the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

First Do No Harm

Posted by Jeff Id on December 14, 2009

Chip Bok, Creators Syndicate -

A commenter graham, left this point on one of the first posts done  at tAV.  The post it was left on was in the pre-Mann days well before my suspicions of the corruption of the IPCC were confirmed:

There is a lot of money to be made if we restructure our societal infrastructure, for example toward an regionally focused system of energy production based in solar, wind, wave power, etc.  Isn’t this a good thing?  Doesn’t our country support innovation and growth?  It seems to me the primary threat of change is to the powers that be in oil, coal, etc.

Graham asks, “Isn’t this a good thing?”

It’s one of the main points that non-technical greens like to make when arguing for change in the methods for producing energy, I don’t know if Graham falls into that category and this thread is NOT about him but that is beside the point.  The concept that simply switching to a more expensive, non-continuous energy source , is ok and green is a common misconception.   The absolutely destructive nature of going green is far more difficult to convey than nice things like sun, water and wind.   You don’t have to be an Aero Engineer to notice that none of these energy sources listed by Graham actually work with today’s technology. – How crazy is that? None of them work yet they are still discussed.

The start/stop of wind power is too fast and requires coal or natural gas plants of equal capacity be available to switch on and off as the wind starts and stops.  Nukes can’t change power output like that so coal or gas have to be backup and now you’ve paid twice for your generators.  There are a lot of costs for operating a coal plant at less than full capacity, this is is not a ‘tiny’ detail, but rather represents a massive load on the economy for it’s very existence.

Solar is only operational during the day and we don’t have power storage capabilities yet for night operation.   Again solar suffers from massive costs (which are improving rapidly).

Wave power is  a dream in my opinion, when greenies start to see the size of the installations required to create any amount of power, that will die out quickly. It also suffers from intermittent collection as and massive costs of sea based operation as well.

All of these hurdles for solar can be overcome time.  What’s more, I firmly believe they will be overcome with or without socialist intervention.  The real question is, will socialist tax and spend get us there quicker than a free people?  By the way the question is phrased – you know my answer already.

I note that Graham failed to mention the only working ‘green’ energy source which is Nuclear power.  If we’re really so worried in this world about power generation, we should be building nuke plants everywhere.  Copenhagen should be discussing how to build thousands of nuke plants safely and effectively, if that was the real purpose.  Instead we see trucks with bird blender parts cruising down I80 every day because they have a pretty green sound when you say it in your head.  Windmill, windmill….

Bad energy solutions raise costs for every product on the market.  The result WILL be to slow technological development that could otherwise help us use the other acceptable ‘green’  source in our heads — sunlight….sunlight…yellow warm sunlight. – pretty sound.

These extra costs will starve millions of people, but you don’t hear that discussion in Copenhagen.  The ignorance of the populace who don’t understand that switching to more expensive items cannot create jobs is mind boggling.  But Jeff they are ‘green jobs’,  happy sunlight, pretty plant, green jobs.   No they are not, they are lost jobs, hungry people and the separation between wealthy and poor is increased.  Think about it, we can’t make as much stuff because the stuff costs more.  The market is therefore weaker, the poor work for less, the wealthy can buy more service with less money.  You see the same pattern in every socialist country on earth.  Pick one where I’m wrong.

All because people have stopped thinking with their minds, and have replaced logic with pretty green feelings.

Now as I say all of this, I am owner of a green company.  I am not going to be one of the poor and I stand to benefit massively from the ignorance of these policies in Copenhagen.  But I know in my heart, the best thing for Earth is for people to remain as free from government intervention as can be reasonably achieved.  If the horrible doom and gloom predictions came true (which they won’t), we will have already replaced the technology in a hundred years  and moved on.  Consider that we’ve only had cars for a hundred years at this point.  Before that, we were a far more destructive corn based society.  We switched away from biofuel a long time ago (because we found something better) and the earth was better for it. Just why people think a cheaper energy source won’t be developed in the next 50 years without the  glories of government taxation is beyond my comprehension.

I like to think with my head, not my heart.  I wish they still taught that in school.

85 Responses to “First Do No Harm”

  1. j ferguson said

    You imply that nukes can’t be throttled. One might suppose that the heat could be wasted via a bypass if the instantaneous load dropped. After all, we’re running steam turbines here, aren’t we?

  2. Marek Frodis said

    #1 Yes – the nukes can be throttled. Just pull out the fuel rods out or something equivalent in other designs.

  3. Gary said

    An offshore wind farm proposal in Rhode Island just projected a rate to consumers of 25 cents per kwh that will increase by over 2% per year for several years after start-up. Current rates are 13 cents per kwh, an already high price.

    Is this a good thing?

  4. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Jeff ID, I agree with your contentions that the green thinkers are not thinking these issues through. My other problem with them, and a number of others who have “pet” ideas, is that the implications are that their ideas should be imposed by government sanction and not by a free market place of ideas.

    My only qualm with you, Jeff, would be that sometimes I get the feeling that you think this type of (erroneous) thinking is a relatively new development. But that might just be me. Charles Krauthammer had a good opinion piece this AM on the subject where he points to the demonstrated failure of socialism being followed up by those supporting more government with the green or environmental movement. He uses the push through the UN of groups past and present to redistibute wealth to make his point.

  5. crosspatch said

    How many windmills does it take to power a single electric arc blast furnace at a steel mill 24×7?

    People are always using numbers like “enough electricity to light X number of homes” when domestic lighting but a small portion of our electricity use. More energy goes into pumping water around than in domestic lighting.

  6. j ferguson said

    Back to the nukes,
    throttling via rod insertion/retraction and steam bypassing is only part of the issue.

    I suspect the real issue is diversity. The present nukes are big and I suppose total system load adjusting is done by grid transfers and ultimately by adding/deleting carbon fueled stations from the system. The idea being that the nukes should run at capacity as much as possible because their kwhr cost is lowest.

    The add/subtract would then be of smaller less cost-efficient generators, coal for example.

    If throttling the big ones isn’t efficient in terms of cost recovery, and you don’t want more carbon fueled plants, a likely answer is construction of smaller package plant nukes to balance load in smaller increments.

    These plants are now in development and may start going into service in the next ten years. They are a really neat, and I think, practical idea.

    The apparent rejection of new nuke construction as a reasonable green approach despite the French experience testifies to the rampant naivete of our noisiest greeners.

  7. hooray-henry said

    There are a lot of misconceptions about the ability of nuclear power to support the grid in either frequency responsive operation (rapid response to support grid fluctuations) or slower load-follow mode. They can do both (rapid or slow response), but there are technical and economic aspects for both.

    Rapid frequency response is automatic in the very short term due to feedback effects assisted by rapid control rod movement. Longer term response also involves control rod movement. Suffice it to say that load follow is possible (and used in France where about 80% of demand is met by nuclear), but it’s use is depends on the design, the safety case restrictions and economics.

  8. George Tobin said

    We will need to deploy new technologies in between mood swings of the Beautiful People. Many of the same people now who want non-fossil fuel plants told us that nuclear energy was a threat to the planet. They also include those who believe wind energy is a threat to birds, that power lines cause cancer etc.

    I think we need an International Panel on the Lefty Zeigeist (IPLZ) to predict what technologies will be trendy/permissible in the short and medium term so we can plan our energy infrastructure with the least political interference and with as little annoying drama as possible.

  9. Azz said

    There’s something very Michael Crichton-esque about the position you have taken in this thread…just wondering?

  10. crosspatch said

    It would also be possible to use excess nuclear heat at night for other purposes such as flash desalinization of water. When load falls off at night, steam can be diverted from a turbine to a heat exchanger for desalinization. Point is that there are other things the power can be used for aside from electricity generation or when residential/commercial demand drops at night, it might be useful to drop the rate charged for it and industrial uses can pick up the excess capacity. Also, if electric vehicles take off, that is going to soak up a lot of base capacity at night as they are charged.

  11. NormD said

    I am always shocked but never surprised at the hubris of people who speak of totally re-engineering anything, much less the power grid or transportation network or healthcare system or banking system, as if its a trivial task. Things are never as simple as they seem. There are always complexities. There are always downsides. Why do I always think “what am I missing” and “why is this going to blow up” while the “green” housewife down the street thinks its all trivial. Partly the problem is the rule of experts who are full of their expertness and tell the housewife not to worry, we experts have it all figured out.

    I guess I would like to see more humility and honesty

  12. Mike said

    First off, I agree that wind power with its need for full-scale backup power is really not a good idea. Solar power, however, is more constant, at least in the right locations (desert, which isn’t much good for anything else anyhow). Some designs have storage built in, such as molten salts, which have a very high energy storage capacity, apparently good for a full day of sun-less operation. This would at the very least allow to ramp up backup power smoothly.

    My real beef is with your argument that government intervention cannot be effective to accelerate any kind of progress. How do you think the Japanese got to where they are – through strict separation of government and industry? Where do you think would the American aeronautics and information industries be without military spending? Much medical and pharmaceutical research is done on taxpayers’ dime, and the patents then sold off to private companies. Government plays a huge role in advancing technology.

    What happens if the government goes AWOL? Since Maggie Thatcher, the U.K. has been the poster boy of free markets, low taxes, and no government intervention. The UK now has fallen behind not only France but even Italy in terms of GDP, and Canada, with half the UK’s population, is up next. Meanwhile, “socialist” and interventionist Germany is the world’s biggest exporter, ahead of China, Japan, and the U.S., and almost all exports are industrial goods. German cars for example are very safe and fuel-efficient, thanks in part to government regulations and taxes. Of course, good engineers, trained for free on the taxpayers dime also play a big role in this. My son is going to attend TU Darmstadt, and it is good to know that his free education there will easily be as good as anything you could pay an arm and a leg for in North America.

    OK, sorry for the rant. But this ‘taxes are evil’ chant has just as much basis in fact as the hockey stick – mindless repetition doesn’t make it any more convincing.

  13. Al S. said

    I have high hopes for the Hyperion power reactors, which were projected to be available in 2013.
    These would use a uranium-hydride fuel, that self adjusts its reactivity with temperature. It should be:
    * “Intrinsicly safe;”
    * a good load-follower;
    * a convenient size (I’m guessing like a giant soup can, about 7 feet wide by 11 feet tall, for the reactor vessel);
    * a convenient output power level (about 27 MW electric or 70 MW thermal);
    * truck or rail transportable (20 tons in the transport cask);
    very competative price, about $2/Watt installed.

    I don’t mean to minimize the engineering and licensing challenges to overcome, but it does look promising to me. If a 1 GigaWatt Electric coal plant puts out 28000 tons of CO2 per day, then a Hyperion plant could save that much every 40 days.

  14. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Huge amounts of power would be wasted keeping oil and coal fired plants on hot-standby. Lubos Motl discusses this and the dangers to the grid when winds are unexpectedly high.

  15. Jeff Id said

    #12, Solar power is off half the time every day. The problem with storage is the efficiency of it, not that it can’t happen. Run the numbers, I have.

    As to your ‘beef’ the Japanese people were freed to make their own business decisions, this and a unique culture have lead to their success. Much of the government funded research you discuss produces at a far reduced rate from private. I don’t live in the UK but my understanding is that the UK has high taxes, high regulatory hurdles and very invasive regulations on hiring/firing. These business loads are not non-trivial.

    My engineering education was paid for completely without government help.

    I assure you my taxes discussion has to do with a considered and understood position. On a bit of a cocky side, I know very few people with the qualifications to call me ‘mindless’ — are you sure you’re up for that big guy?

  16. timetochooseagain said

    “It seems to me the primary threat of change is to the powers that be in oil, coal, etc.”

    Note that rather than describing these industries as business which employ thousands-millions?-of people and make billions of dollars (a lot of revenue for the government, incidentally).

    The threat to oil, coal, etc. is not a threat to the powers that be, it’s a threat to everyone with a job dependent on these industries, it’s a threat to every part of the economy which depends on oil/coal based energy-in other words, everything. It’s a huge threat not “powers that be” but people, real people, who will really suffer.

    The new energy economy will not be all sunshine and lollipops. Even if Obama thinks he’s the Candy Man.

  17. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Mike December 14, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    “How do you think the Japanese got to where they are – through strict separation of government and industry?”

    Basically yes, relative to centuries of serfdom. Explained by Milton Friedman in Free To Choose.

  18. Mike said


    I did not call you mindless – the adjective was applied the repetition of a chant, not to a person. I don’t try to engage in discussion with mindless people.

  19. DeWitt Payne said


    How do you think the Japanese got to where they are – through strict separation of government and industry?

    You mean the more than ten years of stagnant economic growth? The zombie banks kept functioning only by massive government intervention? What worked well on the up side doesn’t look so good when things turn a little sour. What’s really sad is that we have the example of Japan to prove that low interest rates and government pump priming alone will not restore economic growth and yet both a Republican (nominally anyway) and Democrat administration both have tried the same approach.

  20. RB said

    “Just why people think a cheaper energy source won’t be developed in the next 50 years without the glories of government taxation is beyond my comprehension.”

    Oil is priced today at a cost related to the marginal cost of production, not at the cost of depletion of a finite resource. The tragedy of commons perspective would ensure that market forces would adopt the lowest cost technologies, without considering the diffuse costs facing the globe assuming AGW is real. If it is purely based on the economics of energy, the private sector is likely to be the better place for something fruitful. Furthermore, there is ample evidence in the history of basic science of principles being outlined well before some application was found for it much later – such as the stimulated emission of radiation described by Bose-Einstein statistics in the 1920s leading to the invention of the laser almost half a century later. Basic science research for corporations does not necessarily yield a return to the specific corporation itself, and a very small portion of the research has the potential for payoff. Therefore, the free market is not necessarily the answer for all of the problems facing the world and government subsidization plays a role, in my opinion.

  21. RB said

    #19, it isn’t that trivial. Government actions in times involving debt buildup have well-founded basis both from a balance sheet recession perspective as well as from a paradox of thrift perspective.

  22. Creation Man said

    @Jeff Id: The pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR), developed in South Africa, would be a good load follower. It could easily cope with a base load and a peak load. It’s also inherently safer all around. You don’t even have to re-fuel it; you give it a full charge of pebbles, and the pebbles cycle over and over until they’re spent. And spent really means “spent”–not much more radiation than background. And after forty years–as long as any nuke could last–you seal it in concrete; no need even to remove radioactive waste to storage.

    I fully agree: nuclear power is the part of the “green” story that people miss.

  23. Mark T said

    Keynesian economic concepts are nonsense and history proves it so. If it weren’t for Obama in office, we wouldn’t have to put up with any of it anyway.


  24. DeWitt Payne said


    Ah, but what government actions? It was government actions that got us into this mess in the first place. The commodities and housing bubbles didn’t happen on their own and it wasn’t just greed. Right now massive inflation is just around the corner unless we are very lucky and Bernanke is lot smarter than he appears. What we needed were tax cuts and smaller government, but that’s not what we’re getting.

  25. trey said

    I’m mostly with Jeff here. Giving Mike a little leeway, I would say that I’m in favor of some government funds for early development of new technologies. But these technologies need to “stand on their on” fairly soon. Solar (voltaic) has had enough subsidies. Moore’s Law for solar (cost per watt, instead of cost per transistor) will hopefully bring price down even more. Solar thermal may need some government funding. (I’m not sure what the status of this technology is.) Either way, these technologies need to be economical in the marketplace. Greenies who feel strongly about these technologies are welcome to pay more (and some do here in Austin, TX). This will help quicken their adoption, if indeed they are viable.

    I also don’t want a UN organization deciding what’s best — entrepreneur’s will do a much better job.

  26. Pat Moffitt said

    He who controls the executive summary controls everything. It is the executive summary that is quoted by the press not the main IPCC report. There are more than enough ifs, maybes, conditioned upon, projection not prediction and other caveats in the main IPCC “study” that make the political and press the claims for run away global warming more than a bit over the top. It is the summary that removes all the error bands and confidence intervals.

    The Marketing slight of hand is also enabled by the fact IPCC defines climate change as any change from any cause while the UN framework defines climate change as change limited to human causes. It allows games to be played even at the very core of what climate change is or is not.

    AP alarmist Seth Borenstein wrote in his 2/707 article “Scientists pull few punches in climate report” the following that proves my point. “Scientists wrote the report and government officials edited it with an eye toward the required unanimous approval by world governments.” and
    ‘Negotiations over the third difficult issue-how much the sea is expected to rise by 2010-went into the night”

    Negotitaions on sea level rise!? Edited to get world approval!? Science- we don’t need no stinking science.

    And if it makes any one feel better — writing a summary that does not fits with the appended science report sure isn’t limited to just Climate (Well it doesn’t make me feel better but it does tell me that this is a wide spread and endemic problem that is a result of science funding predicated upon achieving a correct political answer.

    Perhaps we can reach out to the scientific community and ask for references of where the summary for decision makers contradicted the conclusions of the appended scientific report. It might help the public to understand that politicized science is all too often the result of political funding. That this is not a conspiracy but the logical outcome of the current funding mechanisms.

  27. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Government intervention usually devolves into the enforcement of mediocrity. Depending where you are starting from, that can initially seem to be a good thing.

  28. RB said

    “Right now massive inflation is just around the corner”

    In so saying, you are essentially implying that the economy will recover because it is not the amount of money in the system alone that matters, but monetary velocity. Recessions due to fiscal crisis tend to be prolonged with multiyear weak recoveries – see paper by Rogoff and Reinhart. It is quite likely that we won’t see pre-2007 unemployment levels until after 2007. Debt to GDP is still lower than in the WWII era and with recovery, the debt naturally went down. Inflation from 1930 to 1960 was something like a 3% annualized. We’ve seen inflation for so long, that we no longer understand deflationary forces or the myth about “Keynesian economics is bunk.” Having said that, we can still be in trouble if there is a loss of faith in the currency – therefore the future rests on the credibility of responsible government spending. Deficit spending in good times and tightening up in bad times is bad policy: two wrongs do not make up a right. On this score, Bush 2003 spending fails and premature tightening in 2010 would be a disaster. The 1996/1997 Japan story and 1937 U.S. story are examples of a policy gone wrong.

  29. RB said

    “won’t see pre-2007 unemployment levels until after 2007”

    Correction; until after 2020

  30. RB said

    As more and more money is added to the system, private sector deleveraging shows an overall money supply that is contracting .

  31. Viv Evans said

    ‘Re-engineering’ everything … I bet my bottom dollar that not one amongst all the Greenies has studied engineering. Nor any of the hard sciences.
    They’re into feelings, not into hard thinking.
    So one has to wonder where all the engineers are going to come from who are meant to do the Greenie’s re-engineering …

  32. stumpy said

    I recently saw a council commit $120 million on a project based on a 15 year old hydraulic model that was VERY wrong, just to stop a small 2x a year combined wastewater overflow which would have no environmental effect at all (the problem was actually a blocked siphon, but after losing the guy who realised that, they were back on track). This was their own in house idea and design.

    Of course, because public perception is that overflows are bad it had to be fixed, no one mentioned that the water quality in the river is off the same quality as the sewer overflow in wet weather due to all the dairy use upstream, and infact water quality improved as it passed through the city where it was diluted with cleaner stormwater! Nope, overflows are bad, full stop!

    I argued that half the money ($60 million) would be much better spent enhancing the river, this would protect the river, improve water quality, mitigate against the land use upstream etc…benefitting the entire community, the environment and for half the cost! But no…

    What was actually best for the rate payer and the planet didnt matter, they have to keep the poorly educated voters happy, and they dont like overflows! Everyone sees in black and white when the world is full of greys

    I couldnt even talk to the media about this as it would risk my job or at least a key client, so I have to bite my lip yet again and see money wasted due to “green washing” of the people that ALL sewer overflows are EVIL, when of course thats not always the case, and there are often better solutions. I only wish people could think outside for the box sometimes!

    I feel your pain!

  33. Jay said

    Been in the electric utility industry for over 35 years, most of that as a design engineer, most recently in charge of resource acquistion.

    Coal and Nuclear lose efficiency when run less than full-out, so are considered ‘base-load’ facilities, run all the time at maximum output. Combined-cycle natural gas combustion turbines (CCCT) can ramp up and down somewhat, but the operating envelope is fairly narrow to maintain the necessary heat and pressure for the heat recovery steam generator (the ‘combined’ part of the cycle), so are mainly a baseload facility as well.

    Load-following is typically done by single (or simple) cycle natural gas turbines (SCCT), which are less efficient and have higher CO2 emissions.

    A simple comparison – ignoring system reserve requirements, additional transmission lines, etc. – of the emissions per megawatt-hour of a CCCT (at a cost of roughly $2M per megawatt of generating capacity) to the emissions of a wind/SCCT combination for the same load ($3.5M/MW wind, $1.5M/MW SCCT) at an average capacity factor of 30% for wind (I.E. gas will be meeting the load about 70% of the time) will show a reduction of maybe 15% in CO2 emissions for more than double the construction cost and close to four times the cost per kilowatt-hour on your bill.

  34. KevinM said


    I’ve been thinking that same thought about nuclear for 15 years. I believe its generational.

    The idea that nuclear is bad stuck around 1974. At the time, our future liberal political activists, the 20 year-old world peace and fur seal preservation club members in elementary education certification programs reached concensus that Nuclear power:

    1) is inseperable from weapons discovery, research and proliferation
    2) is a constant threat to melt down, escape containment and spread cancer
    3) produces unacceptable waste products

    More or less I agree with those points. i.e,.

    1) I am not excited about nuclear energy research in Korea and Iran
    2) though Chernobyl had well known, easily resolved causes, I do not trust third world engineering and regulation to get through developmental stages of the industry safely.
    3) if you hold the worst of the waste in your open hand, it can kill you.

    To get past these not-unreasonable barriers to progress, only time or crisis will prevail. Those who were age 20 in 1974 are age 55 today. The liberals won that generation, and the leaders of have another ten years in the driver’s seat before being usurped by what were then our future conservative political activists, the 20 year-old cold warriors and Reaganomic down-tricklers in cost accounting programs who reached concensus that human progress depends on:

    1) markets
    2) small government
    3) union busting

  35. Vinny Burgoo said

    You people seem to know what you’re talking about. Any observations on Greenpeace’s favourite mantra, Combined Heat & Power?

  36. Hmmm said

    I would also note that a large component of wind power can create problems with grid quality. It is hard to maintain 60Hz when you have unpredictable fluctuating capacity (let alone fluctuating demand). If this isn’t well balanced it can lead to damage to end user equipment, blackouts and brownouts, among other problems. I think that power supplied to maintain frequency regulation is actually the most expensive per kwh than any other power source. This frequency regulation is usually done with gas turbines I think. Anyways the more wind you have not only do you need to back it up with a baseload source but you also have to augment it with more expensive frequency regulation capacity.

    If only we had massive cheap long lasting storage we could get over all these source hurdles (any source would make sense).

  37. RB said

    Source for unemployment comments above . Also, when I hastily say “Recessions due to fiscal crisis”, I meant “financial crisis.” Also, my comments on the M1 multiplier are not properly stated , although it shows the non-inflationary impact to date of policies that are intended to restimulate the economy.

  38. JDN said

    Jeff, I share your frustration that is I think the result of far too many people who thought in high school, “meh, why bother? I’m never going to use this math and science stuff”. Well, now we’re paying for it. Being an engineer myself for over 26 years, I get disappointed by how so many people – some even with highly technical backgrounds – show complete inability to at least do ‘back of an envelope’ calculations to achieve ballpark sanity checks (like what you just did, Jay). Then to factor in things like conversion efficiencies, and so on … well, just forget it.

    Many people perceive little difference between science and the black arts. All that matters is that when a switch is flipped the light comes on, as if by magic. If an exalted ‘expert’ proclaims something to be true, then so be it. This then is accepted by faith alone (what else can it be, since critical thought has been long abandoned) in a similar fashion to religion. Arm waving and chanting against the bogeymen “powers that be in oil, coal, etc” have become so much easier than practical problem solving.

  39. j ferguson said

    Another great tAV thread, I’ve learned a lot here. Thanks Jeff and commenters.

  40. Free market?

    Seems to me oil and nuclear industries have long been working hand in glove with governments. Tax breaks, subsidies, gov contracts. Some fairly grisly medical experiments were carried out 50 years ago to “prove” it took a lot of radiation to induce harm to humans. These, as I recall, were financed by the US government.

    On the orher hand, government has intervened to make laws to forbid free-wheeling oil exploration and drilling.

    So maybe it’s a mixed bag. But the history of oil and nuclear industries isn’t free market.

    One other point. What’s called cold fusion, after an extensive reading of the international literature (and not just the choice denunciations), turns out to have promise. With perhaps a mere fraction of the gov funding and support that’s gone into “green” technologies, we might now have something much closer to market. But hot fusion gov funding takes precedence, and the results have been pathetic.

  41. Mike said


    “Solar power is off half the time every day. The problem with storage is the efficiency of it, not that it can’t happen. Run the numbers, I have.”

    To be clear, the molten salts storage I was referring to are heated up by sun light directly, not using the electricity produced. The overall design is mirrors -> heat reservoir -> steam engine. Did you run any numbers on this design? Even if you did, your argument is a little beside the point – no one was saying that this is economical now; the question is whether or not it is wise to invest government funds in order to make it so.

    “… the Japanese people were freed to make their own business decisions, this and a unique culture have lead to their success.”

    That is again beside the point. They outright used government funding and orchestration to systematically conquer one industry sector after another. It was not just “business decisions by liberated individuals”.

    “Much of the government funded research you discuss produces at a far reduced rate from private.”

    You are making my point here – government-funded research that is then sold off to industry is a form of subsidy to industry.

    “I don’t live in the UK…” Lucky you. Me neither.
    “… but my understanding is that the UK has high taxes, high regulatory hurdles and very invasive regulations on hiring/firing. These business loads are not non-trivial.”

    Surely none of these burdens are any heavier than in “socialist” Germany or Sweden, which nevertheless have managed to retain much more substance in manufacturing than the UK.

    “My engineering education was paid for completely without government help.” Which you seem to regard as a virtue. It isn’t. Removing economic hurdles from education provides, overall, a better educated workforce – compare Finland or Sweden to the U.S.

    “I assure you my taxes discussion has to do with a considered and understood position.” I take it you don’t travel much.

  42. Jeff Id said

    Mike, I’m familiar with the solar generation system you discuss. They typically use compound parabolic concentrators on black pipes. There are many other versions though. Run the numbers, work the math and you’ll see the efficiency and spatial coverage of such a system to replace our electricity is completely unworkable. – don’t forget to include that those systems give zero output on slightly cloudy days.

    As far as education, I don’t mind loans. I don’t mind subsidies. I do not like pre-paid free education. It’s too easy for people to abuse and it gives govt. control over the content.

    I’m not going to argue with your political points, which I obviously don’t agree with. It’s not a good use of time and others here are will enjoy it more than myself.

    I will respond to this one — I take it you don’t travel much.

    Again, you over assume. A year ago, I had to get a new passport after only 5 years cause there were no more pages to stamp. In my time in europe, I learned that people live in small wedged together houses with small TV’s and stereos. Few can afford cars, let alone have multiples. People often walk to work or the grocery store and the countryside was beautiful.

    All in all, I very much enjoyed visiting Europe. The people are great fun, food is great, the towns get together in the courtyard every night and get drunk together, the beer is second to none (asia does a decent job), but I wouldn’t want to own a business there. Many of the people are held back from owning a business due to the difficulties in starting.

    You are welcome to live that way if you want to. I prefer a better way.

  43. I Pledge Allegiance to Global Warming: British scientists sign a government loyalty oath.

    The Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, “has embarked on an urgent exercise to bolster the reputation of climate-change science” in the wake of a whistle-blower’s revelation of widespread misconduct by climate scientists, London’s Times reports:

    More than 1,700 scientists have agreed to sign a statement defending the “professional integrity” of global warming research. They were responding to a round-robin request from the Met Office, which has spent four days collecting signatures. . . .

    One scientist told The Times he felt under pressure to sign. “The Met Office is a major employer of scientists and has long had a policy of only appointing and working with those who subscribe to their views on man-made global warming,” he said.

  44. charlie98 said

    Whatever happened to this ? Cold fusion turned out to be non-reproduceable, not dissimilar to the CRU graphs depicted in Climategate.

  45. charlie98 said

    Whatever happened to ?
    Cold fusion turned out to be non-reproduceable, not dissimilar to the CRU graphs depicted in Climategate.

    hopefully my lack of skill in html improves in this post.

  46. Ryan O said

    Depending on the design, nukes can be throttled quite efficiently. The Navy does it all the time. 😀

  47. charlie98 said

    What I was trying to say, unsuccessfully was whatever happened to the water powered engine?

    Incompetence reigns supreme

  48. Joshua Corning said

    The start/stop of wind power is too fast and requires coal or natural gas plants of equal capacity be available to switch on and off as the wind starts and stops.

    I live in Washington State where most of the electrical power used and generated comes from hydro electric dams. Oregon is the same way.

    Presumably Hydro electric can be turned off and on quickly. You just close and open the flood gates as needed when needed. Further more when water levels are down wind power can be used to pump water from below the dams to above the dams. This is a very easy and uncomplicated way to store energy. Furthermore the ability to store energy for long periods of time is not exclusive to “dam” country as pumping water up hill only requires a lake on top of a hill.

    To say that coal or gas is required is incorrect and needs to be corrected.

  49. Jeff Id said

    #48, I pointed that out because I was (and still am) under the impression that nukes in use are not easily throttled. Not due to the fact that they cannot be but rather due to the fact that they are not efficient under partial load and current generation nukes have a large thermal mass (of water) to shift in order to change output levels. I’m no expert though.

    Regarding your storage method. It does work to pump water uphill as well as mikes method of heating sodium. The problem is in the efficiency losses. It works but you loose a bunch in the process.

    Jay in 33 says this
    Load-following is typically done by single (or simple) cycle natural gas turbines (SCCT), which are less efficient and have higher CO2 emissions.

    I think we would do well to listen to this as it is from people in the industry who do everything possible to save money in power generation. The coal plants that cannot be ramped up and down efficiently incorporate additional natural gas generators.

    There was a story some time ago about a wind farm in Iowa or south Dakota. They had to modify the coal plant to meet the sudden starts and stops of the wind farm.

    So I believe the statements about coal and gas are correct, although the modifications to the coal plant may have been to add the natural gas generator described in #33.

  50. j ferguson said

    “To say that coal or gas is required is incorrect and needs to be corrected.”

    Joshua, not all parts of the country have the vast hydroelectric setup you have out there. If they did, what you suggest would make some sense.

    No, the statement is not incorrect, although means of stand-by power other than oil, coal, or gas are not impossible

  51. telecorder said

    Adding insights to the other end of the issues, beyond the local/national infrastructure needed for energy distribution, is the ignorance of energy density of the source. A good read on this aspect is at…
    Energy Tribune- Understanding E = mc2

  52. Mike said

    “Mike, I’m familiar with the solar generation system you discuss. They typically use compound parabolic concentrators on black pipes. There are many other versions though. Run the numbers, work the math and you’ll see the efficiency and spatial coverage of such a system to replace our electricity is completely unworkable.”

    It’s not my area of expertise but I would be very interested in more detail on this, if you still have those numbers lying around.

  53. Jeff Id said

    #52 I’ll consider a post. Basically its the same arguments against biofuels. The conversion efficiency is such that you end up covering huge chunks of the earth to create solar power. Solar will be doable in the future for home and even industrial usage. Cost wise, it’s just not quite time yet.

    BTW, I don’t mind govt. investing in the technology.

  54. RB said

    Obviously these aren’t ready for prime-time yet:
    The Teletrol system runs an iron-fisted dictatorship over all of these processes. If there’s any excess power, the system uses it to feed the vast bank of custom batteries lining an entire wall of the basement, 24 big red plastic containers that resemble gasoline canisters. These batteries weigh 144 kilograms apiece, cost between $1285 and $2000 a pop, and must have their chemistry checked periodically with a hydrometer.

    They’re also truly and deeply rechargeable. They are lead-acid batteries optimized for what’s called a deep discharge cycle, meaning that their charge can be repeatedly and substantially depleted by 80 or 85 percent. For contrast, most battery chemistries typically tolerate at most 5 to 10 percent depletion on a regular basis. The batteries were made by a company called Surrette Battery Co., headquartered in Springhill, N.S., Canada, and Salem, Mass., which specializes in cells optimized for solar and wind-power charging. Each battery comes with a 10-year warranty.

  55. Richvs said

    As a power systems engineer, I would love to install a PV system for my house. However, after running the numbers for a 4KW package, not including battery storage, I’m in the neighborhood of $30 – $35K. Payout for this is well over 30yrs at present electricity rates. Of the folks that I know who have installed PV systems, the only benefit has been large up-front tax credits and the willingness of local power companies to buy surplus daylight power. So the rationalle is basically extracting funds from taxpayers like myself to promote systems that can’t be currently economically justified. Makes lots of sense doesn’t it? What seems more reasonable to me is to encourage the installation of small PV systems that can be dedicated to supporting small loads such as lighting. I also think that both residential and commercial codes will need to be changed to accommodate small dedicated PV systems.

  56. BlueIce2HotSea said


    You have some loosely correlated facts that seem to defend government control of what would otherwise be personal spending. But I don’t see any sensible economic law or theory that supports it.

    Well there is this one: your son will be receiving a fine education and other people will be paying for it.

  57. Greg F said

    The “green solutions tend to be one size fits all. Take compact fluorescents. Where I live heating the house is a 9 month a year reality. For 9 months a year the extra heat from an incandescent bulb is not wasted energy, it is energy that my furnace doesn’t have to supply. For 9 months a year my incandescent bulbs are 100% efficient.

    Solar cells. I work at a place that 190 of those idiotic things. They will never pay for themselves. Funny how the greens like to call them “sustainable. They want to put up millions of them. What they never seem to address is where all the silver is going to come form to make them.

    Windmills and projects like the Nevada Solar One project have hidden subsidies. The feed to the grid is not paid for by the generators. It is paid for by the utilitiy that distributes the power and passed on to the rate payer. Since the locations of these sustainable technologies is usually remote, the costs of getting them on the grid is not trivial.

    Keynesian economic concepts as practiced by politicians is nonsense. I think where most people go wrong is believing that money is wealth. Money is a tool for measuring wealth, it is not the wealth. All Keynesian economics does is changes who decides how the wealth is allocated.

  58. rob said

    Just why people think a cheaper energy source won’t be developed in the next 50 years without the glories of government taxation is beyond my comprehension.

    You can make no argument to change the mind of a “True Green” because the greens are not about clean energy or renewable energy. They are about NO ENERGY. They support the un-viable to defeat the viable. The best example is hydroelectric, the cleanest renewable energy source that is viable today. They want the destruction of all hydroelectric dams. When any alternate source of energy becomes viable they will oppose it. They are for the total “deconstruction” of modern civilization. The death of hundreds of millions of people and a new sustainable society where they live in luxury and everyone else lives in a gulag.

  59. telecorder said

    As an expansion on my post #51 above that links to an article on energy density is a major consideration that is vastly misunderstood and is why most current ‘alternative non-carbon sources’ will never survive the current or foreseeable short term market places or comprise more than a small, limited energy source %; Also, current/future alternative energy sources have to be broken into two separate issues – Power generation and transportation

    Transportation includes planes, ships, rail, goods/materials trucking as well as personal transportation – ie mobile motive transports.

    T-Boone Pickens is playing up the transportation side with his push towards natural gas as most developed nations have some sort of gas/diesel fueling infrastructure along highway corridors/local roads (And he’s heavily invested in NG); He also aptly points out that we won’t see electric or hybrid 18-wheelers due to energy needed for load/ranges so it makes sense to look to a bridge fuel such as natural gas until there’s a major motive technological break through.

    On the power generation side, distribution infrastructure is also a major part of the issue if we are to continue with the current approach until new technology is developed. Here in California, there have been a number of proposed solar sites that are being litigated by environmentalists both for the footprint of the solar system arrays in our local deserts as well as for the right of ways to tie the sources in to the existing power grid.

    Going forward, it’s hoped that we might see a scalable non-carbon efficient energy source that could be deployed on a local siting at the end user location to side step the transmission issues. Major consumers of industrial energy will still be tied to a major generating source via distributed grids until and unless we achieve a viable & scalable energy source.

    For the immediate decadal future, though, it would appear that carbon/nuclear based sources, due to their energy densities, will be the predominant, most viable & cost-effective players.

    I strongly urge those with little to no knowledge of energy density/energy sources to read the linked article… Energy Tribune- Understanding E = mc2

    Once one has some better understanding of energy density and scales currently/projected used/needed, then one can better appreciate the underlying issues, and real probable unintended political, social and economical consequences at play, with Climategate and COP15 —

  60. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Greg F.

    Another thing is the electricity burned in those light-bulbs likely comes from a mix of power sources, including some that are non-CO2 emitters. But the increased furnace heating that results from using green bulbs will in many cases come solely from lp, natural gas or heating oil.

  61. G Howe said

    Mike #41-
    My understanding of the molten salt system that you describe is being built in Spain, as a pilot plant. Why invest our tax dollars now? Spain will determine boon or boondoggle (doggle-IMO).
    re- Japan and govt investment-IMO much of their success is due to work ethic. and Dr. Deming.:)

  62. BlueIce2HotSea said

    G Howe

    Good points. But one thing most people don’t know is that 19th century economists agreed that the Japanese coming out of serfdom were universally lazy! And that combined with the lack of natural resources and the somewhat free economy meant the Japanese were doomed to poverty.

    At the same time, India, after release from British Imperialism adopted a nice socialist government. That combined with rich natural resources would insure prosperity, as per the economists.

  63. Greg F said


    I live in the states but all my power comes from Canada. My heating is natural gas. The electricity is from Hydro Quebec and is mostly, if not all, hydro. The electric cost about two and a half times more then the gas per unit of energy (taxes and delivery included). The majority of my lighting is fluorescents. Unfortunately at 54 the old eyes are not what they used to be and reading with a fluorescent doesn’t cut it (a lumen from fluorescent is not equal to a lumen from a incandescent). In select locations I have halogen lighting which will get swapped out for the non-heating season.

  64. Mike said

    #56 BlueIce2HotSea said:

    “You have some loosely correlated facts that seem to defend government control of what would otherwise be personal spending. But I don’t see any sensible economic law or theory that supports it.

    Well there is this one: your son will be receiving a fine education and other people will be paying for it.”

    Well, I didn’t aspire to go down in history as the founder of some new school of thought in economy. I only tried to give empirical examples for a positive role of government in economic development.

    As to free or privately paid education: I myself received a free education in Germany, and I’m currently teaching at a Canadian university, which is to a large extent supported by tuition fees. I’m sorry to say that the education I provide is worse than the one I received. I believe this is related to who pays the bills. My current school admits quite a few “customers” who are in no way fit for an academic education, and this kills the standards.

    As to other people paying for my son’s education, well so they should – they had their education paid for, too.

    # 61 boondoggle: May be – I really don’t know the numbers well enough. However, any new technology needs pilot projects, and these are practically always government-funded in one way or other.

    Re Japan – I don’t want to detract from their work ethics, but they most decidedly did have a government master plan, too.

  65. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Greg F

    Fair enough. But there’s more. Consider that most homes have central heating without computer controlled solenoids for the vents. That means that when the heat comes on, the whole house is heated.

    Now think of the incandescent bulb as a point heat source. Regardless of where the thermostat is located, less whole house heating will occur. A lit-up room will either result in the furnace running less often, or someone will leave the room to turn down the heat, because it’s too hot!

  66. BlueIce2HotSea said

    The full-spectrum halogens are actually nice and no mercury. I lived for a year in Australia and my apartment was lit with the 5 watt ceiling spots and halogen floor lamps.

    Who wants to call hazmat to clean up a broken florescent?

  67. Greg F said

    Mike wrote:

    May be – I really don’t know the numbers well enough. However, any new technology needs pilot projects, and these are practically always government-funded in one way or other.

    How else is the government to take credit for something it had little input on? I think there needs to be a distinction made. I think the government has a role in very basic research. Very very basic research. Like particle accelerators. It has no business in applied science as it’s track record is rather dismal. The problem is governments never know when to cut their losses. Case in point. The improvements in solar cells is almost exclusively a spin off from the evolution of the semiconductor industry. Once a government chooses a winner it will in effect discourage any competition to alternative ideas. Assume for the moment that global warming is a real problem. The solution would be an engineering problem (applied science). Who thinks the solutions now proposed by governments have a snowballs chance in a very hot place of working? Excluding the numerically ignorant, who believes the proposed solutions to energy production have any chance of working?

  68. Pops said

    There are treacherous political undercurrents when it comes to nuclear. Back in the 80s and early 90s, Argonne National Labs came up with a great concept, the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR). They addressed all of the big concerns of the time – IFR was incapable of meltdown; prevented direct access to the recycling process; used “spent” fuel rods for fuel, converting high-level waste to low-level waste in the process; didn’t require a pressurized vessel. They did a dramatic demonstration on the prototype (EBR-II at Argonne-West) wherein they shut off the cooling and watched the reactor simply stop “reacting” on its own in a completely passive manner.

    Well, the environmentalists were none too pleased with IFR, I can tell you that. They talked Bill Clinton into canceling the project in 1994, when the shutdown costs were about the same as the cost to finish the project. Speaking as one with an inside source, I can also say there were some pretty nasty threats made to key personnel on the project to ensure they didn’t go public with the travesty that was the project cancellation.

    I don’t think nuclear will ever fly until we figure out how to neuter the radical environmentalists. It may take a major crisis to make that happen.

  69. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Greg F

    In my case, electricity would have to be at least 10 times more expensive than natural gas for green-bulbs to be cost effective. Thus my complaint about enforced mediocrity.

  70. Greg F said


    I don’t have computer controlled solenoids for the vents. It isn’t a problem since the vents do have an adjustment to control the flow.

    I think your incandescent bulb as a point source exagerates the effect. My total electric usage last month is less than a third of my gas usage with an average temperature of 41 degrees F. There is no noticable difference in temperature going room to room. When we get into Jan-Feb where the temperature gets to -20 the ratio between electric and gas usage will get much larger and the effect you propose even smaller. In theory what you say is true. In reality the differences are so small that they are not really an issue.

  71. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Look at it this way. If an incandescent bulb warms one room by 1 degree which results in a dozen rooms cooler by one degree the CO2 emission equivalence over the different power sources is highly skewed towards using incandescent over florescent.

    Yes, the difference is actually trivial. The impact on global warming over the next 1000 years will still be probably be undetectable, as per Lubos Motl, if I recall correctly.

  72. RB said

    As a product of Govt controlled applied science, I can personally attest to money that got wasted, still, there are some silver linings (attracts immigrants, trains people, sometimes produces Al Gore’s internet etc). Regarding govt investment in alt Energy projects, I know of one project which got 20% from the Obama plan where the pvt sector is contributing 80%. Apparently, govt favors plans like these where it can leverage its money.

  73. JAE said

    “Solar is only operational during the day and we don’t have power storage capabilities yet for night operation. Again solar suffers from massive costs (which are improving rapidly).”

    I keep reading this, but never see any supporting info. Does anyone have any? Last time I looked carefully, active solar cells didn’t “pay out” for over 100 years, but they lasted only 30 years, at best!

    Wind power is the dumbest thing I’ve ever witnessed. The damn generators are broken down half the time!

  74. Therefore, the free market is not necessarily the answer for all of the problems facing the world and government subsidization plays a role, in my opinion.

    I call False Dichotomy on this. I agree with part a, disagree with part b.

  75. BlueIce2HotSea said



    If T.Boone Pickens believes so strongly in it, let him put billions of his own money at risk. I have a problem with bureaucratic ‘visionaries’ that want to risk everybody else’s money.

    When government picks the winner’s and losers, the only winners are friends of the party. The rest of the population are losers.

  76. Squidly said

    I believe that the EPA ruling is somewhat of a blessing in disguise, that is, as long as you don’t fall for the bate and switch and use this as an excuse to pass Cap’N Trade. If we can call their bluff, and let Cap’N Trade die, you will see that the EPA will be absolutely powerless to enforce any CO2 restrictions. Their court dockets are already beginning to fill. They simply will not be able to enforce anything. The down side to this is however, they are also going to become ineffective at enforcing necessary controls on other real pollutants because they will be too busy trying to defend the onslaught of lawsuits. I say, call their bluff, let the EPA try to manage this absurd endangerment finding. Let them have it, they can’t go anywhere with it. This has all been a slight of hand tactic from the start.

  77. Ralph B said

    As a former navy nuke and commercial nuke plant operator I can say “un-equivocably” that nuke plants can be load following. However it is far btter to use them as base load plants running at 100% and use other forms for peaking power. Pumped storage is a good peak power alternative (Racoon Mountain in Tennesse is a good example) and also there should be some mix of fossil plants. 70-80% nuke is a good number, the US is currently a tad over 20%.

    Space based solar should be the energy of the future. Make an x-prize of $50billion for the first company to beam down a constant 100MW for a year. That would be a great use of tax dollars!

    Wire the roads such that they are the primary coil in a transformer and the secondary is in your car so you can pick up juice as you drive meaning minimal batteries needed. If electricity was 1cent/kwhr we could do just about anything

  78. Eric said

    Cap and Trade? Try Extort and Trade…. Here is where the money is being made, and guess who is at the top? The UN Climate Chief…

  79. Captain Cosmic said

    There’s a hydroelectric power station here in the UK that was built specifically to handle peak loads in the grid. It can spin up to full power in just 16 seconds, so it is possible to do it.

  80. G Howe said

    BlueIce2HotSea #62-
    Wow-I didn’t know that about 19th cent. economists. Thanks. Good thing they wised up since eh? ie Paul Krugman finally won a Nobel!

    Mike #64 –
    I worked with a very sharp, hardworking fellow lab rat who went to school in Germany in the 80’s. He wasn’t “allowed” to get his BS degree and had to stop at Associate. He came to the US and finished up and got his BS. He wasn’t complaining, or explaining, about his schooling in Germany, but I surmised him being a Palestinian from Israel did not help in his desire to get his degree in Germany.

  81. Bob46 said

    While we are looking for alternative energy sources, we are not spending enough time on conserving the energy that we are producing RIGHT NOW.
    If you had an older car that was your only means of transportation and you heard that a new more economical car would be available in 10 years, you would not wait for this car to break down and then go without a means of transportation till the new car was available.
    No, you would do everything possible to make sure this car ran well and lasted you as long as possible. We need to look at energy savings devices that can make an immediate impact. If we can look to retrofit what we have and save energy, in our homes, cars and workplaces, we can make a dramatic difference in our energy consumption.
    This is an immediate answer to an ongoing problem and is a project that needs to be taken on at a local, state and national level. Let the average American know that they can make a difference rather than having to wait for solutions that are years away.

  82. jack cadogan said

    Your folks can continue to talk to yourselves and be uninformed. Real time data exists over several years for particular wind farms. Synthetic data from mesoscale weather models is being developed for large areas of the United States.

    The authors of Myths and the other Power and Energy wind articles in the 7-6 issue are professional engineers, for the most part, who earn their living solving utility problems. Only the uninformed dump on peer review.


  83. David JP said


    I think you should do a post on energy technologies, or perhaps three separate posts with the following breakdown:

    1) Transportation
    2) Grid supported power generation
    3) Off grid local power generation

    At present, I sure don’t see any solutions worth talking about other than nuclear on the grid. And I suppose if there is enough of it, then electric cars for commuting purposes can become viable.

    However, I admit that I don’t know all the possibilities. Hence it would be great to have a summarized list. This thread is touching on that, but I’d like to see a longer list that doesn’t necessarily have to go into any deep details. I’m just looking for a comprehensive list.

    For example, what about this technology:

    This looks like some sort of RTG style of electric generation as used on deep space probes. Would this idea work better than PV solar cells?

    On the transportation side, what happened to the six stroke engine? See here:

    Would the six stroke engine combined with Algae derived fuels get us there? See here:

    Perhaps local solar power generation with a six stroke/Algae fueled back-up generator would be feasible? Any local power generation solutions should take advantage of mass production to lower per unit costs. It might just end up being more reliable as measured by percentages.

    Is this the kind of thing you are alluding to with the 50 year comment:
    “Just why people think a cheaper energy source won’t be developed in the next 50 years without the glories of government taxation is beyond my comprehension.”?

    I hope the links are posted correctly. Apologies if they did not.

  84. Jeff Id said

    #83, I’ve done a couple on biofuel

    Unfortunately, not only does it not work as a fuel provider, it never will. There is some possibility that small scale production will become cost viable using waste product to create fuel.

    I think another post on energy generation might be interesting.

  85. well, there are already Light Emitting Diode base floor lamps these days-:;

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