The Madness of King Coal

Back when Utah had a governor who thought global warming existed, and who also though we might need to take significant steps regarding our air pollution, the state funded a study by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc, with the help of the Harvard School of Public Health.  It estimated, predictably, that each year over 2 billion dollars in health and water costs are wasted, and approximately 200 lives lost due to coal plant power production in Utah. Not to mention that other “externality” to coal power, global warming.

Wow!  Our state funded study showed us that that nasty air we see every winter is bad for us?  It’s time for us all to come out for energy efficiency and renewable energy power generation, right?  Say farewell to King Coal right Governor Herbert?

Of course not, this is Utah, and what happened next was also as predictable as it is sad.

According to a report at KSL.com, the state “sidetracked (the study) and refused to vouch for it — after it ran into a wall of opposition from industry.”

The study figured $8 million per death, using long established statistical methods.

Clean energy advocate Arthur Morris was at a state meeting where industry representatives denounced the study.

“Kind of went crazy,” Morris said. “It was a little bit surprising to me that they were so incensed by valuing people too much.”

“Anything that would increase energy costs gets our attention,” said attorney Jim Holtkamp, air quality chairman for Utah Manufacturers.

Of course, no one seems to have quibbled with the 202 lives lost, just how much dollar value was placed upon them.  Which, makes some sense, I suppose, when all you really care about is the bottom line.

Supposedly “public meetings” were held when the study came out a few months ago.  Check out Rocky Mountain Power’s statement to KSL about their meeting:

We disagree with the study’s conclusions. Rocky Mountain Power participated in an initial review of the published study along with a broad group of Utah business stakeholders including the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah Manufacturers Association, Utah Association of Energy Users, Utah Industrial Energy Consumers, Utah Mining Association, Deseret Power and others. Together, we identified enough concerns with the assumptions used in the study’s analysis to determine that its results should not be relied on.

-Jeff Hymas, Rocky Mountain Power

Funny, I wonder why clean air advocates and “the public”, never heard about any meeting, and somehow all of the business stakeholders managed to get the news…

It’s time to choose clean air over dirty air, and make the state pay attention to this study and do something about it.  The study not only shows the cost of the current path, but was designed to show the benefits of changing course.  It estimated the cost of substituting energy efficiency and renewables for 1/3 of the least efficient coal plants and found:

To achieve even more dramatic co-benefits, if approximately one-third of Utah’s most inefficient and polluting coal generators are replaced with a rigorous energy efficiency program and either gas or renewable energy, externalities amounting to $70 – $79 could
be realized for each MWh of coal retired or displaced.5

Did I say cost, sorry I meant savings, as that number “exceeds the cost of most electrical generation.”

If anyone out there would like to participate in getting this study publicized and forcing the state to do something about it, feel free to attend this Thursday’s 6pm meeting of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE), at the University of Utah Orthopedic Hospitals’ 3rd floor conference room.  All who care about Utah air quality are welcome, whether health care providers or not.  I will summarize the meeting and action plan in a post after Thursday night.

I’m at work but can answer comments or questions about the meeting after 5 or tomorrow.

By the way, hello and thanks for having me, I’m a physician in Salt Lake, and I’d much prefer cleaner air!

Gary

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  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on July 14, 2010 - 11:17 am

    Welcome, Gary. It’s great to have your perspective. I believe the coal industry argument is that people who die from air pollution tend to be old, therefore their lives are worth less.

    Republicans and industry lobbyists have their “energy tax” talking points all ready, and the media will repeat them nonstop as the Senate finally takes up energy policy.

    The fact is, clean energy and conservation save money. However, facts tend to get lost in this debate.

    • #2 by Gary Kunkel on July 14, 2010 - 11:42 am

      “Facts”, sounds so quaint! Thanks for the welcome. I’m in the process of giving up on national energy policy, but I’m wonder what kind of state-based clean air ballot initiatives could be entertained…I actually think many republicans care about our air pollution, even if they’ve been fooled on global warming…

  2. #3 by cav on July 14, 2010 - 12:42 pm

    An alternative exists: Conservation, energy efficiency and renewables. A high percentage of oil and coal is wasted. Huge efficiency gains are immediately possible with the right investments. What is missed is the most basic of truths. Oil / coal savings keep accumulating.

    Take insulating a building. It will save a certain number of tons of coal this year. And the same number next year. And the year after that, and after that, year-after-year! The coal saved multiplies! Without the insulation, that coal would have to be mined and burned year-after-year, mining and drilling disasters versus savings, cleaner air, and fewer catastrophies. Every year, as energy is saved, fewer mines and coal fires are needed.

    We should continue and further promote development of an energy efficiency and conservation strategy which includes:
    •Building energy audits and retrofits, including weatherization
    •Financial incentive programs for energy efficiency such as energy savings
    •Performance contracting, on-bill financing, and revolving loan funds
    •Transportation programs to conserve energy
    •Building code development, implementation, and inspections
    •Installation of distributed energy technologies including combined heat and power and district heating and cooling systems
    •Material conservation programs including source reduction, recycling, and recycled content procurement programs
    •Reduction and capture of greenhouse gas emissions generated by landfills or similar waste-related sources
    •Installation of energy efficient traffic signals and street lighting
    •Installation of renewable energy technologies on government buildings…at a minimum.

    Trim planetary and self destruction.

    • #4 by Gary Kunkel on July 14, 2010 - 5:37 pm

      I agree we should be doing all of those things. It was interesting, in the Synapse study, they found that doing more renewable energy and energy efficiency didn’t have nearly as much benefit as if they actively retired the least efficient coal plants while doing more renewable energy and energy efficiency to replace the coal plants’ production. They estimated that because of the complex interaction our power plants have with the west coast(namely that we produce a lot of their power), that few if any coal plants would actually shut down, limiting the benefit. But if the plants were deliberately shut down with a replacement of their power with efficiency and renewable measures, then much larger cost/health benefits would occur…

  3. #5 by Larry Bergan on July 14, 2010 - 2:17 pm

    Nice post!

    The problem is the same problem that effects all of the other policies that don’t make any sense: money is in the drivers seat. Most people won’t lift a finger to do anything unless they are compensated with greenbacks.

    Hope the meeting goes well, I have to work tomorrow night.

    • #6 by Gary Kunkel on July 14, 2010 - 5:43 pm

      Thanks, I’ll post about the meeting on Friday… You remind of that quote I had to go look up from Sinclair Lewis: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.”

  4. #7 by brewski on July 14, 2010 - 5:35 pm

    In principle I agree with everything you say.

    I couple of minor quibbles. The increased health care costs, decreased quality of life, ugly air and all sorts of other real costs are indeed “negative externalities” in addition to all the bad effects of global warming. A negative externality in this case is any negative impact imposed on a third-party outside of the direct sale and purchase of the coal-produced electricity. So when you and I buy our electricity from Rocky Mountain Power, each of us imposes a negative externality on our neighbors, not to mention everyone on the planet.

    This is a well understood economic principle which is taught in freshman Economics. It is not a liberal observation at all. It is simple observed fact.

    Externalities are probably the argument for government intervention that economists most respect.

    – The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

    I find it deeply troubling that the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, as well as other ostensibly pro-market voices don’t acknowledge this actual failure by markets to capture all the costs in an exchange where negative externalities exist. (As an aside, other market failures such as “moral hazard” and “agency cost” are also well understood and taught in freshman Economics and are not liberal. They just are.) The explanation for this is troubling in that their understanding of negative externalities and their willingness to ignore it must mean that they are willing to impose serious costs on others to benefit their own private interests.

    Also taught in freshman Economics is the preferred solution to negative externalities. The preferred solution is to price in all of the costs which are not being captured by the market exchange and incorporate that into a tax on the exchange to achieve a new price which approximates the costs incurred by society as a whole so that society is being directly reimbursed through the tax revenue for the costs borne by the negative externalities.

    The reason why this is the preferred solution is that it captures all of the external costs and internalizes them into the price paid in the transaction. So that the buyer of this dirty electricity now is paying its full cost to society. So let’s say the external costs are of $79 / MWh are identified from dirty energy as this post suggests. So then we could impose a $79/MWh tax on that dirty energy. It is no surprise that this will result in the price of electricity being $79/MWh more expensive that it would be if the external costs were dumped on everyone else.

    The beauty of this is that this more expensive dirty electricity is likely to drive all kinds of socially desirable behavior without any additional government regulation and incentives. The price alone will be the only incentive needed. With dirty electricity now at $159/MWh rather than $80/MWh, users of electricity will take it upon themselves to figure out ways to use less of it. They could stop buying McMansions needing all that wasted air conditioning, they could buy a home-based solar panel system (and not need tax credits to make it pay for itself), they could buy more efficient windows and insulation, etc. Also, producers of electricity will look for sources of cleaner electricity now because it is compellingly cheaper than it was before. Therefore, there will be no need for mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards, or other regulatory mandates and requirements.

    Proposed renewable power projects will no longer need tax incentives and government loan guarantees to make their projects viable and financeable. Being able to sell their clean power at the much higher price will be all that is needed to get wind, solar, biomass and methane recapture projects built and online. Therefore, this tax will actually reduce the need for regulation and regulators.

    This pollution tax does not need to be a net tax increase, and could be revenue neutral if it offsets other taxes, as Al Gore suggested:

    http://www.taxfoundation.org/blog/show/1849.html

    What is interesting about this article is that the Tax Foundation does not dismiss it out of hand and treats it as a serious proposal to be considered along with its benefits and consequences.

    I certainly believe that this sort of pollution tax (to include CO2, Methane, Sox, NOx, etc.) is infinitely superior to a VAT tax on all consumption, which is being discussed seriously in the halls of Congress as we speak. I would much rather tax pollution, than the un-harmful necessities of life. I would hope that the argument for this is obvious and unassailable.

    I don’t understand why it seems to more politically expedient to impose a tax on everyone and everything rather than just a tax on pollution and polluters.

  5. #8 by Gary Kunkel on July 14, 2010 - 5:45 pm

    Sorry I’m having trouble replying accurately, but 6 was at Cav, and 7 at Larry!

  6. #9 by Gary Kunkel on July 14, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    Brewski I think you are right, that is the beautiful solution, wish it would happen soon…

  7. #10 by Larry Bergan on July 14, 2010 - 6:35 pm

    Gary said:

    Sorry I’m having trouble replying accurately, but 6 was at Cav, and 7 at Larry!

    Don’t worry about it. Also be prepared for the inevitable other problems that crop up here from time to time. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a comment will get swept into the spam filter or you won’t be able to get in at all. It’s not anything you did and it’s actually very rare.

    Good quote from Sinclair Lewis, and very true.

    • #11 by Gary Kunkel on July 14, 2010 - 7:01 pm

      Thanks, Larry.

  8. #12 by cav on July 14, 2010 - 9:34 pm

    Gary, when I first read about the colusion of King Coal and the state of Utah in squelching the Synapse Energy Economics, Inc study, it was this Sinclair Lewis quote that came into my mind:

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.”

    “It Cant Happen Here”, 1935

    Brew,

    I think you are right, that is the beautiful solution…

    If I understood you correctly…ditto.

  9. #13 by Larry Bergan on July 14, 2010 - 10:04 pm

    brewski:

    Kind of makes you wish the election hadn’t been stolen from Gore, doesn’t it?

  10. #14 by brewski on July 14, 2010 - 10:39 pm

    Larry,
    It would be nice to think that Al Gore or anyone would have made a difference that way. But according to my good friend Dwight Sheldon Adams:

    Like the carbon tax? Yeah, right. Congress won’t allow it, and the prez can’t make it happen.

    So apparently not Al Gore nor Jesus Christ could get a carbon tax through Congress. And this is a Congress which is overwhelmingly Dem. And is also a Congress which is working on a VAT tax.

    And they wonder why most people don’t trust the dirt they walk on?

  11. #15 by Larry Bergan on July 14, 2010 - 11:44 pm

    Brewski:

    Free and fair elections cannot be minimized. They are the lifeblood of an attempt at democracy. We failed because we didn’t trust the electorate who, (unless you missed it), were deprived of getting the smart guy they voted for into office. He wasn’t Jesus Christ, but he wasn’t George Bush either; he was a guy who cared about and worked for the environment before it was popular.

  12. #16 by James Farmer on July 14, 2010 - 11:51 pm

    brew:

    Gore would not have invaded a sovereign nation and driven our (yours and mine) country into near bankruptcy. Do you understand that point?

  13. #17 by Larry Bergan on July 14, 2010 - 11:57 pm

    When did you ever see somebody release a great film for free. Michael Moore did, and it includes a song which I think is the highlight of the film, but the whole film is a monument to the rights we still have as Americans, (that is, until Comcast, AT & T, and Verison steal it from us), who can still upload and download what we what.

    The song is a little after 26 minutes in, and you can download the film here.

    Kerry and Gore let us down by not fighting for the elections they won, but I don’t know what they truly faced.

  14. #18 by Larry Bergan on July 15, 2010 - 12:06 am

    President Gore lives on my street!

  15. #19 by Larry Bergan on July 15, 2010 - 1:37 am

    A, (Utah specific), film was made about the stolen 2004 election of John Kerry. You can find that film here.

    Although this film doesn’t touch on election fraud, it was about an attempt to squash free speech on a college campus in Utah.

    Great film!

  16. #20 by brewski on July 15, 2010 - 9:11 am

    James,
    Please explain to me how not invading Iraq would have gotten a carbon tax through Congress, which DSA says is impossible.

  17. #21 by Richard Okelberry on July 15, 2010 - 9:40 am

    “…and approximately 200 lives lost due to coal plant power production in Utah.” – Gary Kunkel

    Am I wrong? I thought that the largest contributors to air pollution in Utah during the winter were caused by petroleum refineries, automotive exhaust and wood burning. Is coal burning really that high of a health risk to area residents and how much does it actually contribute to poor air quality compared to other pollution sources? I imagine that if 200 are dying annually than there are plenty of others that are suffering other severe health effects.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand that coal can be some dirty stuff, but you have to understand that this is the first time that I have read that it is such a major contributor air pollution in Utah during the winter. I would imagine that for coal to be such a major contributor to health risks in Utah, they must be located in areas where their emissions can be trapped by inversions along our high population corridors like the Wasatch front area. Do we actually have any coal plants in these areas and how much do they contribute to air pollution in those areas relative to other sources of pollution?

    While I have not had time to read the entire study, it seems that this study failed to properly weigh the contribution emissions from natural gas plants. They seem to rely on old modeling for emissions from gas plants to model emissions from coal. Then they admit that the only verifiable example or data set that they have, doesn’t match the outcome of their modeling. Then they rely on a huge guess or assumption about plant proximity to explain the anomaly. This is very strange. You would think that this would prompt them to gather more data so that they could show that their modeling matches real world observations.

    For most gas-fired power plants in Utah, no direct chemistry-transport modeling has been conducted, so we rely on extrapolations from previously modeled power plants. This generally yields population exposures per unit emissions on a par with coal-fired power plants, which is likely reasonable at first order given general similarities in plant locations, stack heights, and other basic characteristics affecting pollutant fate and transport. However, the one directly-modeled gas-fired power plant (Gadsby) did have significantly greater exposures per unit emissions than all coal-fired power plants, likely due to its location near population centers.” – Co-Benefits of Energy
    Efficiency and Renewable
    Energy in Utah

    We also must consider that Ozone emissions from various sources, is considered a significant health risk. As such, Ozone readings by the EPA are published for different areas on a daily basis. This report seemed to pay little attention to developing their own data regarding ozone, so that its effects could be properly removed from the data.

    “As described previously, ozone exposure modeling is based on a single paper in which relationships were derived for a single summertime month more than 10 years ago, so the uncertainties for ozone impacts are likely large and potentially highly biased. That said, there is some evidence that the annual ozone health effect is due to a high effect in the ozone season and minimal effect in other seasons, so there may be offsetting errors.” – Co-Benefits of Energy
    Efficiency and Renewable
    Energy in Utah

    Here they are relying on the fact that there “MAY” be offsetting errors to support their conclusions. If this is true then logic dictates that there MAY NOT be these errors which would then invalidate their conclusions. I suppose it all depends on how you flip the coin and what you are trying to prove.

    It’s not that I disagree with the notion that coal is dirty and should be replaced. I just think that it is important that we all understand that without huge amounts of data, it is very, very difficult to describe a cause and effect in this case. Any attempt needs to directly model as many contributing factors as possible.

    “It’s time to choose clean air over dirty air, and make the state pay attention to this study and do something about it.” – Gary Kunkel

    It appears that there are those that are choosing a different path.

    “Blue Castle Nuclear Power Project Signs $30 Million Private Equity Agreement
    SALT LAKE CITY, UT–(Marketwire – June 29, 2010) – Blue Castle Holdings Inc. (Blue Castle), developer of a planned nuclear power plant projects in Green River, Utah has entered into an agreement with LeadDog Capital L.P. for private equity financing…

    …The Blue Castle Project is considered the leading new nuclear deployment project in the Western US. Blue Castle has secured difficult to obtain water leases essential for running a nuclear power plant. The planned site is located in Emery County, and zoning has been changed to accommodate the nuclear plant project. The project is in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s budget cycle to begin the site permit application licensing review in 2011. Utah is a great location not only because of good physical site characteristics but the State of Utah officially supports new nuclear development with financial incentives. The project is well placed to efficiently support projected new market demands for electricity.” – http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Blue-Castle-Nuclear-Power-Project-Signs-30-Million-Private-Equity-Agreement-1283579.htm

    I personally agree with Obama that Nuclear Power must be a part of our future energy supply. How do you feel about this as a prospect for completely replacing both coal and Natural Gas?

  18. #22 by Richard Warnick on July 15, 2010 - 9:50 am

    R.O.–

    Aside from the obvious drawbacks of nuclear power in general (e.g. at 14 cents per kilowatt-hour it’s the most expensive way to generate power, and we still don’t know what to do with spent fuel rods), the Green River power plant proposal has a fatal flaw: water.

    The Green River is already over-appropriated. There isn’t any water available for a nuclear power plant. Let me note that water rights are not the same as actual H20.

  19. #23 by James Farmer on July 15, 2010 - 10:05 am

    brew:

    I believe I posed a request, above. Please give it some thought and get back to me.

  20. #24 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 15, 2010 - 10:38 am

    Gary–

    Great post. Welcome to the site, but don’t be fooled—we’re not usually this nice. Unless we agree with you. Which I do. ;-)

    James–

    Although ideally we don’t want to waste resources on nuclear because it will ultimately need to be replaced with a more renewable source, I do believe that practicality demands that we utilize nuclear for some time, yet. It’s also preferable to coal, which uses about the same amount of water and pollutes far more. We just shouldn’t expand our nuclear so far that it ends up being a massive liability down the road.

    Brewski–

    The present Congress won’t allow it for multiple reasons:

    1) There are too many corrupt politicians;
    2) There’s too much campaign money in the energy industry;
    3) The political landscape has become a winner-take-all battleground;
    4) Republicans have the filibuster.

    I doubt that the Dems would even pass a straight-out carbon tax, but cap-and-trade is at least a step in the right direction. If it can be simply turned into a carbon tax (and that tax passes; the American people and Congress both have to be convinced first), I think it may have the effect you’re talking about. That’s something I can applaud, although there are a few other tweakings of the energy industry I would push for. I don’t like the idea of the energy industry getting rich off of government action (they would use the tax as an excuse to raise charges just a tiny bit more), and I especially don’t like the idea of that industry being painted as the ones who saved us from an oppressive energy tax—which is what ultimately would happen without a massive anti-propaganda campaign.

    The idea of using taxes to account for negative externalities is actually quite a bit in keeping with a moderate (i.e. safe) degree of economic planning, with the caveat that it passes on all costs for those externalities to the consumer, and none to the producer. The producer finding an alteration in demand, however, will be forced to change his industry or cope with the consequences, so I can see how the consequences do transfer—albeit mainly through a change in behavior. The costs are therefore pretty fairly spread across the consumer/producer/owner bases.

    I could see, though, that coal energy production under such a scheme would not be as necessarily minimized as the negative externalities indicate—we’re dealing with a market solution, not a moral one, remember? The changes will occur only so far as the market will require. Becoming accustomed to higher energy costs, people will accept any savings as a wind(mill)fall, and coal energy production will be reduced only partially. Consumer demand will find a compromise between the old low and the new high, and profits will become stable before the transitions demanded by morality and sustainability come to be.

    So, while I find your solution desirable within the context of what is presently possible for our culture and our politics, I see further measures being necessary for the end solution of our present iteration to be found. These measures, to me, mostly regard public demand for change regardless of their most profitable ratio of supply to demand in the energy industry. The tax would certainly be a grand way to start, though, and probably the most efficient way in our system to maintain whatever positives emerge from it.

    I find it deeply troubling that the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, as well as other ostensibly pro-market voices don’t acknowledge this actual failure by markets to capture all the costs in an exchange where negative externalities exist. (As an aside, other market failures such as “moral hazard” and “agency cost” are also well understood and taught in freshman Economics and are not liberal. They just are.) The explanation for this is troubling in that their understanding of negative externalities and their willingness to ignore it must mean that they are willing to impose serious costs on others to benefit their own private interests.

    I want to take this opportunity to point out that this is the basic operation of business. The likelihood of a business going out of its way to increase the costs of its products without increasing its profit concurrently in order to fully represent costs that are not forcibly thrust upon it is quite low in our present environment. It’s just the way it is. You make as much money as possible as fast as possible and, as long as you won’t get in trouble (and even sometimes when you know you will), damn the consequences. Dog eat dog, etc. etc.

    I find it “deeply troubling,” too. I just don’t find it surprising. As Gary noted with Upton Sinclair’s words: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.”

    Good post, Brew.

  21. #25 by brewski on July 15, 2010 - 12:36 pm

    James,
    I have made numerous simple requests from you, none of which have you obliged, so any request from you, especially ones which are off-topic, will be ignored.

  22. #26 by Gary Kunkel on July 15, 2010 - 12:50 pm

    Thanks everyone for the great and thought provoking commentary. I will look forward to less niceness when I post something more disagreeable.

    Richard O. I think you raise some great points here that I didn’t flesh out as much in my diary as I could/should have.

    Am I wrong? I thought that the largest contributors to air pollution in Utah during the winter were caused by petroleum refineries, automotive exhaust and wood burning. Is coal burning really that high of a health risk to area residents and how much does it actually contribute to poor air quality compared to other pollution sources? I imagine that if 200 are dying annually than there are plenty of others that are suffering other severe health effects.

    There are almost certainly many more lives prematurely lost and hospitalizations incurred annually from other sources than coal plants, but the Synapse analysis was really about our power generation and not air pollution in general. Here is a link to the locations of the 16 coal plants in Utah, unfortunately several, including the single biggest, are downwind of the Wasatch front (unfortunately not to mention Nevada plants).

    I can’t find the figure but I will try to when I get home, but I haven’t seen one that breaks out perfectly the different sources of particulates, but I think other particle forming emissions make it even more complicated than that. My impression was something like 25% from powerplants/industry, 25% from cars/trucks, a few percent for woodburning, 20% ish from nonroad mobile sources like construction/recreation vehicles etc…and a bunch of other smaller things, but that’s just straight PM2.5 emissions and SOx and NOx I think also form particulates and have different proportions. Ozone is again a different mix of sources, with I think vehicles playing a bigger role. I think addressing each of these sources is key, but as I mentioned the Synapse study only focused on power generation. For global warming, the power plants are a bigger part of the problem, of course.

    With regard to natural gas, I think they weren’t using gas to estimate coal emissions, but to estimate gas emissions (which btw, they think does about as well as renewables for reducing all costs relative to coal).

    I’m not a huge fan of nuclear, mostly because of the cost, the waste, and the fact that I don’t think it’s the power source I want the entire world to rely on in the future (given weaponization etc…), but do agree it can play an important role as renewables come online and store power more effectively etc…

  23. #27 by Gary Kunkel on July 15, 2010 - 12:59 pm

    Forgot to mention, I can’t keep track of who is requesting which info from James and Brewski – but I sometimes do wonder what would’ve happened if Gore had been Pres. My guess is hugely reduced deficit/no Iraq invasion/no medicare drug benefit without being paid for, I have no idea if they would have been more proactive on the evolving recession…If we had less of an enormous deficit would we have worked on climate sooner?

    Maybe so…Back in those years republicans used to believe in global warming, plus Gore would’ve made it priority number one (instead of healthcare ala Obama)…Of course, they probably would’ve stopped believing in global warming if Gore were president, though. Anyways, back to work but thanks for the discussion everyone!

  24. #28 by brewski on July 15, 2010 - 1:28 pm

    If Gore were president, then there would have been the continuation of the divided government which was in place for the last 6 years of the Clinton era. That tension was successful in preventing the worst instincts both Clinton and the
    GOP and would have likely continued.

    The recession, which was beginning in 2000 and went into 2001-2003, would have still happened.
    The blundering of the FBI and other intelligence agencies would have still happened, and 9/11 would have still happened. Alan Greenspan would have still been Chairman of the Federal Reserve and would still have lowered interest rates too low and for too long, thus creating the real estate bubble. That bubble would still have burst bringing down everything and everyone with it.It is hard to imagine that Gore would not have invaded Afghanistan after 9/11.

    So the only thing which would certainly be different is the invasion of Iraq and the tax cuts. Other than that, it seems unlikely that the Federal Reserve Bank, the FBI, the SEC and other regulatory bodies would have acted differently because Gore was president. As for health care, there probably would have been some reforms from the divided government, but not the bill that we got, for better or for worse.

    I doubt we would have gotten any meaningful climate legislation. When I met Gore in 1991 he gave a talk about proposed tax incentives for climate technology which sounded like it would have done little other than provide full employment for tax attorneys and CPA’s and done little to actually improve the environment.

    Maybe Gore would have not assaulted a massage therapist in his hotel in Oregon.

  25. #29 by Richard Warnick on July 15, 2010 - 1:56 pm

    brewski–

    Maybe the 9/11 plot could have been stopped. There was plenty of evidence beforehand. The responsible agencies simply didn’t connect the dots.

    – Phoenix FBI agent wrote a July 2001 memo requesting an investigation into the large number of international terrorism suspects taking flight lessons
    – FBI knew that hijackers Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi had sought pilot training
    – CIA knew that hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar were al-Qaeda members living in the USA, using their real names
    – The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) for August 6, 2001 contained a two-page section entitled “Bin Ladin (sic) Determined to Strike in US”
    – Zacarias Moussaoui arrested August 16, 2001, had 747 manuals in his possession and incriminating notebook entries

    In congressional testimony, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said, “9/11 should have and could have been prevented.”

    If the Supreme Court had allowed Al Gore’s election to the Presidency to take effect, I think there’s a good chance the new administration would not have dismissed the imminent threat of a terrorist attack on the USA the way Bush did.

  26. #30 by Richard Okelberry on July 15, 2010 - 2:02 pm

    Gary,

    Thanks for your response. I certainly am not saying that this report is completely inaccurate. It very well may be possible that the effects of coal on pollution in the area are vastly understated because it is vastly misunderstood. I just am always wary of any study whose specific intention is to help craft public policy. It seems that when such reports are crafted they rarely receive adequate peer review and are usually only subject to partisan criticism, which is not good science in any sense of the word. I personally worked on water research projects in the state when I attended school at Utah State. I have seen how grant money can carry with it very intense expectations about anticipated results.

    I think that your objection to Nuclear Power for having the potential for weaponizing spent fuel is probably the best argument against. As such, this may not be a third world solution, but even if only the worlds most developed nations switched to nuclear energy it would cause a huge reduction in particulate and carbon emissions world wide.

    While the existing nuclear plants in the U.S. certainly are inefficient, modern nuclear stations like those developed by the French, who have been advancing the science over the last 3 decades, don’t suffer from some of the same problems regarding waste that our current plants do. These new facilities are able to recycle spent fuel to the point that the half life for spent fuel is a mere 20 years. Also, there certainly is an issue for available water for such facilities in Utah. Of course any move towards modern nuclear power would likely need an upgraded grid much like wind power to be able to transport the power more efficiently.

    Before you give up on Nuclear power consider that one Nuclear power plant produces on-demand that same amount of power as 4767 modern wind turbines. That is enough turbines to stretch down almost the entire coast of California or cover an area 4 times the size of Manhattan Island. To replace our entire grid with wind power and eliminate coal power completely, it would take an area the size of Maryland covered top to bottom, end to end. Even then, we would still need an entire grid of back-up Natural gas plants for those days when there just isn’t enough wind to keep up with demand.

    I’d invite you to read a few essays that I have written on this issue and see what you think. One that you might find very interesting talks about the possibility of using Hydrogen as a storage source for inconsistent power generation like wind and solar titled Renewable Energy Shortfall.

    Renewable Energy Shortfall

    Just Nuke It!

    Obama Finally Right! -

  27. #31 by Richard Okelberry on July 15, 2010 - 2:16 pm

    Mr Warnick,

    “Aside from the obvious drawbacks of nuclear power in general (e.g. at 14 cents per kilowatt-hour it’s the most expensive way to generate power, and we still don’t know what to do with spent fuel rods), the Green River power plant proposal has a fatal flaw: water.”

    Your 14 cent estimate is by far the highest I have ever seen.

    ” Operating Costs
    These costs are much easier to quantify and are independently verified as they relate directly to the profitability of the Utilities which operate them. Any discrepancies are soon discovered through accounting audits. Company’s that operate the USA’s nuclear power reactors have made excellent profits over the last five years. The US Nuclear Power industry has at last lived up to its promise made in in 1970’s to produce electricity reliably and cheaply. Since 1987 the cost of producing electricity from has decreased from 3.63 cents per KWHr to 1.68 cents per KWHr in 2004 and plant availability has increased from 67% to over 90%. The operating cost includes a charge of 0.2 cents per KW-Hr to fund the eventual disposal of waste from the reactor and for decommissioning the reactor. The price of Uranium Ore contributes approximately 0.05 cents per KWHr.” – http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/WebHomeCostOfNuclearPower
    And…
    ” In 2003, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued a report entitled, “The Future of Nuclear Power”. They estimated that new nuclear power in the US would cost 6.7 cents per kW•h.[2] However, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes a tax credit that should reduce that cost slightly.
    The lifetime cost of new generating capacity in the United States was estimated in 2006 by the U.S. government (the 2007 report did not estimate costs). Nuclear power was estimated at 5.93 cents per kW•h. However, the “total overnight cost” for new nuclear was assumed to be $1,984 per kWe[37] — as seen above in Capital Costs, this figure is subject to debate.
    A 2008 study based on historical outcomes in the U.S. said costs for nuclear power can be expected to run $0.25-.30 per kW•h.[38]
    A 2008 study concluded that if carbon capture and storage was required then nuclear power would be the cheapest source of electricity even at $4,038/kW in overnight capital cost.[16]
    In 2009, MIT updated its 2003 study, concluding that inflation and rising construction costs had increased the overnight cost of nuclear power plants to about $4,000/kWe, and thus increased the power cost to 8.4¢/kW•h.[39][5]” – Wikipedia

    Still for argument sake, let’s say that you are correct and nuclear power is the most expensive. What price are you willing to pay for your electricity for clean air? Also, what other option are you proposing? How will you eliminate the use of Coal in the country if that is the goal? What is your suggestion? What technology is there right now, not in some hypothetical future that can be applied to ensure that every coal plant across the nation can be shut down? Ultimately, any option that requires that people live with rolling black-outs simply won’t be accepted by the voting population.

  28. #32 by brewski on July 15, 2010 - 2:57 pm

    Richard,
    We will never know. However, taking the threat more seriously is a long way from figuring out who the hijackers were, where they were, stopping them from boarding planes, etc.

    I can just imagine the FBI raiding the homes of the hijackers when they hadn’t yet broken any law and then watching the ACLU file civil rights lawsuits on their behalf accusing the Gore administration of racial profiling. Then Gore would be apologizing to the Saudi royal family for the mistreatment of their humble allah-loving citizens.

    As we know now, the Obama administration has failed to stop three terrorist attacks (Detroit, Times Square, Ft. Hood). The first 2 did not succeed due to the terrorists’ own failings in knowing how to make a bomb, and not due to any intelligence or law enforcement action. There was also plenty of warning in particular for the Ft. Hood attack. So, to armchair quarterback now and claim that Gore would have stopped the 9/11 attacks takes a bit of a stretch of what that would have required to do so and examples of more recent events.

  29. #33 by Richard Warnick on July 15, 2010 - 3:07 pm

    R.O.–

    First of all, the Green River nuclear power plant can never be built because there is not enough water available to run it. You didn’t address that issue.

    As you know, the nuclear power industry is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on research, uranium mining subsidies, liability insurance, loan guarantees, tax credits, nuclear waste projects etc. No more nuclear plants can be built without additional massive subsidies. Yet nuclear power is still the most expensive source of electricity.

    There are a lot of different sources for relative electricity generation costs, calculated in many different ways. The estimate I cited was one I read somewhere on the cost of electricity from a new (as opposed to existing) nuclear power plant. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) puts the cost of power from new nuclear plants at 15.2 cents per kWh.

    You seem to assume that new nuclear power plants can be built quickly and affordably. This is the opposite of the truth. It takes at least a decade to build a nuclear plant, and private financing is not available because of the risk.

    So, for the sake of argument let’s say the CPUC is correct. How do we reduce carbon emissions?

    (1) The EPA is already working on a regulatory scheme to cut carbon emissions. Let’s hope the Obama administration can muster the political will to follow through.

    (2) Energy efficiency and energy conservation are by far the easiest ways to approach the problem, and consumers can save money right away. This could be the subject of another post, if Gary has time to write it. ;-)

    (3) Even without conservation, electricity usage goes up about one percent a year. Wind power can meet that demand easily, at 4.5 to 7.5 cents per kWh. We should have a national goal of achieving 20 percent of our power from wind by 2020, in less than the time it would take to build one nuclear plant.

    (4) Solar power has come down greatly in cost. In Spain, you can now buy a solar house that uses no external power, and produces enough extra to charge up your electric car.

    (5) I don’t know anyone demanding “that every coal plant across the nation” be shut down. A moratorium on new coal plants is needed now, along with better emission controls. There is no such thing as “clean coal,” but that doesn’t mean emissions can’t be reduced.

  30. #34 by cav on July 15, 2010 - 3:14 pm

    Wouldn’t want to bank on an unregulated industry of any sort. Of course, the real capitalists will go where the regulation is the thinnest.
    Quote #19 by cav on July 15, 2010 – 9:00 am

    From R. O.s nuke pitch:

    Utah is a great location not only because of good physical site characteristics but the State of Utah officially supports new nuclear development with financial incentives.

    I can see the Environmental statement’s disaster plan – complete with references to emergency protection of Carriboo and Pelt Seals. An industry standard the State of Utah will officially and enthusiastically support.

    How about HealUtah’s success in curbing the importation of radioactive waste by ‘EnergySolutions’? BRAVO

  31. #35 by Larry Bergan on July 15, 2010 - 3:15 pm

    After Cheney appointed himself Vice President he also appointed himself as the terrorism chief, taking the job away from Richard Clark. In that roll, Cheney did nothing but try to figure out a way to get into Iraq and held no meetings concerning anything that would have prevented 911.

    There is no way an Al Gore administration would have ignored the threat of 911. You’re way off base on that one brewski, but thanks for admitting that Al Gore had some good ideas about what needed to be done on global warming and energy.

    Gore also gave a very good speech concerning civil liberties and would never have stomped on our rights even in the very small chance that 911 had happened on his watch. We’ll never know for sure what would have happened and that was a terrible injustice to the majority of Americas who voted for Gore. It would have been interesting to see what a Kerry presidency would have accomplished also.

  32. #36 by Gary Kunkel on July 15, 2010 - 5:39 pm

    Thanks Richard O. for the links, very interesting all!

    As far as peer reviewing goes, I’ve at least seen quite a few peer reviewed articles on the health effects and deaths from both particulates and ozone, so those shouldn’t be in doubt. To the extent that coal plants emit particulates and things that can make ozone, I would be very surprised that they weren’t part of that burden. I think the number 202 premature deaths struck be as low given our pollution burder, but as you correctly pointed out, a lot of other emitters go into that burden as well.

    As for wind power vs. nuclear, I suppose I still have a bit of a moral hangup, that all these developing countries are (economically) trying to emulate us, and then to say that we’re going to rely on a technology we say they can’t have…If I were living in a large developing country I’d vote coal in that case…

    I also have heard “better” numbers from NREL on wind needed (actually not sure if they’re different regarding land area used, given that they estimate suitable wind power locations across the country). But that report estimated enough “wind-suitable” land in the US to generate 9 times the power we currently use. Maybe they wouldn’t be so overwhelming in appearance if spread out…

  33. #37 by brewski on July 15, 2010 - 6:21 pm

    Accounting for $/KWh can be a very slippery exercise. I doubt that a single nuclear power plant could ever be built today without Federal loan guarantees and statutory liability caps. No bank is going to lend money with an infinite liability potential from a nuclear accident. So comparing $/KWh is fiction when, without those guarantees, it would never get built at all.

  34. #38 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 15, 2010 - 8:50 pm

    Another note about Brewski’s carbon tax solution—the main reason I oppose “market responsibility” solutions:

    The cost of the carbon tax would fall most heavily on the poorest people, both directly through their energy costs and secondarily through increased transportation costs for goods in the low-end consumer markets and for commodities.

    Basing my assumption of a minimum standard of living upon the general wealth (or potential productivity) of the nation, one of two things would likely result from such a tax:

    1) The poorest people would see their standard of living dip below said standard, even when the standard is modified to include negative externalities;

    2) The government, in order to keep result 1 from happening, would increase poverty subsidization, both in hand outs-per-person and ranks.

    The first option is unacceptable (in my eyes), and the second would be yet another dependency-generating hand out and would in actuality be a subsidy of the energy industry, thus decreasing said industry’s financial motivation to seek cheaper, more sustainable alternatives.

    In order to gently motivate market responsibility, one typically has to allow that responsibility to express itself as a maintenance of benefit, such that negative consequences fall upon those with the least power to enforce their presence within any emergent body of beneficiaries.

    Larry, Richard–

    There’s really no way to tell how things would have been different under Gore—no surety can be found on that path but the comfort of opinions granted immunity by the passing of time (“I took the [road] less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.” –Robert Frost). Such opinions come dangerously close to deserving the designation of “delusion.”

    Like you, though, I believe that, for better or worse, I would have at least found more satisfaction under his tenure than under Bush’s.

    Brewski–

    Accounting for $/KWh is a slippery exercise indeed, especially if that accounting throws in the abstracted concept of negative externalities. I would have thought that government enforcing such abstracted, unavoidably subjective analyses would prove to be too strongly seasoned with central planning for your tastes.

    I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s not.

    –Dwight

  35. #39 by brewski on July 16, 2010 - 3:39 pm

    Yes,
    A carbon tax should not be done in isolation for the reasons you point out. Simultaneous to this we also need to completely rewrite our tax code which has all kinds of perverse outcomes and undesirable incentives built into it. I would also throw into the mix radical changes to our social security, welfare, healthcare and pretty much every other government program you can think of. Pretty much all of them are poorly designed even if you accept the premise of the programs in the first place.

    However, all of this can be done and all of these problems are solvable. We know they are solvable if the much admired social democracies of Europe have electricity prices 2 to 3 times higher than ours, and they have lower income tax rates, and they have universal healthcare, and they have a more generous social safety net. So this can be done and has been done.

    As stated a billion times now, externalities are a mainstream accepted fact in economics. Pricing in those external costs into a use-tax is not any kind of radical idea. Probably where some libertarian-style conservatives have trouble with that is that they don’t believe the government will stop there. Once emboldened with the idea of taxing bad behavior, they will start thinking up ways to tax cigarettes, alcohol, soft drinks and not eating three servings of veggies per day. The first two are, the third is proposed and the last might seem laughable now, but you never know.

  36. #40 by Richard Okelberry on July 17, 2010 - 8:07 am

    Any Carbon Tax will have the addition effect of making the government addicted to Carbon money they way it is addicted to Tobacco money. The state of Utah receives so much in Tobacco revenue that its entire budget would collapse if it went away. As such, tax revenue actually becomes a disincentive for the government to actively curb smoking, which is the stated goal of the tobacco taxes. It is a vicious circle that will be played out with carbon taxes also. Remember, the goal is to eliminate carbon, not make it a revenue stream for the government.

    Eventually, if the government begins profiting from carbon, it will need to ensure that enough carbon is emitted to keep the money coming in. They will be making public statements against it, while making back room deals to keep it profitable the way they do with tobacco. For this reason, it is far better to produce incentives for those that produce carbon free power then to try and curb carbon output through taxation that will ultimately just be passed on to consumers anyway.

  37. #41 by Ken on July 17, 2010 - 8:31 am

    Carbon taxes is attack on the poor and middle class. Since alternative fuels, as we know them today such as wind and solar, can never produce the energy we need for our modern society. Since the people will never voluntarily give up their cars and air conditioners then they must be forced too by making them too expensive for most people to operate.

    Carbon taxes are nothing more than a tool for big government control at the expense of our liberties. Don’t fall for it.

  38. #42 by cav on July 17, 2010 - 10:12 am

    Air conditioning is part of the very cause of the ‘heat-island’ that is part of every city.
    White roofing, that sort of thing, the reduced reliance on petro-powered food movement, etc. might allow us to leave our windows open, let the heat out and the coolth in.

    Imagine a society where natural systems do more of the driving…think back a hundred or so years.

  39. #43 by brewski on July 17, 2010 - 1:55 pm

    Ken,
    Breathing poisonous air is an attack on the poor, the middle class, the rich, the Buddhist, the Mormon, the Jew, the Muslim, the atheist, the Wiccan, the old, the young….everyone who breathes.

    There broadly two ways to clean it up. Mandate through regulations clean-ness. Or tax pollution that results in market forces for people to figure out ways on their own to reduce pollution. I prefer the latter.

    To mandate clean-ness some of the easiest ways is through building codes requiring houses and businesses to be something like Energy Star or LEEDS efficient.

    But what is not well understood about this approach is that it actually encourages more wasteful behavior. Because it is not only the dynamic that an Energy Star 2000 foot home uses less energy than a normal 2000 foot home. It is also true that since (for example) a 3,000 foot Energy Star home uses the same energy as a 2000 foot normal house, then making all homes Energy Star will actually encourage some people to want 3000 foot homes who might have otherwise wanted a 2000 foot home.

    Similarly, if all cars were mandated by law to get 50mpg, it makes it cheaper to dive per mile, thus encouraging people not to live near their work, thus not reducing gasoline use as desired.

    But if electricity was twice as expensive and gasoline was $8/gal., then people would not only want efficient homes and efficient cars, they would also want smaller homes and want to live closer to work. So the price mechanism results in more desirable behavior modification than simple mandated efficiency.

  40. #44 by Gary Kunkel on July 17, 2010 - 5:29 pm

    Richard O that’s an interesting argument about dueling incentives. Perhaps in support of your argument, the article I link below suggests states don’t use the tax money to fund tobacco prevention as much as they should. However, I think the goal is still reducing carbon, and if you follow the links the tobacco tax surely does reduce smoking rates… I’m not opposed to incentives per se, but to me they might promote more and more energy use(perhaps total energy use would increase more than it otherwise would have) that would be clean, but not be as effective at discouraging existing dirty energy use… Sorry the post is messy but I’m on my phone
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5913a1.htm

  41. #45 by Gary Kunkel on July 17, 2010 - 5:33 pm

    Just realizing that last bit is better stated by what brewski says above with the 50 mpg car example…so thanks brewski!

  42. #46 by brewski on July 17, 2010 - 9:09 pm

    I don’t have the excuse of typing on my phone. I just can’t type.

    It is one of my frustrations when hearing about our energy challenges that it is always framed as a technical or engineering challenge. Money is spent on research grants and laws are passed for technology investments. And no one frames it in behaviorial terms.

    Americans don’t have much bigger cars than Europeans do as a matter of accident or cultural preference in a vacuum. Americans make choices about where to live, how big of a house to own, how efficient windows to use, what kind of car to drive and what temperature to set the thermostat in the same way the Europeans do. But when Johannes Q. Public makes those choices in Germany vs. John Q. Public makes those choices in the US, he is making them using very different prices for electricity and gasoline.

    We recently had “natural experiments” right here in the US. Two years ago actual miles driven on L.A. freeways dropped, Frontrunner ridership skyrocketed, and sales of Priuses (Prii?) shot up due to very high gasoline prices. Then when prices dropped everything reverted.

    So what does this tell us? If you want people to carpool, use public transportation, use more efficient cars, buy solar panels, cool their AC to 78 and not 72 and all those holy grails of policy outcomes, then make not doing so really expensive.

  43. #47 by cav on July 17, 2010 - 11:01 pm

    brewski, I agree with very much of what you’ve written above. I would only like to note that in Europe, there are perhaps only 1/20th the number of SUV size vehicles on the road. Couple that with the gas mileage that the average vehicle gets and the impacts of gas prices become even greater.

    Higher prices seem to have shifted the entire spectrum off toward the more sensible and dare I say – conservative.

  44. #48 by Richard Okelberry on July 18, 2010 - 6:13 am

    Brewski,

    “So what does this tell us? If you want people to carpool, use public transportation, use more efficient cars, buy solar panels, cool their AC to 78 and not 72 and all those holy grails of policy outcomes, then make not doing so really expensive…” – Brewski

    You are dead on about higher prices causing major changes in the habits of consumers. The problem is; that is the exactly the opposite direction we need to go in. First, having the government artificially drive up the cost of living is not going to sit well with voters and it will only lead to the government using the new found revenue to expand its operations. Remember, government rarely goes through a major downsizing, so whatever we add to the farm, we have to feed. Second, artificially ramping up the price of fuel and electricity to spur conservation will ultimately have a huge detrimental effect on our economy.

    While Republicans and Democrats like to each blame the other side when the economy falls on its face, historically major recessions have all been tied directly to the availability of natural resources. With the exception of the Great Depression which was tied to a super drought and dust bowl which put agricultural workers (the largest employment sector of its day) out of work, every other major recession since has been tied to an energy crisis. While it is true that each of these periods of spiked energy costs helped to encourage conservation, it did so by creating havoc in family budgets which ultimately caused people to stop consuming which ultimately brought the economy to a halt. We have to be very careful when we talk about crafting energy policy based too heavily on restricting energy to force less consumption. Additionally, higher fuel prices leads to inflation since energy costs are built into most every product or service. So consumers have less to spend and things end up costing more. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to get on top of.

    As much as many of us conservatives would like to see a small, less intrusive government, we have to understand that energy represents a natural monopoly as do most natural resources. As such, the government has a legitimate role in the production and distribution of energy as a mechanism of maintaining a stable economy. In fact, it is one of the only areas where government can have a positive effect on the direction and overall growth of an economy.

    Here is one plan that I believe would work for helping to maintain a healthy economy while serving the need to remove our dependence on dirty fuels. (I wish I could say that I came up with this. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who did because they certainly are deserving of credit.)

    First, the federal government needs to begin converting its entire fleet of vehicles to natural gas. If we begin doing this with the postal service, it will give fueling points at every post office. This will allow the state governments to use these fueling depots to then convert all of their vehicles which will also lead to the state government building their own fuel depots. It’s all about distribution here and by phasing in natural gas use in vehicles it will allow production and distribution of natural gas to gradually ramp up and won’t cause a run on the resource which will run its price up too quickly. At the same time that this is going on the Fed begins giving serious incentives in the form of tax credits to those that bear some of the expense of converting their own vehicles and gives industry similar incentives to companies for expanding production of natural gas ready vehicles.

    Second, because natural gas is cleaner than gasoline but not completely clean, the government then begins working towards doing the same conversion and providing the same distribution with hydrogen fueled vehicles. Keep in mind that at every step through the process, anyone who has either a gas or hydrogen vehicle will be allowed to use any government fuel depot to fill up their car and any private distributor will have access to the distribution network. By expanding our use of Hydrogen we will also be expanding our production of hydrogen and advancing safe storage techniques. Once these techniques are perfected, wind and solar will both become more viable methods of producing electricity because hydrogen can be used as a storage medium for excess power that can be later reconverted at times when wind and solar are not able to meet demand.

    Of course, nuclear and geothermal energy will likely need to play a primary role in our eventual conversion to hydrogen fuels, if we are going to be expected to meet the demands for hydrogen that will occur if every vehicle will eventually use it as its primary fuel source. (We should also consider how certain areas that are rich in geothermal activity may see a sort of gold rush during this era of conversions. Utah would be one of those states.)
    This process will likely take 30 years to complete, but it is a plan that would eventually lead to a nation free from fossil fuel dependency. We also need to consider that as America goes, so does the rest of the world. As cheap natural gas, then hydrogen fueled vehicles cars begin to out pace traditional gasoline vehicles in production, the cost of these vehicles will drop below the price of their older siblings. This cost shift will translate into a global shift in the primary fuel source used for transportation.

    For any plan to succeed, it will have to be something that can be widely accepted by many people of varying political backgrounds. I believe that this plan is one that both sides of the isle can get behind because it takes into account the need to reduce harmful emissions while be simultaneously concerned for economic growth. Ultimately, we need to worry less about how many SUVs people are driving and more about how to provide those SUVs to the public that use a cleaner fuel.

  45. #49 by cav on July 18, 2010 - 7:59 am

    Richard, while I wouldn’t want to suggest your notions are anything but disconnected from reality, I would like to say that even if they weren’t, a crafty bunch of naysaying teaparty types could rant and block while the whole shebang went down the tubes – in under a year, if the conditions are right.

    Karl Rove and friends’ll tell ya.

  46. #50 by Richard Okelberry on July 18, 2010 - 9:12 am

    CAV,

    No doubt that there are huge political forces that would oppose this plan. Not the least among these would be oil and coal lobbyists. Still, I believe that such a program can gain traction. Our current growth towards CNG vehicles is a mere 3% while Europe has already embraced this idea and expanding CNG vehicles at a rate of 30%. The great thing about CNG is that consumers have to make little sacrifice in economy, range and power of their vehicles. This is the only currently viable fuel alternative that can make this claim.

    As far as the Tea Party folks go, they are primarily about limited taxation and growth of the government. With the exception of pure libertarians, most conservatives accept that there are appropriate and vital roles the government can play with regards to the economy and energy. As such, an overwhelming majority of Tea Party members would likely support such a plan. Remember that this plan, unlike others that focus primarily on conservation does not try to discourage use through taxation. Instead, it actually reduces the tax burden on those that choose to voluntarily participate in the conversion. Ask any Tea Party member and they will tell you that they far prefer programs that promote change through lower taxation versus higher taxation.

    I tell you what, Cav. I will do my best trying to convince conservatives to adopt this plan if you will try to convince liberals. Just maybe we can finally find a common ground on a long term energy policy that will work. After 40 years of political division on this issue, it’s about time we finally come together and get something done.

    Check out CNG Now for more information.

    http://www.cngnow.com/en-us/Pages/default.aspx

  47. #51 by brewski on July 18, 2010 - 9:53 am

    having the government artificially drive up the cost of living is not going to sit well with voters

    Yes, and that is why I would package it with a reduction in payroll taxes which would immediately boost take-home pay.

    and it will only lead to the government using the new found revenue to expand its operations.

    Yes, that is why it could be designed to be revenue neutral with a cut in payroll and other tax reforms.

    artificially ramping up the price of fuel and electricity to spur conservation will ultimately have a huge detrimental effect on our economy.

    Germany, Sweden, Denmark and all of these countries seem to have made the adjustments to their economy to make it work. It would force businesses to use energy more efficiently. I would also package this carbon tax with a lot of other tax reforms which would help businesses so that the US did not have the 61st easiest to comply with tax code and also did not tax business earnings at a higher rate than most other countries.

    every other major recession since has been tied to an energy crisis.

    The recessions of 2000-2003 and 2008-? were not caused by energy crises.

    ultimately caused people to stop consuming which ultimately brought the economy to a halt.

    That is why if we permanently reduce our use of energy rather than incurring temporary shocks it will make us less susceptible to energy shocks in the long run. That is exactly one of the reasons why the Europeans weaned themselves off energy.

    Additionally, higher fuel prices leads to inflation since energy costs are built into most every product or service. So consumers have less to spend and things end up costing more. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to get on top of.

    It would lead to a price increase in those items which are energy intensive thus making people find ways to make those same items with less energy and make people find less energy intensive substitutes. This is desirable. It would not be “inflationary” per se as much as it would cause a one time increase in the real prices of these goods. “Inflation” is an increase in the nominal (not real) prices of everything, including wages.

    the federal government needs to begin converting its entire fleet of vehicles to natural gas.

    This is probably helpful in making the transition to other fuels, but it doesn’t change the mental math people make when they are making their own decision of what car to buy. Two years ago I was looking into buying a Honda NGV. I went to the Honda dealership and they had a 6 month waiting list. A friend of mine went to Calif to buy one and drove it back since he couldn’t find one in Utah. The 9 months later when gasoline prices dropped, sales of NGV’s plummeted and the dealership was calling me telling me they had too many of them now. So in spurring the general population to find ways to get rid of their SUVs and buy NGVs, it has to come down to everyone’s own mental math of what it expensive and what are the alternatives.

    The other parts of your plan make overall strategic sense, but in order to get everyone motivated to find other sources of energy there is nothing like price to motivate people. In order to get the other pieces of your plan to actually happen, there needs to be price motivation. Also, energy conservation is the first piece of any plan and there is nothing like price to motivate conservation, as 2 summers ago showed us.

    Ultimately, we need to worry less about how many SUVs people are driving

    I can’t agree with you on this one. We need to worry about what people drive, how far they drive, how often they drive, how many people they have in their car, how many cubic feet of air they have to cool, how efficient their AC is, what temperature they have their AC set to, how much sod they sprinkle, what specie of sod they have….and all the other thousands of decisions all of us make each day. Right now we make those decisions based on artificially cheap prices for oil, water, corn, beef, wheat, soy, electricity, coal, etc. due to direct and indirect subsidies. So we overuse all of them because of the artificially cheap and subsidized prices for them all.

  48. #52 by Gary Kunkel on July 18, 2010 - 9:59 am

    Richard, I think one of the points made above is that a carbon tax etc..would not be artificially making the cost of living higher, it would be bringing the cost in line with it’s actual cost to society given all the unpaid for negative externalities…in the synapse study, they estimated their savings in displacing coal with renewables or gas + efficiency from the reduction in these externalities….in the same way, even if energy costs go up with a carbon tax or cap, other costs should go down for at least some compensation. Not to mention refunding large portions of the revenue to the public, which the two recent climate bills do.

  49. #53 by Richard Okelberry on July 18, 2010 - 2:01 pm

    “Germany, Sweden, Denmark and all of these countries seem to have made the adjustments to their economy to make it work.” – Brewski

    Sorry Brewsky, but that simply is not true. The entire European Union is swimming in a pool of debt and has reached the point where they simply cannot sustain it.

    ““We’re now in rescue mode,” said Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister. “But we need to transition to the reform mode very soon. The ‘reform deficit’ is the real problem,” he said, pointing to the need for structural change.” – Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits – NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/world/europe/23europe.html?_r=1

    >

    “The recessions of 2000-2003 and 2008-? were not caused by energy crises.” – Brewski

    Yep… They were…

    “Earlier this month, economist James Hamilton presented a paper at the Brookings Institute arguing that the unprecedented jump in oil prices is what tipped the U.S. economy over the edge.
    In a nutshell: Higher oil and gasoline prices whacked the U.S. auto industry, the effects of which cascaded through large swathes of the rest of the economy and helped curtail spending. Energy prices also pummeled consumers’ disposable income and confidence. To the extent that the housing meltdown did play a huge part in the recession, that too can be partially chalked up to higher oil prices: Cheap digs in the distant suburbs went underwater with $4 gasoline. ..” – Wall Street Journal

    Energy prices into EVERYTHING you buy. When those prices out-pace your ability to pay the economy starts sliding. Even if companies can find ways to produce their products with less energy as you suggest, those reforms usually take far too long and cost way too much to say that the effect is not inflationary.

    And this from back in 2004, well before our current economic situation…

    “High oil prices have preceded or coincided with nine of the 10 U.S. recessions since World War II — a history lesson that has policy makers, executives and economists scouring for evidence that it could happen again.
    So far not many see reason to believe that the strengthening U.S. and global economies are at risk of sliding back into recession. What they do see is an accumulation of anecdotal evidence that the long streak of record-high nominal oil prices is taking a creeping toll in places. Some economists say history shows it won’t take long to see a broader drag …” WSJ, Oil Prices Start to Pinch, Stirring Concern Over Economic Impact

    “That is why if we permanently reduce our use of energy rather than incurring temporary shocks it will make us less susceptible to energy shocks in the long run. That is exactly one of the reasons why the Europeans weaned themselves off energy.” – Brewski

    First Europe has not weaned it’s self off energy, they use plenty of it. Germany alone is the world’s fifth largest consumer of energy per capita. Even France who gets 75% of its energy from Nuclear power is still building nuke plants today. If there is not increase in demand, then why are they still expand capacity.

    You simply cannot permanently reduce your use of energy without first mandating zero population growth and zero growth in industry. You may be able to reduce the amount that each person uses through conservation but even that method will eventually be outdone by growth. While conservation may help in the short term it is not a long term solution. It is this exact type of thinking that got us into this mess. We keep pushing off making any real changes in energy policy for the future. Did you know that Billy Carter made the exact same pitch about conservation during the major energy crisis of the 70’s? Did it solve the problem? (I know, rhetorical question.)

    People will simply only reduce consumption so much, and if you force them to reduce beyond that point, there will be a political backlash.

    “but in order to get everyone motivated to find other sources of energy there is nothing like price to motivate people.” – Brewski

    You are correct. Though, it is far better for the economy to motivate them by giving them a cheaper alternative than simply taking more money out of their pockets; money that they could be spending in the economy. This is why natural gas with its low price and availability is so attractive now. Currently it costs about $4000 to modify a gas vehicle to run on CNG. At that price it takes the average driver about a year and a half to recoup the investment. Of course that price is set high because the demand simply is not high enough to bring more manufacturers of these systems into the market.

    This is where the fed comes in. Instead of subsidizing dirty fuels like oil and ethanol, it can subsidize CNG conversion. These subsidies could even come in the form of no interest loans over two years. Of course the biggest hurdle is making refueling easily available to consumer. Currently, here in Cache Valley there are no private refueling depots. Make every post office a refueling point and more people in the valley will convert. This can happen over just a few years, rather than decades and the effects on air quality in the valleys will be seen right away. Can any other plan say that?

  50. #54 by brewski on July 18, 2010 - 3:01 pm

    RO,

    . The entire European Union is swimming in a pool of debt and has reached the point where they simply cannot sustain it.

    Public Debt as a % of GDP
    United States 52.9%
    Finland 44.0%
    Denmark 41.6%
    Sweden 35.8%

    (Yes, Germany is higher) But is it incorrect to say that all of the European Union countries are awash in debt relative to the US.

    The apparent spike in energy prices I acknowledge seemed like an actual spike in energy prices when in fact it was a huge dip in the value of the US dollar vs. just about everything else. So if you look only at the USD/oil price then it looks like a spike in oil prices. But the USD/everything spiked too including gold, silver, wheat, corn, Swiss Franc, natural gas, etc. So if you were to look not at the USD/oil price but the gold/oil price the price of oil actually went down. If the value of the dollar had been constant with that of gold then oil would have been getting cheaper in dollar terms, not more expensive.

    So 2 summers ago we did not have an evergy crises, we had a monetary crisis caused by irresponsible actions at the Federal Reserve which has devalued the dollar over the last 10 years (and also fueled the real estate bubble).
    Note what happened in 2000 or so when the Fed lowered interest rates after the crash of 2000 and then after 9/11:
    http://goldprice.org.cn/up_files/image/Article/2009/04/11/51594941.png

    Instead of subsidizing dirty fuels like oil and ethanol, it can subsidize CNG conversion.

    I don’t want the government to sunsidize any form of energy. Subsidies create misallocations of resources, poor decisionmaking, reliance on those subsidies to continue forever, and eventually bubbles (like we are sufferring now from the subsidies which created the real estate bubble).

    The only things which deserve any subsidy are those which create positive externalities, and merely having less negative externalities is not enough. So the idea is to tax those negative externalities which would mean that coal would be taxed more then natural gas since coal produces more C02 and other nasty stuff than gas does. So, in relative terms, the tax on coal would be much stiffer than the tax on gas, thus making gas relatively more attractive.

    The only things which actually have positive externalities which deserve subsidies are things like parks, schools, wilderness, etc. Other than that, it is much harder to make any argument for subsidies.

  51. #55 by cav on July 18, 2010 - 3:16 pm

    Richard, in your para about ZPG you assert:

    We keep pushing off making any real changes in energy policy for the future.

    Perhaps you were intending something like: …making real changes in our approach to birth control, abortion, and family size policy into the future.

  52. #56 by cav on July 18, 2010 - 3:28 pm

    And at the rate we’re going, it seems unlikely that we’ll have to worry about any such policy choices until, oh, late in Sarah Palin’s second term.

  53. #57 by Richard Okelberry on July 19, 2010 - 5:49 am

    Cav,

    “Perhaps you were intending something like: …making real changes in our approach to birth control, abortion, and family size policy into the future…
    …And at the rate we’re going, it seems unlikely that we’ll have to worry about any such policy choices until, oh, late in Sarah Palin’s second term.”

    Sometime you prove that I must be a complete and total moron because I simply don’t understand what you just wrote. What does Sarah Palin and Birth control have to do with this subject?

  54. #58 by cav on July 19, 2010 - 8:17 am

    You brought up population pressure, then overlooked any sensible ways of addressing that, but instead veered back into energy policy.That is not like you, so I was just wondering. The Sarah bit, I admit, was total projection.

    You are most definitely NOT a TOTAL idiot.

  55. #59 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 19, 2010 - 9:23 am

    Brewski, R.O.–

    I think that both of your plans are surprisingly big government-esque, and still surprisingly good. I still want to look at them in more detail, contrasted with other perspectives, but on preliminary reading they seem like ideas I could stand behind. I don’t think either one would be favored by the average tea partier, though, for obvious reasons. R.O., I think you’re kidding yourself that Beck, Palin, and a hundred other busybodies the TP looks up to wouldn’t cry “big government!” in response to your, frankly, quite enormous expansion of central planning by the federal government, and predict higher taxes in the future. It would also be seen as government competing with private industry in the energy market. That’s a socialist no-no.

    I beg to differ with Brewski on the matter of subsidy dependence. In order for subsidies to work without creating dependence, they need to be designed to phase out once primary automobile demand is shifted over to CNG. Also, because the subsidy only works on a case-by-case basis, dependence is much easier to avoid—the point of the subsidy being transferrence of resource investment and consumption to another energy supply. Unlike crop subsidies, which are prolonged in order to keep crops at a certain price for as long as the crop is produced (forever!), a subsidy designed only to assist existing gasoline cars in transferring to CNG wouldn’t create dependence.

    (I do agree, however, that subsidies should mostly be withheld except for parks, schools, wilderness, etc.; recognize, though, that a behavioral shift can be a positive externality, supposing it produces a diminishment of negative externalities)

    The proviso is that the subsidy, while not perpetual, would still be long-term. The subsidy method requires that CNG automobile production become profitable for the auto industry, which requires that demand for gasoline automobiles goes down. As compared to a tax on gasoline cars, the subsidy would delay the emergence of CNG profitability, as it could easily remain cheaper for the car manufacturers to continue producing gasoline models with the knowledge that the government subsidy will make CNG and gasoline-turned-CNG cars effectively the same price to manufacture and for the consumer to purchase. Waiting for demand to shift sufficiently could take a long time.

    On that note, I think that a proactive effort on the part of government to increase access to cleaner fuels and energy-production methods, coupled with a real-cost tax on fuels would be a better solution than either one alone. The real-cost tax can be used to 1) decrease payroll taxes and such as Brewski has suggested, in particular for those classes most drastically affected by the increased tax; and 2) pay for the building of cleaner energy production facilities, R&D, and CNG depots.

    We have to face another reality—urban sprawl. Our country isn’t built for low energy consumption, at least not at present. The very real problem of transportation needs must be addressed as part of solving our energy woes. One point, in particular, is that those who could most afford an energy tax (and who would most benefit from a payroll tax cut) tend also to be those for whom work-from-home is a viable alternative, whereas those who must drive nasty, dirty, polluting clunkers in order to get to work tend to be on the other side of the spectrum. We need expanded public transit throughout our suburban and urban centers, and perhaps even incentives for blending commercial, industrial, and suburban districts so that more work is available closer to home.

    Finally, a behavioral shift can be produced, as each of you has addressed, by shifting related motivators. If gas prices go up or the cost of CNG conversion goes down, you can expect people to seek personal benefit and change their behavior. At the same time, however, the state of a culture can make a big difference. Take, for instance, the question of gasoline vs. CNG. If the two were of exactly equal price, many people would convert to CNG simply because it’s a more responsible choice. Many people are aware of some negative externalities (all being effectively impossible) and change their behavior to account for it, even at higher cost, greater expenditure of time, and diminishment of comfort for themselves. We can’t discount the value of cultural education and social motivators in accomplishing the goals you’ve set out. Part of that probably includes engendering a more responsible, pro-social, even collective perspective in society. I’m not saying neither of you thought of this already—I just wanted it included in the discussion.

    Aside from these addendums and proffered amendments, I think you two are doing a bang-up job fleshing out the particulars of this issue.

    You’ve been a pleasure to read.

    Dwight Sheldon Adams

  56. #60 by brewski on July 19, 2010 - 8:04 pm

    The idea of a pollution tax is to be small government-esque. The idea is that with that tax in place that individuals and firms will make decisions around it, which is what you want.

    If you did that you could completely eliminate CAFE mileage standards and the army of bureaucrats needs to monitor them.
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/cafe/overview.htm

    You could eliminate the byazantine tax credits and incentives in place for clean energy projects, and the army of bureaucrats in place to regulate them.
    http://www.dsireusa.org/
    http://www.energy.gov/taxbreaks.htm
    http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/solutions/big_picture_solutions/production-tax-credit-for.html

    And pretty much dismantle all of the “thou shall not” regulations regarding pollution and the armies which police them.

    So you could reduce regulation and all of its complexity and micromanagement with the beauty of people and firms looking for a cheaper way to do things. Cheaper ways to do things are what we saw 2 summers ago. Frontrunner was so popular the parking lots in Davis county were overflowing, people were dumping their SUV’s and getting on waiting lists for NGV….it was a thing of beauty to watch.

  57. #61 by Larry Bergan on July 19, 2010 - 10:01 pm

    cav hit on the issue none will address. Human beings use many more resources then any other entity on earth could hope to.

    What are we as human beings going to do about that; just keep having more human beings then the other guy and slaughter each other in some kind of race.

    Aren’t we, or can’t we be better then that?

    I am sorry, but isn’t that where we are?

  58. #62 by brewski on July 19, 2010 - 11:31 pm

    Larry, are you volunteering to do your part to reduce the human population by one?

  59. #63 by Larry Bergan on July 20, 2010 - 12:14 am

    I’m challenging you to a duel brew/noname.

    I’m in the book; are you?

    Ten paces, OK?

  60. #64 by Richard Okelberry on July 20, 2010 - 8:17 am

    Dwight,

    You make some very good points. I wish I had time to address them each now, so I will try to go into more detail later and just touch on the core issues.

    You are correct that there will be some on the conservative side that will scream socialism. Some of those individuals have made themselves prominent within the T-Party movement. Also we cannot neglect the fact that the T-Party movement is very attractive to hard-line libertarians who wrongly see the proper role of government as being Super Duper limited. Taken to its extreme, libertarianism philosophy ultimately devolves into Panarchism.

    Most conservatives and libertarians that would object to this project simply don’t understand the concept of a Natural Monopoly. In a free-market society, there are simply areas that are either too expensive for private industry to venture into and there are areas that by their nature form monopolies. Also, conservatives who have studied Adam Smith will find that Mr. Smith argued that the collective management, division and distribution of natural resources are crucial to a free-market system. Though it was almost a hundred years after Adam Smith before we first began recognizing and describing mathematical Natural Monopolies, Adam Smith through his keen powers of observation saw this to be true. He argued that only shortfalls in natural resources could cause significant long term stagnation in a free-market economy. While there was no large scale central energy distribution system in his day, we see on a regular basis that his predictions are true.

    Ultimately, it is a completely legitimate role for government to be involved in the management of Energy; as legitimate as it is for it to be in charge of our national defense. It always has been and always will be. Even our current distribution grid, as inefficient as it is would be a jumbled mess of wires with no central distribution if the government had not been involved in its crafting. Can anyone imagine what it would be like if we had multiple distributors all vying to send power and communications into our homes? Instead of one single line, each home could have ten or more. Of course that is even highly unlikely because the cost or producing so many intertwining power grids would simply have been too expensive for any private entity to overcome. This is a prime example of a Natural Monopoly that needed and still needs government intervention.

    Even today, while our electrical production has been somewhat “deregulated” since 1992 in the sense that private industry produces the lion share of the power and has access to wider distribution, the ultimate regulation of the distribution of that power falls to the government. These power companies are nothing more than private contractors for the government. Even Rocky Mountain Power here in west is truly nothing more than quasi-government entity who’s every action must first meet with government approval. Having private industry produce our energy is no different than if we hired a private lawn care company to mow and maintain the grass in our parks or if we hired a private company to manage campgrounds and provide concessions in our national parks.

    Libertarians and conservatives can scream all they want about socialism in this case but they would be wrong. Now it is up to the rest of us to convince them that they are wrong and show them why it is perfectly legitimate under conservative philosophies for government to play a central role in energy. Consider that if we were talking about the production and distribution of potable water into our homes and businesses, few would be arguing that it should be turned over completely to private industry.

    As far as subsidies go, I should have probably used the term Incentive instead. Traditionally, a government subsidy is defined as payments made directly to private companies and industries for many of the reasons that you have expressed. Public support for parks, schools and wildlife areas aren’t considered subsidies in the traditional sense. If support for conversion of private vehicles to CNG were made to private individuals, much like a student loan program they would not be considered subsidies either. If instead the payments were made to automakers directly, they would be considered subsidies. You are correct here Dwight, that even if such payments were made as a subsidy to the manufacturers it could be written into the law that the subsidy would run out once a specific number of conversions had been made, insuring that it would not become a long term program.

    Ultimately the government does have a role in serving the greater good by managing both our natural resources and our environment. The question is; can we do both in a way that that requires the least reduction in the standard of living and mitigates any possible negative effects on the economy? This plan appears to do that. I personally wouldn’t even be opposed to funding some of the efforts for this project with gasoline taxes in an attempt to create greater incentives for the conversion. I only argue that because gasoline prices can have an immediate negative effect on the economy, we should wait to implement such a tax until it can be shown that CNG distribution levels are adequate for large scale conversions and conversion system are more available to consumers. My hope is that such a tax wouldn’t even be need and the population would readily embrace the conversion. I know for me personally, even at the current price for conversion of about $4000 if I was insured that I could fuel up at any local Post office, I would convert.

    It should also be noted that converted vehicles can continue to run on gasoline incase a driver finds himself in an area where distribution for CNG is not widely available. This fact will help to make those that fear giving up gasoline as an option completely more acceptable of the conversion.

    For those that want more information about CNG check out CNGnow.com.

    This truly is a good conversation to have about the future of energy in America.

  61. #65 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 20, 2010 - 8:19 am

    Brewski–

    I’m not contending whether it’s small-government or big-government—that’s an argument you have to make to the conservatives, and especially the TP and its sympathizers. I couldn’t care less, in fact, whether it’s big or small-government, so long as its effective and resistant to abuse.

    Personally, I think that this kind of solution would be elegant and effective. It would reduce our need for one bureaucracy after another; although, as I’ve stated, I think it fails to address the whole issue and would have its own unintended consequences.

    Consider, for instance, that it’s reasonable to suppose that a new bureaucracy would have to emerge in order to deal with a potential energy black-market; also the enormous cost increase of plastics, which would in particular affect the prices of medical services; and the lost investment value of fossil fuels.

    These consequences, I believe, would nevertheless be easier to manage through smaller, simpler bureaucracies than the list of existing bureaucracies you’ve compiled.

    All in all a good idea, albeit overly-optimistic as a standalone.

    Larry–

    We have to get to Mars and start terraforming, and we have to get there now! I’ll put in my 5 bucks to send a backhoe if you put in yours to send a tractor.

    Seriously, though, we’ll keep producing more and more humans (ZPG is a myth, like dry land in the distant future), further and further expanding the carrying capacity of the Earth with technology until we can no longer do so. Once we reach that point, we’ll start scrounging for every scrap we can. The market solution will be to have less children, but who will actually follow it? We’ll drive ourselves into tribes and war over resources before ZPG becomes a reality.

    The current plan is for everyone to have fewer children than is necessary for replacement level while the Mormon baby-machines pop out far more. We will rule the Earth eventually. (Mwahahaha!)

    Of course, that’s only if present attitudes prevail. Legislating reproduction is far too close to tyranny for my tastes, at least in terms of telling people they can’t have any more children. Social pressures, spreading wealth, education—all of these factors promote smaller families and more sustainable populations. In these areas, government can find an indirect way to promote slower population growth while still allowing people to choose.

    Dwight Sheldon Adams

  62. #66 by cav on July 20, 2010 - 9:19 am

    Bob Herbert this morning reminds us that nuclear power plants, to say the least, aren’t free:

    The problem is that while the most terrible accidents are blessedly rare, when they do occur the consequences are horrific, as we’ve seen in the gulf. With nuclear plants, the worst-case scenarios are too horrible for most people to want to imagine. Denial takes over with policy makers and the public alike. Something approaching a worst-case accident at a nuclear plant, especially one in a highly populated area, would make the Deepwater Horizon disaster look like a walk in the park.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/opinion/20herbert.html?hp

    He’s right, of course. Advocates of nuclear plants suggest a standardized, modern design could be inherently safe–that is, designed in such a way as to be limited in its ability to run out of control to the extent of disaster, sort of like an old air-cooled VW bug engine which never overheated–and less expensive to build, and less vulnerable to terrorist attack. It’d be nice, before proceeding to wholesale construction, to see that actual rather than projected. Too, they say waste disposal is a soluble technical problem. It’d be nice to see the solution. Decommissioning of plants after their lifetime is, too, a problem. Then there’s the assumption that technical problems, inevitable in any engineering enterprise, can be solved technically. Technical problems involving solar and wind result in consequences of one kind, those involving nuclear plants quite another. A blithe assurance that they can be predicted, prevented and/or managed won’t do.

    Nobody will insure nuclear plants, so the federal government does. The industry wouldn’t exist if it didn’t. You tax dollars at work. Not much outright expense. In a catastrophe, not so much.
    The real problem, though, often left unstated, is how much energy we use. The numbers can be run, and it’s hard to see current power consumption maintained without a serious commitment to nuclear energy in shifting from fossil fuel. The examples of France and Japan, where nuclear power is more common, aren’t 100% reassuring. Conservation remains the lowest-hanging fruit, the safest by far, with the fewest unintended consequences. But conservation goes against the American grain. Calls for it are routinely not just dismissed, but derided, as nanny-state intrusions into the freedom to live your life as you would, backed not so much by science as by an unwonted resort to increasing government power, as if you really aren’t free unless you’re free to drive a Hummer up to your 6000 sq ft McMansion, swim in your heated pool and set your thermostat to 70 deg year-round, and live an hour’s commute away from your job in an air-conditioned building.

    Worth considering the downside of nuclear plants. Even vital. But also worth considering the question begged by the issue and left unasked, much less answered: how, precisely, can we keep living the way we’re living? Are we willing to acknowledge that there’s a high price to pay for it?

  63. #67 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 20, 2010 - 9:48 pm

    R.O.–

    Just a brief note:

    I want to inform you how dangerous your arguments are becoming—not by my standard, but by the standard of the vast majority of conservatives.

    Having worked in the fast food industry, thrift stores, and grocery stores, I can tell you that the amount of waste you are talking about in regards to competing power grids is a reality we’re already facing. Can you imagine the enormous waste produced by many companies competing over the best recipe and packaging for frozen chicken fingers? Or the potential waste mitigated by public sharing facilities, like libraries?

    The point I want to make is that the argument you apply to the power grid could be made equally of any number of other industries—industries that fit more neatly into the description of “necessities” than the power grid does. Food, clothing, shelter—each of these is a necessity which, in the hands of industry, sees enormous amounts of waste due to their remaining in the hands of the competition market.

    Yup. That was a “brief note.” Polonius would be proud. :-)

    Cav–

    Good points. Conservation, like abstinence, really is the only guaranteed protection. (now you can get into the imagery of nuclear power plants being a condom for our rape of the natural world)

  64. #68 by cav on July 21, 2010 - 1:18 am

    Dwight, I’m not sure I like analogizing sex with nuclear power production. Obviously I’m not without my power requirements, but for me, time spent out of doors, air-bathing, nurturing a ‘victory garden’, chatting with the neighbor, walking, biking, rowing, hanging in the hammock and day dreaming in a contemplative sort of way, is much more satisfying than sitting indoors, baking a factory made pizza while the TV and air-conditioning shout insistently at the oil, coal and uranium miners to ‘pick up the pace’. Everybody could use a little more time for some of the simple pleasures. But you already knew that.

    I hope I haven’t bridged over into the ‘unemployment being paid for’ thread. Oh well. Orrin too, needs a break from all that ‘service’.

    Which reminds me, I saw that Greene fellah, house candidate from S. Carolina, giving his first speech. I really had to empathize. First he summoned the courage to apply for the position, and lo – the voters gave him the nod. Now, by god, he’s going to make the best of it, come out swinging and attempt to provide a little citizenly ‘service’ hizownself. I can think of better candidates, but I have to applaud his courage, and give him my thanks. My wife wouldn’t let me anywhere near such a campaign – ahem, she thinks I’d stammer – and I probably would.

  65. #69 by Richard Okelberry on July 21, 2010 - 8:24 am

    Cav,

    ”Nobody will insure nuclear plants, so the federal government does. The industry wouldn’t exist if it didn’t. You tax dollars at work.”

    This isn’t completely accurate.

    “American Nuclear Insurers (ANI) is a joint underwriting association created by some of the largest insurance companies in the United States. Our purpose is to pool the financial assets pledged by our member companies to provide the significant amount of property and liability insurance required for nuclear power plants and related facilities throughout the world.” – http://www.nuclearinsurance.com/

  66. #70 by cav on July 21, 2010 - 8:59 am

    ANI makes it sound as though all of the various insurances and equities from all of the nuclear facilities – world-wide – would be brought into play if there were some need for that to happen. ‘Nuclear Power’ IS pretty big and rich, but I dare say they’d balk, haggle, and make every effort to ‘externalize’ as much of the liability as is corporately possible. They do it all the time.

  67. #71 by cav on July 21, 2010 - 9:46 am

    Conservation measures, even the most mundane, least intrusive and least demanding of behavior or lifestyle changes, are by far the lowest-hanging fruit. Labor-intensive, lots of jobs, highy cost-effective compared to new power plants, almost no negative externalities, less subject to disruption of a central facility.

    But the right not only dismisses them, but derides them as more liberal evil, preventing you from exercising your constitutional right to drive a Hummer, live in a 6000 sq ft house, keep your AC on 68 deg in the summer and 75 deg in the winter while heating your pool. And the subtext, of course, is a denial of the very personal responsibility the right demands, at least, of others.

    We’re watching, I think, the environmental debate unfold with fully as much short-sightedness, and is oft attributed to Chamberlain at Munich. We’ll eventually suffer the consequences of both the problem and the delay in dealing with it, at the cost of lives, treasure and disruption that we didn’t have to lose. I’d guess that in 50 years, possibly sooner, they’ll look back on it as we do Chamberlain’s appeasement, and that, of all our errors of commission and omission, all the defects in our politics and personal lives, this will resound the loudest. AND, it’ll all be reflected by a very large, glowing pile of Nuclear WASTE just the other side of the Lake.

    No thanks.

  68. #72 by brewski on July 21, 2010 - 10:59 am

    Short of a carbon tax, I would easily like to see strong efficiency requirements such as Energy Star or LEEDS for all new home construction, as well as similar standards for all appliances, HVAC equipment, cars, trucks, etc.

    As good as these requirements are, they also have enormous shortcomings. The problem with Energy Star homes for example, is that it measures the level of efficiency of one 6,000 sf vs another 6,000 sf home. It does not ask whether it makes any sense that you have a 6,000 sf home in the first place. Similarly, the mileage standards for vehicles compare vehicles in the same class, but don’t ask whether you should be using a Dodge Super Duty truck for daily commuting in Sandy. That is where the carbon tax makes more sense because rather that coming up with efficiency standards on a given item vs another item, it forces individuals and firms to ask questions of themselves such as do I need a 6,000 sh house and do I need a Dodge Super Duty, which efficiency standards do not.

  69. #73 by cav on July 21, 2010 - 11:37 am

    brewski:

    …it forces individuals and firms to ask questions of themselves such as do I need a 6,000 sh house and do I need a Dodge Super Duty,

    All good questions.

    Perhaps scantily clad young people, straddling bikes, gazing fondly at roof-top solar collectors and a little competitive subsidization (just to get the direction legitimized somewhat) would do the trick.

  70. #74 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 21, 2010 - 12:05 pm

    Cav–

    But the right not only dismisses them, but derides them as more liberal evil, preventing you from exercising your constitutional right to drive a Hummer, live in a 6000 sq ft house, keep your AC on 68 deg in the summer and 75 deg in the winter while heating your pool. And the subtext, of course, is a denial of the very personal responsibility the right demands, at least, of others.

    This is a serious problem with the conservation issue. It is enough to simply disagree individually with certain lifestyle choices, and to disagree with government mandates regarding those choices. But they don’t stop there. Conservatives have made it a matter of personal freedom to intentionally waste more, consume more, pollute more—in short, to equate handing your hard-earned dollars to corporations with patriotism and freedom. It has become fashionable to abuse your personal freedoms as the only means of asserting them. Funny how people can become unwitting slaves to their own freedom, eh?

    I’m not laughing.

    –Dwight

  71. #75 by brewski on July 21, 2010 - 1:00 pm

    Conservatives have made it a matter of personal freedom to intentionally waste more, consume more, pollute more—in short, to equate handing your hard-earned dollars to corporations with patriotism and freedom.

    While at the same time some liberals say it is wrong to have a large home with the carbon footprint the size of a small country (Al Gore), drive Toyota FJ Cruisers in areas which should be protected wilderness (Richard W.) fly in private jets (all of Hollywood and the Congressional leadership)……..but they do it anyway without the slightest sign of self awareness of their hypocrisy.

  72. #76 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 21, 2010 - 1:18 pm

    Sure, Brewski, but they didn’t make a culture out of it.

  73. #77 by brewski on July 21, 2010 - 2:55 pm

    You don’t think Hollywood has made a culture out of spending and excess? You don’t think “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and MTV’s “Cribs” is evidence how lefty celebrities showing off their pimped rides and excessive lifestyles created a culture?

  74. #78 by cav on July 21, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    Bigger is beter, and biggest is best. Just ask the dinosaurs.

  75. #79 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 21, 2010 - 8:27 pm

    I do indeed think they have, Brewski. Good point. So let’s turn it into a dual condemnation. I’ll condemn the wastefulness of big budget, big spending Hollywood culture, and you condemn the culture of wastefulness for the sake of self-assertion.

    –Dwight

  76. #80 by brewski on July 21, 2010 - 9:27 pm

    You’re not going to have a hard time getting me to condemn gluttonous wastefulness and pollution by anyone.

  77. #81 by Richard Okelberry on July 22, 2010 - 6:21 am

    Cav,

    Ref: #70

    “ANI makes it sound as though all of the various insurances and equities from all of the nuclear facilities – world-wide – would be brought into play if there were some need for that to happen. ‘Nuclear Power’ IS pretty big and rich, but I dare say they’d balk, haggle, and make every effort to ‘externalize’ as much of the liability as is corporately possible. They do it all the time.” – Cav


    You say that no one will insure nuclear power plants and I show you an organization that does. Your first response probably should have been, “my bad Rich, I got some bad information.” Instead you go onto say, “‘Nuclear Power’ IS pretty big and rich, but I dare say they’d balk, haggle, and make every effort to ‘externalize’ as much of the liability as is corporately possible. They do it all the time.” They do it all the time? I would cal you to task to give us examples but it would be fruitless because there is no need for the Nuclear industry to try and get out of their liability “all the time” because it has been capped since the like the early 60’s or something. If I remember right the fed just renewed the limits on liabilities for the nuclear industry a few years back… Yep here it is… Man, Google is great!

    The Price-Anderson Act of 1957 (from Wikipedia)

    “The Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act (commonly called the Price-Anderson Act) is a United States federal law, first passed in 1957 and since renewed several times, which governs liability-related issues for all non-military nuclear facilities constructed in the United States before 2026. The main purpose of the Act is to partially indemnify the nuclear industry against liability claims arising from nuclear incidents while still ensuring compensation coverage for the general public. The Act establishes a no fault insurance-type system in which the first $10 billion is industry-funded as described in the Act (any claims above the $10 billion would be covered by the federal government). At the time of the Act’s passing, it was considered necessary as an incentive for the private production of nuclear power — this was because investors were unwilling to accept the then-unquantified risks of nuclear energy without some limitation on their liability. In 1978, the Act survived a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court case Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group (see below). The Act was last renewed in 2005 for a 20-year period.” – Wikipedia


    Right now the current limit on liability for oil is at $70 million (That is all that BP can under law be forced to pay but has committed much more voluntarily.) Following the Gulf spill, congress is now considering increasing that liability to $10 Billion. Currently, Nuclear power has a liability cap of $11.5 billion with each plant required to set aside $111 million in a fund.

    Now for those that don’t believe that the government should share any burden we have to remember that even in the Gulf, BP was not drilling out their oil but OUR oil under contract. BP was essentially contracted through a lease agreement by the federal government to remove oil from the ground that belongs to the federal government. As such the government does share some liability as it was the government’s responsibility to set the standards for the operation through the contract and then to check that BP was in compliance with those standards.

    (Sorry, this is a great conversation and I don’t mean to side track it by bringing up BP, but it is a great example for helping everyone to understand that the government is the central player in energy in the U.S.)

  78. #82 by cav on July 22, 2010 - 8:04 am

    Richard, you’ve made my point exactly. Thanks. It’s those liability caps, that kick the ‘government’ (read – taxpayers – our) money coming to the rescue. Not to mention (again) these are ‘our resources!

    And the gusher in the gulf is also illustrative for the reason that the cap the repair of damages is already insignificant. They aren’t calling it a catastrophe for nothing – and another Chernobyl could further stretch that definition.

    So, every cost for the repair of any catastrophic, greed-driven blowout, above a relatively small insurance ‘cap’ will be born by the present owners of the the resource. By law.

    The burdon i’d like to see the government share, is the one that insures – up front, to the best of its ability, regulations that cannot be got round – that will protect us all (environment and creature alike) from the greed of the unhinged corporation.

  79. #83 by Richard Okelberry on July 22, 2010 - 8:20 am

    After reading the direction of this conversation it seems clear that we simply are not willing to propose and make the decisions that will lead to independence from fossil fuels in our energy supply. Ultimately this is the core issue. While the conservation movement has some minor merits, ultimately it does not solve the problem of where your energy comes from. It relies on an approach of constantly point the finger at the other guy. It is an approach fueled by guilt and denial. Here we have Dwight convinced that ALL conservatives are actually purposely poisoning the environment as an expression of freedom while Brewsky is pointing out that there are huge hypocrites on the left with regards to the conservation movement then Cav is going on about setting standards about square footage and imposing a carbon tax to force conservation without ever giving a single suggestion about what we do next and how we are ultimately going to provide the energy needs for a growing population and economy.

    Attempting to use conservation as THE tool in the battle against the destructive aspects of fossil fuels is a dead end street. It only serves to eventually make hypocrites of us all as there is always someone who is willing to do more and consume less. Ultimately, the argument fails because it goes against the very grain of our society. Even in this discussion, I promise that those who are heavily advocating conservation and complaining about the abuses of others have their limit to what they are willing to give up. I doubt a single person here has gone 24 hrs without riding in a car, none have refused to turn on their lights when it gets dark and none are willing to walk around their house tossing each and every item that does not serve the purpose of sustaining life.

    I would argue that none here are even willing to make the simple choice of unplugging the very machine that they are reading this post on, which consumes huge amounts of energy to produce/operate and is loaded with toxic chemicals and heavy metals. As I said, we all eventually become hypocrites when we proudly stand on our conservation boxes bragging about our commitment to the environment while blaming everyone else for causing the problem because there is always someone who has done more and is willing to give up more.

    Of Course because the American people, for whatever ideological and philosophical reasons, ultimately will not choose to have a society where less is always more until even the smallest of conveniences and personal items are seen as an affront to society. Because we are not willing to live in dormitory style housing and work assigned collective farms, we need to consider real viable options not just for 10 years from now but a thousand years from now. We need a long term plan. It’s time to be realistic.

    If a cleaner environment that is not dependent on fossil fuels is truly our goal then we need to start talking about alternative, consistent energy supplies. Because wind and solar are far from consistent, I have made the suggestion that NG could be a stepping stone to hydrogen fueled transportation and while geothermal holds promise we will need a large scale ramp up in nuclear power production now to start reducing our reliance on fossil fueled energy now. I simply do not see any alternative but am open to suggestions.

    Does anyone else have a strategy that involves realistic solutions? I am asking this seriously because this is a matter where we all need to quit complaining all the time, quit pointing our partisan tribal fingers and begin making decisions. It’s time we set aside self aggrandizing statements like,

    “Obviously I’m not without my power requirements, but for me, time spent out of doors, air-bathing, nurturing a ‘victory garden’, chatting with the neighbor, walking, biking, rowing, hanging in the hammock and day dreaming in a contemplative sort of way, is much more satisfying than sitting indoors, baking a factory made pizza while the TV and air-conditioning shout insistently at the oil, coal and uranium miners to ‘pick up the pace’. Everybody could use a little more time for some of the simple pleasures.” – Cav


    which do little to actually solve our energy woes and start putting forward concrete solutions. Sitting in a hammock, walking, biking and growing a garden will not make our dependency on coal go away. It only shows how privileged our lives have become with coal and other fossil fuels. I doubt that even Cav is willing to give up his life of luxury here in the U.S. where the average power consumption of 11.4kW per person in favor of the life he might lead in India where the average power consumption per person is a mere 0.7kW. Not having to live in a grass hut cooking your meals over cow manure and working endlessly in the hot sun with little personal time while all the time barely being able to support your family comes at a cost. Cav should remember that the next time he’s strolling around the neighborhood bragging to the neighbors about how much he is saving the environment.

    Sorry to have had to pick on you Cav but maybe just maybe we should be considering solutions that would allow the people of India and other third world countries to enjoy the standard of living and security that you have. While nuclear power may not be the best solution over the next millennium, it certainly holds the promise of at least getting us to a future where even nuclear power becomes extinct. Conservation alone while constantly objecting to the solutions purposed by others without offering any of your own does not!

  80. #84 by cav on July 22, 2010 - 9:02 am

    R. O.: But a : ) to you just the same. You can be a real gentleman.

    Yes, and I can and do the ‘my-bad’, occasionally. Why, If I think back, there was a time – some years ago, when I said…..

  81. #85 by Richard Okelberry on July 22, 2010 - 10:33 am

    “Richard, you’ve made my point exactly. Thanks. It’s those liability caps, that kick the ‘government’ (read – taxpayers – our) money coming to the rescue. Not to mention (again) these are ‘our resources!” – Cav

    Your wrong again here Cav. You seem to be implying by your various statements that tax payer dollars have had to come to the rescue. The reality is; the government has NEVER had to come to the rescue with tax payer money for the private production of nuclear energy. In fact over 40 years the total amount of money paid out to cover all claims and legal expenses (which are significant) has been $150 million with nearly half of that being attributed to Three Mile Island. While $150 million may seem like a lot, it is nothing compared to the 11 billion liability cap per incident. As of July 21st, BP alone has spent over $2 Billion to clean up the oil in the gulf and does not include the 20 billion that BP has pledged to the disaster. Still, anti-nuke advocates will happily jump in their petroleum fueled cars to show up and protest having even one more nuclear power station built.

  82. #86 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 22, 2010 - 11:10 am

    Brewski–

    I concur. One thing that strikes me as particularly obnoxious, however, is the element of motivation. Both cultural phenomena we’ve discussed produce waste. The conservative side, however, produces waste intentionally. The liberal side, on the other hand, is ridiculously unaware of the consequences of their actions. It’s like they think they’re incapable of producing social impact, or that their excess will save them from the consequences of their excess.

    Both sides have been duped into a sick combining of materialism and self-esteem thinking.

    R.O.–

    I rarely call something someone says a “rant.” I don’t really want to start now.

    First, let me apologize for implying that “ALL conservatives” etc. etc. I don’t believe that to be so, but I also know (as I’m sure you do) that there’s a strong “Waste in order to stick it to the greenies!” sentiment in conservative America, and even a denial that we are wasting, or that resources could become scarce. This is mainstream, buddy.

    Aside from that, though, please recall that we already gave due consideration to your and Brewski’s ideas on this thread, and our straying off to the side to discuss the low-hanging fruit of conservation is neither irrelevant or inappropriate to the issue at hand.

    Conservation is an important part of any energy plan. For all of your talk about moving over to nuclear as a bridge to other, more sustainable forms of energy, the dynamic you’re defending is still the same as ever: growth, growth, growth. We’re talking a nuclear solution which, if accepted, would likely result more in the proliferation of nuclear energy than the growth of a sustainable energy industry. Still, I appreciate that your plan includes development of sustainable energy, but I hope you can recognize that what is sustainable is defined not only by technology but by lifestyle. Sustainable living (whatever that may defined to be) is an important aspect of sustainable energy. Even the wind, the sun, and the ocean have a certain energy carrying capacity, after all.

    When you think about it, your argument about government managing energy is really a conservation argument. It’s not about a means of production; it’s about efficiency and waste.

    So while I don’t personally think conservation is the only solution, it is certainly a necessary element to any serious discussion about energy policy. Mentioning it does not make one high-and-mighty or any such nonsense, necessarily, and it isn’t hypocritical to call for conservation when you don’t conserve better than some other people. It simply illustrates good human intentions in conflict with human weakness and ignorance. The end result is still good, however: a net reduction in energy consumption. We can always strive to do better. Personally, I think everyone shifting over to reusing grocery bags is great.

    On a side note, this reminds me of an energy discussion from some months ago (I don’t have the link), wherein Kevin and Glenn were discussing two sides of a false polarity: energy reduction through personal action vs. energy reduction through government mandate. My argument was, I think, more reasonable: Individuals engaging in real reduction through personal conservation and spreading the word, and government engaging in real reduction through promotion of more sustainable consumption standards and energy sources.

    It seems that in your eagerness to criticize cav’s approach, you have chosen to criticize us all as accomplices to his perspective. I can be charitable regarding the first such transgression, but please be cautious to not repeat it, lest I demeaningly demand from you the type of public apology you’re so prone to demand from others.

    Dwight Sheldon Adams

  83. #87 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 22, 2010 - 11:28 am

    R.O.–

    anti-nuke advocates will happily jump in their petroleum fueled cars to show up and protest having even one more nuclear power station built.

    It’s nice to live in a world where no one has to compromise their standards in order to promote their ideals, isn’t it?

    Come on, R.O. I would expect this kind of a claim to come from a Fox News commentator, but not from you. There’s a significant give-and-take necessity at play here, and while there are certainly those ignorant anti-nuke people that isolate their behaviors and motivations to those you attribute to them here, it is likely not a majority.

    The fact is, some people find the most power in protesting, but protesting requires proximity. Naturally, they have to get to the site, and many times it’s unreasonable to expect them, with the rest of the demands of life, to walk or ride a bike or find a bus that will take them to the necessary location. In some cases, demanding that people with limited means follow strictly the ideals they’re trying to impress upon other people is prohibitive of their ability to spread said ideals. It’s unfortunate that they must compromise in order to assert themselves, but it’s certainly forgiveable.

    Besides, how do you know that such people didn’t ride a bike/bus/carpool/walk/drive a car utilizing alternative fuels? Considering your standard of demanding evidence, I would like to see some numbers supporting this claim? Or was it a misstatement? Or hyperbole, perhaps? ;-)

    –Dwight

  84. #88 by brewski on July 22, 2010 - 11:53 am

    Nuclear power does not produce CO2 and other emissions, but it is not “renewable” in that it does come from a finite source of power (uranium) which has to be dug out of the ground somewhere and we will eventually run out of the stuff just like oil.

    Also, it does have negative externalities in the form of the mining destruction [how many of us are willing to let Canyonlands go?], water use, waste disposal, risk shifting to taxpayers, etc.

    So while it is not emission producing, it is not what you’d call green.

  85. #89 by Richard Warnick on July 22, 2010 - 2:50 pm

    Oh well, the climate issue has officially expired in the Senate. They held a somewhat belated funeral for it today. Done in by that so-called “60-vote rule” that we never heard about when Bush was in office.

    David Kurtz on TPM:

    Sens. Reid and Kerry confirm that climate change legislation — which assumed room temperature about six months ago and has been stinking up the place all summer — is in fact dead.

  86. #90 by cav on July 22, 2010 - 10:12 pm

    I’ve been sending my table scraps to the starving in India all my life. Have you not?

    I find your presumption about the substance of my neighborly conversations to be totally off target. Bragging…I never.

    My hammock is made of concrete.

    If nukes are off the table, won’t the other alternatives take care of themselves? I’m serious.

  87. #91 by Richard Okelberry on July 23, 2010 - 8:19 am

    “I rarely call something someone says a “rant.” I don’t really want to start now.” – Dwight

    It’s OK brother… I was ranting a bit…

    “First, let me apologize for implying that “ALL conservatives” etc. etc. I don’t believe that to be so, but I also know (as I’m sure you do) that there’s a strong “Waste in order to stick it to the greenies!” sentiment in conservative America, and even a denial that we are wasting, or that resources could become scarce. This is mainstream, buddy.” – Dwight

    I know that you did not mean to imply that all conservatives were of a certain color. I personally have done the same thing with liberals before, though I must admit that I usually do it to force liberals into a position where they want to distance themselves from the more radical liberals. I must say that it is a tactic that rarely works. Also, you are right Dwight that there are some that almost take pride in being wasteful as some form of direct expression of their freedom. Of course we need to ask ourselves if those individuals would react that way if there wasn’t an element in the environmental movement that seemed obsessed with micromanaging our daily lives through environmental reforms and restrictions. In both cases we need to remember that these are the extreme elements in the debate so we should not allow them to control the direction of the discussion.

    “Aside from that, though, please recall that we already gave due consideration to your and Brewski’s ideas on this thread, and our straying off to the side to discuss the low-hanging fruit of conservation is neither irrelevant or inappropriate to the issue at hand.” – Dwight

    Yes we did give due consideration and I appreciate the support/consideration. I understand that we will not agree on everything. I only fear that we as a country will fall into the same trap that has ensnared us for the past 4 decades by focusing only on conservation and making not permanent strides towards actually ridding our selves of fossil fuel. It is finally time that any discussion about conservation, especially a discussion about forced conservation needs to also have a component of energy reformation. People simply need to stop believing that conservation alone only gets us a few more years down the road. We now need to use those few more years to make serious changes.

    I personally believe that conservation is a key component to any energy plan. Even if we decided to produce massive numbers of nuclear power plants today, it would be years before they go online. We cannot continue to pollute in this fashion until then. There has to be some attempt NOW to reduce toxic emissions NOW. Conservatives also need to remember that conservation is a major part of being a conservative. There is a reason why these two words share the same root, Conserve. It should be a natural part of most conservatives to want to preserve what is good in both society and in nature for future generations. I believe that many conservatives have forgotten this key philosophical component of conservatism.

    “When you think about it, your argument about government managing energy is really a conservation argument. It’s not about a means of production; it’s about efficiency and waste.” – Dwight

    To a certain degree, but I don’t believe to the degree that you are thinking. Government by its nature is inefficient and wasteful. With energy and other natural monopolies government must be, regardless of it’s inefficiencies, the manager because natural monopolies are simply too expensive for the private sector, there simply may be no earnable profit for private industry as with Medicare or because it is largely detrimental to hand control of such powerful central monopoly over to a single private entity.

    I noticed that you keyed on my earlier description of Natural Monopolies when I argued about the inefficiency of having multiple utilities from multiple companies feeding your home. The key component to the argument that I failed to adequately express was the fact that we would never see such inefficiency because the cost of doing so is simply prohibitive. A better analogy would be to imagine if our road systems were 100% private. Imagine in a totally free market system where anyone can buy property and build roads and there is zero government interdiction what kind of a mess things would become and how difficult it would be to get around constantly having to ask permission to cross private property. Now consider how many pieces of private property your utilities cross today before arriving at your home. These are examples of Natural Monopolies and government serving a role that cannot be filled for several reasons by the private sector. This has long been a favorite argument of mine when discussing a proper role of government with libertarians. I don’t want to sidetrack this valuable discussion with this topic.

    “So while I don’t personally think conservation is the only solution, it is certainly a necessary element to any serious discussion about energy policy. Mentioning it does not make one high-and-mighty or any such nonsense, necessarily, and it isn’t hypocritical to call for conservation when you don’t conserve better than some other people. It simply illustrates good human intentions in conflict with human weakness and ignorance. The end result is still good, however: a net reduction in energy consumption. We can always strive to do better. Personally, I think everyone shifting over to reusing grocery bags is great.” – Dwight

    My primary reason for picking on Cav was to illustrate how even those that strongly advocate conservation have their self imposed limits. This begs the question; in a society where conservation is forced through legislation who then becomes the arbiter of when a given amount of conservation is enough and at what point will even Cav balk at the imposition. Because we as American’s enjoy having a high standard of living, there will always be limits to what the population will accept in terms of conservation. We need to realistically recognize that these limits are there when talking about conservation as a key component to our future energy policy. Also, bragging about ones conservation efforts while blaming others for failing to be as efficient with resources only helps to make people defensive and turn off to your argument. It essentially fuels the “stick it to the greenies” mentality because people will generally take a defensive and defiant stance when attacked. It’s like when we deal with smokers in society, it is far better to encourage in a positive manner that someone quit smoking than it is to constantly berate them.

    I don’t know if you ever watch South Park, but they had a great episode that spoke to this issue using hybrids (episode 141, “Smug Alert” – http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/1002 .) It’s very funny and very poignant as it cuts through the crap on both sides of this issue.

    We also need to consider when proposing a carbon tax or some sort of carbon trading scheme that we already have a mechanism designed to encourage conservation of energy called Black Rate Billing. Under block rate billing the more a household uses in electricity the higher the price goes through a serious of “blocks” or standard increments. This system is also used with water and is designed to simulate price increases that would occur under a standard supply and demand system. While any block rate billing system should adjust for the number individuals residing at a particular residence, it is still far superior idea to any form of carbon tax which would cause a broad increase in energy costs overall regardless of demand.

    It should also be noted that I referred to carbon trading as a “scheme” because that is exactly what it is. It is a plan hatched in the halls of Wall Street to generate billions of dollars for brokers who will be arranging the trades of these carbon credits and collecting their commissions. I also want to point out that in crafting their estimated costs for the cape and trade plan, the CBO conveniently left out of their calculations any detrimental effect on the GDP. Many economists believe that these effects will be significant. Consider that if the GDP were to swing up a mere 2%, we could wipe out the national debt with the increased revenue in under 10 years. If instead the GDP does take a major hit because of carbon trading we could see many years for shortfalls in revenue. The question is; are we willing to take such a risk with our economy especially when you consider that a strong economy will be essential to making the changes to our energy infrastructure that will be necessary if we are ever going to rid ourselves of fossil fuels. There is a reason why third world countries are not leading the way in conservation and clean energy. They simply can’t afford it. As such, it is crucial that any plan does not neglect the need to maintain a strong economy.

    Finally, I certainly don’t want to be seen as proposing a false dichotomy here. I accept that there may be other options that I have not considered fully regarding our future energy production and requirements. Still, I would like to ask you outright, Dwight; if you had to personally choose today between coal and nuclear as a primary source of power, given everything you know about both, which would you choose if those two were your only option? I am curious to know which you find to be the “worse” option and why. Also, we should not discount that NG may be a viable option over both as our primary source of electricity until a cleaner alternative can become available. I just fear that if we fallow what has become known as the Pickens Plan and go that route, we will rob ourselves of the ability to us NG as a transition fuel for automobiles until hydrogen becomes readily available.

    BTW:
    “Besides, how do you know that such people didn’t ride a bike/bus/carpool/walk/drive a car utilizing alternative fuels? Considering your standard of demanding evidence, I would like to see some numbers supporting this claim? Or was it a misstatement? Or hyperbole, perhaps?” – Dwight

    You are correct that I have no evidence to support that statement. While I don’t believe it reaches the level of hyperbole, it certainly was an assumption on my part that I should not have made.

  88. #92 by Richard Okelberry on July 23, 2010 - 8:37 am

    “Nuclear power does not produce CO2 and other emissions, but it is not “renewable” in that it does come from a finite source of power (uranium) which has to be dug out of the ground somewhere and we will eventually run out of the stuff just like oil.” – Brewsky

    Using current “Breeder” technology scientists estimate that we currently have a fuel supply for nuclear power that would last around a Billion year. That’s Billion with a ‘B’. This is because breeder reactors actually end up generating more fissile material than they consume. The reason we are not currently using breeder reactors is because it requires fuel reclamation. Fuel reclamation is the same process used to obtain material for nuclear weapons. As such, it is currently banned by treaty. Of course these treaties can always be renegotiate to allow for open verification and open accounting of all reclaimed material.

    “Q. What about breeder reactors?
    A. If the reactor design is much more economical of neutrons, enough U-238 can be converted to plutonium so that after a fuel cycle there is more fissionable material than there was in the original fuel rods in the reactor. Such a design is called a breeder reactor. Breeder reactors essentially use U-238 as fuel, and there is 140 times as much of it as there is U-235. The billion year estimates for fuel resources depend on breeder reactors. The French built two of them, the U.S. has a small one, the British built one, the Russians built one and the Japanese are building one.

    Breeder reactors seem to be a resource rather than a reserve. They are more expensive than present reactors and maybe will wait for large scale deployment until uranium gets more expensive. This is unlikely to be soon, because large uranium reserves have been discovered in recent years.” – http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html

    Even without breeder reactors our supply of fuel for nuclear reactors would last for thousands of years.

  89. #93 by cav on July 23, 2010 - 9:24 am

    Richard:

    After reading the direction of this conversation it seems clear that we simply are not willing to propose and make the decisions that will lead to independence from fossil fuels in our energy supply

    .

    I’d like to think it is precisely as a result of this type of discussion that a better informed group of citizen will be able to support the needed reforms. The conversation itself, however lengthy, being somewhat of a lubricant. Thanks for holding up your end so elequantly.

    …because people will generally take a defensive and defiant stance when attacked… it is far better to encourage in a positive manner… than it is to constantly berate them.

    .

    While an energy policy more dedicated to ‘soft-power’ may be an idealistic and counterproductive pipe dream, that posture is obviously every bit a reaction to the idiocy that the massive consumers display with their ‘hog-riders’. IOW, again, that sword cuts both ways. Just wanted to point that out.

    Having written that, my stance on nuclearization is informed partly by my presumptions about non-proliferation, all the talk of new generations of nuclear equipment and how that will all impact weaponry and the ‘balance of power’, whether Irans pursuit of nuclear power might just part of evolving power production from which we might all bennifit, as opposed to the often characterized ‘Islamofascistic Warmongering’. What if their design could be helpful toward that end? Better Nukes? Might not Iran be acting in the same way either the hog-rider or the hippy freak are? And that’s not even considering the vast amounts of petro they’re sitting on. (not well phrased, but perhaps you get my drift).

    So the areas that need to be discussed are many, it’s not just naysaying or contrariness.

    Finally, and I apologize for what seems to me to be particularly wordiness, regarding the costs to the people for our present level of ‘nuclearness’. Storage and / or future reuse of the waste, decommissioning and disposing of spent reactors, will all have costs. Where will that money come from?

    Thanks, cav.

  90. #94 by cav on July 23, 2010 - 9:26 am

    #92 – while I keyed. :-)

  91. #95 by Richard Okelberry on July 23, 2010 - 3:41 pm

    “Finally, and I apologize for what seems to me to be particularly wordiness, regarding the costs to the people for our present level of ‘nuclearness’. Storage and / or future reuse of the waste, decommissioning and disposing of spent reactors, will all have costs. Where will that money come from?” – Cav

    Fair point, Cav.

    The link that I provided above in an earlier post addresses this issue.

    “The cost of generating power via nuclear energy can be separated into the following components:
    • The construction cost of building the plant.
    • The operating cost of running the plant and generating energy.
    • The cost of waste disposal from the plant.
    • The cost of decommissioning the plant.” – http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/WebHomeCostOfNuclearPower


    Here is another one that compares coal and nuclear power directly. They claim that the cost of nuclear is $30 per Mw-hr and Coal is $29.1 per Mw-hr. http://www.nucleartourist.com/basics/costs.htm

    The most comprehensive study that I have found about the future and overall costs of nuclear power was produced by MIT in 2003 and updated in 2009. http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/pdf/nuclearpower-update2009.pdf. They show the overall cost of nuclear is higher than coal as long as there is no carbon tax. Of course these comparisons do not include the overall cost of coal to the environment in terms of dollars and the health risks to citizens the way the Synapse Energy Economics study which Gary Kunkel used in this essay does.

    We also have to remember that decommissioning a coal plant is no easy task either. They are very dirty little buggers. That cost would have to be figured into the overall cost of converting to any alternative source if it becomes our plan to start shutting down coal plants. Regardless, this is going to be an expensive project. We also cannot forget that carbon sequestering is a possible option though I still think I would prefer to move away from all fossil fuels, even Natural Gas over the long term.

    The irony in this debate is that while I would prefer we move in the direction of nuclear energy, without a carbon tax which I disagree with, it becomes less likely. On the other side; those that support a carbon tax generally seem to be not in favor of nuclear energy even though imposing a carbon tax will make nuclear energy a more attractive option and may lead to it being fast tracked.

    It’s an interesting dilemma we find ourselves in.

  92. #96 by Richard Okelberry on July 23, 2010 - 3:47 pm

    Sorry Cav,

    The link I gave you above was just to the Update to the MIT study. Here is the link to the root page for the entire study including the update. It’s a very good read.

    http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/

  93. #97 by Richard Warnick on July 23, 2010 - 8:51 pm

    R.O.–

    Your source omitted the cost of insurance for nuclear power plants, which is a huge government subsidy. The taxpayers are on the hook for any nuclear accidents.

  94. #98 by Richard Okelberry on July 24, 2010 - 6:55 am

    Mr. Warnick,

    Certainly, costs associated with accidents and disasters of all forms of power generation are important to this discussion. While we already touched on this a bit here discussing liabilities and actual costs to the tax payers over the year, why don’t you show us your numbers Mr. Warnick?

    How much SPECIFICALLY has the government paid out in various subsidies to the various energy sectors and how much money has gone to disaster mitigation like the current BP oil spill over the years for each sector? What has been the cost in actual human lives from each of the major energy sectors and what limits on liability do the various energy sectors each enjoy legislatively?

    Finally, I imagine that many here like me would like to hear you opinion as someone who worked as a geologist for the federal government for so many years, is it your professional opinion that the continued use of coal is a better option overall for the environment than nuclear power?

  95. #99 by Richard Okelberry on July 24, 2010 - 7:33 am

    Here’s an interesting statement by Professor Bernard L. Cohen, Sc.D. at the University of Pittsburg Physics Department, where he makes a statistical comparison between the risk of a major malfunction at a nuclear facility and coal power production. (Notice that he only focuses on the number of deaths from the polution produced from coal, not the number of deaths incurred from mining and other operations.)

    “Risks from reactor accidents are estimated by the rapidly developing science of “probabilistic risk analysis” (PRA). A PRA must be done separately for each power plant (at a cost of $5 million) but we give typical results here: A fuel melt-down might be expected once in 20,000 years of reactor operation. In 2 out of 3 melt-downs there would be no deaths, in 1 out of 5 there would be over 1000 deaths, and in 1 out of 100,000 there would be 50,000 deaths. The average for all meltdowns would be 400 deaths. Since air pollution from coal burning is estimated to be causing 10,000 deaths per year, there would have to be 25 melt-downs each year for nuclear power to be as dangerous as coal burning.

    Of course deaths from coal burning air pollution are not noticeable, but the same is true for the cancer deaths from reactor accidents. In the worst accident considered, expected once in 100,000 melt-downs (once in 2 billion years of reactor operation), the cancer deaths would be among 10 million people, increasing their cancer risk typically from 20% (the current U.S. average) to 20.5%. This is much less than the geographical variation— 22% in New England to 17% in the Rocky Mountain states. – http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/np-risk.htm

  96. #100 by cav on July 24, 2010 - 10:19 am

    Iran studies building nuclear fusion reactor
    Washington Post – Ali Akbar Dareini
    AP TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s nuclear agency began studies Saturday to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, something that has yet to be achieved by any nation.

    I’m sceered, really sceered. An not of the Iranians either.

  97. #101 by Richard Warnick on July 24, 2010 - 10:29 am

    R.O.–

    When the next nuclear accident happens, I’m sure there will be politicians and experts saying “no one could have anticipated…” Just like the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq insurgency, the levee failures during Karina, the collapse of investment banking, and the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The reason the government has to provide insurance under the Price-Anderson Act is because nuclear power plants are otherwise uninsurable in the private sector.

    Also, what about loan guarantees? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the pending Senate legislation would subsidize nuclear power at the rate of $5 billion per reactor. The total subsidies could amount to $147 billion.

    Michael Mariotte, Executive Director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service:

    “The taxpayers will be put in the awkward and highly risky position of both providing billions of dollars in loans to giant nuclear corporations and promising to repay the loans if the companies default. ….With the Congressional Budget Office predicting a 50% default rate on nuclear construction projects funded with loan guarantees, the risk of budget-busting losses to taxpayers is enormous.”

    By propping up the unprofitable nuclear power industry, the government puts clean energy at a disadvantage.

    cav–

    I believe there have been several experimental fusion reactors. The problem is making one that produces more electricity than it consumes. I wish they could solve that problem, because fusion reactors are safe.

  98. #102 by Richard Okelberry on July 25, 2010 - 10:43 am

    “When the next nuclear accident happens, I’m sure there will be politicians and experts saying “no one could have anticipated…” Just like the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq insurgency, the levee failures during Karina, the collapse of investment banking, and the Deepwater Horizon blowout.” – Warnick


    I truly would like to be able to stay on topic here and not have to once again discuss Mr. Warnick’s debate strategy but here we have a prime example of Fear Mongering. Mr. Warnick appears to be trying to generate fears about nuclear power by implying that “the next nuclear accident” will be on par with the events of 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, the current economic unrest and the recent BP oil spill. Of course he provides no direct evidence to support his assertion and instead is appealing to the emotional impact of these other events to gain support for his technically weak position.

    This is the tactic that many anti-nuclear energy advocates have had to resort to over the years to keep people fearful about nuclear power, when little or no actual evidence is available to support their cause or justify the fears. He is essentially saying that there are experts that have been wrong in the past about other unrelated tragedies; so if we go forward with more nuclear power we will with all certainty suffer the same fate as with these other catastrophes.

    It is important to know that while there will always be some risks associated with all forms of reliable power production, the fears about a catastrophic failure of a nuclear power plant are largely a type of phobia because it is not grounded in logic and a scientific review of the current data at hand. These fears are general predicated on irrational assumptions and fears. If Mr. Warnick has specific fears or reservations about particular shortfalls regarding the redundant layers of safeguards used within a modern nuclear facility, he should be forthcoming rather than relying on baseless fear mongering.

    “The reason the government has to provide insurance under the Price-Anderson Act is because nuclear power plants are otherwise uninsurable in the private sector.: – Warnick

    -
    Now I am repeating myself… Firsts it is NOT TRUE that the private sector will not insure nuclear power and the government DOES NOT provide “insurance” under the Price-Anderson Act. This is a myth. As stated above the private sector DOES provide insurance for nuclear power plants. One such provider is American Nuclear Insurers (ANI.)

    “ANI is a joint underwriting association that acts on behalf of our member companies. We directly write nuclear liability insurance for nuclear facilities in the United States, and assume reinsurance shares on nuclear business written by other nuclear pools and mutual insurers throughout the world.” – http://www.nuclearinsurance.com/About%20ANI.html

    -
    Also, the Price Anderson Act’s primary purpose is to place limits on the amount of liability for a nuclear plant and to require that private nuclear plants essentially self-insure for a current minimum amount ($300 million) of their total $11 Billion Dollar liability. The Act was passed in an effort to encourage the private sector to invest the large amounts of money necessary for nuclear power plants thus requiring fewer tax dollars to fund the projects. Such limits in liability are commonly granted by the government to various industries for the same reason. In this case the liability limits also forced any lawsuits directly into Federal court and removed the standard civil court procedures by forbidding any nuclear power station from defending legal claims against them by arguing that a given accident was not their fault. While liability was limited and punitive damages where prohibited in law suits, regardless of the cause of an accident defendants were always seen to be at fault under this act.

    While there are many reasons why investors can be shy about nuclear power, it is wrong to automatically assume that it is the fear of a catastrophic nuclear meltdown that is the primary source of the fear. More often it is the knowledge that there is large phobia amongst the general public caused by misconceptions and rumors regarding nuclear power making investors fear that their investments will be wiped away through governmental interference brought by public pressure and the fact that investors often see no returns on their investment for well over a decade. I hate to have to quote myself but,

    “We also have to remember that these are merely loan guarantees designed to protect investors from the huge losses they may incur as environmentalist fight these projects at every turn. These guarantees also help protect investors for the long haul. Because it can take many years to construct one nuclear facility, investors need to know that the political tides are not going to shift before the plant can make a profit. It has happened before with the Shoreham plant on Long Island where investors put up the money to build a nuclear plant only to have political tides shift and the plant was never allowed to go online. Also, because there is already a surplus of electricity in the country from plentiful coal, investors need to know that the nation is truly committed to clean energy first and foremost and willing to wean its dependence on dirty coal.

    Having the government responsible for any losses that it may cause through political manipulation of a market has little difference than forcing the government to pay fair value when acquiring land through eminent domain. Investing some of our “re-investment in America” money on a project that is sure to reap both economic and environmental benefits for the current and distant future is pure common sense.” Richard Okelberry, Obama Finally Right! http://utahfreepress.com/2010/02/28/obama-finally-right/

    “Also, what about loan guarantees? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the pending Senate legislation would subsidize nuclear power at the rate of $5 billion per reactor. The total subsidies could amount to $147 billion.” – Warnick

    Here Mr. Warnick seems to implying that the tax payer has no business sharing in the financial risks or funding of nuclear power. This might be true if nuclear power generation was a wholly private industry. It is not! It is a classical example of a Natural Monopoly. While the government may contract with various private companies to provide energy in various forms, the energy we receive in our homes is a Public Utility. As such we are each invested in it as citizens through our government and therefore must share some of the financial risks and liabilities, especially when it is the general public that is the end beneficiary of the power produced.

    A good comparison would be to look at NASA. The costs associated with space flight are simply too great for private industry to take on by it’s self. Because the benefits to society in the form of the advancement of technology from the program are huge it is necessary for the tax payers to take on a large portion of the financial burden in order to reap those benefits. Even in the case of NASA which regularly uses private contractors like ADK to manufacture their launch vehicles, the liabilities and financial risks are shared between this public/private union with limits on liability given to the private sector to encourage participation. If ADK were required to bear 100% of the cost and 100% of the risk, they simply would not be willing to get involved in the venture.

    The same arguments that Mr. Warnick is making against nuclear power about the potential cost to the tax payer could have just as easily been made, and likely were, against the construction of the Hoover Dam and the Erie Canal projects. While each project was simply to large and complicated for private industry to do on its own and the risks to tax payers were great, each proved to be incredibly beneficial in the long run.

    “By propping up the unprofitable nuclear power industry, the government puts clean energy at a disadvantage.” – Warnick

    Here Mr. Warnick makes the assumption that nuclear power is not profitable. Profitable compared to what? Coal? Oil? What “clean” energy is Mr. Warnick worried will be placed at a disadvantage? As we have discussed, wind and solar are both simply not capable of providing consistent power, as such they can only be used at best as a supplement to our power grid which leaves us with primarily fossil fuel generated power. Even if we expanded wind and energy to provide 20% of our power by 2020 as Mr. Warnick has advocated we would still need a traditional form of power generation like coal, natural gas or nuclear to produce power when wind and solar lay dormant do to swings in the natural availability of these power sources. Quite simply, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. That is hardly a clean alternative! Even then it is these two power sources, not nuclear, that are the most heavily subsidized by the U.S. government.

    “For electricity generation, the EIA concludes that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and “clean coal” $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59.” – Wall Street Journal – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121055427930584069.html

    -
    Finally, I would like to point out that I asked Mr. Warnick several direct questions in my last post. Mr. Warnick either missed them or has refused to address them, so I will ask again.

    1. Certainly, costs associated with accidents and disasters of all forms of power generation are important to this discussion. While we already touched on this a bit here discussing liabilities and actual costs to the tax payers over the year(s), why don’t you show us your numbers Mr. Warnick?
    2. How much SPECIFICALLY has the government paid out in various subsidies to the various energy sectors and how much money has gone to disaster mitigation like the current BP oil spill over the years for each sector?
    3. What has been the cost in actual human lives from each of the major energy sectors and what limits on liability do the various energy sectors each enjoy legislatively?
    4. …as someone who worked as a geologist for the federal government for so many years, is it your professional opinion that the continued use of coal is a better option overall for the environment than nuclear power?


    These questions are essential to furthering this discussion if we want to move beyond simply relying on more unfounded Fear Mongering. These questions get to the issue of comparing the actual (not just perceived) risks and cost of nuclear energy against the costs and risks associated with other consistent sources of electricity generation. We simply cannot make a decision about the future of energy in this country using baseless fears. It must be done based on the best facts as shown through the best scientific data we can compile. I am essentially challenging Mr. Warnick to do what any truly honest scientist would do and publish his findings even if the data does not support his stated claim or position.

    While the fourth question was answered to some extent when Mr. Warnick made this statement in support of the continued use of coal, “I don’t know anyone demanding “that every coal plant across the nation” be shut down. A moratorium on new coal plants is needed now, along with better emission controls. There is no such thing as “clean coal,” but that doesn’t mean emissions can’t be reduced,” I think that it would be good for this discussion if Mr. Warnick would make a direct and qualified statement about whether he believes energy production from coal is overall “safer” than nuclear energy. It’s time to stop beating around the bush on this issue.

    Considering that Mr. Warnick has failed to provide any evidence that disputes the fact that power production from coal causes more deaths and more negative environmental impacts than nuclear energy coupled with his relentless claims that nuclear power is more expensive than coal, one is left to conclude that he is arguing that we should essentially be putting profits before lives and the environment.

    Finally, in his last post, while Mr. Warnick failed to make any real comparison between coal and nuclear power risks, he did provide us link to an article on the Union of Concerned Scientists (an environmental group) web site discussion the potential costs of nuclear power. From that same web site; these “Concerned Scientists” also have a few things to say about coal. I hope most would agree that it is good that we all understand that Mr. Warnick appears to be advocating the following abuse when he advocates for continue coal use by saying, “I don’t know anyone demanding “that every coal plant across the nation” be shut down.”

    Solid waste
    <Waste created by a typical 500-megawatt coal plant includes more than 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber each year. Nationally, more than 75% of this waste is disposed of in unlined, unmonitored onsite landfills and surface impoundments.

    Toxic substances in the waste — including arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium — can contaminate drinking water supplies and damage vital human organs and the nervous system. One study found that one out of every 100 children who drink groundwater contaminated with arsenic from coal power plant wastes were at risk of developing cancer. Ecosystems too have been damaged — sometimes severely or permanently — by the disposal of coal plant waste.


    Cooling water discharge
    Once the 2.2 billion gallons of water have cycled through the coal-fired power plant, they are released back into the lake, river, or ocean. This water is hotter (by up to 20-25° F) than the water that receives it. This “thermal pollution” can decrease fertility and increase heart rates in fish. Typically, power plants also add chlorine or other toxic chemicals to their cooling water to decrease algae growth. These chemicals are also discharged back into the environment.

    Waste heat
    Much of the heat produced from burning coal is wasted. A typical coal power plant uses only 33-35% of the coal’s heat to produce electricity. The majority of the heat is released into the atmosphere or absorbed by the cooling water.” – The Union of Concerned Scientists, http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02d.html


    Personally, I AM advocating that each and every coal plant be shut down. While I understand that this cannot happen over night, I do believe it can happen and that we should start moving in that direction NOW. While, it is important economical that this transition be made in a way that does not leave us with shortfalls in energy as a strong economy will be essential to such a transition, I certainly am (unlike Mr. Warnick) pushing for a total end to our dependency on coal by advocating that every single coal plant should be shut down and replaced as soon as possible with the next, most viable and far cleaner alternative, Nuclear Energy. Certainly, if someone knows of a more viable option that does extend our reliance on coal for the next 100 years, I would love to hear it.

  99. #103 by Richard Warnick on July 25, 2010 - 11:01 am

    R.O.–

    I don’t have the time to do your homework assignments. And I’m not a geologist or a federal employee as you seem to believe. I’m a geographer working for a federal contractor.

    The probability of nuclear accidents is increasing because the NRC is extending the operating licenses for aging nuclear plants past their designed lifetimes. As for the consequences of a nuclear power plant malfunction, thoughtful people with memories are aware that these are attention-getting events when they happen. There have been 15 major nuclear power plant accidents in my lifetime. Recently, columnist Bob Herbert wrote about this issue in the New York Times:

    With nuclear plants, the worst-case scenarios are too horrible for most people to want to imagine. Denial takes over with policy makers and the public alike. Something approaching a worst-case accident at a nuclear plant, especially one in a highly populated area, would make the Deepwater Horizon disaster look like a walk in the park…

    There are already plenty of problems on the nuclear power front, but they don’t get a great deal of media attention. David Lochbaum, the director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me last week that there have been 47 instances since 1979 in which nuclear reactors in the U.S. have had to be shut down for more than a year for safety reasons.

    “We estimated, in 2005 dollars, that the average price tag for these outages was between $1.5 billion and $2 billion,” said Mr. Lochbaum.

    People of a certain age will remember the frightening accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, a partial meltdown that came dangerously close to a worst-case scenario. As Mr. Lochbaum put it, “In roughly two hours, conditions at the plant rendered it from a billion-dollar asset to a multibillion-dollar liability. It cost more to clean up than it cost to build it.”

    Another frightening accident occurred in 2002 at the Davis-Besse plant at Oak Harbor, Ohio. A hidden leak led to corrosion that caused a near-catastrophe. By the time the problem was discovered, only a thin layer of stainless steel was left to hold back the disaster.

    The potential problems with nuclear power abound. No one knows what to do with the dangerous nuclear waste that is building up at the plants. And no one wants to have an extended conversation in polite company about the threat of terrorists who could wreak all manner of mayhem with an attack on a plant.

    Call it “fear mongering” if you like. I call it reality-based analysis of the risk posed by nuclear plants. It’s not an exaggeration to say a nuclear accident could make Deepwater Horizon look like a walk in the park. As a taxpayer, I don’t want to subsidize nuclear power with hundreds of billions of dollars in loan guarantees and free insurance. I don’t like being on the hook for the cleanup costs of a nuclear catastrophe.

    Coal versus nuclear is a classic straw man argument. Let’s go with clean, renewable energy and energy conservation going forward.

  100. #104 by Richard Okelberry on July 25, 2010 - 2:47 pm

    And we get more Fear Mongering!

    “Call it “fear mongering” if you like. I call it reality-based analysis of the risk posed by nuclear plants. It’s not an exaggeration to say a nuclear accident could make Deepwater Horizon look like a walk in the park.” – Warnick


    If and buts candy and nuts… Anti-nuke people like Mr. Warnick will continually tell us that we are on the verge of the Big One concerning nuclear power. Of course if they had any evidence of such a catastrophic failure EVER happening with a western reactor, they would present it. All they have is a few examples, including Three Mile Island where the technology and fail safes used to contain any such tragedy worked and no such disaster occurred.

    “Coal versus nuclear is a classic straw man argument. Let’s go with clean, renewable energy and energy conservation going forward.” – Warnick


    He calls the comparison between Coal and Nuclear power a straw-man because he either doesn’t understand what a straw-man fallacy is or he is simply trying to confuse the reader. I would invite Mr. Warnick to expand on this accusation and explain exactly why it is a straw-man to compare coal to nuclear power. If he truly understands what a straw-man fallacy is he should have no problem with this task.

    I noticed that Mr. Warnick’s favored environmental group, Union of Concerned Scientists has published on their site an essay titled, Coal vs. Wind Power: You be the Judge. If I am guilty of creating a straw-man by comparing nuclear power and coal power, both of which are capable of supplying consistent energy to the grid, then Mr. Warnick’s group of “Concerned Scientist” must have built a straw-Trojan horse by comparing a primary power source (coal) with a supplemental system (wind). Of course, neither are actually straw man fallacies.

    There simply is no better comparison when talking about our energy producing future than to compare Coal and Nuclear power. This is especially true when both are current competing forms of electrical production and I am advocating that nuclear power be advanced to replace coal.

    For this comparison to have been a crafted straw man fallacy Mr. Warnick should easily be able to show the superficial position that he alleges I have crafted regarding Coal power. Or maybe he means that I have crafted a superficial argument regarding Nuclear power. To be honest, I don’t know which; he simply says that the comparison IS a “classic straw man argument.”

    Finally Mr. Warnick just continues his tribal cheerleading, “Let’s go with clean, renewable energy and energy conservation going forward” sounds like a chant you could repeat at a rally. Of course he doesn’t tell us what “clean” and “renewable” energy he would have us switch to. The arguments he makes never seem to go beyond mere catch phrases.

    For those of you out there who consider themselves environmentalists and have long had reservations about nuclear power, consider that you would not be the first to change your mind the subject after doing a little research. I am not asking anyone to accept the prospect of expanding our nuclear power inventory on pure blind faith. I truly believe that if you do the research and weigh the options you will come to the conclusion that we have few other choices. If such a conversion could happen to one of the founding members of Greenpeace, maybe it can happen to you…

    A CONVERSATION WITH PATRICK MOORE
    Why Former Greenpeace Leader Supports Nuclear Energy


    Murphy: […] I’d like to start with how you went from being a founder of Greenpeace, and against nuclear power, to where you are now.

    Moore: The reason I changed my mind on nuclear energy is fairly simple, and it started with the fact that our initial campaign in Greenpeace was against nuclear weapons testing, and against the use of nuclear weapons in general, and the fear of an all-out nuclear war. It was during the Cold War, in the late 1960s, early 1970s. It was also the height of the Vietnam War. There was just a lot of war going on, and we were afraid that there was going to be an all-out exchange of nuclear weapons, and we determined that we were going to stop that possibility.

    So, we were totally focused on the weapons side. And I believe, in retrospect, that we made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil. And in retrospect, that would be as wrong as lumping nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons. Obviously, nuclear medicine is a beneficial use of radiation and nuclear technology; it successfully diagnoses and treats millions of people per year. Most of those radioactive substances, the medical isotopes that are used, are actually produced
    in nuclear reactors, so that is clearly a good use for nuclear reactors.

    And, of course, one of the other good uses of nuclear reactors is to produce electricity for peaceful purposes. So, we made a mistake in my estimation. I don’t think it was a very discerning approach to the technology, because there are lots of different technologies that can be used for both good and evil, many different things, including fire. So, if we had said, “We’re not going to use fire, because you can burn down a city with it,” then we would be forgoing all the beneficial uses of fire, like staying warm and cooking food. I think that applies to many technologies, and for me it should be no different for nuclear energy, that we should use the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and avoid using the destructive ones. It’s as simple as that—just like we do with other technologies.

    So that’s what caused me to change my mind. And also the realization, as I was beginning to think about climate change, in particular, of how do we get out of having 86% of the world’s energy as fossil fuel? How do we change that? And it was obvious to me—it’s been obvious to me all along—that wind and solar can’t really change that very much. But what can change it, is nuclear power, plus hydroelectricity where it is available, and there’s still a lot of potential hydroelectric power in the world. The environmental movement has been busy over the last 25 years, stopping hydroelectric projects around the world, and trying to prevent nuclear power from being adopted, when these are clearly the two most promising and realistic alternatives to fossil fuels for electricity production.

    So my analysis, I think, is fairly clear. We made a mistake, and I’m trying to do my best to correct it, from my point of view.” – http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2008/2008_20-29/2008-20/pdf/58-63_3520.pdf


    I would encourage everyone to follow the link to that interview and read the entire thing.

  101. #105 by Richard Okelberry on July 25, 2010 - 2:48 pm

    Ooops… forgot to close quote again… Sorry!

  102. #106 by Richard Warnick on July 25, 2010 - 3:27 pm

    R.O.–

    I fixed your blockquote.

    You are really drinking the Kool-Aid if you believe Three Mile Island wasn’t a disaster. They evacuated 140,000 people from their homes. The cleanup took14 years and cost $1 billion dollars. The containment building had to be permanently sealed.

    I already linked to the definition of a straw man argument, but here it is:

    To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar yet weaker proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

    The issue isn’t coal versus nuclear at all. The issue is clean, renewable energy and conservation versus nuclear and coal. But since nuclear reactors are the most expensive way to boil water ever invented, you need the straw man to beat up on.

    I think everyone who reads this blog is familiar with the clean, renewable energy alternatives available, and with the massive savings to be gained from widespread energy conservation. We have discussed the details at length already.

    BTW Patrick Moore now makes his living a consultant, helping to confuse the public about environmental issues on behalf of corporations who hire him.

  103. #107 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 26, 2010 - 9:37 am

    R.O.–

    To briefly answer your question, I would choose nuclear over coal, given only those two options and not being permitted to select a mix of them. Nuclear requires far less mass than coal in order to yield a superior amount of energy, coal has radioactive particles in it that end up in our atmosphere, and clean coal requires more storage space than nuclear waste.

    External to the choice of which energy to consume, however, I would also emphasize individual choices regarding how much to consume.

    BTW, I’m not particularly in favor of government mandating conservation, although that’s an option I’m still leaving open. When I talk about conservation, I’m talking about government regulating obvious waste in industry and educating the populace about different ways to cut waste that we don’t typically think of, and I’m talking about individuals regulating themselves.

    –Dwight

  104. #108 by Richard Warnick on July 26, 2010 - 9:45 am

    Dwight–

    Don’t fall for R.O.’s straw man argument. Nuclear and coal are both finished. Time to move on.

    Consumers don’t have enough energy conservation choices. In many cases, we have to pay more for homes, vehicles and appliances that use less energy. Meanwhile, huge federal subsidies are given to inefficient energy producers.

  105. #109 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on July 26, 2010 - 10:16 am

    Richard–

    I didn’t fall for his argument. I answered his question. To me, that was the end of it, because if he ever tried to force me to argue for coal or nuclear in anything but an obviously farcical hypothetical, I wouldn’t stand for it. So don’t worry.

    Sadly, you’re right about consumers. Even where we do have some choices, they oftentimes help the businesses save money—which money then goes to being more wasteful. Consumers take on the burden of conservation so businesses don’t have to.

    That’s why my conservation argument includes mandates for industry. It would also be good to work on cheapening conservation somewhat, but nobody said conservation was supposed to be as easy and convenient as being wasteful is. We do what we can, and hope government and industry can empower us to do even more.

    –Dwight

  106. #110 by Richard Okelberry on July 26, 2010 - 8:03 pm

    Thank you Mr. Warnick for correcting my blockquote mistake in my last post, I think that it’s time for me to just stop using them. Also, I apologize for saying you were a geologist instead of a geographer. Now, back to the rub…

    “You are really drinking the Kool-Aid if you believe Three Mile Island wasn’t a disaster. They evacuated 140,000 people from their homes. The cleanup took14 years and cost $1 billion dollars. The containment building had to be permanently sealed.” – Warnick


    Your statistics sound impressive, but without a reference they are meaningless. For example; how serious was this “disaster” to the other disasters that you compared a potential nuclear disaster to before? Was Three Mile Island worse, about the same or less damaging than 9/11, Katrina or the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in your opinion? Of course if we want to avoid building a straw man, it would be better to compare the disaster at Three Mile Island to other disasters, environmental effects and deaths from coal and other sources of primary power generation.

    This brings us to your continued claim about straw man arguments. First, it is impossible for me to prove a negative. I cannot point to a non-existent exaggeration, distortion or misrepresentation in superficially crafted weaker position to say, “look there it isn’t!” If you believe that I have constructed a straw man then make your case for it. They are quite easy to diagram and even more easily destroyed by making a simple declarative statement or correction of the facts.

    The irony is that you are basing any claim about a straw man by using another logic fallacy called the False Analogy. In this case the fallacy can also be commonly expressed through the idiom, Apples and Oranges. Additionally, you are using another logic fallacy called the False Choice, a form of False Dichotomy when you said, “The issue isn’t coal versus nuclear at all. The issue is clean, renewable energy and conservation versus nuclear and coal.”

    The problem is you present a choice between two opposites that aren’t actually opposites. They aren’t truly opposing choices because they don’t have enough shared common features. In the case of apples and oranges, while we can say that both are fruit they certainly aren’t the same KIND of fruit. While we can say that both renewables (wind and Solar) produce energy they are not the same type of energy producers as Coal and nuclear because they are not able to produce energy on demand.

    Not to be redundant but, you simply cannot have your “renewable” sources providing power to an electrical grid unless you also have the non-renewable sources providing electricity to the grid if your goal is to provide the constant power expected by the end consumer. Do you see the false dichotomy? There simply is no “either or” with regards to renewable power and coal/nuclear power. You have not given us two logical opposing options. Hence the False Choice.

    If this still doesn’t make sense let me put it in simpler terms. Presume our goal is to have a constant flow of power to our electrical grid. Our hypothetical grid currently has both “dirty” (coal/nuclear) and “clean” (wind/solar) generators providing power to this grid. Now you come in the room and give us the choice of using only Clean or only Dirty power. If we choose Clean power, power is only being delivered to the grid in an irregular fashion and our goal of a constant power flow to the grid is not achieved. Now if we choose Dirty Power, the electricity flows in a very consistent manner and the customer is happy. Can you see now how wind and solar and conservation (which produces no power at all) are not REAL alternatives to Coal and Nuclear power.

    Now if we apply this same logic test to coal and nuclear alone, since they are both essentially “on-demand systems” we can remove either one without effecting the consistent flow of power. Therefore it is logical to compare nuclear and coal but fallacious to compare wind/solar to coal/nuclear. Ultimately the reasoning of your argument is incorrect and therefore illogical. As such, to use this error in reasoning to support a claim about the presence of a straw man, would also then be inherently illogical.

    That is the closest I can come to disproving your straw man theory without actually seeing an example of what you believe the straw man to be. As I said, I cannot prove a negative. Of course, because your argument falls apart under the weight of its own lack of logic, there never was a reason to use a straw man argument anyway.

    Moving on…

    “I think everyone who reads this blog is familiar with the clean, renewable energy alternatives available, and with the massive savings to be gained from widespread energy conservation. We have discussed the details at length already. “ – Warnick

    Fallacy: Appeal to Belief-
    This is the “everyone agrees with me and therefore I am right defense.” To this I respond, if ALL the GEOGRAPHERS believed that the world was flat, that would not necessarily make the world flat. Just because a bunch of people believe something to be true does not mean that it’s true. I also like to call this the “popular kids” defense.

    “BTW Patrick Moore now makes his living a consultant, helping to confuse the public about environmental issues on behalf of corporations who hire him.” – Warnick

    Fallacy: Circumstantial Ad Hominem-
    This is the “but he’s a commie” defense. After all, anyone who is a commie can’t be right about anything, right? Those commie bastards! Essentially, you are attacking Mr. Moore’s positions indirectly by trying to raise suspicion about his motives. If I didn’t describe that very well, here…

    “Ad hominem circumstantial points out that someone is in circumstances such that he is disposed to take a particular position. Ad hominem circumstantial constitutes an attack on the bias of a source. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false; this overlaps with the genetic fallacy (an argument that a claim is incorrect due to its source).” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumstantial_ad_hominem


    You essentially make no effort to prove Mr. Moore’s positions as being false or wrong and instead through out accusations in an attempt to persuade others that he MUST be wrong base on your allegations alone.

  107. #111 by Richard Warnick on July 26, 2010 - 8:34 pm

    R.O.–

    Thanks for conceding that Three Mile Island was, in fact, a disaster. We are lucky it didn’t turn out to be a catastrophe.

    As for all the sources of renewable energy, I thought it was unnecessary to reiterate them in a post about coal, on a blog where we’ve previously discussed the topic of clean energy and the green economy. If you look up renewable energy, you will learn that wind and solar are just two types of renewable sources. There’s also small hydro, modern biomass, geothermal, and biofuels. Existing hydroelectric dams such as Glen Canyon Dam are not beloved by conservationists but they are also part of the nation’s renewable energy infrastructure.

    For example, I recently worked on a U.S. Forest Service and Department of Energy project to map favorable locations for forest biomass electricity generation. Before you start in about greenhouse gas emissions, I’ll note that we’re talking about small diameter trees that have to be cleared and burned anyway. Instead of open-air burning, this wood can be turned into usable energy in plants that have pollution controls.

    Your implication that wind and solar are the only renewable energy alternatives is nothing more than cherry-picking. And you seem anxious to ignore the point that energy conservation is the most urgent course of action, and the one with the greatest potential.

    You presented Moore as if his former job with Greenpeace means he’s more credible than otherwise. I simply noted that he’s on the payroll of industry now. In your quote he dismisses wind and solar as impractical without offering any facts, and embraces nuclear and hydroelectric power without bothering to mention the extremely high financial and environmental costs.

  108. #112 by Richard Okelberry on July 26, 2010 - 10:10 pm

    Dwight,

    Thanks for the response…

    I agree with you that reducing our consumption does have a key role to play in our energy future especially in the near term. If for example geothermal became a viable option that did not rely so heavily on geothermal hot spots, our need for conservation wouldn’t be as great as energy would be both clean, consistent and plentiful..

    Believe me, I am not advocating that we simply switch to Nuclear power and just forget about it. While I don’t see many other choices now, I certainly hope someone has a plan. If that plan is one that doesn’t rely on nuclear power and still can truly help eventually eliminate our need for fossil fuels, all the better.

    I only fear that conservation will only do what it has always done, get us over the hump so that we can get complacent about using fossil fuels again. I’m also with you on not being big on the idea of forced conservation. I believe that if there are better, cleaner options most consumers will make the cleaner choice, thus making those choices more economical and more attractive to others.

    Also, I recognize that there are many options to use for consistent energy besides just nuclear power, but each of their advantages and disadvantages for certain.

  109. #113 by Richard Okelberry on July 27, 2010 - 4:50 pm

    “Thanks for conceding that Three Mile Island was, in fact, a disaster. We are lucky it didn’t turn out to be a catastrophe.” – Warnick

    -
    I never said Three Mile Island wasn’t a disaster, I only expressed that it was an incident that needed to be put in perspective. Also, I believe that “luck” had little to do with Three Mile Island not becoming a “catastrophe.” I believe that the evidence shows that even in the face of gross human error, the engineering that was put into place to prevent a catastrophe worked.

    “If you look up renewable energy, you will learn that wind and solar are just two types of renewable sources.” – Warnick

    -
    I suppose it all depends on what you definition of “renewable” energy is. By using Fast Breeder Reactors nuclear becomes the only power source whose fuel would outlast the life expectancy of the sun.

    “Although nuclear power is considered a low carbon power generation source,[1] its legal inclusion with renewable energy power sources has been the subject of debate. In 1983, physicist Bernard Cohen proposed that uranium is effectively inexhaustible, and could therefore be considered a renewable source of energy.[2][3] He claims that fast breeder reactors, fueled by uranium extracted from seawater, could supply energy at least as long as the sun’s expected remaining lifespan of five billion years.[2]” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_proposed_as_renewable_energy


    Here in Utah, nuclear energy IS legally considered renewable and there are regular efforts to have it classified as such by the Federal Government. Obviously there are nuclear power opponents lobbying heavily against its inclusion.

    “In 2009 the Utah state passed the bill ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES FOR ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PROJECTS including incentives for renewable energy projects. It includes a direct reference to nuclear power: “Renewable energy” means the energy generation as defined in Subsection 10-19-102 (11) and includes generation powered by nuclear fuel.

    The bill passed the house with 72 yeas, 0 nays, and 3 absent, passed the senate with 24 yeas, 1 nay, and 4 absent, then received the governor’s signature.[14] “ – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_proposed_as_renewable_energy

    -
    Maybe instead of talking about energy in the terms that politicians who are under constant pressure from lobbyists define “renewable” we should be talking about energy in terms of dirty, less dirty, cleaner, and clean. Dirty would obviously be those energy solutions that produce the most harmful levels of pollutants and have the most negative environmental impacts. On this scale coal and oil would certainly be our standard for “dirty” with most others falling somewhere else on the scale.

    Now let’s take a look at the “renewable” source that you have been earning a living at and recently advocated in this discussion, Biomass. (Note to ALL: Just because some of Mr. Warnick income is derived from Biomass, does not mean that his statements or positions on the subject are automatically false.)

    While Biomass may be technically somewhat “renewable” it is far from clean. While it has a slick name Biomass energy production is really nothing more than burning plants and trash. Also, in the end it doesn’t seem to have that much potential for doing more than adding a few extra kilowatts here and there to the grid, though it certainly is more consistent way of producing energy than Wind and Solar as long as your supply of biomass is constant. Also, it still has the problem of producing a whole host of particulate matter for us to inhale.


    So let’s do a little math with regards to biomass, shall we?


    The country needs a grid capable of producing 3.3 Terawatts of electricity just to break even now. For those that aren’t very good with large numbers, that’s a 3 with 12 zeros behind it.


    It looks like this: 3,000,000,000,000 Watts

    To provide a power grid completely composed of just nuclear power we would need an addition 400 new nuclear power plants to the 100 we already have.

    Now according to this little information sheet put out by California regarding Biomass (http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/chapter10.html), they claim that all of the biomass from garbage produced in California comes to “60 million bone tons each year.” They also claim that if they could somehow prevent ALL of that biomass from making into the landfills, it would produce close to, 2000 Megawatts of electricity or 2 Gigawatts. (You see 2000 megawatts sounds like a lot more that 2 Gigawatts to the average person. Talk about slick marketing.)

    Of course we need some perspective, here. Consider that one nuclear reactor has an annual output of 14.3 Gigawatts. These means that if we use the California government estimates, we would need to collect all the trash with a sufficient biomass content equaling 7 states of size of California in population to generate the same power as one single modern nuclear plant. That’s a lot of trash.

    [Output of Nuclear Reactor divided by Output of all Biomass from trash in California equals Number of states the size of California need to equal one nuclear reactor]
    [14,300,000,000W / 2,000,000,000W = 7.15]
    -
    Here’s where the numbers become super crazy.

    Now if we wanted to make a 3.3 Terawatt power grid completely composed of biomass production, we would need the trash from 1650 states the size of California.

    [Current size of U.S. Power Grid divided by Output of all Biomass from trash in California = Number of states the size of California need to provide Biomass power equal to Current Power Grid Size]
    [3,300,000,000,000W / 2,000,000,000W = 1650]
    -
    Considering that California has a population base of 37 million, if we do a little more math, we find that we would need a population of 61 Billion people to produce enough trash to supply the biomass needs of just the United States.

    [Number of states the size of California need to provide Biomass power equal to Current Power Grid Size multiplied by the Current Population of California = Total Population Base Required to provide Biomass power equal to Current Power Grid Size]

    [1650 * 37,000,000 = 61,050,000,000]
    -
    With 6.6 billion people on the planet, we only need to grow the world’s population by 9.25 times in order to meet our needs for biomass here in the U.S.

    [Total Population Base Required to provide Biomass power equal to Current Power Grid Size divided by current World Population = Number of times the population would have to increase world wide to provide enough biomass fuel through garbage to provide the entire U.S. Grid with it’s current power requirements]

    [61,050,000,000 / 6,600,000,000 = 9.25
    -
    I can only imagine the impact on our forests and crops if we also choose to use them as a fuel source as you suggest and can only imagine the huge impact on our environment in terms of pollution from emissions and soot. How do you deal with the remains of Biomass power anyway? Is it similar to that of coal?

    Also it should be noted, that burning all that trash puts a huge amount of particulate matter as well as CO2 into the atmosphere.

    Here’s an example of one of a spins being used by the Biomass Energy Resource Center that you are helping (directly or indirectly) to identify biomass fuel sources in our forests.

    Climate Change
    Global climate change is the most pressing environmental challenge of our time and the major cause of climate change is emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, coal, and gasoline.

    One of the most important environmental benefits of using sustainably produced wood for energy in place of fossil fuels is its positive impact in moderating long-term global climate change.

    Fossil fuel combustion takes carbon that was locked away underground (as crude oil, gas, or coal) and transfers that carbon to the atmosphere as new CO2. When wood is burned, on the other hand, it recycles carbon that was already in the natural carbon cycle, which is recaptured through sustainable forest growth. Consequently, the net long-term effect of burning wood fuel is that no new CO2 is added to the atmosphere — as long as the forests from which the wood came are sustainably managed.” – http://www.biomasscenter.org/resources/fact-sheets/fse-biomass-emissions.html

    -
    This sounds great on the surface. Instead of taking carbon that is locked underground and putting it into the air, they are merely taking carbon that is already at the surface of the Earth and putting into the atmosphere. As if, it won’t effect climate change if the carbon comes from a different source.

    For those truly concerned with CO2 being a major contributor to Global Warming this should be ALARMING. It doesn’t really matter where the CO2 comes from and if it is captured again eventually by our forests, if it causes global warming it causes global warming! Also, isn’t this one of the major defenses of the anti-global warming crowd? Don’t they simply argue that the CO2 will just be scrubbed from the air by plants and forests naturally?

    Ultimately, while biomass is considered “renewable” because the fuel is grown and harvested, it is hardly “clean” and therefore hardly “green.”

    “All but the very best wood burning systems, whether in buildings or power plants, have significantly higher PM emissions than do corresponding gas and oil systems. For this reason, it is necessary to use a stack with a height that will effectively disperse emissions into the air and reduce ground-level concentrations of PM (and other pollutants) to acceptable levels.” – http://www.biomasscenter.org/resources/fact-sheets/fse-biomass-emissions.html


    Personally, I would rather work towards a solution that doesn’t replace one dirty source with another. That said nuclear power is not completely clean, but is certainly the cleanest of the “dirty” alternatives because the waste can be easily contained.

    Here’s a list of the other “stuff” that the biomass puts into the air we breathe.

    Particulates
    In terms of health impacts from wood combustion, particulate matter (PM) is the air pollutant of greatest concern. Particulates are pieces of solid matter or very fine droplets, ranging in size from visible to invisible. Relatively small PM, 10 micrometers or less in diameter, is called PM10. Small PM is of greater concern for human health than larger PM, since small particles remain air-born for longer distances and can be inhaled deep within the lungs.

    Increasingly, concern about very fine particulates (2.5 microns and smaller) is receiving more attention by health and environmental officials for the same reasons. Work investigating wood and pellet boiler emissions of very fine particulates is ongoing. BERC will actively engage in this discussion and recommend changes in combustion techniques and pollution- control options as appropriate based on the state of the scientific information.

    Sulfur Oxides (SOx) cause acid rain. Modern wood systems have 1/6 the SO2 emissions of fuel oil.

    Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) cause ozone, smog, and respiratory problems. Wood and fuel oil combustion have similar levels of NOx emissions.

    Carbon Monoxide (CO) is produced by all fuel combustion processes. The level produced by wood combustion depends very much on how well the system is tuned, but is significantly higher than with oil. CO emissions from wood burning are of relatively minor concern to air quality regulators, however, except in areas like cities that have high levels of CO in the air from traffic exhaust.

    Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a large family of air pollutants, some of which are produced by fuel combustion. Some are toxic, others are carcinogenic. VOCs elevate ozone and smog levels in the lower atmosphere, causing respiratory problems. Both wood and oil combustion produce VOCs—wood is higher in some compounds and oil is higher in others. VOC emissions can be minimized with good combustion practices.

    Natural gas is the cleanest burning of all fuels, having significantly lower SOx and NOx emissions than wood or oil. The molecular structure of natural gas is very simple, compared to the complex chemical composition of wood and oil molecules, resulting in predictable, clean combustion for gas.” – http://www.biomasscenter.org/resources/fact-sheets/fse-biomass-emissions.html

    -

    “Before you start in about greenhouse gas emissions, I’ll note that we’re talking about small diameter trees that have to be cleared and burned anyway. Instead of open-air burning, this wood can be turned into usable energy in plants that have pollution controls.” – Warnick


    Of course I was going to go into CO2 Emissions. Why do these small diameter trees need to be cleared and burned anyway? Is that because some scientist has decided that they can do a better job of managing nature than nature? We saw where that kind of thinking got us with the firestorms that struck Yellowstone in the 90’s. Nature can take care of herself, she doesn’t need us to clear the younger trees and burn them. If there are natural forest fires that produce Carbon emissions and particulates, then so be it. That after all is part of nature and part of the system that conservationists are supposedly trying to preserve.

    “Your implication that wind and solar are the only renewable energy alternatives is nothing more than cherry-picking. And you seem anxious to ignore the point that energy conservation is the most urgent course of action, and the one with the greatest potential.”

    -
    No sir, I am not cherry picking. Now if had been more specific about which “renewables” you felt were most promising and I ignored those specifics in favor of wind and solar then your claim about Cherry Picking might have some merit. While I it is true that I have placed more emphasis on many of the faults with wind and solar. The reality is, I have been open to the many choices available in energy production and have called on anyone else to put forward a different plan. To this point you have only offered criticisms of those power sources you disagree with and made broad statements about renewables and conservation. Throughout this discussion I have made statement recognizing that all options must be considered yet this is the first time you have chosen to bring up Biomass.

    “Finally, I certainly don’t want to be seen as proposing a false dichotomy here. I accept that there may be other options that I have not considered fully regarding our future energy production and requirements.” – despicable me

    Also notice that it I have also been offering other possible solutions throughout this debate besides just nuclear.

    “Of course, nuclear and geothermal energy will likely need to play a primary role in our eventual conversion to hydrogen fuels, if we are going to be expected to meet the demands for hydrogen that will occur if every vehicle will eventually use it as its primary fuel source. (We should also consider how certain areas that are rich in geothermal activity may see a sort of gold rush during this era of conversions. Utah would be one of those states.)” – despicable me


    Personally if Geothermal had the ability right now to produce enough energy to completely eliminate our use of fossil fuels; I would not be advocating the construction of a single nuclear plant. That said, it’s time that we stop advocating completely for any power source that is not “clean” regardless of whether it is “renewable” or not. I am simply not interested in anything that is renewable just because it’s renewable.

    Also, if you truly believe that I was merely Cherry Picking solar and wind as renewables to make my case, then you should be able to show that my case would not stand if all renewables were incorporated into the discussion. My charge is that wind and solar are not capable of completely replacing coal and other dirty sources of power while nuclear is. Do you believe that it is fair to say that a combination of ALL renewables is capable of replacing coal? If so, make your argument. If not, your charge of cherry picking is fallacious in it’s self.

    Also, if your argument was in support of ALL renewables, is it safe to say that you are also advocating a massive increase in the number of Hydroelectric plants? Or are you “Cherry Picking” which renewables you accept and don’t accept while making broad statements about supporting “renewables?”

    As the closest thing to an expert on Biomass power generation that we have in this discussion, given your admitted services in locating potential harvest opportunities in our forests for Biomass fuel, I certainly would like to hear some of your opinions and have you provide some information on the subject. For example: which forests specifically where you compiling information about available biomass fuels? Also, what percentage of our power grid do you believe Biomass can currently support, how much 30 years from now and how much 100 years from now and how many natural resources will it take to attain those goals? Certainly, if you support this method of power production, you have not done it blindly, simply because it has been labeled “renewable” by some politician.

    “You presented Moore as if his former job with Greenpeace means he’s more credible than otherwise. I simply noted that he’s on the payroll of industry now. In your quote he dismisses wind and solar as impractical without offering any facts, and embraces nuclear and hydroelectric power without bothering to mention the extremely high financial and environmental costs.” – Warnick


    First, I did not present the fact that Mr. Moore was a founder of Green Peace because I thought it gave him more credibility. I presented that fact because I wanted to show people that it is possible to change your position based on logic and fact, no matter how entrenched you are in it at one point of your life. Mr. Moore freely admits that while he was with Green Peace his position on the issue of nuclear power was wrong. It is his conversion that is the main reason for my posting his statements, not his “credibility” as a former member of Greenpeace. Here, read what I wrote again and see if it matches your description.

    “For those of you out there who consider themselves environmentalists and have long had reservations about nuclear power, consider that you would not be the first to change your mind [on] the subject after doing a little research. I am not asking anyone to accept the prospect of expanding our nuclear power inventory on pure blind faith. I truly believe that if you do the research and weigh the options you will come to the conclusion that we have few other choices. If such a conversion could happen to one of the founding members of Greenpeace, maybe it can happen to you…” – despicable me

    -
    Mr. Moore very well may have dismissed wind and solar and embraced nuclear and hydroelectric without providing the financial figures that you always seem to be so interested in, but that is not what you said in your last post. Your post was clearly designed to discredit Mr. Moore without lifting a single intellectual finger based entirely on who he works for. Even now you are at least as guilty as Mr. Moore for providing you own criticisms without providing the very evidence that you accuse Mr. Moore of omitting. The difference here is Mr. Moore is not saying that you only support Biomass because you’re getting a government check to help find new forests to cut down for the Biomass bonfires.

  110. #114 by Richard Warnick on July 28, 2010 - 9:43 am

    R.O. in #113 above:

    I never said Three Mile Island wasn’t a disaster, I only expressed that it was an incident that needed to be put in perspective.

    R.O. in #104 above:

    All they have is a few examples, including Three Mile Island where the technology and fail safes used to contain any such tragedy worked and no such disaster occurred.

    As for biomass, R.O. once again demonstrates his mastery of fallacy. In this case, reductio ad absurdum. Incidentally, I do not work in the biomass industry. I simply pointed out that I had knowledge of it, and that they are using fuel that would be burned anyway and capturing energy from it.

    I don’t actually know what kind of fallacy it is when you reject an entire discipline like forest management out of hand without knowing anything about it. Argument from prejudice? But that’s off topic anyway.

    R.O. goes off the rails trying to postulate a situation where all coal and nuclear power plants have to be replaced by biomass. All I did was bring up biomass as an example of a renewable energy technology he overlooked.

    Is nuclear power a renewable source of energy? Most authorities agree that currently known conventional uranium resources are sufficient to last around 75-100 years at current levels of nuclear capacity. So the answer is no.

    Again, R.O. ignores energy conservation. It would be easy to upgrade our inefficient use of electricity enough to forget about building more nuclear plants at mind-boggling expense to the taxpayers. Our money would be better invested in energy conservation and renewable energy.

    I hope we’re finished with the sad case of Patrick Moore, conservationist-turned-industry-shill. In October 2008, Greenpeace issued a statement distancing itself from Moore, saying he “exploits long gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.”

    For a thorough but concise examination of why nuclear power is finished, see Karl Burkart, Top 6 nuclear energy myths exposed. Greenpeace has a lengthier analysis (PDF): Briefing: Climate Change – Nuclear not the answer

  111. #115 by Gary Kunkel on July 28, 2010 - 12:47 pm

    Richard, I guess I’ll bite on the question about whether renewables can replace coal. Upthread I noted that:

    I also have heard “better” numbers from NREL on wind needed (actually not sure if they’re different regarding land area used, given that they estimate suitable wind power locations across the country). But that report estimated enough “wind-suitable” land in the US to generate 9 times the power we currently use.

    So, clearly enough power can be generated, at least right? You could combine that with existing nuclear, “on-demand” gas plants plus or minus concentrating solar and you’d cover coal pretty well. You could even have more wind than you need, in order to further address potential wind variability… I guess I’ll agree that it would be a long time before we’d be completely off coal, but you could displace a hell of a lot with wind…and existing plants could help make up for variability in wind until suitable storage of wind power starts coming online….

  112. #116 by Richard Warnick on July 28, 2010 - 2:48 pm

    Gary–

    Sorry we got so far off topic, R.O. seems obsessed with nuclear and I enjoy debunking.

  113. #117 by Gary Kunkel on July 29, 2010 - 6:32 am

    R.W. I’ve enjoyed the whole spectacle and discussion! I think everyone agrees coal is not the answer at least, except for maybe Joe Torres way upthread…

  114. #118 by Richard Okelberry on July 29, 2010 - 4:56 pm

    “So, clearly enough power can be generated, at least right? You could combine that with existing nuclear, “on-demand” gas plants plus or minus concentrating solar and you’d cover coal pretty well. You could even have more wind than you need, in order to further address potential wind variability… I guess I’ll agree that it would be a long time before we’d be completely off coal, but you could displace a hell of a lot with wind…and existing plants could help make up for variability in wind until suitable storage of wind power starts coming online….” – Dr. Gary Kunkel

    -
    I am sorry for not addressing your prior post about wind potential in the U.S. I remember intending to respond when you wrote it, then I simply forgot to get back to it.

    First, it seems that we do agree that wind does need some sort of storage system to make it a constant. Sure we could try to over build the wind power grid in hopes that the wind will be blowing strong enough in enough places to semi-consistent, but that simply isn’t economically practical. I do believe though that you are on the right track and we need to be looking at ways that we can transition away from fossil fuels and we certainly need to make investments in future technology. Of course until those new technologies are available we need to live in the here and now ad look at those power sources that have the most potential now of replacing coal.

    The most crucial point in this discussion lies with the fact that there are two major types of power generation, BASE LOAD Plants and PEAK POWER Plants with a minor type of producer called Load Following Plants. Base Load Plants are those generators that are the work horse of the system and provide the majority of power. Of the base load types of power coal and nuclear are the largest contributors to the backbone of our electrical grid. While these forms of production can be very cheap when running at optimal levels, they are not as capable of responding to quick changes in demand because they often require several days to go from little or no production to full production. Even if we tried to use coal and nuclear in this fashion, the efficiency would be lost and the cost of production would go through the roof.

    Peak Power plants pick up the slack when demand goes above the base load and Load Follower Plants act as a sort of middleman. Because Wind and Solar can only act as supplements to “peak power” systems such as gas turbines which can be ramped up and down in power output quickly to deal with the inconsistent power from these sources, Wind and Solar essentially only “displaces” Peak and Load Following Systems. As such, we really wouldn’t be able to displace, as you suggest, very much actual coal with wind because coal can only truly be displaced with another Base Load sources.

    The logic behind this is simple. Imagine we have a windy day across the planes and plenty of power is being generated so we decide to shut down a few coal plants to save on having to burn coal. Now imagine that the wind drops a bit and the wind farms are no longer able to produce the Base Load needed for the system to meet demand. We then pick up the phone and start telling them to throw more coal on the fire. Unfortunately, because it takes so long for the coal plant to come back up to capacity, we now have a power shortage across the grid that could last hours if not days. To pick up the loss we need a Peak Load system to back up the wind power. As such the wind is really just displacing Peak Load systems, not the Base Load systems.

    Truly the only effective way of displacing coal, or nuclear for that matter, is to replace the source completely with another type of Base Load Plant. These are: Geothermal, Hydro, some solar as long as there is a storage system like liquid salt and biomas/gas. Take away biomas/gas because it essentially causes the same kind of pollution as coal, but in a “renewable” fashion, take away thermal solar with storage simply because the technology is still in it’s infancy and is still very inefficient, take away Hydro because it can have a huge negative environmental impact on some of our most precious open spaces and take away geothermal because the technology still relies on a scattering of hot spots and what do we have left? Nuclear power… It’s not that I don’t like the potential of these other systems, it’s just they are not ready yet to carry the load.

    I truly am not just trying to be a naysayer. But it’s important that if we are going to have this discussion that we not be comparing apples to oranges as I suggested with Mr. Warnick and we understand that while electricity may be electricity as it enters our homes, the way that power is produced plays a big part in how and when that energy can be used to power the grid.

    Great Britain who is on the fast track to providing over twenty percent of their power from wind under European Union Mandates is already realizing that this is a serious problem with wind power. They freely admit now that they have only two options in dealing with wind power shortfalls, huge battery backup systems and backup fossil fuel generation.

    “Other options for Britain would be to store its wind power in giant batteries, but this is difficult and very expensive.

    Instead the UK will need to look at back-up power stations for the many days when it is not windy enough . In the short term that will come from fossil fuel generation, says Nick Rowe, an energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

    “It does not mean we will need the fossil fuel generation all the time but it means they need to be turned on when necessary.”

    This back-up will probably have to be gas-fired power stations as these are the easiest to turn off and on.

    But this will mean a “dash for gas” – a resource that Russia, hardly Britain’s most cooperative ally, has in spades.

    Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University, says Britain could find itself badly exposed. It would be “about the worst possible thing that one could conceive of given what’s going on in Russia and given our dependence on Russian gas supplies”.

    It could also prove costly. The energy company, E.On recently estimated back-up power could cost up to £10bn per year across all the energy suppliers. That would add £400 to the average annual household energy bill…” – When the wind doesn’t blow, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7598212.stm

    -
    Finally, consider that the inconsistent nature of wind and solar power generation has created a nightmare situation for distribution managers.

    “Electricity generated from wind power can be highly variable at several different timescales: from hour to hour, daily, and seasonally. Annual variation also exists, but is not as significant. Related to variability is the short-term (hourly or daily) predictability of wind plant output. Like other electricity sources, wind energy must be “scheduled”. Wind power forecasting methods are used, but predictability of wind plant output remains low for short-term operation.

    Because instantaneous electrical generation and consumption must remain in balance to maintain grid stability, this variability can present substantial challenges to incorporating large amounts of wind power into a grid system. Intermittency and the non-dispatchable nature of wind energy production can raise costs for regulation, incremental operating reserve, and (at high penetration levels) could require an increase in the already existing energy demand management, load shedding, or storage solutions or system interconnection with HVDC cables. At low levels of wind penetration, fluctuations in load and allowance for failure of large generating units requires reserve capacity that can also regulate for variability of wind generation. Wind power can be replaced by other power stations during low wind periods. Transmission networks must already cope with outages of generation plant and daily changes in electrical demand. Systems with large wind capacity components may need more spinning reserve (plants operating at less than full load).” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power

    When you hear about a need for a new “21st Century backbone electrical transmission grid,” as proposed by the Pickens’s Plan and as suggested by politicians as high as the White House, the need for this new super grid has as much to do with the unique problems that wind and solar introduce into a stable system by being inherently unstable as it has to do with increasing transmission capabilities between various sectors. The cost and maintenance of this new super grid must also be calculated into the overall cost of both wind and solar.

    Put it all together and it begins to become painfully obvious that we are being sold a bill of goods regarding wind power. I truly wish it weren’t so. If wind and solar could finally rid us of fossil fuels, I would be the first on the bandwagon.

    Of course, ultimately you are right that an energy network that we chose for our future will have to be a truly diverse portfolio. I only hope that our near future technology will help us create the base load generators that are needed to provide consistent energy without polluting the air we breathe. Even when I suggested in another essay that we could make an entire grid composed of nothing but nuclear power, the suggestion was much like yours in that it required over building the grid and producing far more power than we needed. Ultimately that kind of thinking is the same wasteful thinking that got us in this mess.

    Still, with the available technology that we at this moment, I still believe that nuclear power is the only one that is capable of providing the needed energy to completely eliminate coal and eventually eliminate other fossil fuels. I personally was surprised when I read your original essay because I was not aware that coal was a significant polluter in our area. While I still have questions about exactly how the study was put together, I don’t doubt at all that coal has a huge negative impact on both our environment and the health of our society. If coal were asbestos would we even be considering keeping it around until something better came along? While nuclear power may scare people death, coal power kills people to death!

  115. #119 by Gary Kunkel on July 29, 2010 - 6:22 pm

    R.O., I think you make some good points and the “smart grid” is crucial, but still can’t bring myself to think nuclear will be the solution. At least not in time to save the planet…Maybe you’ll be able to convince everyone to not be “scared to death”, but there are so many other things people worry about as downsides that I’ve a tough time seeing a lot of nuclear plants being built soon…I do respect your opinion about the capacity for them to provide baseload power, much more obviously than wind/solar/concentrating solar could.

    However, it still seems to me that the baseload and peak loads could be met with a combination of wind (I would guess still cheaper than nuclear even if overproduced to help with continuity), concentrating solar with salt storage(not so much in its infancy that it’s not being installed currently in several new plants), along with natural gas on demand (better used here IMO, than in cars), which we could use without the reservations the English would have. Obviously just as with a nuclear transition, this would happen over decades, allowing the inevitable improvements in storage of wind and solar along the way.

    One great improvement, if it works in the first new plant of it’s kind, molten salt in the pipes, which would allow higher temps than oil, and can power the turbines as natural gas does, for potentially dual capability power plants.

    It still just seems to me that it’s not “a bill of goods” to say that it could be done with wind/solar/gas (to help the transition), yes it’d take a lot of effort but I’m not sure the level of effort required is any more than nuclear replacement of coal would be…Still, I’ll agree heartily that if you could flip a magic switch from coal to nuclear, we’d all be breathing easier, and the planet would be happier, no doubt.

    But away from the grand solution and back to the original topic, could we displace the “dirtiest” third of coal here in Utah and breathe easier with the wind/solar/gas combo, I think so…

  116. #120 by Richard Okelberry on July 30, 2010 - 6:09 am

    “But away from the grand solution and back to the original topic, could we displace the “dirtiest” third of coal here in Utah and breathe easier with the wind/solar/gas combo, I think so…” Dr. Kunkel

    I truly am with you on this Dr. Kunkel. In fact it seems that we are on this verge of making huge breakthroughs in this area. The molten salt thing is very exciting. It’s exactly the kind of storage system that is needed with wind.

    Still we need to remember that Base Load generation has two major components. Base Load generation must be both consistent and cheap. Natural Gas could be used as our primary Base Load Generation, but the economics of it keeps it’s us primarily as a Peek Load system. If the price of wind and solar, along with their need storage components, can be kept to a minimum then perhaps some day the Midwest will not be known so much for their rolling vistas of wheat and corn but for constant turning of wind turbines for as far as the eye can see.

  117. #121 by Gary Kunkel on July 30, 2010 - 8:06 am

    I hope that day arrives sooner rather than later Mr. Okelberry, but until then, I’d settle for cleaner air in Utah.

  118. #122 by Richard Okelberry on July 30, 2010 - 11:02 am

    Once again, Mr. Warnick is relying on manipulating and distorting what was written to further his arguments.

    First he quotes me as say that I never said Three Mile Island wasn’t a “disaster.” Then he pulls this quote out of context, “All they have is a few examples, including Three Mile Island where the technology and fail safes used to contain any such tragedy worked and no such disaster occurred.” These two quotes taken together but out of context would make it appear that the previous statement was in conflict with the later. This simply isn’t true because what I was referring to in my first statement when I said that “no such disaster occurred,” was the fact that no such disaster on the scale that Mr. Warnick and other anti-nuclear power advocates predict can occur actually occurred with the Three Mile Island event. Here read the entire quote in context…

    “Anti-nuke people like Mr. Warnick will continually tell us that we are on the verge of the Big One concerning nuclear power. Of course if they had any evidence of such a catastrophic failure EVER happening with a western reactor, they would present it. All they have is a few examples, including Three Mile Island where the technology and fail safes used to contain any such tragedy worked and no such disaster occurred.


    The section that Mr. Warnick used above to make his argument is in Bold. It is obvious that when I said, ”no such disaster” I was referring to “the Big One” from two sentences prior. I find it disgraceful, dishonest and reprehensible. It is obvious that Mr. Warnick has no problem using malicious tactics to further his agenda.

    “As for biomass, R.O. once again demonstrates his mastery of fallacy. In this case, reductio ad absurdum. Incidentally, I do not work in the biomass industry. I simply pointed out that I had knowledge of it, and that they are using fuel that would be burned anyway and capturing energy from it.” – Warnick


    Notice first that Mr. Warnick makes yet another claim that I am using fallacious logic, but once again he fails to describe the actual offense. As I said before; I cannot prove a negative. I simply can’t point to something and show that it is not there. It’s like saying that someone is a murderer, then giving no specifics about the actual murder. If he truly believes that he can make a case for “reduction ad absurdum,” then he should make his case. Otherwise, baseless accusations are nothing more than another Ad Hominem (personal) attack.

    As far Mr. Warnick saying that he “incidentally” doesn’t work for the Biomass industry.

    “For example, I recently worked on a U.S. Forest Service and Department of Energy project to map favorable locations for forest biomass electricity generation.” – Richard Warnick


    While it may be true that Mr. Warnick is not employed directly by the Biomass industry, it is also true that he was paid by the Forest Service to further the goals of the Biomass industry by identifying forests with sufficient biomass to be burned in electricity generation.

    On this subject, I truly wish that Mr. Warnick would tell us which forests he has surveyed for the Forest Service regarding biomass content. I believe that would spark an interesting discussion on the subject that certainly would be of concern to many well beyond the confines of discussions here at OneUtah. I truly find this interesting because I had no idea that the Forest service was even considering this and am very interested to find out if any of those forests are some of the beloved recreational areas and preserves along the Wasatch Front. It may be time for a freedom of Information request on the subject from the U.S. Forest Service. Perhaps we can get a copy of the actual study that Mr. Warnick was a part of.

    “I don’t actually know what kind of fallacy it is when you reject an entire discipline like forest management out of hand without knowing anything about it. Argument from prejudice? But that’s off topic anyway.” – Richard Warnick


    Here Mr. Warnick appears to still be trying to wrap his head around the concept of logic and logical fallacies again. I find this very strange for someone who reports themselves to be a scientist. One would think that to a scientist, logic would be almost second nature. I do find it somewhat ironic that he bases here his argument about a potential fallacious statement entirely on a baseless assumption; “without knowing anything about it.”

    “Is nuclear power a renewable source of energy? Most authorities agree that currently known conventional uranium resources are sufficient to last around 75-100 years at current levels of nuclear capacity. So the answer is no.” – Richard Warnick


    Here Mr. Warnick goes back to old data and old technology. Such estimates about limited supplies of fuel for nuclear reactors are based on two absurd myths. First myth; modern reactors are not and never will be more efficient than the aging fleet of 70’s era reactors. This would be like saying that cars now are no more efficient and never will be more efficient than a 1977, Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a gas guzzling V8. The second absurd myth lies in the fact that these estimates are not based on future projections for uranium discover but only on current stock piles. This same prediction was made about oil back in the 70’s when some “experts” agreed that we only had world wide oil supplies for about 20 years when the pumps would go dry.

    The reality is that uranium is very common and with current technology that allows spent fuel to be reprocessed and with the advent of modern Fast Breeder Reactors, our supply of sufficient fissile material (fuel) will last not for hundreds, not for thousands or even millions of years but literally for BILLIONS OF YEARS.

    Now if Mr. Warnick would like to argue against the basic laws of physics that makes this a reality, he certainly is welcome to do so. While Fast Breeder Reactors are not currently as economical as standard thermal reactors, this is only true because the source material, uranium is so ABUNDANT. Because of this abundance, it is still far less expensive to only use a small portion (about 1%) of the actual energy contained in the uranium. Of course that will change as more breeder reactors come online making it cheaper to produce fuel rather than dig it out of the ground.

    The Super-Phenix was the first large-scale breeder reactor. It was put into service in France in 1984.

    The reactor core consists of thousands of stainless steel tubes containing a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxides, about 15-20% fissionable plutonium-239. Surrounding the core is a region called the breeder blanket consisting of tubes filled only with uranium oxide. The entire assembly is about 3×5 meters and is supported in a reactor vessel in molten sodium. The energy from the nuclear fission heats the sodium to about 500°C and it transfers that energy to a second sodium loop which in turn heats water to produce steam for electricity production.

    Such a reactor can produce about 20% more fuel than it consumes by the breeding reaction. Enough excess fuel is produced over about 20 years to fuel another such reactor. Optimum breeding allows about 75% of the energy of the natural uranium to be used compared to 1% in the standard light water reactor</A “ – http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/fasbre.html


    Fast Breeder Reactors are a FACT of science that forever dispels the notion being peddled by anti-nuclear advocates that our supply of fuel for reactors is extremely limited. How can it be limited when we can produce far more fuel than we can ever possibly use. The sun will literally collapse and explode before we ever run out of fuel for/from Breeder Reactors.

    “Again, R.O. ignores energy conservation.” – Warnick

    -
    This is just not true and is another distortion of my actual position!

    #112: “I agree with you that reducing our consumption does have a key role to play in our energy future especially in the near term…” – despicable me

    #91: “I only fear that we as a country will fall into the same trap that has ensnared us for the past 4 decades by focusing only on conservation and making not permanent strides towards actually ridding our selves of fossil fuel. It is finally time that any discussion about conservation, especially a discussion about forced conservation needs to also have a component of energy reformation. People simply need to stop believing that conservation alone only gets us a few more years down the road. We now need to use those few more years to make serious changes.

    I personally believe that conservation is a key component to any energy plan. Even if we decided to produce massive numbers of nuclear power plants today, it would be years before they go online. We cannot continue to pollute in this fashion until then. There has to be some attempt NOW to reduce toxic emissions NOW.” – despicable me


    Are these the statements of a person who is IGNORING energy conservation? Now who is guilty of crafting a Straw Man argument? (I know, rhetorical question.) This entire post has been a prime example of Mr. Warnick trying to distort and deny my prior statements on this issue in an attempt to craft a superficially inferior position which he can attack. While it is true that I have said that there are limits to what conservation can achieve and I fear that if we focus too much on conservation that we run the risk of becoming complacent about using fossil fuels again, that is far different than ignoring energy conservation all together as suggested in Mr. Warnick’s Straw Man Argument.

    I want to thank Dr. Kunkel for presenting this topic and want to thank Dwight and Cav for working to keep the discussion civil and respectful. Ultimately, this topic is incredibly important. I believe that there has been great progress in this discussion as many valid views, opinions and information has been presented.

    Unfortunately, another topic here at OneUtah has fallen under relentless attack by Mr. Warnick. I simply cannot help but form the opinion that when Mr. Warnick sees any discussion going in a direct that doesn’t support his position he finds it preferable to continually disrupt the discussion rather than become a productive participant. This truly is unfortunate.

  119. #123 by Richard Warnick on July 30, 2010 - 11:26 am

    Of course, I made no exaggerated claims regarding the potential for disaster from nuclear power, and R.O. cannot point to any such claims by me. I did mention that the TMO disaster caused the evacuation of 140,000 people, and took 14 years and $1 billion to (partially) clean up. TMI could have been much worse, as R.O. implicitly concedes.

    Inadvertently, R.O.’s complacent view of TMI not being “The Big One” confirms my somewhat sarcastic prediction that people will come along after the next nuclear disaster to tell us “no one could have anticipated…”

    I am rather in awe of R.O.’s thorough exploration, in our discussions here and on other posts, of the broad array of logical fallacies. I’m a geographer, not a scientist, however I am fascinated by nonsense and fallacies. My hat is off to R.O. for his highly original attempt to make the work of the U.S. Forest Service seem secretive and sinister, when it’s all publicly available on the web.

    R.O. cites no sources for uranium reserves. I submit uranium does not fit the definition of a renewable resource. That’s the inescapable truth. The weekend before last, I took pictures of the Temple Mountain ghost town in the San Rafael Swell and visited the uranium mines that closed down 50 years ago.

    I’m sorry if R.O. is unhappy I intruded into his fantasy about reviving the moribund nuclear power industry, using climate change as cover. Far from disrupting discussion, I want to further the discussion. The Obama administration shows signs of buying into the very same bogus talking points R.O. has put forth. A revival of nuclear power would be extremely costly for taxpayers, and there’s a good chance it will derail efforts to bolster energy conservation and renewable sources of energy.

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