Arctic Sea Ice : Forum

AGW in general => Policy and solutions => Topic started by: Jim Hunt on February 20, 2013, 08:32:29 PM

Title: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on February 20, 2013, 08:32:29 PM
Here's a picture of part of the problem:

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Feconnexus.org.uk%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F11%2Fpbl-2012-global-co2-emissions-per-region-1990-2011.jpg&hash=6ed675d7baad8d97408bf0222701249b)

Perhaps they weren't fully aware of all the changes happening inside the Arctic Circle, but back in September 2011 the Institution of Mechanical Engineers issued a statement (http://www.imeche.org/news/archives/11-09-23/Future_Climate_2_We_have_the_technology_to_slash_global_emissions_say_engineers.aspx) ahead of the COP17 climate change talks in Durban. Here's part of it:

Quote
The technology needed to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 already exists, according to a joint statement by eleven of the world’s largest engineering organisations. While the world’s politicians have been locked in talks with no output, engineers across the globe have been busy developing technologies that can bring down emissions and help create a more stable future for the planet. We are now overdue for government commitment, with ambitious, concrete emissions targets that give the right signals to industry, so they can be rolled out on a global scale.

COP18 has now been and gone, and that government commitment is now even more overdue. Does the team think that all those engineers are correct, and technology can in fact solve the problem?

If so, when will governments commit to rolling out the required technology on a global scale?

P.S. For further background information please see the relevant parts of the February 2013 Open Thread (http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/02/open-thread-february-2013.html?cid=6a0133f03a1e37970b017ee8901b28970d#comment-6a0133f03a1e37970b017ee8901b28970d) on the Arctic Sea Ice Blog.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 20, 2013, 08:42:35 PM
We're seeing governments around the world starting to make changes.  Renewable energy projects are ramping up in most countries.

Obviously we should have started sooner.  Obviously we should be moving faster.  But we are started and installation rates are accelerating.

Obviously we won't prevent our being hurt by climate change.  We already seem to be.  But we might be able to reduce the amount of long term hurt.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Neven on February 20, 2013, 08:57:00 PM
Quote
Does the team think that all those engineers are correct, and technology can in fact solve the problem?

I'm not sure if it can solve the problem, as I'm very much in the camp that says that we need to change the way our economies are set up and ditch the growth-fetish, but lately I've turned my thoughts again to these very problem, and I'm doubting whether we actually have a choice.

Perhaps global society needs to forge ahead full steam, like the movie hero who instead of braking decides to put the pedal to the metal.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on February 20, 2013, 09:08:35 PM
Hi Bob,

Further to our previous conversations on this topic I guess you are firmly of the opinion that engineers could solve the problem if only the politicians would fund them to get on with it? Maybe "market forces" will do the job, despite the politicians?

However that's where I start to get pessimistic (or should that be realistic?). By way of example, and from a European perspective, here's the latest news, hot off the presses from Brussels:

http://www.euractiv.com/climate-environment/meps-vote-carbon-market-future-b-news-517898

Quote
Lawmakers on the European Parliament’s environment committee voted by 38-25 in favour of an amendment in support of the EU’s ‘backloading’ plans for the Emissions Trading System (ETS), throwing a lifeline to the crisis-hit carbon market.

Within Europe, carbon price have sunk to around €4-€5 per tonne, due to an over-allocation of carbon allowances before recession decimated demand for them. Rejection of backloading by Parliament’s industry committee in January sparked a record fall in carbon prices to just €2.81 a tonne.

Shell commented that:

Quote
It’s encouraging to see the Committee has reached a positive outcome, despite coming under considerable pressure from those who oppose ETS reform.

whereas Friends of the Earth said:

Quote
There is no getting round the fact that no amount of fiddling with the ETS will make the system fit for the challenge of tackling the climate crisis. The real priority must be for the EU to set a tougher greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 in line with what science and justice tells us is needed to address climate change.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 20, 2013, 09:15:06 PM
I'm with Neven.  We need to kick things into high gear.  We need to focus our activities toward renewable energy and sustainable inputs.

We need to grow quickly as long as that growth means greatly reducing greenhouse gases. 

A stagnant economy can mean that we have no money to install the clean generation we need.  it can mean that we don't have adequate governmental resources to fund the research we need.

We need to grow and at the same time set some areas out of bounds.  "Don't go there" if it reduces our ability to feed a growing population, if it increases GHGs, if it wastes limited resources, etc.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Donald on February 20, 2013, 09:15:47 PM
China is preparing to institute a carbon tax:

BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

The government will collect the environmental protection tax instead of pollutant discharge fees, as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Jia Chen, head of the ministry's tax policy division, wrote in an article published on the MOF's website. ...

To conserve natural resources, the government will push forward resource tax reforms by taxing coal based on prices instead of sales volume, as well as raising coal taxes. A resource tax will also be levied on water.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-02/19/c_132178898.htm 
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 20, 2013, 09:30:30 PM
"engineers could solve the problem if only the politicians would fund them to get on with it? Maybe "market forces" will do the job, despite the politicians"

We have adequate technology to get ourselves almost totally off fossil fuels.  The engineers will continue to improve that technology as we go along.

Politicians need to assist, but the market is starting to take over.  It looks like one of the major things that politicians need to do is to resist the pressure from the fossil fuel industry to save their bacon.  (These pro-free market folks are not so much in favor of a free market when their ox is getting gored.)

Wind is cheap and getting cheaper.  Natural gas is almost certainly going to get more expensive.  Those are our two cheapest ways to make new electricity in the US.  They are forcing coal (and nuclear) off the grid.  Wind will cause decreases in NG usage.  That's the market doing the work.

Solar is getting cheaper.  And it competes at the retail, not wholesale, level.  Additionally, at the wholesale level solar competes against quite expensive peaking power.  Solar is almost certainly going to take off (it already has).  Again, the market doing the work.

Here's what is happening in the US (I'm not getting the image to display - use the link to view). 


(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fi619.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Ftt275%2FBob_Wall%2FUSElectricityfromSolar.jpg&hash=6645c1d7bafe736b2c792a284dbe8b17)

The overall amount of electricity from solar is small.  But look at the slope...


eta:

The 2012 totals aren't out yet for US solar, but let's look at what we've got....

Solar
2010 1168
2011 1697
2012 4084 (First 11 months - through November)

The 2012 bar is going to be well more than double 2011.

(Thanks, Neven)


---
Edit N: Bob, I modified your post so the image shows. You used the image button from the WYSIWYG editor correctly (lower left), but the HTML links screwed it up. If you just highlight the URL of your image and then press the image button things should work. Hover over the buttons to see what they do.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on February 21, 2013, 03:17:24 PM
@Neven - "The movie hero who instead of braking decides to put the pedal to the metal."

Like Thelma & Louise you mean?

@Donald - I guess China "vowing to reduce carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic output, by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 in comparison to 2005 levels" is a small step in the right direction, if it actually happens? Presumably China also hopes to increase economic ouput between now and then though.

@Bob - Bear with me whilst I play Devil's Advocate for a moment. Notwithstanding your chart, this is what the official US "projections" out to 2040 look like:

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eia.gov%2Fforecasts%2Faeo%2Fer%2Fimages%2Ffigure_7es.png&hash=7f5e5786a478a35e5194dd0110bad9af)

Bear in mind also that whilst the US toys with the idea of a carbon tax (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/14/usa-climate-legislation-idUSL1N0BE7ZP20130214) of its own, they are also slapping taxes on some of that Chinese economic output, including solar cells (http://ia.ita.doc.gov/download/factsheets/factsheet_prc-solar-cells-ad-cvd-finals-20121010.pdf) and utility scale wind towers (http://ia.ita.doc.gov/download/factsheets/factsheet_china-vietnam-uswt-adcvd-final-20121218.pdf).

You still don't share my "political pessimism"?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: SATire on February 21, 2013, 08:15:18 PM
Jim, that is really extreme disappointing. Only 11(+2) % renewables in 2040??? And that is a "goal"?

Likely China is going to follow the US-way, they might have similar wealth in 2040 and reaching US emission - the world will surely be blown. Even if China will go only to 50% of US-emission/person due to the more strikt laws, it will not help us. I hope something will make USA change their mind or we really can forget all our efforts...
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 21, 2013, 08:18:54 PM
First, I think the EIA does a good job of collecting historical data.  I take their predictions with a grain of salt.  Let's look closely at the graph.

They show oil use hanging roughly flat for the next 30 years.  CAFE standards will have made our personal vehicle fleet twice as efficient as it is now by then.  Our younger generation is driving less than previous generations.  We're building more public transportation.

It is very likely that we will have affordable 200 mile range EVs by 2020.  If someone can purchase an EV for the same price as a ICEV why would they pay a lot more per mile to drive with oil?

They show coal flat when we've quit building coal plants and have around 100 scheduled to close in the next few years.  That's something like a 20% drop in capacity.

They show nuclear flat at 9% when we're seeing a likely decrease in nuclear capacity.  We've got two plants being permanently closed this year and a quarter of our reactors are barely staying profitable.  We've got only three reactors under construction and two more possible.  Other than the TVA reactor we are years from any new nuclear capacity.  That likely won't keep up with closures.

They show renewables moving from 8% to only 11% in 30 years.  With wind being our cheapest way to generate electricity and solar becoming cheap that makes no sense at all.  We're going to see some massive amounts of rooftop solar installed as we approach the $2/watt price.  And more when we go below it.

They show natural gas increasing.  There is a considerable chance that we don't have enough NG to keep burning at those rates for 30 years.  The EIA, itself, drastically reduced estimates of the amount of NG reserves we have this year.

The EIA continued to make predictions that the price of solar electricity would stay high even when panel prices were plummeting.

Sorry, not a single prediction makes sense to me.

As for your political pessimism, no, I don't embrace it. 

I think we have an "awaking" public.  People  have gotten badly slapped around by extreme weather (droughts, floods, wildfires, 'direcho', Sandy) these last couple of years.  Concern about climate change is high and people are starting to call for the government to do something.

If we have a couple more years of bad weather and if the Arctic sea ice does melt out I think we'll see the government moving a lot stronger to make changes.

I'm not saying that we will see huge efforts soon on the part of Washington, but I'm certainly not believing we won't. 

And I believe that ten years from now (unless climate change and the melting Arctic turn out to be a myth - calculate those odds) I believe all the world's governments will be taking strong action.  Very strong action.


Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 21, 2013, 08:30:19 PM
40 percent of all US energy goes to electricity production.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Energy_Consumption_by_Sector_2007.PNG

Non-hydro renewables increased by 0.6% from 2011 to 2012.  That means that non-hydro renewables increased their share of total energy supply by 0.24%.  If there is no increase in renewable installation rates over 30 years the percentage of renewables in total energy will increase  7.2%.  But the EIA predicts only a 3% increase.

Who believes that wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal will grow only 0.6% per year over the next 30 years?  We're starting into a solar boom.  We're just starting to install offshore wind.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on February 22, 2013, 10:59:08 AM
SATire - As Bob suggests that's not necessarily an accurate "projection", and it's certainly not a stated "goal". That seems to me to be the problem though. There is no suggestion in that chart, or anywhere else in US energy policy that I can discern, that anything even vaguely resembling "The US is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (https://www.gov.uk/2050-pathways-analysis) ( GHG ) by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels." is even under consideration.

Bob - Particularly if there's no "huge efforts soon on the part of Washington", what will reduce the numbers on the right hand edge of that chart. The "free market"? A "revolution" by the awakened masses?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: FrankD on February 22, 2013, 02:13:48 PM
According to a recent Bloomberg report, it is now cheaper in Australia to install new wind capacity than new coal or natural gas. That's based on MWh of energy actually produced, not notional installed capacity. The figures cited in the report (which I believe are the low end of the range for each type of generation) are A$80/MWh for wind, A$143/MWh for coal and A$116/MWh for NG.

Even excluding Australian fairly weak carbon "tax" (it's not really a tax, but that's another story), the figures are around A$80, A$100 and A$90 repectively (my estimates). Cost of new wind installation has fallen around 10% over the last year or two, and solar by around 30%.

Obviously existing coal/NG capacity is cheaper, since most of those have long since paid of their capital costs, but moving forward (and subject to our rather unrobust grid), there is little economic reason to build any new fossil generation capacity. The report speculates that the various types of solar will become cost competitive in the 2020's.

It will take a while to retire existing capacity, but it seems that the assured pursuit of the money carrot will drive this decarbonisation, rather than the uncertain policy stick. I see little reason to believe the dynamic is fundamentally different in the US, despite the EIA's crystal-balling.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: SATire on February 22, 2013, 02:27:29 PM
Jim,

I did understand quite well, that the projection is not the goal, since there is obviously no goal at all! But China and everybody else would decide on the basis of a figure like that from EIA. So that message will work...

Of course China will act more responsible and modern and will stay significantly below US emissions. But they are not encouraged by US to work hard. That is the reason, why I believe that USA will be responsible for human failure in the end:  They are very succesfull in convincing everybody to stopp working hard for the future of the planet.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on February 22, 2013, 02:55:11 PM
Hi Frank,

Do you suppose there is any chance of a Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 (http://media.beyondzeroemissions.org/ZCA2020_Stationary_Energy_Synopsis_v1.pdf), or are the University of Melbourne actually living in Cloud Cuckoo Land?

How about a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030 (http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/index.php/zcbreportmenu/category/1?download=1%3A2030) for that matter?

Anybody care to offer odds on ZCC(hina) or even ZCUSA by 2050?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on February 22, 2013, 03:14:19 PM
Back on the blog (http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/02/open-thread-february-2013.html?cid=6a0133f03a1e37970b017c370764dc970b#comment-6a0133f03a1e37970b017c370764dc970b), Lanevn has provided a link to a site displaying the "real time status (http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/)" of the UK National Grid.

According to Lanevn's interpretation of figures supplied by The Daily Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9858849/Thousands-of-wind-turbines-to-go-up-as-subsidies-cut.html) the load factor of UK wind farms is currently somewhere around 15%. However according to UK Government statistics (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/65864/5629-renewable-energy-2011-et-article.pdf) the load factor of onshore wind in the UK was 27.2% in 2011.

Who should one choose to believe, and how much does it actually matter?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 22, 2013, 07:07:35 PM
2050 is almost 40 years from now.  It's pretty much impossible to predict that far in advance. 

Looking back to 1973 would you have predicted personal computers, the internet, cell phones, affordable solar panels, ...?

I will hazard a prediction that the world will be carbon negative by 2050.  I don't know how we will get there, but I think in a very few years it will be obvious to everyone why we must stop our addition of carbon to the atmosphere and actually start re-sequestering carbon.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: FrankD on February 23, 2013, 05:30:55 PM
Hi Jim,

I'd say Australia has Buckley's chance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Buckley_%28convict%29) of hitting zero emissions by 2020. As I said, it is only new installations that favour wind, so we will go on burning coal in some of the least efficient power stations in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazelwood_Power_Station,_Victoria#Environmental_impacts) for at least another 20 years at a minimum. Many of our current plants will not be "lifed" until the 2040's or beyond.

By the 2050's you might start to see significant reductions in Australia's emissions. It would be sooner, but our Tweedledum-Tweedledummer choices of government will evade imposing on emitters a price anywhere near the actual externalised costs they are currently getting away with. I would guess in the 2050's, the transition will be relatively swift (due to the economic factors rather than environmental or political).

Bob Wallace is correct that prediction is difficult, especially about the future. But since past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, I'm pretty sure that we will continue to drag our heels on this for as long as humanly possible and then a bit longer, whining about making the changes the whole way. We don't really "do" reality down here... :(
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: James Lovejoy on February 23, 2013, 06:24:32 PM
The US Government's renewables projections are not as dismal as they look at first glance.  Skimming through the report, 37% of new capacity for electric is expected to come from renewables.  And that's with extremely pessimistic cost estimates.

The Solar Electric cost is estimated at $5,755 per KW for 170 MW installations.  Looking at the project announcements, costs are closer to $2,500 per KW, and not much more for 5 MW installations.

Another way in which the Government report is understating renewables is in totally ignoring rooftop solar.  One of the solar magazines mentioned that more than half the consumers electricity cost comes from the cost of transporting the electrictiy from where it's produced to the home, making rooftop solar much more attractive than utility scale solar, but that section is just ignored.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on February 23, 2013, 07:03:03 PM
You are absolutely correct that the best predictor of human behavior is past behavior.  But I think you're looking at the wrong behavior sample.  You're looking, I think, at behavior during the very early part of a technological transition.

I've been part of multiple transitions from old tech to new tech.  Television, color television, calculators, computers, digital photography and others.  There's a pattern.  At first the new tech is sort of crude and expensive.  Most people aren't convinced that it is for them, they stick with the old.

The new tech improves, the price comes down and a critical "mass acceptance threshold" is reached.  The new tech is better than the old and affordable or  good enough and cheaper than the old.  An adoption avalanche ensues.   The first scientific calculators were very expensive, we bought them only with grant money.  Within two years of the introduction of the first scientific calculators the two major slide rule manufacturers shut down their lines.  Digital photography turned film into a small niche product in a decade.

The behavior of installing solar has been laggardly.  It's what one would expect when installation cost is $5+/watt.  Germany is now installing for $2/watt and on the way to $1/watt.  We'll reach $2/watt in the US in the next couple of years and end-users will be able to make their own electricity for 7 - 9 cents per kWh. (No subsidies involved.) That's the "good enough and cheaper" threshold.

The same thing is happening with wind.  It is now one of our two cheapest ways to generate electricity.  The median price of new wind generation is 6 cents and the median price of natural gas is 5 cents.  They are going to change places in the next year or two.  Wind is getting cheaper, on the way to 3 cents.  Natural gas is going to increase in price, it's currently too low to pay for new well drilling.

I think we're going to see very rapidly increasing installation rates based on market forces.  Individuals and businesses will install solar because it will lower their electricity prices.  Utilities will install solar and wind because it will lower their energy acquisition costs.

 
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Artful Dodger on February 24, 2013, 04:33:27 AM
Even excluding Australian fairly weak carbon "tax" (it's not really a tax, but that's another story)

Intriguing, Frank. Tell us more about how the Aussie carbon 'tax' works. What do you like? What would you change? Any good 'reads' to share with us on the topic?  8)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: FrankD on February 24, 2013, 06:22:13 AM
Hi Bob,

Point taken, but my reference point for "behaviour" is discussing these issues with colleagues who, as a group, are largely technically well-educated, conservative (in all senses of that word)  people who fancy themselves as highly rational.

These are people who complain that wind is too expensive, and when shown the actual numbers cool their jets. A week later, they will be heard making the same complaints as if the evidence had never been presented. I think these people represent a subset of a pretty strong cadre who have influence in making both opinion and policy in Australia.

On that basis, I see little reason to assume that mere cost-competitiveness will drive change. Rather the cost differences will need to be overwhelming before they will budge from preconceptions. So while your forecast for the US might be bang on, my own compatriots will move a lot slower. In part this is due to the fact that existing fossil capacity remain cheaper than new wind capacity, and most of Australia's generation infrastructure will not reach the end of its economic life for at least 20 years. And in part it is due to Australia's collective resistence to anything new - for too many here "good enough and cheaper" is not enough, it has to be "perfect and a lot cheaper".

I don't know about the prospects for a zero-carbon UK or US or China by any particular date, but I'll stick my neck out and say all of those will happen before Oz goes carbon-neutral.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: FrankD on February 24, 2013, 06:55:27 AM
Lodger,

Julia Gillard has been pilloried for "lying" when she said that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. But the fact is that the carbon price in Australia is not strictly a tax. It will just look like one for a few years.

In fact, Australia introduced a carbon emissions trading scheme, but to smooth the transtion without distortions from speculators, the system rolled out with a fixed price on permits for the first three years (introduced at $23 per tonne, and scaling up at 2.5% pa). After three years, the price will be floated and will be controlled by a mix of the number of permits issued by the government and the ability to buy overseas permits at costs lower than the current Australian price. The Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_pricing_in_Australia) is quite good, while this pdf from the Department of Climate Change (http://www.climatechange.gov.au/en/government/initiatives/mpccc/meetings/~/media/publications/committee/emissions-trading-fixed-price-pdf.pdf) has some interesting remarks about the pros and cons of this implementation. As a revenue-neutral scheme, the cash raised has been fed back via tax cuts at the lower end of the scale, and some compensation for those whose incomes do not result in a tax bill (who would therefore miss out the tax scale changes). So theoretically, there is an incentive for the rich to cut their usage a bit while the poor are not disavantaged.

In fact it is something of a fig leaf, since it was introduced at the lowest possible price and provides almost no price signal to industry and consumers. Futher, since renewable pricing is currently significantly effected by the previous Feed-In Tarriff schemes that are being phased out, any price signal that is apparent is dismissed as overly generous incentives to early adopters. It is likely that the price will drop significantly when floated, as the Government has indicated they want to maintain a price parity with Europe, which as I understand it is ridiculously low.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 27, 2013, 04:28:15 AM
As someone who has looked very closely at installing solar panels at my home I have to admit without current subsidies they are uneconomic. Even with the subsidies I would be looking at about 15 years until I reach break-even. I also don't really feel good about the government taxing people so they can give me a break on the cost.

I don't think that renewable energy sources are a solution for AGW. They also aren't the solution to the problem that we're likely to face in the near future with energy production. This is especially true for solar panels since there are too many resources used in the production which we may have trouble extracting in sufficient quantities to keep prices down in the near future.

One of my significant questions about AGW projections are where they are expecting all of the fossil fuels to come from. I don't doubt the science and generally think that many of the effects of AGW are probably understated. We continually see most projections fall far ahead of when they are expected. It makes me wonder if someone doesn't believe their own projections and are revising their expectations into a range they might feel are acceptable to others. Most of the projections I have looked at have mostly used IEA projections for future fossil fuel production. IEA projections have been revised downward every single year since 2005. I would love to see a projection which both had higher expected effects from AGW and took the expected economic and resource extraction problems from followups of Hubbert's work into account.

I also believe that renewable energy sources, even if they aren't going to save us in the short run from either AGW or an energy crunch, are critical to modern civilization's survival. Without them I fear we will fall into something which I have heard a number of people over the years proclaim that they wanted: a severe population reduction. I just don't think that anyone will enjoy living if the thin veneer of civilization is lost.

If I had the power to have one thing I wanted to happen in the world right now I would have as many nuclear breeder reactors as possible built using the safest methods possible in safe locations. Why breeder reactors? Because with the reprocessing of nuclear fuel inherent in the process we would have enough energy to move the world onto any renewable choice we desired without having to even consider restricting liberty. We would also have the energy available to shut down every fossil fuel power plant in the world. On top of that we would have enough energy to start the process of moving from oil based transport to vehicles using hydrogen fuel cells.

Pessimism is the thing which irritates me most about the supporters of both AGW and Peak Oil. Neither community seemingly can see a bright future for humanity. I am not ready to give up my dreams of a better future.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 27, 2013, 05:01:41 AM
A quick note about carbon taxes: so long as a government is in charge they would never reduce carbon emissions. If we really wanted to reduce emissions we could write a very simple law which could get us to carbon neutrality without a tax of any sort. Here is a simple suggested law which would work:


All entities carbon emissions are capped at the current emissions as of one year after the effective date of this bill. If more carbon is emitted then that entity must pay to have the equivalent amount of carbon extracted from the atmosphere. Entities which exceed the necessary reduction of their capped emission may trade their excess reduction in the next year on the open market.

The cap in carbon emissions will be reduced by 2.5% from the baseline emissions every year until atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach 280 parts per million. After that level is reached all entities must maintain carbon neutrality.

All entities must participate in the first year of this law being effective in a program to measure their carbon output. If an entity is found to have attempted to game the system the punishment will be that their cap will be reduced to zero after having been found guilty. A Carbon Emissions Agency will be created to ensure the businesses established to monitor carbon emissions are in compliance with the enforcement of this act.

Any nation engaging in trade with the United States will comply with this law for all trade. Any nation found to be in non-compliance will have a tariff of 500% assessed on all of their next year's trade.


It probably has a few bugs and I am sure the language could be tightened. I am getting to the point though that if a law is more than a few pages long I am sure someone is trying to gain largesse from the taxpayers.

We can argue over the percent per year to reduce the cap, the ending parts per million and the penalty for people who trade with us. It really boggles my mind why we would want to give any government income because of increasing emissions. All governments want more revenue and if we create a carbon tax government will want emissions to increase so that they can get more revenue. It would be putting basic economics in direct opposition to the desired result.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Artful Dodger on February 27, 2013, 08:48:31 AM
Looking back to 1973 would you have predicted personal computers, the internet, cell phones, affordable solar panels, ...?
Well, Gene Roddenberry did it in 1966. Beam me up, Scotty!  8)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: gfwellman on February 27, 2013, 09:03:42 PM
Quote
I also don't really feel good about the government taxing people so they can give me a break on the cost.
The government should tax GHG emissions with a best-estimate of the (currently) externalized costs of those emissions.  That's a correction of a market failure.  If the government then used some of that tax money to subsidize solar panels, well, that would be one reasonable policy choice to make the aforementioned market failure correction less painful to the average person.  As would investment in wind farms, a more efficient "smart grid" and yes, the best possible closed fuel cycle nuclear reactors.

Quote
I don't think that renewable energy sources are a solution for AGW. They also aren't the solution to the problem that we're likely to face in the near future with energy production. This is especially true for solar panels since there are too many resources used in the production which we may have trouble extracting in sufficient quantities to keep prices down in the near future.
Efficiency, plus renewables, plus nuclear can take us into a very optimistic future, but every minute that we wait before imposing a serious carbon tax and launching an all-out upgrade/conversion effort will make the period of climate disruption more painful.  I'm pessimistic about our political system averting much of that pain.  So am I an optimist or a pessimist?  Perhaps a realist.

As for renewables vs nuclear, we probably want both, but I'm willing to let the market show us in what ratio.  I suspect that given the speed of price/performance improvements in renewables vs nuclear, that renewables will eventually win in a (metaphorical) landslide.  (Real landslides may result from AGW enhanced rainfall.)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 27, 2013, 10:32:03 PM
The government should tax GHG emissions with a best-estimate of the (currently) externalized costs of those emissions.

I don't trust the government to administer another tax. What do you feel is the problem with my taxless proposal?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: crandles on February 28, 2013, 12:07:53 AM

I don't trust the government to administer another tax. What do you feel is the problem with my taxless proposal?

But you do trust them to administer a carbon permit scheme???

I am with stoat:
http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2011/06/06/carbon-tax-now-1/ (http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2011/06/06/carbon-tax-now-1/)

Quote
Carbon permits are complex, permit a parasitic trading class, and allow pointless political interference. Carbon taxes are simple and provide little opportunities for parasites. So naturally our political class prefers… yes, you’ve guessed it, the bad system.

There is a fundamental difference between carbon taxes and permits. For the permits, you do your science ahead of time and you work out how much CO2 you want to emit, and you issue permits to this level. Anyone wanting to emit CO2 (well, I say anyone, I mean anyone covered by the scheme) then needs a permit to do so. That means you know the maximum amount of CO2 that can be emitted. The idea is that companies that still need to emit CO2 are forced to buy permits, which they will do from people, presumably, who have managed to reduce their own emissions at a cost less than that of the permit they are selling; or who for some other reason have excess permits (like, for example, our idiot EU-wide governments handed out permits like confetti). But never mind: what it means to the bureaucracy that manages the permits is that the price of the permits has become irrelevant.

To make a carbon tax work, on the other hand, you need to decide how much damage the CO2 is going to cause, and you then penalise emitters at this rate. This too is tricky, but is does allow the normal market conditions to operate, rather than requiring explicit government intervention, which I think is a good thing. In theory, it is what the Stern report has allowed us to work out. You still need to do pretty well the same science as you needed to do to set permit levels, but what you don’t have to do is the complex step of deciding what CO2 levels the government wants to see.

Basically govt will mess up permit scheme by issuing too many. With a revenue neutral carbon tax you can start low and ramp it up until it appears we are doing enough. If people see all the revenue raised being returned to the tax paying population in some manner then the system can build up trust before the tax level start to increase to levels that hurt.

The details of your permit scheme looks rather draconian to me. What are new businesses allowed to emit? Do you somehow reallocate the permits of businesses going bust? What if there are few going bust and lots of new businesses being formed? Doesn't that favour existing businesses and stifle innovation?


If it is cheaper for a company to reduce its emissions or to pay some sequestering project rather than pay the tax obviously the company should and presumably will do that and avoid the tax. So the carbon tax system gets the market economy to find the cheapest way to reduce emissions at prices less than the tax level. In contrast, the permit system involves bureaucracy and so is inefficient despite the trading of permits.

People who want to trade permits to make money support the permit schemes despite them being inefficient. Carbon tax does not have a similar group of people lobbying for a carbon tax system.


Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 28, 2013, 01:27:28 AM

I don't trust the government to administer another tax. What do you feel is the problem with my taxless proposal?

But you do trust them to administer a carbon permit scheme???

In my proposal above I am really only trusting the government to ensure that the monitors are doing their jobs equitably. I also wouldn't call my suggestion a carbon permit scheme since the government wouldn't measure either the starting point or compliance.

I would prefer a solution where the government wouldn't be involved in any way. If we use a tax money will be collected by government to ameliorate the effects of carbon emissions and go out for some other politically expedient purpose. Given the US today I would bet on funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security or even defense. The "lock box" that most of the population thinks exists for Social Security is what I would expect to happen to all of those carbon taxes.

I am now reading your link and will reply to the rest shortly.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 28, 2013, 01:43:04 AM
I am with stoat:
http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2011/06/06/carbon-tax-now-1/ (http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2011/06/06/carbon-tax-now-1/)

I understand his objections and it is a very good and interesting article. I am going to stand by my position that my proposition is not a good match for his carbon permit system. I will have a longer reply to the last part of your comment after I think about it for a bit.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: dreater on February 28, 2013, 03:22:10 AM
In my proposal above I am really only trusting the government to ensure that the monitors are doing their jobs equitably. I also wouldn't call my suggestion a carbon permit scheme since the government wouldn't measure either the starting point or compliance.
The government wouldn't measure compliance?  Who would? Who would enforce your law, if not the government?  Who would enact your law, if not the government?

You proposed the creation of a "Carbon Emissions Agency."  Did you not mean a government agency?  If not, what did you mean? An industry association?  A United Nations commission? (Heh, just kidding...)

It's evident you simply don't trust government, period.  But you can't seriously expect to have a system that doesn't involve government enforcement - and for that matter, government collecting of the fees and penalties you propose - if that system is a creation of federal law.  Federal laws are administered and enforced by the federal government - these things don't just happen organically.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 28, 2013, 04:58:48 PM
In my proposal above I am really only trusting the government to ensure that the monitors are doing their jobs equitably. I also wouldn't call my suggestion a carbon permit scheme since the government wouldn't measure either the starting point or compliance.
The government wouldn't measure compliance?  Who would? Who would enforce your law, if not the government?  Who would enact your law, if not the government?

You proposed the creation of a "Carbon Emissions Agency."  Did you not mean a government agency?  If not, what did you mean? An industry association?  A United Nations commission? (Heh, just kidding...)

Yes, I suggested a very small agency within the government. You can shrink the size of government involvement by not having the government responsible for measuring compliance but by making sure those who are doing the measuring are doing so correctly. So, instead of monitoring millions you only have to monitor dozens. It also adds efficiency on the monitoring side as well since those businesses will have to compete for customers.

It's evident you simply don't trust government, period.  But you can't seriously expect to have a system that doesn't involve government enforcement - and for that matter, government collecting of the fees and penalties you propose - if that system is a creation of federal law.  Federal laws are administered and enforced by the federal government - these things don't just happen organically.

There was not a single fee in my proposed legislation. Certainly businesses which provide the service of measuring carbon emissions will have a price for their service but I wouldn't see anything wrong if one or more of the providers was a charity. I mean, aren't you willing to help people comply with a law like this who might not be able to afford it?

There are plenty of counter-examples already in government. The EPA largely works in the manner of my proposed law. I just wasn't giving the agency the power to change the rules on the fly.

Yes, I don't trust government and never will. I am reasonably sure that if we had an off-topic discussion of my political beliefs I could probably induce you into a wide assortment of knee-jerk reactions. ;)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on February 28, 2013, 05:11:43 PM
Basically govt will mess up permit scheme by issuing too many. With a revenue neutral carbon tax you can start low and ramp it up until it appears we are doing enough. If people see all the revenue raised being returned to the tax paying population in some manner then the system can build up trust before the tax level start to increase to levels that hurt.

My proposal didn't allow for the government to issue any permits. So, they can't issue too many because they can't issue a single one. The system would entirely work off of measuring carbon output and reducing it over a span of 40+ years until pre-industrial levels are reached. Entities which are more efficient at cutting their emissions can sell their excess emission cuts the year after which is fundamentally equivalent of paying a business to extract carbon from the atmosphere. No carry-overs so that no-one can build up credits — sell them or lose them.

The details of your permit scheme looks rather draconian to me. What are new businesses allowed to emit? Do you somehow reallocate the permits of businesses going bust? What if there are few going bust and lots of new businesses being formed? Doesn't that favour existing businesses and stifle innovation?

You're absolutely right. I did suggest there were probably bugs in my proposed legislation. I am sure we could figure out a way to handle new businesses equitably. Do you have any suggestions? We would have to make sure that the system can't be gamed by just forming a new business every year.

If it is cheaper for a company to reduce its emissions or to pay some sequestering project rather than pay the tax obviously the company should and presumably will do that and avoid the tax. So the carbon tax system gets the market economy to find the cheapest way to reduce emissions at prices less than the tax level. In contrast, the permit system involves bureaucracy and so is inefficient despite the trading of permits.

My proposal uses market forces just as effectively with a very minimal government oversight. Businesses would still have the ability to shop around between sequestration businesses for the best costs. The sequestration businesses would be competing with each other to discover the best way to get carbon out of the atmosphere. Businesses which found it easy to cut their emissions below targets would be able to gain monetarily for doing so.

People who want to trade permits to make money support the permit schemes despite them being inefficient. Carbon tax does not have a similar group of people lobbying for a carbon tax system.

I didn't have a market trading system like a stock exchange involved. A business who cut emissions more than their target would be able to act like any other sequestration firm and sell their reduction as a business to business transaction. A carbon tax has the biggest lobbying system in the world working for it: the government itself.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: crandles on February 28, 2013, 07:35:37 PM
My proposal didn't allow for the government to issue any permits.

True. The level of allowed emissions is still set in advance by your 2.5% pa cuts. That does not allow for a recession or a business boom. If the target is met perhaps it does not matter if prices swing wildly between boom and bust. I wonder if that is problematic for sequestration businesses but perhaps it helps get economy going again after recession hits. So it could be a desirable feature rather than a downside.


I am sure we could figure out a way to handle new businesses equitably. Do you have any suggestions? We would have to make sure that the system can't be gamed by just forming a new business every year.

I fear this would just be the tip of the iceberg of issues that would make the system more complex and politicians would if possible arrange for the solutions to give them some involvement so they can fiddle with the system and claim they are improving it.

Would the announcement of the system cause business to use lots of fossil fuel inefficiently so they have plenty of room for cuts after introduction to gain the ability to sell the fake cuts?

Quote
My proposal uses market forces just as effectively with a very minimal government oversight.
...
I didn't have a market trading system like a stock exchange involved. A business who cut emissions more than their target would be able to act like any other sequestration firm and sell their reduction as a business to business transaction. A carbon tax has the biggest lobbying system in the world working for it: the government itself.

Is business to business better than having stock market like situation? 

Such business to business transactions would have to be registered and monitored but that is relatively easy to say such transactions have not occurred unless they are registered and run a database to record them. If running a database for that, why not extend the system to allow businesses wanting to buy or sell these rights to record offers to buy and sell and let the system match offers where appropriate. I would be inclined to say don't let any traders in as any profits they extract are a dead weight cost to the system. Would they really be providing a service of helping match buyers and sellers if the computer system can be fed all the details and do that reasonably fairly?

If the carbon tax was revenue neutral with all funds returned to country's population why would the government be lobbying for it?

Both collecting revenue and giving it out would incur administrative costs. It may be less costly to remove some regressive taxes (sales taxes?, Value added tax?) and repay that much less to the population. Would it gain sufficient trust like that? So I accept that a revenue neutral carbon tax is not without problems.


Taxing all carbon usage, whoever uses it is more direct easy to understand cost.

It seems to me to be more straightforward and less subject to interference than deciding which new businesses deserve what carbon allowances. Stifling innovation through disadvantaging new businesses compared to existing businesses seems like one of the worst effects that could be caused. So sorry but I think I would need to see a lot more details worked out before I might switch to preferring something like your suggestion over a revenue neutral carbon tax.




Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: TerryM on February 28, 2013, 08:04:28 PM
Crandles

While I'm totally in favor of a carbon tax (I think there's one up and running in British Columbia), I'm not convinced that revenue neutrality is a requirement. If the taxation was a little higher than the payout some of the entrenched infrastructure problems could be funded. A little extra government cash to dish out during recessionary periods & for paying down debt when the economy is overheating couldn't be all bad.

Terry

Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Lucas Durand on March 01, 2013, 12:32:29 AM
I think we're going to see very rapidly increasing installation rates based on market forces.  Individuals and businesses will install solar because it will lower their electricity prices.  Utilities will install solar and wind because it will lower their energy acquisition costs.

Bob,
Initially maybe, but in the long run I'm not so sure it will be that simple.
Reports from the "bleeding edge" point to (not surprisingly) unforseen complications and unintended consequences when renewables reach a certain threshold of market penetration.

See this recent post at The Oil Drum:
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9841 (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9841)

The conclusion is interesting.
The technology is not really the issue (it is available and cheap enough) - although there are still some technological bottlenecks that need to be overcome. (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9205)
The interesting part is the political and economic "headwinds" that have suddenly appeared as renewable energy takes over a larger share of the market.

It seems we need more than purely technological "solutions" to our climate predicament.
Thecnology will have to play an important role in an energy revolution, but in the end the most challenging obstacles may prove to be the entrenched paradigms and political uncertainties of the "real world".
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Edheler on March 02, 2013, 02:46:11 AM
First I want to thank you for your thoughtful responses. I always found your thoughts on Neven's blog to be very interesting and worth trying to understand fully. I suspect we will end up at a point where we may agree to disagree but I believe that honest and frank discussion is the only way forward.

True. The level of allowed emissions is still set in advance by your 2.5% pa cuts. That does not allow for a recession or a business boom. If the target is met perhaps it does not matter if prices swing wildly between boom and bust. I wonder if that is problematic for sequestration businesses but perhaps it helps get economy going again after recession hits. So it could be a desirable feature rather than a downside.

I was trying to use a long enough baseline so that it would be economically palatable even during challenging circumstances. I agree that there is a bit of an issue but as we know all too well congress will change the rules on the fly no matter what happens. I don't see any reason why they might not choose to suspend the cuts for a period of time during economic difficulties.

I fear this would just be the tip of the iceberg of issues that would make the system more complex and politicians would if possible arrange for the solutions to give them some involvement so they can fiddle with the system and claim they are improving it.

A carbon tax is also fraught with all of the same complexity issues. I agree that I tried to oversimplify the issue. If a system of laws is too complex for the average man to understand and there aren't enough people to enforce the law universally then it becomes a system ripe for corruption by selective enforcement. I personally believe that we have a lot of work on simplifying the law ahead of us.

Would the announcement of the system cause business to use lots of fossil fuel inefficiently so they have plenty of room for cuts after introduction to gain the ability to sell the fake cuts?

I did try to account for that with a severe penalty for anyone trying to game the system. I don't know if my penalty was reasonable or appropriate but I do feel that without a serious penalty

Is business to business better than having stock market like situation? 

Such business to business transactions would have to be registered and monitored but that is relatively easy to say such transactions have not occurred unless they are registered and run a database to record them. If running a database for that, why not extend the system to allow businesses wanting to buy or sell these rights to record offers to buy and sell and let the system match offers where appropriate. I would be inclined to say don't let any traders in as any profits they extract are a dead weight cost to the system. Would they really be providing a service of helping match buyers and sellers if the computer system can be fed all the details and do that reasonably fairly?

The key is to not have a system susceptible to manipulation by traders for no other reason than to profit. I deliberately chose to not have a formal market because I don't think that our banking system today could resist manipulating a market in which they could play.

If the carbon tax was revenue neutral with all funds returned to country's population why would the government be lobbying for it?

As has been apparent I don't trust government. While an initial implementation of a system may be revenue neutral once the government is involved it is unlikely to remain that way. The original income tax was 2% on income over $4000 ($107,446.15 in 2013 dollars), which meant fewer than 10% of households would pay any. Many people might argue that my example is a fallacy by arguing via a slippery slope. I feel I could defend it quite well since that is the criteria used to judge if the argument style is a fallacy.

Both collecting revenue and giving it out would incur administrative costs. It may be less costly to remove some regressive taxes (sales taxes?, Value added tax?) and repay that much less to the population. Would it gain sufficient trust like that? So I accept that a revenue neutral carbon tax is not without problems.

It's a bit more difficult to implement this in the US since we don't have a national sales or value added tax.

Taxing all carbon usage, whoever uses it is more direct easy to understand cost.

Yes, but it also gives the government even more power over everything. I wouldn't be surprised to see the whole thing twisted around within a generation to become a breathing tax since we all emit carbon dioxide.

It seems to me to be more straightforward and less subject to interference than deciding which new businesses deserve what carbon allowances. Stifling innovation through disadvantaging new businesses compared to existing businesses seems like one of the worst effects that could be caused. So sorry but I think I would need to see a lot more details worked out before I might switch to preferring something like your suggestion over a revenue neutral carbon tax.

I am glad that my proposal, which I spent all of about 30 minutes writing, was able to even get this far in the discussion. I agree that any law should have much more serious thought behind it than a few minutes work. All of the carbon tax proposals that I have read read more like grants of government privilege over others than workable solutions to internalizing the externalities.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on March 02, 2013, 07:01:10 PM
You heard it here first:

http://www.v2g.co.uk/2013/03/andrew-neil-tilts-at-windmills/ (http://www.v2g.co.uk/2013/03/andrew-neil-tilts-at-windmills/)

To answer my original question, not according to the BBC's Andrew Neil. "Windmills" are far too variable and the Good ol' US of A will soon be pumping oil and gas to the Gulf for export, whilst the Poor ol' Arctic Ice Cap melts quicker than ever, swiftly followed by Greenland.

For some strange reason Andrew neglected to mention that bit though.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Artful Dodger on March 03, 2013, 05:11:42 AM
"Windmills" are far too variable...
Yes Jim, arguing with a denier is like digging a basement in your houseboat. It's steady work, and how do you know when it's time to stop?

A (1) windmill is variable. A interconnected grid of renewable power is not.

I feel personally that head butting deniers just gives them credibility where none is due. It is the 'appearance of a debate' that they are after, since delay is their sole product.

I invest my time in promoting renewables, and walking the walk. However, I do enjoy an infrequent laugh at their expense. But then, when does one stop? ;)

Best of luck Jim, and stay positive, stay healthy!
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on March 03, 2013, 11:17:47 AM
You're from the UK too then Lodger?

Glad you enjoyed it. If you can't beat 'em at least take the piss out of 'em?

I shall certainly stay cheerful if they continue to present sitting ducks for target practice! Whether such activity will change the world for the better remains to be seen, however.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Artful Dodger on March 03, 2013, 12:19:54 PM
You're from the UK too then Lodger?
Originally, before the Trial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artful_Dodger) and resultant sea voyage to Port Arthur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Diemen%27s_Land#Penal_colony).

I'm hopeful that I'll soon join our mate FrankD in Cloud cuckoo land (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_cuckoo_land), but it will depend greatly upon the rate of sea level rise.  ;)

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fen%2Fthumb%2F7%2F76%2FClarke-dodger.jpg%2F195px-Clarke-dodger.jpg&hash=816f55cf04b2a1b8cfe6692a0282ae8d)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on March 05, 2013, 11:29:21 PM
Far too much is made of the variability of wind and solar.  Yes, the time of production is not controllable, but the grid deals with all sorts of non-controllables.  Demand comes and goes.  Coal and nuclear plants go off line for both scheduled maintenance and unexpectedly.  In 2011 the US had a cluster of coal plants suddenly go off line.  In 2011 two East Coast reactors suddenly shut down in an earthquake and didn't come back up for months.

We build in extra capacity to allow for those problems.  We might have to build a lot of NG capacity or even keep some coal plants mothballed, "just in case".

As we build the future grid we will have to design around the nature of our least expensive sources of energy and fill in with storage, dispatchable generation and load-shifting.

The only thing that might make things different is if enhanced (hot dry rock) geothermal is perfected which could give us large amounts of "always on" generation just about everywhere in the world.  But we can't count on that, so best we get busy engineering our grid with what we do have that is clean, cheap and abundant.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: OldLeatherneck on March 05, 2013, 11:40:15 PM
CO2 Neutral Cement - "ECO-CEMENT

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fi1269.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fjj597%2FOldLeatherNeck%2F1f708147-9c20-471d-9296-83c83ebb0fda_zps466fd38a.jpg&hash=92a0e8b86d4ed435e3d3300c24acc51e)


I've read before that there was a CO2 neutral process to make cement.  A simple Google search provided numerous results, the image in the above is a process flow for one technique, whilte the below image is taken from an article in the Scientific American:

"Cement from CO2: "A Concrete Cure for Global Warming?"

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=cement-from-carbon-dioxide (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=cement-from-carbon-dioxide)

(https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fi1269.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fjj597%2FOldLeatherNeck%2F9A78D14C-EF28-7B2D-154731BFF9590B27_1_zps763a4133.jpg&hash=1c145068f317b5e860e9fb89cf8e193a)

CLIMATE CHANGE CURE?: By running the flue gas from Moss Landing's mammoth smokestacks through ocean water, a new company can make cement from carbon dioxide pollution. Image: COURTESY OF DYNEGY

The turbines at Moss Landing power plant on the California coast burn through natural gas to pump out more than 1,000 megawatts of electric power. The 700-degree Fahrenheit (370-degree Celsius) fumes left over contain at least 30,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming—along with other pollutants.

 Today, this flue gas wafts up and out of the power plant's enormous smokestacks, but by simply bubbling it through the nearby seawater, a new California-based company


Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on March 08, 2013, 02:45:22 PM
I just stumbled across this interesting (to me at least!) take on Bill McKibben's particular brand of "Climate Activism"

http://shorensteincenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/D-78-Nisbet1.pdf (http://shorensteincenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/D-78-Nisbet1.pdf)

According to Nisbet, McKibben can be faulted (http://shorensteincenter.org/2013/03/natures-prophet-bill-mckibben-as-journalist-public-intellectual-and-activist/) for offering

Quote
Arguments for action on climate change that evoke a vision of the future that reflects his own values and priorities, rather than a broad, pragmatic set of choices designed to both effectively manage the problem and to align a diversity of political interests in support of policy action.

McKibben’s romantic vision of a New England-style utopia and pursuit of a narrow set of policy goals have blinded him to considering alternative approaches that may not only be more effective at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and providing for the material needs of large, diverse populations but also more politically probable.

Tips hat to Linus Blomqvist (http://thebreakthrough.org/people/profile/linus-blomqvist)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: DavidR on March 09, 2013, 02:01:59 AM
We need to recognise that the key issue is the generation of power from fossil fuel sources. Therefore the solution must involve reducing those methods or generation without destabilizing our  current societies.

This is why schemes involving massive contributions from government will never be accepted to  meet the entire  reduction program.  When a few get subsidies for wind and solar the cost effect on other consumers is negligible, once the number rises above about 10% the impact on the electricity prices of others becomes unacceptable.

My view is we need to:
1. Ban the development of new FF generation sources.
2. Announce a future ban on the registration of new FF powered vehicles,  after 20-30 years to allow technology to develop acceptable alternative options, and the required infrastructure.
3. Use a carbon emissions tax to penalize current emitters AND spend the money raised closing down the most polluting electricity generation plants.  Some money should be used for research on alternatives to ensure the capital exists to develop them and bring them to market.
4. Impose an export tax on FF to  encourage other countries to follow suit.
5. Allow the market to identify and develop the most cost effective sources of non emitting technologies to  replace the FF generation plants being taken out of commission. 

This builds in numerous economic incentives for change.
1. The business community has a long term perspective to  deal with.
2. The Carbon Tax funds are used to penalise emitters,  close down the sources of CO2, and provide capital for the development of alternatives.
3.   Current businesses, with high emissions are not 'threatened' by the changes and can therefore work with them to implement the change.
4. Environmentalists can opt to purchase parts of emitting businesses with a realistic chance to vote to  shut down the sections causing emissions.
5. Each year the most cost effective alternative solutions can be adopted to  minimize the cost of transition.

And dare I  say it , rule nothing out. This includes the development of nuclear power However the scheme is workable even without the nuclear option just more expensive. 



Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on March 10, 2013, 07:40:03 PM
David, renewables (at least onshore wind and solar) are just about the point of needing subsidies.  The AWEA requested full federal subsidies for 2013 and 2014 with decreasing amounts of support through 2017 and a disappearance of subsidies in 2018.

Federal subsidies for solar are over in 2018 and I hear no cries that they will need to be extended.  At the non-subsidized price of installed solar in Germany ($2/watt) solar would be competitive in the US.  Five years from now solar should be well under that price.  We are moving toward $1/watt.

By 2018 wind and solar should be our cheapest ways to generate electricity.  The only cheaper source would be already built/paid for hydro.  All fuel-based generation (including natural gas and nuclear) will be more expensive.

A carbon tax would speed the transition away from fossil fuels, and we would probably be wise to use every tool in the box.  But renewables will be able to stand on their own very soon in an open market.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: DavidR on March 11, 2013, 08:25:43 AM
Bob,
The key point I  was trying to make was the need for system to  'encourage' the transition from FF's  to renewables by stopping the construction of new FF using equipment and  including in the program a method of removing the older worst performing FF systems. 

It was recently  reported that  Australia can now construct wind power cheaper than coal power. But that won't assist in removing carbon emissions if the old plants stay in use and potentially become more profitable because they are run more often to  meet increasing night time demand.

If the older plants are still operating and efficiencies are reducing demand any new plants whether renewable or fossil fueled become less likely. Consequently we are not  removing the source of the problem until the fossil fuel systems reach the end of their economic life.

Having read further since my earlier post it is clear that we have the technology to achieve a global grid based on renewables once the costs are comparable.

Current proposals to  put an undersea HVDC cable from the UK to Iceland will create the longest undersea link required to  complete a global grid covering all major land masses with the exception of Antarctica.  This would enable us to ensure that any local shortage of renewable power could be met by transmission from other parts of the globe. 

Typically transmission distances would be short. but in practice any two  points above the Tropic of Cancer could be linked by  a line extending no more than 17500 Km. With the arctic offering lots of wind power and solar power in summer I  expect a lot of both to be built there once a continuous  UHVDC line is built circumnavigating the globe around the Arctic circle.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on April 30, 2013, 01:25:08 PM
We may use some more efficient tools like the rocket mass heater. That does sound great to me ! This winter I had to clean my wood stove every day with the rocket mass stove it seems there is much less ashes, wish mean, much more efficient !
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxJDBvCP6Cw# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxJDBvCP6Cw#)
http://www.permies.com/wood-burning-stoves.html (http://www.permies.com/wood-burning-stoves.html)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fekUC9nylYY# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fekUC9nylYY#)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v20dCSxV5ow&playnext=1&list=PLm3b366-gIMYZBYs9WWt9jKLnsfplRfYT&feature=results_main# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v20dCSxV5ow&playnext=1&list=PLm3b366-gIMYZBYs9WWt9jKLnsfplRfYT&feature=results_main#)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYJyxptclos# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYJyxptclos#)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfKHVoCY2so# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfKHVoCY2so#)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jfag47dRCs# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jfag47dRCs#)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lUCOowOmJ8# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lUCOowOmJ8#)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne77Z0wIdmI# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne77Z0wIdmI#)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on April 30, 2013, 02:11:56 PM
Hi Laurent,

The rocket mass heater sounds like it would be a lot more useful than the woodburner we have here (see below).  Do you suppose it could be combined with some Ancient Roman technology?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocaust (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocaust)
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/rome-wasnt-built-in-a-day/4od#3191165 (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/rome-wasnt-built-in-a-day/4od#3191165)

Will efficiently burning lots of wood significantly help to "Solve Global Warming" though? How about using it to create "biochar" instead?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on April 30, 2013, 05:54:46 PM
Hello Jim,

The rocket mass heater is an hypocaust that's the third part called "buts needing warming" on this schematic. There is a video where they heat the house by the floor !? (I can't see your video, not allowed to see it from France)
It will be one of the solutions to energize the houses in autumn-spring-winter if, only if the resources of wood is collected nearby and renewable. What is interesting with this type of stove is that it can use branches so if you maintain a forest or some tree hedge you will have the renewable resources easily.
In summer I am thinking of using a solar oven concentration type (if you insist I'll show you what I am thinking about)
Of course, you have to insulate as much as possible (with renewable materials like straw for example). The rocket stove is an other very good idea, because you do not need your exhaust pipe to be on the roof, therefore you can insulate your roof fully (around 30% of the energy loss).
I did heard about the rocket mass heater last year but did not pay attention, thinking my stove would do the trick in winter. Well, it does consume a lot of wood, I have got plenty of wood but something more efficient is definitely needed!
Making biochar send a lot of energy in the atmosphere for nothing, so it cannot be energy efficient !
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on April 30, 2013, 06:37:15 PM
Making biochar send a lot of energy in the atmosphere for nothing, so it cannot be energy efficient !

That was my point really. Do you suppose it's possible to design a "woodcharrer" that "heats butts" instead of just "send[ing] a lot of energy in[to] the atmosphere"?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on April 30, 2013, 09:11:52 PM
It may be possible ? I am not sure of what you are thinking of  ?
You mean to design a rocket stove that would produce some coal and then put it in the soil to sequester some carbon ?
The rocket mass heater is normally design to be efficient so nearly all the wood is burnt, that is what we want !? I saw some videos, may be a french one, where they block completely the air entry, the wood does consume more slowly but i don't think it will produce a lot of charcoil and will certainly create more chemicals due to bad combustion.
I won't try that to store the carbon !
What you are looking for is more like terre pretta.
If you ear french :
http://www.franceculture.fr/emission-le-salon-noir-archeologie-et-ecologie-des-savanes-de-guyane-2011-03-02.html (http://www.franceculture.fr/emission-le-salon-noir-archeologie-et-ecologie-des-savanes-de-guyane-2011-03-02.html)
if you don't (after 29 minutes) :
The Secret of El Dorado (The discovery of Biochar) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqp_H95wjPE#ws)
I think personally that if you want to store the carbon you have to plant trees in thick hedges like angelo does on http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/33812-urban-permaculture-the-micro-space?r=y (http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/33812-urban-permaculture-the-micro-space?r=y) not on 60 m2 but 5000 or 10000/person
The people have to understand we need to grow the life in the soil not in the plants !!!
Laurent
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: ccgwebmaster on April 30, 2013, 10:08:12 PM
Making biochar send a lot of energy in the atmosphere for nothing, so it cannot be energy efficient !

That was my point really. Do you suppose it's possible to design a "woodcharrer" that "heats butts" instead of just "send[ing] a lot of energy in[to] the atmosphere"?
Using waste heat from biochar processes would certainly seem to make sense...

A bit like the German approach to combined heat and power from power stations. On paper the power station - viewed in isolation - is running less efficiently than bigger British plants. However once you factor in the use of the cooling water for heating local buildings - the German approach is substantially superior.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on May 01, 2013, 10:16:51 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3pLXIMdPXQ&feature=player_embedded# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3pLXIMdPXQ&feature=player_embedded#)!
Now I understand a bit better !
We are still in a technological processs...tstststs (CO2 is looming. Need energy to bring the vegetal material, to produce, to transport...)
A do it yourself like this one :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts1koR7Cxos# (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts1koR7Cxos#)
It won't work on my present heater (max 240°c) but on the top of a rocket stove we may have 450°c i think. If i am doing one this year I'll let you know about that !
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on May 01, 2013, 11:05:19 PM
This is an interesting document, an automatic translation from French (terrapreta.txt)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on May 02, 2013, 11:36:17 AM
Is there a dedicated "Biochar" thread on the forum somewhere? I couldn't find one. Maybe we should start one, and move that part of the conversation over there?

In the meantime, I saw that Horizon programme on the BBC when it was first broadcast, which got me interested in the topic. I much prefer the term "Terra Preta" to the more recent (and IMHO ugly) "Biochar"! Your point is that the char isn't much use without the right sort of "Microorganismes Efficaces"?

Sticking with renewable energy for the moment, I was indeed wondering about some sort of "Combined Heat & Compost" device. The rocket heater struck me as having some similarities with this rather larger local biochar manufacturing plant:

http://www.biocharretort.com/ (http://www.biocharretort.com/)
http://youtu.be/fojgpct6dBA (http://youtu.be/fojgpct6dBA)

Maybe there's a better alternative to letting that amount of matter at 450 degrees just heat up the atmosphere?

Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on May 02, 2013, 02:12:04 PM
We may stay here, no ? Terra Preta is about bio-chemical energy after all !

Quote
Your point is that the char isn't much use with the right sort of "Microorganismes Efficaces"?

I am reading like you ! I wonder how do they sort the good bacterias and the bad ones ?
I am using a toilet with separation so I can speek of it (I am not using saw dust but earth, only earth, I'll try an other system with some worms later on )! Normaly the bacterias from our shit is not so good for us humans !? Certainly for the soil they are ?

The system your showing send a lot of CO2 and energy in the atmosphere for nothing so if we can use a stove in winter to heat the house and prepare a bit of Terra Preta that will be better !
I'll try to mix it with my toilets for around six months before using it !
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Jim Hunt on May 02, 2013, 03:14:15 PM
We may stay here, no ? Terra Preta is about bio-chemical energy after all !

Ah well. I unilaterally started a dedicated Terra Preta thread (http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,273.0.html)!

Maybe it's appropriate to continue discussion of "combined heat and compost" here though?  Biochar India certainly have designs for "combined cooking and compost" devices.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: TerryM on May 02, 2013, 07:47:45 PM
When discussing sewage I think septic tank modifications should be part of the discussion:


Extracting methane - free gas for heating and/or cooking.


A coil for either extracting or dissipating heat from a heat pump increases the efficiency by a huge amount over an air/air system and is much simpler than drilling for a geo system.


Everything's greener over the leach field, but stay away from things with well developed root systems. Use of "D" boxes allows the leach field to take whatever shape is most beneficial to your gardening plans - just keep it away from trees.


Modern systems are almost always limited to two chambers but if you're building your own add at least one more chamber to further reduce the solids contaminating the leach field. I'd put the refrigerant coil in the last chamber & elevate it to 50% of the depth where the clearest effluent is.  A three chamber system should last a lifetime without requiring servicing, especially if an enzyme treatment is done while it's new. If you're in a rural area a cow patty a month will keep the enzyme level high, digesting the solids & pumping out lots of methane.


It's a shame to let all that shit go to waste ;>]


Terry
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Artful Dodger on May 03, 2013, 06:26:09 AM
If you're in a rural area a cow patty month will keep the enzyme level high, digesting the solids & pumping out lots of methane.
Hi Terry.
Just trying to keep up on this great thread! What's a 'cow patty month'? Is that a grazing period? How does that work with the reactor?

It's a shame to let all that shit go to waste ;>]
<Insert your own Denier Meme here>  ;)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: TerryM on May 03, 2013, 07:51:08 AM

Lodger


I keep forgetting that it's think, type, post
not
Type, post, think, edit, re-post


The new forum's editing features are wonderful


Terry
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Artful Dodger on May 03, 2013, 08:05:10 AM
I keep forgetting that it's think, type, post
not
Type, post, think, edit, re-post
Hi Terry,

lol, just like the Drivers in my city:
 ;D
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on May 05, 2013, 09:47:00 AM
TerryM,

The toilet I am using separate urine and poo ! I like it that way because the urine is perfect as fertilizer and the poo mixed with earth build some earth after 6 months !

But I reckonize that making gaz with our toilets seems to be a good system. I would still recommend to separate the urine and use the poo, would it work only with poo ? I guess you still need to add some water with the poo ? drinking water ? There is also the problem of the tank, if the tank break below, you will never see it and a very  high pollution will enter the environment ! If we separate the urine and poo, the tank would be smaller so we can lift it to see what is going on, it would be possible to insulate it, then the temperature of methanisation will be on a ideal 30°c ? What do you think ?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Lewis C on May 05, 2013, 07:16:10 PM
Jim - in response to the thread's title I'd have to say no, renewable energy hasn't the slightest chance of solving GW.

This is not because much of what passes  for renewable is grossly unsustainable (Blair tried claiming that the UK had world leadership in 'Battery-Chicken Dung-Power' . . .)
nor that the carbon accounting, particularly of agribiofuels, is pretty farcical due not least to the diversion of farmland which in aggregate increases pressure to clear more native forests,
nor to the real difficulty of scaling up renewables' deployments to a significant degree.

The core problem lies in the fact that, in the absence of a global climate treaty setting a declining annual carbon budget and allocating converging national emission rights within it, any fossil fuels locally displaced by renewables will continue to be bought and burned elsewhere. Moreover there is little recognition that fossil prices will decline as non-fossil energy supply rises, thereby making price-competition increasingly difficult. Add to that the prospect of trying to get renewables' capital costs low enough to incentivize the closure of extant fossil plant, and it is obvious that an effective goal - of say near-zero CO2 output by 2050 - cannot and will not be achieved without the requisite global regulation that only a comprehensive climate treaty can provide.

The propaganda for a 'free-market' solution via renewables seems particularly strong in the US, where it is boosted by sites such as Grist and Climate Progress, whose govt currently has its people in Bonn at the UNFCCC meeting maintaining Cheyney's obstruction of the treaty - by urging that all nations should choose their own targets - that is, by perniciously rejecting the need for an allocations framework that is commensurate with the GW problem.

The further reason why renewables are a secondary issue with regard to solving GW is that a commensurate treaty has to agree much more than Emissions Control. With the inevitable loss of the cooling sulphate parasol (by ending our fossil sulphate outputs) Hansen & Sato report that we face an additional 110% (+/-30%) of realized warming, which if I understand them correctly would give about 4.4C in the 2080s (after a 30yr timelag from 2050) as the result of a very successful Emissions Control effort.

In addition, at least six out of seven major interactive feedbacks are already accelerating, and several each have the capacity to dwarf anthro-emissions. Perhaps the most advanced, Albedo Loss due to cryosphere decline, was reported in GRL in 2010 to be providing a forcing equivalent to "about 30%" of anthro-CO2 outputs. The urgency of developing the requisite UN supervision of the RD&D of Albedo Restoration options - to restore the pre-industrial temperature and thus halt both climate destabilization and the feedbacks - cannot be overstated, as senior scientists such as Stephen Salter have pointed out that beyond a certain point geo-engineering would be simply ineffective in their control.

Furthermore, one of those feedbacks - the accelerating microbial decay of peatbogs worldwide - is not driven by warming but by elevated CO2, and is thus not amenable to control by Albedo Restoration techniques. Its control demands a global program of Carbon Recovery to gradually cleanse the atmosphere, with the ancillary benefit of avoiding the terminal acidification of the oceans and the destruction of their ecology on which our terrestrial ecology depends.

The renewables will certainly help with energy supply once the treaty is in operation, but there can be no doubt that the agreement of the global treaty legislating Emissions Control + Albedo Restoration + Carbon Recovery is the principle factor in solving global warming.

Regards,

Lewis



Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on May 05, 2013, 08:43:00 PM
Quote
Jim - in response to the thread's title I'd have to say no, renewable energy hasn't the slightest chance of solving GW.

This is not because much of what passes  for renewable is grossly unsustainable

That's an interesting claim.  Could you tell us why wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal, and biomass/biogas generation are unsustainable?

(I'm limiting the time frame to the next few billion years.  When the Sun goes all whanky on us sustainability will be a problem.)


Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Lewis C on May 06, 2013, 01:09:30 AM
Quote
Could you tell us why wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal, and biomass/biogas generation are unsustainable?

No, there's no rationale for so general a claim. Quite why you should assume that my observation:
"This is not because much of what passes  for renewable is grossly unsustainable"
would imply any such thing is for you to answer.

There are clearly many examples of grossly unsustainale technologies within the classes you name, of which biomass currently seems to hold most. The egregious example I gave was of Battery Chicken Dung Power, with its 12Bn fowls globally under maximized density and its central dependence on routine antibiotic sprays making it an ideal accelerator of the evolution of novel more virulent pathogens, with sufficient human interaction to put the species barrier at risk.

The mining of topsoil by agribusiness to produce maize for ethanol and the growing of biocide-dependent GMO 'short-rotation-coppice' for wood-fuel pellets on farmland are two further biomass examples that need termination ASAP.

Perhaps the classic example of some 'renewables' unsustainability is that of the massive dams that form the huge majority of installed hydro. Alongside the eviction of people from their land and livelihoods, and the total loss of the land's ecology, it should be obvious that these structures are one-use only and that once silted up they're useless. I'm told that the average lifespan of UK dams is just 60 years. Given that there are very limited sites suitable for dams, there will be no 'second generation' ones on anything like the scale of the first.

In addition, it was reported in New Scientist - around 2002 - that by trapping biomass transported by inflow rivers and holding it in deep anoxic waters (rather than well-oxygenated rivers) they raise the fraction that rots anaerobically and releases its carbon as methane, which as you may know has a CO2E GWP over 100 times that of CO2 on the critical 20yr time horizon. The report remarked that some tropical hydro-power sites were shown to have worse CO2E emissions than normal coal-power, even on the 23 times GWP value of a 100yr time horizon.

One final example worth noting is that of the massive tidal-power lagoon scheme for the Severn estuary - which was shown by people far more expert than I to be so grossly unsustainable in its biodiversity impacts that not even the highly potent lobbying of the concrete and engineering industries could persuade the govt to back it.

Perhaps you are old enough to remember when the first Blair govt first started pushing the term 'renewable' - to mean whatever they chose it to mean - as the means to avoid having to set any test of sustainability on energy options. To my mind it is that negligent attitude that has got us into the mess with the fossil fuels - and to get out of it we plainly shouldn't be wasting resources on those unsustainable non-fossil options that are only accumulating trouble down the road.

Regards,

Lewis



Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on May 06, 2013, 01:51:39 AM
Here's what you said...

Quote
I'd have to say no, renewable energy hasn't the slightest chance of solving GW

Hasn't the slightest chance.  Not even the slightest chance.

What is unsustainable about wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal, and biomass/biogas generation?
--


Yes, there are some specific biomass approaches which are unsustainable, but not all are.  Hooking methane digestors to the waste stream is certainly a sustainable biomass source.   

And, yes, some dams may silt in and will have to be abandoned or dredged, but not all will suffer that fate.  As well, run of the river hydro should never quit producing.

Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: icebgone on May 06, 2013, 03:18:06 AM
Hydroelectricity generation has the highest Energy Return on Investment (EROI) according to an April 2013 Scientific American article.  Ranked according to EROI, hydroelectricity and easily extracted oil and natural gas top the list.  The author's list is based on mankind's current need to sustain an energy EROI of 5-9 to maintain current lifestyle and provide growth.  Wind, biomass from sugarcane and switchgrass and solar all supply the necessary EROI.  Tar sands, ethanol from maize and fracturing of oil and natural gas fields failed to meet the minimum.  Sounds like BAU with a twist.  Without a Hansen style global carbon tax the future looks bleak indeed.     
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on May 06, 2013, 07:42:29 AM
How important is EROEI when you're talking about solar panels?

Solar panels return the energy it takes to manufacture them in less than two years.  Then they output electricity for another 30, 40, more years.

If we were using up some sort of energy that couldn't be replaced then we'd have somewhere around a 15x to 20x return on invested energy.  But in the case of solar the energy input comes at no cost after you've built the first set of panels.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: TerryM on May 07, 2013, 05:31:33 AM
Laurent


Higher temps (to a point) speed up the anaerobic process. I'm not sure that the treated effluent is less efficient for growing plants than simply burying the poo. Urine isn't needed for the process & drinking water isn't required. Brine or waste water heavily contaminated with detergents will slow down the process, otherwise most impurities produce increased methane production.


A triple chamber tank incorporating a freon coil will cut energy consumption through the year Heat with the methane & cool using the coil for the condensing cycle for refrigeration.


I don't think scaling up the system much above a two family duplex would be practical. The system as described could be built very cheaply by anyone with access to a rental backhoe and a cement mixer who can befriend an HVAC tech & keep the building code folk at bay.


Terry
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Laurent on May 07, 2013, 10:03:13 AM
TerryM,

Thanks for your response ! I do not catch how we can get cold (with condensation i hear that, but what, the methane condensate?) !? Do you have some webpage to read ?
I still do not like the idea of methanisation of my waste but may be it would be interesting to make some biogaz with a tank filled with weeds (damned weeds). Say I am cutting some weeds and put them in a 1 m3 tank, fill it with water, close the lid,  do you think we can have some methanisation there, should i had some bacterias ? What is the ideal temperature ? The range of temperatures for the methanisation to occur ?  If yes, what will be the quantity of methane ? For how long ?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: TerryM on May 07, 2013, 07:33:42 PM
Laurent


I don't have a web page but would recommend wiki on enzymes and the Mother Jones articles on biogas generation.


The end product that I had been producing many years ago was broad spectrum enzymes for use as both drain cleaners and septic tank treatments. What we ended up with would cut a newspaper as if a laser had sliced it within minutes or cause a paper cup to leak within seconds. The methane given off would blow up a gallon jug within an hour which made shipping tricky & back then plastic jugs were far more rigid than today.


The Mother Jones site and others building methane generators are unnecessarily complicated, require periodic cleaning (which entails throwing out digestible material) & need to be fed manually. Septic systems are covered very poorly by wiki. A double chamber design should be available from a local building supply & what's required is an additional chamber, or pair of chambers past these. The easy way would be to purchase two septic tanks and run them in series. Pouring your own concrete tank is a weekend job if a backhoe & cement mixer are available. The 3d (or 4th) chamber(s) are to extend the digestion and act to filter the effluent going out to the leach field - they also ensure that your refrigerant coil is in the cleanest water (placed half way up in the last chamber). If you want to add grass clipping or kitchen waste it's simple to add a chute in the 1st chamber that extends below water level, but if adding grass I'd be damn sure I remembered to feed in the cow chips.


Your tanks will produce the methane as the solids are broken down, all that's required is that you capture it and pipe it to where you'll use it. Adding some cow chips introduces bacteria producing broad spectrum enzymes that are what make the whole thing work. Enzymes from human waste are fine, but a cow's offal will digest things that humans have trouble with.


The refrigerant coil - that I earlier referred to as a freon coil -  is where the heat in your home (or refrigerator) is distributed to the effluent, speeding the digestion before being dissipated (30C to 35C is optimum). An absorption system can use the heat generated by a small portion of the methane produced and keep your home or refrigerator as cool as you require with no electrical requirement. (Check ads for motor home refrigerators) - to cool the house you'll need the help of an HVAC tech with an understanding of absorption cooling systems - if he explains that they aren't as efficient as compressor systems, remind him that your gas is free. BTW the wiki on absorption cooling is excellent.


Your children will be old before the system requires maintenance as long as you use at least 3 chambers and run a leach field 50% larger than minimum requirements. (Leach field size varies with soil percolation).


Terry
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Bob Wallace on May 07, 2013, 08:18:45 PM
There are now plastic septic tanks which can be easily hauled in the back of a small pickup and unloaded by one person.  (Been there, done that.)

If you want a three chamber concrete one then your local casting operation should be able to make you one.  I talked to mine about building me a septic tank without a divider and a doorway.  (I was thinking about using it as a root cellar.)'

They said it would be no problem as their forms were adjustable.

 
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: TerryM on May 08, 2013, 07:19:13 PM
There are now plastic septic tanks which can be easily hauled in the back of a small pickup and unloaded by one person.  (Been there, done that.)

If you want a three chamber concrete one then your local casting operation should be able to make you one.  I talked to mine about building me a septic tank without a divider and a doorway.  (I was thinking about using it as a root cellar.)'

They said it would be no problem as their forms were adjustable.

 


Yea, the plastic ones are adequate - especially if two are used in series & I've poured a concrete one building my own forms over the weekend (with two helpers). A backhoe saves time and strained backs while a powered concrete mixer does bunches to improve morale.


Terry
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: Gonzo on August 08, 2015, 06:53:57 AM
Quote
Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?

No way.
Livestock farming is one of, if not, THE biggest greenhouse gas.
For decades Westerners were the cow, sheep, and pig eaters.
Now everyone is getting on the bandwagon.
America and Europe has BY FAR the biggest factory farm methane production in the world, but now ... a billion people in China, and elsewhere ... are trying to catch up.
The methane coming from livestock farming alone is FAR FAR more than you humans will EVER be able to offset.

If you want to help the world, you literally have no choice, but to stop taking about CO2 ... and to  stop eating meat.

Methane (from livestock) is 25 times the warming power of CO2 in the atmosphere. So if you see a chart showing 50ppm of methane, and 500 ppm of CO2, the methane looks marginal by weight/mass/volume. However, the heating power of methane molecules to the atmosphere is 25 times MORE than CO2. It lasts only 7 years, before it degrades into CO2, but then it is CO2, and 7 years of heating have occurred, releasing more methane from the permafrost.
Meat eaters are destroying the world, and you will never, ever, get around this argument.
i have heard it all before. You are the cause of global warming, but meat eaters are too cowardly to admit it.
If everyone stopped eating big animals (eat your chickens and sardines if you must), there would not be a single problem in climate change or water shortages coming to you all soon.

(Gonzo -- 35 years as a vegetarian, near-vegan ... stronger, fitter, faster, smarter)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: cesium62 on August 13, 2015, 05:10:39 AM
A stagnant economy can mean that we have no money to install the clean generation we need.  it can mean that we don't have adequate governmental resources to fund the research we need.

A stagnant economy means that borrowing costs are low, labor costs are low (high unemployment), capital has low utilization, etc.  It's relatively easy to bring together idle workers and idle capital to produce economic growth given political will, and you can use those idle forces to install clean generation if you want to.  Money is cheap and readily available during the current economic stagnation.

Government isn't needed to fund research in wind, PV, or EV.  Businesses that are growing rapidly naturally increase the funds they spend on research.  Musk's billion dollar battery factory is going to do a lot more to improve the price/performance of batteries than any amount of government research.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: cesium62 on August 13, 2015, 05:30:45 AM
I also don't really feel good about the government taxing people so they can give me a break on the cost.

Then don't look at it that way.  It's well known that PV is cost effective if you are more than about a mile from the grid.  If you live in pretty much any fast-growing urban neighborhood, you are basically off the grid.  The developers are planning on growing the region by 20% over a relatively short time frame.  They have to build new infrastructure for that 20%.  It's really hard to build a transmission line from Canada to Los Angeles that is just 1/5th as big as the existing transmission line.  Solar reduces peak summer electricity demand when demand is highest and transmission line capacity is lowest.  Transmission lines sag when it is hot and when lots of electricity is flowing through them making them hotter.

The government isn't taxing people to give you a break, the government is trying to build a cheaper, incrementally built transmission line equivalent.  The market tools don't exist for them to do this in a transparent fashion, so they are using this odd kludge.

That's the way to look at it.  Take the money.  Enjoy it.  Do good with it.  Most of the money is coming from people who can afford it.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: cesium62 on August 13, 2015, 05:44:22 AM
I would love to see a projection which both had higher expected effects from AGW and took the expected economic and resource extraction problems from followups of Hubbert's work into account.

Hubbert looked at the effects on the US Oil industry.  As much as Texas would like to think otherwise, the US Oil industry is an open economy.  It interacts with the world oil industry.  What Hubbert showed was that if you keep prices and global supply (relative to demand) fixed, production  in a mature region will fall over time.

If you expect resource extraction problems, then you should expect lower supply relative to demand and hence increased prices.  Increased prices will drive higher supply and lower demand and the system will settle in a state where there are no resource extraction problems.  It will be a *very* long time before we exhaust available oil or prices are high enough that we start using bacteria and algae to produce renewable oil.

[Here's a vaguely related reference to an abstract so I can pretend that I'm not just making stuff up.  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544211003975 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544211003975)]
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: cesium62 on August 13, 2015, 05:48:36 AM
The government should tax GHG emissions with a best-estimate of the (currently) externalized costs of those emissions.

I don't trust the government to administer another tax. What do you feel is the problem with my taxless proposal?

I don't trust corporations to pay me a fair wage.  (I'm an computer programmer in silicon valley.  I have proof (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/14/us-apple-google-settlement-idUSKBN0KN02Z20150114) that corporations don't pay a fair wage.)   Just because we don't trust ourselves to cooperate doesn't mean we shouldn't cooperate.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: cesium62 on August 13, 2015, 05:58:48 AM
Far too much is made of the variability of wind and solar.  Yes, the time of production is not controllable, but the grid deals with all sorts of non-controllables.  Demand comes and goes.  Coal and nuclear plants go off line for both scheduled maintenance and unexpectedly.  In 2011 the US had a cluster of coal plants suddenly go off line.  In 2011 two East Coast reactors suddenly shut down in an earthquake and didn't come back up for months.

We build in extra capacity to allow for those problems.  We might have to build a lot of NG capacity or even keep some coal plants mothballed, "just in case".

As we build the future grid we will have to design around the nature of our least expensive sources of energy and fill in with storage, dispatchable generation and load-shifting.

The only thing that might make things different is if enhanced (hot dry rock) geothermal is perfected which could give us large amounts of "always on" generation just about everywhere in the world.  But we can't count on that, so best we get busy engineering our grid with what we do have that is clean, cheap and abundant.

Actually...  time of production is controllable.  I'm mostly assured that if I had an air conditioner, the sun would be shining when I wanted to turn it on.  And when I most want to go swimming, the sun is/was shining to heat up the pool.

The other point I like to make, in addition to your excellent points, is that solar and wind are little itty-bitty players in the power grid throughout most of the world.  They're currently doing fine in their little itty-bitty market niches without needing to worry about dispatchability.  We have plenty of time to worry about dispatchability while they grow up and expand into new market niches and prepare to assault market niches that demand dispatchability.  And, who knows, maybe in the meantime we'll start using a technology that allows for easy load-shifting.  Electric cars anyone?
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: cesium62 on August 13, 2015, 06:27:28 AM
Hi Bob,

Further to our previous conversations on this topic I guess you are firmly of the opinion that engineers could solve the problem if only the politicians would fund them to get on with it? Maybe "market forces" will do the job, despite the politicians?

However that's where I start to get pessimistic (or should that be realistic?). By way of example, and from a European perspective, here's the latest news, hot off the presses from Brussels:

http://www.euractiv.com/climate-environment/meps-vote-carbon-market-future-b-news-517898 (http://www.euractiv.com/climate-environment/meps-vote-carbon-market-future-b-news-517898)

Quote
Lawmakers on the European Parliament’s environment committee voted by 38-25 in favour of an amendment in support of the EU’s ‘backloading’ plans for the Emissions Trading System (ETS), throwing a lifeline to the crisis-hit carbon market.

Within Europe, carbon price have sunk to around €4-€5 per tonne, due to an over-allocation of carbon allowances before recession decimated demand for them. Rejection of backloading by Parliament’s industry committee in January sparked a record fall in carbon prices to just €2.81 a tonne.

Shell commented that:

Quote
It’s encouraging to see the Committee has reached a positive outcome, despite coming under considerable pressure from those who oppose ETS reform.

whereas Friends of the Earth said:

Quote
There is no getting round the fact that no amount of fiddling with the ETS will make the system fit for the challenge of tackling the climate crisis. The real priority must be for the EU to set a tougher greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 in line with what science and justice tells us is needed to address climate change.


Sure, there are conflicting market forces.  And, sure, market forces are going to have a hard time if they must depend on funding from the government.

But...  I think we must expect that rich people (or at least the newly rich) are, on average, smart.  The Koch Brothers excepted, of course.  If you want to get richer, the way you do that is by figuring out how to bring human labor and capital together to produce something useful.  There's a lot of fairly idle human labor out there.  And, for smart people, common things like sand start looking an awful lot like idle capital.

Market forces want a high return on investment, and the highest returns on investment will be obtained as a by product of solving the hard issues of today:  Malaria.  Water.  Energy.  Education for girls.  Reforestation.  Creating more productive human labor is a high return on capital.  And there's a positive feedback loop.  As you solve the hard problems, they become easier to solve.  The more returns you get on your investments, the more you can invest, and the more you can diversify your investments.


Interesting specific example:  Some complain about the longevity of the global car fleet.  But you may remember in the recent downturn around 2008 or 2009 when we decided to pay to get old cars off the road and reduce the average age of the fleet.  Car makers always have that incentive lying around whenever supply exceeds demand.  And car makers have a general incentive to decrease the average age of the fleet.  Somewhere along the line they are very likely to have the right technology to be able to easily convince consumers to make the change:  "Here's an EV that drives itself; gives you two hours of new free time every day.  Get rid of your old gas guzzler, and get more sleep!"

LCD and LED TVs should always be kept in mind as an example.  As you ramp up production, costs fall, revenues increase, the amount you can spend on research increases.  Positive feedback loops abound.

If you ever saw Larry Page and Sergey Brin wildly looking around trying to figure out what Google can invest in next that might become a billion dollar company that someone else hasn't already exploited, you'ld have a lot more faith in market forces.
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: AbruptSLR on October 09, 2015, 07:21:20 PM
The linked article indicates that the US Federal Government is currently cutting back on its financial support for solar energy:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/08/the-u-s-needs-a-solar-energy-revolution-so-why-did-federal-solar-researchers-just-lose-their-jobs/ (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/10/08/the-u-s-needs-a-solar-energy-revolution-so-why-did-federal-solar-researchers-just-lose-their-jobs/)
Title: Re: Will Renewable Energy "Solve Global Warming"?
Post by: AbruptSLR on October 09, 2015, 07:24:29 PM
The linked article indicates that the UK is cutting back on its financial support for solar energy:

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/10/daily-briefing-uk-energy-policy-slammed-as-solar-company-collapses/ (http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/10/daily-briefing-uk-energy-policy-slammed-as-solar-company-collapses/)