable for investment in these troubled technologies – and that in the meantime we should blithely continue burning carbon and be appreciative of that fact – is exactly what we cannot afford to do. And is exactly what petrocarbon industry hacks around the world argue.

    So, if you want to stop being accused of sounding like an industry hack – please stop sounding like one. And if you are not terrified of what such a business-as-usual approach will bring – you need to read more about the topic.

  103. 103
    democommie

    gingerbaker:

    That’s a great comment. I’m glad that there are people like you, Michael Heath, SLC, heddle, dogmeat, Bronze dog and other commenters who demonstrate ability to research and formulate responses to absurd industry rhetoric or political cant.

    “Fuck you, you fucking fuckers!” is, alas, my fallback when somebody’s comments are teh steamin’streamin’bullshite.

    It’s been about 24 hours since dobbshead’s last post. Hopefully he is putting that time to use, learning something about the unfunded mandate of having the U.S. taxpayer pick up the “Clean up on aisle 3 Mile Island” stratagem.

  104. 104
    chemistrynerd

    http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/nuclear-liability-the-market-based-post-fukushima-case-ending-price-anderson

    indicates that the $12.6B is a pisshole in a snowbank.

    Let’s calculate how much rate payers would pay if we eliminated Price-Anderson and required nuclear power plants to cover all the costs of a disaster.

    First let’s calculate how many kilowatt hours a 1000MW nuclear power plant produces over twenty years: 365*24*1000000=8760000000kWh, and for kicks let’s assume that the reactor only produces this much power 25% of the time for a total of 2190000000kWh.

    Furthermore let’s assume that the cost of the worst case scenario was 500 billion, or twice that of the Fukushima disaster. If every reactor underwent this type of disaster after twenty years, the increase in nuclear rates would be 22.8 cents per kWh.

    We however know this is not the case. Based on the NRC report NUREG-1150, and the number of reactors currently operational in the US (~100), there is an 8% chance per 20 years of a “major release of radiation”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NUREG-1150

    If we assume that a major release is equivalent to a worst case disaster (which it is not) then we can take the 22.8 cent and multiply it by 8% and arrive at an astounding 1.8 cent per kWh increase in nuclear rates. Now don’t forget that since there are 100 reactors we need to account for the fact that there is 100 times more energy to distribute the cost over, which means that it would add a negligible cost to the price of energy.

    Thus we may as well repeal Price-Anderson and require nuclear power companies to cover the costs, because the price increase on the rate payer will be negligible. So much for the “hidden” costs being unbearable for the rate payer to bear.

    Also a side note about Three Mile Island, the costs were entirely covered by the primary insurance that nuclear plants are required to take out, not by the public.

  105. 105
    dobbshead

    Gingerbaker says:

    “Rant about how serious climate change is.”

    Okay, let’s buy into that climate change is as bad as a nuclear war (which I don’t: to my knowledge the current literature doesn’t support that claim. To show that in a post will take some time though). Then you should be supporting my position whole heartily: that we should invest in all proven CO2 neutral technologies and in R&D into expanding the capabilities of less proven technologies. So we should build as much baseline nuclear capacity as possible (a proven technology), as well as much wind and solar as possible and any reasonable efficiency increase we can find (which rely on R&D to reach effectiveness over time).

    Another way to phrase the above paragraph: the known risks of nuclear power plants are much lower than the risks of global warming, therefore nuclear power is a clear choice to mitigate global warming given that solar and wind cannot support baseline supply in their current state.

    Where I oppose you is in this idea that we should make the transition harder than necessary by blocking fossil fuel development legislatively before carbon neutral technologies are in place. The effect that would have would be to raise energy cost, which is fundamentally a regressive tax scheme. That is, the costs would be placed directly on the poor.

    “One long Ad Hominem tirade”

    Gingerbaker, this is the last time I’m going to respond to you. You didn’t address the substance of anything that I was saying and instead decided to mainly attack the substance of my character. I’m done talking to you.

    @Democommie: I still don’t agree with you, but I’ve been busy this weekend. Specifically, that paper’s $250 billion dollar pricetag on Fukushima seems drastically inflated with crazy large error bars ($9-200 billion for cleanup? So cleanup can cost anything?). But that’s about as cogent as I can be right now, more to come.

  106. 106
    democommie

    Peer reviewed study or GAO report is what you need to look for. The folks in the power generating business are on reconrd as saying all of the bad shit that happens is unforeseeable or an act of GOD. It’s usually neither.

  107. 107
    chemistrynerd

    Peer review is a nice entry level quality control, but just because something isn’t peer reviewed doesn’t mean that it has no value or can’t be confirmed. NUREG-1150 (which was written by a large group of scientists and other experts) is the most recent risk assessment done by the NRC, and will be replaced in the near future by the State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses (SOARCA) Report.

    It doesn’t matter if “folks in the power generating business” do or don’t say it’s unforeseeable. Businesses and governments aren’t in business of predicting future events, they’re in the business of risk assessment. Do you really think that no one had thought that an earthquake would trigger a tsunami in Japan which could hit a reactor? They certainly had planned for both occurrences, and had built the complex to accommodate these types of events. Unfortunately the earthquake that hit was a magnitude 9, it’s hard (if not impossible) to engineer anything to withstand that strength of an earthquake. This also triggered a tsunami which was approximately 2-3 times the height the reactors were designed to withstand.

    Regardless, I still disagree that the cost of mitigating a nuclear disaster makes them economically unfeasible. I’d like to see where I erred in my arithmetic demonstrating that the cost of a nuclear disaster can easily be covered by rate payers.

  108. 108
    democommie

    chemistrynerd:

    I am not sure whose side you’re on in this thing.

    Both Westinghouse and GE were unwilling to build commrcial power reactors until the gummint assumed, via the public’s pocketbook*.

    Back in the day of BBR (Big Bad Regulatory) electrical power genreation companies were tightly controlled and not ALLOWED to lose money or profit at what the government felt to be an excessive rate. They generated power and sold it to their direct customers or, later, put it on the grid. Now, utilities generate power and sell it to other “power” companies who then trade it like any other commodity, profiting or losing (think Enron, PG&E, PSNH) at the whims of the financial marketplace, global demand and, importantly, the integrity and honesty of the parties (think Enron, PG&E).

    Electrical power is NOT a luxury item in the U.S.; it is a necessity. The price of electricity fluctuates wildly AND erratically. This is considered a good thing by those who profit from those fluctuations. What is not considered a good thing by those same folks is the notion of THEM being responsible for dealing with foreseeable problems.

    I’m NOT a scientist or engineer, but I think that it’s safe to say that all three of the major reactor fuck-ups in the last 35-40 years were traced to cooling water/system problems. A lot of plants are built on or near rivers, seacoasts or in densely settled areas. Both the NRC and nuclear industry spokespersons are in the lamentable habit of thinking image before safety–this is not conjecture.

    If the nuclear industry was willing to work without the “net” of Price-Anderson and people know what the true cost of nuclear powered electrical generation is I’d bet a couple of months SS checks that they would be clamoring for other power sources to be built. YMMV.

    * A move that the public had no real opportunity to weigh in, prior to it’s being done.

  109. 109
    gingerbaker

    “Gingerbaker, this is the last time I’m going to respond to you. You didn’t address the substance of anything that I was saying and instead decided to mainly attack the substance of my character. I’m done talking to you.”

    Why did you fracking bother going into yet another pro nuclear energy, anti solar/wind exposition in response, if you were “done talking to me”, then, you defensive douchebag?

    It’s OK if you don’t want to talk with me any more. It’ll leave you more time to talk about how only solar and wind require the public to pay for their R&D, and how increasing public subsidies for alternative energy development would be regressive, expensive, and unfair to the poor. These are important missions, and I am sure I am only a distraction for you.

    Please continue your good work minimizing the potential of renewable energy technologies. Venceremos!

  110. 110
    dobbshead

    http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/nuclear-liability-the-market-based-post-fukushima-case-ending-price-anderson

    I looked into the journal you linked to here. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has an impact factor of 1.057. We can compare that to other journals to put it in perspective: JACS (9.023), Science (31.364), PNAS (9.771). Good journals in a narrow discipline have impact factors from 2-7 , highly selective journals have impact factors on the order of 20s, new journals or suspect journals have impact factors < 2.

    This doesn't mean that individual articles can't be good, it just means that they on average one citation per article they publish. It's an indication that the signal to noise is low.

    I've taken the time to hunt down a relatively good journal in the narrow subject of energy policy, with the imaginative title Energy Policy. I’ve linked to the most read articles, but I think there is a paywall so if you don’t have credentials they will cost you. Or you could try and find some blog reviewing them.

    A few articles relevant to the topic at hand are:
    Corner et. al., Energy Policy, 2011, 39, 9, 4823
    Jacobsson et. al., Energy Policy, 2006, 34, 3, 256
    Tsoutsos et. al., Energy Policy, 2005, 33, 3, 289

    I’ll include reviews of these articles in turn as time permits.

  111. 111
    dobbshead

    Review of Corner et. al.

    As I suspected from the title, this paper is value neutral in tone to nuclear power. It’s purpose is to analyze the effect of framing the argument for nuclear power in the context of global warming. The gist is given in the abstract, and most of the meat of the paper is nits and grits of how the sample set was collected along with background justification for the research itself. And they found the obvious: self proclaimed ‘environmentally aware’ people oppose nuclear power, but framing the argument for nuclear power as conditional for the purposes of global warming positively alters perception in most groups.

    Either way, the paper doesn’t address the question of whether or not nuclear power does in fact have a role to play in mitigating climate change. But it does cite papers that addresses that concern (which is why I selected this paper for review, welcome to peer reviewed literature).

    This Energy White paper submits a recommendation parallel to the one that I have been making here repeatedly: that nuclear power has a significant role to play in a carbon neutral energy infrastructure. In particular:

    We also observed that, without new nuclear power
    to deliver a low-carbon economy by 2050, we would have to place
    even greater reliance on some technologies that are as yet unproven technically and commercially.

    and

    Our expectation is that if we are to meet our long-term targets for CO2, this will mean that both nuclear and renewable technologies could have a significant share of the market, together with fossil fuel generation coupled with CCS(assuming that CCS proves to be a viable technology.

    They also note the estimated supply of Uranium is only enough for ~ 80 years with fairly large error bars. This means that nuclear power, at least Uranium based nuclear power, is only reasonable as a temporary stepping stone to create a low carbon economy while wind and solar go through their development curves. Even so, they conclude in favor of nuclear power.

    The take-home message here is that policy makers who are aware and concerned about global warming are coming to the conclusion that A) alternative energy systems cannot yet supply base supply yet and will take time to develop to that point, B) in order to minimize the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere it will be necessary to utilize nuclear power, and C) the primary difficulty with nuclear power is not technology or safety, but public perception of safety.

  112. 112
    dobbshead

    I should have reviewed that last post one more time. I used “it’s” when I should have used “its”. I am so sorry!

  113. 113
    chemistrynerd

    chemistrynerd:

    I am not sure whose side you’re on in this thing.

    I wasn’t aware that there were clear sides in this debate, generally real world solutions require compromise.

    Both Westinghouse and GE were unwilling to build commrcial power reactors until the gummint assumed, via the public’s pocketbook

    There are two ways to look at this, the first is that the cost of disaster is too high for a company to cover through a rate increase (that is nuclear would cease to be cost competitive). I think that I have demonstrated this to be improbable with my earlier post.

    The alternative point of view is that electric utilities realized that through lobbying they could get the government to assume the liability for them. What company wouldn’t want this to be the case?

    Really this is a question of when society pays for the cost of a nuclear accident. They can pay for it by slightly increasing the cost of all goods and saving money before an accident happens (if companies were liable), or they can go into debt if/when the accident happens and then pay of the debt over time (the current system).

    One can make simple economic arguments for not saving money before a nuclear disaster (think time value of money and how debt loses value during inflationary periods, which is how we run our monetary policy).

    They generated power and sold it to their direct customers or, later, put it on the grid.

    This is not how the grid works. Think of the grid as a bunch of pools connected with channels. Each pool has a pump adding water to it (generators) and has a drain (consumers using power). Over time the level in each pool varies as production and consumption vary. When the level in a pool is lower than another pool, water flows between them until they are at the same level. Companies tabulate how energy flows on the grid continuously throughout the day and bill each other for the cost of the power that flowed between their control regions.

    Now, utilities generate power and sell it to other “power” companies who then trade it like any other commodity, profiting or losing (think Enron, PG&E, PSNH) at the whims of the financial marketplace, global demand and, importantly, the integrity and honesty of the parties (think Enron, PG&E).

    Complete deregulation is indeed a poor choice, as oversight is needed to keep companies on the up and up. Manipulating markets to create a false supply deficit is illegal. Gaming the market like Enron did is illegal. Furthermore there is something to be said about how the deregulation in CA took place, in that suppliers were deregulated, but utilities selling the power to consumers were not, which is what led to their bankruptcy as the price they paid for power exceeded the price they were allowed to charge. Utilities were also not able to forge long term contracts which would have added in stabilizing the market. Other states have deregulated and haven’t suffered from massive problems.

    The price of electricity fluctuates wildly AND erratically

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. I would appreciate a reference which demonstrates how large these fluctuations are (this should not include cases of market manipulation).

    We would expect some variation in the price as demand and supply are in constant flux, and there is the marginal cost of power is also non-constant.

    If the nuclear industry was willing to work without the “net” of Price-Anderson and people know what the true cost of nuclear powered electrical generation is I’d bet a couple of months SS checks that they would be clamoring for other power sources to be built. YMMV.

    As I have said before, I don’t think that the cost of a nuclear disaster is prohibitive. $250 billion sounds like a lot, but realize that this cost is likely spread over several years (25 billion for ten years is easily managed). This cost is small compared to the amount we dropped into the stimulus bill (1 trillion dollars over 1 year).

    It’ll leave you more time to talk about how only solar and wind require the public to pay for their R&D, and how increasing public subsidies for alternative energy development would be regressive, expensive, and unfair to the poor.

    I’m not sure that’s what Dobbshead is saying. I think his main point is that wind and solar power currently don’t produce power in the way that we consume it. Power consumption peaks three times during the day, morning, afternoon and evening. Solar power peaks during the afternoon but is non-existent at night. Wind power is intermittent, the wind doesn’t always blow when you want it to. Because of the nature of these two types of energy, and the pattern of our consumption, we need to be able to supply energy when solar and wind don’t.

    We must have a power source that we can control it’s output so that production and consumption are balanced. Hydroelectric is a great choice, but we have developed most of our hydroelectric resources. So the question is what do we use to meet the demand for power?

    Since it is undesirable to release CO2 into the atmosphere, we should use a CO2 neutral power source. Turning food into fuel is a good choice (turns out fertilizer production makes CO2), so that doesn’t leave us many options. Nuclear power is a currently available and proven technology.

    Dobbshead’s point isn’t that we shouldn’t do renewables, but that they must be supplemented by some other power source based on patterns of production and consumption.

    (Dobbshead correct me if I’m wrong)

    While you may disagree with Dobbshead that nuclear is the right choice to fill the production gap, I would be interested to hear about some other carbon neutral technology which provides us with the control we need to properly manage the grid.

  114. 114
    democommie

    ” Manipulating markets to create a false supply deficit is illegal.”

    And yet, it’s done a lot; this is because the cost of getting caught is paltry compared to the ill gotten gains. Make rigging the system a crime for which the penalties exceed the profits by, say, 500% and that sort of crime would stop pretty quick.

    ” Companies tabulate how energy flows on the grid continuously throughout the day and bill each other for the cost of the power that flowed between their control regions.”

    Unless they don’t. Southern California got fucked six ways from Sunday.

    This:

    “Public Utilities Commissioner Loretta Lynch listed various wrongdoings, then ticked off companies allegedly involved.

    She said Reliant Resources, Williams/AES, Dynegy, Mirant Corp. and Duke Energy all deliberately shut power plants they ran in California in order to create scarcity and earn higher profits.

    She said Sempra Energy, Mirant, Dynegy, Reliant, Williams and Canadian- based PowerEx all used a trading strategy similar to an Enron scheme called “Fat Boy,” in which the companies knowingly submitted false data to the state’s power grid operators.

    Officials said for-profit power companies teamed up with utilities run by cities like Los Angeles, Glendale and Redding to game the state’s markets and split profits.

    Lawyers culled through thousands of internal company documents, listened to hundreds of hours of tape-recorded conversations among traders and deposed energy executives to build their case.

    “The whole market was co-opted against the consumer,” said Erik Saltmarsh, acting director of the state’s Energy Oversight Board.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/03/03/MN85082.DTL#ixzz1oIKQL3ny

    is from here (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/03/03/MN85082.DTL)

    So much for trusting the generators OR the “dealers”.

    “This is not how the grid works. Think of the grid as a bunch of pools connected with channels. Each pool has a pump adding water to it (generators) and has a drain (consumers using power). Over time the level in each pool varies as production and consumption vary. When the level in a pool is lower than another pool, water flows between them until they are at the same level. Companies tabulate how energy flows on the grid continuously throughout the day and bill each other for the cost of the power that flowed between their control regions.”

    WTF? I know how the grid works. I’m talking about the people who tinker with the supply and demand and drive up prices and their own profits. Or are you saying that doesn’t happen?

    “As I have said before, I don’t think that the cost of a nuclear disaster is prohibitive. $250 billion sounds like a lot, but realize that this cost is likely spread over several years (25 billion for ten years is easily managed). This cost is small compared to the amount we dropped into the stimulus bill (1 trillion dollars over 1 year).”

    Then let the nuclear power industry build it into their rate structure AFTER Price-Anderson is rescinded. See how many more nukes get built.

  115. 115
    chemistrynerd

    Officials said for-profit power companies teamed up with utilities run by cities like Los Angeles, Glendale and Redding to game the state’s markets and split profits.

    It is notable that LA produces more power than it consumes, which means they were not affected by fluctuations in the market. Glendale also owns power generation ability, but I’m not sure if they produce more than they need. Do you have any information on whether the utilities were eventually found guilty or not?

    I’m talking about the people who tinker with the supply and demand and drive up prices and their own profits. Or are you saying that doesn’t happen?

    Considering I addressed the the market manipulation by Enron in the Califonia Energy Crisis, I think it is cleear that I do say it happens. We agree that these things can and do happen, and this should be prevented/punished. However given that other states have deregulated and haven’t had the problems California did makes me wonder what made California different.

    Then let the nuclear power industry build it into their rate structure AFTER Price-Anderson is rescinded. See how many more nukes get built.

    You seem convinced that there is no way that the cost of mitigating a nuclear disaster could be incorporated into the rates. I have presented a simple bit of arithmetic which suggests otherwise. Is there a reason you disagree with my assertion?

    More importantly if we don’t build more nuclear power plants, what will we use for baseloading a carbon neutral grid?

  116. 116
    democommie

    “It is notable that LA produces more power than it consumes, which means they were not affected by fluctuations in the market. Glendale also owns power generation ability, but I’m not sure if they produce more than they need. Do you have any information on whether the utilities were eventually found guilty or not?”

    You have some proof of your assertion?

    “You seem convinced that there is no way that the cost of mitigating a nuclear disaster could be incorporated into the rates. I have presented a simple bit of arithmetic which suggests otherwise. Is there a reason you disagree with my assertion?”

    I do not think that is the case. Historically, the consumer has been misinformed about the true cost and the safety record of nuclear powered elctrical generation. I think that the consumers, presented with a choice between nuclear power at its true cost and other methods of power generation at their true costs will opt for the better deal. That “better deal” will not be nuclear power, imo.

    The local nukes here, three of them generate a shitload of power–none of it is distributed locally. NY’s electric rates are among the highest in the U.S. So those of us who live up near Lake Ontario get fucked by National Grid AND at are a far higher risk of suffering the most from a reactor accident. People downstate just get fucked by National Grid. What’s not to like?

  117. 117
    Raging Bee

    I have been to a lot of the wind farms. The one out west of dallas produces about 5% of it’s total capacity during the summer months. Take a guess when the peak energy demand in Texas is(Think air conditioning).

    And why do people need so much AC at that time of the year? (Think Sun.)

    As for your comment about nothing changing in the last 20 years, that is, at best, a ridiculous exaggeration; and it totally blows your credibility.

  118. 118
    Raging Bee

    As for nuclear power, it sounds great, and I really want to be for it; but try this little thought-exercise…

    1) Decide how much power a given community (say LA or NY) needs.

    2) Design a nuclear power plant that will meet that need. Add up the total cost of said plant, including safety features, waste disposal/re-use, security, transportation, disaster-recovery, etc.

    3) Write up a realistic schedule for how long it would take to build the plant and bring it online.

    4) Take the total TRUE cost you’ve just calculated, and figure out how much wind and/or solar power you could get for the same amount of money.

    I love when people point to the Fukishima plant as a reason why nuclear is not viable…

    A good point, to be sure, but there’s something you’re missing: the Fukushima disaster didn’t happen when it was operating at full capacity, or because some greedy assholes kept it running to make it as profitable as possible. The plant was shut down in an orderly manner — and it destroyed itself and leaked radiation after the shutdown had been completed. The least I can say for a badly-built car or airplane is that it’s pretty safe after you put on the brakes and turn off the engines. If a nuclear power plant can’t clear even that low bar for safety, then you’d better not get all whiny when people express doubts about the technology.

  119. 119
    democommie

    Raging Bee:

    C’mon, be fair. If you parked your car with bad brakes on Lombard Street in SF and it rolled all the way down that serpentine tourist attraction it could cause a lot of damage. It might be less than a core meltdown and subsequent release of hundreds of tons (or more) of radioactive effluent but there’s really no way of measuring the impact, because it’s unforeseeable, see?

    Have you looked at this report? http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/wind-energy-costs-2-2012.pdf

    Me not bein’ sciencemathy I don’t know how to parse it all. It would appear, at least to my untrained eye, that capital costs for windpower are somewhat lower than those for nukes. And the insurability of a windfarm is not the issue that the insuring of a nuke is.

  120. 120
    chemistrynerd

    NY’s electric rates are among the highest in the U.S.

    This was true before deregulation of NY’s power system. Also 30% of NY’s energy comes from natural gas and only a small portion comes from coal. It’s unsurprising that your power costs more than W. Virginia’s which almost entirely coal. If you look at a map of the most expensive electricity you may notice a pattern, remote states (Hawaii and Alaska) and the Northeast and California pay the most.

    Also you still haven’t recommended what we should use to baseload the grid in the near-term if we decarbonize our energy supply.

  121. 121
    democommie

    ” It’s unsurprising that your power costs more than W. Virginia’s which almost entirely coal.”

    And that is a plus? W. Virginia also has had thousands of miners die in mining accidents and many thousands more die a slow painful death from black lung, brown lung, emphysema and other occupational hazards–the costs of which are NOT publically added into the price of coal. W. Virginia’s landscape has been despoiled by the mining companies with little or no regard for future generations.

    You don’t bother to reply to the comment about windpower being more cost effective per installed Mw than nuclear.

    You are definitely beginning to sound like an industry lackey. Who do you work for?

    http://205.254.135.7/state/state-energy-profiles-print.cfm?sid=NY

  122. 122
    dobbshead

    You don’t bother to reply to the comment about windpower being more cost effective per installed Mw than nuclear.

    I left a fairly long comment talking about that. It must have tripped some length alarm, because it is “pending moderation”. Either that or my ideas are being censored by “the man”. ::shakes fist::

    And that is a plus?

    Uh… he wasn’t saying it was a good or a bad thing. He was just pointing out a fact. At least that’s my interpretation.

  123. 123
    chemistrynerd

    And that is a plus?

    I never said it was a plus, I was merely pointing out factors contributing to higher prices of energy in NY. This is the second time you have put words into my mouth, I would appreciate it if you didn’t.

    You don’t bother to reply to the comment about windpower being more cost effective per installed Mw than nuclear.

    And you failed to address a question I have asked repeatedly.

    Regardless, I didn’t have time to respond to this point earlier today. I will address it now. If you look at the levelized cost of nuclear and wind, you’ll see that they are competitive with one another. However, I’d like you to consider the following argument.

    Unlike wind power generators which will need to be replaced at least every 30 years (I haven’t heard of companies claiming they’ll last longer than that), current nuclear plant (AP1000) are designed to last 60 years (with the ability to further extend it’s life after this period). So to a certain extent, looking at the cost of new generation for thirty years, and not looking at the entire life of the plant makes it seem more expensive.

    You are definitely beginning to sound like an industry lackey. Who do you work for?

    What qualifies me as an industry lackey? I have done my best to present arguments that are reasonable. Perhaps I’m playing the Devil’s Advocate so that everyone still reading this thread can question their veracity of their beliefs. I certainly don’t work for any industry at this point in time. I’m still in school as a graduate student, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine what field.

  124. 124
    dobbshead

    W. Virginia also has had thousands of miners die in mining accidents and many thousands more die a slow painful death from black lung, brown lung, emphysema and other occupational hazards–the costs of which are NOT publically added into the price of coal.

    Except for the health insurance, worker benefits, workers compensation, etc. that miners unions have fought so hard for? That’s all added into the price of coal, and therefore in to the price the consumer pays.

  125. 125
    democommie

    This:

    “I never said it was a plus, I was merely pointing out factors contributing to higher prices of energy in NY. This is the second time you have put words into my mouth, I would appreciate it if you didn’t.’

    Is a lie. My comment was a question, not an assertion. Stop saying that I’ve put words in your mouth when I clearly have not done so.

    Nuclear Plants are designed to last 60 years? And that means that windpower generators will have to be replaced at 30 years, making them more expensive? Show your math.

    No nuclear plant that I know of has been operated for its design life without shutting down every so often (more often in many cases) for routine maintenance and emergency repairs. The Fort Calhoun, NE nuke is in shutdown for nearly a year at this time, with no re-start date according to OPPD’s website. This plant, should it be found to be inoperable for a long period of time might have to be completely re-evaluated by the NRC priot to a re-start. Numerous nuclear power plants are currently operating on/applying for extensions to their operating licenses. Those extensions are granted without, in any case that I’m aware of, a look INSIDE the reactor. When one of them has a catastrophic accident, the industry and the NRC will likely say that it was an unforeseeable event. That much is true, you can’t foresee events that you don’t think about.

    This screed:

    “The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that the money has been well spent. It is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and for the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible.”

    is from that known bastion of anti-big business thought, Forbes(source: “Nuclear Follies”, a February 11, 1985 cover story in Forbes magazine.).

    Nuclear power, in theory, is a safe, efficient and economical form of power and a reasonable and cost competitive alternative to fossil fuel power generation. In practice it’s a boodoggle.

    The major problem in the wind power generating systems is and has been bearing loading and premature failure. There’s a lot more to be gleaned from this report: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy07osti/41548.pdf.

    Also, when a wind turbine fails and it needs to be repaired/replaced the problem is relatively easy to find and the loss of generating capacity is often localized. When nukes or fossil fuel plants have problems, the result is, all too often a loss of generating capacity for the entire plant for an extended period of time.

    You have asked about “baseload”–I assume that’s the question you say I refuse to answer–and it’s unanswerable since you have already stated that wind, solar and geothermal won’t do. You seem like an industry lackey because although you say that you work in “alternative R+D) you evince NO faith in their systemic efficiencies and effectiveness. Why continue to work at what you view as a failure?–unless of course you’re just happy to take a paycheck for busywork.

    dobbshead:

    “That’s all added into the price of coal, and therefore in to the price the consumer pays.”

    The costs of pollution and the degradation of the landscape are NOT added in. When we talk about petroleum we do not add in the cost of the mid-east militarization which is in the trillions, at this point.

  126. 126
    dobbshead

    Well, my last comment is still awaiting moderation. Can’t imagine why, as far as I know it was strictly factual. Maybe Ed just has a backlog.

    The costs of pollution and the degradation of the landscape are NOT added in.

    Citation needed.

    You seem like an industry lackey because although you say that you work in “alternative R+D) you evince NO faith in their systemic efficiencies and effectiveness.

    Faith is for fundamentalists. What I’ve done here is write out the challenges that intermittent power supplies, namely wind and solar, face when attempting to transition to a carbon neutral economy. Not once have I said it was hopeless, I’ve only said that it is hard work and will take time. Once again you are putting words in my mouth.

    My personal view is that the ideal energy economy is based in wind, solar, and nuclear power. In order to get there we need to solve one basic question: how do we store electricity? (I’d rephrase that as a basic science question: how do we couple oxygen oxidation with hyrdogen reduction at low overpotential?)

    and it’s unanswerable since you have already stated that wind, solar and geothermal won’t do.

    Are you conceding the point that a carbon neutral economy will require nuclear power as baseline power supply until good energy storage systems are developed? If that’s so, then we agree.

  127. 127
    democommie

    “Faith is for fundamentalists. What I’ve done here is write out the challenges that intermittent power supplies, namely wind and solar, face when attempting to transition to a carbon neutral economy. Not once have I said it was hopeless, I’ve only said that it is hard work and will take time. Once again you are putting words in my mouth.”

    So, dobbshead and chemistrynerd are the same guy? Well, sockpuppetry and lackeyism are co-morbidities. Thanks for playing.

  128. 128
    dobbshead

    So, dobbshead and chemistrynerd are the same guy? Well, sockpuppetry and lackeyism are co-morbidities. Thanks for playing.

    What?

  129. 129
    dobbshead

    So, dobbshead and chemistrynerd are the same guy? Well, sockpuppetry and lackeyism are co-morbidities. Thanks for playing.

    So your primary response to being unable to demonstrate that either of us are wrong is to accuse us of fraud? Seriously? The only response to that is a sincere fuck you very much.

  130. 130
    chemistrynerd

    Nuclear Plants are designed to last 60 years? And that means that windpower generators will have to be replaced at 30 years, making them more expensive? Show your math.

    On the site I previously linked the compute the levelized cost of new energy production. This is how much cost the facility, construction costs and financing costs add to the rate of electricty over a set period of time. The EIA used a time span of 30 years for all of the utilities. This means after 30 years the only costs for a plant would be fueling costs and operation and maintenance. Nukes last longer than 30 years, which means they produce cheap energy as the cost of equipment is now around non-zero. As I have said the AP1000 is designed to last 60 years. Unless you contend that wind generators will live substantially beyond the 30 years of levelized cost, that is how much wind will always cost, as wind power will have to pay continually for new installations. Maybe their life can be extended by a major maintenance at that time (replacing the gearbox perhaps), but this would probably be close to buying an entirely new plant.

    No nuclear plant that I know of has been operated for its design life without shutting down every so often

    No plant that I know of has been operated for its design life without shutting down every so often (see what I did there?). This is part of the capacity factor that the EIA works with, which is 90% for nuke plants.

    The Fort Calhoun, NE nuke is in shutdown for nearly a year at this time, with no re-start date according to OPPD’s website.

    Nice pick there, I wonder though, what would happen to a solar plant that experienced flooding? The fact that they are going through safety checks for a year should be a good thing. Certainly it is good that they are taking safety seriously.

    Also, when a wind turbine fails and it needs to be repaired/replaced the problem is relatively easy to find and the loss of generating capacity is often localized. When nukes or fossil fuel plants have problems, the result is, all too often a loss of generating capacity for the entire plant for an extended period of time.

    Yes and when the wind stops blowing this this results all to often in a loss of generating capacity for the entire plant as well. Fortunately in both cases we have surplus power generation to deal with this problem.

    is from that known bastion of anti-big business thought, Forbes(source: “Nuclear Follies”, a February 11, 1985 cover story in Forbes magazine.).

    I’m surprised you didn’t use this quote which you can find all over the web.

    “for the U.S., nuclear power is dead–dead in the near term as a hedge against rising oil prices and dead in the long run as a source of future energy. Nobody really disputes that.”

    Did you bother to read(or even skim) the entire article? This article is not the silver bullet you think it is. Let me follow up with some more quotes from the article which express it’s points:

    “Elsewhere in the world, some 148 nuclear power plants are under construction, 9 more are on order and 157 are in the planning stage. By 1990 the Japanese should be getting close to 20% of their electricity production from nuclear power, the Taiwanese 30%, the Belgians 40%, the French 55%. That’s low-cost energy, all of it, and, according to one study, 30% to 50% lower in cost than coal. The newest French nuclear plant, at Cruas in the south of the country, produces power for under 4 cents a kilowatt-hour, and that’s cheap by almost any standard.”

    “What destroyed the nuclear option in the U.S.? How could U.S. nuclear power costs run so outrageously out of control?”

    “It wasn’t technology that doomed nuclear power in the U.S. As experience everywhere demonstrates, the technology is as sound and productive as its promoters always have claimed it would be.”

    “After Three Mile Island–TMI, as everyone in the industry antiseptically calls it–safety became an obsession. The NRC promulgated hundreds of new safety regulations between 1978 and 1983 to cope with contingencies ranging from earthquakes to missile strikes. Says engineering consultant James O. Love: “An implicit ‘perfection standard’ was emerging as the NRC’s expectation and measuring stick.” The utilities had no choice but to adjust, in some instances tearing apart nearly completed plants to conform to the changes, or redesigning plants just under way.”

    “Everywhere else in the world the answer is nuclear. Could it not be so for the U.S. if only its cost, regulatory and management problems could be solved?”

    “The model everyone cites is the French nuclear program, with its two large-scale standardized designs”

    Cook’s point is not that these added regulations and activists caused nuclear to fail in US, but that the companies building the plants failed in their managerial duties to ensure project success. Part of the problem was in not having a standardized design. Fortunately this is where we are going now with designs like the AP1000. Clearly some companies think that now is the time for growth of the nuclear industry.

    You have asked about “baseload”–I assume that’s the question you say I refuse to answer–and it’s unanswerable since you have already stated that wind, solar and geothermal won’t do. You seem like an industry lackey because although you say that you work in “alternative R+D) you evince NO faith in their systemic efficiencies and effectiveness.

    I don’t work in alternative R&D, and I never said I did. They wind and solar won’t do until we can effectively store energy to use at will for baseloading. In the meantime I am for using wind and solar, but we have to supplement them with an additional power source. Nuclear is the cleanest and most cost effective form of generation that can fill this gap. I am proposing how we can decarbonize our energy production, and all you have done is claim that nuclear is bad, we shouldn’t use it, and offered no alternative solution. So thanks to people like you we will keep on using coal and natural gas, because there is no solution.

  131. 131
    chemistrynerd

    So, dobbshead and chemistrynerd are the same guy? Well, sockpuppetry and lackeyism are co-morbidities. Thanks for playing.

    Well that’s cute. I assume you have analyzed the typeface and shown this to be the case. So because we are pro-nuke we’re the same person?

  132. 132
    dobbshead

    I assume you have analyzed the typeface and shown this to be the case.

    But Democommie and I have the same typeface… OMG, I’M DEMOCOMMIE!!!

  133. 133
    democommie

    “Well, my last comment is still awaiting moderation. Can’t imagine why, as far as I know it was strictly factual. Maybe Ed just has a backlog.

    The costs of pollution and the degradation of the landscape are NOT added in.
    Citation needed.”

    You are correct. The onus, however is on you. I did not make the original claim, thus I have no obligation to prove that ALL externalities are included in the price of coal, oil, nuclear or aother forms of non-renewable energy.

    You do know that you “both” answer questions that are addressed to one or the other of you, yes?

    You also must know that despite what you’re being paid to do this sort of “outreach” that your paymasters are not getting their money’s worth when you’re arguing with one old, retired guy and the rest of the people have left the building?

    Oh, and fuck you, too.

  134. 134
    dobbshead

    your paymasters are not getting their money’s worth

    You are totally right, if I were being paid to do this it would be a complete waste of my time and my boss’ money. There are a lot better ways to get a message out than picking some little argument in a comment thread.

    Anyway, it has been fun. In the future you should read the sources you cite and make sure they say what you think they say. You might even learn something that way.

  135. 135
    democommie

    Damn! I hatez it when I let my temper get the better of me and let the sockpuppetz know that we’re on to them.

    All of your bullshit aside, where is the math on your wind power v nukes.

    Where is the citation showing that all externalities for pollution and environmental degradation are included in the markert prices for fossil and nuke energy?

    Have you heard the latest about Fukushima? As of this week it was announced by the Japanese version of the NRC and the plant’s owners (in a system of industry/regulation which appears to have “interlocking directorates of the revolving door type) that the clean-up of the melted down reactors will commence soon and continue for decades. Meantime that plant is not going back online and Japan has shut down all but two of it’s nukes. Yeah, that’s cost effective.

  136. 136
    democommie

    Oh, gosh, they don’t wanna play anymore.

  137. 137
    dobbshead

    Hey man, I have a full work load and I’ve spent too much time on this debate as it is. As much fun as it has been, I can’t spend the time highlighting how previous posts have already answered your questions.

  138. 138
    democommie

    Oh, really? The external costs of coal as fuel including the costs of envirionmental damage? Nah, that’s not in any posts that I’ve seen.

  139. 139
    dobbshead

    I’m not particularly interested in defending coal. Nuclear power yes, but not coal. That being said, I’m skeptical of any measured claims of ‘external costs’ as a blanket for all of coal. I also worry that attempts to inflate the costs of coal, whether ‘justified’ or not, basically amount to a regressive tax.

    You aren’t going to like this argument, because it sounds like a republican economic argument. But I find the logic compelling, and it goes like this: energy costs figure into every good. Everything from food to clothing requires energy to produce. To a first order approximation it takes just as much energy to create a necessity good (like clothing) as it does to create a similar luxury good (designer clothing). That means, as a percentage of total costs, raising the cost of energy increases the marginal cost of necessity goods the same as luxury goods.

    Poorer people have less money (duh), so the same marginal dollar cost for a poor person is a larger percentage of their budget. (i.e. a $10 change on $1000 budget has a bigger impact than a $10 change on a $100,000 budget) That means that if we tax an energy source it is functionally equivalent to raising the tax rate on the poor (which is regressive). This is a bad secondary consequence of increasing costs of fossil fuels by direct taxation. It’s also a direct consequences of preventing exploration of fossil energy resources (which will raise future costs by limiting supply).

    A better option, in my mind, is to create a tax directly on luxury goods of an equivalent total dollar amount that is earmarked for wind/solar/nuclear subsidies (although nuclear doesn’t really need them). That way the tax scheme is progressive, has a minimal impact on the economy (maybe even stimulates it by creating jobs), and encourages development of low carbon resources.

  140. 140
    dobbshead

    “That means, as a percentage of total costs, raising the cost of energy increases the marginal cost of necessity goods the same as luxury goods.”

    Should read:

    “That means raising the cost of energy increases the marginal cost of necessity goods the same as luxury goods.”

    I was going to do the math as a percentage, but I decided to keep it in marginal value instead because it was more illustrative. Same conclusion though.

  141. 141
    democommie

    Not one of your points has anything to do with what I was talking about.

    I said that externalities not factored into the price of fossil fuels or for that matter nuclear energy lead to people making decisions based on incomplete or flawed data. Your assertion that it will be harder on the poor if we raise prices for fuel is a strawman.

    Show where the cost of the externalities that I talked about are factored into the production cost of fossil and nuclear fuels.

  142. 142
    democommie

    This information:

    •The total shutdown of all 54 nuclear plants, leading to an energy insufficiency
    •Japan’s trade deficit in negative territory for the first time in decades, driven largely by energy imports
    •A budget deficit that is now 56% larger than revenues (!!)
    •Total debt standing at a whopping 235% of GDP
    •A recession shrinking Japan’s economy at an annual rate of 2.3%
    •Renewed efforts underway to debase the yen
    As I wrote a shortly after the earthquake in March 2011, Japan is facing an economic meltdown. If it is not careful, it may well face a currency meltdown, too. These things take time to play out, but now almost exactly a year after the devastating earthquake of 2011, the difficulties for Japan are mounting — as expected.”

    is from here (http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/chris-martenson/japan-is-now-another-spinning-plate-in-the-global-economy-circus)

    The price of oil is almost certainly going up in no small measure because of Fukushima.

    Piss and moan all you want about the insufficiency of alternative energy technology; having a windpower generatior fail is a nuisance, losing the capacity is a larger nuisance. Neither will cause the level or duration of damage to occur that a nuke or gossil fuel accident will.

  143. 143
    dobbshead

    It’s not a strawman, it’s arguing against the basic thesis of the OP: that we should stop the keystone pipeline. The OP (and you) don’t seem to consider the side effects of not developing energy resources. As much as you may dislike those resources, you can’t ignore their benefits when advocating policy.

    Like I said at the beginning of the last post, I’m not interested in defending coal. I don’t have good numbers either way for calculated external costs and I don’t have the time to hunt for them. You are asserting that A) they exist, and B) that they have a significant magnitude. I’m not denying either point, I’m just saying I don’t have numbers and if you want numbers you’ll need to hunt for them yourself.

  144. 144
    dobbshead

    Piss and moan all you want about the insufficiency of alternative energy technology

    Whence commeth Japan’s renewable energy sources?

  145. 145
    democommie

    Industry stooge is industry stooge.

    Leave coal completely out of the argument (since you know fucking well that you can’t provide any sort of link to a study showing that all of the externalities for the cost of coal are figured into its price) concentrate on other fossil guels and nuclear.

    The Keysotone pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen, just as soon as it’s built. The North Slope pipeline does not have an enviable safety record (and since much of it is in remote areas we only have the word of oil company spokesliars on when, where and how significant leaks are.

    Japan has solar, wind and geothermal capabilities which have not been utilized. When those are utilized come back and talk about how they don’t work.

  146. 146
    democommie

    Here’s another paper for you.

    http://solar.gwu.edu/Research/EnergyPolicy_Zweibel2010.pdf

  147. 147
    dobbshead

    That paper makes some biased assumptions in its math, but it’s conclusion isn’t wrong. Solar should expand as rapidly as possible into whatever markets are open to it right now, that’s the only way any industry grows (and the only way my R&D budget stays funded :P). The fact that it’s numbers differ substantially from the DOE estimates makes me a bit wary. Specifically, the extremely low assumed panel replacement rate deflates costs a lot.

    There are also other, less certain cost for future PV installations: (i.e. the cost of glass becomes significant as the demand for glass for solar installations competes with glass for buildings)

    Here is the point that articles does not address: energy demand peaks 3 times a day, the solar spectrum peaks once. To my knowledge we still do not have an efficient method of storing electricity on the scale required to run lights and refrigerators all night. Wind suffers from the same problem.

    It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t build wind and solar, but that we shouldn’t ignore other carbon neutral technologies in the blind belief that future R&D will save our bacon down the line.

  148. 148
    democommie

    “Solar should expand as rapidly as possible into whatever markets are open to it right now, that’s the only way any industry grows (and the only way my R&D budget stays funded :P). The fact that it’s numbers differ substantially from the DOE estimates makes me a bit wary. Specifically, the extremely low assumed panel replacement rate deflates costs a lot.”

    That’s not a rebuttal based on anything but your own bias.

    Remove the subsidies from the fossil fuel and energy figures, pump many billions into R&D for ten years with that money. See what happens.

    Work on storage, instead of lamenting its insufficiency.

    Stop avoiding ansswering the questions I’ve asked in favort of those you want to answer. You’re not arguing in good faith.

  1. 149
    bored, i am bored, what to do when you are bored, being-bored.com, lol, lmao , programing, codeing , forums linux, freebsd, help

    bored, i am bored, what to do when you are bored, being-bored.com, lol, lmao , programing, codeing , forums linux, freebsd, help…

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    Root Force » Blog Archive » Action Opportunities For Solidarity With Tar Sands Blockade

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    LiberalAmerica.org | Mobile, Alabama: Canadian Tar Sands Coming To A Wetland Near You - LiberalAmerica.org

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