Penn and Teller on Carbon Credits

Magicians and Illusionists Penn and Teller have a popular TV show on the Showtime channel called, ahem, “Bullshit”. In homage to their debunking mentor, James Randi, they take on a number of subjects they feel could use a little “clarity”.

Click image to watch the video

They recently (last Thursday night) took on Al Gore and carbon credits. The entire 30 minute show is available via the website VREEL (update You Tube has it now, VREEL started installing  Zango a couple of days ago – a spyware)

See YouTube Part1 Part2 Part3

Warning: more than a few obscenities are uttered in the show, but mostly for comic effect.

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July 27, 2008 11:53 pm

I downloaded the plugin and found it causes pop up ads to appear while viewing the video.
REPLY: Well if you use Firefox or IE7, it will block that. It’s free video, but there is no free lunch. Otherwise you’d have to subscribe to Showtime.

Mike C
July 28, 2008 12:08 am

More than a few obsceniities I would say. There were more F words in that vid than Marine Corps boot camp.

Roger Carr
July 28, 2008 12:31 am

You should have warned me it is a horror show, Anthony. I dont’ think even a river rock could restore my equilibrium easily now I’ve watched it. Truly expletive delitive depressing.

Joe S
July 28, 2008 12:36 am

I downloaded the DivX web page player and it still wouldn’t work.
I already had the DivX codec on my machine. So, I viewed the page’s source, got the link to the video file and downloaded it. Played it in WMP.
It’s a long URL. I hope it wraps and doesn’t break when I post it. Ought to be able to right-click and “save target as”. It’s a 232 MB file.

Joe S
July 28, 2008 12:40 am

Scratch my previous post. The link is changing.

July 28, 2008 1:05 am

I watched that last Thursday. Great show. The best part was when Drew Johnson from the Tennessee Center For Policy Research exposed Gore for his hypocrisy, and then read off the ensuing hate mail. That was hilarious! Ya can’t mess wid da prophet!

Uncivil Servant
July 28, 2008 1:05 am

Something just occurred to me concerning Gore’s enthusiasm for carbon trading schemes and CO2-free energy generation – compare this with this.
So, my question: Is Al Jr. just finishing what daddy started?

July 28, 2008 1:09 am

Also available here without plug-in, at least on my computer.

July 28, 2008 1:39 am

they should have done a skit about BOM today in Sydney. 5 degrees below average and it snowed but BOM said its not snow its soft hail,23599,24085664-29277,00.html

Frank L/ Denmark
July 28, 2008 2:39 am

Trawki, Thats true about Sydney!!
I just saw a long bit on this issue on Russian prime time TV. It seemed as though there where 10 cm snow, children building snowmen etc.
And NO ONE had seen anything like this. So yes, we hear that this is not snow but some extordinarely soft hail 🙂
But NEVER MIND WHAT IT IS CALLED: This cold substance – call it what ever you want – has not been observed before like this.
In Russian TV on the 26/7, they reported HUGE hail in Krasnodar/Kransojarsk – In the middle of the summer! The reporter picked up a handfull, looked like 4 cm in diameter and there where holes in the roofs everywhere.
(In Russia it seems that consensus on the street is that GW is one big embarresing story for the west.. I have yet not talked with anyone in the east with another opinion. Better Russian scientists agree on this, and there seems to be no censur on these subjects in tv. that is… I have not seen “CO2” mentioned with one word on their tv… )
Another thing: The quit slow meltback of the arctic: Did the Alarmists ever considder that “When the ice is ‘SO THIN’, and still melt so slowly, we must have quite a shift towards colder temperatures”?

Frank L/ Denmark
July 28, 2008 2:40 am

Correction: There have been snow in Sydney 186 years ago – which also might have been this “soft hail”.

July 28, 2008 4:25 am

Hah! A terrific show – well done!

C. W. Coe (formerly MrCPhysics)
July 28, 2008 5:32 am

Penn and Teller depend very heavily in this video on Patrick Moore, who is, in fact, a very reasonable, very well-informed spokesman on environmental issues, BUT neither side in this video gets into any actual data analysis–they just assert that “science says” this or that in support of their cause. Species extinction is a perfect example: Moore says at most 1% extinct in 100 years, the woman who was advocating for environmental action says 50%. From watching the video, how can one tell which number is correct?
The Rainforest Action Network should be ashamed picking “Kate” as their spokesperson. She makes it seem that all of them have no clue about the facts behind their cause, yet I personally know people involved with that group who are very well informed. I think it’s certainly true that a lot of the young people who get involved with environmental groups do so for emotional or quasi-religious reasons, but its not a valid form of reasoning to judge the truth or falsehood of a group’s position based on the motivation of the membership of the rank-and-file. It’s the same as criticizing the spokesman from the Cato Institute simply because his organization is pro-business and businesses contribute to Cato.
The real problem is people like Ross Gelbspan, who should know better…

July 28, 2008 5:44 am

Thanks for the link, Doug!

Scott Ketcher
July 28, 2008 6:45 am

Does the website releasing the video have permission from Penn & Teller and Showtime? Wouldn’t want to be accused of stealing you know…
As a Showtime subscriber and someone who occasionally watches the “Bullshit” series, it’s actually quite good (in a comedic sort of way). Penn & Teller like to make fun of people who for the most part deserve it.
Disclosure: I’m a Democrat and moderately liberal…. but skeptical of the whole AGW debate (it’s way to political for my taste). I’m coming to this website to observe the science debated. It’s refreshing to watch ideas discussed without the usual character assassination going on.
Oh, and btw…. where’s the damn preview button?
REPLY: Scott, thanks for dropping by. Unfortunately there is no commnet preview feature on the blogs hosted on Like you I wish there was.

July 28, 2008 6:46 am

Sydney’s brief snowfall on sunday afternoon was also reported in NZ, with some video………
There was some sleet in the cold rainstorm on monday afternoon in the Sydney suburb of Artarmon.
You can find the synoptic charts here……
The page allows you to go back a few days.
There is some pretty cold air coming up from the deep south.

David L. Hagen
July 28, 2008 7:44 am

The greatest damage from climatism is diverting focus from the real and rapidly approaching challenge of Peak Oil with its critical need to develop alternative fuels or methods for transportation fuels.
The increase in fuel and fertilizer prices from approaching Peak Oil is already having a devastating impact on 3rd world economies and small farmers ability to support their families.
See Peak Oil Overview at The Oil Drum
The Export Land Model applied to World Oil Exports which project the need for alternative fuel resources of 6.2%/year. Contrast that with historic US oil imports RISING at 5%/year. This promises a shock of needing to replace about 11%/year for the US from business as usual.
A Quantitative Assessment of Future Net Oil Exports by the Top Five Net Oil Exporters” at
Peak Oil Update – December 2007: Production Forecasts and EIA Oil Production Numbers Khebab
The Shock Model Khebab
Matthew Simmons’ Presentations
<a href=”” etc.

Patrick Henry
July 28, 2008 8:00 am

It appears that the Chief Scientist at The Met got sacked, and has been replaced by someone hopefully more sensible and less political.
How can we trust these predictions when there is such limited skill in forecasting the monsoon for the coming season? Scientists agree that we do not yet have a full understanding of the processes going on, and that climate models perform poorly in this critical yet challenging region where the ocean, atmosphere, lowlands and mountains all interact.

July 28, 2008 8:13 am

Funny things is that the cold has got almost minimal coverage in the media in Australia. Our politicians are this week fine tuning our global warming bill – dont want a little record cold to get in the way!!!
Nowra reached just 9.0 degrees – when both new and old station data are considered, this makes it the coldest day since 1963.
Bellambi Point, near Wollongong, struggled to 11.0 degrees, its coldest day in eleven years of records.

Frank Ravizza
July 28, 2008 8:38 am

I love P&T BS. Obviously not for everyone though.

Ken Westerman
July 28, 2008 9:25 am

I DL’d this from a BT website.
Highly entertaining episode, which while containing people have been caught without facts and the time to explain them, is so telling of people’s hypocrisy. That alone is enough to not want to devote blind faith into AGW theory.
That, and proving that ‘eco-guilt’ isn’t important for me to function with goodness towards the planet. Guilt is useless if you’re unwilling to act for goodness.
AGW may seem like a way to channel people’s guilt into action, but frankly, it is NOT convincing enough for many people and me (warming due to natural or human effects) to be something that is worth fighting for.

July 28, 2008 9:26 am

“BOM said its not snow its soft hail”
No, surely it’s hard rain?

Pierre Gosselin
July 28, 2008 9:56 am

I wonder if someone will step forward and blame the following on AGW:

July 28, 2008 10:23 am

C. W. Coe (formerly MrCPhysics) (05:32:12) : I think it’s certainly true that a lot of the young people who get involved with environmental groups do so for emotional or quasi-religious reasons, but its not a valid form of reasoning to judge the truth or falsehood of a group’s position based on the motivation of the membership of the rank-and-file.
True, but what is it that has attracted the emotional and quasi-religious? Is it, by some chance, the tone and content of the “public service” ads run by environmental groups that play upon emotion, etc.? I grew up in the hippie era and let me assure you, the environment movement uses the same rhetoric as Stop-the-War with filed-off serial numbers.
That same rhetoric has little more than emotional appeal, group think pressure and quasi-religious overtones. Any science involved is after-thought and any contrary evidence is immediately attacked as anti-Whatever-We-Are-For and attributed to special interests; all the while ignoring that the group itself is a special interest. It’s always Us vs. Them to these people.
You reap what you sow.

July 28, 2008 10:28 am

P&T are profane, but hilariously so. More importantly — and perhaps this goes over the heads of their detractors and critics — they’re also correct.
David L. Hagen…
Puh-leeze. We can easily collect solar power in space and beam it to earth. We know how to do this. Even the NYT, normally the queen of luddite BS, realizes the veracity of this and posted a recent editorial in support of it. The only reason it’s not being done now is that space access isn’t cheap. Cheap access to space is about 1 or 2 decades off, tops.
What do you think the hardline socialists etc are pushing the green agenda so hard? They realize that space energy is their death knell and it’s coming fast. Peak Oil promotion is merely another way to pad the bet, to force an expensive move to chimerae like wind energy NOW and divert funds that would otherwise be used for something realistic like space power. They don’t want abundant cheap energy. They want control. Peak Oil fear is just another tool.

July 28, 2008 12:11 pm

I agree with David that the objective is control, not renewable energy. Case in point: the cancelation of the Integral Fast Reactor (Argonne National Lab) in 1994 by Bubba Clinton, with NRDC acting in a supporting role. IFR would have burned high-level nuclear waste – no mining required – to meet our electrical requirements for hundreds of years, and so it had to be canceled and swept under the rug.
As an electrical engineer, however, I’m not so quick to buy into the “collect in space and beam to earth” bit – it doesn’t seem practical or economical. For example, what would be the energy density of the beam? Wouldn’t it be something like a continuous gigantic lightning strike? Can you point to more information on this topic?

July 28, 2008 12:42 pm

This will get you started, and has references to take you farther~charles the moderator

Bill P
July 28, 2008 12:46 pm

Without downloading the magical media player for Penn and Teller’s performance, It would be interesting to know what some of their targets were.
All I presently know is what I read in the papers – carbon offset traders are a bunch of fairly ambitious (perhaps idealistic) young entrepreneurs crisscrossing the globe with a nearly intangible promise of reducing carbon footprints, or providing compensation for those whose oversized prints make them feel awkward about their own perambulations.
Where the money (let alone the moral authority) for these indulgences (or their traders) actually comes from is beyond me. The United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for offsets may be only one of several attempts to institutionalize these carbon offsets. The Guardian article below points out that the program, set in place by the Kyoto treaty, is riddled with fraud, to the tune of billions of pounds.
The article quotes a Stanford University study which examined 3,000 chemical wind, gas or hydro projects that were currently applying for, or already receiving UN offset funding. The study said that most of those grants should be denied because, “they would be built anyway”. It says “It looks like between one and two thirds of all the total CDM offsets do not represent actual emission cuts.”
A “Wide Angle” program, “Burning Season” (PBS) recently followed a young Australian entrepreneur inventing himself as a carbon trader under the firm name ” Carbon Conservation”. Partnering with an NGO “Fauna and Flora International”, which apparently met some of his transportation costs, he proclaimed the intent of saving Indonesian rainforest prior to the Bali conferences, and to that end was shown jetting around the globe with promises of millions (sometimes billions) of dollars of profits in the market of carbon trading.
He visited several multi-million-dollar businesses, but interestingly, the agency that finally inked a deal with him was Merrill Lynch.
Under their arrangement, the trader, along with Fauna and Flora International will “…commit to delivering a huge reduction in deforestation across 750,000 hectares of tropical forest in Aceh’s Ulu Masen region (Indonesia)… The project will then be awarded carbon credits that will be sold on an exclusive basis to Merrill Lynch.”
This is the same institution which, along with Bear Stearns, helped perpetuate the subprime mortgage scandal, and a much attenuated U.S. economy in 2008. Can’t wait to see what they’ll do in this new, greener pasture.

July 28, 2008 1:05 pm

Pops (12:11:57): As an electrical engineer, however, I’m not so quick to buy into the “collect in space and beam to earth” bit
Neither am I. Regardless of what the energy density really is, though, I’m sure the Greens would proclaim it harmful.
randomengineer, The problem isn’t cheap access. There are really only two ways to do this efficiently: 1) Use a big focused mirror or 2) collect and beam the energy using either a laser (probably would have to be a CO2 laser) or microwave.
In both solutions, the collection system would act like a solar sail making orbit maintenance problematic. Also, in both solutions, the energy density at the Earth will have to increase by a fairly large amount if the system is to be useful. Another interesting problem is keeping the spacecraft in constant view of the sun so that it will also work at night. It’s unlikely that the craft could remain out of the Earth’s shadow. A high elliptical orbit could minimize the “dark” time but would make pointing the power beam more difficult.
Laser transmission is easier to aim and the lower divergence increases the efficiencey. I’m assuming a CO2 laser would be used (if laser transmission is the choice) for continuous power transfer. Unfortunately, CO2 lasers emit infrared. Other colors could be used by allowing the system to use power bursts instead of continuous operation. Instantaneous power density would have to increase though.

July 28, 2008 1:27 pm

Not the peak oil fantasy again. That thing has more lives than the hockey stick.

July 28, 2008 1:35 pm

A polar orbit with a precession equal to the earth’s orbital period would keep the satellite in the sun at all times.
The real problem though is trying to coordinate one or more satellites with stationary ground units. One way to solve this problem is to put the satellites in geosync orbit. However, the distance (23000?) miles makes the problem of targeting problematic, as well as the issue of beam spread.
Another way is to have multiple satellites and multiple ground stations. As the satellites orbit, they shift their beam from one ground station to another, as they come into range.

Evan Jones
July 28, 2008 1:55 pm

The greatest damage from climatism is diverting focus from the real and rapidly approaching challenge of Peak Oil with its critical need to develop alternative fuels or methods for transportation fuels.
Count me among those who thinks peak Oil is rubbish. I think we are so awash with oil we will have centuries’ worth by the time we simply walk away from it because something cheaper and more profitable has emerged.
Here’s how to figure it: Multiply “reserves” (which means immediately available” by 10 for the “reserve” number. Then multiply that number by 10 for “potential reserves” which is the actual amount that will actually be taken out. Then be sure you are lowballing it by at least a factor of two, probably more.
Peak Oil: Peek and ye shall find.

Retired Engineer
July 28, 2008 2:01 pm

We’ve been running out of oil for at least 60 years. Eventually, we really will, and the alarmists will jump up and down screaming “See? See?”. We probably have run out of cheap oil. $120/bbl isn’t chump change.
Beaming energy down from space doesn’t make sense. To get only 1 GW, with a big antenna (10km x 20km), the energy density at the center is about 100x the federal standard for exposure. Assumes microwaves. Laser is worse, making light up there (10% at best) and converting it back down here, very inefficient. Requires an even bigger collector. In a Clarke orbit, with a really STRONG extension cord… (the DC resistance along 22,500 miles would kill that idea)
Others have commented on getting something that big up there and keeping it there (as did I several threads back) It didn’t make sense 30 years ago, still doesn’t. Solar power here on Earth makes a little more sense, works 8-10 hours during the day. That’s the time we need the most power, so it has a place. Wind is less predictable, may work as a supplement.
Couldn’t view P&T video, my ancient browser and security said “no”.
Having seen them many times on other mechanisms, I have no doubt the language was very blue and roll-on-the-floor funny. Ridicule may be a better response to AGW than logic. More folks can understand it.

July 28, 2008 2:04 pm

Pops and Dav,
I heard they would be using microwaves, not lasers, to transmit the energy.

July 28, 2008 2:07 pm

To the AGW propogandists: I’m sorry but you’ve only yourselves to blame for not allowing un- biased/evenly funded research science to run its course!
The Greens are Going Crazy
By Alan Caruba (07/27/08)
It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Greens are going crazy, not just in the United States, but around the world. They are increasingly frantic over the opposition being voiced against global warming, one of the greatest hoaxes in modern history.
The Greens have bet everything on global warming as the reason for giving up the use of long established sources of energy such as oil, coal and natural gas. The object has been to slow everything the modern world calls progress.
In India, a spokesman for that nation of one billion people has flatly refused to accept the global warming hoax. China shows no sign of yielding to the global warming lies. The greatest agricultural and mercantile economy to have ever existed, the United States of America continues to thwart its own growth by yielding to the lies.
Recently the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said that “coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick. It’s global warming. It’s ruining our country. It’s ruining our world.”
No, what makes us sick is listening to such preposterous lies. A Rasmussen telephone survey taken after Sen. Reid’s absurd statement found that 52% of voters surveyed rejected his views about coal and oil, double the amount of those who agreed.
What is troublesome, however, is that the same survey found the voters evenly divided on whether global warming exists or poses a threat. Fully 47% of those surveyed believe that human activity affects the climate. Both candidates for President are publicly committed to the global warming hoax by varying degrees.
Despite an intense, decades-long propaganda campaign, coupled with indoctrination in our nation’s schools, the truth is beginning to emerge.
In March, an international conference on climate change organized by The Heartland Institute brought together over 500 of the world’s leading climatologists, meteorologists, economists and others for three days of seminars and presentations that completely refuted the pronouncements of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and disputed the lies of Al Gore’s famed “documentary.”
As recently as July 8, the Space and Science Research Center held a news conference in which it stated that the warming that has occurred since the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850 was completely natural, i.e., had nothing to do with human or industrial activity.
More significantly, the Center went on record saying that, “After an exhaustive review of a substantial body of climate research, and in conjunction with the obvious and compelling new evidence that exists, it is time that the world community acknowledges that the Earth has begun the next climate change.” The current warming period is not only at an end, but a distinct cooling cycle has begun and will bring “predominantly colder global temperatures for many years into the future.”
Just how crazed has the environmental movement become? On July 7 it was announced that Argentine scientists have been strapping plastic tanks to the backs of cows to collect and measure how much methane gas they produce.
Methane, like carbon dioxide, is a minor component of the Earth’s atmosphere. Methane is also released from swamps, landfills and other sources. If it and CO2 played a significant role in determining the world’s climate, it would be a cause for concern, but it is the Sun that primarily drives the Earth’s climate cycles. Solar activity has gone quiet in recent years as fewer and fewer sunspots, magnetic storms, have been seen.
To maintain the global warming hoax, thousands of events and natural phenomena have been blamed on it. A recent example is the floods in America’s mid-West. The National Wildlife Federation released a statement on July 1 blaming global warming.
Climate experts at The Heartland Institute were quick to respond. Dr. Joseph D’Aleo, Executive Director of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, said, “Alarmists have adopted the can’t-lose position that all extremes of weather—cold, warm, wet, or dry—are all due to global warming”, adding that, “The record snows, severe weather, and heavy rainfall have been the result of rapid cooling in the northern tier of the United States and Canada, not global warming.”
Early in July, Bret Stephens, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called global warming “a mass hysteria phenomenon”, noting that “NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954. Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world’s oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years…”
The global warming hoax has never been about the climate. It is about competing economic theories. “Socialism may have failed as an economic theory,” wrote Stephens, “but global warming alarmism, with its dire warnings about the consequences of industry and consumerism, is equally a rebuke to capitalism.”
The United States Senate refused to consider the UN Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that requires massive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions based solely on the global warming hoax, but other nations did sign on. None have ever met their obligation to limit CO2 emissions, nor need they have bothered.
At the recent G8 conference an international agreement to cut CO2 emissions was given serious consideration despite the fact that the Earth is now a decade into a cooling cycle likely to last several decades or longer. The impact of this proposal on the lives of ordinary citizens will prove needlessly costly. Proposals in some nations for various taxes based on global warming are a form of fraud.
The sensible refusal by leaders in emerging economies such as China and India would make it impossible for any limitations on carbon emissions by Western nations to have any impact, even if such reductions had anything to do with the realities of the Earth’s climate.
The only thing that can be predicted with certainty is that the Greens will become increasingly unhinged and crazed by the failure of the global warming hoax.

July 28, 2008 2:10 pm

The quit slow meltback of the arctic: Did the Alarmists ever considder that “When the ice is ‘SO THIN’, and still melt so slowly, we must have quite a shift towards colder temperatures”?

These ice cap stories are never supported with figures, even claims, that a thermometer up there shows warming. If the thermometers showed warming, they’d tell you. If not, they won’t tell you, because that jars with the implicit claims about the ice.

July 28, 2008 2:15 pm

“Gore’s enthusiasm for carbon trading”
Another site noted some of it may be because he buys “credits” for things like increasing power use at his home[s] from – yes – a company he owns.

Pamela Gray
July 28, 2008 2:29 pm

Peak oil has nothing to do with what the Earth contains. It has to do with what the people of the Earth are willing to pay for fossil based energy sources. It is possible to extract proven/unproven reserves as well as find undiscovered reserves with current technology. The increasing expense of doing that is what is calculated into the idea of peak oil.

July 28, 2008 2:46 pm

“BOM said its not snow its soft hail”
No, surely it’s hard rain?

In the words of Bob Dylan: “It’s a hard rain gonna fall”

July 28, 2008 2:55 pm

Re spaceborne power, those of you who are detractors and/or “I don’t know” types seem to have missed my point. The spectre of Peak Oil is a political tool, and one that is limited solely to the current era. When cheap space access is achieved, there WILL be spaceborne power, period. The timeline is what’s in question. That’s it.
The technical requirements for doing spaceborne power have been known since at least the 70’s, which was the last time this was seriously investigated and plans were drawn up. Even at that time the big hurdle was cheap space access, which was, by not such a strange coincidence, one of the things that NASA was promising with Shuttle.
Cheap space access looks like a problem that will be solved by a Rutan type, not NASA, but this ought to be something solved within 2 decades following the advent of commercial suborbital flights. The point is that Peak Oil is a scary bogey-man whose ability to frighten doesn’t extend much beyond perhaps 20 years.

July 28, 2008 3:11 pm

Here is great classification of people:
My conclusion from this article: activist = stupid active person

Tom Klein
July 28, 2008 3:16 pm

David Hagen,
Your argument about peak oil is persuasive, but it does not even have to be correct to consider looking for alternative sources of energy, essential. You can look at the recent economic dislocations from high gas prices to recognize the tremendous economic and strategic vulnerability caused by reliance on crude oil as a major energy source. Admittedly, OPEC controlling the majority of supplies, coupled with our near suicidal political idiocy of limiting drilling in locations most likely to yield new supplies does not help, but there are no obvious new sources for cheap and readily available crude oil. Putting it very simply, our fossil fuel – not just crude oil -reserves are unlikely to last more than an additional 300 years. This, together with about 100 years of past usage gives us a total of about 400 years of availability for fossil fuel.( Put your own +/- number on it, the accuracy matters relatively little.) Assuming 400 million years of geological time that it took to accumulate these reserves, our one year of fossil fuel usage took about a million years to accumulate. Obviously, the long term numbers do not look promising. Our most promising long term source of energy is the sun, the source of energy for food, wood for construction and fuel and the ultimate source of fossil fuel, hydroelectric and wind power.
There are two problems with solar power, one is cost – which is relatively quickly being solved by improving technology and rising conventional energy costs- and the other one is lack of continuous availability. The second one is a problem mostly in the context of fitting in as a supplier to the electric grid.
We could look at the example provided by biological world which uses chemical storage to overcome the lack of continuous availability of sunlight. We could use electrolysis to generate H2 from solar energy and use the Hydrogen not only as a storeable form of energy, but also as a feedstock to manufacture synthetic liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons.

Mike Borgelt
July 28, 2008 3:23 pm

David L. Hagen and others: search for “Solar Power Satellites”. Also Peter Glaser who invented the concept and Gerry O’Neill.
While I would love to see it, along with the moon miners, mass drivers on the moon(it’s cheaper to build the SPS in Geosync with lunar materials)and regular trips to low earth orbit along with a new constellation in the night sky, “the Powerline”, the “killer beams from outer space” meme will prevent it.
There has been a lot of work done on the concept and there don’t appear to be any show stoppers. The microwave intensity is quite low, the rectenna farms are way cheaper than solar cells and deliver power 24/7. And you get a robust, wonderful space program.
The IFR is probably less effort though.

Mike Borgelt
July 28, 2008 3:42 pm

Tom Klein,
I doubt anyone will worry too much about fossil fuels only lasting 300 years.
Biological use of solar energy is extremely inefficient, less than 1%. Batteries aren’t going to get lots better as we undertstand the electrochemistry quite well.
Nuclear fission can provide the human race with energy for hundreds or years if done right(you don’t throw away 99% of the energy by doing a “once through” cycle in your reactors) and there is still the possibility that the Bussard Fusion reactor(search for Polywell) will work, in which case it is all over for energy shortages and Doc Bussard’s name will shine through the centuries. And it will power wonderful spaceships.

July 28, 2008 4:31 pm

Yes, the IFR “is” less effort. There was a prototype running at Argonne-West. When it was canceled, the shutdown costs were approximately equal to the cost to complete the project, meaning the shutdown was not financially motivated. I am personally acquainted with a high-ranking member of the IFR team who told me there were some pretty strong undercurrents associated with the cancelation, as in “keep your mouth shut about IFR if you want to continue your career.” I’m not going beyond that, as anything else I might add would be speculation.
The IFR was the logical next step in reactor development with many advantages beyond reactors currently in use. The reactor core was incapable of melt-down because it employed a metallic fuel rod whose thermal expansion shut off the reaction, thus preventing thermal runaway. The facility was a sealed facility, meaning no transport of materials to or from the facility for the life of the plant. There was never any separation of plutonium from the hot fuel mix, as the on-site reprocessing used electro-refining to formulate new fuel rods from the old.
And, of course, it had the benefit of using “spent” fuel rods for fuel, converting high-level nuclear waste to low-level nuclear waste. Instead of spending billions of dollars to figure out how to store spent fuel rods, we could have shipped them to IFR plants to meet our (USA) electrical needs for hundreds of years.
The bottom line is that any viable alternative to fossil fuels will be demonized by the enviros. Green IS the new red.

David L. Hagen
July 28, 2008 7:31 pm

Evan Jones et al. on Peak Oil
The issue is rapid depletion of “CHEAP LIGHT OIL”
Total hydrocarbons.
US conventional oil production peaked in 1970. We are now importing some 65%. We have “plenty” of oil shale – why is no one falling over themselves to get it?
Yes there are “trillions” of barrels of “hydrocarbon resources” out there – problem is that you now have to take bitumen (aka “tar”) and convert it to gasoline. Extraction and conversion capital costs alone are now running $100,000/bbl/day.
So to replace 100 million bbl/day ONLY requires $10 trillion.
Moreover that has to be done within the next two decades to not have any decline in the rate of growth.
Sure beaming solar power has been proposed. The issue is not electricity but transportation fuels. Are you willing to pay far higher than current petroleum costs for transportation?
We need some 10,000 new systems each producing 10,000 bbl/day over the next two decades. i.e, about 3 per day. Look at Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). Considering the rate at which NASA launches rockets, 3 per day is not practical or cost effective versus other options.
Rather than flippantly dismissing “Peak Oil”, may I encourage you to read through those links and start grappling with the statistics and models. Its the rate of transition that determines the price and the economy. At the present rate of inaction, the USA is spending $1 trillion per year on oil, with some $700 billion going overseas. i.e. the US is rapidly exchanging the company store for a “joy ride.” The EU is not far behind.
It is your future at stake.

July 28, 2008 7:43 pm

For those wondering about Al Gore, I beleive he holds a very large percentage share of a Carbon trading Company. When he buys credits, he’s buying them from himself. Keep that in mind.

John Van Krimpen
July 28, 2008 8:49 pm

Just had a look at your site counter. I reckon the only thing being driven up by CO2 hot air, is your site hits.
That’s what the Global temperature graph should look like.
Thanks for your work.
REPLY: Thank you. Getting hits is not my mission, getting the word out on issues with data integrity and unsupportable news stories is.

July 28, 2008 8:57 pm

(13:35:24) :
I’ve been saying geosynch but I really am thinking geostationary — they aren’t the same thing. The latter only work in equatorial orbits.
The problem is not so much to keep the satellite in sunlight but to do so and remain visible to the ground. Only an equatorial (well, near-equatorial) orbit can accomplish this. The basic problem is that there aren’t many orbits (I’m hedging here — I believe there are none) that would allow a satellite to remain in sunlight and also be visible from the Earth’s night side. The moon is visible all night but it, too, sometimes enters the Earth’s umbra. Note that the moon isn’t visible 24/7 anyway so lunar orbit won’t work either. Multiple spacecraft perhaps would.
Multiple ground stations and a sun-synch orbit might be the only real answer. Until there’s a global power grid, a solar power spacecraft would only be usable about 12 hours per day (on the average) at any given station.

July 28, 2008 9:16 pm

Bill (14:04:48) : I heard they would be using microwaves, not lasers, to transmit the energy.
Yes, microwave is the baseline concept. One of the problems with microwave though is being able to concentrate the beam so that the entire visible hemisphere isn’t being irradiated. Far easier to do it with light.
One additional advantage with light is that the atmosphere is mostly transparent to it. If the beam is tight enough, the laser wouldn’t not be visible outside of the target area.
Environmentalists will howl no matter what though. It’s the environmental impact statement that will forever kill solar power satellites. At least until some catastrophic need arises.

Evan Jones
July 28, 2008 9:21 pm

David Hagen: Yes, noted. (And well put.) But shales, tars, bitumens are what’s really plentiful. It becomes profitable at around 30 to 50 bucks a barrel and is essentially unlimited.
And there may be a lot of light crude out there–exploration is still very restricted. The Bakken Shale is light crude (though it requires horizontal drilling to get that dolomite strip) and may run a half trillion barrels by the time they’re through with it. The 3+ billion barrel number is up 20-fold from a few years back. Expect that number to keep growing.
I think the Peak Oil flap is the same basic error the Club of Rome made back in the ’70s and ’80s, recycled.

Bill Jamison
July 28, 2008 9:39 pm

I saw a Toyota Prius with a TerraPass bumper sticker on it today – now that’s some serious eco guilt when you need to buy carbon offsets for your Prius!

July 29, 2008 12:01 am

Who the f**k wrote the f**cking script for that show? F**king Al Pacino?

Uncivil Servant
July 29, 2008 12:15 am

Bill P (12:46:36) :
In the context of your post, you might find this article interesting:

We have learned that the industry in any given bubble must support hundreds or thousands of separate firms financed by not billions but trillions of dollars in new securities that Wall Street will create and sell. Like housing in the late 1990s, this sector of the economy must already be formed and growing even as the previous bubble deflates. For those investing in that sector, legislation guaranteeing favorable tax treatment, along with other protections and advantages for investors, should already be in place or under review. Finally, the industry must be popular, its name on the lips of government policymakers and journalists. It should be familiar to those who watch television news or read newspapers.
There are a number of plausible candidates for the next bubble, but only a few meet all the criteria…
…There is one industry that fits the bill: alternative energy, the development of more energy-efficient products, along with viable alternatives to oil, including wind, solar, and geothermal power, along with the use of nuclear energy to produce sustainable oil substitutes, such as liquefied hydrogen from water. Indeed, the next bubble is already being branded.

David L. Hagen
July 29, 2008 5:59 am

Evan Jones
“I think the Peak Oil flap is the same basic error the Club of Rome made back in the ’70s and ’80s, recycled.” – You apparently are not familiar with the foundational geophysics or economics and logistics of transitioning to other resources with high capital costs.
Peak Oil = Resource Half Consumed (typically 55% consumed at peak). Yes 45% will still be discovered. BUT the price rises till you have “demand destruction” OR provide alternative fuels in sufficient supply to meet transport desires.
The challenge is the dynamics of the transition the transition. Welcome to the fuel transition roller coaster!
And pray that you don’t crash.

Retired Engineer
July 29, 2008 7:26 am

re: Microwave density from Solar Power Satellite.
Assuming a ‘rectantenna’ 10km x 20km in size (how many GaAS diodes will that need?) and 1 GW power at 100% conversion, it works out to about 5 watts/m^2 on average. Assume Gaussian distribution and you have 10 W/m^2 near the center, or 1 mw/cm^2. The Federal exposure standard is 10 microwatts/cm^2, the Euro standard is 1 microwatt. So you are 100x over the limit. Death Star, anyone ?
Conversion efficiency: Glaser didn’t invent the concept, he was a strong proponent. He claimed 90% end-to-end efficiency. My associates in the microwave business said 1% was probable. NASA tried it, put 2 MW in, got 100 W out. Not a lot of publicity on that one. Space isn’t empty, you will have absorption and scattering losses. The air will cause as much or more, even though it is only the last 10 or so miles. PV conversion runs no more than 20%. Assuming 10% RF conversion, you’ll need to start with at least 10 GW to get 1 GW out, and that will require a collector of about 36 million m^2 (9000 acres). A whole lot of silicon, for 1 GW output power. The U.S. currently produces around 100 GW of electricity.
Assuming geostationary or geosync orbit, the satellite should see sun all the time, with the Earth’s axial tilt. With a big enough dish antenna on the transmitting end, you could keep the beam focused. But every antenna has side lobes, and with a multi GW source, not trivial. Even 0.01% (absurdly small) gives you 100+ KW. Compared with the 100 W of comm satellites. Goodbye communication. And radio astronomy. Not the same frequency, doesn’t matter. You de-sensitize the RF front end of the receiver on all frequencies. (been there, done that)
Somehow, I rather doubt space access will get much less expensive. The physics of that hasn’t changed since Goddard was tinkering 80 years ago. Rutan’s Space Ship 1 could never make orbit. And building high efficiency solar cells on one of the dirtiest places in the neighborhood doesn’t sound overly practical, let alone getting the equipment needed to the moon in the first place.
These were only a few of the problems with the SPS, which is why it was abandoned in the early 80’s.
/anti-SPS rant off

Leon Brozyna
July 29, 2008 10:40 am

Evan Jones ( 21:21:46 )
Before we get too excited about Peak Oil, there’s some interesting thinking in that arena which, if true, would make concerns about natural resource exhaustion (at least for oil) a bit silly. Check out this article:
As well, check out a more in-depth look at the resurrected theory of the abiotic origins of oil at:
Now if (and that’s a mighty big if) this idea holds water, then oil will never run out as it’s being continuously created. Just some fascinating thinking for the geology community.

July 29, 2008 3:01 pm

For those people using Mac OS X, there is an excellent quicktime codec that will play just about any format, including divx. It’s available at And it’s free! I’m not affiliated with them, but this little gem has opened up a world of videos by allowing them to play, and it’s never caused any compatibility issues. Enjoy.

July 29, 2008 3:18 pm

[…] Penn and Teller on Carbon Credits […]

July 29, 2008 3:21 pm
July 29, 2008 6:44 pm

bullshit=awsome show that “calls” the best BS in the world today. Damn hippies – the world has been warming since the ice age.

July 29, 2008 7:22 pm

A few months ago, I got myself 80 trillion carbon offsets from and haven’t worried about eco-guilt since.

IT Guy
July 31, 2008 7:58 pm

I agree with your stance on global warming, but that Penn & Teller video link tries to install Zango on your machine. Zango is spyware. Telling people it’s safe is not cool.
REPLY: Hmmm, I didn’t notice any such thing when I connected, and my spyware scan comes up clean
REPLY 2: from charles the moderator–Anthony, I just checked and this requirement has been added, so IT Guy may be correct, but the need to install Zango was not there last week when you originally made this posting.
REPLY 3: Thanks for the heads up, I’ve removed the link to VREEL and added links to YouTube, which has the video now. When it first was released, only VREEL had it, and yes VREEL has started installing spyware. I’ll never use them again for any purpose – idiots. – Anthony

January 8, 2009 6:17 pm

The obscenities in Penn & Tellers bullshit aren’t for comic effect but because if they call people liers then they can be sued, however calling someone names is legally safe.

January 9, 2009 7:09 pm

Ok, Pen and Teller and bending the facts a lot here, shame, they should be better informed. Here is a link to a serious website that will crush anyones ignorance about the facts of global warming, which is absolutely real:

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