We Had To Pave The Environment In Order To Save It

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Trading food for fuel, in a world where high food prices already affect the poor, has always seemed like a bad idea to me. If I have a choice between growing corn to fuel SUVs versus growing corn to make tortillas, to me that’s a no-brainer. I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable tortillas to vote any other way.

Oil from corn fieldFigure 1. The preferable kind of corn-field-based fuel, brought to you by a corn field in Michigan. SOURCE

As a result, I’m a long-time opponent of turning corn into fuel. I think it is a crime against the poor, made the worse by the unthinking nature of the ethanol proponents as they advocate taking food out of poor kids’ mouths.

But that’s not the only way that our monomaniacal insistence on renewable energy is taking food from the plates of the poor. For example, tropical forest has been cleared for oil-palm plantations for fuel. But even that is not what this post is about. This post is about trading food for energy in California, the breadbasket for the nation. Here’s the headline:

Fresno County judge rules in favor of I-5 solar project

Jan 03 – The Fresno Bee, Calif.

A Fresno County judge has ruled that a solar energy project along Interstate 5 can move forward despite arguments from the state farm bureau that it will eat up valuable California farmland.

The decision, which comes as good news to the state’s burgeoning solar industry, is the first handed down in the ongoing land war between solar developers seeking real estate for renewable energy and Central Valley farmers trying to protect their tillage.

While the ruling pertains only to the Fresno County project, the decision sends a message across the Valley that agriculture doesn’t necessarily reign supreme.

“I do think it gives a boost to the solar development community,” said Kristen Castanos, a partner at the law firm Stoel Rives in Sacramento who has represented energy ventures and tracked solar efforts on farmland. “This gives counties and developers a little more confidence in moving forward.” SOURCE

This is unbelievably short-sighted. The only good news is that compared to say buildings, it’s much easier to remove a solar installation and return the land to actually producing food. Not easy in either case, but easier for solar. But the good news stops there.

The bad news is, the power thus produced will be much more expensive than power from either fossil fuels or hydropower. But both fossil fuels and hydro are verboten under Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown’s plan to get 30% of all electricity from renewable sources, with “renewable” meaning “renewables other than hydro”. Thirty percent! This madness has already given us some of the highest electrical rates in the country, and we’re not even near to 30% renewable yet.

The worse news is what the dispute was about. California has a strong farmland act, called the Williamson Act. If you put your farmland under the Williamson Act, you can’t develop it, it has to stay farmland. In exchange you get various tax advantages. The important thing to note is that it is a legal contract between the State of California and the owners of the land. This is to prevent the landowner from taking the benefits and then developing the land.

In this case, the article cited above goes on to say (emphasis mine):

Superior Court Judge Donald Black found last month that Fresno County officials acted appropriately two years ago when they canceled a farm-conservation contract that allowed a solar development to proceed on ag land near Coalinga.

The California Farm Bureau Federation sued the county, alleging that the Board of Supervisors did not have the right to cancel the contract put in place under the state’s farm-friendly Williamson Act.

Black said county supervisors met Williamson Act requirements for canceling the contract.

“All parties concede the development of renewable energy is an important public interest both in the state of California and in Fresno County,” Black wrote.

I’m sorry, but there is no public interest in wildly expensive solar power. Nor should  County officials be able to break a legal contract at their whim, based on some fanciful claim of a public benefit. The only people being benefitted here, above the table at least, are the owners of the project. The owners will be paid a highly inflated price for their power, which I and other ratepayers will be forced to subsidize. Expensive subsidized energy is not in the public interest in any sense.

In any case, breaking a Williamson Act contract to put in a solar installation definitely reveals the profound hypocrisy of the people behind the project and the useful idiots that support it. They’re approving massive, hideous development on prime farmland in order, they claim, to save the environment. Yeah, pave it to save it, that’s the ticket …

It also sets an extremely bad judicial precedent for future breaking of Williamson Act contracts. Since Kelo vs. New London the expansion of the “taking” powers of governments under the infinitely flexible rubric of “public interest” has ballooned unbelievably. Now we are to the point where they can even take away Williamson Act protections.

The Williamson Act is there to protect the totally irreplaceable, amazingly productive farmlands of California. The Fresno County officials are breaking the intent and spirit of the Williamson Act so that private developers can make a fortune picking the ratepayers’ pockets … and that’s supposed to be in the public interest? Spare me. For me, a kid who grew up on the good rich California earth, that’s a very sad day.

So yes. The idea that you shouldn’t allow the development of solar installations on some of the world’s finest farmland, not just any farmland but farmland legally protected under the Williamson Act, appears to be history in Californica. Infinitely stupid.

Y’know, I love the land here—the fold and break of the coastal hills dropping into the ocean; the wide valleys full of farms; the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where I grew up, towering over the Central Valley; the crazy, blazing deserts; the forests and groves full of deer and fox and mountain lion; and my own little corner where I live in the middle of a redwood forest, with a tiny triangle of the sea visible through the coastal hills. What’s not to like?

But I am roundly fed up with the government, and with the ‘lets power the world on moonbeams, we can all ride high-speed unicorns for transportation and just eat veggie-burgers’ crowd of folks that thinks losing irreplaceable farmland is a good thing in a hungry world, and thinks that hydropower is not renewable energy …

Regards to all,

w.

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291 thoughts on “We Had To Pave The Environment In Order To Save It

  1. As far as the corn is concerned, and these facts have been presented to you by varous commentators time and time again, False dichotomy. We don’t raise the kind of corn you can make tortillas from. The surplus the government engineers us to raise will either rot on the ground at the elevator or be converted into distillers grains for cattle feed and alcohol to lower your exhaust emissions. The infrastructure is not in place for switching to flint corn, either.

  2. This is a fascist response to a fascist intiative, leading nowhere but downwards. Fascism from an economic standpoint consists of private “ownership” with state control. The state should be forbidden constitutionally from regulating the use of land for any purpose. It’s a private matter.

  3. Greed and Karma….

    Re Kelo v. City of New London

    Wikipedia:
    In spite of repeated efforts, the redeveloper (who stood to get a 91-acre (370,000 m²) waterfront tract of land for $1 per year) was unable to obtain financing, and the redevelopment project was abandoned. As of the beginning of 2010, the original Kelo property was a vacant lot, generating no tax revenue for the city. It is still vacant.

  4. I’m all in favor of building privately-financed solar power facilities on suitable land; for example, in deserts such as Death Valley. But here in CA-CA land, our senator “Ma’am Barbie Boxer” has blocked a Death Valley solar proposal – because it might impact some underground tortoise or something.

    Too bad the orchard owners can’t find some rare tree slug that needs to be protected!

  5. Willis, you need to understand that farming is environmentally nasty. It’s dusty, dirty, they use chemicals and it displaces the natural wildlife. Replacing all that nasty farmland with nice, clean solar is a net positive. So what if the electricity is more expensive, the net CO2 reduction is 0 because you have to have conventional electrical capacity on line to make up for lows and it displaces food? We have the rich to tax for subsidies and food stamps for the poor. It’s all covered. Besides, do you think people own the land? The government owns the land, so they can do with it as they please. Besides, there is more tax money and more graft in the solar, so why wouldn’t they want to steal the land?

  6. Right on, Willis. they are mad. I hate ad hominem, but I’m sorry, there is no other means to describe modern government as protector of the human interest.

  7. Steve Schaper said “As far as the corn is concerned, and these facts have been presented to you by varous commentators time and time again, False dichotomy. ”

    I’ve never heard that before, not that I hear everything. But I’m quite sure I could take any hybrid of corn, grind it up into flour, and make a tortilla out of it. But even if what you say is true, because the price of corn is so high, most likely because of the diversion to ethanol, the acreage devoted to corn has gone up considerably. Therefore, there is less farmland to devote to other crops. So all prices on all crops have gone up, not just corn. The farmers love it. They are getting rich.

  8. You know… that “$1 per year” part of the Wikipedida article on Kelo v. City of New London reminds me of “16th section land” in Mississippi and similar things from other states.

    As originally envisioned and laid out, the revenue from every 16th section of land was to be used to finance the operation of the school system. This land remained the property of the government and could only be leased, not sold, to private entities.

    Generally it was leased out at a dollar per year to people with connections to members of the government.

  9. Is there a count of how many trees are chopped dowm to make way for wind turbines, or to provide access to land for wind turbines ? …………………….

    WHY ARE THE GREENS SOOOOOOOO ANTI-ENVIRONMENT ????????

  10. We do convert food to fuel-due to the acreage of the land being taken to grow fuel crops.
    Agree 100%…

  11. Ken that is exactly the way to fight such bureaucracy, use their own rules against them. Im sure there is an endangered creature somewhere out there :) :)

  12. This is the same logic which allows windmill farms that kill 1000’s of birds but blocks harvesting of timber because it might impact a bird, the spotted owl. The logic and the hypocrisy of the enviros is beyond my comprehension. I would call it bad science but I see no science involved.

  13. Steve Schaper says:
    January 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    As far as the corn is concerned, and these facts have been presented to you by varous commentators time and time again, False dichotomy. We don’t raise the kind of corn you can make tortillas from.

    Steve, you miss the point. You can use the same land either to grow food or to grow fuel. That is what we call a real dichotomy. Call me crazy, but I vote for growing food. One reason is that the world has a much greater thirst for energy.

    I just ran the numbers. According to the FAO’s fantastic dataset FAOSTAT, humans in 2009 consumed about 2.9E+16 joules of food energy.

    During the same year, the BP Statistical Workbook says that humans used 4.6E+20 joules of primary energy in all forms.

    This means that we are using ten thousand times as much fuel energy as food energy. Which in turn means that given the chance, filling only a few percent of global fuel consumption could use every hectare of arable land on earth …

    Finally, the most infuriating part of the equation is that it is imposed by force. Refiners are forced to adulterate perfectly good gas with an inferior diluent. That’s sputter-inducing. If it were a valid solution to the energy problem, people would be falling all over it. But it’s not. It is a bogus solution to an imaginary problem, held in place by government fiat at my expense … which is why I sputter. That’s why at the end of the day the numbers don’t matter.

    w.

  14. Keb writes “I’m all in favor of building privately-financed solar power facilities on suitable land; for example, in deserts such as Death Valley.”

    I’m in favour of decentralised Solar installation. Solar panels on every roof. Centralised power generation is better suited to large efficient methods like nuclear, gas turbine or even coal.

    If every one of the proposed panels were to be placed on someone’s roof instead, then there is no need to use the farmland at all for the same energy output. And less need (probably no need) to change the transmission infrastructure.

  15. To Mr. Schaper: The ground in question can raise many crops, not just corn, I’m sure. Out of production is out of production, whatever the other contemplated or mandated use. Stupid ideas remain stupid, whatever the rationalization. Solar power still depends upon expensive and land-hungry installations to produce part-time electricity that has to have a back-up elsewhere in order to be useful. Willis’s point remains valid.

  16. The Law of Unintended Consequences. Green projects hurting the poor once again. Most Green supporters do not understand that this what their policies are actually doing.

    They are promoting them because they think they will do good. But they are causing pain instead and are hurting poor people while making some investors richer. Opposite to what they wanted. They need to understand this.

  17. So, Willis, you want central planning. Well, so do the climate alarmists. All we need to do then, is to decide who is going to do the planning! This just re-enforces my long held view that when someone is very bright in one area, he tends to make up for it in some other area.

    Looking at corn production and consumption, I can make a case that this year having acres in corn production that was planned to go for ethanol could very well have limited the price increase in this drought year. Corn that was planted to go to ethanol has been diverted into production of (mostly) meat. We have imported large quantities of ethanol made from sugar to replace some of the domestic product. IMHO, there is no better method of allocating resources than the marketplace. We’ve seen just how central planning has turned out in recent history, but we still think it must work here in the US.

    Probably the most ironic thing about central planning is how Greenspan thought he could plan the economy. Think about it – one of the inner circle of Ayn Rand. He seemed to think that central planning would work – as long as he was doing the planning. Well, we see where that has led us.

    Let the marketplace work. If you feel the need to help people buy the necessary food to live comfortably, that is a political problem, and money can be provided so that they can buy what they need in the marketplace. If there is demand, believe me, the market will respond much better than any centrally planned economy.

  18. GRRRRRrrrrr….
    You already know my feeling on this subject Willis.

    The word Traitor comes to mind.

  19. This madness has been over the top for a long time. The only thing that is going to speed up the death of this scam is anger from the ordinary citizen. Fortunately they are waking up and beginning to frown. The Greenie promise is proving false, and stirrings are beginning. That’s reflecting through the way politicians are beginning to hesitate on all things Green, particluarly Green waste and Green lies. It’s coming. Painfully slowly, but it is coming.

  20. Has anyone worked out how much diesel alone goes into each litre of ethanol produced. I suspect that it is getting close to a litre…

  21. Ken Mitchell said: ” To bad the orchard growers can’t find a rare tree slug that needs protecting”
    Au contrare it is the Waxman slug.

  22. Kermit says:
    January 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    So, Willis, you want central planning. …

    Dang, is my writing that bad? Did anyone else think that was what I said?

    What I want is for the Williamson Act contracts to be honored, instead of being improperly nullified via a government “taking”.

    w.

  23. Not sure of the validity of this , but I was sent this link from my sister, who lives in Orange Co., CA, & is totally fed up with the state of the CA govt (and is quite discouraged by this link as they want to tax them leave the state). Imagine, being taxed if you leave the state. Note in the article that the revenue generated by the tax to leave the state will be used ” to acquire shares of specified corporations to influence environmental policies and practices.”

    Yeah, that sounds like something the government should be involved with (sarc). See link for more :

    http://www.conservativecrusader.com/articles/exit-stage-left-california-s-proposed-departure-tax

    If true & it passed, this is not going to make things better in the Golden State, but is certainly in line with the decision referenced in this post

  24. It makes me angry too. Even worse, I see no respite. A huge proportion of the sheeple support this nonsense. The more “educated” they are, the more they support it — because all of the leftist indoctrination in the public schools and our universities. Sadly, they are churning out new Moonbeam and Obama voters at a rate that is truly frightening.

  25. And as you fill your ‘flexfuel’ tank with 10% or more ethanol from corn – remember that every 5 seconds a child dies from hunger. http://www.bread.org/hunger/global/
    So wasn’t it a good money making idea to mandate using land that could grow food crops should instead grows crops for fuel. Nothing to do with the destruction of the grain reserves so that hedge funds could do future trading in food-stocks of course. (As you read this another 2 children have died – who cares?! – look how much money the hedge funds are making)

  26. This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes. Solar power cost is now.less.than $2 per watt. Please try and tell the truth.

  27. Private markets allocate resources efficiently. When Government over-rules markets the result is an inefficient allocation of resources, and a reduction in national income. We now have a political system that is designed to produce poverty and it is doing so. Why is anyone surprised?

  28. The Regulatory Class is ever here to help us.
    Usually into oblivion.
    But they are helpfully destroying the society they live off of.
    Will your opinion of your govt, be higher tomorrow?

    I was not this cynical before I watched that movie,narrated by the bulbous hypocrite, which gave my BS detectors a massive overload.
    CAGW Belief complete with the law of unintended consequences, created by govt, pushed by govt and protected by govt.
    Using our tax dollars to attempt to destroy the Nation state, which all civil servants swear an oath to protect, is called treason.
    Whats funny is the people who still insist that their contract with government will be honoured, while they stand silent (or in support) as govt disregards contracts and steals from the public.

    Must be a post modern thing, the laws the law except for when it applies to me?

  29. I am horrified. My family has been asking if our conservation easement (sale of development rights to the state) protects the land from future development. I have said that it does–it is supposed to be an easement in perpetuity. But if we were in California, I guess not. Willis is right, contracts and easements must be honored. Otherwise, what’s the point? This owner has received the benefits of a farmland easement (of sorts–not sure of the law in California), and now will enjoy the benefits of this renewable project to the detriment of productive farmland. Does he have to refund his easement benefits?

  30. Willis — Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments about the folly and inhumanity of subsidizing and/or mandating ethanol, but I wonder if you lost a few zeroes in your calculation for food consumption — Best regards — Goks

  31. Kermit and Chris Riley are right that the marketplace is best at allocating resources. But when the government requires that some percentage of fuel include ethanol it disrupts normal marketplace allocations. It drives up the price of ethanol and has the same result as a direct subsidy.

    The percentage of our economic activity that is market driven as opposed to regulation driven is an interesting measure of our remaining liberty. I am afraid that in the case of renewable energy the market has very little influence.

  32. Plow, plant, fertilize,water, harvest, process, and truck.

    Corn requires more energy than it produces to make the end resulting 30% less efficient fuel.

    On Solar, I live near a 150,000,000 dollar solar plant that serves 3,000 people,,,, part of the time.

    Does anyone actually think a solar field is natural and Eco-friendly?

    Have you actually ever viewed one in person?

  33. Hi Willis,
    As always, a thought-stimulating post. Now, I have noted that many people posting here are very much opposed to government regulation, incentives, taxes etc to influence the way we produce energy. My question then is this: Imagine there was no government involvement at all, no energy-related taxes, no requirement to put ethanol in gas, no subsides for biofuel.. If that were the case, and some entrepreneur would find it profitable to build solar panels next to I5 – would you still be opposed? (I would, because the area is just too beautiful to desecrate like that..)

  34. Steve Schaper says:
    January 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm
    As far as the corn is concerned, and these facts have been presented to you by varous commentators time and time again, False dichotomy. We don’t raise the kind of corn you can make tortillas from. The surplus the government engineers us to raise will either rot on the ground at the elevator or be converted into distillers grains for cattle feed and alcohol to lower your exhaust emissions. The infrastructure is not in place for switching to flint corn, either.
    ——————–
    That still doesn’t make using corn for gas a good idea.
    cn

  35. Willis,

    A very simple question for you.

    What is the current actual achieved Kw/Hr per acre of Solar power in California? The actual 24/7 averaged figure.

    Answering this simple question, opens up many more, such as why do they need so many “pilot” or “test” or “concept” plants? Seems they get billions in “research ” dollars is one simple answer.

  36. Steve: I thought most of the corn grown in the US was field corn, which is what Mexican tortillas are reportedly made from. The US exports corn to Mexico for this purpose. Recipes for corn tortillas start with dried field corn. Don’t cattle eat dried field corn, as do horses, ducks, etc? What kind of corn do we grow?

  37. Willis

    A technical point. Several years ago I did a project to measure the solar viability of the land at the Techachapi wind park. It turns out at the altitude in question that it is far more productive than just about anywhere in the state AND the electrical infrastructure is in place to handle the power in a much more environmentally friendly way.

    I also have access to 83 acres of land in the middle of the park.

    If any of the attorneys for the opposition would wish to contact me about this, Anthony has my email address.

    All that has to be shown is that there is a greater public benefit for using land already set aside for this activity than by taking Williamson Act farm land. This can easily be done.

  38. john robertson says:
    January 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    “…Using our tax dollars to attempt to destroy the Nation state, which all civil servants swear an oath to protect, is called treason…”

    *

    Totally agree. It’s the same here in Australia – and Gillard is guilty of treason as I understand it. It is the same in many countries. The whole Green agenda is designed to destroy civilization.

    Perhaps “treason” is a term we need to introduce into the thoughts of ministers and senators more frequently. Perhaps into the press, too, as at least that smells of something exciting. Perhaps our “leaders” need to be reminded that they are meant to be working for the people, not enslaving them, not crippling them, starving them and killing them through neglect and willful criminal behaviour. The “leaders” most into this scam know full well it is a mockery of science and a lie.

  39. I heard somewhere, once only, that the initial “Arab Spring” riots were, in fact, food price riots.

    It is morally criminal to burn food in engines or cover agricultural land with umbrellas. I bet the solar farm owners also spray all sorts of herbicides to prevent plants growing up between the solar panels and shading them.

    As for that one green job, it is a man with a long broom walking between the rows of useless panels brushing dust off them in a vain effort to maintain efficiency, if you can call it that.

  40. AllanJ, Kermit, Chris Riley, and others

    The marketplace is, indeed, best at allocating resources, but there are other factors that have to be considered, e.g., property rights, contracts, rule of law, which may very well (should) have precedence. Thus, for example, we do not sacrifice our rights under the constitution even if insisting on them is economically inefficient.

  41. I’m with Ken Mitchell and TimTheToolMan. There are so many options that are way better than the government’s plan.

    Take any building and look at its base load (the lowest amount it needs) then put panels on the roof and offset half of its base directly. No batteries required. Other ideas try to match energy source with use so no storage is required. Solar seems to work best at the same time that air conditioning is required (hot sunny days) so perhaps directly use solar to feed the AC? There are already solar powered (DC) water pumps for irrigation which also seem to work when the plants are the thirstiest (hot sunny days).

    So instead of getting rid of agricultural land why not use the solar power to water it? Nah we’ll just get rid of those pesky plants and trees then lose half the electricity in conversion and transmission. Sigh :(

    Of course these and any other ideas should be done without the taxpayer on the hook for it. You’d think we’ve seen enough boondoggles out of governments in this arena.

  42. john says:
    January 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes. Solar power cost is now.less.than $2 per watt. Please try and tell the truth.

    Er John, I’m paying less than $0.00013/WattHour (0.12061/KiloWattHour to be precise) and really enough pwr for 18,000 homes from 90 acres day or night rain or snow? Your post is so silly that I’m embarrassed to be responding…. if real, $2 / WattHour creates what the Brits call Fuel Poverty. Fuel Poverty is where people freeze because they can’t afford the energy needed to heat their homes. Go suck eggs.

  43. The reasons they exclude hydro are that a) it’s too cheap and efficient, and makes all the others look bad; b) it’s very limited, constrained by available geography, and c) it doesn’t generate ‘subsidies for all’, and hence is of no value to the lobbyists.

  44. john says:
    January 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm
    This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes.

    John, I live on 1/3 of an acre. Are you saying I can provide 65 of my neighbors (plus myself) with electricity, if I cover my house and lawn with solar panels?

  45. The conversion of food to biofuel is an illogical green scam. The practice is illogical as there is no significant reduction in CO2 due to the practice – for corn converted to ethanol – and the cost of the corn based ethanol is five times the cost of conventional gasoline.

    Rather than converting corn to biofuel, the US and other Western countries could construct nuclear power plants which are expensive, but do result in a reduction in CO2, which is not a problem anyway.

    AGW alarmists do not care about cost or logic. There is no extreme climate change problem to solve. The planet’s response to change in forcing is to increase or decrease clouds in the tropics thereby reflecting more or less sunlight of into space, negative feedback. The extreme AGW cases require the planet to amplify the CO2 warming. If there is negative feedback rather than amplification a doubling of atmospheric CO2 will result in less than 1C of warming with most of the warming occurring at high latitudes which will expand the biosphere.

    The AGW alarmists protest, lobby, and lie if necessary to push the irrational agenda. The conversion of food to biofuel supports the assertion that the extreme AGW agenda is irrational.

    It is a travesty, that news organizations such as the BBC continue to support irrational scams.

    Vast amounts of agricultural land are being diverted from crops for human consumption to biofuel. Currently roughly, 40% of the US corn crop is being converted to ethanol for example.

    The immediate consequence of converting food to biofuel is a dramatic increase in the cost of basic food such as a 140% increase in the price of corn.

    As it is a fact that there is limited amounts of agricultural land and requirement for food for humans, vast regions of virgin forest are being cut down for biofuel production. The problems associate with this practice will become acute as all major Western governments have mandate a percentage of biofuel.

    Analysis of the total energy input to produce ethanol from corn show that 29% more fossil fuel input energy is require to produce one energy unit of ethanol. If the fuel input to harvest the corn, to produce the fertilizer, and to boil the water off to distill ethanol/water from 8% ethanol to 99.5% ethanol (three distillation processes) to produce 99.5% ethanol for use in an automobile, produces more green house gas than is produced than the production consumption of conventional gasoline, if the energy input of the waste corn stock is not included. (The corn stock can be used to feed cattle but is not relevant in terms of amount of biofuel produced. (i.e. The food value of the waste stock helps to reduce the cost of the conversion processes not the energy required for the conversion.)

    The cost of corn based ethanol is more than five times the production cost of gasoline, excluding taxes and subsides. Rather than subsiding the production of corn based ethanol the same money can be used to preserve and increase rainforest. The loss of rainforest is the largest cause of the increase in CO2.

    http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/bioenergy/NewsReleases/Biodiesel%20Energy%20Balance_v2a.pdf

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725975,00.html

    The Clean Energy Scam
    The U.S. quintupled its production of ethanol–ethyl alcohol, a fuel distilled from plant matter–in the past decade, and Washington has just mandated another fivefold increase in renewable fuels over the next decade. Europe has similarly aggressive biofuel mandates and subsidies, and Brazil’s filling stations no longer even offer plain gasoline. Worldwide investment in biofuels rose from $5 billion in 1995 to $38 billion in 2005 and is expected to top $100 billion by 2010, thanks to investors like Richard Branson and George Soros, GE and BP, Ford and Shell, Cargill and the Carlyle Group.

    But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it’s dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.
    Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves. The U.N.’s World Food Program says it needs $500 million in additional funding and supplies, calling the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency. Soaring corn prices have sparked tortilla riots in Mexico City, and skyrocketing flour prices have destabilized Pakistan, which wasn’t exactly tranquil when flour was affordable.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-04-14/biofuel-production-a-crime-against-humanity/2403402

    Biofuels ‘crime against humanity’
    Massive production of biofuels is “a crime against humanity” because of its impact on global food prices, a UN official has told German radio. “Producing biofuels today is a crime against humanity,” UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler told Bayerischer Runfunk radio. Many observers have warned that using arable land to produce crops for biofuels has reduced surfaces available to grow food. Mr Ziegler called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to change its policies on agricultural subsidies and to stop supporting only programs aimed at debt reduction. He says agriculture should also be subsidised in regions where it ensures the survival of local populations. Meanwhile, in response to a call by the IMF and World Bank over the weekend to a food crisis that is stoking violence and political instability, German Foreign Minister Peer Steinbrueck gave his tacit backing.

    http://news.yahoo.com/prime-indonesian-jungle-cleared-palm-oil-065556710.html

    Prime Indonesian jungle to be cleared for palm oil
    Their former hero recently gave a palm oil company a permit to develop land in one of the few places on earth where orangutans, tigers and bears still can be found living side-by-side — violating Indonesia’s new moratorium on concessions in primary forests and peatlands.

    Prime Indonesian jungle to be cleared for palm oil
    Their former hero recently gave a palm oil company a permit to develop land in one of the few places on earth where orangutans, tigers and bears still can be found living side-by-side — violating Indonesia’s new moratorium on concessions in primary forests and peatlands.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-04-14/biofuel-production-a-crime-against-humanity/2403402

    Biofuels ‘crime against humanity’
    Massive production of biofuels is “a crime against humanity” because of its impact on global food prices, a UN official has told German radio. “Producing biofuels today is a crime against humanity,” UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler told Bayerischer Runfunk radio. Many observers have warned that using arable land to produce crops for biofuels has reduced surfaces available to grow food. Mr Ziegler called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to change its policies on agricultural

  46. S Meyer: If wind and solar were viable forms of energy, taking into account land mass required, etc, then putting them in would be okay. If the area is “too pretty to desecrate” with a power plant, then another place would have to located. We do have to have power plants and we have to put them somewhere. While I am thoroughly angered by the wind turbines I can see from my house, I would not object to a power plant going in if this were the best location and the plant was the best solution for power. My land might lose value and I might not be really happy losing my views, but I don’t want to live in the dark and cold, so I am willing to sacrifice when necessary to that end.

  47. Title made me think of a Gallagher joke.
    “They say that the cities are ruining the environment. This isn’t true. It’s the farmers. By planting crops they leach the nutrients from the soil. They rotate the crops, they rotate the nutrients they leach from the soil. Where as the city puts down parking lots, the asphalt. Seals in the nutrients.”

  48. john: This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes.

    The roof area for 18,000 homes will easily exceed 200 acres. Absolutely no need to mess up 90 acres of good farmland, create unsightly power lines, and lose a significant percentage of your production to transmission losses.

    Ken Mitchell: I’m all in favor of building privately-financed solar power facilities… in deserts such as Death Valley

    I am appalled to find myself agreeing with Senator Boxer. Death Valley (and the associated Panamints) are the refuge to which I fled at the end of every school year to regain my sanity after handling 20-30 8-year-olds for 9 months. But as I indicated above, there is no necessity to use either prime farmland or pristine wilderness for this purpose.

    TimTheToolMan: I’m in favour of decentralised Solar installation. Solar panels on every roof.
    Yup. The small installation on my roof has produced more electricity than we have used since we turned it on 18 months ago.

  49. jaycurrie says:
    January 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Isn’t there a desert or two in California?

    There are indeed. In fact, western Fresno County comes within a whisker of being desert too. Most of the western Great Valley south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta falls in the rain shadow of the Coast Range. If you stop your car at any of the rest stops along I-5, and you kow what you are looking at, you will find evaporite minerals such as calcite and gypsum crystals form in the soil. Decades ago the west side was sheep and cattle country. There simply wasn’t enough water to irrigate it for crops. These days it has been converted to expensive vineyard and orchard operations that require water subsidies to survive. I don’t disagree with Willis that it is a profound mistake to convert land from agriculture to solar power production, but the real mistake was made years ago when subsidized irrigation was supplied to the area. Since the collapse of the real estate market and the accompanying decline in consumption of expensively grown wine, fruits and nuts, visible decline – dead vineyards and orchards – has begun to be visible. Range land is not ideal crop land and irrigation tends to destroy such soils through hardpan formation – the Hohokam in Arizona discovered the problem with irrigating desert land a thousand years ago.

    The biggest problem with solar power developments is that they are expensive and – worse – uglier than a south-bound baboon viewed from the north.

  50. Everard says: January 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Perhaps “treason” is a term we need to introduce into the thoughts of ministers and senators more frequently. Perhaps into the press, too, as at least that smells of something exciting. Perhaps our “leaders” need to be reminded that they are meant to be working for the people, not enslaving them, not crippling them, starving them and killing them through neglect and willful criminal behaviour. The “leaders” most into this scam know full well it is a mockery of science and a lie.
    ======================================
    I agree. You are Australian. You are being sold out by fraudulent Government. Start a movement for a voter referendum- a bill of attainder against the government. This is a novel idea. But it will command the news and attention and it will grow, given the political climate there. It will change the game utterly.

  51. Keb writes “I’m all in favor of building privately-financed solar power facilities on suitable land; for example, in deserts such as Death Valley.”

    So what about the desert fauna? Do you really think it is dead barren land?

  52. The old Chinese saying, ” from peasant to peasant in four generations,” seems to still be accurate. This time it appears to be the turn of the west to do it en masse.

  53. Is there the possibility of appealing this ruling that breaks the Williamson Act contract? If it got as high as the US Supreme Court, perhaps there might be a chance of reversing it.

    /Mr Lynn

  54. What is even more sickening is that this sits right on top of the Monterey Shale formation with an estimated 4 times the amount of gas and oil as in the North Dakota Bakken formation. So they are going to take a shipload of farmland out of production, plaster it with solar cells, when they could have drilled a couple of wells in the exact same location and provided a lot more energy for a lot lower cost. What idiots!

  55. Reality check says:
    January 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    S Meyer: If wind and solar were viable forms of energy, taking into account land mass required, etc, then putting them in would be okay. If the area is “too pretty to desecrate” with a power plant, then another place would have to located. We do have to have power plants and we have to put them somewhere. While I am thoroughly angered by the wind turbines I can see from my house, I would not object to a power plant going in if this were the best location and the plant was the best solution for power. My land might lose value and I might not be really happy losing my views, but I don’t want to live in the dark and cold, so I am willing to sacrifice when necessary to that end.

    You need to really check reality. Solar farms aren’t “power plants” in any way, shape or form. They range in size from severals tens to several thousand acres. They might be more productive in taxes than a run-of-the-mill desert farm or water-subsidized crop land, I’ve never tried to analize that. But, the choice as posed by Willis is between eating or not. Not whether things are “cold and dark” or not. You want to note that hydroelectricity was ruled out by Brown, though is it is far more efficient than solar power, immensely lower in terms of environmental impacts – yes Hetch Hetchy was incredibly beautiful, but it was built back when engineers were not quite clear on ideal water storage locations. There are a lot of locations in California with much better characteristics and they are not likely to destroy views when built either. Personally, I think Th reactors are the best short term choice for power.

  56. john says:
    This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes. Solar power cost is now.less.than $2 per watt. Please try and tell the truth.
    ____________________________________________________________________________
    Are you talking about installed cost of a PV system? I believe it is closer to $4/watt for panels, interconnect and all the other goodies that go along with putting in a system. Also, land usage is about 10 acres/megawatt. If you are talking about price for the electricity, then that’s extremely expensive electricity. The PJM price runs $25-$100/megawatt hour, your $2/watt is substantially more than that. The fixed consumer price in Virginia is $70/mWh.
    I couldn’t find the current “price” of solar electricity or the subsidy paid for it. In any event, solar is relatively very expensive compared to fossil fuel sources, generally unreliable on output and consumes huge amounts of land. Solar, like wind, is only viable with heavy subsidies and goes away when the subsidies end.

  57. Yesterday was a good day for the utility scale PV systems that supply the CA grid as noted here: http://content.caiso.com/green/renewrpt/DailyRenewablesWatch.pdf .

    Unfortunately it was a rather windless day so the output of the large wind farms was rather low. It’s a good thing that we have lots of non-renewable energy sources to supply the grid as RE generation sources provided just a tad under 8% of the total supply of electrical energy needed in the state as measured by CA ISO. A few years worth of generation data is available per day (by hour if your interested) at this site- http://www.caiso.com/green/renewableswatch.html

    Governor Brown has stated in the past that he is in favor of requiring 40% of our electrical energy coming from RE sources (vs the 33%RES that is the current mandate).

  58. Just goes to show there is no such thing as so-called “green” energy – all forms of energy have a cost. And I think its a crime when “green” energy does anything to diminish our food growing capabilities. Food comes first.

  59. john,

    Two dollars per watt must be corrected for capacity factor so multiply by about 3. This then becomes 6 dollars per watt. By the way, that 2 dollars is for utility scale projects, residential scale installations are closer to 5 dollars per watt. Of course, the obvious solution is the simplest. Eliminate the production subsidies. If solar is as cheap as you believe then why do I need to help California ratepayers pay for their electricity?

  60. john: This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes.

    ?????

    The promoter is talking “peak power” there – The maximum you can possibly get with new collectors at noon on the brightest day of the year. So, for one hour of one day of the year you can provide 18,000 homes. Maybe.

    All the rest of the year you get less power. Regardless, you can only get this less-rated-power for 6 hours each day: Solar power cannot generate energy between 3:00 PM solar time through the night until 9:00 AM the next morning.

    90 acres x 4,047 square meters/acre = 364,000 sq meters.
    You need room for roads to clean the collectors (and fresh water that you have to provide, cleanup and process), for the transformer yard to connect it tot the grid, for the control room, for the maintenance building, for the service area, etc. Assume 3-4 acres of pavement and buildings for that.

    But, solar collectors CAN’T be built “flat” to the ground to produce power, they have to be inclined into the sun, which creates either “shadows” that fall on the other collectors around them and lost power, or wasted collector space sitting in the dark. However, the “shadow” behind the collectors has to be bought, paved over (else it grows weeds or brush that shades the collectors) but need be included in the ground space removed from farming. At California’s latitde, you usually need 2x ground space for each meter of collector. (Hold a book up to the light at 35 degrees, look at the length of the shadow to see this effect.)

    So you can actually only get 180,000 square meters of collecting surface. Fresno County is latitude 36.74 north. From NOAA website, for today’s date, I get a grand total of 2700 watts/meter square “available” on the collector during the entire day.

    You did receive 495 watts/square meter available at noon. (If there were no clouds and you had water from the river, cleaned it up, and sprayed off the collector yesterday. Except the environmentalists won’t let you use river water to irrigate farmland, so I’m sure they’d let you use river water to clean collectors and put the dirty water back in the river … Right?)

    Maximum efficiency of solar collectors is 12 – 15%, so you can get a maximum today of 60 watts – 75 watts per square meter. At noon. The rest of the day, even less.

    How’s that solar power working out for for right now … at 9:00 PM out there?

    I can build a natural gas, combined cycle power plant that is quiet, invisible (behind trees) to its neighbors, and sits on 12 acres. Produces 1200 MegaWatt of power. Continuously. Every day. And feeds the plants with its greening gasses too!

  61. I’ve always referred to ethanol from corn as scamanol, because that’s all it is. It’s just a political tool used by both parties to buy off the farm vote.

    It’s an insane policy that not only increases the price of corn, ALL food products. As farmers devote more and more acreage to corn, that leaves less acreage is available for other crops, which decreases supply and increases prices.

    Meat prices also rise as feed prices increase.

    The net result is that a higher portion of disposable income is required for food, leaving less money for other consumer goods, which ends up hurting the entire economy.

    Solar subsides are even worse…. They stifle technological advancement by making uneconomic technology artificially “viable”, which reduces the necessity to innovate. In addition, subsidies misallocate limited capital resources, leaving less money for other industries.

    What’s even worse is that a cheap alternative energy source called Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) exists capable of producing electricity @ $0.02/kWh, compared to solar at a whopping $0.25/kWh.

    But no sense worrying about it. China is now working feverishly on developing LFTRs and have already put $500 million behind it. They’ll probably have working LFTRs by 2020 pumping out electricity at $0.02/kWh, while the US will have wonderful “green” energy at $0.30/kWh.

    Take a guess what’s going to happen to the US/China trade deficit (currently $300 BILLION/YR) when China’s LFTRs go online. Oh goody.

  62. This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes. Solar power cost is now.less.than $2 per watt. Please try and tell the truth———–

    Poorly stated and utterly meaningless.

    Max

  63. Is this project for residential power (18,000 houses)? They’ve solved the storage problem then? Great!

    No, you say, they have not. Oops. Thanks but no thanks then – I’ll not be buying one of those fancy mid-1800s houses.

  64. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) is a proven technology capable of producing electricity @ $0.02/kWh compared to solar @ $0.30/kWh. It’s not even CLOSE.

    China allocated $500 million in 2011 to quickly develop LFTRs and they’ll probably have them up and running by 2020.

    Care to guess what will happen to the US/China trade deficit (current $300 BILLION!!) when China is pumping out electrons at $0.02/kWh while the US is busy subsiding solar at $0.30/kWh???

    China will eat our lunch AGAIN using a technology US taxpayers funded back in the 60’s…. Oh, the irony…. Don’t you love it so.

  65. Reality check:
    So… If crops for fuel rather than for food were economically viable without any form of government incentive, it would be ok? Even if that meant a lot of poor people could no longer afford their food? The scary thing is that this could actually happen, if fossil fuels get expensive enough. I would agree that crops for fuel is a very bad idea and should be abandoned ASAP, but somehow I don’t trust the market all that much either…  

  66. You guys are about to convince me that the “warmers” are right.

    If you people are this willfully wrong about about all renewables, you just “might” be the same about Climate Change.

  67. john says:
    January 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    This site will occupy 90 acres and supply enough power for 18,000 homes. Solar power cost is now.less.than $2 per watt. Please try and tell the truth.

    John, thanks for the moral instruction. I would never have thought about telling the truth without your wise guidance.

    I note that you have said nothing about the breaking of the Williamson Act, the subject of the post.

    Finally, if you think a man is not telling the truth, where I come from making such an accusation without facts to back it up can earn you a busted nose. So what is it that I have done that you think is not the truth? Time to put up or shut up.

    w.

    PS—Indeed, telling a man exactly where and how he is wrong is the action of a polite man, and in fact is a scientific necessity.

    Accusing him of not telling the truth is the action of a despicable man, particularly when done without evidence.

    I may be wrong, john, I have been many times. But I always endeavor to tell the truth. I do not appreciate your claim to the contrary.

  68. S. Meyer says:
    January 5, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Willis,
    As always, a thought-stimulating post. Now, I have noted that many people posting here are very much opposed to government regulation, incentives, taxes etc to influence the way we produce energy.

    I’m not one of them. As I have posted here before, I know that people need regulations. Otherwise, some damn fool will always piss in the water supply. It’s a given. We’re pigs, we need regulations to save ourselves from our baser natures. That’s beyond question on my planet.

    w.

  69. 1. Agree that farms should be used for food and not for fuel.
    2. Agree that solar installations should go be on land that has been trashed and is no longer useful for either production or nature. Thankfully, there is plenty of that class of land available.
    3. Agree that landholders and governments should act in good faith when it comes to land tenure, land use, and the public interest.
    4. Disagree about the renewables. It is good to see that the Government of California is doing the righ thing. 30% is still too low, but it is a good start.

  70. Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    1. Agree that farms should be used for food and not for fuel.
    2. Agree that solar installations should go be on land that has been trashed and is no longer useful for either production or nature. Thankfully, there is plenty of that class of land available.
    3. Agree that landholders and governments should act in good faith when it comes to land tenure, land use, and the public interest.
    4. Disagree about the renewables. It is good to see that the Government of California is doing the righ thing. 30% is still too low, but it is a good start.

    Ace, if you and folks like you didn’t want to pick my pocket to pay for your obsession with renewables, that would be fine. I’d have no problem. But you don’t want to pay for it. You want me to pay for it, whether I want to or not.

    That makes you no better than common thieves, stealing my money in order to pay for your guilt-ridden green fantasies. This renewables mania has driven electricity prices in California through the roof. I hold you and your ilk 100% responsible.

    If you and yours think renewables are a good idea, then you should have the decency and honesty to pay for them yourselves. Instead, you steal my money to pay the solar dealers for the junk to feed your solar addiction. It is despicable.

    w.

  71. The greenies are always banging on about how there are far too many people and the world can’t possibly feed them all even though it does. It seems said greenies are doing their level best to ensure their hallucination of global starvation comes about because – we’re saving the planet dudes.. How do these morons sleep at night? Who the heck do they think they are saving the planet for? Certainly not poor people in third world countries. Not us either.

  72. When the solar power scheme goes bankrupt, and it will, and they lose interest in it, the solar frames could be used as a frame for grape vines, watermelons, passion-fruit or some other useful agricultural purpose.

  73. I support nuclear technology to produce energy. According to this article the decommissioning costs alone of LFTR be around the price per Watt you mention: $.02.

    I love how greenie economics ALWAYS kick in with that phrase, yet the subsidies NEVER factor into the the Lifecycle of their pet projects.

  74. Willis

    I had a question of you in relation to a traditional fishing technique. I would appreciate your looking at it.

    Ace, if you and folks like you didn’t want to pick my pocket to pay for your obsession with renewables, that would be fine. I’d have no problem. But you don’t want to pay for it. You want me to pay for it, whether I want to or not.

    There are various ways of looking at this, but I think the most reasonable way is to say that we are internalising the true costs of a fossil fuel economy which has indiscriminately picked all our environmental pockets for centuries.

    That makes you no better than common thieves, stealing my money in order to pay for your guilt-ridden green fantasies. This renewables mania has driven electricity prices in California through the roof. I hold you and your ilk 100% responsible.

    Those who have externalised the costs of fossil fuel burning are, IMHO, no better than common thieves. They are destroying stuff without paying for it. The fossil fuel mania is helping to destroy lots of good things and I hold you and your ilk 100% responsible.

    If you and yours think renewables are a good idea, then you should have the decency and honesty to pay for them yourselves. Instead, you steal my money to pay the solar dealers for the junk to feed your solar addiction. It is despicable.

    If you and yours think that fossil fuel externalities are a good idea, then you should have the decency to honestly pay for them yourselves. Instead, you steal everyone’s environment to pay fossil fuel dealers for the junk to feed your fossil fuel additions. It is despicable.

    Same same except for our different starting point.

  75. A superlative post. This is the sort of story that can make even lukewarmers realize that something is rotten in Denmark.

    Ian W said at 6:19pm, “every 5 seconds a child dies from hunger”, and cited the ‘Bread for the World Institute’. I followed his link and noticed that the institute’s site includes a section on ‘Climate Change’. Oh good, a ready litmus test for their intellectual honesty. Hoping to find an expose of how the shiboleth of CAGW is being used to impoverish the world, I proceeded to their ‘Climate Change’ page.

    That section begins with: “At this point, the scientific evidence on climate change is unequivocal. If we don’t take strong action, the consequences could be catastrophic for everyone.”

    That’s as far as I needed to read. They have zero credibility. I must sadly assume that their true goal is not to ameleorate hunger, any more than Greenpeace’s true goal is to help the environment. A tree is known by its fruit; they’re just more Luddites, trumpeting the party line to de-industrialize and impoverish the world.

    So, does a child starve to death every five seconds, or not? I wish I knew. But I know better than to trust figures from any watermelon front group.

  76. intrepid-wanders

    I support nuclear technology to produce energy. According to this article the decommissioning costs alone of LFTR be around the price per Watt you mention: $.02.

    I love how greenie economics ALWAYS kick in with that phrase, yet the subsidies NEVER factor into the the Lifecycle of their pet projects.

    What greenie economics? Who was talking about subsidies? The starting point was an agreement that nuclear energy is supported. The focus was cost. The point was that the cost per Watt mooted on WUWT (see above) was also the estimated cost of decommissioning a LFTR plant. In other words, the cost per Watt was likely to be higher than claimed.

  77. @Climate Ace– That decommission cost of $0.02/kWh is high. That would equate to $600 million, which is unreasonable.

    Also, the $0.02/kWh electrical cost is a rough estimate and doesn’t even factor in the additional revenue streams LFTRs would have such as a variety of byproducts: molybdenum 99, Bismuth 217, U238, and many others and also revenue from waste heat being used to desalinates water to creat cheap dimythyl ether, ammonia and many other high demand chemicals.

    LFTRs will eventually usher in a new Thorium Age. It’s cheap, plentiful, safe, clean and very scalable.

    E=MC2 beats F=1/2MV^2 by a factor of millions.

  78. UK sceptic

    The greenies are always banging on about how there are far too many people and the world can’t possibly feed them all even though it does. It seems said greenies are doing their level best to ensure their hallucination of global starvation comes about because – we’re saving the planet dudes.. How do these morons sleep at night? Who the heck do they think they are saving the planet for? Certainly not poor people in third world countries. Not us either.

    I suppose that makes you a non-greenie?

    I am not aware of any reputable institution of any ideological bent, investigation, study, report, etc, etc, that claims there is neither hunger nor starvation in the world. You quite rightly raise your issue with hallucinations. Perhaps you could provide some references to support your view that world feeds everyone?

  79. Kum Dollison says:
    January 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    You guys are about to convince me that the “warmers” are right.

    If you people are this willfully wrong about about all renewables, you just “might” be the same about Climate Change.

    I will be blunt. That’s content-free. If you object to something I (or someone else) said, quote their exact words. Vague mutterings about how people are “willfully wrong” are just childish babble. If you have something to say, say it. If you object to something I said, tell me what you object to. Ill-defined hazy objections, no matter how passionate or how well-meant, are meaningless.

    w.

  80. When “the end justifies the means” the rule of law is abandoned. We’re seeing that effect taking place on a wholesale basis in California. Prop 13 limit on property tax? No problem. We’ll just reclassify what shows up on your property tax bill as “fees”. My latest Los Angeles County property tax bill exceeded Prop 13 constitutional limits by 30%, all attributed to “fees” for services previously covered by my property tax assessment. I now get a “streetlight” fee, a “trash service” fee, a “sidewalk maintenance” fee, a “brush fire hazard inspection” fee, on and on it goes. They’re now proposing a “clean the bay” fee. They’ve even liened my home without my permission to finance a “Save the Santa Monica Mountains” fund. I can either caught up $3,500 immediately or carry a lien which must be discharged whenever my home is sold. I’m not making any of this up.

  81. Juan Slayton says:
    January 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    TimTheToolMan: I’m in favour of decentralised Solar installation. Solar panels on every roof.
    Yup. The small installation on my roof has produced more electricity than we have used since we turned it on 18 months ago.
    ———————————————————
    With the vast revenue being produced by these roof-top PV systems it is high time that the solar fat cats started paying their fair share of tax.

  82. To Martin, who thinks that there should be no control over land use;

    What if farming is less profitable than other things for a few decades?

    You HAVE to maintain a minimum level of farmland, no matter what, because everyone must eat.

    You assume that everyone acts in the public interest.

    You need to see the world as it is, not as you would have it be……..

  83. Steve’s comment about corn is inane.

    First, true, there are many kinds of corn. However, one variety can be substituted for another at planting time. In addition, the TMR for dairy, swine, and chicken production can adjust for differing varieties of corn by adjusting the ration composition when the feed is mixed.

    Corn prices are ridiculously high right now. Most break evens for farmers are around the $3 mark. Corn is at $6-7 right now. So they can sell what ever they produce.

    The high price of corn has driven chicken and pork prices much higher. This in turn hurts the poor who depend on these meats for protein. It has also driven milk and cheese prices higher. Not good.

  84. Kum Dollison says:
    January 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    You guys are about to convince me that the “warmers” are right.

    If you people are this willfully wrong about about all renewables, you just “might” be the same about Climate Change.

    Not that Willis needs a second, but your concepts are wrong. The industry is lying to you and the public in general. They use mealy mouth speech and deception far worse than the Carnegie’s of old.

    Take for instance the China Lake Navel Weapon’s Center. Huge solar project and one project among 3 or so with the government (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/news/news_detail.html?news_id=18736). Obviously, the NWC is government owned and is not subject to civil law (otherwise, no impact studies). But, carefully loo at the numbers:

    SunPower Corp. on October 19 announced the completion of the U.S. Navy’s largest solar system, a 13.78-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) power system at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California. The power plant is the first federal agency project to be financed through a 20-year term solar power purchase agreement. The plant, designed and operated by SunPower Corp., is generating the equivalent of more than 30% of China Lake’s annual energy load, helping to reduce costs by an estimated $13 million over the next 20 years..

    Okay, let’s say it is a 14 MW PV system. It is apparently generating around a third of the power requirements of China Lake Navel Weapons center, or about 14 MW of 36 MW needed.

    China Lake also has four geothermal power plants that produce up to 270 MW of electricity, or enough electricity for approximiately 378,000 households. The site has been in continuous operation since 1987, and was the Navy’s first site to tap thermal energy.

    What was that? 14 MW (Nameplate I am sure) of a 270 MW current capacity? Ridgecrest has not grown for 20 years, so it is not a growth factor missed. The only thing missed is the truth spun to vomiting.

  85. Willis, Good post and there are some good comments as well.

    “We don’t raise the kind of corn you can make tortillas from”

    Why not? If ethanol production drives up the price of “ethanol corn” so that farmers use their land to grow this corn will this not lessen the supply of “tortilla corn” and drive the price up? Isn’t this what is happening to the price of corn, whether it’s “ethanol” or “tortilla”?

    On free market principles and regulation…

    Libertarian viewpoints, although I agree with many, can be taken to the extreme. We need some government, some laws, and some regulation. Regulating industry needs to be direct, simple, and straight forward. Regulate known pollutants at the source. IE, power plants can produce no more than x amount of chemicals y and z per KW of power produced. Then the government needs to stop there and let the market do it’s thing.

    On Greenspan and Ayn Rand…

    I am going to talk out my butt here a bit but Milton Friedman was criticized for his advice on manipulation of the money supply to lessen the effects of a recession when in fact he was a free market economist and against the Federal Bank monetary system. His response was that he was doing the best that he could in the system that was in place because he could not change the system. Are you sure that Greenspan was not in the same position, trying to make the best out of a system hat he was unable to change?

  86. Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Samurai

    I support nuclear technology to produce energy. According to this article the decommissioning costs alone of LFTR be around the price per Watt you mention: $.02.

    ================
    Interesting that the Wikipedia article you quoted says this about the relative abundance of Thorium to Uranium.
    “Using LFTRs, there is enough affordable thorium to satisfy the global energy needs for hundreds of thousands of years.[63]”

    I am skeptical of that figure of ‘hundreds of thousands of years’ although I’ve seen estimates that the US has sufficient recoverable Thorium to supply our energy needs for 8,000 years. I’ve also seen estimates that the world is about to run out of suitable Uranium to power current reactors and would exhaust available supplies within 30 years if nations embark on a massive building program. We’d end up having ‘Uranium wars’ to go along with the ‘fresh water wars’ that will be coming to Asia in the near future.

  87. Don of windmill fame had the right idea about tilting at windmills, we now have two targets for the Don, huge monsterous mills and acres of solar death panels.

    It is of note that road signs are often modified in the country, perhaps some modification on a regular basis would slow down the breeding rate of these monstrosities.

  88. intrepid_wanders

    That article is extremely confusing. On one hand it claims that the system produces 14Mw/year of power (9,000 households worth), which is 30% of China Lakes power demand. It also states that China lake has 4 geothermal plants that produce 270 Mw/year of power (378,000 households worth). According to my admittedly feeble math skills, that means that China Lake’s geothermal plants are already producing roughly 5.75 times the power needs of China Lake (and have been doing so since 1987).

    The immediate question this brings to my mind is, why exactly did they need to build the solar plant in the first place if they already have 5 times the power they need and exactly how is this solar plant going to ‘save’ the Navy money if its producing excess capacity. Wouldn’t they have saved a whole lot more if they didn’t contract for the system in the first place?

  89. Willis …. the topic of ethanol has been discussed here many times. And as others have noted, extensive data has been provided that refutes the majority of your claims about it. For all of your smarts – your research, and statistical knowledge – its pretty clear you’ve never bothered to apply them to an honest, straightforward, look at ethanol.

    And I see William and a few others are here with their many times refuted and grossly inaccurate claims about ethanol.

    Ethanol is a renewable fuel. Every gallon is less fossil fuel we need to use. The net energy balance on corn ethanol is appx 1.6 – for every one unit of energy consumed, 1.6 units of energy are produced. Cellulosic biomass and other new technologies are in to the appx 4 to more than 8 to 1 net energy balance.Overall Ethanol IS FAR cleaner and better for the environment than burning gas, and overall DOES reduce greenhouse gases.

    A bushel of corn produces ethanol, plus returns a significant portion back as distillers dried grain solids high quality animal feed, along with corn oil and other valuable byproducts.

    Corn prices are largely driven by speculators – not ethanol. There is not a huge increase in acres of corn planted due to ethanol – much of the ethanol use is thru better practices and higher yields.

    The current corn prices do NOT significant increase the cost of food – as the corn is a tiny share of the overall cost of product. On a box of corn flakes the cost is in the few cents range. America produces enough corn to meet all domestic demand, all ethanol demand, and all export demand – and still there is enough to add to the reserves every year.

    Corn exports to Mexico are not dramatically different. We can pretty much supply all the corn they want to buy.

    Producing corn for ethanol has a huge, IMO, benefit as well that no one considers. It is what I call an “active” emergency reserve. We can ALWAYS divert corn for ethanol to food in a true emergency. By growing 40% more corn than needed for food and other non-fuel uses we have an active divertable reserve of fresh corn stock every growing season.

    I agree with you that diverting high value cropland to solar is a poor decision. There is plenty of nonproductive land better suited. That said there are significant problems with producing crops in central California – mostly water related. After taking those issues into consideration solar MIGHT possibly offer reasonable use of that land.

    For example – if, after considering water issues and other costs of farming in that area the electric energy created is remotely reasonable, such energy created could potentially replace energy from ethanol production, thus freeing what is likely more productive and cost efficient growing land for food. Pure wild arse guessing and speculation on my part – zero idea if feasible – just out of box what if thinking.

    I also think there are easy alternatives – especially in California. For example I cannot imagine it is that tough to find 91 acres of rooftops – commercial buildings, schools, shopping malls etc.

    Or thinking out of the box, if solar is actually cost beneficial – why not simply covering the huge number of lane miles of Californias massive roadways with roofs of solar? In Europe there is a long section of train tracks they’ve done exactly this with. .

    And to be really controversial – a couple points …at some point America has to look out for America first, We can not be the worlds enforcer and its social safety net all the time. We should do all we can, but we should not have to do it all.

    Second – as hard and seemingly cruel as it sounds someone has to start addressing the real problems when we talk about lack of food, and that IMO is that many of these places can not support the populations that now exist there. We manage many things, including living beings, based on sustainability – what the land can support. IMO we need to identify the same in these food and sustenance critical areas and then manage accordingly.

    It does no good to give a man a fish – if they can never eventually fish for themselves in their home lands. Doing so it would seem condemns them to a life that is no life at all.

    I would hope you would give the issue of renewable energy the same level of accuracy and effort as other topics.

  90. Nice comback at the left-greenies with the title.

    Background:
    “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” was a quote from the Vietnam War, attributed at first to an Air Force Major. In fact it had been fabricated by the journalist Peter Arnett. Arnett went on to report on the first Gulf War, providing Saddam Hussein with the same services he had offered to North Vietnamese.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Tre

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Arnett

  91. @W.

    VERY well said. California valley farm land is some of the finest in the world in a place where you can get FOUR growing seasons if you try. Just insane to cover it. IF they really want all that power from solar panels, why not just grant an ‘easement’ to put them over the freeway and center divide? It is a huge expanse of land that runs for hundreds of miles, and I, for one, wouldn’t mind at all having the shade over the road and the rain kept off in winter.

    Similarly, the folks in India figured out they could grow enough Jatropha for bio-diesel in the mandated rail road right of way to power the train on the tracks. As it’s not used for food anyway, instead of weeds, get biofuel. That kind of thing works and does not suck up food land.

    But the biggest thing is just that “Citizens can’t nullify the contract but the government can”, And not even the particular government that signed the contract!

    At this point, contracts have lost any meaning and ‘ownerships’ is just a license to pay taxes until the government decides to take your land and give it to someone else for development.
    (Recent court case held that “eminent domain” can be used to increase city tax revenues by taking YOUR land and giving to a preferred party to develop it ‘better’…)

    @Steve Schaper:

    Oh please. Flint, flour (dent), sweet. Depends on what you load in the seed hopper and who you sell it too. Sweet is hardest to harvest (as it is wet) but flint vs flour? Sheesh. Oh, and need I point out that they BOTH were developed by the natives for eating? Not a lot of ethanol SUVs or whiskey distilling in the 1200 AD Indian lands… To claim that either is not “food corn” is a flat out lie. How “the white guy” uses them just indicates our bias, not what they can be used for. (I have a nice Black Aztec that’s a decent sweet, and OK flour. I’ve got a Hopi Red that’s mostly a flour type, but can be eaten as sweet when young. I’ve got some flint type seeds specifically for human food – you can make tortillas from them if desired, but ‘mush’ is a better use. ALL native seeds developed over thousands of years for human food.

    Flint type:

    http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-term/t–37935/flint-corn.asp

    A type of corn that is usually associated with the multicolored ears that are used as a popular decoration in the autumn months. The decorative ears are often referred to as “Decorative Corn” or “Indian corn” and contain kernels of vibrant colors ranging from yellow, orange, and red to blue, purple, and black. The kernels are very hard, but they can be ground into meal and used for human consumption. The Italian dish polenta is most often made from cornmeal ground from flint corn. Hominy, or posole, is usually made from flint corn, as is masa harina, which is dried posole meal, used for making tamales and tortillas.

    Dent, or ‘flour’ corn:

    http://www.lovetolearn.net/additional_writeups/dent_corn_recipes.html

    Recipes for using Dent Corn

    Corn Nuts

    Put 1 cup of dent corn and 2 cups of water into a covered container in the fridge to soak for 3 days. Drain and pat dry with a towel. Heat oil (or grease, lard, bacon drippings, etc.) in a deep pot. When oil is hot enough that a a drop of water sputters in it, carefully add some kernels. They will rise to the surface as they cook. Take them out to drain when they are brown and crunchy (not chewy). Occasionally a kernel may pop like popcorn. Salt and enjoy.

    Indian Parched Corn

    Eaten widely by the pioneers as well, those crossing the plains used this as a sort of highly nutritious trail mix. To make parched corn, cover the bottom of a large heavy skillet (cast iron is best) with corn. Stir over high heat until evenly browned.

    Grains Side Dish

    Put into a pot with 3 cups water and bring to a boil: 1/2 cup whole barley kernels, 1/4 cup brown rice, 1/4 cup dent corn, 1/4 cup millet, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Boil for 5 minutes, reduce heat and simmer covered for 40-45 minutes or until water is absorbed and grains are tender.

    Traditional Navajo Corn Soup
    Traditional Native American Recipe

    http://www.cheeseslave.com/homemade-corn-tortillas-part-one/

    Homemade Corn Tortillas – Part One: How to Soak Corn for Masa

    Ingredients:

    Mrs. Wage’s Pickling Lime
    Organic field (or dent) corn (available online)
    Filtered water

    And on and on and on… The idea that there is some kind of of corn NOT suited to food use is just broken.

    @Reality Check:

    We grow ALL kinds, but most of the hybrid field corn is a kind of “Dent” corn. A brief lesson in corn growth:

    As the kernel matures, a white liquid inside starts out rich in sugar, then eventually deposits this as starch. The skin over the outside can be thin, or thick.

    If the skin is thin and the milky juice stays sugar it is “Sweet” or “fresh” corn. (Modern hybrids have a broken gene for conversion to starch so stay ‘sweet’ for weeks. Ancient varieties start turning starchy fast so one day is about it. My Dad insisted we pick only once the pot was at the boil for best sweet corn. He was from an Iowa corn farm and was right ;-) Sweet corn has very wrinkled seeds. (It does make enough starch to survive and plant, but the seed shrinks when drying).

    Flint corn is so named as it is “hard as flint” ;-) Very thick skin / hull and lots of solid starch. Stays solid and does not wrinkle or dent, with a smooth skin. Best used for things that soften and process the kernel (like masa and hominy and polenta ). So hard that they are tough on animal teeth, so not all that great to feed to animals who evolved to eat grass… (Though grinding and milling help).

    “Dent” or “Flour” corn is in between. At maturity, it makes a lot of starch, but not as hard a skin / hull and not as solid a kernel of starch. Easy to grind. Fairly easy on cow teeth. When dry it gets a tiny ‘dent’ in the end of the kernel as some sugary liquid dries out (but not as much as sweet). It is also, traditionally, a “multi-purpose” corn. So I’ve gone out of my way to put specific “dent” corn types in my “Heritage seed bank” (small freezer on the porch) as a preservation against a genetic stupidity with GMOs and just in case an “aw shit” happens and we need to become self sufficient. Picked very young (and cooked inside 10 minutes ;-) it serves as a pretty good sweet corn. Not as sugary sweet as the hybrid ones, but better for your diet if trying to live off the land. Run to completion, it makes a fine “tortilla corn”. It’s pretty much an all around corn.

    (There is also a fourth corn: Popcorn. It is a ‘flint’ type but with particularly small round kernels)

    As most “field corn” is fed to animals, it is typically a ‘hybrid dent’ type.

    These folks sell a nice selection of corns:

    http://www.southernexposure.com/corn-ezp-52.html

    Their list of heritage dent and flint corns (notice that they list both as fine for eating)

    http://www.southernexposure.com/corn-dent-flint-flour-corn-c-3_18_72.html

    This is one I have:

    Bloody Butcher CORN, DENT 228 g
    (red) 120 days. [1845. Originally from Virginia.] Stalks grow 10–12 ft. tall producing 2 ears per stalk. Kernels are blood-red with darker red stripes, and occasional white or blue kernels. For flour, cereal, or roasting

    The “roasting” indicates that it’s a bit floury for sweet use (boiled) but makes a great roasted ear ( a bit ‘chewier’ and better with stronger flavors than just sugar…)

    An interesting one I don’t have (Flint type):

    Floriani Red Flint CORN, FLINT 228 g
    (FLORIANA FLINT, RED TRENTINO FLINT) 100 days [Family heirloom from the Valsugana valley of Italy near Trento, via William Rubel. Originally brought to Italy from America, it evolved over hundreds of years to become the staple polenta corn of the valley.] Beautiful medium- to deep-red kernels are…

    It is the notion that there is a corn that is NOT food that is broken. The only difference is how much the sugar converts to starch and how hard the skin on the kernel gets. (between the categories… individual varieties will vary in color, flavor, texture, best cooking method, …)

    @TRM:

    Here in California it’s even nuttier to NOT put them on roofs. Our peak demand is for mid-day summer air conditioning. Mounted on the roof, they can be made to both make electricity and insulate / shade the roof. “Win-win”.

    @RACookPE1978:

    Nice list. But you forgot the “tule fog” they get near Fresno in the winter… I grew up in it. When it ‘lifts’ it is overcast. I’ve spent months in winter never seeing the sun…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tule_fog

    Tule fog (pron.: /ˈtuːliː/) is a thick ground fog that settles in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley areas of California’s Great Central Valley. Tule fog forms during the winter and early spring (California’s rainy season) after the first significant rainfall. The official time frame for tule fog to form is from November 1 to March 31. This phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley. Motor vehicle accidents caused by the tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in California.
    [...]
    On the morning of November 3, 2007, heavy tule fog caused a massive pile-up that included 108 passenger vehicles and 18 big rig trucks on Northbound State Route 99 between Fowler and Fresno. Visibility was about 200 feet at the time of the accident.

    @Bill Marsh:

    We never run out of Uranium until we run out of planet. With minor changes, the same technology can be used for Thorium, but there is so much in Thorium sands that we won’t need it for thousands and thousands of years.

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/

    Resources vs Reserves is a key point. At low prices, we don’t have many years of “reserves” as it costs more for the next harder to extract “resource”. For Uranium, it’s about $100 kg (IIRC) to get all you want from Sea Water. At $40 / Kg that “reserve” does not exist. At $120 / kg we have unlimited U reserves. It’s just how the definitions work.

    So “greens” always talk about “running out of reserves” and never about “ultimate resources”.

    BTW, a Kg of U has way more than $100 of energy in it….

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

    More uranium erodes into the ocean every year than is needed to power the entire planet on nothing but uranium. We can extract it with proven technology today at prices that are just fine, but a tiny bit more expensive than using land reserves. All we need is to use up enough of the cheap stuff to get functionally infinite “reserves”.

  92. Mr Lynn says:
    January 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm
    Is there the possibility of appealing this ruling that breaks the Williamson Act contract? If it got as high as the US Supreme Court, perhaps there might be a chance of reversing it.

    /Mr Lynn
    —————————
    Wasn’t Kelo decided in the US Supreme Court?
    Wasn’t Justice Kagan involved in that case?
    I’m getting older and less trusting in the system.
    cn

  93. kakatoa says:
    January 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm……………
    Governor Brown has stated in the past that he is in favor of requiring 40% of our electrical energy coming from RE sources (vs the 33%RES that is the current mandate).
    ——————————————–
    That’s fine. Live any way you want. Just don’t make the rest of us pay for it.
    cn

  94. willis says that

    ” This post is about trading food for energy in California, the breadbasket for the nation. ”
    =====================================
    No, no Willis, “breadbasket” is the term for the states of the Midwest, where the bulk of the nation’s grains are grown. Shifting this term to the west coast is ludricrous. California would more appropriately be termed “the fruit basket of the nation”
    mpainter

  95. Ah yes. California. Building fans to cool the oceans. And will help, due to Newton, keep the San Andreas closed up. Are they smart or what?

  96. Willis

    You forgot the ultimate benefit of government coercion for our own good – “You’ll all be farting through silk underpants.”

  97. Willis, It’s all much more complex than you’re making it.

    Yes, Steve Schaper’s views notwithstanding, using farmland to grow ethanol feedstock seems to be a bad idea. Even a lot of environmentalists agree that it was a mistake. Using unfarmable land to grow a biofuel feedstock might be acceptable. It would depend on the details. I find Schapers arguments unpersuasive. Farmland is for FOOD, Steve. Things are only going to get worse later in the century as mankind continues to be entirely too fruitful and multiplicative.

    And yes, devoting any significant amount of farmland to solar seems misguided if the land is really farmable. (There are surely cases where devoting a bit of land to solar are the right engineering solution to some problem even in farm country). There’s a gazillion acres of land in the southwest deserts that seem suited to solar and nothing much else. No need to use farmable land for solar (or WalMarts come to that). Note that in California, you always need to consider whether water is going to be available for farming. Where it isn’t, maybe solar is OK

    You seem to have somehow concluded that solar is inherently expensive. I’d sure like to see your source on that, because I don’t find that very credible. Sure, in New York City, it’d be costly because of site costs, storage costs, and the probable need for backup facilities that are paying down costs only part of the year when sun angles drop and days shorten in Winter. But surely, the right place for large scale solar is the Southwest deserts where availability is high, sun angles toleralbe, and land costs should be very low. Unlike fossil fuels, solar costs will probably drop in future decades.

    And finally, don’t be fooled by the current relatively low costs of hydrocarbon fuels. While I agree that CO2 is probably a specious issue, hydrocarbons are a limited resource, and I think everyone is going to be surprised at the ability of folks in the developing world to burn through that resource in their search for running water, indoor plumbing, central heating, air conditioning and automobiles.

    A sensible policy for the US would probably be to burn through our natural gas windfall — cheap, abundant, minimally polluting, what’s not to like? — and to use the several decades that gives us to plan for the future in mid-Century and beyond. When the gas becomes scarce, switch to coal — cheap, abundant, but — with current technology — not remotely clean. But we should also be thinking about the day — probably a century or more away when we really will be almost totally dependent on renewables and nuclear. And we should allow for the possibility that we turn out to be wrong about CO2 not being a problem and should have some idea what we will do if we have to forego hydrocarbons sooner than we think.

  98. @Bill Marsh

    I realize that hundreds of thousands of years of recoverable Thorium reserves seems unrealistic, however, with Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) 99% of Thorium is converted to energy, which means the entire world’s yearly energy needs can be supplied with just 7,000 tons of Thorium (about what would fit inside an average grain silo..)

    Compare that to current Uranium solid fuel reactors that only burn about 0.5% of the Uranium inside very expensive to fabricate ceramic pellets. Thorium requires no special processing as it only has one isotope in nature (Thorium 232) so as long as it is pure, you can burn it as comes out of the ground in the liquid fuel salts (Thorium/Fluoride/Berrilium/U233).

    The easiest source of Thorium now is rare earth mines that now treat Thorium as a nuisance. One small rare earth mine generates around 5,000 tons of “waste” Thorium a year. It’s about as plentiful as lead.

    We’ll never run out of the stuff.

    You’re right about Uranium. If we keep using it as inefficiently as we are with solid fuel reactors, we will run out of it.

    LFTRs do require some U233 initially as a neutron source, but in the Thorium fission reaction, U233 is created in the decay chain, so additional U233 never needs to added. Neat trick isn’t it.

  99. Claude Harvey says:
    January 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm
    When “the end justifies the means” the rule of law is abandoned. We’re seeing that effect taking place on a wholesale basis in California. Prop 13 limit on property tax? No problem. We’ll just reclassify what shows up on your property tax bill as “fees”. My latest Los Angeles County property tax bill exceeded Prop 13 constitutional limits by 30%, all attributed to “fees” for services previously covered by my property tax assessment. I now get a “streetlight” fee, a “trash service” fee, a “sidewalk maintenance” fee, a “brush fire hazard inspection” fee, on and on it goes. They’re now proposing a “clean the bay” fee. They’ve even liened my home without my permission to finance a “Save the Santa Monica Mountains” fund. I can either caught up $3,500 immediately or carry a lien which must be discharged whenever my home is sold. I’m not making any of this up.
    ———————————————-
    Makes one wonder why there’s no headline news of a taxpayer revolt.
    Based on this, I would think the Tea Party would be the largest political party in the LA area.
    SEIU would torch City Hall over a 3% pay increase.
    cn

  100. @SAMURAI:

    I’m generally in agreement with your points. A couple of expansions / clarifications though:

    We’ve made reactors that use Th already. While the liquid fuel ones are interesting, and in many ways better, we can make and use Th rods in existing water reactors (and have done so).

    U does not get used so in-efficiently by necessity but by choice. At higher U costs, we would do U recycle (of many kinds).

    The “breeder blanket” to start a Th to U233 conversion can be any of U233, U235, or Pu. You are not limited to U233. (For a water reactor.)

    Our present U “waste” can easily be used as “fuel”. There is no need to treat it as waste and turn it into monuments to hazard for hundreds of years. We choose to do that as we are stupid.

    BTW, the often quoted “thousands and thousands of years” for “reactor waste” to become safe is based on a bogus comparison. It takes that long to decay to background, but if you make your standard “decay to original ore” (i.e. you don’t need to make the planet less radioactive, only as radioactive and risky as you found it) the “time to guard” drops to about 200 to 250 years. Quite reasonable, as I think we can bury things in old mines and expect them to stay that way for 200 years. (But better would be to recycle the fuel…)

    Oh, and the existing CANDU reactors are great on Th and work well with various mixed fuels and fuel recycle strategies.

    Why is CANDU ignored and recycle U denigrated? You can make bombs easier that path…

    We have loads of choices and more fuel than can ever be used. ( I like the liquid reactors too, BTW).

  101. willis: “I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable”
    ===================================================
    “Expensive tortillas”? Come, come willis, you make me chuckle- how much do tortillas cost in California? Corn into ethanol may be objected to for several reasons, but it hardly takes food out of people’s mouths. You yourself recently commented on another thread (quite vehemently, as a matter of fact) that there was no shortage of food in today’s world, yet here you are, only a few hours after that comment, bewailing that ethanol is “taking food out of poor kid’s mouth’s”. For one thing, the food stamp program hardly feeds “corn” to poor kids. You would do better to aim for a bit of consistency in your postings. How you carry on about “tortillas”!

    The alternative to ethanol is methanol, which is much more cheaply produced than ethanol. Methane, from natural gas, CH4, can be converted into methanol, CH3OH, quite readily and at a vastly lower price than conversion of corn into ethanol, CH3CH2OH.

    Formerly in this country, methanol was used in gasoline formulation. Where natural gas was scarce, such as in Brazil, ethanol was used. So what happened? The agricultural lobby happened, that’s what happened. Congress passed a bill making the use of ethanol mandatory. The object was to boost the market price of grains, and boy did it ever. In effect, the public now pays the grain subsidies at the gas pump.

    The ethanol program makes even less sense in view of the “shale gas” revolution, whereby supplies of natural gas have suddenly become more plentiful, and in effect, are begging for a market. Ethanol for a fuel is simply an expensive gasoline formulation designed to put money into the pockets of farmers, and it needs to be dispensed with for the vastly more economical methanol, for the benefit of the nation.

  102. Steve Schaper says:
    January 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    As far as the corn is concerned, and these facts have been presented to you by varous commentators time and time again, False dichotomy. We don’t raise the kind of corn you can make tortillas from.

    I wonder if Steve Schaper really that stupid or if he’s deliberately missing the point? Maybe I’ll just go and occupy a room in his house, throwing out his possessions and putting in mine (no room for both). Surely that would be OK because I don’t have the kind of possessions he does. Sorry Steve, but it has to be said: you’re a twat.

  103. @Mpainter:

    “California, the land of fruits and nuts!” ;-)

    Oh, and we’re the “salad bowl” of the nation…

    @DonK:

    Thanks to Fracking about a trillion barrels equivalent just came on line in the USA alone. More in the rest of the world. We’ve got hundreds of years “more” now. (Not just gas, but oil too).

    Watch for a frantic attack on fracking as it is going to turn the USA into a net oil exporting country if it isn’t stopped.

    Did I mention that’s Trillions, with a T?

    We are not any where near “running out” of oil, gas, and unconventional oil.

  104. Goodness gracious me, I left out something-

    Willis: “crowd of folks that thinks losing irreplaceable farmland is a good thing in a hungry world”

    Now this is the best yet. Willis, on his posting of Jan.2, “The Cost of Energy”, argued vehemently on that thread that food was not a problem in today’s world, and never would be because of modern agricultural capacities. Yet, here on this posting Willis paints a picture of a “hungry world” that can’t afford tortillas: “I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable”.
    Well, Willis, I suppose that you will let us know when you finally make up your mind about things.

  105. @MPainter:

    It would seem you’ve never known any poor folks.

    I have.

    There are many where adding 40 cents to the cost of tortillas ends things.

    ONE example. Some years back I inherited a crappy little rental house out in a poor part of California. One day, the rent check didn’t come. (Something like $200). I went to see what was happening. The “housewife” was fixing “dinner” for the two infants. She was taking flour (wheat) and making a fat noodle like thing out of it and cooking them. That was what she had to feed them.

    Her husband had gone out into the street to stop some idiots from doing something stupid (having a fight or preparing to shoot out a street light or whatever). One of them started swinging at him just in time for the cops to arrive and haul them both off for fighting. He was in jail, and going to stay there a while as they had no way to bail him out. That meant NO paycheck (and they were barely making it anyway). I looked at her, looked at the kids, and said “Well, whenever you can, send the rent.” and left. KNOWING I was never going to ask her for the rent again. (Two months later I stopped by and found the place empty – she moved back with other family – parents I think. About a year after that I left the ‘rental business’).

    That is not a unique state of affairs, and as ‘hubby’ had just been arrested a few days before, she was feeding the kids flour lumps because that’s what they normally could afford…

    Folks who think you can increase food and housing costs even 10% and not cause poor folks grave harm are incredibly out of touch with poor folks.

    And that doesn’t even get into the folks where we export corn who live on a couple of bucks a day all told…

    I do agree on the Methanol, but not just feeding it straight into cars. It takes a special corrosion resistant fuel system to handle it (even in blends) and special oils (as the blowby is corrosive). I wanted to buy one of the 3-way flex cars when they were selling them in California (in the 80s) and checked ‘em out. It’s the hard way to go.

    Easier is the Mobil Zeolite method (now owned by Exxon) and it was used in production in New Zealand (back just after the Arab Oil Embargo). Run nat gas over a zeolite catalyst (molecular sieve) and you get gasoline out.

    The other thing you can easily make is butanol from methane. It’s a ‘drop in replacement’ for gasoline in the existing fleet.

    Were it not for the politicization and government “regulation” / control of what is an allowed fuel we would already be up to our eyeballs in alternatives (not the least of which is DME also easily made from methane or coal).

    If we made cars specifically to use methanol, it would be great, but for use in the existing fleet, it needs to be chemically converted. Which isn’t very hard…

  106. Re: Chuck Nolan says:
    January 6, 2013 at 3:48 am

    “Makes one wonder why there’s no headline news of a taxpayer revolt.”

    When renters begin to vastly outnumber owners and “the rule of law” is abandoned, owners take it in the shorts. If a California constitutional provision cannot limit an owner’s effective tax burden, what can? Interestingly, while I’m getting soaked for “fees” on top of constitutionally limited property taxes, a number of monster solar projects have been exempted fro ANY California property taxes. The counties in which those plants are located are learning that they’ve inherited the additional local government service costs associated with those plants, but no local share of property tax revenue to cover those costs.

    California voters happily approved Jerry Brown’s recent ballot measure to soak the rich (which most voters won’t have to pay), but even Los Angeles’ public employee unions object vociferously to an L.A. proposal to raise local sales tax (which they WOULD have to pay).

    See where all this leads?

  107. In truth every person in the US (and Australia) needs to reduce our carbon consumption by greater than 80% if we were to reach the “carbon equity point” based on the modelled prediction of maximum worldwide emissions to minimise to a two degree rise.
    Now we know that the models are wrong, but that doesn’t stop the Eco nuts from continuing to push this as a good thing. The trouble is that, even if we reduced our consumption by 30% and then used 30 % renewables (who are they kidding) we would still not be there.
    This is the lunacy of the entire proposition, with today’s population we would all have to go back to a medieval standard of living to not emit that much carbon and we all know that today’s population cannot be supported using medieval technologies.
    So the solution is to let everybody starve to death. Everyone but me, that is.

  108. E.M.Smith says: January 6, 2013 at 4:28 am

    @MPainter:

    It would seem you’ve never known any poor folks
    ============================
    I know lots of poor folks. Myself for example. Where I live, poor people get food stamps for the asking, and thereby eat very well. It always mystifies me when people talk about “hunger” in this country, because the food stamp program is universally available, unless I be mistaken.

  109. You grew up in California, Willis? You are one of the few Baby-Boomers who actually did. When I lived out there briefly, (1982-1984,) I found it odd that I could not find a single person my own age (born 1953) who was born there. Everyone my age was a run-away, “California dreaming” and fleeing some problem or responsibility “back east.” Eventually I decided running away from my problems was no way to face them, and went home. Now it seems your entire state is run by the run-aways. It must be rough on a native like yourself.

    The people who really love the land are usually the people born on it, especially if they have farmed it; not the people who see the land as a sort of political or economic “concept.”

  110. Notwithstanding many sentiments I support in the post, here’s my beef:

    I hate zoning. It’s a socialist spinoff.

    So, in principle, no land should be coercively segmented for any purpose. Thus, I should be free to deploy my land to raise cockroaches, or grow weeds, or generate uneconomic solar power, …whatever, even if it’s prime agricultural land.

    So, as I read it, this judicial decision in essence is OK to me. Consciously or not, it’s an anti-zoning measure.

    To be sure, some people will use their land in ways I think are detrimental to their, and/or our benefit, economically or spiritually. But it’s their land! So long as they’re not impinging on our rights, they should be free to pursue whatever use they choose. We can argue with them, boycott them, or offer to buy them out. But we must not coerce them to adhere to our preferences.

    Of course, exactly HOW we construe what our/their rights are is another question altogether. (Do they have the right to billboard pornographic pictures, or host a pornographic website from there? AFAIK, the natural law says, ‘no’.)

  111. I wholeheartedly agree with you Willis. I note that many Californians are fleeing the state and moving back east. This 3 ring circus is really getting ridiculous here in Massachusetts which is ground zero for many of the recent failures. Beacon power, Evergreen solar, A-123 and on and on. Even the Boston Globe is pushing wind (or passing it) as of late.

    This appeared a couple of days ago.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/01/03/extension-wind-energy-credits-boost-local-industry/RlSE3Gn1FwlvH04X2RucaJ/story.html

    Then this.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2013/01/06/wind-energy-jargon-defined-glossary/KpUPTlqQRZqABOkZZ2WXxH/story.html

    I now present a glossary of my own.

    Nameplate Capacity: The claimed output of a wind or solar facility that is unachievable and which they receive a subsidy for.

    Crash: Sound that a wind turbine makes when it’s tower or rotors fail.

    Burn: This is what happens when a gearbox fails and starts a forest fire.

    Thud: Sound a turbine makes when shedding ice.

    Silence: This is primary sound made by wind turbines and is associated with nameplate capacity.

    Ka-ching: This sound is made when wind executives meet with the DOE and Tim Geithner. It’s also associated with shell and shelf llc’s efforts in the US China and abroad. The accounting trick, REPO-105 (107 in Europe) are closely associated.

    RICO: This is what happens when wind companies (IVPC/First Wind/UPC) build in Italy and the US.

    Blackout: Grid instability caused by wind plants.

    That said, QssQss has a fantastic link to a photo, which ironically looks like a ‘field of tele-prompters’.

    john from DB

  112. @E.M.Smith:

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) biggest attributes over solid fuel reactors are: 1) they can run at single atmospheric pressure (unlike solid fuel reactors that have to run at 100 to 150 atmospheres) which means expensive containment domes are not required. 2) LFTRS don’t require water, so large cooling towers aren’t required. 3) LFTRs use gas turbine generators, which are about 50% more efficient than steam turbine generators. 4) LFTRs liquid salts get up to 1600C, which is a lot higher than pressurized steam and allows waste heat to be used for many other purposes. 5) LFTR safety feature is fail proof and passive. As long as gravity works, no radioactive material can escape the facility. Since I live in Japan, about 200KM south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, you can imagine why that feature is near and dear to me… It’s impossible for meltdowns to happen with LFTRs.
    6) there is no need to worry about nuclear proliferation with LFTRs.

    There are absolutely no advantages of solid-fuel reactors over LFTRs, unless you consider bomb-grade materials created by solid fuel reactors an advantage, which I don’t.

  113. Ethanol mandates tie the price of the food crops used to make the ethanol directly to the world price of oil. The price of related food crops are indirectly influenced as well through substitution effects. This will only drive up the price of food and since ethanol is barely if at all energy efficient (nat gas used to make ammonia to fertilize corn) this is almost fraudulent. This is a clear example of the horrible effects of ideology trumping economics.

  114. “Makes one wonder why there’s no headline news of a taxpayer revolt.”
    That would be because the tax structure – revised to make sure that the ‘rich pay their fair share’ has reduced the ‘taxpayers’ to a small minority so they are not capable of staging a ‘revolt’.

    I believe it was Voltaire that said something about the American Republic enduring until the population discovered that they could vote themselves anything they wanted. I fear we are approaching that state.

  115. ” According to the FAO’s fantastic dataset FAOSTAT, humans in 2009 consumed about 2.9E+16 joules of food energy.”

    That means nothing because we cannot eat coal and we cannot burn navel oranges in jet airplane engines. But we can convert coal to jet fuel with which to haul oranges from one part of the world where they are overly abundant to another part of the world where for a season they are sufficiently more valuable as to more than pay for the cost of hauling them there on a back-haul cargo plane.

    Enviros admit this when they tell us that if we could subsidize algae or switch grass or some such plant, we could convert its hydrocarbons into a usable fuel. We could do exactly the same with coal, and we are sitting on an ocean of it. In fact we are already awash in * indelible* hydrocarbons, from natural gas, to sewage sludge that we could convert to fuels products suitable for our autos, trucks, tractors and airplanes thus freeing land to grow food.

    At that heart of this is the concern for the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. I would ask, what is the optimum level? Are we below it or above it? We certainly are below what it has been in the past.

    Those who fret about CO2 fret about temperature. But I would ask, what is the optimum temperature? Are we below it or above it? If the past is any guide, on average where I compose this, near the Great Wheat Farm known as Kansas, on average those vast wheat fields would be under a thousand feet of ice. Is that what we want?

    Enviros could displace a lot of transportation-related CO2 by pushing for generating as much electricity to recharge their electric cars and to power their air conditioners. Notably, they never advocate this. In fact, the net effect of their advocacy is to destroy human prosperity and wealth. Should LENR ever become a viable power source, they will quickly oppose it too.

  116. Willis Eschenbach: “[H]umans in 2009 consumed about 2.9E+16 joules of food energy.”

    That sounds low. In the (admittedly unlikely) even that my math is correct, it comes out to about 0.13 W/person. I’m a low-energy guy, but I suspect I expend more than that just breathing.

  117. SAMURAI says: “2) LFTRS don’t require water, so large cooling towers aren’t required. ”

    The cooling tower is to cool the steam used to generate power. The reactor is just a heat source, boiling water that is used to run a turbine. The water must be cooled before being returned to the heat source and turned into steam in the closed system. In essence, the loop works in the temperature difference between the heat source (reactor) and the heat sink (cooling tower). It is like when a water wheel is used to capture the energy when water runs downhill from a high elevation to a low one. The greater the distance (often called the “head”), the greater amount of energy to be tapped.

    One developer of LENR, Rossi has hinted he has been working on a way to generate electricity from the reaction without having to heat a working fluid and running it in a closed cycle to convert it into rotating mechanical energy. But at the very least any source of heat can be used to boil water in a closed loop and turn a generator. That loop always requires some way to cool it, something for the heat energy to “push against”, and thus to have a temperature difference from which energy can be extracted.

  118. thebuckwheat says: January 6, 2013 at 5:42 am
    This is a clear example of the horrible effects of ideology trumping economics.
    =============================================
    Actually, it is your standard US political power play by the agriculture lobby. The real motivation was to jack up the price of grains and put more money into the pockets of farmers. It worked beautifully. Grain prices have skyrocketed since this program was foisted on the public.

    Of course, it gets touted as “green and clean” but that is the usual BS to make it palatable for the gullible, and hold the fools still while the farmers reach into their pockets.

    The substitute for ethanol is methanol, much cheaper, and in fact gasoline was formulated from methanol before the agricultural lobby pulled this off. This ethanol scam was pulled years before, but the federal courts ruled against it. But now it is the law of the land, thanks to the agricultural lobby.

    If Congress were to pass an act making methane a legal option in gasoline formulation, ethanol from corn would disappear and gasoline would be much cheaper.
    mpainter

  119. mpainter:
    “Yet, here on this posting Willis paints a picture of a “hungry world” that can’t afford tortillas: “I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable”.
    Well, Willis, I suppose that you will let us know when you finally make up your mind about things.
    ================
    I would suggest that if legislation is suddenly introduced that takes land out of food production for some reason, food prices will temporarily rise. Given that there are poor people in the world who spend most of their income on food, this will – imho – make these people hungry, where before they got by. I can see nothing that in any way contradicts the view that human have the capacity to match food production to population needs. There have always been short term dislocations along the way, whether by pestillence, drought, war or other reasons, such as Government interference in free markets.

    Seriously painter, your eagerness to knock Willis for his anti-Malthus views damages the quality of your posts and appears childish.

  120. I see some property rights mouthbreathers showed up. Folks need to realize that the farmer was the one to initiate this action, not the county. The cited article implies that county officials went after the land, but they were only following the property owner’s wish.
    Looking at the rules for terminating Williamson Act contracts, we see that solar easements can only be applied to farm lands that are deemed “marginally productive or physically impaired land.” Put in market terms, that means the farmer was not making any money from this land. There is plenty of underproductive farmland in the Central Vallley these days, and more each year as the former farmlands become too salty to farm (although that mostly applies to the San Joaquin Valley). Putting solar in Fresno county avoids long transmission lines and is a great way to exploit exhausted farm land.

  121. @theBuckWheat–

    Water is an absolutely terrible medium to work with as it has a very narrow liquid range of just 1Cto 99C. To get higher temperatures, the water must be kept at extremely high pressures of up to 150 atmospheres, which is just asking for trouble and I personally and luckily lived through the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) use liquid salts that have a very wide temperature range in liquid form AT SINGLE ATMOSPHERIC Pressure from 300C to 1600C, which is perfect to generate heat energy. Try getting water to 1600C….. You can’t do that unless it’s under insanely high pressure.

    LFTRs are accordingly much safer than uranium solid fuel reactors. There are just too many things that can go wrong with them as I’ve witnessed personally…

    I love LFTR technology but it’s insane to continue to use unsafe and inefficient solid fuel reactors.

    There are absolutely no good reason to continue using solid fuel reactors other than producing bomb-grade fissile material, but in this day in age, we have too much of it already.

    LFTRs seem to be by far the best option available, but I’m always open to new ideas.

  122. Vince Causey says: January 6, 2013 at 7:20 am

    I would suggest that if legislation is suddenly introduced that takes land out of food production for some reason, food prices will temporarily rise. Given that there are poor people in the world who spend most of their income on food, this will – imho – make these people hungry, where before they got by. I can see nothing that in any way contradicts the view that human have the capacity to match food production to population needs. There have always been short term dislocations along the way, whether by pestillence, drought, war or other reasons, such as Government interference in free markets.
    =================================
    You don’t seem to realize that you have paraphased Malthus here.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  123. Thank you very much Willis, another excellent article!
    I think we are looking at a rise of fascism in the world, now covered-up in environmental green clothes.
    The fascists despise free humanity, they would put us in ‘reservations’ with no political representation.
    This chameleon looks like a sick sheep but is in reality a saber-tooth tiger come from the past (it never really left).
    Good science must be preserved and left alone to develop a better future, I think.

  124. Vince Causey says: January 6, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Seriously painter, your eagerness to knock Willis for his anti-Malthus views damages the quality of your posts and appears childish.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I see that you have visited that thread. You no doubt saw that I went to a great deal of trouble to aid Willis in his understanding of that topic, and even provided him beneficial aid to help him in refuting the catastrophists like Erhlich. I am sure that Willis was duly grateful for that help.

    Above, I try to help Willis out of his error of seeming to first speak out of one side of his mouth and then the other, for the sake of expediency in argument. Such inconsistentcy can be avoided, if one tries. I do not see how that is “childish”.

  125. Chuck Nolan says at: January 6, 2013 at 3:02 am

    kakatoa says:
    January 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm……………
    Governor Brown has stated in the past that he is in favor of requiring 40% of our electrical energy coming from RE sources (vs the 33%RES that is the current mandate).

    “That’s fine. Live any way you want. Just don’t make the rest of us pay for it.”

    Chuck,

    I am trying to live the way I want, but it is getting a bit harder to do as my costs for essential goods and services are going up at a faster rate then my income. I don’t classify myself as a free rider (“having the rest of us pay for it”) as I pay on the margin Tier 3 Non Care prices for my electrical energy even with my little PV system. My baseline level has been decreased in order to meet my service providers income requirements while at the same time not having any additional social discord (i.e. voter revolts) over the rather high marginal prices that Tier 3, and 4 electrical energy users pay for a kwh of energy. The difficulty the CPUC, the electrical service providers and legislature have is that the costs to provide RE is more then the alternative. In order to meet our legislatures mandated RE standard, that I voted NO on when given a chance by the way, in the time frame prescribed large scale RE projects were needed.

    The CPUC who end up approving the contracts between the electrical energy service providers (PG&E, SCE, etc) and the investors who put their capital up to install and operate the new RE electrical generation facilities (i.e. the PV farm noted above) are a bit concerned about what it costs to meet the RES. The CPUC is also the public body that end up approving who actually has to pay (via the rate schedules) for the increased costs of providing the energy.

    We do have some data on what its costs to put RE in place (Governor Brown’s 33 or 40%RES goal):

    http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3B3FE98B-D833-428A-B606-47C9B64B7A89/0/Q4RPSReporttotheLegislatureFINAL3.pdf

    “Figure 6 below shows the weighted average TOD-adjusted cost of contracts approved by the CPUC in that year. From 2003 to 2011, contract costs have increased from 5.4 cents to 13.3 cents per kWh. One important reason for this this increase is that the IOUs contracted with existing renewable facilities at the beginning of the RPS program and with mostly new facilities in later years. In order to meet the ambitious 20% and 33% RPS targets, the IOUs have to contract with new facilities, which require higher contract costs to recover the capital needed to develop a new facility.”

    footnote 8 “Actual renewable energy payments are adjusted by each IOU’s individual TOD factors and the time that a project generates electricity. For example, since solar PV generates electricity on peak, its electricity is more valuable and the solar PV generator receives a higher payment based on the TOD adjustment.”

    So we know that it costs more per kwh to provide the electrical energy to meet the RE standard- PLEASE note that the 13.3 cents noted above ON AVERAGE is for the generation part of getting the energy to where it is going to be used. So the rest of the cost allocations are not included in what it costs to get that kwh to a location that it can be used (these costs: transmission, distribution, public purpose programs, DWR bonds, etc., have to be accounted/allocated to someone). So to your concern- who pays for it. That question was discussed a bit at a CEC meeting last year:

    Agenda- Retail Rate and Cost Issues with Renewable Development, May 22, 2012

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/2012_energypolicy/documents/2012-05-22_workshop/2012-05-22_agenda.pdf

    Our legislature, governor and the CPUC have a concern for the poor’s costs for essential services so they have shielded them for the costs of meeting the RES for the most part via the rate schedules (see the CARE rates which are noted here for PG&E- http://www.pge.com/tariffs/electric.shtml#RESELEC ). As you point out someone still has to pay for the higher costs of providing the energy – hence the legislature and CPUC are now going to let Non CARE Tier 1 and Tier 2 residential prices increase every year. As we, as in the state via our energy policies, still want folks to conserve energy via efficiency improvements (which unfortunately take capital…..) or by going without that marginal kwh we (as in the CPUC) have decided that Tier 3 and above electrical energy usage for folks in the CARE program should pay a bit more for their energy usage. Unfortunately, a lot of the poor still have to accomplish the task of cleaning their laundry. If they happen to have the equipment to accomplish this rather mundane, but essential service, at home they will still be shielded a bit from the costs, but if they have to accomplish this task at a Laundromat they will get to experience the full increased costs for energy as our commercial energy costs are going up comparable to the AVERAGE retail prices in the residential market.

    As you can tell it’s getting a bit harder for the CPUC, governor, and legislature to shield the poor from the higher costs of providing electrical energy. It appears that they may be able to accomplish this goal by how they allocate the rebates from the AB 32 carbon market sales. This approach isn’t going to help out the almost poor by the time the overhead costs to implement AB 32 are taken into account, but it will give the almost poor an incentive to conserve.

    So back to your original comment- don’t ask me to pay…….. I think you need to ask that question of the folks that determine how (and why) the electrical (and gas for that matter) rates are set not me. I can confirm for you that if your happen to fall in the poor income category it is better to live in an area that is regulated by CPUC. They are doing their best to ensure that your essential needs for energy are keep to a minimum cost wise. As there is no such thing as a free lunch they are finding it more difficult to meet this challenge.

  126. mpainter,
    “You don’t seem to realize that you have paraphased Malthus here.”
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Does that make me a profound thinker, then?

  127. mpainter,
    “Above, I try to help Willis out of his error of seeming to first speak out of one side of his mouth and then the other, for the sake of expediency in argument. Such inconsistentcy can be avoided, if one tries. I do not see how that is “childish”.

    Fine. Willis is a big boy and can certainly take care of himself without my help (if, indeed he would consider it to be helping) :).

  128. Mpainter cannot claim to have in any way to have rebutted the fact that Malthus was wrong in his primary axiom – and in some of his speculations. Mpainter resorted to ad homs of Willis E when he lost the argument.

    Scientists have a stake in Malthus because he used science to make sweeping prophecies about the future, about future events, and it went under the radar as if he was just making a scientific prediction. Scientists who are practicing prophetic roles about the future are soothsayers and are not scientists. Science cannot tell the future. Scientists who claim they can tell the future are abusing science and are also involved in the immoral activity of convincing people that this is a role that science can play.

    Instead, anyone who is practicing science will understand its limitations. We do not understand all of the systems of the earth or the state of future scientific discoveries.

  129. S. Meyer says:
    January 5, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Willis,
    As always, a thought-stimulating post. Now, I have noted that many people posting here are very much opposed to government regulation, incentives, taxes etc to influence the way we produce energy. My question then is this: Imagine there was no government involvement at all, no energy-related taxes, no requirement to put ethanol in gas, no subsides for biofuel.. If that were the case, and some entrepreneur would find it profitable to build solar panels next to I5 – would you still be opposed?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    A contract was made and that contract should be honored. If you want a good example of contracts not being honored look at zero reserve banking and home owners, another horrible scam the government endorses by not enforcing contracts. link

  130. S Meyer: I should comment that I can see both a Coal plant and a Nuclear plant when I look out my window while typing. I have zero problem with that but I DO have a problem with Wind and also with solar because they are complete and utter SCAMS!

  131. Willis,
    James Madison wrote in, Federalist Number 44

    Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligations of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. … The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less-informed part of the community.

    Boy did Madison have 20-20 foresight!

  132. Kum Dollison says:
    January 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    You guys are about to convince me that the “warmers” are right.

    If you people are this willfully wrong about about all renewables,….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
    And you just proved that you have drunk the kool-aid instead of actually looking at the engineering.

    I WANT to get the heck off the grid. I have 100 acres and am on top of a hill. My husband (a physicist) and I and a very brilliant friend looked into all the various options. The ONLY real ‘renewable’ outside of Thorium is Geothermal and that is because I have ten acres of pasture to bury the pipes in. Wind/solar using two ponds at different heights above sea level as the battery comes in a distant second.

  133. Vince Causey says: January 6, 2013 at 9:26 am
    Fine. Willis is a big boy and can certainly take care of himself without my help (if, indeed he would consider it to be helping) :).
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Could be that we are fixing to find out some things there. Stand by.

  134. Vince Causey says: January 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

    mpainter,
    “You don’t seem to realize that you have paraphased Malthus here.”
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Does that make me a profound thinker, then?
    ============================
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Chuckle, chuckle. I will say that you are one of those nasty malthusians.

  135. Climate Ace says:
    January 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    There are various ways of looking at this, but I think the most reasonable way is to say that we are internalising the true costs of a fossil fuel economy which has indiscriminately picked all our environmental pockets for centuries.

    Those costs are sunk. You are arguing that today’s consumer’s pay the cost of today’s fossil based energy + the costs of the negative externalities of the past, while ignoring any positive externalities. If you want us to pay for the ‘sins’ of the past , then you need to net out the positive externalities before giving us the bill.

    What are the externalities today? When BP spilled oil in the Gulf, they paid fines, they created clean-up jobs, they spent billions of dollars in costs, so how much do we still owe you for that negative ‘externality’?

    What about the positive externalities associated with fossil fuel production? You and your kind like to ignore those. The fact is that the development of fossil fuel with cheap and abundant electricity has lifted billions of humans from subsistence to a comfortable standard of living. What dollar value do you place on the increase in well-being for a person that shared a dank dwelling with pigs and goats until cheap and abundant electricity created a job that provided enough income to improve his/her standard of living? I am guessing that person, and his/her children would say you are full of it.

    Go ahead and delude yourself by ignoring the positive externalities of fossil fuels and just as importantly, ignoring the negative externalities of ‘green’ alternatives like solar and biofuels. I am all for research and development, but I detest those like you, who choose to force an increase in the price of electricity on the billions of people around the world trying to pull themselves out of poverty. Let me guess, your solution to expensive electricity involves a tax on fossil fuel that will make electricity more expensive.

  136. Duster and S. Meyer: Reread my post. IF wind and solar were viable and all other factors indicated that an area was appropriate, then I would be okay with the plant. IF wind and solar were viable, one could call it a power plant. (I do not see this happening, but if it did…..). As for using farmland for energy, again, all factors need to be considered. There is indeed farmland that is worn out. Using it for a PRODUCTIVE form of energy (which would not include solar) makes sense. Or using surplus corn for ethanol might make sense. MIGHT. As for starving people, humans tend to be the cause of starvation–dictators who won’t let food in, wars, etc. We can grow plenty of food. In the US, food stamps are everywhere and the guidelines just keep going up and up. No one should be hungry in the US.
    EM Smith: I am originally from Iowa and was fairly sure it was field corn that was most often grown. I did know corn is basically all edible. Thanks for the review! I had forgotten about popcorn.
    Renewable does NOT mean unlimited, even though most people seem to think that is the case. Renewable just means that with the right conditions, the resource can be replaced with a new “batch”. All of this is limited by sun, wind, available land, etc. Plus, there are processing plants, wind and solar traps, transportation. Renewable does not equal unlimited.
    Growing crops in the road ditches is interesting. When I moved to Wyoming, hay was harvested from the roadsides. I had not seen that in Iowa–too many regulations. It seems a good idea if we can avoid large lawsuits from people claiming they were startled/frightened by the tractor in the ditch (why do these people have licenses?).

  137. A. Scott says:
    January 6, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Willis …. the topic of ethanol has been discussed here many times. And as others have noted, extensive data has been provided that refutes the majority of your claims about it. For all of your smarts – your research, and statistical knowledge – its pretty clear you’ve never bothered to apply them to an honest, straightforward, look at ethanol.

    I have written at length about renewable energy. While some unidentified “others” may have provided “extensive data” that shows I’m wrong, a hand-waving statement like that is just an admission you’re either too dumb or too lazy to link to or otherwise cite what your are airily claiming to be “facts”. Maybe they are … but I’m damn sure not taking your word on it.

    Moving away from the mysterious “others, if you have a beef with what I wrote,”A.”, you need to come up with:

    a) A direct quote of what I wrote, and

    b) Some facts that show I’m wrong.

    Until then, your stupidly insulting comments just ensure that your post doesn’t get a scientific answer from me.

    It seems clear that you think that coming in here and insulting me is the way to get your voice heard. You are living up to the “A.” in your name. I can only assure you, all it does is make you look like a jerkwagon.

    For those who would like to read what I actually said about renewable energy instead of getting your information from some random “A.”, see e.g.:

    The Dark Future of Solar Energy
    Firing Up The Economy

    Finally, “A.”, random “facts” are meaningless. You make some wacky claim about the energy it takes to make ethanol … but you neglect to specify just whose “A.” you pulled the information out of.

    Look, you seem like a smart guy. Smart guys look around, read a bit, and learn the rules before they open their mouths and seem like a dumb guy ..

    w.

  138. How about converting electricity or fuel to food? When that becomes possible, perhaps we can then, morally, begin converting food to fuel. GK

  139. E.M. Smith, thanks so much for the short course in corn (sweet, flint, dent). I love this site. Any idiot can come here and make crazy claims, but there’s always someone out there like E.M. who actually, really, irrefutably does know what he’s talking about to straighten the poor fellow out. It is the world’s best college.

    w.

  140. Earlier this month, county supervisors voted to cancel a Williamson Act farmland-conservation contract on 90 acres of prime Class I soil, to allow the parcel to be developed for a large solar power plant. Farm Bureau said the Williamson Act requires that a proposed contract cancellation meet rigorous findings. For example, to find that a cancellation is in the public interest, the benefits of the proposed project must substantially outweigh the objectives of the farmland-protection program, and there cannot be other, unprotected land available for the same use.

  141. I was chatting to a local corn farmer some years ago. He said ” it will surprise you but there are about three hundred different products made from corn” . But not if you make fuel out of it. Never mind tortillas.

  142. mpainter says:
    January 6, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Goodness gracious me, I left out something-

    Willis: “crowd of folks that thinks losing irreplaceable farmland is a good thing in a hungry world”

    Now this is the best yet. Willis, on his posting of Jan.2, “The Cost of Energy”, argued vehemently on that thread that food was not a problem in today’s world, and never would be because of modern agricultural capacities. Yet, here on this posting Willis paints a picture of a “hungry world” that can’t afford tortillas: “I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable”.
    Well, Willis, I suppose that you will let us know when you finally make up your mind about things.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Two different things.
    1. Do we have enough farmland to support the population all other problems ignored? That answer is yes.

    An example of the type of problem I mean. As crops rot, millions go hungry in India: …a woeful lack of storage facilities and an inefficient, corruption-plagued public distribution system that fails millions of impoverished people.

    The second problem is food may be plentiful but too costly to buy because of the wage/price ratio.

    Is there a con game being played? Yes.
    Strategic Reserves in the USA and else where have been killed. Laws have been passed to intentionally wipe out family farmers. Biofuel and “Green Energy” is being hyped so Big Money can move in to reap the benefits.

    To put it bluntly FOOD is the next big MONEY BUBBLE! And just as big money did not give a rats rear whether families ended in the street or the economy was wreck with the mortgage bubble, they could care less if people starve. This clip makes that very clear.

    Food shortfalls predicted: 2008
    The agricultural sector was one of the areas we found most attractive in 2007. We expect that will remain the case. Long term global price and demand trends remain positive…

    In summary, we have record low grain inventories globally as we move into a new crop year. We have demand growing strongly. Which means that going forward even small crop failures are going to drive grain prices to record levels. As an investor, we continue to find these long term trends…very attractive.

    http://www.financialsense.com/fsu/editorials/dancy/2008/0104.html

    Profits from Food Bubble
    July 22, 2008 letter to President Bush: No Grain Reserve request from Gain Traders
    link
    link
    link
    link
    link

    Bill Clinton: “We Blew It” On Global Food – WTO
    2008 food crisis

    Bill Clinton and The American Rice Scandal
    FARM LAND GRAB results of WTO & NAFTA

    According to a study by Jose Romero and Alicia Puyana carried out for the federal government of Mexico, between 1992 and 2002, the number of agricultural households fell an astounding 75% – from 2.3 million to 575, 000
    link

    link
    link
    link
    link
    link
    link

    The results are we are seeing hunger in the EU and America NOW!
    16 million kids in America aren’t getting the food they need.
    Hunger a growing problem in America, USDA reports
    America: Hunger & Poverty Statistics
    US Food Inflation Spiraling Out of Control: …NIA believes that a major breakout in food inflation could be imminent…
    We are Hungry!”: A Summary Report of Food Riots, Government Responses, and States of Democracy in 2008

  143. Don K says:
    January 6, 2013 at 3:22 am

    … You seem to have somehow concluded that solar is inherently expensive. I’d sure like to see your source on that, because I don’t find that very credible.

    Sure. Check out the link I gave a few posts above this one, The Dark Future of Solar. In fact, solar is inherently expensive … and that’s according to the US Energy Information Agencies’ Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources

    I also have the advantage of having a brother who currently sells and installs solar systems around here, so I can quote you chapter and verse on both wholesale and retail costs. Actual, verifiable, installed prices, not some solar promoter’s wet dream like someone quoted above.

    It’s not a pretty picture unless (like here in CA) you have subsidies or tax rebates or high energy buyback costs. We have all of them. All of those mean that a solar system only makes money because your neighbors (including me) are paying for it.

    So all you guys jumping around upstream and bragging about your solar systems? By and large, unless you are off the grid, you are just parasites who are forcing other people to pay for the cost of your green onanism.

    Sure, here in California, home of 25-cent-per-kilowatt electricity, solar makes economic sense. But then, of course, the reason solar makes sense is that PGE has had to wildly increase their selling costs for power.

    Why have PGE had to increase their selling costs?

    Because they’ve been forced to buy lots of your darling, crappy, intermittent, ridiculously expensive solar and wind power, Don K.

    If you truly think solar is not “inherently expensive”, then what is your explanation for why it’s not being used all over the planet right now?

    Time’s up. The answer is, solar is not used much around the planet because despite thirty years and more of development,

    It. Costs. A. Lot.

    … far too much for most applications. It’s the same reason that I am currently paying for my neighbors’ meaningless solar installations. Because solar power costs a lot.

    w.

    PS—You judge my work, describing my position by saying “I don’t find that very credible”, before you even look at my sources, or even read what I’ve said???

    Damn, this post-modern science does cut to the chase, doesn’t it? …

    I don’t find that credible in the slightest. Do your damn homework. First, read what I actually wrote, and only then make your lofty pronuncamientos about what you think is credible. All you’ve done so far with your method is damage your own credibility.

  144. mpainter says:
    January 6, 2013 at 3:58 am

    willis:

    “I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable”

    ===================================================
    “Expensive tortillas”? Come, come willis, you make me chuckle- how much do tortillas cost in California?

    Of course, you’d be the one person stupid enough to think I was talking about California … but I digress.

    News flash, mpainter. When you live on a dollar a day, ALL tortillas are expensive.

    Second news flash. Somewhere around a fifth of the people on the planet lives on that kind of money. To read your nonsense, you’d think the world was full of wealthy folks like you … you really should get out more, mpainter, and by “out” I mean out to where the poor folks live.

    I’d exercise some caution, though, because if you haven’t noticed that there are people on our lovely planet for whom tortillas are an expensive luxury item, you’re likely to go snowblind when you pull your head out of the dark place where you inserted it …

    w.

  145. Zeke sez: January 6, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Mpainter cannot claim to have in any way to have rebutted the fact that Malthus was wrong in his primary axiom – and in some of his speculations. Mpainter resorted to ad homs of Willis E when he lost the argument.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I doubt if you understood the argument- how’s that for an ad hom?

  146. Willis Eschenbach says:January 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    mpainter says:
    January 6, 2013 at 3:58 am (Edit)

    willis: “I’ve known too many people for whom expensive tortillas are unobtainable”

    ===================================================
    “Expensive tortillas”? Come, come willis, you make me chuckle- how much do tortillas cost in California?
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Of course, you’d be the one person stupid enough to think I was talking about California …

    w.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    How about that Willis, Zeke! Behold your boy at work.

    Okay Willis, I’m game, where is this place where people can’t afford tortillas? Educate me, please and thank you.

  147. Matt Skaggs says:
    January 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I see some property rights mouthbreathers showed up. Folks need to realize that the farmer was the one to initiate this action, not the county. The cited article implies that county officials went after the land, but they were only following the property owner’s wish.

    Not sure what your point is here, other than to insult people. The farmer was trying to weasel out of the contract so that he could get the big bucks from the developers. He either convinced or paid off the County to rule in his favor. What does that have to do with mouth-breathing?

    Looking at the rules for terminating Williamson Act contracts, we see that solar easements can only be applied to farm lands that are deemed “marginally productive or physically impaired land.”

    What does that have to do with this case? We have no evidence that they are looking for a “solar easement”. The article clearly stated that they were breaking the Williamson contract, not approving an easement.

    Put in market terms, that means the farmer was not making any money from this land.

    Now, you are just making things up. We have absolutely no evidence that the farmer was not making any money off the land. We have absolutely no evidence that an easement was involved. We have absolutely no evidence that this was “marginally productive or physically impaired” land. You are spinning a story out of whole cloth.

    There is plenty of underproductive farmland in the Central Vallley these days, and more each year as the former farmlands become too salty to farm (although that mostly applies to the San Joaquin Valley). Putting solar in Fresno county avoids long transmission lines and is a great way to exploit exhausted farm land.

    Matt, you get your own interpretation, but not your own facts. You’ve made up a story about how this particular case involved marginal “exhausted” land. Come back when you have a scrap of actual evidence to back up the things that you have invented out of the whole cloth, and you might have something.

    Sure, your claim might be right … but we haven’t any evidence it is right. So until then, your whole post is just made up stories for the kids around the campfire.

    w.

  148. mpainter says:
    January 6, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    … Okay Willis, I’m game, where is this place where people can’t afford tortillas?

    OK, I admit it, you caught me. The real truth is that every single person on this planet can afford tortillas, they can buy all the tortillas that they want. Nobody is short of money in the mpainter paradise, nobody lacks for anything, least of all tortillas. And when tortillas get expensive that doesn’t bother the poor at all, because they all can buy tortillas in this, the best of all possible worlds …

    Are you really that dumb, mpainter, or are you just really good at appearing clueless?

    Here’s a story from Mexico that might assist your mental processes. I’d gone down there with my friend David. One afternoon, David and I found ourselves sitting in the welcome shade of some trees in a railroad yard in Guadalajara, waiting to hop a freight train. We were going to ride south, although most of the riders were going north. In Mexico, train riders aren’t called hobos. They’re called “moscas”, flies. They were going north to try their luck crossing the border.

    Two young boys came by, brothers the older one said, perhaps four and seven years old. Built on the usual blueprint of the poor, they were undersized and skinny. I struck up a conversation in Spanish with the seven year old. The younger boy never said a word. He just trailed a few feet behind his older brother, and watched everything with black shiny eyes.

    The older boy had a slingshot made of a tree branch “Y” fork, with a dozen or more ordinary rubber bands of all sizes and colors attached to each fork of the “Y” and to the leather pouch.

    I asked what they were doing. The boy said they came to the railroad lines because there were perfectly round stones for his slingshot in the railroad bed. He showed me how hard it was to pull his slingshot. Oh, I suppose you are the grán cazador, the mighty hunter, I joked.

    Si, Señor, yo soy, he explained very soberly in Spanish, yes, Sir, I am.

    My skepticism must have shown in my eyes. Mira, he said, watch.

    He searched around, picked up and discarded a few stones, finally settling on exactly the right one. He put it in the pouch of the slingshot, and started walking around and gazing intently up into the tree branches above us. He stopped, pulled back and let fly.

    There was a “poof” sound up in the tree, and a bird the size of a small robin or a chickadee, that I didn’t even know was in the tree, tumbled down at my feet. He and his tiny brother both jumped on it, and he twisted its neck in an economical, practiced fashion.

    With my mouth hanging open, I hastened to assure him that I was wrong to doubt his word. I said he was indeed a skilled hunter. I asked what he would do with the bird. Oh, para comer, señor, it’s for food, sir, he said. I said are you going to take it home to your mamá to cook it? Oh, no, Señor, somos siete, he said … oh no, Sir … there’s seven of us kids … I nodded my understanding. I remembered that when I was a kid, my big dream was to be a grownup so I could buy a bag of M&Ms (small candies) and eat them all myself, and not have to split them seven ways with my brothers and cousins. I reflected that while I dreamed of not having to divide a dessert seven ways, he dreamed of not having to divide a chickadee seven ways …

    He and his short confederate scurried off. They returned with some grass and twigs. He pulled out a tattered matchbook and lit a fire. In no time he had plucked that bird, gutted it, skewered it, and had it cooking over the fire. I watched in astonishment.

    I walked to the corner where an old lady was frying tacos on a dished-top tin can stove. I bought a few potato tacos the size of silver dollars. She didn’t sell meat tacos, poor people don’t buy meat tacos. She made tacos with potatoes and tacos with beans. I brought them back, and gave most of them to the midget hunter and his mini-amigo. And God damn it, he wanted me to take half the bird. But I could see their eyes caressing it.

    So I told them I could only eat a small bite on account of my liver. The liver being the common explanation in Northern Mexico for any physical infirmity, the older boy nodded sagely. He agreed that a man has to take care of his liver, you can’t be too careful. He said his liver was fine, thanks, and they happily polished off that bird. I bought another round of potato tacos to celebrate, which had similarly short lifetimes. The four of us set around the fire, not saying much, and watching the warm tropical night come on.

    =========================

    So that’s the story, mpainter, And now you can take your asinine, heartless claim that nowhere in the world are tortillas expensive for anyone, and lovingly insert it up your fundamental orifice. Even if you haven’t extracted your digit, some of us have gone out into the world and actually looked around and learned from what we saw there …

    w.

  149. @intrepid_wanders, January 6, 2013 at 1:03 am and Bill Marsh, January 6, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Your analyses of China Lake energy demand and generating capacity assume that these projects are primarily intended to supply China Lake Naval Air Weapon Station (NAWS) demand and are driven by economics. IMO, neither assumption is correct. The geothermal plants were built starting in the late 1980’s to sell power to the utility grid. The plants were built and are operated by a private company (I am sure construction costs were heavily subsidized by Department of Energy but don’t have details) and are not sized to just supply China Lake. The Navy basically just provided the real estate and gets a royalty on the power sold. Bureau of Land Management has similar projects in other locations. A somewhat dated description of the arrangement is available at:

    http://www.gao.gov/assets/250/242616.pdf

    The China Lake solar project is intended to provide power to the NAWS but the primary driver is clearly to support development of cost effective solar power, not to save the Navy money per se. I am not necessarily endorsing this particular project, but if the government is going to subsidize renewable energy development (and it clearly is) I think the approach of supporting projects to provide power to military / government is preferable to many alternative approaches (e.g., the Solyndra rip-off). The Navy has taken the lead in a number of these projects, in part due to their close relationship with DOE for naval nuclear propulsion.

    Although the military’s interest in alternative energy sources is largely politically motivated, there is also real interest in developing alternative sources for very sound operational and logistic reasons. Peacetime energy costs are not the primarily driver. Improving resilience and reducing the need to transport fuel and water to forward bases (e.g., by developing off-grid power sources) is worthwhile.

    BTW, the statement that “NWC is government owned and is not subject to civil law (otherwise, no impact studies)” is flat wrong. The government, including the military, is subject to US law and regulations unless specifically exempted. In many instances government activities, particularly functions performed by contractors (e.g., the type of government hosted/owned, contractor operated projected we are talking about) may also be subject to state laws and regulations. The government gets sued routinely and navigating environmental regs and processes is probably at least as burdensome as it is for industry.

  150. Willis Eschenbach says: January 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    News flash, mpainter. When you live on a dollar a day, ALL tortillas are expensive.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I can believe the flash part, Willis, now how about answering the question that I put to you at 12:19 pm, thanking you ever so kindly:

    Okay Willis, I’m game, where is this place where people can’t afford tortillas? Educate me, please and thank you.

  151. “When you live on a dollar a day, ALL tortillas are expensive.”[W. E., 2013]

    I agree, also, with your compliment for E. M. Smith’s contribution regarding corn.

  152. Willis Eschenbach says: January 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    You need to be careful Willis, telling tales like that- somebody, like maybe some of your pals around here, will think that you have gone mathusian- then where will you be?
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Some more of Willis:
    So that’s the story, mpainter, And now you can take your asinine, heartless claim that nowhere in the world are tortillas expensive for anyone, and lovingly insert it up your fundamental orifice. Even if you haven’t extracted your digit, some of us have gone out into the world and actually looked around and learned from what we saw there …
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Try some visine
    regards, mpainter

  153. E.M.Smith
    Thanks to Fracking about a trillion barrels equivalent just came on line in the USA alone. More in the rest of the world. We’ve got hundreds of years “more” now. (Not just gas, but oil too).

    Watch for a frantic attack on fracking as it is going to turn the USA into a net oil exporting country if it isn’t stopped.

    Did I mention that’s Trillions, with a T?
    ==============================

    Yes, we have stumbled into a lot a natural gas. It’s NOT hundreds of years worth and, it’s not a trillion barrels equivalent.

    1 barrel = about 6000 cubic feet. Proven natural gas reserves are very roughly 300,000,000 billion cu ft = 50 billion barrels equivalent — which sounds like (and is) a huge amount until you realize that the US goes through a billion barrels of oil in about two months. (and we burn another half billion barrels equivalent of natural gas in that two months). 300,000,000cu ft is certainly too low a number for the amount of gas that will eventually be recovered, but even the optimists think eventual recovery will be less than 10 times that. i.e. There’s probably something less than a hundred years worth at current consumption rates. See http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/future_tense/2011/12/is_there_really_100_years_worth_of_natural_gas_beneath_the_united_states_.html

    But since gas is cheaper to produce per btu and distribute than petroleum, some petroleum use will surely switch to natural gas (e.g. home heating oil users switching to NG when their furnaces die). Moreover, It’s a good bet that some US natural gas will be liquified and shipped to places like Japan (not many hydrocarbons in thoe mostly volcanic rocks). Our great grandkids might not be happy we did that, but that’s their problem, right?

    And no — barring finding a bunch more oil someplace, it’s not very likely that the US will become a net oil exporter. People who think that are treating natural gas liquids as crude oil. NGLs aren’t oil. Mostly, they are substances like Butane and Propane that are substantially less energy dense than crude oil. One barrel of NGL = about 0.7 barrel of crude . Moreover, current drilling practices are reportedly high-grading the shale gas resource — producing the most NGL-rich gas preferentially because the price of NGLs although lower than crude is higher than gas.

    Yes, we’ve lucked out and dodged a potential bullet. That doesn’t make us bullet proof.

  154. This may be a bit off topic but, from running into extreme enviros under the guise of “animal rights” over a decade go ( some of them would want your commute to to work to be interupted by a herd of 20 million buffalo crossing the interstate ), it occured to me that alot of the thrust of the enviro-backed UN-CAGW stuff is to transfer funds from industrialized nations to less industrialized nation. My question is, why are the enviros backing an effort that might, say, put wind mills on Kilimanjaro or bulldoze the savanna to install a solar plant? Might not the wildebeast object?
    Just something to ponder.

  155. @SAMURAI:

    Did you notice the part where I said I agree with you on Th reactors?

    There’s just an “add on” that we don’t need to wait to build new tech plants to use Th. So another way to say that is that there is a major advantage to LWR and BWR et. al.: We already have them so can fuel with Th starting “now”. That does not in any way argue against building newer liquid metal or molten salt or ‘whatever’ designs “going forward”.

    Another way to say it is that we can, should we choose, run our existing stock of reactors on any of U, Th, Pu / MOX (so fuel is functionally unlimited for them too) while taking the 20 years it will take to get design approval, site approval, build, approval, and operational status on new designs.

    @The Buckwheat:

    Um, carbon chemistry makes all forms of carbon “fungible”. Only the costs change. In point of fact, we DO “eat coal” and we can “burn navel oranges in jet plains”. (RTK Rentech has run a bio-jet fuel made from garbage – no doubt including some orange peels – in military jets.) As just about everything depends on nitrogen fertilizers made from either / any of natural gas, petroleum, or from coal; most of the food we eat is in fact indirectly fossil fueled… Look up “synthesis gas” and then look up “synthetic fertilizer”…

    I do agree that in general it is cheaper to use coal to make synthetic fuels. OTOH, garbage is pretty cheap… http://www.rentechinc.com/pdfs/QA%20with%20Hunt.pdf

    They also have a fertilizer plant… so both food-fertilizer and fuel from the same company and same technologies.

    @Mpainter:

    Methanol is not (and was not) an additive of any size (i.e. other than ‘fuel dryer’) in the USA. It is hostile to the metals and plastics / rubbers in our fleet. I’m assuming your assertion that it was used was the MTBE fiasco (also made from methane). That is not methanol (though methanol can be an intermediary reactant). Using a highly stable ether was just dumb. It, too, had ‘materials problems’ (mostly with the tankage) but worse, does not ‘go away’ once spilled / leaked into the water supply.

    Oddly, tert-butanol is a mid-point in the manufacture. Butanol is a drop in replacement for gasoline and does not attack fuel system metals and plastics. It is also very biodegradable. Why they didn’t just stop there is beyond me. (NOT a hypothetical, btw, at one time there was a guy running his old Buick? on the stuff for years…)

    It’s fairly trivial to make methanol THEN turn it into something more ‘fleet friendly’ and almost as easy to change the cars to be “methanol fuelers”, so I’m not attacking the idea of methanol fueled cars. But you can’t just dump it into the existing fleet at 10% to 15% and expect things to not break.

    BTW, after the “Arab Oil Embargo” VW in Germany looked into making methanol VWs. And the fuel. Using a HTGC reactor for process heat lets you put about 40% “nuke” in your tank and makes methanol from low grade coal at about (then) 50 cents / gallon of gas equivalent (GGE). In present terms that’s about $2.50 / GGE. (or less…)

    We can have a hundred years or more of that kind of fuel if we wanted. Oh, and the same tech can turn garbage into fuel too. Or even the 25 dry tons / acre of fast growth trees.

    @Reality Check:

    You are welcome for the “review”. Dad was from Davenport. Hog and corn farm with a smithy in the barn where “Grandpa” made things / fixed things for the other farmers.

    Oh, there’s actually a 5th kind of corn, but it’s pretty rare and not really commercial.

    Gourdseed Corn

    Gourdseed corns are one of our oldest corns, and were commonly grown in southern Virginia. The plants of gourdseed corn are heavily stalked and bear ears having a large number of rows of thin, deep kernels. These valuable corns originated from Indian gourdseed corn dating back to at least 1700. They were used for roasting ears, and for feed and flour. At maturity the kernels of some varieties are easily shelled by a light touch to the ear. Gourdseed corns were grown until about 1940, before hybrids became popular. In 1889, gourdseed corn won the Great Corn Contest sponsored by the American Agriculturist, yielding 255 bushels per acre. Because of interest in hybrid corn, gourdseed corns were virtually extinct by the 1960s, but recently they have been found to be valuable because of their resistance to some diseases, notably southern leaf blight. Dr. Brown, former president of Pioneer Hi-Bred rediscovered gourdseed corn on a Texas farm, after a year-long search for this disease-resistant variety.

    I have a small packet of gourdseed corn from a random ‘indian corn’ decorative ear sold at a local store…. so it’s still out there in some pockets of heirloom growers…

    @Gail:

    Love that Madison quote… some things never change…

    @Tom in Indy:

    Don’t forget the positive externality that “CO2 fertilization” is estimated to have increased global plant growth by amounts ranging up to 20% per year…

    @G.Karst:

    See the above about carbon being ‘fungible’. We already turn ANY power source into food. Fertilizer can be made from anything that makes heat. We just choose to use the cheapest sources as that’s the smarter way to do it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process

    “It is estimated that half of the protein within human beings is made of nitrogen that was originally fixed by this process”
    “The major source is methane from natural gas. The conversion, steam reforming, is conducted with air, which is deoxygenated by the combusting natural gas. Originally Bosch obtained hydrogen by the electrolysis of water.”

    One can just as easily use petroleum, coal, dead trees, old phone books…

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/304962-rentech-nitrogen-partners-a-new-fertilizer-mlp

    has an interesting history on one such plant as they were running on nat gas, then were going to run on coal, then… This is the same company that uses their process to make jet fuel from garbage. Standard F-T stuff mostly.

    @Willis:

    You are most welcome. Dad was an Iowa corn farmer who moved to California and sold farms for a living. I grew up in a farm town. Dad thought I needed to know corn. We grew it in the back yard (1/4 acre) most years. I know more about corn genetics than any computer programmer ought to know ;-)

    And BTW there are poor folks in California too. Most farm towns have very cyclical economies with the seasons. In my home town the ‘good’ jobs were driving farm equipment or working in the cannery (peaches and pumpkins). Other than that, you either owned land or a business.

    Generally speaking, to get the ‘good job’ involved waiting for someone who had one to die. Even then, it meant you got a paycheck for 1/2 the year and nothing the rest.

    Last time I looked they had added a small subdivision of “Section 8″ housing and working the welfare system was becoming the new “good job”. The cannery has left town / closed down.

    So the choice is:

    A) Let markets work to keep costs of food and energy down.
    or
    B) Welfare state.

    BTW, being told “go get food stamps” is fine… unless the nearest office is at the county seat and you don’t have transportation nor money for gas, and it doesn’t start for “a while”, and the kids need to eat tonight, and it doesn’t pay the overdue rent, and….

    But this was 20 years back, so maybe by now the Welfare City-State economy works better than it did then. Then this poor guy and his wife were actually embarrassed to be on the dole. (He wasn’t dumb, just an ‘ordinary guy’ who had a seasonal job so was unemployed 1/2 the year. Hoping to get hired driving a forklift somewhere more steady…)

    Somehow touting the virtues of the Welfare State as the “fix” to broken market manipulation by the State just seems nutty to me…

  156. mpainter blazes, retorts: “I doubt if you understood the argument- how’s that for an ad hom?”

    Was that an ad hom? It looked more like you dabble in omniscience and omnipresence as a side hobby. Look, try picking up the end that isn’t sharp next time. Then you will be able to do real ad hom attacks in defense of the failed and unscientific work of Malthus.

  157. E.M.Smith says: January 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Methanol is not (and was not) an additive of any size (i.e. other than ‘fuel dryer’) in the USA. It is hostile to the metals and plastics / rubbers in our fleet. I’m assuming your assertion that it was used was the MTBE fiasco (also made from methane).
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    You need to check your sources and see if you did not imbibe some form of propaganda, because you could not be more wrong. Methanol was first in this country. Ethanol replaced methanol by act of Congress ten-fifteen years ago. See methanol/gasoline

  158. Hmm… A farmer has to make a living. He needs to get a certain price for his products in order to survive himself.

    That there are a million starving customers in India eager to buy his products at low-low prices I imagine would fail to encourage him to put much effort into his work.

    Meanwhile, the amount of food thrown away in the US alone suggests that there is absolutely no lack of food production in your country.

    I think the dirty little secret here is that our planet is overpopulated. We have a reserve of people that our current economic system has few if any provisions to cope with. If we give away stuff out of the goodness of our hearts, then the farmers in those regions “helped” will be left unable to compete with our “goodness”. There are examples of countries that, as a result of foreign “aid” ends up with less food production of their own.

    I would love to see some ideas on how to solve this. Telling farmers to not grow biofuel only encourages less farming I’m afraid.

  159. The entire economy changed, not just the food supply. The most important development in increasing the food supply for people in the 30’s and 40’s was the tractor. Previously a 100 acre farm used 60 acres for hay to feed the horses necessary for plowing, harvesting, etc. Once the tractor appeared, the entire 100 acres could be used to grow crops. Rust of every kind was effectively wiped out by the tireless and visionary work of Stakman and Borlaug through genetic research and development of pesticides. And we hardly know everything there is to know about plants and biologic systems though now people are just as arrogant and quick to claim that we do as Malthus was in his day.

    So once again, since Malthus was claiming to forsee the future and be able to “predict” population growth using food production as a measure, he was wrong. And better than that, the production of food alone did not allow the population to increase – the entire economy that provided those tractors, mass production, roads, phone lines, rail lines, refrigeration, and electricity allowed the population to expand. Malthus was an augur. A common speculator, a gypsy with a crystal ball. And he did not see the entire western economies coming, but claimed science could reveal future events in human history based on known formulas. New verse same as the first. The moral of the story is that predictions in science are now being stretched to mean prophecies about the future.

  160. Gail Combs: My research on “hunger in America” indicate that many of these surveys are based on subjective data: “Are you afraid of running out of food?” “Are there times you wish you had more to eat?” “Do you worry money will run out before you get food?” We all know how wording can change to outcome of a survey. Plus, people will often say they cannot afford food because they know they will gain sympathy, rather than saying if they cut off cable TV and stopped smoking, they could buy food. (I am NOT saying everyone does this but I have know people who think that way. People feel sorry is you can’t buy food but they won’t buy cigarettes for you.)

    EM Smith: When I was a social worker 30 years ago I drove to people’s houses to get them to sign up for services. The system does seem less personalized now, but so far as I know, there are numbers you can call and someone will help get you on the program. There are also food banks everywhere. Some people avoid the programs out of fear or pride, but I don’t see that as any different than a person who won’t take a job because it does pay enough, won’t buy second hand clothing, etc.

    I read about India’s problems with food storage–again, there is plenty of food out there. The problems are in the supply chains and government policies.

    The comment about the oil/gas not being as long-lasting as we may have thought and the fear of running out of food are both often ways of trying to pressure people into doing things they would not normally agree to–like putting up million dollar wind turbines that make the grid unstable and raise costs on electricity, solar panels over farm land, etc. If it turns out we “only” have 100 years of oil, consider how the world has changed since 1912. No one could have imagined nuclear power then. Even if we have 300 years of oil/gas, or 500 years, people are going to try to find better, cheaper ways to make electricity and run cars now, not waiting 100 years and then jump on the problem. If the government stays out of it, there’s a good chance this will happen.

  161. @DonK:

    I see you missed the statement about OIL via fracking.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale

    (Being the wiki you can be sure they are being as pessimistic as possible about oil)

    Deposits of oil shale occur around the world, including major deposits in the United States. Estimates of global deposits range from 2.8 to 3.3 trillion barrels (450×109 to 520×109 m3) of recoverable oil

    Fracking, it’s not just for natural gas…

    Do note, that is the “recoverable” portion. There’s even more than that for some other newer future technology to recover.

    Oh, and as about 1/2 the total oil in any ‘depleted’ oil field is still in the ground due to it being too slow to move through the rock; fracking old fields (and other tertiary recovery techniques) can get at that oil too. APA Apache Energy company has made a great business out of buying ‘depleted’ fields and re-working them.

    “Running out” is just not in the picture for hundreds of years.

    As this one is also “green” you can be sure they are Malthist Paranoid Depressives on oil ‘running out’ too:

    http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/11/america-saudi-arabia-oil/

    USA Fracking Will Top Saudi Oil Production in Five Years

    The United States is poised to become the world’s largest oil producer by 2020 thanks to increased output of new exploration technologies such as fracking. But what does this mean for politics?

    The World Energy Outlook 2012 released by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that America will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017, becoming a net oil exporter by around 2030.

    Notice the word “oil” and the lack of the word “gas”? While the natural gas boom is great (and there is just sooo much of it…) and while we’ve got a few hundred years of coal (with ‘coal seam gas’ too) and that’s great; it is what fracking is doing in oil fields that is the real killer story.

    So your bit on ‘gas’ was interesting, but misses the target…. Note that I’ve had “oil” in my statement from the beginning (along with gas).

    And yes, that’s Trillion, with a T.

    But just on natural gas:

    http://energytomorrow.org/blog/a-paucity-of-scarcity/

    Notice two things, the addition of a zero to y-axis, and the steady growth since 2000, with an adjustment for this year. In short it doesn’t matter what our “reserves” are, in the long run, because they don’t measure all of the resources available for exploration. When you take those into account:

    “EIA estimates that there are 2,214 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas that is technically recoverable in the United States. Of the total, an estimated 273 Tcf are proved reserves, which includes 60 Tcf of shale gas. At the rate of U.S. natural gas consumption in 2010 of about 24 Tcf per year, 2,214 Tcf of natural gas is enough to last about 92 years.”

    So 92 years worth of natural gas is technically recoverable using, and this is the important part, today’s technology. That’s right, we are sitting on 92 years worth of natural gas even with no new discoveries and no new technologies.

    It is absolutely critical to realize how “reserves” is a useless term for anything but accounting purposes and that for long term ‘running out’ issues you must look at ‘ultimately recoverable resource’.

    So get back to me about 2104 A.D. on the natural gas (and somewhat later, maybe a 1/2 century more) on the oil running out and we can talk it over then. Oh, and mark your calendar for 2250 A.D. or so for coal. Yeah, it ought to last longer than that, but it would be good to ‘check in’ ahead of 2350 A.D. …

    @The corn topic:

    Just FWIW, since the issue of corn and seeds and all is floating about. I run a minor “seed saving” operation in my ‘back yard’. It is something easy to do and anyone can be part of it. (It doesn’t require land. Even a couple of pots on a window sill can save some varieties from extinction). I have a few hundred varieties stored in a ‘mini-freezer’ about the size of a dishwasher on the back patio. Seeds in a regular freezer can last decades (maybe longer).

    My method is simple: Put dry seeds in jars and freeze them.

    You can even do this with commercial seed packages ( most of mine are that way as I can only grow a small number of the varieties I’d like to save). Heck, if you garden, just putting any leftover seeds from one season into a jar in the freezer keeps them good for the next year or three (and cuts costs…)

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/seed-saving/

    It can be as simple as an old ‘mayonnaise jar’ in the home freezer. (Though they go through defrost cycles and it is better to use a non-self-defrosting type for decade scale freezing).

    Yes, thanks to Dad I can’t be happy without a ‘toy farm’ in the backyard ;-) and saving old kinds of seeds like they grew on Grandma’s Amish farm… Also some selected Indian seeds. The Hopi, especially, have some amazing varieties they have selected. The Cherokee types are surprisingly good too. “Trail Of Tears” beans have a beautiful flower. Hopi Red Amaranth is busy naturalizing in my yard and is a brilliant red foliage. Edible leaves and grain.

    So I have over 3 dozen kinds of corn, from all types (including ‘mini-popcorn’ in 4 or 5 colors) in the archive. In just a few jars… I try to grow out a block of one type every year or so, but if I don’t, they keep…

    http://www.seedsavers.org/

    Save a seed, save the planet, save the heritage…

  162. Willis – stop being an outright “A” yourself – something you frequently do when challenged.

    First, I said I AGREED with your premise on solar replacing good farmland. I also offered some ideas for discussion on that topic.

    Second – you arrogantly and rudely attack me over supporting my “random facts”:

    Until [you provide] …some facts that show I’m wrong.then, your stupidly insulting comments just ensure that your post doesn’t get a scientific answer from me. It seems clear that you think that coming in here and insulting me is the way to get your voice heard. You are living up to the “A.” in your name. I can only assure you, all it does is make you look like a jerkwagon. Finally, “A.”, random “facts” are meaningless. You make some wacky claim about the energy it takes to make ethanol … but you neglect to specify just whose “A.” you pulled the information out of. Look, you seem like a smart guy. Smart guys look around, read a bit, and learn the rules before they open their mouths and seem like a dumb guy ..,

    … yet you offered zero support for your “random facts” about ethanol in your post.

    Third – I, and a few others, as I NOTED, have commented here extensively on these specific “random claims”, with detailed information fully supported by data – and links. Before being such an “A” yourself – you could have done a simple search on ethanol here at WUWT. You would find a large number of posts from me (and others) that support the claims I made.

    You might also note my acknowledgement of your considerable skills in research and statistics, and the sincere request that you put them to use regarding ethanol.

    Your reply was juvenile and crude Willis – and grossly unwarranted. Not just to me – but to others who disagreed with you as well. Childish name calling and insults are beneath you. All you had to do was ask for support for the claims and I assure you, it would have been provided. I do not make “random” statements.

    People who disagree with you are not an enemy. Nor are people who disagree with you being disrespectful.

    I’ll accept a small measure of responsibility – in re-reading – I would have worded one sentence slightly differently:

    “For all of your smarts – your research, and statistical knowledge – its appears you’ve not applied them to a straightforward look at ethanol.”

    The original – referencing you not making an “honest, straightforward” look at ethanol could have conveyed an impression you have made a dishonest review. That was not the intention.

  163. E.M. Smith says….. “Fracking, it’s not just for natural gas…”

    I am reading a X Mas present currently- “Keeping Faith- Memories of a President” by Jimmy Carter. I noticed that in his “The Moral Equivalent of War” section that one of the first things he did in 1977 was to deal with the natural gas crisis that was effecting supplies of gas at that time- via the Emergency Natural Gas Act. I was wondering if the R&D into drilling that has lead to the increased supplies of natural gas and oil, via the Fracking phenomena we are now experiencing, have anything to do with either 1) the opening up the previously rather controlled natural gas market, 2) the focus at the new DOE on energy supply or 3) if the developments in drilling came later. Are you aware of any of the times lines?

    Thanks for any input your may have.

  164. @Mpainter:

    I’ve been “up to my eyeballs” in alternative energy / gasoline history since about 1970 when I converted my old Ford to run on an alcohol blend (easy as it was manual carb adjustments) and later ran all sorts of ‘odd stuff’ through my VW. (change of jets needed).

    An interesting book is “Methanol and other ways around the gas pump” from back then. It’s on my shelf.

    California was one of the first states to “push” methanol (though historically it had been tried many times before- and generally ‘had issues’). So in the ’80s, being “hot” for a non-gasoline car I shopped “auto row” here hoping to choose between the VW, Dodge, and IIRC Ford who all had three fuel ‘flex fuel’ cars. (Methanol, ethanol, gasoline). I looked into the technology extensively (as I was aware of prior “problems”…) They all had special materials requirements and special oil requirements to deal with the corrosive properties of methanol and byproduct gases.

    These can be solved, btw. It’s about as ‘corrosive’ as water (which is pretty rough on iron…). In fact, I put ‘chunks of carburetor’ and aluminum into test tubes on my desk with methanol mixes to measure just how much of an ‘issue’ it would be.

    For short duration emergency use, not too bad. Took a few months for corrosion to show up, and then mostly at stress / flex points. However, the quantity of moisture in the mix and exposure to air are very important. Selected corrosion inhibitors can reduce this problem, but not completely eliminate it. For the “flex fuel” vehicles sold in California, the ‘usual solution’ was stainless steel.. Added about $200 to the price of the fuel handling system

    Worse, though, was the effect on rubbers. They absorb alcohols and ‘swell’ and soften. (This is used to effect in sealing gunk tossed in your oil to make leaking seals swell and stop oil leaks. The softened rubber then wears faster though). In cars made in the last couple of decades, the older rubbers are replaced with things that are safe with ethanol, but during the early runs of methanol and ethanol blends, some older natural rubber seals and hoses suffered damage and leaking. ( I know, I’ve replaced them…) Easily fixed if you go through your fuel system and put in viton and nitril and such instead of natural rubbers and related. Then again, taking your fuel system apart and putting it back together is not my idea of fun. Nor something “granny” ought to be forced to do…

    What works for ethanol doesn’t always work with methanol blends, though, so your present fleet of cars may, or may not, have fuel system rot from methanol above M5 or so.

    FWIW I lived through this on the “low sulphur Diesel” side too. Sulphur in Diesel acts similarly to oxygen in alcohols. So when we went to low sulphur Diesel, a lot of old diesels had their seals shrink (opposite direction as the stuff was being removed). The “fix” was to add a tiny bit of alcohol to the fuel. (A friend and his VW Diesel thanked me for that. He ran a few years that way instead of getting his injector pump rebuilt…) The long term fix is a $thousands rebuild of the fuel system to replace seals and such with viton et. al…

    BTW, I lived through the ’70s when folks were ‘playing with this’ and all sorts of M5 to M10 to whatever and E10 to E15 to whatever were being sold in various places. California was pushing for Methanol, and in Denver they did extensive tests. In cold weather the higher heat required to vaporise methanol caused significant cold start problems. Even in low concentration mixes like M15. At M85 it takes a custom built vehicle engine but can still have cold issues as you need a fair amount of fuel heating. In California, due to not actually doing cold in the State Capital, they went for M85 (and I’ve been to the gas stations that sold it).

    The State, in their infinite stupidity, wanted to ‘control things’, so you could only buy M85 with a special ‘credit card’ so they could track usage. I decided not to buy the 3-way flex fuel VW for two reasons. 1) Most importantly, I didn’t care to have the State track me. 2) The idea of needing a special very expensive oil didn’t appeal to me.

    Last I looked, the M85 program died a natural death in California as folks stayed away in droves and the last time I saw the pump at the local station was about 8? years ago. I’d still not mind buying a ‘3 way’ vehicle and you can find them on the used markets sometimes.

    In the rest of the country, where they “do” cold, E85 worked better. IIRC Denver did find some cold start sooting was higher with E85 or MTBE, but the methanol fuelers sometimes just didn’t start at all.

    Back at lower mixes in the existing fleet:

    http://www.cqconcepts.com/chem_methanol.php

    covers methanol chemistry pretty well. Some selected quotes cherry picked to make my point:

    “The use of methanol as a motor fuel received attention during the oil crises of the 1970s due to its availability and low cost. Problems occurred early in the development of gasoline-methanol blends. As a result of its low price some gasoline marketers over blended. Others used improper blending and handling techniques. This led to consumer and media problems and the last time out of methanol blends”

    The “over blending” was anything approaching a significant percentage. The ‘problems’ include the hard cold starting, rubber / plastic softening and dissolving, and the light metals corrosion. Basically, what I was saying about you just can’t dump M15 into any old car and have it work well, or for long.

    I did find this interesting:

    “However, there is still a great deal of interest in using methanol as a neat (unblended) fuel. The flexible-fuel vehicles currently being manufactured by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler can run on any combination of ethanol, methanol and/or gasoline. Neat alcohol fuels will become more widespread as more flexible-fuel automobiles are manufactured.”

    Last I looked, admittedly a decade+ back, the domestics were only placarded for ethanol / gasoline not a ‘3 way’. If true, it’s a great idea to have the ‘3 way’ come back. Now that synthetic oil is common, the prices are lower on the special oils too.

    “One of the drawbacks of methanol as a fuel is its corrosivity to some metals, including aluminum. Methanol, although a weak acid, attacks the oxide coating that normally protects the aluminum from corrosion:”

    And that presents a problem with all the old cars with aluminum alloy carburettors such as my old Mercdes Benz “Banana Boat” wagon with a side draft carb. (MIGHT be OK in my old mechanical fuel injected one, though, depending on what rubbers are used in the seals… then again, a $2000 fuel system replacement is not worth the risk if I’m wrong…)

    “Also in early 1970’s Methanol to gasoline process was developed by Mobil, which produces gasoline ready for use in vehicles, one industrial facility was built in New Zealand in the 1980s.”

    Which is the easy way to get methanol into old non-flex cars.

    “In the 1990s, large amounts of methanol were used in the United States to produce the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). The 1990 Clean Air Act required certain major cities to use MTBE in their gasoline to reduce photochemical smog. However, by the late 1990s, it was found that MTBE had leaked out of gasoline storage tanks and into the groundwater in sufficient amounts to affect the taste of municipal drinking water in many areas. Moreover, MTBE was found to be a carcinogen in animal studies. In the resulting backlash, several states banned the use of MTBE, and its future production remains uncertain.”

    Which was the wrong way and the one mandated by the government… and now abandoned…

    “Other chemical derivatives of methanol include dimethyl ether, which has replaced chlorofluorocarbons as an aerosol spray propellant, and acetic acid.”

    Which DME also makes a nice motor fuel (special injectors for Diesels needed).

    “One concern with the addition of methanol to automotive fuels is highlighted by recent groundwater impacts from the fuel additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Leaking underground gasoline storage tanks created MTBE plumes in groundwater that eventually adulterated well water. Methanol’s high solubility in water raises concerns that similar well water contamination could arise from the widespread use of methanol as an automotive fuel.”

    Did I mention that methanol is a neurotoxin that makes you go blind and deaf before it kills you?

    Just make it into gasoline or butanol or DME and move on…

    So, in summary, no I don’t need to “check my sources” as in some cases I am my own source. (Had a lawn mower running on methanol for a few years to just test what happened. It worked OK, but didn’t want to start in the cold. Lucky for me, I didn’t either ;-) Corrosion issues existed, but were less than expected. Then again, those old lawn mower motors were not exactly high tech and didn’t have a lot of rubber in the fuel system, and I was using fairly dry methanol ‘neat’. And my lab tests. BTW, bought a collection of replacement seals for my cars and soaked them in various alcohols too. Some worked, some fell apart. ) I’ve also been ‘plugged into’ this whole thing from before the Arab Oil Embargo. ( The history of ‘funny fuels’ in both W.W.I and W.W.II interested me early on. Various alcohol and ether blends were sold, all abandoned once real gasoline was available again. Also the first Fords had a duel fuel carb. Ethanol / Gasoline with ethanol being the preferred fuel.)

    I have nothing against Methanol as motor fuel (and have advocated for the VW nuclear process heat production method as ‘best’ for alternative to gasolines). BUT “a man has got to know” its “limitations”. And you just can’t dump M15 into any old vehicle and expect it to work well, or last long. As that was the experience of the country, too, when it was tried, I think that’s pretty well established.

    Now, going forward:

    I would be 100% happy with a requirement for new “gasoline” cars to be compatible with any blend of Methanol, Ethanol, and gasoline. It would make sure the right rubbers and plastics were used and corrosion resistant metals in the fuel system Added cost likely lower now than in the ’80s and on the order of a couple of hundred bucks.

    But do make sure the methanol doesn’t leak out of the underground fuel tanks and that there are not corrosion or seals problems with them prior to mandating it…
    (At least it is better than MTBE as ‘bugs eat it’ and don’t eat MTBE).

  165. Willis, in the 80’s and 90’s I saw and briefly visited shanty towns aroun Mexico City. The ones I saw were NE of Mexico City and one contained an estimated million people and the other an estimated 3 million. No electric power, no running water (it was all trucked in). Hauled water is too expensive for commercial agriculture. From the looks of these people and my friend/guide/translator’s remarks–poverty here for the millions of people was severe and precluded buying tortillas. They survived, they ate something, but I cannot figure how they did survive. I think of these people each time I am forced to use food-derived ethanol additions to my gasoline. Blowing food out the tailpipe is not my idea of a good solution to anything.
    Corn is also part of diet in the slums around Lagos, Nigeria. But as my guide and companion advised me, it was just too dangerous to enter these areas. Can’t really comment much about the slums around Lagos except that they appeared worse than those in Mexico, Again, to waste food when millions are hungry is a sin. I too have visited places where corn and tortillas are too expensive for millions. Your analysis and comments re conversion of farmland are entirely correct, based on my observations and on what I was told by the locals. It stomps the poor further down.

    Thank you.

  166. E.M. Smith says January 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm:
    =============================================
    At last! Someone who knows what he is talking about. You are correct about MTBE, I had understood that methanol was formulated raw to the gasoline. Thanks for the education.
    regards, mpainter

  167. @Kakatoa:

    IIRC T. Boone Pickens on an interview on CNBC said he had been fracking oil wells since the late ’40s. What changed was a guy figured out how to hold the fractures open a bit ( I think it is some kind of small crystalline ‘sand’ like stuff but the mixes are trade secrets which is why they are not keen on the EPA mandating they tell the competition how to steal their decades of trial and error… and ‘research’.. ;-)

    Near as I can tell, it was just “time” as nat gas had hit $12 / MBTU and it was worth it to ‘try stuff’. (Gas now about $4 as a result). For many years natural gas was a ‘waste product’ just flared off (still is in some OPEC areas) so doing more than poking a hole in the ground was not worth the money…

    Doubt it had anything to do with Carter or the EPA or Dpt. of Energy or government at all. Near as I can tell, they are still trying to find out how it’s done and what is used down the bore ;-)

    (Mostly water and some kind of particulates. I’d speculate some soaps / detergents / solvents and likely some ‘lube’ to prevent particulate caking. Might also include a pH modifier to make the granules “stick” once in place holding the crack open, but that’s all just my speculation on how I’d go at it…)

    In short, it’s the end result of a technology that has been in use and slowly incrementally developing over about 70 years.

  168. Zeke says: January 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm
    mpainter blazes, retorts: “I doubt if you understood the argument- how’s that for an ad hom?”

    Was that an ad hom? It looked more like you dabble in omniscience and omnipresence as a side hobby. Look, try picking up the end that isn’t sharp next time. Then you will be able to do real ad hom attacks in defense of the failed and unscientific work of Malthus.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Zeke, in all sincerity, I believe that I am much better versed on this topic than yourself. You strike me as one of those who have conceived a prejudice against Malthus based on what you others say. In fact, your statement confirms your unfamiliarity of Malthus.

    I do not think that you read much of the exchange at that thread. Willis did, and Willis learned something, if I understand his latest post there correctly. Go back and see what he learned, and maybe you can learn a few things, yourself. Or, maybe you can’t.

    Now, one other thing. I did not invite you into this. You invited your bumptious self. See if you can’t improve your approach. You can benefit a lot if you do. Otherwise, you plaints ring hollow.

  169. @Rune:

    The issue is one of distribution, not production. We are no where near “over populated” in terms of ability to produce. ( We might well be over populated in terms of what makes any one person happy about what other folks do with their lives…)

    The other major issue is that politicians are greedy everywhere. So they don’t care if the (tribe they don’t like) dies as long as they get a cut of the action.

    FWIW, there are known ways to get about double the current production from land. Why don’t we do them? It’s cheaper and easier to do what we do now so why not? Look up ‘French Intensive” gardening and “Rice Intensification” (remember that rice matters to more people than corn…) Going to things like hydroponics and greenhouses we can get to 10x the production per acre. And for anyone wanting to say that’s ‘crazy talk’ due to prices, do realize that most of the fancy lettuces and tomatoes are presently grown that way. Even in California we have lots of greenhouses for 4 season production and minimal bug problems.

    In Saudi Arabia they are building seawater based greenhouses that are cooled by evaporation that then condenses to water the food. Food from desert and seawater. It is economically viable too. There just isn’t any limit on food from a technical point of view that matters. It’s all about rich vs poor and distribution.

    Basically, we have plenty of food… for the rich and powerful folks to throw away…

    You are correct about ‘giving food away’. We (the rich west) have destroyed several local farm economies that way… “How to fix it” is harder. First you need to find a way to get rid of the power broker elite in the broken countries… (A USA circa 1800 legal / political model would work). Also farmers cooperatives and an ‘open source’ seed banking / agronomy college system helps. Private land ownership too. (That is, family farms that are large enough to mechanize and be profitable, but not gigantic multi-national agri-business monsters nor cute one family self sufficiency farms that are low productivity as they don’t mechanize.)

    @Gunga Din:

    Good point. Especially since a lot of the ‘3rd World’ funding goes to rich robber elite of their countries…

    @Zeke:

    Good example of how Malthus was wrong. The generic for it is “technological change” and “resource substitution”. Those are the two bits Malthus and all his followers miss or discount.

    “The stone age did not end for lack of stones.”

    We now use metal “2 by 4″ studs in many places in stead of wood.

    My TV set no longer needs a couple of dozen pounds of lead to make the “picture tube” x-ray safe for me to watch.

    Look up the “earthship” house. Made largely from trash. Collects and processes its own water and sewage, even in the dry southwest of the USA. We run out of resources when we run out of garbage… (Earthships are largely built from worn out tires, empty bottles, and rammed dirt).

    Please look at:

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

    so I don’t have to repeat it all here in dribs and drabs…

    @RealityCheck:

    While I would hope the ‘safety net’ is working better now, than then, ( it was a decade or two back and in a small 3000 person farm town ‘miles from nowhere’) I’d rather we just let folks work out their own problems rather than pay a State worker $60,000 / yr to make sure a person had $3000 / yr of groceries… We had effective charity when I was about 5 years old and it worked. The Mormons especially made sure no one of their members went hungry. Catholics did pretty good too.

    Why do folks think “Government” is better at this stuff than they are?

    @John F. Hultquist:

    You are most welcome. (Now I don’t feel so bad about all those summers spent listening to Dad tell me endlessly about corn and Iowa ;-)

    Once, when about 9? I had the bright idea of making a hybrid corn, so planted some Indian corn in with the sweet. THAT was the year I learned that the F1 generation had corn kernels reflective of both parent types and it didn’t wait to be planted to manifest in the seeds… We had “tough sweet corn” that year and I learned not to experiment in the garden without asking first 8-}

    The seed reflects both parents at formation, not just after growing out, so you can just look at the seeds and sort out “off type” outcrosses. Or select desired traits.

    So simply sorting for “most wrinkled” seeds gives you ‘sweetest’ selection. (Same thing sort of works with peas. Hard round ones are better “soup peas” while wrinkled ones are better ‘sweet’ garden peas. It’s a bit harder as ‘pod type’ also matters for use (think ‘snow peas’). I’m presently selecting (slowly) a ‘sweet snow pea’ with a yellow wrinkled seed.

    I have a collards / kale cross that is aphid resistant (but a tiny bit tougher) too. A 3 way cross of “Green Glaze” collards (themselves a cabbage / kale cross) with Dinosaur Kale with another cabbage. It, too, is naturalizing in a square of its own. (I’m trying to get self tending plants, so like to let them ‘take over’ a square and fight it out ;-) A “square” is a 4×4 foot area bounded by pavers.

    I’ve almost got ‘self tending’ varieties of enough key plants to just ‘go pick and otherwise ignore’ ;-)

    All because Dad wanted me to know what it was like on the farm and I find life fascinating… and that one tiny little corn experiment that lead me to want to ‘learn how to do it right’…

    I’m particularly selecting for “Catastrophe seeds”. Varieties that don’t need a lot of hand holding, chemicals, fertilizers, etc. Even if the aesthetics are a bit less. So I’ve got a giant green bean (harvested some from 20 foot up the tree…) that’s fine, but has some string in the pods. (Spouse hates the string, so I eat the older pods and she gets the youngest ones…)

    I’m about 1/2 way to a self tending sorghum. It’s reseeded 2 years now, even though overgrown by the collards / kale. Time to give it its own square as a reward, I think ;-)

    “Darwin’s Garden (c). The Survivors will be eaten! (c) -E.M.Smith” ;-)

    At any rate, if interested in more on gardens and seed saving and ‘Darwin’s Garden’, you know where I hang out. ;-)

  170. @Mpainter:

    You are welcome.

    Just about every combination of ethers, alcohols, and alkanes (regular gasoline) and aromatics (high ‘octane’ benzin) has been tried. They ALL can make excellent motor fuels provided the engineer designing the motor has THEM as his ‘spec’ to which to design.

    Where things ‘go bad’ is when after a few billion motors are built, some damn fool politician who is not an engineer decides to fiddle with the fuel specification…

    Methanol ‘just dumped in’ has been tried, and it “had issues” so was abandoned. It works FINE in vehicles designed for it – witness drag racers…

    Per ethanol “as a gasoline additive”. It provides a tiny bit better ‘octane’ rating and a little cooler burning (so engines with overheating problems run better / cooler). Otherwise it isn’t very useful, really. There’s a small reduction in some kinds of smog formation (NOx) due to the lower fuel burn temp, but an increase in vapor pressure and evaporative emissions on filling. Net about a wash. (Which is why California for a while at least fiddled with what months you could use it). Ethanol also has polymer softening and metal corrosion increasing effects, but small enough to not be a problem (for MOST cars and then only problematic in ones built 1980 or so and before… mostly).

    In cars designed for ethanol / methanol (and ‘flex fuel’ is in that group) you can run much higher compression and get more theoretical efficiency. In highly loaded engines, the added cooling is a feature (thus the use in drag racers. They run about 900 revolutions from one end of the track to the other. By the time they reach the far end they are dieseling on the melted stubs of the spark plugs. ANY added cooling is a feature! ;-) In W.W.II there was an EWP lever in some airplanes. “Emergency War Power”. It dumped excess isopropanol ( 3 carbons instead of the 2 of ethanol or the 1 of methanol) into the fuel mix. Let you run the engines over design specification to haul your butt out of trouble. Good for ONE use, then you rebuild the engine – but better than being dead and shot down.

    So in motors designed for it, alcohols can be more efficient, burn cleaner, and provide a very smooth operation at higher power loadings. That’s for any of the light alcohols. (Methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol) Similar things can be said for ethers, though specifics vary more by the particular ether.

    In short: You can make most any flammable liquid into a decent motor fuel in one kind of engine or another. Just tell the engineer what fuel specification to design for and leave them alone. It is changing the fuel spec after the fact that guarantees they did not design for it and breaks things.

    (Kerosene and light oils are used in jet engines and Diesel engines. At one time I ran my Nissan 6 cyl truck on Crisco Shortening… dissolved in kerosene to thin the mix. I’ve also run propane in the air intake as a ‘co-fuel’. That can work too, but avoid stochastic mixes as that can cause problems… Did I mention I’ve been tinkering with ‘funny fuels’ for a long time? ;-)

    What we have now is the worst of all possible worlds. We design for one fuel, then keep changing what is sold for political reasons and frequently too….

    FWIW, VW has (or had) a design for an engine that was highly fuel variation friendly. Had both spark plugs and compression ignition. You could run it on anything from gasoline blends to oil / kerosene / jet fuel. Don’t know what the production intent might be. I’d love to have one… The cost goes up as you add more fuel specs you must meet, though… so most folks design for one kind of fuel…

    There is an alcohol / Diesel blend being tried too. About 5 to 10% IIRC. Takes some special care to avoid corroding the injectors… While I prefer to run my Diesel on the pure stuff, I’ve experimented with Alcohols in Diesels. It works best just fumigated into the air intake of a low compression Diesel ( Volvo Penta marine Diesel in my experiments) at below stochastic mix. As a liquid blend I would not like the corrosion question. But I tested it and it was OK. A 20% ‘gasahol’ mix (so about 2 % ethanol) gave smoother and more efficient burn in my Mercedes. (The 240 D that is placarded for up to 25% Regular gasoline as a winter blend. In the 300D that says up to 50% Kerosene only, it caused a ‘hard to start’ problem even when warmed up. Almost left me stranded in L.A., but I got it started and didn’t shut it off until I had refilled on straight #2. But IIRC that was about a 25% gasoline mix and may have been E15 in the RUG.)

    So just because “it’s best to not screw around with the fuel spec” that doesn’t mean I haven’t played with it anyway ;-)

    For folks not willing to play “Bet Your Engine”, it is better do only what the engineer designed the motor to do…

  171. mpainter says:
    January 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says: January 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    News flash, mpainter. When you live on a dollar a day, ALL tortillas are expensive.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I can believe the flash part, Willis, now how about answering the question that I put to you at 12:19 pm, thanking you ever so kindly:

    I will answer that. (Remember you did ask)

    Okay Willis, I’m game, where is this place where people can’t afford tortillas? Educate me, please and thank you.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I will answer that.
    It is called del Rancho de Barro (sp – I do not speak Spanish) It is near El Sotano [the Pit] and in the middle of nowhere Mexico two days walk from the nearest road. I think it means village of the mud huts, a very good description of the place.

    Buy tortillas? Heck those people could not buy ANYTHING. I doubt they had $1 among the entire village. They were so glad to see American cavers they just about kissed our feet. I think the members of the NSS were their sole source of income. At the jumping off spot to climb up the ancient Toltec road to Sotano de las Golondrinas [the pit of the golden swallows] another village actually built a rest room with a shower (cold) for American cavers (1974). The Mexican government actually consider us as an important set of tourists link because we are crazy enough to head to the far out back of beyond with $$$ and backpacks where no one else in their right minds would ever set foot. link showing karst terrain

    The rugs we use to pad our ropes are a valuable item we leave with the villagers at the end of the trip. They use them on their burros so we cut them with that in mind. Our old ropes are also a much coveted item.

    (And for the cavers, yes I climbed out on prussik knots.)

  172. EM Smith: I too would like to see people work out their problems on their own. However, where I live even the charities have become bureaucracies. People “apply” for school supplies, food baskets, etc. Churches may do better, but even thirty years ago, members of these churches could be talked into government assistance (maybe I was just really persuasive? Not.). I did like being a social worker back then because there were not so many rules and you could really help people. I would not go back into that field now.
    (I made minimum wage back then–guess government positions really do pay well now!!)

  173. As I read through some of the comments regarding fuel for auto engines I have the sense that underlying some of the comments is the assumption that a complete conversion of the fleet would be easy, quick, and cheap — sort of a full blown 100% “cash for clunkers.” The same easy fix notion also seems to be factored into replacement of utility scale grid power by alternatives. Although some things can change fairly rapidly, Detroit comes to mind, it is quite likely that cities, suburbs, and related infrastructures, support vehicles, and so on will look about the same in 2050 as they do today.

  174. Reality check says:
    January 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Gail Combs: My research on “hunger in America” indicate that many of these surveys are based on subjective data….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I have no doubt about that, however the # is going up due to the unemployment about doubling over the last four years to ~ 23%. The mortgage foreclosure crisis didn’t help either. A big problem is many people especially older folks are too proud to go on food stamps, too timid or do not know they can.

    Are the numbers high? Probably but American wages are going down as food prices are going up.

  175. E.M.Smith says:
    January 6, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    @Kakatoa:

    IIRC T. Boone Pickens on an interview on CNBC said he had been fracking oil wells since the late ’40s…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    The original patent for fracking was just after the Civil War. link

  176. @E.M. Smith:

    “Another way to say it is that we can, should we choose, run our existing stock of reactors on any of U, Th, Pu / MOX (so fuel is functionally unlimited for them too) while taking the 20 years it will take to get design approval, site approval, build, approval, and operational status on new designs”
    ==========================================================================

    I understand that you fully support and appreciate the significant advantages of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) over solid fuel reactors, however, I feel that America and Europe doesn’t have 20 years to waste in implementing this revolutionary technology.

    China has already devoted $500 million to LFTR development (the Chinese LFTR project headed by nuclear physicist Dr. Jiang Mianheng, the son of retired Chinese President Jiang Zemin….) so China obviously sees the potential of this revolutionary technology.

    I’m just guessing, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if China doesn’t have a test LFTRs up and running by 2015 and able to implement a major rollout of LFTRs by 2020~25.

    If this happens, the economic consequences to other nations would be devastating. A massive second wave of industrial production would shift to China as manufacturers around the world would take advantage of China’s cheap labor, cheap energy, large capital reserves, minimal EPA and labor rules/regulations, strong currency, low taxes and favorable business environment.

    To the best of my knowledge, America has devoted $ ZERO to LFTR development and there is no action being done by the DOE, EPA, DOD or the NEC to establish the rules, regulations, approval process required to even start LFTR development in any serious manner.

    Without the government LFTR regulations, it’s impossible to get private sector funding for LFTR research and development because of the risks and uncertainties are too great.

    I’ve actually sent letters to Senators and Congressmen advising them of the need to move quickly on just establishing the rules and regulations for LFTR development and have just received auto replies and requests for campaign donations for my efforts…

    Yeah, I know, who am I… but the US government is asleep at the wheel on LFTRs (as they are on many things).

    So, yes, I know it’s possible to inefficiently burn Thorium in conventional reactors, but this is too little and way too late. Governments around the world need to take action now to get LFTRs developed quickly or the economic consequences of missing the start of the Thorium Age will be severe.

    I know this is just my opinion… but I think my logic is sound.

  177. @Gail:

    The reason prices for EVERYTHING are going up is that US Federal Reserve is now “PRINTING” $80 BILLION of bogus fiat currency A MONTH ($1 TRILLION/YR).

    Contrary to what President Obama says, raising the debt ceiling isn’t about meeting America’s “obligation” to “pay” for all the wasteful spending Congress has passed, but rather an ADMISSION that we ALREADY CAN’T PAY what American owes.

    America must BORROW and/or PRINT 40% of every dollar Congress currently spends because Congress spends 40% too much. (total tax revs $2.1 trillion, total spending $3.7 trillion)

    Rather than spending cuts ON EVERYTHING (the best option) or drastically raising income taxes ON EVERYONE to pay for the $1.6 TRILLION shortfall, the Federal Reserve simply PRINTS about $1 TRILLION/yr and the Treasury sells an additional $600 billion in Treasuries.

    BTW, the President Obama’s tax increase on the “evil” rich will only amount to $60 billion/yr. This $60 billion was ALREADY used up in the FIRST WEEK of this year to pay for the damage of Hurricane Sandy…… One week…Gone…. What about the remaining $1.54 TRILLION short fall? print, print, print….. Geez…

    This is insane.

    Printing money debases the VALUE of the US$, thereby requiring more devalued dollars to buy the same amount of goods; i.e. inflation.

    No country can printer their way out of a fiscal and monetary crisis. Eventually inflation explodes, the currency and government bonds crash and the economy implodes as seen in every case throughout history; the most recent being Zimbabwe…. It will not work.

    Printing money is an evil stealth tax because Congressmen are too worried about losing their cushy jobs by implementing the necessary spending cuts to enable government spending to match government tax revenues…

    Print, print, print……poof… It’s just a matter of time.

  178. Zeke said @ January 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    So once again, since Malthus was claiming to forsee the future and be able to “predict” population growth using food production as a measure, he was wrong. And better than that, the production of food alone did not allow the population to increase – the entire economy that provided those tractors, mass production, roads, phone lines, rail lines, refrigeration, and electricity allowed the population to expand. Malthus was an augur. A common speculator, a gypsy with a crystal ball. And he did not see the entire western economies coming, but claimed science could reveal future events in human history based on known formulas.

    That’s some ad hominem there bro’! I’ll quote Willis:

    As you point out, [Malthus] argued for more statistics, he wanted censuses, he wanted, like any good scientist, more data. He would have loved the data access afforded by the web, I suspect.

    So you and others are correct that the “Malthusian” argument of population outstripping food wasn’t his only claim to fame. However, it was the popular argument, the one that got the ink then and now … and it was incorrect. Sadly, he’s known more for the mistake that’s attached to his name than for the other good work he did, but life is like that, not always fair.

    And the fact remains that nobody has yet explained to me how he could have known what the future held.

  179. E.M.Smith said @ January 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    FWIW, there are known ways to get about double the current production from land. Why don’t we do them? It’s cheaper and easier to do what we do now so why not? Look up ‘French Intensive” gardening and “Rice Intensification” (remember that rice matters to more people than corn…) Going to things like hydroponics and greenhouses we can get to 10x the production per acre. And for anyone wanting to say that’s ‘crazy talk’ due to prices, do realize that most of the fancy lettuces and tomatoes are presently grown that way.

    Some of us have played with a tractorised version of French-intensive and yields are better than double depending on the crop. The tractor wheels run in permanent ruts between the beds so there’s no need to till compacted earth. End result is you can choose between getting twice as much tilling done in the same time, or halving your tractor power. Unfortunately, you need to build your own tillage/harvesting equipment because the wheel bases are different. Despite there being a market for common wheel base gear, it has yet to be exploited AFAIK after 30 years since the original research.

    I don’t know that I buy the economics of hydroponics for growing grain staples. There’s not much dry matter content in a lettuce — it’s nearly all water. While people will pay a lot for something they eat little of, staples are a different matter.

    On the latter and seed saving, I maintain a couple of heirloom varieties of peas and beans (fava beans). These latter yield less than the ordinary sort, but stay tender even when the seeds have attained full size and taste much better.

  180. Gail Combs says: January 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm
    =======================**********************===============

    Yes, Gail, I was there, or somewhere very much like it. Mexico is a fascinating place- first win your heart; next break your heart; charm you, then alarm you. I long to return, it is another world.

  181. Well… looks like even “Gourdseed” corn makes decent tortillas:

    http://www.southernexposure.com/texas-gourdseed-corn-gourdseed-57-g-p-1152.html

    Texas Gourdseed CORN, GOURDSEED 57 g
    (white) 120 days. [Reintroduced in 1987 by SESE.] Originally brought to south Texas by German farmers who migrated from Appalachia during the late 19th century. Descendants of these farmers maintain flocks of turkeys, and the birds are let into the cornfields to eat the corn right off the cobs. Stalks average 8 ft. tall, 2 ears per stalk, containing 18–22 rows of cream-colored, narrow kernels, compactly united from the cob to the surface. Although it is susceptible to smut, it is resistant to other diseases, withstands drought, and does well in clay soil. This gourdseed variety closely approximates original gourdseed characteristics. In south Texas, this is considered to be the best choice for tortilla flour.

    (Sorry… just being fixated on odd corn varieties again ;-)

    @Gail:

    Civil War, eh? It is rare I’m surprised… this one made the cut! Thanks! ;-)

    @John F. Hultquist:

    The present average age of the car fleet is approaching 12 years. That means it will be 2026 before the average of the fleet is ‘turned over’. IFF we were all buying 100% of the cars in the “approved new fuel” kind, which we are not.

    Any “solution” that passes through “Fleet Change” is not a solution.

    Heavy equipment, specialty equipment, trucks, buses, ships, trains planes all have longer average lifetimes than private cars…

    @SAMURAI:

    Looks like Fuji has a MSR design on the boards. It is headed for any of U, Th, or Pu fuels. As this article is 5 years old, might be worth an exploration of what happened since then:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2007/12/fuji-molten-salt-reactor.html

    December 19, 2007
    Fuji molten Salt Reactor

    The Fuji Molten salt reactor is a Japanese design that can run on thorium or a mix of thorium and Uranium or Plutonium. The project plan is to take 8 or 9 years to develop a miniFuji reactor and 12-15 years to develop a Fuji reactor. The R & D is mostly related to the details of the structural material and components.

    -How to exactly modify the Hastelloy N alloy (increasing Cr and reducing Co)
    -analyse and test low tensile strength parts like the tubing elbow

    The projected costs for the reactor are about 20-25% less than a PWR and a little less than a LWR.

    The Encyclopedia of Earth claims that the 100 MWe FUJI MSR design is being developed internationally by a Japanese, Russian and US consortium.

    That final bit is interesting. It’s harder to get joint projects killed for internal political reasons as there are usually contracts in existence…

    FWIW, the reason to push for Th in CANDU and LWR/BWR/PWR types and to push for Pu, U, in MSRs (of which the LFTR is one specific) is to parallel track the processes.

    (LWR Light Water Reactor, BWR Boiling Water, PWR Pressurized Water, MOX Mixed Oxide, MSR Molten Salt Reactor, LFTR Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor,
    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/nuclear-reactor-types/ )

    It is good go break the link between Th and MS / LF for a couple of reasons.

    First, getting Th into use in ANY reactor means that the regulatory agencies et. al. get used to it. The “fuel guy” gets sent off to Th class, or the “hazmat guy” gets the ‘what to do if spilled’ spec approved, or they hire the guy to make the Th class. It gets Th into the “usual and customary” category and out of the “exotic leave me alone” category.

    Second, it means that you get the Th mining, hauling, refining, fabricating, etc. infrastructure built and rolling. It solves the “gas station problem” to some extent. (If you have a car that runs on Magic Dust, where are the Magic Dust Gas Stations? Like EV charging points…)

    Instead, becomes just a new form of the fuel already in the same old supply chain…

    Getting MSRs designed and approved and built now lets you have THAT on the shelf. Shifting it from U or Pu to Th becomes a smaller problem to solve. More like getting gasahol for the existing car fleet approved rather than a whole new kind of engine and fuel. As soon as any MSR is running and any Th is common in the fuel cycle, the MSR with Th (such as LFTR) will rise to the top due to better economics.

    When you require that both a whole new fuel and a whole new reactor design be done at one go, the odds of folks just saying “never mind” goes way up.

    If you can get it all in one chunk, fine. But I think it is just a lot more likely to happen one slice of salami at a time.

    On the issue of inflation and govt stupidity with the printing press / fractional reserve banking:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperinflation#The_Hanke-Krus_Hyperinflation_Table

    And that is just the “Hyper” kinds, not the very very bad kinds…

    The Hanke-Krus Hyperinflation Table

    The table to the right supplies, for the first time, a table that contains all 56 episodes of hyperinflation, including several which had previously gone unreported. The Hanke-Krus Hyperinflation Table is compiled in a systematic and uniform way. Most importantly, it meets the replicability test. It utilizes clean and consistent inflation metrics, indicates the start and end dates of each episode, identifies the month of peak hyperinflation, and signifies the currency that was in circulation, as well as the method used to calculate inflation rates. A printer-friendly version of the Hanke-Krus table is pages 4–5 on this website:Tracking World Hyperinflation.

    The (BIG) table:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/88/The_Hanke_Krus_Hyperinflation_Table.pdf

    A partial list:

    4 Examples of hyperinflation
    4.1 The Hanke-Krus Hyperinflation Table
    4.2 Angola
    4.3 Argentina
    4.4 Armenia
    4.5 Austria
    4.6 Azerbaijan
    4.7 Belarus
    4.8 Bolivia
    4.9 Bosnia and Herzegovina
    4.10 Brazil
    4.11 Bulgaria
    4.12 Chile
    4.13 China
    4.14 Estonia
    4.15 France
    4.16 Free City of Danzig
    4.17 Georgia
    4.18 Germany
    4.19 Greece
    4.20 Hungary, 1923–24
    4.21 Hungary, 1945–46
    4.22 Kazakhstan
    4.23 Kyrgyzstan
    4.24 Krajina
    4.25 North Korea
    4.26 Nicaragua
    4.27 Peru
    4.28 Philippines
    4.29 Poland, 1923–1924
    4.30 Poland, 1989–1990
    4.31 Republika Srpska
    4.32 Soviet Union / Russian Federation
    4.33 Taiwan
    4.34 Tajikistan
    4.35 Turkmenistan
    4.36 Ukraine
    4.37 Uzbekistan
    4.38 Yugoslavia
    4.39 Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
    4.40 Zimbabwe

    Given that in 50 years the $US has lost about 95% of its prior value to inflation, and STILL doesn’t make the list, it gives you an idea what it takes to be thought of as ‘bad’ inflation…

    I think what we have here is an existence proof that paper / fiat currencies are just a bad idea. Rather like was written into our constitution (and is now ignored…)

  182. “And the fact remains that nobody has yet explained to me how he[Malthus] could have known what the future held.”

    Malthus attempted to use the scientific method to predict future events for civilizations. He did not succeed, but failed. And the most important lesson is that “predictions” of future shortages or famines which scientists make are not predictions in the scientific sense of the word, they are really prophesies or soothsaying. And those who are involved in this doctrine are wrongly presenting the scientific method as a valid means to read future events for the world.

    The interesting question to ask is, in what ways was Malthus unable to “know what the future held”? That is the list any true scientist will be interested in. – It does not end with the little scraps our resident “well-versed” Malthus scholars have yielded: agricultural advances. Every sector of western economies completely transformed and advanced in undreampt of proportions. Now today, we still do not know very much about plants and biologic systems, or the water cycles, or atomic forces, or the solar system, and yet scientists are just as arrogant and confident as Malthus was in his calculations regarding crop production and the number of people it could sustain. (He threw in a few more variables such as abortion and birth control for good measure. But he missed AC power and the tractor and fertilizers, and modern life in general.) This idea that science can prophesy scary “tipping points” in every one of earth’s systems ready to collapse under the weight of free humanity is truly an abuse of what is meant by scientific “prediction.” Do I have to accept that from academics and scientists? Or is it more appropriate for the lesser ranked person, if there are no brilliant scientists who are able or willing, to point out that science no longer recognizes its limitations?

  183. @The Pompous Git:

    Well, generally I was ‘visioning’ hydroponics / aeroponics for things like vegetables and saladings… with ‘greenhouses’ and ‘rice intensification’ like methods for grains, there are folks doing some kinds of hydroponics with grains (though not the kind you were thinking of):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fodder#Sprouted_grains_as_fodder

    Fodder in the form of sprouted grains and legumes can be grown in a small-scale environment. Sprouted grains can greatly increase the nutritional value of the grain compared with feeding the ungerminated grain to stock. Sprouted barley and other cereal grains can be grown hydroponically in a carefully controlled environment. Under hydroponic conditions, sprouted fodder at 150 mm tall with a 50 mm root mat is at its peak for animal feed.

    So nothing really prevents letting it ‘go to seed’, other than what’s cheaper…

    http://www.interiorgardens.com/grow-hydroponics.html

    Lists a lot of the stuff that can be done, commonly, today. Then there is this bit:

    There is almost an unending number of crops that can be grown hydroponically, but most home gardeners have neither the time nor the money to pursue them. Some of these include corn, cacao, sugar cane, rice, tea, tobacco and cereal grains. In most cases these crops are started hydroponically and when the seedlings reach their desired size they are transplanted to the fields.

    At the “Behind the seeds” tour of “The Land” in Disneyworld you can see very large things, including palm trees, being grown in a hydroponic operation. The food produced is used in the restaurants there.

    Even cotton. See the pictures here:

    http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2011/02/14/disney-food-for-families-review-behind-the-seeds-tour-in-epcot/

    I know NASA was working on a dwarf wheat, but this is the only link that came up quickly:

    http://www.house-garden.us/articles/plants-in-space-the-new-frontier-of-hydroponics/

    Why would all of this matter? One main concern is the competition of plants for light, based on how they grow. If one species grows taller and spreads out wider than the species beside it, the larger plant may block the light from the smaller plants. For that reason, NASA is investigating dwarf varieties of crop plants, such as wheat and rice, which only grow to be a foot or so tall.

    What was mentioned in the (more technical) article I can’t find now was just the volume issue. A one foot tall wheat means many more layers can be stacked under artificial or piped light per unit volume…

    The reason we do as we do is because it’s what we are used to doing, and it is less bother (effort, cost, staff, whatever) than the alternatives.

    This doesn’t even get into the whole Algae thing where you can get another 10x to 100x yield of nutrients boost per acre (and down to 1/10th the sunlight level needed…) While some people eat algae (spirulina anyone?) the ‘big deal’ is using it to enhance animal feeds.

    By my estimate, we are between 1/10 and 1/100 the of the population where “ability to feed” becomes a technical problem. (And that’s probably off to the “not optimistic enough” side).

    Don’t know if we want a world with single cities of 100 million population and apartment buildings / algae ‘farms’ / hog ‘barns’ 1000 feet tall; but nothing technically nor in resources available prevents it.

    This isn’t really new, and isn’t really all that hard to do.

    http://www.seawatergreenhouse.com/ under “technology” says:

    Our technology has many advantages. Even in the most hostile, arid regions, the Seawater Greenhouse can create ideal growing conditions for crops inside the greenhouse and produce fresh water for irrigation, using only seawater and sunlight. The system does not rely on scarce fresh water, costly desalination equipment or fossil-fuel driven greenhouse climate control systems. Seawater Greenhouse growers can therefore enjoy these advantages from both an economic and environmental perspective.

    The technology can be used to produce a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers etc. in most of the world’s driest regions. The Greenhouses can be adapted to suit a variety of customers, from small to large-scale growers.

    http://www.seawatergreenhouse.com/abudhabi.html

    Since the Tenerife pilot greenhouse, the second design evolved into a more elegant yet lower cost solution using a light but strong steel structure similar to a multi-span polytunnel. This structure was designed to be cost-effective and suitable for local sourcing. This second Seawater Greenhouse was constructed on Al-Aryam Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 2000.

    Crop production in terms of quality and quantity has been outstanding, with the Greenhouse supplying in excess of the water required for irrigation.

    Note that this is in production.

    So just how much desert or “worthless” land is there in the world? And how much sea water?

    I know I can grow amaranth (greens and grain) hydroponicly, as I have some that ‘volunteered’ out of a the space between my work bench bricks and lives on what is spilled from the watering jug… ( I’ve taken pity on it a few times and actually watered it and given it a squirt with the Miracle Grow sprayer some times… It’s on the third year of reseeding now… I have seeds from it in the freezer ;-)

    I have barley that has also grown from ‘cracks in the cement’… to seed.

    The notion that we are “running out of” anything, but especially food or land on which to grow food is what is a broken idea.

    Just like minerals and oil / coal: the distinction between what we do now as it is economical (“reserves”) and what we could do if we needed it (“resources”) is lost…

    If we really needed to do it, the entire desert “OutBack” of Australia could be ‘farmed’ with the seawater greenhouse technology. Not a hypothetical, BTW…

    http://www.seawatergreenhouse.com/australia.html

    Seawater Greenhouse Australia was established in 2010 as a joint venture between Seawater Greenhouse Ltd and Saumweber Holdings Ltd. With effect from 28th February 2011, it became a fully-owned subsidiary of Saumweber Holdings Ltd.

    It will continue to trade under the name of Sundrop Farms Pty Ltd. Click here http://www.sundropfarms.com.au to be directed to their new website.

    From the sundrop link:

    Port Augusta Farm, South Australia

    In 2010 we began operating the world’s first commercial Sundrop Farm in South Australia. Our farm is located at the top of the Spencer Gulf, north of Goyder’s line, near Port Augusta. Given the lack of fresh water, degraded pasture land and harsh climates, traditional agriculture would struggle in this area. With the help of our proprietary technologies, we have been growing delicious, natural and high-quality produce grown from Southern Ocean seawater and sunlight.

    and growing… The pictures at the link are rather stunning. Harsh desert background with ripe tomatoes being grown foreground…

    So on the one hand, taking good ag land out of production to pave it is a bad idea. On the other hand, the real reason folks do not have food isn’t a shortage of means. It is a question of political / distribution / willingness to act / economic development.

    We have the means. We lack the spirit… or the intelligence…

  184. Zeke said @ January 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    mpainter says:
    January 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm “Hunh?”

    I said, scientists cannot prophesy the future.

    You also said:

    Malthus was an augur. A common speculator, a gypsy with a crystal ball.

    You neglect to mention that he also stimulated the first general census in Britain since the Domesday Book, thus enabling Florence Nightingale to implement much needed health reforms, inspired Darwin to write On the Origin of Species, John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy etc. Your tirade against Malthus is remarkably similar to Karl Marx’s leading me to speculate that’s where your sympathies lie.

  185. @ EM Smith

    Thanks for that. I might even try that sprouted grain fodder trick for the pigs I intend to fatten next summer.

    You wrote:

    So on the one hand, taking good ag land out of production to pave it is a bad idea. On the other hand, the real reason folks do not have food isn’t a shortage of means. It is a question of political / distribution / willingness to act / economic development.

    We have the means. We lack the spirit… or the intelligence…

    Agree except I don’t believe that intelligence/being-well-educated [delete whichever is inapplicable] has much to do with it. We in the West and increasingly the rest of the world have never been better educated and IQ has risen concomitantly with improved nutrition. Yet we still seem to make the same kinds of errors that our forebears did. As that great cynic Voltaire wrote: “History never repeats; people always do.”

  186. @E.M.Smith wrote:

    “Given that in 50 years the $US has lost about 95% of its prior value to inflation, and STILL doesn’t make the list, it gives you an idea what it takes to be thought of as ‘bad’ inflation…

    I think what we have here is an existence proof that paper / fiat currencies are just a bad idea. Rather like was written into our constitution (and is now ignored…)”
    =====================================================

    A fellow Libertarian. Cool.

    Yes, eventually the Chinese will realize that it makes no sense to expend their land, labor and capital in shipping goods to America in exchange for worthless and rapidly depreciating pieces of paper (aka US$).

    China will, at some point, dump their US$ holdings for whatever they can get, end their Renminbi/US$ peg, switch to a gold standard, transform from an export to a domestic oriented economy and become the next world Super Power.

    When and how long this will take is anyone’s guess, but I’m thinking much sooner than later….

    I’ve pretty much given up hope on the US. You’re right that the original Constitution only truly exists in some hermetically sealed display at the U.S. National Archives. It no longer serves any useful purpose in the US government other than as a rough historic reference.

    When the spirit of the U.S. Constitution died, so did the greatest nation that was ever devised….

    And so it goes….until it doesn’t…..

  187. E.M.Smith
    You aren’t entirely wrong about oil from fracking and other sources, but I think you are far from right. To understand why, you need to understand a bit about “oil shales”.

    Oil shales, like people, come in a lot of varieties. There are some “tight” shales like the Bakken that can be fracked to release hydrocarbons. That’s real oil. It tends to be kind of expensive because it requires a lot of drilling to get a barrel and the wells deplete more rapidly than conventional wells in more permeable strata. It’s not clear that secondary recovery can get all that much additional oil from old wells in tight shales. It’s certainly possible, but let’s don’t count our btu-s before we know we can get them out of the ground. Problem is that there aren’t a whole lot of these formations. And it’s not terribly likely that more will be found. The geological column in the US is pretty well known (less so in Arctic North America).

    Then there are conventional oil shales. These aren’t candidates for fracking — at least not with current technologies. Some of them can be mined and burned and some make great “road metal”. But it’s unlikely that much oil can be extracted, processed, and poured into your car. And the US actually doesn’t have that many of them.

    Then there is the Green River formation. There really are huge amounts of hydrocarbons in those old lake beds. Trillions of barrels. People have been trying to exploit them for over a century. Problem is that temps underground in the area where these deposits exist never reached the “oil window” so the hydrocarbons are present as long chain hydrocarbons that don’t flow — “candle wax” if you will. Just melting the kerogen isn’t enough because the rock isn’t very permeable. One needs to frack and heat, or refine in place, or frack and use solvents, or something. Can we get enough oil out to suck in investors? For sure. Can we ever get enough oil out to have economic affect? Without putting in more btu-s than we recover? I don’t know. No one does. I wouldn’t say we will never recover those hydrocarbons, but I wouldn’t bet on doing so any time soon. With current technology, I suspect Coal to Liquid would be cheaper. Ask yourself why no one is building CTL plants in the US.

    Secondary recovery? Sure. It works. It’s used. Has been for decades. BUT, it’s hardly a new concept If it were as effective as you seem to think, would the US have been importing half its petroleum needs for decades? With devastating effects on our Current Account balance BTW

    Natural gas. 2100 TCF is kind of optimistic I think. Read the link I provided. About half that is “speculative”. I imagine that some of the speculative gas will turn up and flow. But “speculative” means “don’t bet against it, but don’t bet on it either”.

    On the positive side. A significant use for petroleum is as a feedstock for petrochemicals and for cement production. I forget the numbers, but let’s call it 10%. There’s no reason for even the greenest of environmentalists to object to those things being produced for export in the US where there are environmental regulations with some teeth instead of overseas where there might not be (or, more likely, bribing the regulators is cheaper than complying with the regs). To a great extent, petroleum can be replaced with natural gas in those applications and coal can also be used as a feedstock. China is said to be shifting some of its limited coal production from electricity to petrochemicals. The only problem is that it takes time to deploy (and in some cases develop) the technologies.

    I salute your efforts at seed preservation. I’d like to try it, but I suffer from both a brown thumb and living close to the Northern limit of agriculture. The stuff that grows here, often grows really well, but there’s not enough growing season for a lot of things.

  188. After my last pass through the comments here, I stopped by Judith Curry’s, Climate Etc blog which I like because of Dr Curry’s generally moderate and thoughtful analyses of topics that tend to be dominated by raving lunacy at both extremes. And I found this:

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/01/05/peak-farmland/#more-10857

    Basically, these guys are arguing that we don’t really need more farmland to accommodate population growth. I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s nice to know there is a plausible case that the planet will really be able to feed its (excessive if you ask me) population through this century.

  189. @ EM Smith

    I’ve decided that I won’t be purchasing one of those Sundrop Farms installations. I contacted a friend at Port Augusta who tells me that to date the enterprise hasn’t shown anything like a profit. Yes, it’s creating Green Jobs, recycling, desalinating, pesticide-free produce, reducing emissions of toxic CO2 and all, but there’s no surplus of income over expenditure. They say there will be in the future… I suspect from what my friend said that I will not live long enough to see it.

    Given the number of bushfires that are exercising our fire brigades the last few days, it also occurs to me that while losing a field of wheat/barley/oats/poppies would be bad for the bank balance, losing several million dollars worth of infrastructure would be a complete disaster. I imagine a vegetation-free zone of of a kilometre, or so might suffice, but be pretty damned ugly.

    I also just returned from watering my greenhouse where I tried to imagine how the frequently claimed much higher yields from hydroponics versus my organic fertiliser program could work. I figure the tomatoes would have to weigh several kilos each and I have never seen examples of the varieties I grow (Amish Paste & San Marzano) anywhere near that big. So it goes…

  190. TPG, I looked into Sundrop Farms a while back (sorry, can’t find the research). It’s quite nifty technology, but it’s also a typical greenie boondoggle which has been supported by millions of dollars of taxpayer money, here and abroad. As you have pointed out, it’s not whether things are possible, it’s whether they are viable that matters. And your point about bushfires is well made – I gather that you are in Tasmania which has suffered major damage in the last few days, and where I live we are on extreme alert tomorrow, with over 100 fires now burning in NSW alone.

    You wouldn’t want tens of millions of dollars worth of fancy greenhouses, desal facilities, generators, pipes etc at risk just so you can grow tomatoes in a dry location near the sea.

  191. Zeke says: January 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    I said, scientists cannot prophesy the future.
    ============================================
    prophesy? as in like climate models?

    Why do you make my nose twitch?

  192. A couple of observations: Predictions made in the late 1800 about population capacity cannot be correct except by random chance, meaning lucky guess. Too much has changed for any prediction to be accurate. Throughout history, some people have lucked out and guessed what will happen in the future and some writings have been slanted by believers to fit various viewpoints. Predictions of the future are nothing more than guesses, some with more data than others. We may be able to see a direction that we seem to be heading in, but “when” we will arrive at the conclusion and if there will be detours along the way are impossible to predict.

    The seawater gardening was interesting, but the marketing terms “sustainable” “renewable” and “climate change” are huge red flags to me. Researchers would call “climate change” changes in climate or varying local weather conditions. Sustainable and renewable are ONLY marketing terms and have no associated component in reality outside of sales. Seeing all three terms says “beware” loudly.

  193. You’re posing a false trade-off. One can use the same cob of corn to produce ethanol and feed cattle for meat.

  194. I am starting to feel sorry for Malthus (RIP). Here is a guy who did some genuinely good work, but is dragged out of his well-deserved rest again and again because of what he got wrong. I do not know whether he deliberately touched on, or sparked, or revived, the potent (but wrong) belief that human population is no different from boom-and-bust cycles in the animal world. It was one part of his life’s work, and has been used as an excuse for everything from eugenics to mass starvation ever since.

    If I were a descendant of his, I’d be embarrassed at what people say in his name. More importantly, it is a reminder to scientists that observations are excellent, recommendations may be good, but predictions are poison and should be avoided.

  195. John F. Hultquist says: @ January 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    …. I have the sense that underlying some of the comments is the assumption that a complete conversion of the fleet would be easy, quick, and cheap — sort of a full blown 100% “cash for clunkers.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    You will have to pry my 1982 diesel Pkup out of my cold dead hands…..

  196. SAMURAI says:
    January 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    @Gail:

    The reason prices for EVERYTHING are going up is that US Federal Reserve is now “PRINTING” ….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Believe me I am well aware of that but you missed what Goldman Sachs and the rest of the financial traders were up to. This is why I keep shouting about FOOD being the next BIG FINANCIAL BUBBLE! It is the most dangerous financial bubble yet and these d&*&^m A$$… are playing with sparking revolutions as the “Arab Spring” has shown.

    (I think they think they can ‘control and steer’ these revolutions BTW link and link Bill Clinton gives lectures at LSE and promotes the LSE The Third Way )

    How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis
    Bankers recognized a good system when they saw it, and dozens of speculative non-physical hedgers followed Goldman’s lead and joined the commodities index game, including Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Pimco, JP Morgan Chase, AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers, to name but a few purveyors of commodity index funds. The scene had been set for food inflation that would eventually catch unawares some of the largest milling, processing, and retailing corporations in the United States, and send shockwaves throughout the world.

    The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities — including food — seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since….

  197. E.M.Smith says: @ January 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm
    Fodder in the form of sprouted grains and legumes can be grown…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    The barn I took riding lessons at between 1960-1965 was feeding sprouted grains from a hydroponics set-up to their horses. The horses loved the stuff.

  198. The Pompous Git says:
    January 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm
    ….. Yet we still seem to make the same kinds of errors that our forebears did. As that great cynic Voltaire wrote: “History never repeats; people always do.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I think that is because the ‘charming’ sociopaths rise to the top in corporations and politics. The old, nice guys finish last problem.

    It is why I want small local government that the average citizen can keep a close eye on. The fact that less than ten US Congressmen/Senators over a hundred year period tried to correct the US Federal Reserve System and the fact that the Top Senate Democrat [states] bankers “own” the U.S. Congress proves that point.

    It is not as if Congress was not aware of the problems with fractional reserve banking, heck one of the architects of the Federal Reserve Act, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, even QUOTED this speech from Webster just AFTER the passage of the ACT at a New York City dinner speech on October 15, 1913 IV Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science #1, at 38 (Columbia University, New York (1914)).

    The speech of Sen. Daniel Webster, during the debate over the reauthorization of the Second National Bank of the U.S. in 1832, summed up much of the American view toward money in general and was something of a consensus view of bankruptcy:

    “A disordered currency is one of the greatest of evils. It wars against industry, frugality, and economy. And it fosters the evil spirits of extravagance and speculation. Of all the contrivances for cheating the laboring classes of mankind, none has been more effectual than that which deludes them with paper money. This is one of the most effectual of inventions to fertilize the rich man’s field by the sweat of the poor man’s brow. Ordinary tyranny, oppression, excessive taxation: These bear lightly the happiness of the mass of the community, compared with fraudulent currencies and robberies committed with depreciated paper.”

    “Robberies committed with depreciated paper,” the man said. This was another way of referring to bad debt. In the accepted American view of the time, bad money led to excessive credit. Excessive credit led to bad debt. And bad debt was part and parcel of bad economic policy. It harmed the nation. The accumulation of bad debt was ruinous to the growth of the economy….
    Source

  199. Gail Combs says: January 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

    It is why I want small local government that the average citizen can keep a close eye on.
    ========================================
    That is the nub of the problem. Creeping disenfranchisement by freezing the House at 435 members in 1914 or whenever. Averages out to about 700,000 constituents per rep at present and getting worse. Forget about senators, forget about reps. There’s only so many hours in the day, and “excuse me but there’s another fellow waving a wad of cash at me, gotta go.” There is a solution but it is too radical for most folks and has to do with keeping the public revenues at home instead of sending it to wash dc.

  200. The problem is an old one:
    Daniel Webster, Senator from Massachusetts in a letter to Nicholas Biddle, president of the Second Bank of the United States: “I believe that I am due a refresher”

  201. johanna said @ January 7, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I am starting to feel sorry for Malthus (RIP). Here is a guy who did some genuinely good work, but is dragged out of his well-deserved rest again and again because of what he got wrong. I do not know whether he deliberately touched on, or sparked, or revived, the potent (but wrong) belief that human population is no different from boom-and-bust cycles in the animal world. It was one part of his life’s work, and has been used as an excuse for everything from eugenics to mass starvation ever since.

    If I were a descendant of his, I’d be embarrassed at what people say in his name. More importantly, it is a reminder to scientists that observations are excellent, recommendations may be good, but predictions are poison and should be avoided.

    On your latter points, prediction is something scientists (and people in general) do all the time. Indeed, it is the measure of success of a scientific theory that it makes correct predictions. The logical form is as follows:

    If my theory is correct, then I will make certain observations
    I do make those observations
    Therefore, my theory is correct.

    This is an invalid deduction (affirming the consequent). It is said, however, to be a valid induction. As it happens, David Hume, who first pointed out (in modern times) that there was no justification for believing that the past can be used to predict the future, was a friend of Malthus’ father. We can never know whether we have a sufficiently complete set of empirical data about the past. Nor can we know anything about what has never happened before.

    Despite this, we all reason inductively (including Hume throughout his writing). Today the sun rose in the east and set in the west. Therefore, tomorrow the sun will again rise in the east and set in the west. As CD Broad put it: “induction is the glory of science and the scandal of philosophy”.

    So Johanna, do you believe that tomorrow the sun will rise in the east and set in the west? I know that I do along with countless others, but we cannot justify this except by appeal to what has happened in the past (that is inductively) and that is circular reasoning.

  202. Gail Combs said @ January 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

    The Pompous Git says:
    January 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm
    ….. Yet we still seem to make the same kinds of errors that our forebears did. As that great cynic Voltaire wrote: “History never repeats; people always do.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I think that is because the ‘charming’ sociopaths rise to the top in corporations and politics. The old, nice guys finish last problem.

    It is why I want small local government that the average citizen can keep a close eye on.

    Which is why I have focussed my attention on what I can achieve locally. Along with my fellow citizens, we have achieved some notable successes in countering what USians call City Hall. Which is why I don’t worry too much about the UN and its Agenda 21. It’s not that I don’t believe Agenda 21 to be evil, just that I don’t believe I could ever achieve very much in the way of practical consequence by focussing on what is happening in a distant land.

  203. johanna said @ January 7, 2013 at 3:23 am

    TPG, I looked into Sundrop Farms a while back (sorry, can’t find the research). It’s quite nifty technology, but it’s also a typical greenie boondoggle which has been supported by millions of dollars of taxpayer money, here and abroad. As you have pointed out, it’s not whether things are possible, it’s whether they are viable that matters. And your point about bushfires is well made – I gather that you are in Tasmania which has suffered major damage in the last few days,

    Same conclusion I came to. Apropos the bushfires, yes, they have been rather more severe than usual, though happily not as bad as 1967 (yet). The authorities are now allowing vehicles out of the Tasman Peninsula and report a hundred people still unaccounted for. I shall miss the village of Dunalley…

  204. mpainter says:
    January 7, 2013 at 10:22 am
    Gail Combs says: January 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

    It is why I want small local government that the average citizen can keep a close eye on.
    ========================================
    (mpainter) That is the nub of the problem. Creeping disenfranchisement by freezing the House at 435 members in 1914 or whenever. Averages out to about 700,000 constituents per rep at present and getting worse.
    ====================================================
    I was about to point that out but you beat me to it. They “froze” the number because the building was full. They’ll change the Constituion but they won’t add on to the building. Couple that with the fact that the Senate was supposed to represent the governments of the States rather than citizens … a downhill slope.

    PS Since tax and spending bills are to originate in the House, how is it that the Senate passed the “fiscal cliff” thing before the House?

  205. Even without these sorts of issues, there is a general war on farmers here in CA. The policy environment for ag has really gone downhill over the past 25 years.

  206. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/science/earth/in-fields-and-markets-guatemalans-feels-squeeze-of-biofuel-demand.html?pagewanted=all

    With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy. Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.

  207. Reality check said @ January 7, 2013 at 7:09 am

    A couple of observations: Predictions made in the late 1800 about population capacity cannot be correct except by random chance, meaning lucky guess. Too much has changed for any prediction to be accurate. Throughout history, some people have lucked out and guessed what will happen in the future and some writings have been slanted by believers to fit various viewpoints. Predictions of the future are nothing more than guesses, some with more data than others. We may be able to see a direction that we seem to be heading in, but “when” we will arrive at the conclusion and if there will be detours along the way are impossible to predict.

    First, the six editions of Malthus’ essay were written between 1798 and 1826, about a hundred years before what you state. Second, science proceeds by guesses (conjectures in Popper’s terminology) that are either refuted, or corroborated. All such conjectures appear to be eventually refuted to be replaced by new and better conjectures. Note that some of what Malthus wrote in the first edition of his essay was refuted and he incorporated these refutations into the later editions. The greatest changes occurred between the first and second editions, but are by no means confined to those two.

    Compare this with Ehrlich who has not incorporated any valid criticisms into his writing and continues to spout the same discredited thesis apparently endlessly. I recently had the misfortune to hear him interviewed on the radio and so know this to be true.

  208. James at 48 says:
    January 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Even without these sorts of issues, there is a general war on farmers here in CA. The policy environment for ag has really gone downhill over the past 25 years.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    American farmers were targeted long ago by a Milner Round Table group, the Committee on Economic Development (CED). Just after World War II the CED decide to intentionally force American farmers off their land and into cities to serve as cheap (desperate) labor in corporate factories. Shades of the earlier English Parliamentary enclosure movement and Highland Clearances. I would not be surprised if that is where the idea came from.

    We are seeing the same game played out again elsewhere in the world today such as in Mexico were thanks to NAFTA and Clinton’s promise of industrialization 75% of the Mexican farmers have been forced from the land in to cities. Only problem is the promised factory jobs went to China instead, again thanks to the Clinton. This is why they can not pay for the tortillas, and like the Scots they come to the USA.

    AN excellent essay on the US ‘Clearances” with references: link

    …In a number of reports written over a few decades, CED recommended that farming “resources” — that is, farmers — be reduced. In its 1945 report “Agriculture in an Expanding Economy,” CED complained that “the excess of human resources engaged in agriculture is probably the most important single factor in the “farm problem'” and describes how agricultural production can be better organized to fit to business needs.[2] A report published in 1962 entitled “An Adaptive Program for Agriculture”[3] is even more blunt in its objectives, leading Time Magazine to remark that CED had a plan for fixing the identified problem: “The essential fact to be faced, argues CED, is that with present high levels farm productivity, more labor is involved in agriculture production that the market demands — in short, there are too may farmers. To solve that problem, CED offers a program with three main prongs.”[4]

    Some of the report’s authors would go on to work in government to implement CED’s policy recommendations. Over the next five years, the political and economic establishment ensured the reduction of “excess human resources engaged in agriculture” by two million, or by 1/3 of their previous number. Their plan was so effective and so faithfully executed by its operatives in the US government that by 1974 the CED couldn’t help but congratulate itself in another agricultural report called “A New US Farm Policy for Changing World Food Needs” for the efficiency of the tactics they employed to drive farmers from their land.[5]

    The human cost of CED’s plans were exacting and enormous.

    CED’s plans resulted in widespread social upheaval throughout rural America, ripping apart the fabric of its society destroying its local economies. They also resulted in a massive migration to larger cities. The loss of a farm also means the loss of identity, and many farmers’ lives ended in suicide [6], not unlike farmers in India today who have been tricked into debt and desperation and can see no other way out.[7]

    CED members were influential in business, government, and agricultural colleges, and their outlook shaped both governmental policies and what farmers were taught….

    Farmers, meanwhile, were and continue to be squeezed on both ends: by input suppliers putting upward pressure on selling prices and by output buyers exerting downward pressure on their buying prices. This analysis is confirmed by the Keystone Center….

    The USA has been run by two Rhodes-Milner kindergardens The CED and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) for a generation, though we are ‘allowed’ to think we the citizens run the country. (Clinton is a Rhodes Scholar)

  209. johanna said @ January 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    “Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.”

    and nemo said @ January 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.

    Wow! Déja vu… all over again :-)

  210. OOPs I forgot to add the last Link is excerpts from the book by Clinton’s favorite professor who he honored during his Inaugural Address, Professor Carroll Quigley.

  211. TPG, there is a difference between projections and predictions. It is reasonable to project, based on past experience and known science, that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow. It is quite wrong to predict it, because something could change (we could be hit by a massive asteriod, or whatever) that makes the prediction inaccurate.

    Malthus’ error was to assume that the relationship between food supply and population was constant, a sort of law of nature, so he strayed from reasonable projection to inaccurate prediction. In doing so he created in his mind and the minds of his followers the false notion of an immutable law.

    Stay safe – trust the fires will be brought under control soon.

  212. johanna says: January 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    mpainter says: See what you think, johanna

    January 7, 2013 at 6:38 am

    The Pompous Git says: January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Vince Causey said @ January 6, 2013 at 6:59 am
    For centuries, population sizes remained fairly static – they occasionally crashed such as during plagues, but grew back to achieve a new status quo.
    ===========================
    Except populations didn’t remain static for centuries. For example, Medieval Britain suffered 95 famines, and France at least 75. The famine of 1315–6 is estimated to have killed at least 10% of England’s population (500,000). This was a period of relative food abundance (think Medieval Warm period). The Little Ice Age saw a great increase in the <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Yes, Git, it is true such disasters overtook populations from time to time. Vince’s point was that the decrease was temporary and that population was restored within a generation or less, which is not so long when viewing the big picture.

    This was the school of Malthus, who saw from history that disasters such as crop failure scythed down the population from time to time, yet such disasters were exceptional. He observed that the potential fecundity of populations meant power of unlimited increase, yet the limited food resources of his day seldom led to famine because such increase was held in abeyance. He then asked the important question: why was this so?- that is, why were these incidents of famine exceptional in a world predicated on unlimited population increase?

    His answer to that question was the foundation of such studies as population dynamics and demographics: the behavior of populations. Malthus saw that populations acted in such a fashion to “govern” increase through various types of behavior, and he enumerated the different aspects of this “governance” in detail. This is the contribution of Malthus. It is true that his prospect included a vision of famine, pestilence, war, etc., but these were the realities of his day, as well as the teaching of history.

    The catastrophists, such as Erhlich, ignore the teachings of Malthus in great part. They focus on the prospects of overpopulation, famine, war, civil strife, etc. and ignore the postulates that Malthus formulated as restraints against population increase. And so it is that Malthus has been presented as a catastrophist in our day, because disasters sell books, newspapers, movies, etc., and nobody is interested when someone says “not to worry”.

    This brings us to the CAGW crowd, who are essentially catastrophists, but also boobs, half-wits, frauds, etc. They use the same sort of tactics as Erhlich & Co. And this is why people like Willis see red when someone suggests that Malthus was right in the main.

    But now Willis perhaps sees that the “real” Malthus can be used to pooh-pooh the catastrophists and refute them by the writings of the same Malthus that they claim as authority for their panic mongering.

    Now, I have simplified Malthus somewhat. His writings covered many more aspects than I have given. He addressed economics, formulated theories on wages, rent, surpluses, and more. But these were all within the purview of his study of the behavior of population.
    He also recognized that population increase led to increase in food production by adding to more intensive cultivation of the land. Yet he saw that the power of population increase, which he termed as “geometrical”, surpassed the power of food increase, which he termed as “arithmetic”. This terminology, however, was not meant to characterize his demography as a matter of bald mathematical constraints.

    Malthus failed to foresee the developments in agronomy which led to our present food surplus. No matter, the principles of this profound thinker of demography, population dynamics and economics are still respected in those disciplines. Yet he was controversial in his day, and he remains controversial. But I have to believe that much of that stems from ignoring the real contributions of Malthus and concentrating on the prospects of disaster that were addressed in his postulations.

    One more thing. Perhaps some have seen my comments wherein I confront the CAGW idiots with the prospects of famine in the future. I do this to piss them off. They wail about doomsday warming, I wail louder about doomsday cooling. Nothing pisses them off more or shuts them up faster. They retreat, muttering dark prophesies against my grandchildren. This is the way I amuse myself, and it does not necessarily mean that I subscribe to catastrophism. But I do know as a solid, incontrovertible fact, that life flourishes in a warmer world, and that cooling is the scythe.

  213. @Gail Cobs wrote:

    “This is why I keep shouting about FOOD being the next BIG FINANCIAL BUBBLE! It is the most dangerous financial bubble yet and these d&*&^m A$$… are playing with sparking revolutions as the “Arab Spring” has shown.”

    =======================================================================

    Historically, corn and wheat futures have worked to stabilize market prices, not increase them. This can easily be seen by looking at food items, like onions for example, that don’t have future trading; onion prices fluctuate wildly from month to month and year to year.

    There will always be the occasional bubble, and free markets eventually clear these out with big winners or big losers depending upon whether a trader is short or long on a trade.

    What’s happening now is that government intervention in free market systems is causing these bubbles to grow larger and larger and government intervention is allowing these bubbles to clear. Even if they do pop, governments immediately try to reinflate or to intervene before the market has a chance to clear out the malinvestments, in an effort to create the impression of economic growth.

    The biggest problem are central banks keeping interest rates too low. They are doing this for two reasons. First, and most importantly, they are keeping them low to enable governments to run up astronomical debt. Historically, interest rates have been around 6%. If, for example, the US were paying 6% on its $16.7 trillion debt, that would be $1 TRILLION/yr in interest payments, or about 50% of total tax revenues, which would be unsustainable. Second, if interest rates are kept low, investors aren’t able to receive adequate returns on savings, so they are forced to assume more risk-on investments in stocks, real estate and commodity markets, which leads to bigger and more frequent bubbles.

    Again, Governments love to create bubbles, as they creat the ILLUSION of economic growth, when it’s actually artificial demand created by insane government monetary and fiscal policies, which are unsustainable.

    This insanity cannot last much longer. The US Federal Reserve is currently purchasing around 90% of new US Bond auctions WITH PRINTED MONEY, which is destroying the dollar and causing all commodity prices to rise.

    Eventually, just the exchange rate risk alone will force foreign central banks to dump their US bonds for whatever price they can get, which will force bond prices to drop, interest rates to soar and eventually a US default of their national debt.

    So, yes, some of the rise in food commodity prices can be attributed to increased speculation, but even this is being caused by unsustainable government fiscal and monetary policies.

  214. johanna said @ January 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    TPG, there is a difference between projections and predictions. It is reasonable to project, based on past experience and known science, that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow. It is quite wrong to predict it, because something could change (we could be hit by a massive asteriod, or whatever) that makes the prediction inaccurate.

    Malthus’ error was to assume that the relationship between food supply and population was constant, a sort of law of nature, so he strayed from reasonable projection to inaccurate prediction. In doing so he created in his mind and the minds of his followers the false notion of an immutable law.

    Stay safe – trust the fires will be brought under control soon.

    This projection/prediction dichotomy is not something that arises in either the philosophy of logic, or the philosophy of science. Indeed, the term projection (as in a forecast based on current trends) appears to have entered the language in 1952:

    1952 Economist 30 Aug. 526/1 The FBI’s figure‥amounts almost exactly in total to a direct projection of the sharp upward trend in consumption during 1950 and 1951.

    Predicting the rising of the sun does not appear to be related to trend analysis. Nor does Malthus’ empirical observation that throughout all of the history of which he was aware, that population appeared to be limited by the availability of food. He was aware that given the technology of the day humans were unable to do any more than convert a fixed amount energy from the sun. He was unaware that fossilised energy of the sun from ages past was about to be exploited and thus alter the pattern of agriculture and the distribution of food from where it was in excess (glut as he termed it) to where it was needed. But there were no figures to conduct a trend analysis from until after the first census in 1801 and the four that occurred in his lifetime were little more than headcounts. His false assumption was simply that what had occurred in the past, would continue to occur in the future.

    This is the problem of induction: when it works, it works well, except when it doesn’t. And we can never justify it. It’s a strange yet fascinating world.

    We are well away from the bushfires at this time. I am truly glad to be retired from fighting them.

  215. Willis

    As a reply to you I went back and redid some of the past research I’ve posted about here. Below are a few of those data points.

    Sourced from:

    http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/feed-grains-database/feed-grains-yearbook-tables.aspx#26766

    I’m going to focus a bit on Mexico – one, since you gave it as an example, and two, since they are the 2nd biggest corn importer (behind Japan), and are highly reliant on the US for their corn.

    For many years the United States has been the worlds majority provider of the worlds corn needs.over roughly the last 2 decades – 1990 to 2011 – the US has provided an average of nearly 63% of the total world corn exports. And from the 2003 acceleration in use of corn for ethanol thru 2011 the US has provided an average of 57.3% of the worlds export corn.

    When it comes to Mexico the numbers are even more impressive. From 1990 to 2011 – the US exports to Mexico supplied from 81% to 132% of Mexico’s total corn imports – with an average of over 96%.

    And from the 2003 acceleration in use of corn for ethanol thru 2011 the US exports to Mexico supplied from 91% to 111% of Mexico’s total corn imports – with an average of over 97%.

    In 14 of the last 22 years the US has supplied all, or more than all, of Mexico’s total corn imports. What that means is in many years we provide enough export to Mexico that they are exporting some of the corn we provide them.

    And that trend is increasing. From 1990 thru 2011 Mexico averaged 4.7 million bushels of corn export. In 2005 and 2006 they exported over 8 million bushels, in 2009 they exported 25.3 million and in 2011 they exported 11.8 million bushels. The US has provided so much corn to Mexico in recent years that they have exported 77 million bushels since 2000.

    Since 2000 alone worldwide corn exports are up 36.8%. Since 1990 worldwide corn exports are up over 75%, Since 1990 US corn production is up 56% and since 2000 US corn production is up 24.6%. Since 1990 US corn exports are up 18.5% – since 2000 US corn exports are up 17%.

    The US met all of the domestic food, feed, and ethanol demand, and all of the export demand in 2011 and still had 1 billion bushels of corn in our reserves.

    The US has had several mediocre years (2010 and 2011) where production remained flat, and will have a somewhat worse year for 2012 with lower yields from drought, That said we have still provided 91% of ALL of Mexico’s corn imports. And in those last 2 years Mexico has still had enough corn to export 15.2 million bushels

    Although US production has been flat the last several years total production remained in record 12 to 13 billion bushel territory (12.65 billion bushel average 2007-2011). 2012 will see a drop to appx 11 billion bushels production but the majority of that decrease was made up through a reduction in ethanol use.

    Total US exports have dropped slightly since 2000 – by a 389 million bushels, however the other main corn exporting countries – Argentina, Ukraine, Brazil, India and the EU27 have increased their exports by 1.4 billion bushels during the same time.

    It is well past time that other countries step up and do their share. And it is good to see at least a nominal effort beginning.

    America has shouldered the responsibility long enough, at many times providing over 80% of the total worldwide corn exports. Since 2000 alone we’ve averaged 58% pf the worldwide corn exports.

    When it comes to Mexico we have provided essentially all their corn imports for many years. Our corn exports to Mexico have continued to increase – nearly doubling from 2000 to present. Despite a terrible year ourselves we increased exports to Mexico this year by over 35% from last year, of which Mexico had enough to export some 11.9 million bushels. .

    Sorry Willis – I have zero doubt about the authenticity of your story about the Mexican kids. But the responsibility does not lie with America, nor with the corn we use for ethanol.

    We supply a vast majority of the worlds corn – 57% avg since 2000, compared to a combined 30% of the next FIVE nations combined. We meet all of the domestic, food and feed requirements, all of the ethanol requirements, all of the export requirements and still had a billion bushels in reserve at the end of 2011.

    And even if it did – there are many other solutions. Such as putting a stop to the incredible waste of food here … see:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/03/wasted-food-a-huge-energy-gobbler/

  216. A. Scott says: January 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    When it comes to Mexico the numbers are even more impressive. From 1990 to 2011 – the US exports to Mexico supplied from 81% to 132% of Mexico’s total corn imports – with an average of over 96%.
    ==============================
    How can the US supply over 100% of Mexico’s total corn import’s? Absurd figures like this demolish your whole argument, for who will believe any of the other figures?
    again: “91% to 111% of Mexico’s total corn imports “

  217. mpainter, don’t waste your breath or pixels. I have done 15+ rounds with Scott before, complete with statistics up the wazoo, and he just keeps coming back like one of those annoying, yappy little dogs. He’s a Believer, and if it wasn’t so hackneyed, I’d post the YouTube link to the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.”

    It’s not a bad exercise if you want to refresh yourself on the latest statistics. But in terms of debate – forget it. He Believes. It’s a faith-based thing with him.

  218. mpainter ..

    The source is right there. Table 22 and 27 if I remember.

    I checked a number of different ways and those were the numbers reported by USDA. Different sections might have very slightly different reporting criteria for different data, and in a lot of the work I did I had to be converting back and forth from “million bushels” to “1000 Metric Tonnes” units of measure … but not that particular data. I certainly could have made an error, even more easily so with being under the weather, but I’m reasonably certain the numbers I reported are accurate. I build cross checks into most of my work – especially where there are conversions involved.

    Other documentation bears out the reliance of Mexico on the US for corn – such as:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/09/mexico-corn-idUSL1E8L9GS120121009

    BTW – LexMundi has most of the USDA data in easier to find formats – her is US Corn:

    http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=us&commodity=corn&graph=area-harvested

    I’ll re-check later when I get time … I think though the numbers are correct – the total import over last 10 years by Mexico is slightly higher than total export from US to mexico – I imagine there are some reporting delays that may be involved but the overall data is correct…

  219. I had some the data in an online file … there is a slight reporting difference between Table 22 and 27 – one is Sep-Aug “year” the other “Oct-Sep” … as you can see by the 2 “Total US Exports” the difference is vey minor.

    Computing the “US export as % total Mexico Imports ” does use data from both Table 22 and 27, and while “Total US Exports” is not part of the calculation there may be some small differene between teh two tables.

    That said any difference is minor, other sources confirm Mexico gets pretty much all their corn imports from the US. and US exports to them have been largely unaffected by the introduction of ethanol.

    http://tinyurl.com/US-Mex-Corn

  220. I agree, mostly. The Kelo decision, and similar decisions, are a disaster for freedom, decency, and common sense.
    I disagree with your description of California farmland as irreplaceable and uniquely productive. California is sunny, but that is its only virtue for farming. Its soil is not particularly rich, and there is not enough water from rain or local sources to farm; only chemical enrichment of the soil, and irrigation of the soil with imported water makes farming possible. Irrigating soil in a semi-arid environment, with imported water, has a SEVERE long-term cost; the water evaporates rapidly, leaving trace amounts of minerals and metals behind. Over a long period, the soil becomes too alkaline, salty, or metallic to support life. And I’m not even addressing the implications of chemical enrichment of the soil, or what diversion of water from the mountains does to that environment…

  221. ja says:
    January 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I disagree with your description of California farmland as irreplaceable …

    OK. So if all the California farmland were to slide into the ocean … what do you plan to replace it with? You making new farmland somewhere?

    … and uniquely productive. California is sunny, but that is its only virtue for farming. Its soil is not particularly rich, and there is not enough water from rain or local sources to farm; …

    Where I live in California, in some places the topsoil is twenty feet deep. The soil is very rich, and there is plenty of water from rain and local sources to farm with. That’s why Luther Burbank chose the area where I live for his gardening and horticultural experiments. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Some parts of California look like what you discuss, most parts don’t.

    … only chemical enrichment of the soil, …

    Oh, my god, not CHEMICALS. Everyone knows that CHEMICALS are dangerous things, I sure hope you are doing everything you can to keep CHEMICALS out of your body …

    … and irrigation of the soil with imported water makes farming possible.

    Yes. Irrigation makes farming possible. We agree on that.

    Irrigating soil in a semi-arid environment, with imported water, has a SEVERE long-term cost; the water evaporates rapidly, leaving trace amounts of minerals and metals behind. Over a long period, the soil becomes too alkaline, salty, or metallic to support life.

    Let’s see … we’ve been feeding people out of the California valleys for 150 years. From the start, much of that has been by irrigation.

    So what would your plan be, ja? Stop using that land to feed people? Mine would be, use the irrigated land to feed millions of people over a century, and deal with the problems as they come up. Which is what we’re doing.

    Would we have been better off, instead of feeding the millions, to have left the “semi-arid environment” untouched? Rather than feeding millions, it would have been left as a scrubland, semi-desert. Would that have been better? Not in my world.

    And I’m not even addressing the implications of chemical enrichment of the soil, …

    They’re back!! The CHEMICALS are back! Everyone run!

    … or what diversion of water from the mountains does to that environment.

    Not a whole lot, actually. Have you every been to Hetch Hetchy or Shasta Dam?

    ja, you sound like a man who is quite concerned about the environment. That’s a good thing. But a good heart isn’t enough. You need to think things through. Yes, some farmlands are getting salinated from irrigation. Some are even abandoned, to revert back to semi-arid scrubland.

    But what is your preferable alternative? Would you prefer for it always to have been semi-arid scrubland, and never fed anyone?

    All the best,

    w.

  222. mpainter says:
    January 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    … This brings us to the CAGW crowd, who are essentially catastrophists, but also boobs, half-wits, frauds, etc. They use the same sort of tactics as Erhlich & Co. And this is why people like Willis see red when someone suggests that Malthus was right in the main.

    But now Willis perhaps sees that the “real” Malthus can be used to pooh-pooh the catastrophists and refute them by the writings of the same Malthus that they claim as authority for their panic mongering.

    That’s what I keep waiting for, mpainter. I have identified the two areas that the Malthusians depend on.

    One is the pseudo-mathematical underpinnings of Malthus’s work, where Malthus claims that population growth will always and inevitably outstrip food supply, allegedly because one is geometric (increasing as 1,2,4,8,16 …) and the other is arithmetic (1,2,3,4,5 …)

    The other is the idea that population always and invariably rises to meet any food surplus. Both of those ideas, as time has clearly shown, were incorrect.

    Now, if you have it somewhere in writing that the “real” Malthus said “oops, I was wrong about those two things, my bad”, then trot it out right now, there’s still time to save your argument.

    And if you can’t come up with Malthus saying something like that … well, how then can I use the “real” Malthus to pooh-pooh the current Malthusian claims of mathematical inexorability?

    I await your quotations from Malthus. Please note that I am not particularly interested in quotations by mpainter or anyone other than Malthus …

    w.

  223. mpainter … we know johanna has no useful comment, How about you? You challenged and I provided again a direct source to the data and a compilation of that data since it appeared it was too much effort for you to look for yourself.

    If the data is wrong then show us how.

  224. A lot of interesting stuff has come up in this discussion. I wish I’d jumped in a little earlier.

    TimTheToolMan, TRM, Juan Slayton, and others posted about distributed solar power, with its advantage of eliminating transmission losses. In effect, the cost per kW slashed by as much as a half by using all the power instead of paying to heat the transmission cables. California’s new building code requires that for new construction, the roofs of houses have to be built so that solar arrays can be readily installed. This makes sense for most of the state, at least, (the parts that are mostly sunny) and since it doesn’t seem to add much to the cost of a new home, it will probably end up being cost-effective. (I found out about this when a friend, a contractor in the midwest, was grousing about government regulations, and used the new code as an example–turned out that the pamphlet he referred to had some garbled figures on it, but the solar-ready requirement looked like a good idea to me.)

    Putting solar generation near where the power is used is not just for rooftops. Airports have to be surrounded by a certain amount of open space, and they’re using it:

    http://www.airportimprovement.com/content/story.php?article=00054

    and

    http://www.dailytech.com/FresnoYosemite+International+Leads+Green+Airport+Movement/article12417.htm

    The latter has some interesting discussion on the role of subsidies in making this one work.

    In hot areas, covering parking spaces makes a big difference–when it’s 100F out, a car in the shade will be 100F; one in the sun will be much hotter. This is extremely unpleasant when first entering the car, and isn’t good for the car’s interior either. Many public areas have open parking lots (and people tint their car windows, and put shades over the windshields). But even the most run-down flea-bag apartment complexes will have a set of carports for their residents. So, parking in the shade is a good thing. Not always cost-effective for every parking lot, but more so when the carport is plugged in to the grid. Various schools in the California State University system have set up solar arrays, including some on top of structures that provide shade for parking lots:

    http://blogs.calstate.edu/cpdc_sustainability/?cat=12&paged=2

    with a little more detail about one of them:

    http://www.chevronenergy.com/case_studies/fresno_state.asp

    (In the first link, the first pic is mislabeled; that’s Fresno State, not CSU Bakersfield).

    The third-party financing of some of these installations is similar to one option available for homeowners, in that there are companies that will come in and put up a solar array on your roof at no cost to you, then sell you the power from it at a rate below what the utilities would charge.

    All of these are, one way or another, heavily subsidized. Some people are opposed to that in principle, and bring up good points regarding the financing, and the seemingly immortal nature of subsidy programs (see: ethanol). Some thoughts on subsides: solar isn’t the answer to everything, it doesn’t work at night, not good when it’s cloudy, etc. All true, that’s the landscape within which it works. But where it does work, the advantages really are huge: no fuel costs, no atmospheric emissions of any kind for power generation. Both the LA basin and the Central Valley are geographic bowls that trap whatever gets into the atmosphere; the air can get really nasty in the summertime, and for such places, anything that contributes at all to reducing emissions is well worth considering.

    Fossil fuels have costs beyond those at the pump or on the electric meter. Despite vast improvements, they still pollute the air, and their production has environmental costs. The world oil market has put a great deal of power and money into the hands of people who don’t seem to have our best interests in mind, and are not making the world a better place. Solar power won’t cure these ills at a stroke, but it can play its part, sooner or later. (And yes, solar has its own environmental cost to tally up, in manufacture, in changing the landscape, etc.) But fossil fuel’s environmental and geopolitical costs won’t be solved by the free market, because they’re externalized, dumped into the commons of the atmosphere and of the world stage. The price of coal doesn’t rise just because more people have asthma, so the market won’t shift things based on that cost, nor is military spending, required for national security, reflected in the price of oil.

    Solar is happening. It would happen without subisidies. But with subsidies, it will happen faster, obviating the need for some new fossil-fuel plants that would otherwise run for decades. The price of solar generation is expected to drop with more improvements, driven by innovation, which is driven by demand. These future lower-cost systems will enter a market that has developed further due to the subsidies, in which things run more smoothly and predictably (whether this is load balancing for intermittent clouds, or niche business models for generating and selling the power).

    This is not to say that California’s policies are good, mostly good, or bad; I’d need a vast amount more information to form a firm, specific opinion on that. But this is why I don’t reject subsidies out of hand, and what I want to consider in that discussion. It’s what I bring in along with the legitimate points already raised, that we pay for the subsidies and that, being artificial, give us artificial results, not always the ones we’re after.

    Speaking of prices, I haven’t seen anyone post any particulars. For price per watt, installed capacity, solar is very expensive, but it starts saving money as soon as it starts not burning fuel. Here’s an article that looks at some specific power plants, and goes through their costs from construction through decomissioning:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/07/08/the-direct-costs-of-energy-hydronuclear-best-solar-still-lagging/

    At the end, we get the following figures for the energy actually generated, including buiding and decomissioning the plants:
    3.3¢/kWhr for hydro
    3.5 ¢/kWhr for nuclear
    3.7 ¢/kWhr for natural gas@ $2.60/mcf
    4.1 ¢/kWhr for coal
    4.3 ¢/kWhr for wind
    5.1 ¢/kWhr for natural gas @ 4/mcf
    7.7 ¢/kWhr for solar

    There are two figures for natural gas, for different prices; you could do alternate fuel price scenarios for coal and nuclear as well. Prices will go up sometime as fossil fuels become depleted, although that might not be soon. Solar is the most expensive of the bunch, but you can drop it down to the cheap end by putting the generation close to the consumption, and not pay to heat the power lines. And, as the article notes, there are several ways that the price for solar is expected to come down, e.g., solar thermal (although that’s not probably not appropriate for home use).

    Now, these figures are only for particular power plants in each category, not industry-wide averages. But it’s figures of this type that must be used together with the (very nebulous) externalized costs of pollution and geopolitics, and then analyzed along with subsidies that are, or should be, intended to hasten the day when the renewables become economically competitive on their own.

    So: current costs, future costs, pollution, climate effects (whatever those might be), geopolitics, and the effects that solar subsidies might have on all of these: once I’ve got these all figured out, with very credible forecasts for different subsidy scenarios, I’ll tell you what I think of subsidies. Don’t hold your breath. But I’m not automatically against them.

    As for the farm area in question, near Coalinga: this is hard up against the west side of the valley, right by the coast range. In the Central Valley, there’s not always enough water to go around. The water comes mostly from snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada, and goes to farms, cities, and some even makes it to the ocean. During a drought, the farms towards the west tend to get hit hardest, based on senority of water rights. Also, the soil is not equally good throughout the valley; in many places it’s excellent, but in others, it’s rather poor. I don’t know whether the farmland in question is all that good or not, or how often they get enough water to grow crops. The effects of solar subsidies on farmland, and whether or not really good soil is taken out of production, will be affected by water policy as well as by energy policy.

    Regarding Willis’s comment, from the post:

    The only good news is that compared to say buildings, it’s much easier to remove a solar installation and return the land to actually producing food. Not easy in either case, but easier for solar.

    This could actually be a lot easier than one might think, at least within limits. If the panels could be swiveled, so that the edge faced the arc of the sun across the sky, it would cast a thin shadow, and allow the land to be farmed. The farmer could decide whether to harvest lettuce or kWh for a given season, based on projected crop prices, energy prices, and water delivieries. Maximum efficiency would require adjustments as the sun’s path changed, and the spacing of mounting poles would have to match th width of farm equipment. Not something to jump into without planning. But if a workable system could be developed, it would allow some farms to generate profits from energy at times when they would otherwise be unable to do anything, due to lack of water.

    I once spoke to a scientist who had done some climate projections for the Fresno County government; he said that that rainfall might be reduced for the southern part of the valley a few decades hence. (He also said that the precipitation was the hardest part to model; he was much more confident about increased temperatures in the valley, mosly at night.) Be that as it may, it’s easy to project that California’s population will continue to grow, and with it, demands on the water supply. Increased efficiency of water use can help, but still, it could become increasingly useful for some farms to be able to convert at will between crops and power generation.

  225. and johanna – stop putting words in my mouth. As I have repeatedly shown, my position on ethanol is based on research, data and first hand experience.

    I don’t recall you providing anything of the sort, however feel free to do so here again.

    If you have something that supports your position then stop the juvenile name-calling and post it – so we can have an intelligent adult conversation.

  226. E.M.Smith says:
    January 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    This doesn’t even get into the whole Algae thing where you can get another 10x to 100x yield of nutrients boost per acre (and down to 1/10th the sunlight level needed…) While some people eat algae (spirulina anyone?) the ‘big deal’ is using it to enhance animal feeds.

    And this goes to the heart of what many see as the real biofuels opportunity. A lot of the biofuels enthusiasts never considered ethanol or soy-based biodiesel to be more than a stopgap at best. As for the whole competition between corn for ethanol vs. corn for eating, soybeans for diesel vs. soybeans for tofu, food crop vs. fuel crop land use tradeoff, the best way I’ve seen it expressed is: “you’re burning food. Burning food is a bad idea, because then, nobody can eat it. Because you burned it.” Even if you’re more worried about Brazilian farmers cutting down the rainforest to plant soybeans to export to the US to replace the soybeans that were dispaced by corn grown to produce ethanol, “You’re burning food” still sums it up well enough.

    Blue-green algae, and cyanobacteria, are very simple organisms. They are very resiliant, and grow really fast. I’ve seen figures thrown around of 60-100x the fuel per acre per year for algae vs. soybeans or corn. That alone makes it worth thinking about, but for an algae farm (that is, a pond) you don’t need to use good farmland, so it need not compete with food at all. You do need to use water, so you need to work where it rains a lot, or divert water from other uses, perhaps conserve water with a (very expensive) greenhouse structure, or even use seawater–marine varieties of algae have been studied for biofuels.

    Some varieties of algae contain over 40% lipids by weight, i.e., fats and oils. For these, you could almost literally scrape the scum off of a pond, dry it in the sun (collecting and condensing the water if it’s worth it to you), then squeeze oils out of the dried mass, and shove them into an existing oil refinery to be made into gasoline, diesel, etc. (Actually, I don’t know whether drying, then squeezing is more efficient, or squeezing, then separating water form oil.) The remaining proteins and carbohydrates would be shoveled off elsewhere to become fertilizer or animal feed. That’s 40% before you even start with genetic engineering on the algae to improve the process.

    Despite the stupendous advantages of algae over corn or soybeans, actually perfecting a process that produces more energy than it requires is still tricky. But, it’s very do-able, and it’s not hopelessly expensive either. For those worried about carbon emissions, this is quite attractive in that the carbon to be burned is absorbed from the air in the first place, and the fuel can be used in existing vehicles. There’s no need to develop anything new vehicle or engine technology at all. It’s carbon-neutral, except to the extent that it will require energy to produce the fuel, and that energy could come from fossil fuels. One common claim (I haven’t tried to verify it) is that an area of land equivalent to that of Maryland would be sufficient to grow algae that would account for all of the transportation need so of the US. In the context of this discussion, that’s also equivalent to Fresno and Kern counties, although you’d never want to use that land for growing fuel; it’s much too good for growing food. But it’s plausible that you could cultivate enough algae or cyanobacteria to account for a significant portion of transportation fuel needs.

    All of this has gotten the attention of some surprising entities, like Boeing (whose products will sell better when fuel prices are more stable) and the Defense Department (who are interested in a less vulnerable source for the vast amounts of fuel they might use during a war).

    A more far-out application that has been prototyped is the use of algae to sequester carbon out of the exhaust steam of a coal or natural gas power plant. (I apologize, but I’m too lazy to search for a really good link…If you want, google “algae smokestack” and you’ll find a zillion of them.) Takes the CO2 out of the exhaust stream, and the algae could then be used to make biofuels. You could burn coal, then make gasoline, and essentially burn the same carbon twice. Well, maybe 1.5 times, allowing for inefficiencies. You could sequester the carbon and make fuel oil, then burn that in the plant, in a sort-of closed loop, though adding fuel to cover the inefficiencies, making the entire operation into a weird sort of oil-burning solar plant.

    The first article I ever saw on this said that the problem with this technology was that the scrubber unit, filled with these wet sheets covered with algae, would require a building the size of a Wal-Mart. “Alas!” thought I, “If only we knew how to build a building the size of a Wal-Mart!” OK, so it’s the price. I wouldn’t have thougth that a problem, but maybe it is. Is there a way to save on it? Perhaps get a building second-hand? We could use an existing Wal-Mart perhaps, although, as a courtesy, we should warn the customers before actually hooking up the smokestack. Just as they were wondering why the only product on display seemed to be these wet, green, algae-covered sheets…

  227. Jazzy T said:

    Solar is happening. It would happen without subisidies. But with subsidies, it will happen faster, obviating the need for some new fossil-fuel plants that would otherwise run for decades. The price of solar generation is expected to drop with more improvements, driven by innovation, which is driven by demand. These future lower-cost systems will enter a market that has developed further due to the subsidies, in which things run more smoothly and predictably (whether this is load balancing for intermittent clouds, or niche business models for generating and selling the power).
    ————————————————-
    Solar does not “obviate the need for some new fossil fuel plants”, unless you regard intermittent power supply as acceptable. Just like windmills, it needs 100% backup from conventional (I like the way you inserted “fossil fuel” in there) sources like coal, gas, hydro and nuclear.

    Markets don’t “develop” because of subsidies, they are artificially created by them. Subsidies are a direct transfer of wealth from consumers to producers. And, if I was forced at gunpoint to give a subsidy to an energy producer, I would vote for one that provides cheap, reliable power 24/7/365, not one that wears a halo because it’s approved by current fashionistas irrespective of performance and cost metrics.

    Making markets “smooth and predictable” is every rent-seeker’s dream, but it is the antithesis of dynamic capitalism. No society ever got wealthier by protecting producers from the market tests of real costs and competition.

    Under the thin veneer of concern and care, you are simply espousing rent-seeking and the expropriation of people’s money to favoured producers.

  228. Jazzy T

    Thanks for the Forbes link! I am not to sure how James Conca came up with the 7 cents per kwh for solar. It seems low by a factor of 2 to 3 x from what I have seen reported here in sunny CA. see my comment above- http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/01/05/we-had-to-pave-the-environment-in-order-to-save-it/#comment-1191322 . for the data I have for the utility scale RE generation efforts we have put in place in CA.

    I put a comment over at tips and notes earlier today that you may find of interest:

    “SCE ratepayers. It looks like some of your RE, to meet the 33%RES, will be coming from facilities that Warren Buffet’s firm just purchased.

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/01/mega-solar-matchmaking-in-california?cmpid=SolarNL-Tuesday-January8-2013

    “Flexing its billion-dollar muscles once again in the renewable energy space, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company (famously backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.) is buying two co-located solar projects in California from SunPower, billed as the world’s largest permitted solar PV power development. The deal for Antelope Valley Solar Projects (AVSP), totaling approximately 579 megawatts (AC) combined generation capacity, is for an unspecified amount between $2-$2.5 billion.” …………
    …….”The bottom line for MidAmerican is identifying places where rates are high at peak and that are squeezed on the generation side, Caudill says. “Those drive the market. It’s hard to say where we end up next — but I feel strongly that there are opportunities out there.””
    It looks like Caudill likes the Time of Delivery (TOD) factors that SCE is offering for RE projects- See CPUC Resolution E-4442 dated December 1, 2011. Mid America will be getting a pretty penny from you for many years to come as their cash flow will be rather nice during the summer at super peak times. Your costs for generation (actually it’s SCE costs, but you end up paying for it) will be give or take $0.2903 per kwh at super peak times in the summer months.”

    My little PV system generated 22 kwh today. Thank goodness it’s been a bit warmer and sunnier this month in the Sierra foothills, as I don’t want to have another $280.00 electric bill from PG&E again. I am looking into adding a 2 to 3 Kw system to our existing 6.12 Kw system before May of this year. I expect to pay, before tax credits and rebates, between $3.00 and $4.00 a Kw. With a 3 Kw system at my location I should generate 4600 to 4700 kwh during a calendar year.

  229. And this goes to the heart of what many see as the real biofuels opportunity. A lot of the biofuels enthusiasts never considered ethanol or soy-based biodiesel to be more than a stopgap at best.

    I agree – ethanol from corn is not and will not be anything but a bridge solution. As it stands it is providing apprx 10% of the US transportation fuels needs. It is renewable, replaces that share of fossil fuel use, reduces slightly reliance on foreign energy sources, and is cleaner for the environment.

    Even IF the claims that it increases food costs are true – which has been significantly questioned – using corn for ethanol adds 6 – 10 cents to a box of corn flakes. It adds appx .30 cents to the cost of the best steaks.

    As I’ve shown – with USDA data – the use of ethanol for fuel has not caused a shortage of corn avail for food. The US has met all domestic needs, including ethanol, and at the same time has remained, by a huge margin, the worlds primary provider of corn.

    Since the 1960’s the US has provided over 60% (and as high as 80+%) of the worlds corn export. In the last 10 years the US has provided nearly twice as much corn for export as the next 5 largest exporters combined. In that same ten years, as the ethanol growth began in earnest and has continued to grow, the US STILL provides just under 60% of the worlds corn exports.

    And this share only dropped becasue our production plateaued the last couple years, while other corn producing areas have increased production.

    Not only has the US provided ALL of our domestic food, feed, ethanol and other needs, but we have remained the worlds corn provider – proving nearly 60% of the worlds corn export – meeting all export demand, and still we have nearly a billion bushels of reserve at the end of the year.

    Contrary to claims corn used for ethanol deprived poor folk around the world of food, US corn exports increased significantly from the 2002 ramp up of ethanol use – from 40 million metric tonnes in 2002 to over 60 million in 2007.

    At present ethanol is the best renewable fuel we have. IT is cost effective, renewable, portable, always available and does not need backup sources. It provides a small but significant share of the US transportation fuel needs. It is not the final solution but it is a good interim help.

    The data shows the US still supplies the majority of the worlds corn exports – by a 2 to 1 margin over the next 5 suppliers combined. The US and those 5 provide over 85% of the worlds corn exports. Even as the US experienced a few stagnant years (and a comparatively poor year for 2012), world corn exports have risen to new highs as the group of 5 brings significant new availability on line, more than making up the slack for several lackluster US years.

    Its a shame people run away when confronted with data. Or attack, divert, make excuses etc. If as they infer the data is wrong or meaningless then they should stand up and prove it.

    Last, I’ve invariably found a true mark of those unable to intelligently discuss a topic – are those who use dismissive attacks with terms like “rent seekers” as the response to detailed data. It is clear here, as in past interactions, those types have little ability to support their own positions, beyond such juvenile attacks.

  230. A. Scott says:
    January 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    And this goes to the heart of what many see as the real biofuels opportunity. A lot of the biofuels enthusiasts never considered ethanol or soy-based biodiesel to be more than a stopgap at best.

    I agree – ethanol from corn is not and will not be anything but a bridge solution. As it stands it is providing apprx 10% of the US transportation fuels needs. It is renewable, replaces that share of fossil fuel use, reduces slightly reliance on foreign energy sources, and is cleaner for the environment.

    If only it were actually a “bridge solution”. Unfortunately, it’s not a solution at all.

    Only if you choose a very generous set of assumptions can you show even a marginal gain from ethanol. Basically, you burn about a litre of oil, by the time all of the dogs are hung, to make a litre of ethanol. Anyone who thinks that is a good deal desperately needs remedial mathematics. I find it hilarious that you would say further down that:

    Its a shame people run away when confronted with data. Or attack, divert, make excuses etc. If as they infer the data is wrong or meaningless then they should stand up and prove it.

    The ethanol crowd does nothing but run from data. For example, a study funded by the National Science Foundation, the Center for Global Change at Duke University and by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnologíca of Argentina found that:

    Converting set-asides to corn-ethanol production is an inefficient and expensive greenhouse gas mitigation policy that should not be encouraged until ethanol-production technologies improve.

    Or consider this one, from the Scientific American;

    California regulators, trying to assess the true environmental cost of corn ethanol, are poised to declare that the biofuel cannot help the state reduce global warming.

    As they see it, corn is no better – and might be worse – than petroleum when total greenhouse gas emissions are considered.

    Such a declaration, to be considered later this week by the California Air Resources Board, would be a considerable blow to the corn-ethanol industry in the United States.

    Given that, and I can find you many more, for you to be so blase and certain that you are saving the world tells me that you have run when confronted with that data. Your solution doesn’t work. As with so many green “solutions”, the solution doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t reduce greenhouse gases. It doesn’t reduce fossil fuel use, you still have to use the fossil fuel to grow the corn.

    Ethanol makes sense in Brazil. Why? Because it’s hot, and they are growing sugar cane without much machinery. Not a lot of inputs, and they use human and animal labor rather than fossil fuel burning tractors and trucks. Also, they burn the cane stalks to power the refinery. If you do all those things and have hot weather, you come out ahead.

    In the US, by the time you add up all the fossil energy used at every stage of the process, you find it hard to break even. We use fossil fuels to prepare the ground for planting. We use fossil fuels to store, transport, fumigate, and plant the corn seeds. We use fossil fuels to make the very fertilizer that becomes part of the corn, and then further fossil fuel to transport the fertilizer to the farm, and then further fuel to spread it on the land.. We use fossil fuels to weed the corn. We use fossil fuels to spray it, and to harvest it. We use fossil fuels to shell it and to transport it to the ethanol refinery. There, we use fossil fuels to convert the corn to ethanol.

    That’s why the Duke/NSF study found that it was not a “bridge solution” in the slightest. Instead they described it as “inefficient and expensive”. You talk about dodging data? How about you stop dodging that.

    Regards,

    w.

  231. This is the renewable fuels association response to the NYT Guatemala “story” (as in storytelling):

    http://www.ethanolrfa.org/exchange/entry/dont-believe-everything-you-read.-fact-check-on-nyts-guatemala-corn-ethanol/

    Willis, and others, let me tell you as a seasoned scientist working in the area of renewables, that most of this thread is an argument that maybe would have been topical three years ago. It’s just tired old “data” to use the term loosely. The field has moved on from this.

    I would strongly urge everyone with an interest in this to keep up by subscribing to two daily (free) journals that highlight where this field is going. For example:

    https://www.smartbrief.com/rfa/index.jsp

    http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2013/01/01/12-bellwether-biofuels-projects-for-2013/

    No, it’s not climate science “how can we torture the data to make that “curve” look worse than we thought?” without ever even thinking about doing experiments. It’s real scientists doing real experiments and tossing crap results and using positive data to design the next experiment. Serious companies are continuing with cellulosic development and are building huge plants.

    By the way, the other notion that this is taking food away from, e.g. cattle is laughable. The dry distiller’s grain with solids (DDGS), which is a by-product of the industry is the reason why the ethanol industry can be profitable. Taking out the sugar is preferable for the animal and its GI system.

    I wish I had time to contribute further, and no, I’m not in the bioethanol industry. In fact, they’re the competition.

  232. Best of luck with the yappy little dog, Willis. From my experience, he will bombard you with links while refusing to engage in the substance of the argument. Watch out for your ankles.

  233. johanna – you have failed to provide a single shred of intelligent comment on this subject, let alone anything to support your positions. Your entire contribution is ad hominem attack. I’ll repeat, people with nothing to contribute, whether by intent or inability, are usually quite easy to identify.

  234. willis – with all due respect – and I truly mean that – you do yourself a disservice with this attitude.

    You attacked and denigrated me for failing to provide data to support my claims. I responded and presented data, in a fair amount of detail, along with source so you could verify. I spent 3 or 4 hours reviewing and updating my past work before I replied.

    You ignored the data I provided, which was directly relevant. After your admonition about providing data in your original reply you here do exactly the same – not a single link to support your claims. Nor a link to the studies you note.

    Much of the claims you make are, as philincalifornia notes, is not accurate or current. Your claims about lack of mechanization in Brazil’s sugarcane industry for example. Reality is almost completely contrary to your claims

    UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, and the Sao Paulo state government, made an agreement long ago to end sugarcane straw burning by 2014. This requires mechanization, as burning is primarily to facilitate manual cutting. By the 2008/09 harvest year, roughly half of the harvest was mechanized.

    A quote from UNICA:

    … there is a growing demand for specialized professionals to perform higher-quality, better-paid functions. In most of the region covered by UNICA, manual sugarcane cutting is due to be phased out by 2014 under the terms of the Agri-Environmental Sugarcane Protocol signed between UNICA and the São Paulo State Government. This agreement provides for mechanized harvesting to be introduced in most areas of São Paulo State by 2014, and by 2017 in the minority of areas where mechanization is not possible using current technology. In practice this means that virtually all of the sugarcane harvest in São Paulo will be mechanized by 2014. In the 2007/08 harvest year roughly 40% of sugarcane in the state was cut mechanically

    Even in 2009 more than 75% of the fields were mechanized in many areas of Sao Paulo.

    I don’t say this to bust your chops but to get you to engage in a discussion – based on accurate, current information.

    Please provide links to the papers you note – I’ll be happy and interested to look at them. That said they are many, many others that show the efficacy of ethanol.

  235. I changed two words in your comment from above – “mill” and “food”:

    In the US, by the time you add up all the fossil energy used at every stage of the process, you find it hard to break even. We use fossil fuels to prepare the ground for planting. We use fossil fuels to store, transport, fumigate, and plant the corn seeds. We use fossil fuels to make the very fertilizer that becomes part of the corn, and then further fossil fuel to transport the fertilizer to the farm, and then further fuel to spread it on the land.. We use fossil fuels to weed the corn. We use fossil fuels to spray it, and to harvest it. We use fossil fuels to shell it and to transport it to the mill. There, we use fossil fuels to convert the corn to food.

    Even with these two simple changes – the validity of your comment remains exactly the same. You and others think we should use corn for food not fuel. Regardless of the use, corn is corn, and the inputs are virtually identical.

  236. philincalifornia says:
    January 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    This is the renewable fuels association response to the NYT Guatemala “story” (as in storytelling):

    http://www.ethanolrfa.org/exchange/entry/dont-believe-everything-you-read.-fact-check-on-nyts-guatemala-corn-ethanol/

    Willis, and others, let me tell you as a seasoned scientist working in the area of renewables, that most of this thread is an argument that maybe would have been topical three years ago. It’s just tired old “data” to use the term loosely. The field has moved on from this.

    Vapid, vague, and without a single checkable fact. Sorry, Phil, but that kind of unsubstantiated and unfalsifiable claim means absolutely nothing.

    In any case, I decided to fact-check the fact-checker. I started with his first claim, that

    Very little white corn is grown in the U.S., but acres dedicated to white corn have not been reduced since passage of the RFS.

    Sadly, he doesn’t cite any sources for these two claim. However, he doesn’t supply much in the way of citations for anything else, so I guess that’s no surprise.

    Anyhow, in the White Corn Newsletter, I see a couple of things. One is that in 2007 the US harvested about 330,000 hectares of white corn. In 2012, the US harvested about 260,000 hectares. So in five years, despite his claim, the acreage dedicated to white corn in the US has dropped by about 20%.

    Looking at the Guatemala end, imports in Guatemala have risen. They import about 90,000 tonnes of white corn annually. Despite the comment about “little white corn” being grown in the US, the US supplies about half the corn imported by Guatemala … and what we export to Guatemala is only about 2% of our white corn production. We’re not a major producer, but we produce about 50% more than Guatemala.

    So I’m sorry, Phil. The first two “facts”, claimed by your so-called factchecker, turned out to be both unsupported by any citation or link of any kind, and more to the point, completely untrue. The US supplies half of Guatemala’s imports of white corn with 2% of our production, and the acres dedicated to white corn have indeed been reduced, by a fifth in the last five years.

    When I find that kind of thing, when the first two “facts” I look at are both unsupported and wrong, well, I don’t waste any further time. I fear your expert is nothing of the kind.

    Do other factors affect Guatemala’s tortilla prices? Sure. The rise is by no means all due to the US ethanol market and its distorting effects on the market. Part of it is, however. At present, about 40% of the US corn crop (which is about 15% of the global corn crop) is made into ethanol. By its very nature this has to distort the global market.

    Finally, one further look at the claim that “very little white corn is grown in the US”. In fact, the US and South Africa are the two largest producer countries of white corn … hardly “very little” in any sense.

    If you’d like an actual analysis of the conversion of farmland to biofuel, you might check out the study by Tufts University called The Cost to Mexico of U.S. Corn Ethanol Expansion. From the abstract (emphasis mine):

    A recent survey by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that globally biofuels expansion accounted for 20-40% of the price increases seen in 2007-8, when prices of many food crops doubled. This had a dramatic impact on poor consumers and on net-food-importing developing countries. Expanding U.S. production and consumption of corn-based ethanol, which has been encouraged by a range of U.S. government subsidies and incentives, is considered one of the most important biofuel programs in putting upward pressure on food prices. Mexico now imports about one-third of its corn from the United States. Using conservative estimates from a study on U.S. ethanol expansion and corn prices, we estimate the direct impacts of U.S. ethanol expansion on Mexican corn import costs. We find that from 2006-2011, U.S. ethanol expansion cost Mexico about $1.5 billion due to ethanol-related corn price increases. Other methodologies suggest the costs could be more than twice as high, surpassing $3 billion over the period.

    w.

  237. A. Scott says:
    January 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    … Even with these two simple changes – the validity of your comment remains exactly the same. You and others think we should use corn for food not fuel. Regardless of the use, corn is corn, and the inputs are virtually identical.

    Thanks, A. I don’t see the logic. Whether something is useful as a fuel depend on the EROEI, the energy returned on the energy invested. For example, if we have to put in a gallon of oil to get a half gallon of oil out of the ground, that’s a bad deal. If it takes a litre of diesel to produce a litre of ethanol, that’s a very bad deal.

    Human food is not subject to that restriction. We eat many foods that have larger fossil fuel inputs than the calories we get from them. However, it’s worth it because they are foods, and we can’t eat the fuels.

    w.

  238. A. Scott says:
    January 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    willis – with all due respect – and I truly mean that – you do yourself a disservice with this attitude.

    You attacked and denigrated me for failing to provide data to support my claims. I responded and presented data, in a fair amount of detail, along with source so you could verify. I spent 3 or 4 hours reviewing and updating my past work before I replied.

    You ignored the data I provided, which was directly relevant.

    I’m sorry, A. Scott, my bad. I should have answered. My problem was I found that absolutely none of the data you provided was relevant in the slightest. It all concerned the quantity of corn, and said absolutely nothing about the price. I was under the impression we were talking about the economic effect of the conversion of 40% of the corn crop to ethanol. Such an analysis as you did, which did not touch the cost of corn, or the effect on the costs of the transition to ethanol on various types of corn, seemed to me to totally miss the point.

    To do a proper analysis of the costs of the change to ethanol requires more than just looking at raw production and export figures as you have done. Take a look at the method used in the Tufts University study above for one example of a proper way to do it.

    My apologies for not answering, however, I should have done so.

    w.

  239. A. Scott, you say:

    Much of the claims you make are, as philincalifornia notes, is not accurate or current. Your claims about lack of mechanization in Brazil’s sugarcane industry for example. Reality is almost completely contrary to your claims

    UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, and the Sao Paulo state government, made an agreement long ago to end sugarcane straw burning by 2014. This requires mechanization, as burning is primarily to facilitate manual cutting. By the 2008/09 harvest year, roughly half of the harvest was mechanized.

    A quote from UNICA:

    … there is a growing demand for specialized professionals to perform higher-quality, better-paid functions. In most of the region covered by UNICA, manual sugarcane cutting is due to be phased out by 2014 under the terms of the Agri-Environmental Sugarcane Protocol signed between UNICA and the São Paulo State Government. This agreement provides for mechanized harvesting to be introduced in most areas of São Paulo State by 2014, and by 2017 in the minority of areas where mechanization is not possible using current technology. In practice this means that virtually all of the sugarcane harvest in São Paulo will be mechanized by 2014. In the 2007/08 harvest year roughly 40% of sugarcane in the state was cut mechanically

    Even in 2009 more than 75% of the fields were mechanized in many areas of Sao Paulo.

    I don’t say this to bust your chops but to get you to engage in a discussion – based on accurate, current information.

    While the sugarcane industry is mechanizing, it is far from mechanized. Heck, even your quote above says mechanization is not even going to be introduced in most areas in Sao Paulo until next year.

    Fully a quarter of the rural population of Brazil, about a million people, are employed in the sugarcane business. In 2010, about 550,000 of them were cane cutters. Not that mechanized.

    The idea that sugar in Brazil is as mechanized as corn in the US is far from true. In Brazil, 12% of the people are in the agricultural sector. In the US, because of extensive mechanization, agriculture only requires 2% of the people.

    Finally, in addition to the difference in mechanization whatever it may be, Brazil sugar-cane ethanol has other advantages over corn ethanol. These include

    1) Sugar cane is a grass, and produces a whole lot more sugar than corn.

    2) Brazil is tropical, so you can grow year-round.

    3) The “bagasse”, the stalks of the sugar cane, are burned to power the ethanol process.

    Corn doesn’t have those advantages.

    Heck, even Al Gore now says he regrets pushing corn ethanol, that it was a mistake, and that he only did it because he was friends with some of the corn farmers … and when the Goreacle gives up, you can be damn sure the ship is sinking.

    w.

  240. Willis Eschenbach says:
    January 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

    … only chemical enrichment of the soil, …

    Oh, my god, not CHEMICALS. Everyone knows that CHEMICALS are dangerous things, I sure hope you are doing everything you can to keep CHEMICALS out of your body …
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    ROTFLMAO…

    (As a Chemist I absolutely HATE the way the word chemical has been turned into a swear word.)

    City types have never seen Saltpeter crystallize out at the bottom of manure piles. With goats, sheep and chickens I see it all the time.

    How to Make Saltpeter
    Black powder is another form of saltpeter. Recipes go all the way back to Greece and 15th century Germany. Saltpeter is also used for gun cotton, dynamite fuses and is for oxidation. Naturally forming, saltpeter can be relatively easy to make, as long as you have the ingredients….

    Things You’ll Need
    Cow manure and urine
    Optional planting soil
    Wood ash….

    I do not even need wood ash to get saltpeter, just what I shovel out of the barns.

  241. JazzyT says:
    January 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    ….This could actually be a lot easier than one might think, at least within limits. If the panels could be swiveled, so that the edge faced the arc of the sun across the sky, it would cast a thin shadow, and allow the land to be farmed. The farmer could decide whether to harvest lettuce or kWh for a given season, based on projected crop prices, energy prices, and water delivieries…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Here in North Carolina, the Solar farm near me has grass grazed by lambs. It kills two birds with one stone.

    1. You can buy/sell the lambs through the season to keep the stocking rate correct so the area is neither under or over grazed.

    2. Sheep are very good at eating both grass and weeds and keeping the pasture looking like a lawn. (I use them to control weeds in my pastures) Goats are also great weed eaters but unlike goats you don’t find sheep standing on the roof of your pickup despite the fact they can jump like a deer.

    3. The market weight of lambs is about 50 lbs so they do not get big enough to damage the installation.

    4. When you want to clean a panel, all you have to do is grab a lamb by all four feet and give the panel a swipe with the lambswool. The lanolin will then make water (and dirt) bead-up and roll off the panel when it rains.

    Best of all you do not have to pay someone to mow instead get a profit from the sale of the sheep in the fall.

  242. Willis – I looked at the Duke.edu – it does say what you quoted. But not in the context you seem to use it. They were talking about whether growing corn for ethanol on conservation set aside land was a feasible green house gas mitigation policy.

    In the 2009 article they say “it makes more sense using today’s technology to leave land unfarmed … than to plow it up for corn to make biofuel” and further that “corn-ethanol production is an inefficient and expensive … policy that should not be encouraged until ethanol-production technologies improve.”

    However these comments, as noted in your quote, are about ethanol’s suitability as a greenhouse gas mitigation policy – regarding the conversion of conservation set asides to corn production. It was not about the suitability of ethanol as a fuel.

    They note making ethanol from corn DOES “reduce atmospheric releases of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide” becasue CO2 emitted in burning ethanol “is ‘canceled out’ by the carbon dioxide taken in by the next crop of growing plants.”

    The study notes “some CO2 not counterbalanced by plant carbon uptake gets released when corn is grown and processed for ethanol.” That said, Its 1st author Buenos Aires, Argentina-based Gervasio Piñeiro admits we reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent when we substitute one liter of ethanol for one liter of gasoline.

    So … the study finds that using corn as ethanol is CO2 neutral – the CO2 released by burning the ethanol is re-sequestered with the next crop of corn. They also admit that substituting ethanol for gasoline results in a “20% reduction” in CO2.

    Let’s set aside that this study was NOT about the efficacy of ethanol as a renewable fuel, but rather was about the effectiveness of growing corn for ethanol as a “greenhouse gas mitigation policy” on on crop reserve set-aside lands.

    Instead let’s look at the findings with respect to Willis’ position that the corn we grow should be used for food, not fuel – not as a CO2 mitigation strategy.

    In both cases – food and fuel – corn would be grown on the land. In both cases the inputs Willis (and the authors) note, to grow the corn, would be virtually identical. Corn is corn, and does not know or care where it is shipped – whether to an ethanol plant or a mill. In both cases the CO2 emissions from “using” the corn, and the re-sequestration of the CO2 with growing of the next crop would be identical.

    At the gate of the farm, all costs, and the emissions picture, would be virtually identical.

    In the ‘using corn for food or fuel’ efficacy debate then – the areas of potential difference is the processing, transportation and use of the product.

    Use as ethanol gets an immediate credit at least on emissions, as admitted by the author, a 20% reduction in CO2 in replacing gasoline with ethanol. Many of us, Willis and myself included, do not think CO2 is an important issue – however most of us also agree its not bad to minimize where possible.

    All other things being essentially equal, That leaves the comparison down to to “processing” and transportation costs.

    All use of corn involve a very similar milling process. This simple flow chart shows that process. The only real difference is the addition of fermentation and distillation to create ethanol.

    This extra ethanol step is largely offset by the additional processing required to create various corn based products. It takes using roller mills, sifters, grinding tables, and the like to create the wide variety of smaller grits, meals and flours. The bran and germ are passed through to be dried, cooked, and aspirated to produce corn germ and bran products.

    I have not researched the exact difference – but an educated guess is they are quite similar – distillation uses heat, as does much of the process for refining corn products.

    Here is a ethanol plant interactive graphic. And here is a slightly expanded version of the corn refining process graphic from above.

    I believe the above shows the processing costs for creating the raw finished product are very similar.

    Which leaves transportation costs.

    For ethanol, these plants are largely located very near the farms they are supplied by. As of Sept 2012 there were over 200 ethanol plants located across the country. This map shows they are located directly in and throughout the primary corn growing ranges. Additionally many of these plants are farmer owned coops with corn deliver to the plant by the plants owners..

    A siting study by AUS Consultants in 2002 based on dry mill ethanol supply characteristics found the vast majority of corn comes to the plants from within a 50-mile radius in order to minimize grain transportation costs. This benefits farmers two ways – both in delivery costs to the plant, and in feed costs by obtaining high quality Distillers Dried grain Solids co-product from the plant.

    Consumers also benefit as well – as almost all of an ethanol plants production is used in nearby surrounding communities.

    On the other hand for corn mills the picture is quite different. There are only a small number of corn mills in the country. The biggest 3 players have just 9 mills in the US between all of them:

    ADM: NE and TN
    Bunge: KS, NE, IL, IL, CA
    Cargill: IL and IN

    They are generally located in corn growing areas but its simple to see transportation costs are far higher – both in getting the corn TO the mill, and getting products back out to customers.

    And it is exactly that – transportation costs that are the biggest part of the costs of both products. It seems clear that ethanol wins by a large margin.

    We aren’t finished however. At this point ethanol is a finished product delivered to and ready to be consumed at a pump in nearby communities. Ethanol’s total cost is complete.

    Not so with other corn products however. After the milling process we do not have finished corn products. In almost every case the raw product must be transported to a manufacturer
    to be turned into finished product, This adds more costs to the corn product – both processing and transport. And then that manufacturer must package (more costs yet) and deliver to the “channel” – usually to regional distribution centers, then local distributions centers then to retailers. These costs are highly significant.

    At the end of the comparison, the field to consumer costs between using corn for ethanol vs corn for other uses are significantly negative weighted against corn as other products.

    Using corn for ethanol, when all “field” to “consumer” costs are considered, is more cost effective, and likely significantly so, than using corn for other products.

  243. Everyone keeps forgetting that when you break the soil to grow crops you expose it to erosion. Erosion means the soil is washed into the sea where it can not be retrieved. Corn is one of the hardest crops on soil and will “wear out” the soil. Feedlot, corn fed beef/hogs/poultry are hard on the land when compared to grass-fed. Pastures can bring marginal land into use and help renew old worn-out crop fields.

    The effects of corn monoculture on soils
    It is a well known fact among farmers that corn depletes the soil faster than any other crop. It demands more nutrients and for this reason it is a crop that is rotated or is planted on land that has been fallow for at least a year. During this time a crop of vetch or some legume crop is sown and is plowed under in the fall. This supplies the leeched nutrients from the heavy corn crop….

    ” It demands more nutrients” means there is more fertilizer run-off from corn than from other crops.

    I hate the word ‘sustainability’ but when it comes to preserving our farm soil it has a place. To put it bluntly the large corporations and people like Soros and Rothschild who are buying farmland with the view of making a large profit from bio-fuels do not give a rats rear-end about the long term health of the soil. My farm was rented crop land and the original two foot of topsoil was eroded to nothing within 4 decades. That is a stark example of what happens to rich farmland that is mismanaged. Planting cover crops takes time, effort, and money and is therefore not used by those interested in a quick buck. For example 50 LBS of Inoculated White Dutch Clover (Trifolium Repens) costs $149.99 (10 lbs per acre are recommended)

    Peak Soil The Silent Global Crisis

    ….Each year, some 38,000 square miles of land become severely degraded or turn into desert. About five billion acres of arable land have been stripped of their precious layer of topsoil and been abandoned since the first wheat and barley fields were planted 10,000 years ago. In the past 40 years alone, 30 percent of the planet’s arable land has become unproductive due to erosion, mainly in Asia and Africa. At current erosion rates, soils are being depleted faster than they are replenished, and nearly all of the remaining 11 billion acres of cropland and grazing land suffer from some degree of erosion.

    Most of this erosion is simply due to plowing, removal of crop residues after harvest, and overgrazing, which leaves soil naked and vulnerable to wind and rain…..

    Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel Cycle [105 pages]
    Tad W. Patzek, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

    University of California, Berkeley,
    Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 23(6):519-567 (2004)
    This Web Version is being periodically updated

    Abstract
    In this paper I define sustainability, sustainable cyclic processes, and quantify the degree of non-renewability of a major biofuel: ethanol produced from industrially-grown corn. First, I demonstrate that more fossil energy is used to produce ethanol from corn than the ethanol’s calorific value. Analysis of the carbon cycle shows that all leftovers from ethanol production must be returned back to the fields to limit the irreversible mining of soil humus. Thus, production of ethanol from whole plants is unsustainable. In 2004, ethanol oroduction from corn will generate 11 million tonnes of incremental CO2 , over and above the amount of CO2 generated by burning gasoline with 115% of the calorific value of this ethanol. Second, I calculate the cumulative exergy (available free energy) consumed in corn farming and ethanol production, and estimate the minimum amount of work necessary to restore the key …In this paper, I will describe in some detail the unfavorable thermodynamics of the industrial production of ethanol from one particular food crop, corn. I will use the Second Law of thermodynamics to track what is happening to us (or, is it U.S.?) as mere years pass, and the precious resources the sun and the earth have been making and storing for millions of years are being squandered in front of our eyes.
    ……
    1.1
    Corn Highlights
    The U.S. is the single largest corn producer in the world. Large overproduction of subsidized cheap corn forces corn producers and processors to invent new ingenious uses for their product6 . In terms of their large negative impact on the society and the environment, two corn products – ethanol and high-fructose syrup – stand out (Pollan, 2002; Elliott et al., 2002). About 13% of the U.S. corn production is now diverted to produce ethanol. Hence, in this paper I will de facto argue that the U.S. corn production should be reduced by at least 13% with significant benefits to the taxpayers and the planet.

    Non-renewable resources consumed by the industrial corn-ethanol cycle. This amount of work is compared with the maximum useful work obtained from the industrial corn-ethanol cycle. It appears that if the corn ethanol exergy is used to power a car engine, the minimum restoration work is about 7 times the maximum useful work from the cycle. This ratio drops down to 2.4, if an ideal (but nonexistent) fuel cell is used to process the ethanol. Third, I estimate the U.S. taxpayer subsidies of the industrial corn-ethanol cycle at $3.3 billion in 2004. The parallel subsidies by the environment are estimated at $1.9 billion in 2004. The latter estimate will increase manifold when the restoration costs of aquifers, streams and rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico are also included. Finally, I estimate that (per year and unit area) the inefficient solar cells produce ∼100 times more electricity than corn ethanol. We need to rely more on sunlight, the only source of renewable energy on the earth….

  244. Willis – first, thanks for a civil response …

    I’ll respond to your other comments when I can … but as to mechanization of Brazil’s sugar crop – I do have to give you a hard time. Not an attack – but a rebuttal.

    You originally said:

    Ethanol makes sense in Brazil. Why? Because it’s hot, and they are growing sugar cane without much machinery. Not a lot of inputs, and they use human and animal labor rather than fossil fuel burning tractors and trucks.

    You were wrong. You painted a picture – a valid one actually – but of how things were many years ago – where it was all hard, human labor.

    I provided quotes directly from UNICA:

    In most of the region covered by UNICA, manual sugarcane cutting is due to be phased out by 2014 … In practice this means that virtually all of the sugarcane harvest in São Paulo will be mechanized by 2014. In the 2007/08 harvest year roughly 40% of sugarcane in the state was cut mechanically

    I also noted in 2009 more than 75% of the fields were mechanized in many areas of Sao Paulo.

    Regarding the UNICA quote you said (emph yours):

    While the sugarcane industry is mechanizing, it is far from mechanized. Heck, even your quote above says mechanization is not even going to be introduced in most areas in Sao Paulo until next year.

    You didn’t read the quote very carefully Willis. Or only saw what you wanted.

    I’ll repeat relevant part in entirety (emph. mine):

    In most of the region covered by UNICA, manual sugarcane cutting is due to be phased out by 2014 under the terms of the Agri-Environmental Sugarcane Protocol signed between UNICA and the São Paulo State Government.

    This agreement provides for mechanized harvesting to be introduced in most areas of São Paulo State by 2014, and by 2017 in the minority of areas where mechanization is not possible using current technology. In practice this means that virtually all of the sugarcane harvest in São Paulo will be mechanized by 2014. In the 2007/08 harvest year roughly 40% of sugarcane in the state was cut mechanically

    The full quote said the agreement means “virtually all” of the Sao Paulo harvest “will be mechanized by 2014″ … Sao Paulo represents something like 85% of all production.

    Your parsing the entire quote – which clearly shows their is a longstanding multi-party agreement in place, whose implementation was well underway as far back as 2007, that provides and means virtually full mechanization in Sao Paulo by 2014 – into “mechanization is not even going to be introduced in most areas in Sao Paulo until next year” is not a remotely accurate portrayal of the quote or facts.

    While I am picking on you ;-) – you also said:

    Brazil sugar-cane ethanol has other advantages over corn ethanol. These include

    1) Sugar cane is a grass, and produces a whole lot more sugar than corn.
    2) Brazil is tropical, so you can grow year-round.
    3) The “bagasse”, the stalks of the sugar cane, are burned to power the ethanol process.

    Corn doesn’t have those advantages.

    Sugarcane is a semi-perennial grass plant – once you plant it you can get up to 10 or so harvests before needing to replant. To maintain yields necessary however you often must replant after 3 years or so. There is often a need to rotate a cover crop for a year in between (although I’ll have to check if that is as necessary with 3 year replanting)..

    Sugarcane is an “annual” crop – harvested once a year. A year round growing season does not provide for additional harvest of sugarcane.

    It does not tolerate frost well but does grow at higher elevations – where temps would be much cooler. .

    Some of Brazil is tropical – mostly the north region near the equator. If I recall less than 10% of sugarcane is grown in this region – and that has lower yields

    Much of Brazil – including Sao Paulo area is not “hot” nor tropical. Most of that section of Brazil is very temperate – leaning to cool:

    The average temperature in Sao Paulo, Brazil is 19.3 °C (67 °F).
    The range of average monthly temperatures is 6 °C.
    The warmest average max/ high temperature is 26 °C (79 °F) in February & March.
    The coolest average min/ low temperature is 11 °C (52 °F) in July.

    Once harvested sugarcane must be processed within 72 hours. Corn if properly handled may be stored almost indefinitely

    And “bagasse” – is in effect being used in the US. The corn plant will be a key feedstock in cellulosic biomass plants … and is already being used in some corn plants to generate heat and/or electricity.

    Last – you are correct – sugarcane does have much higher sugar content obviously than corn. But its energy content is similar to that of cellulosic processes using switch-grass and similar feedstocks. The increased sugar content increases the net energy yield.

    But we don’t grow sugarcane in the prime growing regions in the US. We grow corn. Corn ethanol has a positive net energy balance – 1.6 and higher – for every btu of fuel expended it returns 1.6 or more BTU’s of energy. This reflects the solar energy captured within the corn.

    I’ve shown we have plenty of corn – that our use for ethanol has not materially affected corn exports worldwide. We have met all domestic needs including ethanol, fulfilled all export demands of us, and still have a billion bushels in reserve.

    I’ll address in a bit more detail when I can, but ethanol corn use has not dramatically increased corn prices – if the supply had remained static, while demand rapidly increased – that would be so. But in reality production has increased to meet demand – both in the US and world. When supply increases it offsets increased demand.

    There is no shortage of corn in the world. Despite several flat years and one poor year by the worlds largest exporter – the US – world corn exports have increased significantly since the US corn ethanol market started growing in 2002. From 2002 to 2011 alone World Corn Exports have increased from 77 million to over 103 million metric tonnes. .

    I would also note the US Ethanol industry made up the majority of the poor crop production in 2012 by reducing use for corn ethanol.

  245. What I left out of the post above was a very large part of increases in commodities prices, and food costs, are becasue of transportation cost increases largely driven by fuel price increases the last several years.

    These transportation costs both increased commodities price portion of food costs, but also the processing, distribution and packaging part of food costs as well.

    I’ll try to find some of the work on this when I can … and

  246. Okay Willis, as per your request, with quotes:
    =========================
    Willis quotes Malthus (on a previous thread):
    “Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”

    “Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.”

    Willis:

    “I don’t see any “maybe” or “sometimes but not others” or “might happen” or anything of the like in Malthus’s words.”
    ============================ mpainter:
    It’s right under your nose: “Assuming then my postulata as granted…” and “population, when unchecked,….”
    Those qualifiers are the game changer. Malthus never meant that geometric population growth was the *inevitable* result of population dynamics. He meant to establish the *potential* fecundity of population in order to make his point that, ordinarily, this *potential* was not fulfilled, and then he proceeded to examine why it was not. He postulated “checks” which acted to confine population within the available resources. Note the “population, when unchecked”. The central theme of Malthus is that population is indeed “checked”. Malthus expends a great deal of ink describing the “checks” which kept population within bounds. For example:

    Malthus: “The cause of this slow progress in population cannot be traced to a decay of the passion between the sexes. We have sufficient reason to think that this natural propensity exists still in undiminished vigour. Why then do not its effects appear in a rapid increase of the human species? An intimate view of the state of society in any one country in Europe, which may serve equally for all, will enable us to answer this question, and to say, that a foresight of the difficulties attending the rearing of a family acts as a preventive check; and the actual distresses of some of the lower classes, by which they are disabled from giving the proper food and attention to their children, act as a positive check, to the natural increase of population.”

    And: “The preventive check appears to operate in some degree through all the ranks of society in England. There are some men, even in the highest rank, who are prevented from marrying by the idea of the expenses that they must retrench, and the fancied pleasures that they must deprive themselves of, on the supposition of having a family. These considerations are certainly trivial; but a preventive foresight of this kind has objects of much greater weight for its contemplation as we go lower.”

    And: “Every obstacle in the way of marriage must undoubtedly be considered as a species of unhappiness. But as from the laws of our nature some check to population must exist, it is better that it should be checked from a foresight of the difficulties attending a family, and the fear of dependent poverty, than that it should be encouraged, only to be repressed afterwards by want and sickness.”

    And: “If this sketch of the state of society in England be near the truth, and I do not conceive that it is exaggerated, it will be allowed that the preventive check to population in this country operates, though with varied force, through all the classes of the community. The same observation will hold true with regard to all old states. The effects, indeed, of these restraints upon marriage are but too conspicuous in the consequent vices that are produced in almost every part of the world; vices that are continually involving both sexes in inextricable unhappiness.”

    mpainter:

    Malthus made the point that food resources acted as the ultimate restraint on population, but this “ultimatum” was seldom realized except through some disastrous event. His essential principle was that behavior of populations “checked” population growth and confined it within available resources. Malthus was no catastrophist, rather he gave the reasons catastrophe was averted.

    Well, then, did Malthus say that population never achieved its potential fecundity in geometric growth?

    Malthus: “I said that population, when unchecked, increased in a geometrical ratio; and subsistence for man in an arithmetical ratio. In the United States of America, where the means of subsistence have been more ample, the manners of the people more pure, and consequently the checks to early marriages fewer, than in any of the modern states of Europe, the population has been found to double itself in twenty-five years.”
    “But to make the argument more general and less interrupted by the partial views of emigration, let us take the whole earth, instead of one spot, and suppose that the restraints to population were universally removed. If the subsistence for man that the earth affords was to be increased every twenty-five years by a quantity equal to what the whole world at present produces; this would allow the power of production in the earth to be absolutely unlimited, and its ratio of increase much greater than we can conceive that any possible exertions of mankind could make it.”

    mpainter: Somewhat vaguely, Malthus postulates that if “restraints to population were universally removed”, then the required geometric rate of food production would be “much greater than we can conceive…” By no means does Malthus argue in the catastrophic terms of Erhlich & Co. In fact, he makes allowance for the particular ingenuity of man:

    “The main peculiarity which distinguishes man from other animals, in the means of his support, is the power which he possesses of very greatly increasing these means.”

    Does this sound like catastrophism? And so forth. A reading of Malthus makes it clear why he is credited with founding Demography- it reads just so. He was never a catastrophist, though his work has been presented as such. Neo-Malthusianism finds thin soup in looking to Malthus for support.

    Willis: “In other words, the inevitability of population expanding to consume all a available food, as well as the inevitability of population outstripping food supply, were most assuredly conclusions of Malthus.”

    mpainter: This is the argument of the catastrophists which you have imbibed concerning Malthus. His Essay was mainly concerned with the enumeration and exposition of the “restraints to population”. Nowhere does he postulate “the inevitability of population expanding to consume…” and “outstrip food supply”. Instead, the only “inevitability” that might be extrapolated from his Essay are the “checks” which population assumes to avert catastrophe.

    Just as the AGW crowd have warming on the brain, so the catastrophists have catastrophe on the brain. This is called garbage in the grooves.

    Of the 22 chapters of “Essay on the Principles of Population”, there is only one paragraph that seems to match the pessimism of catastrophists:

    “Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.”

    Here, with pulpit eloquence, Malthus presents famine as the most dreadful of possible calamities confronting humankind, should the food resources be strained by overpopulation. Nowhere else in the 22 chapters does Malthus express such pessimism. This is thin soup, indeed, for the catastrophists who point to Malthus as their authority, the whole of the rest of Malthus refuting their contentions.

    Refutation of the catastrophists: In his “Essay on the Principles of Population”, Malthus examines the factors which limit population growth, and describes certain “checks” which serve to restrain population. His examination of the matter involved the exposition of the innate capacity of population to expand, which was “geometric”, to be contrasted with the “arithmetic” expansion of food resources. Exposition of this innate capacity was the necessary premise to his examination of the “checks” that restrained growth. His Essay answers the question “Given a geometric population growth and limited food supply, why and how are the attendant consequences averted?” When Malthus touches on disasters such as famine, he means only to emphasize how the restraining “checks” benefited populations by keeping population at the level of food production. Catastrophism ignores the main postulate of Malthus: that population growth is restrained by various “checks”, some self-imposed, which serve to avert disaster. Catastrophists put that population will inevitably expand to the precipitation of disaster, whereas Malthus put the opposite.

    Thank you for your attention
    mpainter

  247. Willis – I continue to review your comments, and I have to say I think you’re being awfully close to outright dishonest. Maybe that’s harsh, but to be honest I’m disappointed – I’ve always seen you as a champion of the truth.

    Here, you are employing some of the same tactics we accuse the CAGW side of – worst of all cherry picking and selective recall of out of context facts.

    I showed some of this with your selective parsing regarding mechanization. You had the full quote from UNICA right there, but ignored the parts that quite literally showed the opposite of your claim.

    In reading your reply to philincalifornia it gets worse. You simply ignore inconvenient data and chose two out of context points that prove your claim, but do not reflect the facts.

    You said:

    Anyhow, in the White Corn Newsletter, I see a couple of things. One is that in 2007 the US harvested about 330,000 hectares of white corn. In 2012, the US harvested about 260,000 hectares. So in five years, despite his claim, the acreage dedicated to white corn in the US has dropped by about 20%.

    Those two numbers are in the link you provided, and for those years. However they do NOT support the conclusion you drew – that the acreage “dedicated to white corn production has dropped.”

    First off you use the incorrect data to begin with. To determine the acreage “dedicated to” production yo use the PLANTED acres. This number reflects the market’s INTENT. Using harvested area as you did reports the lick of the draw – how things turned out, after weather and all other issues intervened. Harvested acres tell us nothing valuable about how many acres were dedicated to white corn.

    I might give an ordinary person a pass, that maybe they didn’t just didn’t understand the difference, but I do not for a minute think your research and data skills are merely ordinary. You’ve shown yourself to be a skilled researcher, and more so a statistician.

    But even if I was inclined to give you a pass – on accidentally confusing the two, that becomes much harder with your pretty clear appearance of cherry picking. Perhaps it was a quick look and grabbing the numbers that seemed to best highlight your claim – but as I noted – you are better than that.

    You had data available, in the harvested acres category of your link, for the 2005/06 thru the “projected” 2011/12 season. Instead of using the full data set, you arbitrarily chose the 2006/07 year as your start point. Which just ‘happened’ to be the year with the highest harvested acres by a significant amount.

    Making this choice allowed you to inflate the harvested acres decline and better make your claimed point. And I might add, better supports your attacking the reply made by the RFA towards the NYT Guatemala report, and taking a swipe at philincalifornia for presenting the RFA comments.

    You used your ‘cooking the books’ to dismiss the entirely accurate and legitimate claims in the RFA commentary.

    It would seem a more straightforward reporting of the data from your provided White Corn Report link your statement should have been …’farmers dedicated appx 246,000 hectares to white corn in 2005/06. and a projected nearly 285,000 hectares in 2011/12, for a net planted acres increase of 15.8%.

    Or even … ‘farmers dedicated an average 283,000 hectares to white corn production during the 2005/06 thru 2011/12 period, with 2011/12’s planted acres very slightly above that average at 285,000 hectares.

    If we were talking about Michael Mann using a clear outlier that does not factually represent the data would be met with scorn and derision.

    In a way perhaps worse, you used data that was incomplete, to prove your claim – and to attack and dismiss the RFA comments and philincalifornia.

    The report date appears to be Feb 12. Much of the data has no source reference or only a vague reference to USDA. Even though final figures had been long available for 2010/11 they note their data is “Est.” for this period. And they note the 2011/12 data shown – which you used as a key part of your claim – is noted as “Proj” … estimated and projected data.

    That data IS readily available, I provided a link in my post above. The USDA Yearbook contains all this data. The White Corn Export data is in the 2012 Yearbook Table 26. It takes but a few seconds to download your very own copy.

    What the USDA data shows is US White Corn Exports worldwide increased from 770,000 metric tonnes in 2003, the first full year of increased ethanol production … to slightly over 1 million metric tonnes in 2010/11- an increase of 31%.

    Exports to Mexico during that time averages 404,000 metric tonnes, with 2010/11 at 581,000.

    During the 2003/04 thru 2010/11 time period the US White Corn Exports totaled 6.17 million metric tonnes. The top 7 country’s represent nearly 90% of that US export.

    Mexico is number 1 by far – receiving 41%. Guatemala is #7 on the list of exports received since 2003, getting 4.4% of the total US white corn exported.

    They asked for and received from the US:
    11,5 MT in 2003/04
    63.0 MT in 2004/05
    58.0 MT in 2005/06
    0.0 MT in 2006/07
    9.57 MT in 2007/08
    40.47 MT 2008/09
    37.68 MT in 2009/10
    52.42 MT in 2010/11

    Guatemala is part of CAFTA – they impose a tariff on imported goods. They have waived the tariff in some cases, in 2011 this was limited to 82,000 metric tonnes – it appears the US provided the majority. The biggest problem in the region is that local corn prices are increasing rapidly. Countries like Guatemala are importing white corn to reduce the price of food. By all appearances the US has and will provide all the white corn Guatemala wants.

    Sorry Willis … gotta say it …. whatyoutalkinabout?!

    I’d love to be wrong but it sure looks like you cherry picked and used that to ‘cook the books’ – and then attacked RFA and even phil as a result. You are, and can do, better than that.

  248. A. Scott says:
    January 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Willis – I continue to review your comments, and I have to say I think you’re being awfully close to outright dishonest. Maybe that’s harsh, but to be honest I’m disappointed – I’ve always seen you as a champion of the truth.

    Mr. Scott, I will have a discussion with almost any man, except a man who calls me a liar as you have just done. I won’t have any dealings at all with that kind of a lowlife.

    This conversation is over.

    w.

  249. mpainter says:
    January 9, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Okay Willis, as per your request, with quotes:
    =========================
    Willis quotes Malthus (on a previous thread):

    “Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”

    “Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.”

    Willis:

    “I don’t see any “maybe” or “sometimes but not others” or “might happen” or anything of the like in Malthus’s words.”

    ============================ mpainter:
    It’s right under your nose: “Assuming then my postulata as granted…” and “population, when unchecked,….”
    Those qualifiers are the game changer. Malthus never meant that geometric population growth was the *inevitable* result of population dynamics. He meant to establish the *potential* fecundity of population in order to make his point that, ordinarily, this *potential* was not fulfilled, and then he proceeded to examine why it was not. He postulated “checks” which acted to confine population within the available resources. Note the “population, when unchecked”. The central theme of Malthus is that population is indeed “checked”. Malthus expends a great deal of ink describing the “checks” which kept population within bounds. For example:

    mpainter, thanks for the quotes. Unfortunately, they don’t change anything.

    The problem is the claimed inevitability. Nowhere in the quotes you offer does Malthus say “hey, remember about the geometric and the arithmetic increase? I was wrong.” Nowhere does he say “Remember how I said population would always increase to meet available food? I meant most of the time”.

    It is those underlying claims which are the problem. You seem to think that by Malthus saying that there were some limitations on the power, that he recognized “checks” on population growth that he was making things right. But the issue is not the checks on the underlying geometrical or arithmetic growth.

    The problem is that the underlying description of “geometric vs arithmetic” is totally wrong. Food doesn’t go up arithmetically. An nowhere did Malthus either notice or admit that. And population doesn’t always increase to consume all available food. Mathis had no opportunity to notice or admit that.

    As a result, his conclusions (as well as those of the current Malthusians) were wrong. He believed that population, because it increased geometrically, was immensely more powerful than food production, because he though food could only increase arithmetically.

    It is this underlying belief about food that was wrong. Food production has no inherent rise or fall the way population does. It is a function of leveraged human effort and imagineering. Malthus never understood that, and neither do his modern adherents like Ehrlich.

    mpainter, let me correct what I think is a misunderstanding. It seems you believe I think Malthus was a fool or an idiot or something. Not so. I’m not an opponent of Malthus. I’m just tired of him. I do think Malthus was way ahead of his time.

    However, he was not far enough ahead of his time to see what the combination of fossil fuel energy plus human imagineering would do to food production. My friend grows thousands of prize-winning lettuces in 4″ (10 cm) horizontal plastic pipes with holes cut in them where the lettuces grow, and water running through them. She grows them every month of the year, regardless of the weather, in a greenhouse very densely, in a very small space. I don’t fault Malthus for not foreseeing this kind of thing, nobody in Malthus’s time even dreamed of such a production method. Food production is not restricted to “arithmetic” growth, that’s an obsolete 18th century idea.

    You keep focusing your argument on saying that Malthus understood there were checks to population’s geometric growth. I know that. Malthus knew that. What Malthus didn’t know is that his underlying paradigm, of geometric vs. arithmetic, was wrong. Food production is not arithmetic. It has no inherent growth rate.

    Thats the part that Malthus never understood, and that’s the part the current Malthusians don’t understand. It’s also the part that leads to the claims of certainty that the crunch will happen. People base that certainty on the fact that the growth rates are supposed to have a mathematical basis and you can’t argue with math … but the math is wrong.

    My best to you, mpainter, and thank you for the quotations, I appreciate the effort. If you find any quotes where Malthus says “hey, the whole geometric vs arithmetic thing? That’s all wrong”, or where he says ” ‘Member when I said population ALWAYS rises to meet available food? I meant SOMETIMES”, please post them here. There certainly may be some, but I’ve not found any.

    w.

  250. Willis ….

    It is fact you used the wrong data set for your claim – “harvested acres” doe’s NOT represent land “dedicated to” white corn production. Coming from someone of your expertise as a researcher I find that disappointing but not dishonest – it could be chalked up to simply not taking enough time to understand the dataset.

    There is no good way around the other issue – by every appearance you cherry-picked data to better make your point. It is convenient to choose the highest number as a start point, but it is not an honest representation of the data.

    You did this not just once but twice. Once with the acreage, pulling out the highest number, which was reasonably clearly an outlier and using as your “start point” rather than considering the entire record.

    You did something similar with your reply on mechanization. You had a quote from UNICA clearly indicating and agreement was in force REQUIRING mechanization by 2014, and a statement that virtually all areas of Sao Paulo would be mechanized by 2014, yet you cherry picked the part that said “mechanization would be introduced” in Sao Paulo, inferring it would not be full mechanized, despite the full quote claims to the contrary.

    Neither are untruthful – a lie. I went to some effort to make this very clear – you quoted real numbers and information. What you did not do was quote in context, taking in to account the full data or record.

    I indicated this was not an honest representation of the facts and data. And that is a true statement. It does not say or imply you lied – you did not – you were however, at least i my opinion, clearly less than straightforward and honest in your characterization.

    There is no disrespect involved. It is a simple statement of how I view your actions, which I supported with reasoned, supported, commentary.

    Be upset if you wish – but that will not change things Willis. I will repeat – I respect you and much of your work. At time you play fast and loose however, and as here, use many of the tactics you rightfully rail against when done by others. That is not honest or fair – to you or your readers. You do yourself a disservice by doing so, especially when you use to attack, denigrate and dismiss others, and other valid claims and data.

    My goal in engaging you and pointing this stuff out is to try and get you to fairly address and review – and accurately present your information in a straightforward way.

    This is an important topic. It deserves an honest, open discussion, based on a fair review of facts and data – not speculation, nor cherry picking.

    To be VERY clear:

    You did not lie, and were not called a liar. You did by all appearances ‘fudge the number’ by selectively parsing the data and facts. There was no disrespect involved – I simply report what I see – so that it can be discussed.

    Again – you would be the first to cry foul if a Michael Mann or similar did the same.

  251. Willis, you haven’t grasped the essential point yet, but never mind, school’s out.
    Concerning myself, I know that any catastrophist citing Malthus to me will soon be feeling uncomfortable as I cite chapter and verse of that profound thinker.

  252. A. Scott says:
    January 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Willis ….

    To be VERY clear:

    You did not lie, and were not called a liar. You did by all appearances ‘fudge the number’ by selectively parsing the data and facts. There was no disrespect involved – I simply report what I see – so that it can be discussed.

    Mr. Scott, I am not close to dishonesty of any type. I am telling the truth as best I see it. When a man tells me (as you did) that I am “being awfully close to outright dishonest”, he is just using a fancy way to call me a liar and try to avoid responsibility for saying it. I don’t go anywhere near dishonesty in any form, and I won’t put up with you accusing me of it.

    If you don’t grasp that have accused me of dishonesty, go hang out in some cowboy bars for a while, and try out that kind of hair-splitting. I’m a reformed cowboy, but there’s some things that never change.

    Next, don’t try to explain things by then saying I was “fudging the number” and “selectively parsing the data”. Do you really think you can slip further accusations past me in the guise of explanation?

    Mr. Scott, perhaps you fudge the numbers. Perhaps you make a habit of selectively parsing the data. Perhaps you wander close to outright dishonesty, but never go any further than implicit dishonesty. I couldn’t say.

    But I’ll tell you, I damn well don’t do any of those things, and I won’t discuss matters with a man who accuses me of fudging the numbers and skating along the edge of dishonesty.

    I report what I find, I give you my interpretation, I cite the facts I think are relevant, I present my best case. You may find that the facts to you lead to a very different interpretation, you may very well select other facts to discuss, you present your best case.

    Now, you can accuse me of not understanding the facts. You can accuse me of coming to an incorrect conclusion or drawing incorrect interpretations.

    But by god, you can’t accuse me of skating on the edge of dishonesty and fudging the numbers just because you don’t like my interpretations or the facts I’ve chosen to discuss or the results of my calculations. That’s way, way over the line on my planet, and I won’t put up with it.

    w.

  253. mpainter says:
    January 9, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Willis, you haven’t grasped the essential point yet, but never mind, school’s out.

    Sorry to hear that you think school is out, I was hoping you’d learn something.

    Concerning myself, I know that any catastrophist citing Malthus to me will soon be feeling uncomfortable as I cite chapter and verse of that profound thinker.

    Uncomfortable? That is absolute bullshit. I’ve given you two citations from Malthus. One establishes the “geometrical versus arithmetic” argument. The other is about how population always rises if there is available food. Neither one is true. I invited you to find anything from Malthus to contradict those.

    You have provided nothing to make me uncomfortable in the slightest. You have not provided a single quotation from Malthus saying the geometric vs arithmetic thing is wrong. You have not provided a single quotation from Malthus saying the “population always rises if there is food” thing is wrong.

    But you think you can “cite chapter and verse”? OK, bring it on—where are the quotations showing those two claims of Malthus were wrong?

    And now you want to declare that school is out? Well, I can certainly see why you might want that …

    w.

  254. Willis – I actually really DO hang out at Cowboy bars … very often – was at one tonight … and the one thing they appreciate is plain speakin’ folks who say what they have to say. They may not agree – and on occasion they may try to whup yer arse – but they still respect you for saying it.

    I said what I felt needed to be said – based on the facts as I saw them. I supported my comments with reasoned explanations and data. I noted it was not one issue but several cases with similar selective parsing that helped support your claims.

    I showed your claims were incorrect – that besides your selective parsing you used the wrong data for the claim you were making – but gave a pass as that could be chalked up to not understanding exactly what the data was.

    I felt a stronger statement was warranted not only because of the several instances of similar selective use of the data – but also becasue of the manner you used it. Despite your clear error in proper data set, let alone the selective use of the data, your conclusions were not accurate. Yet you used them to attack another poster and completely dismiss the RFA response to the NY Times Guatamela story.

    My response was in related proportion to yours.

    Despite your denigration and pretty impolite and bullying dismissal of my and others well reasoned, supported and documented responses, I continued to respond as civilly as I could.

    You are completely entitled to dismiss my, or other comments for any reason you please. But if you are going to make statements here you should expect that they may be challenged at times. And where those challenges are at least well thought, and supported, they deserve a civil rebuttal. I and several others invested considerable time in research and providing those responses too yours. You responded with denigration and derision – largely ignoring the information provided AND largely ignoring your own admonishments to others.

    It seems its perfectly acceptable for you to respond boorishly to civil replies, but heaven forbid you are called to task for your repeated errors, inaccuracies and omissions.

    I absolutely meant it when I said I respect you and much of your writing and work. And I meant it when I said your replies here have not been representative of what you are capable of.

    Vigorous debate is an important part of drilling down to real issues. Sometimes that debate can even become heated. That does NOT necessarily mean it is disrespectful. Too often though, when you disagree, you are dismissive and disrespectful of the positions and claims of others.

    It is one thing to disagree, another to be disagreeable.

    You may well believe that about me. At times I am most certainly guilty – sometimes on purpose, but often simple by plainly saying what I see and think.

    This is an important topic. And also one with much disinformation. It is very easy to saying burning food for fuel is bad. But that is not enough reason without facts to back it up.

    You say burning food for fuel is bad. I to a point agree – if it is actually true. We cannot have an intelligent useful discussion until we are at least better informed on those facts. As I always do – I have spent many, many hours researching the base data to try and learn the answer. You know far better than I that the data itself is only a tool to learning those answers – we must also understand context.

    You know it is wrong to cherry pick a data set to better support a position. Whether by intent or omission you did exactly that here. You know it is largely useless to try and intuit what a small data set might portray, without context – without knowing how it fits in the bigger picture. But you did so anyway – and used it to attack others and dismiss legitimate other responses.

    I was a warmist until I kept trying to confirm the claims and learned much was not confirm-able or accurate. The science educated me and changed my beliefs.

    I was against ethanol until I did the same. Like you I spent considerable time and much money in an island setting. With huge transport costs, energy independence is a huge issue. Although generally a strong critic of large scale solar I was shown how it can be a good idea in certain situations. The same with wind energy – large scale use an expensive boondoggle and blight – but on certain applications and situations made sense.

    I needed to also consider disaster planning into the mix – which changes perspective a lot. I eventually incorporated solar (both voltaic and for water heat) – making it an attractive and functional architectural element, and wind – using multiple more compact “egg beater” type turbines – as artistic elements – visually attractive and again functional.

    As part of cost review and disaster planning the availability of fuel in a remote island environment after a large hurricane or similar becomes a serious issue. Which led me to renewable fuels – and a detailed review of ethanol. And that detailed review convinced me of ethanol’s benefits. Those benefits are enhanced in a remote island environment, but are jsut as applicable on the mainland.

    So wander around hurt with your panties all in a bunch becasue someone pointed out you weren’t accurate, and maybe even fudged the numbers a bit to make your point if you must.

    But I would MUCH rather have an intelligent debate and try to dig up and discuss the real answers and facts about ethanol and its affects, if any, on food security be it for Guatemalans, Larry the Cable guy’s starvin’ Ethiopians ;-), or anyone else for that matter..

    If you are serious about finding the answer I say lets work together to first identify the data and circumstances – the context – and then discuss and debate fairly and vigorously.

    [REPLY: Mr. Scott, you called me a liar. As I said, I don't hold discussions with low-lifes that do that. Apparently you think I was kidding. As I said, the conversation is over, so you're just wasting electrons whining and bitching about how I'm treating you mean. You need to grow up and learn the rules of adult conversation. If you wish to apologize for calling me a liar, we can pick it up again. Or you can just attempt to shine it on as though you've done nothing, as you have childishly attempted to do so far. In any case, you can apologize or not, it's up to you. Until then, I'm done. -w.]

  255. A Scott: You do realize disaster planning and daily life are two different things and the solutions to each may be completely different? I read you advocating disaster planning be used for daily life solutions and that seems pretty far off.

  256. Perhaps you mean the possibility of more abuse. In which case, I appreciate the concern, but Willis’s roughness does not bother me.

  257. johanna says:
    January 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Solar does not “obviate the need for some new fossil fuel plants”, unless you regard intermittent power supply as acceptable. Just like windmills, it needs 100% backup from conventional (I like the way you inserted “fossil fuel” in there) sources like coal, gas, hydro and nuclear.

    Intermittent sources as part of the grid are fine, if they operate at peak times. Use soemthing constant for baseline demand, and, if it works, fill in with something else for peak demand. In California’s central valley, from mid-March to mid-November, more than 5% or 10% cloud cover is rare. Much of that time, one has to keep an air conditioner running if things are to be remotely tolerable. High temperatures above 100F (38C) are very common in June and July, and this can continue intermittently into October. The hottest times, and highest electricity demand (due to air conditioning) come when solar output is highest. But you Aussies know about heat, at least in some places, since your weather service just had to implement two more colors (colours) for the forecast maps, to represent temperatures hitherto unknown in the forecasts.

    Anyway. Power systems have to handle the highest expected base load 24/7, and also the highest peak load, whenever that occurs. Where people use air conditioning, the highest load is about when it’s hottest, mid- to late-afternoon. This happens to be when solar power systems reach their peak, too. Their power is much lower if it’s cloudy, but so is the AC demand. For the Central Valley, and much of California, cloudy days are extremely rare (and much cooler) in the summer.

    Hitherto, the power grid has had to be able to handle baseline power 24/7 but also peak power when that occurs. One can buy power from elsewhere, since heat waves don’t hit the entire continent simultaneously. However, handling peak power has always meant having, somewhere, conventional generating capacity sufficient to handle the peak.

    This is no longer true. Since solar works best right when the AC demand, and overall demand is highest, you can use conventional power for baseline, and add solar for peak times. As demand increases over the years, this means some conventional plants won’t have to be built, because solar can handle the peaks.

    So, why did I say “fossil fuels” rather than “conventional plants”? Let’s look at hydro and nuclear:

    Hydroelectric plants require damming up a mountain valley or a river, where there’s some notable elevation change. There’s only a finite number of places where this will work well, and many of them in the US already have dams. Central California could probably use at least one more major dam to help the water supply, and maybe others are later. At least a few of those places should be left alone, for scientific and aesthetic reasons. But, a dam and its lake are not environmental disasters; far from it. They provide recreational opportunities and habitat for wildlife, just different wildlife than the valley did without the lake. But, the available locations for dams are limited, and in California , we’re already using many of the best places. Hydro is great, but we just can’t keep building it because we can’t build mountains, and we’ll run out of potential sites someday.

    Nuclear has some underlying concerns that will never go away: if the stuff inside of it gets outside, it makes an abominable mess. This is manageable, with newer designs being tremendously safer than older ones, even for uranium designs, much less thorium. That doesn’t protect against terrorist strikes, but that risk can be managed as well. Some of the most efficient designs are also good for producing weapons; we don’t want certain people to be using these. It’s a lot easier to keep them from it if we’re not using them ourselves, which also saves the headache of security to prevent diversion from our own power plants. So, some designs are a problem from the proliferation standpoint.

    But now, for the near future, nuclear plants are not going to be built. The public is still scared after Fukushima, and a difficult political environment for nuclear power just got worse. With time and effort, this can be reversed, but it won’t happen overnight.

    Nuclear power plants are finicky in terms of their load. For example, Xe-133, a fission by-product, is a powerful neutron absorber, and is itself radioactive. When you change power level, the Xe-133 concentration will start out at a level consistent with the earlier power level, and as it comes to a new equilibrium, through buildup and decay, the control rods have to be adjusted. If the water temperature changes (it doesn’t necessarily have to) the reaction rate changes with neutron energy. All of this means that it’s best to run the reactor at a constant load. If the nuclear is a large part of the mix, then you need load-leveling to handle peak power. This means either generating capacity that will sit idle some of the time, or energy storage.

    The energy storage system that really works is a pair of lakes, at different heights, with a large pipe (tunnel or penstock) between them. The lower lake needs a turbine and a motor/dynamo, that can either generate power as water flows from the upper lake, or pump water back up from the lower lake. This works really well, and allows the nuclear plants to run all night and store up energy to be used at peak times the next day. It obviates the need for new plants to handle peak power.

    But, as with straight hydro power, it doesn’t work everywhere. It’s only practical if you have mountains, or other serious elevation changes. (I’ve thought about the idea of drilling a 30ft, or 9m wide hole, 300 m down into the ground to an underground cavern, to act as the lower lake, but I don’t see it as being practical just now.)

    So, you need to handle a variable load, and you need to expand capacity as population increases. Expansion of hydro is limited, and new construction of nuclear is politically difficult, as it has been for some time. Also, nuclear works better if you have load leveling with either another generation technology that will be idle at times, or with energy storage. Hydro storage is also limited by terrain.

    For future expansion, that leave fossil fuels for conventional sources. That’s why I “slipped” them in there.

    That’s why I see solar power as having a prominent place in future power generation, for the near future. They don’t pollute the air (which I breathe) and they don’t have fuel costs. They only work when the sun is shining, and work better when it shines brightly, but this is exactly when the load from air conditioning systems is highest.

    Wind, I’m not so big on. It’s OK, it reduces emissions and doesn’t use fuel, but it only works when the wind is blowing, and that’s steadier in some places than others. It absolutely needs backup either in the form of other generating capacity, with its costs, or else in the form of energy storage. And, they have their own environmental problems.

    Markets don’t “develop” because of subsidies, they are artificially created by them.

    These need not be mutually exclusive, if the market, once created, will eventually sustain itself. Which solar will, for the niche in which it best operates, especially as prices come down.

    Subsidies are a direct transfer of wealth from consumers to producers.

    Or from taxpayers to producers. We don’t want to do either unless it’s very clear what we get in return, such as a developed market for a technology that we find beneficial.

    And, if I was forced at gunpoint to give a subsidy to an energy producer, I would vote for one that provides cheap, reliable power 24/7/365, not one that wears a halo because it’s approved by current fashionistas irrespective of performance and cost metrics.

    You appear not to have considered the variations of load and production with time of day, and the similar variations with cloud cover. Unbearably hot days tend to be bright and sunny. I don’t think you’re considering the costs of pollution, either, some of which are spread out over the population in general, who are not getting paid for them. We’ve always traded off people’s health for power, but it can be worth paying more for power up front to avoid the health costs on the back end.

    Making markets “smooth and predictable” is every rent-seeker’s dream, but it is the antithesis of dynamic capitalism.

    I guess that large, established corporations with large workforces and stable income streams are not “dynamic,” then. But they sure as hell are not “rent-seekers” just because they want stable markets, not unless they game the government to get such. They’re ready to adapt to changing conditions, but General Motors is not interested in building cars unless they’re reasonably sure that people will buy them, and at a price that can be predicted before the production line starts up on a new model. They want predictable markets. not chaotic, ones which might suddenly have very little demand.

    No society ever got wealthier by protecting producers from the market tests of real costs and competition.

    Tell that to the British Empire, among others, and the colonies that labored under their mercantile system. The world outgrew that way of working, thankfully, but if you can ssuccessfully argue that Europe didn’t get wealthy under that system between, say, Columbus and the American Revolution, I’d like to see you do it.

    Under the thin veneer of concern and care, you are simply espousing rent-seeking and the expropriation of people’s money to favoured producers.

    Rent-seeking is a complicated concept; it includes, among other things, intellectual property such as patents and copyrights, even though they do result from someone’s labor and genius. I’m not against those.But I certainly oppose rent-seeking in the unproductive sense, although I don’t mind if a lot of the real productivity is in the future, I want things that can legitimately, in the broadest sense, be called investments. If society pays for something, then society should expect to receive a return on it.

    The return on investment can be calculated in dollars, but not necessarily in cash flow—unless electric ratepayers start paying for the respiratory ailments suffered by those who have to breathe in the effluent caused by their hair dryers, video games, and air conditioners. In California’s central valley, air pollution is especially bad, the need for air conditioning is especially high, and the sunlight is especially intense. People elsewhere in the country may receive less of a direct benefit from solar subsidies, but they still benefit from the astonishing abundance of farm produce—about ¼ of the vegetables consumed in the country, and a great deal of dairy products—that comes from the central valley, and so they benefit when it’s tolerable for people to live and work.

  258. kakatoa says:
    January 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I am not to sure how James Conca came up with the 7 cents per kwh for solar. It seems low by a factor of 2 to 3 x from what I have seen reported here in sunny CA.

    He simply picked a particular installation and analyzed that. It’s a large one (92 MW) and so smaller ones might not have the economies of scale that the one analyzed has.
    The bottom line for MidAmerican is identifying places where rates are high at peak and that are squeezed on the generation side, Caudill says. “Those drive the market. It’s hard to say where we end up next — but I feel strongly that there are opportunities out there.””
    Now, this is an important factor in the economics of solar power. Just at a quick glance, I see that for some customers, during the summer, when both solar power and AC usage are at their peak, the the price for energy during peak hours is 2-4 times what it is during off-peak hours, and considerably more than in the winter. This could go a long way to offsetting the higher price per kW for solar, by bringing it a higher return when its output is highest.

    My little PV system generated 22 kwh today. Thank goodness it’s been a bit warmer and sunnier this month in the Sierra foothills, as I don’t want to have another $280.00 electric bill from PG&E again.

    I’m not that far from the Sierra foothills, or at least some of them.

    Gail Combs says:
    January 9, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Here in North Carolina, the Solar farm near me has grass grazed by lambs. It kills two birds with one stone.

    With a quick web search, I may have found where this is, East of Raleigh.

    1. You can buy/sell the lambs through the season to keep the stocking rate correct so the area is neither under or over grazed.

    Swapping in and out of some alternate pasturage would work too, but only if they have it.

    2. Sheep are very good at eating both grass and weeds and keeping the pasture looking like a lawn. (I use them to control weeds in my pastures) Goats are also great weed eaters but unlike goats you don’t find sheep standing on the roof of your pickup despite the fact they can jump like a deer.

    Never saw one on a pickup, but there was one that loved to stand on a stump. This astonished a friend of mine who came over for a bike ride. I lived in rural Alamance county, between Chapel Hill and Durham, in an area that people would drive 20 or 30 miles with their bikes, to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the near-empty back roads, where the farmers in their pickups would calmly cross the double yellow lines to give a bicyclist the entire lane, and wave as they drove by. Re the goat: as we rode up the hill and passed the goat on his stump, my friend turned to me, and said, “did you see that?” I replied, “yeah, that’s the goat. He does that.”

    3. The market weight of lambs is about 50 lbs so they do not get big enough to damage the installation.

    Which saves money over a more stout installation. Although, when the next occasional hurricane comes through, they will want something very stout, or else to be able to take the panels down in a hurry.

    4. When you want to clean a panel, all you have to do is grab a lamb by all four feet and give the panel a swipe with the lambswool. The lanolin will then make water (and dirt) bead-up and roll off the panel when it rains.

    Well, it probably would have been OK, but I’m glad I wasn’t sipping my coffee when I read this. Still, I can attest that it works for the inside of the windshield of an old sports car with non-functional heater/defroster, although I didn’t use the entire sheep. I just kept a decent wool hat in the car, and used it to wipe the fog off of the glass as I drove. It would then stay clear for up to an hour. When I wasn’t wiping, I wore the hat.

  259. Reality check says: January 10, 2013 at 6:37 am
    A Scott: You do realize disaster planning and daily life are two different things and the solutions to each may be completely different? I read you advocating disaster planning be used for daily life solutions and that seems pretty far off.

    I apparently didn’t make my point clear … my initial research on disaster planning educated me and evolved into looking at wider renewability and sustainability benefits and perspective.

    As Willis brought up – converting good farmland to solar is NOT a good use of technology – it is downright stupid in my opinion. Grow a “crop” of sunlight might be economically beneficial on that land but iof it is indeed high quality crop production land there are many other places 91 acres of solar could go.

    What I learned from my research on a small scale – re: disaster planning – showed me first, that ethanol is a viable partial solution. Mostly it taught me the vast majority of attacks on it are not well founded. When you drill down and start looking, the work attacking ethanol is very like the global warming – CAGW science – dubious at best. Claims that burning “food” for fuel are causing food shortages and the like are simply not as far as I can find supported by fact – there is much anecdotal and modeled claims but very little hard evidence.

    The claims prices of corn have increased becasue of ethanol are similarly unsupported. You can do all the studies you want that show that ethanol is related to corn prices, but when wheat, soybeans and other crops prices have increased almost identically it shows correlation is not causation.

  260. mpainter says: January 10, 2013 at 9:28 am
    Perhaps you mean the possibility of more abuse. In which case, I appreciate the concern, but Willis’s roughness does not bother me.

    Nor does it ultimately bother me. But we could have much more productive conversations with a little less of it.

    Vigorous, even heated, debate is a good thing … if the goal is better understanding.

    For all its greatness, this place turns into just as bad as SKS from some fronts, when some people disagree with certain comments or positions.

  261. Reality check says: January 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/science/earth/in-fields-and-markets-guatemalans-feel-squeeze-of-biofuel-demand.html?_r=1&

    Been there – done that – earlier in the thread …. part of what set Willis off ;-)

    [Oh, please, stop the bullshit. I was "set off" by your calling me a liar and then refusing to apologize, not by your scientific claims, so you can stuff your smileys where they'll do the most good. -w.]

    The rebuttal link was from the RFA – so immed. some attack the source rather than the information.

    philincalifornia says: January 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm
    This is the renewable fuels association response to the NYT Guatemala “story” (as in storytelling):

    http://www.ethanolrfa.org/exchange/entry/dont-believe-everything-you-read.-fact-check-on-nyts-guatemala-corn-ethanol/

    Willis, and others, let me tell you as a seasoned scientist working in the area of renewables, that most of this thread is an argument that maybe would have been topical three years ago. It’s just tired old “data” to use the term loosely. The field has moved on from this.

    When you actually start doing open-minded review what you find is the problem with food costs in Guatemela are because the corn costs THERE are high – not ours. What you find is the US has provided them ALL the white corn they have wanted – and that one of the big reasons these country’s import US corn si to reduce the cost of food there – our corn is cheaper – NOT more expensive – than theirs.

    Anyone that read the NY Times story carefully would have seen that another part of the problem is because we provided subsidized corn that was TOO CHEAP in the 1990’s.

    ONLY in the eyes of a tree-huggin’ greenie liberal would someone be attacked for trying to help by selling corn to these countries at subsidized rates. They attack because it was too cheap and so the Guatemalan’s stopped producing enough on their won. And now attack claiming we must sell cheaper.

    Once nearly self-sufficient in corn production, Guatemala became more dependent on imports in the 1990s as a surplus of subsidized American corn flowed south. Guatemalan farmers could not compete, and corn production dropped roughly 30 percent per capita from 1995 to 2005, Mr. Wise said.

    These attackers also fail to note that Guatemalan consumption of corn has dropped – something like 25% – as they have gotten more access to milk, eggs, meat etc., and becasue of the shift of the younger generation to bread products.

  262. What really frosts me in reading bleeding heart stories like this NY Times piece – besides the ignorant and biased reporting – is trying to shift blame.

    It is not the US or anyone else who makes decisions for Guatemala. As a country they make the choice on what to grow – and whether to grow for domestic or export use. As a country they have chosen not to grow enough food locally , instead to opt for higher value exports. And had any of the idiots who write this drivel actually looked at their exports they would find there is a very long list – not just sugarcane and palm oil. A perfect example are an array of fancy vegetables grown primarily for export.

    The white corn America ships them is lower cost than their own. Our corn helps them LOWER food costs – not increase them. We do not contribute to their food “poverty” as some like to call it – we help MITIGATE the costs of their staple product – white corn – becasue they CHOOSE to produce other products for export.

    .

  263. Apologies on the quote–missed the earlier discussion.

    I would just note that use of the term “renewable” does not mean “unlimited”. Scale enters also. The more we grow our fuels, the more land we need. Never mind if we previously used it for food or for a theatre parking lot. Or if we love taking land from third world countries for growing trees for carbon credits and biofuels. (Taking from those who cannot object.) Renewables really are just as limited as any other energy source–you need to refine them, or build giant traps for them (as in wind), etc. We’re pretending we can save the planet using “renewables” while using “non-renewables” like petroleum to transport and refine and produce the renewables.

    There is always a trade-off, but unless we keep the governments from handing out money in the hopes of their bestest contributors making millions and getting them re-elected for life, energy will be based on who gets the most money and not who does the job best. Yes, life is like that.

    As for running out of food, bottom line, it’s a self-correcting problem. People starve, fewer people, more food. As humans, we might be able to avoid that if we actually used science and not money to rule the world. We don’t. Nature corrects that which we will not. It’s just the way it is.

  264. mpainter says:

    January 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Moderator- would you mind explaining that?

    [reflection is your friend . . out to you . .mod]

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    upon reflection:

    costly error to abuse and mistreat those who would be your friend.

  265. mpainter, I fear I don’t understand that. What are the dollar signs for? And are you claiming that the moderator is mistreating you?

    And if so, how is that a “costly error”? Worst case scenario I can see is that you never post here again … what’s not to like?

    w.

  266. In response to Jazzy T’s comment on Jan 10th:

    My wife and I have an electrical energy billing rate schedule like the one you identified (“the the price for energy during peak hours is 2-4 times what it is during off-peak hours, and considerably more than in the winter.”). In our case (E-7 rate schedule from PG&E) the price we pay for a kwh of energy from the grid at peak times in the summer is 4 to 6 times Tier 1 off peak usage prices. And percentage wise you are correct in the winter months it is only 34% to 300% more for a grid (PG&E) provided kwh of energy during peak hours compared to off peak time usage. Our problem last month was our total kwh per day pushed our costs up to the 300% more level. We don’t normally have this happen.

    My wife reminded me that our bill was a bit atypical (ie expensive) last month because we had house guests for a fair amount of the month. Even with our house guests our little PV system keep our peak time usage low . Our peak usage was less then 3.3 kwh per day. Last year without our house guests we sent 4 kwh to the grid at peak times in December. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell our house guests not to run the heaters (electric energy source- yes natural gas would be preferred, but we don’t have it), take showers (water provided by a well), or do their laundry. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to dry your clothes with an electric dryer.

    My wife has given me yet another to do: to see if investing in some infrastructure (new propane gas lines, and a modified laundry room to vent a propane hot water tank and propane dryer) would make sense for us from an energy efficiency and cost of energy perspective. My suggestion that we don’t have family and friends stay the night(s) for the holidays didn’t go over well. I think my approach was a bit off the mark- what I should of suggested was that we do the visiting as that would of taken care of the extra kwh that made our bill go through the roof. She snickered a bit with my other alternatives to addressing the extra kwh usage of house guests. 1) Charge them for staying with us and explain why it costs $.26 kwh on our bill in the winter for them to use any electrical energy or 2) try to get the CPUC to require that folks transfer some of their allocated reasonably priced energy to me for their stay. Her snicker changed to a complete laugh with the second alternative. As we expect to get our smart meter next week I came back with resolution to her your out of your mind look/response It wouldn’t be that hard to have the smart meter be programmable so it could read a allocation card for the extra people staying with us during the holidays. She decided it was time for me to have a beer and dig her a hole for a new apple tree.

  267. A graphic on pricing I compiled some time back … if as claimed it is corns use for ethanol that is increasing prices on corn and allegedly driving up food costs – then it must be magic – since the costs on the other commodities have risen almost identically

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