Renewable energy – our downfall?

This essay below from Ralph Ellis was posted in comments a couple of days ago, and I decided to promote it to a full post.

For the record, let me say that I support some of the renewable energy ideas, even putting money where my mouth is, putting solar on my own home and a local school. However, neither project would have been possible without state subsidies. For renewable energy to work in our economy, it must move past the government  subsidy stage and become more efficient. It took over a hundred years t create our current energy infrastructure, anyone who believes we can completely rebuild it with the current crop of renewable energy technologies is not realistic. – Anthony

Renewable energy – our downfall? By Ralph Ellis

The government, under pressure from a disparate confederation of environmentalists and greens, have agreed to press ahead with a host of renewable energy sources, including wind, tidal and wave power. Yet, despite the vast sums of public money that will be allocated to these projects and the fundamental enormity of the decisions that have been made, there has been very little in the way of open debate on the subject. Like many aspects of today’s governmental system, the powers that be appear to have made a decision about future energy production based upon image, spin and the number of votes the policy will capture, while ignoring the basic truths and science that should be the foundation-stone of any policy. Nobody has even debated the absolutely fundamental question of whether any of these energy generation systems actually work. The media’s reaction to this steamrollered, image-based decision-making process has been muted to the point of being inaudible, and I can only assume that either very few in the media have any grasp of the calamitous implications of the government’s policy, or they are cowering behind their desks for fear of losing their jobs.

So why, then, do I consider renewable energy to be a danger to the entire nation, both economically and socially? This is, after all, ‘free energy’, and what can be the problem with a free resource? Well, as readers will probably be fully aware, no resource is free even if it appears to be so, and this is the first of the many lies about renewable energy that have been peddled by industry spokesmen and government ministers. Oil is not free, despite it just sitting in the ground; water is not free, despite it falling from the sky; nuclear power is not free, despite the raw materials being ridiculously cheap, and neither is any renewable energy resource ‘free’. In fact, the conversion process from ‘free’ renewable energy to usable grid electricity is remarkably expensive and its enormous costs are being subsidised by the consumer. In the UK, this subsidy is achieved through Renewables Obligation Certificates, the cost of which are eventually passed onto the consumer. In 2006 the cost to consumers was £600 million, and this is predicted to rise to £3 billion in 2020. 1 That is about £200 per household per annum, on top of current energy bills, for the privilege of using of ‘free’ energy.

Now one might argue that that is not very much money to demand from the public, given the advertised prospect of clean, renewable energy that will fuel our homes and our economy for the next few generations. Power at the press of a button, and not a drop of noxious emissions of any nature in sight – just an array of perfectly silent, gently rotating wind-turbines stretching towards the horizon – it is dream-world picture direct from the cover issue of an environmentalist magazine, and the answer to a politician’s prayers. In one master-stroke the environment is magically healed, and votes are captured by the million – roll on the next election.

However, it is my belief that this sublime day-dream actually holds the seeds for our economic decline and for social disorder on an unprecedented scale. Why? Because no technical and industrial society can maintain itself on unreliable and intermittent power supplies. In 2003 there were six major electrical blackouts across the world, and the American Northeast blackout of August 14th was typical of these. The outage started in Ohio, when some power lines touched some trees and took out the Eastlake power station, but the subsequent cascade failure took out 256 power stations within one hour.

The entire Northeast was down onto emergency electrical supplies, and the result was social and economic chaos. Nothing, in our integrated and automated world, works without electricity. Transport came to a grinding halt. Aircraft were grounded, trains halted and road traffic was at a standstill, due to a lack of traffic lights and fuel. Water supplies were severely disrupted, as were telecommunications, while buildings had to be evacuated due to a lack of fire detection and suppression systems. Without any available transport, many commuters were forced to sleep in offices or in Central Park, and while the summer temperatures made this an office-adventure to remember, had this been winter the results of this electrical failure could have been catastrophic.

This is what happens to a major technical civilisation when its life-blood, its electrical supply, is turned off. Chaos looms, people die, production ceases, life is put on hold. Yet this was just a once-in-a-decade event, a memorable occasion to laugh about over dinner-parties for many years to come, but just imagine what would happen to a society where this happened every week, or if the power was cut for a whole fortnight or more. Now things are getting serious. Without transport, refrigeration, computers and key workers, food production and distribution would cease. Sleeping in Central Park on a balmy summer’s night is a memorable inconvenience, whereas fifty million empty bellies is getting very serious indeed. In fact, it is a recipe for violence and civil unrest.

But what has all this doom and gloom got to do with the government’s drive for renewable energy, you might ask? Well, the entire problem with renewables – almost all renewables – is that they are dangerously intermittent power sources.

Perhaps the first renewable source we should discuss is tidal power. Unfortunately, while tidal power initially looks like a dream power source of cheap, renewable energy, it suffers from massive variability in supply. The energy that it produces is tidal, and the tides are, of course, linked to the orbit of the Moon, with there being about two tides every day. This sinusoidal tidal pattern produces four slack periods during each day when the tide is turning, either at high tide or at low tide, and during these slack periods the tidal power system will not generate any electricity at all. Unfortunately, the energy that is produced is therefore delivered at set periods of the day which are connected to the orbit of the Moon, rather than our daily lives, and so the electricity produced is in no way synchronised with the electrical demand cycle. If these slack periods coincide with the 7-am and 7-pm peak demands for electricity, as they will several times a month, then the whole generating system is next to useless.

Since the energy produced earlier in the day cannot be stored, as will be explained later, extra generating capacity will have to be brought on-line to cover the deficiency. This means that for every tidal system installed, a conventional power station will have to be either built or retained to ensure continuity of energy supply. But this power station will have to be up and running all the time, what is known in the industry as ’spinning-reserve’, as it takes up to 12 hours to bring a power station on-line from a cold start-up. Thus if we are to maintain continuity of supply, this wonderful ‘free-energy’ tidal source actually results in twice the cost and saves very little in the way of hydrocarbon fuels. So, unless we are prepared to accept rolling power cuts across the country, which would result in the same chaos as the Northeast blackout, it is unlikely that we could ever successfully integrate large tidal power systems into the National Grid.

While tidal power may be predictably intermittent, wind power is even more problematical. Recent EU directives have stipulated that some 40% of electricity should be powered from renewable resources by 2020. If this were to be predominantly produced from wind turbines, as is likely, then we would need some 30 gigawatts (gw) of wind generating capacity. To put that figure in perspective, the UK currently has about 0.5 gw of wind capacity. However, that is not the full story, for UK wind turbines are only currently delivering about 25% of installed capacity, due to wind fluctuations and maintenance issues. That means we actually need some 120 gw of installed wind generation capacity to cover just 40% of total UK electrical demand. If the turbines being constructed average 2 mw rated capacity, then we shall need some 60,000 wind turbines to be installed over the next twelve years. And where shall we erect all those? – Certainly Not In My Back Yard.

But building thousands of wind turbines still does not resolve the fundamental problem, for the real problem here is the enormous scale of wind variability. I saw a wind-power spokesman the other week on the flagship BBC Hardtalk series, who claimed that the number of days without wind power in the UK were as rare as hen’s teeth – a comment that went totally unchallenged. Well all I can say, is that the hens in the UK must look like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The truth of the matter is that there are numerous days without significant winds across the UK, and when those conditions occur it doesn’t matter how much installed generating capacity we have, for it all goes off-line. A report from Denmark 2 indicates that the Danish ‘wind carpet’, which is the largest array of wind turbines in Europe, generated less than 1% of installed power on 54 days during 2002. That is more than one day every week of the year without electrical power. However, if we broaden the definition of ‘without power’ slightly, the same Danish ‘wind carpet’ generated less than 10% of installed capacity for some 16 weeks during 2003. Yet Denmark has the same kind of northerly, maritime weather systems as does the UK. Thus the wind-generation industry is lying to us, once more, for a ‘wind carpet’ that generates less than 10% of installed capacity it next to useless, for the national electrical grid will never cope with such a massive reduction in power supply. In fact, wind generation is so useless, that Denmark, Europe’s largest wind generating nation by far, has never used any of its wind-generated electricity – because it is too variable. It is almost impossible to integrate wind power into a normal generating grid, and so Denmark has merely exported its variable wind supplies to Norway and Sweden. 3 These nations can cope with these electrical fluctuations because of their abundance of hydro-electric power, which can be turned on and off quite rapidly, unlike most other generating systems.

This revelation, that wind power is totally unusable, brings us onto the other great lie of renewable energy proponents – the lie that renewable power can somehow be stored to cope with power outages. The first of these miraculous energy storage facilities, that is said to come to the aid of the thousands of wind-turbines that lie motionless across the entire nation, is the pumped water storage system. However, this claim is utter nonsense, and for the following reasons:

a. Our present pumped storage systems are already fully utilized in overcoming variability in electrical DEMAND, and so they have absolutely no extra capacity for overcoming variability in SUPPLY due to the unreliable wind and tidal generation systems.

b. Pumped storage systems currently only supply a very small percentage of the grid (about 5%) for just a few hours, while wind generation systems can go off-line for days or weeks at a time, as the Danish generation report clearly demonstrates. To put this argument into figures, the Dinorwig power storage system, the largest in the UK, can provide 5% of the UK’s power generation requirements (2.9 gw) for up to 5 hours before it runs out of water. (Thus the total capacity of Dinorwig is 14.5 gwh). If the UK was entirely dependent on wind power, a wind outage lasting just two days would require 140 storage stations with the same generating capacity as Dinorwig to maintain normal power supplies (assuming average UK demand of 1,000 gwh/day). As the Danish report confirms, power outages lasting a week or more are the norm, rather than the exception, and so if the UK generated a significant proportion of our electrical capacity from wind-turbines, as the EU has argued, the lights and heating systems would be going out, the computers going down and transport systems failing all over the country.

c. Pumped storage systems are not only hugely expensive to construct, the topography of Britain ensures that very few sites are available, and so we will never be able to store significant amounts of our energy requirements. These storage systems also tend to be situated in areas of outstanding natural beauty, and so – you have guessed it – the Greens oppose the very storage system they are promoting.

The same kind of argument can be sustained for flywheel energy storage, compressed air storage, battery storage and hydrogen storage – for each and every one of these systems is highly complex, very expensive, hugely inefficient and limited in capacity. The much hyped ‘Hydrogen Economy’ is one of these technological cul-de-sacs. It should be stated from the outset that hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy storage system – a ‘battery’. The hydrogen has to be created before it is used, and it merely stores the energy that is flowing through the normal electrical grid. Unfortunately for the proponents of this clean ‘energy system’, hydrogen powered vehicles and generators are only about 5% efficient. A huge amount of energy is wasted in the production, liquification and storage of the hydrogen, and so hydrogen will not be propelling our cars, nor will it be storing energy for when the wind stops blowing. In addition, hydrogen storage vessels are highly flammable and potentially explosive, and I for one would rather have a nuclear power station on my doorstep than a hydrogen facility. However, the final unsayable truth about hydrogen powered vehicles (and electric vehicles) is that we would have to double or treble the number of power stations to cope with this electrical demand. The fact that many cars would recharge overnight would be useful in evening out electrical demand, but the number of power stations in the UK would at least double. Now what would the Greens have to say about that?

In short, it would appear that some of the proponents of these storage systems simply have no concept of the huge amounts of energy that a nation like Britain uses within a normal week. There is no energy system available that can remotely be expected to replace renewable energy resources, while they lie dormant for weeks on end. These and other delusions that are being being peddled by renewables proponents are downright dangerous, as they give ignorant ministers in government the impression that we can maintain this nation on renewable energy supplies. But nothing could be further from the truth, and the 2003 blackouts demonstrate the seriousness of the consequences if we do run out of electrical power.

Nuclear

But if the large-scale use of renewable energy systems is utterly impractical, there has to be a solution to our energy supply problems; because even in the short term our dependance on foreign oil and gas places us at the mercy of oil and gas owning despots, who will seek to gain every leverage possible over us. Look at the current situation in the Middle East and Russia and multiply that by ten, and you have some idea of our future political situation if we become solely dependent on foreign energy supplies.

In addition to this – for every year we delay in getting reliable and internally sourced energy supplies, millions of tonnes of a valuable mineral resources are literally going up in smoke. Nearly everything we need in our modern world needs oil as a raw material to make it – no oil supplies not only means no energy, but also no raw materials too. When the last barrel of oil comes out of the ground – and if alternate energy provisions are not already in place – human civilization as we know it will cease to exist. That is neither an exaggeration nor a joke, for absolutely nothing in our modern world will work without adequate energy supplies and petrochemical raw materials to make the things we so often take for granted.

What ever you may think about the technology, the ONLY reliable answer to our energy supply and global warming problems for the foreseeable future is going to be nuclear power (either fission or fusion). Ok, so nuclear power has got a bad name through Chernobyl and a few other incidents, but the Chernobyl plant in particular should never have been allowed in the first place. The RBMK design was (and still is) a rudimentary graphite moderated steam cooled plant with no containment vessel – indeed, it was no better that the original ‘graphite pile’ in the Manhattan Project (circa 1943). Remember that graphite and steam are an explosive combination if they get hot enough, and that’s exactly what happened at Chernobyl (this was NOT a ‘nuclear’ explosion). This arrangement should never have been allowed at the design stage, which is why the British AGRs (Advanced Gas Reactors) used an inert gas coolant. In addition, both the AGR and the the USAs PWRs (Pressurized Water Reactors) are naturally fission-stable, and their very nature will resist and counter a runaway thermic event like that which occurred at Chernobyl.

While the early designs of nuclear power stations have highlighted the problems that poor design or construction can pose, our design and technological capability has moved on in great strides. The Russian RBMKs are the equivalent of a model T Ford, the British AGRs represent Morris Minor technology from the ’60s, but we are now capable of producing Bugattis and Ferraris – which provide a quantum leap in terms of safety and efficiency. The point is that there are methods of reducing nuclear risks if we put our minds to it, and the latest design from Westinghouse – the AP1000 – will be able to deliver ten times the efficiency of the reactors in current use. (Which makes it odd that the UK government have just sold Westinghouse to Toshiba of Japan, just as orders for new power stations are about to be signed.)

Therefore, we could supply Britain’s entire current and future energy requirements with nuclear power, while only using the same amount of nuclear material that is in circulation today (and which produces just 20% of our needs). Remember also that nuclear power is non-polluting in terms of greenhouse gasses, acid rain and other noxious emissions, and thus all of the reductions that we aspire to make in these pollutants could be achieved in a stroke if we turned to nuclear power.

And when it comes to nuclear safety issues, let us not forget that thousands of people in ships and submarines live in close proximity to nuclear plants with no ill-effects. Also remember that while nuclear power has acquired a bad name, courtesy of some sections of the media, far more ecological damage has been done and many more people have died though oil and coal extraction, over the past decades, than in nuclear power incidents. Remember Piper Alpha, Aberfan, Torry Canyon, Exxon Valdes, etc: etc:? The list is almost endless, especially if one includes all the coal-pit disasters in Russia and China, from which much of our energy, in terms of finished products, is now sourced. If a nuclear power station had killed a whole school full of children the environmentalists would never let us forget it, but because it was the result of the coal industry they let the memory fade. If 6,000 workers were killed every year in the nuclear industry Greenpeace would go ballistic, but because these are coal mining deaths in China they are ignored. Why do some people exhibit these double standards? What is it about technical progress that they so despise? In some respects, some of these anti-nuclear demonstrators appear to be portraying themselves as the world’s very own technological Taliban, and in this guise they must be vigorously opposed.

However, it should be borne in mind that fission power is only a temporary stop-gap that will maintain our economy and civilisation over the next century until something better comes along. Nuclear fusion may well be that brighter future, but for all the reasons already given we need a solution now, not in 30 year’s time. Nuclear fission will provide a stop-gap for that vital century, but fission power on its own is a non-renewable energy resource. The way forward has to be fast-breeder fission, where the nuclear core creates its own fuel supply, a technique that has already been demonstrated and perfected. This energy source would provide the world with 1,000 years of energy, a large enough stop-gap to allow all kinds of new exotic energy sources to be discovered and exploited.

We have about 30 or so years before the shortage of oil becomes acute and our economies and societies begin to falter, and that is not very much time in which to alter our entire energy production industry. It is like relying on the Victorians to plan ahead and ensure that we still had a viable civilisation in the 1930s. And while the Victorians were both successful and resourceful, history demonstrates that new sources of raw materials were never actively planned until the old sources were in desperately short supply or worked-out completely. However, the introduction of a new, nationwide power generating system is an extremely long-term investment, and if we are to make this change without a dramatic interruption to our energy supplies (and our society) we need foresight, vision and a quick decision. What we need is a tough, educated, talented, rational leader to take a difficult but responsible decision to dramatically increase our nuclear energy production capability. However, what we have in the UK is Gordon Brown!

Ralph Ellis

June 2004

1. David Derbyshire, Daily Mail 5th Feb 2008.

2 & 3 Hugh Sharman, Why wind power works in Denmark.

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GK
May 25, 2009 1:32 am

I would like to add – regarding the “hydrogen economy”
If you burn H2 in cars, the exhaust output is not CO2 as in regular fuels, but H20 – water. That might make your average greenie moron swoon with delight, except that they dont realise that H20 is many many many times stronger a greenhouse gas than C02. If you believe in AGW, then the WORST thing you can put into the atmosphere is water vapor, and that is exactly what Hydrogen fuel will do.

Neil Jones
May 25, 2009 1:34 am

“One of the mysteries of our time is how impossible it is to interest people in the mind-boggling sums cited by governments all over the world as the cost of the measures they wish to see taken to “stop climate change”
This article might make an interesting read http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5374207/Climate-Change-Act-Now-the-world-faces-its-biggest-ever-bill.html

Chris Wood
May 25, 2009 1:40 am

The Greens oppose technical progress because it is necessary to destroy it as part of their political agenda to destroy capitalism and globalization. Green Peace ceased to be an environmental group a long time ago. It merely uses the environment as a cover.

Ken S
May 25, 2009 2:06 am

Ralph,
Clearly a heartfelt, passionate argument for the continuation of a civilization on the basis of a strong requirement for and dependence on continuous and reliable supplies of energy. It would be good to see an inclusion of Solar in this exposition, if only to lay out the differences that may exist, if any, as compared to Tidal or Wind.

Mike McMillan
May 25, 2009 2:16 am

Ok, so nuclear power has got a bad name through Chernobyl
Last count I heard was 56 fatalities, mostly the gutsy guys who went in to fight the fire. The whole area is now a nature preserve, and nature doesn’t seem to mind the radiation level, which has dropped significantly.

Ghillie
May 25, 2009 2:28 am

What a clear, succinct and erudite essay, written in a style that everyone can understand. It is just the sort of article to help counter some of the unopposed lunacy we face in coming years. Ralph Ellis should – and has a responsiblity to – send it to every mainsteam paper in UK and to the Sundays too for publication as an article rather than a letter. But perhaps he has and it has been spiked – that would be no surprise in these days of selective information management.
Small point – Is the date at the bottom correct?

Julian Braggins
May 25, 2009 2:40 am

No argument from me, a very sensible outline of the power predicaments. Thorium might have got a mention, inherantly stable , on paper, more of the raw material than uranium and less long term waste disposal problems (but we have safe solutions already for uranium) but have yet to see a working prototype. I read that the head of Germany’s power production resigned over the impossibility of integrating the 17% of their power produced by wind into the grid for the same reasons that Denmark has, the need for spinning backup to equal it.

May 25, 2009 2:41 am

When it comes to nuclear fission energy production we absolutely DO NOT want to produce Bugattis and Ferraris. Try Hondas and Toyotas .

Gianfranco
May 25, 2009 2:43 am

interesting!
and the problem of nuclear waste? how to be addressed?

Caleb
May 25, 2009 2:48 am

I admire that phrase, “A technical Taliban.” It puts things in a nut-shell, and nicely fits a bumper sticker.
Due to an icestorm, much of my town went without power for over a week last December, and I can tell you it was no picnic. Once pipes started to freeze people lost their sense of humor, and when the cheap generators started burning out, (for they were never designed to run non-stop for days, ) a certain grimness filled all faces. I can now joke about everyone having “bad hair days,” and about children wishing school would open once they realized computers didn’t work, but at the time all life was reduced to just-getting-by. After getting wood for a fire, and chopping through ice to get water for the toilet, and heating brook-water for washing, and driving twenty miles to find a gas station that worked and to buy bottled water, little time was left for anything else. Tempers got short. And when the power finally came back on, gratitude was huge.
Environmentalism is given a bad name by the Eco-Taliban. In many ways they remind me of pot-headed Hippies I knew back in 1969:
While living in the lap of luxury at college the Hippies would criticize their parents, inventing reasons they couldn’t work the jobs their parents worked, and dreaming up marijuana-inspired “alternative lifestyles” which sounded like fun, when discussed while stoned out of their gourds. However once they attempted to make the “alternative lifestyles” real, all sorts of problems surfaced, and communes which began with high ideals swiftly disintegrated into nasty quarrels about who should wash the dishes, and where the funds were going to come from if no one worked. On the sly, most were secretly writing their parents, “Send money.” In the end the Hippies either broke down and compromised their high ideals by getting a “real job,” or they found some way to stay in college.
When in a cynical mood I feel it is the ones who never left college who are attempting to run the show, these days. There are certain fundamental facts they somehow have never gotten around to facing.

gary gulrud
May 25, 2009 3:01 am

Alarmist, five years ago!

M White
May 25, 2009 3:04 am

“The (WELSH) government development plans, which are legally binding, are far in advance of anything planned for England or Scotland and would see it become energy self-sufficient in using renewable electricity within 20 years and reduce waste to zero by 2050.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/may/22/wales-energy-efficient-plans
“We are committed to making annual 3% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from 2011”
Wales, part of the United Kingdom with a population of just under 3 million

Mikkel
May 25, 2009 3:05 am

Hi
With regards to the Danish wind-carpet could you please provide a link/source? Don’t get me wrong. As a Dane myself I am fully aware of the problems associated with wind and am by no measure a fan of the way it is being utilized as of the moment. But 54 days at that low production does not resonate with the data available in from the Danish authorities which provide data for the production on an hourly basis. Thus, just curious as for you source?
On a different but related note I have an ambivalent view on not only the supporters of wind power/’green power’ but also the opponents. Without a doubt wind power is a lot more expensive than many other forms of energy. However as a liberal in terms of economics I also support the view that efficiency is not the controlling parameter for whether a product belongs in the marketplace. Sure price is important but we all know that a lot of products we use every day is not ‘efficient’ in a strict economic sense. We wear shirts and jeans which cost more than the cheapest available. We don’t eat the cheapest food. We don’t drive the most cost effective car and so on. We let so many other parameters influence our choices which is a good thing – after all we are humans and not homus economicus. My problem with wind power is that opponents to wind shouldn’t be ‘fighting’ the implementation of wind but instead the way it’s being done. Rather than government subsidies directly or in the form of tax reductions it should be possible for consumers to purchase the kind of power they would like. Obviously there is a demand for ‘green’-energy. Well then let people be able to sign up for ‘expensive’ power and pay twice the price for their electricity. I couldn’t care less what my neighbor pays for his electricity as long as he has a choice. If he e.g. lives in California let him pay the added cost of the product he demands and there will be a supply from wind farms on the coast or from solar plants in Nevada where they are able to ‘store’ energy in salt-silos and thus address one of the issues of reliability of the energy-source. Again sure it is more expensive but as I don’t care if people shop for their clothes in Walmart or on Rodeo Drive I don’t have a problem with ‘greenies’ putting their own money where their mouth is. Only problem it is not possible as it is today because of how the energy markets are designed with Government having way to much influence. We all should know how that inevitably distorts markets and supply/demand mechanisms. Not an easy task due to the nature of the product (energy) which is futile and hard to store. The storage problem can be worked on however. In Nevada, Spain and Germany the use heated salt as a medium for storing energy. In Sweden and Norway the use wind power to pump water back up into higher grounds so that hydropower can be used more reliably. All more expensive forms of energy-production for sure, but again who cares as long as there is a market based demand for the products, where some consumers based on whatever ‘logic’ attributes ‘quality’ to that form of power-generation.
In terms of politics the advantage of a ‘market’ based discussion instead of the current pro/against one is that it will clearly demonstrate to the greenies if in fact people are willing to pay for the energy or not. It will in fact shift their focus to addressing people and consumers rather than lobbying behind closed dors with government.
Slightly off topic for which I apologize. More on topic I support the idea that more nuclear plants be build. Great angle that it is done to ‘alleviate’ the Chinese coalminers of their sufferings. Now who could argue with that? Opposing nuclear energy due to ‘fear’ of local death and destruction is in a sense supporting exporting IRL perils to the poor coalminers in China, South Africa, Columbia etc..
Sorry for misspellings and bad language. And thanks to Anthony and contributors for a great blog which is enjoyed regularly.

Supercritical
May 25, 2009 3:10 am

Anthony,
Given the sentiments expressed in your preface, I would welcome a short article, or series, on all of the more outlandish concepts for energy generation and storage or sourcing that are being generated.
One of my favourites is the possibilty of recombining CO2 and H20 to form methane, by making use of the enormous pressures and temperatures at the mid-ocean thermal vents.
But there may be a huge number of similar kinds of interesting speculative ideas, which at the least may give us some hopefull discussion as a couterbalance to the undeniable eeyorism of the ‘greens’.

M White
May 25, 2009 3:10 am

Straight from the horse’s mouth
http://wales.gov.uk/news/latest/090522sdscheme/?lang=en
“First Minister Rhodri Morgan today said all parts of Welsh society will have to play their part to fashion a sustainable future and a Wales fit for generations to come.”

Perry Debell
May 25, 2009 3:12 am

Within the boat building industry, they’ve been wrestling with the problems of providing electrical power afloat for many years. On page 38 of Professional Boat Builder http://www.proboat-digital.com/proboat/e20090607/ one will find an article by Nigel Calder, in which he describes his efforts to advance the cause of full personal comfort at maximum efficiency. See also page 136 http://www.proboat-digital.com/proboat/e20081011/
In his article, Nigel makes reference to previous articles he has written, on the subject, all of which can be retrieved via the Archive button. They are a “must read”. Granted it doestake money to purchase the equipment that would enable a family to come off the national grid, whilst still retaining all the mod cons, but the method is described in detail and were I considering building a new house, then making full use of every amp of self generated electricity and every BTU of fuel I would gather for heating and cooking would be properly assessed on a cost benefit basis and not using the calculations of Mann, Steig, Santer, Hansen and the rest of nutters who want to bankrupt the world economies.
Fuel prices were once set by business considerations. Now those prices are controlled by corrupt politicians to have power over the population. How long will it be before we have laws that demand all types of fuel are purchased from state owned owned suppliers and no, you cannot gather fallen branches anymore either!
Are our 800-year-old rights to gather firewood for the chop?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/28/9

Nick Luke
May 25, 2009 3:14 am

Hmmmm, Nice essay. Just to add to the nay-saying on pumped storage; Mr Ellis didn’t emphasise the point that in a pump-storage energy cycle, the reserves have to be repenished a the same time as the primary source is again taking the load. Again this means installing much larger primary capacity than would otherwise be the case. If the primary source has only enough capacity either re-fill the tank or meet the load what use is that?

JamesG
May 25, 2009 3:21 am

Some very good points are made, especially with hydrogen but, as usual, there is a tendency to go too far in making those points:
1. The costs of wind or underground storage are as nothing compared to nuclear plants, particularly decommissioning costs. Sellafield is being decommissioned now and the costs are spiraling out of control – the latest estimate being 80 billion. And just ask Norwegians how they feel about nuclear reprocessing from the Thorpe plant. Many other plants need decommissioned too as well as the massive and costly operation to build new plants. There just isn’t the money, which will soon be realized by the powers that be! There is a place for nuclear – particularly the newer designs and the Thorium plants but there is a very good argument for diversity too, particularly if your main worry is domination by the fuel suppliers.
2. Nobody, not even the EU, has suggested that wind power be the number one provider of electricity so all of the scary scenarios suggested are just not applicable. If wind forms between 20% – and experience suggests 20% is a good minimum assumption for several countries because you just don’t get doldrums on most windmill sites. As such very windy sites are limited it naturally limits windmill expansion anyway. Look at the Danish wind energy website: they have a FAQ which points out some of the basic accountancy errors that are made too often by journos and economists.
3. Those blackouts talked about arose under fossil fuels domination. There is an odd idea going around that coal plants are flexible to cope with demand. Well they aren’t! You get around these problems by anticipating demand and oversupplying.
4. There are significant gains to be made by geothermal heating which is still in its infancy. If we spent money on that instead of being obsessed with buying a new car every year – perhaps even with low interest credit then the money wouldn’t be an issue. Imagine if every new house was forced to install it and hence be forced to suffer at least 50% savings on heating/cooling costs.

Allen63
May 25, 2009 3:26 am

Agree with the article.
Nuclear is cheaper than coal, available, safe, clean and raw fuel is abundant (for a one or two thousand years into the future). The amount proposed to be collected by Cap&Trade over the next 8 years would pay for all the plants needed in the USA.
If, as the greens say, “we let the science decide”, then Nuclear is a “no brainer” — if one is serious about sustainable energy, AGW, and/or the environment.

Frederick Davies
May 25, 2009 3:28 am

“Technological Taliban”: now that is a catchy phrase.
This article in very instructive concerning the practical problems of energy generation and the need for a renewed investment in nuclear energy, but the author should read “The Ultimate Resource 2” by Julian Simon before saying utterly stupid things like “history demonstrates that new sources of raw materials were never actively planned until the old sources were in desperately short supply or worked-out completely”. For example, the move from coal-power to oil-power did not happen because we were running out of coal, or because coal was in “desperately short supply”, it was done because oil products were more efficient and could be transported more easily. The “resources are finite” meme needs to be put out of its misery once and for all!

Telboy
May 25, 2009 3:33 am

Interesting post which sets out clearly the drawbacks associated with renewable energy sources, but perhaps overly pessimistic about the availability of oil in the future in the light of Steven Goddard’s post on this site titled ‘ Energy Availability Is Almost Infinite’

3x2
May 25, 2009 3:37 am

I see this problem with many greens, the inability to see scale. The eyes, of those I have met at least, glaze over once you get much past ‘mega’. It is as though they see ‘mega’ as being a big number and therefore enough.
I find it difficult to get them past that and into 9, 12 or 15 zero’s. So that when you get to a UK reasonable 350, 000, 000, 000, 000 W the ‘green fuse’ has blown and they are in arm waving spasms. The conversation at that point has shifted from practical supply problems to rationing and a move to some kind of fantasy green future.

Sam the Skeptic
May 25, 2009 3:49 am

I latched onto the phrase “technological Taleban” as well. Very useful!
Some more in-depth articles on nuclear power would be helpful. There seems to be a variety of views around as to whether storage and clean-up is or is not going to be a problem in future years.
I know that decommissioning costs for the current generation are sizeable but I have read somewhere that the next generation will be able to re-use fuel until it virtually ceases to exist.
It looks to me as if the eco-fascists arguments against nuclear power are based on the fact that it *is* clean, cheap and reliable.
Wasn’t it Ehrlich who said, “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”? As far as I recall he never explained why that should be.

3x2
May 25, 2009 4:14 am

JamesG (03:21:50) :
Sellafield is being decommissioned now and the costs are spiraling out of control – the latest estimate being 80 billion.

Which looks like a bargain next to carbon taxes. It also assumes that having discovered this hidden cost in older reactor designs new designs will make the same mistake.
“In the US, the latest costing of President Obama’s “cap and trade” Bill is $1.9 trillion, a yearly cost to each US family of $4,500.” Decommissioning just looks better all the time. Defrayed across the life of the reactor (let’s say 30 years) even 80 billion per reactor looks like very good value for money in comparison.

JamesG
May 25, 2009 4:22 am

I’m convinced the future is in gas anyway: Much cleaner, more efficient efficient and abundant whether natural or by gasification of coal/shale or garbage. And cheaper than digging for a lot of the 200 to 500 years worth of coal that is uneconomic just now. It should even be possible to easily extract the CO2 by gasification. Then all you need do is find a market for it. Let’s see: You can force it down stripper wells to get oil out, you can force feed super greenhouses with it to feed the coming food demand, use it to displace water in quick-setting flexible concretes, use in the new breed of HFC refrigerators…Indeed there are some reasons to expect to make money out of CO2.

DaveF
May 25, 2009 4:29 am

Could one of your highly-qualified contributors write an essay examining the possibilities of geothermal energy, please?

Alex
May 25, 2009 4:38 am

Apparently Nuclear Fusion is the best, as Nuclear Fission generates radioactive wastes, whilst Fusion does not. The main problem with Fusion which prevents it from becoming the next best energy source is that the reactants must be in total suspension to release maximum energy, and since levitation is currently not an option, experiments with Fusion have not released more energy out than in due to the contact between reactants and container.
OT News (but very important for the solar junkies): The Solaemon page has *finally* been updated with some great graphics regarding the evolution of the current solar cycle’s activity (SC23). http://users.telenet.be/j.janssens/Engwelcome.html

May 25, 2009 4:44 am

oh gee whiz. Let me see if I have this straight:
“Renewable energy will need to be reliable.”
Doh.

David Wells
May 25, 2009 4:50 am

Hi, the CEO of Eon in the UK has made it quite clear that we will need to install extra fossil fuel powered generation equivalent to a minimum of 95% of the maximum capacity of wind turbines in the UK which will be running 100% of the time burning precious gas to cope with the extreme variability of wind powered generation but only producing electricity when the wind turbines are not. This begs the question why not just forget wind turbines and use gas anyway?
The overriding reason for having wind turbines in the first place was to avoid producing more Co2, the Danes have admitted that in the time that they have had wind turbines not one single fossil fuel power station has been closed and in order to cope with the extreme variability of wind power they have in fact produced more Co2 because they have needed to keep more fossil fuel power generation on line to avoid blowing up the grid.
In a government report they have also admitted that whilst wind turbines did generate some electricity 80% of it went to Germany and Norway at zero cost to them, given away. But I return to my main point the unique selling point for wind power was a reduction in Co2 to avoid catastrophic climate change and on this prime issue wind power is a complete and utter failure so why are we in the UK intending to spend over £400 bn (Ed Milibands website) on this daft unproven technology.
There are maybe three reasons why human will become extinct, 1, we will increase population to the extent that we will deny ourselves the habitat to sustain life, 2, our climate could get colder and a drop of 3c will be sufficient to remove all means of sustaining life (when this last occurred in Europe people were eating their children) by comparison getting a little warmer is not a challenge, 3, when oil just tips over the top and deliverable production declines by just 1% that will signify the end of our existence as we know it, your house will be worth zero, those that will survive will most likely be in Africa where they can grow and eat what they grow because in the UK we rely on 42 ton trucks running on diesel, overnight Tesco will disappear.
Forget about arguing over whether or not the planet will heat up think about how we manage being without oil because its 95% of who we are and what we enjoy. Remember every wind turbine rotor blade weighs in at 6.5 tons and its all made from oil derived product and tell me when oil runs out, bearing in mind that wind turbines have a half life of maybe ten years, less at sea where 25% of the time they are out of production due to failure or maintenance, without oil how do they get serviced and replaced? Barges and cranes to my knowledge need a little diesel!
Just to finish, precisely why we feel we deserve to survive in anycase is beyond me, we do not have domain over this planet and maybe one of the most decent things we could do is to shut down Mcdonalds and then just maybe some of the Amazon would remain intact so even if we fail to survive maybe some life inherently more attractive and less destructive might. That at least would be some legacy for decades of destruction and devotion to the immortal hamburger!

Jack Simmons
May 25, 2009 4:52 am

Many readers here will appreciate the story found here:
http://www.i2i.org/main/page.php?page_id=248
MSM is quite shy about discussing such things as actual costs of these systems. The article referred to above states:

ELECTRIC BILLS NOT ON EXHIBIT AT DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE
How efficient are the solar panels that were inspected by President Obama? The Denver Museum of Science isn’t telling. But you are helping to foot the bill for the solar array that won’t pay for itself until the year 2118.
by Todd Shepherd
Before signing the $787 billion stimulus package into law on Feburary 17, 2009, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden toured an array of solar panels on top of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The photo-op allowed the President to once again extol the virtues of the coming “green” economy.
According to the Denver Post’s article on the event, “The sun generates enough energy on the museum rooftop to power about 30 homes.” However, that claim cannot be verified at this time, and in fact, seems to be belied by the scant information provided by the museum and other sources.[1] Laura Holtman, Public Relations Manager for the Museum said in an email, “Because the array generates less than 5 percent of the Museum’s power, [the purchased energy] is not a particularly large bill.”
The Independence Institute asked the Denver Museum of Science and Nature to provide certain statistical information regarding the now-famous solar array. Specifically, the Institute asked for:
1 ) Two years worth of electric bills prior to the installation of the solar array,
2 ) All electric bills following the completion of the installation.
The Museum denied those requests.
The solar array is not owned by the Museum, however. It is owned by Hybrid Energy Group, LLC. HEG owns the solar array, sells the electricity to the Museum, and receives tax incentives from the state and federal governments, while also receiving “rebates” from Xcel Energy. The rebates are funded by a surcharge collected on the monthly bill of every Colorado Xcel customer.
A 2008 article in the Denver Business Journal sheds further light on the subject. The article notes the total price of the solar array was $720,000. And Dave Noel, VP of operations and chief technology officer for the Museum, was quoted as saying, “We looked at first installing [the solar array] ourselves, and without any of the incentive programs, it was a 110-year payout.” Noel went on to say that the Museum did not purchase the solar array because it did not “make sense financially.”
Additionally, most solar panels have an expected life-span of 20 to 25 years.
So how can Hybrid Energy Group afford to own a solar array that not even the museum would buy? In part, HEG gets “rebates” from Xcel’s “Solar Rewards” program. The Solar Rewards program is a response to Colorado voters passing Amendment 37 in 2004. The Amendment mandated that Colorado utilities procure a certain percentage of their power generation from renewable resources like wind and solar.
“Amendment 37 really should have been called a tax,” said Independence Institute President Jon Caldara. “And it would have been interesting to see whether it would have passed if the ballot language had started off with the phrase, ‘shall there be an increase in energy taxes?’ For those of you who are Xcel customers, look at your bill and find the line that says ‘Renew. Energy Std. Adj.’ Then realize that you are paying this “adjustment” to buy solar panels which the museum has admitted that without any government subsidization wouldn’t pay for themselves until the year 2118.”
(click to enlarge)
HEG also uses state and federal tax “incentives” in order to be able to own a $720,000 solar array that produces such a minute cash flow, compared to the rest of the Museum’s monthly power expenses.
The fact that solar energy may currently only be viable due to engineering of the tax code means that citizens may not have all the information when weighing the costs of “green” projects, says Barry Poulson, Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado, and Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute.
“Colorado citizens need to know that these policies will result in a significant dislocation of our industries, a fall in income and employment, and rising costs to consumers. These burdens will fall primarily on low income families. Nowhere in these proposals for a ‘new Energy Economy’ is there any discussion of the costs that these policies will impose on Colorado citizens.”
[1] Additionally, the claim in the Post article that “The sun generates enough energy on the museum rooftop to power about 30 homes,” is regretfully lacking a crucial time context. Does the power for 30 homes last one hour, one day, one week, one month?

There was much fanfare in the Denver Post about a windmill installed in Weld County Colorado for a school. It discussed everything except the initial cost and pay back period. Of course the author did not understand the difference between kilowatt and kilowatt-hr. One of the chief characteristics of media writers regarding science and engineering is they do not understand basics such as units of measure. This is part of problem, but then again, perhaps it makes it easier to control them when they are ignorant. I wrote a letter to the author requesting clarification on terms used and what the costs were. No response. Obviously I’m one of ‘them’, just a trouble maker not getting with the program and undermining the ‘unity’ of the country.

Johnnyb
May 25, 2009 4:54 am

Trouble with making energy policy political is that the technical issues are so far beyond the pay grade of the average citizen it is not possible to have a rational discussion.

Jack Simmons
May 25, 2009 5:04 am

On nuclear waste, see how France has dealt with the matter:
http://www.terrestrialenergy.org/blog/

And so at last we find ourselves standing in that one room in La Hague, the place where the French keep all the nuclear waste from 25 years of producing 80 percent of their electricity beneath the floor. I have thought about this room for months. Now I am standing in it.
It is a bit larger than I imagined. Somehow I had seen it as about the size of a small visitors center. Instead it is more like a large basketball gymnasium. Still, it’s one large room. In the floor there are about 40 manhole covers stenciled with Areva’s triangular logo. All are so tightly sealed with no visible handles it seems impossible they could ever be removed.
They’re magnetized, Naugnot explains. He points to the ceiling. “See this large how do you say it in English.
Gantry?
Yes, gantry. There’s a magnetized crane that removes them. Inside the plug there’s another cap with handles. The crane can grasp them as well. The canisters are very small. There’s room for six in each ring. They’re stacked six-deep beneath the floor. The total material stored here for each French citizen is ten grams about the weight of a two-Euro coin.
And that’s it, the sum total of what the French call les dechets their nuclear waste. Even this storage is only temporary. The material can be retrieved any time the French Parliament decides that recycling of more radioactive isotopes is economical. The entire environmental footprint of 25 years of producing the France’s electricity, the equivalent of all those sulfur sludge piles and billions of tons of carbon dioxide hurled into the atmosphere is right here beneath my feet. The French have proved in practice what we can only say in theory – there is no such thing as nuclear waste.

Alberto
May 25, 2009 5:05 am

Oil is a renewable energy. If not used is spilled at sea, and by the action of microbes concludes that methane. It is a true air pollutant.

esin
May 25, 2009 5:16 am

Ironically, it was Clinton/Gore that killed off the IFR project (with prejudice) immediately after its second successful demonstration of the ability to reprocess fuel, generate excess heat (for, say, breaking down water) while Not requiring of Any cooling capacity…
Fuel for 50,000 homes, for a year, would result in a thimble full of waste with a half life of 200 yr.s… once vitrified, easily disposed of into the caverness depths of the oceans… (1000 yrs. of the US Total energy needs would not noticably raise the Oceans’ ambient levels)
Thus, I blame the Demicans as much as the corruption of the Republicrats for putting the US and the rest of the industrialized nations of the world at the brink of civilization’s demise.
There is No problem facing humanity that we could not overcome with an abundant source of cheap energy. This, however, does not appear to be the goal of our leaders or rather, the few that actually direct those ‘leaders’ strings.

JohnF
May 25, 2009 5:16 am

Paper where some of this data on wind appears to come from
http://www.glebemountaingroup.org/documents/DanishLessons.pdf

Stefan
May 25, 2009 5:18 am

Why do we feel we have a right to survive?! Because Nature made us and nature set us in competition with every other species, just like anything else in nature is in competition for existance. A virus could wipe us out tomorrow. But with us nature created something new, a monkey that could think complex thoughts and develop complex technology and culture. And that has allowed us to lighten our footprint and reduce our damage. And the more humans are born the further we can evolve. So recently we have become advanced enough to feel for the environment consciously, something which no other species is able to do. Repeat, no species is able to consciously live a green lifestyle, except us. And yet we imagine we are the problem. We can desire more diversity, but nature’s drive is also towards more intelligence.

Richard111
May 25, 2009 5:22 am

M White (03:04:05) :
Regarding the stampede to a green future is Wales, be aware that the largest gas powered generating station in the UK is under contruction near Pembroke Dock.

GaryB
May 25, 2009 5:29 am

Well stated. Thank you for that summary. I am only too aware of all of the topics you mentioned, and I’m shocked that the rest of the world is not. A few observations of my own:
1. I truly believe that the majority of the citizens of the US are unaware of the complexities of power generation and dissemination. They simply believe that “green is good” and “renewable is good”, and that if Obama and his minions say it will work, it will work. I’m more afraid that Obama and his minions actually think it will work! I went to a seminar once hosted by the outgoing President of a huge power company in the SouthEast USA. He raised each one of the points you mentioned, and shot them down for the same reasons. He also came to the simple conclusion that nuclear power, done right, was the only solution for a consistent, clean, ong-term energy supply. I have come to the same conclusion.
2. I got it into my head one day to build a wind turbine in my back yard. I found some great plans on the web and began to consider how I would collect the parts. However, I sat out on my deck one evening….and realized there was no wind. For days afterwards I watched. While some days were windy (obviously), for the most part it was fairly calm. Plus the wind would start, then stop, then start…etc. I figured much of the wind power would go into just getting the turbines running again, and once they began…the wind would stop and the turbines would grind to a halt. Needless to say, I scratched that idea off of the list of honeydos.
3. In my own household, when the electricity goes out for even an hour or two…panic sets in. While manageable during the summer (more an inconvenience), it is a potentially life threatening situation in the cold of the winter. Most homes these days are not built to be warmed by the cheap fireplaces that are currently installed. Reliable, consistent energy is a necessity in todays world. Without it, there indeed will be unrest and unnecessary deaths.

Steven Goddard
May 25, 2009 5:39 am

Ralph,
Good discussion of the problems with renewables. However, I can’t get on board with the fission and particularly the breeder idea.
A friend of mine used to have a bumper sticker “A little nukie never hurt anyone.” Iran has been using their “right to fission power” as a cover to build a bomb, which is probably just a few months away. They have done this with the help of Russia. North Korea blew up a nuclear weapon yesterday. The EMP from one nuclear bomb could do massive damage to the infrastructure of a multi-million square mile region.
We have enough coal to last hundreds of years – plenty of time to get fusion energy everywhere. The AGW panic is driving formerly sane countries towards suicide.

H.R.
May 25, 2009 5:43 am

@David Wells (04:50:17) :
You wrote in part: “[…} and maybe one of the most decent things we could do is to shut down Mcdonalds and then just maybe some of the Amazon would remain intact so even if we fail to survive maybe some life inherently more attractive and less destructive might. That at least would be some legacy for decades of destruction and devotion to the immortal hamburger!”
Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t get the connection between McDonalds and the destruction of the Amazon. Please explain, & thank you in advance.
P.S. What you said re just going straight to and sticking with gas; good point.

May 25, 2009 5:47 am

Thank you all for your comments, which I will attempt to answer.
.
>>send it to every mainsteam paper in UK
>>Small point – Is the date at the bottom correct?
Yes, every media outlet has had this article on numerous occasions, to no avail as yet.
And yes, the 2004 date on the article is correct – I was well ahead of the game, I think. It is surprising that the article has not needed amending over all this time, and we are still steam-rollering towards a Green Armageddon.
.
.
>>With regards to the Danish wind-carpet could you
>>please provide a link/source?
Here it is. This is an interesting paper, and it deserves very close and detailed reading. Clearly, the Danish experiment with wind-power has been a complete disaster, but you would never know that from Green media articles. I also hear that there have been a number of maintenance and mechanical failure issues recently with these vast offshore arrays, and it is looking like they will not last very long (or become even more hugely expensive to run).
http://www.thomastelford.com/journals/DocumentLibrary/CIEN.158.2.66.pdf
.
.
>>It would be good to see an inclusion of Solar in
>>this exposition, if only to lay out the differences
>>that may exist, if any, as compared to Tidal or Wind
Perhaps I should. I left it out because solar plainly does not work in the UK. (A colleague has tripled his electrical usage and energy costs, because of a solar heating system that does not work 200 days a year and an overly idealistic decision to delete the original a heating system).
But if you have traveled through the Mediterranean, it is obviously a good idea for water heating requirements in these areas, and nearly every flat and house has a simple roof-top system – but do take a shower in the evening rather than the morning.
However, for electrical generation we still have the problem of storage, and there is no known system which can store the kinds of power requirements that a country needs during night hours (or, indeed, several days of overcast).
.
.
>>interesting!
>>and the problem of nuclear waste? how to be addressed?
Due to Green pressure and protest, we seem to be happy with all this waste sitting in open ponds on the west coast of the UK. If it is perfectly acceptable to all and sundry to have high-level nuclear waste in open ponds, why do we not just bury it? It would be much safer, I am sure (except in Green logic).
The granite of Cumbria (the region with the Selafield reprocessing facility) would be quite appropriate for burial, especially if the plan included a great underground concrete bunker too.
.
.
>>Alarmist, five years ago!
Its been a long struggle of faith vs reason. I regard this as an equivalent of the 18th century Enlightenment Era, and that battle was not won overnight either.
.
.
>>but perhaps overly pessimistic about the availability of
>>oil in the future in the light of Steven Goddard’s post
I have a distrust of those nice symmetric graphs of oil reserves. The upslope contains all the world’s most massive oil fields, while the downslope will contain a miriad of worthless puddles. I think the downslope will be much steeper than portrayed, and thus we may well be at Peak Oil (the maximum supply that the world can extract per day – not the end of total reserves).
.
.
>>Obviously there is a demand for ‘green’-energy. Well then
>>let people be able to sign up for ‘expensive’ power and pay
>>twice the price for their electricity.
Yes, but only if they swear never to use ANY electricity on days when no renewable power is available. ie, an overcast mid-winter anti-cyclone over the UK, when there is no solar, wind or wave energy available. As they shiver in their homes, they may hopefully rediscover the rational world.
.
.
>>Nobody, not even the EU, has suggested that wind power
>>be the number one provider of electricity so all of the scary
>>scenarios suggested are just not applicable.
They have made a target of 40% renewables, and the main pillar of renewables is wind power (anyway, wave and solar suffer from the same shortcomings as wind). This is the proportion of unreliable energy supply that will definitely bring down entire grids.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3322590/EU-sets-UK-ambitious-green-energy-target.html
And you are greatly mistaken about so-called ‘windy sites’. There is no such thing. When the UK has a large anti-cyclone, the whole country can be effected for days or even weeks, as the data from Denmark above makes clear. Likewise the diurnal land-sea effects, which will switch off the wind like clockwork twice a day.
Take a look at the following PDF. All the wind generating sites across the UK (indeed, across Europe) are in step with one another. When one loses power, they all lose power (and 15 to 20% load factor will not run a nation). There is no such thing as a reliable wind.
http://www.ref.org.uk/Files/wind.overview.2007.(ii).pdf
.

Les Francis
May 25, 2009 5:51 am

Eco Taliban
Technological Taliban
Two terms that must be bookmarked

David L. Hagen
May 25, 2009 5:52 am

Making renewable energy cost effective and capital efficient is vitally imporant.
Alvarez et al. show that Spain’s recent subsidy of renewable energy destroyed an average of 2.2 jobs for every “green” job created in renewable energy.
Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources Gabriel Calzada Alvarez, et al., Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, March 2009 draft.
The subsidy for photovoltaics destroyed 9 jobs for each renewable job created. Spain’s unemployment soared to 17.4% in 1st Quarter 2009.
Concentrating solar thermal power is the most cost effective solar energy.
BrightSource Energy has increased the net efficiency of power tower systems to 40%.

BrightSource’s tower systems take advantage of the most efficient steam turbine generators, and the company’s initial projects in California are rated at 540°C to 560°C and 140 to 160 bar with a net cycle efficiency of 40%.

Now to bring costs down below conventional power by mass production etc.
Greenhouse issues are negligible compared with the tsunami of global peaking of light oil.
The critical issue we must urgently address is developing alternative fuels fast enough to compensate for the projected 6%/year decline in light oil exports.
See A Quantitative Assessment of Future Net Oil Exports by the Top Five Net Oil Exporters
We need to focus on TRANSPORT Energy and liquid fuels, not “energy” per se. Last year’s tripling of oil prices showed that we don’t have “30 years” till peaking. ALL oil importing countries are already in deep trouble.

Daniel C. Smith
May 25, 2009 5:53 am

I wish the article could be published in every mainstream newspaper. One of the more chuckle headed state legislators in Minnesota owns several acres of pristine rural property near the border with Wisconsin. She and her husband erected a wind turbine on their property (construction costs: tax deductible) and use it to power their small hobby farm. The state permits them to sell surplus power at retail rates to the utility company, which is obligated to buy them. On the basis of these subsidized activities, the legislator has written she doesn’t understand why we don’t just power the entire state with wind power. As I said, her scientific understanding is at a fourth grade level. Perhaps she might one day read a paper such as this which will explode her fantasy balloon.

Steven Goddard
May 25, 2009 5:58 am

Chernobyl made a huge mess and put millions of people at risk. Imagine if the wind had of been blowing across Germany towards London that day.
http://cerea.enpc.fr/polyphemus/applications/chernobyl_cs137-0325.png
Consider the devastation of a Polonium-210 dirty bomb. Remember Alexander Litvinenko?

David L. Hagen
May 25, 2009 6:01 am

David Mills shows that distributed solar energy can match the distributed load on the average.
A solar-powered economy: How solar thermal can replace coal, gas and oil
This reduces the level of energy storage required.

May 25, 2009 6:02 am

“this sublime day-dream…” This “day-dreaming” is a behaviour of pseudo-gods thinking the welfare of people but it never works that way, it does not matter how good intentions our beloving masters have, “way to hell is paved with good intentions”.
We have about 30 or so years before the shortage of oil
Absolutely wrong!. As long as we, organic beings, exist on earth there will be organic matter dying, decomposing, forming hydrocarbons. In the imaginary and fantastic case that this would not be the case then we can synthesize oil from carbon, as germans did in WWII.

May 25, 2009 6:06 am

This is like a never-ending-story nightmare that drives an engineer crazy. Our acquiescence to environmentalist-engineering can be said to have created the environmental problems that are now being raged about. The same crowd blocked nuclear energy back in the 70s or we would have little manmade CO2, mercury, sulphur, etc in the atmosphere. The long and short of it is, in terms of today’s arithmetic, Ralph is right, it is either nuclear or coal and in the latter, more and more we are hearing about CO2 sequestration.
Am I the only one who is terrified of the sequestration idea. Let’s look at some rough arithetic. CO2 “weighs” 2kg/m cubed and emissions from coal annually are somewhere near 20B mtpy (or soon will be), equivalent to 10 trillion cubic metres at STP per year. World reserves of natural gas are about 140 trillion cubic metres, so we will be putting out CO2 essentially for coal only, at the volume of the earth’s natural gas reserves every 15 years (and climbing). Now imagine pumping this amount into underground storage (lets not visit the problem of finding sufficient storage for such volumes) under high pressure and we will be building potentially some of the world’s biggest disasters for the future.
Accidents are apart of every manner of human indeavour. The very people who will be assuring us that it can be done safely are the ones who designed openings in coal mines that have collapsed, or oil and natural gas wells that have blown out of control and caught fire or unsinkable ships. With CO2, the accident could be spectacular or it could quietly leak out and fill a valley killing every living thing that isn’t a plant. It could push ground water, salt water, petroleum, natural gas, hydrogen sulphide out through fractures, leak into mines, basements, subways…. And who would be to blame? This would be another unhappy consequence of letting environmental extremists plan our futures for us. The electrical generating industry should either go ahead and weather the shrieking and sign waving and follow the only realistic options we have, or shut it down for a month until things quieten down

Roger
May 25, 2009 6:06 am

1. Extract – (Which makes it odd that the UK government have just sold Westinghouse to Toshiba of Japan, just as orders for new power stations are about to be signed.)
2. From comment – why are we in the UK intending to spend over £400 bn (Ed Milibands website) on this daft unproven technology.
We in the UK have already seen the extent of outrageous venality displayed by our Political masters, so it could not be considered unreasonable to monitor the Directorships of companies exploiting the above technologies and the carbon trading scam to discover whether any of the present incumbents in Parliament appear either on their boards or as advisors, as a reward for their duplicitous antisocial behaviour.

Bill Illis
May 25, 2009 6:17 am

Fusion power, as it is being currently developed, produces a lot of radiation just like fission reactions do since an extra neutron is released in the reaction.
They are using tritium (H-3 neutrons) and dueterium (H-2 neutrons) which results in a extra neutron being released when they combine to make He4.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3b/Deuterium-tritium_fusion.svg/260px-Deuterium-tritium_fusion.svg.png
It is very difficult to fuse normal Hydrogen (H-0 neutrons) unless you have the conditions inside a star or a fusion bomb. Inside a star, 4 Hydrogen atoms fuse to make He4 (with two of the protons changing into neutrons after the release of positrons and neutrinos).
The containment vessels for nuclear fusion will be extremely radioactive for a very long time but, I guess, the appropriate neutron-absorbing shielding will prevent the radiation from getting outside the containment or limiting the end-result radioactivity.

bsneath
May 25, 2009 6:23 am

His arguments are quite compelling. We can play around with new alternative energy technologies, but we must have massive investments in nuclear to bridge the energy gap from oil & gas to whatever it is that future development in technology provides.
With respect to the question of where do you store the nuclear waste, it can easily and safely be stored in the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Only environmental opponents, politics and leftist judges are preventing this site from being used.
Many will be shocked when their living standards plummet as the result of our need to compete for energy with the rest of the world. We will be competing with a weakened economy and currency. As a result, nearly everything, from food to clothing to shelter, will cost more due to a higher energy component.

John Egan
May 25, 2009 6:26 am

There’s even LESS extractable uranium than oil.
You may have overlooked the spike in yellowcake prices before the bust. Part was due to speculation, but another part was due to the limited amount of uranium that is easily mined. Seawater extraction talk is like fusion talk – hype and hope, but not much reality. And nuclear darlings like France hide the true costs of nuclear deep in secret government financing while shipping waste to places like Kazakhstan.
There is one energy source that will remain plentiful for the next few centuries, it right here in the United States, and has an evolving technology that has reduced pollutants 95% since the 1960s and will likely address CO2 in the near future, as well. One should not dismiss renewables in the mix. They make sense – as long as one is realistic about their potential contribution.
Similarly, one should not close down the current nuclear generating facilities, but to think that new nukes will be anything other than a massive black hole for money and a nightmare for waste disposal is to ignore history and to place the United States at greater risk.

Shawn Whelan
May 25, 2009 6:31 am

We just sold the farm to a guy that is going to convert it to solar power.
So that is hundreds of acres of good agricultural land out of production that will be producing heavily subsidized solar power. And you wonder why the economy is collapsing?
The US has huge new amounts of natural gas.
U.S. Gas Fields Go From Bust to Boom
By BEN CASSELMAN
CADDO PARISH, La. — A massive natural-gas discovery here in northern Louisiana heralds a big shift in the nation’s energy landscape. After an era of declining production, the U.S. is now swimming in natural gas.
Even conservative estimates suggest the Louisiana discovery — known as could hold some 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s the the Haynesville Shale, for the dense rock formation that contains the gas — equivalent of 33 billion barrels of oil, or 18 years’ worth of current U.S. oil production. Some industry executives think the field could be several times that size.
Full story – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124104549891270585.html

May 25, 2009 6:32 am

Interesting,
Very well written overview on energy obstacles we all face worldwide. Hydrogen is a partial answer, as is solar and wind, but not until a new approach is used to combine these clean green technologies together will we see a viable solution. What we have witnessed over the years is a battle of which is better. This is clearly motivated by self interest groups and this is why we have seen no total solution to date, just excuses.
Controlled hydrogen fusion is the answer as I have seen, but only when combined technologies are used will it become feasible from a cost basis. The problem with gov. overall is they cannot decide which direction to go, so they go nowhere fast. Subsidies are never consistant, here today, gone tomorrow, so this hinders investors to move forward in any one direction. It is not that there is no answer to our energy crisis, it is that there are no people in gov. who have a clue on how to encourage energy alteternatives, they just keep getting in the way by taking back pocket lobbyist money in U.S. which keeps true progress at bay. Witness the recent announcement from Chu who is pulling back funding for hydrogen development. The same old same old helter skepter approach is all we see in U.S. Now I wonder who paid him off. lol
If we saw the Feed In Tariff adopted worldwide, we would see true progress, not by the gov. funded labs, but by the true inventors of the world, the so called backyard inventors. This is where the billions should have been spent over the past couple decades, not to these major college labs which have accomplished nothing in all these years. It is about time all countries develop a universal adoption of Feed In Tariff which will allow a profit to be made by installing solar, wind and hydrogen generators in our homes and businesses. This is how you solve current energy issues. Soon the world will see a new hydrogen technology, a closed loop system, so no emissions at all which will satisfy all the greenies out there. Just a matter of time and many new hydrogen based systems will hit market, not mega plants, but compact units for every home and business. This is where the future in energy lies, not in fusion or fission mega power plants, but small units by the millions.

Mr Lynn
May 25, 2009 6:33 am

OT: Did you watch the Google-ad video at the top of this thread attacking hamburgers and cows as a cause of ‘global warming’? I suppose it’s ironic justice for these whackos to help pay for WUWT, but it’s disconcerting, nonetheless. I like hamburgers!
Re Gary Pearse (06:06:08) : on sequestration:
I too am fearful of the idea of pumping tons of compressed (liquified?) CO2 underground. While CO2 is a friendly, helpful gas (contrary to the alarmists), it can be suffocating in some circumstances. There was that lake in Africa that burped an invisible cloud of CO2 and killed everyone in a nearby village.
This sequestration idea is expensive, insane folly and must be stopped before it gets enshrined into law and regulation.
/Mr Lynn

Horace
May 25, 2009 6:39 am

Thorium fission reactors are interesting. Short half life, availability of fuel, can’t make bombs from the by-products. Guess the Indians on the sub-continent have got one sorta up and running . . .
http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/

Neil Jones
May 25, 2009 6:40 am

M White (03:04:05)
I’ll believe this when the Welsh cut their connection to the UK National Grid powered by Hydro, Nuclear, Wind (if you believe the fairy stories) and……wait for it……..COAL and GAS. There will be no Carbon fuelled power stations in Wales, they’ll just be running over the border in England and Scotland.
Talk about Spin and Drivel, Welsh Windbags strike again.

Johnnyb
May 25, 2009 6:46 am

Mr. Hagen,
I strongly agree with your conclusion that we should focus on transportation more than the electricity grid, per se, but much of the transportation needed on a daily basis could be provided with electricity in that trains and mass transits could be made to run off electricity. Ships can run off nuclear power, as well as coal, oil and even wind if you do not mind spending a few months at sea for a journey that would otherwise take a week or less.
High speed trains like they have in Europe or Japan are time competitive with jets out to about 300-500 miles depending how fast the train is, how many stops it make and how you calculate the time you spend in the airport before the plane is even loaded.
Cities could be designed better with smaller footprints so people could walk to where they want to go. Homes could be designed with the same yard area, and same square footage if they only built them taller, 3-4 story homes including dormers and basements would be nice, not sacrificing American standards of living or creating a “New York City” urban environment. Smaller cities in terms of area would make public transportation more usable and cost effective.
Smaller denser cities would also make it less expensive to add district heating and cooling capibilities, which would reduce costs for consumers overtime. Waste heat from powerplants could be used for industrial steam as well as residential heating and possibly cooling. While reducing the distance needed to be driven by those who choose not to use public transit.
Since WW2 American cities have been designed around the car. The car is not the problem, rather it is the design of American cities which are impractical to walk. Seeking a solution by merely focusing on designing different cars neglects the solution that could be created by designing different cities.

Pamela Gray
May 25, 2009 7:27 am

I am a firm believer in clean coal technologies and I seriously doubt that it will be ignored in the future. There is too much profit to be had by developing this in-house powerful and abundant energy source. For industrial purposes, I think market forces (regardless of who is in power) will turn that way eventually as well as continue to use hydro power. I also see cities and larger industrial complexes installing the smaller nuclear plants you see in subs and ships.
That said, I am quite happy using alternative sources of energy for my home and car. Solar lights, used cooking oil fuel for my car, heating, and cooking, whatever. However, right now I don’t find these sources to be of high quality or easily found. For example, solar powered porch lights, while bright enough, aren’t robust enough to handle winter weather. I bought two such lights, both with puny wiring from the solar panel to the light. One got through the winter, the other didn’t. It was the housing and wiring that was the weakest link. If you want the rank and file home owner/renter to use alternative sources, they have to be made rough and tough. I don’t mind changing light bulbs, but I do mind very much having to buy the whole enchilada every year. Bottom line, alternative energy such as would be used locally for residential purposes has to be reliable all the time, and has to last longer than a fortnight. If this would be the case, I don’t mind letting industry use hydro, nuclear, and coal fired electricity. After all, they provide jobs.

May 25, 2009 7:34 am

Of course there are conversion technologies for coal, the Fischer-Tropsch process is where it all started back in the 1920s. Coal can be easily converted to gas, or liquid transport fuel. If you are inteserested, one of the newset coal power plants, a “coal gasification” installation has now gone online outside TAMPA FL. Coal gasification brings with it cleaner burn and higher effeciency. Its the TECO Polk power plant. http://www.tecoenergy.com/news/powerstation/polk/
And as if by magic, the USA has about 25-30% of all the world’s coal reserves.
Last time I checked, in Europe, England and Germany also have massive coal reserves. Germany ran their WWII war effoert on coal conversion technology.

Greg
May 25, 2009 7:59 am

“The critical issue we must urgently address is developing alternative fuels fast enough to compensate for the projected 6%/year decline in light oil exports.”
This particular argument – we are running out of oil – has been around since I was a kid. We were always going to run completely out in 20-30 years. Of course those dates have come and gone several times over in my life.
When I was a college freshman in 1979 at UVa, I took an environmental sciences seminar for a single credit. There were about 30 of us young idealogical thinkers in the class, every one of which was certain we would be out of oil well before the year 2000. The seminar leader explained why that was not true. Some believed him, others remained steadfast that we were doomed.
The seminar leader was Fred Singer. Of course I’ve now read many times on sites like Real Climate that he is not to be trusted. But it seems to me like he was right about everything he said 30 years ago.

AnonyMoose
May 25, 2009 8:01 am

Renewable energy is fine, as long as only discretionary funds are being spent on it. The problems arise when money needed for essential services is diverted to wasteful spending. It’s OK to use entertainment money for gambling, but not OK to use mortgage money for gambling. And not OK to send the tax men out with guns to collect more money to replace what has been wasted.

Jim Papsdorf
May 25, 2009 8:14 am

Here is a little bit of sanity !!!!! US to go for a 5% cut in CO2 over 30 years vs the goal of 30% in 30 years per the EU.
May 22 (Bloomberg) — The European Union may have to scale back its goals to reduce global-warming emissions after a less- ambitious plan won initial approval in U.S. Congress.
The 27-nation bloc has asked all industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases an average 30 percent over 30 years. The first U.S. legislation ever to cap emissions, which passed a committee vote yesterday, calls for a 5 percent cut by American industry in the period. The gap poses a potential conflict when global talks on a new climate treaty resume June 1 in Bonn.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=al.muj4SD7u4&refer=home

Steve Keohane
May 25, 2009 8:17 am

I know from first-hand experience that PV systems are not cost effective. I had a 1KW array installed. Total cost $12,000, plus I rented and ran a backhoe and helped mix and pour cement, no truck access. The avg daily output is about 4.2 KW, so over twenty years, should it last so long, the system will produce 30.66 MegaWatts, which would cost $2452.80 with conventional generation at today’s prices. This is in Colorado, with 300 sunny days a year. Instead of paying 8 cents a KW, the array produces 39 cents/KW juice. I only did it as I was told the system would provide 100% of my electricity, instead of the 25% it actually does. I’m thinking of putting in a hydrogenerator in my creek, probably a bunch of 12V DC alternators I can put into the electronics from my PV array, also a 12V DC system.

Shr_Nfr
May 25, 2009 8:18 am

With regard to hydrogen in cars, it depends on the implementation. If you do it through fuel cells, yes, all you will get out is H20 more or less. If you burn the hydrogen in an internal combustion engine or turbine or other sort of thing that relies on heat production, you will produce NOx as a byproduct unless you also carry pure oxygen to burn the fuel.

Tom B.
May 25, 2009 8:30 am

re: Alarmist 5 years ago. Very interesting paper on the UK wind farms. I would actually be happy if I thought that the wind farms would in fact be 27% efficient. What I would like to see is an analysis of the ‘minimum’ average, where all the farms (looks like June-July) were at their minimum. Those are the numbers we would have to rely on. We don’t care how much they make at their peak, or at their overall average, the problem is the fact that at times they make dramatically less than that average….

Leon Brozyna
May 25, 2009 8:31 am

Once upon a time a visionary was a person with a possible solution to a perceived problem who worked mind-numbing hours to develop his vision and persuaded private citizens to invest in his vision. Oh, and everybody made money from that visionary.
Today’s visionary takes a shortcut – it’s his vision and our money. And how will his vision become real? Details, grubby details; let other mere mortals do the hard work of making his vision real. His is the vision and that is all that matters in the environmental circus.

May 25, 2009 8:33 am

I marvel constantly at the disconnect of people within the Oil vs Renewables Debate, there is currently no direct correlation with electrical generation via renewables and oil demand. PERIOD.
You are making a technological leap of faith to the electrified transporation system, by-passing all the requirements to get there. Then to make it worse as Mr Ellis points out oil is not just Petrol or Diesel there are several vitally important industrial chemicals and by-products of refining that will need to be replaced as well.
Bulding solar arrays and wind farms will not affect the oil demand unless you remake the transportation system, not just the light passenger vehicles but the WHOLE SYSTEM, trains, planes, trucks, everything.
In order to electrify the transportation system, at least up to all ground based (leave air travel aside) we will need to effectively double electrical generation ( unless you create a recharge curfew people will charge their vehicles whenever they want so the capacity has to be there) . We are chasing a rolling ball down an slope because we are not building electrical generation and infrastructure fast enough today to catch the ball but are demanding that we increase the incline exponentially.
We have a “peak electricity” issue coming fast because we are not replacing the aging systems we have fast enough. This is not because lack of planning it is because the ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS imposed over the last couple decades have increased costs 20% and planning lengths by 2-10 years to provide the assessments and get regulatory approvals from not one but several agencies, that means the delays are causing us to continue to operate facilites that should have already been replaced by more modern and efficent ones that have lower GHG emissions.
The environmental movement has hindered our evolutionary cycling of technology by delaying its implementation. We cannot build a cleaner power station, if we cannot ACTUALLY BUILD a cleaner power station.
Yes power stations are being built but not at the rate to match demand + attrition, lots of information at the DOE website if you want figures.

Retired Engineer
May 25, 2009 8:38 am

Is this available as a .pdf? I’d like to send it to a bunch of greens. (if only to annoy them)
The points are all well made. If solar were included, the numbers would be even worse. Sure it works, some of the time, with massive subsidy. If more people installed it, it would bankrupt the country (assuming we are not already there)
In the U.S. we do have better terrain for water storage, more hills and mountains, but usually in places that folks wouldn’t want man made lakes. And places with dams (Lake Shasta for example) generally don’t have much excess energy to pump the water back up the hill.
Without reprocessing, I’m not a fan of nuclear. France has shown that it can be done. If we could get Congress and the NRC off their duffs and approve newer designs with a way to deal with spent fuel, we could have as much energy as we need for as long as we want for a reasonable price.
For some reason, I don’t expect this will happen.

Jon Jewett
May 25, 2009 8:47 am

When I lived in Reno, Nevada, I had a friend that was building a house on a fairly large piece of land. To get commercial power to his house was going to cost him about $30K for the power lines. On the other hand, a complete subsidized solar panel/battery system with a 100% diesel generator back up was also going to cost him $30K. It was sized so that he would not have to change his lifestyle (i.e. read by candle light at night!)
One of the key pieces in his decision process was that he could sell his “green credits” to a utility in California (I believe it was PG&E). Every month the utility was going to take money from their rate payers and give it to him to subsidize his life style. He was quite pleased with himself. He considered the subsidy a kind of “stupid tax” on Californians that would not only tolerate it but demand it.
Some people are going to make a lot of money (it has been reported that Al Gore has already made some $100 million on this) and some people are going to be a lot poorer.
I predict that in twenty years there is going to be a vast array of failed “green power” projects (think dead wind turbines, abandoned because they are no longer subsidized). Much like the energy projects started during the Carter War on Energy that ended up being monuments to fools. After all, if you don’t learn the lessons of history, you are condemned to repeat them.
I hate to pick on California, but….
I recall reading a story about a geo-thermal project started by then-Governor Jerry Brown (affectionately known as Governor MoonBeam). It was up in the Geyserville area. It seems that the state built this plant with much fan fare about “green power” saving the planet, etc.
When they got the plant completed, they found out that there was no geothermal steam supply in the area. So they shuttered it. Later, it was sold for pennies on the dollar to someone that would build a pipeline to a steam source.
(It was years ago that I read this story, so I may have it wrong, maybe very wrong. After all, I am getting really old and I welcome correction.)
Regards,
Steamboat Jack

May 25, 2009 8:47 am

I’m a hybrid. I’ve ranched for 40 years in the mountainous region of western USA. I’ve logged, mined and farmed over the years. I produce my own organically grown food and meat. I am a staunch conservationist (greenie?).
I survived both the Viet Nam war and Haight-Ashbury.
I’m on the local watershed council, forest council and I am a hearty advocate of sustainable management of resources.
Both of these councils are made up of industry and conservation interests. We have found common ground to work together for our various motives.
On our forest council we have been addressing the aftermath of destructive logging practices of the post WW II – 1980’s era. Clear cutting, herbicide spraying and the persistent noxious weed problems have left their toll on the watersheds.
Recently we have been enthusiastically pursuing the conversion of the excess biomass of 585,000 acres that have been clear cut since the war into biofuel and biochar through fast pyrolysis. There are millions of tons of cellulosic material in the reproduction zones of public lands out here. These tree stands are so overstocked that they represent a catastrophic fire hazard of proportions hard to imagine. They are even aged stands loaded with ladder fuels that sterilize the earth when they ignite.
The cost of producing these acres of biomass is a mere fraction of what it takes to produce corn to create ethanol.
Congress signed into law that biomass from public lands can not be used to create alternative energies (Biofuel Incentives and the Energy Title of the 2007 Farm Bill). Why?

M White
May 25, 2009 8:48 am

Richard111 (05:22:42)
With regards to the Pembroke plant. With a bit of imagination its emissions will be English.
Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2008 from the European evironmental agency
http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/eea_report_2008_5

joletaxi
May 25, 2009 8:51 am

I guess You will apologize iff I submit this in French, but I’m not enough fluent in English, in a matter that is not easy even in French.
Si je suis d’accord sur les objections soulevées dans l’article, il en est une qui n’est jamais évoquée et qui à mon avis est rédhibitoire pour la filière éolienne, et dans une moindre mesure photovoltaïque.
Pour se brancher au réseau, les éoliennes doivent être parfaitement synchrones avec celui-ci.Tout qui a un jour été à la barre d’un voilier sait bien que le vent est variable en force et direction en permanence,et que sans cesse il est nécessaire d’adapter la tension dans les écoutes et dans la barre.Pour une éolienne, le problème est encore plus complexe:la plus infime variation de vitesse de rotation, de par la démultiplication,engendre immédiatement le déphasage et le découplage.De plus, de par l’inertie des énormes pales, l’éolienne va avoir tendance à accélérer ou à ralentir avant même qu’une correction du “pitch” ou de l’orientation soit effectuée.Pour palier à ce problème sinon insoluble, les éoliennes sont équipées de générateurs asynchrones,branchés directement sur le réseau.Ceci permet de tourner en permanence à la vitesse de consigne du réseau, et de débiter lorsque l’éolienne accélère.Vous remarquerez que dans un champ d’éoliennes, elles sont toutes parfaitement synchronisées, alors que sur l’étendue, des conditions de vents très variables sont inévitables.Autre avantage, l’éolienne qui est mise à la vitesse de consigne,par le courant pris sur le réseau, n’a pas à vaincre l’inertie du système pour se trouver en conditions de production, profitant de la moindre bourrasque.Inconvénient:le courant généré est en avance de phase.Si la production est minime,cela n’a pas d’inconvénients.Par contre, dès que la production devient importante,ce courant déphasé va faire chuter la tension ,aggravant une éventuelle charge limite du réseau(En Allemagne, ce phénomène prend des proportions telles, que l’on a vu des lignes haute tension branchées à des champs d’éoliennes, chauffer au point de voir les cables traîner par terre)Il n’est pas douteux que la grande panne de 2003 vient de ce problème non résolu.On comprend donc aisément que dans l’état de la technique,il devient périlleux d’aligner une trop forte proportion de courant généré à partir d’éoliennes.On avait bien imaginer de faire produire du courant continu, pour éviter ce problème, avec des onduleurs en aval mais alors on débouche sur un autre problème qui est celui du photovoltaïque,à savoir que les courants ondulés à partir de “hacheurs” électroniques n’est pas sinusoïdal comme le réseau.A nouveau, la mise sur le réseau de courants pulsés à divers endroits de celui-ci peut engendrer des phénomènes de résonances difficiles à maîtriser dès que la puissance en ligne devient significative.
Comme on le voit,ces filières sont loin d’être suffisamment au point que pour espérer prendre le relais de centrales classiques.Il n’y a à mon avis aucune autre raison pour que l’Allemagne ait arrêté son programme éolien et ait mis en chantier 15 centrales classiques.

idlex
May 25, 2009 8:51 am

However, it is my belief that this sublime day-dream actually holds the seeds for our economic decline and for social disorder on an unprecedented scale. Why? Because no technical and industrial society can maintain itself on unreliable and intermittent power supplies.
Ralph Ellis clearly belongs to the reality-based community. I can’t help but remember this quote from Ron Suskind in the New York Times 5 years ago. It’s about the faith-based Bush presidency, but it may as well be about a faith-based environmental movement.
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Nothing has changed. Nothing at all.

layne
May 25, 2009 9:04 am

Looking at these large scale systems and estimates of cost often lead the greens to argue the estimates are false. On a smaller scale, a neighbor of mine installed a solar system. I was interested, and asked for a tour. He explained the system had cut his power costs by 1/3, roughly $75/month in this area. Cost of his system? $23,000 dollars.
I’ve seen different estimates, but world coal reserves I believe exceed 1000 Gigatons. Our Oil shale reserves I’ve seen estimated equivalent to 2 Trillion barrels of oil and Canada has another 2-3 Trillion. A recent post on this site listed natural gas supplies sufficient to last 100 years at the current rate of consumption, and noted that exploration has already invalidated claims of limited supply from 20 years ago. Eventually, these sources will expire. But it appears we have sufficient supply to continue unimpeded for the next 50 years while we spin up Nuclear resources, and improve other technologies.
But the risk I see, also noted in this post, is that our so called leaders are making the choice first to limit supply of existing energies, while floating in a dream world of ‘renewables’. I see rolling outages and rationing leading to social unrest if this lunacy isn’t stopped.

chris y
May 25, 2009 9:09 am

ralph ellis- Great post. You responded to another comment with-
“>>Obviously there is a demand for ‘green’-energy. Well then
>>let people be able to sign up for ‘expensive’ power and pay
>>twice the price for their electricity.
Yes, but only if they swear never to use ANY electricity on days when no renewable power is available. ie, an overcast mid-winter anti-cyclone over the UK, when there is no solar, wind or wave energy available. As they shiver in their homes, they may hopefully rediscover the rational world.”
The technology to do this is actually starting to roll out now. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) includes new electronic electricity (or gas or water) meters placed at every customer premise. They communicate in both directions to allow remote reading of energy use, keep track of when energy is being used to allow time-of-use billing, and permit remote controlled disconnect of power. The EMS software database (Energy Management System) can be configured in a myriad of ways.
So here is how to make a substantive connection between an eco-consumer and his/her beloved eco-energy source. The customer is offered a choice of energy sources, either conventional fuel mix or renewables. The renewables would include solar and wind. For the UK, it would be 99% wind, because solar is a big-time loser at your latitude and micro-climate. The energy charges for the customer are directly tied to the cost of purchasing electricity from the energy source selected by the customer. This is a simple software database option. The true cost difference would be in the range of a factor of 3 – 5, depending on where the customer is located and what wind resource is deployed (off-shore vs. on-shore). There would be no sharing of renewable energy costs across the entire customer base to hide the real costs of renewables. Eco-consumers who believe that renewables offer ‘free energy’ will jump at the chance to pay ‘nothing’.
Now for the best part. The customer who chooses renewables will be disconnected from the grid in synchrony with the energy delivery from their energy source chosen. For example, choosing renewables in the UK would result in your meter disconnecting you from the grid anywhere from 0 to 20 times a day, at random times. This again is a simple database link between the EMS software and the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) software that monitors generation across the power grid in real-time (10 second updates usually). Utilities call this load-shedding to maintain system balance (usually only used in emergencies). We could rename it Renewable Energy Advanced Management of Eco-Demand (REAMED).
In this way, the green customer can experience the ‘advantages’ of renewable energy in its full glory. They are exposed to the real busbar costs under realistic depreciation rates, and they are REAMED by the variability of a wind-powered resource. Of course, the customer can always switch back to reliable, less expensive electricity with a simple phone call or website click.
I believe the UK just announced a country-wide initiative to install AMI/smart grid meters in every customer location over the next several years, with the feel-good goal of reducing electricity demand through in-home displays that show real-time electricity pricing. In a few years, all of the tools needed for this brave new world of realistic renewable energy pricing will be in place.
As an aside, I live in sunny Florida and price solar PV every few months for my home. Even here, and with generous federal and state incentives, solar PV will still almost triple my monthly electricity bill. Thankfully, Florida has some of the worst wind resources in the country, so wind really hasn’t gained a footing. Florida is also trying to build 4 new nuclear reactors, but there is some opposition.

Sandy
May 25, 2009 9:12 am

Any problems with nuclear waste? Drop it down a plate subduction zone, one-way ticket to hell.
Carbon sequestration? Shove it into market greenhouses and pay for it with the harvest, keep and dry the rest of the plant if you must ‘sequester carbon’.
Frankly given the uselessness of wind now it makes sense to hydrolysize to hydrogen at the farm. We have gas storage and pipelines, so though initially inefficient transport and storage of hydrogen may be the way to use the damtings.

Sceptic
May 25, 2009 9:15 am

I thought that this article was new but it seems it was written in some 5 years ago in June 2004?

May 25, 2009 9:20 am

What an excellent article! Ralph Ellis, you have done magnificently! Every person on this planet who uses electricity should read and digest this. It is a tragedy of our times that those who, by some wangle or another, have wormed themselves into power to usurp charge of our destinies, will make it their business to totally disregard the stark facts of this exceptional presentation.

Mark Bowlin
May 25, 2009 9:21 am

Mike McMillan (02:16:38) :
“Ok, so nuclear power has got a bad name through Chernobyl
Last count I heard was 56 fatalities, mostly the gutsy guys who went in to fight the fire. The whole area is now a nature preserve, and nature doesn’t seem to mind the radiation level, which has dropped significantly.”
I want to preface the following by noting that I am a cautious advocate of nuclear power, but Chernobyl was worse than most suspect. Certainly worse than the Soviets reported. The following are excerpts from a paper I wrote on Ukrainian foreign policy at the Naval Postgraduate School in 1997 (so the present tense used is decidedly past tense now). These excerpts cover an overview of the explosion, the immediate and long-term health effects.
………
During the course of the Soviet Union’s ambitious nuclear power program, the Soviets built twenty-eight nuclear reactors of a particular design known as the RBMK. The RBMK is a graphite-moderated, uranium-fueled reactor that was known to have serious, inherent, design flaws and it is widely accepted that the RBMK would never have been certified by a western safety inspector. The V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, is a massive complex housing four separate reactor units—each a second-generation RBMK reactor. Although by western standards the RBMKs are considered dangerous (the RBMK reactors lack secondary containment structures and were notoriously unstable at low power levels), the safety record of the reactors at the V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant was unremarkable in any sense by Soviet standards. The Soviet engineers and technicians were not unaware of the potential problems with the reactor design, but universal acceptance of the safety of nuclear power by the Soviet engineers seems to have caused widespread complacency at the complex.
In the morning hours of April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl technicians at Unit 4 began a series of safety drills designed to study low power operations. In contravention of their standard operating procedures, the technicians purposely disabled safety mechanisms on the RBMK reactor prior to beginning the drills. A series of operator miscalculations compounded by poor engineering and pure bad luck culminated in a devastating explosion at Unit 4 of the V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant at 1:23 in the morning of April 26, 1986.
Immediately following the explosion on the morning of April 26, Soviet fire fighters attempted to put out several fires that were burning out of control. Simultaneously, as the Chernobyl workers realized that the reactor was open to the elements, attempts were made to extinguish the principal fire, which was believed to be the reactor core. Over 5,000 metric tons of sand, clay, dolomite and lead were dropped by helicopter (the majority of the helicopter pilots later died from radiation poisoning) on what was believed to be the reactor core. Most scientists believe today that Soviet efforts to extinguish the core over a ten-day period actually missed the main reactor core and were concentrating instead on a core fragment. The belief at the time was that the core had been ejected from the reactor chamber by the steam explosion, when today it appears that about 71 percent of the core remained in the reactor shaft uncovered and open to the sky. Consequently, far more radiation (estimated at three times more cesium 137) escaped into the atmosphere than had been initially reported. What happened with the remaining fuel? Sich states, “Eventually, the fuel melted through the reactor’s lower lid and flowed into the lower regions of the reactor building, where it cooled and hardened into lava-like substances.”
Over the course of 10 days, the core released radioactivity unabated into the atmosphere until it cooled by itself. Out of the original 190 tons of uranium oxide fuel, somewhere between 10 and 50 tons remain unaccounted for today. Although Unit 4 is entirely encased in a concrete sarcophagus, the sarcophagus itself is decaying and largely open to the elements and the missing fuel, which is presumed to be underneath the reactor, still poses a grave environmental threat. Rainwater collecting in the bowels of the reactor level could theoretically cause remaining fuel to go critical and the meltdown would resume. At least twice since 1986 have neutron flux readings indicated a build-up towards a self-sustained nuclear fission was possibly beginning. Although the key to solving this issue is to locate the missing fuel and pump out excess water, the high radiation levels within the sarcophagus are extremely dangerous for search crews and Chernobyl officials must first find storage for the highly irradiated water.
……..
There is no agreement on the extent of the damage to people’s health from Chernobyl-related causes. Too many political interests are involved to allow consensus on the issue as governmental organs and the nuclear power and medical communities debate even the question of short-term casualties. The Soviet government put forth the initial figure of two deaths and then by the summer of 1986 raised the figure to 31 people killed (28 people from radiation poisoning and 3 from other causes). This figure of 31 casualties is the most quoted by the nuclear power industry and is still widely accepted in the press as the total casualty list. However, some experts on Ukraine and Chernobyl place the figure much higher and regard the Soviet figure (and the nuclear power industry statistics) as more deliberate obfuscation. David Marples, in the May 1996 edition of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, wrote of the figure of 31 casualties, “The official casualty report has developed into something of a truism–if it is repeated often enough, people began to accept it.” Marples added, “…the figure of 31 direct casualties at Chernobyl is as mythic today as it was in 1986. During the early cleanup phase, it was clear there would be many more victims, particularly among the crews decontaminating the plant, those flying helicopter sorties over the roof of the gaping reactor in a flawed attempt to stop radiation from leaking into the atmosphere, and those working at the reactor scene at a variety of other hazardous tasks.”
Of the decontamination workers, known as liquidators, at least 5,000 had died by 1990 although not all were attributable to Chernobyl and the Ukrainian health ministry places the number of Chernobyl-related deaths as approximately 4,000 for Ukrainian citizens. On the opposite end of the spectrum from the 31 figure, some unsubstantiated estimates from environmental organizations go as high as 125,000 deaths attributable to Chernobyl since 1986.
…..
The question of the long-term health effects of Chernobyl is also politicized. Advocates of nuclear power such as the IAEA tend to downplay long-term adverse effects of low-level radiation poisoning and the extensive research on the subject is not conclusive. Effectively, however, approximately two million Ukrainians live within contaminated areas surrounding Chernobyl including nearly 500 people who have voluntarily returned to live within the 30-km exclusion zone. Compounding the problem of living with unacceptably high levels of ambient radiation is the lack of uncontaminated food as a largely rural population in Ukraine and Belarus continue to eat contaminated local produce.
A further obstacle to pinpointing the long-term health effects of the Chernobyl accident is the delineation between Chernobyl-related illnesses and those originating from other sources. The areas effected by radiation in Ukraine and Belarus are also heavily polluted areas from industrial sources. The difficult question then becomes which illnesses stem from what source? For example, using the Ukrainian Health Ministry estimates that only 28-32 percent of Ukrainian adults and 27-31 percent of children were assessed to be in good health in 1991, what portion of the approximate 70 percent of the population in ill health is due to Chernobyl? How do medical researchers discount illnesses caused by industrial pollutants, poor nutrition, the effects of smoking and alcohol, etc? There is no easy solution to this problem. Although the logical starting point would be to compare data for the affected regions prior to Chernobyl with data subsequent to the accident, the data is not complete in either case and has become a source of acrimony in the medical community—consequently allowing the data to remain open to political interpretation.
Looking at the areas that have relative consensus, it seems apparent that in general that there has been a downturn in the health of the Ukrainian and Belarus populations. This has been highlighted in particular by dramatic increases in the rate of thyroid cancer among children which “…appear to correlate closely with the areas that received the most radioactive fallout.” Incidentally, had the Soviet government warned the population about the radiation, much of the iodine radiation poisoning could have been avoided by eating canned food and by not allowing children to drink contaminated milk. The studies on thyroid cancer in Belarus and Ukraine indicate that approximately 90 percent of the childhood cases are Chernobyl-related and roughly 10 percent of those will be incurable. Furthermore, one estimate figures that one child in ten in the heavily contaminated areas is likely to develop thyroid cancer. IAEA studies (which tend to be dramatically more conservative than most) of more than 800 cases of thyroid cancer in children in Belarus indicate roughly similar results with a slightly higher percentage of cases attributable to Chernobyl but at a higher predicted success rate in treatment.
Other biological concerns that have been related to the accident at Chernobyl are impaired immune response, increased rates of leukemia and other cancers as well as indications that genetic damage is occurring in animals and humans in the highly contaminated regions. This was surprising to some researchers who based on data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not expect to see genetic damage. Particularly disturbing are indications that DNA mutation is being passed down to subsequent generations. Some preliminary studies are showing DNA mutation rates among Belarus children are twice as high as in a control group of British children. The long-term effects of these genetic mutations are not understood and by their nature may not be for generations.
………

May 25, 2009 9:27 am

>>However, I can’t get on board with the fission and
>>particularly the breeder idea.
>>Chernobyl made a huge mess and put millions of people at risk.
Two comments that have come up and demonstrate that the Green anti-nuclear agenda is still bearing fruit.
Firstly, it should be reiterated that Chernobyl should never have been built in the first place. It was done on the cheap, because that is the Russian way; without a containment vessel, without a fail-safe design and without adequate instrumentation and controls. In addition, the operators were playing around, rather than running a professional operation (another Russian trait from my experience in aviation). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroflot_Flight_593
Despite all this, the actual damage caused by the Chernobyl incident was much smaller than at first feared. As usual, the Liberal press try to demonise this incident:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/fallout-from-chernobyl-will-cause-100000-deaths-says-greenpeace-474727.html
But the WHO says that 50 died and ‘up to’ 4000 people may suffer a premature death due cancer. Each cancer case is tragic in each individual case, but in total it was not an absolute social calamity.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html
.
.
But what is often forgotten, in all of this fear of nuclear power, is that energy is a powerful substance and the use of energy is always going to be dangerous – whether it is coal, oil, gas or nuclear. If Chernobyl had decimated two entire schools, would we ever have been able to forget about it? So why do we forget about a coal or an oil disaster?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=376
And oil workers:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_Alpha

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Hertfordshire_Oil_Storage_Terminal_fire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEQwYryyIWA
And this is the blood upon which all America’s and Europe’s current wave of cheap imports is founded. Around 6,000 deaths each and every year, and not a Greenpeace complaint in sight.
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-11/13/content_391242.htm
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=1155
Here are some more incidents, just for illustration:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhVXnNvaudQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GPYnyrT3Dc&feature=related
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrey_Canyon
.
The bottom line is that we cannot run an ever expanding, ever richer society, on nineteenth century energy supplies. We need to learn how to control and police the use of new energy sources in a responsible manner; and NO amount of technological regression back to the Stone Age will ever un-invent nuclear weapons capabilities. So hiding behind a cloak of quaint rural poverty will not protect anyone from a rogue mullah in Iran with a death wish.
.
You know, when I was a lad, we used to look forwards.
President Kennedy said ‘let’s go to the Moon’, just for the hell of it, and we did. The Brits (and French) said, ‘lets travel at supersonic speeds’, and we did. We all said ‘let’s develop nuclear power’, and we did. By the time I was middle aged, it was certain that we would be on Mars and beyond.
This was a forward-looking, can-do generation.
But what have we now? You cannot fly at supersonic speeds, as that may kill a crested newt. You cannot go to the Moon, as we have to give food to Africans who have failed to feed themselves for decades. You cannot have nuclear power as it might be dangerous, and we cannot have anything that might disturb the cotton wool around our children.
We now have a regressive, can-not generation.
But I am still with President Kennedy. If we are ever going to succeed as a species, we need to progress, to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, and provide a better world for future generations. And that better future cannot lie in some idealistic, rural nirvana from a Green fantasy resembling Frodo Baggins’ Shires. To make that scenario work, we would have to extinguish 98% of the world’s population. No, the future lies in expansion throughout our Solar System, and you are not going to achieve that with a few dozen windelecs (wind turbines) that run on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Can we refrain from branding progress as a sin? Can we banish the Technological Taliban?
.

deadwood
May 25, 2009 9:55 am

An someone who works regularly with environmentalists , I find the term “Technological Taliban” both accurate and appropriate.
And 5 years old? Wow, where was Ralph hiding this gem?

Stephen Brown
May 25, 2009 10:03 am

The Law of Unintended Consequences, as applied to wind farms!
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/transport/article6355764.ece

May 25, 2009 10:14 am

My viewpoint is rather the opposite of Mr. Ellis’. I presently practice law in the fields of climate change, and energy, with an emphasis on renewable energy and energy storage. I also hold a BS in chemical engineering, with many years experience in fossil fuel industries.
I have three primary points in opposition: first, intermittent renewable power, standing alone, is not intended to replace fossil-fuel power. However, not all renewable power is intermittent. Second, quite a number of energy storage systems (ESS) exist and work quite well; their drawback is one of economics, not practicality. Third, the staggering costs of nuclear power should be fully exposed and understood before anyone or any country attempts to rely on that energy source.
1. Renewable power works quite well, and provides more than 13 percent of all power sold in California. This 13 percent includes solar, wind, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and various forms of methane production or capture from organic materials. These include landfill gas (LFG) and methane gas from cattle manure. Also, combustion of municipal solid waste contributes to the renewable energy portfolio.
The 13 percent figure increases to 23 percent when large hydroelectric is included. (figures for 2008 in California)
http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/overview/energy_sources.html
Wind, solar, wave, and tidal power are truly intermittent, but the other forms of renewable are much more reliable. These include hydroelectric, geothermal, the bio-gas forms, and municipal solid waste.
2. ESS systems that work include batteries, ultra-capacitors, pumped storage hydroelectric, compressed air energy storage, superconductors, high-speed flywheels, high pressure hydraulics, and thermal storage. Each has its place, depending on many factors such as the local terrain, and quantity of storage desired. One can read more on ESS here:
http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/energy-storage-key-to-renewables.html
3. Nuclear power is frequently (and wrongly) held forth as the path forward, while dismissing renewable energy sources as a waste of money and effort. The fact is that nuclear power plants are extremely expensive to construct and decommission, yet rather inexpensive to operate. The misleading nuclear proponents claim that nuclear power only costs 1.7 cents per kwh, and thus all power plants should be nuclear. This figure only includes fuel, labor, and maintenance, but conveniently ignores the huge costs for initial capital and decommissioning. That mis-direction is analogous to a person buying a $200,000 Mercedes Benz automobile, and having access to gasoline at 50 cents per gallon. When asked for their cost of transportation per mile driven, they conveniently ignore the huge monthly payment to the bank for the car loan, and gleefully tell you that their car costs only 2 or 3 cents per mile.
My recent analysis of EIA data for nuclear power plants and the cost of electricity in the U.S.’ various states with nuclear power shows that cost of electricity increases as the percent of power derived from nuclear increases. There is a direct correlation. Also, that analysis was performed with old nuclear plants that are to a large extent already depreciated or paid off. If new nuclear power plants were to be built and included, the costs would be much higher.
http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/nuclear-nuts.html
and scroll down to the phrase, “is nuclear power affordable.”

Stephen
May 25, 2009 10:18 am

If we think the environmental impact from coal and oil is interesting, wait till we see the impact on weather patterns and then the life it supports, as we stagnate the wind; the impact on sea life and then human life, as we stagnate the tides; not to mention the footprint and micro and small life biology that supports the rest of life, as we cover the earth with wind and solar farms. While these may fill a minor niche, if we build it big enough to supply reasonable comfort to human life, it is going to have a much greater and destructive impact than we now have… and at least CO2 encourages plant growth for a needed increase of food production, which in turn provides a needed increase in oxygen production! I can’t imagine what the mind set must be for those who would destroy a mechanism for increasing food and oxygen production? And, especially as we learn that there is little if any effect on global temperature!
There is no doubt in my mind that our present simple minded ideas of sequestering CO2 will come back to haunt us, either from starvation, or similar to the gasses and pollution from garbage dumps, etc., ha!
While we may want to work toward better control of our byproducts, to simply trade one killing zone for another, for the benefit of another big business, and send the rest of us and our great grand children, back to the stone ages, is even more ludicrous!
Stephen

Ray
May 25, 2009 10:23 am

This is not really related but could be if we talk about biomass (which is also part of the alternative energy family)…
Vine growth and survival might be one of the greatest proxy to follow the planet warming/cooling phases. As we all know, there was a time during the Medieval period when they could grow vines in Northern Europe. A good idea of the trade route at the time can be reviewed in “Wine and the vine: an historical geography of viticulture and the wine trade
By Tim Unwin, P. T. H. Unwin”.
When the cold climate came back, no more vines could be grown in Northern Europe. Throughout history vines have followed the general cimate of the earth. Today there is an article that was published here in BC that sheds more light on the vine reaction to climate: http://www.bclocalnews.com/okanagan_similkameen/kelownacapitalnews/news/45833352.html
It’s a very interesting article that shows the importance of the PDO and global climate and what has been seen here for the last 50 years.

Gary P
May 25, 2009 10:23 am

Years ago I read the the costs for a power company was about 1/3 for fuel, 1/3 for distribution, and 1/3 for power plants. Since the renewable sources are not continuous, the costs for the power plants essentially doubles. Now if you add enough short term storage to allow the normal plants to shut down when the wind is blowing, the costs for the power plants will triple. If you keep a spinning reserve of conventional plants the whole idea is pointless as there is little reduction in the CO2 plant food emissions.
Land use at least triples now that we are beginning to recognize that the subsonic pressure waves from the wind turbines means that they cannot be located closer than about 1 km from residences. There will also be an increase in distribution costs to bring in the energy from the low density sources. The free renewable energy costs at least twice as much while industry moves to China so no one has a job to pay for it. Tax revenues decrease so the government will have to raise taxes to pay its electric bill.
The only project that I can see worth doing would be solar powered air conditioning. Solar energy would be available when it is most needed and it would reduce the peak demand on the conventional plants. Efficiency requirements would demand the the use of a thermal system so no electricity would be generated.

Douglas DC
May 25, 2009 10:28 am

The whole debate changed this morning when the sun rose in the west over North Korea.Iran will follow shortly,Global Warming will fade in the cloud of fallout.This is something we have to deal with now.Millions of lives-possibly our own are at stake.
Life or Death. which is it? The Dictators,Dingbats, and Tyrants of the world rejoice….

May 25, 2009 10:33 am

It’s not about science. It’s not about logic. It’s all about politics. I tried to get people over at solarcycle24.com to write their representatives. Except for a few trolls and semi-trolls, these are mostly anti-AGW guys who can write non-stop about all kinds of stuff, day after day, and not stupidly, either. I think I counted 5 or 6 people who actually wrote their representative.
While I was in aerospace in ancient days (Nike Zeus, Thor Agena, Skybolt, Saturn S-IVB), I did a motive systems study. I looked at everything in the way of energy sources: Capacitors. Springs. Batteries. Gas. Fuel cells. Flywheels. Solar. Wind. Broken wind. Everything. My conclusions? (1) Nothing beats gasoline for propelling vehicles. Only diesel comes anywhere close; alcohol and LPG are way down the list. (2) Our biggest need is not new or renewable sources; our biggest need is a dense, inexpensive storage system. What we have is dense politicians, instead.
Always remember: liberals, like alcoholics, judge themselves by their intentions, not by their results.

Steven Goddard
May 25, 2009 10:43 am

Ralph Ellis,
My comments about Chernobyl had nothing to do with a “green agenda.” My family was personally affected by Chernobyl, and everyone familiar with the details knows that it was a huge mess.
There is no comparison between the dangers of nuclear proliferation and natural gas explosions. Coal fired plants work just fine, particularly since they were cleaned up in the 1960s.

May 25, 2009 10:48 am

John Egan (06:26:05) :
There’s even LESS extractable uranium than oil.

You can do it with other lighter materials. See:
http://www.giurfa.com/mass.html
If nucleus are close enough probability increases.

Ray
May 25, 2009 10:55 am

jorgekafkazar (10:33:12) :
As far as transportation goes, it is not really a question of fuel power density and size of the reservoir, but mainly the efficiency of the motor. If we had more efficient motors we could surely use those fuels with lower energy densities to achieve the same distance. Of course, more efficient motors and high powere density fuels would take us very far given a fixed tank size.

D Caldwell
May 25, 2009 10:58 am

I’m optimistic that our current renewable energy psychosis will turn out to be a temporary disorder.
Those of us (science nerds?) who follow this issue with at least some basic understanding are in the small minority. My observation is that the vast majority of folks out here in Mainstreet USA are not interested in this issue and spend very little time thinking about it. They certainly don’t understand the real consequences of a major switch to renewables away from conventional generation. When they express support for renewables in various polls, they do so only with the assumption that it will not affect their own lives significantly. Give them an accurate picture of a renewable energy future and then see what the polls show!
If the currently proposed energy policies ever actually get implemented (and I don’t believe they ever will on a major scale), the effect on cost and reliability will open the public’s eyes in a hurry. When that awakening occurs, the voters will quickly throw out the current management and this renewable energy nonsense will come to a screeching halt.

May 25, 2009 11:00 am

The Indian says “…there is much foolishness in the world, the most natural forces to harness are the Winds and the Seas. Let us feel their force and use what they offer”

May 25, 2009 11:28 am

Roger Sowell
The reason the Construction and decomissioning costs are so high are because of the ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS compliance which costs huge amounts of extra capital.
Approve a nuclear waste storage facility so operating reactors can get rid of the spent fuel they are storing on-site now, that will reduce decommissioning and operating costs dramatically.
New construction techniques have brought actual engineering costs way down because the current family of reactors are not untested technology. For example the Canadian Candu reactors, there are 42 operating on the planet now, the cost is about 1.3 Billion USD for a 1.0 Gw unit and decomissioning is costed at 10% of Construction Cost. Last reactor build in China was 54 weeks from first pour to 100% power, NO RED ( or do communists have blue?) TAPE. No work stoppages every month for environmental assessments as to the impact of concrete pours on the butterflies. Siting also did not add 5-7 years of work to the engineering costs.
I realize the environment is important but the regulations are a cruel joke, it is not just the US it is Canada (to build a Candu in Canada is almost impossible these days because the friggin hemp hats go ballisitic) and in many EU countries. The logic used to argue against a proven technology that solves the perceived problem and has solutions for all the downside arguments is beyond any sort of defense, it is simply irrational to have part of the solution and not implement it.

May 25, 2009 11:29 am

Shr_Nfr (08:18:44) :
With regard to hydrogen in cars, it depends on the implementation. If you do it through fuel cells, yes, all you will get out is H20 more or less. If you burn the hydrogen in an internal combustion engine or turbine or other sort of thing that relies on heat production, you will produce NOx as a byproduct unless you also carry pure oxygen to burn the fuel.

Except of course with its very wide combustion limits you can burn it under conditions which produce less NOx, also since you would not need a three-way catalyst the exhaust can be cleaned up very effectively.

adoucette
May 25, 2009 11:36 am

Roger Sowell (10:14:00) wrote:
1. Renewable power works quite well, and provides more than 13 percent of all power sold in California … The 13 percent figure increases to 23 percent when large hydroelectric is included
Well, in this case the term POWER is limited to Electricity.
Renewables, including Large Hydro, represent 12% of California power with half coming from Hydro.
The govt bolstered Solar and Wind output have increased just 1% since 2004.
These Calif numbers are also preliminary figures (final will be out soon) but they also show a 6% decline in electricity production, and in a declining market the government mandates/incentives prop up the renewable sector creating ever more distortion in the markets.
Still renewables are at the lowest percent of electricity generation since at least 2004.
They peaked at 30% in 2006.
Arthur

May 25, 2009 11:36 am

il devient périlleux d’aligner une trop forte proportion de courant généré à partir d’éoliennes
It is not only dangerous but foolish and costly.

May 25, 2009 11:38 am

tipiheaven (11:00:25) Let us feel their force and use what they offer
Then make a drum dance to see if you can generate electricity 🙂

May 25, 2009 11:40 am

Roger Sowell (10:14:00) : “…quite a number of energy storage systems (ESS) exist and work quite well; their drawback is one of economics, not practicality…”
Economic failure IS a practical drawback and, in fact, the most fundamental one.
“..Renewable power works quite well, and provides more than 13 percent of all power sold in California. This 13 percent includes solar, wind, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and various forms of methane production or capture from organic materials.”
How much of that 13 percent is propped up by direct and indirect governmental (Federal and state) subsidies? If you ask us to consider all the financial drawbacks of nuclear, why is it right for you to ignore the true underlying financial structure of renewables?
Consider, too, that much of the expense of nuclear has historically been the result of deliberate green interference in the licensing and construction permitting process. Total project lead-time is a large factor in out-of-control nuclear capital costs, one that needs to be addressed.

mkurbo
May 25, 2009 11:41 am

I visit this website daily and look forward to its postings, but can someone define who Steven Goddard is ? I’ve asked this a number of times with no answer given by anyone. We read many good blogs by him without any understanding as to if he a writer, scientist, fellow researcher ???

Ray
May 25, 2009 11:41 am

“The climate crisis, economic crisis and energy security concerns will begin to unravel if we start a shift away from expensive, vulnerable and polluting carbon-based fuels,” former U.S. vice-president and campaigner Al Gore told the conference.
What a bunch of [self-snip]. Considering that standard hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon derivatives are still cheaper than synthetic or wind/solar alternative, where does he get his numbers? Let me guess… from his [self-snip].
If you can bare the pain, read the rest at: http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-GreenBusiness/idUSTRE54N0GZ20090524

David L. Hagen
May 25, 2009 11:55 am

Greg (07:59:15) :

(Hagen) “The critical issue we must urgently address is developing alternative fuels fast enough to compensate for the projected 6%/year decline in light oil exports.”
(Greg) This particular argument – we are running out of oil

Greg you missed the point. We are NOT “running out of oil”.
The critical issue is “LIGHT oil”. There is about three or four times as much heavy oil, bitumen etc. as there is “light oil”, plus there is coal. However, show me how you run your vehicle on TAR or COAL?
The fuel needs to be extracted, then upgraded, then converted into syncrude – and then refined. Adding capacity costs $100,000 /bbl/day.
To replace 100 million bbl/day will “only” cost $10 trillion.
More importantly, this WILL NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT.
US peaked in 1970. Oil imports have been steadily increasing.
These are the issues that must be dealt with.
Cut transport fuel in half – you will cut the economy in half overnight.
It takes a generation to transition.

Steven Goddard
May 25, 2009 12:00 pm

mkurbo,
I’m a veteran scientist/engineer/environmentalist with degrees in science and engineering. I am not a climate scientist.

Mikkel
May 25, 2009 12:06 pm

Hi Ralph Ellis
Thanks for your reply and the links concerning Denmark. Will make an interesting read.
As for another question of mine you answer it as follows:
>>Obviously there is a demand for ‘green’-energy. Well then
>>let people be able to sign up for ‘expensive’ power and pay
>>twice the price for their electricity.
>Yes, but only if they swear never to use ANY electricity on days when no renewable >power is available. ie, an overcast mid-winter anti-cyclone over the UK, when there is no >solar, wind or wave energy available. As they shiver in their homes, they may hopefully >rediscover the rational world.
Exactly this is one of the merits of the market based approach. It clearly illustrates to the customer if a product is not efficient/reliable.
However it could work with storage like how salt is utilized for the large solar plants around Las Vegas. Again at an extra cost but if there is a demand it should be possible to provide a supply is all I am arguing. The present energy system is flawed as an economic market resulting in low differentiation and lack of innovation.
Also as Chris Y relates the technology exists for advanced energy registration and management. Not saying it is simple or easy to implement an efficient energy market. Merely pointing out how it would relieve ‘society’ from some of the influence of the green lobbies.

MrCPhysics
May 25, 2009 12:07 pm

Um, your essay would have more credence if you would have gotten the source of the tides correctly–they don’t depend on the moon’s orbit, they depend on the Earth’s rotation, moving under the moon’s position in it’s orbit. Thus there are two tidal cycles per day, high tides under the moon and opposite the moon (to within the amount each tide is pushed forward by friction with the Earth’s crust, usually about 1 hour, and moving back as the moon slowly orbits the Earth, which makes cycles closer to 11 hours than 12).
Agree about what you’re saying, just don’t let factual errors kill your credibility.

May 25, 2009 12:09 pm

Why do we feel we have a right to survive?!

There is no “right” to survive, only a need to survive.

May 25, 2009 12:09 pm

Ray (10:55:28) : “jorgekafkazar: As far as transportation goes, it is not really a question of fuel power density and size of the reservoir, but mainly the efficiency of the motor. If we had more efficient motors we could surely use those fuels with lower energy densities to achieve the same distance. Of course, more efficient motors and high powere density fuels would take us very far given a fixed tank size.”
I agree, more efficient motors would be nice, but it ain’t gonna happen, much. There are fundamental thermodynamic limitations to the Otto cycle and the Diesel cycle. Also, typically, lower energy density fuels, such as alcohol, yield lower mileage.
There are also times when fuel density is very important. Example: A friend sent me an article on a new, very efficient fuel cell. It sounded wonderful, but a few minutes of math revealed that this marvel would require a 600 gallon fuel tank to obtain the same range as a standard gasoline-powered car, not counting the loss in mileage due to lugging the fuel around. So much for performance.
The typical 21st century car is going to look less like a car and more like a cross between a Formula Junior and a bicycle. At that scale, gas tank size is very important, since you don’t want it in your lap when you get hit by Arnold’s Hummer or Al Gore’s limo.

David L. Hagen
May 25, 2009 12:20 pm

Greg
See the best actual public data IEA WEO 2008 – World Oil Forecasts using Wikipedia Megaprojects, Dec 2008
How do you propose to keep our economy going as LIGHT oil declines?

May 25, 2009 12:22 pm

@ adoucette (11:36:26) :
” Roger Sowell (10:14:00) wrote:
1. Renewable power works quite well, and provides more than 13 percent of all power sold in California … The 13 percent figure increases to 23 percent when large hydroelectric is included
Well, in this case the term POWER is limited to Electricity.
Renewables, including Large Hydro, represent 12% of California power with half coming from Hydro.”

The word power does refer to electricity. As to the renewable figures you stated, you are quite wrong, sir. The figure is 23 percent, please see the link I referenced. Hydro is right at 10 percent, which is less than half of 23.
“The govt bolstered Solar and Wind output have increased just 1% since 2004.
These Calif numbers are also preliminary figures (final will be out soon) but they also show a 6% decline in electricity production, and in a declining market the government mandates/incentives prop up the renewable sector creating ever more distortion in the markets.”

Are you picking cherries? The wind generation increased more than 33 percent since 2001. So the production decreased 6 percent (I will accept your figure for argument’s sake only), when demand decreases (due to decreased economic activity), one would expect production to decrease.
“Still renewables are at the lowest percent of electricity generation since at least 2004.
They peaked at 30% in 2006.”

And your point would be…..what? California is taking advantage of the natural resources available, including abundant sunshine, a bit of wind, a generous portion of geothermal, substantial hydroelectric, and great bio-gas opportunities.
California also mandated high-efficiency power from fossil-fuel sources, which effectively rules out any power from coal. Thus, the coal-based imports will be phased out and replaced by either renewables or natural gas.

Colin
May 25, 2009 12:28 pm

Steven Goddard (5:39) is making the usual mistake of conflating nuclear power with nuclear weapons. If countries like North Korea or Iran insist on trying to make nuclear weapons, the absence of civilian nuclear generation facilities will in no way hinder them from doing so, just as their existence under safeguard in no way aids them. It may come as a little surprise to Steven and his ilk, but nuclear weapons programs are always dedicated military enterprises that have nothing to do with civilian activity.

May 25, 2009 12:32 pm

I think there are several issues here, the first being that there are lots of countries selling us energy-oil and gas primarily-who don’t like our way of life, which makes us very vulnerable to political pressures. in my opinon, security of supplies is a much bigger problem than agw, and is a compelling reason to develop other energy resources that is quite separate to any other arguement. We also have the considerable irony that it is the transfer of such large amounts of our money to unfriendly countries that will help them to threaten us.
Secondly, that each country needs to use what is most appropriate in their circumstances. The UK sits atop vast coal seams said to be sufficient for 300 years and being an island is washed by strong tides and waves. Yet we won’t use coal and research into waves/tides is minimal. Water based resources are at least 10 years behind wind technology-which I would consider an unreliable embryonic system at present.
Our politicians marched against nuclear in their younger days and pay lip service to new stations.They also hate coal, but as the UK has an ageing power generation system it is difficult to see how renewables-which by their nature are intermittent- can possibly fulfil the role of providing a reliable base power source. A useful top up yes-our main source , no.
We need a large number of power stations that can produce a quantifiable amount of power that can be calculated and relied on. I have no hang ups about nuclear or coal but accept in the real world we will see very little new capacity in the next 20 years from either source.
Personally I would use our coal reserves on the basis this gives us a breathing space. I would also allocate far more resources to tidal/wave and as a matter of urgency look into other possibilities, be it hydrogen or some other resource.
One potential source that wasnt mentioned in the aricle was thermal reach. This exploits the considerable temperature difference betwen the top of the ocean and the layers lower down. This temperature difference is easier to exploit in countries such as the UK which has a broadly suitable ocean temperature profile, although conversely much of the oceans around us are relatively shallow, which might limit the amount of suitable locations.
I have heard of a few small projects looking at thermal reach-I dont know if anyone here has any more direct experience of the pros and cons of it than I do.
Tonyb

May 25, 2009 12:33 pm

Gianfranco (02:43:38) :
“Nuclear waste…”
Gianfranco, this type of flaccid remark without elaboration is what is wrong with the whole issue of global warming and energy source (non)debate. These little “sound bytes” are what are trundled out in the midst of serious discussion and are the green picture that is to mean a thousand words. Bury the waste deep in a granite batholith. Someone posted above said drop into a tectonic subduction zone, save it up and shoot it at the sun while we are on some other mission. One of the best kept secrets by dimension stone industry is that your average red granite that is sitting out there for all to see and walk over is a uranium ore at about $150/lb U3O8. Take a geiger counter with you when you visit a building clad in red granite.
JamesG (04:22:04) :
“use CO2 for green houses? pressurizing oil feilds?”
James, we are talking about 10 trillion cubic metres of CO2 a year – in 15 years it will be more than measured natural gas reserves (see my post above: Gary Pearse (06:06:08) : on sequestration and disaster)
John Egan (06:26:05) : “shortage of uranium…”
There is no shortage of U – there has been a shortage of exploration for it for 40yrs because of anti nuclear. At the price you mention, mining companies were finding it all over the place. Even red granites are U ore at 150 bucks a pound and every phospate plant can recover substantial quantities of it.

May 25, 2009 12:40 pm

“>>Obviously there is a demand for ‘green’-energy. Well then
>>let people be able to sign up for ‘expensive’ power and pay
>>twice the price for their electricity.
We did something like that in California a few years back. It was called deregulation, I believe. I remember a form coming in the mail that gave a choice of buying electricity from a ‘green’ company (hydro-generated) or conventional (coal/oil-fired) source. Shortly thereafter, rolling brown-outs and blackouts occurred, the state budget reserve was spent to purchase powerlines, and the governor was kicked out of office.
Now, the new governor has ‘gone green’ , we have +10% unemployment and the state government is essentially bankrupt, operating on borrowed funds.
Watch what happens here in CA, it will be coming to a state/country near you soon!
RJ

May 25, 2009 12:43 pm

@jorgekafkazar (11:40:31) :
“Roger Sowell (10:14:00) : “…quite a number of energy storage systems (ESS) exist and work quite well; their drawback is one of economics, not practicality…”
Economic failure IS a practical drawback and, in fact, the most fundamental one.”

No, primarily large storage is not yet economic. Many companies enjoy small storage systems to great advantage, and find the economics quite attractive. A battery-based UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for computers and sensitive electronics is one example. High-speed flywheels also enjoy good sales.
If modern governments supported large-scale ESS in the manner they formerly supported large hydroelectric dams and generation, the picture would be quite different. Just to name a few, I refer to Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, and Bonneville Dam. The country did not seem to suffer from those instances of government largesse.
A large storage system that employs batteries is approved and being installed on Catalina Island offshore California. That is the most economic solution out of roughly half a dozen systems studied.
““..Renewable power works quite well, and provides more than 13 percent of all power sold in California. This 13 percent includes solar, wind, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and various forms of methane production or capture from organic materials.”
How much of that 13 percent is propped up by direct and indirect governmental (Federal and state) subsidies? If you ask us to consider all the financial drawbacks of nuclear, why is it right for you to ignore the true underlying financial structure of renewables?”

Ah, the subsidy-is-bad argument. Literally dozens of things receive federal or state subsidies in one form or another. Are you opposed to all, or just singling out power generation? Nuclear power, as you bring up, is greatly subsidized by federal money. The amount of federal money that pours into regulatory agencies for nuclear is staggering. If, as you advocate, we are to eliminate any power source that receives a subsidy, then nuclear would be the first to go.
“Consider, too, that much of the expense of nuclear has historically been the result of deliberate green interference in the licensing and construction permitting process. Total project lead-time is a large factor in out-of-control nuclear capital costs, one that needs to be addressed.”
One could say the same about obstruction for natural gas plants, coal-fired plants, large hydroelectric plants, solar and wind plants, and wave power; the greenie-weenies are opposed to everything. In the case of nuclear, there were very good reasons for the changing regulations and inspections. Nuclear power is ultrahazardous by legal definition, a designation not applicable to any other power source.
Or, do you advocate that nuclear plants dispense with the containment dome, the spent fuel storage areas, the safety systems, and the requirement to withstand an impact from a large commercial aircraft? Those design standards are there solely because sober and wise men understand that radioactive nuclear fission is deadly, toxic, very long-lasting, and will kill people without those safeguards.

RobP
May 25, 2009 12:45 pm

With regard to nuclear waste, why did we ever stop dumping it in the ocean? Remember, radioactivity is ubiquitous – the only issue is concentration. We concentrate it to use it (enriching Uranium etc.) because that is the onlyway to get useable energy from it and for disposal, we should simply dilute it again.
The UK waste that has got everyone so upset was packaged in such a way as to deliberately leak slowly so that in an ocean trench it would be diluted as it leaked and decayed. Storing it on land – where it still leaked as the drums were designed to – has created a radioactive plume in the subsoil. Hardly an unanticipated occurrence.

May 25, 2009 12:46 pm

Imagine the good to be done if a fraction of these funds were directed to clean drinking water in developing nations. Conservative estimates list 4 million deaths per year due to poor drinking water.

May 25, 2009 12:47 pm

I had a pleasure to add “technological taleban” to wikipedia greenpeace page. Counting 15 min, nobody took it away yet?

anna v
May 25, 2009 12:48 pm

And people who are against nuclear should keep remembering: France has done it:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html
and the french are not into wasting money.
* France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy. This is due to a long-standing policy based on energy security.
* France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over EUR 3 billion per year from this.
* France has been very active in developing nuclear technology. Reactors and fuel products and services are a major export.
* It is building its first Generation III reactor and planning a second.

…..
The cost of nuclear-generated electricity fell by 7% from 1998 to 2001 to about EUR 3 cents/kWh, which is very competitive in Europe. The back-end costs (reprocessing, wastes disposal, etc) are fairly small when compared to the total kWh cost, typically about 5%.
The whole link is worth reading particularly to help nucleophobes realize that there are working and economical solutions in one of the most civilized countries on the planet.

David Corcoran
May 25, 2009 12:49 pm

JamesG (03:21:50) :
Sellafield is being decommissioned now and the costs are spiraling out of control – the latest estimate being 80 billion.

Spurious court cases by the Eco Taliban have brought about the requirement of 10,000 years of sequestration of spent material. But even that’s worth it to have lights, heat and machinery working when we want it, not just when the wind blows. Besides, as others have pointed out, newer reactors are magnitudes more efficient than early reactors and can reprocess fuel.

Toto
May 25, 2009 12:51 pm

The left has a long history of being utopian.

Steve Moore
May 25, 2009 12:53 pm

Mark Bowlin (09:21:47) :
Thanks for the excerpts. Any chance the entire paper is available?
Was Read’s “Ablaze” among your source material?

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 12:55 pm

This article, like many others, puts forward the notion that when we run out of oil, modern life as we know it will cease to exist due to our dependence on petrochemicals.
That is not accurate.
We can make “petro” chemicals from anything containing carbon. That includes coal, trees, algae, and even trash. This is NOT a theoretical. Actone was produced by a bacterium (the method was developed by the person who became one of the first leaders of the new state of Israel). EMN Eastman Chemical is still using coal to make its plastics (they never moved away from coal when the rest of the industry did at the onset of cheap oil). DOW Dow Chemical and other US producers use a lot of Natural Gas and between the quantities recently liberated by new “tight shale” techniques and the future availability of Methane Clathrates from the sea bed; we have natural gas for many centuries. DD DuPont is working with BP British Petroleum to produce butanol, as a fuel but usable as a chemical feedstock, from biomass on a production basis. And RTK Rentech is presently producing agricultural chemicals from trash. There are also a half dozen minor companies using various forms of pyrolysis to make a synthetic oil from plant matter and trash; along with others making oil from algae.
We will never run out of “petro”chemicals.
The notion is also put forward that we must have fast breeders to make the Uranium fuel cycle last more than a century or so. This, too, is lacking. While I have nothing against fast breeders (or any of the dozens of other similar reactors) we do have choices. Any of them will do (though markets will only choose the cheapest.) One is a Japanese technique (proven at a test scale basis) that produces U from sea water at about $150 / lb. (roughly $300 / kg – though given Yen changes that will vary). Expensive compared to land based mines ($40 / lb to $120 / lb most of the time) but dirt cheap compared to oil.
My final comment is about the overall tone of the article. The dour “only one choice” and everything else is broken tone. This is just way too simplistic and leans toward cheerleading for fission.
I’m happy with fission. It works well and is economical. It can power the whole planet. Yet there are existence proofs of people living happy MODERN lives with electricity from nothing more than wind and solar. Yes, converting Britain (or any other established modern energy grid) would be a royal PITA, and not the best ECONOMICAL choice; but that does not mean the alternatives do not provide usable energy and are simply trash.
Especially in places like the U.S.A. with a continental scale grid, wind can be effectively integrated with little issue up to about 10% and with minor complexity up to about 20%. In addition to pumped water storage, one can use pumped AIR storage in giant underground cavern / tanks (probably not suited to the UK – we have salt domes…) Wave power is not Tidal, and it is much more dispatchable. A significant percentage of wave power could be integrated into the UK grid with few issues to resolve. Similar potential solutions are available for many other ‘alternatives’ and different places have different best mixes to use.
With that said: All this would cost a great deal of money. Frankly, putting in place enough secondary batteries and pumped storage and … to make up for wind being flakey on a modest sized northern atlantic island is incredibly wasteful. So you really need to distinguish TECHNICAL solutions from ECONOMIC solutions. On a technical basis, there are many things we can do. There is not energy shortage and there never will be.
It is on the economic scale that the battle is fought and the winners chosen. This is where governments go wrong. They choose a technical solution. Markets choose economic solutions. Markets do the better job of integrating all factors. Governments listen to pressure groups and biased agendas.
On an economic basis, we can say that a little wind mixes well with a little tidal and a modest amount of wave and in sunny climates a fair amount of solar power. We can also say that coal and fission beat the pants off all the alternatives for massive base load power and for most swing power. Natural gas dominates the grid peaking power (though in some locations Diesel electric does better – i.e. Alaska away from a nat gas line).
The point? There Is No One Answer. If varies by nation, by geography, by fuel market, by individual home. (If I’m more than one or two power poles away from the grid it is cheaper to build a wind / solar system with battery storage than to pay $10,000 / pole for them to be installed…) These kinds of mixed product solutions are handled DISMALLY by governments, by commissions (Truth Commissions or otherwise), and by groups of experts reaching a consensus. They are handled very well by a market based system.
So we have a town in Alaska where the entire town is on a giant battery backup system. Why? Lose power mid winter, you die. Fast. France is up to their eyeballs in fission having little else. Saudi uses oil to desalt sea water. I have a standby gasoline generator. California has wind farms and geothermal actively contributing to our needs (along with a big pot of fission, hydroelectric and some pumped storage). Iceland uses massive quantities of geothermal because they have it in abundance. The list goes on for many pages.
The only major mistake is to look for The One True Answer. Because there is none.
The minor mistake is to disparage other energy sources as Not The One True Answer. Nothing is, so everything falls to that axe.
So please accept that there are a great many solutions that all can contribute, but not in all places or for all peoples. Step back and ask for each place: What works best here, for them? A nobody need ever be cold and in the dark. Ever.

Douglas Taylor
May 25, 2009 1:07 pm

Hi
This post is in reply to a statement by Roger Sewell about the high costs of Nuclear, Generation by individual States after his analysis of EIA Data. My analysis of the same data base(EIA over several years) indicate that his conclusion is highly suspect. For example Illinois, receives about 50% of their electricity from Nuclear Power Generation (Exelon Energy/Commonwealth Edison). The retail cost of electricty in Illinois is a bit less than the average of all the states. Hawaii has the highest retail rates ( mostly oil generation), and Idaho the cheapest (hydroelectric). The states with the cheapest rates are mostly powered by coal, whereas the states with the highest rates, have a very strong green movement.

May 25, 2009 1:09 pm

anna v,
I wish I had time right now to respond properly, but I don’t. Basically, the French subsidize their nukes, and sell it because they must since nuclear power does not have good load-following capability. French nuclear power is one of the greatest cons of all time.

Pragmatic
May 25, 2009 1:12 pm

Thanks for this well thought out overview.
My belief is there is a place for ALL these energy sources, albeit some clearly must carry the baseload. New nuclear (fast breeder, fusion and thorium) is appears necessary for any successful program to achieve energy independence. The next question is how to reduce the *number* of new nukes and their large investment capital? One suggestion is to expand the use of natural gas in the home to power combined cooling, heat and power units. These systems, already built by several manufacturers including Honda, can generate the necessary heat to cool/heat a home AND produce electrical energy. No, they are not 100 percent efficient but yes, they are a viable alternative to massive grid and power plant expansion. And they use a domestic resource we have in abundance.
In keeping with renewable goals, solar can and should continue to expand – especially in sunbelts where there is reasonably predictable sunshine. The Israeli-built solar concentrator project in Cali is one that will be profitable due to mandated contracts with PG&E. Likewise geothermal and tidal/wave energy can make a valuable contribution. The introduction of hybrid auto transportation lowers the demand for foreign oil – a goal both left and right appear to want. Domestic alternative liquid fuels like ethanol, butanol and biodiesel can replace some demand for gasoline – again, not 100 percent but they make a contribution.
And a program to investigate new physics should not be limited by political influences. If there are potentially viable low energy nuclear, or Millsean hydrino-type reactions that are repeatable – they should be openly funded. The time to build transitional technology pathways is now. The idea of depleting one resource before unveiling a new one is erroneous. For a viable energy future we need a broad portfolio of resources. Our wisest step will be to dismiss none in favor of another. There is strength in variability.

Ellie in Belfast
May 25, 2009 1:19 pm

The issues set out in this essay are all too real but they are challenges and opportunities more than they are problems. I’m with Roger Sowell on this one: storage and balancing supply and demand is something we’ve only started to think about commericially. For renewable energy in general, many of the most promising technologies are not yet commercial and even those that are are in their infancy.
Regardless of what our energy future holds, renewables have a window of opportunity currently from market incentives that are driving innovation. While I don’t like the incentives (we are all paying for them) or see a need to mitigate carbon emissions, I am keen on an increased diversity of energy technology availablility. It may only take one or two technologies or companies to make a break-through….
Then there are other issues such as cost and security of supply. Ireland (population 6M) is a small customer when it comes to buying fuels. We need to develop and use what resources we have – wind, wave and tidal in abundance, limited hydro (we’d be fine if rain produced energy). We have gas fields under development but we need to keep options open.

Ellie in Belfast
May 25, 2009 1:23 pm

TonyB – plenty of research into wave/tidal:

(plus many more commercial wave ones not shown.

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 1:27 pm

Julian Braggins (02:40:32) :Thorium might have got a mention, inherantly stable , on paper, more of the raw material than uranium and less long term waste disposal problems (but we have safe solutions already for uranium) but have yet to see a working prototype.
Um, try Thorium is in production today and has been in production since the earliest days of nuclear power… See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle#List_of_thorium-fueled_reactors
Gianfranco (02:43:38) :and the problem of nuclear waste? how to be addressed?
I became much less worried about this when it was pointed out to me that the nuclear “waste” was usable as fuel in an advanced reactor design and that the radiation level coming from the wasted dropped to being about the same as the original ORE, not background, in about 250 years. The 25,000 year issue is to match background and that is, IMHO, a false goal…
I also put this comment under the ‘infinite energy’ thread, but I’ll excerpt it here:
We can treat all our present nuclear “waste” as fuel, should we wish to. This, IMHO, is the biggest reason NOT to entomb “waste” at Yucca Mountain. I’ve added the “bold”.
From:
http://www.eoearth.org/article/Small_nuclear_power_reactors
HTRs can potentially use thorium-based fuels, such as highly enriched uranium (HEU) with thorium, uranium-233 with thorium, and plutonium with thorium. Most of the experience with thorium fuels has been in HTRs. General Atomics say that the MHR has a neutron spectrum is such and the TRISO fuel so stable that the reactor can be powered fully with separated transuranic wastes (neptunium, plutonium, americium and curium) from light water reactor used fuel. The fertile actinides enable reactivity control and very high burn-up can be achieved with it – over 500 GWd/t – the Deep Burn concept and hence DB-MHR design. Over 95% of the Pu-239 and 60% of other actinides are destroyed in a single pass.
So all the hand wringing over nuclear “waste” and all the folks saying we are going to run out of Uranium since we only use some small part of it in a reactor load; are all missing the point. We do that because it’s easy and cheap. We don’t “waste” the large part of the energy left in a “spent” fuel bundle. We’re just saving it for future generations…

May 25, 2009 1:31 pm

[snip – religion is OT ]

Kum Dollison
May 25, 2009 1:49 pm

E. M. Smith, Tony B, Roger Sowell, Pragmatic, Ellie in Belfast have it right.
Now is the time to be working on, and experimenting with these projects.
In the end, rational minds will make practical choices for their locale. In the meantime, nuke some popcorn, grab a “beverage” out of the fridge, and watch the show. It should be “interesting.”

Dave Andrews
May 25, 2009 2:05 pm

Neil Jones,
“Welsh Windbags strike again.”
Spot on! Maybe, though, we could somehow harness the ‘wind’ that emanates from the Welsh Assembly. 🙂

John F. Hultquist
May 25, 2009 2:18 pm

Regarding Chernobyl:
Mike McMillan (02:16:38) : Steven Goddard (05:58:30) :
Mark Bowlin (09:21:47) :
We have friends who host one or two teens from Belarus every summer. The local small community hosts about a dozen. More would like to come here because they also get a week of business training at Central Washington University (Ellensburg). But that and other costs also limits the number that can be hosted.
Check out: The Children of Chernobyl United States Charitable Fund, Inc
http://www.chernobyl.org/
Although, as explained by Ralph E., this was not a nuclear explosion and the design was faulty but the world is still dealing with the consequences. The current children were not born yet when this event occurred (1986) and they suffer because of it.

Robert Creutz
May 25, 2009 2:22 pm

Has anyone fully researched this:
http://www.energystate.org
From what I have been reading…basically all of our energy needs…and I mean all can be directly provided by the earth’s ionosphere. Tesla proved it and its been kept out of sight ever since….

Steven Goddard
May 25, 2009 2:29 pm

Colin,
Iran has hidden their nuclear weapons program behind their “right to nuclear energy.” Iran’s “right to nuclear energy” allowed Russia to openly assist them in this effort. Iran’s “right to nuclear energy” allowed them to develop nuclear weapons right under the UN weapons inspector’s noses.
And breeder reactors will allow Pu-239 to be leaked to terrorist organisations.
These facts should be obvious to anyone paying attention.

slowtofollow
May 25, 2009 2:38 pm

I’ve done a quick skim of the thread and I haven’t seen mention of the positive capacity increase reducing waste and improving efficiency can make.

May 25, 2009 2:49 pm

Wanna fry an egg? You don´t need anything, just with GLOBAL WARMING take your frying pan outdoors and break an egg on it. …but it will be possible within 5 years (when the north pole will melt also). 🙂

Mr Lynn
May 25, 2009 2:55 pm

Retired Engineer (08:38:33) :
. . . Without reprocessing, I’m not a fan of nuclear. France has shown that it can be done. If we could get Congress and the NRC off their duffs and approve newer designs with a way to deal with spent fuel, we could have as much energy as we need for as long as we want for a reasonable price.
For some reason, I don’t expect this will happen.

It will happen if we can
(a) get candidates running for office (local and federal) who understand the realities of energy production, climate, and science in general;
and (b) educate the voting public to the point where they will vote for these candidates and not socialist demagogues like Waxman and our current President.
The duffs that have to be gotten off are our own—or as some Brit once said, “Extradigitate!”
/Mr Lynn

May 25, 2009 2:55 pm

A technological Taliban? funny indeed…but, why don’t you tell us who?
I just was imagining a CLIMATE TALIBAN instead. 🙂

Douglas Taylor
May 25, 2009 2:58 pm

Another Post in response to Roger Sewell post about Nuclear Generation in France. Here is some background info: Electricity generation is divided into three groups: baseload (24hr a day /365 days a year) intermediate, and peaking. Peakers are dispatched as needed to maintain grid balance because of small unpredictable variations in demand. Intermediates are used because of predictable variations in demand. For example hot afternoons in mid summers(turned on), and late at night( turned off). Baseload, and intermediate account for more than 90% of the electrical production. In the United States, all of the Nuclear Production is baseload. In France most of the Nuke production is baseload, however, some of the production is intermediate. It is not correct to state physically that Nuclear does not have load following capabilities. One may control the output of a nuke by moving one or more control rods into or out of the core. In fact the load following characteristics of Nukes is similar to that of large thermal plants (modern coal fired, and combined cycle gas turbines, operated in the combined cycle mode). The load following of Nuke are economics, not physical. I challenge Mr Roger Sewell to compare the load following of Nukes with the load following of Wind turbine farms(specifically wind generation) in Denmark, and Germany. Wind has zero, or zip load following characteristics.

May 25, 2009 3:00 pm

Ellie
Thanks for this. I know there are a fair number of reseach projects, the trouble is that the amount of development i.e installations capable of delivering actual electricity into a national grid is miniscule. A significant proportion of those being researched will fall by the way side as robustness plus efficiency plus price plus repeatibility is an equation that -unfortunately- eludes most projects.
tonyb

Mike McMillan
May 25, 2009 3:04 pm

Gary Pearse (12:33:16) :
There is no shortage of U – there has been a shortage of exploration for it for 40yrs because of anti nuclear.

IIRC Lucy and Ricky Ricardo bought themselves a Geiger counter and went exploring for uranium when they went out west. They thought they’d struck it rich, but it turned out Fred Murtz’s watch had a radium dial.
Always happy to elevate the level of discourse.

Shane
May 25, 2009 3:15 pm

Sheikh Yamani, the Saudi Oil Minister during the Oil Crises of the seventies is memorably quoted as saying:-
The stone age did not end because the world ran out of stones and the oil age will not end because the world runs out of oil.
S

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 3:29 pm

It’s not just a topic for debate anymore–it is now law in the United States. On 5/21/09 the Waxman-Markey Bill, i.e., H.R. 2454, “The American Clean Energy and Security Act,” passed in to law by a vote of 33 to 25. It is law now :”This bill, when enacted into law this year… With this plan, we will shape a new energy destiny for our country,… “.
http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1630:energy-and-commerce-committee-passes-comprehensive-clean-energy-legislation&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55
The 932 page law on PDF :
http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20090515/hr2454.pdf
They are saying it will save people money. How?

Ellie in Belfast
May 25, 2009 3:31 pm

TonyB,
Only too true. If I could invest money in every renewables technology/project I’m aware of and be guaranteed a 10 times return for every one that fails (not that investment works that way of course), I’d be very rich indeed in about 10 years, perhaps less. On the other hand picking a winner would be much more of a lottery.

Ellie in Belfast
May 25, 2009 3:38 pm

Ha Ha. I just reread what I wrote about investing in failing renewables – I think that shows just how small my ambitions (resources) would be as an investor!

May 25, 2009 3:42 pm

Roger Sowell says
The amount of federal money that pours into regulatory agencies for nuclear is staggering. If, as you advocate, we are to eliminate any power source that receives a subsidy, then nuclear would be the first to go.
———————————————
On what world does funding FEDERAL REGULATORY AGENCIES equal a subsidy? That was one telling comment. The Nuclear industry is responsible for the size of Government? No left leaning environmentalist anti-nuclear scaremongers are responsible for the money being poured into these agencies.
Nothing like some misdirected blame to better illuminate the issue.
For the Record I advocate all subsidies to be withdrawn on all energy sources and have the best one win,… it is a radical right wing free-market concept that may be very foreign to some readers.

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 3:49 pm

The Waxman-Markey Bill, “This bill, when enacted into law this year…”.
932 page PDF :
http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20090515/hr2454.pdf
Carbon Capture and Sequestration…
Electric vehicle infrastructure…
Building retrofit program…
PART A—GLOBAL WARMING POLLUTION REDUCTION GOALS AND TARGETS…
Greenhouse gas registry…
International offset credits…
Requirements for international deforestation reduction program…
Climate change rebates…
CLIMATE CHANGE WORKER ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE…
INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION PROGRAM…

Dennis George
May 25, 2009 4:03 pm

I have posted this elsewere but it is relevant.
As the world is constantly looking for more potable water, power, hydrogen and fuel, I wonder if some of our young engineering geniuses could consider the following.
Visualise a High Temperature Pebble Bed Reactor next to a conventional Coal Fired Power Station adjacent to a water cooling source [sea or river].
The HTPBR can very efficiently electrolyse water to hydrogen, supply heat for a distillation desalinisation plant, or power for a reverse osmosis desalinisation plant and also supply power to the grid.
The CFPS is operated conventionally to supply power to the grid but the carbon dioxide is scrubbed and retained.
A recombiner is set up and the hydrogen and carbon dioxide are recombined over nickel to produce methane which is then compressed and used as a motor fuel.
The hydrogen obtained by electrolyse is very pure and also suitable for fuel cell use in vehicles.
So we have a win win situation
We have supplied power to the grid.
We have desalinated water.
We have generated pure hydrogen for fuel cells.
We have generated methane for vehicular use.
We have reused the carbon dioxide from the CFPS
Admittedly the carbon dioxide eventually will end up in the atmosphere but it may be easier to capture it at the tail pipe rather than the chimney.
Dennis F M George

bill
May 25, 2009 4:07 pm

French NP
http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/the-reality-of-frances-aggressive-nuclear-power-push
French nuclear power costs are “the lowest in the world” can’t be substantiated because nobody knows the cost of the entire domestic nuclear program. For decades, the civilian program has profited from direct and indirect subsidies, in particular through cross-financing with the nuclear weapons program. Current estimates don’t appropriately take into account eventual decommissioning and waste-management costs, which remain a concern and quite uncertain. (In addition to post-fission waste, 46 years of uranium mining has left 50 million tons of waste for eventual cleanup and remediation, the cost of which is unknown.) Official final disposal cost estimates for long-lived high- and intermediate-level fission wastes vary between $21 billion and $90 billion.
In the existing French nuclear fleet, the number of safety-relevant events has increased steadily from 7.1 per reactor per year in 2000 to 10.8 in 2007, …
There are also the construction errors AREVA has made while building new plants, which are based on the EPR design that the company is hawking worldwide. Last December, the company started an EPR project in Flamanville, France, where French nuclear safety authorities noted that basic technical specifications and procedures such as proper concrete pouring hadn’t been followed, culminating in an unprecedented and unlimited May order to stop cement pouring.
AREVA is struggling to demonstrate that it can build new plants on time and at the estimated cost. For example, after nearly three years of construction, the EPR project in Olkiluoto, Finland, is two years behind schedule and at least $2.3 billion over budget.
So all of this talk about France leading the world toward a renaissance in nuclear power, is exactly that–talk.
Wiki
In July 2008, 18,000 litres (4,755 Gallons) of Uranium solution containing natural uranium were accidentally released from Tricastin Nuclear Power Center. Due to cleaning and repair work the containment system for a uranium solution holding tank was not functional when the tank filled. The inflow exceeded the tank’s capacity and 30 cubic meters of Uranium solution leaked with 18 cubic meters spilled to the ground. Testing found elevated uranium levels in the nearby Gaffière and Lauzon rivers. The liquid that escaped to the ground contained about 75kg of unenriched uranium which is toxic as a heavy metal while possessing only slight radioactivity. Estimates for the releases were initially higher, up to 360kg of natural uranium, but revised downward later.[7]
French authorities have banned the use of water from the Gaffière and Lauzon for drinking and watering of crops. Swimming, water sports and fishing were also banned. This incident has been classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.[8]
Again in July 2008, approximately 100 employees of were exposed to radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe in a reactor that had been shut down.[9]

slowtofollow
May 25, 2009 4:23 pm

Dennis George (16:03:30) :
“Admittedly the carbon dioxide eventually will end up in the atmosphere but it may be easier to capture it at the tail pipe rather than the chimney.”
Isn’t a static chimney an easier proposition than a mobile tailpipe?

May 25, 2009 4:24 pm

Thanks Ralph Ellis, I think you got it right 5 years ago. Except in very special niche circumstances all these alternative energy sources are toys. Nice for a few people to fiddle with as a hobby.
Our technological civilization has lost confidence in itself and is committing suicide slowly.
We seem to be doomed to a future of energy poverty while there is abundant energy in the nucleus which we actually know how to extract.
Thanks also to Roger Sowell for demonstrating to everybody again that lawyers are obtuse shaders of the truth who are prepared to argue that black is white and have the sheer gall to think that you believe them.

JamesG
May 25, 2009 4:28 pm

“For the Record I advocate all subsidies to be withdrawn on all energy sources and have the best one win,… it is a radical right wing free-market concept that may be very foreign to some readers.”
And like all radical right wing free-market concepts it’s totally bloody stupid! Dogmatic ideology isn’t any kind of substitute for common sense.

a jones
May 25, 2009 4:33 pm

Nuclear plant of the PWR type are automatically load following because increased demand at the heat exchanger causes the temperature of the outflow to fall so cooler recirculated water enters the reactor. The water acts as a moderator and since cooler water is more dense the reaction rate increases to compensate without any other adjustment.
Although this quite desirable it can also lead to difficulties particularly at low loads such as ‘cold slug’: which is exactly what happened at Chernobyl. When the degree of moderation changes the response is not linear, it tends to surge upwards and then drop back and if the surge is too great the core goes supercritical. We usually model this response using Fourier transforms.
This is why it is dangerous to allow a nuclear reactor’s reaction rate to increase too quickly, for example it is standard practice for the control rods to be wound out by electric motors and a worm gear to retract the rods very slowly, a lesson learned from the SL 1 Disaster. The rods are held by a magnetic linkage so if the reactor overheats the temperature exeeds the Curie point and the magnetic adhesion fails causing the rods to drop in by gravity.
Likewise if the reator is ‘scrammed’ the magnetic field which is generated by electromagnets, is turned off so the rods drop back in immediately, which then leaves the problem of cooling the core without using excessively cold water. Essentially it is this system which failed at Three Mile Island due to incorrect installationof the pumps and the plumbing. There was a partial core meltdown but NO significant release of radiation.
PWR designs have hardly changed in nearly fifty years and although well proven are not ideal, they produce small amounts of plutonium etc and do require complex safety and control systems.
There are other better possibilities, one is steam moderation of the reaction, because unlike a gas cooled reactor using CO2 or Helium the steam acts a moderator and controlling its temperature and pressure not only allows output to be fine tuned but also allows it to burn a wide range of fuel. Such reactors hold out the prospect of making much better use of the fissile feedstock by burning up almost all of it so there is no significant disposal problem. And they are intrinsically safe, to shut down reaction and cool the ore it is only necessary to reduce the steam pressure and if needed bleed in inert gas to the steam circuit.
This sort of technique possibly combined with a pebble bed system offers the prospet of relatively cheap, safe small scale reactors with no significant radioactive waste. The technology exists now which is not to say that it will not take ten to twenty years to go over to it on any significant scale: such plant has not been tested in commercial use. And only governments can order such plant. So don’t hold your breath.
Which is why I personally do not think we should consider using PWRs in the UK on a large scale just yet, lets see what the new designs have to offer. Coal and gas can fill the gap perfectly well for the moment: not least because gas combined cycle plant is very cheap and quick to build if wanted. And as I saids in another post we already have the LNG terminals and there is plenty of LNG tanker capacity laid up. It is just a matter of agreeing long term contracts.
And damn the CO2
Kindest Regards

bill
May 25, 2009 4:38 pm

In 2007 from UK gov statisics:
http://img20.imageshack.us/img20/8598/totaluseofrenewables.jpg
5.2Mtonnes of oil saved
Not much but a start.
This is ACTUAL oil equivalent saved based on ACTUAL energy produced byy renewables.

bill
May 25, 2009 4:41 pm
Kum Dollison
May 25, 2009 4:49 pm

Dennis George,
Why don’t we just let the CO2 escape the tailpipe and provide fertilizer for the soybeans, and cotton. That way our people will be Warm, Well Fed, AND Well-clothed.

RoyFOMR
May 25, 2009 5:12 pm

When did it happen that alternative-energy calculations eschewed simple sums, because arithmetic doesn’t take into account moral, humanistic decisions?
(A) .. Anything is better than we’ve got – ‘cos we is bad
Is it really true that wish-science now trumps reality for the same reason?
(A) .. Yup wish-science is about the power of the mind to imagine- much easier than to wade thro’ arcane and tricky science
Have Climate-Censors really redefined arithmetical-axioms as meaningful only in carbon-contextual projections when underpinned by environmentally-‘sound’ principles?
(A) .. Ask the (Wax)Mann
Steve has got it spot on. There’s loads of energy – and accessible at that – but the illiterate witch-hunters keep chanting the ‘peer-reviewed’, ‘us is bad’ mantras!!!

May 25, 2009 5:29 pm

I would like to add another source of renewable energy is Methane gas. It can be harnessed anywhere from sewage system from your home, community, garbage site, or even hog farms. Check out an article on this.

May 25, 2009 5:31 pm

bill (16:38:03) :5.2Mtonnes of oil saved
Yeah right. Does that include the oil burned in manufacture, transport and maintenance of the “renewable” generators? I’ll bet not and anyway is anyone still burning much oil in electricity generation in the UK? If not it doesn’t make much sense to quote oil equivalents saved.
In any case I’d include hydro in traditional energy sources like coal, oil and nuclear. It works and produces energy relatively cheaply. The rest are toys.

May 25, 2009 5:36 pm

JamesG (16:28:58) :
“For the Record I advocate all subsidies to be withdrawn on all energy sources and have the best one win,… it is a radical right wing free-market concept that may be very foreign to some readers.”
And like all radical right wing free-market concepts it’s totally bloody stupid! Dogmatic ideology isn’t any kind of substitute for common sense.
———————————–
Nice knee-jerk dismissal, are you perhaps going to perhaps back that up with some concrete evidence that central energy planning has worked so far?
What is stupid is pinning the production capacity and competiveness of Western Countries in the Global Community on a set of woefully inadequate technologies, none that are new, have ever been successful and without a radical reshaping of energy storage will ever be viable for anything other than photos for green media consumption.
What is stupid is pouring billions of dollars into an industry to subsidize energy production, basically making an industry that would not exist except by the graces of the taxpayers, and one that does not contribute in any meaningful way to overall energy needs, a reliance that will only serve to burden the economy further as installed capacity grows.
What is stupid is abandoning some very simply economic “common sense” truths in regards to markets and market forces, if you build a better product at a price that people will pay you will win. If you build a crappy product at a price people are not willing to pay you will lose. If you can argue that I would really like to hear it.

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 5:49 pm

The air car—they envision perpetual motion—so let’s pack it all up and go home folks!! Job done! No more need to drill, drill, drill in Alaska. LOL

REPLY: Actually, your criticism is misplaced. This concept works pretty well. The only problem is air recharging stations, the PSI needed can’t be gotten froma tire pump at a gas station. – Anthony

May 25, 2009 5:53 pm

I’m pretty sure renewable energy is a good idea, but don’t take it from me, take it from this eight year old…
http://greenermilwaukee.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/kids-korner-learning-about-renewable-energy/

Matt Dernoga
May 25, 2009 6:32 pm

this essay just shows how loony many of the readers here are. The arguments were very primitive and outdated. Even though you’re wrong, I could make a better argument against renewables if I felt like it.
REPLY: then do it or shut the hell up, I don’t appreciate you calling WUWT readers “loony”. You claim you can do a better job of making the argument while insulting all the readers of this blog, so put your money where your mouth is. I’ll even give you a guest post status.
I’m going to board a plane, so I won’t be able to be responding for at least 24 hours. Moderators, please make certain any replies are within blog policy. – Anthony

DoctorJJ
May 25, 2009 6:42 pm

E.M. Smith,
Thank you for pointing out the “peak oil” fear mongering that the original post implied. Like this gem,
“Nearly everything we need in our modern world needs oil as a raw material to make it – no oil supplies not only means no energy, but also no raw materials too. When the last barrel of oil comes out of the ground – and if alternate energy provisions are not already in place – human civilization as we know it will cease to exist.”
I mean, come on, peak oil is so tired. Other than the obvious peak oil hype contained in the original post, I agree with the general sentiment of the article. Renewables are not a panacea. They aren’t free. And they may or may not be the immediate solution. But to completely dismiss them is simply demonstrating ignorance to the supporting role they can and will play in energy production in the next few years.

chris y
May 25, 2009 7:01 pm

Roger Sowell posted a link to the California Energy information website. Lots of interesting reading about how much electricity costs in CA.
For example, here are some levelized costs of electricity produced by various merchant sources in 2007 in CA-
Gas- 10 cents/kWhr
Nuclear- 12 cents/kWhr
Biomass- 5.5 – 13.5 cents/kWhr
Geothermal- 5.5 cents/kWhr
Hydro- 5.2 cents/kWhr
Wave- 103 cents/kWhr
Solar- concentrating PV- 42 cents/kWhr
Solar thermal- parabolic trough- 27.7 cents/kWhr
Solar PV, single axis steer- 70.5 cents/kWhr
Solar- stirling dish concentrator- 52 cents/kWhr
Wind (Class 5)- 8.4 cents/kWhr
Summary-
Solar (PV, thermal, stirling) is still very expensive, even in sunny CA.
Geothermal looks pretty competitive in CA.
Class 5 wind looks pretty competitive in CA, but Class 5 sites onshore in CA are pretty rare, according to:
http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps_none.asp
Don’t forget to add the cost of spinning reserves or storage to the wind cost.
Coal is not even listed.
Surprisingly, nuclear is cost competitive in CA. Who would have believed that!

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 7:03 pm

REPLY: Actually, your criticism is misplaced. This concept works pretty well. The only problem is air recharging stations, the PSI needed can’t be gotten froma tire pump at a gas station. – Anthony
I was aiming at the perpetual motion notion–Gene

Mr Lynn
May 25, 2009 7:09 pm

Just Want Truth… (15:29:10) :
It’s not just a topic for debate anymore–it is now law in the United States. On 5/21/09 the Waxman-Markey Bill, i.e., H.R. 2454, “The American Clean Energy and Security Act,” passed in to law by a vote of 33 to 25. It is law now :”This bill, when enacted into law this year… With this plan, we will shape a new energy destiny for our country,… “.
http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1630:energy-and-commerce-committee-passes-comprehensive-clean-energy-legislation&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55
The 932 page law on PDF :
http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20090515/hr2454.pdf
They are saying it will save people money. How?

No, it’s not law yet. It just passed a Senate committee vote. Then the full Senate has to vote on it. Also, the House of Representatives has to consider and vote on a similar bill, which presumably they will, as Madam Pelosi is keen on preventing ‘climate change’.
Once the House and Senate have passed similar legislation, the bills have to go to a Conference Committee for reconciliation. After that, they go back to their respective bodies for another vote in each chamber.
Then the final bill has to go to the President for signature. Only after all this does it become law.
So there is still time to write your Senators and Representatives, and urge them to vote against this abomination.
/Mr Lynn

Douglas Taylor
May 25, 2009 7:13 pm

Clarification, and comments about the posting of A. Jones
The accidents at both SL1, and Chernobyl were due to the fact that both reactors went supercritical or prompt critical(supercritcal or prompt critical is a matter of debate). When a reactor goes supercritical, or prompt critical the nuclear fission is not controlled, or stopped and the power level increases by orders of magnitude in a very short period of time (of the order of a second), until the reactor comes apart(SL1), or the active safety systems(neutron poison) are destroyed. This was not the case at the accident at TMI which was due to the loss of coolant to the reactor core. At TMI(a PWR) the reactor was tripped due to the loss of a heat sink. Tripping means that the control rods drop into the reactor core and or more boron is added to the coolant. The nuclear reaction(fissioning) is stopped. The core must still be cooled due to the fact of the decay heat from the fission products. What happened at TMI is that the PORV(Pilot or Pressure Operated Relief Valve) on top of the pressurizer(contols the pressure of the primary system) stuck in the open position. The opening of the pressurizer is automatic, i.e. when the pressure of the primary coolant increases above safety limits, the valve opens, and when the pressure returns to normal, the valve closes. In this case the valve did not close. There was only an indirect way for the operaters to know that the pressurizer valve was closed. This indirect way was flawed, and the reactor operators believed the system was going solid (during normal operation, the pressurized is half full of water, and half full of steam). A solid system could cause a large break in the primary system. As a consequence, the operators turned off the Emergency Core Cooling System, and after about an hour and a half into the accident, the core was slowly becoming uncovered. If the reactor operators, had left the system alone after the initial trip, there would not have been a TMI accident.
SL1 was an Army reactor which was to be used for combined heat and power for polar regions. It was rated at about 3 megawatts. I believe it was graphite moderated. It had only one manually operated control rod, which controlled the nuclear reaction. According to the accident reconstruction scenarios, this single control rod was jerked out of the reactor for any number of reasons (suicide, control rod being stuck, and then unstuck, a other operators “goosing” the control rod technition, etc). In any event the reactor went supercritical, and it came apart. Two of the technicians were killed within the first half hour of the accident (one was impaled on the ceiling of the reactor vessel by the control rod), and the third lived for about 5 hours.
Chernobyl was mostly a graphite moderated reactor, with very limited moderation from coolant water. Western based reactors are water moderated either light water, or heavy water (Candu). The reason for water moderation is that they are intrinsicaly(passively) safe with regards to nuclear fission, i.e. if the reactor overheats the nuclear reaction(fissioning) stops. But they are not intrinsically(passively) safe because of the heat generated from fission products within the reactor rods. Chernobyl had to be actively managed to prevent a runaway fissioning process. Apparently, at very low power levels, during the testing program, the reactivity went sufficiently positive, such that the reactor period was shortentened dramatically, and the reactor went super critical or prompt critical. This type of accident could not happen with western water cooled reactors.

May 25, 2009 7:13 pm

So we have a win win situation
We have supplied power to the grid.
We have desalinated water.
We have generated pure hydrogen for fuel cells.
We have generated methane for vehicular use.
We have reused the carbon dioxide from the CFPS
Admittedly the carbon dioxide eventually will end up in the atmosphere but it may be easier to capture it at the tail pipe rather than the chimney.
Dennis F M George

You are arbitrarily assuming that there will a market for:
hydrogen for fuel cells (very, very hard to store, expensive to compress, very expensive piping and tanks – and high energy demand to cryogenically store or high pressure store, can’t pump or send cross-country.)
Reused Carbon/stored CO2 … Why? Both are a waste of chemical energy, steel, eqpt, pumps and piping and power for no value added. Vent the CO2 as fertilizer.
Methane? Not needed now for cars. Don’t spend money and energy and material and manpower reating something not needed. For natural gas for power plants? More is available far cheaper from natural sources.
Desalization is NOT needed in most areas (95-99%) of the world. Don’t do it if it is not needed. Spend the money on sewage plants, pumps, tanks and fresh water piping for the dirty – BUT FRESH – water already available.
Generate power the most economical ways possible in each different location.
Unlke the writer above who cursed free enterprise: Common sense market forces – not corrupted by governments and socialists – will create the profitable and correct solution. Corrupt governments, on the other hand, will only create more government.

Mr Lynn
May 25, 2009 7:13 pm

Oops! I got it backwards. This is an House bill that passed (‘H.R.’), so the Senate has to pass theirs, then Reconciliation, etc.
Of course my Representative in Congress, the Hon. Ed Malarky, is working cheek by jowl with the execrable Sen. Waxman, so the two bills will be essentially the same. Still, there is time to make your voices heard. Use paper and an envelope, not just e-mail; it makes a larger impression.
/Mr Lynn

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 7:25 pm

John Egan (06:26:05) : There’s even LESS extractable uranium than oil.
You may have overlooked the spike in yellowcake prices before the bust. Part was due to speculation, but another part was due to the limited amount of uranium that is easily mined. Seawater extraction talk is like fusion talk – hype and hope, but not much reality.

Prices spike in the short term for a variety of non-resource reasons. Mostly it has to do with the fact that mine expansion is a ‘several year’ process and markets move in “this month” movements. Prices can NOT be used to judge resources extent. Ever. For anything.
Sea water extraction is very real. Proven. It works. It costs a tiny bit more than land sources, so it is not done in quantity; yet. That does not say anything about the technical ability to do it, nor about the rate at which that extraction can be expanded. See:
http://www.taka.jaea.go.jp/eimr_div/j637/theme3%20sea_e.html
Where you will find:
” The total amount of uranium recovered by the experimental marine-equipment was 1kg in terms of yellow cake during a total submersion time of 240 days in the ocean. ” […] ” The total mass of the nonwoven fabric used in the experimental marine-equipment was 350 kg in the dry state and the size of equipment except for anchors was 8 x 8 x 30 m (length x width x height). ”
I’d say that extracting a kq of yellowcake from a 350 kg blanket per year is sufficient proof that it can be done. We can clearly make plastics in sufficient quantity to extract several thousand tons of yellowcake equivalent, should we ever wish to do it. (The plastic being recyclable…)
Recoverable U is about 1000 times the total known land quantity, which is itself far more than we could need in less than thousands of years. That we can mine yellowcake more cheaply in Australia DOES NOT make the Japanese sea water extraction unavailable! (Just not cheaper than dirt.)
See: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf75.html
for a pretty good exposition on total U we can recover fairly cheaply.
Notice that fairly often the comment is made that some source or other was shut down for economic reasons. That is what happens when price drops to $40 / lb. Then price spikes to $100+ and we “discover more”. Then price drops from the glut and “reserves fall”…. NONE of this has to do with quantity we can recover and use at “reasonable” costs (ultimate resource). That stays a gigantic number. ALL of it has to do with what is the lowest cost provider RIGHT NOW (economic reserves). Basically, it’s a description of market dynamics; NOT a description of usable resources.
There is no energy shortage and there never will be. There is only a shortage of imagination and the will to use it.

Joel Shore
May 25, 2009 7:30 pm

REPLY: Actually, your criticism is misplaced. This concept works pretty well. The only problem is air recharging stations, the PSI needed can’t be gotten from a tire pump at a gas station. – Anthony

Anthony, I have to agree with “Just Want Truth…” though that the info-mercial that he linked to about the AirCar is way over the top and poor scientifically, particularly when it proposes the perpetual motion idea at the end…That’s just nuts! As you say, the idea itself, like the idea of using hydrogen, is not a bad one…and it could potentially give us much more flexibility in how we generate the energy to power our vehicles by serving as a convenient energy carrier, but to suggest it is some sort of free source of energy and that we could somehow generate the compressed air using the car itself is over-the-top and in violation of the laws of thermodynamics.

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 7:33 pm

If their air turbine could work on perpetual motion then all energy problems are solved.
“…A car that runs on air and constantly refuels itself….. A no cost fill up ever. Not one iota of pollutants ever.”
This turbine that turns car wheels could also turn a turbine to produce electricity—couldn’t it? Then that would be free electricity. So we could all pack up and head home. 😉
I should have specified this is what my jest was aimed at. Unspecified jesting. My bad.

Joel Shore
May 25, 2009 7:38 pm

GK says:

I would like to add – regarding the “hydrogen economy”
If you burn H2 in cars, the exhaust output is not CO2 as in regular fuels, but H20 – water. That might make your average greenie moron swoon with delight, except that they dont realise that H20 is many many many times stronger a greenhouse gas than C02. If you believe in AGW, then the WORST thing you can put into the atmosphere is water vapor, and that is exactly what Hydrogen fuel will do.

There are two big fallacies in this. The first is a fallacy of omission: Yes, water vapor is produced when you burn H2 but it is also produced when you burn fossil fuels.
The second is the fallacy of equating emissions to levels of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The problem with CO2 is that it is long-lived in the atmosphere so that human emissions can significantly change its concentration in the atmosphere. By contrast, water vapor is not and in fact its concentration in the atmosphere is essentially controlled by the temperature. So, such emissions, at least on anything like the current scales of energy use, would not significantly affect the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere.
In fact, the way we can alter the level of water vapor in the atmosphere is by causing the temperature to change through changing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which does indeed increase the level of water vapor and causes additional warming (i.e., a positive feedback).

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 7:38 pm

Mr Lynn (19:09:25) :
If it isn’t law yet then they shouldn’t have said :
“This bill, when enacted into law this year… ”
They should have said “if” not “when”, shouldn’t they?
http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1630:energy-and-commerce-committee-passes-comprehensive-clean-energy-legislation&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55
This is a quote. copy and paste, from the government web site, the link above :
“This bill, when enacted into law this year, will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology, and cut global warming pollution.”

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 8:06 pm

joletaxi (08:51:04) :
I guess You will apologize iff I submit this in French, but I’m not enough fluent in English, in a matter that is not easy even in French.
Si je suis d’accord sur les objections soulevées dans l’article,

My rough summary of the original would be:
“As I am in accord with the objections shown in the article”… And then there is a discussion of the problems of maintaining phase sync and power factors with so many distributed generators and even with photovoltaic inverters (that may not even have sin wave output). This can cause a variety of problems, even causing the grid to shut down as breakers trip. As load goes on /off wind turbines, it is even harder to keep them synchronized for frequency and with proper current / voltage phase relationships. There is a discussion of issues that Germany has seen and their dislike of the problem.
It’s been a few years since I tackled a technical discussion in French, but I think I got the basic idea right. This will be my summary of the issues raised as I understand it. And it is true that with so many spinning generators keeping them all in frequency sync and phase lock and power factor balanced is one heck of a problem… You can end up with current being high right when voltage goes low and with nodal points where two currents from different sources (a bit out of phase in either frequency or in current vs voltage phase) can cause wires to blow, transformers to arc, and breakers to trip.
BTW, keeping the reactance balanced so that voltage and current stay in phase is why we have those grey capacitor cans mounted on the power polls. Too much inductance, and you get voltage leading while current lags (inductive reactance) too much capacitance and you get a current surge while the voltage takes a while to come up. Resistance, like incandescent light bulbs, is neutral. Historically we had more motors than electronics and needed to add capacitance to the grid. With more electronics and the move to electronic ballast fluorescent bulbs, there is less of a need for capacitance. Keeping the grid balanced for this is much harder when you have a LOT of large rotating inductors (wind generators) popping on and off the system… add in a bunch of capacitance heavy inverters for solar and you jump back and forth from too much inductance to too much capacitance and that can cause lots of things to break…
Joletaxi: Please forgive me if I did not get your point across.

May 25, 2009 8:11 pm

To the person from Denmark who commented that Dash For Wind stated that there were 54 days in Denmark where wind output was 5 and 10 and 15 and 20% of demand
There were 3 days that did not meet 2% of demand.
What is significant here were the 86 days or a little less than 1 in 4 days that did not meet 10% of demand. Of course this did not account for season differences because I just averaged out the demand. But there is not too much air conditioning in Denmark, right? But here in the US, the demand could be 50% higher in the summer than other seasons. I would think that the 3 days would easily turn into 20 if I could compare wind output to real daily demand, in the summer. And this does not account for hourly demand/wind output differences, which are greater.
So it has to be ABSOLUTELY understood that we need 100% backup of wind, 100%. That is easy to do now while the traditional plants are in place. But I keep reading articles where traditional plants are being postponed on the back burner because of new wind plants. Wind can serve as a very expensive supplement to our grid, but never as an Alternative. It is Renewable only as far as the tax breaks, production tax credits, renewable obligations and whatever else they call them are in place. They would never be renewed without that, and they will never be competitive, because they will always be a duplication of traditional.
http://nofreewind.com/dash_for_wind.pdf
http://www.pjm.com/markets-and-operations/ops-analysis.aspx
http://nofreewind.blogspot.com/

May 25, 2009 8:35 pm

Joel Shore (19:38:49) :
“In fact, the way we can alter the level of water vapor in the atmosphere is by causing the temperature to change through changing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which does indeed increase the level of water vapor and causes additional warming (i.e., a positive feedback).”
Wasn’t there a post here about measured water vapor at various levels in the atmosphere a few weeks ago? Didn’t it show some increase at low levels and a decrease at higher levels in the troposphere and essentially no overall trend?
Why do you keep recycling garbage that isn’t borne out by real world measurements, Joel ? You are referring to assumptions made in modeling.

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 8:49 pm

I found this an interesting statement, given the context of this article. I’ve bolded the part that gave me pause. The “LFTR” they talk about is also know as the MSR. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor and Molten Salt Reactor.
From:
http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/2009/04/lftr-short-and-simple-account.html
“Thorium is a very abundant mineral in the earth’s crust. The LFTR has a liquid fluoride salt core instead of the usual solid core. The liquid-salt type of reactor was developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory between 1950 and 1976. The LFTR would use thorium-232 rather than uranium as a basis of its fuel cycle.”[…] “The LFTR is 200 to 300 times more fuel efficient than standard reactors. Given the abundance of Thorium and the efficiency of the LFTR, the combination offers abundant energy as long as people will want a massive energy source.”[…]” …” the LFTRs will be between $1 and $2 per watt of generating capacity. The LFTR will be cheap enough to produce mid-load and peak power, And unlike the conventional reactors the LFTR can do dynamic load balancing for the grid. Why heck, the LFTR can even provide electrical backup for solar and wind, but why anyone would be so crazy as to install solar and wind generating facilities if they had LFTRs is beyond comprehension.
Everyone seems to like grinding their own axe… Me? I don’t care if its nuclear or wind, I just want reliable electricity at a modest (and preferably dropping) price. Oh well…

Fluffy Clouds (Tim L)
May 25, 2009 9:05 pm

Climate Heretic (11:28:58) :
Roger Sowell
The reason the Construction and decommissioning costs are so high are because of the ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS compliance which costs huge amounts of extra capital.
This is correct! sowell IS THE REASON for the problem with litigation !!!!
Get IT?

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 9:14 pm

Just Want Truth… (19:38:50) :
The quote is from Rep. Waxman. Looks like he’s counting his chickens before they hatch.

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 9:26 pm

David L. Hagen (11:55:21) : However, show me how you run your vehicle on TAR or COAL?
Ok. See:
http://www.sasol.com/sasol_internet/frontend/navigation.jsp?navid=1600033&rootid=2
The “more >>> Processes” tab on the right is interesting too… They’ve been doing this since sometime in the ’70s or so IIRC… South Africa runs on the stuff. It makes the exotic fuels of Gasoline and Diesel …
The fuel needs to be extracted, then upgraded, then converted into syncrude – and then refined. Adding capacity costs $100,000 /bbl/day.
To replace 100 million bbl/day will “only” cost $10 trillion.

Um, not always… or even often… For tar sands, yeah, you extract it and crack it into a heavy crude so it can then go through a facility like VLO Valero has for heavy crude. No ‘syncrude’ step though. For coal there are ‘syncrude’ folks, but they don’t have an “extract, upgrade” step. I think you are mixing syncrude with tar sands processes… and leaving out FT based on synthesis gas.
Oh, and the Sasol FT system starts with just “burn the coal with little air and added water” to make “synthesis gas” or a mix of CO and H2. Again, no extract, upgrade, syncrude, etc. steps.
It is quite possible to make lots of tar sands, oil shale, coal syncrude, coal synthesis gas, etc. facilities in less than 5 years and for less than the trillions you speak of. It is being done today on a massive scale… in China.
Of course, if you want to do it in the U.S.A. or Europe… well, then you are hosed with regulation, union labor, legal costs, and price hikes, until you give up. But that’s OK. SSL Sasol and SYMX Synthesis Energy have projects in China. We can just buy our gasoline and Diesel from China. No Problem… Oh, and Saudi is expanding capacity in refining oil, so we don’t really need any refineries. AND a giant new facility just opened in India aimed at the export market. See, no capacity or lead time issues at all.
We can get all the gasoline and Diesel we ever want from India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Venzuela; all our good friends. I’m sure they will give it to use for dollar bills and treasury bills. We are good and printing and we can / are printing Trillions of them. Making pretty pieces of paper is what we learn to do in our school arts programs and it’s clean and we can recycle them too… So what’s the problem? /sarcoff>

May 25, 2009 9:42 pm

@Mike Borgelt (16:24:20) :
“Thanks also to Roger Sowell for demonstrating to everybody again that lawyers are obtuse shaders of the truth who are prepared to argue that black is white and have the sheer gall to think that you believe them.”
Actually, Mr. Borgelt, you are correct that some lawyers argue that black is white, and some actually outright lie — it is their job. One example is a criminal defense attorney who knows his client is guilty but the client insists on pleading not guilty. Although some of my very good friend are criminal defense attorneys, my law practice is not in that category. If I ever lie then it very badly affects my business. Reputation is really all an attorney has to sell; so I guard mine very carefully.
However, I am unintentionally wrong at times, as we all are. So, I invite you to point out with particularity where you believe I am wrong. I am always willing to improve my knowledge. I ask that you please bring verifiable facts to the discussion, with the source for confirmation. A mere opinion based on hearsay is not sufficient.

May 25, 2009 9:50 pm

This article was written in 2004, yet posted in 2009. What crap! Nice cut n’ paste routine you’ve got for pumping up your numbers, pal, and by the way, “In 2005, Denmark had installed wind capacity of 3,129 MW, which produced 23,810 TJ of energy. Wind power provided 18.2% of the total gross electricity production.[1] In 2006, the installed capacity increased to 3,136 MW.[10]” (WIKI)
Also, this argument about wind’s intermittence being unreliable, what are you saying, wind might “go away”? Alternative energy is in addition to current oil/coal systems, of course there is a learning curve so to speak, in the development of these systems. Your title made me click: “Our Downfall”? That’s like posting, “Organic Food: The Death of Us All?” Get some vision, and stop pimping for Chevron.

May 25, 2009 9:54 pm

@Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) (21:05:43) :
@Climate Heretic (11:28:58) :
“Roger Sowell
The reason the Construction and decommissioning costs are so high are because of the ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS compliance which costs huge amounts of extra capital.
This is correct! sowell IS THE REASON for the problem with litigation !!!!
Get IT?”

Actually, fellows, I don’t practice in nuclear law and never have. Environmental regulations in general stem from the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and the hundreds passed since then.
Just so you know, have a look at the link below, and scroll down to Statutes and Regulations. These are laws passed by the government, for the regulation of nuclear systems, because in their sober and wise judgment, nuclear power from fission is too hazardous to be left to the discretion of the contractor, as I wrote earlier. Attorneys in this field generally are acting on behalf of various organizations to ensure those laws are complied with and not ignored. Based on actual lawsuits where evidence of non-compliance is produced, the attorneys are doing all of us a huge favor by bringing their lawsuits. The South Texas Nuclear Project is a good example.
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref.html

Cap - Hood River
May 25, 2009 9:57 pm

In regard to solar, it has its own issues, including the insignificant aspects of a requirement that the sun actually be out ;]
In addition, the water requirements of solar are huge (cleaning), huge cost, and ineffecient cell technology.

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 10:07 pm

Dennis George (16:03:30) : A recombiner is set up and the hydrogen and carbon dioxide are recombined over nickel to produce methane which is then compressed and used as a motor fuel.
You can do this, but you could just as easily make synthesis gas (CO+H2) and run it into a FT conversion and get gasoline and Diesel usable in our present cars – no compression needed….
Another alternative would be to use the methane (or methanol, that is somewhat easier to get) and put it through a hot zeolite catalyst (since you have all that heat…) and make gasoline out of it.
Again, this avoids the “fleet change” issue…

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 10:17 pm

Oh, I should add to the Dennis George comment:
Really like the approach, BTW! Something very similar was proposed by VW in the late ’70s in response to the Arab Oil Embargo. They wanted to use process heat from a HTGCR to convert coal to methanol and run that in cars. They had a projected cost of about 75 cents / gallon of gas equivalent IIRC. Call it about $2 / gallon of gasoline equiv. in present money as a first guess.
I think they figured about 70% of the power in your fuel tank ends up coming from the nuke. I could look it up… The book was “Methanol and Other Ways Around the Gas Pump”.
They used the coal directly without running it though a power plant, but the reality would likely be that the easiest path is a bit of both. A “partial burn” that gives power along with CO (instead of CO2) out, then add a bit more carbon and some water along with a lot of nuclear process heat to get CO + 2H2 that is reacted to CH3OH then you do the zeolite thing…
But I digress… Bottom line is that this is a good idea and chemical process engineers do this kind of thing all the time. It isn’t hard, new, or particularly difficult. What’s hard is to get government and pressure groups out of the way to let industries make decisions based on engineering and economics rather than politics and fantasies.

rotation2
May 25, 2009 10:43 pm

Stephen Brown (10:03:33) :
The Law of Unintended Consequences, as applied to wind farms!
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/transport/article6355764.ece
So air safety is being compromised to accommidate this wind power boondoggle. I understand the Whitehouse wants to idle Loran, which is a cost effective backup for GPS. No responsible government would go strictly with satellites. I guess next they’ll ask us to replace the runway lights with compact fluorescents.
Dave

a jones
May 25, 2009 11:00 pm

ATTN Douglas Taylor.
It seems you know your business sir.
I hope my post did not mislead anyone, I merely wished to make two points, that nuclear fission holds much promise and that we do not need it now: we have perfectly good fossil fuels.
And also to correct some rather odd ideas about fission and fusion power that float about here.
To further clarify what you and I said.
Any PWR tends to be very sensitive to load variation at low powers.
The RMBK reactor at Cherbonyl is largely graphite moderated and a plumbers nightmare. Because it also uses water moderation it is horribly unstable at low powers. This was well known to the Russians and they had various safety devices to curb the instability.
Why then the operators disconnected these safety devices and ran a test which their manual forbade them to do is a mystery. The rest is history.
By contrast as you correctly say the problem at Three Mile Island was that the top of the core came out of water: not least because there was no remotely controlled top vent valve.
In truth the operators did what they were trained to do, they did not know that the pumps and plumbing has been wrongly installed, nor had they either sensors to tell them what was wrong or even if they had they had no controls to rectify the problem.
It is easy to blame them: but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and even if the reactor was wrecked there was no significant release of radiation.
That is exactly what defence in depth means, every system may fail one after another until the last ditch but if that holds all is well.
Still the press likes the frisson of saying if the last ditch did not hold think of the catastrophe. But it did hold: and there was no catastrophe: except in the press of course.
No the point I was trying to make is simple. It is not that we do not have a practical and safe nuclear fission technology but that there are much better ones on the horizon.
And that we do not need to choose now, we have plenty of fossil fuels to be going on with.
Kindest Regards

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 11:02 pm

Mike Borgelt (16:24:20) : Thanks also to Roger Sowell for demonstrating to everybody again that lawyers are obtuse shaders of the truth who are prepared to argue that black is white and have the sheer gall to think that you believe them.
Mike, I think that remark was not appropriate. Please remember that Roger practices law in California. Given the pressures in this state against nuclear his comments about the costs to build a reactor are fairly accurate. He must recognize that reality. From all that I have seen, Roger has an engineers truth first. Lawyering comes second.
Yes, he is set against fission, but again, given the context of California, that is appropriate. Can you imagine the costs involved in getting approval to put a reactor on top of an earthquake fault near the coast in California? It would be impossible. BTW, there is nowhere in California that is not near a fault line…
Heck, you can’t even buy gas cans in California unless they have a ‘special’ low vapor nozzle. And every single paint, solvent, you name it must be ‘special’ California approved… (My mechanic can no longer get the spray that does clean parts that contains MethylMethylKetone or propan2-one he can only get the stuff that does not work with acetone in it.) So when Roger says it’s just too expensive, realize that it’s darned near too expensive just to rebuild a transmission here due to state laws. Imagine what that would do to a nuclear project…
Solvents that don’t clean. Paints that don’t cover or hold up. All of it “special” and all of it needing to be passed through a special nuclear approval process…
And don’t even think about trying to make anything out of lead in California. The local shooting range (outdoor) does not let you use lead shot for skeet anymore, since the state is trying to shut them down; and the local indoor range shut down since they could not meet the exhaust air filtration requirements (essentially perfection…). So expect to be making your nuclear facility with as close to zero lead as possible.
And the state wonders why anyone painting parts is leaving the state, and anyone doing soldering, and anyone doing casting, and anyone handling petroleum waste products (i.e. drain oil), and anyone working with lead, and anyone involved with any heavy metals, and anyone who needs working solvents and degreasers, and dry cleaners, and even bakers… (Yes, the local bread bakery – major industrial scale – got hit with a pollution notice for their “hydrocarbon pollution” … the ethanol the yeast made in raising the dough baking out of the bread). Yes, the smell of baking bread is officially an Evil Toxic Pollutant !!!
Beginning to get the picture? … Make a nuke with no toxic material and no air pollution. Not even from paint drying. And don’t dare think of baking bread…
So China can build a nuke fast and effectively, California can not. Roger is in California… it’s not about him, IMHO…

Cap - Hood River
May 25, 2009 11:21 pm

David Wells: “Just to finish, precisely why we feel we deserve to survive in anycase is beyond me, we do not have domain over this planet and maybe one of the most decent things we could do is to shut down Mcdonalds and then just maybe some of the Amazon would remain intact so even if we fail to survive maybe some life inherently more attractive and less destructive might.”
David, you’re a scary, scary man. It’s fascinating to me to think of where this mindset arises from. I’m astounded, to no end, how it thrives, and how much influence it has these days. I request of you (surely to be denied) that your diatribe be saved. Print it, tuck it away in your archives, and go back and read it 20 years hence. You may astound yourself with just how far down, and how warped you were back in the day.
Good day.
k

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 11:29 pm

Antenna Wilde (21:50:38) :
Antenna Wilde,
You were supposed to say Exxon not Chevron. Exxon has always been the petroleum company name of choice for attack comments. I’ve never heard of ChevronSecrets, etc.
I visited your blog. You are from San Francisco? I see your blogs is, for the most part, about left wing politics. And it is noticeably vulgar. But one thing I didn’t see in it—science.

Just Want Truth...
May 25, 2009 11:44 pm

Antenna Wilde (21:50:38) :
Antenna Wilde,
Why do those on your side of this issue always go to Wikipedia, grab a factoid, and then come come back to the debate and post the factoid like it is Gospel and will end all argument? Who really trusts Wiki that much? Global warming entries in Wikipedia have been altered by Green radicals, the leader being William Connolley. Wiki is not an encyclopedia. It’s global warming entries are all dubious—having gone trough literally 10,000’s of edit by people who are not unbiased. To use Wiki as a source gives an indication of where you are coming from.
Ref :
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/04/12/wikipedia-s-zealots-solomon.aspx
&
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/05/03/who-is-william-connolley-solomon.aspx

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 25, 2009 11:48 pm

Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) (21:05:43) : This is correct! sowell IS THE REASON for the problem with litigation !!!!
No, he is not. Our legislative idiots make the laws. The lawyers are just as often simply trying to keep you from being ground up by them.
I won’t go into what led me to appreciate the ‘good lawyers’… Let’s just say that the proper quote from the Bard is more of “First kill all of their lawyers”… i.e. disarm your opponent by keep your hired guns available!
So our legislature makes idiotic laws. Roger tries to keep his clients from the meat grinder. That does not mean he made the grinder!
Now, since most of the political morons who made this mess have law degrees, you would be correct to say that generically “lawyers” made the litigation problem; but it is wrong to personalize it to Roger. I’ve read his site. He like to design things and he wants to have things built… That is not a litigation happy obstructionist. It’s a frustrated engineer getting a law degree to keep from getting back a stump when he encounters The Legal Machine…

Philip_B
May 25, 2009 11:49 pm

From Wikipedia,
Sellafield’s biggest decommissioning challenges relate to the leftovers of the early nuclear research and nuclear weapons programmes.
Most of the rest of the decommissioning costs are from the world’s first commercial nuclear power station at the site.
It’s deceptive to cite Sellafield’s decommisiong costs as an example of what it costs to decommision nuclear power stations. The costs of more recent designs are much lower and of current designs lower still.
And as for disposing of nuclear waste. It can be buried in deep disused mines and sealed away, effectively for ever.
The only real issue is the Green fueled NIMBY objections, which are off the irrationality scale.
Otherwise good article and many interesting comments.

May 26, 2009 12:56 am

Roger Sowell:
Well this couple of drive-by shootings without any backup make the point for a start:
“Based on actual lawsuits where evidence of non-compliance is produced, the attorneys are doing all of us a huge favor by bringing their lawsuits. The South Texas Nuclear Project is a good example.”
“I wish I had time right now to respond properly, but I don’t. Basically, the French subsidize their nukes, and sell it because they must since nuclear power does not have good load-following capability. French nuclear power is one of the greatest cons of all time.”
Followed by this:
“My viewpoint is rather the opposite of Mr. Ellis’. I presently practice law in the fields of climate change, and energy, with an emphasis on renewable energy and energy storage. I also hold a BS in chemical engineering, with many years experience in fossil fuel industries.
I have three primary points in opposition: first, intermittent renewable power, standing alone, is not intended to replace fossil-fuel power. However, not all renewable power is intermittent. Second, quite a number of energy storage systems (ESS) exist and work quite well; their drawback is one of economics, not practicality. Third, the staggering costs of nuclear power should be fully exposed and understood before anyone or any country attempts to rely on that energy source.”
Evidently you are work for the rent seekers who aim to rip us all off with their tax subsidized renewable energy scams. Should be a nice little earner for you.
If you were any sort of engineer you would realize that engineering solutions are about economics not mere practicality. I think it is a Mark Twain quote
“an engineer is someone who can do for 50 cents what any damn fool can do for a dollar”.
Sure a lot of money has been spent on nuclear research. Much of it on weapons and production thereof. These are now sunk costs. Future nuclear power research can be funded from profits made from generating and selling power just as all sorts of energy companies fund research. Nobody objects to sensible engineering reviews of nuclear power plants. What isn’t needed is a regulatory process which allows every bunch of lunatic Luddites and their lawyer hangers-on on the planet to delay projects and increase their costs until they become uneconomic and fail.

mercurior
May 26, 2009 1:20 am

Wind farms ‘could pose danger to planes without new air traffic control radar system’ The development of new, larger wind farms could pose a danger to planes unless radar systems can be adapted to deal safely with them, air traffic controllers have warned.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/5383658/Wind-farms-could-pose-danger-to-planes-without-new-air-traffic-control-radar-system.html
Wind farms can create distortion on radar screens and as the number of farms has increased, so has the number of radar “blackout zones”, meaning that aircraft passing through the area can effectively disappear with air traffic controllers losing their exact position

allthequotes
May 26, 2009 1:40 am

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.
– Barack Obama
http://www.allthequotes.com/BarackObama.php

Amabo
May 26, 2009 3:27 am

Where did mr. Dernoga go? I want to hear his earthshaking arguments.

plushoxy
May 26, 2009 4:23 am

tl;dr

bill
May 26, 2009 4:28 am

Yellow cake from sea water – an infinite resouce?
The French Nuclear generators use 12400 tonnes of Uranium oxide per year
=12.4*10^6 kg/year
1kg of yellow cake from (latest 2006 figures) 250kg of polymer per 240 days
=1.5kg/year from 250kg polymer
To satisfy the French will require (12.4/1.5)*10^6 *250 /1000 tonnes polymer
which is (if I haven’t slipped on the decimal) a rather unbelievable 2.1*10^6 tonnes of polymer.
sea water has 3*10^-3 gms uranium in 1 cu metre
so the polymer will need to see 12.4*10^9/(3*10^-3) cu metres of fresh sea water over the year. i.e. 4*10^12 cu metres.
The polymer will therfore have to be sunk into a deep water current
and
all 2 million tonnes dragged up from many meters down.
Hmmm!

Mr Lynn
May 26, 2009 4:59 am

Just Want Truth… (19:38:50) :
Mr Lynn (19:09:25) :
If it isn’t law yet then they shouldn’t have said :
“This bill, when enacted into law this year… ”
They should have said “if” not “when”, shouldn’t they?
http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1630:energy-and-commerce-committee-passes-comprehensive-clean-energy-legislation&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55
This is a quote. copy and paste, from the government web site, the link above :
“This bill, when enacted into law this year, will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology, and cut global warming pollution.”

“When” in this context is a construction we might term the ‘optimistic conditional’.
For a bill in the US Congress to become a law, it must be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and then signed by the President.
This awful bill can still be stopped, if enough Senators and Representatives refuse to vote for it. There are some Democrats from fossil-fuel-producing states who are not wildly enthusiastic about cap-and-trade. So there is yet hope. A flood of objections from constituents can make a huge difference.
/Mr Lynn

DaveF
May 26, 2009 5:14 am

Those discussing French nuclear energy might also take into account the fact that the UK now imports 14% of its electricity from France

May 26, 2009 6:09 am

>>There is no comparison between the dangers of nuclear
>>proliferation and natural gas explosions. Coal fired plants
>>work just fine, particularly since they were cleaned up in
>>the 1960s.
Yes, there is ‘no comparison’, because coal and gas as an energy source kills far more people every year than nuclear power has in its entire history. Total deaths for fossil fuel power generation per annum must exceed 10,000 (6,000 in China coal alone).
And nuclear power? Apart from Chernobyl? A few dozen??

bill
May 26, 2009 6:18 am

DaveF (05:14:57) :
http://stats.berr.gov.uk/energystats/dukes5_5.xls
GWh
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Total supply
(as given in Tables 5.1 and 5.2) 400,369 401,357 406,633r 406,341r 401,671
less imports of electricity -5,119 -9,784 -11,160 -10,282 -8,613
plus exports of electricity +2,959 +2,294 +2,839 +2,765 +3,398
less electricity used in pumped storage -3,546 -3,497 -3,707 -4,918 -5,071
less electricity used on works -18,136 -17,030 -17,871r -19,210r -18,087
equals
Electricity supplied (net) 376,527 373,340 376,734r 374,693r 373,298
Which if my maths is ok (8,613 – 3,398) / 401,671 = 1.3% imported
Also renewable data:
http://stats.berr.gov.uk/energystats/dukes7_4.xls

bill
May 26, 2009 6:26 am

E.M.Smith (23:02:42) :
Solvents that don’t clean. Paints that don’t cover or hold up. All of it “special” and all of it needing to be passed through a special nuclear approval process…

So its ok for China to supply lead based paints on kids toys? And ok to use solvents that destroy the ozone layer?
perhaps some legislation that increases the cost of products is worthwhile?

kevinfleischer
May 26, 2009 6:34 am

Some points from my side.
The first problem you describe (big blackouts) is a grid problem not a gernation problem. If the US had an up to date grid the blackout wouldn’t be that big. But due to greed and profit maximization, nobody wants to invest in a system as long as it makes money. Beside that, thats why I’m against the idea of releasing critical systems to the market.
You can eleminate the problem of the big grid, by decentralized generation. Instead of 100 big plants across the US, you can set up 10000 smaler one, that are well distributed. If a part of the grid fails, the rest remains untouched.
A other point you mentioned are subsidies.
States have put in much more subsidies in nuklear power than they have done in green energy. In Europe, especialy in Germany where I come from, subsidies for coal are also a big problem. Subsidies are not a green energy thing.
Safety of nuklear plants is another point. Beside the all known Tschernobyl, there is another thing. First see the list of critical situation in NPPs. You will find them (with sources) at some of your not liked green sites.
Second, there is some evidence that the rate of child cancer in the near of NPP is significant higher than normal.
Would you like to life next a NPP?
Than you say, the raw material for NPPs is there for thousends of years. I heared some other voices, that say that this calculation is based on the current number of plants and even than it would be very optimistic.
I heared that the reserve only holds for 80-100 years. Wouldn’t be that sustainable.
Last one – Incontinuos power production:
1. Weather reports are able to predict windspead days before. We are not talking about a single turbine, but a network of turbines. If the wind is overall to low, there is enough time to power up one of the remaining big plants. BUT to du so, those plants must be agile enough. NPP are not agile. Gas plants are. So Gas plants are the perfect supplement to renewable plants.
2. If the demand is there, solutions for storing energy will be found. As long as nobody needs to store big amounts of power, nobody will come up with a solution (for a not existing problem).
If electric cars will realy come, they are maybe a solution for storing a lot of energy.
Next to renewable energy (solar energy+heat, wind, thermal (geo and air), tide, bio gas etc.) there is the possibility to raise efficency.
I.e. use process heat of big plants or factorys to heat or cool.
Sure, nuklear power is cheap. But if the power company had to pay a real price for the waste and to garanty for any accident with there own money (and not with the money of the state and so the people), the price would be higher.

Colin
May 26, 2009 6:40 am

Steven Goddard
Your ability to avoid the obvious is truly remarkable. What you have not [snip] is that irrespective of nuclear generation, nuclear weapons will exist anyway.
On a technical basis your argument is simply wrong. Clearly you have no understanding of the technology required to extract plutonium in fuel reprocessing or you would not be blithely assuming that terrorists will have access to it.

May 26, 2009 6:48 am

>>The air car — they envision perpetual motion…
It is not perpetual motion and it is not free either. I do so hate these Greens when they say energy is free – IT IS NOT FREE.
Wind energy is actually quite expensive, due to high infrastructure costs.
And this air-car needs a b***** great compressor to compress the air and give it energy. That compressor will run off electricity, which runs off coal, which pollutes the local countryside, and also costs a lot of money.
And the more times you change energy type and store it, the less efficient the use of that energy and the more expensive the vehicle. That is why it is still cheaper (and better for the environment) to run a diesel vehicle than an electric vehicle (and much cheaper again than a hydrogen vehicle).

May 26, 2009 6:52 am

>>If you burn H2 in cars, the exhaust output is not CO2 as
>>in regular fuels, but H20 – water.
But let’s not mention the huge amounts of CO2 and H2SO4 that were produced by the power station that produced the electricity that made the H2 in the first place.
Let’s include the whole cycle, shall we (and a remarkably inefficient cycle it is too…).
.

May 26, 2009 7:14 am

>>This article was written in 2004, yet posted in 2009. What crap!
>>Nice cut n’ paste routine you’ve got for pumping up your
>>numbers, pal,
This article WAS written in 2004, pal, and I have several colleagues who can verify that. Indeed, most of the UK media editors should be able to as well, as I sent it to enough of them. (But you will have to elucidate on ‘pumping numbers’, pal, we speak English here.)
.
>>Also, this argument about wind’s intermittence being
>>unreliable, what are you saying, wind might “go away”?
As it does many times a week, pal. I flew over 2,000 turbines a couple of days ago, and not one was turning. Strange as it may seem, but the wind had ‘gone away’, pal. On costal sites, the wind ‘goes away’ like clockwork, twice a day (check out ‘diurnal effects of wind’, pal).
.
>>That’s like posting, “Organic Food: The Death of Us All?”
>>Get some vision, and stop pimping for Chevron.
Sadly, you could be right there. I would guess that if we all indulged in organic farming, some 1.5 billion people would die of starvation. Seriously, organic crop yields are simply not great enough to feed the already overcrowded world we have, let alone the extra population that will arrive in the future. Organic farming is an indulgent, luxury product designed to massage the egos of the rich – who don’t give a damn where the rest of the world will get its food from.
And if you read my article properly, you would see that I was promoting nuclear power, not oil. The sooner we stop burning petrochemical feedstocks the better, in my opinion.

bill
May 26, 2009 7:20 am

ralph ellis (06:09:37) :
Yes, there is ‘no comparison’, because coal and gas as an energy source kills far more people every year than nuclear power has in its entire history. Total deaths for fossil fuel power generation per annum must exceed 10,000 (6,000 in China coal alone).
And nuclear power? Apart from Chernobyl? A few dozen??

Nothing is 100% safe. If nuclear were safe:
1. there would be no accidents.
2. there would be no need for all that expensive scondary containment.
3. there would be no back-up systems. If 1 can fail then so can 2.
In siberia there are a few 10,000 people close enough to catch the nuclear fallout. And evacuating them to another location is “simple”.
In the UK tthings are a bit more crowded and you would have to evacuate millions ad a large % of the land would be uninhabitable. eg just one Chernobyl sized problem would do this.
http://img179.imageshack.us/img179/3077/oldbury30kmiz3.jpg
No-one say it will never happen. But there is 1 chance in 1 million years of it occurring. This does not mean no accidents for 1 million years. It means there might be one tomorrow but then there is unlikely to be one for a million years. ONE accident is UNACCEPTABLE in the UK at any time that carbon based lifeforms inhabit this island.

May 26, 2009 7:23 am

>>Global warming entries in Wikipedia have been altered
>>by Green radicals, the leader being William Connolley.
>>Wiki is not an encyclopedia.
Too true. I tried to add details (and problems) of wind intermittency on Wiki, but they were all systematically deleted. Eventually, the entire ‘wind’ section was ‘sealed’ due to ‘vandalism’. So adding the truth to Wiki entries is classed as vandalism.
A really reliable resource, obviously.

anna v
May 26, 2009 7:25 am

Roger Sowell (13:09:25) :
anna v,
I wish I had time right now to respond properly, but I don’t. Basically, the French subsidize their nukes, and sell it because they must since nuclear power does not have good load-following capability. French nuclear power is one of the greatest cons of all time.

Pity you could not append a link to your “greatest cons of all time”. They do live in an electricity powered civilization from all I know, so it matters not if it is subsidized energy if they can afford it .

May 26, 2009 7:30 am

>>ONE (nuclear) accident is UNACCEPTABLE in the UK at any time
>>that carbon based lifeforms inhabit this island.
If you have that philosophy, you may as well never leave your bed. Vehicles in the UK kill 3,000 people a year. Are they banned? Could we do without vehicles?
If we are to survive and prosper as a nation and a species, we need to balance gain and risk, and clearly the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the risks.
Besides, what is wind power derived from? Nuclear energy! Now you might think the Sun to be warm and friendly, but if it ever decided to throw out one of those CMEs in our direction, we might all fry. Are we to ban the Sun too?
.

JamesG
May 26, 2009 7:38 am

There’s a nice graphic on Andy Revkins dot earth blog of the total energy research budgets of the member governments of the International Energy Agency. It displays the subsidy argument in its true perspective.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/07/15/business/0716-nat-sub-webSOLAR1.jpg
Nuclear has received and still receives much more than it’s fair share. Even fossil fuels – ie established technology – still receive more than the puny amounts allocated to solar, wind and geothermal. It’s no wonder there are so many advocates for nuclear energy and so much basic disinformation abounding – there are a lot of fingers in the pie. And those costs do not even account for decommissioning – it’s just research.
It is a well known fact that the absurdity of the nuclear authorities in France and the UK being responsible for renewable research too meant they had free rein to overstate the costs of wind, solar and wave energy while burying the costs of nuclear by similar creative accounting. This nuclear funding bias was initially exposed in the UK during the “Salter nodding duck” case and again when the UK reactors were privatised because nobody actually wanted to buy them after seeing the true costs of nuclear. The only reason the French want them now is because the decommissioning and most of the new-build costs are underwritten by the UK government. So the British taxpayers will be subsidising French industry and the French will finally get some return on their nuclear investments.
Stop the nuclear greenwashing you lot! Yes, nuclear has it’s place but it still has lot’s of problems and those new designs are still largely untested so any claims made for them are mere speculation. We old hands in the energy business know how nuclear speculation goes – always wildly inaccurate. But it’s not a case of either/or and we needn’t argue that it is. It is quite simply sensible to spend the money on renewable research just as it is sensible to spend money on thorium reactors and on nuclear fusion. But meantime, as far as I can see, natural gas and coal gasification has all the others beaten hands down.

John Galt
May 26, 2009 8:47 am

Someday we may be able to use wind or solar power to generate hydrogen (or other fuel) economically and thus store energy for when it’s needed.
When that someday arrives, that’s when we should start building wind farms and solar generating stations. Until then, we need to keep up the R & D in various energy solutions while building new, conventional power plants to meet our energy needs.
When we build new, conventional plants, we can actually decommission older, dirtier, inefficient power plants. Without new, conventional plants, we will have to keep those old, dirty plants in operation.

John Galt
May 26, 2009 8:51 am

@ Antenna Wilde (21:50:38) :
Are you in the employ of T. Boone Pickens? How much do you have invested in GE? Who pays you to post these things?
Whenever somebody states or implies that people who don’t agree with their visions of the green future are in the pay of big oil, I know they are not serious people and should be ignored.

Joel Shore
May 26, 2009 9:24 am

Mike Borgelt:

Wasn’t there a post here about measured water vapor at various levels in the atmosphere a few weeks ago? Didn’t it show some increase at low levels and a decrease at higher levels in the troposphere and essentially no overall trend?

That was from radiosonde data that has known severe issues with it. By contrast the data from satellites shows that the upper troposphere is moistening as expected. See, for example, here: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;310/5749/841 (There are also other studies by Dessler and co-authors.) The satellite data is much more believable because as Fig 2 of the Soden et al paper demonstrates, the assumption that such a feedback is occurring results in much better agreement not only with the overall long-term trends in the data but also with the fluctuations on roughly yearly timescales.

Joel Shore
May 26, 2009 9:29 am

Reprints of Dessler’s papers on the water vapor feedback that I referred to are available here: http://atmo.tamu.edu/profile/sub/239 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;310/5749/841 with the 2009 Science paper providing a good overview.

bill
May 26, 2009 9:44 am

ralph ellis (07:30:19) :
Vehicles in the UK kill 3,000 people a year. Are they banned? Could we do without vehicles?

A car crash affects physically only those involved. There is no long lasting physical affect to bystanders and land.
A plane crash on London would wipe out more “people” but at least those that survive can pick up their lives in the same location afterwards and would not be subject to genetic diseases. An accident at oldbury npp would kill as many AND effectively kill the land for centuries to come, and leave others to suffer the affects of genetic damage.
Now you might think the Sun to be warm and friendly, but if it ever decided to throw out one of those CMEs in our direction, we might all fry.
Oh come on! Ridiculous! But then don’t you already protect your eyes and skin against its harmful effects? Not so friendly then.

Johnnyb
May 26, 2009 10:04 am

JamesG,
Nuclear power is the only energy that the government should have anything to do with because no other form of power generation holds as much potential to destroy. I do not believe that even dyed in the woool libertarians such as myself want every individual on the face of the Earth to get hold of enriched uranium or nuclear waste. Wind, coal, geo-thermal, solar or what-else have you does not have anywhere never the potential to be so destructive as atomic energy. This does not mean that these energy alternatives are better, just that they do not require an atomic physicist to over see their operations. Also you have a huge amount of capital that must go into the construction of an atomic energy plant where most of the costs are up front and construction delays greatly increase the costs due to interest expense.
The government should not be spending a dime subsidizing anything except nuclear energy. Also you are a liar about the amount of subsidies that nuclear energy actually recieves because you are including the insurance trust that the nuclear power generators pay for without discounting their payment into the system.
Nuclear could be cheaper than coal if the plant design was more standardized and the government would cover interest expenses during the construction phase reducing the need to issue bonds to cover interest expense. This would ultimately benefit everyone concerned because it would provide good high paying jobs, make nuclear power more attractive to Wall Street while reducing cost to ratepayers.
Nuclear is not the perfect solution, but it is a great way to provide a base load at the lowest possible cost with the least environmental affect. As I understand it, the most serious problem with nuclear energy is that it is not very good modulating its load to scale with demand. I do not see any alternative energy source being able to produce energy on demand at all, so perhaps the best thing to do would be to over build nuclear and find a use for its extra wattage during off-peak hours or retain coal fired power stations to modulate the load. With all the brilliant engineers that we have it should not be that great of a challenge if we discover the political will to live an abundant life.

John Galt
May 26, 2009 10:17 am

AnonyMoose (08:01:46) :
Renewable energy is fine, as long as only discretionary funds are being spent on it. The problems arise when money needed for essential services is diverted to wasteful spending. It’s OK to use entertainment money for gambling, but not OK to use mortgage money for gambling. And not OK to send the tax men out with guns to collect more money to replace what has been wasted.

Another problem is that as soon as government picks the winners and losers, then real innovation is hampered, if not eliminated altogether.

Jack Simmons
May 26, 2009 10:18 am

oxdriver (08:47:52) :
Congress signed into law that biomass from public lands can not be used to create alternative energies (Biofuel Incentives and the Energy Title of the 2007 Farm Bill). Why?
It was against the interests of some group to permit.
My guess?
Farm lobby. After all, if you are producing alternatives that work, ethanol from corn would not look so attractive.
I could be wrong on that. But someone didn’t want you to do what you want to do. It does make a lot of sense, another strike against it.

DaveF
May 26, 2009 10:20 am

“Bill” – I’m afraid you can’t escape nuclear energy as easily as all that. The French have lots of nuclear power stations and apart from the fact that we in the UK rely upon the French for 14% of our electricity (Sorry if I’m boring anyone by repeating that) but some of those stations are in Northern France ( on the Cherbourg peninsula, for example) as little as sixty miles from our southern coast. No-one is going to persuade the French to abandon nuclear power within the foreseeable future, so surely the best way to prevent accidents is for atomic scientists the world over to work together to promote best practice, which I believe they do, to a large extent, not shut our eyes and hope it will go away.

hunter
May 26, 2009 10:21 am

Joel,
I think the evidence is that Dessler and his pals simply redefined the term ‘feedback’ to include humidity.
The only feedback measure that is valid is temeprature.
And the temps are not moving as predicted.

hunter
May 26, 2009 10:23 am

jamesG,
Are you suggesting that nukes in France are paid for by the UK?

leg
May 26, 2009 10:25 am

At least two commenters have brought up the issue of radioactive waste. As a health physicist, I can address the concerns.
Is radioactive waste necessarily more hazardous than other waste, particularly chemical wastes? Not really. Some points to consider…
1. High level radioactive waste, as fuel elements, is insoluble. If you put it in a highly secure, underground disposal facility which is in a low water area, is the waste going anywhere? No. It will sit there indefinitely and pose no risk. Given that it still is an energy source, my guess is that future generations will dig it back up and re-use it.
2. For the sake of argument, let us presume the waste somehow should start to disperse to the environment. Would it disperse as chunkies or would it move by molecular dispersion (one or two atoms at a time)? It would be the latter. By the time the atoms migrate to anything, e.g. a water well, there would only be long lived nuclides and damn few atoms. When it comes to radioactive atoms, dispersion is a solution. Why? Well, what most people don’t realize is that a radioactive atom only emits its radiation once. Is that atom emitting radiation all the time? Absolutely not! It has a 50-50 chance that it will emit its radiation sometime in its half-life period. So if an atom has a 24,000 year half life, it sits around doing nothing (no emission) until it lets loose its radiation. With a long half-life like this, the odds are it will NOT emit its radiation in your lifetime if that atom gets into you. Every day of our lives, we eat potassium40, carbon-14, uranium, radium, thorium, and a host of other naturally occurring radionuclides. A few atoms of reactor waste wouldn’t be a gnat in the ocean of radiation that we normally receive.
3. Compared to other waste streams from energy sources, reactor waste is very small in quantity. It takes very little disposal/storage space to handle all of the waste.
4. Radioactive materials are so much easier to find and deal with than chemical wastes. How do you find the waste chemicals from the manufacturing of solar panels should they get loose in the environment? It’s not as easy. Many of the chemicals are soluble and move easily in the environment. Managing radioactive waste is not rocket science. It is pretty easy to do.
The issue of radioactive waste is a red herring. Radioactive waste disposal can be very, very safe both for the environment and mankind. I find it fascinating that so many want to make judgment on radioactive materials (principally reactors), yet less than 10% of the population can correctly answer this most basic, elementary question on how a radioactive atom works: how often does a radioactive atom emit radiation? When one understands the simple concepts that answer this question, understand what half-life means, and then apply this basic knowledge to radioactive waste disposal, suddenly the fear evaporates. Knowledge is power folks. Learn the answer to this question and you will be empowered.

May 26, 2009 11:15 am

anna v,
There was a similar discussion on WUWT’s piece “Now That’s A Commencement Speech.”
My comment at (15:02:15) covered much of this.

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 26, 2009 11:16 am

bill (04:28:49) : To satisfy the French will require (12.4/1.5)*10^6 *250 /1000 tonnes polymer which is (if I haven’t slipped on the decimal) a rather unbelievable 2.1*10^6 tonnes of polymer.
Which according to this randomly selected site:
http://www.chem.uni-potsdam.de/apc/polymer.html
would be about 1% of world polymer production. Not exactly a lot. Since it can be reused many times, the quantity per year after production began would be smaller.
What’s so hard to believe about 2 million tons? I think you need a bit of perspective. This machine is used to dig coal:
http://www.allowe.com/Humor/WhereIsMyDozer.htm
It moves 100,000 cubic yards in a day. At a typical density of dirt (about 120 lbs / cu ft) that would be about 27 x 120 / 2000 or 1.62 tons per cu yard for a total of 162,000 short tons PER DAY.
So in two work weeks (take Sunday off) this machine moves about 2 MILLION tons of stuff to mine coal. I’d trade 2 weeks of work for the entire nuclear derived power output of all of France.
The polymer will therfore have to be sunk into a deep water current
and all 2 million tonnes dragged up from many meters down.

Yes, they used the Japan Current in their test. Nature conveniently provides the energy to move all the water. That 2 M tons is about 5000 to 6000 tons per day. Since it sits for most of a year, you don’t need to put it all down on one day and all back up on another. It would be better to have a continuous production.
Oh, and since you seem a bit out of touch with the scale of industrial processes: 6,000 tons is just about NOTHING on a mining or industrial scale. Not even a gnat on an elephants anatomy. About 250 tons / hour.
It would require running the above mining machine equivalent for about 0.037 of a day each day. Or about 54 minutes. Unless I slipped a decimal…
I guess we’re going to need a smaller machine… about 1/24 that size ought to do it…
Hmmm!
Yes, Hmmm indeed…

Jack Simmons
May 26, 2009 11:25 am

Just Want Truth… (15:29:10) :

It’s not just a topic for debate anymore–it is now law in the United States. On 5/21/09 the Waxman-Markey Bill, i.e., H.R. 2454, “The American Clean Energy and Security Act,” passed in to law by a vote of 33 to 25. It is law now :”This bill, when enacted into law this year… With this plan, we will shape a new energy destiny for our country,… “.

No, it just left the committee. It must now be voted on by the entire House. Then, it must pass the Senate. Then, the President signs it into law.
H.R. 2454 is not the law of the land yet.

a jones
May 26, 2009 11:47 am

It is not so much that radioactive waste is particularly hazardous but that the danger is very small compared to naturally occurring sources.
The ecopropagandists love to say that Irish Sea is the most radioactive in the world which may be true: but they never mention that the source of all that radioactivity is natural.
Similarly the county of Cornwall, England, not only has problems with arsenic in the soil but lots of radioactivity too, sixty years ago a number of water wells were shut down after this hazard had been discovered.
Kindest Regards

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 26, 2009 11:50 am

bill (06:26:34) :
“E.M.Smith (23:02:42) :
Solvents that don’t clean. Paints that don’t cover or hold up. All of it “special” and all of it needing to be passed through a special nuclear approval process…”
So its ok for China to supply lead based paints on kids toys? And ok to use solvents that destroy the ozone layer?

China, sadly, is not influenced by California law. Our paint has been lead free for decades, it’s the newer ‘only water based’ part that makes it not work well for many purposes. And as near as I can tell, propan2-one has never been implicated in ozone, having no chlorine: So I don’t see how your snipe connects to my comment at all. Perhaps a bit more time in chemistry class would help…
perhaps some legislation that increases the cost of products is worthwhile?
No need. We already have a 10% sales tax making everything so expensive that folks are forming shopping convoys to Nevada…
Personally, I like Oregon more. About $100 gas for the trip, so I hit break even on a $1000 item (unless it’s electronics that have a special green tax…) but it really depends on the ski season. Since I’m up the hill anyway, it’s a great time to pick up all the products that are not available in California. It’s been a while since I did the Oregon run. Last time was $1300 of truck tires for my old Ford F350 4×4 – but then I needed to fill the back with “other goods” to make the fuel cost back… It got about 9 miles to the gallon… Took about half the bed loaded up for 2 neighbors…
Isn’t it great what they have done to reduce smog production? /sarcoff>
Come to think of it, I can’t name a single product other than agriculture that is still made in California. Even name plate products like Apple iPods are outsourced to other places. No, a ‘product tax’ won’t work since we “don’t DO products” here…
I’m sure somebody makes stuff, but it’s not the huge manufacturing center it once was. (I drive past the empty factories frequently). FMC shut down some time ago, they made the Bradley tank-ette. Aerospace has largely bailed. Computers are toast. Some electronic parts remain, but mostly samples, the actual fab having moved to overseas long ago. Ditto much of the communications gear fab. A bit of software remains (though the actual production and pack of media is gone). Heck, even movies are now managed out of hollywood but actual filming is “on location” somewhere else much of the time. (Though the back lots remain and are sometimes used along with the sound stages.) I guess that’s what we still manufacture, fantasies…
You will have to put your tax on fantasies. Don’t tell Hansen and Gore …

Jack Simmons
May 26, 2009 12:01 pm

ralph ellis (06:09:37) :

Yes, there is ‘no comparison’, because coal and gas as an energy source kills far more people every year than nuclear power has in its entire history. Total deaths for fossil fuel power generation per annum must exceed 10,000 (6,000 in China coal alone).
And nuclear power? Apart from Chernobyl? A few dozen??

A few years ago I saw a bumper sticker saying “More people have died in the back seat of Ted Kennedy’s car than Three Mile Island”.

E.M.Smith
Editor
May 26, 2009 12:01 pm

John Galt (10:17:33) : Another problem is that as soon as government picks the winners and losers, then real innovation is hampered, if not eliminated altogether.
You are being too gentle. The true state of affairs is that “As soon as the government states an intent to pick the winners and losers”…
Just stating that they are going to stir the pot kills innovation and shifts all the money from R&D into PACS.

May 26, 2009 12:06 pm

>>There’s a nice graphic total energy research budgets
>>Nuclear has received and still receives much more than
>> it’s fair share.
Yes, but that includes nuclear physics budgets – answering the fundamental principles of physics. CERN is science, not nuclear power. And there are not many fundamental principles that can be discovered by looking at the internals of a windelec (wind turbine).
.

May 26, 2009 12:11 pm

>>Wind power is nuclear
>>Oh come on! Ridiculous!
Not ridiculous at all. What you are saying, by the promotion of wind power, is that you are perfectly happy with nuclear power (the Sun) as long as you think that this nuclear power source is sufficiently safe. All we need to do, therefore, is emulate the same safety standards as our nearby nuclear reactor (the Sun).

Sandy
May 26, 2009 12:24 pm

“Yes, nuclear has it’s place but it still has lot’s of problems and those new designs are still largely untested so any claims made for them are mere speculation.”
Whereas the the wind turbines have been tested and all their claims have already been proved to be speculation. We now get to watch appalling winters render most turbines uneconomic to repair within 5 years.

adoucette
May 26, 2009 12:47 pm

Roger Sowell wrote:
The word power does refer to electricity. As to the renewable figures you stated, you are quite wrong, sir. The figure is 23 percent, please see the link I referenced. Hydro is right at 10 percent, which is less than half of 23.
No Roger, I was not wrong. I was showing the percent of Renewables as a percent of Power in California, not just Electricity.
If you want to limit discussion to just electricity then don’t use the term POWER.
Then you use percent increase of Wind relative to itself to claim that: The wind generation increased more than 33 percent since 2001,
Yeah when you don’t produce much to begin with its not hard to get a 33% percent increase over 8 years.
The fact is the last year the increase in Wind was but 0.2 % of total electrical generation.
Or if you prefer its gone up by 1 % of generation over the last 5 years.
Solar is flat and the same percent in 08 as it was in 04. Large Hydro appears to be really down.
My point, is that even in California where there is substantial incentives/legal mandates for renewable energy, the percent of electricity from Renewables today, at 23.1% is less than it was 5 years ago, and since total electricity generation is down nearly 6% (and lower than 2004) then obviously there has also been a net decline in generation from Renewable sources as well.
Arthur

May 26, 2009 1:49 pm

Fascinating read. It’s actually quite similar to the decision a homeowner has to make on a micro scale when deciding whether to tie to the grid of go off the grid. When a battery is full it is full. See for example To Grid-tie or Not to Grid-tie.
I also agree that we can’t ignore nuclear energy. It will probably have to be part of the mix. I can’t see the moon going away – so I think we are fairly safe relying on tidal sources as a big chunk. Wind and even solar iffier and more dependent on weather conditions.
This was very forward-thinking in 2004 and it reads, to me, like it was written yesterday.
Andy Greene
Green Living Tips for Rednecks

May 26, 2009 2:31 pm

Underlying this essay is a key issue: Ralph has picked the least power dense (wind) and most problematic (hydro / nuclear) energy sources to critique. He hasn’t included PV, solar-thermal, and geothermal which may have significantly more potential. That said, his analysis of the issues with nuclear in particular and well thought out.

LarryD
May 26, 2009 2:44 pm

nuclearinfo.net claims that current known reserves of uranium will last for 85 years at current rates of consumption. Now, take into account that current designs only use about 5% of the energy in the fuel and “deep-burn” designs can get that up to 98% (with corresponding reduction of the radioactive waste issue), and that 85 years goes up to over 1,600 years. Without “additional or speculative reserves” (which nuclearinfo.net says could kick up the duration to 500 years, which translates to 98 centuries with “deep-burn”). Oh yes, that is counting only on the U235 in the ore, combine breeder and deep-burn and the supply goes up by a couple of magnitudes.
Then there is thorium, which is three times as abundant as uranium in Earth’s crust.
Solar has the following problems:
1. variability – partly highly predictable (day/night, seasonal), part much less so (clouds, dust, smog, anything that attenuates the sunlight).
2. Siting – insolation as well as cloudiness has to be taken into account. England gets less sunlight than anywhere in the contiguous 48 states.
3. diffuse – which brings up the shear area needed for the collectors/concentrators. Take the effective insolation at your site, divide by the efficiency of your system, and figure out how many square kilometers you need.
4. water – the collectors/concentrators heed to be kept clear of dust, etc. and washing off the surface takes water. Possibly a lot of water. Definitely a problem in a desert, where most of the good sites are.

Fuelmaker
May 26, 2009 2:48 pm

Whew, where to start. I have spent my whole career in alternative electricity generation and conservation. I started at Pacific Gas & Electric 29 years ago using ratepayer dollars to help agricultural customers reduce purchases of our product. I was skeptical of the “sustainability” of this program at the time and soon switched over to energy production.
I built small cogeneration plants for the next 10 years and then landfill gas generating plants ever since.
The article is amazingly durable considering it was written five years ago. Subsidies always distort markets and IMHO, never produce net benefit, just redistribute to the well connected. The only point I would like to correct in the post regards “spinning reserve”. In the US, there are all sorts of reserves and you can’t trust the words. Some spinning reserves qualify if they can produce power within 15 seconds, like emergency generators. So there are not large stations literally spinning at idle. The way most “spinning” reserve is handled is to always have at least a 10% overload rating available so that other, slower to respond plants can be brought on if there is a major outage. Wind, Solar, and especially Tidal, are very predictable, even if they are variable, so they do not cause extra spinning reserve to be operated.
Mikkel (03:05:39) :
Nice theory, but the idea of people buying their energy directly from generators and treating the utility as simply a delivery company failed miserably. California’s utility bankruptcies were caused by that theory. And nobody was able to get enough more for green power to save it, so the state had to force everyone to pay more for it. People will pay a little bit more for green electricity, but not enough people will pay enough of a premium to expand green generation any more.
Storage would make green power even more expensive and is totally unnecessary until there is excess green power during low demand periods, which won’t happen in any place there is significant population. This is NOT a simple problem to solve. The most efficient pumped storage systems lose 20% of the power put in to get it back later and there still is significant capital costs to build them.
Supercritical (03:10:00) :
I’d be happy to evaluate outlandish energy ideas, I do that for a living to some extent. Most fail on basic engineering. Ocean vents actually might be a reasonable idea for geothermal, but most are so far from populations that the cost of transmission would make it uneconomical, much like all the stranded gas that is used to produce LNG or methanol.
JamesG (03:21:50) :
Decommissioning only costs a lot because we have let the utopians demand that no risk is acceptable and everything must be restored to some fantastic pre-industrial state. I really don’t understand why we should ever decommission plants. They should be updated and expanded. We don’t demand that any other kind of enterprise restore their sites at the end of their useful life or even require a shutdown.
Fundamental problem with your comment that we should pursue geothermal is same as main thrust of the article. If you “direct” money to someone’s pet project, it is going to force everyone else to pay more for their power than the coal or nuclear project could have sold it for.
Roger Sowell (10:14:00) :
If you represent renewable energy in California, you clearly have gone over to the dark side. 13% renewable energy has doubled California’s energy cost and manufacturing has fled the state. Energy storage schemes will pile on some more costs. Flywheel systems consume a lot of energy just to generate some “spinning reserve” in case the utility fails and you can’t stand to wait 10 seconds for your generators to start. The only energy storage system that works well is water behind a dam or refined fuels in a storage tank. A bottle of compressed air is good energy storage to spin a big engine to get it started.
If you represented the utilities and helped them get some nukes and coal plants sited, CA would still have a shot at avoiding bankruptcy.
Ray (10:55:28) :
What do you think engineers have been doing for the last 200 years? There is no hope in making anything but slow incremental changes in engine efficiency as better materials are developed, and even these have almost ground to a halt because NOx emissions increase as engine operating temperatures increase.
Roger Sowell (13:09:25) :
I don’t understand why you think the French Nuclear program is a “con”. You imply that they are subsidizing their neighbors by exporting nuclear electricity at a loss? I have never heard the French accused of irrational altruism.

May 26, 2009 3:18 pm

Ralph ellis (12:06:06)
“Yes, but that includes nuclear physics budgets – answering the fundamental principles of physics. CERN is science, not nuclear power.”
Thanks Ralph. Yet another case of the basic dishonesty of the anti nukes.
We’re in a fight for our lives and the survival of our technological civilization which for all its faults is the best humans have ever done. No quarter, no prisoners.