the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Decaramelisation

Posted by Jeff Id on April 29, 2010

My least favorite aspect of AGW is the political one, however, Tom is completely fearless, imagine if Real Climate gave me an opportunity to guest post on the politics of global warming.

The odds are exactly equal to rolling 23,000 sixes in a row.  Be nice.

———————————————-

By Tom Fuller of the SanFrasisco Examiner

Roger Pielke stepped into a hornet’s nest here a few days back. I think one of the reasons is the name he chose for his intended solution, ‘decarbonisation,’ has a bad ring to it in some quarters, and one of those quarters is headquartered here at The Air Vent.

I believe that global warming is real and that we should do something about it. But I don’t believe the consensus that it is going to be catastrophic and that we need to completely reorganise every aspect of our lives to face it.

So I’m caught in the middle between skeptics like Viscount Monckton who think nothing at all needs to be done (slight exaggeration) and Al Gore, who thinks that a massive Cap and Trade program is a good beginning.

Roger Pielke and his unfortunately named solution actually offer me a convenient place to park. So let’s call it decaramelisation instead of decarbonisation and discuss.

It really is the simplest and most straightforward of concepts, and could easily be titled ‘Let’s Get More Bang for the Buck.’ What it refers to is increasing the energy intensity of the economy by producing more units of GDP for each unit of energy consumed. As there are more ways to skin this cat, it gives us more options. As it looks at processes rather than mythical targets, it allows us to set benchmarks that are achievable and refer to real-world systems, rather than airy pronouncements that we must reduce our CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 totals.

One of the most convenient things about this approach is that we’re already on the right track. We are already getting more bang for our buck. Our total energy usage has leveled off since 1995, and our per capita consumption of energy has declined markedly, from 357 billion BTUs per person to 326 bbtu today. Recession has reduced demand to the point that our total energy use has dropped for the past two years, although nobody wants the same reason to drive further declines. We’ve done so well that the Department of Energy last month released a new forecast showing a steeper decline in energy intensity over the next 20 years.

Taking it to the absurd extreme, if one wooden match could power our entire economy we wouldn’t be polluting much or emitting very much CO2 at all. Moving in that direction will take us further than Cap and Trade. That’s the logic. And it’s individuals and businesses that will make the decisions on what moves are best.

Our use of energy has become more efficient for two hundred years–about 1% each and every year since we were burning wood as our primary energy source. What Roger Pielke wants is to give a boost to the innovations that make us more efficient in the hopes of having a surge in efficiency–he thinks we need to have a fair period of about 2.5% to 4% per year to make a difference in climate change. The good news is that the innovations we come up with are fairly marketable–even if China does the grunt work of stamping out solar panels, American intellectual property does generate a lot of income, from Hollywood movies to IPhone apps. Also from licensing of patents for green energy.

Another advantage of Pielke’s approach is that conservation is just as relevant to achieving the final goal as improved generation. The U.S. Department of Energy has calculated that all of the estimated increase in American use of energy over the next 20 years (they think we’ll rise from 101 quads today to about 114 quads by 2030, mostly related to population growth), could actually be contained in the expected HVAC requirements for new commercial buildings. As between 30% and 50% of energy use in commercial and residential buildings is wasted, we could really bend the curve down doing things we know how to do right now.

There’s a ‘green building’ certification scheme put out by LEEDS, but I’ve seen a study that indicates that the difference between certificate holders’ use of energy is dramatic–just establishing a best practice benchmark and telling people to achieve that would be very big.

Another scheme that would be useful is making small scale investment in green technology less painful, by loaning homeowners money for things like ground source heat pumps at low interest, and having payments tacked on to their utility bills. We’re doing similar things on a piecemeal basis in various states for solar power–what we need is to make them more widely available.

None of this sounds radical, does it? This is Jimmy Carter stuff, not Mao Tse Tung. If you think that Cap and Trade has too much pork and too many exceptions, but you also think that we need to do something about CO2 emissions (and energy independence and conventional pollution), Pielke’s idea is just common sense.

The difference between his idea and conventional talk about small savings is that he tries to show it at a national and international scale that can be discussed as a policy option for addressing a world problem.

Readers here who reacted strongly to discussion of this would not be physically or mentally harmed if they read a bit more of his approach to this issue. I give you my word on that. Reading about an alternative to Al Gore and James Hansen is not a bad thing–it may stimulate ideas of your own, and at least it is nice to know that people are discussing such alternatives.

Besides, I hate caramel.

Decaramelisation

Roger Pielke stepped into a hornet’s nest here a few days back. I think one of the reasons is the name he chose for his intended solution, ‘decarbonisation,’ has a bad ring to it in some quarters, and one of those quarters is headquartered here at The Air Vent.
I believe that global warming is real and that we should do something about it. But I don’t believe the consensus that it is going to be catastrophic and that we need to completely reorganise every aspect of our lives to face it.
So I’m caught in the middle between skeptics like Viscount Monckton who think nothing at all needs to be done (slight exaggeration) and Al Gore, who thinks that a massive Cap and Trade program is a good beginning.
Roger Pielke and his unfortunately named solution actually offer me a convenient place to park. So let’s call it decaramelisation instead of decarbonisation and discuss.
It really is the simplest and most straightforward of concepts, and could easily be titled ‘Let’s Get More Bang for the Buck.’ What it refers to is reducing the energy intensity of the economy by producing more units of GDP for each unit of energy consumed. As there are more ways to skin this cat, it gives us more options. As it looks at processes rather than mythical targets, it allows us to set benchmarks that are achievable and refer to real-world systems, rather than airy pronouncements that we must reduce our CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 totals.
One of the most convenient things about this approach is that we’re already on the right track. We are already getting more bang for our buck. Our total energy usage has leveled off since 1995, and our per capita consumption of energy has declined markedly, from 357 billion BTUs per person to 326 bbtu today. Recession has reduced demand to the point that our total energy use has dropped for the past two years, although nobody wants the same reason to drive further declines. We’ve done so well that the Department of Energy last month released a new forecast showing a steeper decline in energy intensity over the next 20 years.
Taking it to the absurd extreme, if one wooden match could power our entire economy we wouldn’t be polluting much or emitting very much CO2 at all. Moving in that direction will take us further than Cap and Trade. That’s the logic. And it’s individuals and businesses that will make the decisions on what moves are best.
Our use of energy has become more efficient for two hundred years–about 1% each and every year since we were burning wood as our primary energy source. What Roger  Pielke wants is to give a boost to the innovations that make us more efficient in the hopes of having a surge in efficiency–he thinks we need to have a fair period of about 2.5% to 4% per year to make a difference in climate change. The good news is that the innovations we come up with are fairly marketable–even if China does the grunt work of stamping out solar panels, American intellectual property does generate a lot of income, from Hollywood movies to IPhone apps. Also from licensing of patents for green energy.
Another advantage of Pielke’s approach is that conservation is just as relevant to achieving the final goal as improved generation. The U.S. Department of Energy has calculated that all of the estimated increase in American use of energy over the next 20 years (they think we’ll rise from 101 quads today to about 114 quads by 2030, mostly related to population growth), could actually be contained in the expected HVAC requirements for new commercial buildings. As between 30% and 50% of energy use in commercial and residential buildings is wasted, we could really bend the curve down doing things we know how to do right now.
There’s a ‘green building’ certification scheme put out by LEEDS, but I’ve seen a study that indicates that the difference between certificate holders’ use of energy is dramatic–just establishing a best practice benchmark and telling people to achieve that would be very big.
Another scheme that would be useful is making small scale investment in green technology less painful, by loaning homeowners money for things like ground source heat pumps at low interest, and having payments tacked on to their utility bills. We’re doing similar things on a piecemeal basis in various states for solar power–what we need is to make them more widely available.
None of this sounds radical, does it? This is Jimmy Carter stuff, not Mao Tse Tung. If you think that Cap and Trade has too much pork and too many exceptions, but you also think that we need to do something about CO2 emissions (and energy independence and conventional pollution), Pielke’s idea is just common sense.
The difference between his idea and conventional talk about small savings is that he tries to show it at a national and international scale that can be discussed as a policy option for addressing a world problem.
Readers here who reacted strongly to discussion of this would not be physically or mentally harmed if they read a bit more of his approach to this issue. I give you my word on that. Reading about an alternative to Al Gore and James Hansen is not a bad thing–it may stimulate ideas of your own, and at least it is nice to know that people are discussing such alternatives.
Besides, I hate caramel.Decaramelisation

Roger Pielke stepped into a hornet’s nest here a few days back. I think one of the reasons is the name he chose for his intended solution, ‘decarbonisation,’ has a bad ring to it in some quarters, and one of those quarters is headquartered here at The Air Vent.

I believe that global warming is real and that we should do something about it. But I don’t believe the consensus that it is going to be catastrophic and that we need to completely reorganise every aspect of our lives to face it.

So I’m caught in the middle between skeptics like Viscount Monckton who think nothing at all needs to be done (slight exaggeration) and Al Gore, who thinks that a massive Cap and Trade program is a good beginning.

Roger Pielke and his unfortunately named solution actually offer me a convenient place to park. So let’s call it decaramelisation instead of decarbonisation and discuss.

It really is the simplest and most straightforward of concepts, and could easily be titled ‘Let’s Get More Bang for the Buck.’ What it refers to is reducing the energy intensity of the economy by producing more units of GDP for each unit of energy consumed. As there are more ways to skin this cat, it gives us more options. As it looks at processes rather than mythical targets, it allows us to set benchmarks that are achievable and refer to real-world systems, rather than airy pronouncements that we must reduce our CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 totals.

One of the most convenient things about this approach is that we’re already on the right track. We are already getting more bang for our buck. Our total energy usage has leveled off since 1995, and our per capita consumption of energy has declined markedly, from 357 billion BTUs per person to 326 bbtu today. Recession has reduced demand to the point that our total energy use has dropped for the past two years, although nobody wants the same reason to drive further declines. We’ve done so well that the Department of Energy last month released a new forecast showing a steeper decline in energy intensity over the next 20 years.

Taking it to the absurd extreme, if one wooden match could power our entire economy we wouldn’t be polluting much or emitting very much CO2 at all. Moving in that direction will take us further than Cap and Trade. That’s the logic. And it’s individuals and businesses that will make the decisions on what moves are best.

Our use of energy has become more efficient for two hundred years–about 1% each and every year since we were burning wood as our primary energy source. What Roger Pielke wants is to give a boost to the innovations that make us more efficient in the hopes of having a surge in efficiency–he thinks we need to have a fair period of about 2.5% to 4% per year to make a difference in climate change. The good news is that the innovations we come up with are fairly marketable–even if China does the grunt work of stamping out solar panels, American intellectual property does generate a lot of income, from Hollywood movies to IPhone apps. Also from licensing of patents for green energy.

Another advantage of Pielke’s approach is that conservation is just as relevant to achieving the final goal as improved generation. The U.S. Department of Energy has calculated that all of the estimated increase in American use of energy over the next 20 years (they think we’ll rise from 101 quads today to about 114 quads by 2030, mostly related to population growth), could actually be contained in the expected HVAC requirements for new commercial buildings. As between 30% and 50% of energy use in commercial and residential buildings is wasted, we could really bend the curve down doing things we know how to do right now.

There’s a ‘green building’ certification scheme put out by LEEDS, but I’ve seen a study that indicates that the difference between certificate holders’ use of energy is dramatic–just establishing a best practice benchmark and telling people to achieve that would be very big.

Another scheme that would be useful is making small scale investment in green technology less painful, by loaning homeowners money for things like ground source heat pumps at low interest, and having payments tacked on to their utility bills. We’re doing similar things on a piecemeal basis in various states for solar power–what we need is to make them more widely available.

None of this sounds radical, does it? This is Jimmy Carter stuff, not Mao Tse Tung. If you think that Cap and Trade has too much pork and too many exceptions, but you also think that we need to do something about CO2 emissions (and energy independence and conventional pollution), Pielke’s idea is just common sense.

The difference between his idea and conventional talk about small savings is that he tries to show it at a national and international scale that can be discussed as a policy option for addressing a world problem.

Readers here who reacted strongly to discussion of this would not be physically or mentally harmed if they read a bit more of his approach to this issue. I give you my word on that. Reading about an alternative to Al Gore and James Hansen is not a bad thing–it may stimulate ideas of your own, and at least it is nice to know that people are discussing such alternatives.

Besides, I hate caramel.

126 Responses to “Decaramelisation”

  1. Michael D said

    Sounds alright to me, but hey I’m still heating with fire wood. I don’t have much of a problem with it even if there is no AGW. Incentives are much better than mandates, but I imagine the government could screw it up.

  2. Black Sabbath said

    I’m against doing anything at all. Two reasons:

    1) Don’t believe in man-caused global warming.

    2) Never ever EVER surrender freedom or responsibility to the government – this is how it starts: one small ‘fix’ or one small ‘tax’ or ‘fee’ and twenty to thirty years later you’ve got a mess like we’re dealing with now – corruption, schemes, lies, power-grabbing, political all-out war.

  3. Pielke’s claims that the world is decarbonizing is facetious. We (the world) have been increasing energy production since the beginning of the last century. The world population has also been increasing, but at a higher rate relative to the energy avilable for consumption.

    If the same thing happens in this century, we’ll have more people than energy output, and therefore we would have ‘decarbonized’. Ta Da!

  4. timetochooseagain said

    I think that the mistake you are making here Tom is that people saying “governments should do nothing” mean nobody should do anything at all. On the contrary. My view is that if people want to change their lifestyle, they are free to do so, and if they are being impacted by changes in climate whether natural or not, they will need to adapt (nobody should make them, though-I think most will do so on their own).

    The thing is, I just don’t believe the government has the authority to decide for people what to do. In liberal terms, just think of emitting CO2 as, I don’t know, premarital sex. I imagine that if the government tried to regulate or discourage such behavior, we’d hear many object to the government “going into people’s bedrooms”. Well, I don’t want the government controlling my thermostat, backseat driving, or whatever they want to do to control CO2. What about “investment” you say? This is a matter of individual choice. Suppose the government told you, “We’re going to collect taxes from you and ‘invest’ it in some company that you feel is ‘rich enough’ already” or something along those lines. Well, wouldn’t you perhaps object that you’d rather not invest money in that. Well, I’d rather not invest in windpower etc. Golly, maybe it ought to be the choice of the person who worked for the money to decide how they spend it?

  5. Skip said

    Tom, the problem with this is that the catastrophists have told us that we need to get to zero emissions pretty darn quick, or we’re all DOOMED. And not only do we have no way to do that, we don’t even have a road map to get us into the neighboring county. So if the catastrophists are correct, Pielke’s measure of ‘decarbonization’ won’t help anything at all, because carbon emissions aren’t required to be reduced any, and thus likely won’t be. So in that case, we shouldn’t be ‘wasting’ resources on projects that cannot get us to the goal. Incremental things like making coal plants cleaner are wasted money if the catestrophists are right.

    But assuming that the catestrophists are wrong, I’m not really all that opposed to government research grants, although I expect very little to come of them, as they’ll be doled out for political correctness and connections, not scientific viability. I have much more faith in the market working – If a technology provides energy cheaper than carbon – it will be adopted. Markets are neat that way. But the idea of subsidies on technologies to artificially make them competitive, no, bad idea. Those have this tendency to never go away, and they distort the market away from actually finding and funding the alternatives that work.

  6. Thanks, Tom, for your message and for having the courage to post it here.

    I agree that mankind has misused planet Earth and squandered her bountiful resources. Probably many on this site would agree that we have “fouled our own nest.”

    Guilt over that fact has blinded many others to the manipulation of data and deception involved in the “green movement” and the scam of CO2-induced global warming.

    My greatest concern is the unholy international alliance that the Climategate scandal exposed using science as a propaganda tool to deceive and control people. That includes Al Gore and many other world leaders, the UN’s IPCC, the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, our most reputable scientific journals, the news media, and the US NAS and other academies of science and the research agencies (NASA, ESA, DOE, EPA, NOAA, etc.) they control through budget review.

    Some of the most grievous scientific misinformation is identified in my 2009 paper, “Earth’s Heat Source – The Sun” [Energy & Environment 20 (2009) 131-144] http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  7. RB said

    In liberal terms, just think of emitting CO2 as, I don’t know, premarital sex.

    In conservative terms, just think of reducing emissions as, I don’t know, the “one percent doctrine”.

    “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”

    OK… sorry for the OT :)

  8. Lady in Red said

    I need help — quickly.

    Pls help me pick apart — in a creative, helpful fashion — Climate.gov, NOAA’s new portal on climate change.

    It is a decicdedly “science is settled” site. ….sigh.

    It is purtty, but touting the policy line. What’s good, and bad.

    Again, it’s a new NOAA site: Climate.gov

    ….given some political help, I might turn it into a “real” webiste. …smile. ….Lady in Red

  9. tonyb said

    I think you are are going down a potentially dangerous road here Tom. Without disagreeing about the ease (or need) with which we can save energy, here in the UK the subject of energy and other green issues has become highly politicised and compulsion is replacing persuasion.

    I wrote about this politicisation of climate change here.This is a well referenced article with numerous links and quotes from such bodies as the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/crossing-the-rubicon-an-advert-to-change-hearts-and-minds/#comments

    The British Govt – long time leaders in funding research into the subject – are very heavily implicated in making it a political issue in order to promote their own socialist agenda. .

    Frankly this political intervention is becoming scary as well as costly, with intentions to curb our abilties to do certain things through ‘rationing’ energy-either through price or by a ration card- and a intrusive amount of propaganda urging us to change lifestyles. This is coupled with an ever increasing volume of green taxes which is making heating our houses a luxury and travelling eye wateringly expensive.

    In addition we have the astonishing notion that this country’s finest landscaspes can be despoiled by highly inefficient wind farms in the name of green, whilst neglecting to build power stations to provide alternatives to those stations now being taken out of commission because they are of the wrong type (ask James Hansen about Kingsnorth). In consequence we face a worrying energy gap in just a few years.

    I would suggest that the US is about 5 years behind the UK with your reactions to AGW and it is not a road you want to follow us on. Our Govt (and I suspect yours) sees this as the ideal opportunity to reduce freedoms and increase taxes and I say this as someone probably more liberal than some who may visit this excellent site.

    Be careful what you wish for Tom as it may come to pass, enforced by the US Govt.

  10. Brian H said

    The science behind the CO2-forcing speculation is pure Mickey Mouse, and it is an abomination that it is being used to demonize CO2. The current world levels are in a near-tie for the lowest ever in the geological record: the world is in a CO2 famine. If anything, we should be subsidizing its production.

  11. CNY Roger said

    What would you rather have shoved down our throats: a Kerry and Leiberman cap and trade or something else? One problem that everyone who reads this needs to keep in mind is that there is still considerable momentum to do “something” about climate change.

    The approach that Pielke and Fuller are suggesting is much closer to a no regrets policy that could mollify the CAGW crowd, address the inevitable time when in our society when fossil fuels run out, and not become as wildly expensive and instrusive as the stuff being pushed by the lobbyists in Washington. The fact that lobbyists and politicians are not advocating this approach gives it high marks in my book!

    If you think of this approach more as a compromise to something that is going to happen than as a stand-alone policy in the absence of anything else I think it is worth supporting. I am really concerned that in the absence of an alternative that does address long-term energy use we will be left with a cap and trade debacle because there is so much momentum to do “something”.

  12. Jeff Id said

    Ok, ok, I just have the worst time with this plan. It’s my least favorite option for several reasons.

    First, Carter is an extremist so that analogy didn’t work at all for me. He even looks like Mao to me.

    Second, doing anything is completely useless. Other countries are going to continue to make more CO2 whether the US stops or they sign treaties or whatever. This ‘plan’ simply drives energy cost up.

    Why do we want higher cost energy when the current energy production isn’t causing any known harm, seems unlikely to cause any harm and even when we change to higher cost energy and add more layers of government, it won’t change the outcome.

    I’m sick to death of giving up freedom to these kinds of plans, they are not reasonable to me in any way shape or form. They do exactly zero good in exchange for loss of money and freedom. — but then again, I’m just a conservative.

  13. Geoff Sherrington said

    On your point of the USA making money from the export of movies, a short story. I was on the Island of Kaua’i when the last pineapple cannery closed. This meant that the Island became almost entirely dependent on tourism (and film making, but I did not see Elvis at the Blue Grotto). Blind Freddie can see that just one big tsunami would do bad damage to the island’s economy for many years.

    So I draw a distinction between forms of wealth. Making movies does not create fundamental wealth. It draws people and funds from the production of saleable goods, like the cars the Chinese are now making. The mining industry, at the other extreme, does create fundamental wealth, by production of new goods that can be exchanged for money.

    Today in Australia there is pre-budget talk of a Resources Rental Tax, for the umpteenth time. In the past we circled the wagons and defeated it. This time, they are crazy enough to ram it through. Rumours are of a 40% impost on profits. Naturally, the miners will stop looking so hard for new resources and some will go offshore, especially for processing, as we have no cheap nuclear power here. It is alarming to contemplate an alumina plant driven by windmills, but that’s the equation in the pipeline.

    The intention is to raise $40 billion from the RRT over 5 years to instal an information superhighway like Al Gore invented. It beats me how the Chinese have a better one already, as well as making so many of the new goods that the old countries used to make.

    I thought I’d tell you these things, because they are fundamentally driven by a belief that we should not burn coal or uranium, as a matter of policy related to Global Warming. If you think the USA is going crazy, you at least have an example of another lovely country heading for worse.

  14. Jeff Id said

    #13, That’s right, all America has to do is look overseas to see how well these policies work. Why anyone would want that kind of nonsense our good friends overseas are being forced to suffer through, is beyond me.

  15. Adam Gallon said

    All the “solutions” written about by Tom, are just minor sops, yes, I doubt if anyone has issues with better use of resources, more economical vehicles, better home insulation.
    What the drivers behind this won’t face, is that to provide efficient and reliable generation of electricity requires a lot of new nuclear power stations.
    Mention that and just hear the screams of “Three Mile Island” & “Chernobyl”.
    The former killed precisely nobody, the latter unfortunately killed many.
    But we aren’t proposing building RBMK reactors and technology has progressed far since the 1970s.
    The idea of driving smaller cars seems to drive you Yanks into apoplectic rages, well we in Europe have been doing so for many years, with falling death rates, but we use seat belts, have a firm belief in looking where we’re going and can negotiate things like roundabouts safely.
    Jimmy Carter? Wasn’t he a peanut farmer? Funny types you Yanks elect as President (Mind you, looking at who we’ve elected over the past few years doesn’t leave us much room to brag!)
    All the “solutions” put forwards seem to enrich those who’ve driven our economies to the brinks – banks, traders & politicians, whilst ignoring the elephant in the room, that the “problem” doesn’t seem to be greatly threatening, outside of the demented minds of the “Greens” and some rather, shall we say unreliable computer models.
    Be economical by all means, but since the industrial power houses of Asia and the Indian Subcontinent take no interest whatsoever and Africa does its usual thing (Enriching a tiny kleptocracy), should the rest of the world impoverish ourselves on the slenderest of reasons?

  16. BDAABAT said

    Mmmm…. expensive solutions to non-problems that will cripple the economy and not do a thing to solve the stated non-problem. Oh, forgot to mention… all of the above PLUS the benefit of government intervention. Yep, sounds like a terrific plan.

    Bruce

  17. Tom-

    Thanks for posting this, a few replies:

    1. While it would be great if I had come up with the concept of “decarbonization,” I didn’t. It has been around for a few decades and while I am not exactly sure of its exact provenance, I think it originates in the work of Jesse Ausubel in the 1980s.

    2. That said, decabonization is simply a concept, it is not a policy and not a strategy. It is however a very useful concept and is simply a ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to economic activity. It can be further broken down into two parts: (i) energy consumption per unit economic activity and (ii) and carbon emissions per unit of energy consumption.

    3. These ratios are important because they tell us what levers we have to influence accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    4. But let’s say that you don’t care about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, certainly not enough to go about influencing it — a position that I take it our host here holds. Fair enough. But guess what, there are plenty of other reasons that have nothing to do with climate or carbon to (a) improve efficiency of economic activity and (b) take steps that result in a decarbonization of energy supply.

    5. Among these reasons are expanding energy access (and opening up global markets), increasing energy security (e.g., in Europe), reducing the costs of energy, and securing long-term supply. (to make our host happy, please note that in my new book I explain that appreciably increasing energy costs is not an option).

    I argue that it is in the interests of people around the world to expand access, increase security, reduce energy costs, and secure long term supply. I would assume that most people would agree with these goals, whatever they think about carbon in the atmosphere.

    If we can agree on these goals, then the question that arises would be, how are they best pursued. That is a debate worth having.

    Finally, a substantive note, while improving efficiency is important, to achieve rapid acceleration of decarbonization will require advances in energy supply technology.

  18. Carrick said

    #3 Shub:

    Pielke’s claims that the world is decarbonizing is facetious. We (the world) have been increasing energy production since the beginning of the last century. The world population has also been increasing, but at a higher rate relative to the energy avilable for consumption.

    You keep using that word “decarbonization”. I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    decarbonization (n): A trend referring to a persistent long-term decline in carbon intensity, resulting from cleaner and more modern fuels being used on primary and final energy levels.

    Carbon Intensity : A measure of the amount of carbon contained in various energy forms. It is commonly expressed as units of carbon emitted per unit of energy (in tons elemental carbon [tC] per MJ in this entry).

    Source.

    Our carbon intensity is decreasing over time. That is a factual statement, and hence we are decarbonizing.

    Total CO2 output of the developed nations has been declining since about 2005 (that includes the US), but that’s a different thing than “decarbonization”.

    E.g. See this.

  19. Carrick said

    Jeff ID:

    #13, That’s right, all America has to do is look overseas to see how well these policies work. Why anyone would want that kind of nonsense our good friends overseas are being forced to suffer through, is beyond me.

    And yet as I pointed out, total CO2 output for the US is actually decreasing over time.

    Somethings working.

    You guys are being bull-headed.

  20. timetochooseagain said

    7-If one were, say, a libertarian, one would not buy the one percent doctrine either. I’m not a libertarian, but I’ve never even heard of said doctrine before and I would say I don’t think I buy it.

    17-It’s all well and good to say that you are in favor of the concept of accelerated decarbonization, but how exactly do you think it should be achieved? You say things about advances in energy supply technology. Okay, what makes you think that said innovation can be compelled? Who has the right to do the compelling?

    0-Out of curiosity, the probability of rolling that many sixes is about 3.32*10^-17898

  21. RE: #17. Roger Pielke Jr.

    . . . “to achieve rapid acceleration of decarbonization will require advances in energy supply technology.”

    If world leaders, Al Gore, the UN’s IPCC, the US National Academy of Sciences and the federal research agencies they control were concerned about “advances in energy supply technology” they would directly address – and not hide or manipulate – experimental data that shows:

    a.) Neutron repulsion is the greatest source of nuclear energy [1].
    b.) Earth’s heat source is neutron repulsion, not Hydrogen-fusion [2].
    c.) Solar neutrinos do not oscillate away to fit obsolete solar models [3].

    1. “Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source”, Journal of Fusion Energy 20 (2002) 197-201: http://www.springerlink.com/content/x1n87370x6685079/

    2. “Earth’s Heat Source – The Sun”, Energy & Environment 20 (2009) 131-144:
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

    3. “Is there a deficit of solar neutrinos?”, Proceedings Second International Workshop on Neutrino Oscillations, , Istituto Veneto di Scienze ed Arti, Venice, Italy, 3-5 Dec 2003:
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0410460

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  22. Carrick said

    Timetochooseagain:

    17-It’s all well and good to say that you are in favor of the concept of accelerated decarbonization, but how exactly do you think it should be achieved? You say things about advances in energy supply technology. Okay, what makes you think that said innovation can be compelled? Who has the right to do the compelling?

    Three questions for you, amigo:

    What’s wrong with continued federal R&D support within the US for alternative fuels and for energy efficiency?

    What’s wrong with federal investment into infrastructural improvements that improve energy efficiency?

    You don’t think that providing R&D funds will stimulate innovation?

  23. timetochooseagain said

    22-Let’s take this one at a time:

    “What’s wrong with continued federal R&D support within the US for alternative fuels and for energy efficiency?” From where I’m standing, government funding is sort of compulsory investment. Everyone has to pay their taxes, and the government decides what the stock portfolio for the nation is going to look like. I’d rather people chose where they invest their own money. Plus, America is cash strapped as it is.

    “What’s wrong with federal investment into infrastructural improvements that improve energy efficiency?” The “federal” part.

    “You don’t think that providing R&D funds will stimulate innovation?” No more so than private investment. The problem is fundamentally related to the Economic Calculation Problem. The government simply cannot have as much knowledge or be able to process it as well as the collective knowledge of individual actors in the market communicating indirectly through price signals.

  24. Tom Fuller said

    Hi all,

    My grand attempt at reconciliation may be doomed to failure. (What’s worse is that I’m defending Michael Mann in my regular space–hard to believe.)

    Just briefly:

    1. Obviously decarbonisation will not seem relevant to those who do not think we have a problem with either energy or climate. Where I hoped it would serve as sort of a bridge is for those who think we have a problem with either, but not both, as it gives a common ground for addressing concerns.

    2. Roger is obviously right to say that decarbonisation is more of a metric than a policy or strategy, but the engineers here will understand that often the key to a solution is looking at the right capacity constraint, or looking at it in the right way.

    3. Now doggone it, Jeff, nobody wants you to give up your freedom. But making the choices explicit by showing costs and effects is giving you the information you need to make choices that are more efficient for you. If you light your living room with with one of those halogen nuclear deathstar lamps and I light mine with an LED, we can argue about the relative utility of our choices til we’re blue in the face. But if we both have a smart meter (well, one that works), we can see the consequences of our choices. Similarly, of course other countries are going to keep using CO2, and so will we. But how much and how efficiently? If we develop things like LEDs and microwave power transmission capabilities that save countries money, they will pay us money for the right to use it. Who loses? And if somebody raps their knuckles sharply on my Senator’s forehead and tells her to allow construction of Concentrated Solar Power plants in the desert, and we have cost-effective solar power that doesn’t burn fuel and produces electricity that is cheaper to utilities than natural gas, how is this not a good thing? And if these are on the face of it good things, why wouldn’t we offer the same encouragement that we have done so often in the past?

  25. Jeff Id said

    #17,

    But let’s say that you don’t care about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, certainly not enough to go about influencing it — a position that I take it our host here holds.

    My opinion is that of course we should care about emissions, but we can do little to stop them and they may be far more beneficial than people in the science admit.

    I think we should be considering the option of making fossil energy far cheaper and more available producing at a maximum rate in the US while investing in new nuke plants (primarily for long term security), and maybe a little government investment in technology development – no implementation, that will come by itself.

    Drive the economy, price and technology will follow all by themselves. No matter what we do, solar electric is nearly viable for home use. I think some of the battery technologies coming in 10-20 years time will change everything. Why shoot ourselves in the foot?

    You said ‘appreciably increase energy cost’, any increase is a mistake in my opinion unless exchanged for independence from communist and mid-east nations. My view is decrease the cost of fossil fuel, and the technology to replace it will come sooner. It will then be implemented sooner and the net output of CO2 over the next hundred years will actually be less than by your method – no government required.

    Limitation policy is almost always an error.

    BTW: I run a green company for a living. Not because we’re saving the planet, but because it saves money for our customers. The technology makes sense, saves money and we don’t need the government to tell us to do it.

  26. stan said

    Tom, let’s stop using the term “we” when you mean government. This argument is totally about the role government should play. It’s not about efficiency or innovation. Everyone is just fine with greater efficiency or research or innovation or technology improvement or whatever. Everyone is NOT fine with government idiots getting involved in making decisions about how efficiency, research, innovation, and technological advances are to take place.

  27. Jeff Id said

    If you light your living room with with one of those halogen nuclear deathstar lamps and I light mine with an LED, we can argue about the relative utility of our choices til we’re blue in the face.

    Halogen lamps are very efficient in the northern part of the world. In my house, when I light a halogen lamp, I’m drawing primarily nuclear power – being surrounded by aging nukes. Yes I know the grid is all blended together. Waste heat from the halogen heats my home – a little bit. Meaning that the lamps are near 100% efficient. If I switched to LED, it would cause my furnace to replace that heat with natural gas heat, also at high efficiency releasing more CO2. I would have spent a ton more money and ended up being a worse polluter.

    So the problem again is, people can make these decisions all by themselves and don’t need any help from government to mandate their use.

  28. Jeff Id said

    Why do you need a senator to build a cheaper solar plant? Again, the govenrment is not required to make that decision.

  29. Kenneth Fritsch said

    The problem is, Tom Fuller and Roger Pielke Jr, unless I have missed something here, that we have little or no details on what Pielke is proposing. Tom, you give no references or links that would help us understand. Is that because all the references are in the book and no one wants to excerpt the important points? Or was there a link to a Pielke’s blog article that I missed? Are you saying only buying the book will explain what the authors intends? Or can what the author proposes be summed up in a few paragraphs and particularly vis a vis government policy on AGW.

    What you and Roger have commented at this blog is so vague (with little motherhood, apple pie and flag thrown in) and general that I have a difficult time getting my mind around it. I have a vague notion that Pielke is advocating a new accounting system of energy related ratios, that he judges important, rather than government policy. In the spirit of journalism, Tom, could you please provide the pertinent links?

    Unfortunately, I think that vague approach is remindful to some participants here of what we hear from our current articulate President, who leaves many of the (critical)details of what he is saying unattended.

  30. Tom Fuller said

    28, our particular senator seems to feel that the migratory habits of desert rodents may be threatened by construction of a concentrated solar power plant. And boy, do I wish I were kidding about this.

  31. Chuckles said

    Tom,

    I think most here would be perfectly happy for you and a group of friends to band together and build a perfectly enormous wind or solar or whatever farm, wherever you choose.
    We’d even help you get any regulatory or other obstacles removed, so all you have to worry about is building your plant.
    And we’d be happy for all the electricity you produce to be bought by power companies at market rates.

    Just not on our dime. Either for the building or for tariff subsidies.

    We’ll be building the nukes down the road. Same conditions as your deal. I know where I’d rather be. The world, both developed and undeveloped needs cheap energy. With that cheap energy anything is possible.
    All your special pleading for ‘renewables’ does is make energy more expensive.

  32. Tom Fuller said

    29, fair point. I will do so shortly, although much of what Roger advocates is on his blog–but telling someone to search a blog is singularly unhelpful. Links and explication to follow.

  33. -25-Jeff Id

    I don’t see anything here that contradicts the arguments I have made on my blog, here or in my forthcoming book, other than the idea that the price of fossil fuels can be reduced over the long term. The only way that will happen is if fossil alternatives become cheaper than fossil at scale, decreasing demand for fossil.

    You write: “Limitation policy is almost always an error.”

    I’d even go further and say that it is almost always politically unviable.

    So I still remain puzzled at your objections.

  34. Gary said

    It’s ultimately all about efficiency — in energy use and the path to get there. Constructal Theory (http://www.constructal.org/) says that systems that survive have an implicit tendency to become more efficient (ie, minimize and distribute the blockages). We can either achieve optimal energy efficiency through mechanisms that work (free markets) or waste a lot of time and effort with ones that don’t (command and control governments). Seems like Tom Fuller is somewhere in the middle but leaning toward the freedom side.

    And FWIW, CO2 concentrations are only double the level at which plants are unable to photosynthesize (200 ppm). Decarbonize too much and you may have trouble feeding yourself.

  35. Kenneth, here is a paper that carries forward some of these ideas:

    Prins, G., Cook., M., Green, C., Hulme, M., Korhola, A., Korhola, E.R., Pielke, Jr., R., Rayner, S., Sawa, A., Sarewitz, D., Stehr, N., and H. von Storch, 2009. How to get climate policy back on course. Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Oxford University and London School of Economics, The Mackinder Programme, LSE.
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2731-2009.17.pdf

    Its sequel is being released next month, please stay tuned for that.

    Also, Tom is right that my blog has a few years of discussion, and also right that it is pretty hard to piece together unless you read regularly, hence the book.

    But start with the paper above.

  36. Jeff Id said

    #33 You can reduce cost by increasing supply. Supply can be increased by eliminating the environmental regulations stopping companies from getting supply and refining it.

    My problem with your post was ‘accellerated decarbonization’ – acceleration means speeding up of the process of changing energy sources – more cost. This is where I see the error. Implementing more expensive and in many cases worthless technologies will only add cost. Biofuels are useless, solar electric is very expensive still, I can’t figure out how much more/less nuclear costs, hydroelectric and geothermal are local options only, wind is intermittent and requires storage or building the capacity twice with fast response generators, to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing.

    None of this saves cost, except maybe nuclear which is a confusing mess of subsidies and regulation, accelerated implementation of any of the rest causes more damage than good.

    “I’d even go further and say that it is almost always politically unviable.”

    An odd comment considering that this is the core of every environmental policy created by government. There are more than a few of those.

  37. Carrick said

    Timetochoseagain:

    From where I’m standing, government funding is sort of compulsory investment

    So you would advocate no federal research then? That’s a pretty extreme viewpoint.

    Why do you suppose the US’s economy consistently outperforms other economies? I suppose it would have nothing to do with the fact we do about 3x the amount of R&D investment of other countries.

    The “federal” part

    Again this is rather extreme. You think we should can our federal governments involvement in infrastructure?

    The government simply cannot have as much knowledge or be able to process it as well as the collective knowledge of individual actors in the market communicating indirectly through price signals

    While that is true it ignores the time scales involved for private investment versus public investment. Private corporations are not going to invest in programs that take e.g. 20 years to come to fruition (they may not be here in 20 years, governments assumption is that it will be, so their investment strategy is different). Secondly, what kind of “price signal” is associated with need for basic research?

    Let’s can all basic research into e.g. curing cancer. The private market has spoken!

  38. Tom Fuller said

    29 (and others), while I rummage around Roger’s site for some links, here’s a bit of a rationale for why it’s worth talking about.

    The metric used by consensus holders is emissions of CO2. The simplistic policy agenda is reduce emissions of CO2 at any and all costs. The absurd extreme of this position is that they are pleased if we live in mud huts and freeze, or prevent developing countries from taking advantage of technology to better their lives. One only has to look at the current comments thread at Real Climate to see that there are actually people who believe this absurd extreme.

    As that is absolutely batsh**t insane, more normal people have to reframe the discussion.

    If global warming is actually a problem that requires a policy response, and I think it is, then we need to find a policy that has as its goal something more hopeful than mud huts and imperial domination. Well, what are we good at? We seem to be very good at incremental innovation that leads to a transformation of technology sectors in an astonishingly short period of time. We have done this with transportation, communication, medicine, warfare and computing. For a variety of reasons, we have not done the same thing with construction, electricity generation and general conservation. If we adopt as policy the idea that we will try to do the same thing with construction, electricity generation and conservation that we successfully did with freeways, the internet and the Manhattan Project, it is likely that we will see interesting results. If we measure the gains using additional metrics besides CO2 emissivity, we can use markets and market signals alongside modest government subsidies (oriented towards research and development and loan guarantees) instead of having either Barack Obama or Sarah Palin pick a winner. (As a progressive liberal, I have to say that one market signal I am in favor of is a modest tax on carbon–but you can disagree with that and still see the logic of the rest of this.)

    For perfectly sound reasons that have nothing to do with global warming, we find that it is in our national interests to develop a greater level of independence from foreign sources of fossil fuels. We note that the price/performance ratio in both solar and wind has been dramatic, and may result in their achieving grid parity fairly soon.

    We note that France, with their 80 odd nuclear power plants, is less carbon intensive than other industrialized countries, and that this has benefited France hugely in ways that have nothing to do with global warming–they export electricity to Italy, they are not hostage to Russia’s power games, etc., etc.

    I conclude from this that decarbonisation is a more humane metric for measuring progress in the fight against global warming, that pursuing it has side benefits, and that it plays into our strengths–the use of markets and our intellectual property regime to stimulate innovation–rather than our weaknesses–the difficulty of framing, passing and enforcing limits on CO2 emissions.

    Okay, links coming.

    Measuring energy use by its output of CO2 is a legitimate method of measuring its efficiency, but its not the only one.

  39. -36-Jeff Id

    1. You write: “My problem with your post was ‘accellerated decarbonization’ …”

    Would you be similarly upset if I had advocated “accelerated improvements” in health outcomes? Such as extending human life spans by investing in medical technology innovation?

    2. You write: “An odd comment considering that this is the core of every environmental policy created by government.”

    Actually, I’d argue that the history of economic policy making shows that such policies can only be implemented if the costs are sufficiently small so as not to have a large effect — ozone depletion and acid rain are both good examples.

    If you want to debate whether government is a good or bad thing, I say uncle — there is no point having such a debate outside a pub. If you want to debate whether policy action can lead to beneficial outcomes related to energy access, supply, cost and security, then I’m fully ready to defend the proposition that there is a role for policy.

  40. timetochooseagain said

    37-Are my views extreme? No doubt? Does that make me any less convinced they are right? No.

    “Why do you suppose the US’s economy consistently outperforms other economies?”

    Relative Economic Freedom:

    http://www.heritage.org/index/Country/UnitedStates

    “Let’s can all basic research into e.g. curing cancer. The private market has spoken!”

    Do you really think that no research could get done on cancer or anything else if the government didn’t back it? Here’s a thought: There are lots of wealthy philanthropists in the world, and lots of charities, who would be more than happy to give money to these causes. The argument that the government needs to invest this money on people’s behalf assumes that people are so callous, evil, or ignorant that they wouldn’t ever do so on their own.

  41. Tom Fuller said

    I want to call the attention of a lotta youse guys to an important element of this conversation. You are looking at Roger’s ideas in isolation, trying to evaluate their merits and defects, and of course there’s a place for that.

    But you also need to look at what else is on offer out there–nobody is promoting perfect economic freedom and withdrawal of government funding to promote policy outcomes. That’s not one of the choices available to us, for the simple reason that no political party really wants it.

    The alternatives to decarbonisation are not likely to include a free market utopia. If Democrats prevail it will be a very bad climate bill, loaded with pork and exceptions. If Republicans prevail it will be corporate largesse oriented towards their supporters.

  42. tonyb said

    Roger Pielke Jr said

    “Among these reasons are expanding energy access (and opening up global markets), increasing energy security (e.g., in Europe), reducing the costs of energy, and securing long-term supply. (to make our host happy, please note that in my new book I explain that appreciably increasing energy costs is not an option).”

    Unfortunately increasing energy costs dramtically is exactly what has happened as a deliberate policy in many of those countries that are further down the ‘green’ road than the US are-the UK being a primne example.

    Such a measure provides govt with the abilty to raise taxes and reduce consumption, thereby meeting their idealistic goals.

    I object to shivering in my house or being unable to travel because energy costs are being deliberately pushed up to ensure I use less of it. The price of a gallon of UK petrol (gas) is around £5.30-what would you all be saying if you were paying this sort of price? (around 75% of it is tax).

    Energy costs for heating our homes are also rising to help fund almost useless renewables such as wind. How do you think you will be able to reduce energy costs when the Govt is hell bent on increasing it in order to meet idealogical objectives and help fill some of the black hole in their finances?

    tonyb

  43. timetochooseagain said

    41-Tom, since this is clearly directed at me, In My Arrogant Opinion, let me say that I don’t care whether what I’m saying is possible or not. I care whether it is right.

    One can’t embrace something which is wrong, simply because what is right isn’t one the “options”. When the right choice isn’t available, I stand up and say, “Damn it, you’re all wrong, give me the option that I think is right, not the usual garbage!”

  44. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Tom,

    If you want to set off a bunch of conservatives (and lots of other people!) all you need to do is reference Jimmy Carter in some kind of favorable light. OK, maybe he was not as bad as Chairman Mao, but that isn’t much of a compliment. Honestly, when I watched Carter botch every major decision of his presidency, I imagined that we would never have another president with such limited metal capacity and consistently poor judgment…. until George W came along that is.

    I do not want the government involved in rationing of any kind. And I don’t want governemnt interfering with market based allocation of resources. Do you remember the multi-hour gas lines Jimmy Carter gave us Tom? Best of intentions, insanely stupid results. Government mandated improvements in “efficiency” will lead to much the same: good intentions, bad results.

    If climate science reaches the point that it can accurately predict future warming, and accurately predict the consequences of that warming, then economists can help us decide if controls on CO2 are worthwhile in an overall economic sense. Should control of CO2 emissions be economically justified, the only reasonable approach would be absolutely uniform taxation of all CO2 emissions, with no special treatment for politically favored groups or industries.

    But we are a very long way from that day. My suggestion: wait and see what happens over the next 15 – 20 years years, then decide on a prudent course of action.

  45. nc said

    “I believe that global warming is real and that we should do something about it” I disagree, we need all the C02 we can get. In the past we have had 20 times more C02 than present and that was a positive time for the earth. Over the long term atmospheric C02 has been declining and the earth was getting close to where plant life would be getting stressed. As fossil fuels die out we could be into a further decline in C02. I believe the real issue is not more but less C02.

  46. Tom Fuller said

    42, you are actually helping argue my case for a tax on carbon. In the UK, they have instituted a large number of green taxes and fees that have driven up the price of energy dramatically. However, these taxes and fees have nothing to do with carbon or even energy–they are just being used to get extra money for the UK, which now spends an astonishing 52% of GDP on government. They are just calling these surcharges and such environmental taxes. But in fact, they are not taxing anything someone can actually reduce their use of. They are taxes on collections of waste or connections to the grid, not consumption.

    Which is why the current government in the UK is doing so poorly in the race to the elections.

    A modest carbon tax that is explicitly the only fee collected by government for such a purpose would prevent a thousand niggling little taxes and fees. Revenue collected from such a tax could be directly applied to reducing payroll taxes for employers and employees, making it revenue neutral. We would then be in the happy position of taxing something we want to reduce–carbon–and reducing taxes on something we want more of–employment.

  47. timetochooseagain said

    45-Um, that CO2 didn’t magically disappear from the atmosphere. It is the fossil fuels. If we were to use up all the fossil fuels (never happen, BTW) that would mean that we’d put all that CO2 back in the atmosphere.

  48. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Tom,
    “If Democrats prevail it will be a very bad climate bill, loaded with pork and exceptions. If Republicans prevail it will be corporate largesse oriented towards their supporters.”

    We completely agree on this. Whatever they do, it will be bad, and counterproductive for everyone except the political class. Vote for complete gridlock on climate policy!

  49. Tom Fuller said

    Steve at 44, “My suggestion: wait and see what happens over the next 15 – 20 years years, then decide on a prudent course of action.”

    Do you really think it wise to do nothing for 15-20 years? Not even things that make sense with or without global warming? Insulating houses? Loan help for ground source heat pumps? Making smart meters that actually work right?

  50. Jeff Id said

    #39 Why would I debate whether government was a good or bad thing? Just because one policy is bad, doesn’t mean they all are.

    I am simply stating that increases in energy cost to combat CO2 will likely have the opposite effect from what you are looking for. Your own paper bashes on the alternative sources, oddly even wood fires and apparently fails to recognize that there is nothing to replace the fossil fuel with. Wait 20 years and everything will change because the technology will come.

    The carbon released may not be nearly as bad as the IPCC claims – I’m sure it’s not. It may be a net benefit as nobody has demonstrated one single negative effect due to CO2 – other than obnoxious regulations.

    That’s the problem with accelerated decarbonization, the technology doesn’t exist and you are adding cost. The added cost will slow both the development and implementation of technology. And if you think for a moment that a carbon tax will be used in these ideal fashions, no way. There must be a payout to the politicians contributors, it will never follow such an idealized focus. In the end, we get a new tax, the government scatters the money to their preferred customers, and nothing changes.

    Why do we want that?

  51. Ryan O said

    Anyone who thinks the solution involves cutting government research is deluded. Sorry.

    No private organization is going to pour money into something that isn’t invented yet, more than a few years out, doesn’t have an established market, and/or any combination of the above. Wealthy philanthropists tend to be the feel-good charity types (which is cool – no slight intended) or the dreamers who want to do something sexy, like land on the Moon. Depending on them to happen to pick things related to national security (and energy is definitely a national security concern) is a fool’s errand.

    Most government research ends in failure. This is because the research is done at such an early stage that failure is the likely outcome – which is why private organizations won’t touch it. In my opinion, the government has allowed some areas of research to become too politicized (i.e., ethanol) such that continuing funding is a political and not a scientific decision. With that being said, we would be far better served by the government increasing research than the reverse.

    When it comes to stuff like AGW, the government funding is even more critical (and currently, unfortunately, politicized). You know of any wealthy philanthropists willing to pay for NOAA-18, for example? Or willing to pay for continuation of the land-based temperature monitoring? Come on. Basic science depends on unsexy stuff – like planting a bunch of thermometers all over the planet, studiously recording what they read, and maintaining them over the course of decades. Without government funding, even the crappy data we have now wouldn’t exist.

    Government research is critical. Some of it is misdirected, some of it is fraudulently wasted, some of it produces miracles. Without it, much basic science simply would not occur.

    I, for one, would vote for a hell of a lot more government funding – especially in the area of energy research (which includes sustainables). Sure would be a better use of my tax dollars than rebuilding a bridge for the third frickin time in the last 10 years in the name of a “stimulus” package.

  52. Ryan O said

    By the way, the above post was directed to Timetochooseagain.

  53. timetochooseagain said

    There is nobody in the world who wouldn’t give money for research into something “unsexy”? Nobody? I find that hard to believe.

    I tell you what, if someone can make a serious case that an area of research is sufficiently important AND uninteresting as to actually need government help, I’d think about whether the government might need to engage in some involuntary investing of people’s money. But I just don’t see it.

    Just the fact that Ryan is so passionate about these unsexy things suggests to me that he’d be willing to donate to them as causes.

  54. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Ton #49,

    I support any measures that make economic sense. But you know what? Government mandated economic activity (by definition) is activity that makes no sense… that is why it is mandated. Loans to help improve efficiency *could* make sense, but the devil is always in the details, and I would need to see the details.

    #46 “However, these taxes and fees have nothing to do with carbon or even energy–they are just being used to get extra money for the UK, which now spends an astonishing 52% of GDP on government.”

    Not astonishing at all. I hope that you realize the unfunded liabilities of the USA under current law will require overall tax rates higher than 52% in the near future (something like a 15-20% VAT is almost certain sometime in the next 5-10 years). Please note that government at all levels in the USA already costs more than 35% of GDP, and this take must rise sharply unless entitlement costs are reduced. Politicians being politicians, they will never curb entitlements… so hold onto your wallet. I doubt that anything will stop the rise in taxes short of a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets each year and limiting maximum total taxes; but little chance that will happen.

  55. Ryan O said

    For Roger Pielke Jr.:

    Governments cannot mandate action based on nonexistent technology. What governments can do is provide funding to develop the technology such that future mandates are possible. With the exception of nuclear power, no commercially viable alternatives exist for large-scale production of power. As yet, no real alternatives exist at all for mobile fossil fuel needs (like vehicles). Rather than wasting money on half-assed alternatives, I’d much rather see the money spent to develop full-assed alternatives.

    For Jeff:

    A huge amount of cost in nuclear power in this country is wasted on fending off lawsuits. The actual cost of building a plant itself (especially in coastal areas where fancy methods of cooling are not required) is not that bad. France is a case-in-point: largely nuclear energy, and has one of the lowest electric costs in Europe. They also export about 18% of their total power generation to the rest of Europe.

    Besides, as fossil fuels continue to rise in cost, nuclear remains the same. Comparatively speaking, it will continue to get cheaper as time goes on.

  56. Ryan O said

    TTCA:

    If you can identify a list of individuals/organizations who would be willing to take over funding for the research budget of the Federal Government, then we can talk. Until then, you’re just spinning wild ideas with zero supporting facts. Sorry, bud.

  57. Jeff Id, Last comment today, grading papers calls …

    But I sense that you are not hearing me when you write, “I am simply stating that increases in energy cost to combat CO2 will likely have the opposite effect from what you are looking for.”

    I am not calling for increasing the costs of energy to combat CO2. Not even close.

    I recognize that you wish to argue against this perspective, so go for it, but please stop characterizing it as my position. It is not.

    Have a nice weekend!

  58. Jeff Id said

    #57, You have repeatedly failed to explain how your policy won’t increase costs, I’ve given a dozen reasons why it does and repeatedly pointed where I disagree. Until you address my reasonable points, I win the discussion.

    Your paper advocates carbon tax – cost. Accelerating the implementation of alternative sources – cost. Elimination/reduction of wood fire burning – cost.

    Tell me how your imagined cost doesn’t exist or else it’s like listening to someone say – give me some money but I won’t charge you.

    Your policy of taxation and increased cost energy production sure sounds like cost to me.

  59. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Ryan O #55,

    “As yet, no real alternatives exist at all for mobile fossil fuel needs (like vehicles).”

    Well, that’s not strictly true. Production costs for ethanol from sugarcane in places like Brazil are reasonably close to the costs for fossil fuels. You can’t tell this from the street price in Brazil, where most cars can burn pure ethanol or any mixture of ethanol with gasoline, because the Brazilian government taxes all fuels at high rates. But you can sure tell from the fact that the US Federal government (and all other countries that support local “green fuel” production) block imports of ethanol from Brazil. Brazil represents a best case because of favorable climate, low labor costs, and lots of suitable land; ethanol production in most places (like from corn in the USA) is economically crazy!

  60. timetochooseagain said

    Well, call me crazy if you wish. I am after all.

    It’s funny, I didn’t think I’d encounter so much opposition from right leaning commenters. Hm.

  61. BDAABAT said

    I’m still puzzled as to why folks think there’s a problem with emissions of CO2. I don’t think there’s been much evidence presented that supports the idea that CO2 emissions are a major human or environmental health problem. The evidence seems to support the idea that CO2 can increase temps some, but the evidence linking CO2 to troubling amounts of heat is wanting.

    Therefore, it seems reasonable to ask this most basic question: why would anyone want to spend time and energy (literally) to deal with what is a non-problem? Especially when doing so adversely affects real people?

    The belief (and that’s really what it is) that using energy is bad is actually harming real people. See the controversy surrounding the World Bank’s deliberations on partially funding a coal fired power plant in South Africa.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/07/AR2010040703421.html

    Why on Earth would anyone think that blocking (relatively) inexpensive access to energy would be a bad thing? Seriously! These sorts of activities in opposition to energy access do nothing but harm poor people.

    There isn’t a need for market based solutions or any solution to the non-problem of CO2 emissions. If people really are concerned about the environment, if people truly are concerned about poor people, then the real problem is lack of adequate access to inexpensive energy worldwide.

    Bruce

  62. Clawga said

    I think that all we’re arguing here is the pace that this is going to happen. The key is energy efficiency = lower costs. As technology becomes available, it will be implemented. If left to market forces alone, the changeover would be necessarily slow at first and accelerate as it becomes more common. All government influences would accomplish is a slightly faster initialization period with about the same acceleration later. IMO

    Is the price of government involvement worth the faster implementation? Incentives vs regulation. Personally I think our economy responds quicker and longer (and dare I say more robustly) with the carrot vs. the stick.

  63. Ryan O said

    Steve,

    Cane ethanol helps get closer, but it’s still a net energy sink. As yet, the production even for cane ethanol requires more energy input than you get out on the back end. It takes energy to produce the fertilizer, harvest the cane, process it into ethanol, and transport. That energy is generated via fossil fuel burning. As yet, even cane ethanol is still a net energy sink (though it shows promise for being otherwise). However, assuming you can refine the process such that it is a net energy gain, you still have to balance the increased land use necessary to make it a wide-spread gasoline replacement vs. simply using gasoline.

    Cane ethanol shows some promise – though politics here prevent us from using it.

  64. Jeff Id said

    Cane ethanol shows some promise – though politics here prevent us from using it.

    Cane ethanol suffers from the same primary problem that all biofuels do. Less than 5% photosynthetic conversion efficiency from light. If you factor in the amount of light energy that goes to sugar from cane, you would need to cover about 2 US’s of land area to produce the fuel to power our cars.

    It’s a total waste.

  65. BDAABAT said

    BTW: My reading of Tom and Rodger’s positions is that they think there are concerns about CO2 emissions, but they don’t believe that it’s as bad as many have claimed… that there will be some warming from CO2 release by humans, but that it won’t be all that bad.

    That seems like a hedge position… which is fine, but it seems like it’s really a compromise when one doesn’t really know what exactly is happening. If one doesn’t really know what’s happening, then doesn’t it make more sense to look into the issues further rather than taking a compromise position?

    The hedge would be expensive and potentially unnecessary OR would be expensive and inadequate. Neither of which sound particularly appealing.

    Bruce

  66. Ryan O said

    In my opinion, fossil fuel usage is a national security issue. The more we can wean ourselves from needing a pretty finite energy source, the better off we will be in the future. Hence, I have no problem with investigating alternatives and attempting to identify real replacements. At some point, we’re going to need them, and it’s better to be first to get them than last.

    The most fundamental national security issue for any country is ensuring a stable source of natural resources.

  67. JasonScando said

    #48: I completely disagree. If the republicans prevail, they won’t propose a bill with special interests, they just won’t pass any bill at all (which I think is absolutely a great thing). This will be more likely after half the RINOs get thrown out this november, along with hopefully most dems.

  68. Tom Fuller said

    TTCA, you don’t sound crazy to me. However, part of the problem is looking at this from a left/right standpoint. It really shouldn’t be a partisan issue. If I can summarize some of the points here from various sources (while I am still searching for links on Roger’s site):

    1. We need an alternative to the Al Gore/James Hansen point of view that a cap on emissions of CO2 is the way forward.
    2. One alternative is to try and get more bang for our energy buck. We’re already doing that to a laudable extent–can we do more without distorting markets or crippling our economy?
    3. Roger thinks so and has spent some years making his case. He’s convinced me and I would like to convince you.
    4. There are a variety of mechanisms we can use to do this–some small scale, some large. Having a government guarantee for a bank loan to put a ground source heat pump in your home is a small scale initiative. Having a government guarantee of liability for a nuclear power plant is a large scale initiative.
    5. If we adopt the idea of reducing the carbon intensity of our economy it allows us to experiment and adapt–we can even change our minds. This flexibility is lacking in other policy proposals.
    6. More than half of all R&D in this country today is funded by the government. Some of that funding currently goes to better ways of generating, distributing and using energy. Roger (and I) think that more R&D in this area would be appropriate.

    Jeff at 57, I find it really curious that you would think that helping diverse energy sources would tend overall to increase costs. Certainly the price tag goes up if you include R&D, but why wouldn’t having robust competition for fossil fuels tend to reduce prices?

  69. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Ryan O #63,

    “Cane ethanol helps get closer, but it’s still a net energy sink. As yet, the production even for cane ethanol requires more energy input than you get out on the back end”

    Sorry, but these statements are incorrect. It is true for ethanol production from corn for certain, but every study I have seen (several, including US Government sponsored research) shows that ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil is a huge net energy producer. Estimates range from ~7 to ~9 times more out than what goes in, and that efficiency is improving every year. Expectations are for continued process improvements to allow energy output >10 times input within a few years. These are global efficiency numbers, including all fertilizer, farm machinery, transportation, and processing inputs.

    The non-fuel price (free of taxes) for ethanol in Brazil is significantly lower than the cost for petroleum, but ethanol from Brazil is subject to duties in most countries to keep it out.

  70. JasonScando said

    Err, I meant to respond to #41; 48 agrees that doing nothing is what hopefully happens.

  71. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Jeff Id #64,
    “Its a total waste.”

    Jeff, this is one of the rare cases where you really do not known of what you speak. Production cost for ethanol in Brazil is very low (about US$0.60-1.00 per gallon, depending on the market price for sugarcane). Almost half of all fuel used in automobiles in Brazil is ethanol. Seem my comment to Ryan O #69 for additional comments on global energy efficiency for ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil.

  72. tonyb said

    Tom said in reply to my #42

    ‘Which is why the current government in the UK is doing so poorly in the race to the elections.’

    ALL the three main parties hold the same views on green idealogy and all but 2 of our 620 MPS recenty voted to pass the climate bill. This makes us the first country in the world where there is a legal imperative to reduce carbon use.

    Our taxes are being used to force people to change their evil ways as per my long article that I referenced earlier and is repeated here;

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/crossing-the-rubicon-an-advert-to-change-hearts-and-minds/#comments

    You then said;

    “A modest carbon tax that is explicitly the only fee collected by government for such a purpose would prevent a thousand niggling little taxes and fees. Revenue collected from such a tax could be directly applied to reducing payroll taxes for employers and employees, making it revenue neutral. We would then be in the happy position of taxing something we want to reduce–carbon–and reducing taxes on something we want more of–employment.”

    Income tax was introduced in Britain to fund the Napoleonic wars, needless to say we still have it 200 years later together with a host of additional taxes which pay for all sorts of schemes wanted by the Govt but not by the general populace. As an example £18 billion or so on identity cards. So what you say about it being the only fee collected (which will be used for good purposes) is very nice in theory, but completely contrary to what happens in the real world.

    Govt need taxes and they need influence and they are idealogically driven-a potent combination that will ensure they manipulate energy policy to their advantage. This will impact severely on the population who do not always share their enthusiasm. The tax you suggest will become additional to the others already collected and will be used to ram the Govt agenda down your throat. I can’t tell you how fed up we are with the continual hectoring from our Govt

    Please Tom I respect your views, I do not waste energy and am an enthusiast for sensible renewables, but in Britain we are unfortunately some years ahead of you in green matters and I am able to look in my rear view mirror to see that the road you are currently advocating is not one that will end at a good destination.

    With best regards

    Tonyb

  73. tonyb said

    Ryan O

    Hear Hear when you say that fossil fuel usage is a national security issue and the more we can wean ourselves from needing a pretty finite energy source, the better off we will be in the future.

    It is crazy to be spending so much money importing fuel and thereby bolstering the economies of countries who may basically hate us and could readily turn the proverbial oil or gas tap off. We saw that From Russia last winter and many times Opec has played with oil supplies.

    Our own oil in the UK has nearly run out, whilst we have abundant coal supplies there is no way we will use this resource. This is going to cause an enormous energy gap as existing nuclear and coal plants are decommissioned.

    Tonyb

  74. Tom Fuller said

    Tonyb, I lived in London and Hove for six years, and I do understand your well, frustration is too light a word, innit? And yes, all three parties are now complicit in the crime–what’s up with that? (I wonder if UKIP will do better than expected this time round?)

    But reality in your country does not have to repeat itself here. We can do things differently–we have in the past. But getting the left/right thing out of the way is sort of a first step.

    How many recycling bins do you have now? And do they have electronic chips yet? The UK is undertaking a vast social experiment, and a certain Eric Blair would have pungent things to say about it. This is only peripherally about climate change–it’s really more about the role of government in your lives. Don’t you agree?

    Which is why I think a simpler approach is better. What Roger is proposing is ten times simpler than what you’re doing.

  75. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Tonyb,

    “Our own oil in the UK has nearly run out, whilst we have abundant coal supplies there is no way we will use this resource. This is going to cause an enormous energy gap as existing nuclear and coal plants are decommissioned.”

    So it sounds like the UK is doomed to declining living standards, no matter who wins control in the election…

  76. Ryan O said

    Steve,

    I have read otherwise (or think I have read otherwise). I will have to get back to you on that one. I have my doubts that the net energy production is a factor of >5 over what goes in because, simply put, photosynthesis is (as Jeff says) not that efficient at energy conversion. I will attempt to find additional information.

  77. Jeff Id said

    #71, I may have made an error, but I’ve added up the numbers for algae also and found way too much land was required. Algae has a much higher conversion rate than most plants but still would require us to fully cover like 2 large states just to produce the needs for the US auto fleet. I’ll do some reading later, it’s ok though, I’ve been wrong before.

    I wonder if the difference that makes it work for them, is the reduced number of cars in Brazil.

  78. PeterB in Indianapolis said

    Tom,

    You said, “The alternatives to decarbonisation are not likely to include a free market utopia. If Democrats prevail it will be a very bad climate bill, loaded with pork and exceptions. If Republicans prevail it will be corporate largesse oriented towards their supporters.”

    This is actually COMPLETELY WRONG. Here, let me fix that for you:

    “The alternatives to decarbonisation will never include a free market utopia unless the people demand it in place of all of the corrupt ‘governments’ which now infest the planet. If Democrats OR Republicans prevail it will be a very bad climate bill, loaded with pork, exceptions, and corporate largess oriented towards their supporters.”

    FTFY

    By the way, in the last election cycle 75% of Goldman Sachs political contributions went to Democrats, 25% went to Republicans. The megabanks play the side they think is going to win, and they do it quite well, so can we end this talk of the Republicans being the party of corporate cronyism and finally admit that both parties are equally guilty of this phenomenon?

  79. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Ryan O #75,

    Let me save you some time:

    Wikipedia (and many associated references): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_in_Brazil

    “After taking all three sectors into account, the EROEI (Energy Return over Energy Invested) for sugarcane ethanol is about 8.”

    Elsewhere at Wikipedia, there are references to current overall efficiencies in Brazil of 8.5 to 10.5. Really, it is certain that net energy production from ethanol based on sugarcane in Brazil is enormously positive.

  80. RB said

    Steve in #69 is correct on the efficiency numbers for sugarcane ethanol.
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/10/biofuels/biofuels-interactive
    At $3.71 for the energy equivalence to gasoline, it still looks (in this comparison) expensive compared with gasoline.

  81. RB said

    BTW, economists such as Weitzman @ Harvard and others use a discount rate approach to estimate cost-benefit analysis of CO2 reduction – his assumption of low-probable non-negligible catastrophic effects may be incorrect and others may be incorrect, but seems like without a discount rate approach, it is not a true cost-benefit analysis.

  82. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    RB #79,

    You need to be very careful about how the costs is being calculated. “Cost of production” from corn in your reference probably excludes the cost for the corn!

    In Brazil, the street price for fuel ethanol is high, but that is only because of extremely high taxes on all transportation fuels except diesel… but a private individual has to pay a huge “special tax” to purchase a diesel powered car, so almost nobody does! The trucks in Brazil run on diesel at costs comparable to the USA so that their industrial costs remain more competitive with off-shore industries.

    Dry (anhydrous) ethanol for industrial use (not available to the general public) is quite low in Brazil.

  83. TinyCo2 said

    One of the reasons why I use TinyCO2 as my moniker is because I have a small CO2 footprint compared to many westerners. At the moment it’s about 3 tons. Even though I’ve tried many energy saving techniques, the biggest savings I make are due to very little travel and a lack of consumerism.

    Many assume that cutting CO2 is easy but unless you’re a real wastrel, it’s hard to cut enough to make a big difference. For every suggested way to cut CO2 there are things that the uninitiated forget.

    eg I’ve seriously considering the ground source heat option but here are the problems –

    1) It involves digging up the whole garden. At the moment that’s not a major problem but what about when it’s landscaped? I’m lucky, I have enough garden, many do not.
    2) It works best with under floor heating, which I haven’t got. That would require lifting all the flooring, furniture, doors, etc, etc and would leave me with even less headroom than I’ve got now. If I’d got real wood floors they’d have to be pulled up or covered up.
    3) The systems I’ve seen have a unit the size of a small chest freezer, I have no room for that.
    4) It costs an arm and a leg, even without the additional costs.
    5) It would involve huge amounts of dirt, disruption and stress.
    6) If any part of it goes wrong it will be much harder to get someone to fix it than a standard heating system.
    7) At some point these things need replacing. Will I have got my money back in that time? Will there be something better and cheaper round the corner.

    Balanced against all that, the government can stuff it’s loan where the spotless sun don’t shine.

    Yes, many people could save 20% off their highest CO2 budget. Once. Many could keep it off but could they do it again? Does it creep up again as they change homes, have more kids, have to keep up with technology?

    Take phones. When I was a child we didn’t even have a private line (it was shared). Now I have three powered mobile house phones and a cell phone. Then there’s broadband and Skype to consider. Despite never needlessly leaving the cell phone charger on, the power used by my phones and broadband alone is much larger than the equivalent when I was a child. Multiply by a nation. Do those increased energy outputs match a less efficiently powered telephone system of my youth?

    Trust me, cutting CO2 isn’t easy unless you’re prepared to give stuff up.

  84. Carrick said

    Timetochooseagain:

    37-Are my views extreme? No doubt? Does that make me any less convinced they are right? No.

    The problem with them being “extreme” is that they are entirely untested in the real world.

    As far as I know, there’s not even an on-paper mathematical model to justify this approach. It’s just a theoretical concept with no foundation at this point.

    Your conceptual ideas may be sound, but I know no way to test them. Hopefully we can agree the “best ideas” are not the ones that are most amenable to flowery sound bites (I’m not saying yours is… Obama’s populism is a better candidate for this, I’m saying we need something better than what amounts to coffee-room chatter to inform us as to the best economic model.)

    Relative Economic Freedom:…

    That point is taken…so there are confounding factors.

    You cite economic freedom… I cited government funded basic research.

    I suppose it’s possible to decouple these, but again it needs to be something better than who is better at sound bites or name calling or whatever.

    Do you really think that no research could get done on cancer or anything else if the government didn’t back it? Here’s a thought: There are lots of wealthy philanthropists in the world, and lots of charities, who would be more than happy to give money to these causes. The argument that the government needs to invest this money on people’s behalf assumes that people are so callous, evil, or ignorant that they wouldn’t ever do so on their own.

    Without government, not nearly the same fraction of research would get done. That’s provable: Countries which don’t have strong government funding have only a small fraction of the same research as performed in this country. That’s true even in countries with rich philanthropists.

    I can tell you for a fact of all the types of funding I’ve received (state government, federal government, military, corporate), I’ve never gotten a thin dime from a philanthropist.

    But again, the system works as it is now (compared to others). You seem to be proposing that we shuck it, and try something entirely new and untested. With no idea whether it would be workable in practice or not.

  85. Borepatch said

    Tom, this sure is a refreshing change from the all too common you-deniers-should-all-be-jailed, so many thanks.

    I have to confess skepticism that our burning of fossil fuels is contributing to warming, or at most is nothing more than a percent or two of the change due to natural processes. However, let’s accept your premise for the sake of argument.

    Assuming (hypothetically) that AGW is in fact true and is somewhat of a problem (although not catastrophic), I still disagree with your proposed solution. Here’s why:

    1. The Real Estate bubble is still alive and well in the commercial office space market. There is considerable overcapacity, and it is very unlikely that we’ll see enough new office construction over the next twenty years to meet the targets that you suggest.

    2. There will admittedly be considerable conversion possibility, as current unfinished space is put into use. Potentially this could be a part of your regulatory suggestion. However, it’s undeniable that this will increase the cost of putting this space into use, and there’s a good chance that the cost will be in many cases prohibitive. Net/net, the cost of your program is not small to the people effected – indeed the cost is likely to be very high to a very concentrated portion of society (commercial office space renters and rentees), and the government generally does a poor job of estimating the effects of these sorts of costs on a program.

    IOW, the US DOE estimates are almost certainly wrong here.

    3. Most significantly, at the end of the day all regulatory programs rest on a foundation of government legitimacy. Compare, for example, tax compliance in the US and in, say, Italy or Greece. The most serious problem in your proposal IMHO is the collapse of the sense of government’s legitimacy that we’re currently seeing – something like 70% of the population believes that government is acting without the consent of the governed.

    If this is true, then the rational reaction of commercial property owners will be to seek Regulatory Capture, via e.g. pooling resources to allocate campaign contributions. They may very well believe that it is much less expensive to buy off the governmental elite than to comply with the regulations.

    Sadly, there’s more than a little evidence that the enthusiasm of various governments for schemes like Cap-and-Trade is precisely this sort of increased campaign cash. Incentives matter, not just to businesses subject to regulation, but to politicians who promulgate them.

    If this hypothesis is correct, it seems that there is a very high likelihood that your scheme will produce approximately zero impact to the (hypothetical) warming that is your overall goal.

    I hate to find myself so cynical, but the history of the last 30 years implies that a regulatory regime that imposes costs of perhaps a hundred Billion dollars over the span of a couple decades will produce a reaction by the would be regulatorees. The recent history of the political class suggests that that class will be happy indeed to take the money, rather than to address your proposed problem. See Goldman Sachs as only the most recent example.

  86. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Jeff Id #76,

    What makes it work in Brazil is:
    1. Lots of very fertile and relatively inexpensive land (and only ~175 million instead of 320 million people on that land)
    2. Warm temperatures and lots of sunshine year round
    3. Relatively low labor costs
    4. Integrated operations… ethanol plants sitting in the middle of the cane fields
    5. Burning of waste cellulose to generate process heat and to run steam turbines (for electricity)

    When oil was US$30 a barrel, the ethanol industry in Brazil was a loser, and only survived because of government protection from competition from imported oil, but at current oil prices, it is very competitive.

    With respect to the practicality for something similar the USA: forget it. Our auto fuel use is 10 times higher, our corn-based process is barely energy positive, our labor cost is high, our farm land is very expensive (and better suited for other crops), and the per-hectare annual energy collected with corn is much, much lower. It just would never work in the USA. But it does work in Brazil. They could easily run almost all cars on ethanol by doubling the land dedicated to ethanol, and they probably will if oil prices remain high for several years.

    There are even plans under way to convert ethanol into ethylene (via thermal cracking) to replace petroleum based ethylene as a chemical feedstock.

    BTW, I have spent a lot of time in Brazil.

  87. Jeff Id said

    6.5 billion gallons ethanol from brazil per year
    15 days consumption in the US

    Currently 9 million Brazillian acres used

    365/15 *9 million = 219 million acres of sugarcane to power US gasoline powered cars – 342000 sq miles

    Texas is 260,000 sq miles.

    This is why biofuel doesn’t work, the land usage is massive. Solar electric can shrink the land size to 1/10 of this – if we had batteries. The reason Brazil gets away with it is they have a lot of land and not too many cars.

  88. Carrick said

    #69, Steve Fitzpatrick:

    Sorry, but these statements are incorrect. It is true for ethanol production from corn for certain, but every study I have seen (several, including US Government sponsored research) shows that ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil is a huge net energy producer. Estimates range from ~7 to ~9 times more out than what goes in, and that efficiency is improving every year

    The other cool thing is it segues nicely into a high CO2 world: Warmer climates means larger sugar cane growing regions.

    It’s all good.

  89. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Tom, I will summarize from my first reading of Roger’s link below:

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2731-2009.17.pdf

    What is shown in this link is evidence that government and international accords have not worked to this point in reducing GHG levels
    and evidence that is rather well publicized and understood by those with more than a passing interest in AGW policies. It points to unintended consequences and the tendency (my words) of governments to go through the motions. What is suggested is a Japanese follow-on of a more modest GHG reduction goal. Also proposed was a fossil fuel tax to fund research projects to look for alternate energy sources and efficiencies.

    What I judge this exercise to be is noting a government failure and instead of admitting that perhaps that failure is inherent with government, suggesting an alternative approach, albeit more modest and without any apparent calculations on what it would do for the GHG levels and future warming based on models or past experiences.
    I find this proposal to be related to arguments that I hear from the skeptics mainly that tend to put AGW policy and the attendant weaknesses in climate science into a special and almost unique category. I do not see it that way at all.

    Government funded research can be just as corrupted and market disruptive as any other area into which government intervenes.
    I do not agree that energy independence should be a center piece of energy policy. That will not overcome any problems we currently have with so-called enemies or potential enemies. Or make our negotiations with them any less difficult. We should look to be isolated with regards to military interventions and outward looking with regards to free market international trading and free exchanges with other nations citizens.
    As for R&D funding, I believe the private spending continues to be larger than government sponsored. In an ideal libertarian state, I would see no problem with finding sources of private spending for long term beneficial research. Furthermore, the research gets expensed to the more likely beneficiaries and avoids the political favoritism and tendencies to attempt to select winners. We do not have that ideal state, but in the mean time I would not want government intervention in that area to increase.
    Of course, government research needs funding just like private and that funding will be processed through a very much more bureaucratic and less efficient process in government. I personally do not trust our fools in Washington, who have no compunctions on spending us into bankruptcy or into drastic inflation or in writing off our future generations economic well being, above what might come out of a business interest that is spending its own (investors) money and not the taxpayers or the taxpayers progeny. And, of course, if government is actively and increasingly spending other people’s money and their future generation’s money on research what will that do for incentivizing private sources.

  90. Ryan O said

    Okay . . . here’s the problem with ethanol. Steve: don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia.

    The USDA studies on cane ethanol used the same criteria as the corn ethanol, and gave corn ethanol an EROEI (Energy Return over Energy Invested) of 1.3 – 1.7. Those same standards give cane ethanol an EROEI of 8. Let’s take a closer look.

    Problem 1: Ethanol yields 76,000 BTUs of chemical energy per gallon. The USDA studies estimated 50,000 BTUs of chemical energy are required for production (hence EROEI of ~1.5). However, the chemical energy in a gallon of gasoline is 125,000 BTUs, which implies a useful work of about 40,000 BTUs. In other words, you need 1.4 gallons of ethanol for every gallon of gasoline.

    The U.S. alone uses about 385 million gallons of gasoline per day (2005). To convert to ethanol, we would need 539 gallons of ethanol per day. Cane ethanol requires 1 acre per 800 gallons produced annually – or 1 acre produces 2.2 gallons per day on average. To meet just the needs of the U.S., you would have to dedicate 245 million acres to cane production – or about 100 million hectares. Total arable land in Brazil: 355 million hectares. Needless to say, cane ethanol cannot possibly replace a major fraction of worldwide gasoline usage because the land requirements are simply too high.

    So that takes us to corn, which can be grown in more varied environments. Since corn is about half as productive as cane, if you did this in the U.S., you would need 200 of the 270 million hectares of arable land dedicated to ethanol production.

    There are only 1.4 billion hectares of arable land on the planet. Does it seem like a good idea to use anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the entire arable land on earth to make fuel?

    To put it in perspective: it takes about 0.5 hectares to feed the average person. It would take 1.8 hectares per car to make enough ethanol for the average annual distance traveled.

    From a land use perspective, ethanol simply is not a good option for wide-scale replacement of gasoline.

    Problem 2: The EROEI measure is flawed:

    http://www.c4aqe.org/Economics_of_Ethanol/ethanol.2005.pdf

    The USDA studies underestimated energy input by a factor of approximately 2.5. Corn ethanol is a net negative – meaning an EROEI of less than 1 (it’s actually about 0.6).

    Given that the cane – by and large – uses potash instead of nitrogen, you can discount the energy input from nitrogen. Once that is done, the EROEI on cane ethanol drops to about 3.5 (it would be 3 if nitrogen fertilizer were used). If it is going to be used outside of Brazil, you now need to add significant additional transport energy costs that don’t currently exist.

    Problem 3: The net carbon impact is an increase in CO2 emissions – not a decrease. (Post 93: http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/legislting-physics/ )

    Down with ethanol!

  91. TinyCo2 said

    As for the US energy useage levelling off – look at they trade deficit and ask yourself where some of that energy use may have been transferred to.

    http://www.epi.org/page/-/old/images/intlpic20070213.gif

    Are US businesses so incredibly inefficient that they could save 20%? Could your business save 20%?

    I used to work for a company that was always trying to cut energy use. It has just announced that it is to close, sending the work to the US and China where energy costs are lower. Energy efficiency had nothing to do with it.

  92. RB said

    Furthermore, the research gets expensed to the more likely beneficiaries
    Xerox Parc is an example that comes to mind that would be at odds with this statement. As for ‘long-term beneficial research’, nobody could have foreseen for example, why Bose-Einstein condensates were useful 50 years before the invention of the laser. Mostly a case of “what use is a newborn-baby” . (I too think that most of govt funded research yields nothing really useful or significant).

  93. DeWitt Payne said

    I’ve been looking into the biomass thing as a result of some comments at The Blackboard on the Chaos/Open Thread. An EROEI for sugar cane ethanol of greater than 5 seems reasonable. Sugar cane is particularly efficient in converting solar energy to easily fermentable sugar. But the overall efficiency of conversion of sun light is still low. For corn, the starches have to be hydrolyzed first, which slows down the process and requires additional energy (you have to boil the mash and cool it before you can add the yeast). Switchgrass probably does a better job of converting light to biomass than sugar cane, but it is still on the order of 1% and would require at least 20% of the arable land on the planet to be converted to biomass production to produce about the same number of joules by combustion as fossil fuels. Any sort of conversion to a liquid fuel would reduce the efficiency and increase the area needed. Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose to sugar is still not ready for prime time, for example. There just isn’t enough arable land on the planet for biomass energy to bring the rest of the world up to the average energy consumption level of the developed world and still grow food, even if we all converted to a Vegan diet.

  94. RB said

    Make that ‘Bose Einstein statistics’

  95. Tom Fuller said

    Hi all, (still grabbing links),

    Why would we want to talk about switching 100% to ethanol? Who is proposing that?

    For that matter, I see no-one proposing that all electricity be produced by wind. Or by solar. Or by nuclear power.

    Why don’t we agree that a portfolio mix of energy sources, distribution methods and conservation measures is going to be required and start juggling percentages of costs and looking at regional factors that favor one solution over another?

    ‘…small steps, Ellie….’

  96. Jeff Id said

    #95 All of the above is my least favorite option. If all “solutions” to the problem have higher cost then none of the above is the option. Unless someone can demonstrate that none of the above will cost more.

  97. Duster said

    Tom,

    “Decaramelisation” – higher productivity per BTU – is a good idea without ANY climate tie. So, why attempt to make one? Efficiency alone is a perfectly sound justification for energy research. Diversity is a sound means of providing resiliency to any number of systems.

    Humans DO have effects on regional climates through urbanization and agricultural both of which alter heat and water budgets locally. However, on a global scale the scientific support for the idea that CO2 is climatically important, and that minuscule changes that humanity have to CO2 concentrations are in any way significant are important is vanishingly limited. There simply is no empirical evidence of climatic response to CO2, and at best current arguments call out correlations and argue that correlation is evidence of causality. While in most of science, “correlation is not causality” is an aphorism to live by.

  98. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Tom Fuller (Apr 30 16:16),

    Why don’t we agree that a portfolio mix of energy sources, distribution methods and conservation measures is going to be required and start juggling percentages of costs and looking at regional factors that favor one solution over another?

    Because, other than a massive commitment to nuclear energy as fast as possible, all the other measures will only (barely) slow the rate of increase of CO2, not reduce emissions from current levels, and cost a lot of money that could have been better spent elsewhere. If you can’t make a drastic reduction in emission, there is no point in wasting money delaying the inevitable by a few years.

  99. Tom Fuller said

    Hi Duster,

    I think human effects on climate through LU/LC etc. are important and need to be addressed, especially at the regional level. I actually also think negative effects from CO2 will be almost certainly expressed at the regional level as well. Wish we knew what regions… But I think it’s real and worth adding to the calculation of what is worth doing and why.

  100. Thoughtful Tom said

    A lot of words. If you want less carbon, tax it. Repay the American people through reduced payroll tax and increased social security payments.

    The role of government in this case is to increase the rate at which we transition to renewable energy. Renewable energy will happen regardless of what else happens in the world, as easily available carbon based fuels are not unlimited (witness the 2008 liquid fuels cost run-up, which created larger demand for natural gas and coal, which also rose).

    Keep it simple.

    As the token pro-AGW on this blog, I have no problem with taxing carbon to reduce CO2. But some of you are waiting until the effects are worldwide, extreme and obvious (which, if it were easily reversible, I might be inclined to agree with). But put all that aside.

    You can ignore AGW and be in favor of a revenue neutral plan that increases the rate of transition to renewables.

    All the American posters on this blog know that we Americans will be our most creative and innovative to avoid a tax. It is in our nature. And, in my humble opinion, the world needs American ingenuity know more than ever.

    So maybe you think paying terrorists for oil is not such a hot idea. Drilling and spilling here _might_ reduce our importation of oil. But it is tactical, not strategic – all you do is slightly lower the global cost of oil and the terrorists will collect from the EU and Asia. But if, by imposing a tax on carbon Americans develop viable, cost effective alternatives to oil, we can then sell those to developing countries (do developing economies string land lines everywhere? They do not, they use that crazy invention called “cell phones”)

    Repeat for the cost, in blood and treasure, of maintaining our military might and fighting wars for oil (and please don’t pretend the wars in the Middle East are anything else).

    Jeff – regarding your light bulbs. If you are correct about the efficiency of the halogens than electricity must deliver BTUs cheaper than natural gas. So, if the quality of the light is equal between halogens and LEDs is the same (which I understand is NOT the case, but you didn’t debate that point) then you would use electric resistance heat (and not natural gas) and add heat to the envelope in a controlled way. Not halogens blazing at 9pm in August. Therefore halogens are not this amazingly efficient thing. Their waste product is useful for 6 months of the year, tolerable for 3 and annoying for 3 (assuming a cold climate). [Unless you are trying to sneak in a nuclear is awesome point (energy so cheap we won't even meter it!)- in which case - never mind (although that would make my point doubly as powerful]

  101. Steve E said

    Tom, Jeff, Roger,

    If we really we want to create both an incentive for alternatives and the wealth to fund them we would make fossil fuels available at as close to cost as possible. The economic growth that this would fuel would create the necessary wealth while the declining resources would create the incentive.

    Simplistic perhaps but I’ll lean on Occam’s razor for my case.

  102. BDAABAT said

    For those that believe in the mantra of, “I want to tax ourselves to the moon, err, I mean, I am in favor of efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil… because I don’t think it makes sense to buy oil from terrorists.”, perhaps you should look at those places that HAVE terrorists. Extremism CAN develop anywhere, but seems to do so primarily in areas of the world that are poor, where there is little (broad) education and little employment opportunities. It seems reasonable to expect that people would tend to not want to blow themselves up when they have something to live for. Increasing access to inexpensive energy will help REDUCE the number of terrorists.

    Adding costs (meaning taxing energy, which increases the costs of everything) will likely INCREASE the terrorist pool.

    Bruce

  103. Jeff Id said

    If you are correct about the efficiency of the halogens than electricity must deliver BTUs cheaper than natural gas.

    Not really but it is very high. I think from memory 95% of the energy turns into heat. My heat still runs this time of the year too so it’s more like 8 months on.

    then you would use electric resistance heat (and not natural gas) and add heat to the envelope in a controlled way.

    It would save CO2, but I don’t see the point in that. I have a lot of difficulty understanding why halogens are not efficient heaters. The heat they release spreads through the house eventually, displacing other heat and reducing the need to run the furnace. If 5% is light, we have a 95% efficient heater and legal mandates to use CFL or LED are not only expensive, they are completely useless.

  104. Jeff Id said

    I guess I should say, – almost completely useless.

  105. Kenneth Fritsch said

    DeWitt Payne at Post #98:

    I would like to suggest that if a modern day liberal (as opposed to the real so-called classical liberals of yesteryear) like Tom is understood at all it is that they feel we need to search out and discover problems that we can put the government to solving. In that fervent search there may be a tendency to look for problems that either are not problems or do not need solving or do not have apparent solutions. I think it becomes nearly an automatic reaction.

    I pick up from Tom, and perhaps Pielke Jr, that while AGW may not be the big issue the warmitistas make it out to be, we cannot merely sit idly by and not use the great powers of government to do something. Doing absolutly or minimally nothing would set a bad precedent for the big government crowd.

  106. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Apr 30 17:59),

    Yes, I’ve heard that sort of thing from my sister who lives in NYC. “We have to do something.” No, we don’t. Not if the something either doesn’t work or actually makes things worse. See also Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Annointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

    I’m not complaining about government sponsored research. It would be very hypocritical for me to do that when my daughter received an NSF graduate research fellowship. Without the NSF and the NIH, among others, post-graduate education in this country would be a lot smaller.

  107. Tom Fuller said

    Hi Kenneth,

    Gotta stick up for myself here–I most definitely do not sit around all day thinking up ways to use government. But I am a liberal–I think there are definitely problems existing today that cannot be solved without government. The trick is knowing which… which is why I’m glad conservatives exist, as left to our own devices we might be over-zealous in our picking and choosing.

  108. david squire said

    This thread reminds me I’m a bit disappointed at our progress in “alternative energy” technologies in the last 35+ years, and makes me wonder whether significant “decaramelisation” is likely in the near future.

    The current AGW/CO2-driven energy concerns are like deja vu back to the 1973 Arab oil embargo and ensuing Energy Crisis. That hit while I was in engineering school, and it provoked a sudden boost in interest and activity, hysteria almost, about energy R&D.

    There were classes I took in direct energy conversion and new energy technologies; for my senior project I worked on a solar idea sponsored, believe it or not, by John Z. DeLorean (pre-cocaine sting).

    All kinds of energy sources, conservation techniques, and conversion & storage methods, from old and mundane to new and exotic, were getting attention.

    Solar thermal concentrators (all over the desert, or put one in orbit and send the power to earth in a bird-fricasseeing microwave beam!), flat plate collectors & water heaters, Trombe walls, rooftop gravity turbines, photovoltaics, thermoelectric heating & cooling, wind turbines and Magnus effect spinners, tides, ocean waves, ocean thermal difference engines, geothermal steam, magnetohydrodynamics (supersonic plasma — talk about exotic!), nuclear fusion, fission fast breeders, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, oil shale, tar sands, coal gasification, biofuels, combined cycle power plants, pumped storage hydroelectric, thermal energy storage in phase-changing salts, and more that I’ve surely forgotten. Whew!

    It seemed a no-brainer, at least to a naive student, that by, say 2010, humanity would have energy choices running out of our ears (not to mention that I’d probably be dead of old age).
    Instead, while many of those technologies are in practice today, they’re mostly appetizers and desserts, with plain old fossil fuels still our main course.

    The motivation in the 70’s, of course, was the near-universal desire to get out from under the thumb of that irksome OPEC; CO2 was a non-issue since AGW hadn’t been invented yet.

    So, to compare and contrast, and certainly oversimplify:

    Back then, any technology that could reduce foreign oil consumption was on the table, virtually everyone in America agreed the goal was desirable, and the outcome was not exactly a famous victory.

    Today it’s about (I’ll say it!)–decarbonisation (though de-OPECisation remains attractive), which leaves fewer acceptable energy technologies; and opinion is not exactly unanimous that CO2 must be slashed.

    I have no idea what that means for the energy landscape in another 35 years, but I do know I’ll be even deader of old age.

  109. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Gotta stick up for myself here–I most definitely do not sit around all day thinking up ways to use government. But I am a liberal–I think there are definitely problems existing today that cannot be solved without government. The trick is knowing which… which is why I’m glad conservatives exist, as left to our own devices we might be over-zealous in our picking and choosing.

    You said earlier that you are a big supporter of the Obama administration. I am thinking real hard what problems we have that that administration thinks cannot be solved by bigger government through more regulations or subsidies.

    I live in Wheaton, IL and we have a public school district that has been borrowing money and time to purportedly mollify the parents of students in the system who have insisted that their kids be educated with a certain teacher student ratio. Studies have shown that student teacher ratios have little to do with educational achievements. Suddenly with the recent crisis in government bodies getting revenue, the school board is cutting teachers and administration, but only after insisting that their irresponsibility’s were tied to the parents demands. I looked at my real estate tax bill that I received today, and lo and behold, my home is valued at a level of two years ago (at the peak of the housing boom) and my bill has increased significantly.

    Education in my judgment is tied to the parents view of it, but ask any good liberal and the answer to better education would appear to invariably be more money. If a government enterprise is failing you spend more money. If it continues to fail you spend even more money.

    Tom, I’ll make it easy for you by asking you to name the problems were government should not be involved.

  110. Tom Fuller said

    Whew. I could plead off-topic and duck this one, but it’s a fair question. We know already that the US government has not been successful in its various ‘wars;’ War on Poverty (poverty fell dramatically prior to the War on Poverty, then stopped), War on Cancer, War on Drugs. So I think there are lessons about hubris on the part of government there. I don’t think governments should tell people who they should sleep with or marry, or what they should drink or smoke.

    Although government was very good at establishing herd immunity through mass vaccination and reducing child mortality, and improving general health through sanitation requirements, their record in healthcare since then has been fairly abysmal, so maybe they should keep their hands off it until they understand a bit more. (But requiring insurance seems no worse to me in healthcare than it does for owning an automobile. Sorry…)

    I think a lot of what government does could be done better with a clearer view of subsidiarity–what level of government should be dealing with a problem. I think local control of education hasn’t done very well, but I don’t think federal government would do better–maybe it should be at state level?

    How am I doing so far? Is that enough to get a sense of my views? This is very much top of mind…

  111. timetochooseagain said

    Off topic: I had almost forgotten, what with Judith being so reasonable lately, that she has Rush Derangement Syndrome:

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/04/30/curry-the-finale/

    Darn shame that. Of course, I discovered this some time ago in comment threads at CA where, unprovoked, she complained about him. Twilight Zone music.

  112. Carrick said

    Tom Fuller:

    But I am a liberal–I think there are definitely problems existing today that cannot be solved without government

    Where I come from, that hardly makes you a liberal. Most conservatives advocate government spending for the military (addressing the problem of national security)

    IMO, liberalism is about the types of problems one solves with government as much as it is about advocating government as part of the solution.

  113. Bob Koss said

    I found this piece pretty well reflects my opinion on top down control. Link.

    Economist Friedrich Hayek explained in 1945 why centrally controlled “command economies” were doomed to waste, inefficiency, and collapse: Insufficient knowledge. He won a Nobel Prize. But it turns out he was righter than he knew.

    In his “The Use of Knowledge In Society,” Hayek explained that information about supply and demand, scarcity and abundance, wants and needs exists in no single place in any economy. The economy is simply too large and complicated for such information to be gathered together.

    Any economic planner who attempts to do so will wind up hopelessly uninformed and behind the times, reacting to economic changes in a clumsy, too-late fashion and then being forced to react again to fix the problems that the previous mistakes created, leading to new problems, and so on.

    The problem with Roger’s target path of improving C/GDP is that it shouldn’t even be a goal. About the only thing to date which can be definitely said concerning CO2, is that it is a clear and odorless plant fertilizer. It also causes a modicum of warming in laboratory experiments. The purported feedback and forcing effects used in models are hypotheticals with large error ranges and cannot be trusted.

    The path to follow should be toward the most efficient use of energy. R&D should directed toward Energy/GDP.

    Use of decarbonization as a parameter in evaluating which research to support unnecessarily narrows the areas funded. It is a code word which biases funding away from anything promising that might lead to greater efficiency even though CO2 emissions increase. Funding is a result of telling the funders what they are open to hearing. With the current crop of funders the possibility of increasing CO2 wouldn’t get a receptive hearing.

    Look at what has happened with GW. Funding is more likely to be approved if the researcher is trying to demonstrate there is an AGW problem than if they are just trying to resolve some climate related unknown in an unbiased manner.
    No identifiable problem. No funding.

  114. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Science Blog News. Science Blog News said: Decaramelisation: My least favorite aspect of AGW is the political one, however, Tom is completely fearless,… http://tinyurl.com/38kk373 [...]

  115. DR said

    I think if people could get in a time machine and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more to the “good ole days” before all this “trashing the planet”, they’d realize just how much better it is now. Disease, filthy streets, unsanitary conditions, polluted waterways, unsafe water, lung choking smog from dirty coal burning, short lifespans (45 vs 80) etc. How can anyone even suggest we are abusing the planet?

    What gives?

  116. Geoff Sherrington said

    In really basic terms, the valid functions of governments are those where collective effort is more efficient than individual or small group effort. A logical example is making armies, another is foreign policy, another is international trade, another is the furthering of public sentiment, such as by making ethical rules of medical research.

    Beyond examples like these – and there are more – one has to make the assumption that the collective known as “government” has a greater wisdom in the allocation of scarce resources than does the individual or small group. History has shown that sometimes government management has produced a top outcome, but mostly the historical record is far less flattering. Standard rail track widths, which side of the road we drive on, standard global a.c. voltages, standard rifle bore sizes, … sometimes it sees that if 10 governments are faced with 10 options, all ten will be adopted.

    One of the main differences is motivation – especially the motivation to return a profit. Unlike governments, companies do not have the option to increase taxes or divert funds from elsewhere if they are staring down the throat of a loss. Companies can increase efficiency, they can scale back, they can maximise cash flow, they can dispose of surplus capital goods, but seldom can they lift prices for long and get away with it. Competition in the market place is a great leveller, but governments have very little of it. That leads us to another function of government, namely, to dampen monopolisation (which is strange, because governments often act like monopolies and the concept of free competition is alien to some members).

    Some of the views expressed above are a bit peculiar when analysed this way.

    e.g. at 38 Tom Fuller says “Measuring energy use by its output of CO2 is a legitimate method of measuring its efficiency, but its not the only one”. I’m glad the latter bit was added. There is one way to measure energy use and this is with money. Money was invented for precisely such purposes. At 22 Carrick says “You don’t think that providing R&D funds will stimulate innovation?” Socialist approach, Carrick. There is no obvious reason why R&D funds-to-be should be taken from the public, transaction costs subtracted by governments and part of the funds handed back again in a manner that expects praise. Why, my namesake first cured diphtheria in England by a private experiment on his nephew. Nice R&D outcome. No need for government.

    One of the main drawbacks of governments is a persistent and usually unsuccessful trend to pick winners on whom to invest funding. Others wiser than me have noted that this is next to impossible because of imperfect input information. Allied with this is an urge to deek gratification from the public by taking on more scope of work than voters ever intended, to the extent of misinterpreting Constitutions with the most ridiculous of arguments.

    Over my lifetime of observation, governments have almost always been the lead in the saddle that hadicaps the horse. The idea that corruption in industry is larger than that in government is cdemonstrably false. Most non-government corruption is not a solo event in any case, but depends on special arrangements with governments who don’t do these jobs for free.

    It’s way past time to revisit the original intentions of out respective Founding Fathers in our Constitutions and for governments to hari kari back to the intended size.

  117. sod said

    So I’m caught in the middle between skeptics like Viscount Monckton who think nothing at all needs to be done (slight exaggeration) and Al Gore, who thinks that a massive Cap and Trade program is a good beginning.

    one sentence, so many errors. what exactly is “sceptic” about Lord Monckton? can you post a single example of him being “sceptic” on something?

    the Cap and Trade program is not “massive”. it is as big, as international rules need to be. most of the false claims about cap and trade show your sides massive lack of understanding of the programs.

    Why do we want higher cost energy when the current energy production isn’t causing any known harm, seems unlikely to cause any harm and even when we change to higher cost energy and add more layers of government, it won’t change the outcome.

    sorry Jeff, but i am staring at pictures of the oil spill. i am reading headline news about Iraq. i think that stuff doesn t get more wrong, that that paragraph. you managed to beat Fuller! congratulations!

  118. tonyb said

    Tom Fuller

    It has been very good to debate with you and I am not going to disagree with you about the need for better energy management or the need for energy security.

    Where I do disagree is in your believing that governments of a certain inclination (of whatever political persuasion) won’t attempt to use AGW as an excuse to push their pet agendas. As you observe, the UK is embarked on a great social experiment by an administration who believes ‘1984’ is a handbook for govt and not a fictional novel. As a result they use the notion of ‘green’ to advance their agenda by way of regulation-for the planets good- backed up by taxes.

    Obama seems to me to be cut from the same cloth as Tony Blair and at the moment you are clearly following in the AGW footsteps we took a decade ago. IF that continues, you will be startled at how intrusive the Govt will become.

    My own view is that AGW is by no means a serious problem or even definitively proven. Temperatures (CET)have been slowly rising since the depths of the LIA in 1690. Every decade since 1840 has been warmer than that decade. The period centred round 1720 was around as warm as today. It’s not even true that temperatures have risen precipitately in recent times-again the 1700 period outshines the modern era. All the evidence shows the MWP was widespread, real and synchronous and was warmer than today, so in other words natural variability trumps CO2.

    Unfortunately we are fixated on the short term temperature snapshot afforded by GISS and CRU (briliantly if erroneously portrayed in part by Michael Mann) which only captures the latter stages of this rise. We also seem to be in thrall to the even more limited satellite records from 1979. The idea for example that modern arctic ice melt is unprecedented is demonstrable nonsense, as is the idea of catastrophic sea level rise.

    Now the main point I wish to make is that Humanity faces enough real problems without going to look for(apparently) imaginary ones. For example, third world debt, poverty, energy, health, and water concerns are being subsumed by the attention paid to the AGW juggernaut. Of greater concern to me than a barely discernible temperature rise over 320 years is the likelihood of say a major earthquake in your area or Tokyo,(economic and social devastation)or a repeat of the Carrington event of 1850 which will devastate our entire civilisation. By the balance of probability all are far more likely to happen than catastrophic AGW.

    Humanity seems to find it very difficult to deal with more than one ball in the air at any one time, so let’s tackle real problems and not get sidetracked by imaginary ones on which we are basing our economic and social policy. None of which is an argument against sensible energy policy.

    Best regards

    Tony Brown

  119. curious said

    Tony b – 118 above. I agree – I’d also venture the first and most pressing problem to solve is the dysfunctional nature of our public bodies and processes (and I’m including academic institutions in this). I’d urge journalists who want to make a difference to turn their attention to this area – Tom’s position that if there has been a misuse of government funds the university will uncover it of their own volition is naive in the extreme.

  120. stan said

    Thoughtful Tom (100),

    You need to do some more thinking. Our military is fighting in Afghanistan because of oil?! Seriously?!

    And a carbon tax? How ’bout a little truth in advertising? You mean a massive corruption enhancer.

    1) No one has been able to demonstrate that there is a problem from CO2. And until we find some climate scientists who are:
    * capable of siting thermometers properly,
    * capable of quality control in managing the datasets,
    * willing to share data and methods for their studies,
    * willing to audit and replicate important studies,
    * honest enough to prepare accurate assessments,
    * able to build climate models capable of verification and validation,
    * willing to get some help to clean up the atrocious software and statistical work, and
    * honest enough to admit the problems presently endemic to the field,
    it is unlikely that science is going to do much change that status quo.

    2) Even if there was any proof of a problem, no one has been able to craft an economic argument to justify the measures being advocated without bastardizing the analysis.

  121. tonyb said

    My 118

    I meant 1859 of course for the Carrington event

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

    tonyb

  122. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Ryan O #90,

    The errors in energy efficiency you note all apply to ethanol from sources other than sugarcane (as well as to “biodiesel”, etc.). You have presented no evidence that suggests the studies of energy efficiency in Brazilian ethanol production are incorrect. By the way, my understanding is that ashes and fermentation residuals from the processing/burning of sugarcane are used to fertilize the land, so the amount of net fertilizer used is relatively low.

    With regard to claims of increased CO2, I guess you have to consider the question: “Increased compared to what?” Sure, compared to sitting on the beach (and there are lots of them in Brazil!) and doing nothing, ethanol production from sugarcane “increases” CO2 emissions, but compared to burning petroleum with the same net energy content as what is netted from sugarcane ethanol production, the sugarcane ethanol process substantially reduces total CO2 emissions.

    I do not suggest that the situation in Brazil can be duplicated in the USA (it absolutely can’t), but in Brazil’s situation, and with current petroleum prices, ethanol production in Brazil is quite profitable and reduces overall CO2 emissions for Brazil compared to the use of 100% petroleum in transportation.

    All of the bad things you say about ethanol production are completely true for the USA; it is a political boondoggle that raises food prices and wastes taxpayers money. But this does not apply to the current situation in Brazil. Let me make a small prediction: If petroleum prices stay above $80 per barrel, then within 10 years Brazilian ethanol production will increase by more than 50% compared to today, and the large majority of auto fuel used in Brazil will be ethanol.

  123. Howard said

    Biofuel is more about water. In the US corn requires a bump of about 0.7-feet of irrigation per year. In relatively wet shallow groundwater Florida, sugar cane requires 1.5-feet of irrigation per year.

    Taking Ryan’s acreage number 245 million acres of cane production to replace 100% of US gasoline supply would require 368 million acre-feet of water per year (just in Florida). In a more arid state, one could expect 2.5-feet or more of water per year.

    In any event, the TOTAL US FRESH WATER SUPPLY (in 2000, USGS summary)is 387-million acre-feet per year.

    A good rule of thumb is if agricultural biofuels are to be manufactured in the US:
    the 1 percent of gasoline replacement = approximately 1 percent of the total US Water supply

    — therefore —

    A 20-percent ethanol replacement of gasoline would consume the ENTIRE US GROUNDWATER PRODUCTION

    Sounds sustainable, we should get right on that, right Tom? ;)

  124. Dr. P said

    Let me suggest that our energy czars take a serious look at Liquid Floride Thorium Reactor (LFTR or LiFTR) technology (see a href=”http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/all/1″>Thorium – the New Green Nuke and Energy From Thorium: A Nuclear Waste Burning Liquid Salt Thorium Reactor)

    Although it is a nuclear technology it has substantantial advantages over conventional nuclear, in that it:

    (1) is passively safe (no meltdown risk, therefore no expensive active safety systems)
    (2) is low pressure (no expensive high pressure containment structure)
    (3) is generally unsuitable for production of weapons grade materials
    (in fact this is why development was originally abandoned)
    (4) generates a low volume of radioactive waste
    (5) can burn the waste of the current gen 3 nuclear plants
    (6) has much simpler maintenance requirements
    (7) uses thorium which is cheaper than uranium
    the U.S. has large deposits in Idaho
    (8) has been “proven” in that a test reactor was run successfully for several years

  125. Dr. P said

    Thorium Reactor links:

    Thorium – the New Green Nuke

    Thorium, a Readily Available and Slightly Radioactive Mineral, Could Provide the World with Safer, Clean Energy

    Energy From Thorium: A Nuclear Waste Burning Liquid Salt Thorium Reactor

    International Thorium Organisation

  126. Brian H said

    Efficient combustion yields pure CO2 and H2O — i.e., minimal other products like metal oxides or nitrogen oxides. Therefore the most beneficial combustion technologies are those which maximize “greenhouse gasses”. Since the Earth is in a CO2 famine, hyper-carbonization should be the goal.

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