America’s clean energy policies need a reality check, say Stanford researchers

From Stanford University comes another head exploder for Joe Romm.

IMAGE: In the fast-globalizing clean-energy industry, the US should press its advantage in engineering, high-value manufacturing, installation and finance, writes Stanford researcher Jeffrey Ball.

America’s approach to clean energy needs to be reformed if it is to meaningfully affect energy security or the environment, according to two new articles by Stanford writers.

The debate over how to fundamentally change the world’s massive energy system comes amid taxpayers’ $500 million tab for the bankruptcy of Fremont, Calif., solar company Solyndra, the global recession, government budget cuts and plunging U.S. prices for natural gas. Making the change cost-effectively will be crucial, write Jeffrey Ball and Kassia Yanosek, both based at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.

Ball, scholar-in-residence at the Stanford center and former energy reporter and environment editor for the Wall Street Journal, writes in the current edition of Foreign Affairs that the world’s renewable-energy push has been sloppy so far. It can be fixed through a new approach that forces these technologies to become more economically efficient, he writes in the article, “Tough Love for Renewable Energy.”

“It is time to push harder for renewable power, but to push in a smarter way,” Ball writes.

Kassia Yanosek, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stanford center and a private-equity investor, writes in Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, that attempting to accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy is expensive and risky. Policymakers, says Yanosek, need to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs will require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk, often in a high-profile way.

“If government officials wish to accelerate the next energy transition, they will need a different strategy to develop an industry that can survive without major subsidies, one that prioritizes funding to commercialize decarbonized energy technologies that can compete dollar-for-dollar against carbon-based energy,” Yanosek said.

With natural gas prices so low due to huge new supplies of shale gas, besting the current energy system has become tougher.

Reinvention, not rejection

Ball writes that governments and investors have spent big money on renewable power, slashing the cost of many renewable technologies and creating jobs. And yet, he notes, modern renewables remain a very small percentage of the global energy mix.

“Wind and solar power will never reach the scale necessary to make a difference to national security or the environment unless they can be produced economically,” he writes. “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and sustainable stream of electrons.”

Taken together, the analyses by Ball and Yanosek argue for driving down the costs of key technologies and speeding up their deployment, said Dan Reicher, the executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center, launched a little more than a year ago at Stanford Law School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“This will require the right mix of targeted government policy and hard-nosed private sector investment,” said Reicher, also a Stanford law professor and business school lecturer, and formerly an assistant U.S. energy secretary and private-equity investor.

Ball, in Foreign Affairs, writes that rationalizing “the conflicting patchwork of energy subsidies that has been stitched together over the decades” is essential. Supporters of renewable energy point out that public subsidies for these technologies are a fraction of those for fossil fuels, both globally and in the United States. Realistically, Ball figures, subsidies should be examined not just in total dollar amounts, but also per unit of energy produced. This more apples-to-apples comparison would help foster an honest debate about which subsidies best promote the type of energy system countries want.

Also key to America pursuing clean energy in the most economically efficient way is for the country to exploit globalization rather than fight it, Ball writes. Despite mounting trade-war tensions with China over wind and solar power, he writes: “If the goal of the renewable-power push is a cleaner, more diversified power supply, then low-cost solar equipment, from China or anywhere else, is a good thing.”

In the fast-globalizing clean-energy industry, Ball writes, the United States should press its advantage in engineering, high-value manufacturing, installation and finance. “Much of the machinery used in Chinese solar-panel factories today is made in America,” he writes. Installation remains a domestic business, and the U.S. financial system allows homeowners to install rooftop solar panels at no upfront cost. Ball notes that two other energy shifts will be at least as important as renewable sources: cleaning up the process of burning of fossil fuels, which provide most of the world’s energy; and using energy from all sources more efficiently.

Nevertheless, Ball writes, America’s renewable-energy tax credits need to be changed. He and Yanosek agree the current credits have contributed to an inefficient, boom-and-bust approach to renewable energy.

Yanosek writes that smarter government polices could help innovative technologies overcome what she describes as the main financial barrier – the “commercialization gap.” To do this, though, politicians and taxpayers must realize that government efforts to help accelerate an energy transition will require massive and risky investments, she says. A project like building a next-generation nuclear power station or a new type of utility-scale solar thermal plant can require hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars.

The commercialization gap

After developers show that new technologies can work in prototype, they often cannot get the backing of traditional investors to build the first commercial project because the risk/return profile is not attractive to private investors, writes Yanosek, who invests in the energy sector at Quadrant Management. Such projects require more money than venture capital investors are willing to bet. But, says Yanosek, the risks of failure in such first-time projects are too great for private equity funds or corporate balance sheets.

If policymakers decide that funding commercialization is a priority, Yanosek’s article provides a roadmap for government support. First, limited public dollars would be best spent moving a bunch of promising new technologies to the next stage.

That leads to Yanosek’s next rule of the road: Government clean energy technologies must not become hostage to stimulus spending and job creation objectives. The legitimate beneficiaries of commercialization-gap support are promising but unproven technologies with no steady revenue stream. They have the potential for cutting prices, but by nature are not likely to ramp up employment significantly until after they have successfully crossed the commercialization gap.

Loan guarantees in many cases are not the best structure for funding companies that push the boundaries of cost and efficiency, Yanosek argues. Instead, the government should invest equity and thus profit proportionately when a beneficiary succeeds, setting up a revenue stream for continued funding. The funding body, furthermore, should take advantage of private-sector expertise and maintain independence from the Department of Energy, where awards can be slow in coming and may be politicized.

Ultimately, Yanosek says, policymakers and taxpayers must embrace the incremental advances and understand that there will be failures along the way. For government to push an energy transition faster than the historical pace, it cannot remove the steps, but only hope to take them more quickly.

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78 thoughts on “America’s clean energy policies need a reality check, say Stanford researchers

  1. “Instead, the government should invest equity and thus profit proportionately when a beneficiary succeeds, setting up a revenue stream for continued funding.”

    Unfortunately, the US government has no equity, only debt.

  2. The disadvantage of both wind and solar is that they are intermittent. How about alternatives to burning plants? Imagine a modest pile of hay a cow eats in a day. How far would a car run on that fuel? We need “digestive” fuel cells. Any combustion is horribly inefficient.

  3. Cheapest way to “push harder for renewable power:”

    STOP TEARING DOWN THE DAMN DAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. The die hard proponents of wind and solar are not even slightly concerned with economics. Their goal is complete conversion, regardless of the social or economic cost. Excluding the rent seekers and corporate cronies, these folks see fossil fuels as an existential threat to the planet. Cost is therefore not an issue.

    The sucess skeptics are having now is due in part to the failure of the environmental left to make even a slightly believable case for economic sense. Unfortunately, when the economy recovers we may lose this advantage.

  5. “It can be fixed through a new approach that forces these technologies to become more economically efficient, he writes in the article, “Tough Love for Renewable Energy.””

    The key word, of course, is ‘forces’. Without force this whole house of cards is a teetering economic calamity. Come to think of it, it would be WITH force as well. Next!

  6. curious george says:
    May 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

    The disadvantage of both wind and solar is that they are intermittent. How about alternatives to burning plants? Imagine a modest pile of hay a cow eats in a day. How far would a car run on that fuel? We need “digestive” fuel cells. Any combustion is horribly inefficient.

    I hope you’re kidding, but did not see a “/sarchasm” appended to your remarks. There is almost NO “real” energy in hay.

    Before fossil fuels were used, before steel and iron were smelted and processed by anything larger than hand forges and hand bellows – thus, beginning the era of railroads, we had horses (hay-fed!) and feet. (Oxen (castrated bulls) were stronger, but even slower.)

    A healthy man can walk (near continuously) at 3 miles per hour. Towns were 25 to 30 miles aprt on level ground BECAUSE 30 miles was the furthest you can travel in ONE day. (If water was available near the road, and if you were carrying (at most) a backpack or single bag. Horses are slightly faster (4 to 6 mph), but then you must feed and house and care for the horse. And pay for it of course. Horses/mules pulling carts? Slightly faster than oxen, but about the same as a man walking.

    To get from St Louis to Oregon? Start in late April or early May. Arrive before October, or you spend the winter trapped in the mountains, eating your dead.

    Plan on taking only one wagon load, or just about the capacity of one SUV.

  7. “Wind and solar power will never reach the scale necessary to make a difference to national security or the environment unless they can be produced economically,” he writes. “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and sustainable stream of electrons.”

    They hit the nail on the there and then back away from the obvious conclusion that neither wind nor solar can be produced economically and neither wind nor solar can produce without backups. They aren’t affordable, convenient, or secure. They may be “sustainable” but I’ve never been quite sure what that means.

  8. “Ball, in Foreign Affairs, writes that rationalizing “the conflicting patchwork of energy subsidies that has been stitched together over the decades” is essential. Supporters of renewable energy point out that public subsidies for these technologies are a fraction of those for fossil fuels, both globally and in the United States. ”

    A lie.

  9. Well, that was a load of….. nothing. A purely political polemic. No substance. No solutions. No answer as to HOW. Just a load of “this is the course we must set” B.S.

    OK makes sense. ‘Let’s get away from combustion as the powerhouse of the world.’ I agree. ‘Don’t let’s force it too fast.’ Great idea. ‘Let it develop on its own time’ OK. ‘Let the market drive it so it becomes competitive.’ On and on ad nauseum.

    This is what truckers used to refer to as hauling Volkswagon radiators (in the days when the old Beetle was the only VW – and they didn’t HAVE radiators).

  10. “America’s approach to clean energy needs to be reformed if it is to meaningfully affect energy security or the environment, according to two new articles by Stanford writers”
    ————————————-
    How about just providing energy at reasonable prices?

  11. From your title it would be easy to draw the conclusion that developing alternative energy facilities is not a great idea. But the authors of this study are, in fact, arguing for an even greater use of these technologies. To support this effort they propose policy adjustments such as diminishing support for fossil fuel energy systems and increasing support for the newer, less polluting, technologies. They contend that we should be prepared to buy our cheaper solar panels, (for example) from the Chinese, or wherever they are built. It should also be noted that the economics of developing alternative, nonpolluting technologies will be enhanced when we tax carbon.

  12. My chickens have tiny brains but even they understand the situation surrounding energy security and natural gas…………..cheep,cheep,cheep!

  13. How does this conflict with Joe Romm’s general positions aside from being pro-nuclear (where Joe is in the minority)?

    Perhaps someone could post links to the Foreign Affairs and Daedalus articles. Both sound interesting.

  14. Taphonomic says:
    May 2, 2012 at 11:05 am

    “They may be “sustainable” but I’ve never been quite sure what that means.”

    It means, with generational turnover, we can always find new lemmings to subsidize loser technologies. Or, in the immortal words of P.T. Barnum, a sucker is born every minute.

  15. Quicker version, let’s just pile up a bunch of money and set it on fire, at least that will keep us warm for a little while.

  16. Jeffrey Ball, please list public subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, name those instances where tax-payer dollars are actually going to those industries. Do not include tax breaks in which a company merely does not pay a tax on a profit, or gets a lower tax rate, or gets to write off actual costs in the year they are incurred, or gets to write off expenses faster. Also, do not include tax credits where a company only gets actual taxes due reduced. Foregoing taxes on profits and allowing the expensing of costs are not subsidies. I repeat, only name those instances where real money goes to the company from the tax-payer.
    Jay Davis

  17. Steven Chu runs a big money giveaway program like a lot of other Federal money truck programs that are clearly designed to throw money in many directions in direct opposition to anything approaching strategy or goal attainment. It amazes me how political policy of energy programs is confused by casual observers as anything meaningful. It is 100 percent show and spread politics with no real thought given to outcomes, industries, or relative chance for success. It is the opposite of due dilligence for good reason and those agencies that pretend to perform due dilligence are wasting more money. The incompetence of the program designs largely confirm that they really don’t care about anything more than appearances.

  18. I think the list of oil company subsidies is located the same place as all those oil company checks the “Deniers” are getting… in fetid liberal wet dreams.

  19. All the Dollars we give to the Chinese for solar panels they will use to build coal plants.

  20. If China gave solar panels away, solar would still be uneconomical. The costs of installation and maintenance (including cleaning) are and will continue to be the stumbling blocks, and when the panels reach the end of their 25-year life (each year of which they fall in solar efficiency), and free replacement solar panels are installed, they will still be uneconomical. If you need one unit of solar power, you must install the capacity to produce ten. Half the time (called night) there is no production; half of daytime there is low and intermittent production because of low sun angle; when you reach the sweet spot of midday there may be vastly reduced production because of weather, or because you happen to be in the hemisphere not favored by the Sun for half of each year.

    For wind, if you need one unit of electrical power you must install the capacity to produce five, and since you don’t know when and how much power you will get, you must provide 100% spinning back-up (mirroring generating capacity using natural gas turbines) and/or even more expensive, continuously accessible storage able to mirror power fluctuations and provide total replacement when the wind stops.

    Improved technology will not make the Sun shine brighter or the winds blow stronger and more reliably. Solar efficiency is abysmal and could be improved, but installation and maintenance won’t disappear, and we’ll still be stuck with day and night and seasonal variation. Plus with both solar and wind there would be enormous damage and long recovery periods if they are struck by powerful earthquakes or storms.

    Continued exploitation of fossil fuels – China loves our coal, and India soon will, and we’re fracking enough oil and gas to last many more lifetimes – plus applying our “advantage in engineering, high-value manufacturing, installation and finance” to nuclear will get us to advances in power production that can never be attained from solar and wind. China and India have already taken this route and are investing heavily into research to meet their future enormous energy needs through Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technologies. The US should too, since we developed and tested LFTR successfully over sixty years ago.

    Lawrence Livermore Labs are developing SSTAR (small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSTAR that can be installed in neighborhoods (set and forget) and replaced every thirty years. This unit would be even more effective if paired with LFTR.

    The future is here, and it isn’t wind, solar, or biomass.

  21. As long as there is no effort by the government to develop LFTR technology I will know without doubt that all the money spent on wind and solar is nothing more than a giant boondoggle.

  22. For nonrenewables, 200+ years of coal, 100-140 of gas, nuke takes 1 million years to become nonradioactive. Solar and wind are intermittant. Add in the 3-4 year per battery set and the solar means 6-8 battery systems with one set of panels. The greenies never figure in battery costs or disposable into their warm and fuzzy feelings about renewables. We clean up coal and it is still the longterm supplier of power. Do not confuse oil with energy for electrons because there are virtually no oil/diesel generators out there except for backup power. Don’t forget oil shale we have at least 100 years of that also.

  23. Supporting R&D is one thing but forget this subsidy nonsense.

    Obama’s Epic Green Fail

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/04/obamas_epic_green_fail.html

    Excerpt:
    …what has actually happened since Obama took office.
    • SunPower, after receiving $1.5 billion from DOE, is reorganizing, cutting jobs.
    • First Solar, after receiving $1.46 billion from DOE, is reorganizing, cutting jobs.
    • Solyndra, after receiving $535 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Ener1, after receiving $118.5 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Evergreen Solar, after receiving millions of dollars from the state of Massachusetts, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • SpectraWatt, backed by Intel and Goldman Sachs, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Beacon Power, after receiving $43 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Abound Solar, after receiving $400 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Amonix, after receiving $5.9 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Babcock & Brown (an Australian company), after receiving $178 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • A123 Systems, after receiving $279 million from DOE, shipped some bad batteries and is barely operating. It cut jobs.
    • Solar Trust for America, after receiving a $2.1-billion loan guarantee from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
    • Nevada Geothermal, after receiving $98.5 million from DOE, warns of potential defaults in new SEC filings.

    And that’s a partial list.  Can Obama and the DOE pick ‘em, or what?

  24. “Realistically, Ball figures, subsidies should be examined not just in total dollar amounts, but also per unit of energy produced. This more apples-to-apples comparison would help foster an honest debate about which subsidies best promote the type of energy system countries want.”
    ===========
    Here in the United States, the “country” is supposed to answer to it citizens.
    Just an FYI.

  25. It looks like a good, well-thought out article, and echoes a lot of what I’ve been saying in the same general context. Carbon taxes and the like are nonsense, especially given the lack of urgency suggested by 12 years or more of level temperatures and a sound physical mechanism connected to impeccable data that explains at a level even most warmists can appreciate why they’ve been level and why they might be expected to actually descend, at least in the short run. At the same time, as the article notes, what the world needs is a “dependable, safe, economical stream of electrons”.

    I personally think that it is peachy keen for the US to fund all sorts of research into the basic science and technology that will eventually make the “problem” of carbon go away (whether or not you think that it is a problem). Eventually will almost certainly be soon enough because although the GHE will almost certainly add differential warming to whatever the natural temperature of the planet might have been without it, there is little evidence of a runaway positive feedback catastrophe leading to boiling oceans and other hyperbolic nonsense. Will another 1 to 1.5 C of warming cause catastrophe? Unlikely, but perhaps it would be better to avoid it if we can, and inside 20 to 30 years we can and will, not because of panic-driven political action but because non-carbon based energy resources make economic sense. There are many things being looked at that might bring this about far sooner, actually — I’m hoping to go to a colloquium talk at Duke this upcoming week on the physics of inexpensive selective filter and lens panels that could basically increase the cost-efficiency of solar cells by as much as an order of magnitude right away — think “Fresnel Lens”, but one that selectively focuses only the useful wavelengths to minimize heat delivery and maximize light delivery. And Anthony has already published top articles on things like developments in zinc-air cells (and not published related articles on lithium-air cells) that, if they come to fruition, could increase the energy storage capacity of batteries by an order of magnitude or more without memory effects.

    To put it another way, science and engineering are ultimately both our source of future wealth (if one doesn’t buy the CAGW scenario) or our salvation (if you do) — either way, they are the key to having our cake and eating it too, maintaining civilization while no longer mining out ever more carbon to burn. In the long run, well-done science will even answer the questions about just how the climate does work, maybe, if the answer is within our computational and evidence-based grasp yet.

    Research of this sort almost always pays off even if it is in unexpected ways. Speaking as one who goes through some 2-3 complete replacement batteries in the lifetime of his primary laptops, I find the memory effect and relatively low power storage rates of current commercial-grade batteries to be enormously expensive and annoying. Give me a laptop that runs for a full day on an hour’s charge and that can stand 10,000 charge cycles and I’d be very happy indeed quite independent of all of the other huge benefits to this sort of technology.

    Perhaps this is the sort of thing that can produce a rare consensus between climate skeptics and CAGW warmists. Carbon taxes and sequestration measures are economically absurd — even the warmists acknowledge that they won’t do the job (if you catch them offguard and ask it in a way that gives them an excuse to tell you about all of the other draconian interventions into personal freedom that will be required:-). To solve the “problem” of too much CO_2 in the atmosphere will require serious advances in science and engineering, this is one place where government funded research makes sense and has historically been productive of some of the best ideas and products the world has ever seen. Adding some economists to the mix wouldn’t hurt as well, as cost-benefit analysis has been sadly lacking throughout.

    Anyway, lovely article.

    rgb

  26. Some say the US is “broke”. But don’t they recognize the US Government will have to somehow come up with over $15 Trillion just to get BACK to “broke”?

    Apparently not.

  27. The Greenies also omit how much environmental damage is caused mining the rare earth materials needed for batteries or the fact that most of the miners are virtually slaves of their ChiCom overlords. Although I think quite a bit comes from Canada, the same country who we won’t buy tar sand oil from. Greeney-weenies are either staggeringly dumb or evil, I’m not sure which it is yet.

  28. Kassia Yanosek, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stanford center and a private-equity investor, writes in Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, that attempting to accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy is expensive and risky. Policymakers, says Yanosek, need to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs will require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk, often in a high-profile way.

    Still this ‘fixation’ (navel-gazing) on eliminating the use of carbon-based fuels with a vaporous ‘fix’ relying on some nebulous government-backed ‘tech’ solution; this will still not end well (anymore than it has been successful TO DATE dating back to the efforts inaugurated during the CARTER ADMINISTRATION) …

    Paraphrasing: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” -G. Santayana

    .

  29. polistra says:
    May 2, 2012 at 10:59 am
    Cheapest way to “push harder for renewable power:”

    STOP TEARING DOWN THE DAMN DAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ==============================
    Have any of them even mentioned hydopower? It has a proven track record. I’m sure there a plenty of dams that could be retrofited with turbines …. and when’s the last time a dam went bankrupt?

  30. There was a great book published in the UK many years ago called “Plain Words” by Sir Earnest Gowers. I tried to follow its lessons for years. I often found that when I had removed all the fancy words and complex sentences that, in fact, I had very little of value to say.

    I recommend that book to the authors of this report.

  31. Why on earth would we want to double down on stupid? Wind and solar are proven losers. How much more failure do we need to see? The authors state, ‘Ultimately, Yanosek says, policymakers and taxpayers must embrace the incremental advances and understand that there will be failures along the way. For government to push an energy transition faster than the historical pace, it cannot remove the steps, but only hope to take them more quickly.”

    Incremental advances will leave us with a litany of useless sources of unreliable, and expensive energy. they continue…

    Ball notes that two other energy shifts will be at least as important as renewable sources: cleaning up the process of burning of fossil fuels, which provide most of the world’s energy; and using energy from all sources more efficiently.

    More stupidity. How do they imagine weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels? In what fantasy land can this occur? There are no batteries large enough to operate substations of any size. This means to withdraw from the grid and have the batteries for home use….. and that’s fine for a home. Now operate a huge auto manufacturing plant….. or our huge office buildings in the cities. What battery is invented to facilitate this? It isn’t going to happen. So, back to the hodgepodge of useless “alternative energy” solutions. Finally, the authors used the word efficient or a derivative 5 times. There is no “efficient” solution by embracing these toys. Not on the grid and not economically. But, that’s understandable, because their understanding of “efficient” is different than rational people.

    Click here for the two competing views of efficient. An Alarmist Version of Efficiency

  32. A huge problem in the logic of the article is demonstrated in the quote Jim cited just above me:
    ‘Policymakers, says Yanosek, need to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs will require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk, often in a high-profile way.”

    This is very wrong-headed. An intelligent policy would emphasize evolutionary, not revolutionary development. For example, there are several recent-generation nuclear power plant designs which are far safer than those currently in use. Another would be investing in new refinery capacity in the US. It should also offer prizes (as suggested by Jerry Pournelle) for “firsts,” such as the first commercially viable solar power satellite, or fusion power plant. Prizes can be quite economic in that funds are only spent in the case of demonstrated success, as opposed to Solyndra-style fiascos, or the decades-long dependence of wind generators on government subsidies.

  33. “Such projects require more money than venture capital investors are willing to bet. But, says Yanosek, the risks of failure in such first-time projects are too great for private equity funds or corporate balance sheets.”

    If private equity wont invest in it, then it’s probably not a good investment.

  34. As I said before, don’t send your kids to Stanford.
    What a piece of crap.
    Renewable power as we know it today sucks. Period

  35. “Loan guarantees in many cases are not the best structure for funding companies that push the boundaries of cost and efficiency, Yanosek argues. Instead, the government should invest equity and thus profit proportionately when a beneficiary succeeds, setting up a revenue stream for continued funding. The funding body, furthermore, should take advantage of private-sector expertise and maintain independence from the Department of Energy, where awards can be slow in coming and may be politicized.”
    =======================================================
    Yanosek is essentially stating the US Government should have a “funding body” that acts as a venture capital/private equity firm. Not surprising given Yanosek’s background. There are tremendous problems with this, for example, even more state owned businesses. Then again, given our government’s inability to pick winners the net result is likely the loss of money just like the loan guarantees.

  36. Oh didn’t you get the memo? Hydropower is no longer green becuase.. well.. because it works I guess. They’ll blather on about modifying eco systems or killing spotted pond scum or something, but if beavers can get away with it why not people? Because it isn’t about being “green” it’s about limiting the options of Americans and imposing the will of a Socialist Elite Oligarchy who “knows what’s best”. How best to impose your will on the masses? Limit their mobility and increase their dependency on the government by regulating anything that can be regulated.

  37. majormike1 says:
    May 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Improved technology will not make the Sun shine brighter or the winds blow stronger and more reliably.

    That is a nicely succinct summary of why wind/solar will never be major sources of energy, unless we regress back to 18th century per-capita energy consumption rates.

    We have more coal/oil/natural gas than we thought we did even 10 years ago. That will carry us for a long time, but not long enough for bureaucrats’ “rationally-determined targeted technologies” to produce any new breakthrough energy source, and certainly not long enough for wind/solar to be viable.

    Thermodynamic efficiency for combustion-based electrical generation ranges from around 35% to over 60% depending on the fuel and technology used; improvements are still possible but increasingly less significant. With more of the world’s population expecting the material quality of life an energy-intensive economy enables, we either increase the fossil fuels we burn significantly, or we find new energy source(s) at least one order of magnitude denser than we have now (and plentiful).

    None of the so-called renewable energy sources equal the energy density of current fossil fuels, let alone offer any hope of exceeding them. They are therefore a dead-end, only worth exploring as a temporary emergency response to a scarcity of better fuels. Subsidizing renewables in the hope it will spur development beyond the need for fossil fuels is like chopping off your own feet with the expectation it will better motivate you to learn how to fly.

  38. Well the Government, and its Department of Energy, has so far produced not one Joule of energy availability. Well we know they’ve produced no energy, since energy is conserved; but neither have they made any available that wasn’t prior to their interference with the industry. And so far, atom optical trapper expert Steven Chu, has not demonstrated any special skills at making energy available either; even with all the microbes and yeasts at his disposal.
    But we MUST “invest” in green energy, becausae of all the millions of green jobs it will create. President Obama says it will, and Nancy Pelosi says it will; many more jobs they claim than the oil industry.
    “Invest” in this case means taking MY money (and yours) that I (and also you) planned to invest in something of my own choosing; but instead it will go to “invest” in those millions of green jobs.

    Well it has to of course, because I, and a whole bunch of other people am/are not about to “invest” in “green” renewable energy.

    The secret is in that claim of those millions of jobs; well of course I believe those claims; which is why I don’t want to “invest” in them.

    Hey ! Earth to Obama; Earth to Pelosi; it costs REAL MONEY to pay people to DO JOBS.

    If “green renewable” energy was economically viable IT WOULD PRODUCE FAR FEWER JOBS than exist in the petroleum industry it seeks to replace.

    Economic progress is made BY ELIMINATING JOBS !!

    Now this has typically come about by having free enterprise create entirely new industries and technologies to replace the drudgery jobs that preceded them.

    So if Pelosi/Obama et al, are being honest with us that they plan to create oodles of new energy jobs; it stands to reason, that that energy is going to cost more; not less, than existing readily available sources of energy.

  39. curious george says:
    May 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

    The disadvantage of both wind and solar is that they are intermittent. How about alternatives to burning plants? Imagine a modest pile of hay a cow eats in a day. How far would a car run on that fuel? We need “digestive” fuel cells. Any combustion is horribly inefficient.
    ______________________________
    “We need “digestive” fuel cells.” That is the cow/sheep/goat. Take the poop and make methane gas, then eat the cow.

  40. oh, another article explaining how there’s a preferred way to steal – more tough and more love.
    the issue is important – what’s the best way to steal the most. (stealing is taken for granted, no pun intended, by all parties)
    professional thieves are sharing progressive ideas at all the best universities. but the work of a predator doesn’t stop when he leaves the think tank – he takes it home because it’s not just a living – it is his life.
    one afternoon, i watched a stanford professor, who had a few grad students over to his home to indulge their sycophancies and get some manual labor out of them cleaning the yard, bestow upon the malleable minds of yoot his most profound ideology. 3 lines are etched in my memory- the 3 pillars of postmodern subjectivism:
    1- there is no such thing as an absolute (the students did not notice he just uttered one)
    2- you can’t really know anything because you can’t know everything. (the students didn’t wonder how he could know this.) (a well abused perversion of goedel whose lesson was really “enlarge the freakin context’)
    3- reality is a matter of opinion. (the students will eventually understand that supremacy of opinion depends on force and fraud (consensus) rather than truth)

    these are the 3 main weapons used to cripple a man’s ability to perform logic and reason.
    how well they have worked. not one man in a thousand who won’t swallow that poison with a smile and feed it to his children.

  41. Sun Spot says:
    May 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

    The biggest problem is the huge subsidies for fighting WARs !!!
    _______________________________
    Do you home work first before making such a statement (I also want the USA out of other people’s business BTW)

    The bigest chunk of the federal budget is actually PENSIONS. Forbes states: “State and local unfunded pension liabilities and health benefits for retirees” has a gaping range, anywhere from $1.2 trillion-$4.4 trillion, or 8%-29% of GDP. and that does not include the federal pensions (This is not SS or welfare)
    For the federal government, 2012 pensions are 16% of the spending while defense is 14% chart

  42. majormike1 says: @ May 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    …..China and India have already taken this route and are investing heavily into research to meet their future enormous energy needs through Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technologies. The US should too, since we developed and tested LFTR successfully over sixty years ago.

    Lawrence Livermore Labs are developing SSTAR (small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSTAR that can be installed in neighborhoods (set and forget) and replaced every thirty years. This unit would be even more effective if paired with LFTR.

    The future is here, and it isn’t wind, solar, or biomass.
    _______________________________
    I already talked to my Energy Coop about installing SSTAR type reactors. The guy at the counter had been to a seminar.

  43. David Larsen says:
    May 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    …..nuke takes 1 million years to become nonradioactive….
    ____________________________
    Not for thorium. Unlike uranium, it doesn’t produce plutonium.

    Q: What is nuclear waste and how does a liquid-fluoride reactor address this issue?

    A: So-called “nuclear waste” or spent-nuclear fuel is produced in conventional (solid-core) nuclear reactors because they are unable to extract all of the nuclear energy from their fuel before they have to shutdown. LFTR addresses this issue by using a form of nuclear fuel (liquid-fluoride salts of thorium) that allow complete extraction of nuclear energy from the fuel. http://energyfromthorium.com/faq/

    LFTR — Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor
    Much Less Nuclear Waste

    A LFTR’s waste is safe within 350 years. To produce 1 gigawatt electricity for a year, takes 800kg of thorium or uranium/plutonium waste. 83% of the fission byproducts are safe in 10 years, 17% (135 kg, 300 lbs) within 350 years, no uranium or plutonium left as waste. After that, radiation is below background radiation levels. (Compare to 250,000kg uranium to make 35,000kg enriched uranium for a solid-fueled reactor, all needing storage for 100,000+ years.)
    Can Consume Nuclear Waste

    Instead of thorium, a LFTR can use uranium or plutonium waste, from other reactors. 800kg of nuclear waste would work in the same reactor instead of 800kg thorium, with same fission byproducts, same electrical output. Convert 800kg to be stored for 100,000+ years, to 135kg for 350 years…. http://liquidfluoridethoriumreactor.glerner.com/

    More technical info on Small Nuclear Power Reactors from World Nuclear Association

    History of thorium reactors: http://energyfromthorium.com/history.html

    E.M. Smith’s comment with links (Thorium can be used in existing nuclear power plants)

  44. what is an ‘entrepreneur- in- residence’? If he were a true entrepreneur and put his money were his mouth is and used his entrepreneurial skills to create that of which he writes he may be a little more credible

  45. John from CA says:
    May 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Supporting R&D is one thing but forget this subsidy nonsense.

    Obama’s Epic Green Fail

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/04/obamas_epic_green_fail.html

    …..And that’s a partial list. Can Obama and the DOE pick ‘em, or what?
    _____________________________________
    What every one seems to forget is that 80% of new businesses FAIL within the first five years. Why the heck should I pay taxes so someone else does not have to take the financial risk I took to start my business? Heck THEY walk away with a pocket full of money even if they go belly up.

    I have no problem investing in something like nuclear which has a proven track record of continuous out put of energy, or damns for hydro but forget solar and wind. They are boondoggles from the get go as is biofuel.

  46. First, please note that I am not the lowercase “curious george” that post’s here from time to time.

    Second and to the point of this thread, the WHO seems to have a problem with the AGW/Climate Change agenda.

    From: GWPF http://thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/goklany-public_health.pdf

    ” Executive Summary
    Global Warming Does Not Currently Rank Among the Top Public Health
    Threats
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 141,000 deaths and 5.4
    million lost Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) in 2004 to global warming.
    This is only 0.2% of all deaths and 0.4% of the burden of disease (Figure 1;
    WHO 2008a, 2009).
    • This estimate, however, does not account for the health outcomes that
    are the major contributors to the long-known phenomenon of excess winter
    mortality (see Table 1).
    • Deaths from excess winter mortality in Japan and the U.S. alone (about
    159,000 per year) exceed deaths currently attributed to global warming
    (141,000 per year) (Table 4).
    • WHO analysis indicates that at least 22 other health risks currently outrank
    global warming as a global public health threat (based on data for 2004)
    (Figure 1; WHO 2009).
    • Global warming would exacerbate existing diseases of poverty rather
    than create any significant new health risks. More than 99.9% of the
    burdens of death and disease attributed to global warming by WHO are in
    developing countries (Figure 1, WHO 2009). “

  47. @ Gail Combs says:
    May 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Sun Spot says:
    May 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

    The biggest problem is the huge subsidies for fighting WARs !!!
    _______________________________
    Do you home work first before making such a statement (I also want the USA out of other people’s business BTW)

    The history of the world is the history of violent conflict. Even ants wage war. Both of you need to get used to the idea.

  48. polistra says: @ May 2, 2012 at 10:59 am
    Cheapest way to “push harder for renewable power:”

    STOP TEARING DOWN THE DAMN DAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ==============================
    Gunga Din says: @ May 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm
    Have any of them even mentioned hydopower? It has a proven track record. I’m sure there a plenty of dams that could be retrofited with turbines …. and when’s the last time a dam went bankrupt?
    =============================
    Dams hurt the little fishies so dams are not “Green”!

    It seems the watermelons do not like ANY type of energy: Sierra Club, NRDC Sue Feds To Stop Big California Solar Power Project. And that is the KEY point. that is missing in this article. Zombie has their philosophy nailed.

    …Stewart Brand said this in the “Whole Earth Catalog” back in the Seventies;

    “We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us back into the Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valleys, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion- happy at last!”

    (quoted in “All the Trouble in the World” by P.J. O’Rourke.)

    The deep-eco dream is a Stone Age agrarian socialist culture, with themselves as the nobility, living in their fortresses, and the rest of us (whom they graciously allow to survive) as the serfs, living in mud huts…

    You can see that philosophy shining through this interview.

    …I had the opportunity a few days ago of talking to a bright young anti-nuclear activist about the way Fukushima has helped the anti-nuclear cause….

    He said that the ideology of sustainability and anti-nuclearism was so important for the future of humanity that facts should be of no concern. Moreover: if the invention of fake information (i.e. lies) about nuclear energy could bring closer the day of elimination of nuclear power from the earth, then that meant that producing and spreading fake information should (and indeed was) a top priority of all anti-nuclear groups.

    So then I asked him why he thought that it was moral and defensible to lie to people. He said that people in general cannot and do not base their views and opinions on facts, so the value of facts versus fiction was relative. In order to bring about the disired outcome (i.e. a nuclear free world) fiction could be (and in fact was, in his opinion) a much better way to do it then facts.

    Finally, I asked him why he thought nuclear power should be eliminated even after he told me that he agreed that nuclear power was good for the economy. His reply was simply that an additional goal of the antinuclear movement (as far as he was concerned) was in fact the reduction of economic activity, since according to him, the greatest cause of ecological damage was increased economic activity.

    So in his mind, the fact that nuclear power was a boon for the economy was all the more reason to try to eliminate it. In closing, I told him that a reduction in economic activity would also reduce his own prospects for a high quality of life and prosperity. But he didn’t agree with me. He said that further economic expansion was of no use to him, because he believed in living a simple life…..

    http://atomicinsights.com/2012/03/conversation-with-an-anti-society-antinuclear-activist.html

  49. So-called “renewable energy” sources turn out to involve polluting mining or noise and bird-slicing side effects.
    Besides, there is SUPERRENEWABLE energy using carbon nanorads from deep within the earth (oil) and coal and gas: once you burn them, they become renewable energy such as wood. So you get new renewable energy that didn’t exist until you released it from long confinement.

    All life forms come from the reduction of carbon dioxide. Thus, the major side effect of carbon-fuels is MORE LIFE ON EARTH. I want that side effect; I want it badly; and I fight for it here on this site.

  50. Massive subsudies cannot over come basic physics. Photovoltaics produce a measily 1.5 watts per sq ft at 1.5 volts for at most 40% of a 24 hr day. The lowest cost ‘solar cells’ are semi-pure Silicon crystal sheets with Boron & Phosporus embedded. Solar photons excite the one ‘excess’ Boron outer shell electron which exits the cell as one way direct current. This is molecular erosion, a process that is COMPLETELY exhausted in 20 years. To produce one ton of Silicon you also produce eight tons of toxic waste Ammonium Chloridadized Silicon waste. That is why one reason OSHA & EPA restriced plants in the US cannot compete with the Chinese slave colony. To get the one ton of semi-pure and eight tons of toxic Silicon you must mine a HUNDRED tons of total Earth material. Photovoltaic can never produce 1/10th of the original fossil fuel investment energy. Read “Green Prince of Darkness” for more on this, chemical storage batteries and the less-than-permanent magnets needed for Direct Drive motors and generators. We have been lied to about everything. Beware of the college grant weasels.

  51. “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and sustainable stream of electrons.”
    ——————————————————–
    I’m probably the ninth person to clip and post this, but those two sentences are the essence of renewable power. Governments have their eye on the wrong ball.

  52. I think Stanford needs to put their money where their mouth is and power everything on their campus (including SLAC) solely with renewable energy. Lets see how well they can run their energy intensive university with the systems they propose for the rest of us.

  53. “”””” Faux Science Slayer says:

    May 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Massive subsudies cannot over come basic physics. Photovoltaics produce a measily 1.5 watts per sq ft at 1.5 volts for at most 40% of a 24 hr day. The lowest cost ‘solar cells’ are semi-pure Silicon crystal sheets with Boron & Phosporus embedded. Solar photons excite the one ‘excess’ Boron outer shell electron which exits the cell as one way direct current. This is molecular erosion, a process that is COMPLETELY exhausted in 20 years. “””””

    You need to find some better issues of Popular Mechanics to read. Readily available Silicon solar cells routinely produce 15 Watts per square foot in standard sunlight, and furthermore their optimum matched load Voltage is 0.5 Volts; not 1.5 Volts.

    As for them being made out of “semi-pure” silicon; even the lousiest of silicon solar cells, are far more pure than anything the EPA or the FDA will allow to be sold in any supermarket or drug store; and electrons don’t “exit” a solar cell; they pass through it.

    You and Myrrh should get together for a Science Jamboree.

  54. Gail Combs says:
    May 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm
    Sun Spot says:
    May 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

    The biggest problem is the huge subsidies for fighting WARs !!!
    _______________________________
    Do you home work first before making such a statement (I also want the USA out of other people’s business BTW)

    The bigest chunk of the federal budget is actually PENSIONS. Forbes states: “State and local unfunded pension liabilities and health benefits for retirees” has a gaping range, anywhere from $1.2 trillion-$4.4 trillion, or 8%-29% of GDP. and that does not include the federal pensions (This is not SS or welfare)
    For the federal government, 2012 pensions are 16% of the spending while defense is 14% chart
    —————————————————–
    Pensions and health care will crush America. And when interest rates go up, financing government debt will take over.

    Also, the US, like many countries, uses its military as a form of employment. Cut the military and you have a large number of young men and women with little to no life skills looking for work. So tread lightly when you criticize the military. Many people leave the military well-trained and very disciplined.

  55. Curiousgeorge says:
    May 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    “• The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 141,000 deaths and 5.4
    million lost Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) in 2004 to global warming.
    This is only 0.2% of all deaths and 0.4% of the burden of disease (Figure 1;
    WHO 2008a, 2009).”

    It would be interesting to know exactly what causes of death and disability are deemed responsible for those stats and how they are related to the temperature state of the planet. As far as I can tell the only deaths attributable to GW are those that have resulted from the ill-considered and futile attempts to respond to a CO2 crisis which does not exist

  56. Steve from Rockwood says:
    May 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    ….Also, the US, like many countries, uses its military as a form of employment. Cut the military and you have a large number of young men and women with little to no life skills looking for work. So tread lightly when you criticize the military. Many people leave the military well-trained and very disciplined.
    _________________________________
    I have no problem with a good size standing army. It keeps the bullies in line. (I am very much against closing military bases) However I do have a problem with the lives of our young people being wasted in third world hell-holes where we have no business being in the first place. Especially when the real reason is so bankers/military contractors can make oodles of money off the deaths of others.

    I was an Army wife during ‘Nam where the military was completely hamstrung by the idiots in DC. There were a lot of very angry officers in that war.

  57. Solar thermal energy does not work. It has to be where it is mostly sunny, needs a lot of water, and near the sites where the electricity is needed. That makes it a very limited application.

    Solar panels and wind turbines are useless for anything but ancillary energy at the end user, to take load off the grid but not to supply the main power of the grid. Wind turbines are so 1700s and there is a reason they never took off. They need to can the wind farms as simply too expensive, unreliable, and environmentally damaging. Solar panels need much more maintenance that is generally mentioned and also terribly ungreen. These are the least green forms of energy.

    YOU CANNOT BUILD A RELIABLE ENERGY SUPPLY FROM UNRELIABLE ENERGY SOURCES.

  58. Lady Life Grows says:
    May 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    ….All life forms come from the reduction of carbon dioxide. Thus, the major side effect of carbon-fuels is MORE LIFE ON EARTH. I want that side effect; I want it badly; and I fight for it here on this site.
    ____________________________
    It is interesting that the use of commercial fertilizers started in the 1850’s. Irrigation started even earlier. Hybridizing was practiced in the late 1800’s and the use of herbicides and pesticides in the 1940s. It looks like at least part of the increase in grain yields today is probably due to CO2 fertilization.

    In 1830 5 acres yielded 100 bushels of wheat and 2-1/2 acres was required to produce 100 bushels of corn.

    By 1910 to 1920 The average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer was 6,116,700 tons. However in 1930 it still took 2-1/2 acres to produce 100 bushels of corn, and 5 acres was still required to produce 100 bushels of wheat.

    By 1945 it was down to 2 ac for the 100 bushels of corn. In 1955 it was down to 4 ac for the 100 bushels of wheat. (Pesticides and herbicides?)

    By 1965 it was further reduced to 3 1/3 acres for wheat and by 1975 3 acres (wheat). In 1975 to produce 100 bushels of corn only took 1-1/8 acres. (data from link)

    HYBRIDIZING
    The proposal for hybrid maize was made by G.H. Shull in 1909

    …The first historically recorded interpecies cereal hybrid was actually between wheat and rye (Wilson, 1876). By the late 1930s with the advent of colchicine, perennial grasses were being hybridized with wheat with the aim of transferring disease resistance and perenniality into annual crops, and large-scale practical use of hybrids was well established, leading on to development of Triticosecale and other new cereal crops…. link

    Pesticides and herbicides

    …An emergence in pesticide use began after World War II with the introduction of DDT, BHC, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, and 2,4-D. These new chemicals were inexpensive, effective, and enormously popular. DDT was especially favored for its broad-spectrum activity against insect pests of agriculture and human health. 2,4-D was an inexpensive and effective way to control weeds in grass crops such as corn…. link

  59. From the article
    “If policymakers decide that funding commercialization is a priority, Yanosek’s article provides a roadmap for government support. First, limited public dollars would be best spent moving a bunch of promising new technologies to the next stage.”

    NO! NO! NO!
    many of the bloggers here get it while the univesity professors and the DOE, etc. do not!

    The problem is that half baked concepts are moved to the next stage when the basic research and the “foundation” has not been completed. Just look at the list of failures outlined.

    Having worked on numerous energy development jobs including alterrnative fuels, it has become clear that failure is the natural result when all the research and economics have not been properly sorted out. Investments should focus on the basic research, moving to the next stage is very expensive and failure guranteed using the subsidized route since “it’s not my money” The government cannot pick sucesses and primarily uses the procedure to “subsidize my bundlers”

    And by the way it time to give up on solar and windmills since the laws of physics and chemisty put a low upper bound on energy production barring a huge breakthrough in the Lab, which is highly unlikely. As some point a smart person realizes that you cannot get blood out of a stone.

    If there is a real breakthrough in alternative energy I predict it will not be any of the current ones being pushed by the government. It will be something we never expected like nuclear energy was.

    BTW the fossil fuel business is discovering and and applying new technologies every day that should make wind and solar ashamed of their meager accomplishments. Think fracturing, deep water drilling, horizontal drilling, catalyst developments, geological technologies that pinpoint promising reserves, oil sand extraction, coal liqufaction, gas to liquid conversion, gasification, and who knows what next.
    The large energy companies are not chasing red herrings, they generally know not to go to the next stage until it is demonstrated technology and economically viable. Believe me, I have worked on and witnessed many challenging projects cancelled before investing and loosing a fortune.
    All this without government subsidies!!

  60. Gail Combs says:
    May 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm
    ————————————
    There are a lot of idiots in DC.
    Great posts Gail. Keep them coming.

    One issue that annoys me is the switch from R&D funding to subsidy when a technology isn’t ready. I’m OK with the R&D funding from government tax dollars but why introduce a technology (wind turbine or solar panel) that costs 5-10 times more when commercialized. Put that subsidy back into the technology and only implement it when it is competitive.

  61. The disadvantage of both wind and solar is that they are intermittent.

    A bigger problem with solar is seasonality (outside the tropics of course).

    I live in a very sunny place. Summer cloud cover is less than 10%. My rooftop PV system produces 8 to 10 kwh pretty much every day in summer. But come winter that falls to 2khw on a sunny day, and on cloudy/rainy days less than 1kwh. And perhaps half the winter days are cloudy.

  62. “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and
    sustainable stream of electrons.””
    Why electrons?
    Far before electricity shortage becomes a problem, whe are facing a rapidly growing severe shortage of conventional liquid fuel that is critical to transport (aka “peak oil”). That is now beginning to force us to alternative fuels including producing fuels from bitumen, heavy oil, coal, gas etc.
    See production for north sea, Texas and global.

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8859#comment-867448

    See 13% decline in Available Net Exports (after China & India) since 2005.

  63. Prior to the invention of the steam engine, water power was always preferred over wind power. The reason Holland had lots of windmills is it is flat, and water power wasn’t an option.

    The most neglected, but most viable way of producing ‘renewable’ energy in much of the world is small scale low head and micro-hydro (see the wikipedia pages). If you want to spend R&D money that’s probably the best place to spend it (after small scale nuclear).

  64. They never learn, do they.

    Here in Australia the Greens extracted a promise of $10 billion (a lot in our small economy) for ‘clean energy’ boondoggles like the ones being advocated in the article. It’s the same crappy reasoning – these things are not economically viable, so the answer is to give the earnings of hard working taxpayers to alternative energy outfits and their well-paid executives. If it goes belly-up (as they usually do), tough luck, taxpayers, while the people who took the money get to keep whatever they managed to extract for themselves.

    As for solar energy, growing up in this sunny country, I have been hearing about the breakthrough which is just around the corner for at least 40 years now. I think it’s safe to say that solar is a dead-end – billions have been spent on research over many decades for very small improvements. The laws of physics aren’t showing any signs of changing. There are useful niche applications for small scale solar, for example in remote areas, but that’s about it.

    I think there is a role for governments in funding basic research, but as soon as taxpayer money goes into the commercial world it tends to vanish, never to be seen again. Of course, this can happen to private investment money too, but the difference is that the investors took a voluntary risk with their own money. Nobody asked US taxpayers if they wanted to risk $500 million of their money with Solyandra, and nobody is going to ask Australian taxpayers if they want to risk $10 billion of their money with the ‘clean energy’ companies, who are licking their chops as I type. Our only hope is getting rid of this government before they give it all away.

  65. hagendl says: @ May 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and
    sustainable stream of electrons.””
    Why electrons?
    Far before electricity shortage becomes a problem, whe are facing a rapidly growing severe shortage of conventional liquid fuel that is critical to transport (aka “peak oil”)….
    _______________________________________

    That is being worked on.
    Thorium lasers: The thoroughly plausible idea for nuclear cars

    Thorium was originally tested as a fuel for nuclear powered Aircraft in 1954. A reactor was run for four years. This holds promise as power for ships, trains and aircraft.

    …A proof-of-concept fluoride reactor was built and operated in 1954 at Oak Ridge. It was called the Aircraft Reactor Experiment (ARE), and it demonstrated that fluoride reactors had the chemical and nuclear stability that Briant and his colleagues had predicted. After the success of the ARE, the fluoride reactor was baselined for the nuclear aircraft project, but the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles led to cancellation of the nuclear aircraft in 1960…. http://energyfromthorium.com/history.html

    The paper written in 1957: Molten Fluorides as Power Reactor Fuels

  66. “If government officials wish to accelerate the next energy transition, they will need a different strategy to develop an industry that can survive without major subsidies, one that prioritizes funding to commercialize decarbonized energy technologies that can compete dollar-for-dollar against carbon-based energy,” Yanosek said.

    So Yanosek doesn’t want subsidies, she wants government fundings.

    “Investment advisor to the energy sector; Founder, Tana Energy Capital LLC
    Kassia Yanosek is an investment advisor to the energy sector and is founder of Tana Energy Capital LLC. She also serves as a Steering Committee member of the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance, a group she co-founded in 2009 with other financiers from leading institutions to provide insights to U.S. government officials on renewable energy policy from a capital markets perspective. In 2005, she served in the White House as an advisor on energy and economic policy at the National Economic Council.”

    http://www.intelligencesquared.com/people/y/kassin-yanosek

    It’s all a lot of lobbyist twaddle.

  67. There are really only two, long term, sustainable energy sources. Nuclear and space-based solar. Unless we return to a world population of a few million, those are really the only two.

  68. Starting from the assumption that renewable is so much better that it must forced. Recycles old arguments about why the government has to do it. Not much to recommend here.

    Again with the group-think academic as dual moral/expert authority and activist.

  69. Curiousgeorge says:
    May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    The history of the world is the history of violent conflict. Even ants wage war. Both of you need to get used to the idea.
    _____________________
    Of course it is that is why I am in favor of a large standing Army. However it does not mean a civilized people should jump into war at the drop of a hat. Now a days the only winners of a war are the bankers who lend governments money and the arms dealers.

    A government NEVER wins a war unless they can grab compensating land and resources. War is ALWAYS a loss of people, property and wealth.

  70. “hagendl says:

    May 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    “The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and
    sustainable stream of electrons.””
    Why electrons?
    Far before electricity shortage becomes a problem, whe are facing a rapidly growing severe shortage of conventional liquid fuel that is critical to transport (aka “peak oil”). That is now beginning to force us to alternative fuels including producing fuels from bitumen, heavy oil, coal, gas etc.
    See production for north sea, Texas and global.

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8859#comment-867448

    Unfortunately the oil drum is at least a decade behind all the more recent finds. Also they ignore the massive oil reserves in the oil sands. It is oil and economically recoveable for over 30 years. I know I worked there in the late 70’s on a massive project when the oil price was $12/bbl.

    Of course portions of Texas and the North sea have peaked. It is stupid to ignore all the reserves found recently. Peak oil in the US has only occurred because of government policies that hate oil.

  71. The hubris of bureaucrats is bottomless (without foundation).
    All this nonsense reminds me almost literally point-for-point of this prescient composition:

    It’s true, it’s true, the crown has made it clear
    The climate must be perfect all year
    A law was made a distant moon ago here
    July and August cannot be too hot
    And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
    In Camelot
    The winter is forbidden till December
    And exits March the second on the dot
    By order summer lingers through September
    In Camelot Camelot, Camelot
    I know it sounds a bit bizarre
    But in Camelot, Camelot
    That’s how conditions are
    The rain may never fall till after sundown
    By eight the morning fog must disappear
    In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot
    For happy ever-aftering than here in Camelot

    ♪♪♫Camelot, Camelot ♫♫♪

    I know it gives a person pause
    But in Camelot, Camelot
    Those are the legal laws
    The snow may never slush upon the hillside
    By nine PM the moonlight must appear
    In short, there simply is not
    A more congenial spot
    For happy ever-aftering than here in Camelot

    Source: http://lyrics-a-plenty.com/c/camelot.lyrics.php

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